Ms. SHANMUGAPRIYA IAS
· Think every stage in UPSC civil services exam as your immediate goal. Do not think of Mains preparation when you haven’t yet written your Prelims. Do not think of Interview preparation when you haven’t yet written your Mains. Take one step at a time and do it with full concentration.
· An objective-type question examination is never tough, as long as we are clear in our concepts and basics of various subjects, because both the question and answer are provided to us, we only have to choose the right answer. However, it is not so in Mains. Only the question is given. We have to find the answer, frame it in sentences within the prescribed word limits and write it fast in order to complete the paper on time.
· For prelims, speed tests are very important. Try to finish answering (finding answer and shading the OMR) within 3/4th of the allowed time. Since there is negative marking for prelims, it is important not to touch areas you are fully ignorant about.
· Read the question carefully (usually they ask- which is not false, and we forget to see the word NOT). Elimination strategy and logic can help answer a difficult question. For many questions on general mental ability (GMA), answers can be found by seeing the choices itself, instead of solving the full problem. GMA can be a success-determining factor because nearly 15-20 questions will be asked; we can also be sure of our answer at exam hall itself and that improves your spirits for ensuing questions.
· It is worthwhile watching TV news for a selected time period everyday (NDTV, TIMES NOW, HEADLINES TODAY). During preparation for mains and interview, I resorted to listening News on AIR FM Gold and then watch news on some main issues alone.
· The radio channel airs world news at 8.30 p.m. in English, India news at 8.45 p.m. in Hindi and 9.00 p.m. in English. Following that is a news analysis where experts discuss burning topics. After that there are day-specific news items and talk shows for half an hour, both in Hindi and English.
· Newspapers- I suggest Hindu and Times of India and One regional news paper would give extra coverage. Take notes of issues and events separately. Keep cuttings of center-page articles by eminent personalities for future reference.
· Magazines – civil services chronicle, competition wizard, civil service times, competition success review
· Adequate rest is essential for active learning. I never compromised on my sleep time except 2-3 days before exam. I sleep for a minimum of 8 hours everyday.
· Everyday I studied for at least 6 hours. We have to learn something new each day and add it to our knowledge treasury (brain). The quality of study is more important than how long we study. Breaks of 15-20 minutes for every 2 hours of intense study can help relax the mind.
· For mains, it is important to write model tests. It helps improve speed, accuracy, presentation, word limit precision and confidence. I wrote model tests in G.S. and Tamil. Unfortunately, I could not write a single model test for Mains-Botany as I was too much engrossed in studying, but somehow managed to write satisfactorily.
· Giving answer in points is advisable for questions like – list out the advantages, what were the effects, causes, etc. Try to give subheadings to all questions except the 2 mark questions. Write legibly. Do not overwrite. Think a minute before writing so that you avoid repetition of facts that might irritate the evaluating person.
· In prelim and main exam, we have a lot of time to think the answer, frame it suitably and present it neatly. In an interview this is not possible. The answers have to fired immediately. So to have an edge over other candidates, we must form opinions on important subjects, burning topics.
· Discuss a lot and come to conclusions that could be substantiated with reasons. A simple yes or no will not be sufficient to impress the interview panel. Enter into arguments with friends on issues by taking opposite sides. No one can conduct a better stress interview than our friends.
· Think at least two seconds before answering a question. The panel will be very cordial and would wait for up to five to ten seconds for your answer, provided the wait is worthy. · Otherwise it might reflect in their next question. Please do not take wild guesses immediately. Ask their permission to guess or inform them that you are not sure about that answer.
· It is not necessary to answer every question they ask correctly. There would be one question that would determine whether you enter into service or not. Grab that question and answer honestly. If you have no knowledge in some field, accepting ignorance is a welcome move.
· India Year book of the year you are writing preliminary exam.
HOW TO READ EFFECTIVELY
Students are often at a loss when faced with the extensive syllabus of Mains exam. One should be objective and try to focus on about 70% of the syllabus instead of being over ambitious and trying to cover the whole syllabus. The next thing to be kept in mind is the choice of study material. It is a wise option to just refer to few standard books to get an deep understanding of the subject. Reading from too many books will do more harm than good.
Lastly it is good to be selective while preparing for a given topic, to list out all the important points and the relevant information in a logical framework. It is important to remember that studying for the exam involves Purposeful reading which is basically reading with a certain focus on the given topic and preparing for the possible questions accordingly. Before starting on any topic, it is a wise move to go through the questions asked in the past about the given topic and jot down the probable questions for the current year. It gives an idea to the king of material one needs to study to be able to answer such questions effectively. After this mentally analyse all that you have read and try to logically link all the points and see if you have understood everything.Such a kind of periodical revision will help in the long run as it will ensure that it increases your understanding, improves and enhances your memory, and makes you more confident so that you give your best performance.
How to prepare for prelims detailed:
The civil services examination is basically a test to choose suitable administrators. It tests the candidate right from the stage when one starts the preparation. One common misconception about the prelims is that it is a test of facts and figures. This is not so. A candidate should have the right frame of mind and the will power to succeed in the exam. A proper action plan is needed for the preparation itself since he /she will be tested for some essential qualities like power of retention, clarity of concepts, ability to identify the correct alternatives with efficiency and accuracy. All this requires a quick decision making power. Since the preliminary exam in particular is a test of endurance the candidate needs to prepare himself on the physical as well as mental level. The main constraint is the time one gets to answer questions. On an average one gets around 40 seconds for each general Studies question. Added to this time constraint is the fact that the exam is conducted in the month of June which is usually the hottest month all over the country. Most of the centres for the exam do not have proper facilities which adds to the stress. One sure way of dealing with this stress is to count numbers or to take a few deep breaths. Meditation and Yoga also help in dealing with stress to a great extent.
Now we come to the actual preparation for the prelims exam. Since it is amultiple choice question paper, it needs a different preparation and a proper strategy. The first thing a candidate needs to bear in mind is that the examination is designed to evaluate certain qualities like a sharp memory and basic retention power. There are ways to increase one's memory like preparing charts. One gets confused when faced with mind boggling facts and figures. Important facts and figures can be simplified and represented on charts and they can arranged in the form of tables or graphs. Another thing to remember is to make short and brief notes on each topic so that the entire syllabus can be revised a day before the exam. It is better to use diagrams and link words which make it easier to understand difficult concepts. One more technique to help in retaining information is the use of abbreviations. Since the syllabus involves exhaustive information abbreviations help you to remember it better. It is a good method to remember dates, facts and figures in a picture format and to break up complex names and places into smaller and simpler words. The last and the most important technique is doing regular revision. This helps in retaining the maximum information. A separate time slot should be given to doing not only regular but multiple revisions like daily, weekly, monthly etc.
Many candidates make a mistake of overloading themselves with lots of information and end up remembering nothing. One should be able to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information. Since the preliminary exam is an elimination round the candidate should also learn to focus only on the information needed and filter out the rest. It helps to discuss with friends and teachers but the most reliable way is to past years question papers for the optional subject whereas for the general studies paper, one should keep abreast with current events and information related to them.
An important thing to remember is that for this exam it is just enough to remember information but to understand the concepts well instead of memorizing facts and figures. The questions asked in the General Studies paper are of 10+2 level. Therefore emphasis has to be on conceptual clarity. Any concept has to be understood with its origin, merits and de-merits, then it needs to be analysed with other relevant topics and lastly it has to be correlated with the events that have taken place during the year.
The preliminary exam requires candidates who have the acumen and the ability to choose the right option of many given options. This needs a proper method of elimination. It is a good idea to go through previous years and model question papers and solve as many as possible. Taking a mock test of a certain number of G.S. questions would be a good practice and help to pick out the most appropriate option.
Each prelims paper is for two hours but a lot of time is wasted in signing attendance sheets etc, therefore there is a lot of need for effective Time Management not only for the exam but in the preparation as well. It is not enough to know the right answer but it has to be marked correctly on the answer sheet. Speed and Accuracy are important, so solving model question papers on a regular basis would be a great help.
A good presence of mind is needed to eliminate the least appropriate options and arrive at the right one. Tick out the least correct answer first and go on to the next option. Even when faced with a question for which you do not have a ready answer, with basic common sense and a good presence of mind, it is possible to make your guess a smart and a correct one.
Throughout the preparation for the prelims exam, it is important to remember that any topic or concept should not be studied in isolation. It is better to understand and establish a correlation between related concepts from other subjects and current events and happenings.Even with all this preparation, it is necessary to have a positive attitude and a great amount of will power to succeed to achieve your goal,that of getting through the civil services examination with flying colors!