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It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Revised pay and higher intake make the Civil Services exams an even bigger draw this year Vimal Chander Joshi reports

education Updated: Jan 20, 2010 09:47 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Civil Services examination candidates are upbeat about the high number of seats (965, as against 580 last year) up for grabs this time.

“I already have two government job (officer rank) offers — one from the income tax department, the other from the Railways — and have also appeared for the IAS mains thrice, but all my hopes are pinned on IAS 2010, because of the increased number of seats,” says Ravi Kant Nirala from Bihar.

Enjoy the learning
What strategies are good? “There is no golden rule,” says VP Gupta, director of coaching centre, Rau’s Study Circle, in Delhi. “The only way to crack it is sincere study of eight to 10 hours daily for six months at a stretch before the preliminary exams and an equal amount of hours put in for the mains.”

More than three lakh IAS aspirants are doing just that. So, what gives you an extra edge?

“One very important thing is to be able to enjoy the learning,” says Gupta. “Even if you are not good at a subject, try to find pleasure in it while you learn.”

PS Ravindran, director, Vaji Ram & Ravi, Delhi, adds, “It is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Even a person with an exceptionally high IQ can’t qualify unless s/he puts in lot of hard work and focuses on cracking the paper for at least one year before the preliminary exam.”

Allocate time properly
Prepare for the second optional (which you won’t choose in the prelims) from June to September of the year before you appear for the Civil Services exams. Start studying for the prelims in October for the exam to be held next May. During this time, at least the last two months, should be devoted to mock tests.

Once the May prelims are behind you, start revising everything you studied in the past one year before taking the mains in October.

Set aside two hours every day for going through newspapers and magazines. Earlier, being clued into news was considered sufficient. But last year, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which conducts the test, surprised candidates by touching on questions conventionally considered unimportant. “Now, I’d ask students to read not-so-popular news items as well,” says Ravindran. “Read The Hindu and Hindustan Times and in magazines, read Yojana and Frontline. These must be studied, not just read.”

Choosing the optional
A problem most candidates face is choosing the ‘right’ subject in the prelims. The most common choice is to pick what you studied for graduation. However, this is not essential.

Pawan Kumar, an IAS aspirant, deviated from the rule. He studied economics in graduation but chose history as the preliminary subject. “History is relatively easy. Moreover, I am a Hindi medium student and you don’t find good books for economics in Hindi,” he says.

Find time to chill
Hard work is necessary, but when you are worn out by the endless hours of study, do take a break. Watch a film or hang out with friends at least once a month. “I see old films on my PC in my room — at least once every three weeks,” says Kumar.

Psychologists say that human concentration is like a U-shaped graph, going up when you begin a task, coming down mid-way and going up again when you are on the verge of completing the task. “The longer you study, the more the fatigue. Take a five-minute break every 40-45 minutes and undertake some small outdoor activity every day,” says Dr Samir Parikh, clinical psychologist, Max Healthcare, Delhi.

Tips and Tricks
Cover the syllabi of all subjects with the ‘mile-long and inch-deep’ approach. The syllabus is very vast but do not go very deep when it comes to dealing with your chosen subjects

. If you do really well in the prelims, start preparing immediately for the mains. Do not wait for the results

The relative importance of the 300-mark optional subject paper is far greater than that of the general studies paper of 150 marks.
This does not mean you can overlook the general studies paper. It, too, needs to be approached seriously

Give previous years’ question papers as much importance as you would the syllabi — treat them as ‘redefined’ syllabi. Pore over the past papers to see the
kind of news you should read

Inputs by PS Ravindran and VP Gupta