– Akhand Swaroop Pandit, Founder and CEO, The Catalyst Group
The UPSC (CSE/IAS) is considered to be the mother of all written examinations. It is a curriculum heavy examination which makes it imperative for the students to start their preparations a year ahead if they wish to appear for the next year.
The major difference between the UPSC prelims and the mains is in the type of questions. The prelims are objective while the questions in MAINS are descriptive in nature. Hence, detailed study is not usually required during the prelims. Reading the NCERT textbooks or taking regular classes can be sufficient to get the basics right. Although, going through previous year test papers to understand the pattern will be additionally beneficial.
Here are a few quick suggestions to begin with the preparations:
1. Source Wisely: Every aspirant knows that the study material should be sourced from various references. However, it’s advisable not to make the mistake of trying to read too many books to end up getting confused and frustrated. Decide on a few books and stick to them.
2. Updating with current affairs: Indulge in the habit of reading one or two good newspapers to keep yourselves up to date on current affairs. Also go through the news websites for the latest happenings on topics like national and international politics, science and technology and socio-economic issues.
3. Planning and setting goals: This method is clichéd but true. ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail.’ If you want to clear the civil services prelims in the first attempt itself, you must plan and study. To cover the vast UPSC syllabus, you must plan your day, your week and your month. You ought to have a daily routine where you spend a fixed number of hours to study. Have daily or weekly goals and strive and achieve them. This is the only way to be able to cover the entire syllabus.
4. Revision: The importance of revising what you have learned cannot be undermined especially for the prelims since it involves being able to recall a lot of facts. This is where making notes comes into the picture. With well-made notes, you could revise the whole syllabus easily.
5. Aptitude tests: Covering aspects like comprehension, mental ability, logical reasoning, etc. while taking aptitude tests can be very advantageous in the long run. Acing this test requires intense practice.
6. Mock tests: Answering previous year question papers can give you an idea, on the type of questions asked by UPSC and also helps you assess your own preparation level-well in advance.
In addition, you can time your answers optimally. It also helps you know how much time you can spend on each question.
7. Do not Waver: Finally, you must work hard with a passion and perseverance and think of your dream. You might be tempted to give up because of the sheer enormity of the task before you.
Remember the prelims are only half the battle. You cannot afford to lose enthusiasm at this stage itself. So buck up, study hard, will yourself to go that extra mile. Do not look at the exams as a burden but as a golden opportunity to improve and showcase your talent with intelligence.