How to Prepare for UPSC Mains 2024, 3 Months Strategy & Tips

by Vajiram & Ravi


08:30 AM

When it comes to the UPSC Mains preparation, meticulous and a well-structured strategy are paramount. The UPSC CSE Prelims is the first stage of the Civil Services Examination. After you have cleared the first hurdle of this prestigious exam, the most crucial phase of your preparation journey begins, which is for the UPSC Mains. Prelims is qualifying in nature, so your score in that round will not determine your final selection. The UPSC Mains exam, on the other hand, will play a critical role in determining your selection and rank.

As a result, it is critical to develop a solid UPSC Mains preparation strategy that will boost your score and improve your chances of obtaining a good rank. The first step is to find a suitable approach to preparing for the Civil Services Mains examination, which is shared in this article.

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8 Important Tips to Prepare for UPSC Mains Exam 2024

The UPSC Mains exam is all about writing answers that meet the requirements of the questions. While preparing for the Mains exam, the following are some important things to keep in mind:

Understanding the UPSC Mains Syllabus 2024

The UPSC syllabus is comprehensive and covers a wide range of subject areas that are essential for an administrator. It is divided into two language papers, four papers on General Studies - I, II, III and IV, an essay paper, and optional papers - I and II.

It is a good idea to pin the entire syllabus on paper and paste it in front of your study table. This will help you stay focused and remember the topics so that you can relate them to the current events that you read about in the newspaper, articles, or any other study material.

Create a Study Plan for UPSC Mains 2024

To prepare for the UPSC Mains Exam, It is generally advised to complete the syllabus once and revise it at least once before starting your preparation for the Prelims. Some of the tips to create a comprehensive study plan for UPSC Mains are as follows:

  • Joining a UPSC Mains test series is one of the easiest ways to prepare for the Mains exam, which is why it should be included in the study plan. This is because writing answers under a time constraint helps you to cover the syllabus and identify the important topics. It also helps you to identify your areas of weakness so that you can improve them.
  • It is advisable to club related subjects together in your study plan so that you can cover them at a faster pace and avoid boredom. For example, you can club history and polity, geography and environment, economics and current affairs.
  • Ethics is an important subject and should be covered extensively as its importance has been increasing in recent years.
  • With a good booklist, you should aim to cover two subjects in two months. This will take you about six months to cover the entire syllabus thoroughly.

You should start your UPSC Mains preparation in July and plan to finish the entire syllabus by the end of January. This will give you an edge over other candidates when you start preparing for the Prelims. The answer writing practice that you do during this time will also keep you "Mains ready."

UPSC Mains Answer Writing Practise

UPSC Mains Examination requires you to write at least 20 answers within a given time period of 3 hours. This makes Answer writing practice paramount for UPSC Mains as it enhances the ability to articulate thoughts coherently within the given time frame, fine-tuning the skill of addressing multifaceted questions comprehensively. Having everything perfectly fit in the mind does not assure that you will be able to write the same on paper. Everyday answer writing practice will help you develop analytical thinking, structure responses logically, and reinforce the integration of knowledge across subjects. Through consistent practice, you will gain confidence, improve time management, and develop the capacity to present complex ideas with clarity, a crucial skill for success in the UPSC Mains Exam.

Understand the Trends of Questions

To write qualitative answers, it is important to understand the trend of questions in each paper, including the essay. The best way to do this is to track UPSC previous year question papers. This will help you identify the important topics and areas that are likely to be tested.

You can also use a technique called "reverse engineering" to improve your understanding of the questions. Reverse engineering involves starting with the question and working backwards to identify the relevant concepts and theories. This can help you to write more comprehensive and analytical answers.

For example, if you see a question about the Fundamental Rights chapter, you can start by identifying the specific rights that are mentioned in the question. Then, you can read the relevant sections of the Constitution and other textbooks to understand the meaning and implications of those rights. This will help you to write a more informed and nuanced answer.

The same methodology can be applied to your optional subject as well. By tracking previous year's question papers and using reverse engineering, you can identify the important topics and areas that you need to focus on. This will help you to write qualitative answers that will impress the examiners.

Develop Essay Writing Skills

Writing an essay for the UPSC Mains Exam requires a structured and well-organised approach. The UPSC essay paper is not just limited to assessing your creative writing skills, but rather, the focus is on evaluating your ability to think critically, express your ideas clearly, and present a balanced perspective on various issues. While preparing for Mains Examination, a well-structured essay has a clear introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Your introduction should introduce the topic and provide a brief overview of your stance. Each body paragraph should focus on a specific point, argument, or example. The conclusion should summarise your main points and reiterate your thesis.

Focus on Optional Subject Preparation

The Optional Papers 1 and 2 together combine to 500 marks, helping you improve your overall ranking in UPSC Mains. While preparing for the Mains Exam, a well-prepared optional subject can elevate overall scores, compensating for challenges in other areas. It showcases in-depth knowledge, analytical skills, and critical thinking, thereby reflecting a candidate's multidimensional aptitude. A strong performance in the optional paper not only boosts rankings but also amplifies the overall profile, demonstrating a candidate's commitment and proficiency in a chosen field.

Current Affairs for UPSC Mains Preparation

Current affairs play an important role in your UPSC Mains preparation. They help you demonstrate relevance and awareness. Integrating recent events into answers adds depth and context, showcasing your grasp of real-world implications. Understanding contemporary issues fosters a holistic viewpoint, enriching essays and answers across subjects. Regularly reading newspapers, journals, and analysis platforms helps cultivate an informed perspective, contributing to well-rounded responses and increasing overall exam performance.

Maintain a balance between your Studies, Health and Well-Being

It is essential to maintain physical and mental fitness while preparing for the UPSC Mains Exam. The UPSC Mains Exam Preparation requires you to stay on the learning curve for over 18 months. During this time, discipline is the only thing that will help you achieve your goal. However, excessive focus on studies and neglecting your health and mental well-being can be counterproductive.

Here are some of the reasons why it is important to stay fit and healthy while preparing for the UPSC Mains Exam:

  • Physical fitness can help you maintain focus and concentration. When you are physically fit, you have more energy and stamina, which can help you stay focused and concentrated on your studies.
  • Mental fitness can help you deal with stress and anxiety. The UPSC exam is a stressful exam, and it is important to have the mental strength to deal with the stress.
  • Good health can help you avoid illness and injury. When you are healthy, you are less likely to get sick or injured, which can help you stay on track with your studies.

Do’s and Don'ts while Preparing for UPSC Mains 2024

Preparing for the UPSC Mains examination is a rigorous and challenging process. Here are some do's and don'ts to help you navigate this journey effectively:


  • Form a daily time table and follow it meticulously.
  • Be regular with your studies, including the coverage of current affairs.
  • Allot proportionately the time to cover G.S, Optional Subject and Essay.
  • Revise your lessons regularly.
  • Access your performance periodically.


  • Never procrastinate
  • Never postpone the development of writing skills
  • Don't try to cover too much at once. Focus on quality rather than quantity in your preparation.
  • Avoid comparing your progress with others. Everyone's journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for you.
  • Never take lightly the language papers that are compulsory.
  • Stay confident in your abilities and stay motivated throughout your UPSC Mains preparation.
Other Related Posts of UPSC Exam
UPSC Syllabus 2024UPSC Prelims Result 2024
UPSC Age LimitUPSC Exam Date 2024
UPSC Exam PatternUPSC Previous Year Question Paper
UPSC CalendarUPSC Marksheet
UPSC Optional Subjects ListUPSC CSAT Syllabus

UPSC Mains Preparation Strategy FAQs

How to Prepare for UPSC Mains?

To prepare for the UPSC Mains, candidates need to have a strong strategy and a well-structured timetable. They should start by reading the NCERT textbooks, which provide a solid foundation in the basic concepts. Then, they can move on to more advanced books and materials. It is also important to make their own notes, which can be helpful for revision.

Are NCERT Books sufficient to prepare for UPSC Mains?

The NCERT books are a good starting point for IAS exam preparation, but they are not sufficient. They cover the basic concepts, but you will need to refer to other resources to cover the entire syllabus, such as advanced textbooks for different subjects, test series, PYQs, etc.

How hard is the UPSC Mains Exam?

The UPSC Mains Exam is considered challenging due to its comprehensive syllabus and demand for analytical thinking. It assesses candidates' depth of knowledge, writing skills, and ability to connect concepts across subjects. Success requires thorough preparation, consistent practice, and a strategic approach, making it a rigorous evaluation of candidates' aptitude for civil services roles.

How much time is required to Prepare for UPSC Mains?

The time required to prepare for UPSC Mains varies based on factors like prior knowledge, study hours per day, and familiarity with the syllabus. On average, a focused and well-structured preparation of 3-4 months is recommended. This duration allows for in-depth coverage of subjects, multiple revisions, and extensive answer writing practice, ensuring a comprehensive readiness for the examination.

How to prepare for UPSC Mains Answer Writing?

Preparing for UPSC Mains answer writing involves consistent practice. Analyse past papers and syllabus to identify key areas. Develop a structured approach with clear introductions, main points, examples, and conclusions. Follow the 7-5-3 answer writing approach in your answer writing. Regularly engage in timed writing sessions, seek feedback, and refine your style to ensure clarity, depth, and conciseness in your answers.

How to prepare for UPSC Mains without coaching?

Preparing for UPSC Mains without coaching involves self-discipline. Follow a well-structured timetable with focused study hours. Utilise standard textbooks and online resources for comprehensive coverage. Engage in self-assessment through mock tests and previous years' papers, and seek guidance from experienced candidates or mentors when needed.