Civil Services Examination(CSE) is one of the most prestigious and most competitive examination conducted by Union Public Service Commission of India. Every year lakhs of candidates appear for prelims but only few ten thousands qualify the first phase.
Approximate statistics for the year 2017 is 5 lakhs candidates appeared for prelims but only 13,000 candidates were qualified for Mains exam. Can you think of the reasons why there are lakhs of students who are unable to clear the first phase of examination?  Let us discuss few pointers on UPSC preparation strategy for beginners.

1. Understanding the exam pattern

For a beginner, the first approach should be understanding the exam pattern, this is very important. CSE is conducted in three phases. First is the Preliminary exam(multiple choice questions with negative marking), second is Mains exam(Subjective answer) and third is Interview(Personality test). The student needs to prepare mentally for all the phases of the exam.

2. Syllabus analysis

Next and the most rightful approach for a beginner should be understanding the detailed syllabus of the first two phases of CSE. Analysis of syllabus is required as this will give the candidate an idea of how vast the subjects are to be covered and what duration will he/she need to cover the syllabus.
The appropriate UPSC preparation time should be at least 12 months. It, therefore, becomes very important to read very well the Syllabus brochure issued by UPSC.
This also allows a candidate to decide what not to study. For an exam that is so vast, the need of the hour is to also eliminate all the unwanted material. This material is the real time killer without giving much output in return.

3. Making a list of reference material

After analyzing the syllabus, the candidate needs to prepare a list of textbooks required for reference. Choice of the textbooks should not be of a very advanced level. The examination difficulty level for both Preliminary and Mains(except optional papers) is up to XII std and level for optional paper is up to Graduation and/or Honours in that specific subject.
It is very important to understand that for one subject refer not more than 2 textbooks, the more textbooks you refer more confused you get. The key lies in reading fewer books but revising them again and again.
For making a list of reference books, please refer to authentic sources. Today, a number of sources are available online for free.
Majority of these sources are not up to the mark. For making your list please contact a person who has attempted the exam, or better someone who has cleared the exam. Such an authentic list is what you need.
Also, you can refer to other online content like videos and infographics for better understanding.

4. Analyse your strengths and weaknesses

It is very important to find out what subjects you are weak in, as this is the subject on which you will be spending a lot of time studying. Also, find what chapters/topics you’re weak at of a particular subject, this will help you to plan your studies well.
Your strength is also very important. Scoring good marks in UPSC is very important. In such a scenario one needs to pay close attention to one’s strengths. For it is these subject that he can score well in.

5. Prepare a daily study plan

Do not stress yourself about preparing a plan which involves 10 – 12 hours of constant studies keep breaks after every change of subject. Also, do not study only one subject the entire day, prepare a timetable which includes a variety of subjects a which you are both strong and weak at.
Now, it is a common strategy to focus initially on weaker subjects and keep the strong subjects for later but try and avoid this. Keeping a balance in your weaknesses and strengths is a better approach.
Devote no more than 1 hour daily for current affairs, candidates generally fear the current affairs zone, they spend more than 3-4 hours reading news, magazines, editorials and thus do not get much time to cover other subjects.
Be selective about current affairs, and 1 newspaper,1 magazine and surfing the recent news headlines is more than enough. Keep revising the topics on regular basis to develop a good grip on the subject.

6. Solve previous years question paper:

This will make you understand the difficulty level of questions asked in the exam. Anybody who is appearing for the exam must have a clear idea of the type of questions that will be asked in UPSC.
It will give you an idea of how well you are prepared for CSE. The best way to solve papers is to create examination environment at home and attempt prelim paper or Mains paper by allotting yourself the same duration to complete the paper as it is required for the actual exam.
This way you will know how much time you’re wasting on what questions and what questions you need to allocate more time. Solving papers acts as a feedback loop which will help you improve your preparation.

7. Frame your own questions:

A good approach for studying any topic is frame as many possible questions on the topic of both MCQ type and subjective type, this way you’re creating your own bank of Questions. Framing own questions also allows a student to look at all the concepts from various aspects. This helps him develop a varied and wide point of view.

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About the Author

Akshay Palande

Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.

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