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How to start IAS preparation: The Beginner's Guide

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    10th Sep, 2021

When you are preparing for UPSC Civil Service Exam, due to the unpredictability, you cannot afford to make selective study purely based on previous years' question papers.

It has always been a tough decision to make a decision to appearing civil services exam and is considered as an act of courage in itself as it demands a strong character and nerves of steel. This is basically because of three reasons:

  1. Vastness of the UPSC CSE syllabus: When you are preparing for UPSC CSE, you are expected to know almost everything under the sun. Now the new dimension in the whole preparation strategy is about your concept integration approach.
  2. Unpredictability of the exam: Because of the highly unpredictable nature of this exam, you cannot afford to make selective study purely based on previous years' question papers. How your study, assimilate information and knowledge are update it continuously and integrate all of it finally matters.
  3. Immense competition: There is an immense and fierce competition wherein you face the best minds in the country which come from their respective streams after mastering it and sweat it out to become a part of the coveted civil services of the government which makes hardly any room for carelessness, complacency and even overconfidence. Every mark needs to be hard earned to remain a cut above the rest.

The pattern of UPSC CSE with the introduction of CSAT and a few twists in GS Paper has finally drawn a line that says: Stop your mugging style approach to finish the syllabus; otherwise the whole exercise will be in vain and end up with only finishing your attempt.

Preparing for civil services was always going to be a fearful and tiresome task in such a scenario but now, with such strong willpower, that you are determined to do it, using our long experience in mentoring toppers in this exam, GS SCORE will try to make this daunting task a little bit easier for you.

First things first, you need to have an approach ready to followed right through the exam, thereafter draw a preparation strategy out of it and till the time you clear the final level, ‘stick to it’. Although, our experience says, that the best approach is the one that you have created for yourself because you are the one who know yourself the best, about what your strengths and weaknesses are, what inspires you to keep your energy and confidence levels high and also what makes you timid and withdrawn.

What are your strong subjects and what areas you find tough or challenging?

Remember, to frame an approach for yourself you need all this data, so better start it today if you have not done this exercise till now. What we at GS SCORE will do is to guide you through the basics for UPSC civil service preparation and the specifics that this exam demands and what this exam seeks to evaluate and the line of action which we think would be more productive.

Especially for General Studies, where you are expected to know a very wide horizon of things, you have to develop a go-getter attitude, keeping in mind the vastness of the syllabus. Your mind should be prepared to absorb information like a sponge which is always looking out for information which could be of any use to it. Anything and everything that you hear or read could of use if you know how to put them in the right perspective. The habit of studying the what, the why and the how needs to be cultivated regarding almost everything which affects your life or which affects the lives of people across the society.

‘Why’ and ‘how’ is the core of the UPSC CSE syllabus. Once you develop this intriguing attitude, almost half of the job is done. After that you will find yourself ready with some idea of everything from the syllabus and your path to crack IAS would start looking much easier.

Do not make the mistake of differentiating between prelims and mains in you preparation on the account that prelims is fact based and mains is analytical as we have already seen that ‘fact’ based is not totally fact based and ‘analytical’ is not totally analytical as you cannot analyse unless you know the facts.

The applicability of the topics vis-a-vis a bureaucrat is another feature of the IAS General Studies Exam. This is the most recent phenomenon in the CSE GS i.e. questions concerning current affairs and their different dimension which could be of ultimate relevance to a bureaucrat are to be given prime importance. What is to be done in this regard?

Large count of students have a very common doubt– Should we go for PT first or do we need to devise an integrated preparation?

Preliminary test (PT) is a bit unpredictable because of the vastness of its syllabus. CSAT confirms it. But understanding the trend,by going through previous years’ questions again and again, can be of some help in the changing scenario. You need to understand why UPSC asks questions of current development and which area it targets the most. The aim of prelims exam is to test candidates’ range of information. In the last few years, the configuration of questions has been changed. However, referring to the previous years’ questions will give you clear idea about the formation of questions.

The traditional approach needs to be given up in order to accept fresh challenges. More and more time should be devoted to the GS part of the syllabus as it is as vast as an ocean and cannot be measured merely on the basis of topics or sections. Anything existing in the universe and especially if that is in the news, can become a part of General Studies. Aspirants, who are attempting Civil Services Examination must be aware of this fact.

Vastness of the syllabus often leads to undirected preparation. An understanding of the trend using various channels like PYQs, helps in carving proper focus. To start preparing for the vast GS syllabus and ever-changing configuration of questions, candidates must, first of all, select important areas and then go for extensive study. CSAT is nothing but an extension of General Studies so, don’t try to read it in isolation. It always gives a shock. Result of this year PT exam is the latest example.

We at GS SCORE have evolved a line of action for cracking the CSE GS having the following important elements:

  • Developing a fertile and questioning mind.
  • Focusing on current affairs is a must and visualizing them in a regional, national as well as international perspective will help you gather a wider range of information.
  • Avoiding the urge of indulging in analysis-based-fact-based dichotomy with respect to mains and prelims respectively.
  • Try to see things in a perspective, exploring the related concepts and the associated intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary linkages.
  • Utmost attention needs to be ascribing to the issues which have practical relevance to a bureaucrat in terms of functioning and applicability and which are of immediate concern to people and society.

So much so about how to tackle the content of GS, now some suggestions on how to apply yourself or how to launch yourself for the UPSC exam:

  • Go at a slower pace if you are reading for the first time and underline the relevant portions in the reading material.
  • Second and subsequent reading should be faster and more comprehensive.

In your reading material, you’ll find that some portions are very important, some are less important and yet others are not at all important. It would be better to go through the previous year's paper to track the orientation of the questions and then use your discretion in sorting out such areas and give them proportionate attention.

It is not at necessary to be strong in every area. You could be very strong in certain areas, weak in others and perhaps very weak in some. For example, as a student of arts or science, you are probably very strong in that particular areas. Give greater attention and time to the areas in which you are weak.

In the general studies paper of prelims, most of the questions apart from the current events, revolve around the current developments in news and therefore, it is very necessary that you keep your eyes and ears open for such developments/news. For example, in agriculture instead of pure agriculture, a news item ‘Breakthrough in rice production’ will be more valuable to you from the examination point of view.

It is recommended to analyse and do a model paper in GS that closely resembles the examination pattern before you get started with your preparation. A model paper will give you some feel of the actual questions in the examination, thereby enabling you to orient your study style according to the examination pattern. It will also help in highlighting your stronger and weaker spots.

To save precious time and energy from getting wasted in directionless work, always try to stick to the framework and approach you have decided to follow.

It is highly recommended that you try to stick to your routine and the work schedule you have decided for yourself. GS SCORE guides you and complements your efforts during the whole process of UPSC exam preparation.


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