- Tips & Tricks
Be Your Own Teacher
- UPSC preparation is very long and tedious process, which is further made difficult by an ever expanding syllabus and lack of time on the part of the aspirants. Considering this, depending upon one teacher, guide, mentor or even a single coaching class material is not going to help you cross the line. You should transform yourself into your own teacher, who is able to develop questions as a student and answer them as well using reference materials and study materials. Adopting this dual-role approach to your preparation methodology will help gain confidence along with helping you with subjective studies. If you inculcate this habit for the long run, you will get into the mode of self-study to solve any question that arises in your mind about any topic.
Develop Problem-Solving Attitude
- One of the best qualities that you will need not only as an UPSC CSE aspirant but also as an IAS officer is that of a problem-solving attitude. UPSC aspirants much like the officer they will become after clearing the Civil Services Examination, need to address a host of problems and challenges in the preparatory phase and overcome them using innovative techniques. You may encounter problems of dealing with an extensive syllabus, time management, resources, peer pressure, societal pressure and many others during your IAS preparation phase. In such testing times, your problem-solving attitude will come in very handy to design solutions. Therefore, IAS aspirants should develop a never-say-die attitude towards problems.
Also lead a stimulating life. Of course, you have a grand goal, i.e., clearing the IAS exam. Let this goal be your motivator. Let your mind always be working. Never stay idle. Solve puzzles and brain teasers in your spare time. All this will shake you off your sleepiness.
Allow yourself to unwind
- It is essential for your wellbeing that you unwind before the day comes to an end. Meditation and yoga are really helpful for your body and mind because their routines introduce a series of breathing exercises that help you connect to your untapped energy. It helps you quiet your mind, relax your body, and after practising for some time you might be able to feel more connected to the world outside your own.
Go for a walk
- After a long day, it is crucial for you to go out and get your body moving. We are sure you have heard this many times, but taking a walk in the woods (or anywhere) can really benefit your body, mind, spirit, and boost your self-confidence to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. In order for you to be more productive in your endeavour, you need to make sure you include a little walk- time in your routine.
Healthy Sleeping Patterns Is Imperative
- It is imperative that you have a sound sleep when you do sleep at night. Don’t think about your CS exams, your uncovered portion of the UPSC syllabus, your friends’ preparation, your parents’ expectations, etc. Unburden your mind and sleep like a baby! You can get a good shut eye only if you create certain conditions for it like no lights, no caffeine before bedtime, quiet atmosphere, etc. If your sleep is marred by negative thoughts and dreams, you will wake up tired and be sleepy the whole next day even if you had ‘slept’ for 8 hours.
Use relaxation techniques: If you find yourself tensed and getting anxious during the test:
- Relax; you are in control. Take slow, deep breaths
- Don't think about the fear
- Pause; think about the next step and keep on task, step by step
- Use positive reinforcement for yourself: Acknowledge that you have done, and are doing your best
- Expect some anxiety: It's a reminder that you want to do your best and can provide energy. Just keep it manageable
- Realize that anxiety can be a "habit" and that it takes practice to use it as a tool to succeed
- After the test, review how you did: List what worked, and hold onto these strategies. It does not matter how small the items are: they are building blocks to success
- List what did not work for improvement: Celebrate that you are on the road to overcoming this obstacle
Pick Brain Boosting Foods and Beverages
- Different type of food items can have different reactions to the body and general mood of a person. Therefore, it is very important for CSE aspirants to include right type of food items in their daily schedule. As a rule of thumb, focus on food items that are high in proteins. Proteins are very important as they burn slowly giving a constant source of energy to the body, keeping you full for long time durations. Also, try and include eggs, nuts, curd, cottage cheese and other low-fat items in your daily diet. As far as food items go, eggs, poha, idlis, dosa, dhokla are all light alternatives that can help you during exam preparation.
Avoid Brain Blocking Foods and Beverages
- In continuation of the above point, CSE aspirants should try and avoid certain food items that may feel them lethargic and fatigued. Carbohydrates are one such food group that are digested very quickly and may compel you to eat more frequently. Stay away from sugary and processed foods like chocolate, cookies, cakes and candies. You may also exclude carbohydrate rich food items like rice, potatoes and white flour from your diet.
Protect Your Stomach
- To ensure that your IAS study schedule is not hindered by any untimely illness, it is important to protect your stomach. To do so, try to include curd and buttermilk in your daily diet. Both these items contain good bacteria that will help you counter any problems like acidity, digestion problems, constipation and general stomach upset problems.
Avoid Eating Outside
- While it may be impossible for some UPSC CSE aspirants to do so, it is important you try and avoid any outside food. You can never be sure of the quality, health and hygiene followed at the food preparation stage unless the food is prepared at home. There have been several cases of food poisoning and contamination in recent past. To avoid any such situation, it is best advised to either self-cook your food or get it prepared by a trusted person at your home.
Ignoring Health Is A Risk
Follow a Balanced Diet
- Although it sounds like a motherly cliché, following a balanced diet is of vital importance for anyone preparing for UPSC CSE Exams. A proper balanced diet should include three full meals that provide your body all the necessary nutrients required to keep your body fit and mind alert throughout the day. Try to include a lot of green vegetables and fresh fruits in your daily food intake; it will help you build immunity and strong physique along with helping you to tackle mental stress. Try not to skip any meals or delay meal times to cover your IAS study timetable, eating on time will help study faster and better.
Heavy & Healthy Breakfast
- It is common knowledge that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; however, this common knowledge is commonly ignored by all the common people. Skipping Breakfast to save 20 minutes may sound like a good idea, but doing so will make you feel lethargic and fatigued. Heavy and healthy breakfast is even more important for IAS aspirants because early morning is the time when your brain is functioning at its full potential and having a good breakfast aids the brain’s processing power even more.
Eat Light, Small and Frequent Meals
- Heavy meals taken at a time will direct blood flow and energy towards digestion process leading to the sleepy lethargic feeling. But if you are preparing for the tough IAS exams, you need your energy directed towards the brain, isn’t it! Therefore, it is important to for IAS Aspirants to opt for light, small and frequent meals spread throughout the day, rather than binge eating at a time. IAS aspirants can also include healthy snacks and mini meals throughout the day to keep them full and refreshed at the same time.
Water is Your Best Friend
- Students preparing for IAS exams, start treating water as your best friend from today. During the course of your general studies preparation, you would have identified more than enough reasons about the importance of water as a component of your diet. If you need any more reasons, consider this! Being dehydrated can make you feel lethargic, irritable and tired; moreover it also affects your concentration, making it difficult for you to focus and study well. Also, water need not be consumed as just plain water; you can spice things up by opting for fruit juices, herbal teas or any other combination that may suit you. However, avoid caffeine and any caffeinated products, as they will not help you in the long run.
Develop Analytical Power
- When you will try to gather knowledge on a specific portion, try to know everything in details as well as try to relate that portion to different ways. Suppose, you are reading a portion of history, it is not necessary to explain that part with historical concepts only rather than you can explain that with geographical perspective, sociological perspective, political perspective, if possible economical perspective as well as try to explain that part with any current affairs topic related to that part. In short, the more perspectives you will relate or think from, the more benefits you will gain here and today UPSC also wants this from you.
- Here,we will like to suggest you focus on the basic concept and on current affairs properly and according to that try to relate to the current scenario of your surroundings or try to explain those in details with whatever you have gathered from your books or from current affairs. Increase the area of your thinking power.
Keeping Heavier Stuff At The Start Of The Day
- Start your day early. One tends to be at one’s most efficient early in the day and as the day wears on, you would start to lose your motivation as well as physical and mental strength, and it becomes difficult to carry on. So make the most of the early hours.
- Prioritize well -by prioritizing, we mean choosing what to read when. For example, just after waking up, our mind is not at its best. It tends to be at its best after about 1-2 hours. So start your day with something lighter like revision for an hour and a half. Then pick the densest subject (e.g. Optional). Divide study time into slots of 1.5 hrs (2 hrs if you are really going strong) and no more. Because after that, productivity decreases. After each slot, take 10 min break. Don’t leave your desk then. Just close your eyes and try to grasp what you read. After studying for 2 slots, take a longer break and just walk around your room. It helps in internalizing concepts and keeps one refreshed.
Here are a few changes a candidate goes through:
- He starts to respect the exam and the process set by UPSC.
- He becomes more aware and passionate about the wrongs that are happening around him.
- He starts understanding the value of patience and accepts short term defeats.
- However, not all changes are positive. Many people also become extremely critical of the selected candidates and start finding flaws in their achievements.
- They start thinking about themselves as experts in CSE and dish out useless advice to people.
- Desperation, day dreaming, regrets are also some of the changes that often take place.
- Your thinking process changes, you develop an opinion for almost everything.
- You become an educated, aware, responsible citizen of the country.
- You literally start taking care of your health, your wellbeing, and your surroundings.
- You learn to say NO more often as the preparation requires sacrifices.
- The things which never bothered, like teenagers smoking in a society park or men standing in women’s coach of the daily metro do bother now and you learn to raise your voice.
- You can talk to people (sensible discussions) of any age group (10–80).
- You get to know how much power you as an individual possess just by knowing your rights.
Overcoming The Fear Of Failure
Reframe Your Goals
- First, reframe failure by shifting your goals. Expand your goal to include learning something new and you will never technically “fail” because there is always something to be learned.
- A 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, asked two groups of college students to write about what lay in store for the coming week. One group was asked to imagine that the week would be great. The other group was just asked to write down any thoughts about the week that came to mind.
- The students who were asked to imagine the week would be great reported feeling less energized and went on to accomplish less during the week than the control group.
Uncover Your Story
- When we take failure very personally, we are always associating the failure with a bigger story about ourselves. We are taking the failure to mean “I am not good enough”, “I will never be successful”, etc.
- When you feel very upset about a specific failure, ask yourself “Hmmm, what is the belief I have about this situation?” See if you can uncover the big, hairy exaggerated story you are telling yourself about this particular failure. Try to separate the story from the facts.
Ask Three Powerful Questions
The best response to perceived failure is to ask oneself these three powerful questions:
- What did I learn from this situation?
- How can I grow as a person from this experience?
- What are three positive things about this situation?
When you first attempt to list three positive things about the “failure”, your mind may be very resistant. But if you stick with the exercise, before you know it, you will see a new opportunity that can come out of this “failure.”
Surrender and Feel the Fear
- Many of us allow fear to paralyze us because we don’t like feeling fear. But if you simply allow yourself to feel the fear when it shows up, you will notice that it quickly dissipates and suddenly the situation feels more manageable.
- The next time you notice yourself getting stressed out or feeling afraid of something not working out, sit quietly by yourself, set your timer for two minutes and start taking deep breaths.
Boost Your Confidence
- When you complete your daily target - you get confidence
- When you score well in tests - you get confidence
- When your mom tells you I am with you don't get scared - you get confidence
- When you think about the life that awaits you at LBSNAA and your cadre - you get confidence
- When you can read ‘The Hindu’or ‘The Indian Express’ in lesser time - you get confidence
- When you can interlink topics - you get confidence
- When you can improve your retention capability - you get confidence
- When you feel you have improved even by a single bit - you get confidence
Apolitical Approach: How Helpful Is It?
- You can’t judge anyone by your assumption and you should back your argument by facts. To remain politically neutral you have to give credit to Government of India for the schemes that are for the benefit of people. Suppose Govt. started the schemes like Jan DhanYojanaand Housing for All. You should know that these schemes were started by the Government of India not BJP.
- If you will differentiate between party and Govt. of our country than you will definitely be politically neutral. There is great difference between the mindset of Party and Government. Government aims for making India a welfare state and development of our country, but in contrast, political parties aim for winning more and more elections. We will suggest you not to watch any of the news channels-cum-news sellers.If you want to watch news, go for DD NEWS from 8-9pm for Hindi or the next 1 hour for English. Never even switch to the other channels.
- For international news, DD News airs a special bulletin on Sunday with a wrap-up of the past week.
- You can even listen to BBC on AM frequency at 7:30pm every day. They broadcast only news and hold a discussion on Saturday about some issues of the week.
How To Avoid Distractions?
Many of the aspirants do ask -how to avoid distractions while preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Exam to themselves? All aspirants will have some sort of distractions while preparing. Even though they do know what is their major problem for distraction they cannot get away from that.
Familiar problems aspirants face are- Family problems, Relationships, Chats, Mobile Games, Facebook. These are the popular reasons for distractions.Here we are trying to give you some sort of solutions:
- All aspirants would have this problem and the problem will be unique for each and every one. So it is up to you to solve these problems. But, be sure these problems are everlasting and you won’t have a springtime. There won’t be an ideal time where there are no family problems. So,if possible come out of your home and be with some fellow aspirants so that your mind will be tuned to prepare for this exam 24/7.
- Explain to your lover/ladylove about your difficulty in preparations and limit time with them by framing a time period. Ask them how they would feel if you clear this toughest exam. So that they are ready to make a temporary sacrifice.
Lack of Perseverance and Focus Hinders Progress
What Are The Benefits Of Studying In A Group?
Form constructive groups. Constructive group study simply means helping each other in studies and carrying out fruitful discussions. Biggest challenge of group study lies when group is formed of few non-serious candidates. In that case, constructive and fruitful discussion is replaced by non-productive gossip.
Advantages of Constructive Group Study:
- Through fruitful discussion, things get settled into permanent memory and it does not get evaporated immediately.
- Group members can work as complimentary to each other. Where, topics can be divided among members to provide an overview on that topic.
- Group study helps to provide a constructive competition among members. And, it results into enhanced performance of each member.
- Time-bound test preparation in a group helps to gauze the preparation standard.
Have You Acquired Bad Habits?
- If you are searching for the mobile when you wake up or when you hold your mobile phone until sleep hits you hard, symptoms say that you are addicted to mobile. These problems appear to be easily rectified but techie guys and net savvy people can’t get away from this very soon. Some of the aspirants will think to start a WhatsApp study group and so even while wasting time in WhatsApp they would get some knowledge.Some will start Facebook groups and will be posting some model question answers, collecting question answers, posting news, debating about popular news topics.
- These are all waste of time. Debating in such a platform will not be very useful. Avoid Facebook, WhatsApp groups. You can use that occasionally but not regularly. Sometimes we open those distracting apps and forget everything around us. There is a solution for that problem. Use mobile only for a limited period of time.
- Also, some students due to peer pressure or to relieve stress start practices such as smoking or drinking alcohol.
- The main excuse is that- it relieve stress and make your more productive. Really!! Don’t indulge in such practices which might hamper your studies or hinders your progress. Be wise.
What Are The Social Media Effects On Studies?
- You don’t need to be inactive from social media, it’s just that you should know what things waste your time and remove those things as soon as possible from your time table.
- Spending lot of time on social media isn’t beneficial as it diverts your mind to different subjects and thinking stupid things thereafter not realising it is irrelevant to your preparation.
- Internet should be used judiciously because UPSC preparation has become dynamic and you cannot survive the competition without it.But, at the same time, it drowns you if misused. Interaction with friends is important especially friends who support and motivate you.In your journey if someone is negative stay away from them.
Peer Pressure:How To Overcome It?
Here are some rules for that:
- Start preparing silently. You must be silent in your actions because civil servants are like the fishes in the ocean which we don’t know whether they are breathing or not.
- Make a weekly time schedule that how many hours you should give for your silent preparation and after that divide that figure by 7, so that you could get number of hours per day. Achieve it!!
- Don’t get indulged too much in the social media like Facebook &Twitter. Use this for once a week, but don’t neglect it purely.
- Stay away from relatives, school or college friends and try to avoid them as much as possible.
- “Meet when needed like in festival seasons; and when somebody asks,what are you doing?” Simply put a smile and says firmly, “Nothing and searching for something better”.
- Listen everybody’s advice specially parents and then don’t react, just keep quiet.
- Don’t change your ambitions when you see that your friends are buying cars or homes, enjoying vacations in some hill stations, etc.
- Be precise to your strategy and tactics and just ignore the rest of world because strategy is the force to run a plan and tactic is the counter force.
Is Having A Work Experience Beneficial In Interview Process?
- There is no extra weightage of work experience in civil services as it is often given during the admission to management Institutes like IIM. All candidates are treated at par for the purpose of selection. Even those candidates who are joining IAS after working a few years in other services like IPS, IRS, IRTS, etc. do not get any preference in selection of IAS.
How To Prepare For Interview?
Begin your preparation early, preferably within a fortnight or a month of completion of the Main examination. Do not wait for the results of the examination. If you could not do so in this window of time, then begin at the earliest. The first phase of preparation can start with a more purposive reading of newspapers and magazines.
Current Affairs and Social Issues
- The issues of national and international importance and even those of regional or local significance often form thenucleus around which the interviews revolve. Getting a good grasp of such issues is of essence. However, the focus in interview is not on mere facts and figures, but more on issues, their appreciation and analysis. Such articles are often found in theeditorial page of the top national dailies, which must be perused properly and comprehended fully. To give a wider coverage to their preparation, aspirants must go through a couple of national dailies. Similarly, one must read at least one good news magazine.
- It should be very precise as well as concise. Once one has gone through the article, one must reflect on it and ask oneself, is it of relevance to me? If yes, then is it worth making a note or can I mentally summarise the essence of article and possibly remember it till the interview stage? Am I in agreement with what is stated in the article? If not, why? Always endeavour to analyse the viewpoint expressed. Does the viewpoint conform to logic and reasoning? Is it falling within the Constitutional and legal framework. How is it for the larger good of our nation and its people? Thus, develop your own perspective.
- Identify the most important points which the article is emphasising upon. Note such three to five salient points in a small note book/spiral pad/memo page of your smart phone. Revise them whenever you catch a few moments of spare time during the day.
- Television too is an important aid for preparation. However, exercise discretion in what and how much television you should watch. It is advisable to switch to prime time news on national channels like, Doordarshan, Rajya Sabha TV, Lok Sabha TV, NDTV, etc. Look out for those programmes which carry views and opinion of eminent people. Listening to All India Radio (FM Gold) and programmes like News at Nine, Market Mantra (economic news programme) and Spotlight (news analysis programme) are equally good options.
- Internet has emerged as a viable option for all of the above and more. Besides reading newspapers, magazines watching/hearing news programmes, etc. internet resources are rather valuable while working in areas related to one’s personal profile (DAF). Further, good articles can easily be saved in soft form or important capsules of article be compiled. However, beware, net surfing can be addictive and at times a drain on your time.
- This phase of preparation is also an opportunity to widen your horizons of thought by reading good books, particularly non-fiction. Target at least a couple of books per month. Books authored by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, RamchandraGuha, Narayana Murthy, AmartyaSen, NandanNilekani, etc. which reflect on world issues, India and its society, economy, polity, etc. are definitely good value for time. Besides, do look out for specific books pertaining to areas of your interest, hobbies, state of domicile, or even those connected with the discipline of your current job/occupation.
Advice of Seniors
- Also look out to meet successful candidates of past years or experts/seniors, etc. from the field you work or study in. You can also read the blogs of previous years’ toppers. Joining a coaching institute or a guidance programme for the interview is not a must, particularly if one has had in the past an experience of such an interview programme or of the UPSC interview itself. However, for first timers, such programmes may make some value addition. But do join only with the feedback/recommendation of a candidate or a person who has a first-hand knowledge of the coaching institute/guidance programme, lest it becomes a millstone around your neck.
Facing the UPSC Interview Board Members
Here are some pointers that you should keep in mind while sitting for the UPSC Civil Services Interview.
Before the Interview
During the Interview
When and What to Speak
How To Prepare For UPSC Civil Services Personality Test/Interview?
Personality development tips for UPSC board interview
- Improve your communication skills. Be kind in your words, be polite and gentle. This reflects a lot of your personality. People admire those who talk gentle and work efficiently rather than those who talk big alone.
- Also, you must not falter while speaking. Don’t hesitate or fumble for words. Speaking well also shows confidence which brings us to the next point.
- Having confidence works wonders for your image.
- Mind your body language.
- Your body communicates as well as your words. How you behave in an interview also impacts the board’s perception of you.
- Your attire is an integral part of your personality. Dress appropriately for any occasion. It speaks volumes about your discipline and seriousness.
- Be passionate about your work.
- Loving what you do and finding meaning in it contributes to your personality. This helps you develop a natural confidence.
- Listening is as important as speaking. Being a good listener helps you learn and analyse a lot.
- Work on your social skills. Do not shy away from meeting new people. You must also learn to be empathetic to others especially in the civil services profession.
- This is a definite quality an IAS officer must possess. Read books on leadership and try to inculcate it in your personality.
- Being positive is infectious. Your positive attitude can lead to others developing a positive attitude towards you.
- Genuinely develop good qualities like civility and empathy. Avoid being a bitter and vindictive person.
Maintain Physical Health
- You don’t have to have a model’s body to develop a good personality. But since personality depends on a lot on perception, it helps to have a healthy physique. It is also beneficial to your health.
Dressing: An Essential Part
American Costume Designer Edith Head rightly said, “You can have anything you want if you dress for it.”
General Tips for UPSC Interview dress code:
What to wear for UPSC Personality Test
IAS Interview Dress code for Men
IAS Interview Dress code for Female
What NOT to wear for UPSC Interview
Piling Up Offline And Online Materials: Is It Really Helpful?
- The similarity that we see with every case here is that, aspirants are hankering after numerous sources. They look at various websites and download each and every article that come through. In this haste they forget that at the end they will be over-burdened by the information. As the saying goes, ‘Bad money drives out Good’, and thus in this case, Bad information drives out Good information’.
- Most aspirants attempt to cover every resource that is available in the market (visit bookshops, photocopy shops, online portals and collect all available resources). As the material piles up, stress and anxiety are created.
- In the end, the candidate is left behind with a mediocre knowledge, never-ending information and is reading the same information again and again which he might have studied from any previous center- thus wasting his time.
- In order to get an edge over the competitors, instead of focusing on their own strategy and level of preparation, aspirants try to imitate others blindly. In the process, they fail to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
- They blindly follow others and buying reading materials which they shouldn’t. Aspirants need to understand that everyone has his/her own potential, learning ability, perspective and way of understanding things. So, instead of following others’ strategies, aspirants should analyse their own weaknesses and strengths. They should make their own notes and keep a better understanding of things, what is important and what is not.
How To Balance Our Approach In Answers?
For a balanced answer that too within the specified word limit -you first need a reasonable level of knowledge base.
- First read and learn a topic. Attempt simple questions, commit mistakes again and again while practicing. Practice makes it perfect.
- When a question is asked to present your views, try to give a generalist’s view. Sometimes you need not to give your suggestion, but you are expected to present existing facts in the present context. For example,instead of writing ‘I feel’, it is better to write ‘it is felt….’
- If they are asking what innovation means, then a simple definition with one relevant example will be better rather than explaining it with a lot of jargons/theories/models.
- Also, while writing for a particular paper do not think that you can write points from that particular syllabus only. Take a holistic view, broaden your outlook, and use relevant concepts/knowledge from other subjects also.
- Communication skill, command over a language, etc. are known as soft skills. A good vocabulary is needed to articulate your thought in a precise manner.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Is There A Need To Adopt Different Approaches For Answer Writing In GS And Optional?
- GS and Optionals’ answers are completely different. In Optionals, one can write a PhD types answer and be confident of getting good marks – because the examiner who is checking an economics paper would be an economist. But in GS, this will not work. The examiner who is checking the economics answer in a GS paper is more likely to be not an economist. He/She would be a generalist with limited knowledge and interest in the subject.
- So, if you write some specialized answer or use some specific terms or models from your optional while writing a GS answer, good luck! Most probably the examiner would not understand/appreciate it. And he/she would not spend additional time or effort in going back and study the term/model you wrote. She would simply give a zero.
- Similarly, if you write any unconventional answers like say Aadhar cash transfers are not going to increase inflation and even give a logic based proof from basic economics, the examiner will not give any marks. Because he/she would have read mainstream media where everybody is saying Aadhar transfers would increase inflation. And she has no interest in taking the pain to understand a contrarian view point in your answer. The examiner’s life would be much simpler if he/she just gives a zero.
- So the bottom line is, our answer should be such that they make the life easier for the examiner. He/She would be happy while reading them and would give us more marks. So no PhD type stuff. Just stick to basic points and present them in a way which is easy to read.
Use Diagrams, Facts and Figures
You have studied hard. You know everything, so what can you do to score high in the Mains examination? The following points can create wonders for your answer writing:
- Answers should be multifaceted
- Try and keep the introduction and conclusion very short
- Avoid reiteration of the similar thoughts
- Use as many concepts as possible especially for your optional papers
- Give as many examples as possible to support your view. Try to have a contemporary relevance to you answer
- Write in very simple English, academic jargons is not appreciated by the UPSC
- Your answers need to be more dynamic and holistic. As UPSC says “The candidates must give relevant, meaningful and succinct answers”
- Write answers directly; do not beat around the bush. Some punctuation marks like this one (;) play a crucial role
How To Cope With 5-Day Stress?
- The UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam is usually conducted over the course of 5 or 6 days. During which the aspirants have to write 9 exams. The exam are of 3 hrs. Some days, aspirants are required to write 2 exams. The examination exercise is very taxing not only mentally but also physically. Thus, it is better for an aspirant to be best at their physical and cognitively. Prevent stress during exam days. Revise at the pace which is best for you, and have plenty of sleep.
How To Utilize Your Time Between Prelims And Mains?
Some of the tips for better time management during Prelims and mains are:
- Cut off from all social media-WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. Switch over to a not so smart phone!
- Start your Mains preparation 3 days after Prelims, don’t wait for the results to come. Study anyway, even if you think you won't be able to make it! This preparation won’t go waste!
- Make a time table and do everything to stick to it!
- Constantly tell your mind that it is a do or die situation. It’s now or never!
- This is not a time to read new books- try to cut down on new reading as much as possible, except current affairs, and REVISE, REVISE and REVISE!
Write at least 30 mock tests for GS and 12 mock tests for the optional subjects. Remember, people who clear mains or who fail in it are more or less at par in terms of knowledge. What matters is if they can deliver in those 3 hours, day after day. And the only way one can do is to practice mock after mock in exam like situation!
- Take a good diet- the time between Prelims and mains is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. Ensure that your body is able to take it. Eating well will ensure that you don’t waste time by falling sick!
- Do not waste time in brooding over low marks in mock tests. Just note down your errors and move on as swiftly as possible.
How To Write A Good Essay And Score Maximum In It?
A good strategy for Essay paper has three parts. The first two parts (four hours out of six hours) are like sharpening the axe and the last part is performance during the essay paper.
Part 1: Reading from apt sources
- One should read compilations of essays by eminent people to understand how to convey ideas and understand issues from different perspectives.
- Quotes: Make a list of quotes topic wise. For example, Quotes on transparency, freedom, media, and value based education, etc.
- Anecdotes: Stories that can provide good introduction.
- Endings: Prepare forward looking conclusions that are short, multi-dimensional and optimistic.
- Structure: Cover as many aspects as possible. Start analysing topics broadly.
- Government Initiatives: Prepare schemes, policy, global indices, missions, programmes of the government in various fields. For example, in Tourism there is SwadeshDarshan, HRIDAY, PRASAD, Tourist circuits, e-Tourist visa, Project Tiger, and so on.
Part 2: Practice
- Join a test series by any coaching institute(although not completely necessary)
- Write essays regularly and get feedback from fellow aspirants and friends. If you can maintain the habit of writing regularly you don’t need a test series.
- Don’t be shy to show your essays to non-aspirants. You might get some unique feedback from them.
- Try practicing last 5 year’s essays of CSE. The themes are repeated.
- Practice different types of topics like science &technology, polity, economy, sustainable development, women empowerment, philosophical, etc.
- Practice current topics for every year like 10 years of RTI, 10 years of Police Reforms, 100 years of cinema, Water Disputes, Blue Economy, Mobility, Jobless Growth, etc. whatever is in the discourse for some time.
- Now the third and most important is the day of exam. Performance in the paper is all that matters.
- Topic Selection:Select a topic that reflects your strength. If you are not good at writing philosophical essays then don’t attempt it. This step holds the key.
- Brainstorming: Take 10–20 minutes brainstorming for various aspects and linking them together in a structure. Make sure you have enough time to write the essay.
- Sticking to the topic: A very fatal mistake is writing what you know rather than what is asked. Since you have prepared well and practiced it does not mean you have to write those things even though it is irrelevant to the topic. Read the topic of the essay after every page you write to ensure that you are sticking to it.
- Generalist Approach: Your essay should appeal to the examiner. It should have all the aspects but there should be some form of analysis so that it doesn’t look like a long GS answer. Quotes, anecdotes, examples help in it. One can also add flowchart, diagram, etc.
- Finish on time: Make sure you manage time well and do not leave the essay half completed or without an ending.
Pay Attention to GS-4 Paper
1.Ethics paper is more scoring than the other General Studies papers
2.Case studies form the core of the Ethics paper
3.Ethics paper as the rank booster paper
Essay: The Game Changer - Really?
- The Essay Paper of Mains will be the 1st paper you’ll be facing after having cleared the Prelims. It’s one of the most important papers in terms of weightage by marks. It’s also one of the most ignored papers of the Mains as most aspirants feel that their answer writing practice will be good enough for fetching 170 marks in the two essays.
- Let’s address some facts and myths as far as the essay paper is concerned.
- The essay paper comprises two questions carrying 125 marks each summing up to a total of 250 marks for the entire paper.
- The 1st question will have 4 topics to choose from and you have to write on any one topic.
- Similarly the 2nd question will again have 4 topics to choose from for you to write on one topic.
The genre of the questions can be:
- Philosophical (1 or 2 in number out of 8 topics)
- Issues of international importance
The topics are from a wide range of subjects such as ‘women/gender issues’, ‘social justice’, ‘science and technology’, ‘environment’, ‘education’, ‘health’, the flagship programs of the union government and recent major happenings.
A UPSC aspirant is usually well versed with the recent happenings and topics mentioned above, yet most of them struggle hard to secure even 50% of the allotted 250 marks for the essay writing paper. It is estimated that majority of the students score around 100 to 110 out of 250 total. A sizeable number score around 125 to 135 while a handful of candidates cross 60% (150+) marks.
Reason: Most candidates fall prey to the nuances of English language and proceed with faulty understanding of the essay topic, while others to anxiety or undue haste. Not maintaining a steady flow of information and jumping from one argument to the other, giving examples just for the sake of it and ending up with an abruptly written piece.Mistake: Many aspirants think that by reading for GS optional papers, they have also completed studying for the essay papers. They do not prepare for essay at all and therefore come unprepared to the exam. This approach might cost you because you lose valuable marks which could have led to ‘make or break’ in your cut-off.
How To Improve Handwriting?
- Handwriting is important but not the most important factor.For Mains, presentation is everything. How much you know matters less in comparison to the following factors:
- Ability to understand the question - this is far more difficult than it seems, when you are under exam stress most often only the key words register in our minds and we start off writing on and on, not realising that the question actually demands something entirely different.
- Ability to brainstorm points in a short period.
- Ability to bring in various different perspectives into your answer. The more perspectives you bring to your answer, the better your answer will be. For example, for a particular question you should be able to analyse the same from its social, political, economic, geographical, scientific, governance viewpoints and more.
- And to do all this in a span of seven minutes and present it in legible handwriting. That is all that matters, the person who is correcting the paper should be easily able to read your answer, without straining her eyes.
- You need to worry only if your handwriting is illegible. If it is so, give due importance to improve the same. Dedicating 20–30 minutes a day for cursive writing will make a world of difference.
- You may or may not get extra marks if you have very good handwriting. But you are sure to lose out, if your handwriting is illegible.
Here are a few tips to improve the presentation and readability of your answer:
- Increase the font of your writing. Generally bigger the font, easier it is to read.
- Give adequate spacing between lines.
- Start each paragraph from the middle of the page. This will give a good appearance to your answer, and it will also be easier for the examiner to differentiate between paragraphs. This will be particularly useful in the essay paper.
- Underline the key words. This is absolutely essential. This will bring the evaluators attention to the important points. Especially if you have a clumsy handwriting there are chances that the evaluator may miss out on key points.
- Divide your answer into sub headings. You can include the different perspectives under each sub heading.
- You need not have a very good handwriting, but you only need to give an impression of a good handwriting. And you can easily do that by following the above tips. And finally your content and the way of presentation is the king.
How To Practice Answer Writing For Civil Services Mains?
- Answer writing is an important aspect of UPSC civil services exam. While Prelims is only the qualifying exam which separates the grain from the chaff i.e. serious candidates from non-serious candidates, its marks are not added for creating the merit list. Mains exams is worth 1750 marks spanning over 7 papers (4 papers of GS, Two papers of Optional, and 1 paper of Essay). Also, there are two qualifying papers of languages which one must write nonetheless even though their marks are not counted in the final list. Since success in Mains evidently depends on one’s ability to write close to 100 questions and some 24000 words in all the papers, it is of absolute necessity that one develops the articulation necessary for writing meaningful, to the point and concise answers.
- In the previous era of UPSC exam (read before pattern change in 2013), UPSC used to ask lower no of questions and lesser words to write. There was comfortable time pressure and hence it was possible to try and frame answers in the exam hall itself. But after the pattern change, UPSC asks 20-25 questions with 200-250 words to write in each answer.
- Sure, they emphasise that the content of the answer is more important than its length in the instructions, still you have to think on the spot and create a mental framework for 20-25 questions then and there in the exam hall. And if you don’t practice beforehand and that too intensively, you might spend 1-2 minutes on creating a framework on each question. That means anywhere between 25-50 mins only on answer framing! So, you are left with very less amount of time to actually write the answer. This is the biggest issue as far as not writing an answer is concerned.
- Writing answers also helps in organizing and prioritising your thought process. You learn to put forward what exactly is asked and not what you know. You learn to write meat of the argument and not beat around the bush. Last but not the least writing helps in internalising information and in better retention than only reading.
- So, for the process part, one should begin by writing answers of previous year question papers. In addition to giving you adequate answer practice they also help you in understanding the exam pattern and the demand of the exam very well. After finishing with previous years’ papers one should move on to writing answers on websites and other sources. As the Mains exam approaches one should start
- taking mock tests and get them evaluated.
So, a tentative timeline could be:
- Every day: Write 1-2 questions and analyse them yourself. If possible show them to seniors and get comments.
- Immediately after Prelims: Write 4-5 questions/day; Start taking weekly topical mock tests
- 2 months before Mains: Start taking Full Length Tests(FLTS)
- A week before Mains: Take 3-4 FLTs at the same time when the Mains exam is conducted just to simulate exam
How Should You Start As A Beginner?
- As a beginner, starting from point zero, one can buy previous years question paper module and attempt some questions daily, moreover the questions from NCERT too will help.
- Start writing answers as and when you study, don’t wait for the whole or even sufficient amount of syllabus to be finished.
- Say you are studying polity and finished President, soon after, check previous years’ papers on this topic and try to answer as many questions as you wish, you could pick a single question that is the easiest for you and start answering on a piece of paper. You might not be able to answer questions that involve president and the prime minister as you wouldn’t have covered the latter yet. You can skip such questions for later.
Evaluation is Necessary
Why A Test Series For Mains Will Help You?
- You actually learn to answer questions that you do not know. It’s very likely that you will be half prepared if you are writing the first test within 15 days of the Prelims Exam.Half prepared on the mock test is good. Half prepared on the Mains Day in December is not good.So with your half preparedness, you are going to write a creative answer, and learn how to handle questions which are either open ended, or which you do not know. This helps, because Mains Exam is going to have 10 -12/25 such questions.
Which Test Series Is Good?
- Join any as long as you have some standardized paper checking. You could join any reputed coaching institute or online test series. Some are good and have produced good results.
- All that matters is – tests are conducted on time, discussions take place on time and copies evaluated on time. If you do not want to pay for the Test, you could take a look at some online test series free forum. Some of the participants write great answers and this could help you on how to approach for answer writing.
- Online forums are free and they offer only peer-to-peer evaluation, and you could also practice.
But, I Haven’t Done My Syllabus Yet?
- Most of the aspirants ask these questions, whether joining a Test Series will be too premature, when their syllabus are not completed?
- The Syllabus of the test series are designed in a manner where the aspirants could do it in 20 days or a whole year depending upon their seriousness. So the reality is, you will only have the feeling of completing the syllabus on the day after the exam.
- Let that one-day-after-exam feeling happen after you have written your first mock test of Test Series, and not after writing real UPSC Mains Paper on D-Day itself.
- So our advice is – you should not wait for the syllabus to complete. You complete some part of the syllabus (as designed in the test series modules) every time you spend half of the week, preparing for the next test (and yes do it, that trying to cover whole-syllabus-in-last-three-days – before the Test, because those three days are like sprints in this long 100 day Marathon, one fourth of which is almost over). After every test that you write with half preparation, you evolve into a wiser, more productive person, who knows himself very well.
Should I Join A Test Series?
- Well, the Union Public Service Commission is not going to test how good you are at studying. They will test you on how good you are in writing answers. And if you have been studying very hard, UPSC isn’t going to know that unless they read what you have read. So do join a Test Series for GS &Optional, by all means. Write at least 1-2 tests on every Paper and you will know the difference.
What Is The Importance Of CSAT In Prelims?
- The Civil Services Preliminary exam comprises of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II). The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type. The marks in Prelims will not be counted for final ranking, but just for qualification for the Main exam.
- To clear IAS Prelims, you need at-least 66 marks out of 200 for CSAT (GS Paper 2), however high are your marks in GS Paper 1.
- If you are thinking that scoring 66 marks out of 200 for CSAT is not a big deal, you may be mistaken.
- We have seen many candidates who end up worrying after the exam. The difficulty level of this paper is steadily increasing. You need to take this paper seriously.
Should You Worry About Cut-off In Prelims?
- Actually, nobody can tell you about the exact threshold score above which you can consider yourself in the safe zone. The cut-off marks in the Prelims exam depends upon host of factors. The major factor is the difficulty level of both the papers. Everyone will tell you about their prediction of threshold score depending upon their own expertise and understanding of UPSC exam. That may or may not match with the official figures at the end of the year.
- The conservative prediction of threshold by someone, will make you feel pseudo-safe and possibly, you may feel satisfied with your preparation. At the same time, the inflated prediction of the threshold score by someone, will wary you much and you may feel utterly unsatisfied with your preparation. In both the scenarios, you are likely to lose the cool and that would affect your preparation adversely.
- It’s a better scenario to not indulge in these rumour mill and rather focus on your studies. Because worrying unnecessarily will create stress and you may lose some precious time of your studies in these gossips with just few months away from Mains. Time is crucial and you need to make every minute count.
- The best thing to do, is to believe in 'Law of Karma';do your job i.e.continue your study sincerely. Don't worry about threshold score and all. If your preparation is relatively better than the other candidates then definitely you will make it through.
How Many Questions To Attempt In Prelims?
- Many aspirants ask these questions as to how much questions they should attempt in Prelims so that they are able to qualify Prelims. But how can anyone know, to the answer of this question. It all depend on the type of preparation that you have done and also the type of question paper that will come in the examination.
- There is not a Prescribed or Standard no. of Questions to attempt the GS, i.e. if you know that your answer is correct then do it and if there are chances of ambiguity then think twice about it and attempt it.
- For beginner’s guidance, all can be said that, if you have prepared sincerely and you can hold your nerves for the first ten minutes of receiving the question paper, then you can easily answer about 20-30 questions. This will also give you confidence and ease that initial anxiety. In the second round, go for elimination for questions you are partially sure of. Hopefully you will cover about 10-20 here. Finally, go for educated guesses, hopefully for not more than 10 questions in this round.
- Of course, this is an estimate and not binding. You might know many more than this but do not be under pressure to meet a pre-determined target that you have to compulsorily attempt X no. of questions!
- Later on when you check your answers and find that you might have many wrong because of guesswork, then that may cost you the exam. So, always think while attempting the paper. Do not make haste and be competitive regarding the number of questions that you are going to attempt.
Preparation In Solo For Prelims Is Crucial -Why?
- A common question in the minds of UPSC candidates is – ‘Should I start preparing for IAS Mains along with the IAS Prelims?’ Many of you probably are thinking, it is better to take this exam step by step.
- It is better to prepare for the IAS Prelims first, and only if I make the cut, I need to start my Mains preparation. Let us tell you at the outset that this would not be a good move.
- The chief reason being you would be left with no time after the Prelims to start your Mains preparation.
- Although, studying for current affairs for Prelims require a different aptitude. While reading ‘The Hindu’ or any magazine, you should be able to remember the factual knowledge. Also, analytical questions may come, so, it is always better to be prepared.
- Create separate notes for Prelims, because reading style for Prelims Current Affairs is slightly different than reading Mains Current Affairs.
Time Given to Prelims
Focusing on Static Portion
Online Vs. Offline Dilemma: Which Will Be The Better Option?
- With the advent of technology, people at far-off places too can enjoy the education benefits of the coaching institute, without coming to the place where there is coaching. In this manner, aspirants can enjoy the stay at home facilities and also the benefits of any good coaching institute.
- You’ll find credible Online Courses these days. They offer: A dedicated mentor (experts from various fields) for each student who:
- Develops a personalized daily study plan
- Resolves doubts
- Gives regular tests, feedback, and weekly personal evaluation
- Study-videos prepared by experts
- Study material
- Flexible class timings
- However, there are doubts on the aspirant’s mind, if they will lose out on the experience provided by the offline coaching institutes.
- That’s not the case these days.
- Online coaching courses ensure individual attention to students by designating one mentor per student. Coaching Centre’s have 200-300 students per teacher. You get personal guidance by mentors in these online courses. They design customized study plans for their students and regularly guide them, unlike in Coaching Centre’s. You can decide on class timings with your mentor in Online Courses. Coaching Centres will only offer fixed class timings. The Travel time in commuting for the Coaching Classes wastes time and energy. You can take Online Course classes from anywhere.
- Revisiting topics once taught isn’t possible in offline classes. Whereas, you can repeatedly watch the study-videos offered by Online Courses. Makes it easier to revise.
- Your personal trainer in an Online Course will share regular personalized feedback on your preparation and progress. Your Online Course mentor will help you enhance the required soft skills. But, the trainers at coaching center cannot spare that kind of time for individual students.
- Compare the two coaching models and evaluate your choices prudently. Remember, UPSC is a writing exam and can’t be attempted in specifically formulated steps. So, give it all you have.
What Is The Role Of Digital Platform In CSE Preparation?
- In the digital era, today’s generation is growing up surrounded by smart technology like laptops, smart-phones, and tablets which redefine their career preparation. The increasing dependency on portable and easily accessible e-learning as a new digital learning resource is proving to be a game changer in competitive exam preparation. E-learning has proved to be a boon in a multitude of ways, especially for the Civil Services aspirants, who are constantly seeking relevant study sources over the internet.
- Now, this is something that has made most of the IAS aspirants thank the digital medium of e-learning as it has made their preparation much easier. Now the aspirants who are working professionals or those who cannot shift to the particular place to get quality educational guidance can enroll for the online coaching programs either through digital platforms or postal courses. Even the Mock Test papers are being provided online by most of the IAS Academies.
Are The Study Materials Of The Coaching Institute Reliable?Can They Be The Path To Your Success?
- It cannot be answered in Yes or No. Because it works for some and it might not work for you.
- Coaching material or handwritten notes by toppers are both important. They have their relevance. They can guide you when you are self-studying.However, it all depends on the quality of the material. Whether it has been updated or not or from which coaching institute it has originated.
- Hand written notes give you self-confidence and understanding as Civil Service Exam is based on understanding and it is not an exam of content based like engineering or academics. So, only your understanding and clarity matters. If you are familiar with the syllabus, and can judicially select what to read, printed material will go well. Handwritten notes at times are difficult to understand and read because it is comprehended by a person who has attended live classes and may not be legible. Thus, it may lack all relevant information about a topic.
- Handwritten notes at best can be used to get a brief idea of what all has been taught in the class.
Beware of the Wrong Ones
- In the new era, one can make use of various great resources, such as mobile apps and websites. Coaching centers do have a study plan that they enforce on you, but it cannot guarantee success and they charge an astronomical fee, which many aspirants cannot afford. It is important to first understand where you stand and how much you need to improve. Once you know your study objectives, you can decide between self-study and joining a coaching institute.
- Look for various variants before choosing a coaching institute. A coaching institute can make or break your future. A wrong one will mentally harass you. Don’t go for the one in which your friend is going or just that institute advertisement claims of past success.
- Remember, the time lost will not come back. So, when looking for pros of any coaching, also look for cons.
How Too Much Coaching At A Time Creates Havoc For Civil Services Aspirants?
- Many aspirants who come for coaching, do this one mistake which becomes too risky for them. At the time of initial preparation, they decide to attend as many coaching at that time. So, they could save time from going to different institutes and also their preparation comes to quicker halt.
- What happens is that, aspirants then run pillar to pillar in various coaching institutes attending different lectures. They jots down the notes, attend classes but at the end of day, they are too tired to even revise. And thus, they continue with the cycle for many months. At the end, when course ends, and they go back to their home town, they realize, that they have many doubts which now cannot be solved. Some of the things which they thought they understood at that time, now seem vague and ambivalent.
- It’s like starting afresh again. Thus, aspirants seem to miss the whole point of coaching- mentoring and solving their doubts. So, it’s better to study at your pace rather to complete all the course at once. Think, how much time it will require you to study one particular course. And then go for simultaneous coaching.
Is Coaching Institute Important For Civil Services Preparation?
- To learn a subject in a short span of time, and for the purpose of Civil Services Exam, one must need help from a coaching institute. Mentors or experts in the subjects can clear doubts and queries, promote conceptual clarity and more importantly, could help in learning art of presentation which is key to success.
- In other words, mentors could catalyse your preparation to the path of success. But choose your mentors wisely. An authentic and reliable mentor is one which has been dealing with a particular optional subject for at least 8 to 9 long years. Prolonged experience is needed to guide students about approach of the subjects, to develop conceptual clarity and to create awareness of trends in the exam. Short term experience is not enough to guide aspirants rather it can be misguiding and misleading.
- Whenever you want to join a coaching institute for optional subject, try to know faculty of the institute even you are joining a big institute. Try to know the faculty regarding educational background. Whether faculty itself appeared in Civil Services Exam, what was his score in the exam? For how many years the faculty has been teaching. Actually, background and experience of the faculty are going to help you. If you hesitate to know all of these facts about the faculty, you are going to compromise with your own career and life.
- Also, teaching method is another important sphere. It should not focus on facts and understanding of facts alone.It must emphasize on presentation. After all, candidates must be presented all these facts within the constraints of time and space. If presentation is not taught, nothing is done for you. Mains exam is all about presentation.
Choosing the Right Coaching Institute
Best Civil Services coaching bound you to study in a positive and disciplined manner. They’ll guide you to the best way to crack the exam. They’ll train you, what to study from the IAS syllabus, what are the essential topics being asked frequently in previous years, tricks to solve the questions in the exam, etc.
There are many benefits of attending coaching classes to prepare for UPSC exams. Some of the major benefits are:
But use your own instincts and analyse which coaching institute to go for. There are no dearth of coaching institutes in Delhi, and thus you would be confused by the claims of many. Seek advice of your seniors and mentors and then go for it. After all, they will be the one who will form a good base regarding your preparation. Coaching will provide you the direction which will let you attain success.
Ignoring Current Affairs? How Is It Going To Impact Your Preparation Strategy?
Ideally, you should cover relevant information from two major newspaper like The Hindu, The Indian Express plus Press Information Bureau and Yojana of about one and half years before the date of your exam to increase your chances of attempting more questions from current affairs.
Below we are giving you an analysis of how to cover the above things:
- One should prepare the current affairs on daily basis so that you can keep them in memory as well. If you learn a few daily then there is possibility that you would retain them easily.
- Besides, it is not how detailed notes are available in the market but in how easy language they have been covered and more importantly only that part has been covered which is relevant for the exam only.
- And one more thing, if there is a neat division of current affairs for Prelims and Mains as both require different sets of mindset at the time of reading it would be a boon!!
- Invest daily time on reading, understanding and processing information from the Hindu and even The Indian Express.
- No matter how monotonous or tedious it seems in the beginning, don’t give up on it. It will become a part of your daily preparation sooner than you expect.
- Make a special days of the week in the Hindu. For instance, environment, technology, etc.
- Start reading the India Year Book cover to cover. It’ll prove very beneficial.
- Consult websites of various ministries for latest updates on schemes, launches, etc.
- Visit PRS regularly for all ongoing updates from the Government.
- Subscribe Civil Services Chronicle, EPW and Yojana magazines and read each issue thoroughly.
- Any news snippet you watch or read should make you more aware about the whole story.
- Remember that it isn’t the news that you have to prepare in isolation but the information surrounding it in its entirety.
Is There Any Biasness InOptional Scoring?
- UPSC does not favour or punish any optional in any year. There is no discrimination among any of the optionals involved. Rather, at the end, scaling is done to keep the marks of all the optionals in a uniform manner.
- There is no set criteria for high scores in optional subjects but certain prediction can be made based on scores by various toppers in Civil Services Exams in respective years. From past few years, students are getting decent scores in subjects like Sociology, Philosophy and History. Subjects like Public Administration & Geography in 2015 had scores on the lower side. Basically subjects are of two types: Science (Technical) subjects and Social Science subjects.
- Science subjects have fewer candidates, generally students avoid these since subjects due to huge syllabi and guidance too is not available in general. But scores can be exceptionally high as seen in trends.
- Social Science subjects are on the safer side which if given with decent efforts can allow students to get selected.
- Always remember - the trends of score changes every year so that should not be an ideal way for choosing an optional.
Overlap For The IAS Mains Optional Subject With General Studies: Is This The Right Strategy?
- Selecting an overlapping optional with General Studies is a good strategy, as the time required to study an optional subject not mentioned as per GS syllabus can be saved. This case not universally applicable though. Take the case of Rachat Raj, UPSC 2013 Rank 3, who scored exceptionally well with Zoology optional. There are also many who made it to the top with optional subjects like Medical Science or Law. None of these overlaps with GS syllabus as subjects like History or Geography do.
- Never take an optional just for the sole reason of GS overlap. Also, never take an optional just based on advice from coaching institute gurus. You need to understand that each and every optional subject is scoring. Due to the scaling effects, some optional might not turn high-scoring in some years, but there is no universal trend or theory. Your requirement is to score maximum marks for the optional subject as well as in GS. Availability of time, effort required, and the possibility of maximum marks are three crucial factors to consider before you select the optional.
- A scoring, overlapping optional subject, though which might require substantial preparation due to the vast nature of the syllabus can be adopted, if you have – background/ previous exposure in the subject, or if there is adequate time left. If you are running short of time, select an optional paper which requires less time for a decent level of preparation.
- If 1-2 years is available before Mains exam, a hardworking candidate might be able to finish standard textbooks of almost any optional subject. But, compromising GS marks for Optional preparation can also turn critical, and hence not advised as per the latest pattern of exam.
Ignoring Optionals Might Be Disastrous - Why?
- Nowadays, students are carrying the conviction that studying optionals do not create much difference. They focus much of their energy on GS papers which carry 1000 marks. Also, the Prelims and Mains which have similar syllabus, takes most of the time of their preparation.
- Optionals are important because these subjects are considered to be one of your chances to improve your marks and hence, choosing your strongest area will keep you in the most comfortable position psychologically and preparation wise, resulting in your best performance.
- This plays a vital role. If you are already good at something then you don’t have to put all your efforts in something and hence keeping it your advantage with the best possible idea. Apart from that, having previous knowledge in the field will end up with your less time of preparation which means you have a lot of time to dedicate and prepare well for all the other subjects.
Thus, prepare well for optionals and do not ignore them.
Assess Your Optionals by Practicing Test
Writing practice is as important as studying. It has 3 effects:
- It helps you retain things.
- Helps to revise things and learn new things not covered by conventional books.
- It helps you improve your writing speed, prods you to improve your handwriting and above all develops the ability to think and formulate answers in an efficient way - practice makes one perfect.
- Since most aspirants complete their optional before Prelims, they altogether forget about it until after Prelims is over. Don’t do that mistake. If you are not revising it, then all your hard work will be gone because when you come back, you will not be able to remember most of the things. Thus, be in constant touch with your optionals- either by practicing answers continuously or revising flash cards.
Be a Leader, Don’t go for Herd Mentality
If one takes a look at the aspirants who have cleared the UPSC Civil Services Exam, most of them are from medical science and engineering backgrounds who have opted a different optional subject rather than what they have studied at their graduation level. Some opted history, sociology, anthropology, geography, political science, psychology and public administration and one major reason behind this is that the study materials for these subjects are available with no effort. However, this should not be the main criterion for selecting an optional.
Some thumb rules for selecting the right optional for IAS:
The subject should:
Generally, candidates should choose an optional subject with which they are familiar with or they have studied at their graduation level. Always, candidates should ensure that they are comfortable with the subject and the subject they choose interests them and also should keep in mind that the study materials of the optional subject are also available easily.
Don’t think about the score at this stage, just focus on selecting an optional with the above qualities and remember, this will differ for different aspirants. Once you have mastered the syllabus and have adequate writing practice, the marks will follow.
How To Select The Optional Wisely?
- The optional paper fetch you 500 marks, so it’s important that much deliberation is put into the fact on which optional, one should select.
- Most CSE beginners choose an optional simply because it is considered to be ‘scoring’.
- But should score be the sole criterion for selecting the Mains optional or are there other related basis for selecting your mains optional? So, how do you choose, whether between, Popular or Scoring Subjects?
- Let us put it bluntly. Popularity has actually got nothing to do with the scoring potential of an optional. If you want proof, read on. Tina Dabi topped the 2015 IAS exam with Political Science as one of the optionals, second being Gaurav Aggarwal, the 2013 IAS topper chose Economics Optional and 2017 topper Anudeep Durishetty had Anthropology as his optional.
- What’s common to all these IAS toppers? Except one, all opted for one non-popular optional. And let us also mention that if you read their interviews they chose the optional based on their interest and background and not because they were ‘scoring’ or ‘popular’.
- The fact that they have scored well in both the optionals (that’s why they topped) and not just the popular ones prove that all subjects are equally scoring. So choosing an optional based only on the scoring criteria is incorrect.
Conundrum Of Syllabus: How To Deal With It?
- Students around the country who decide to prepare for the Civil Services Exam conducted by the UPSC, are often faced with a number of questions. ‘How to Prepare?’, ‘What is the syllabus?,etc. In fact, one of the first things which a Civil Services aspirants must do is to refer to the UPSC website and download the syllabus copy before they begin preparation. Preparing for the Civil Services Examination in a focused manner is extremely important. One must channelize his/her efforts well so that it meets the demands of the examination as well as the expectations of the examiner. Let’s recollect our college days- wasn’t it not important to go through the syllabus copy of our semesters in detail? The Civil Services Examination conducted by the UPSC is no exception.
- Often, aspirants are guided by hearsay and half-truths about what is and what isn’t a part of the syllabus. A common misconception: In General Studies- I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society), many aspirants are initially of the opinion that World History is also a part of the syllabus. While in actual fact, these topics are included in the Mains level of the examination only. Thus, an accurate understanding of the nature, scope and extent of the syllabus is a must.
- The objective clarity that comes by studying the UPSC syllabus enables one to have an understanding of what to read, what not to read, and what are the sources that one needs to refer to. This applies to the optional subjects as well.
What should one do?
- It is extremely useful if aspirants take a printout of the Civil Services Examination syllabus and paste it on their closet. This ensures that they are conscious of the syllabus and at the very least, do a casual reading of it whenever possible.
- It is also helpful if aspirants break up each topic into sub-topics and refer certain specific sources for each topic. Once this broad framework is in place, it becomes easier for aspirants to navigate through the vast extent of the UPSC syllabus for the Civil Services Examination.
- Further, an analysis of question papers from previous years help one to put the syllabus into better perspective, as often, the true breadth and depth of the syllabus can be better ascertained after analysing questions which have been asked around the concerned topics.
- Therefore, we would recommend you to prepare notes from newspaper while studying it, so that it can be revised at the time of examination.
How To Read Newspapers?
Reading the complete newspaper–In a newspaper, there are hardly 5-6 important news on daily basis which are relevant for Civil Services aspirants. But we tend to read even non-relevant news as well.
Nowadays, UPSC has shifted its orientation from static portion to dynamic in which current affairs plays major role. Direct questions from newspapers are part of Prelims as well as Mains. Most significant role of newspaper is evident in GS2 and GS3 of Mains examination.
Few important points related to newspaper reading:
- News related to crimes, functions of political parties are irrelevant from civil services point of view.
- News related to Environment, Govt. Schemes, Economy, International Relations, Science and Technology are very important from civil services point of view.
- Editorial of news-paper helps to build the view on recent affairs which is mandatory for civil services aspirants.
What Matters More - Quality Or Quantity?
- Yes, Quality Matters before Quantity. Before purchasing any book, you should take the help of technology and do a good research on the books. There are many toppers and the people who have appeared in the examination who have given reviews on some particularly followed books for the major subjects.
- Mukherjee Nagar and Old Rajinder Nagar are often termed as the ‘Mecca and Medina’ of UPSC preparation in India and the local markets of these UPSC hubs are flooded with various books of numerous authors and publications. However, only handpicked books are genuinely relevant for the effective preparation of the examination. But due to incomplete knowledge of the UPSC CSE preparations, most of the students end up piling books in their room turning it into a junkyard instead of an ideal place of learning.
- An aspirant should consult seniors who have cleared the examination (preferable), experienced mentors and genuine/reliable sources and then go for buying of resources and study material so that instead of becoming a ‘waste’ it turns into a proper ‘investment’.
- Many channels in YouTube also keep sessions of topper’s talks in which they tell about their strategies and the books that they used to follow and the confusions that they used to have in their mind while preparation. All these would help you to stay one step ahead in your preparation. Also, proper importance should be given on the point that the book should be up to the mark in terms of syllabus.
- You should always remember that you have to follow only one book for a subject and read it as many times as you can. If you try to read all the books of only one subject you might end up having your syllabus unfinished in given time.
- An IAS officer is perceived to have ample and sufficient knowledge to deal with all sorts of problems ranging from daily chores to peculiar problems. He/she should be well versed with all possible subject matters. Hence, in light of all these, it can be concluded that an elementary level knowledge pertaining to all themes and substances should be imbibed in an IAS officer. Therefore, subject matters of secondary level should form the foundation of an IAS aspirant.
- Realistically specifying, there can never be a fixed number of prescribed books. Uniformity can never be maintained at
- least in mentioning the number of books to be referred. Some like to read from internet, some like to refer coaching
- institutes’ notes, even some would like to prescribe only standard NCERT books and some may go for amalgamation of all these sources.
- What all books, which all sources and how many in number solely depends upon the comfort and ease of candidates. These vary from time to time, from aspirant to aspirant and from experienced to naïve candidates.
What To Read From NCERTs?
History: In the History books, read it from the Prelims and Mains perspective in different ways, however, common to both is the TIMELINE. Therefore here factual knowledge is very important along with some contextual memory.
- Geography: Treat them as the bible for the geography section of the Prelims and the Mains examination. Learn all the maps, rivers, mountain ranges, passes, etc.
- Art and Culture:NCERT of the 11th standard is very important for the mains examination and it covers the “art and culture” section of the GS-1.
- Polity:Don’t make notes from here just read it as an important book for the Essay writing exercise of the Mains examination. It is more on the philosophical lines than the factual one and UPSC asks mostly factual questions.
- Sociology: NCERT books will provide the idea that how our society is continuously evolving into new moving equilibrium and there are many conflicts, many perspectives and the explanation to the many social factors especially issues related to the women, children, caste, class, deprived section of the society, etc. Therefore read them according to the GS-1 mains syllabus and its society part.
- Environment and Biology: NCERT books are important because every year about 10-15 questions will be from this area.
Old NCERTs vs. New NCERTs
The only difference between both depends on one's own strategy or way of approach and style of preparation, if you like to read point-wise material and facts, you need to go for old NCERTs. If you like to read subjective approach with good explanations and all, go for new NCERTs.
So, if you have already bought new NCERTs, don't worry, that will do a good job. Start as early as possible and finish them and revise again.
How To Read?
- While for the first time you’re reading books, read them like a novel. Highlight the important points using a highlighter (in case of eBook) or a pencil (hard copy). Keep a dictionary handy. If you come across any difficult word, look it up immediately. If you don’t understand a specific concept, use Google and read up about it.
Note on highlighting (how to know what to highlight)
- It’s important that you know what information to highlight and what to ignore. This can be done by analysing the previous year question papers. Analysing previous years’ question papers will help you understand the type of questions asked under each topic. For instance, if you’re studying about the various Government schemes and policies, you should focus on advantages & disadvantages of the policy, need for that policy and its approach. If you’re studying about a specific industry, your focus should be on the location of the industry, the factors affecting its location, challenges faced, opportunities and its current situation.
- Give a gap of about 2 to 3 days after your first reading, before you begin your second reading. During your 2nd reading, ignore the unwanted details and focus on the notes you had highlighted during your 1st reading. It’s a good idea to try and recall whatever you learnt during your 1st reading before revising each chapter.
- Now that you’re done with your second reading, it’s time to summarize what you have studied. The 3rd reading should be relatively faster than the 1st and 2nd. During the 3rd reading, glance through each chapters’ highlighted parts. Try and relate the concepts you’re studying to current affairs, and connect the dots.
Is Reading Of NCERT Books Essential?
- Yes, NCERT Books are the most widely recommended books for the preparation of UPSC Civil Services Examination. The effective reading of NCERT Books is one of the most essential part of the UPSC Civil Services Examination.
- UPSC CSE aspirants are generally advised to read the NCERT Books before moving on to other bigger reference books (though there is no hard and fast rule), as they help you build a strong foundation. Thus, grasping the content of reference books becomes easier after reading NCERT Books.
- Being the most basic books and written in very simple language, lucid and neutral perspective makes NCERTs as the base for the entire preparation. One will get most of their basic covered for the geography and history from these books. Secondly, mains answer writing language should be similar to the writing style of these books which make them as the fundamental element while preparing for the Mains examination.
Now let us analyse from Prelims and Mains perspective:
- Every year, at least 35-40 Prelims questions are directly asked from the NCERTs.
- If you read one book for the Prelims, it also comes handy in the Mains. For example, Geography NCERTs of class 11 and 12 and History NCERT of class 10 and 11 are the most comprehensive books which must be read by every aspirant.
- It helps in planned study otherwise, you may be lost in the vast ocean of data and coaching materials.
- If you are planning to choose Humanities optional and you are from the non-Humanities background, then study of these books will help in choosing the right optional and further, it may help in your optional paper too.
How To Prepare For Three Stages In Conjunction?
- You might have heard in every Topper’s monologue, that they followed Prelims cum Mains approach. Albeit it might sound a little complicated at first or difficult to comprehend, but it's not as difficult as it sounds. Overall,syllabus for both Prelims and Mains is same. Mains being a subjective written examination has detailed elaborative syllabus and for Prelims, only small list of topics suffices all. You can say that, syllabus of Prelims is compressed version of Mains syllabus (Except, ethics and few other topics). The difference only lies in their paper pattern and demand of examination.
- Prelims being an objective type examination, concentrates itself with important pieces of information and testing important tidbits of General Studies and current affairs. For example, let's say the topic is Ujjwala scheme. If a question is being asked in Prelims regarding Ujjwala then it might ask you, what the scheme is about. Which ministry is responsible for running this? And some other provisions in it, etc.
- The same question when asked in Mains, usually takes one of the forms like, "Recent government initiatives like BBBP and Ujjwala have turned out to be a game changer in improving the social status and eradicating gender-bias environment. Critically evaluate?
- All-in-all, both these question expects you to know about the scheme in-depth with other relative provisions. The only difference lies in its expression.
- Recently, with the trend in Prelims, it has been seen that questions are being asked from the Mains syllabus. So, how can you afford to lose precious marks by studying Prelims and Mains separately?
- So, an ideal candidate should actually study for Mains syllabus at stretch (covering different multitudes, different facets of topics) keeping in mind its (topic's) relevance with Prelims.
- With regard to interview, there is also no separate process. Candidates are asked contemporary questions from relevant syllabus of both Prelims and Mains. Interview can be factual and subjective depending on the interviewer. DAF should be prepared but that’s altogether a different matter.
- Thus, there's no separate preparation for Prelims/Mains/Interview. We all, study the same things, with same books and with same amount of time at our disposal. The only difference lies, in the approach we follow, which makes a huge difference.
Objectifying TheUPSC Syllabus Is Important - Why?
- UPSC strictly adheres to the syllabus. Though, sometimes it seems like questions are asked from outside of the syllabus, they are actually in some ways related to it.
- So, before preparing for the exam, please read the syllabus very carefully. If possible, memorize the syllabus.
- Because, this will help you to make connections better.When you read something either from a magazine or a newspaper, you will instantly get a connection as to where it will fit together. You will memorize it quickly and also use that information in relation to other things that you might have studied before.
- Creating connections and utilizing it will fetch you more marks in the examination. It also makes things easier for you
- because then, you will be able to read that matter in more informative way because you realize how to use that information
Managing The UPSC Syllabus Is Not A Herculean Task -How To Manage It?
- First, let us accept that UPSC syllabus is vast and it requires both hard work and smart work. Start by analysing previous year question papers and try to find out your areas of weakness and strength zone and find out the subjects which you are comfortable and subjects which you find it difficult.
- Try to finish it out, one subject at a time and then update your current affairs daily from The Hindu and The Indian Express. It is more than sufficient if you refer these two newspapers thoroughly.
- Try to finish GS papers’ preparation (Prelimsand Mains both) by December, so that you are comfortably placed ahead of others for Prelims and then if possible, for a test series and try to find out your areas where you need to concentrate more and work on it.
- By January, you should start answer writing practice since you have completed your core subjects now you can prepare for Mains also as an integrated approach till March. After March, you can concentrate on Prelims only. Cover as many model question papers and previous years’ papers as possible.
- Make a detailed plan as to what portions you will complete first and what will you do later. Try to stick to your targets. Compartmentalize the syllabus into various small targets. And finish it off monthly.
- If planned meticulously, the syllabus can be finished off in a timely manner.
How To Make Notes For Civil Services Exam?
- The first step is to maintain a dedicated register, book or take down notes on flip cards if you are comfortable with this method. Flip Cards or flash cards are papers where you can write information on both sides that you can quickly revise before exams. Flip cards are best used to make short and crisp notes for Prelims or Mains where the important points are jotted down along with the important facts and figures that you would like to remember at the time of attempting the Prelims and Mains papers.
- Even if you make notes in a register, don’t forget that your notes should be concise and precise (to the point) and should not be a copy of the book or newspaper or the printed notes from where you have sourced the information. This will help you to quickly revise the notes at the time of the Prelims and Mains papers. Also the shorter the notes the more number of revisions you can squeeze in just before the actual exams. And we all know the saying,‘Practice makes a man perfect’.
- While you can use flip cards and registers for making notes for Mains exam, you should include the latest facts and figures which you can use while writing your answers. Answers backed by relevant facts and figures always help you score more marks in Mains than general answers, however well written.
- As mentioned above, whichever method you follow, the notes should make sense to you since you will use them for revision purpose before the exam. So prepare the notes in such a way that they provide the most important information at a glance.
Don’t Rely on Someone Else’s Notes
Wrong! Absolutely Wrong!
What Is The Importance Of Making Own Notes?
- A word of advice to fellow aspirants- Prepare your own notes. It is beneficial to you because the notes that you write by yourself will help you in retaining the facts much easily.
- You should prepare separate notes for Prelims and Mains exam of UPSC. Why is it so? Because, for Prelims you require extensive coverage of topics without going too much in details or facts and figures while for Mains you need selective but in-depth coverage of the chosen topics. In addition, the events for Mains need to be tracked and updated on continual basis while majority of the events for Prelims do not need to be updated continually.
- Quite frankly, you do not need to make notes for every single sub-topic given in the syllabus for every paper of the Prelims and Mains. Rather you should be selective in approach. Which are the important topics? Which information you would like to recollect easily during the exam (Prelims and Mains)? Which topic contains important facts and figures? Which topic is of current relevance and needs to be updated? Ask yourself these questions if in doubt over which topics to make notes for. The rule of thumb says - you should prepare notes for current affairs related information for Prelims and the GS and optional papers of Mains exam.
Are You Worried About How Much Time To Give For Preparation?
- Better note it, CSE is a tough examination to crack. Whoever told you that this will easy was lying. It’s difficult but not impossible to crack. Students are grappled by the anxiety as to how much time to give for studying in this examination.
- Toppers and successful candidates say that they studied for 16 hrs. And much more. Some might even say that they found the examination process very easy and thus they did not had to contribute more than 6-7 hrs.
- The time to give for daily studying solely depends on an individual. It does not depend on the time but rather on the concentration level that you will be putting. Most students who have higher IQ might have to give just 6 hours of daily studying and they can still retain most of the stuff, whereas some students have to work extraordinarily hard.
- Don’t go by the time that your friends are giving to daily preparation. Don’t over try and also don’t work under. Maximize the time that you are giving. Try to utilize the time that you are spending on the studies. Like Arjun whose eyes were on the target, you should also study in the same manner. Just see how much time it requires you to fulfill your daily targets and then you can calculate how much time you need to dedicate for your studies.
Find Your Best Time Of Learning - How?
- Before scheduling your exam preparations, decide which time suits you for contented learning, either a day time or the peaceful night time. Additionally allot your peak timings for crispy topics, so that may increase your memorizing level and in parallel saves your revising time.
- Decide whether, you are morning person or an evening person. If morning, then prepare for hard and difficult subjects in the morning. Leave your coaching or revision activities for the evening. Give your best at that time when you feel the most productive.
- At one stretch no one can be attentive in our planet for more than 2 hours. For every half an hour, relax yourself and utilize your time resourcefully. Give yourself in between breaks. Also, if you feel that you cannot give more, then try to utilize that time by either feeling refreshed or watching some informative videos, which could help you in the exam.
- After making so many works to the edge of success, have you ever known what pulls you down when everything is perfect? Probably it could be the time management. Hence, decide to try time management and you can achieve your targets.
Time Is An Asset. How To Make Best Use Of Your Time?
- Time management is a significant tool in academics part; however most of students come to know this, only at the time when they face failures. Usually people plan about time management for their exam preparations with eagerness at beginning moment, but in most cases eventually they fail to follow their time management.
- Especially in CSE, if one doesn’t knows about time management, then the chance of cracking examination is less. It’s a simple strategy of effective time utilization in their tasks and that makes them to get success.
- Whenever you start your exam preparation, make an advance plan before a week, month and year, keeping in mind all the three stages of the exams.Although following time management for separate tasks may feel difficult and make you frustrated. But, once you stick with it, then to your surprise, it becomes routine gradually.
What Should Be Your Study Goal?
Ask yourself: what do you need to do to achieve this? Write it down! These are your study goals. Can they be achieved? If so, what do you need to do? This may include various goal setting activities in order to achieve your study objectives. If not, why not? What is stopping you? How can this be overcome? By breaking your study goals down into manageable study tasks, by setting performance goals, you will be better able to assess where you should apply your energies most.
- The benefits of students setting study goals and study tasks are numerous. Your study immediately becomes more productive as you know exactly what you should be doing, when you should be doing it and how long it will take you. You will get a better return on investment than if you simply opened a book and started to study a topic. You become more productive and your study is of a higher quality- it’s a win-win.
- Students who set study goals and objectives are guaranteed to perform better and get better results as they can focus on the study goals they have set for themselves and actions to achieve those study goals.
- Getting organised is the first step you will need to achieve exam success, so make sure you invest the time at the beginning in outlining what you need to do, and importantly, why you want to achieve it by setting study goals which are achievable and manageable!
How To Start?
First of all, know the eligibility criteria of the IAS exam. The aspirant should be a Graduate in any subject. To apply, the age of the applicant should be between 21-32, if general categories.
Number of attempts:
- There are six attempts for all applicants who are not in the reserved category.
- There is no limit (No restriction ) for applicants who belong to SC/ST category.
- There are nine attempts for all applicants who belong to OBC category till 35 yrs of age.
- Also, have a realistic idea about the competition in UPSC Civil Services Exam.
Know Your Competition
- Registration: More than 10 lakh aspirants/year;
- Preliminary Exam Takers: Around 4.5 Lakhs/year;
- Those who pass Prelims: Around 15000/year;
- Those who pass mains: 3000/year;
- Those who find mention in rank list after interview: 1000/year.
- Note: As 49.5% seats are reserved, if you are general category, you may need to be in the top 50% to ensure a place in the final rank list
Can’t Speak English? Doesn’t Matter!
- Talking in English is not necessary at all for an IAS Aspirant but if you speak English that would be an advantage for you only. In today's world of modern technology, if you can speak fluent English, it will be itself one step ahead from all.
- If you are not fluent in English, just go through the English books and reading thoroughly on daily basis. This will definitely improve your English.
- If you are giving IAS exam with Hindi medium, there is no need because basic English is the requirement.
- Also, if you have time to work on your English, do that. Skills are gained not for the purpose of an exam. An exam is nothing but a reason to acquire them. If you don't have time, then do not think about it and crack the exam without it. You will be fine either way. Many aspirants have cracked the exam by knowing their mother tongue. CSE will not punish you for not knowing English.
- Moreover, you can write this exam and give the interview in your mother-tongue. Buy a basicGrammar book – read it, listen to English news on TV and radio, try to write something in English, everyday (don’t worry if it is very bad, keep trying).
- You can also join some of the best coaching institutes for work on your syllabus whether in English or Hindi.
- Necessity should push you to learn. Push yourself. Win the race.
Civil Services A Journey Or A Destination?
- If you measure the worth of the journey by the fact that whether you reached the destination or not, you are doing a great disservice to the journey itself. So whether you become an IAS or not, it hardly matters. But once you undertake this journey one thing is for sure, you will not be the same person again.
- Let us tell you why. This exam brings about a transformational change in a person. It makes you aware of so many things that no other exam can. It makes you a far better person than you already are. It makes you empathetic to the plight of the downtrodden and needy millions. It makes you balanced in your outlook and approach.
- You will always be ahead in life after preparing for this exam. You will be able to learn how our past affects our present and our future. You will become a highly intellectual person who could talk about anything in highly effective manner. It changes your perspective on how you see things. You will not judge people on how they act, but will learn why they act in that manner.
- Every side has two story. CSE will give you enough perspective to see both sides!
Am I Good Enough For The System? Can I Survive The Competition?
- If you have decided that you are going to prepare for the Civil Services Examination, then you shouldn’t worry whether you are good enough for the system or not.
- Worry and be motivated by the fact that you will be able to do good works and help the people of your country. The fact that you will be able to make major policy decisions should itself help you that the decision that you have taken is correct and apt. You will be able to meet high caliber of people, bureaucrats and experts who are working towards the progress of the country. When you are in the system, it will depend on you whether you have the ability to cope with the pressure that comes with this highly sought after job.
- Yes, Corruption happens in the system. There are politicians who will put extreme pressure on you so that you either will desist the system or will think of quitting altogether. But you know this all beforehand before you decided to join. Didn’t you?
- So, don’t think about what will happen when you join the services. It’s better to think, what you can do when you join it. After all, you can make it a better place.
Giving Up Due To Fear Of Competition
There is a place for only one, greatest tennis player in the world for men and women. And same applies for other sports. Does it mean that other tennis players should walk from the sports because they are not No. 1?We don’t think so!
- Don’t think about people, their reactions and what they think or say. It is a fact that when you are not successful and not doing great people stop respecting you even if they don’t say it in your face. But when you succeed, even if they don’t respect you, they have to because you don’t need to prove to them.
- CSE will ask you to give your best. You might have to take multiple attempts before you achieve the success.
- CSE is a great equalizer. So, even if you have been a below average or average student in your life, it doesn’t matter. What matters the most, is that now you have decided to take your fate and hard work in your hands and want to score big. And you can win, after all success gives way to who, works harder.
- These are some extreme examples of success. Let your success do the talking. Don’t focus on what people are saying.
- Don’t think what people are saying or how society sees you. Think about the fact, what will happen when you achieve your goals. Because these years of struggle wouldn’t matter then. Where will you be five years from now if you do act, work on yourself, improve your career prospects and become a better person?
Maintaining Continuous Motivation
CSE preparation requires one to be motivated at all times for one to give best at all stages of examination. One has to perform at all stages - Prelims, Mains and Interview and every stage requires different strategies for one to ace it.
The motivation could be enhanced by various methods. For motivation one could:
- Watch TED talks
- Read Ethics and works of philosophers
- Pen down Your own solutions for the problems you see around
- Read about successful candidates on various online platforms
- Write about what one would do once he/she becomes a civil servant
- Analyze and discuss the strategy with a friend or teacher
- Failures need to be taken seriously as they offer an opportunity to learn and ensure mistakes are not repeated
- Talking with family members helps to calm down nerves
- Pursuing a hobby or a sport helps you avoid mental fatigue which you may suffer after continuous studies
Choose one of the best methods and see which one reinvigorates you.
How To Get Rid Of The Defeatist Attitude While Preparing?
Make some time for reflective thinking, and see if you can find the basis for such an attitude. How did it start? Why does it persist? What positive effects does it have in your life? What negative effects does it have? What are the beliefs you carry that make you feel chronically defeated? Write down everything that comes up when you look at these beliefs, and review them when it is time to dismantle them.
Once you reach a deeper understanding of the cognitive/emotional processes involved in the maintenance of such an attitude, you can begin to free yourself from it.
Yes, this exam demands greater efforts and will test your mental strength. But you can make this beginning by consciously rejecting the beliefs that the attitude is based on- i.e, that you will surely and confidently clear tis examination. But to do so will require persistent effort in clearly making yourself aware of the mistaken basis for those beliefs.
Be prepared for multiple attempts before success comes your way, because there is a learning process that must be experienced first. Many people fail because they don't recognize the necessity for learning while trying, and give up before succeeding.
Remember, persistence pays.
Hard Work Or Luck, Which Works?
Luck isn't something that somebody has. It is dynamically generated at every point in the decision-making process. It's plain old probability. By 'having bad luck' we mean that probability has not favored you. It has nothing to do with you and nothing that you do can alter it.
However, as has been well established, it's not the only factor. Fortune favors the well prepared. You have to first come up to a certain level to make sure that luck is in a position can indeed help or hurt. It's always there to nudge you higher or tip you off balance.
Just like any other exam luck factor applies to CSE also. But luck favors better prepared. The chance of getting right by a random guess is far less than a smart guess.
There is a tendency to think luck matters a lot in CSE than any other exam. This perceptionis wrong.
It is a 3-stage exam pattern which checks different skills at different stages and makes people attribute the disaster to luck factor. In prelims, it’s about raw knowledge, common sense and mathematical skills. In mains, command over optional and writing skills (essay, ethics) are more important. In PT, smartness and presence of mind hold the key. Now, it’s quite possible a person making laurels in one stage, may succumb in the next stage.
Can I Study At Home?
Yes, you can. Preparing from home has its own perks such as:
Fewer Expenses: Living expenses in coaching hubs of Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad etc. are quite expensive and could cost around 1.5 to 2 lakhs.
This can be completely avoided if you prepare from home.
Good Food: Good quality food is one thing any aspirants preparing for UPSC exam misses and this also have bearing on their health. When you prepare from home you can maintain good health and eat healthy during your preparation and believe us it’s a great advantage.
No Transportation: Time spent on transportation is a big waste and this definitely can be used productively to pursue some hobby or doing exercise which will improve your health and personality.
Family and Friends Support: Living in any coaching hub at times becomes monotonous and people start feeling lonely which hampers their study. When preparing from home your family and friend are always available for you, you can spend quality time with friends and family and can easily rejuvenate your energy and continue preparation.
These days you can buy books from online and gather materials online. Every topper has studied the same set of books as lakhs of aspirants do every year. The difference is that toppers plan their studies and execute those plans well. They practice writing.
They take tests. They are confident. You must be able to invest, at least, ten hours per day. This “Divine time”, if utilized in a planned way, can certainly bring in miracles.
Sources For The Civil Services Examination
Going through the exam syllabus will give you a brief idea about the kind of resources/study material you will need for your preparation. Keep your sources minimal and follow the best sources available.
Follow Government websites like, Income Tax Department, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, etc. for authentic information.
These websites are periodically updated with the latest information and annual reports. Gather and analyze previous year UPSC CSE Exam question papers (at least last 10 years).
You can follow our website, www. Chronicleias.in to look at the various sources that will help you in clearing this exam.
How Many Years To Give To UPSC?
About one year of dedicated preparation is enough. But there is more to it that cannot be left unsaid. There is a difference between preparing the syllabus and clearing the Civil Services exams. The entire process of clearing the exam and securing a rank would require about 3-4 years. Hence, it is a time-consuming process.
Consider the following:
Let’s say you want to give the exam in 2019. Then, you should start the preparation about a year before (i.e. in 2018). The whole process of exam prelims-mains-Interview will take about a year, and result will come out earliest by May 2020.
So, if you are a very good candidate and lucky enough to get a service of your choice in first attempt, it will still take 2 years (2018–20) easily. But as per the stats from the aspirants community, on an average, it takes 2-4 attempts to get you your desired rank (<100 for IAS, which is generally the first choice). So, you must be ready to devote such time, if you are really serious of getting into the services.
The process of preparation (assuming you are a complete novice) takes upto 8-10 months for both GS and optional. After that, the exam itself stretches over a year - Prelims in June, Mains in October, Interview in March, and results in May, joining in September.
The entire syllabus can be well prepared in 2 sincere attempts, leaving only keeping track of current affairs for further attempts.
If Civil Services Examination is your aim, then it is better that you create your game plan on how you want to map out your objectives. Supposedly, you also have life goals that you want to achieve alongside Civil Services aim, then it is better to think on how much attempts you want to give. It depends on an individual basis.
Dilemma Between Professional And Student
The IAS bug catches everyone; school kids, undergraduates, graduates, doctorates, as also working people among them. After all, Civil Services is one of the most prestigious careers in India one can aspire for.
But, working people face some unique constraints when they decide to jump onto the IAS bandwagon. Constraints of time, resources, energy, focus, and responsibilities. Those preparing for civil services exam full time are to a large extent free of such constraints.
It creates the question whether we should give our whole time to this preparation or can we work alongside and prepare?
However, not all these constraints are hurdles. Some are blessings in disguise while others can be overcome with the right planning and effort. After all when we are determined how can a 9-6 job stop us from realizing our goal?
For prelims these topics include current affairs, maps, polity, comprehension, passage, decision making, and statistics. These topics are easy to score off and can be prepared while traveling and in your free time not just while preparing in your study time.
If possible keep a copy of India Year Book and Student Atlas in your bag so you can quickly reference some facts while traveling or in your lunch time.
Another way to make the most of available time is to read the newspaper or a good magazine in your free time.
So you can see having less time is no reason to not prepare for the IAS. By making the right use of limited time, you can turn this seeming liability into an asset. Leave the more time consuming topics like Science, History etc. to weekends and holidays or early morning schedule.
Why Do You Want To Become IAS?
Ask yourself the real reason for aiming for the service that you do. And we mean the “real reason” here. Don’t say to serve humanity if all you want is to serve yourself. And even if want the latter, there’s nothing “bad” or “wrong” about it. Without being judgmental, go forth and list the reason for wanting to be an IAS in your diary and ponder over it how you will be able to achieve them.
The reason to become an IAS could be many. It could be simply because of the wonderful opportunity it provides to do something about things you feel strongly about.
To take just one example, I felt and still do that Indian roads are very dangerous to drive on and traffic mismanagement has resulted in many avoidable road accidents over the years. Pathways have been hijacked by hawkers and vehicle owners for parking their cars leaving the poor pedestrian no choice but to walk on roads with vehicles whizzing past them at jet speed. No wonder India ranks first in deaths due to road accidents.
As an IAS I wanted to change this and contribute positively to decision making relating to traffic management along with many other issues close to my heart. Of course, I also wanted to be an IAS for personal reasons as well like getting into a good career with challenging job functions, perks of office and others. But this is not about me. It’s about you. Just to prompt some ideas, do you want to be an IAS (or IPS, IFS, IRS etc.):
- For the sake of Authority as you’ve heard that “IAS rule the country”
- For money as civil servants “make a lot of it”
- For contributing positively to the society
- For your near or dear ones as everyone needs someone “well connected”
- Simply to uplift humanity
- Because it’s a very good career choice as compared to other jobs/careers
- As it’s the best combination of power and prestige
- To be a role model to your peers, friends, siblings
These are just a few among many other possible reasons and motivations for you to aim for the IAS. Share yours with others. It could be “the one” reason or multiple. Once you do it, it’s very likely that you will prepare for the IAS with renewed vigor. This is what goal-setting all about. Share it aloud so you feel more compelled to achieve it as compared to a privately held resolve. So just to restate, why do you want to be an IAS?
An IAS officer can immensely contribute towards the development of the nation by bringing in new policies, suggesting the government to take incremental steps, spending the allotted funds effectively and judiciously without any misuse and leakages.
The immense pleasure you would get seeing the happiness and smile on the face of those people who are going to remember your name for a very long time because you gave them a lifeline that they were deserving to get but were not made to enjoy it.
When Is The Right Time To Start Preparing For IAS EXAM?
There is no perfect age to start preparing for the IAS. But yes, from the available statistics, it is clear that most of the IAS aspirants start preparing right after their graduation at the age of 21 or 22 years. But even then, there are many of you who feel inspired later on in life to join the public service and wish to start preparing after 26 or 28 years. No harm in this as well as there are many success stories of older aspirants who have cleared the civil services after crossing 30 years of age.
But one thing is clear; your academic focus changes at different stages of your education. So if you’re in school right now, you need and should focus on your school studies and not get into full-time IAS preparation mode. If you’re in graduation, again, you will need to concentrate on your graduation rather than worry unnecessarily about choosing the Mains optional at this stage.
Having cleared this, you can still prepare for IAS exam at an early age. Only thing is, IAS preparation should be a secondary task for you and your school or college studies should be your foremost focus.
Are You Ready For Civil Service Examination?
Civil Services Preparation is the toughest and most aspirational exams in the country. It demands patience, perseverance, hard work, dedication and commitment. It also demands your blood and sweat so that you succeed in this highly competitive examination.
To be successful in this examination, you should be ready to face any challenges. Come what may, it requires your,” Don’t Die Attitude”.
So, before you start preparing and start studying for CSE, ask yourself, this question: Are you ready to give it all?