The Prelims are over and with that brings in another kind of anxiety about how candidates did in their exams and how to step further and prepare for your Mains because as you know, the battle is far from over. Many candidates spend time waiting for their Prelims result before starting to prepare for their Mains but that option if far from ideal. It is best to focus on moving forward than to spend time crying over spilt milk.

The First Step is to Take a Break

First, take a break from your exam preparation after finishing your Prelims preparation. Take time to regroup all your focus and energy to get ready for another round of rigorous studying and solving questions. The break is very important so do not try to skip it. Spend time leisurely to refresh yourself with hobbies, shows or go out with friends and family or just simply sleep in! Make sure to be happy, relaxed, and keep yourself in good spirits as it is vital for you, both physically and mentally.

Spend Time Scheduling and Researching

Try to spend some time planning a strategy for how to go about your Mains’ preparation and analyzing your Prelims paper. Worrying about whether you can get through your Prelims is also very common however there are three ways to go about it according to the three different instances.

  • If you feel that you’re confident that you’ve definitely cracked your Prelims, then prepare for your Mains without any doubts, with full confidence.
  • if you think there is a 50/50 chance, even then you need to prepare for your Mains exam
  • If you know for sure that you have scored low marks and won’t clear this year’s Prelims, then start getting ready and work on your strategy for next year peacefully.

General Study Plan for Every Paper

Generally, you should have covered the whole syllabus in the past year or so, so right now what you’re doing is focusing on revising the material and practising how to answer the questions and solving mock papers. The ideal schedule looks like:

S.No Subject Time-Period
1. GS Paper 1 10-15 Days
2. GS Paper 2 15-20 Days
3. GS Paper 3 15-20 Days
4. GS Paper 4 15-20 Days
5. Optional Subject 35-40 Days
6. Essay Weekly 2 Topics

First Month (GS Paper 1 and 2)

The GS Paper 1 is a pretty easy paper as most of the syllabus is covered in prelims so all you have to do is spend time going over your notes and revising the syllabus. For general concepts, you have to spend time going through your NCERTs and EPW magazines.

GS Paper 2 is a tricky paper comparatively as you need good command over Polity, Governance and International Relations. All these topics need conceptual understanding, good knowledge of current affairs and proper personal opinions.

Second Month (GS Paper 3-4)

In all GS Papers in Mains, Paper 3 is considered one of the more dynamic one as almost all the questions are based on current issues. If you paid a good amount of attention to the last 1-2 years worth of news and current affairs, then this paper will be child’s play to you or else it really needs you to work hard to catch-up. All topics in this paper are based on both conceptual understanding and the recent developments on that issue.

GS Paper 4 is also known as the ethics paper and is divided into two parts, Part A deals with theoretical aspects, and Part B deals with case studies.

While preparing for Part A, put special emphasis on ethical concepts and meaning. Apart from that, have a good understanding of the Aptitude, Attitude, Emotional Intelligence. While for part B practice more case studies before you appear for the Mains exam. Join any test series, or you can solve case studies from previous years’ papers.

Also Read: How To Prepare Ethics For CSE Mains? 

Third Month (Optional Papers and Essay)

Actually, practicing to write an essay should be a weekly activity as you need to get into a habit of writing essays by practicing regularly. Try to write an essay on a variety of topic, both on general quote and administration based topics such as:

  • Globalisation
  • Women empowerment
  • Quote based Topics
  • Philosophical Topics
  • Science and Tech Topics
  • Education
  • Economy – Growth and Development Issues
  • Culture
  • Democracy etc.

Also Read: How To Write A Good Essay For UPSC?

For Optional Subjects, preparation generally takes the major chunk of the time. Choose your optional subject well according to your interests and talents as having an innate passion for the subject would reflect well in your answers.

Take your time to finish the syllabus and practice mock questions and solve past papers. Practice your answer writing skills for descriptive type questions. Be sure of the syllabus and take your time covering all the topics well.


Do not make haste and brush through the whole journey as the Mains paper is more in-depth and detail-oriented. Make sure to have a personal opinion or some thoughts and reforms ready for every topic as most questions not only ask for information but also for your personal take on the topic.

Also Read : UPSC One Year Study Plan: Start Preparing for UPSC 2021 Right Now

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UPSC Month-Wise Study Plan for Mains: Check this Effective Post Prelims Strategy
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UPSC Month-Wise Study Plan for Mains: Check this Effective Post Prelims Strategy
No time to rest! Adjust your schedule for your 100 days of learning for the upcoming UPSC Mains 2020. Read on to find out how to make your final study plan and checklist.
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