Clearing prelims is like getting an admit card for the Mains. The real exam. Where scores matter.
The main objective in this phase should be to maximise marks. The way to do it is not to score extraordinary scores in some papers but to score above average marks in all the papers so that the sum total is maximised.

# Approach to Mains: 

Balance it all approach -> [Essay + GS + Optional + Interview]

Create a cut off threshold for all the papers:
ESSAY -> 130+
GS Papers -> 100+
OPTIONAL -> 280+

If you aim at attaining the minimum threshold in all the papers, then you stand a very strong chance to clear the written test with a very good score and rank.

# How to prepare for Mains ?

I had divided the syllabus into various subjects and I studied subject wise instead of studying GS wise papers.
After going through the syllabus, I allocated the topics and bullet point of the syllabus amongst the various subjects.
For example: I created subjects such as IAC, IMH, WH, GEO, ECO1, ECO2, ETHICS, IR, POL, GOV, ESSAY etc - around 14 subjects. Now it had become similar to the usual board examination but with more number of subjects.
For Example: Lets say I have to prepare notes for topic POVERTY. So I place the topic Poverty under the subject ECO2 (Economics Paper 2). I put all the news and content related to poverty under this. Now no matter in whichever paper the question related to poverty comes, I use my these notes to answer them.
Now if the question comes on Poverty in GS1, then I use my Poverty topic which I studied under Subject ECO2.
Similarly, if topic is LWE( Left Wing Extremism), then I prepare a note on LWE and put it under the subject SEC (Security). Now if in any current affairs magazine I come across the new about changes in Red Corridor Map, then I copy the news and put it under the topic LWE in SEC.
Similarly, If I come across a topic let us say Multi Dimensional Poverty Index and I put them as a note under POVERTY topic in ECO2 subject.

# How to improve marks in Mains ? Things that I did differently this time :

  • Attempted all the questions, no matter what.
    Eg: Even when 3 questions where left to be attempted with 5 minutes remaining, I ensured that I write all of them even when I have to cut down on content and quality.
  • Specific points instead of writing very general points
    eg: Doubling Farmer's Income -> mention Ashok Dalwai Committee rather than writing general points
  • Took the previous years toppers answer copies and wrote them again. And then compared the two answers. It turned out to be very helpful -> perspective to what else could have been written, points missed.
  • Wrote limited number of tests, but analysed them more. Every subsequent test should be an improvement over the previous test.
  • I purchased various test papers and started reading the tests in questions and answers format instead of writing all the answers. It widened my question pool. In mains, if you know even some thing for a question, you tend to write the answer. You eventually leave only those question for which you have no idea.
  • Changed my pen from ball pen to Pilot V5 and it improved my speed.
  • Created an answer writing framework -> PESTELM Approach and then I used to evaluate my own answers based on these parameters.
  • Sequence of attempt: Attempted first 4 answers (10 markers) first and then went to 15 marker sequence wise and then the remaining 10 markers. 

This way you will not only have your notes structured which will help you in memorising, but it will also make it much easier for you to revise.

# Prelims + GS Preparation Video talk:


  • The notes attached in this platform are created in Microsoft OneNote format. Thus it is advisable that you install this application for smooth reading of the notes.
  • Also the content of the notes are dynamic in nature and are being regularly updated and modified. Thus it is advisable that you keep syncing the notes from time to time and keep checking the space.
  • I am also attaching the merged pdf format for all the topics which can be opened without OneNote but here all the topics will be merged and won't receive any update.

# IAC ( Indian Art and Culture + Ancient/ Medieval History)

OR in Merged PDF format: IAC
  • Reference material include:
  • Class 11 Tamil Nadu Board History Book
  • Nitin Singhania Indian Art and Culture Book
  • NCERT Old and New
  • Internet for few topics

# IMH ( Indian Modern History)

OR in Merged PDF format: IMH
  • References include:
  • Spectrum Modern History
  • Internet
# IS (Indian Society)

OR in Merged PDF format: IS
  • References include:
  • NCERTs
  • Vision IAS Mains 365
  • Vajiram Yellow Book on Indian Society

# GEO-ENV ( Geography and Environment)

OR in Merged PDF format: GEO and ENV
  • References include:
  • Geography: Spectrum's Geography
  • Environment: Shankar IAS's Environment

OR in Merged PDF format: POLITY
  • References include:
  • Indian Polity by Laxmikanth
  • Vision IAS Mains 365 or Insights current affairs

OR in Merged PDF format: GOV
  • References include:
  • Newspapers
  • Vision IAS Mains 365/CA
  • Vision IAS Notes or Vajiram Yellow book
# IR ( International Affairs)

OR in Merged PDF format: IR
  • References include:
  • IGNOU material on India and World
  • Vision IAS Mains 365 + Newspapers


OR in Merged PDF format: SEC
  • References include:
  • Vajiram Yellow book on Security
  • Vision IAS Mains 365 Security

# S&T

  • References include:
  • Old NCERT book of Class 9 and 10
  • Vajiram Yellow Book on Science and Technology
  • Vision IAS Mains 365 on S&T


OR in Merged PDF format: ETHICS
  • References include:
  • Arihant publication's Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude
  • Vajiram's yellow book

For Economics, you can selectively refer my Economics Paper 2 notes that I had prepared for my optional.


I had joined Vision IAS for my Mains Test Series. I had also made account in Insights Mains Test Series (self evaluation). I am attaching some of my evaluated test series booklets.
Few points to be kept in mind:

  • Any score around and above 85 can be considered safe. It means you are prepared to perform and all you need is confidence and luck during those 3 hours of exam writing session.
  • Do not compare scores and worry. You should be writing only and only to improve your scores with time. It is rare that an individual follows strict time limit while writing mock tests ( including me).
  • The key objective of test series to practice writing for 3 hours in a stretch.
  • Writing only tests won't help. It requires improvement over time. The way to improve has been written above in the section of answer writing and also mentioned in the video. 


  1. Sir please share your strategy when you are free

  2. hello sir..can u elaborate on PESTELM approach

  3. IAS coaching has become a necessity for most IAS aspirants as competition is very high. Quality of teaching and material is very important for any civil service examinations. You are providing good information for such students who preparing for the competitive exam. Thanks for sharing the valuable information.
    Top IAS Academy in Chennai

  4. sir did you made notes from vision ias current affairs monthly compliation . If yes than how did you made notes from it .

  5. Kumar Sir , have you joined any coaching centre for prelims and mains or self study??

  6. Sir could you tell me how to read mint paper for eco optional. Do I need to read all the relevant articles as mentioned in Paper 2 or only the editorials?

  7. Share the exact technique you followed for economic optional. It's very important and means a lot who studying on their own sir.

  8. The testimonial story of yours is exactly same as mine sir....


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