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Master strategy to use PYQs, mocks and Reading for cracking prelims by Siddharth Srivastava AIR-118 UPSC CSE 2023

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Siddharth, a successful UPSC Civil Services Examination candidate, shares his effective strategy for tackling the Prelims stage. His approach, which he describes as being based on three pillars, has helped him clear the Prelims comfortably four times. Here’s a detailed breakdown of his strategy:

Three Pillars of Prelims Preparation:

1. Syllabus and Basic Books:

  • Focus on the UPSC syllabus comprehensively, even though it might not be elaborated in detail.
  • Cover the essential standard books for each subject.
  • Supplement your preparation with additional reading materials. For instance, books like "Lucent’s" can provide extra depth for history.

2. Previous Year Questions (PYQs):

  • Old PYQs: Analyzing older PYQs helps identify patterns and repetitions. Occasionally, questions or themes from past exams are repeated, which can be beneficial.
  • Recent PYQs: Understanding recent trends and the evolution in question patterns over the last six years is crucial. This helps in adapting to changes and preparing accordingly.

3. Test Solving and Strategy:

  • Understand the Exam Pressure: Recognize that UPSC often sets tricky questions to put candidates under pressure. It's essential not to panic and mark answers impulsively.
  • Round-Based Question Solving:
  • First Round: Focus on the easiest questions first. These are typically straightforward, like factual questions (e.g., “What is the capital of India?”). Spend about 20-30 minutes on this round to build confidence.
  • Second Round: Move to slightly tougher questions that are still manageable. Spend the next 15-20 minutes solving these.
  • Final Round: Tackle the difficult questions last. By this time, you should have solved 40-50 questions and built enough confidence to handle the tougher ones without panicking.
  • Restrict the Number of Attempts: Identify your comfort zone for the number of questions to attempt. For Siddharth, this was between 80 to 85 questions. Beyond this, the risk of making errors increases, so it’s important to know your limit and stick to it.

Additional Tips:

  • Be Wary of UPSC's Tricks: UPSC often plants "bombs" or tricky questions that can disrupt your flow. By solving questions in rounds, you can avoid falling into these traps and maintain your confidence throughout the exam.
  • Practice Mock Tests: Regularly attempt mock tests to simulate exam conditions and improve time management.
  • Revise Regularly: Ensure multiple revisions of your notes and key concepts to retain information effectively.
  • Stay Calm and Confident: Maintain composure during the exam. Don’t let initial difficult questions affect your performance. Focus on solving questions in rounds to manage time and stress better.

By following these strategies, Siddharth was able to clear the Prelims stage multiple times comfortably, demonstrating the effectiveness of his systematic and well-rounded approach.

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