How to Prepare for the General Studies Paper- I (Main examination)
Managing time and understanding the syllabus
The most significant advantage that early beginners have is the advantage of extra time. However, when the time is sufficient, it's not the 'time management, rather how effectively you utilize it that matters.
Thus, all the days, weeks, and months should be pre-scheduled with respective targets.
First and foremost, a candidate must clearly understand the depth and scope of the syllabus of all the four papers in GS Mains. This small but significant work would go a long way in keeping your preparation focussed and relevant.
Given the sufficiency of time, it is important to adopt the 'mains first' strategy' which means that you should start your UPSC preparation focusing on the Main examination. This is because after the Prelims, a candidate gets hardly three to four months for the preparation of mains. The schedule is further tightened by the requirement of answer writing and essay writing practice. Thus, it will be an intelligent move to prepare for the mains part first.
Choose Your Optional Subject Wisely
A vital element of the mains syllabus is the optional subject. The choice of optional subject should be as per your own level of comfort and your degree of interest in the subject.
This decision must not be misguided by any sort of false speculations of 'which is the most scoring optional'. It's not the optional subject per se, it's your preparation and presentation (answer writing) that makes it scoring.
Make Proper Study Plan
After having wisely chosen the optional subject, the candidate must start the preparation right from the beginning.
Allocate the months and schedule your days and weeks well in advance, ensuring that by November - December, you finish the syllabus for the four General Studies papers and Optional subject.
Follow Daily Current Affairs To Keep Yourself Updated
An important, or rather decisive part of the preparation is to religiously and consistently follow the newspaper daily. The aspirant should always be updated with all the important national and international events. You can follow one or two magazines and government sources like Yojana, Kurukshetra, Press Information Bureau etc.
Also, you may subscribe to national dailies like Times of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express, etc. Also, if time permits, you can start with your initial answer writing practice after you are done with the mains syllabus once. Try to get it evaluated by some senior or teacher.
Read standard textbooks
There are many standard textbooks on various subjects like Polity, Economy, History, Geography, Environment etc. Select the books carefully and study them for reference.