The ideal preparation one must follow is a Prelims cum Mains approach. This will allow the students time to cover the vast syllabus in short portions over the course of the exam. But sometimes, aspirants tend to leave Mains preparation a bit and end up in a challenging situation when facing Mains. I will try to explain what an aspirant should do when they are in such a tricky situation.
What to do first when time is short?
The very first thing one must do is to take the previous years’ papers and to start looking through the questions. Not only will you be able to understand how the questions are asked, but you will also get to know the areas from which very few questions are asked. For example, from World History, only one question is usually asked in GS-1. This doesn’t mean that you should not study World History at all, but give more preference to other subjects when compared to World History. Find out the topics from which the most questions are being asked. For those areas from which maximum questions are being asked, try to attempt all the previous years’ questions to understand how you should write the best answer and also to prepare the needed content for them. For example, from GS-1, Society is a topic from which you can expect a few questions every year, and the content is also available easily. Like this, continue for all the other subjects and make sure you give a proper order of importance. You are requested to provide a bare minimum of reading and preparation to even the least important topics since marks from every answer counts in this journey. So, devote your time accordingly. Follow the same for your optional paper as well. Maintain enough time for your optional preparation and give enough time to analyse the previous years’ papers and make a plan accordingly.
The Common Topics
Since you gave a lot of time to Prelims, it will also give you an edge in topics that are common to both Prelims and Mains. For example, GS2 is overlapping with the Polity of Prelims. Likewise, the Environment, Science & Technology in GS3 overlaps with the same in Prelims. Hence, you have a sound base for these topics. Now, you have to supplement these topics a bit to make it suitable for Mains as well. Like, for the Polity that you have studied in Prelims, improve it by learning about various significant judgements, the analytic part of important schemes to help you write the answer for Mains. This would definitely enhance your answers in a relatively short period of time as you have the basics covered already and only the polishing of knowledge is required now.
Subjects That Take Less Time:
GS, in general, is a vast area to study. But this is applicable for GS1, GS2 and GS3. Compared to this, GS4 (Ethics) can be finished faster as the syllabus is shorter and you are not required to mug the portions. Along with this, the Essay paper has to be given special attention. For the Ethics paper, though there is very little overlapping with the other papers, Ethics is most definitely a scoring one, and you may use this as an opportunity to cover the marks that you lose from other GS papers. This goes the same for Essay. What you have learned from your UPSC preparation can be applied to write a good essay, and like the Ethics paper, the Essay paper too is mark-rewarding compared to other GS papers. But, to get good marks from the Essay paper, you have to write well with structure, clarity, coherence and content. Though you may find it difficult to write a good essay in your first try, by the 5th Essay you attempt, you will notice considerable changes. You will get good marks in Essay within a less span of time if you continue to write more.
Though going through the above tips would help you improve your Mains marks, more than everything you should focus on practise answer writing. If you are not able to finish all the questions in 3 hours, then that would decrease your chances of selection. While attempting mock tests, you will also understand the gaps that you have to fill and how to structure the answer properly for the best marks. This would further improve your chance of clearing the Mains. The more you write, the closer you are to the mark. It doesn’t matter whether you started late or studied only for Prelims; what matters now is to take that pen and start writing till you are confident.