If you’re starting to prepare for the UPSC well in advance and you have absolutely no background information about it, how should you start preparing so that you clear the selection? What steps should you take in order to be equipped for the marathon that is UPSC?
Work on Your Reading Capacity
1. Practice active reading
Don’t just read anything. Whenever you read, engage with it with the determination to evaluate, analyse and understand its relevance to you and your world.
2. Filter out unnecessary information
Practice filtering out irrelevant information. You don’t have to remember everything you read, but you do have to glean the gist of everything that is relevant.
3. Learn to be discerning
Don’t read everything that is suggested to you. be discerning. Decide what is good and can help you, and what has nothing to offer.
Practice Writing Longer Answers
1. Practice writing daily
You will not be able to write structured, coherent and correct answers in the exam if you don’t practice writing on a regular basis. Practice writing long answers in order to perfect your writing skills.
2. Make it a habit
Make writing a habit. Whether it is writing answers, notes or your personal diary, make sure you’re writing at least a few pages every day.
Improve Your Analytical Skills
1. Develop analytical thought
Learn what analysis is and start analyzing whatever you read. find connections and correlations with other topics.
2. Analyze everything
Don’t just analyze while you’re reading for your exams. Analyze every bit of information that you come across. Cross check and cross-reference them and commit the relevant bits to memory.
Stay up to date with important current affairs
1. Learn which news is important
Staying up to date with all current affairs is impossible, thus, learn how to filter out important news from “noise”. Everything that you read isn’t important or relevant.
2. Learn to analyze the relevant current affairs
Just knowledge of current affairs isn’t enough. You will need to develop an ability to analyse the current affairs as well. Why something happened? What are the repercussions? How could it have happened differently? What would have been the best way to deal with it in a balanced manner?
Start thinking in more inclusive ways
1. Train yourself to think in a more inclusive and balanced fashion
Whenever you are faced with a situation, start looking for win-win solutions rather than an “I-win-you-lose” one. Start thinking in a more balanced fashion. Start including other people’s advantages and points of view in your solutions.
2. Inclusiveness means thinking not only of your social class or region, but of India as a whole
Be more inclusive in your thoughts and actions. When thinking about anything that affects you, open your mind to understand how it affects people from other social classes and regions too.
Improve Your Argumentative Thinking
1. Can you give arguments that are strong, logical and evidence-based?
Check for loopholes in your arguments. Are you using deflecting techniques or attacking the opponent? Unless your arguments are strong, logical and factual, you will have to sharpen your argumentative thinking.
2. Can you think argumentatively and articulate an opinion within a stipulated time?
In an exam, not only do you have to think logically, but you will also have to structure your thoughts and put them in writing in a clear, coherent, concise and structured manner.
3. Can you think argumentatively and articulate an opinion spontaneously?
During the interview, you will have to think, structure and start expressing your thoughts simultaneously. Practice in order to reach that level of expertise.
Enhance Your Memory
1. Learn how to retain what you’ve learnt
How do you retain what you have learned? Adults learn through hearing, seeing (reading) and practicing (active reading or writing), how do you learn best? Which method is most effective for you?
2. Learn how to revise
Work in short intervals rather than long stretches. Keep coming back to a topic rather than simply trying to slog through it in one go. Learn how to learn actively. Create smart notes, flash-cards, tables, diagrams in order to fully assimilate what you are studying. And finally, test yourself, regularly, often and truthfully, in order to know the gaps in your knowledge and filling it in.
3. Learn how to recall
During the examination you will be relying on your power to recall what you have learned. This will only come through practice. Testing yourself regularly will make your recall more powerful and will also embed the learning in your long term memory.
4. Learn to cross-link different subjects
Practice cross-linking and cross-referencing different subjects like polity with history and current affairs. Don’t just memorize the laws and rules and regulations, understand their backgrounds and their ramifications in the current system.
And last, but not least
Do not waste your time. Find a good mentor or coaching that can help you hone your skills so that you are ready to succeed at the very first attempt.