UPSC CSE Prelims has become the most uncertain exam of all three stages. The main reason is the vast and broad syllabus and the lack of time to bounce back if you made a mistake. You have just 2 hours to prove that you can crack the Prelims and there is little time to correct any mistake, unlike in Mains. Now, uncertainty exists in Prelims and aspirants MUST factor this when you enter the exam hall. I will be sharing the methods to tackle this uncertainty of Prelims, and it will be differentiated into two parts.
- How to tackle Prelims psychologically- On the day of the exam, more than anything you must be alert, confident and mentally strong. Accept that in this exam UPSC is going to ask a few bouncers and just like before, the exam is going to be uncertain. This acceptance of reality will ease your mind and help you think straight. The questions are asked to pull you off your track and are purposefully designed to test your confidence. Even if you feel that you are making mistakes, don’t fret. I assure you, once you calmly analyse the question, you will be able to crack it. Take one question at a time, give it enough time (but not more than what’s required) to crack it and move on to the next question. Do remember that if the exam is challenging for you, it will be tough for everyone. Do not let the confidence go away and your presence of mind is the number one weapon you have inside the Prelims exam hall.
Now, you might be tempted to attend all 100 questions. This is where your mind plays the next trap. It would help if you attempted accordingly to the situation and your comfort zone. In the weekly tests that Officers’ IAS Academy gives to our students, we ask them to find their comfort zone in the number of questions answering. Some students get better results with answering just 75 questions, while others take it to even 100. It varies from person to person. We try to design our weekly tests as close to UPSC standard as possible so that our students can replicate the same and confidently attempt the Prelims.
- How to tackle Prelims in the last stage of your preparation- First and foremost, read nothing new now. This time has to be utilised only for revision. Sharpen your knowledge by revising your basic textbooks, attempting maximum questions from test series and previous years’ UPSC questions. Subject wise Analysis of Previous Years’ Papers (2015-2019) is available here. Also, make sure that you are thorough with the basics. Many of the Prelims questions can be easily managed if your basics are strong. Hence, give importance to revising the NCERT’s and taking NCERT related tests here. Focus on topics that have been consistently asked. I have written a separate article on topics that are consistently asked for Prelims. Make sure that you are able enough to answer questions from these specific topics of each subject. And, some subjects have more considerable weightage than the others. So make sure that you are good in these subjects and the more you are an expert in these subjects, more are the chances of you clearing. For example, Environment alone constitutes about one-fifth of the total number of questions.
Along with this, subjects like Modern India, Economy, and Polity are subjects that have more considerable weightage. This improves your chances of clearing the Prelims. Make sure that you have finished the static portions by now. All the static parts should be covered in the initial phase of the preparation so that the sheer enormity of the static portions will not trouble you in the end. Also, if you are well versed in the static areas, the uncertainty fact for Prelims comes down as you are more confident now and can attempt the tough questions in the Prelims exam due to the vast knowledge you possess.
Make sure that you have read the Current Affairs part as many times possible. Since most of the Prelims questions are tied to current affairs, it becomes essential. Again, since current affairs are vast, you should stick to any one current affairs magazine, say OFFICERS’ PULSE and continue revising it. More you are proficient in current affairs; more you become an expert in Prelims.
Prelims is indeed the exam with the most uncertainty; the exam has been designed purposefully like that to test the candidate’s presence of mind. Once you come out of the hall and see the question paper again, you can understand that the questions asked are very simple and your “presence of mind” along with the knowledge could solve it. It’s the stress that is making you go wrong. Understanding this, we have created a special “Sharpshooter Class” specifically for Prelims to increase the success and has been extremely rewarding. I request every aspirant out there to use every bit of knowledge and resources I have shared. The Prelims exam is near, and I wish everyone the very best for their exam!