How To Complete UPSC Mains Paper in 3 Hours? – A Clear-Cut Guide

how to complete upsc mains paper in 3 hours

How to complete UPSC Mains paper in 3 hours is a common question that comes across most of the aspirant’s minds. UPSC Mains is the second phase of the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

There are a total of 9 papers in UPSC Mains and each of the papers has a time duration of 3 hours. All 9 papers are descriptive in nature which means you need to practice writing an answer beforehand so that you can write a well-structured answer in an exam to clear UPSC Mains.

Since many of the candidates think about how many questions have to be attempted to clear UPSC Mains or do they need to attempt all questions or not, this article resolves all such queries.

Read this blog as it revolves around how to complete UPSC Mains paper in 3 hours with proper time management and preparation strategy.

How Many Questions to Answer/Attempt in UPSC Mains?

Before figuring out how to complete UPSC Mains paper in 3 hours, let us look at the number of questions to be attempted.

250 is the maximum mark allotted for GS Paper, optional paper, and essay paper whereas 300 maximum marks are allotted for Indian language and English paper.

Usually, 20 questions (varies according to the subjects) are asked in each of the 9 papers of UPSC Mains, and 3 hours are allotted to complete the paper. Candidates try to attempt each and every question to be in a race of scoring higher marks in UPSC Mains.

Generally, it is said that the people who have attempted the entire paper may score higher marks rather than the one who has not completed the entire UPSC Mains paper.

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The Ultimate Guide: How to Complete UPSC Mains Paper in 3 Hours

Completing the UPSC Mains Question Paper on time can be a daunting or stressful task but can be achieved with the right preparation strategy and mindfulness. Despite being well-versed in the respective subject, most of you are unable to complete the entire paper on time as you are unable to manage time or stress/anxiety levels in the exam hall.

Prior to the actual exam, practice by takinhg sufficient mock tests so that you can manage your time and avoid wasting time thinking or framing answers. Rigorous practice of answer writing also helps you to keep your stress level in check.

Keep one thing in mind, at exam time approach asked questions with a proper/correct plan. Keep an eye on the time so that instead of wasting it, you can make the most of it.

The following points listed below are the 5-step ultimate guide that will help you to understand how to complete UPSC Mains paper in 3 hours.

1. Practice is the Key to Success

The more you practice, the more you will be versed not only in writing the perfect answer but also in managing time properly so that you do not waste it framing the perfect answer.

It will also increase your writing speed. This will enable your thoughts to flow logically so that you can write an answer in a coherent and organized way.

2. Focus on Understanding the Question

Take the time to thoroughly understand the requirements of each question. Make sure you are answering what is being asked, and avoid writing irrelevant information. This will help you write answers that are more accurate and to the point, saving time in the process.

3. Begin with Questions You Know

First, attempt those questions which you know so that you can write a proper answer. This will increase your confidence level and save you time. Save time for difficult questions by doing the easy ones first.

4. Keep an Eye on the time

If you are running out of time then keep your paragraphs short. Try to mould your answer in bullet form. Use mind maps, flow charts or diagrams instead of long paragraphs which will not only save you time but your answer will look visually appealing.

5. Do Not Skip Questions You are Familiar with

If you don’t know the answer to any question but have a limited idea then attempt it instead of leaving it. This will fetch you some marks. In other words, instead of leaving an unfamiliar question write some relevant points related to the question you have some idea about.

Whatever you know with respect to that question, write something so that you may have a chance to score some marks on that question.

Related Reading: How To Prepare For UPSC Prelims And Mains Together Like An Absolute Pro!

Tips to Increase the Number of Attempted Questions

Follow the given tips to attempt the maximum number of questions in UPSC Mains:

  1. Increase your speed to complete the entire paper on time. Practice will increase your writing speed. Besides speed, it will help you to be accurate while answering the asked questions so that you will refrain from writing the bush.
  2. Spend a reasonable amount of time answering one question before moving on to the next. But don’t spend too much time on a single question.
  3. Accuracy will help you to have knowledge of that respective subject. This can be achieved via revision and practice.
  4. Don’t switch between multiple pens in the exam hall. This will only waste your time and hinder you to attempt more questions due to time constraints.
  5. Refrain from writing the wrong data or facts in a fact-based answer. Write the correct facts or figures, or else leave it. In short, stick to what is asked instead of what you know.
  6. In case you are not aware of the answer to a question, do not leave it unanswered, as doing so will greatly hurt your chances of answering it later in the exam. The best approach to take to such a question is to answer something relevant that you know and keep it aside to try it out later in the exam.
  7. Answer questions in bullet points, diagrams, and any other methods, rather than in tedious paragraphs. How you present your answers is important. The examiner will undoubtedly notice this.
  8. Instead of wasting the last minute in defining the keywords. Stick to the crux of a question asked in the exam.

Knowledge and writing skills alone will not help you to complete the entire UPSC Mains paper on time. Following the tips/strategies mentioned above will help you to complete the exam paper on time.

What is the Best Strategy for Completing the UPSC Mains Paper in 3 Hours?

To complete the UPSC mains paper in 3 hours, it is important to adopt an effective time-management strategy. Some tips include:

  1. Make an outline of your answers before writing the actual answer.
  2. Prioritize the questions and allocate time for each question based on its marks.
  3. Write concise and to-the-point answers, avoiding unnecessary details.
  4. Keep a watch on the time and stick to the allocated time for each question.
  5. Read the questions carefully and understand the requirements before starting to write the answer.

What should be the Structure of the Answer?

The structure of the answer should be:

  1. Introduction: Start with a brief and proper introduction that highlights the key points you will be discussing in your answer.
  2. Body: The main body of the answer should provide a detailed analysis and central idea of the question, covering all the relevant points. Always make sure to answer in points or paragraphs, as per the
  3. Conclusion: End with a concise conclusion that summarizes your answer and reiterates the key points.

Tips to Write a 250-Word Answer in 7-8 Minutes in UPSC Mains Exam

It may sound easy but it is not. In UPSC Mains Exam, you need to write 250 words in 7-8 minutes. This is not easy, but it can be done if you follow some tips and techniques.

  1. Pay close attention to the questions asked in the question paper and be sure you understand them.
  2. Make an outline of your answer. This will help you structure your answer easily and systematically. This is a habit that you can cultivate during mock exams. Practice answer writing daily during mock tests will help you to a great extent.
  3. The UPSC examiners want you to understand the issue and come up with a complete answer that is easy to read and comprehend. The examiner wants to assess you with your opinion-based answer. Do not drift off into irrelevant thoughts. Over-brooding leads to confusion, so avoid any unnecessary details.
  4. Try to underline your most important points and sentences. This can save time and fetch you marks. Keep your handwriting neat and legible. A neat answer will help you score high.

With clarity of thoughts/concepts with respect to the asked questions and a sufficient amount of practice, one can write a 250-word answer in 7-8 minutes in UPSC Mains Exam with ease.

Importance of Finishing the Paper in the UPSC Mains Exam

The recommendation is to spend no more than seven minutes per answer for essay-type answers in the Mains Examination. If one can’t answer a question in seven minutes, a plan is then needed to make up for the time spent answering the previous question.

A candidate has to remember that they have an equal amount of time to answer all the questions and all the question carries the same weightage, so giving an inordinate amount of time to one question is unfair to the others.

So, candidates should try and complete their paper on time and try to answer all questions within their prescribed time limit and not be carried away by any particular question.

Ckeck Out Our Blog On: How Many Hours of Study is Required for UPSC?


Effective time management is crucial to achieving success in the UPSC CSE, as the allotted time cannot be extended. To make the most of your time, it’s important to plan and allocate time wisely for each question.

Ensure that you have sufficient time to fully answer each question, otherwise, you may not be able to complete them satisfactorily. To achieve this, it’s recommended to follow the tips outlined above and aim to write 250 words in 5-7 minutes.

FAQs on How to Complete UPSC Mains Paper in 3 Hours

Is it advisable to write in bullet points or paragraphs in UPSC?

It is usually advisable to write in paragraphs, as this helps to present information in a clear and organized manner. However, in some cases, bullet points can be used to highlight key points or list examples.

How much importance should I give to handwriting in the UPSC Mains exam?

Good handwriting can make a positive impact on the evaluators, as it makes it easier for them to read and understand your answer. However, it is more important to focus on writing an answer that is well-structured, comprehensive, and to the point.

How should I revise my answers before submitting the paper?

Before submitting the paper, it is important to revise your answers and make any necessary corrections. Check for any grammatical or spelling errors, and ensure that the answers are well-structured and easy to understand.

If time permits, you can also read through your paper to see if there is any information that can be added or omitted to make the answer more comprehensive.

What should I do if I don’t know the answer to a question?

If you don’t know the answer to a question, it is important to not panic. Instead, try to write what you do know about the topic, and use examples and illustrations to support your answer. Do not write irrelevant information or make things up, as this can negatively impact your score.

What if I run out of time while writing the answer?

If you run out of time while writing an answer, it is important to not panic. Try to summarize the key points in a clear and concise manner, and move on to the next question. Do not waste time going back to previous answers to make revisions, as this will take away from the time you have for the remaining questions.

How many words should I write for each answer on the UPSC Mains paper?

The word count for each answer depends on the marks assigned to the question. However, a good rule of thumb is to aim for around 250-300 words for a 10-mark question, and around 500-600 words for a 20-mark question.

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