Solutions to issues faced by UPSC Exam aspirants:
Our previous article discussed the issues with IAS coaching and problems faced by aspirants. In this article, let us find smart solutions to the problems.
1: Strategy & schedule for syllabus coverage:
For better coverage, find overlapping syllabus of mains and prelims syllabus and study in an integrated manner
| Start Preparation a Year Before
||From Previous Year August to January
||Prepare for both Prelims and Mains
||February to May
||Focus only on Prelims
||Immediately after Prelims Exam
||Start Answer Writing Practice for Mains and revise
- The preliminary exam is held between the month of June or July, hence candidates should prepare for both prelims and mains exam till the month of January.
This stage includes comprehensive reading of subjects, making notes & mind maps and developing factual information charts side by side. Current affairs reading, analysis, retention and timely revisions are a must in this period.
- From February to May, it is advised to focus only on prelims.
This stage includes preparing for concepts, factual information, questions on current affairs/general awareness and CSAT paper practice.
- Immediately after prelims, it is recommended to start for revision of Mains Exam with answer writing practice.
Aspirants should also keep in mind that there is no perfect study plan, they have to make sure is that they plan for the right one suiting their speed, grasping power over the subject and style.
- Make notes/charts/mind-maps after a comprehensive reading:
Comprehensive first reading is the key to understand concepts, analyze them in all aspects (e.g., political, historical, cultural, geographical, current, educational, Govt. schemes etc).
Once thorough reading is done, start making notes of what has been studied, make charts to memorize better, summarize to form an organized synopsis of the entire chapter. Also, note down the factual information (like name, year, mentions, recognitions etc.,) this would be useful for prelims and factual questions of mains.
Create mind-maps for better memorizing and linking of theory, concepts, current event relevance & analysis of every chapter.
- Mock Answer Writing Practice
UPSC Mains exam is descriptive, subjective and analytical type. 150-300 words answer is to be written for each question. One must take up mock answer writing practice for Mains, which can be achieved through:
- Taking regular tests along with preparing appropriate notes.
- Studying previous year question papers and practicing to write those questions.
- Getting solved answers checked from experts.
- Developing a habit of writing point wise, classified answers.
- While making notes for current affairs, writing around 150-300 words for each topic gives good answer writing practice.
4. Studying, Retaining and Revising Current affairs:
Current affairs are very important in prelims as well as mains. Apart from the static & direct questions, current affairs are important as in mains questions on topics related to current events.
a) Limit your sources:
A fundamental problem with Current affairs is the humongous amount of reading material available online & offline.
Running after too much material is counter-productive. Choose quality over quantity.
Good Current Affair sources:
- The Hindu (One English Daily)
- Daily compilation from Institute or internet.
- One monthly compilation
- All India Radio- important discussions
- PIB of India
Aspirant should not spend more time researching the “best website” and the ‘best coaching material’ website for current affairs and invest less time actually reading it. Avoid making compilations from tons of material available in the market. Research for a day, decide on sources, and then stick with it. That should suffice.
- Rule 2 : Limiting time
The importance of newspapers shouldn’t be overplayed. Some of us read newspapers for almost 2-3 hours a day, leaving them with no time to read other subjects.
Current affairs are important, newspapers are important, but not so much that one invests disproportionate amount of time in it. In my experience, ideally one must should finish reading day’s current affairs in under 90 minutes.
Ideally current affairs preparation should consist of-
- Newspaper reading (30-45 min) on a daily basis
- Online reading of the daily news compilation everyday (45 min) on a daily basis.
- A revision of last week’s issues, catching up on All India Radio (selectively), and internet research on selective issues on weekends
- Referring to a monthly compilation at the end of the month.
- Rule 3 : Focusing on important issues, not news
News talks about an incident. Issues focus on ideas. Let me give you a couple of examples.
e.g., Abrogation of article 370 and 35A is news. But the larger issue is about what is the history of the state, what does the article include, what is changed after it is abrogated, bilateral relations between India and Pakistan.
So to understand any current issue, follow the following framework:
- Reason— Why is it in the news? (This is usually reported in the newspapers)
- Background Knowledge— (Data, facts, authentic reports etc.)
- Current Status— What has the government done or not done so far?
- Both sides of the issue— Pros and Cons/ Opportunities and challenges
- Opinion/ Suggestions — What we must do about it?
Many a time, coaching material covers issues comprehensively. If it doesn’t, use the internet to find quality content and make online notes so that you have complete understanding of each issue.
- Rule 4: Making notes:
Make notes from different sources and compilations from internet. But one should not skip reading newspaper.
- Reading newspaper gives a good summary of what’s happening, and it becomes that much easier to read the daily compilation later. Since it read is twice, one tends to retain it longer.
- Presumably, examiner will set current affairs questions from the newspapers. So recurring issues in newspapers will tell us how weighty an issue is and what we must focus on.
- Analogy and examples for essay, ethics and interview can be derived only from reading the newspaper.
- Consistent reading of an English daily subconsciously improves vocabulary and writing.
- Rule 5: Read. Revise. Execute.
Current affairs is a dynamic topic that keeps piling up by the day. The best way to retain the content is through constant revision and by using their references them in the answers you write during daily practice or test series.
If you are preparing for a GS-3 mock test, right after you finish the static part, revise that relevant current affairs segment. This will help you subconsciously link the static and the current and helps you write a good answer when you take the test.
5) Prepare and practice essays topic-wise:
The Essay Paper in the IAS Mains Exam consists of two sections A and B with four topics in each of 125 marks and a total of 250 (125×2) marks.
Usually, one section has topics based on ‘philosophy, society, famous quotes, and abstract topics’ while the topics in other section would be of ‘administration related’.
Candidates have to choose a topic from each section and write about the topic in 1,000 to 2,000 words within the given time of three hours.
Some tips on Essay Writing:
- Choose the topic wisely.
- Think about the topic for 10 minutes and make a rough skeleton on a rough page behind paper.
- Use apt quotes, examples, analogies to suit the narrative or topic.
- Mention the Govt. schemes & efforts related to topics.
- Don’t be provocative.
- Provide suggestions for reforms
- Conclude on an optimistic note
6. Identify & Enroll into a good coaching center:
A good coaching institute is pivotal for:
a) Detailed guidance about structure, pattern & syllabus
b) Personalized coaching according to students’ capabilities & aptitude
c) Competitive advantage
d) Tips & Techniques according to pattern & trends
e) Continuous guidance
7. Maintain Right amount of entertainment & socializing and physical activity:
As the famous adage goes, “All work and no play makes Aspirant a dull boy”
Aspirants need to maintain a balance between social life and studies. Completely cutting off from socializing and entertainments leads to stress and also takes away the opportunity of connecting to the real world which is the best source of information and perspectives.
Exercises for physical fitness also help freshen the mind and nourish the brain with fresh oxygen. One needs to be active, play a sport, exercise regularly and have a good simple nourishing diet to couple up with.
8. Develop Techniques to increase memory, concentration & grasping:
Aspirants should do breathing exercises (Pranayama) help in over- all health as they are known to improve concentration, grasping as well memory. One should do mental exercises like pegging and mnemonics which helps in memorizing better. Making linked mind maps helps to grasp better and should be regularly developed for all topics.
- Know why you want to become an IAS officer
Before starting the UPSC preparation, UPSC aspirants should ask themselves what is it exactly and why they want to become an IAS officer. Find out a holistic answer for this, like what is the objective and vision. This helps aspirants stay on track even in times of are stress.
- Visualize the goals
Becoming an IAS officer is not an easy task. The UPSC aspirants have to burn the midnight oil to achieve the goal. Aspirants should write their goals, the reasons behind it and paste in on room wall. Read the same several times before falling asleep at night, and upon waking up in the morning. Whenever they feel drowsy and distracted from goals, visualizing goal for some minutes helps one get back on track.
- Work Hard & smart:
The prestigious post of IAS can be achieved only through continuous hard but smart work. One cannot study everything under the Sun. Especially when the syllabus is so vast, one has to strategize smartly and work hard in learning, grasping & memorizing the syllabus. Create linkages of concept, analysis and current affairs for every topic, learn to develop an all-round perspective for every topic and make mind maps to memorize better.
- Have a Positive mindset:
Inherent qualities of a person varies from one person to other. But one of the important qualities is positive mindset. It helps stay focused, de-stressed and have a receptive outlook. This will help each and every aspirant to turn out to be more attentive and aware of knowledge that comes from all directions and different sources. A positive mindset is known to improve grasping and memory too.
- Willpower and discipline
Willpower implies, an enthusiastic assurance to accomplish something that you dearly wish. As an aspirant you must exercise your willpower and self-discipline to stay focused on the goal. It helps you keep various distractions away and maintain a tempo till the end. Discipline ensures that the strategic plan is implemented in the right way with dedication and the syllabus is covered in time avoiding any further stress.
The aspirant should move forward without hesitation. The way towards cracking UPSC IAS Exam is filled with obstacles and aspirants who drive forward with perseverance, succeed.
For more details and a detailed consultation for UPSC exams, contact us on: 8928458479.