Tips For Main Examination


The main is exam is the most important stage of the exam. If you are well prepared for the mains, then a good foundation will be made. The risk involved with the interview can also be reduced with good main performance. The preparation should be mains- oriented right from the beginning. You should try to gather as many marks as possible in the main exam.

Note the following points:

Improve your handwriting

The answer is the medium through which you are conveying to the examiner.  So you should 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 practise 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.
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 instored 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. In general, you should get above 300 in optionals and the GS. Depending on your strong areas you should get more marks in some papers. The essay score should be above 100. In this way, if you can get around 1100, then the position will be very strong.
At the end, you should be in a position to lecture 5-10 minutes on any topic. Then it means you have the basic clarity.
The presentation is to be practised well. Do not dump the information, 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.

General Studies

The GS paper is common to everyone both at prelims and mains stage. It is usually observed that the aspirants fear the GS paper. But with proper orientation GS becomes very scoring. In fact, many try to concentrate more on optionals than GS. This may not be a good strategy, as GS gives good marks with less efforts. The GS is also helpful in essay and interview , and also later on in career. Therefore, proper attention should be given to GS preparation.
Firstly, the nature of GS should be understood. This can be done by a thorough analysis of the previous years papers. It can be observed that the examiner is not asking anything under the Sun, which is contrary to the opinion of many aspirants. The questions are focused only on certain dimensions, especially those relevant for an administrative career.
It is important to know the difference between a generalist and a specialist. A generalist is a person who knows "less and less of more and more", while a specialist is a person who knows "more and more of less and less". The civils exam in the GS paper is testing the Generalist approach.

The national movement and related developments have to be studied with good basic clarity.The aspirant should have a clear idea about the chronological sequence, the linkages between various topics and a good analysis about each stage. It should be remembered that the portion is not to be studied as if writing History optional. The GS paper will only test the basic clarity on the national movement.
Since the syllabus is not clear, you can identify topics based on those given in the History optional syllabus. But ensure that you prepare in GS orientation.

Modern History by Spectrum Publications – This is written well in exam orientation.
Bipan Chandra books as a reference and to get the clarity.
NCERT books for a basic understanding.

 Take care of following points:

-   observe the forward and backward linkages at every stage of national movement and its importance in the overall context. Note that all the events were related in some way or the other.

-   prepare simultaneously for the two markers- note down the personalities, places, terms, movements, journals etc. You should be able to identify them if given in exam.This a very scoring area.

-        innovations like maps (eg. 1857- spread and centers of revolt), flow diagrams etc can be made.

-         try to attempt factual and non-controversial questions.

-         Concentrate on the cultural aspects also which are asked for two markers.

There should be a good understanding about the geography of India. This will also help a lot in prelims. The topics can be identified based on Geography optional paper 2 syllabus. But in GS, you need to go into basics only.


NCERT books

Note the following points:

-          Some current affairs based questions are also asked. eg. MRTS,

-          Lots of maps and diagrams can be used.

-          this part is quite scoring with focused efforts.

There is standard syllabus for this part and good material with clarity is also available. The questions are also mostly asked directly. So scoring becomes easy with good understanding with clarity. The knowledge in this polity also helps a lot in the essay and interview. This will give a good foundation for the career as an administrator. It is very important to study polity well.


-          Indian Polity by Laxmikant, TMH - it is a very good compilation from various sources.

-          DD Basu can be used as a reference.

-          NCERT books provide the various topics from which questions can be asked and also provide material with good clarity.

 Note the following points:

-     You need not mug all the articles. There are only around 50 articles which are important. Note them when referred to in the text.

-      Its better to quote some articles and Court judgements(only very important ones) while writing answers.

-     give examples with contemporary relevance.

-     prepare simultaneously for two markers.

-    some questions are repeated, so be thorough with previous years papers.

-   Questions are linked to various topics. So while preparing you should be aware of the inter-linkages between various topics.

-  Various current affairs topics which are linked to polity are asked. Also, some times basic questions linked to current affairs can be asked. For eg. When TN assembly punished some media persons, a question on Legislative privileges can be expected.

 Social issues:
There is no standard material for these topics. Further, questions are also not asked every year. Even if asked, mostly they are of general nature which can be answered with common sense. So do not spend too much time on these areas or in search of material. Prepare well for other parts of GS and later if time permits then come to these areas.


-          coaching centre material

-          competition magazines

-          yojana

-          NCERT books

-          Social problems by Ram Ahuja

-          Spectrum Publications.

-          Internet

 Note the following points:

-    you only need a basic logical structure for each topic.If there is no material, just spent time in thinking on the topic and to prepare a basic structure. Then, you may spend time in searching for material.

-      For. eg. Drug abuse, you should raise following logical questions    what is drug abuse; what are the causes; distribution;impact; efforts to check; problems with strategy; suggestions;

-        discuss it with other aspirants and get the information.

-    Current affairs based question can be asked. For eg. Some controversial case related to Child labour comes in media, then you can expect a question on Child labour.

 India and the world:
The questions are asked to test the basic understanding about the relations with other nations and India's foreign policy. Mostly, questions are related to current affairs. There is a need to have clarity about the basic contours of the evolution of India's foreign policy. But do not get into too much depth or controversial topics. You are expected to have a basic clarity on India's external affairs.
There are not many standard books available on the subject. Mostly, the preparation has to be based on current affairs.


-          NCERT 12th std book on Political science

-          Old NCERT book on Political Science

-          Newpapers - Hindu articles, C.Raja Mohan articles in New Indian Express.

-          AIR spot light- analysis by experts.

-          Foreign Ministry website

 Note the following points:

-          Understand the core issues between India and various nations.

-         The external relations can be structured into political, economic, defence, cultural, S&T, etc. so    prepare in these dimensions.

-        The relations with important nations are to be done for long answers, while for other nations it is   sufficient for the two markers.

-          note the various terms eg. Track 2, which can be asked for two markers.

-      There is no material for the topics on Overseas citizens of India. So look out for any issues that come in media related to NRIs. They can be asked for the two markers.

-       you can make innovations like maps, flow charts, etc. For eg. A map for Indo-Iran pipeline, or for Munnabao-Khokrapar rail link.

 International Affairs:
The questions are mainly current affairs related. The most important developments which appear in the newspapers will be sufficient for the preparation. Observe the terms, personalities, places, etc which can be asked for the two markers. Also prepare for the institutions. First list out the various important institutions. Then gather basic material on them. You can also try the web sites of the institutions for the information.

This is an area which is feared by many, especially because of lack of proper exam-oriented text book with clarity. But with some basic understanding, economy can become very scoring because of 15 two mark questions.


-  Dutt and Sundaram or Mishra and Puri - These books are a big compilation with lots of unnecessary facts. Do not read the book from end to end. You should be able to get clarity out of every topic. So, first scan through the topic and the side headings. Then question logically in various dimensions.Try to find the answers to the questions raised as you go through the material and prepare a logical structure.

-        For. E.g. Unemployment

-       What is unemployment; types;extent and distribution; causes; impact; efforts to reduce; appraisal of policies; recent measures; suggestions;


-      Economic Survey- It is a very useful document which should be focused upon. Prepare notes from the Survey. Also observe the graphs which can be used as innovations in answers. While reading, note the terms which can be asked for two markers. The box items are very important.


 Note the following points;

-          Questions can be on basics or the current affairs based.

-          you can use innovations like graphs, diagrams, flow charts etc.

-     the main aspect is to gain the basic understanding with clarity. So spend more time on logical thinking and inter-relating, rather than on various books or articles.

-    Simultaneously, prepare for the two markers. Note the various economic terms that keep appearing in the newspapers. Also, be thorough on the previous years' papers.

 Science and Technology:
Some Arts students fear this part and leave them for the exam. However, note that the examiner is not interested in the technical aspects. They are only testing if the candidate has basic understanding on the technological developments. In fact, technology is going to play a very key role in changing the administration. So, do take an active interest in the technological developments, as they will help you in being an effective change agent when you join the service.
In the exam, the questions are being asked from both the standard and the current-affairs based . While preparing concentrate on the relevance and the application of the topic. The following dimensions should be focused:

-          What is the basics technological dimension of the topic
-          How is it being used; applicability
developments in India

There is no good material available for this area. The notes has to be prepared from various sources. The synopsis should also focus on the diagrams and figures, wherever applicable.


-          S&T - RC Reddy Publications(you will get it only from their institute)

-          Science Reporter

-          Employment news

-          Yojana

-          Eenadu - Thursday paper

-          competition magazines

-          Internet

-          Newspapers

-          Websites of various related ministries and departments ( )

 Note the following points:

-          Do not go into much technical details, even if you are from technical background.

-          Concentrate on applications and related issues.

-          put innovations like figures, diagrams, flow charts, etc.

-          prepare notes on the various computer related terms.


This is another area which is feared by students from Arts background. While, others from technical back ground take it too lightly, and lose marks in the end. This area is very scoring for anybody who can concentrate on the basics and do lots of practice.


-          NCERT 11th std.

-          Koteshwar Rao sir's notes

-          Spectrum publications.

 Note the following points:

-          Understand the basics well with clarity.

-          Practise the previous papers within the time limit

-          Show the calculations clearly

-          Draw the diagrams and graphs neatly.

-          Do not forget to take the calculator to the exam hall.

-          Some times difficult questions are asked. Do not orient preparation keeping those questions in view. Just be strong on the basic standard questions that are asked every year.

-          Attempt the statistics question in the beginning of the exam. Do spend more than 45 minutes in the exam hall on these questions.

 Current Affairs:
This is the most important component of the preparation. It has crucial role in prelims, essay and interview. It requires  continuous efforts throughout the year. The notes has to be prepared from various sources.The effectiveness of the preparation will increase if you have a good understanding about the questions that are asked every year.That way you will be in a position to discriminate between what to read and more importantly what not to read.


-          the Hindu newspaper, some aspects of the New Indian express

-          The Frontline

-          AIR news - 8AM,2PM,9PM.

-          Yojana

-          Internet

-      Dr. Khurram. He is a current affairs expert in Hyderabad. He prepares material for the Indian Army. The books are not available outside. They bring out 2-3 books in a year. The material is quite good with clarity and back ground information. They can be obtained from

-          United academics International, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. You contact the through email ----



Note the following points:

-        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.

-    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.

-      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.

-          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.

-        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.

-       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.

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

-    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.

- 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.

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

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

With some good preparation and writing style, it is easy to get a score of above 100. There is no standard material for the essay preparation. You will have to gather material from various sources. The preparation should be based on the topics. First list out the various topics from which questions can come. Then think logically, raising questions intensively, and try to find answers for them The main purpose will be to gain clarity on the essay topic. Prepare a brief structure on the various topics which can be revised before the exam.

 Note the following points:

-     Practise is essential for getting a good score.

-   While writing in the exam, first prepare a structure in the last page and show it clearly for the examiner to follow. After selecting the topic, question intensely in various dimensions to get a logical structure. As you get the ideas, note them down in the structure. This process can go upto 45 minutes. Once you are satisfied that the topic has been covered in a comprehensive manner, then start writing.

-    Try to give a good introduction. It should guide the examiner to what you intend to convey in the essay. The conclusion should be good and satisfy the examiner. Always conclude on a positive note.

-     the main focus should be on giving a good analysis of the topic.

-     you need not use flowery language. Simple logical presentation is sufficient.

-    Do not divert into areas which are irrelevant to the topic.

-     Make sure that you have sufficient understanding and material to write, before chosing the topic.

These papers are only of qualifying nature, but at the same time cannot be ignored. If you do not qualify then your other mains papers will not be evaluated. Note that every year there are some candidates who get disqualified. So ensure that you have the minimum knowledge about the languages. The score should only be above 40% and the questions are also set in such a manner that this is not difficult at all. There is no need for any preparation. But do practise previous years papers to gain familiarity.
Those from non-English medium schools might face some difficulty in English paper. Then the preparation should be made from some standard book. Note that the grammar is not much tested, but it is only the functional knowledge in the language.
Similarly, some face difficulty with the Indian language paper. Ensure that you have functional knowledge in atleast one Indian language.

 Public Administration:
This optional at the mains is supposed to be good, even though many fear to take it. The scores have been decent and consistent, and some have really scored high. The knowledge will also help in GS, essay and interview.
Note the following points:

-    the questions might seem indirect and vague, but with good basic clarity any question can be attempted. In recent times, the long questions are being asked directly. The examiner only expects you to write a simple logical answer with clarity.

-     do not try to remember too many quotations as it is difficult to reproduce.

-     the introduction and conclusions should be written well

-     Do not read all the books from end-to-end. Prepare topic wise in a comprehensive manner. The main priority should be given to gain the basic clarity.

-     Practise well the previous years' papers.

      -     Use examples, contemporary relevance, case studies, flow diagrams etc.

Introduction chapter is to be studied well as it deals with the basic evolution of the subject and the trends. The questions might seem difficult. But with good understanding it can be very scoring. The concepts can be used else where also. The material is available on most topics.
The theories chapter should be done well. This a very scoring and with well defined syllabus preparation can also be comprehensive. The material availability is good.
The Structure chapter is easy and can be covered quickly. But questions may not be asked every year. The material availability is good.
The Behaviour chapter is very scoring. The questions are also asked regularly. The material is also good.
The chapter on Accountability is scoring. This area is important in the contemporary trend. So questions are asked regularly. There is also scope for lot of innovation. The material is deficient for some areas. There is also a need to prepare from current affairs.
The Administrative Law is very short chapter with limited scope. The questions may not be asked regularly. But it should be attempted if given in exam. It is scoring and the material is also available.
The administrative reforms chapter is short and easy. It can be scoring with innovations. The material is also standard. Be open to any information that appears in the newspapers. The CPA chapter is scoring. It can be attempted in the exam. But questions may not come every year. The material availability is problem in some aspects.

 The DA chapter is relevant to Indian context. So prepare well for this area. The questions are asked almost every year. The material availability is a problem for some areas. Lot of innovation and contemporary relevance can be included.        
The Public policy chapter is not asked every year. The material availability is also a problem.
The personnel chapter is very scoring and should be attempted. The questions are also asked every year. The material is good. So, do well in this chapter. Check out for latest information in newspapers.
The Financial chapter is scoring in some areas. There is problem of material in some topics.
In Indian administration, the scoring areas are: evolution, framework, union, state govt.,reforms, law and order, welfare.
There problem of material in many areas. The contemporary relevance has to be added in most topics.


-          Mohit Bhattacharya - New horizons

-          Awasthi and Maheshwari - Public Administration

-          Ramesh Arora - Indian Public Administration Comparative Public Administartion

-          Public Administration - Sadhana and Sharma

-          DD Basu - Constitution

-          Sachdeva - Social welfare administration

-          Prasad and Prasad - Administrative Thinkers

-          Public Policy - Sapru

-          Rumki Basu - Public Administration

-          Maheshwari - Indian Administration

-          NCERT books

-          IGNOU material

-          IJPA special edition in1998 on the occasion of Golden Jubilee.

Geography has become a very popular optional for the civil service exam. The scores have also been good enough and many became successful with this optional.
The main advantages of Geography as an optional are :

-   Availability of good material and guidance. There are many successful candidates with this optional, which makes easy access to strategy required.

-   Geography  is helpful for the GS prelims &mains, essay, interview  and even for some other optionals.

-     The map questions make it a very scoring subject.

-      There is enormous scope for innovations in writing which can boost the scores.

-     Students from science background find it easy to tune to this subject.

 There are certain points which should be kept in mind while preparing for geography:

-     Read the basics well and then think on your own about how to make innovative answers.

-     Because of availability of much material, there is a tendency to do a research-kind of preparation. This is highly counter productive.

-      Prepare basics well with good clarity. You may refer the standard book for this. Then if required just scan through other books for any different dimension. Do not start mugging each and every book from end-to-end.

-    Take the topic, do intense questioning to get clarity. Then in  a logical manner prepare a structure for the notes.

-     Put lots of maps, diagrams, flow charts, graphs, etc. Be as innovative as possible.

 Physical Geography

i) Geomorphology : 

   -      very scoring chapter

   -      scope for lot of innovation.

   -      Good material available.

ii)  Climatology

   -     very scoring chapter

   -     scope for lot of innovation.

   -     Good material available.

iii)Oceanography :

  -      very scoring chapter

  -      scope for lot of innovation.

  -      Good material available..

iv) Biogeography :

   -     very scoring chapter

  -     scope for lot of innovation.

  -     Good material available..

v) Environmental Geography :

  -    very scoring chapter

  -     scope for lot of innovation.

  -    Good material available.

Human Geography

i) Perspectives in Human Geography :

  -      Not much scoring because of lack of diagrams and maps.

  -     Some avoid this chapter, but this may not be appropriate. Do not spend too much on this topic. But be aware of the basics. You should be able to write short notes from this chapter.

  -      Material is available.

 ii) Economic Geography :

  -          This chapter is less scoring. But you should be able to write short notes.

  -          Some topics like world agriculture–typology of agricultural regions are scoring.

  -          Material availibility is a problem for some topics.

 iii) Population and Settlement Geography :

  -          scoring

  -          good material available

 iv) Regional Planning :

  -          conceptual and can be scoring if written with clarity.

  -          Material is available

 vi)Models, Theories and Laws in Human Geography :

  -          Very scoring  and should be attempted in the exam.

  -          Material is available for most of the topics.

 World Map:
This question is highly scoring. The aspirant should spend good amount of time in mastering the world map. The examiner is only interested in testing the basics and important places. But some times very difficult map points are asked as done in 2003. But the preparation should not be based on that year's question. In general, focus should be on preparing the basic points which are more likely to be asked. If preparation is based on 2003 paper, then it is not possible to master all small and insignificant map points. Finally it will be counter productive as there is a chance of forgetting even the basics. If difficult points are asked it will only be bad luck. So while preparing for map, please do keep these suggestions in mind.

While writing the 10 words, you need not put  a sentence. Just put down as much info as possible using ";". Also, underline the most significant fact.
For  eg.:   Rekjavik: Iceland; capital city; northernmost capital;  very cold climate; midnight sun; geological studies; Mid-Atlantic ridge;


Geography of India

i) Physical Setting :

-          Scoring chapter.

-          Material is available.

-          Better to attempt question in the exam.

ii)Resources :

-          Scoring chapter.

-          Material is available..

ii) Agriculture :

-          Scoring chapter.

-          Material available for most topics.

-          Scope for innovation and inter-linkages.

 iii)Industry :

-          Scoring  chapter.

-          Material is available.

-          Some topics will have to be prepared on your own.

 iv) Transport, Communication and Trade :

-          Some topics are scoring.

-          Material for some topics is not available.


i) Cultural Setting :

-          Some topics are scoring

-          Material available for most the topics.

 ii)  Settlements :

-          Some topics are very scoring.

-          Material is available.

 iii) Regional Development and Planning:

-          Some topics are scoring.

-          Questions are being asked regularly.

-          Material is available.
iv) Political Aspects :

-          Scoring if written with good orientation.

-          Material not available.

-          Scope for innovation.

 iv)Contemporary Issues :

-          Some topics are scoring.

-          Material availability is a problem.

 India Map:
This question is highly scoring and the candidate should prepare well. Here also only the basics and important points are being asked. So, first analyse the previous questions and prepare accordingly.
In writing the answer, try to put as much as you know.
Eg.Kaveri: Karnataka-Kerala-TN; Source-Talakaveri; Western Ghats; Delta in TN; major river; highly used for irrigation; Inter-state river water dispute; Mettur dam;Krishnasagar dam; Tiruchi; hydroelectricity;  ……..


  -   Old NCERT books are better than the new ones for basic clarity. You should also go through the new books for the latest data and analysis.

  -   Savindra Singh- Geomorphology, Physical geography, Environmental Geography

  -    Majid Hussain- Physical geography, Human Geography, General Geography and geography of India.

  -  Climatology by Lal

  -    Oceanography by Vattal

  -   Rupa publications on Physical and human geography- vol 1&2

  -   Regional geography - Rai Choudhary, Puri

  -   India- Khullar

  -   Certified physical and human geography- Goh Cheng Leong , its very good for the basics.

  -   Spectrum Geography guide- it is quite a good compilation with lots of diagrams. It can be depended upon for many areas. Keep reading this for every topic. The only problem is lack of clarity, otherwise it is a helpful source.

  -   Urban geography- Ramachandran


  -     NCERT - prepare notes as you come across various points in the maps.

  -    Atlas- Ttk, Orient Longman



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