UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination consists of a total of 9 papers (two are of qualifying in nature) and for each exam you are given three hours to complete. Many a time, aspirants often complain that either the allotted three hours is not enough or that it is barely enough to finish the paper. UPSC has purposefully made the exam this way so that aspirants are forced to perform their best under pressure and so that they can recreate the same quality when they become a civil servant.
The question arises, how can we get that quality in the first place? Having finesse to face the exam is one thing, but that alone does not help you finish the paper in three hours. Even a single mark can change your fate in the final rank list, and so if the aspirant can complete all the questions in the papers, that alone can tremendously increase their chance of becoming a civil servant. There are some tips, tricks and habits that one must follow to complete the paper on time.
- Have writing practice – The first and foremost is always to know where you stand. This is a habit that you must cultivate and nurture all through the journey. You must know how many questions you can deliver in three hours in a mock test/self-made test and make changes accordingly. Do not enter into the mains exam without taking any mock tests as you have to know what you are up against before you approach it. That’s the tactic every aspirant must follow.
- Less space & more information- A booklet is provided for writing answers in UPSC civil services examination- mains. This means that there is limited space to convey your thoughts. Try to incorporate maps, figures, bullet points whenever you have a paucity of time or when you have the need to express more information in less space. Not only does this give your answer a fresh look, but it will also have more content.
- Less thinking and more writing- The biggest mistake an aspirant makes when writing the Mains exam is to overthink when trying to write the best answer. Kindly note that even the topper gets only around 50% in their written examination and hence the idea of writing the perfect answer should not be the motivation. Instead, try to write what you know after using a few seconds to frame the answer in your mind. While writing the answer, you can improvise to make it better. Remember, the hand that writes should keep on writing from the memory while the thinking part of the brain should be left alone to structure the answer better and not to create the answer itself. This saves a lot of time while writing.
- Avoid stress- writing back to back exams can be physically and mentally tiring. Hence one must be ready to attend the exam with full vigour always. Every aspirant will be going through hand pain after finishing the exam. To keep this pain to a bare minimum, try to find out what pen gives you the maximum comfort and writing speed in your mock exams. This is where mocks will help you build speed and muscle memory.
For avoiding mental stress, it is best to have a good night’s sleep before you write your exams and eat enough food to have the energy to write for long hours. Quality sleep and nutrition will be needed for the Mains exam as a tired brain will make you slower, both when writing and thinking.
- Write one by one- Some might tend to read all the questions first and then formulate the mental answer for each and then start writing. Kindly avoid this. Not only does this increase your stress if the questions are challenging, whatever mental answers that you might have prepared will be forgotten as you have to attempt twenty questions. Also, to limit the stress that you are facing, try to start with a question and then move onto the next instead of looking for the perfect answer. Your brain will automatically adjust to the stressful situation after a few minutes, and so by the end of the answer for the question that you first attempted, you will be feeling more confident when writing the next.
- Paucity of time- If at all, you are unable to complete the paper even after your best effort and if you have just a few minutes left, try to finish the next question not with full sentences. Instead, shorten your answer as much as possible using figures/points and attempt as many questions as possible. This will give the examiner an impression that you know the answer and marks will be awarded accordingly. If you try to finish just one question, the marks awarded will be only for that particular question and not for others.
The above mentioned are just some tips and tricks to get the best out of the situation. Please remember that what tops everything is your hard work and hunger for knowledge. Any aspirant who has the above two qualities will clear the civil services examination. Officers’ IAS Academy wishes you all the very best for your upcoming examination.