IAS Exam: Mastering Mains (Written) Examination

Not everyone is fortunate to appear in Civil Services (Main) Examination; you have to earn it by clearing the first hurdle –Preliminary Examination. Considering the tough competition one face at first stage, the opportunity to appear in Main Examination is big and should not be underestimated. With new format for Main Examination in place, you require a well-planned strategy to tackle it confidently.

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Some candidates tackle this examination stage-wise as the orientation is totally different for both Preliminary and Main Examination; but, the right approach is to see the complete exam-plan as one.

It is suggested that you should commence preparation at least one year before the Preliminary Examination you wish to appear. And it should start with identifying the common areas in the Preliminary and Main Examination syllabus and commence preparation with Main Examination syllabus oriented approach.

Opportunity is big!
Don’t underestimate the opportunity you get to appear in Mains (Written) after clearing the Preliminary Examination. An outstanding performance is bound to give you an edge over others.

Mains Examination has severe competition as non-serious and average aspirants are almost filtered out through Prelims. Be clear that the Civil Services Examination is really different from other academic examinations; you need courage, calibre and commitment to succeed.

And as you reach next stage, Mains Examination, you need to analyse your capabilities and by reviewing past 10 years’ question papers you can make an assessment about the examination requirements and where you stand. By estimating time-span you have at your disposal and level of diligent effort you need to put in, make a preparation plan and start your groundwork.

Scheme of Main Examination
In Civil Services Examination, 2nd stage is Mains (Written) examination.

Here, in all, aspirants are to take 9 papers.

2 language papers (English & Indian Language) – No marks are added to total, but, you are required to have minimum qualifying marks in these two as the rest of your written papers would be evaluated only if you pass these two.

4 papers of General studies (250 marks each), 2 papers of optional subject (250 marks each), and one essay paper (250 marks)


Essay: in the new format for Main Examination Essay paper has got some more significance. The wieghtage has increased and candidates will have opportunity to show their calibre and score high marks.

The preparation for Civil Services Examination is so vast and effective that most of the aspirants practically don’t need special efforts to prepare for Essay separately.

You need to write essay on any one topic during 3 hours duration and there is no word –limit.

Writing an effective essay is an art and your aim is to fetch good marks. You are given ample choice to pick one topic you like from variety of issues, themes and topics.

General Studies: The domain of General Studies is so vast and a huge syllabus confronts aspirants as the diverse nature of issues makes it more difficult to prepare.

General Studies syllabus has many constituents that are common in both stages and that is why it is suggested that candidates should adopt integrated approach for General Studies preparation.

Actually, the preparation plan for General Studies should commence much before you seriously start thinking about this examination and for that reading newspapers daily and coverage of some traditional areas of General Studies syllabus with NCERT books is the best strategy.

The syllabus of 4 General Studies papers include many constituents that makes preparation challenging. Aspirants come from diverse backgrounds and have different likes and dislikes. First gaze at syllabus gives a feel that it has some known and some unknown, unheard topics that you need to cover.

Self-analysis would determine the strength and weak areas that need attention. Practical approach is to break it to different components as syllabus suggests and then prioritize things as per your needs are requirements.

Then, there are some subjects and some areas which are dynamic in nature; change is constant and many issues evolve over time and continuous developments occur along a number of different dimensions. To tackle this, what is required is keen observation, relate it to your needs and accordingly, update yourself constantly.

When the exam standard moves much above the basics, examiners expectation is to observe your point of view, correlation of facts and outlook on problems and evolving prospects.

General Studies Paper IV is new addition that would require greater consideration. As it is first time, it would be difficult to guess how close your preparation is going to be with real question paper you are to face in examination.

It is more to do with aptitude and your relevant knowledge and awareness would be helpful in tackling some situational questions based on practical paradigm.
 
Optional Subject: In new format, it is only ‘One’ optional subject that you will have to pick but, this is crucial as you need to support your decision that would reflect in your success.

Candidates from diverse background appear in Civil Services Examination and take different subjects as it is left to you to choose with which subject you want to appear in examination.

Do little brainstorming, spend some time analysing different subjects and evaluate your decision on various parameters before saying yes to any particular subject.

Before zeroing on any particular subject, weigh pros and cons associated with the subject.

Another important factor is to identify subjects/topics/areas where you feel comfortable and where not. You may choose a subject which is perceived to be performing or high scoring; but, if is not of your interest, can you put in an honest attempt with that? You decide yourself.

It would be prudent if you opt for the subject you studied during graduation/post-graduation; normally the preparation is built on the foundations of previous learning, knowledge and skills.

This is an examination where you need to make number of choices at various stages of the examination and those who make the right choices emerge successful.

What to read:

It is very important to cultivate the habit of reading to broaden your perspective. Be it General studies or Optional Subject, relying on single book which promises to cover the complete syllabus will not do you much good.

Newspaper reading and NCERT books for laying a solid foundation is must.

While preparing for Mains Examination, you need relevant, updated text which gives you a competitive edge. So, have the best study material and go in for detailed planned study.

Updated knowledge and awareness about the contemporary developments would be of immense value.

Answer Writing Tips:

You need a bit extra care in reading question and understand what is being asked. As demands, carve a simple, short but analytical and precise answer.

Practice a lot that improves your answer style displaying profound knowledge and helps you manage your paper in time.

An Advice:

Of late, knowledge and intelligence has found hard work as a booster to success. Add perseverance also that that is the sure recipe for success.

In itself decision to appear in this examination is big challenge and if you have faith in you, your capabilities, and determination besides having control on yourself, you can accomplish what you are aiming for.

Last Update Thursday 19th March 2015     

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