Main Exam


The Main Examination is the most important stage of the exam. If you are well prepared for the mains, then a good foundation for your success is made. The risk involved with the interview can also be reduced with good performance in Main Examination. Always target the Mains Exam and make clearing the Prelims an incidental objective and a passing phase in the path of your goal. If you always focus on Prelims result and don’t think of Mains till the Prelims results are out, you will end up as a looser because there is hardly any time left for a thorough preparation. So always aim at the Mains.


  • Your answer in the exam is the only medium through which you can convey to the examiner. So you should always think as to how to impress the examiner with the answer. Your pen, handwriting, writing style, logical presentation, innovations, relevance to the question, etc, everything matters. Be careful about these aspects right from the beginning.
  • The final two months should be devoted to repeated revisions.
  • The writing practice within time limit should be done from the beginning. This will help in understanding what you can remember and reproduce within the time limit. If you do this as the preparation progresses then the study will be exam-oriented.
  • Improve your handwriting if it is bad. Your handwriting should at least be easily legible.
  • You can use colour pens when you draw figures, diagrams etc.
  • While writing answers, focus on good introductions and conclusions. The presentation should be logical. The introduction should introduce the reader about the path he is about to take and whats in stored for him. It should raise the curiosity of the reader. While, the conclusion should sum up what the reader has gone through in the path. There should be a balanced judgement in the conclusions.
  • You need not have a very good vocabulary or scholarly writing style. It is sufficient if you can present your answer in a simple logical manner.
  • Your aim should be to score equally well in all the papers.
  • The presentation is to be practiced well. Do not dump the information in the exam, but present it in a logical and attractive manner. The point form can be used only for some factual areas. Other wise, paragraph mode with good analysis should be used.
  • Read the question carefully and grasp the aspect being asked. The answer should be relevant to what is being asked.

What is required

  1. Devoted study
  2. Good writing style
  3. To the Point Approach
  4. Basic command over English and Aptitude
  5. Good grasp over current affairs
  6. Healthy competitions and feedbacks…. i.e. critical self assessment
  7. Quality material and guidance
  8. Patience and Self confidence

How to select the optional subject?

This is very important decision. Fortunately in the new format GS is much more important. First start preparing for GS and then after some time take this decision. Because in four GS papers you will be introduced to variety of optional subjects like History, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science and Sociology. This will help you to determine your inclination to a particular subject. Every subject has its own demand (i.e. thinking pattern, writing style, presentation techniques etc). Your personality should suit to it.

Following are some basic criteria…

  • Interest and understanding in the subject (about which you will come to know when you study for GS Mains)
  • Analysis of the syllabus and previous years’ question papers of the shortlisted subjects
  • Writing style and presentation techniques suitable for that particular optional (about which you will know once you start writing for GS and essay)
  • Thinking Pattern expected for a particular optional (you will come to know about yours after you prepare for GS.)
  • Availability of study material
  • Availability of guidance
  • Weightage of optional in GS
  • Graduation background
  • Apart from this, some give importance to the length of the syllabus…. Which is an unfound criterion


How to prepare for Civil Services Mains Exam?

As per the latest pattern of Civil Services Exam has 4 GS papers + 2 optional papers + 1 essay paper. In addition to this, there are 2 language papers which are only qualifying in nature. (a total of 9 papers.)

There is no doubt that a thorough understanding of General studies is vital not only for IAS prelims, but also for mains.

GS – Papers (Mains)

Mark Counted Papers

  1. Paper 1 – Essay (250 marks).
  2. Paper 2 – General Studies – Paper 1 (250 marks).
  3. Paper 3 – General Studies – Paper 2 (250 marks).
  4. Paper 4 – General Studies – Paper 3 (250 marks).
  5. Paper 5 – General Studies – Paper 4 (250 marks).
  6. Paper 6 – Optional – Paper 1 (250 marks).
  7. Paper 7 – Optional – Paper 2 (250 marks).

Qualifying Papers

  1. Paper A – Regional Language.
  2. Paper B – English Language.

Strategy for General Studies Papers (Mains)

There are four papers for General Studies that is introduced from 2013. Each of them carry 250 marks and in total they make 1000 marks. With the gravity of Civil Services Mains examination now being shifted to General Studies, it’s very important to have a sound strategy for its preparation, as now score of General Studies has become the passport of success.

Students should go through current National issues and topics of social relevance, major happenings at the national level during the last one calendar year. Issues of social relevance that affect the lives of people should always be dealt in detail. National newspapers, news magazines, journals and periodicals are good source of information to prepare topics related to different papers of General Studies. Here is strategy for each paper according to its syllabus;

Paper I:-Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society

The subject is like a story and there could be linkages between two questions. Students thus need to ensure that the entire syllabus is covered. They can do so without preparing portions which appeared last year in the mains examination. The general trend is that there are no repetitions from last year’s papers, but once in a while students could be in for a surprise. The part relating to Indian heritage and culture will cover all aspects from ancient to modern times. In the segment History and Geography of the world society, students should concentrate on human and economic aspects. There could be questions based on the Human Development Report prepared by United Nations Development Programme. The World Development Report of World Bank deals in different aspects of economic geography and such areas should be stressed in preparation of GS paper one.

Paper II:-Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations

The role of government in public life and giving direction on different policy matters like social work has to be covered under governance. The other focus here could be role of the government in providing budgetary support to areas like atomic energy, manufacturing of military goods and the utility of public sector. Different aspects of the Constitution like Supreme Court judgment during the past one year are important in the constitution segment. At macro level, students need to know in detail issues that pertains to Indian political system for instance reorganization of Indian states. Significance of India’s foreign policy with focus on India’s interaction with rest of the world is a separate area. Indian’s relations with major world powers like US, China, Russia, France, UK and European Union should be covered in detail. Immediate neighbours too play an important role in India’s foreign policy. Reforms in United Nations Security Council (UNSC), India’s bid for permanent seats in the Security Council are some of the areas that require attention.

Paper III:-Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Scientific and technological development during the last one year, with focus on development of AIDS vaccine, stem cell research, non-renewable sources of energy and development of Indian space programme has to be given importance. Regarding economic development, how we manage our economy and issues related to taxation and spending pattern should be covered comprehensively. There should be emphasis on the social sector, issues related to Foreign Direct Investment, disinvestment policy etc. Environmental security is big issue these days and so is the disaster management. In wake of 2004 Tsunami and 2013 Utrakhnd floods the issue of disaster management has gained currency. The probable question could be; Is it justified to spend heavily on space research, when we are unable to manage our natural disaster.

Paper IV:-Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

Ethics and integrity is a new section that’s added from 2013. This is more of general nature and answers can be framed on the spot but some basic understanding of the concepts. The issues associated with it are like, corruption, black money, criminal tendencies, doing things that are unlawful etc. Some very good thought have to be given to ethics and integrity section. However, the aptitude section needs special attention. Statistical analysis, graphs and diagrams are the key feature of this section. This tests the candidates’ ability to draw conclusions from information presented in statistical, graphical or diagrammatical form and to point out deficiencies therein. This segment has to be practiced.

Finally, the General Studies preparation for mains is all about writing so students should be focussed in terms of language, and they should ensure that the answers are concise and analytical. The examiner is usually in a hurry and if provided with facts and coherent replies, his job becomes easier. The answers should be written in a precise manner. Word limit should be adhered to, wherever mentioned. Students should focus on providing their side of justification in a logical manner. Repetitive and elaborate replies should be strictly avoided.

This is a broad strategy for the preparation of the civil services general studies paper. One can add and improvise this strategy in order to get better results. However, the fact that has to be underlined is, there is no short cut to success in Civil Services.

Note the following points

1. prepare topic-wise. As you go through various sources, identify the topics that can be asked in the exam. Write the topics on a sheet of paper.You will be preparing notes for those topics only.Now, for the notes you will have to go through the material. The main source will be the Hindu newspaper. The other sources should be supplemented to gain clarity in the topics.

2.Everyday listen to the AIR news bulletins. They cover all important topics in a dispassionate manner. The analysis after the bulletin is also quite good. Try doing some thing else while listening the news so that you don’t waste time. If any political or unimportant issue is being discussed in the news you can ignore and concentrate on your work.

3. Next day by the time paper comes, you already know what to expect from that since you followed news on AIR previous day. So, go to the important topics and read slowly, and prepare notes.

4.Do not read everything in the newspaper. Read only that which is important for the exam. Do not even look at the items from second page to centre page. The main focus should be on front page, editorials, articles, news analysis, business etc. In the sports page just spend time on recognising the personalities and tournaments which can be asked in exam.

5. Before reading a news item, question logically about that topic or issue. Then read the article. This way the eyes try to gather the answers for the questions raised. Also, the clarity on the topic increases.

6. The logical and intense questioning is very important. For eg, if there is a news item on Siachen Glacier, then you should question and find answers as following: what is Siachen Glacier; where is it; what is the problem; why the problem developed; what is the impact on Indo-Pak relations; what efforts have been made to solve the dispute; what are the difficulties; what is its significance; how can it be solved; Once you have a logical structure, the preparation is over. And, this is what the examiner expects from you.

7. With practise, you should increase efficiency and should not spend more that 1.5 hrs on newspaper.

8. many innovations can be made like maps, diagrams, flow charts, graphs, case studies etc. – Keep two mark questions in mind while preparing for the current affairs. Make separate notes for the personalities, places, awards, terms, etc.

9. keep cuttings of the editorial in a monthly file. General Suggestions: – writing practise within the time limit is very important. There is problem of time management for the GS paper2.

10.Go though the Vajiram coaching material if you have access to it.

11. while reading newspapers observe the following- abbreviations; new terms; organisations; quotes and examples which can be used elsewhere; etc.