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- Preparation Status:Reality Check
- The 100 Days Strategy
- Plausible Strategy
- Quantifiable Strategy
- REACHING THE PRIME
- THE FLOODS of readymade Material
- THE CLAIMS AND ADVERTISEMENTS
- REAL NIGHTMARE: Not YET
To those who’ve never cleared prelims before,
This post is not to scare you but to shake you up before it is too late to make amendments.
Don’t be living in a fantasy world of what you’d do after becoming an IAS/IPS/IFS:
I’ll kick some ass and impress the hell out of my friends and relatives!
^Damn right but it all means nothing if you can’t crack the Prelims.
In fact for a serious player, nothing can be more insulting and humiliating than failing in prelims. Time for a reality check.
From 1st February to 20th May 2012= About 100 days to go before the CSAT 2012 Prelims.
So let me ask you a question:
- The word ‘prepared‘ means = you have impeccable command over the said topic, you’ve ruminated and digested that topic entirely. You’ll only need a cursory browsing of book or self-notes in last 4-5 days before Prelims. That is called ‘prepared’.
- If you’ve read NCERT, GS Manual or any book for only SINGLE Time =does not equal to ‘prepared’. In it fact is equals to nothing, because In UPSC Prelims-questions, you either know the answer, or you don’t know the answer.
- Speculation and Guesswork based on single reading=digging your own grave through negative marking.
- So, How many topics are yet to be covered? What are your strong areas and weak areas?
- You’ve to do an honest Self-assessment; you’re the best judge of your own caliber, and then make a Strategy for the next 100 days/ 3 months, which must be: Straight-forward, Plausible, and Quantifiable.
MUST BE PLAUSIBLE AND QUANTIFIABLE.
From Today, I’ll give 16-18 hours a day and finish ENTIRE SYLLABUS of GS and Aptitude!
- You haven’t counted the mood swings, the hours wasted in friend/relatives’ weddings, cricket matches, movies, family outings, facebook , twitter etc.
- (If you’re employed) Not to mention the hours spent in job assignments, unproductive chatter with colleagues, the daily-commuting between office & home and the fatigue associated with it + family responsibilities if any.
- 16-18 hours per day, sounds good only in topper-interviews, in real life it is hard to sustain the attention and energy in studies after 6-7 hours on daily basis for a normal person, afterwards it’s just eyes moving across the book-pages, nothing actually penetrating inside the mind.
- You will be able to pump 10-12-16-18 hours only when you’re neck deep in trouble and stress: when there is only one month or just 20 days left before the exam, you cannot sustain 16-18 hours study, continuously for 100 days. Except in Bollywood /Hollywood underdog-movies, where players with Desi-jugaad training can win against players with intense scientific training, e.g Rocky 4, which is not the case in real life.
Assuming that you can do productive study of 7 hours a day then,
100 days times 7 hours= 700 hours.
Sounds good? Divide it by 12 (topics of CSAT syllabus)*= Only 58 hours available for each topic!
*12 Topics = 7 Topics of GS + 5 Topics of Aptitude, according to the OFFICIAL Syllabus by UPSC for CSAT 2012.
GENERAL STUDIES (PRELIMS) HAS GOT TOTAL 7 TOPICS
- Current events of national and international importance.
- History of India and Indian National Movement.
- Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
- Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
- Economic and Social Development -Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
- General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialisation
- General Science.
We are not even counting the ‘sub-topics‘ i.e. Science = Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Computer etc otherwise it’d cross century before Sachin and then you’d be left with just 7 hours a day. Which essentially means you’ve got only ONE DAY For Each Topic : for everything reading, revision and practice.
APTITUDE PAPER HAS GOT TOTAL 5 MAIN-TOPICS
- Comprehension-Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
- Logical reasoning and analytical ability Decision-making and problem-solving
- General mental ability Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.)(Class X level),
- Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)
- English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level)
Again, not counting the subtopics such as Logical reasoning= Circular arrangement, Venn diagrams etc
Secondly, the strategy must be
I’m yet to cover Geography, But I’ll complete everything of it before the exam.
- Geography is not just one topic, it is made up of several: Physical, Human, Current, Indian and World geography.
- If you haven’t been doing reading and revision diligently, there is hard chance of covering ‘entire’ Geography or even memorizing 15% of it.
- From this day on, it’s going to be trade-off between one topic or another. You put too much hours in one topic, you’ll have to compensate it by compromising with another topic because the time will be in short-supply.
- Just admit it, you cannot do proper-justice to each and every topic.
- So, Plan must be quantifiable and not abstract.
- Always check the cost:benefit ratio. = Hours invested in a particular topic vs probability of getting 1,2,5,7 or 10 questions from it vs the probability of you actually recalling that answer in the exam hall.
- Physical: Full / partial / ignore.
- Indian Geography: Full / partial / ignore.
- World : Full/ partial / ignore…
- and so on
(and if you tick *partial* then what is to be prepared and what is to be skipped?: that alone would require deliberation for some hours, and partial preparation=luck.)
- For a champion boxer or tennis-player, even if he is in ‘shape’, he still has to do intense training in the weeks before tournament, for that mental conditioning- that feeling of reaching the peak, being in your prime state.
- In military, there are separate companies: some ‘combat-ready’, others just for routine patrolling and sentry duties.
- All soldiers have gone through same training; perhaps same years in service, but those Combat ready troopers are in a different level of physical and mental state altogether.
- You’ve to get ‘combat-ready’. That feeling of “Yes I’m anxious, but I can do it, come what may, but I’m ready for them.”
- When you read the books, complete the syllabus = you’re just ‘getting in shape’, but you haven’t reached your prime yet.
- 20-30 days before the exam, you’d have to put 10-12-16-18 hours a day for intense revision and practice to reach the prime.
- Almost everyone: newbies and seasoned players alike go through a period of intense anxiety, stress and self-doubt in the days before any competitive exam. But those who’ve been preparing diligently, also start having that feeling of reaching the prime. But the problem with prime is that its effect doesn’t last for more than a fortnight.
- What I’m trying to say is: When you decide to skip the attempt just 1 week before the exam, then all the time and energy you invested in reaching the prime, is wasted.
- Next year next attempt you have to go through same effort all over again to reach your prime. Because UPSC syllabus is designed in such a way, hardly 15% of topics can stay in long term memory and a prelim that requires precise command and knowledge of topics.
- So for Those who’re still in a limbo about their preparation level, about whether to appear in 2012’s prelims or not, now is the right time to decide whether to attempt or to skip. No point in wasting the effort to reach the prime. Remember only you can judge your caliber. Whether you should appear or not, only you can decide so Don’t do something because others said so, don’t pick careers because others said so.
- If you plan to appear for 2012 then from this day on, don’t give a single thought about quitting.
From next month, every major publication house (Wizard, Chronicle, PD, CST, Spectrum) even Coaches such as Daulat Khan etc will come up with their special booklets for current-affairs, size ranging anything between 150 to 550 pages depending on who is their target-audience.
- 150 pages Book for non-serious unprepared candidates who is looking for short-cuts and quick-fixes.
- 550 pages Book for sincere but amateur player, who thinks that GS is made up of only current affairs questions and he can mug up entire current-affairs book and the 50,000 facts and data given in it, by investing all of his remaining months AND that UPSC is going to ask atleast 15 questions from it and that he’ll be able to recall all the mugged up data inside the examhall without any mistake.
In any case: The probability of UPSC asking even 2 direct-questions from such readymade- books = Probability of Team India winning a test-match on foreign pitch.
Certain Publication houses make big (and often false) claims on the cover of their GS books, study material and magazines example
“60 questions in last prelims / mains were asked from our magazine/booklet.”
- For a stressed candidate it’s like finding a panacea, he invests his money and rest of the months in such things. Stops reading or revising whatever he has prepared so far. He too is heading for #EPICFAIL.
- Mind it: If you read something for single time- it means nothing in UPSC prelims.
- (Frequent) Revision is NECESSARY. Shopping for more and more readymade books as prelims approaches= waste of time and money, unless you’ve the time to do second or third revision of the same book.
- You must have faith in whatever books you’ve read so far, whatever notes you’ve made so far.
- If you haven’t made any handmade-notes at all for frequent revision, be ready for the unbearable stress, panic and anxiety in the last week and night before the exam as you fumble through the books, while (trying to do) revision.
So where is the 100 Days-strategy?
- Preparing for Civil-Services especially General studies, is like Kung-fu, everyone has to develop his own style.
- There are no cut and dried methods to get you through this.
- Everyone has different mental makeup and capacity to study, so everyone has to adopt a different tailor-made strategy according to his own caliber and limits. Noone can babysit you or spoonfeed you here. You can only get directions from others, you’ve to ride the tiger on your own.
- Here, Strategy doesn’t mean a simple “recommended booklist“, it is all about how you prepare the topics and train yourself for a competitive-exam. Always remember, for UPSC you don’t have to finish the books, you’ve to finish the topics.
- Your fate will be sealed the day you walk out of exam hall in that Sunday evening of 20th May 2012, But that’s just the beginning. Another Bigger Nightmare awaits: it’s called Mains.
- Total number of days between May 21st, 2012 and October 5th, 2012 is about 130 days or 4 months and 10 days between Prelims and Mains.
- In this time, You’re supposed to cover two optional subjects, each having length of a 2 years post-graduation course syllabus + the infinite General studies syllabus + an Essay.
- Not to mention the days wasted in speculating the cut-off and result dates. Not like you’re gonna start mains preparation from Night of 20th May 2012.
- Not to mention the days wasted in deliberating about how to prepare everything, which books to buy which ones to ignore and so on.
In short, work hard and don’t underestimate the competition, there are no consolation prices here.