Without a doubt, Mains is the most important stage of the exam. It decides whether you are finally selected or not.
Interview comprises of only 300 marks and I am of the opinion that it is not in your hands. A lot of it depends on luck.
But a good score in the mains is certainly achievable if the right strategy is adopted. As I have pointed out earlier, there were some fundamental mistakes I committed in my previous attempts.
I would like to share those mistakes with you so that you can guard against them.
|General Studies I||170||136||166|
|General Studies II||165||142||127|
|Public Administration I||183||130||157|
|Public Administration II||184||157||152|
|Mains total||1126 (+228)||981 (+28)||1025 (+20)|
|Total||1309 (+182)||1158 (-16)||1160 (-65)|
|General category cut- off||2009||2008||2007|
- Joining Vajiram for GS Mains was not a very good decision in spite of the fact that teaching was good. A 6 hour class everyday after the prelims result is just too much. There’s no time to study the optionals or any other GS material.
- I joined Vajiram for pub ad. As I pointed out, following others blindly and joining an institute just because it is well known and puts up ads featuring top rankers doesn’t mean it’s good. The faculty at that point of time was totally out of touch with the requirements of the exam. As a result, I had the wrong approach for pub ad and always scored average marks. Even then, I continued to use some of the content taught in the class in my later attempts and that is why I say, knowledge never goes waste.
- In GS 2 paper, I expected 180 and ended up with 127. I agreed with others when they said UPSC is unpredictable. But during my preparation in 2009, I realised why I scored just 127. Unpredictability is certainly there, but to the extent of +/- 20.
I will explain it through a sample question:
Biometric ATM (3 marks): in 2007 I would have written: biometrics involve identification of an individual using his physical characteristics such as fingerprints, iris scan, etc. ATM is an automated teller machine used to withdraw money. Biometric ATM involves integration of these 2 technologies to access financial services.
In 2009 I wrote: Biometric ATM involves an ATM which uses physical characteristics for identification such as fingerprints and iris scan. It is planned by the government to introduce this technology in rural areas as there is widespread cheating and leakage of funds by moneylenders, government officials, etc owing to widespread illiteracy. It may be integrated with the UID project.
It is not only “what it is” that is being asked. More importantly, “why was it in the news” that is to be written. Newspaper reading is therefore vital.
- Psychology paper 1 & 2: I wrote examples given in the book and explained all the experiments and researches in 100 words or so. This led to an average answer and hence an average score. Didn’t underline and specify key words.
- Pub Ad paper 1 & 2: Again, relied on all the wrong sources. Case studies from IIPA journals and emphasising too much on names and quotations.
- GS 1 & 2: The mains exam started with disaster. I felt the GS paper 1 was easier than 2007. But here lies one of the biggest mistakes I committed. I got carried away after looking at the questions that I knew everything. Aimed at writing everything in each answer and ended up short on time. I had to finish 100 marks in the last 30 minutes. First time in my life that I wasn’t able to manage time.
To top it all, I used to study in an AC room all the time. Mumbai is very hot and humid in October. So had a harrowing time while writing the paper. It seems a really foolish thing to happen, but it did happen nevertheless.
After the paper, I felt like running away. Instead of focussing on GS paper 2 and revising stats and other topics, I kept thinking about my chances of making it to the next stage. Went with the wrong mindset and to top it all, the stats portion was tough. Again, messed it up. Expected 120, but did get 142.
- Essay: It was the worst ever essay I wrote during my civil services exam tenure. Carried the bad mood of the previous day into the essay and hence it got reflected in the marks I secured.
- Pub Ad 1: Completely wrong approach. Took examples from each and every country I could think of. Tried to apply concepts and names rather than writing an answer from every possible perspective. Differentiated between paper 1 & 2 as I thought paper 1 was not about India.
I missed final selection by 16 marks. Had I not been so foolish to commit these mistakes, who knows? Therefore, always go into a paper without thinking about what happened earlier. Whether the previous paper was good or bad, it has no bearing on the next one.
- Essay: even though I felt the essay I wrote was certainly better than during the one in 2008, the principle of +/- 20 may be applied as I expected around 120.
One of the reasons might be that I crammed into the essay too much factual data as I wrote on health, which might have led to a boring and monotonous essay.
But as you can see, Mains decides whether you are going to make it or not. Securing merely 20-30 marks more than the cut-off for mains is going to make it extremely difficult to get selected finally. Focus on getting at least 100 marks more than the mains cut-off by adopting and adhering to a given strategy based on the exam pattern of the last 1-2 years.