• Study in advance: Assuming that you have been preparing for a few months now, you must tick all the topics mentioned in your official UPSCsyllabus handout (Prelims and Mains) till as early as January 2024.This will give you at least FOUR months to revise the syllabus twice before taking the exam.
• Focus on Current Affairs: Spend 45 minutes on Newspaper reading every day till April 2024. Cover the relevant social, economic, political, cultural issues of National and International importance. Adopt at least one standard current affairs monthly magazine spanning 12 months (May 2023 to May 2024). Do not keep current affairs pending for the last moment. The new UPSC trend shows that a considerable number of questions come from this part of your preparation.
• Do not ignore CSAT: Although the CSAT paper is qualifying, UPSC ensures that you have a tough time doing it. The recent UPSC prelims CSAT papers have shocked aspirants with lengthy comprehension, and taxing Maths/reasoning portions. Brilliant and deserving aspirants have failed in the prelims by ignoring this part. Keep practising CSAT side by side to prevent a Prelims disaster!
• Study for UPSC Mains parallelly: Do not ignore Mains specific topics. Mains and Prelims preparation is overlapping and inseparable and thus goes parallel. Also, cover the Mains topics before the Prelims exam because the three month window between Prelims and Mains is never enough to cover something new. This includes primarily the Essay, Ethics and Optional modules.
• Prioritise revision: The key to success in UPSC is revision, mind you! There is no use of reading so much, if you cannot reproduce it in the exam. IAS toppers have claimed that they revised their syllabus even 4 to 5 times prior to taking the exam!
• Practise Mocks: This is the most important part of your UPSC preparation. You need to evaluate yourself before the UPSC evaluates you. Dedicated time must be given in the last 3 to 4 months before the exam for solving at least 30 to 40 mock tests. You may even go for a simulated environment for self evaluation by adhering to proper time frames of 120 minutes for attempting one mock, and two hours for checking the answers. This makes 1 mock test a good 3 to 4 hours project, but is a precondition for taking the Prelims exam.
• Allot time for meditation: Spend at least 20 minutes a day on your breathing, meditation, reflection, peace and tranquillity. It will help you better tackle the exam fear, the nervousness, panic attacks, anxiety issues, etc. Do not hesitate to talk about your mental health to your parents, friends, siblings, friends, and most importantly, Mentors.
Because, good mentors are always there!
• Exercise every day: A sound mind resides in a sound body only. Sitting and reading/writing for long hours may give you niggles in your back, neck, vision, etc. Do adopt a 30-minute moderate fitness regime that includes yoga, walking, running, stretching, gymming, depending on the individual preferences. It will also prepare your body for the uncomfortable examination centre desks and chairs!
In the end, I would say that if you work hard, UPSC rewards you.
(Shubham Aggarwal is the Director, Chief Mentor at Vidyapeeth IAS Academy. Trained more than 10,000 aspirants across various centres at Delhi, Ambala, Chandigarh, and more)