26-year-old Athar Aamir-ul-Shafi Khan appeared for the Civil Service Examination for the first time in 2014 securing a rank of 571. Upon writing the exam again in 2016, he bagged All India Rank of 2.
In this interview, we understand from him how he changed his strategy and what he did differently that worked.
Read more about the amazing work he has been doing to fight child marriage in Rajasthan here.
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He starts with his 2014 attempt, “I began studying in the last semester in college usually during the weekends. I would, on most days, wake up early and spend time reading the newspaper thoroughly.”
With only six months preparation, Khan scored well in the General Studies Paper but could not perform well in the Optionals.
I sat with the result sheet and analysed it thoroughly. It helped me understand where I lacked. I took the time to plug all those loopholes and gave myself more time to prepare, he says.
1. Practise writing answers
Start solving past papers, minimum of five years and a maximum of ten. Khan says, “Because of a paucity of time, I was unable to do this the first time around and I saw the difference it made to my preparedness. During my first attempt time was of the essence and I barely managed to complete the course.”
Perfecting the answers to cover all points is a must for scoring better marks.
2. One main book and other supplementary content
When it came to studying the static subjects like History, Geography, Polity among others, Khan used the material from standard recommended books like Laxmikanth for Polity. Once he had cleared his concepts and created a base knowledge, he would use another book and create more comprehensive notes. “Ultimately at the end of six months I had notes from Laxmikanth plus all the other sources as well. This helped just before the exam simply because I had all my material consolidated in one place,” he says.
3. Notes on newspaper content
For the General Studies Paper Khan relied heavily on two newspapers –The Hindu and The Indian Express. “Normally, aspirants make notes of various news items in notebooks but I made notes on sheets of paper.”
This helped him to add on updates on an important piece of news. “If I was making notes on India’s relations with U.S. for example – there would be a news item published on one date and two months later there might be some update on that. If I were to use a notebook making additional points would be difficult and therefore I chose loose sheets, which I could keep in a folder.”
Following the loose sheets method helped him collate information and use it in an efficient manner especially during revisions.
4. Consolidation of content
“Only when you are done preparing from the mandatory books should you venture into buying any more books. Given that there is no dearth of content in the market today, choose wisely,” says Khan.
He also says that what matters the most is the aspirant reading one book ten times rather than invest in 10 books and glance through them once. Khan urges aspirants to stay away from consuming any new content very close to the examination. At that point what will help is a revision of learnt material.
5. Workable timetable
Khan emphasises on the need to make a timetable that one can follow – he says, “Be realistic when you draw up this schedule. The aim is to help you study better and not just feel good about having made one. Do not set unachievable targets for yourself, for example saying that you will finish the entire GS syllabus in a month is an unrealistic target.”
Draw up a timetable that is compatible to your schedule. Remember that current affairs are the heart of the exam, so spend ample time on them.
In conclusion, he says, “While this strategy worked for me, each aspirant will have to find their own rhythm and ensure that they make it all work for themselves. Be patient while preparing and look at it like a marathon rather than a race.”
(Edited Saiqua Sultan)
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