Updated: September 21, 2021 6:39:15 pm
– Shubhra Ranjan
Enrolling into graduation sets into motion the intellectual journey of an individual and provides an opportune platform to decide the future course of action – whether to pursue the same stream at Masters level; appear for civil services exams; jump into the job market or go the start-up way.
Preparing for civil services exams (CSE) during graduation has its share of challenges as well as advantages. It is challenging because one needs to handle graduation studies as well as the mammoth CSE syllabus simultaneously. So, it can be very demanding for someone enrolled in courses like MBBS but not as much for someone pursuing a degree from an open school. It is also difficult for those who choose a different subject as their optional subject for CSE.
There are also a lot of stereotypes associated with the civil service exam. It is a myth that to succeed in this exam one needs to study 16-20 hours a day and be socially detached. It is neither sustainable nor a healthy practice.
Many first-timers also begin on the wrong foot by following the kitchen-sink approach. They go beyond the syllabus and study everything under the sun. As a result, they only manage to gain some knowledge about a wide variety of topics but fail to achieve the optimum depth that UPSC demands in a subject.
The golden maiden attempt
However, first-timers also have a set of advantages at their disposal. The biggest advantage is that they do not have any baggage. It is their maiden attempt and hence expectations are low; the experience of failed strategy is not on their minds and the fact is that they have nothing to lose.
Secondly, studying a subject for the first time helps them bring a fresh perspective to the table. They are also very optimistic in their whole approach which works in their favour . We have examples like Shah Faisal and Tina Dabi who topped CSE in 2009 and 2015 in their very first attempt by building on these advantages.
Clarity of thought
There are certain things you must be clear about right from the word go. Figure out what really motivates you to become a civil servant. Reconsider your decision if you are blindly following the rat race or if it is either ‘money’ or ‘power’ that appeals to you because that’s a very myopic view. And if you are motivated to serve the people then why not opt for social services?
Once you are convinced, narrow down on the service you want– Police services, Foreign services, Revenue services, Forest services, Administrative services. Above all, be aware that the competition is brutal – more than 10 lakh students vie for 700 to 800 seats.
Making the right start
If you are beginning your preparations during graduation, then make a soft start. Talk to CSE coaches and toppers to get insights and observe the changing pattern of the exam. Understand the competition and the gravitas it requires to succeed. Simultaneously, begin to study grade 6-12 NCERT books to build your foundation.
Also, start reading newspapers such as The Indian Express and The Hindu regularly. Focus on issues and not news. Issues have a larger repercussion on the country’s governance landscape and are relevant for CSE preparations, while the news is something temporary and non-impacting.
The civil service exam consists of four GS papers and two optional papers. GS requires a generalist understanding of the entire syllabus – so aim to cover a maximum breadth of the subject with optimum depth.
Also choose your optional subject wisely because they account for 500 marks out of 1,750. Ideally, you can opt for your graduation subject but if you are not comfortable with it then choose a subject that genuinely interests you because you will have to study it comprehensively for two years or more – that too at the PG level.
Also, make sure that there is guidance available for your chosen optional paper. To save on efforts, opt for a subject that has maximum overlap with the GS subjects. That is the reason why political science and international relations (PSIR) is considered as a safe optional. There is ample guidance available for the subject and it covers almost 90% of the GS 2 syllabus, essay paper, GS 4 paper. So, although PSIR optional accounts for 500 marks, its overlap value touches 900-950!
Having chosen your optional, start reading the basic books of the subject to get introduced to the topic. Don’t start making notes at this stage. At this stage focus on getting introduced to the subject.
Remember, although qualifying CSE is the immediate goal the preparation journey grooms you into a knowledgeable person, a responsible citizen and an ethical human being. That is the larger goal. So, avoid taking the narrow approach of reading subjects only from the perspective of qualifying the exam.
Finally, even if you devote your 100% to the preparation, be mindful that multiple other factors control the results. CSE is only a means to an end and sometimes we have to take the results with a pinch of salt. The bottom line remains that the first attempt is the best attempt and you must give it nothing but your personal best.
The author is Co-Founder and Executive Director, Shubhra Viraj EduTech Private Limited
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