Before Prelims, till February I prepared for Public Ad and Prelims only. After February, I studied completely for Prelims. My coaching timing was 8-10.30 in the morning. After coaching classes my rest of time was divided into 2 parts. First part was dedicated to GS which covered newspaper reading, class revision and other subjects like History, Geography,
CSAT, etc. Other part was dedicated to Pub Ad paper and thus almost 10 hours were devoted to both the parts. After February, my 100% attention was on Prelims which covered GS and CSAT papers.
For Pub Ad paper, I relied on traditional books and friends notes, who took coaching from Vajiram. Nowadays, optional plays a bigger role than GS in total marks and needs to be prepared thoroughly.
I used to read The Hindu regularly and prepared my own notes as well, apart from CSR and other magazines. Here, it is important to note that discipline is very necessary to cover the huge syllabus. So, this way I devoted my time to all the areas equally. Here candidates must note that every stage is eliminating stage and hence it should be ensured that he/she has to prepare to clear that stage.
In Prelims, you have to be among top 3% students (assuming 4 lakh candidates write Prelims). If a candidate secured 50% net score in Prelims aggregate then he is likely to clear Prelims. So target should be to attempt 60-70% questions so that score should be above 50%. But this can change depending on the difficulty’ level of the exam.
For CSAT, a student should cover diverse area like decisionmaking, data interpretation, number system, RC, syllogism, general mental ability’ etc. so that he should not be surprised by the questions. For prelims, I prepared extensively and covered large number of books and facts. Paper is objective question-based, so care must be taken while attempting the questions as negative marking can reduce your score. So during exam, first of all those questions should be attempted for which you are 100% sure. So in initial first hour, if a candidate is able to attempt 40% question with huge accuracy, it will give a huge confidence and remaining part can be devoted to winning the battle only. Now those questions can be picked where 50% answer correctness possibility is available and reasonable risks should be taken to take the score up to 60-70%.
During CSAT paper, if somebody is not able to crack the question within 2 minutes, he should leave the question and should attempt some other questions rather than wasting time there. The same question can be attempted at a later time. A candidate should leave his ego regarding why he is not able to crack that question because it doesn’t matter what questions you are attempting rather than how many correct questions a person is attempting.
Immediately after my Prelims, I gave my body rest for 10 days’ as I was very tired due to Prelims preparation. I will suggest candidates to go for vacation for 7-10 days after Prelims before starting for Mains preparation; it will recharge your body and mind.
After 10 days I started my preparation for Mains. One should not wait for Prelims result for Mains preparation, as there will be little time after result for Mains. It can be disaster for candidates if they do not study before Prelims result. I had 4 months in hand before Mains, so I divided 4 months into 2 parts again. I covered Public Ad and GS Paper-1 within 2 months after my Prelims. I joined test series immediately for both which gave my energy to prepare for both subjects. The same 5-5 hours I devoted to both the subjects. Test series is must for UPSC candidate as it helps you to identify your weak and strong areas and helps you in writing practice. It increases’ your speed and tells your exam mistakes beforehand. So test series is a MUST for every candidate.
After my Prelims result, my coaching for GS Mains started and I prepared GS Paper-2 and Commerce Paper-2 during this one month along with my test series. Ideally, a candidate must prepare both Optional and GS papers within 3 months after Prelims paper or at least one month should be in hand for revision before Mains.. This set for most of the syllabus in hand and now time is for revision.
After 3 month-study and test series, a candidate is well aware of his/ her strength, weakness and area to be covered. During this last month, revision depends on the Optional selected by a candidate. In my case, there were 14 days of leave for Commerce paper as this was my last paper, so I devoted my entire month to Public Administration
and GS paper. Thoroughly revise each and every topic in this month for both the papers and do not worry about whether you will remember those areas or not.
For Public Administration paper
, I daily wrote one question in my note book and get it checked by teachers to improve my writing skills. At the end of 3 months, I had a copy with entire previous year questions with remarks on it by teachers and I revised all these questions and was careful for the mistakes I committed in these questions. It was really a big booster for me. Writing practice is the key to success in Public Administration paper and a candidate should take pains to write as many questions as possible.
For Commerce paper, I prepared mainly for the second paper which was relatively new to me. To first paper, I did not pay much attention due to my thorough studies in my CA study, but this proved fatal for me as I found first paper difficult to solve due to adequate practice. So I suggest to candidates that they should not ignore their strength and should maintain it, otherwise it will turn into their weakness.
I did not prepare anything specific for essay paper except one or two classes given by Vajiram during GS classes only. I wrote 2 essays on myself and got it evaluated by my teachers and friends. My essay, according to my teachers, was average. I relied on my GS preparation for essay and I think that I wrote well during Mains for essay paper. I will suggest to candidates that they should write in simple language and with new ideas to make essay scoring. One need, not to be Munshi Vremchand to score good marks in essay paper. One should see the writing style during reading of editorial page in newspapers and should write in a logical way and to the pojnt.
For language paper, one need not spend too much time for preparation. Just prepare last 5 years’ question papers and see if you are getting comfort in those papers. Depending on language knowledge, one can easily prepare for it. But this paper should not be taken too lightly as it can prove a disaster for the candidates.
I was hopeful of getting interview call after my Mains. I started preparing for Interview and Prelims after one month of rest. I enrolled with Vajiram for Prelims test series, to keep myself updated on and regular in the studies. I suggest to candidates that they should simultaneously prepare for Prelims, because there is no certainty regarding the interview call. Also, it will help you better prepare for interview. After getting interview call, I got 18 days for my interview preparation as my interview was on the 2nd day from the start of interview date. I enrolled for 4 mock interviews but they were of limited use as I did not find them very useful. My corporate life experience was a great asset for me and I was well versed in interview techniques, but the UPSC interview is still very different and needs to be tackled accordingly. Believe me, job experience is a great asset for the UPSC interview. I thoroughly prepared on my profile, my State, hobbies, district and job experience. During interview, your honest views and good preparation are great asset for you.
Somebody has rightly said, “A healthy mind lives in a healthy body”. Believe me guys—good health is a prerequisite for clearing such tough exams. I kept one hour daily to reinvigorate myself through gym, yoga or jogging, etc. It was must for me and for other successful candidates. It helps you keep your energy level high, avoid boredom and prevent you from stress. So, keep your one hour daily as exercise regime irrespective of your busy schedule.
Apart from exercise regime, it is necessary to have good diet.
I know people preparing for Civil Services have to go outside their home for preparation and cannot have home-cooked food. Still it is necessary to avoid too much junk and oily food. Take special care before exam days to keep yourself healthy.
Also, it is necessary to take one-day break every week to reenergise for the next week; it may be a complete one-day break or half-day break, depending on schedule of candidate. Before exam day do not study at all and relax as much as possible except in Mains during Optional paper when only one or two days are available for revision. Also have some hobbies to keep you happy.
One of the biggest reasons for my success in first attempt is my attitude towards life. Even an average I.Q. person with right attitude can easily clear Civil Services Examination
in first attempt itself. Follow the Gita Saar, “Just do your work and don’t worry about your result”. Too much thinking about result creates fear in the mind and reduces your productivity. Some people take Civil Service as their end goal of life like if they do not clear this exam, they don’t have any life or career. I started preparation without worrying about my result. Always have a smile on your face and keep your fire burning in your stomach, not on your face. Civil Services Exam allows you to learn a lot in a very little time and I took this time as golden period of my life as I was back to my schooldays.
One of the most important things in exam is to perform in those 3 hours. If you perform well in those 3 hours, you are in, otherwise you are out. So while attempting paper, first read the paper completely (give 10 minutes at least to reduce the error and get the right understanding of questions). Attempt those questions first of which you are very confident.
It will increase your speed, give initial impression very good and will give you confidence. Do not leave even a single question whether you know the answer or not. Even if you do not know the answer, use common sense and write whatever seems fit for that answer. It will give the examiner impression that you have at least attempted that question. A candidate who attempts 2,000 marks’ paper will get marks out of 2,000, but if a candidate attempts say 1,700 marks’ paper he has lost 300 marks immediately as compared with
his peers. Suppose, out of 1,700 his accuracy is 55% then 1 score will be 935 and if accuracy of the first candidate 50%, he will secure 1,000 marks. Although some candidati may not agree with this calculation, it really works and mak< the difference of 40-50 marks between two students wit similar capabilities.
I have heard most of the time candidates complaining aboi their bad memory like “I study everyday but I am not able remember things or I have a fear I won’t be able to recal etc. Believe me guys, everybody is blessed more or less wi: the same memory, but still I give you some tips to increas your recalling power.
Recalling ability depends on the number of times you read something, so number of revisions is important. The more the revision is the better is the memory. It is like when w first meet with some stranger we are not able to recall his her face, but if you meet somebody daily you remember almost each and everything about him/her. Other way to improve the memory is to eat less, yes to eat less. This is a scientific reason when we eat more food, blood circulation moves from brain to stomach to digest the food and we feel drowsy. So every next time, eat half chapati less than your real hunger. Third tip is good sleep; again studies have prove that a good sleep helps in good recalling of things. Depending on person to person, one should take a sleep of 7-9 hour daily. Last but not least, a good exercise regime, yoga or exercise fills your mind with fresh oxygen which again help you in recalling more facts.
This is the most important paragraph of my strategy. A number of candidates will read the above good things which I have discussed above, but very few will implement it. It is very easy to read or listen to good things that motivate a person but it is really painful to implement the advice. Everyone wants to be a champion but nobody wants to work like a champion I am reproducing the famous line by Muhammad Ali (the greatest boxer of the previous century):
I hated every minute of training, but I said. “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as champion”.
So guys, do more and talk less, success will definitely be yours.
My Strong points for Civil Service Exam were:
1. Well-planned and time-tested strategy
2. Self-belief and self-confidence
3. Guidance from successful candidates
4. Right attitude towards life and exam
6. Regular revision of class-notes
7. Limited books, but multiple revisions.
There is only one substitute to hard work—“Hard Work” There is no short cut to success except self- belief and hard work. I will strongly advise Civil Service aspirants to believe in themselves rather than running after coaching centres, asking too much of teachers and reading too many books. Instead look out for previous exam papers and devise your own strategy. Start predicting the UPSC pattern and think like an examiner. It will allow you to broaden your own min Candidates always have a myth that IAS exam cannot be cleared in the first attempt. Believe me guys, first attempt is the best attempt and put maximum energy into it to get through in the very first attempt.
Throughout in this journey, Durga Nagpal (20th AIR in 2009 exam), my friend and my senior, was a great support to me. She guided me in this difficult journey. I thank Durga for believing in my capabilities and sparing her precious time for me.