For my young friends who are planning to take the UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination next year – How to prepare in the times of Corona.
1. Coaching centres, the classroom kind, are useless. For this exam, that is. After I cleared the exam, I was offered money by three entities (magazines/coaching centres) to lend my name to their advertisements. Absolute strangers. That blatant. That was 2000. Things have become worse. Please don’t take the toppers’ interviews seriously. What works for Kohli doesn’t work for Pujara. What works for Pujara doesn’t work for Sir Jadeja.
2. Get hold of previous years’ question papers. Both for Mains and Prelims. Last 10 (or 15) years’. Spend a lot of time with them. See for yourself where you stand and how you need to start your preparation and what portion of the syllabus you can ignore. Structure your study plan, collect reading materials and organize your schedule accordingly.
3. Multitasking doesn’t help. Don’t do more than one thing at a time. If you want to study, switch off your TV, put your phone on silent mode and stay away from social media. If you want to take rest, lie down on bed, close your eyes and sleep. Don’t watch those coaching videos on your phone and don’t read newspapers on bed. Please.
4. Internet is a very powerful tool. And inexpensive. Learn how to use it and when to use it. Please don’t go astray. Keep an eye on your screen time. Don’t start your day with surfing websites. Mornings are too precious. And don’t let your late evening screen time spoil your sleep quality.
5. TV is a time stealer. If you think you need to watch daily news and current affairs based programmes, please do a cost-benefit analysis and plan accordingly.
6. Online coaching websites are helpful to the extent you know how to use them to your advantage. Some of them are really good. Mock test papers and all.
7. Don’t take the prelims exam without completing more than 80 percent of your Mains (both general studies and optional) syllabus. You won’t have enough time to cover the whole syllabus after the prelims.
8. UPSC preparation is a long-drawn exercise. Burning midnight oil is not a smart way to prepare. Don’t listen to music while you study. They won’t give you this facility in exam halls. Use your daylight hours wisely. Sleep well. Take care of your fitness. Pursue your hobbies. Learn how to unwind yourself.
9. Don’t take the exam right after your graduation. Irrespective of your brilliance and enthusiasm. Prepare well first. Get the right kind of study materials. Cover the syllabus. Work on your writing and speaking skills.
10. Practice solving questions alone. Practice writing answers. Practice as much as you can. Practice like Virat Kohli.
10. Have a Plan B. If you don’t clear the exam and if all your attempts are gone, don’t sign yourself up for a lifetime of low self-esteem. It’s just an exam. Life is too beautiful to be wasted in bouts of bitterness and resentment.