UPSC Civil Services Exam is among the toughest exams conducted in India at country level. Every year, many lakhs of students join the UPSC preparation along with the existing aspirants. However, there is large sale misconceptions existing about this most coveted exam.
One being that it requires one to study for 15-18 hours a day.
Similarly, many think that one needs to be very proficient in different streams like History, Geography etc.
Also, one prevalent view is that it requires one to study so many voluminous books.
Then, there is another myth that preparing for IAS exam is like Five Year Plan.
All such views are pervading in the field of IAS preparation. But the reality is far away from these perceptions. Rather one need to have a SMART strategy to qualify the exam. This SMART strategy is what this article would focus on.
There should be first a strategy at macro level, meaning that the preparation of all the three stages viz. prelims, written and interview should not be seen in silos. In fact, there should be an integrated approach. This is because, the syllabus of Mains exam given in the Notification is largely detailing of all the topics required for Prelims. Such as, GS Paper 1 may guide on what one should read in history for Prelims. One example can be Question on Lala Lajpat Rai in 2018 prelims paper.
This can be correlated with the “important personalties of freedom struggle” given in GS Paper 1 syllabus. Similarly, GS paper 2 emphasises on “issues relating to federalism” and we can find a question about Sarkaria Commision in Prelims 2019.
Therefore, while preparing for written exam we can cover prelims itself. Similarly, while preparing for prelims using the detailed syllabus of mains exam, we will prepare ourselves for answer writing. This is because, while writing any question we need to usually write some fa ctual and concepts of that topics. This is where the prelims preparation can be used in answer writing in Mains examination.
Similarly, in interview we are expected to have understanding of current events and have a view point on those issues. The preparation of the Prelims and Written exam may themselves take care of this major aspect of the interview preparation.
Therefore, the first and foremost strategy should be to prepare for IAS exam, all three stages, in a holistic and integrated manner. THUS, SMART-NESS IN OUR PREPARATION SHOULD BE THERE.
Then we should prioritise various things during preparation. That is, what we have to study and what not to study. This can be understood from the following examples.
We have so many books in market for history for IAS . But none is exhaustive so there is a temptation to read so many books and we get trapped in this. Therefore, our strategy should be to choose the basic standard book and revise it time and again rather than going through many books of history. The benefit is that we will develop our understanding and insight into the subject matter.
This will help us solve different concept based questions by applying this insight developed, even if we have not specifically read about that question. THIS WILL OPTIMISE OUR TIME.
The crux is that we should confine ourselves to standard books, minimizing their number and focus on reading, revising time and again with a focus to cultivate understanding of the subject. IT MEANS WE DONOT NEED TO READ SO MANY BOOKS, THAT TOO VOLUMINOUS.
We should be accustomed of reading newspaper as religiously as possible. In fact, this is where we should emphasise that newspaper is the TRUE TEXTBOOK for IAS preparation. This is because, upsc likes to ask questions largely from those areas which are in news. The pattern of prelims question largely follows this. Similarly, the questions in written exams are from issues ongoing, such as in case of international relation, economic issue. Therefore, our focus should be to read at least one newspaper (the hindu or Indian express) thoroughly.
Case in point : 2019 Prelims, question on Forest Amendment Act was asked.
2019 written exam. GS Paper3 there was one question on UAPA amendment.
Its provisions were in news.
2018 written exam. GS Paper 2, there was question on Data Protection Law which was in news.
Secondly, while reading the newspaper we find various shades of opinion on a given issue and helps us cultivate our understanding on the issue and thus help us argue on the issue and develop our view. This is also important because we have to write one essay paper, long piece of writing.
THERE IS ONE FAQ, SHOULD WE PREPARE NOTES FROM NEWSPAPER ?
Here one should not directly go for note making. It is difficult to remain consistent with this approach. Therefore, we should first learn to read newspaper as to how we should focus on the news. For this the following strategy should be followed:
One should learn the syllabus by heart. That is, every day in the morning one should go through the syllabus first. With passage of time, he/she would have the whole syllabus in mind. This will help in exclusionary process while going through the newspaper. This will optimize the time required in reading the newspaper.
Thereafter one should keep track on the news items in newspaper relating to the syllabus. Thus one will remain updated with the ongoing issues and debate. This will itself make half the work done.
Now let us come to the note making finally. For doing this, we must be now able to understand the importance of a given article in the news. Based on this, we should read that article at least twice, preferably thrice, and pick only few points but not all the article. With passage of time, one will find it easier as with this continuous process one will have to add less and less
Then there is one more issue of rajya sabha debates, yojana and kurukshetra magazine. Here also, the strategy discussed in case of newspaper may work as wonder. That is, seeing everything through the lens of syllabus , prioritizing the topics and then developing understanding. In fact, many such things should be for reference to cultivate understanding on the issue. Finally, one may add to the notes.
A CAUTION : BUT ONE SHOULD ALWAYS REMEMBER NOTES SHOULD NOT BE BULKY. IT SHOULD BE PREPARED IN SUCH MANNER THAT MANY THINGS REMAIN IN MIND AND SEEING THE NOTES, ONE MAY REMEMBER THE RELEVANT THINGS. FURTHER THIS NOTE SHOULD BE REVISED AGAIN AND AGAIN.
Finally, We should have the emotional intelligence in the sense that there should be persistence, perseverance and prioritization towards our goal. This is needed because learning and understanding the syllabus of upsc is not a one day process rather it is a continuous process.
Therefore, we need to have these qualities. These qualities will promote us for doing hard work in our preparation. This is required as there is no short cut to success. However, it doesn't mean we should work like robot for 15-18 hours per day. In fact, 6-8 hours of daily self study will suffice.
By following the above strategy and adding to one’s own, one will find that all the above misconceptions will be removed.
NO NEED TO STUDY 15-18 HOURS A DAY. RATHER, A PLAN AND STRATEGY IS NEEDED TO OPTIMISE ON TIME AND HIT THE DEMAND OF EXAM.
ONE DOES NOT NEED TO READ ANY SUBJECT EXHAUSTIVELY AS ONE NEED TO ONLY FOCUS ON THE REQUIREMENT OF EXAM IN SYNC WITH SYLLABUS AND QUESTIONS BEING ASKED. HERE ITSELF, ONE MAY SEE MERELY 50-60 % MARKS IS REQUIRED IN BOTH PRELIMS AND MAINS
NO NEED TO READ SO MANY BOOKS. ONLY FOCUS SHOULD BE ON LIMITED RESOURCES WHILE HAVING REFERENCE TO CERTAIN OTHER RELEVANT RESOURCES.
WHEN ONE WILL STRATEGISE PREPARATION IN THIS MANNER, IAS PREPARATION WILL NOT BE LIKE YEAR PLAN.