Officers IAS Academy on Prelims 2017

Officers IAS Academy on Prelims 2017

Count-down to the Last 30 Days for Prelims 2017 – A quick guide.

Whether you are a first-timer or a preparation veteran, the last 30 days is the most crucial phase that determines your success in the Preliminary exam. The outcome of preparation you have done in the past 1 year depends on it and will have a huge bearing on your confidence levels on the day of the exam.

Here is a To-do guide for all those in doubt about what to do in the last 30 days, what to do on the night before the examination and on the day of the examination.

 Last 30 days before the Exam

  1. First, assess your level of preparation for the exam. Identify your strengths and weaknesses in different topics by solving previous year UPSC prelims question papers.
  2. Make these weaknesses your strengths using Mock Tests. In this phase, learning from Mock Test solutions / explanations is more important than getting an answer right. So, pick question papers from your weaker areas and learn from it as much as possible and even make notes if required. Don’t panic if you are getting an answer wrong, just learn!

Taking Mock Tests at an Exam-hall like set-up in coaching institutes could really help. Simulation of the exam-hall experience during mock tests can provide you with great levels of comfort on the actual day of the examination.  Use Mock-tests to also learn time-management. As a matter of practice try and finish every test 10 minutes before the allotted time.

  1. Revision and More Revision. “Last 30” is not the time for new books or coaching material. Focus on revising basic texts and current affairs you have already completed. Revise till you feel thoroughly confident.
  2. Balancing stress and study hours. Ensure that you are able to dedicate at least  9 hours a day towards preparation. 9 Hours of un-diluted study, without any distractions like checking whatsapp, Facebook or randomly searching the web. It is equally important that you also dedicate half an hour everyday to unwind and relax. Quality-time when you don’t think or worry about the exam and allow your senses to rejuvenate.
  3. Food, Exercise and Sleep. For effective brain function and excellent memory recall, it is essential that you receive optimum amount of nutrition, exercise and sleep. Balanced nutrition (sans fast-food), 8 hours of sleep and half an hour of any exercise, can keep you fit and help avoid illness during this crucial phase.
  4. Last but not the least, do a reconnaissance of the Exam Venue and familiarize the routes well and time taken so that there are no surprises like one way etc.

 On the Night Before the D – Day 

  1. Do NOT try to recollect ANYTHING. Testing your memory at this juncture could lead to unnecessary panic and pull your confidence down when you don’t remember a certain piece of information.
  2. Avoid every kind of negative thought possible – About time that you wasted on Facebook or tests that you didn’t take or some current affairs material that you skipped, it is not the time to regret.
  3. Focus on things that make you feel confident. Whether it is solving the 2016 question paper that you are thorough with or a book of notes that you have revised multiple times, do ONLY things that are very familiar to you. This can give you the feeling of assurance that you are in control and will do well.
  4. Finish packing your bag. From packing-in your ball pen and hall ticket to water bottle and snacks, get it all set for the Big day.
  5. DO NOT experiment with your dinner the previous night. Strict NO to any spicy junk food or caffeine. It could affect your quality sleep and keep you restless all night.

 The D – Day Morning

  1. Re-check your hall ticket and plan your travel in a way that you reach the hall one hour before the Exam.
  2. You could add some fruits and nuts to your breakfast for added mental agility and freshness.
  3. MOST IMPORTANT – Go to exam venue using public transport or help of someone to drop you at the location to avoid stress of self driving / riding.

 After receiving the Question paper

  1. Be very careful while marking your role number and the answer sheet code on the OMR. Even a tiny mistake in entry could cost more than a year of your time.
  2. Stop being nervous. Be aware that being nervous is only going to increase your chances of making a mistake.
  3. Do not entertain any emotions relating to the outcome of the exam. It’s your duty to give the best performance without thinking about the results. Thinking about the results would be a huge burden on your thought process, thereby affecting your actual exam performance.
  4. Before you read the question paper, be prepared to see questions that you may have not even heard about. Be sure that it will just be the case with everyone else as well.
  5. Do not jump onto answering questions right-away. With a calm and steady mind, go through the entire question paper in the first 10 minutes and familiarize yourself with it. This would give you a good idea about how difficult or easy the paper is. You can accordingly have an idea about how many questions to attempt.
  6. As you start with the questions, it is better to mark the OMR sheet after completing every 10 questions. Doing all the marking at the end is quite risky as your stress levels could be high and you might end-up making mistakes as the exam is drawing to a close. Doing it once for every 10 questions is better than doing it simultaneously, because, you could revise your answers once before marking it.

 Number of questions to attempt

  1. It is important to first understand that out of the total 100 questions: 50 Questions would ones that anybody with a little amount of preparation would be able to answer. Then there would be 20 Questions which the majority would find impossible to answer. The remaining 30 would be questions that one can only be half-sure about and will need “informed-guessing” and “elimination strategy” to get them right (more on it later).


  1. To be in the race you need to have attempted at least 80 questions. We can allow for a little flexibility in that number to that extent that, you can go down to 75 if the paper is very tough and go up to 85 or more if it is very easy. But anything lower than that could throw you out of the list.

 Techniques in the process of marking answers

  1. First, solve all the questions to which you know the answer for sure. Mark a tick against it on the Question Paper, to indicate you don’t need to come back to it later. These questions would fall in the first category of 50 easy ones.
  2. Second, mark a circle around questions to which you know the answer only 50 : 50. These are questions you need to come back to later.
  3. Third, mark an INTO on questions that you have absolutely no idea about and cannot even think about making a guess. These questions are to be completely avoided.


  1. Read every question carefully and ENTIRELY. Don’t start looking at the options without fully reading the question, simply because the topic seems familiar.
  2. Pay careful attention to words like NONE, ALL, ANY, EXCEPT etc. Missing these crucial words might make your answer entirely wrong
  3. You can be sure an answer is correct only after ensuring that all the other options are wrong. So find your answer by first eliminating what is wrong.

 Informed guessing and Elimination strategy for the 50 : 50 questions

  1. If in a question you know that 2 options are wrong and don’t know which of the remaining are correct, PLEASE attempt them.
  2. Try to make an informed guess, or if you can’t do even that : JUST MAKE A GUESS.

 WHY ?

The “Probablity” chapter in basic mathematics will tell you that in 10 such questions that you know 50 : 50,  chances are that 5 would be right and 5 would be wrong.

 5 right = 5 X 2 = 10 Marks

5 wrong = 5 X .66 = 3.3 Marks

10 – 3.3 = 6.7 Marks

 But if you did not attempt them “0”

Final words

Preliminary exam is both a test of common-sense and a test of knowledge. It is therefore important that you also work smart in addition to working hard. Be smart and utilize the last 30 days to consolidate and revise all that you have done in the past one year. It is the phase that gives wings to all your effort. Filter-out all the unnecessary noise that you get from discussing the exam among friends and peers. In moments of self-doubt, trust your inner voice and trust your effort. Remember that “Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.” Wishing you all a stress-free, illness-free, enjoyable exam experience. Best of luck

Mr.Vijay Iyer, Officers IAS Academy
Mr.Vijay Iyer
Officers IAS Academy

Article: Mr.Vijay Iyer
Officers IAS Academy