Saturday, April 30, 2011

The 7 Step Plan for UPSC Prelims Preparation

So, you have decided to have a shot at the prestigious Civil Services. IAS and IPS are your role models and The Hindu is your favorite entertainment. But, how to start your preparation for the prelims is a question that's bothering you. Here is one way to plan it out:

Step 1. Review the syllabus
Have a look at the syllabus and identify all the subjects that you need to go through. 
Important Note: UPSC Civil Services is not like a university exam, the syllabus is more like a guideline and not a boundary that cannot be crossed. 
Take the syllabus as a guideline and not as a course definition. 

Step 2. Classify the syllabus and identify the ideal study material
Classify the syllabus into different subjects and topics. Identify good quality course material for each topic. I will post some good books for subjects and topics in another blog. 

Step 3. What cannot be classified
UPSC Civil Services have a very wide coverage. There are no boundaries on current affairs and general awareness. You need to develop, what I call a "Web of Knowledge" to excel in these areas. Link each fact with another fact and context. I think this topic will benefit from a more detailed discussion. 

Step 4. Map your abilities
There are three broad areas from the point of view of learning in UPSC Civil Service Exam:
a. Subject Expertise  - Example: History, Polity
b. Skill Development - Example: Quantitative, Reasoning, Verbal
c. General Awareness - Example: Current Affairs

Now do this exercise:
1. Classify all the subjects into these three areas, and in front of each subject, mark your comfort level 1. Very Comfortable 2. Comfortable 3. I can do it 4. I am scared

Always mix comfortable and not-so comfortable subjects in your study plan. This will keep you focused. Also, it will help reduce over-confidence or frustration. 

5. Syllabus - Abilities - Calendar
Sit with a calendar and count the number of days that are left for the exam. Allocate the number of days to each subject.

6. Goal Setting and Target Setting
UPSC preparation, for most aspirants extends over one year. Set realistic goals for yourself. More importantly, set targets for yourself. "I will review ABC over this week and go over XYZ within this month". Make sure your short-term targets are in line with the bigger plan. Give allowances in the plan for events like festivals or distractions like the world cup. More importantly, minimize the impact of these events to exceed your own expectations. 

7. Circle of Knowledge and Company of Confidence
Develop a good circle of friends with whom you can share and exchange knowledge. Study Groups are a good resource. If you can avoid distractions on the internet join an online study group. UPSCguide Group Study is very active and has hundreds of active members sharing their knowledge and experience. 
Most important, 'your confidence is your best friend'. You will need it all the time. Preserve it and build it. 


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