UPSC Prelims Strategy

UPSC Prelims Strategy

STRATEGY TO SCORE HIGH SCORE IN UPSC PRELIMS

Albert John, AIR 179, Prelims strategy 145(2016), approx 130( 2017)


I write this as I would like to share something which worked for me in prelims preparation. In 2016 I gave a full fledged attempt, scored about 145 marks. In my next attempt, I was working as a Professor, my 2016 results came on may 31st, all the celebrations began, after 2 weeks I had to face the demise of a close family member, and after a week on June 18, I gave prelims. Despite all these I had a fair score of around 130 from various keys. So let me share what worked for me.

Prelims is a skill. That’s why some people don’t get it even after exhausting all attempts- and why some people get in the first time, and continuously get high marks (No I couldn’t qualify in my first two attempts). But from my experience of 4 prelims, let me tell you – how much you have learnt has less to do with it than you think. So that is one myth to be broken.

Though anybody living an aspirant life is going to be fed up with formulas, kindly pardon me for introducing another one;

PRELIMS = KNOWLEDGE+ PRACTICE + THOUGHT.

KNOWLEDGE

  • Do the most basic things first – and improve as you get time.
  • The Basic includes – Studying all the standard texts for each- Ncert for geog, Laxmikant for polity, Bipin Chandra/ spectrum for history (I personally did BC & those back pages of spectrum to be frank, and gave a fast reading of the spectrum text), I preferred Shankar Ganesh than Ramesh Singh, (selective reading of RS also gave same effect – but not full), selectively read Shankar IAS material for environment & selectively read culture from various sources like CCRT & NIOS. For current affairs I used the Hindu (Yeah took down notes), Pib , Insights daily current affairs and Vision IAS monthly compilation ( I would say this was too much). But never do this expecting that a question is going to come directly from any of these sources. That is poor attitude. Do it so that you are fairly aware of current affairs and that you can give a fair try on any question with that info.
  • Value addition – economic survey Gist, Yojana, India year Book gist

PRACTICE

  • Test series is more important than sitting in any coaching class. Don’t join it hoping that a question is going to come – what you get from test is perfecting the art of attempting more and reducing your errors. Join test series of any organisation, which you feel has imbibed the changing contours of UPSC questions well.

THINK HOW TO THINK – My “Take – retake” strategy ( Now this is my Intellectual Property : D)

  • TAKE your mock tests well – learn well, revise well, and take the test. Maximise attempts by intelligent guesses based on some logic/previous knowledge. Go back and RETAKE the test mentally with answer key in hand.
  • Now there are 2 ways by which you would have made your answers wrong –
    • knew it well, but marked it wrong – There is no excuse for this. If you are so negligent, you are out of the competition.
    • Had the idea, but couldn’t convert it to answer.
  • And 2 ways by which you would have left question unattended –
    • knew nothing about it.
    • options were equally confusing.

RETAKE 1.  Recheck all questions that went wrong. Identify which was that specific thought that made your answer wrong, i.e, what piece of knowledge/ perception/ thinking prompted you to eliminate the right option and choose the wrong one. Now simply think how you should have thought to eliminate the wrong answer (which you marked), and choose the right answer (which you eliminated earlier). While you are doing this, you are actually fine tuning your mind to reach the right answer, from the same piece of information .This not only makes you sharp, but also enlightens you.

RETAKE 2. Take the unattempted ones. For those questions about which you had no idea, try to find some logic to derive the answer by connecting it with some fact you already knew. Practice it with answer in hand. The next time do it in your mocks without answer in hand. The more you do the more sharp you get.

RETAKE 3. Take the ones you left unattended because you were equally confused with options – take the two equally compelling options, simply mark the one which has more logic. If you went wrong, do the take retakeStrategy. ( but now at least you were brave enough to attempt.)

  • ADD SPICE: Solve UPSC previous question papers the same way. Never expect a question to repeat. This practice will tweak you to the UPSC way of thinking and reduce confusions. This was perhaps the best thing I did. It makes me to tell with a fair certainty, that according to UPSC, Indus valley wouldnever have heard of horses, even though horse remains were reportedly found from Surkatoda. (I can be wrong here.)

I have some caveats also

  1. Be ready to fail. Wonders won’t happen the first time.
  2. Continue / follow only if you feel this is going to do some good. I won’t guarantee this works for everyone, or for any percentage of aspirants for that matter. This is simply an account of what I did.
  3. Though this looks lengthy, never make this process time consuming. Finish off analysing the QP in max 2 hours, and go back to your work/rest schedule.
  4. The answers you thus derive may not be right always. In 2017 prelims for the question of trade disputes act 1929, I answered that it gave arbitrary power to managements to quell disputes. My logic was CPI was formed by 1925 and should have gathered strength, and the act has to be the knee jerk reaction of the govt. But keys say I was wrong. So It happens usually.
  5. There always is a luck factor in prelims. At times all that you logically derived may go wrong. But you can reduce the chances by practice. I attempted 90 in my 2016 prelims and got only about 13 wrong, even though I knew only about 45 sure shot answers.

The last thing- you may not get a mock test to practice take- retake every day. I made use of  for this. I used to read yesterdays newspaper today, and attempt yesterdays daily quiz tomorrow- it allows multiple revision+ improves memory.  You can clearly see how a news item can beautifully turn into a potential question on a daily basis. Attempt maximum and practice analytical  strategy here again.  Improve each day. Practice them in your mock tests, and do wonders in the prelims. ALL the best.


The post is contributed by Aishwarya Raj, AIR 28, Indian Forest Service


Following is the Strategy to Score high marks in UPSC Prelims Exam:


Here is the strategy and book-list for UPSC Preliminary stage  (1st round) of the UPSC / IFS examination ( will come up with next stages soon).  I am sharing this as beginning contours for you since I could score in the range of 150-160 out of 200 in GS paper 1 (Cutoff range expected 110-115 for CSE, 132-138 for IFS ). But eventually, you will have to end up having your own unique plan, depending upon your strengths and weaknesses (post taking at least 10-15 Mock tests). I had devoted 3 months fully to Prelims last year, and with June 18 being the date of the exam this time, you should be up to speed already by now. Remember where you are competing with close to a million folks, so stakes are much, much higher than Mains and Interview. In prelims, UPSC will brutally reject candidates, reducing them from 1000000 to 15000, so get the drift that daily Mains answer writing can wait a bit for now. While Prelims is more knowledge-based and Mains focuses on testing your critical and social-thinking, that doesn’t mean UPSC will always keep it that way ;). So be prepared for any scenario, is what say the wise!


After analyzing the past few years’ papers (if not please do so, at least from 2010 onward), you would have realized that current-affairs based questions have spread to even “Static topics” like History and Geography. So smart study and Googling would be of great help while preparation. eg. if you read an article on drought, connect it to historical, indigenous water-related solutions basis harvesting, baolis, tankas etc.


Remember these key ideas all the time:


  1. Minimum sources, maximum revisions. To give an idea, revising THRICE whatever you have read is essential for retention and assimilation. So minimize the sources, else it will be chaos at the end. And PLEASE don’t fall prey to the millions of “Must Read” Booklets in the markets that are released 20 days before ethe exam to scare aspirants all over ! Trust yourself.
  2. Spending more time analyzing the mock tests than the actual time spent on taking  tests !
  3. Critical thinking and ‘joining the dots’ . Try to enjoy the learning process. In my case, making fortnightly visits to The national Museum / National Gallery of Modern Art / Humayun Tomb / Old Delhi/ nearby sanctuaries etc were welcome and refreshing learning tours .I credit National Museum majorly for understanding and completing substantial portion of Art and Culture + Ancient India syllabus !
  4. Coaching dilemma ? Well , to each his own. I didn’t do any coaching for GS or optional subjects, but registered for Online Test Series.

UPSC Prelims Strategy: How to Score 150+ marks?


The post is contributed by Aishwarya Raj, AIR 28, Indian Forest Service

VOTE OF THANKS

I wanted to convey my heart-felt thanks to ForumIAS for making such an amazing platform that has been extremely helpful for clearing all types of doubt-clearing for aspirants.
I have been a regular Test Taker at ForumIAS and have appeared for nearly all the Open Tests.

While I have gained a lot from the discussions and daily current news sections, I would want to contribute my bit by sharing my strategy/booklist for UPSC CSE/IFoS Prelims since could score a fairly decent 150+ in CSE Pre 2016.

Following is the Strategy to Score high marks in UPSC Prelims Exam:


Here is the strategy and book-list for UPSC Preliminary stage  (1st round) of the UPSC / IFS examination ( will come up with next stages soon).  I am sharing this as beginning contours for you since I could score in the range of 150-160 out of 200 in GS paper 1 (Cutoff range expected 110-115 for CSE , 132-138 for IFS ). But eventually you will have to end up having your own unique plan, depending upon your strengths and weaknesses (post taking atleast 10-15 Mock tests). I had devoted 3 months fully to Prelims last year , and with June 18 being the date of exam this time, you should be up to speed already by now. Remember here you are competing with close to a million folks, so stakes are much, much higher than Mains and Interview. In prelims, UPSC will brutally reject candidates, reducing them from 1000000 to 15000 , so get the drift that daily Mains answer writing can wait a bit for now . While Prelims is more knowledge-based and Mains focuses on testing your critical and social-thinking, that doesn’t mean UPSC will always keep it that way ;). So be prepared for any scenario, is what say the wise !


After analyzing the past few years’ papers (if not please do so, atleast from 2010 onward), you would have realized that current-affairs based questions have spread to even “Static topics” like History and Geography. So smart study and Googling would be of great help while preparation. eg. if you read an article on drought, connect it to historical, indigenous water-related solutions basis harvesting, baolis, tankas etc.


Remember these key ideas all the time:


  1. Minimum sources, maximum revisions. To give an idea, revising THRICE whatever you have read is essential for retention and assimilation. So minimize the sources, else it will be chaos at the end. And PLEASE don’t fall prey to the millions of “Must Read” Booklets in the markets that are released 20 days before exam to scare aspirants all over ! Trust yourself.
  2. Spending more time analyzing the mock tests than the actual time spent on taking  tests !
  3. Critical thinking and ‘joining the dots’ . Try to enjoy the learning process. In my case, making fortnightly visits to National Museum / National Gallery of Modern Art / Humayun Tomb / Old Delhi/ nearby sanctuaries etc were welcome and refreshing learning tours .I credit National Museum majorly for understanding and completing substantial portion of Art and Culture + Ancient India syllabus !
  4. Coaching dilemma ? Well , to each his own. I didn’t do any coaching for GS or optional subjects, but registered for Online Test Series.


The 2016 UPSC Prelims paper was highly current affairs based but had covered most of the subjects. Consider a question which asked the meaning of eripatti about which I had no clue. But it clicked that since eri as a water management structure in TN was mentioned in a Yojana piece, andpatti relates to land, the statement given was correct. Many questions also required basic common sense even if we had no clue before. Eg the inland port question, AP and Karnataka were easy to eliminate as they are coastal states, while Chattisgarh’s topography would make it tough to have a navigation connected to sea, therefore answer should be Rajasthan (which was correct) ! And yeah, even movie review buffs were gifted 2 marks with the question on Hollywood flick based on Ramanujan !


Some General Observations and Suggestions:


1) Integrative study has to be the way forward, since no silos exist between subjects now as well as current affairs.
2) For basics, ‘N’ number of materials won’t work. Same holds true for current affairs.
3) Economic survey is compulsory beyond doubt. Neem-coat statement was a direct ripoff. And almost all economy questions found a basis in this survey . All schemes asked in the exam (the objectives i.e) were mentioned as one liners here which were asked.
4) Meditation helped. And it always does help. Waking up on 7th August with a 15 minute meditation/yoga had the highest ROI. Not to forget picking tenets of being a Karma Yogi through Bhagwad Gita ?
5) Test series are a must, but again unless at least 15-20 papers revised, wont really stick on. Here , I maintained a diary of errors, wherein all my errors/ doubtful questions were jotted down.  Last one week before exam, my work was only to revise that one diary !

6) Structured Timetable-making is necessary. But even more important is “Mid policy reviews” of the same ? ; I had 7 iterations for July 2016. Because I missed out something or the other in the first 6 each time !
7) Having faith in your efforts. Somewhere, someone is watching your efforts ! I had zilch previously and struggled at 100. This time scored >150 !


Finally, make sure the people who care for you are given their due importance even when you are studying. Avoid the naysayers and those ‘suggestion-based’ people who love to make off-the-tangent remarks, but make sure meeting close family and friends does not stop. They will be your support and strength while sailing through this long-arduous journey?

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