“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”- Lao Tzu. This Chinese proverb is one of my favourites. No matter what the journey is, comfortable or harsh, it all starts with a single determination to take the first step and keep going. The journey to crack the Civil Services Exam is the same. Taking the first step and making the initial steps right, make your victory inevitable.
Now, what could be the difference between taking a step and making a step right? The nature of the CSE exam will give you the answer. There are a few things that you have to do correctly to make sure that you go in the right path. You as an aspirant starting to study is the first step, whereas how effectively you learn is making your step right. I will now begin with what you should follow in the initial phase of your preparation. Please note that the steps are to be followed, not chronologically but together.
- Controlling your mind- To travel a thousand miles, your mind has to be strong. The early 20s in any one’s timeline is a very confusing and dynamic one. Train your mind to be confident, supportive and resilient. When the rush of information and countless working hours come in, the first thing you need is to prepare your mind to take the hit. Without a calm and composed mental state, any aspirant will start to fall out after some time, even the ones with potential. This has been one of the reasons why we have a psychologist who specializes in prepping students for the exam, at Officers’ IAS Academy.
- The Basics- There is a tendency amongst aspirants to finish everything fast and go for the “advanced” books. This should never be practised as the basics are everything you need to crack this exam. Everything else is secondary. And to get your basics right, there is just one thing you have to do: NCERTs- Read – Revise – Repeat. Do it till you are confident that you can answer anything that is asked from it. Anything advanced will be effortless once you are finished with your NCERTs. UPSC asks questions based on your understanding of the basics and your ability to analyze a statement with respect to that of the basics.
- Current Affairs- There might have been a time when you grudgingly read the Hindu newspaper when your parents asked you to do it. Well, now is the time to rethink that and focus on reading the newspaper with passion. Start reading the Hindu from day 1, continue reading it on rainy, sunny, exam days and if possible, even after you clear the exam. Reading newspapers makes you smart and informed. While some say that a current affairs magazine is all it takes for current affairs, I beg to differ. While it is true that any good current affairs magazine like Officers’ PULSE is needed for your preparation, you should never skip the newspaper. Reading the newspaper offers you an insight into multiple dimensions of various problems which helps you articulate answers in the Mains and Interview of the Exam.
- The Syllabus- Aspirants tend not to read the syllabus while they prepare. Because no one has read the exam syllabus in their college days, they tend to do the same. Just like in college, aspirants tend to study essential textbooks cover to cover. While the UPSC CSE Prelims syllabus is a bit broad, rather than learning everything under it, study what has been more important according to the latest exam trends. Reading every book will never allow you to finish the syllabus. Instead, take the syllabus and mark the essential areas and finish those first. For Mains, you have an exact syllabus. Again, when you start preparing, make sure that you are studying according to the syllabus.
- Previous Years’ Papers- Get to know your opponent before you go into the fight. Make it a habit to read the previous years’ papers when you start preparing. This will orient your studies into what the examination demands. After going through the papers (both Prelims and Mains), your eyes will automatically track the information needed and filter out the rest. This helps immensely as you save a lot of time in your preparation.
- Choose your Optional wisely- Kindly do not select an optional based on the topper’s mark nor based on what others take. Pick one that interests you. Since the optional has to be chosen in the initial stage to accommodate enough time for the preparation, an aspirant must choose one confidently and logically. After going through the orientation class for each optional, students at Officers’ IAS Academy makes sure that they have taken the right choice and start preparing with confidence.
Hardships are bound to happen in any long journey. While some uncertainties and mishaps happen in any serious aspirant’s journey, it also makes them battle-hardened. The initial steps that you take should be the right ones as well, or else you may lose months of your preparation before you realize the mistake you made. To make sure that the aspirants never go off track, we have started a mentoring program where experienced faculties consistently and periodically interact with the aspirants to understand their progress and give them tips and tricks to stay on track. Once again, my dear aspirants, I request you all to start your journey by taking the right steps, and I wish you all the very best in your preparation!