Saturday, 30 June 2018

Preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Examination - Mains by Satyakam Dutta - Part 1

In the earlier issues, we have discussed about the UPSC Civil Services Examination and the kind of preparation which is required to crack the same. We have discussed about the pattern of the examination, the various stages of the examination (Prelims, Mains and Interview) and also about the various papers of the Preliminary examination in details. I hope many of the readers have, by now, made up their minds to appear in this examination. As I have said earlier, the entire examination is a long and deep process of learning, and even if one is not selected, he learns a lot during the entire process and comes out as a learned human being. The process of learning that one endures during the preparation of this examination, helps one in getting other related jobs, like State Services, Bank or SSC. Further, it also helps in building one as a better human being, sensible and compassionate.

In this series now, we are going to discuss the various Papers which are part of the Mains Examination. After selection in the Prelims, one has to appear in the subjective examination call the Mains Examination. Out of several lakhs of candidates appearing in the Preliminary examination, around 15,000 candidates qualify to appear in the Mains examination. The Mains examination broadly consists of the following:
Civil Services (Mains) Examination Format
Paper A
(One of the Indian languages mentioned below, to be selected by the candidate (from the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India) (Qualifying)
Paper B
English (Qualifying)
Paper I
Paper II
General Studies I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)
Paper III
General Studies II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations)
Paper IV
General Studies III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
Paper V
General Studies IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
Papers VI, VII
Two papers on subjects to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects below (250 marks for each paper)
Sub Total (Written Test) (Paper I + II + III + IV + V + VI + VII)
Personality Test (Interview)
Total Marks

It is to be noted here that Paper A and B are just qualifying papers, which means one just need to pass in those papers and the marks obtained in those papers shall be included in the total for preparation of the merit list. List of languages that one can take up for the Paper A are Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi (Devanagari/Arabic Script), Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.  Though the UPSC has never disclosed the passing marks of the qualifying papers, a score of 50% is considered to be safe. It is pertinent here to mention here that rest of the papers are checked only when one passes in the qualifying papers.
For the Optional paper (Papers VI and VII) one can take any of the following subjects: Agriculture, Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science, Anthropology, Botany, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Commerce & Accountancy, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Geography, Geology, History, Law, Management,  Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Medical Science, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science & International Relations, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology, Statistics, Zoology and Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi , Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, English.
Hence, the plethora of choices is huge. One can choose among various subjects according to one’s own liking. It is not mandatory that one has to choose an optional in which one has graduated in. He can take any subject to be his optional from the subjects mentioned above. I graduated in Computer Engineering and did a Masters in Management. But I had chosen Assamese Literature and Public Administration as my two optionals. Back then, one had to choose two optional subjects. Now, one has to choose a single optional subject.
Now, coming to one very crucial question which I am being asked on a regular basis – can I crack the UPSC examination without coaching? The answer is an emphatic YES; but with conditions attached. If one is self-motivated and is confident that he can maintain his motivation throughout, I think such an aspirant does not need any coaching. He can coach himself. He has to maintain a regular routine, read toppers blogs to find a strategy which is best-suited for him and then apply the same in his day-to-day affairs. There has to be a lifestyle change of a person preparing for this examination. He has to keep himself aloof from most distractions nearby, I mean, to the extent possible. I used to do a 9-5 job. Beyond those hours, I tried to keep myself glued to my strategy.  And finally it worked, not once, but twice!

I will keep the topic “Selection of an optional” for a later time, as it will consume one full article. From the next articles in this series, I shall try to take up one paper at a time and discuss. You may send me your queries at and I shall try to address them. A few relevant queries can be answered here for common good of all.
A few good websites/blogs to follow:

Other Articles in the series:


Post a Comment