A goal without proper planning remains a mere dream. This is also true in the case of civil services. The Civil Service Exam, being the toughest exam in the country, requires more than just preparation. It requires what is called ‘strategy plus preparation’. A good strategy draws a thin line of separation between aspirants and smart aspirants. The latter becomes more productive with fewer inputs, whereas the former are less productive with more inputs.
UPSC Civil Services Exam consists of 3 stages: preliminary exam (objective), main exam (written) and interview (personality test). Every year, thousands of candidates work hard to clear the exam, but only a few lucky ones get through. Aspirants who are confused about how to start preparations for the UPSC should follow these points:
Understand your syllabus: An accurate understanding of the nature, clarity, and scope of the syllabus is crucial for good preparation. It helps in understanding what to read and what not to read. The questions asked in the exam are always within the syllabus and hence keeping a close eye on syllabus is fundamental.
Strategy is important: Before you start your preparation, a smart strategy needs to be scripted keeping in mind the details of each step that you have to go through. A proper strategy is an extensive plan about what you are doing, how you are doing it and what resources you need.
Choose your study material: Choosing study material is not a simple task and requires proper guidance. It is always a good idea to begin preparation by getting subject fundamentals in place. The best source to get clarity and a good hold on various subjects are the NCERT books (from class VI to class XII).
Focus on important concepts: Instead of rigorous studies, studying smartly is the ideal way. What does studying smartly mean? It means understanding the nerve of the exams and adjusting to it accordingly. Reading the stuff that is important for the exam is the core principle of smart study.
Current affairs: Stay updated with what is going around in the world. Current affairs and contemporary issues are, in fact, the dynamic areas. Read one national newspaper daily and keep adding the current developments to the all topics given in syllabus. You also need to read some specialised magazines to cover some special portions of the syllabus, like World Focus for International Relation.
Study the pattern: Aspirants must go through the previous years’ question papers. It helps in determining the type of questions, and also helps in identifying the best source of reading material. An analysis of previous years’ papers helps in understanding the syllabus in a better perspective, and helps identify the areas from which more questions have been asked. Practice tests come in handy for candidates. These tests not only help all candidates in preparing for the mains, but also help in learning time management. Practise writing on a daily basis. Pick up an editorial from a newspaper or a topic from the syllabus, and frame a question on it and write its answer.
Use your resources: The usability of the information that you get from books or newspapers is a crucial step in UPSC preparation. You must be smart enough to fit a piece of fact or information in the best way. The Internet helps in staying updated with whatever is happening around. However, the usability of the Internet is one thing that aspirants should use for making useful value additions to their preparation.
Focus on key words: Make short notes after reading a topic several times, as they will serve as an oxygen canister to you during exam days. Look for keywords during preparation, as well as during writing the exam. For example, every question would have a question tag such as “critically analyse”, “discuss”, “elaborate”, “comment”, and so on.
Health first: Last, but not the least, is proper care for your health. It must be a part of your IAS/IPS strategy. One must exercise or go to the gym, to remain healthy, as well as maintain higher concentration during study hours.
The writer is a faculty member at GS Score, New Delhi.