Table of Contents
- What is UPSC exam?
- 1. Choose between professional coaching and self-study
- 2. Understand the exam syllabus and pattern
- 3. Create a strategy and a time-table
- 4. Find the right resources
- 5. Practice mock papers from previous years
- 6. Revise your optional subject
- 7. Practice communicating your ideas
- 8. Keep yourself mentally and physically healthy
So before we get to the 8 tips that’ll help you ace the UPSC exam, it’s important we understand the UPSC exam and syllabus first!
What is UPSC exam?
The UPSC exam is a test conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. Aspirants seeking professions in the civil services in India take this exam, to work in the IFS, IPS, IAS, among other allied services. This popular examination is conducted in 3 phases-
- The UPSC Prelims
- UPSC Mains
- The UPSC Interview round
Annually, around 4 lakh candidates apply for the preliminary paper, out of which only 50% appear for the exam. 5% of those who write the UPSC prelims qualify for the mains paper. And 20% of those who clear the mains are selected for the personality test.
Given the extremely competitive nature of this exam, aspirants need to understand the UPSC syllabus months before appearing for the paper.
So, now that we have a better understanding of the UPSC exam, let’s start with the exam preparations! Here’s a list of tips that’ll prepare for your exams and ensure that you are confident and ready to put your best foot forward!
1. Choose between professional coaching and self-study
One of the first decisions you will have to make after applying to take the UPSC exam is the mode of learning that most suits your style.
Many students opt to undertake professional coaching from reputed institutions. However, a vast majority of applicants prefer studying at their own pace and using online resources. And you need to figure out what best fits you.
If you’re studying on your own, it is better to prepare early and in an organized manner. This will also give you an idea of your self-learning capabilities and drive towards the preparation process.
A couple of weeks after you start out on your own, you can join a reputed coaching facility to study, if required. A good institution can enhance your efforts and also support the learning process. So consider joining one before entirely discarding the idea.
2. Understand the exam syllabus and pattern
To create an effective study strategy, start by understanding the UPSC syllabus and pattern of papers from the last 5-7 years. Previous year’s papers are a great way to predict what you can expect in your exam. It will also help you prioritize subjects, choose relevant study materials, and create an organized timetable to follow.
So consider downloading previous year’s solved papers and use them as a reference guide for your preparations.
You will find this information on the syllabus of the preliminary and main examinations on the official website of UPSC.
3. Create a strategy and a time-table
Preparing for the UPSC syllabus requires you to create a suitable timetable that can facilitate continuous and structured learning. Since the civil exam is conducted every year, you can plan your prep well in time for the exam by deciding and allocating days and time for all the subjects. The earlier your start with your preparations, the better.
Also, understanding your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus on subjects that most need your attention. This will help you decide which parts of the syllabus need to be done first. So make sure to take mock tests from time to time so you can improvise your study plans accordingly!
4. Find the right resources
Newspapers are an essential resource for cracking the UPSC exam. The questions in the examination are often directly or indirectly related to current affairs. Therefore, it is necessary that you read through newspapers regularly before attempting the exam.
To crack this exam, you also need to have a firm grasp of the basics of biology, chemistry, physics, and technology. A great resource to establish this foundation is NCERT textbooks that can be downloaded for free from the official website.
Additionally, there are a number of video lectures available for you to study important topics and questions.
Pro tip: Make handwritten notes to facilitate better learning.
5. Practice mock papers from previous years
One of the best ways to prepare for the UPSC exam is to adopt a mock-based approach to learning. This will give you a feel of the exam, while also reducing your stress and teaching you how to manage your time.
Start by downloading mock papers from the internet and appear for them as an actual exam. Time yourself and attempt the mock. Once time is over, compare your answers to the answers in the solved sheets.
While comparing your answers, you will be able to determine what your weak areas are. This will help you plan your schedule accordingly.
Practicing mock papers regularly is a great way to manage your anxiety, as this provides sufficient exposure to how the exam is conducted. Consider taking an executive assessment test to better understand what your abilities are. Executive assessments are designed to improve problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and higher-order reasoning. These are skills necessary to crack the UPSC exam!
6. Revise your optional subject
In the mains assessment, students are provided with options to write on 2 different subjects. There are around 50 subjects that you can choose from in the optional papers. These include-
- Public Administration
- Political Science
- History, and more
Hence, when choosing the subject, make sure you are trained in it. You must also check any prior degree you hold in the subject, and how enthusiastic you are about writing on the topic.
Prepare well in advance for the optional subjects since each paper is worth 250 marks. The score in the optional subjects will also be an indication of which field you are most likely to select and excel in, in the Civil Service.
7. Practice communicating your ideas
The UPSC interview is the final stage of the exam process, after you have cleared the prelims and the mains. During the interview, students are tested on their vocabulary, diplomatic skills, presence of mind, knowledge of the UPSC syllabus, and the ability to answer under pressure.
Practicing speaking and communication skills (especially in English and Hindi) with family members and friends can be a great way to prepare for the interview. Additionally, consider reading about past interview experiences of meritorious candidates to understand what kind of questions are asked and how to best answer them.
But to give you a general idea, you will be asked about your work experience, education, hobbies, as well as interests. So remember to brush up on these well before you appear for the interview.
8. Keep yourself mentally and physically healthy
Yes, the pressure and constant studying can result in you feeling overwhelmed from time to time. You may also experience lethargy and demotivation.
Keeping yourself mentally and physically healthy at such times is a great way to facilitate your learning. Stick to a healthy diet enriched with wholesome and nourishing foods to maintain your physical wellbeing. This will aid your learning process and help you prepare for the exam appropriately.
Learn how to discipline your mind and work on days where you do not feel mentally stimulated. Given that discipline of the mind is one of the characteristics of a good Civil Service officer, this will demonstrate your keenness and enthusiasm.
1. Can I prepare for the UPSC exam at home?
Answer – With a good schedule that allows you to focus on your weaker areas, you can definitely prepare for the UPSC exam syllabus at home. Remember to dedicate a couple of hours every day to studying for the exam.
2. How do I choose my optional subjects?
Answer – Given that the optional subjects are a large component of final scores, choose your subjects depending on your interests, prior educational platform, enthusiasm, and knowledge.
3. How do I work on my vocabulary and writing skills?
Answer – Reading newspapers and blogs on official websites can be a great way to work on your vocabulary and writing skills. Spend some time writing on different topics every day to further develop your skills.
Remember to take small and frequent breaks in between your study schedule. This will keep your mind refreshed and give it the break it needs from time to time.
Ask for help and support whenever you require it, stick to your schedules and deadlines, and read and revise regularly. Armed with these practices, you should be able to crack the papers with your dedication, effort, and sincerity!