Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper Attempt, Age, Optional

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Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper Biography

Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper
Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

Hi, I am Dilip K Kainikkara AIR 21 in UPSC CSE 2021.
I am Planning to share notes on various aspects of my preparation strategy here.

Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Booklist

A brief history of modern India (Spectrum)Get Book
Indian Art and Culture by Nitin SinghaniaGet Book
Certificate Physical & Human Geography by GC LeongGet Book
AtlasGet Book
Indian Polity by LaxmikanthGet Book
Indian EconomyGet Book
Shankar IAS EnvironmentGet Book
Internal Security and Disaster Management by AshokGet Book
Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC CSE BOOKLIST

Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper Marksheet

Interview Preparation Strategy by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

I’ve been getting a lot of queries about my interview performance and preparation. I’d write a detailed note on my journey towards securing 201 marks in the interview round once I can find some free time, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, please find below a mock interview that I attended about 3 weeks before my actual UPSC Personality test. I was a bit less prepared on my DAF than I was during my actual interview. But otherwise, it closely resembles the pattern of my UPSC interview performance.

Statutory warning: Aspirants attending prelims in 2 days are advised not to waste your time on this. This’ll still be there in YouTube after your prelims, you can catch up then. Best wishes!

Prelims 2023 Preparation Strategy by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

Best wishes to everyone attempting prelims 2022. I’m feeling a bit of FOMO to be honest, prelims has been an annual ritual in the last 3 years of my life. 😅

Let me note down a few last minute points which helped me in clearing the IFoS cutoffs in all those 3 attempts. Strictly personal opinions, do take with adequate amount of salt.

  1. Consciously avoiding unnecessary pressure:
    Don’t set unrealistic targets for the last day prep, and definitely don’t try to learn totally new info. Spend the day calming revising some priority topics, and maybe revisiting some PYQs to get into the UPSC mindset.
  2. Get adequate amount of sleep on the day before prelims, you don’t want to be fatigued during the exam. I slept very little on the day before my first prelims, and nearly screwed up CSAT because of cloudy judgement.
  3. Get all the necessary items and documents in order the day before, don’t leave it for prelims day morning.
  4. Be unreasonably early to the exam center: don’t leave anything to chance and don’t get into any unnecessary pressure situations.
  5. Attempt maximum questions, especially if you are aiming to clear IFoS cutoffs. I’ve always aimed for 90+ attempts, and I attempt every question in which I can eliminate at least one option. Statistics, hence.
  6. Don’t give up on any question: try to get maximum use out of whatever little information you’ve got on the question topic, and supplement it with your logical reasoning. More often than not, you’ll be able to eliminate one or more options.
  7. Time is the ultimate constraint: Wear a watch, and use it. Remember that bubbling in 100 questions is a time consuming process, and plan accordingly. Definitely don’t leave bubbling for the last; you don’t want erratic bubbling due to time pressure or time running out before you’ve bubbled in the answers you’ve got.
  8. Follow a multi-round approach. Do a quick first round to round up all the easy questions, and then come back for the difficult ones. Never take the risk of wasting too much time on any single question in the first round. That’s a luxury, take care of the essentials first.
  9. Don’t take unnecessary risks in CSAT, you just need 33% marks. Be calm and look for the low hanging fruits; easy math questions, straightforward comprehension questions. Don’t get stuck up on theory and formulas in the math part, simple logic and common sense can often lead you to the answer instead.
  10. Be confident: there’s no such thing as a perfect attempt. Everyone makes mistakes along the way, everyone has regrets. So don’t let your regrets get your confidence down, play the hand you’ve been dealt right now in the best way possible.
  11. Prepare for surprises: in my 2020 prelims, the first 6 or 7 questions were all from agriculture, which was a very minor subtopic till then. In 2021, three sports questions appeared out of nowhere. Don’t let such surprises get you down. Always remember that no one has prepared well for those questions; and thus there’s no relative disadvantage for you.

tl;dr – be chill, prelims is not the end of the world, give it your best shot and enjoy the process.

UPSC Prelims Cut off Prediction by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

In response to cut off prediction queries from many candidates:

Higher number of vacancies, rather tough questions in some sections, definite change in pattern. Prelims 2022 Cut off should go down, I personally think.

Also, there’s plenty of time to analyse all this later, try to focus and do well in CSAT now. Best wishes 🙂

What should you do after UPSC CSE Prelims by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

Hi folks, enjoy some well deserved rest after the hectic prelims schedule. Check keys from a reputed institute once you feel like it, no hurries. I still feel that the cut-off should go down a bit, especially given how CSAT felt tough to many aspirants.

Also, even reputed keys aren’t 100% accurate. So if your marks are within the rough ballpark of last year’s cut-off minus a few marks, start mains preparation in earnest after a short break. There’s nothing to be lost because of some extra prep anyway.

Answer writing is key to your GS performance (and most optionals too), so give adequate priority to it. Join a good Mains test series and – I can’t stress this enough – attend it regularly. I’d share some pointers on answer writing later, and for now I’m sharing some of my mock test answer copies.

UPSC CSE Maths Optional Preparation Strategy by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

Maths optional prep basics:

I largely depended on self study for Maths optional. Since I’m from an engineering background, I was already familiar with a significant part of the syllabus (from Maths electives, IIT prep, Job requirements, etc). So already had a basic foundation in this subject, which I found very helpful.


I mostly used IMS notes to study the various subjects and gain basic problem practice. Updated IMS notes are available online, I mostly used their soft copies.

I have also used YouTube videos from Mathocrat channel, especially to gain conceptual clarity on the Physics heavy parts of the syllabus. He strongly prioritises PYQs, which aligned well with my prep strategy.

The G20 google drive is a very comprehensive source for Maths optional material, and I’ve selectively used the various study materials available in there.

I’m not good at self preparation of notes. I largely depended on notes by Kanishak Kataria to revise the core formulae and theory. Yogesh sir’s notes were also helpful. (Both these notes can be found in the G20 google drive).

Problem practice:

This is in my opinion the most important part of prelims prep. Every serious Maths aspirant will have covered the basic syllabus topics, it’s regular problem practice that elevates our marks from average to 300+.

I primarily focused on PYQs, since the Maths paper is often repetitive and static in nature. Used problems from various sources like Krishna series and Schaums series for additional problems. The bulk of my Maths prep time after prelims was spent on problem practice. In my opinion, speedy problem solving is the fundamental skill that a Maths aspirant needs to develop. UPSC evaluators actually forgive minor quality issues in your answers, but failing to complete the paper is absolutely fatal to your chances.

Test series:

I have attended the post-prelims test series offered by IMS Delhi twice. Question quality is fine, and their feedback was helpful in aligning my answer presentation to the UPSC requirements. There was a considerable delay in getting the answer sheets evaluated.

Peer group:

Having a good peer group is vital for maths prep, especially self study. I had a few friends at Tvm who were also preparing with Maths as optional. I’m also a member of G20 and Mathocrat telegram groups, which were helpful in discussing difficult problems and concepts.

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Prep methodology

In my first attempt, I tried to split the syllabus into smaller chunks and to set weekly targets such that the whole syllabus could be covered in 6 months. That went fairly well, and I was able to cover the basic syllabus and do a reasonable number of practice problems in that period. I almost exclusively depended on IMS modules at this point.

After that first round, I realised that the IMS modules weren’t providing me adequate conceptual clarity to solve the difficult problems in Physics portions (Fluid dynamics, Mechanics, etc). That’s when I started following Mathocrat, and his videos were very helpful in bridging that gap. Once you get the knack of it and gain adequate problem practice, the physics parts of the syllabus can help you perform exceptionally well in Paper 2 (I got 164).

Modern algebra was another portion which was personally difficult for me. I bought Khanna & Bhambri book to supplement other sources in this subject. I’m still not entirely confident in this subject, but was able to do all the problems from this topic this year.

UPSC CSE Prelims Last Minute advice by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

Exam time:

Make sure that you’re using the question selection (only 5 questions to be attempted out of 8) intelligently. Try to choose problems that aren’t too lengthy, time is a major constraint. Each question will have multiple sub questions which are from different subjects, so it’s risky to completely leave out any subject during preparation. However, do try to compare and choose questions which are largely from your strong areas.

Keep tracking the available time throughout the exam and adapt accordingly. Don’t worry too much about handwriting or presentation during the actual exam, but do try to improve legibility during your practice sessions.

Also take note of the space available to you before starting your answers. UPSC mostly provides adequate space to compete your answer, but there can be rare exceptions. In such cases, adapt your answer to fit into the available space. Use rough pages for extra calculations.

Calculator: devote some time to learn all the various features of the calculator, being strong in calculator usage can save a lot of time during exams. Especially useful in numerical methods, linear algebra etc. Refer to YouTube videos if required to learn equation solving, matrix manipulation, etc using the calculator.

Final observations:

Maths is definitely not a small or easy optional. But it definitely provides good returns if you invest enough time and effort into it. It was pivotal in my good performances in both IFoS (AIR 18) and Civil Service (AIR 21) exams. If you have reasonable interest and aptitude in the subject, there are adequate resources and guidance available to take you to a 300+ score in Maths papers. Best wishes!

Booklist for UPSC CSE by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

GS Booklist

I’d like to share a small list of standard books and other material that I’ve found helpful over the course of my preparation:

Current affairs:
Reading The Hindu newspaper daily. Monthly revision using Vision’s monthly current affairs compilations, and final revision using PT365. (Depended on compilations because I’m not that great at making notes by my own).

Laxmikanth obviously. Have revised it multiple times, and have used the latest bare Act of the constitution as a supplementary resource.

PRS India has been a very handy reference material for latest legislative developments.

Have studied Sankar IAS book in my first attempt. Depended on PMF IAS material later. Both are content rich, PMF IAS scores higher on readability.

Spectrum for Modern History, old NCERTs (essentially books by RS Sharma and Satish Chandra) for ancient and medieval.

Art and culture
Selective reading of Nitin Singhania’s book. Early chapters are more important than later ones.

Shankar Ganesh’s book on Indian economy basics, and basic NCERTs (class 10, Macroeconomics, Indian economy)

Summaries of Economic survey and budget essential to be covered.

Science and technology
Haven’t studied any standard book, depended on my engineering background and current afffairs materials.

GC Leong and basic NCERTs (class 10, Indian Geography, World Geography, Human geography).
Used PMF IAS geography material during later attempts.

Have studied Lexicon for Ethics once, but haven’t got a high opinion of the book. Have been depending solely on Mock tests, online ethics notes, Rau’s Mains compass for Ethics, etc during my last attempt.

Final observations
Don’t try to cover too many sources, and don’t waste too much time comparing between various sources. Get opinions from a few trusted sources, and then decide on a booklist based on your own interest and comfort. Try to restrict yourself to a single source per topic, and allocate sufficient time for proper revision using the source itself or notes prepared from the source.

Post-prelims preparation strategy for UPSC CIVIL SERVICES EXAM by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

I hope that those of you who have even a small chance to clear prelims (say 80+ in general category) have already started your mains preparation in earnest. Otherwise, please do so ASAP, don’t wait for the results to come out.

Here are a few pointers that have helped me in this stage of the prep:

1)Answer writing
Join a reputed institute for Mains test series, regardless of how confident you’re about your answer writing. Getting into the Mains mindset is as important as developing your content.

In addition to the test series, practice Answer writing regularly. It is only by practice that we can develop our answer writing skills.

Make good use of topper copies. Try to adopt their best practices into your answers.

Initially focus on developing a proper answer structure (Introduction, well organized content, short and clear conclusion). Develop a collection of good statistical data and other factoids that you can use as introductory snippets.

Also try to gradually increase your writing speed to acceptable levels. I use the thumb rule of using only 7 minutes to finish a 10 marker and 10.5 minutes to finish a 15 marker. Don’t worry if your current writing speed is slower than that, it can definitely be improved with time.

Make sure to use a pen that you’re comfortable with and also looks neat on paper. I used Pilot V5.

2) Builidng content

You will already have a solid base in most topics thanks to prelims prep. Don’t neglect revision of mains only topics like post Independence history. At the same time, don’t waste too much time on any single topic; use PYQs to analyse the relative importance of different topics in Mains paper.

Syllabus should be key to your prep. Go through it thoroughly, and make sure that you have a decent amount of content in every mentioned subtopic. Simply googling up the topic can help you in augmenting the content to an extent.

3)Optional Prep

It’s very often the optional marks that differentiate the toppers from the rest of the pack. Join a good test series for your optional, and make sure you’re allocating sufficient amount of time for your optional prep. The recommended split of time between GS and Optional varies based on demands of various optional subjects, take guidance from toppers and mentors regarding your specific optional.

Having chosen Maths as optional, I used to spend a considerable amount of my time in problem practice and Maths PYQs, besides attending the Mains test series from IMS. I’d recommend spending less time on theory prep and most of the time on actual problem practice, given the PYQ trends. You’ll have to allocate atleast equal time for both Maths and GS. I actually spent much more time on Maths than on GS in my third and last attempt, but that was possible only because my fundamentals were already strong from previous attempts.

Post-prelims preparation (continued)


Being a mains only topic, adequate time needs to be alloted for Ethics prep and answer writing.

Reference material: I used ‘Lexicon for Ethics’ as the standard reference book. It’s not very well organized, but serves the purpose if one can suffer through it. DK Balaji’s book has been used by multiple toppers with good ethics marks, I haven’t used it personally.

I haven’t attended a separate test series for Ethics. Wrote 3 ethics tests this time as a part of the general MTS. Did some additional practice for case studies.

Toppers copies are very helpful in understanding the demand of Ethics paper and getting the basic Case study template right. I’d especially recommend the copies of Visakaha Yadav, who was the ethics topper in her year.

Answer writing:
Try to write answers which are NOT too abstract. Even when the question is abstract (eg: what is integrity?), try to make the answer rooted in the practical world using real world examples and quoting best practices (eg: an officer refusing to be corrupt even after multiple punishment transfers).

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Above suggestion also applies to quote based questions. When you’re asked to explain a quote, don’t write a very philosophical and abstract answer. Instead, focus on what the quote means to you and what its contemporary relevance is.

Try to have a few ready made examples and anecdotes for prominent keywords in the syllabus like integrity, non-partisanship, emotional intelligence, etc.

Reading up a bit on famous thinkers and their moral philosophies (Utilitarianism, Virtue ethics, Kant, Bentham, Aristotle, etc) can add a bit of heft to your intros and conclusions. At the same time, don’t overdo such references, and try to answer in a simple and straightforward manner meeting the demand of the questions.

Case studies
Have a basic template ready. I often use:

Short intro -> stakeholders -> ethical issues/dilemmas -> options available -> course of action and justification -> short conclusion.

But don’t blindly use the template, adapt it to the demands of the question. If there are subquestions, make sure you’ve alloted enough space and adequate priority to all of them.

Try to stay within the confines of constitution and the law when you’re choosing your course of action. Be innovative and practical in your solutions, don’t be too idealistic or dogmatic. Also, when you’re evaluating the possible pros and cons of an option, try to think from the perspectives of maximum stakeholders. Identifying all the stakeholders properly in the first part of the answer can help a lot in content generation later.

Time management

Don’t waste too much time on case studies, as the first section with direct questions has as much weightage as the case studies. Always keep track of remaining time and remaining number of questions (this can be a bit tricky without practice, as ethics paper format is different from the usual GS paper format), and manage your writing speed accordingly.

Fake Telegram channel of UPSC Topper

Dear aspirants,

It has come to our notice that fake telegram channels are being created in the names of various UPSC toppers and being used for dubious purposes. Stay alert to such scams.

Specifically, please note that Preetham Kumar (AIR 9) and Shubhankar Pathak (AIR 11) are NOT handling any official telegram channels. The channels in their names are fake, and are reportedly being used to swindle money from Maths optional aspirants. Please be cautious. Thanks.

Essay Preparation Strategy for UPSC Civil Services Exam by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

Coming to the Essay paper, there’s already an Awesome explainer by Anudeep Durishetti:

I don’t have much to add except for a few small observations which I’ll post later. Meanwhile do read Anudeep’s article if you haven’t already, and try to incorporate those tips into your own essay strategy.

Also, never forget that there’s no substitute for practice when it comes to essay writing. You might know all the theory and have all content in the world. But that counts for very little on its own. You’ve got to practice essays on your own, get feedback on it from your mentors/peers, compare your work with good topper copies (look specifically for toppers with good essay marks, not high ranks), and incorporate all such feedback into perfecting your essay.

Motivational tips by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper after Prelims exam

Prelims results are out. It’s inevitable that some you will not find your roll numbers in the list, as unfortunate as that is. As someone who’s been through similar scenarios at various stages of the exam, let me offer some pointers which have helped me at such junctures:

1) Acknowledge your grief.

As research says, bottling up our resentment and sadness is bad for our mental health and well being. Try to talk to your family, trusted friends, or partners about your feelings. It’s okay to be disappointed and to express it.

2) Don’t take the setback personally.

We all have regrets about our prep. But don’t let a bad result define you as a person. There might definitely be problems with your prep strategy or methods, but those are improvable aspects. Plenty of aspirants – including yours truly – have come back from such setbacks, and you definitely can do the same.

3) Identify your mistakes.

This might sound cliche, but it’s nevertheless true that every setback is also an opportunity for self improvement. Try to utilise this opportunity to the maximum extent possible.

Take some time to analyse your current preparation strategy and methods. Identify the specific problems you’re facing in your prep, specifically in regard to prelims prep.

Spend some time in analysing your prelims performance in detail: subject wise performance, time management, performance in specific question types, Maths and comprehension performance in CSAT, etc. Especially try to identify any specific issues that hadn’t occured in prelims mock tests but cropped up on exam day (like heightened stress and related issues).

4) Make a better plan for next year, learning from your mistakes.

This is not as easy as it sounds, I know. But once you’ve identified your shortcomings as outlined in the earlier point, it will become easier to devise a plan to improve on those. For instance, if you’re struggling with Maths in CSAT, it’d make eminent sense to join a guided program for the same, or at least to buy a good standard book and focus more on problem practice.

5) Translate the plan into a timetable for the year.

The next prelims comes up in 11 months. So once you have a good idea of how to improve yourself, try to convert those abstract ideas into a solid 11 month schedule. While making the schedule, give special attention to:
a) identifying your time constraints and planning accordingly
b) giving adequate weightage to optional revision, especially in the early months.
c) providing adequate break time and some cheat days, to sustain an adequate work-life balance.
d)Being open to changes in schedule later, incorporating adequate flexibility for unforeseen circumstances
e) Stay in touch with both prelims MCQs as well as mains answer writing. If you can afford it, join a booster program which includes an adequate number of prelims mock tests and answer writing practice. Otherwise try to make use of free resources available online and incorporate them into your schedule.

6) Try to get outside perspectives on all the above points.

More often than not, it’s difficult for us to identify our own problems. Try to get help from your peers in aspirant community or from experienced mentors when you’re trying to identify your specific problems as well as when you’re creating a personalized schedule for the next year.

7) Try to be part of a small and helpful peer group.

UPSC prep is often a lonely journey, but having a good peer group can help a lot in easing the burden. Even if you’re a working aspirant cut off from the upsc hubs, try to be part of telegram communities for your optional or gs prep. Try to have at least a few friends in the UPSC community whom you can rely on for feedback and support. At the same time, do ensure that these peer groups aren’t turning toxic or becoming distractions in your prep journey.

Concluding note: Always remember that while UPSC prep is an important part of your life right now, perhaps even the most important part, it is not the only part. Never lose sight of the small joys of life, of the good people in your life, and of the immense potential that you’ve got as an individual with grit and determination to commit yourself to the UPSC journey. Never lose hope; never forget that you’ve still got miles to go; and never lose sight of your noble and larger goals in the everyday drudgery of aspirant life. Best wishes again, and godspeed.

UPSC CSE 2023 Preparation Strategy by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

A draft timeline for 2023 (till prelims).

I understand that this is a period of uncertainty in various ways for many aspirants preparing for 2023. I’d like to jot down a few points which might perhaps increase your clarity and help in proper planning.

Valuing time
The biggest issue that I’ve faced at this point of time is the tendency to slack off, getting into the “there’s plenty of time” mindset. Please don’t do that. There are only 11 months to go before 2023 prelims, and every single day of those 11 months is crucial for serious aspirants.

Budgeting time

Valuing time is of very little use without budgeting it properly. I usually divide the UPSC prep process into 5 broad categories, and have provided brief timelines for them below. Please note that this is not a timetable, just a broad timeline indicating the priorities at different points of the year-long prep.

A)Static Content.
Involves studying and revising the standard books for static part of syllabus (my booklist can be found in a previous post above). I’d recommend starting this right now, and trying to finish one iteration by December. (~6 months).

January and February can be used for quick and selective revision of static content, especially of areas you’re weak in.

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In March-May, create a detailed 90 day revision time table covering all prelims specific GS topics.

B) Current affairs content.
This is a continuous process. I’d recommend reading syllabus relevant content in The Hindu daily. Notes are not necessary, make them if you’re good at it and can do it quickly and efficiently.

Regularly revise monthly current affairs at the end of the month (I used vision’s monthly compilations for this, can supplement with your own notes).

In January-March , try to finish a quick but comprehensive revision of current affairs starting from May 2022, especially of the earliest months.

And in April and May, use prelims oriented compilations from reputed institutes for one final round of revision.

C) Optional content.
Very similar to A. If you’re a maths optional student, try to cover the syllabus with adequate problem practice by December end (~6 months). This is the most critical part of your prep, prioritise it accordingly.  Time and priority demand might vary for other optionals.

Try to allot some time in the months of January and February for optional revision. But shift the priority to GS and Current affairs more at this point.

Allot the March to May period as completely as possible for GS+Current affairs, try to wrap up your pre-prelims optional prep by February end.

D)Prelims mock tests and MCQs

If you have CSAT issues, resolve them early, don’t leave it for the last. Make sure you’re confident of clearing CSAT by December at the latest.

There’s no harm in joining an early Prelims test series even now. But make sure you’re alloting adequate time for mock tests and MCQ practice from the month of December onwards. While attempting mock tests, focus on getting your time management right, on following a multi-round approach (with the first round dedicated to finding and marking the easy questions), on increasing the number of attempted questions consistently to 90+, and on developing your logical reasoning skills.

Try to do atleast a couple or more of offline pen-and-paper full tests before the prelims day to familiarise yourself with the exam environment.

E)Answer writing practice

Start by analyzing topper copies to imbibe good answer writing practices.

Allot some time for answer writing practice on a weekly basis. Try to get your answer copies evaluated by your peers or by experienced mentors. Make sure that your answers properly address the demand of the question and closely follow the question keyword.

Focus more on content and presentation in the early stages, and then start prioritising speed as the other aspects start becoming maangeable. Try to wrap up answer writing practice by February and focus solely on prelims prep.

Answer Writing Preparation Strategy for UPSC Civil Services Exam by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

A short checklist to start answer writing for beginners:

1). Develop static and current content. No point in writing answers in any topic until you have adequate content in the topic.

2) Regularly read editorials and op-ed columns, with a special focus on the style of critical analysis and subject presentation used in such articles.

3) analyse topper copies, and adopt best practices. Don’t try to blindly copy their approach, rather try to develop a writing style which works for you using toppers’ approaches as inputs.

4) When you start writing on your own, first focus on getting the structure and template right. Taking some extra time is fine. Make sure you’re addressing the entire demand of the question, and also that you’re allocating sufficient time and space to each subquestion in long questions.

5) Keep getting regular feedback from your peers as well as mentors whenever possible. We tend to be blind to over own issues sometimes, and external perspectives can help a lot. And try to note down such feedbacks and use them to refine your answer writing skills incrementally.

6) once 4&5 are done to an acceptable level, start timing yourself. Try to gradually reduce the time taken for 10 markers to 7 minutes and 15 markers to 10.5 minutes. It might take some time to get the speed right , be patient.

7) Occasionally attempt writing at long stretches. You might be able to complete a single answer in the prescribed time limit easily, but sustaining that speed for 3 hours without losing quality is a different and more difficult task.

There’s a lot more to be said about answer writing, but these are the fundamentals. Getting these right on a regular basis will enable you to focus on the finer details as your prep progresses. Best wishes.

UPSC CSE Mains 2023 Preparation Strategy by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

As Mains 2023 comes around, let me share a few (rather obvious) tips which have worked for me in the past iterations:

1) Believe in yourself. You have been preparing for this exam for an year or more, and did clear a tough prelims paper just a few months ago. All you need to do is: a) to be calm, and b) confidently channel your cumulative knowledge and experience into two productive weekends.

2) Track the time diligently. Completing the paper isn’t rocket science, it’s just about making sure that you never get trapped into spending too much time perfecting an answer or thinking up the perfect answer. Write a decent answer within the alloted time to each question, and move on. Wear a watch and check it often, never lose track of time.

  1. Don’t get unnerved by difficult questions. There will inevitably be a few questions you have got no clue about (remeber the “blue LED” question from last year? :P). Just remember that everyone in your exam hall is equally clueless. Try to attempt such questions in as little time as possible using whatever limited knowledge and content you’ve got, and move on. Don’t leave such questions completely in my opinion, even partial and imperfect answers can fetch a few marks, and those few marks can create a large difference at the end.

4) Be early to the exam centre for every paper, no need to leave things to luck or fate.

5) Try to devote the remaining time entirely for revision, that will provide much higher return than investing in new topics. Especially focus on revising current affairs of high weightage topics (environment, polity, etc), they help a lot in predicting possible questions.

6) There is a significant difference between MTS tests and actual mains exam. So don’t feel overconfident because of good MTS feedback or depressed beacuse of bad feedback. It’s all about writing those 5+2 papers in the next 2 weeks as best as you can. Be optimistic and give it your best shot.

7) For the fellow night owls out there, try to shift your sleep cycles to align with the exam timings. Start tonight itself if you haven’t already.

That’s it for now. Try not to overexert yourself in the coming days, but do use the available time efficiently. Best wishes!

Mains last minute tips by Dilip K Kainikkara UPSC Topper

For those of you currently attempting Mains 2023

I’ve got a lot of opinions about the recent GS and Essay papers, much like all of you. But let me lead by example, and not even mention any of those here. Now is not the time for GS analysis. You and I will have plenty  of time for that next week. For now, set all of that completely aside, and FOCUS ON OPTIONAL PAPERS.

I’m primarily talking from my experience with Maths, but some of this might be useful for other optionals too:

1) Start optional prep ASAP. Tonight if possible, but definitely no later than tomorrow morning.

2) Don’t feel overwhelmed by the vast syllabus. You know the priority areas as well as your weak areas, focus on those.

3) Spend due time on PYQs. The optional papers are very repetitive in question content as well as pattern, so solving/attempting PYQs will get you in the right mindset.

4) For scientific optional subjects, make sure you’re comfortable with using the scientific calculator. Try to familiarize yourself with the methods and techniques to solve various problems and equations easily using the calculator (if you haven’t done so already).

5) Use revision time to ensure that you have all the necessary formulae and other “to be memorized” stuff in your short term memory when you appear for the paper. Use your own short notes if you have them, else depend on toppers’ notes or institute notes. (Kanishak Kataria’s notes are highly recommended for Maths revision).

6) Don’t over-exert yourself. Optional papers in general and Maths papers in particular need you to be mentally alert and refreshed. Give due priority for enough sleep and adequate nutrition + hydration.

7) I’m sure you’re all aware that one only needs to write 5 out of the 8 questions in each paper, and also that there are 2 compulsory questions. From a Maths perspective, this means that:
a) You can’t afford to leave any topic completely.
b) There’ll be some amount of choice between advanced questions of various topics, so it’s okay to have one or two weak topics in each paper.
c)The early time to read the question paper can be productively used towards choosing among the questions.

8) The qualifying language papers are very easy in general, so no need to spend much time for those if you can read and write the language pretty well.

In short, forget everything else and focus on optional papers for this week. Prioritise the limited time based on the demands of your specific optional and your personal strengths and weaknesses. Best wishes! 😊