The Prelims exam is the toughest stage to crack in the Civil Services Examination. While this has been attributed to the sheer number of eliminations, lately, the absolute uncertainty in the nature of questions asked in Prelims has also caused even dedicated aspirants to miss their chance to write the Mains exam. Hence, an aspirant must never underestimate the Prelims exam, and they must give due credit to it with full vigour and effort.
I will be sharing a detailed explanation of how you must proceed to clear your Prelims, provided you have at least 100 plus days. Kindly keep in mind that these are tips to only further your chances of clearing the Prelims.
1) Utilisation of Time: Now, the time to wrap up the Mains preparation has come, especially if this is your first attempt. You may still read short snippets of your Optional/ Mains notes once in a while, just to be in touch. It would be wise to increase the studying hours to at least 10 to 12 hours/day. In any case, the studying time should not go below 8 hours, and at the same time, you should not overwork into exhausting yourself. Take enough rest and utilise every moment to the fullest.
2) Revision: At this point, rather than studying something new, try to revise as much as you can. This ensures that what you have learnt stays with you when you attempt the Prelims, and you are going to need conceptual clarity when you answer the Prelims questions. This clarity comes only when you read the relevant chapters/textbooks umpteen times.
3) Test Yourself: If you have not started taking tests, do not postpone it anymore. What you have learnt has to be applied in the mocks before you face the actual battle. Variables like time, stress, knowledge recollection play a huge rule in clearing the Prelims as you will get only 2 hours for each paper to prove yourself. Attempt mock tests so that you can manage these variables and also improve your knowledge. For example, in the Prelims Test Series offered at Officers’ IAS Academy, not only do we give qualitative questions, but we also analyse what the student’s strengths/weaknesses are using our test software.
4) Focussing on your Strong Areas: The general tendency shown by the aspirants is to cover every GS subject in the last few remaining days. This is something tricky to achieve, as CSE Prelims has a gigantic syllabus. Hence, the thinning of time happens if the aspirant tries to cover every topic. In the final stage of preparation, an aspirant should try to sharpen his/her strong areas further while trying to finish important topics of their weak areas. This would ensure that you get maximum marks out of your strong areas and at the same time have a grasp on the topics that you are weak in. Please remember that this is applicable in a scenario where you have fewer days to the exam and not at the start of your preparation.
Also, there are areas in each subject that are being religiously asked every year. I have written a detailed article on it, and I request you to read that article end to end as it will help you focus on topics that have a high probability of being asked. Click here to read the aforementioned article.
5) Previous Years’ Papers: Studying history allows us to learn from the past and improve ourselves. The same logic applies in any exam as well. Every aspirant has to go through previous years’ Prelims Papers to understand how you would fare in it and what possible mistakes you would make in the future. These question papers will also train your mind to tackle similar questions when asked.
6) Current Affairs: Give enough readings and revise until you are comfortable with it. Aspirants are advised not to search for a secondary current affairs source, especially if you are a beginner. You are requested to continue revising your already familiar current affairs material and give as many readings as possible as most of the Prelims questions fully or partially have a current affairs relation.
7) The CSAT: Start taking CSAT mock papers to analyse where you stand. If you are comfortable with CSAT, then you may allocate more time for your GS accordingly. Else, it would be best if you give enough time to CSAT as it can take away your chance of clearing Prelims.
In all my experience with my students, I have always noticed that the key ingredient when it comes to clearing the Prelims is the Presence of Mind. Do remember that UPSC purposefully keeps questions that are very tough, just to shatter your confidence. Continue believing in yourself and keep pushing your limits—more than anything else, your confidence and keep working hard. I wish you all the best for the upcoming Prelims Exam!