RIGHT STRATEGY IS THE CORE OF CIVIL SERVICES PREPARATION
• By Neeraj Kansal, Director CrackIAS.com
Success in civil services examination depends on a right mix of good strategy, optimal hard work, and a little luck. IAS preparation is just like moving a boat in a large ocean. This ocean is filled with huge number of coaching institutes, unverified online contents, endless photocopies, and the social apps like Telegram, WhatsApp & Facebook etc. Unless you know your coordinates, you will be lost forever. Here I am going to discuss about certain points that will give right direction to your preparation.
Analyse – know which topics to prepare
The first and the foremost step is to analyse the UPSC Syllabus and Previous Year Qs (PYQs) very deeply. A careful analysis of these two will help you to make a list of topics that are to be prepared for civil services exam. We have prepared a list of 358 Topics (in total) that need to be prepared for this exam including all the three stages – prelims, mains and interview (list is given at the end of this article). However, you must not skip this step of analysing yourself even if you follow this list given by us. This analysis will build your long-term skills of preparing smartly.
Identify – know how a topic should be prepared
The analysis of Previous Year Qs (PYQs) tremendously helps a student in giving him the right direction in which he must move. There are 5 learnings from analysis of PYQs –
- Identify how important is a topic from exam point of view (depending on the number of questions that came),
- Identify how many books should you read for a topic (depending on what type of questions are coming),
- Identify how deeply you should read a topic (depending on the difficulty level of the questions), and
- Identify whether a topic is more important from Prelims or Mains perspective(depending on number of questions that came from a topic in Prelims & Mains).
- Identify how important a topic is from current affairs point of view (depending on current perspective asked in a topic).
It is important to understand that you do not have to excel every topic. A rigorous R&D on every topic is in fact negative for your preparation. Identifying the relative importance of topics will help you in your Topic Management & Time Management. You should spend lesser time on topics that have a smaller number of questions as compared to others with higher number of Questions (basically you must see input/output ratio).
Matter – what to read and how much to read
Before we look at what to read, it is more important to know how much to read. If you have analysed the Previous Year Qs (PYQs) well, you will notice that every question has a keyword like Discuss, Analyse, Critically Analyse, Explain etc. Every keyword has its own meaning and depth. Further, the main part of the question generally has many sub-parts. Let us understand this with one example, in a question like “Critically analyse the problems associated with urban mobility sector in India.”
We need to break the question into sub-parts like –
Critically analyse the issues associated with urban mobility sector in India. (200 Words)
Now, we need to see what critically analyse means. Critically analyse is the highest level of question that can be asked in UPSC. In such questions, you must write like a judge. Both, explanation (in favour – why & how), and its critique (why not & how not) are equally emphasised. Your opinion is also required. List of keywords & what they mean is given at the end of this article.
Now in this question, you need to write many different angles on urban mobility sector. If you know just 5 points in favour, 5 against, and 5 as suggestions; your job is done. If we consider that every question in the next exam will be of this difficulty level; even then, you do not need more than 5 points on any aspect of the topic. It means that as far as any topic is concerned, you just need to prepare 5 points each for various aspects of a topic.
Now, knowing that you just need 5 points each for various aspects of a topic, next question is what to read? There is no standard book-list available for civil services exam. The toppers and those who fail – both read same set of books. What matters most is how you read a book. The strategy aligned above will definitely help you in improving your book reading skills.
Once you know how to read a topic and how much to read; you pick any book/ notes etc. You will be able to see yourself whether that book/ notes are of use for you or not. If you are weak on a particular aspect of a topic, you can refer any book to take points for that aspect only rather than reading the whole topic.
Making right kind of Notes helps reaching your goal
Notes making is an essential component of the civil services examination. However, making right kind of notes is an art. There are 2 aspects involved in making notes – adequate length to which a topic should be covered so that you can attempt any question; and what type of content of a topic is relevant for coving in notes. It has been discussed in detail in another article on Notes making.
Unlearn the unneeded things – empty your garbage bin
During the process of preparation, you tend to gather many unneeded information. Over information and over analysis are dangerous in civil services preparation. Over the time, it becomes a garbage bin. It is particularly important for you to empty this bin and unlearn the unnecessary things. For this, you keep cutting the unnecessary points that you may have written in your notes.
Practice, practice & practice – there is no escape to it
Do not wait for the perfect time to come when you will be fully ready to attempt a test paper. That situation will never come in your lifetime. Write at least 4-5 answers for mains and practice minimum one test every week. Do not care about your performance, marks, or ranks. Just practice! It will help you identify your mistakes during preparing a topic. Over time, you will master this skill. Remember! Only a master of test papers is the master in UPSC.
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