— Written by S. Baliyan
UPSC CSE Prelims 2020 Preparation Tips: The effect of COVID 19 has been felt acutely by Civil Services aspirants. As per the original calendar of UPSC examinations, the Civil Services (Preliminary) exam was shifted to October 4. These extra months available to UPSC aspirants can be a blessing in disguise.
The additional time period available with UPSC aspirants can be used to fine-tune their preparation and to fill the gaps still remaining.
But preparation for the Main exam needs attention too as the time gap between preliminary and Main exams has been reduced from 109 days to 95 days. Without modifying the strategies for Prelims as well as Main exams, as required by the changed scenario, the efforts of even the most serious aspirants may fail to find success.
The additional time available to UPSC aspirants should have been divided in the ratio of 50:50 between prelims and main. In August, 70 per cent of the time should be devoted to Prelims preparation and in September should be dedicated to prelims exam completely.
How to approach UPSC preliminary exam?
The Civil Services (preliminary) exam comprises of two papers in the form of General Studies (GS) Paper and Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) paper. Both these papers carry 200 marks each. The CSAT paper is of qualifying nature as the aspirants are required to score just 33 per cent marks in it. CSAT score is not used in deciding the cut-off score for qualifying prelims exam. The success in Civil Services (preliminary) exam depends on marks scored by candidates in the General Studies paper. While the revision of basic concepts of arithmetic, reasoning, and English language comprehension required to solve CSAT questions must continue, the main focus of serious aspirants has to be on subjects of the General Studies paper.
The syllabus of the GS paper has eight main components. These are:
Art and Culture
Environment & Ecology
To utilise the available time in the best possible manner, the candidates should revise their notes and refer one base book for each of these subjects. Some of the books to refer to include S Baliyan’s book for Indian Art and Culture published by Oxford University Press,
G.C. Leong for Physical Geography and Climate, Oxford Student Atlas, etc. are the most relevant sources for UPSC Civil Services (Preliminary) exam. If you have already read gone through these books, then focus your attention on revising them. Read here to know books suggested by experts for UPSC prelims and mains.
Continuous practice is also necessary to crack Civil Services (preliminary) exam. Previous years’ questions of UPSC should form the base for practice because nowadays many questions are repeated in Prelims exam in subsequent years. Every candidate should also join some good test series to remain on right track. Many good options are available online for test practice. Regular practice will help candidates in finding the gaps still left in their preparation. New learning and assessment of progress must go hand in hand to ensure success in the very first attempt.
Every candidate must revise his/her notes and base books at least 3 to 5 times by the end of September. Without continuous revision and regular practice, accuracy in solving Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) goes down drastically. Accuracy in solving questions is the key to success in Civil Services (Preliminary) exam because of negative marking system. Every wrong answer in General Studies paper will not only cost 2 marks carried by that question but also additional 0.67 marks as penalty.
How to approach Main exam?
A significant portion of available time should be devoted to Main exam preparation. Follow the time-division formula explained above to remain in tune with the changing needs. Since most of the subjects of General Studies are common to both Prelims and Main exam, the Mains oriented preparation right now should focus on optional subjects primarily. Use this available time to finish your optional subject by joining online classes. You must finish making micro notes and get sufficient writing practice. Non-common parts of General Studies syllabus (subjects which are asked only in Main exam) such as International Relations, Internal Security, and Ethics can be finished after the preliminary exam. Studying them before the Prelims exam could be very distracting and fatal.
Maintain your mental and physical health
Mental and physical health are foundation stones on which every success rests. In the time of Corona crisis their significance and criticality has increased enormously. Have faith in God and in your own ability. Always remember that honest effort never fails. You will crack the Civil Services exam definitely if you have been consistent in your preparation and single-minded in your devotion. Believe me, Civil Services exam is not difficult than class 10 or 12 exams. Take it just like any other exam and you will definitely crack it.
— The author is founder-director, INSIGHT IAS Academy and an author with Oxford University Press
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