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Do You Need A Strategy At All – For Your Exam Preparation?

Sahil Garg

Rank 471, CSE-2013

“There is no single recipe for success in Civil Service Examination, just some common ingredients”


After clearing civil service examination, my email and comment box was thronged with a lot of requests about sharing the strategy for how to proceed for the exam. From the time I started preparing for this exam, I never followed any strategy as such, as well as never relied on the strategy of others’. There were many reasons for that. First of all, I was not on Facebook, so never sent friend request to people who had cleared the exam. So, any conversation was hardly possible. Secondly, I was not staying in those streets of Rajendera Nagar which we used to call mecca of UPSC preparation and was hardly in contact with anyone. Further I was not as much active on any other online platforms (before finding Insights)

In addition to that I always wondered whether it would be possible to clear the exam based on the strategy of other person. Well, every person has his own mental framework and design rather than a copycat. For example, once I was taking sociology classes in Vajiram and Mahapatra Sir called a girl who recently cleared her CSE 2012. When people asked her about her strategy and her way of studying newspaper and all the stuff in the given time frame, she replied that she could read around 400 words in a minute with better understanding and comprehensibility. I and my friend Shreyas (he was more of feeling sleepy) were quite shocked to hear that. I used to read at quite a slow pace and take quite hours to complete one topic. That day I decided neither to follow any strategy nor to attend any seminar of candidate who had cleared this exam – because as I said earlier, there are some common things that must be there and all depends on your understanding and passion towards the subject.

Whatever came to me, I read it, comprehended it and came out of those downgraded silly suggestions of which I used to feel uncomfortable and felt quite low when I used to see answers of others. Further, initially I used to take 30 minutes for one answer on insights (for first few days) which was subsequently reduced to 20 and consequently to 10 minutes and finally to 6-7 minutes. So, remember that you may make mistakes, you may take prolonged time in covering topics, and you may come out with layman answers, but a time will come when you will realise that it brought more fruits that what you reaped.

You cannot follow the strategy of other person as such. This is because UPSC today asks about questions which are opinion based. Any person who cleared the exam may tell you what to study and how to study, but he/she cannot make you think the way UPSC wants you to in the examination. He cannot make you write with the way he wrote in examination

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

You are a unique personality and you know your own strong and weak points. You have to search for them and then chart out your strategy. There is no point is asking about strategy but you can ask about the books and some common things that you can refer. Don’t ask about how you studied or how you used to write except the general structure of answer. Further, there are some common books each and every aspirant needs to study and these are recommended by insights and every topper as well.

These books shall be read to the core and must be supplemented by your opinion, correlation with day to day news articles and related sites and issues.

Further, one thing that is necessary for UPSC is not to waste your time on social networking sites. I know people wasting time in asking multiple aspirants about the strategy of exam and end up at square one. You can be on these websites but only for recreational purposes at times. (Though Android and smart phones have made it an Utopian Goal). Further, do not think much about whether syllabus will change or not (I have seen people more concerned about change in syllabus as if they are going to complete the new one more religiously); what would be the result (some people even start preparing once results are out- Remember that there is no difference between mains and prelims with regard to general studies syllabus) etc etc.

Reading and studying is not the only thing in UPSC but your thinking matters the most because in real action situation you won’t be asking your fellow mates about what they would have done if put in similar situation. Therefore, think as much as you can and this cannot be inculcated into you by anyone. Write on insights, take time to read answers of others piously and try to evaluate your answer with others and improve on it yourself.

So I would request you all to be what you are and not a photo copy of others. Approach exam with the way you like to, on the premise you want to and success will automatically be yours. Stick to your goals during ups and downs. It may be protracted but when you come out of it, you will be a warrior who has all the self-capability to stand face to face in any difficult situation and you would be more proud of that and it will have more genuineness.

Believe in Yourself and Your Sui-generis (ness).

All the Best to fellow aspirants..!!!!

Related Posts:

1) Strategy for Essay Paper (Marks 140)

2) Strategy for Sociology Paper

3) Sahil’s Marks