It takes a candidate almost a year to prepare well for the Civil Services examination (this year the Prelims are being held on June 18. Studying for the exam is rather an interesting journey since each stage poses a different challenge. Thus, a different strategy must be applied at each stage if you want to attain success. Here are a few suggestions to help you prepare for the civil services exam, specifically prelims.
a)Plan well: Somebody has rightly said that If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail and this is true for this examination too. Do extensive planning for the exam right from the choice of optional to the careful scrutiny of the UPSC Syllabus, previous years’ exam pattern, time available at one’s disposal, sources to be read etc. Draw up a monthly, weekly and daily plan based on well-defined targets and try to achieve these well on time.
b)Cover your basics and don’t juggle books: The questions asked in UPSC Exam are mostly based on fundamentals and it is thus very important to cover the basics properly. What you choose to study, such as standard books and e-learning resources, is very important as there is such a lot of exhaustive reading material available in the market that without proper guidance one can get lost. The key is to go through general studies papers of the last 10 years and interviews of previous years’ toppers to carefully delineate the common sources which are recommended by all – usually for Indian Polity almost all toppers recommend M Laxmikanth. Once you have carefully chosen the source, then try to master it instead of getting anxious about covering the topic from other sources.
c)Prepare a time schedule and stick to it: Remember regularity and consistency matter more than anything. It is far better to invest six to seven hours daily than studying one day for 18 hours and not studying at all the next day. Stick to your schedule according to the topics to be covered, according to the time at your disposal, and try to follow the schedule religiously to update it on a daily basis. Every morning, set a target about the syllabus you intend to cover in the day and then at night audit your output. This will keep you on track.
d)Practice last year’s exam papers and as many mock tests as possible : It is important that one practice as many mock tests and previous years’ exam papers as possible for clarity and confidence for the prelims. One should also focus a lot on analysis of each test. For you these tests should not just be mere evaluating tools but also learning tools. Try to learn from the mistakes with focus on not repeating the same mistakes in the prelims exam. Also, try to take mock tests of institutes or websites which have ‘tough’ questions and are almost at par with UPSC standards. Certain tests are available in the market which offer a whole lot of information. Don’t fall into their trap. Remember, you don’t have to be the storehouse of information.
e)Maintain a positive attitude all through: If you’re planning to write the exam next year, remember preparation can be frustrating and depressing. This can deplete your energies so try to avoid negativity as much as possible. Adopt a positive attitude and have perseverance along with patience to reap the fruits of hard work. Believe in yourself and your hard work, leaving the rest to the Almighty.
The author has served as assistant commissioner of police for around six years and is now with the Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax). She is also the author of Ancient and Medieval India, published by McGraw Hill Education (India) Pvt. Ltd. for UPSC and State Civil Services Examinations.