Help! I didn’t clear the Prelims. Now What?

Relax, you’re not alone. In fact, from more than 3 lac students who applied for the Prelims this year and about 1.5 lac who actually appeared only about 12800 managed to clear. So what about the rest? If you belong to the ‘rest’ category this time you can very well find yourself among the successful candidates next year, age and attempts willing.

Step 1: Stop worrying about the past and focus on the next attempt

What is gone cannot be redone. Thoughts like ‘wish I had attempted one more question’ or ‘ should have prepared mental ability part better’ or ‘must have reported to exam on time’ will not undo the fact of this year’s Prelims. Yes, they are valuable lessons for next year and should be treated as such; to learn from the experience you gained but don’t let these thoughts stop you from looking at the wonderful opportunity you will get in the Prelims next year.

My good friend did not clear the Prelims in his first two attempts. So did he abandon his civil services dream and turn to lesser competitive exams (even though he was recently married and in a makeshift private job)? No; he held forth and attempted the IAS exam again. Only this time, he not only managed to clear the Prelims but went on to crack the Mains and Interview and secure a good rank in the civil services list. Today he is an IRTS central civil services officer.

Lesson?  Go ahead with your preparation for next Prelims with the experience gained from this year’s attempt. You still have ample time to prepare for the Prelims next year so make the most of it.

Step 2: Evaluate your strong and weak points

Based on your experience with the Prelims just attempted which areas or topics you feel confident in and which ones you feel require more preparation? Say you went through some answer keys or scourged different books and found most answers in Polity correct but found yourself lacking in Indian Economy questions.

So now you know you’re weak and strong areas and can focus on the weak ones to bring them on par with the stronger ones.

Step 3: Ensure sufficient practice before entering the examination hall

It’s vital to make every attempt in the civil services examination count since many of you have only four. Also even if attempt is not an issue, age certainly is. That’s why I always stress on the importance of testing yourself continuously either by going through the previous years papers or enrolling in a good test series.

Having attempted adequate number of questions in all topics of Prelims will boost your confidence when you set your foot in the examination hall and will guarantee x number of marks even before you have tackled the first question. Many IAS aspirants ignore this vital step and after preparing a topic attempt the questions directly in the Prelims paper only to be disappointed later. So if you feel you missed out in this year’s Prelims due to lack of sufficient practice you can still rectify this.

Step 4: Make a habit of making micro notes

Sometimes what is lacking is the last fifteen days revision before the Prelims. If you were to ask me to choose between revising before the Prelims or preparing a new/unfinished topic to cover the syllabus I’ll always advise to stick with the former.

In Prelims, it’s not that important to cover all topics equally well but it surely is important to prepare really well what you prepare. So let’s say you covered Polity, current affairs, environment and ecology but left out Indian Economy then make sure you cover the initial topics really well and then revise them at least once, and preferably twice, before the Prelims through micro notes.

It is important that you have such notes handy as you will not have the time to go through entire books and notes in just fifteen or twenty days.

Tip: Cut out on distractions

In the previous commenting system on this blog readers could include a link to their website or blog if they had one. Many used to link to their Facebook profiles. Then I noticed something very interesting just a few days after the Prelims results. Many of these Facebook profile links were broken, meaning, the profiles or accounts on Facebook were deleted.

I suppose these readers realized that Facebook was eating into their preparation time and they should focus more on their preparation than on Facebook. So you have it. Cut out on unneeded distractions. It could be excessive chit chat on mobile, smsing, Facebooking or something else.

Remember, everything used in moderation is fine and can add to your experience but not at the cost of your preparation. You invest a number of years and money in the IAS dream and you owe it to yourself to realize this dream.

So go forth with renewed vigour and ambition!

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About the Author: IAS Kracker

IAS Kracker is your friend, mentor and guide to help you crack the IAS exam. We have been guiding hundreds of IAS Aspirants since 2009 to help realize their dream of cracking the IAS exam. Know more about us.


  1. Even I didnt clear in the prelims this year. However, i have the hope of clearing it next year. Am working in an MNC company, but i dont want to leave this job as i have my own personal committments. Mistake that i made in the prelims is i have attended almost 90-95 questions ignoring the negative mark thinking… Though i have managed to get almost 45 questions correct in paper 1, remaining 50 questions were wrong. So it has ruined most of my marks. It’s a great lesson for me and i would like to share this to all aspirants. I believe one can try only 65-75 questions in paper 1, that too they should be confident of answers… Attend less and get selected in prelims…

  2. I m an undergraduate but in future i want to appear in civil service exam…………may i get some type of information on current affair everyday?…..most f d important national and international news,i know i wili get them by getting through news paper but i hardly get time to go through newspaper…………so plz help me out wid this………………plzzzzzzzzzzzz………… nd plzz guide me how to prepare myself for dis.:)))

  3. sir i’m gonna have my first attempt for the csat this year. i am a doctor and have a clinic. i cant leav it coz of personal problems. so i study at night and early morning. My friends

  4. sir i’m gonna have my first attempt for the csat this year. i am a doctor and have a clinic. i cant leav it coz of personal problems. so i study at night and early morning. My friends say u must give it full time to study otherwise its no use. can u guide me

  5. Hi,

    I am a 29 year old software engineer. would like to take up ias preims 2013. Is that possible to crack it in the first attempt. Because most people saying that we need to spend minimun 10 hrs a day at least for 10 months. I dont have that much time to spend daily. Please clarify and guide me..

    Name: Ilaiyaraja
    Edu: MCA(2007 passout)
    Category: OBC
    Prof: Software engineer

    Thanks in advance

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