The UPSC exam is considered as one of the toughest. There is some truth to this. The entire process of filling up the form, preparation, the exam and the results, takes about a year. The exam has three stages and in order to see your name in the merit list, you have to get past them. In an exam that stretches for about a year’s time, it is crucial not only to be academically prepared, but also be mentally prepared to go through the process.
The exam requires dedication and a fair amount of mental toughness. Candidates are eligible for a minimum of four attempts. The common mistake many candidates do is waste the first few chances in trying out the exam pattern or their luck. In some cases, there may be a success story but it is better to be well prepared.
Your preparation should begin with the choosing of the optional subjects for the mains. The two subjects that I had chosen were sociology and psychology. Sociology being my core subject, I did not require any coaching. It is important to have a fair amount of confidence in at least your core subjects, because coaching is expensive. Expert coaching in the subjects that are new is important.
The preparation for the mains should ideally be over before one writes the prelims paper. This is important because the time gap between the prelims and mains is not enough to start preparations afresh. That way, you can spend the time available for revision and aim for good result. Another vital tip for mains preparation is to go through the question papers of the last ten years ( of the subject chosen) and then practise writing the answers. Time is crucial in the mains exams and the speed at which a candidate can actually write could determine whether he could finish his/her paper or not.
After I cleared the prelims, I took coaching for the mains general studies from the ALS institute, New Delhi, and that short capsule course proved to be immensely beneficial. Since time is limited, even coaching institutes tell you only as much is required thus saving precious time in trying to sort the relevant from the irrelevant.
For the prelims the importance given to general knowledge has only increased. It is also important to properly understand the pattern of the prelims paper since there has been a recent change in format. I personally believe that every candidate has some strengths as well as weaknesses. The challenge is to realise this. In my case, I was unable to clear the prelims and ended up wasting three attempts. These failures, however, helped me realise my problem areas. I took a break for one year and finally cleared the exam in my last and final attempt. Hard work is no doubt the most important input a candidate has to give for a suitable outcome; however, working without a proper strategy may pose more difficulties in the long run. Thus it is important to strategise, keep up your morale during preparations and firmly believe that the UPSC can be cracked.
The writer is ADC,