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MOTIVATION(Must Read): For UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam 2019 – By Saurabh Kumar Rank 16, IFoS 2018


For UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam 2019 

By Saurabh Kumar Rank 16, IFoS 2018

Estimated read time – 15 minutes

Ideally, by now,

1) One should have completed and revised the whole syllabus many times… he/she should remember all the facts of basic books.

2) One should have attended more than 50 tests.. made notes from those tests and revised those notes 2-3 times…

But do we really see such ideal situations in life ?? Answer is NO  

In my 3 years of preparation cycle, I did not meet anyone, who had completed ALL above-mentioned tasks before the exam … but many of those, cleared Prelims with marks way above the cut off and many got their roll numbers in the final UPSC list.

So you do not need to worry, even if you were not able to complete ALL your predetermined targets till now…  ALL IS WELL… 🙂

This write-up is targeted to aspirants who are appearing prelims next Sunday, whose preparation is on an average/above average level and calm + confident mind will help them to improve their scores……

The whole write up is divided into sections & sub-sections so that you invest time only in the things, needed to you.

Broad pointers from my side:


  1. Do not make mistakes in the questions, for which you know the concept.


This is the single most important thing for Prelims. These are the decider type questions. Majority of the prelims failure comes due to this.

You need to minimize (preferably eliminate) the attempt type in which you knew the basic concept, still you made the mistake, commonly known as silly mistakes.


  1. Answer to many questions – Do up to the point till where your common senses are alive, you are relaxed..

At present, you may have many doubts such as–

Should I study on the morning of the exam?

Should I not sleep for 2-3 days?

Should I study something new?

Should I discuss with friends as studying alone is causing tension? etc..

There cannot be a universal answer to this. The answer depends on the aspirant’s mind.

However, there is a common way to find the answer. Ask yourself, ‘Will I be able to keep my common sense alive after doing that activity?’. The answer lies in this.

E.g. Should I study on the morning of the exam?

  • Yes, if studying can add some value to your knowledge base or can help you remember things better…
  • No, if you are already in tension and seeing books will further make you tensed… it is fine not to read in this case.


Tensioned mind = Double loss

(Silly mistakes+ Non-application of intelligent guess)


In tension, it is difficult to apply intelligent guesses, extended concept application, real-life examples usage to solve prelims questions, etc. Additionally, loosing cool makes you do silly mistakes in even 5 questions (10 marks) and such gain may not happen from any such activity e.g. reading just before the exam.

Some specific pointers till the exam:

Anytime till the exam is over

  1. Trust my words, you have done enough to cater knowledge part of the success and a cool confident mind gives the balance part of the success.


  1. Relative exam – Always remember that it is a relative exam and everyone is getting the feeling that I am forgetting everything, I could not prepare well…. tell yourself ALL IS WELL and get going…



  1. Don’t overstress on any single thing. This is an exam of 100 questions and all subjects altogether. Do what you can do in the particular section, but too much stress on any single dimension e.g. I did not do culture, I could not do test papers/Past year papers, etc will only make the situation worrisome. This dilutes the efforts in other sections and makes a bigger loss. E.g. You could lose hardly 4 marks by not correcting any 2 questions from the particular section and still could have made it above the cut off. But, the continuous worry about that section will make you lose more marks even in other sections.


  1. Stay healthy, eat clean and sleep properly.

Before exam

  1. Live the moment – I would have done great if I had 1 day/week/month more…. this is a common feeling with many and sometimes it leads to thinking – In the next attempt, I am gonna rock the show. Do not let such thoughts stay in your mind. Just live in the present and think only till Prelims day. After Prelims, you will have ample time to think all these. You can just take a paper and write the date of next day after prelims on top. Give an appointment to all the distractions (e.g. future plans, relationship, finances, etc)  after the Prelims by writing them on that paper.
  2. Try to follow the examination day routine in the coming days. At least, stay awake and study in the morning slot (9.30am – 11.30am).
  3. No harm in being cautious and investing time to see the exam centre now. You can take help of any family members if they are accompanying you on the exam day. It makes you feel comfortable and confident about titbits (like transport, wrong centre etc) on the exam day. If the centre is too far or outstation and you could not see it before, reach early to the centre.
  4. In the last 1-2 days before the exam, try meeting only positive energy people.
  5. Take good sleep before the exam day. I advise not to ignore the first sleep cycle. Many times, we ignore it around 10-11 pm thinking, I will study 1 hour more and then sleep. But, afterwards, sleep flies away with anxiety. I advise not to study late on the night before prelims.
  6. Plan before hand what to revise on the day before prelims. Do not put too many things to revise on last day…keep easy and small things. Many of us get a feeling that we must revise this section just before the exam. But, the anxiety and failure of planning on the day before Prelims may make you even forget to revise those key things. Now, you may make a list of such topics. This will help you staying focussed and crossing each item of the list after completion will enhance your confidence.
  7. Make a checklist what all you need to carry on the exam day. It includes Black pen, identity card, transparent water bottle, writing pad, non digital watch, handkerchief, chocolates (eating a chocolate when you get tension can help) etc type of things. Just cross check them before leaving home/hotel for the examination hall. This will ease the morning of the Prelims day.
  8. Talking to your close optimistic friends or family once or twice a day for 10-15 minutes, till prelims day may be helpful to reduce the pressure of the exam.

During the exam

  1. Enter the examination hall without any mind baggage/pre considered thoughts like I am going rock the show in any particular section e.g. Environment. Such a feeling may lead to frustration when you could not do the questions from that section. Those questions may not be the deciders for the day as, many times, UPSC asks more bouncers in a particular section. But, frustrations and emotional changes from failing to correct those questions, not only effects the particular question but also other questions.
  2. No general rules – There are exceptions to whatever general rule discussed for UPSC prelims (e.g. extreme word statements are wrong, date/year is wrong, etc). Do not blindly follow them, but yes whenever such things come, take a pause and try to read the mind of the examiner. Focus on extreme words and keywords in question statements. Take a pause to see their impact on the trueness of the statement.
  3. In case, you make errors in marking OMR, with option marked in different question, you may try this method. Read the question number loud in your mind before marking in the OMR and go straight towards ABCD after seeing that serial number in the OMR sheet. This helped me to eliminate such errors.
  4. Take every precaution from your end but keep your mind ready for the unwanted situationsg. broken benches, uncomfortable classroom, excessive hot day and fan not working, bad examiner, etc.
  5. Double check the sitting arrangement and match your roll number with the number written on the table. Last year, a girl in my classroom sat on the wrong place and they (examiner and the girl) realized this after 30 minutes of the exam. Her question paper set was changed and she was scolded by examiners, centre supervisors, etc. It disturbed her and even the whole classroom. A sanity check of things will help avoid such situations.
  6. Treat all 100 questions equally, as they carry equal marks. Just forget the emotion/thoughts generated after attending previous questions and treat every question as a fresh question. It is the cumulative score, what matters. Give adequate time to each question.
  7. In the beginning, take a deep breath and you can write on the back of the question paper whatever you want to be reminded in the mid of the exam, when you are tensed. I wrote ‘ALL IS WELL’, ‘NO SILLY MISTAKES PLS’, ‘RELATIVE EXAM’ etc and saw them in between exam to keep my cool. You can consciously repeat in the mind, I am not gonna make silly mistakes.
  8. Whatever be the strategy for marking the OMR sheet, do not keep OMR unfilled after 60-70 minutes of the exam. In the last 10-15 minutes, mark each question in the OMR as soon as you finalize the answer.
  9. Do not straight away leave a question, if you do not know anything about the statement. Just think what you know about the Proper nouns in the statement. Just try relating that knowledge and concept in the statement. You may get a clue.

After exam

  1. On Prelims day, between 11.30 AM to 2.30 PM, avoid seeing your GS paper and relax for the CSAT paper.


  1. Many might be getting the thought to skip this attempt. There cannot be a universal answer to this, as input/output/conditions may be different for all. But, I have a sincere suggestion, even if you are skipping this attempt, keep preparing till the end. Take the unmarked paper (once available) and solve that in 2 hours sitting somewhere in Library/another place. This will help you to know your exact status of preparation and will really help you guide your preparation for the next prelims. There is no replacement for actual UPSC papers.

Disclaimer: Above-mentioned thoughts are obtained through my experiences in preparation and I have taken review from my Forest service friends. However, please check suitability at your end before applying the same.

I wish all the best to all aspirants. Let me know your queries/need of elaborations on any of above-mentioned pointers, in the comments section or on, I would be happy to help.