The UPSC Prelims took place on the 4th of October 2020 and now is the time to move forward and towards the next target which is your IAS Mains that will take place in January 2021. Now is the time where every candidate should be thinking about what to do next and how to approach the situation. It is very important to devise a foolproof plan to tackle your upcoming Mains.

This article will help you devise one that suits your personal needs and help you understand what is expected of you so you can adjust a schedule accordingly.

How to Prepare for IAS Mains?

Ideally, you should have started preparing for your Mains since last year. The UPSC syllabus is too extensive and detail-oriented to be done in a few months. Crash courses do exist but they aren’t very efficient and don’t generally give optimal results. For an exam like UPSC CSE, it’s important to take a slow and steady approach. The best time to start preparing for UPSC is since a year prior to the year you’re giving your exams.

Hence, for your UPSC CSE 2020-2021, you should have ideally started learning since 2019. The best strategy for preparing for UPSC and also to prepare for UPSC without coaching is to know your strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly.

Start Planning

It is very important to start by planning out how to approach the exam. A perfect strategy is already half a battle won. To plan out your year for preparation and to set fixed goals is the first step. The following table shows what an ideal schedule, according to most candidates looks like.

Also Read : Online Classes Available for UPSC Preparation: Course Details and Fees for the Courses

Start Your Preparation a Year Before
1 From Previous Year till January of the current year Prepare for both Prelims and Mains
2 February to May Focus only on Prelims
3 Immediately after Prelims Exam Start Answer Writing Practice for Mains

Generally, the Prelims would take place in June but it has been postponed to October this year due to the Covid-19 situation. This may cause minor ruptures in your preparation but don’t panic and keep your head down and keep working hard.

UPSC Syllabus and Overlapping Topics in Prelims and Mains

There are nine papers in Mains:

Sl. No. Papers Topics
1 Paper A Indian Language
2 Paper B English
3 Paper I Essay
4 Paper II GS I
5 Paper III GS II
6 Paper IV GS III
7 Paper V GS IV
8 Paper VI Optional Subject Paper-I
9 Paper VII Optional Subject Paper-II

The syllabus for Optional Subjects, Indian Language, English and Essay Paper is completely different but there are some overlappings in the General Papers with the Prelims.

  • Paper 1 consists of Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
  • Paper 2 consists of Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International Relations.
  • Paper 3 consists of Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
  • Paper 4 consists of Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude.

The topics in common in these four papers are:

  • History Art and Culture
  • Modern History
  • Geography
  • Polity
  • International Relations
  • Economics
  • Government Schemes

Answer Writing Practice

Answers for UPSC are all supposed to be descriptive types. You have to write around 150-300 words for each answer and every answer must be well put together, rich in content and stylishly put together so it reflects your intelligence and personal opinions well.

This is no small feat and thus it is extremely important to religious practice answer writing skills. It can be done by using Mind Maps and well-annotated notes which help the candidate collate information and content quickly and efficiently so that they have enough points for the answer. Regular answer writing practice and solving past and mock questions and papers is also important as it makes you used to the act of forming answers easily and on the spot.

Importance of the Essay Paper

The essay paper is divided into two parts, A and B and each part has four topics out of which candidates are supposed to choose one from both parts and write a 1000-2000 word long essay in the allotted 3 hours time period. One part generally has topics that are general quotes and the other part has topics that are administration related. The essay is one of the most important papers for UPSC as it directly influences the rank of the candidate. Points to keep in mind while attempting this paper are:

  • Choose the topic wisely.
  • Think about the topic for 30 minutes.
  • Write down all the points at the end of a sheet.
  • Make a structure of your essay.
  • Don’t be provocative.
  • Provide suggestions for reforms
  • Conclude

Updated Current Affairs

Current affairs are one of the key factors of the whole examination. It is important for every candidate to be thorough with the current scenario of the country and the world in every field before the examination. Not only is current affairs used as direct questions but also as case studies in other questions. Questions related to current affairs are most often correlated to different topics of history, geography or international relations.


The initial difference between UPSC CSE Prelims and Mains is that while the former is most focused on recognition of information and requires exhaustive and devotional, Mains requires the ability to recall, analyse and express your ideas and information, including one’s personal opinions, properly which can only be done through an intensive study and understanding of of the topic.

Therefore it is very important to stay focused and cover the topics that you have picked for Mains by going into the depths and minute details. Being detail-oriented and absolutely clear about your thoughts gives you positive feedback in this exam. Using the right approach and picking the right parts of the syllabus for the intensive study will not only help manage time but also gain you more marks in the end.

Also Read : UPSC Prelims 2020: Check-out the Topics Covered in the Exam This Year

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UPSC Prelims 2020: Done with the Paper? Check out these Tips for Mains Preparation
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UPSC Prelims 2020: Done with the Paper? Check out these Tips for Mains Preparation
There’s no time to stop! Hustle to devise a plan and start learning for your UPSC IAS Mains papers and optional papers. Read on to learn how to devise a plan to tackle your Mains.
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