Every year, lakhs of students attempt the UPSC Civil Services Examination but only a handful find their names in the merit list. Correctly dubbed as one of the most competitive exams in the world, it tests a person on parameters of not only academic rigor but also determination, mental steadfastness, and perseverance.
On average, successful candidates take three to four attempts to clear the exam, but if done correctly, the UPSC CSE is very much manageable in the first go.
Here is a list of a few things which every serious aspirant should follow to ensure that they can clear the exam in the first attempt itself:
Start preparing at the earliest
Many candidates start preparation for the exam right in the first year of their college degree. This allows the students to use the formative years to develop a holistic perspective for the exam and train their minds for the rigor of it. At the same time, there is a catena of examples of candidates who started late, often leaving well-paying jobs, and have successfully pursued the exam.
Find the correct mentor
UPSC is often considered a maze where it is easy to get lost. Having clear guidance can help aspirants tackle some of the major issues regularly affecting candidates from mentors who have already been a part of the process. While you will have to do all the heavy lifting, correct guidance and mentorship are important to make the journey a more enjoyable one.
Make a clear plan
The absence of a clear strategy will inevitably mean that candidates get lost in the heap of the syllabus where they are constantly jumping from one subject to another. It will only lead to confusion and distraction without any consolidated work being done. Having a clear-cut plan with a precise timeline will ensure that the syllabus remains under control. It also ensures mental peace where all the focus and energy can be channelized only into the task at hand without worrying about other things.
Keep limited study material
It is easy to get drowned in the bulge of study material. The desire of achieving perfection can send a candidate into an endless loop of trying to read all material. Hence, it is important to finalize your sources, stick to them and keep on revising them again and again. It is often seen that candidates get starry eyes towards new material and end up discarding the one in hand. It only leads to confusion and distraction. Remember, no material can guarantee exhaustive coverage because that is the nature of the exam. Just stick to one and do as much humanely as possible.
Regular revision is the key
Candidates often end up covering various amounts of syllabus but tend to forget it after some time. Such a study is as good as a study not done. A simple thumb rule can be to revise whatever you have studied during the week over the weekend, and similarly for every fortnight and month. Revision also allows making better connections and interlinkages with different parts of the subject or even between the subjects for a more holistic understanding. This is important, especially for Mains answer writing where different dimensions of the same theme have to be explored.
Keep testing yourself
For all three stages of the paper, it is important to regularly test yourself on objective parameters. This not only allows necessary course correction but also serves as an important source of motivation to perform better. For prelims, the focus should be on writing at least one test every week, which should be scaled up to two or three closer to the exam. For mains, begin by writing one answer each day and slowly scale up while focussing on time, dimensions, and variability.
Stay motivated and healthy
Motivation and mental strength are the often-ignored aspects of the preparation. Since the journey is tiresomely long and exhausting, it is easy and natural to feel demotivated at times. Having a strong ‘why’ factor or in other words, having clarity on the purpose of taking this pilgrimage helps a person spring back during such times. Similarly, it is important to ensure small breaks for yoga, meditation or light exercise to give enough rest to the brain and body. This not only ensures mental well-being but also constantly provides the fuel for the journey.
Enjoy the journey
The entire process of the UPSC CSE teaches a candidate a lot about his/her character and chisels his/her personality for the better. It is not only intellectually stimulating but also personally rewarding – the benefits of which will accrue for the remainder of life in one way or the other. Always, remember the competition is with no one else but with yourself. The aim is to become a better person than you were yesterday.