First, we need to distinguish between the terms “preparation” and “success”. Now, preparation takes around two years for even the brightest of aspirants who have been academically brilliant throughout because it requires substantial time to cover the vast syllabus, to get adapted to the need of this examination, to learn writing skills, etc.
There is a general notion that preparation means preparing full time sitting in Delhi or any other place. But its not like that. One can prepare even while being at home, or in job or being in college, given you get ample time for studies. As far as ‘success’ is concerned, it cannot be said when one can get it. It may take 2 years, may be 3, 4 or more. Its a cut throat competition,because out of 5-6 lakhs aspirants who appear, only around 1000 get finally selected. And only 180 or so get the most coveted post of IAS, rest get other posts like IPS, IRS, and a number of different posts. So, whether and when will you succeed depends on a number of factors such as how hard you work, how consistent you are, how well you have adapted yourself to the needs of this exam, etc.
First, you must a have clear understanding of what ‘first attempt’ really means? Generally, people tend to think that first attempt means appearing in the exam one year after starting preparation from scratch. But it’s a completely wrong notion. People who have qualified in their first attempt are not those who just prepared for 1 year and appeared in the exam. In reality, these people start preparing from their early college days, or keep preparing while in job, and when they feel that their preparation has reached a substantial level, they leave the job and prepare 1 year full time. Thus, that which looks to people as ‘first attempt or 1 year of preparation’ is actually ‘several years’ of preparation in reality. Now, the answer is – yes, you can qualify in your first attempt, though very few people do it.
There is a perception that without coaching, getting through this exam is impossible. The need of coaching for preparing for this examination is so hyped that most of the aspirants’ first step towards preparation is to come to Delhi and join some coaching institute. But we must analyse the fact that the era when coaching institutes became a norm, and the era we live in today are entirely different. Today, we can get lot of information regarding preparation via online mode. It’s not that coaching institutes make you learn all the things and that they are indispensable for your preparation. Actually, one who attends coaching institutes gets to gain the general know-how about the preparation. The rest things needs to done on our own. It is because coaching institutes at best provide a superficial knowledge which is not enough to crack this exam. We need to develop proper understanding, we need to go through books and newspapers, we need to analyse things, do practice and these have to be done on our own.
So, coaching might lay the foundation in the form of stepping stone towards the journey, but its you who need to do the walking.
The exam consists of three stages:
i) Prelims ii) Mains iii) Interview.
Prelims consists of objective questions i.e you just have to choose an answer out of the given multiple choices. There are two papers in Prelims of 200 marks each. However, the second paper of prelims which consists of 80 questions of maths, reasoning, comprehension , etc is qualifying in nature. It means that you have to just pass in that paper by getting at least 33% marks and the marks that we get in this paper will not be added to our total marks while deciding our selection. The 33% marks and the marks that we get in this paper will not be added to our total marks while deciding our selection.
The first paper consists of 100 questions of 2 marks each, The questions are based on General Studies -History, Polity, Economics, Geography, Environment, Current Affairs etc.
Mains consists of subjective questions i.e you have to write the descriptive answers as you have been doing in your school and college exams. There are four GS papers of 250 marks each, and essay of 250 marks and optional subject of 500 marks. Thus, MAIN Examination consists of a total of 1750 marks.
However, you have to appear in two qualifying papers in which you just need to pass by getting a minimum marks of 25 % . These two qualifying papers are: 1) English of 300 marks, 2) One regional language in which you feel comfortable – Hindi/Bengali/Tamil/Telugu/Kannad/Nepali etc of 300 marks. If you fail in either of these two, you fail in Main exam.
Interview consists of 275 marks. Final selection is decided on the basis of total marks obtained in Mains+ Interview i.e. out of 1750+275=2025 marks. Prelims marks are not added while deciding the final selection. Generally, one ,who gets 850+ out of 2025 gets selected, though this cut off varies year to year and its different for different categories viz. General, OBC, SC, ST, PH, etc.
UPSC provides you a list of around 20 optionals , you can choose any ONE of them depending either upon your education background or based upon your interest . No optional is high-scoring or low-scoring. All are equally scoring. It depends on the level of preparation of the candidate and not on the optional itself. But yes, there does occur a slight variation in marks of optional’s year to year. But that is not constant. If last year, some optional performed better than others, this year some other optional might remain ahead, and next year, some other. So, it’s a myth that some optionals are always more scoring than others and you never know which optional is likely to perform better than the rest in the year yo wish to appear.
It would be wise to quote Anne Tyler, She used to say,” If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all”. Hence, since the preparation itself becomes a monotonous activity at times that there is lot of inertia to take up writing. Answer writing is the next most important aspect after accumulation of knowledge. Once you have acquired a sufficient knowledge and keeping pace with current happenings – You must start writing answers. It is very important to differentiate between two types of aspirants – One who are naturally endowed with writing skills and no matter whether they write answer’s or not, they join any test series or not – they would clear Mains, but such category is not very vast. Second category is of those who despite having good knowledge base struggles with presentation and organization skills. Here, what is important is the personalized guidance. Just joining a particular test series is not sufficient, until n unless you are given personalized attention and guidance to work on your shortcomings. Out of 15,000 candidates writing Mains only 3000 clear it – So its not to mention how important it is to write. So just remember, “There is no WRONG or RIGHT, just WRITE”.
The more you read the better it is. Its not that you must read for 16 hrs a day, but its also not that you should not try to read 16 hrs a day. Read as much as your circumstances, your brain, your nature allows. But a minimum of 5-6 hours is a must. The more you can increase it, the better for you, though, not mandatory. There are many who have qualified this exam with 5-8 hrs of study , while there are many who have not qualified even by giving 12-13 or more hours a day. So its not just about hours, there are a lot of other factors, but 5-6 hours per day is a must.
No. This exam is not similar to school or college exam where you just write down what questions ask and get good marks. In this exam, you need to develop a good writing skill along with subject knowledge, otherwise your knowledge would go waste. Writing skill means that whatever you write must be organized properly which would make it impressive for the examiner to read and hence good marks can be expected, otherwise not.
At the outset the underlying principle be made clear; "Nothing Worth Comes Easy"
Coming to the question, be it the notes of any of your friend(no matter how brilliant s/he is), coaching or be it Topper, if you are referring them to complement your sources, its fine. But if you plan to supplant the text books, newspapers, articles by research scholars and experience and seasoned personalities, then perhaps its the perfect recipe for a disaster. Having said somewhere, every mind has its unique way of processing the data and as the flow goes – More you process the information at deeper level – clear the connections in your mind will be ! Some people believe in the principle of – ” Less leads to more effect” and want to get an easy success. Today we see classes for news paper reading – the whole process and the institutes thriving on two things – vulnerability of UPSC aspirant and the fear factor. Why it is been made an invincible thing, everybody asking to cover numerous sources, there is so much of online material, hundreds of magazines. Now this creates undue pressure and candidates give in to such pressure and looks for short cuts. Going for shortcuts harms more than the overall time saved. It kills the novelty and creativity of an individual. It kills the skill of connecting and analytical reasoning. One tends to believe that he just needs to memorize the notes and the job is done. This is absolutely incorrect notion.
We strictly ask every aspirant to take long cuts in the initial phase to make the later journey smooth. There is no substitute to text books and newspapers. As it is said, ” Hard Work beats Talent when Talent doesn’t Work Hard” . So next time you are going for any ready made notes, think twice!
Is enrolling for a Test Series required in the first place? Dynamicity, is not only the virtue of life but has become the part of competition too. One has to be dynamic (not necessarily dynamite), to be in the race. Though we all speak of changing the rules of the game but what we seem to propagate are the same rules with the new name. Still there have been claims of questions being repeated in final examination from the sources and test series.
It is important to understand at the first place, “What should be the motive of Test Series”? If it is, to have more and more questions being repeated then perhaps best would be to take all sources and compile the questions in a government of India like report which at times is so bulky but in reality has very little substance. Question is not that few of our questions appeared directly or indirectly in the exam (Preliminary+Mains) nor should it be the objective of an aspirant before joining test series. The important and perhaps the only question is how have you trained your mind to respond to the main and the final event.
So we believe, enrolling for test series is justified if it serves the following purposes: Be it Prelims or Mains – first prerequisite is “Training of Mind”, if that is achieved half of the battle is won. And the primary purpose of the test series should be this. One can do this in 10-15 tests or 25-30 Tests. This choice is yours. Second important purpose is to act as a “Priming factor”. It has to ready you for the final event and act as a close rehearsal. Here comes the importance of comprehensive tests. As in our Mains test series, we suggest you to go for the comprehensive tests from the very beginning once you are done with basic preparation. As it’s a proven fact that our first Learning is something that often stays with us for a longer time. So, going for large number of sectional tests will set your mind in a definite framework. And it starts working in a manner that is different from the demand of the comprehensive pattern. Third purpose of Test Series should be to give you a platform to “revisit important issues” and also topics that might have skipped your gaze. Also to implement what you have learnt over time and see where you stand as comparison to others. Here, the important is right feedback.
And that’s the reason "What we need is not just guidance but honest guidance". We call it honest guidance, to emphasize the point – that in the current pattern when we have more attempts at our disposal, it has become a double edged sword. It can be a boon for aspirants so as to improve their mistakes and make their career as a Civil Servant. And at the same time it can act as a bane, as when lot of time is invested with no back up, it may leave the aspirant shattered. Hence, one has to be told honestly of his/her lacuna and his exact standing as compared to others. That’s the reason – honesty has to be shown by both the parties i.e. “Teacher and the Taught”.
We believe one should not be kept in false perception that you can clear or for that matter be given so abstract feedback that at the end of the day the purpose of joining a coaching or test series gets defeated. At last we would say -the oft repeated statement, “Quantity begets Quality” could be true in some field, but not in the arena of UPSC. It’s practically not feasible to solve every question under the Sun about everything under the Sun. We need to hit a balance between information gathering and information retention. Don’t collect information and material like a Nomad – be an intelligent and aware aspirant. Misguidance, in the past had broken many dreams and will continue to do so in future. Therefore, You Gottta Make Right Choices!!
The problem is in your approach. If there is a need to follow a model in conducting a test series for UPSC preparation then it is worth to follow the one set by UPSC. We always clamor about UPSC not providing model answers to us. No matter how much we try, candidates tried in past and will try in future but they will never provide the same. As, How can one provide something which don’t even exist. There are no Model Answers, only ” Model Way” to write. And as Psychological research and the common sense suggests, every single human brain has an idiosyncratic way of working. So, 15000 candidates will write more or less different content in their own unique ways and also the examiners evaluating the answer scripts will have their own set ways to judge answers. This is the reason, we decided to follow the UPSC and rather than providing the model answers (which we think are of no use as the probability of questions getting repeated in Mains examination is minuscule and on top of that if some do appear in Mains, it won't secure your selection) we will provide you the links of the articles and the source – so that you can go through them and form your own schemas. No one can reproduce exact answers in the examination hall when the stress is at its peak – Hence we aim to correct some very basic mistakes which we are prone to make during stressful environment.
There is only ONE answer to this question even if you are one of the most brilliant person on this Earth.
Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 47
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥
“You have the right to work only, but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction”.