The internet is filled with tips for UPSC aspirants–what they ought to study, how their routine must be, and tips to crack the exam. However, what is often overlooked are the common mistakes that they can make.
In this article, we caught up with 26-year-old Athar Aamir-ul-Shafi Khan who 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 the All India Rank of 2. He lists down some of the common mistakes that aspirants often make and shares with us his take on how they can be tackled.
1) Buying any and every book for preparation – Remember that quality trumps quantity
“Instead of picking up multiple texts/books for each subject and reading them all only once, it would be prudent to pick up fewer texts and read them over and over again,” says Khan.
Trying to read too many books for every subject and then not being able to revise is of no help to an aspirant. Given the number of study material available in the market, one must be careful in picking up the right texts and resist the urge to buy too many books.
Word of advice: Do your research well and buy only the books that are absolutely worth it.
2) Preparing a lot, but not taking enough mocks – Practice leads to perfection
Aspirants sometimes do not factor in enough time for mock tests and revision, both of which are extremely important. According to Khan, solving multiple-choice questions before one attempts the prelims paper helps a great deal in improving both accuracy and scoring better.
He adds, “It is also important that aspirants attempt as many mock tests as possible before the actual exam. This will not only help you brush up on your concepts but will evaluate yourself and revise accordingly.”
Word of advice: Practise as much as you can. It will help to improve your handwriting, speed, and assimilating your answers better.
3) Neglecting newspapers
“Many people rely only on various exam portals or monthly magazines for current affairs. However, from personal experience, I found newspapers to be the best source for current affair content. It is important that aspirants get into the regime of reading atleast one good daily newspaper every day,” mentions Khan.
Echoing this in an interview with The Better India, Pratishtha Mamgain, who secured an AIR of 50 in the 2016 examination, said, “I primarily referred to The Hindu and the Indian Express. Up until the prelims I used [The] Hindu as my main source of information and gave a cursory glance to IE, but after the prelims, I switched it up. IE became my main source of information, while I continued reading the editorial in The Hindu.”
It helps to read the news when it’s hot, and in smaller doses every day, instead of trying to cram a truckload of facts before the exam.
Word of advice: Pick a newspaper or two and ensure that you are diligent in reading it throughout your preparation time.
4. Not making your own notes – they are the best refresher guides
One of the key ways in which we can retain information is by revising regularly, and that, in turn, can happen only if we make diligent notes.
“It is natural to forget most of the things we read. One of the things that helped me was to make my own notes and revise them, before the examination,” says Khan.
“Before the examination, revising from one’s books/texts will not only be time-consuming but also be extremely difficult. In times like these, the notes will be of great help,” he adds.
Word of advice: Device your own method of making notes and start for various subjects as early as you can.
5. Do not cut yourself off – You need the fresh air and conversations
Confining oneself indoors is never the answer to finding success, says Khan.
“Many aspirants cut themselves off from the surroundings and people and try to stay indoors buried in books. I think it is unhealthy and also creates a lot of stress,” he says.
In the schedule aspirants draw up for themselves it is essential that they also factor in time to talk to people, friends, and family regularly. One will find that these conversations refresh you and at times, offer a whole new perspective.
“Cutting yourself off everything and everyone will make preparation very unsustainable and even may lead to depression,” he clarifies.
Word of advice: It is essential to take care of one’s health. Good food and exercise help. This is especially important for those who are preparing for the exam far away from home.
Given that Khan has cleared the examination and gone through the process of preparation and appearing for the UPSC, his suggestions will most certainly come in handy.
If you have your own do’s and don’ts, we would love to hear about them.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)