Being able to crack the UPSC CSE without attending any coaching classes or any guidance from a mentor depends on your determination to work hard. It’s not something which is impossible, but the thing is you need to be very hard-working and focused on your approach than never before. And this is an era where you can easily avail plenty of information for free, but ensure that you should never get lost in a sea of information. Rather, you should pick out the relevant ones and follow them in an organised manner but diligently.
Even though the UPSC CSE is considered as a tough exam, with complete focus, and following the right study plan, you can ace the exam. Here is the rundown to self-preparation strategy for UPSC Exam.
Understand the UPSC CSE
When you know your target better, you can figure out a study plan. First, know the civil services exam pattern and eligibility. Also, check whether or not you’re eligible. You need to have a lucid idea of the exam pattern as well.
Plan Your Work and Make it Work
After you’ve acquired information regarding the UPSC exam pattern and eligibility, start focusing on creating a plan for yourselves which goes a long way in your preparation. Creating a practical plan is particularly important for those who do self-preparation. When you’re not having any guidance either from the coaching institute or from a mentor, it’s important to have a proper plan in place and religiously follow that plan. When you study on your own, you need to be disciplined like never before, and keep away from all sorts of distractions.
Understand the Syllabus
When you go through the UPSC CSE exam syllabus, you’ll get a broad idea of the kind of study materials and resources you will require throughout the preparation.
Your key goal is to cover the syllabus in detail and for that, you should diligently set sub-goals. Divide the entire syllabus to topics and allot time for each topic- consider it as your sub-goals, according to the time left for your preparation. You need to ensure that the timetable covers the whole syllabus. Plan it properly to have enough time to carry out a minimum of two to three cycles of revision prior to each stage.
Stick to this plan and seriously follow this for the rest of your preparation time. This may seem to be the greatest challenge for you, but try your best for not to fall behind or deviate for the plan.
Choose the Study Material Wisely
Stick to a few relevant sources and make sure you follow the best sources. Begin with the NCERT textbooks for a basic foundation of subjects such as Economy, polity, geography, history etc. Then move on to standard UPSC books available.
Practice Previous Year Question Papers
Added to that, go through UPSC exam question papers for the past five years to scrutinise the nature of questions asked for the exam and the relevant topics in the UPSC syllabus. When you attempt previous year questions, you’ll get an idea of those topics, which you need to cover in detail. You will also know those topics that you can do without. You’ll get an idea of the exam pattern, which goes a long way in improving your time-management skills.
Follow Current Affair Extensively
One area which plays a pivotal role in the UPSC exam is the current affairs area. Make it a habit to note down relevant things. Every year, the UPSC asks a lot of questions from the current affairs section.
Make it a habit to read a newspaper daily(The Hindu or Indian express). Also, concentrate more on the websites of PIB and different ministries for genuine information. You can also follow RSTV(Rajya Sabha TV) for debates and news bulletins.
Thoroughly read the Hindu for a minimum of two hours and try to compare the news with the theoretical knowledge learned in Economics, Polity, Geography and History.
While covering NCERT textbooks and news articles, start making crisp, readable notes as well. They will prove to be extremely beneficial for quick revision and for retention.
But it’s not sufficient to simply read the newspaper and recollect facts but its equally essential to analyse the information and have your opinion on it. This proves to be especially important for the UPSC Mains and interview stages. Owing to that, you should not mug up various facts, but instead, have a comprehensive understanding of the topics.
Solve Mock Tests
In order to determine your weak areas, accuracy and speed, test yourselves through mock tests. Never put off attempting mock tests until the last minute. The whole point of attempting these tests is to identify your weak areas and then improve them to increase your chances of cracking the exam. The tests offer you perceptive feedback regarding your performance, so you need to give them much relevance.
Carry Out Multiple Revision
As you already know, the UPSC syllabus is something which is very extensive and vast. So once you’ve covered each topic, make crisp notes and revise everything you’ve studied multiple times. Multiple revisions are required in order to remember those topics which you’ve learned. Indeed, practice makes you perfect.
Get Help Whenever Needed
During self-preparation, there exists a possibility that you’ll miss something relevant. In order to avoid it, it’s crucial that you network with the rest of your peers during regular intervals. Through networking, you’re actually getting a chance to exchange preparation tips and ideas with your peers. It will also go a long way in exchanging your worries, common problems and obstacles you’ve faced with them and you can find motivating words.
There are a lot of candidates just like you, who have taken up the self-preparation way. A great source to find like-minded aspirants is the Internet. So if you’re facing any trouble, just get in touch with them and instantly clear all your doubts. You can also share and avail study notes as well as opinion, which boosts your preparation and enhances your pace of progress.
Here are a few things that you need to keep in your mind:
- If you’re willing to work hard and is dedicated enough, then 7 to 8 months will be enough for preparation.
- Success isn’t always about being great, rather its all about being consistent in what you do. Consistent hard work paves the way for success.
- Never focus on the Prelims exam alone. But cover the mains exam topics as well as the optionals and prepare the notes in advance.
- Have an integrated prelims and mains preparation in place.
- Before you start any subject, go through the previous year’s question papers.
- Follow the 70:30 time allocation.
- Timely revise what you learn. You should plan the revision in three phases. The first within the same day, second one within the end of the week and the final within the end of the month.
At any time or any stage in your exam preparation, if you feel like you want guidance, then never hesitate, since it may not be a risk worth attempting. And most importantly, follow what seems to work wonders for you since each individual need to chart their own journey.