UPSC PRELIMS STRATEGY

Prelims is the first stage of one of the most coveted exams, UPSC CSE, but being first stage does not make it the simplest, instead the most complex, subjective and uncertain examination stage. Even though you give your best and hope to clear it after your performance, nothing is confirmed until you get to see your roll number in the pdf.

A large variety of factors exist where the moment even one plays bad, all gets dumped.

Before describing our two fold approach, it is very important for all the aspirants to understand that there is no fixed, determined path to success for this exam. What might work for one, might not work for the other. So, keeping in mind the requirements explained below, devise your own way which works best for you.

The two-fold approach goes as where you divide the available time with you in two phases-

  • Phase 1: Prepping up Long before Prelims
  • Phase 2: Immediate Approach, just 2-3 months before Prelims

Phase-1

This phase includes the foundation work for the second phase and the details go as-

  • The very first step for any examination would and should be to go through the syllabus extensively and repeatedly, because if you fail to understand the syllabus of an exam, you will fail to tap the important portions and may waste your time on unnecessary stuff.

  • Start building your base with NCERTs of 9-12th for subjects like Polity, Economy, Geography, History. If you find a particular subject difficult to understand, shift backwards from 6th class or else you may first complete 9-12th itself and choose to read 6th-8th as well, depending on your wish and requirement.

  • Now, before moving forward to the standard books, pick up the previous year papers and try to solve from what you have read and learnt from NCERTs. This way you would also know how much you retain from NCERTs and what is the demand of the exam, so that when you will be reading standard books, you will get striked by the related questions and stick to the relevant details from an exam-oriented perspective.

  • Pick up the best recommended standard books for base subjects like Polity, Economy, History, Geography because the straightforward and certain questions formed in Prelims are from these subjects. These are the subjects you can count on and also have to make sure that you make the least possible mistakes here while attempting.

  • Moving onto the current affairs aspect of this exam, which has obviously proved its significance, should be read regularly, either daily, weekly or monthly especially the first-timers because those who are in the loop are already aware but the first-timers completely relying on the yearly compilation could be a risky affair. Staying regular and revising them at last is very important.

  • Read Newspapers daily. However, making notes out of them is not recommendable if you are not aware of the art of making notes. You don’t have to end up copying full articles. After giving some time to this exercise, eventually you will learn, but even if you don’t then that is not a problem because you will have content organized and compiled in the market, but reading is important because it will help develop the first layer of understanding of events and issues which is a prerequisite to all other activities to follow.

  • But the other significant part of the syllabus is still left. When you have already covered the base subjects described above, now venture into the topics like Environment, Science and Technology, Art & Culture. And don’t forget to supplement them with the previous year questions to identify the type and read on similar lines.

  • Sit with the previous year questions of CSAT and identify the areas of quantitative aptitude and logical reasoning which UPSC has started focusing upon. Make a proper time-table and try to practice those areas. If you are well-versed then you need less practice but if you are not, you should not risk it to push it towards the end, when prelims will be approaching, because then you will already have loads of things to revise and practice.

  • Limit the number of resources you use for a particular subject because at the end you have to give it multiple revisions and without revisions nothing would be consolidated enough for you to write exams and clear it. Reading n number of resources won’t add to the usefulness instead limited resources and multiple revisions.

  • Try to make notes out of any book or any subject only after giving more than 2 reads because before that you will end up copying the whole chapter or book. After multiple reads you will get the idea about the base concept and will memorize many things until then. So, after this when you will make notes, they would be crisper, concise, to the point of your need and will carry meaning with less time.

Phase-2

As mentioned in the previous article where Prelims Phase-1 strategy was discussed, this part deals with strategy required when Prelims is round the corner. Earlier you had to integrate it as a comprehensive preparation but now you need to get prelims-specific. It is instructive as the massive competition that you are up against has more than 4 lakh students actually sitting in the exam. Many of them prepare as if their life depends on it, many would be veterans taking the exam for the fifth or sixth time. Unless you treat it that way, it would be extremely difficult to have an edge over the lakhs of other applicants. Moving forward-

Previous Year Questions: a lighthouse

Before making it Prelims specific, go through the previous year questions attentively and mark out the topics specific information asked, to get the idea of nature and extent of the questions asked.

Timely Revision Cycles

Plan your revision schedule in such a manner that it has 3 revision cycles before prelims with decreasing time period of each cycle.

Right from the Basics

Start with basic subjects, like Polity, Economy, Geography which you completed a little time back and before you forget the major part, plan their individual revision schedules with weekly targets, if not daily.

Keep it balanced

To avoid monotonicity of the revision schedule, you can plan one heavy, one light subject simultaneously. Divide the time according to your suitability as this way it will be a little faster and satisfactory.

Current Affairs not an ignorable affair

Meanwhile, plan your current affairs revision as well. Pick your magazines you have already read in previous months and revise them. This way you will have a hold on what you invested your time in rather than trying to cover everything in the market.

Now or Never

After the 1st revision cycle, try attempting mocks, because if you wait for the day when all your revision would be complete, then that would never come. Instead change your approach and while analyzing your mocks, keep a section where you note the topics which went wrong because it just needs revision. This way you can also keep a tap on topics which you have to keep in mind while revising that particular subject.

Ride Slow, Be Careful

While attempting mocks, make sure to develop a habit of reading questions calmly and carefully with all instructions. Do not just see a word and jump to answers in excitement.

Eliminate illogical not illogically

Keep in mind that UPSC is not an exam about guesswork, you need to develop your own elimination techniques and way of solving papers. This comes only with practice, so make sure that you practice enough papers to develop this skill because you will never get a UPSC paper with direct questions, however hard or how much you study.

Note out the crux

In the second revision cycle , try making concise notes about the important facts, high yielding topics so that the last revision cycle which would be of 15 days could be completed in a faster with these notes and only about exam relevant topics, or else if you go line by line then that last cycle would never be complete.

Beware of over-confidence in CSAT

In this 2nd revision cycle, start revising the concepts of CSAT and solving previous year papers to get in touch with the pattern and give the brain a direction to focus on this aspect too. Also develop the strategy of attempting CSAT papers on the basis of your strengths and weaknesses while you solve previous year papers.

Optional or not ?

During this time, some of you might think about continuing with Optionals or not. So, continue with it only if you feel that your prelims preparation is on the lines you have scheduled it to be, or else there would be no use covering optionals if you somehow end up not clearing Prelims.

Mock marks- a mockery ?

The next important point comes about marks in mocks. Never think that they are indicative of your result, because no mocks can match UPSC Level and the final game is played only on the day of exam. Mocks are only indicative of your hold on the topics of respective subjects. Analyze and revise accordingly.

Quality over Quantity

The next question may be of how many mocks to give before Prelims, so honestly no amount of mocks can guarantee your result. Only if successive mocks are helping you in eliminating silly mistakes and lessening mistakes in the topics you have revised, is this exercise fruitful, otherwise all is futile. And everyone has different number of mocks to reach that level. Find yours!

Identify your safer side

Also work out your safe level of questions to attempt while practicing mocks itself because some attempt 85 and clear, some attempt 75 and still clear. No one can tell you about yours, only theirs.

The Final Countdown

Final week before exam, end your revision cycle for Prelims with Previous year questions only. Do not read anything new in this week. Do not fret about any topics you have not covered, remain calm and revise the topics which are fact-heavy and require memorization because in final days conceptual topics won’t help you create a marginal difference.

At last, remember that you don’t get what you wish for, but what you work for!

Know that it’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it, if you believe in yourself and in making your efforts (Nishkama Karma)!

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