Syed Waquar Razaa 2007-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of West Bengal cadre and author of Internal Security of India and Disaster Management recently published by Oxford University Press shares basic dos and don’t for aspirants preparing for the civil services exam.
UPSC Civil Services: Must Dos
Read from fewer books, materials but revise more: Follow a few standard textbooks for your optional subject as well as the static portions of general studies (GS). A serious aspirant should, however, aim for multiple revisions of the material. After one or two readings, check the Mains questions from previous years and try to frame their answers in your mind. Practise writing a few answers within the given word and time limits. This will help you in developing the ability to frame your answers during the main exams.
Attempt all questions in the Mains exam: Candidates should aim at attempting all questions in the Mains exams. This is of vital importance. Missing out on a couple of questions could as well mean missing out from the “cut-off” list. Start writing immediately after the time starts, making sure that you understand the demands of the question.
While writing answers in the Mains exam, try to follow the time limits very strictly. A 10-mark-question should be around 150 words and should be completed within 7 minutes. Similarly, 15-marks questions should be for 250 words and should be completed within 10 minutes. As soon as this time limit is over, go to the next question, even if you have not been able to write the previous answer to your satisfaction. This will help you to attempt the complete question paper, which is of more importance in the Mains exam. You may also join a Mains test series for GS and optional subjects to get a feel of the pressure during the Mains exam. This will also build your endurance to sit for long hours writing answers and help you calibrate your writing speed to the demands of the exam.
Write clear and to the point answers: Your answers should be clear, relevant and to the point. The ability to understand and analyze the issue at hand from various angles, express it coherently in concise language and be able to offer constructive suggestions wherever required is what will make your answers stand out. You should also try to link your answers with the current developments related to the topic.
Don’t procrastinate after PT exam: A common mistake committed by aspirants is letting their guards down, during the time intervening the prelims exams, waiting for the results. Refrain from it. Take a short break of a couple of days just after the prelims exam to rejuvenate yourself. Immediately thereafter, get down to your Mains preparation, without worrying about whether you will clear the Prelims or not.
Start with the optional subject. If you have gone through the optional subject at least once before the prelims, you should aim at revising it within the next 15–20 days. Making short, point-wise notes for all topics mentioned in the syllabus of the optional subject is advised. This will help you in revising the subject later, within a short time.
Once you are done with the optional subject, go for the portions in GS which are not covered in prelims syllabus, such as world history, post-independence India, ethics and integrity, internal security, disaster management, etc. Aim to cover these topics in the next 20 days or so, depending on how much of it you have already covered before the prelims exam.
Your goal should be to complete the optional paper and the GS portions not covered in PT syllabus within 40 days of the prelims exams, by when the PT results would be out. The remaining time until the Mains exam should be utilized for covering the current affairs portion and revision/consolidation of the covered topics for both GS and optional papers.
Don’t go for too many books/sources: Going for many books and sources is a common mistake that aspirants make. They do so in the hope that their knowledge will be richer by referring to various sources. However, it would be very difficult to revise these multiple sources before the exam. And it can be safely said, at least for the civil services exam, that not having revised a topic is akin to not having studied it at all.
Therefore, keep your sources limited, and try to revise and consolidate them as per a daily/weekly revision schedule. For optional subject, you may make point-wise notes for each topic in the syllabus and keep adding to the notes, if you find any new point or development related to the topic. This way you will easily be able to do multiple revisions before the exam. For GS papers, try to underline in the textbooks and current affairs materials and follow the daily/weekly revision schedule along with the newspapers.
Don’t let the lows linger long: There will be days on which you will feel low and you will be unable to study to your satisfaction. This is quite normal. A successful aspirant is one who can keep his/her emotions under control and maintain a certain minimum level of studies even during those ‘low’ days. During such days, you must just keep going on (sort of mechanically) and be able to maintain at least a minimum level of study/progress. The key is not to allow the ‘lows’ to affect your progress. Once the phase passes and you are back to your efficient self, you will more than make up for it.
Always have a positive attitude in your preparation, ass in life. The civil services exam is a test of your patience, grit and willingness to put in your best effort even under adverse circumstances. Give it your best shot, for fortune favours the well-prepared.