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How to Crack UPSC IAS GS Mains Exam ? UPSC Mains Tips & Strategy

Being India’s most Difficult Exam UPSC CSE is a most popular choice among the Indian Youth. Number of candidates appearing in the UPSC CSE exam is increasing Year by Year. UPSC conducts this Exam every year and this exam is conducted in three phases by UPSC namely UPSC Prelims Exam as stage one exam where there are two exams conducted on the same day which are General Studies paper-I which includes art and culture, history of India, India’s freedom struggle, Indian Constitution, Indian Economy etc. and General Studies Paper-II i.e. CSAT exam which includes Comprehension, maths, reasoning and analytical skills etc.

Those who qualify the stage one exam appear in the Stage-II exam which is UPSC CSE mains exam. As it is a different prelim because it is subjective not objective (with multiple choices). Here one has to write full length answers within word as well as time limit. As mentioned by UPSC answers beyond word limit will not be evaluated so it is important that one must write answers within the word limit.

Preparation for UPSC mains is an important step towards your Goal to become an IAS officer. With a right Preparation Strategy for UPSC mains Exam one can qualify this stage of examination also. Here below a strategy is mentioned how to prepare for UPSC mains. This will help you in UPSC CSE mains examination.

Remember, the CSAT is qualifying in nature, so focus on important sections to qualify for the exam. Stay informed about the latest syllabus for CSAT and prepare strategically!

Know about Exam

In UPSC Mains Exam Preparation Strategy one must know about the mains Examination first. UPSC CSE mains Examination consists of 2 compulsory papers, 4 GS papers, 1 essay paper and two optional papers. Marks distribution is mentioned in the figure given below. Remember that compulsory papers are only qualifying in nature and hence only 33% marks are required. Marks of qualifying papers are not included in the final merit.


Syllabus is the first step toward the examination before starting UPSC Mains Exam Preparation syllabus helps in identifying the important topics and what to study for the examination. In UPSC CSE mains Exam General Studies section plays a major role to get good marks in the mains examination. In UPSC Mains Exam Preparation one must keep in mind all the points mentioned in the syllabus by UPSC. For your convenience Syllabus is mentioned below for the General Studies Exam.

Try to make your notes based on the syllabus of the exam and use keywords of the syllabus as headings of your notes. This will boost your UPSC Mains Exam Preparation and will make your revision easy. By doing this you can easily identify the topics and separate them according to the subjects.

This will ultimately help you in your answer writing and make your UPSC Mains Exam Preparation more effective.


It plays a major role in UPSC Mains Exam Preparation as well as in Prelims preparation. PYQs help one in identifying the most asked sections of the syllabus.

From the above picture one can analyse from PYQs that UPSC is frequently asking questions from the TRADE and INDUSTRIES section in GS-I exam of Geography section. Similarly there are so many topics which one can easily identify while going through the PYQs and make a list of them for UPSC Mains Exam Preparation and score well in the mains Examination.

Identifying Important topics

  • Looking at the UPSC syllabus one can get easily confused about many topics, so identifying important topics is an important task in UPSC Mains Exam Preparation.
  • This can be done with the help of PYQs as well as current events of national and International importance.
  • Looking at the Trend of the questions asked by UPSC it seems like it is mixing current to static parts, so by staying in touch with the current affairs one can easily identify the topics of utmost importance which have higher chances to be asked by UPSC in the Examination.

Combining Current and Static

  • Current affairs play a major role throughout the UPSC Mains Exam Preparation.
  • One can get updates related to this by newspapers and major websites providing authentic information.
  • In UPSC Mains Exam Preparation it is important that you must learn how to interlink current to static parts.
  • To make it clearer let’s take up an example related to this. In the times of crisis in Sri Lanka India provided Sri Lanka with aid and Humanitarian assistance so that in the same year UPSC has asked in GS-II International relations section the following question.
  • So it is important to practice interlinking of current with static during UPSC Mains Exam Preparation.

Overlapping topics of prelims and mains

  • There are so many topics which are in common with Prelims in the Mains examination. So during UPSC Mains Exam Preparation it is important to keep in mind that topic must be studied in the way that the helps in both prelims as well as mains exam.
  • It also plays as a plus point during UPSC Mains Exam Preparation because most topics you have prepared for your prelims exam and helps in your 3 months’ time period between Prelims and Mains for Revision.

Start writing Answers

  • By the time you have completed the NCERTs and reading basic books you must start writing answers.
  • First you can try writing answers to the questions framed by you at initial stages and thereafter start practicing PYQs for the Mains examination.
  • PYQs are easily available on UPSC’s website, one can download it from there.

How to write an answer

  • Understand the demand of question
  • Identify the key words.
  • Write a required introduction for your answer.
  • Frame your answer
  • Try to give your answer in precise and demanded form.
  • Keep in mind the word limit for your answer.
  • Support your answer with facts and data.
  • Give a conclusion to your answer and suggest progressive ideas in conclusion.

Work on Optional

  • Optional subject is the liberty provided by UPSC to score in subject of your choice so it is very important to opt optional subject during UPSC Mains Exam Preparation.
  • In UPSC Mains Exam Preparation, preparing for optional subject is important because marks obtained in optional will improve your rank in the final Examination merit list.
  • Here is list of Optional Subjects provided by UPSC for UPSC Mains Exam.
  • Do practice writing answers related to your Optional subject during UPSC Mains Exam Preparation because by writing answers you can analyse your strengths and weaknesses.

Essay writing

  • When you get used to of answer writing start writing essays and make your UPSC Mains Exam Preparation Strategy more efficient.
  • Essay can help you in improving your final score in the selection list. Good essay marks are important for improvement in your rank in UPSC CSE examination.
  • Try to identify social issues from the newspapers and write essays on it.
  • For more you can make a list of topics asked by UPSC in the essay examination and try to write essays on them.

How to write an essay?

  • At the initial stage take a rough paper and brainstorm for the points you must include in the essay and then make a structure or an order to write the essay and start writing on it. At the initial stage it may take up to 10-15 min but try to improve and bring it to 2-3 minutes.

Things to be included:

  • Quotes; quote some famous personalities, reformers and institutions related to your topic.
  • Facts: put some facts, data from authentic sources.
  • Arguments supported by some references.
  • Add value points

Don’t forget about Compulsory exam

  • This part of the Examination consists of two language papers namely English and second language among : Assamese, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Bengali, Bodo, Malayalam, Sanskrit,Manipuri, Dogri, Konkani, Maithili, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu
  • Similar to CSAT, it is qualifying in nature. One has to score only 33% marks in this Exam.
  • During UPSC Mains Exam Preparation keep in mind that it is important that one must practice about this part also because if you fail in this you will fail in the whole mains examination.
  • Allocate a particular slot for this section in your UPSC Mains Exam Preparation Strategy plan so that you can easily pass this section during mains examination.

SWOT and Guidance

  • During UPSC Mains Exam Preparation it is important to analyse your strengths and weaknesses so that you can work on your negative points as well as positive points.
  • Identifying weaknesses will help you improve and work on it and get a better score in the mains examination.
  • Take guidance from a mentor which may be your elder brother or sister or your senior, teacher etc.
  • And last but not least keep yourself-motivated. Always keep in mind why you are here, it will motivate you and make your UPSC Mains Exam Preparation Strategy more effective and efficient.

It is important that you must follow the right strategy for UPSC Mains Exam Preparation because it is an important part in the UPSC CSE examination. From the UPSC CSE mains examination, the rank of candidate is decided and this ranking ultimately helps in getting the services of one’s preferential choice. Hence opting a right strategy for UPSC Mains Exam Preparation is very important.

All The Best!