The Civil Services Examination (CSE), conducted every year by the UPSC, is the gateway to India’s most prestigious jobs such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) etc. The Preliminary Examination (Prelims) is the first stage of the UPSC Civil Services Examination. It is an objective type examination, consisting of 2 papers – General Studies and CSAT.
The UPSC Prelims Exam is a screening test and it is mandatory to pass this exam in order to be eligible to appear for the Main Examination. Cut-throat competition in the UPSC CSE Prelims Exam means that while lakhs of aspirants appear for the exam, only around 10-12 thousand of them are able to clear it. Thus, it is essential to ensure a comprehensive UPSC Prelims Preparation to be able to smoothly clear the first hurdle in one’s IAS dream.
Strategies and Tips to Prepare for the UPSC CSE Prelims Exam
The nature and scheme of the UPSC Prelims Exam are such that cracking it requires a comprehensive preparation strategy. Major elements to be incorporated in one’s comprehensive preparation strategy to crack the UPSC Prelims are listed below under various heads:
Analyze the Syllabus Thoroughly
The first step to begin your UPSC Prelims Preparation is to read and analyze in detail the syllabus for the UPSC Prelims Exam.
The syllabus for the two papers of the UPSC Prelims Exam, as contained in the official notification, consists of a list of topics that are only indicative in nature. To be able to prepare a topic comprehensively, one needs to understand what all are to be covered under a particular topic. Thus, one needs to do a detailed analysis of the syllabus to understand the topics listed therein along with their detailed break-ups.
It is advisable for a candidate to go through this detailed discussion of the UPSC Prelims syllabus to do a comprehensive analysis of the same.
Analyze Previous Year Questions (PYQs)
After the syllabus, the Previous Year’s Questions (PYQs) of the UPSC Prelims Exam are the most important compasses to guide your UPSC Prelims Preparation. A detailed analysis of the UPSC Prelims PYQs helps in your preparation in the following ways:
- Identify the topics that have high weightage and are to be prioritized.
- Identify the recurring themes
- Understand the types of questions asked from a particular topic
- Gauge the recent trends and difficulty levels
Prepare an Effective Study Plan
Once you have gone through the syllabus and the PYQs, you need to chalk out a smart study plan to cover the entire syllabus comprehensively. Below are some of the important elements that one should incorporate in one’s study plan:
- Prepare weekly as well as monthly plans, with a list of topics to be covered.
- Keep track of your daily progress in terms of topics covered.
- Divide your daily study hours such that more hours are allocated to your weaker areas
- Ensure a fine and weighted balance between the static topics and current affairs.
Here, it is important to mention that:
- The study plan should be realistic. Preparing an over-ambitious and non-realistic study is liable to fail and can be disastrous.
- Adopting the “Pomodoro Technique” of breaking down your study sessions into 25-minute intervals with short breaks in between helps prevent burnout and keeps your focus sharp.
Focus on Conceptual Clarity
The UPSC Prelims Exam tests one’s conceptual understanding. So, while preparing a topic, one’s focus should be to build clarity of concepts. The following tips can help you achieve this objective:
- Refer to the standard text such as NCERTs for covering a topic.
- Avoid rote learning and instead focus on understanding the topics.
- Discuss a topic with fellow aspirants to gain clarity.
- Prepare precise and synoptic notes for each topic.
Special Strategy for Current Affairs
It is a well-established fact that the UPSC Prelims Examination is current affairs driven. Thus, UPSC Prelims Preparation demands significant attention to current affairs. Following are some tips to master this section of your UPSC Prelims Preparation:
- Be regular with a good newspaper. A smart alternative to this could be to follow a monthly current affairs magazine such as NEXT IAS Current Affairs Magazine.
- Categorize the news into different categories such as Government Schemes, Places in News, Acts and policies, etc. Prepare concise notes on a news and place them under their respective categories.
- If a piece of news is related to a syllabus topic, place the notes on that news along with notes on the related topic. This will help you in better understanding and retention.
Don’t Neglect the CSAT Paper
Many aspirants tend to ignore CSAT preparation as it is just a qualifying paper. However, with the increasing difficulty level of the CSAT paper in recent years, this negligence may turn disastrous. Thus, a candidate shouldn’t neglect the CSAT Paper.
Depending on one’s confidence level, one could adopt either of the following two strategies for the CSAT Paper:
- If one is well-versed in the CSAT syllabus, one could just restrict oneself to practicing the previous year’s CSAT papers to keep a touch with.
- If one is not so well versed in the CSAT syllabus, one is advised to join a good CSAT course, such as the NEXT IAS CSAT Course.
Revision is the Key
The syllabus for the UPSC Prelims Exam is huge. This means that as one goes on covering new topics, a grasp of the already covered topics keeps getting faint. Thus, it is pertinent that one factors in revisions too within one’s study schedule. The following tips can help one do this:
- Prepare concise notes on each topic so as to do a quick revision.
- A significant portion of the study hours should be devoted to revision.
- Prepare your study plan such that the last 15-20 days are devoted only to revision
Practice Mock Tests
Solving a sufficient number of questions on each topic is necessary to perfect your preparation for the UPSC Prelims Exam. This helps one in the following ways:
- Spot one’s weak and strong areas and modify one’s study plan accordingly.
- Develop exam temperament.
- Improve speed and accuracy
- Improve time management
- Learn to attempt questions strategically so as to maximize total marks
The best way to incorporate this element into your UPSC Prelims preparation is to join a good Prelims Test Series such as the NEXT IAS Prelims Test Series.
- Join a good Study Group and discuss concepts with peers. This will help you enhance your understanding of a topic and clear doubts therein.
- Along with one’s study, one must pay attention to maintaining physical and mental well-being. Eat healthy and get enough rest.
- Believe in yourself and stay positive. Keep reminding yourself that the reward coming after the challenging journey is worth it.
- There is no one-size-fits-all approach to crack the UPSC Prelims Exam. So, tailor the strategy to your individual strengths and weaknesses.
The D-Day Tips
Even after sufficient preparation, pressure does build up on the day of the examination. In order to perform well in the exam, it is very essential to handle this pressure effectively. Here are some tips to do the same:
- Keep reminding yourself that it is not just you but all are having butterflies in the stomach.
- Keep reminding yourself that you have studied well and deserve to crack the exam.
- Keep yourself hydrated and breathe deep to stay relaxed.
Cracking the UPSC Prelims Exam demands not just working hard but also working smartly and strategically. These strategies, if implemented judiciously, will help one improve one’s preparation, and instill confidence to clear the UPSC Prelims Exam smoothly.
We wish you all the best for your UPSC Prelims Exam!