[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The mother of all exams, the Civil Services Exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission attracts a large part of India\’s young population. Despite toiling for years on end, not everybody makes it to the coveted final list. The reasons for this range from the lacunae in preparation to the jittery psychological make- up of the candidates.

IAS EXAM PATTERN: This exam extends over almost an entire year involving three different stages- Preliminary Test, Main Examination, and the final Personality Test. The long duration of the exam itself tests the patience of the candidate. As a result, it is as much a test of one\’s psychological make up as of one\’s knowledge, writing abilities, and verbal and non-verbal communication. Without a strong mental frame, it is difficult to survive the daunting exam in which failure is more of a norm than success.

To extend this further, it would be understandable to say that the civil services exam tries to look for certain qualities in the candidates. A concern for the depressed, the last person in the queue is fundamental. Certain traits like humility, compassion and empathy are also looked for. As the selected candidates, after becoming officers, would serve people, it is important that they reflect these qualities in their written answers(mains) as well as in their verbal replies (personality test). In addition, having a mind of one\’s own and confidence is also needed. A young officer who exudes confidence, vivacity and honesty is the need of the hour. Therefore, in order to prepare for the exam, it is important to have a clear focus.

Note: When both the head and heart want the same thing, miracles happen.

No one has ever cleared this exam without having eyes on the goal. Defining it clearly in terms of a particular rank should be done by any serious aspirant. Also, putting up a poster highlighting the desired rank in one\’s study area will motivate one further. In addition, a clear preparation strategy is required. This involves meticulous planning with a monthly plan, weekly plan and a daily to do list. Such a list helps one to keep a tab on what one has covered, the topics left to cover etc.

IAS preparation strategy

In this tedious journey, guidance can be of immense help. As one gets to know where one needs to put in more effort. Professional guidance can help in smoothening the rough edges in the preparation. Also, a constant mentor can provide a sense of grounding and strength to an aspirant. Having said this, it also needs to be borne in mind that no coaching can spoon feed and neither can spoon feeding help one clear this exam. Professional guidance can only show one the right path. As they say, you can only take the horse to the pond but you cannot make it drink.

As one starts studying for this exam, it is important not only to read and gain more information but to consolidate it well so that it can be easily recalled during the exam. In order to do this, one may make notes in brief for preliminary test and slightly elaborated pointers for mains. For this, the aspirant must be familiar with the syllabus. It is beneficial to have a fair idea of the kind of questions asked in the exam at different stages. Therefore, one must go through previous year\’s question papers to gain an insight.

Both the preliminary and mains examinations have different purpose which is reflected in the kind of questions asked. Prelims has the purpose of selecting candidates to write the mains exam. Mains exam tests knowledge, analytical ability and critical thinking as well as one\’s ability to express oneself through the written words. As a result, when the exam is near, the preparation strategy will slightly differ according to the stage of the exam.

IAS preparation tips for beginners

As prelims is the stage where there is maximum competition, special focus is required for it. Otherwise one may not get the opportunity to write the mains. Memorization is one of the keys to clearing prelims along with understanding the basics. Also, brief notes and books should be revised repeatedly. Like for mains, answer writing practice is required, for prelims solving multiple choice questions should be done. Almost thirty to forty tests should be solved and revised by any serious candidate. For the mains only 3-4 months are available in which four papers of General Studies, two papers of optional and an essay paper ought to be prepared. The preparation and reading done 5-6 months before the preliminary test comes to one\’s rescue.

Due to the vastness of the syllabus, aspirants have the tendency to purchase more and more books. Although they can be used to embellish one\’s collection, for the purpose of this exam, books should be limited. They need to be read, re read to gain new insights and to assimilate their content. Standard books like NCERTs and some basic ones should certainly be read. Along with them one English/Hindi daily should be read to know about current developments and develop an opinion on issues of national and international importance. Reading too many magazines may not be very useful and is practically difficult. For this, one can stick to one current affairs compilation like Focus which explores various dimensions of an issue and critically discusses its various facets.

As the nature of the exam is dynamic, it is important to focus on current affairs. Also, current issues help in enhancing one\’s answers with a context which shows to the examiner that the subject is well understood by the candidate.

Since the optional subject carries 500 marks, it should be chosen wisely. It can make or break one\’s final score. Usually, the subject of graduation should be chosen or any subject in which one is interested in. All optional have equal scoring potential provided one has studied it well and done enough writing practice. An optional once chosen should be stuck to. It is like a marriage which one must try to make work, even if it is one of convenience only. Therefore, adequate time should be taken while choosing it.

To better manage the limited time before mains, one paper of optional subject should be prepared well before the prelims result is declared. Also, writing an essay every week can help those who are not in the habit of writing long pieces. In the meantime, current affairs should also be prepared. Once the prelims result comes, one can join test series programmes and start writing tests as frequently as possible on the topics covered. A well scheduled test series helps one in revising and finishing off the syllabus provided it is followed diligently.

Having done all this, it is important to keep off the pressure. At such a crucial juncture, one\’s own expectations and those of the family and friends may exert pressure of immeasurable proportions. To avoid it, one may stay away from meeting people especially those who have very little to add to the preparation. Staying away from social media may help too. It is important to relax and stay calm before the exam for which spending 20 minutes with oneself before bedtime may help. Listening to music and going for a stroll also provide requisite distraction.

Also, one must remember all battles are won and lost in the mind. Those who lose it mentally, will lose it in reality also.


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