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MOTIVATION & STRATEGY for Prelims – 2019: by Chitra Mishra, Rank 20 UPSC CSE – 2018

MOTIVATION for Prelims – 2019

by Chitra Mishra, Rank 20

UPSC CSE – 2018


Prelims is around the corner. Yes, it is here. For most of you, who are reading this, it is very crucial to understand 2nd June indeed shall pass. 

Now, one has to be very strategic and calm at the same time to deal this phase. This is the phase of immense self-doubt, confusion, chaos, anxiety. This is the time when you think – should I not give the exam. Should I ‘save’ this particular attempt?

Yes, I did feel the same. And I felt many a times than not; Why is it so?

It is so because Prelims gives you the sense of unpredictability. Suddenly you feel, you know nothing. Suddenly every topic, every book looks distant. All revision comes to a standstill.

Hang on. Here is the key. One day at a time. Self-belief– Gautam Buddha’s golden theory- Middle Path between over-confidence and hyper-anxiety;

Some of the key things to do in the last few days of Prelims

  1. You should be extremely clear what to read and what-not-to-read. In this case, for instance, do not read entire books. Read chapters- selectively;
  2. Ensure you do not end up making a lot of ideal revision plan which becomes almost impossible to complete further making you fall in the loop of mental trap.  
  3. Try to remind yourself that all these preparations are not going to enable you find the question in the exam hall; instead all the last-minute revision, reading, memorizing will give you the much-needed confidence to approach the exam differently in the exam hall on that particular day;
  4. Ensure you narrow down the reading material. Trust me that eases off the burden at hand and makes you feel already half way through;
  5. Many of you by now must have given 20 odd test papers and fared exponentially well, and must be gaining a lot of confidence. For those of you who are not, trust me, UPSC is going to throw bouncers alike on 2nd. Hence, it is plain psychological therapy.

Meanwhile, how to make the best use of the time:

If we were to analyze subject-wise, over the years, this is the stage, I struggled mentally the most. Two reasons. First, because, objectively, if you ask me to choose, I take a pause and get puzzled. Secondly, plethora of information completely overpowers me. How much can you remember? How much can you recall? How much can you store?

But you can definitely LINK. You can CONNECT. You can certainly organize and relate the pattern. Yes. My key learning during successive prelims during this exam were

–          Do not let the 100 questions over power you. Prelims is not about information overload. It is about confidence, temperament and attitude;

–          It is not so much about making all the right choices in the exam hall in those 120 minutes. It is more about identifying and not making wrong choices. Remember, the paper wants you to fall into trap and make wrong choices and get eliminated. 50% of your battle is to let yourself not do that;

–          If you hence, can identify those pit-falls, those extreme phrases, those statements where you are bound to mark otherwise, you can make a huge difference to your final score. Trust me, it is such silly mental battle which enables you to see your 6-digit roll number in the pdf selected to appear for UPSC Main examination.


General Studies Paper- 1

Revision Tips:


Indian Polity by Laxmikant needs multiple revision.  Its fine as long as topics are done in a strategic and effective manner.

Link –

Few Suggestions to decode Laxmikant:

–          Parliament is the most important segment. Make sure you revise it, no matter how daunting it might seem;

–          Union and State legislature should be done parallelly. It saves a lot of time and confusion. If need be make few micro-notes, at those junctures where you make silly mistakes. This should be followed by co-related study of Local Self Government;

–          Next most important segment would be chapters on Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties.

–          Ensure Constitutional and Statutory Bodies are done with adequate clarity. Make a tabular note of key distinction in case you find it difficult to recall.

–          This can be followed by Centre-State relations (Administrative, Legislative, finance) and Emergency

–          Finally, other chapters like anti-defection, special powers, historical background and the chapter on citizenship.

Finally, one single source of current event, which enables you to link with this book. For instance, because CBI was in news in the last few months, one can expect a question on procedure of appointment of director of CBI or its basis of formation. Here comes the key- Linkages.


In this case,

Revise Basic syllabus

  1. Phase 1 1757-1857
  2. Phase 1- 1857- 1947

One major suggestion in History is to divide the syllabus into sub topics:

What are the key areas where UPSC has been asking questions in the last 5 years?

Try to understand the areas

  1. Phase of Indian National Congress 1885 onwards. Revise major Congress Session, events, link the important phases in National Movements. For example, Link,

ü  1905 partition of Bengal with 1905 Benares Session- Gokhale & 1906-Calcutta Session- Tilak; Similarly, 1916 Session with Moderate-Extremist merger;

ü  1929-Lahore session and 1931 Karachi Session with the Round Table Conference and Gandhi-Irwin Pact;

  1. Secondly, if Governor-General is covered, ensure major battles, legislations, are done. Example,

ü  Lord Lytton- Vernacular Press act, 2nd Anglo-Afghan War;

ü  Lord Curzon- 1904 University Act, Corporation Act, 1899;

  1. In case of Gandhi, ensure, apart from all the major movements and events (Champaran-Kheda-Ahmedabad; Rowlatt, Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience, Quit-India Movement)- one also focusses on Temple entry movement- Vaikom Satyagraha, his views on Khilafat Movement, his constructive program, Harijan ideals, Poona Pact. So, the key idea is try and look beyond the popular topics.
  2. Peasants and Tribals Uprisings. For example, if you begin with Indigo revolt in Bengal, 1853-57, move to Pabna revolt 1873-76, link it also to other movements in Bengal- Faraizi Movement– then infamous 1943 famine (This should enable you recall Strachey Commission of 1880 related to famines) and then finally Tebhaga Movement- 1946-47. This way there are lot of topics covered with a common theme Bengal and Revolts/Uprisings.
  3. Similarly, some other crucial topics includes

–          Bhakti and Sufi Movements

–          Buddhism and Jainism

–          Schools of Philosophy

–          Moderates and Extremists

–          Charter Acts, Indian Council Acts, Government of India Acts

–          Major Battles – Carnatic, Anglo-Mysore, Anglo-Maratha, Anglo- Afghan, Anglo-Sikh

So in a nut-shell, revise topics and not HISTORY or SPECTRUM. That doesn’t help.


In case of Environment, some of the key last moment focus areas are

–          Biodiversity – ensure you google critically endangered species, endangered and vulnerable species. Make sure you distinguish between Himalayan tahr and Nilgiri Tahr. UPSC expects this level of clarity from you. Similary Red Panda and Giant Panda; Yes, they are not related to each other.

–          Climate agencies like UNEP, GEF, IPCC, UNFCC, NAPCC, MoEF & CC, Conservation International, Ramsar International, Bird life International, BSI, ZSI are extremely important. Ever since the exam is combined with the prelims of Indian Forest Services, it is only logical for the paper to have more questions from this segment.

–          Environment related legislations: In this area, one must be conceptually clear in terms of the basis of the legislation- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;The Biological Diversity Act, 2002; National Green Tribunal Act 2010; The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act (CAF), 2016;- Questions from this section might be asked to understand your clarity upon the intent of the act and not so much on the information;

–          Environment and Ecological Conceptual key terms – In this case

  • genetic diversity versus species diversity;
  • ecotone, ecological niche, biosphere
  • alpha, beta and gamma diversity,
  • difference between species, genus, family, order, community,
  • Natural vegetation
  • Pollution

And finally, in this section, if at all there has been any new development in the last 12-15 months, do revise your current affairs to ensure you do not miss out on that;

In 2016 CSP, Question on Blue Mormon was asked directly from current affairs –


This subject requires strategic revision. In the last few years, it has been a tricky section, for not much of coverage has been from this particular area. Earlier physical geography was a go-to area till 2014-15. Last 3-4 years has seen a shift in the kind of questions which has been asked. So be very selective in the last-minute revision.

Key areas to cover

–          Ensure you spend 30 min to cover world map very effectively on either

This would help you refresh and de-stress yourself after serious sessions of heavy doze revision of core Polity, Economy, History;

–          Indian Geography – The only guiding source should be the chapters of India Physical NCERT Class XI, – Physiography, Rivers, Vegetation, Climate, Soil.

–          World Climate. I read from G.C Leong-

–          Physical Geography– Class XII NCERT

Hence, Geography should be dealt in a very objective manner and even in the exam, utmost care should be taken to deal the questions on the basis of aptitude.

In CSP 2017, for instance, if you travel by road from Kohima to Kottayam, what is the minimum number of States within India through which you can travel, including the origin and the destination?
(a) 6

(b) 7

(c) 8

(d) 9

Now, this is a question purely based on your presence of mind, calmness in the exam hall and analytical aptitude.


In case of Culture the preparation needs two-pronged approach

Part 1- Quick Revision of key themes

–          Art and Architecture

–          Paintings

–          Dance

–          Music

–          Puppet

–          Theatre

–          Literature

Part 2:

Some of the key topics like UNESCO Intangible Heritage list, World Heritage Sites – Cultural, Prominent Excavations in News, Major Tribal Festivals, Any Festival in News mentioned on PIB website in particular, any centenary celebration (Champaran last year, Paika Rebellion)


Apart from Class XII NCERT Macro Economy Summary attached here, do revise your standard current affairs.

In the end, for Science and Technology, refer to one standard source of Current affairs booklet and revise it at least 2-3 times to avoid factual error in the hall.

End Note:

So finally, I hope this gives some direction and perspective for those of you who might be in the most crucial and stressful phase of preparation.

Few key targets from yourself in the next fortnight:

–          There is only so much one can do. Its alright to not be able to complete the set syllabus on a given day. Even if you complete 60-65% of it, you are a winner of first order.

–          Revise one half of the day static and the other half current. For some of you it also includes your Mock test solution sheets, arranged chronologically in the folders.

–          Remind yourself each time you feel nervous, that you are not alone. There would be thousands like you mentally battling the daunting task of memorizing, revising and preparing to face the challenging battle of unexpected in the bravest possible manner.

–          Lastly, appreciate all the hard work you are putting in every single day irrespective of the outcome and tell yourself that 3rd June is round the corner either way. 

Till then, All the VERY best.