The UPSC conducts civil service exams every year. Since the age limit is pretty generous (Gen: 32 yrs, OBC: 35 yrs, SC/ST: 37 yrs) there are several cases where even working individuals or people who already have a job has applied for the IAS exams.
Time management for studying and taking care of health simultaneously while working a 9 hour job is the greatest difficulty faced by the working examinees. This article, specially devised for working individuals, divides the syllabus into manageable bits and creates an effective study plan
For those with less preparation time
It is usually recommended for examinees to spare 14 months time for preparation of the civil service exams. Considering that you have less time and still want to crack the exam, you may follow the following Routine:
Time not fit for studying → 9 hours office, 1-hour traveling, 1 hour for washing and eating, 8 hours for sleep. This makes a total of 19 hours.
Time to study → 24 hours – 19 hours = 5 hours
Following this timetable, you get 5*6 = 30 hours a week for studying and you can add 10-12 hours during Sunday depending on your capacity and dedication. Keeping this in mind, an examinee will get 40-42 hours of study time during a week. This amount of time is quite suitable for cracking the exam if followed religiously.
Now, this timetable is for people who are trying to crack the exam in half the time i.e. 6-7 months. It is obvious that if you have more weeks at hand then you can reduce the number of hours put in each week. Regularity is the key here.
For those with proper preparation time
Even those examinees who have more time at hand try to put in at least 4 hours each day, if not 5. The rest of the schedule is more or less same as the previously mentioned schedule for people with less time. You may reduce the 10 hours during Sunday to a generous 7 hours if you have ample weeks at hand. More time should not lead to slowing of pace, it simply means that you have more time to revise which is of extreme importance.
1.General study plan
Divide the 4 or 5 hours you decide to devote each day into shifts and assign some important bits of the syllabus to each bit. If you cannot study 4 or 5 hours at a stretch, you may wake up early and study half the time and put in the rest of the time later in the day. Since, the gap between prelims and mains is only 120 days we need to take an integrated approach towards the entire syllabus.
2. First Shift
Put in 2 hours for this shift. During this shift focus mainly on the NCERT and Standard books that are prescribed. Do not try to study two books simultaneously. Always finish one before starting another. Then comes the important question of what to study first. There will always be a long list of books but there are a few important ones that cover a greater part of the syllabus.
While NCERT books up to class X will be helpful for the prelims, for the mains, concentration should be shifted to class XI & XII books.
3. Second Shift
This shift too needs 2 hours. Since the first shift was mainly prelims dedicated, this shift will be mains dedicated but will also cover parts of the prelims syllabus. Dedicate this second shift to the reading of newspapers (E.g. the Hindu or The Indian Express) and taking notes.
These notes will help in both the mains and the prelims. Rather than reading books on current affairs, reading newspapers makes our knowledge vaster. We have an overall understanding of the political and economical situation of the country and this not only helps with the direct questions but also the reasoning questions of mains and the CSATs.
If you are done with the newspaper work early, then you may begin with the other parts of the mains syllabus during this time.
4. Third Shift
This shift will only require one hour of your time and should be dedicated to your choice of optional subjects. If you are unable to put in 5 hours a day alongside working then you need to manage some time throughout the day to study it anyway. You may put in some time during your office breaks or bite into the time of shift 1 & 2 maybe taking 15 minutes from each to assign at least 45 minutes for studying the optional subject.
5. Sunday shift
This is the most important day to learn and revise. If you have fewer weeks at hand, put in at least 10-12 hours. However, if you have the 14 months study time then 6-7 hours is enough as well. Considering you have less time at hand, put in at least 2 hours for revision and then 5 hours for GS preparations. Then you must practice writing answers too. You may reduce the time assigned to each if you have more weeks at hand but you must do everything mentioned.
Since Sunday preparations will mainly focus on mains, it is important to know how mains questions are different from prelims questions and prepare writing answers accordingly. Prelims will go mainly for direct questions (E.g. What are the features of the ‘make in India’ scheme) but mains have more analytical questions (E.g. Why do you think the ‘make in India’ scheme failed?)
6. Mains prep time-table
If you do not have a lot of time at hand then you may assign the following amount of time to your preparations:
- a) Put in 2 months for World History, Ethics and Geography
- b) Put in 1 month for IR, Society and Disaster Management
- c) Put in half a month Security and Science Technology
- d) Put in half a month for education, society and health.
Follow this time-table in correspondence with the shift division mentioned earlier. If you have more preparation time at hand, add one or half a month to the time mentioned in this time table.
Apart, from all these try to solve around 30 mock tests of the test series. For prelims, optional subject and essay type questions refer to the last 20 years question papers. For mains, refer to the last 10 years paper. Remember to keep all the standard and prescribed books handy.
7. Mistakes to be avoided by working individuals
- Cover range and not depth: Learning and clearing an exam are two different things. Try to cover range and not depth of whatever you study. Reading one topic in earnest will only waste your time, since the syllabus requires a wide array of knowledge in numerous fields so covering a greater range is of greater importance.
- Reading without a routine should be avoided: It is a vast syllabus and your brain maybe thrown off balance. Do not study while moving or working, you need to study with 100% attention to make efficient use of your precious time. Always stick to your routine.
- Do not compromise sleep: Compromising sleep will only reduce your efficiency and performance. Especially, if you have the habit of sleeping 8-9 hours, then not sleeping enough will retard your body functions and your brain will not work to its maximum usable capacity. If you are used to sleeping less, try to maintain the regular hours of sleep you need and don’t reduce it further.
- Use the internet for help and not distraction: The Smartphone is a great help in our day and age. We can access the internet easily and on the go. It is essential that you use your Smartphone for all the help you need however, it is also a great means of distraction. Be careful and stick to business and don’t end up wasting time on other indulgences on the internet.
- Not Prioritizing: Do not go haywire with your preparations. Know what the need of the moment is and prepare accordingly. For e.g. do not focus on your optional in April when the prelims are knocking at your door. Follow the 4-5 hour shift system suggested in the article and keep your priorities straight.