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If you are preparing for the Civil Services Exams (CSE), then you must have experienced one or all of these feelings at some point during your preparation – So tired that the words swim in your head? Feeling cut off from the world? The mounting pressure of not having enough time? Wanting to give it all up?
Relatable? Then let 2015-batch IAS Dhivya Loganathan be your guide. The woman with a never-say-die attitude faced two setbacks before she cracked her way into the prestigious orbit of the fourth pillar of our Democracy, with an All India Rank of 402.
Read on to find out what worked for Dhivya and the one thing she wishes she had done while preparing for CSE.
8 Strategies That Worked For Dhivya
1. Find the Fire
“Find the fire in you to make it work,” she says as we begin. It is important to find that one reason why you want to crack the examination. “It’s that desire that will see you through the tough times,” says Dhivya.
Having cleared the examination, Dhivya says that she took herself a tad too seriously during the time she was preparing. “The examination was like a sword around my neck,” she recounts. “As much as you take the time to celebrate your victories, also enjoy the process of getting there,” says Dhivya.
2. Commit To a Schedule
“Whether it is to study for 10 or 4 hours a day, it is essential that aspirants draw up a schedule for themselves before they start the preparations,” says Dhivya. It not only brings in discipline but also a great degree of commitment to the preparation. It also helps curb the harmful habit of biting off more than you can chew. So setting a time table is mandatory to help you stagger your climb uphill.
3. Bite-Sized Slots To Practise
“To wait until you complete the entire syllabus and then practise might not be the best strategy,” says Dhivya. It is important to prepare and practise simultaneously. She goes on, “The key to cracking this examination lies in practice. I would recommend all aspirants to practise writing answers on a daily basis.”
For this, she says, aspirants need to carve out some time every day. She urges all find bite-sized time slots which can be found easily. For example, attempt two questions after lunch each day or maybe two in the evening just before you wind up. “Make it a habit and you will see how much easier it gets in the end,” she advises.
4. Carve out Time for Yourself – Go Watch A Movie
“This is one thing I regret not doing,” says Dhivya. She recommends that every aspirant take some time out for themselves during their preparatory schedule. Recounting her own prep days, she says, “I never took any time out to watch a movie back then, and I wish I had. I realise now how much of a difference watching a good movie can make to one’s perspective.”
She encourages aspirants to watch movies that expose them to not just a different worldview but also movies that spark ambition. “You will be surprised at how much you can learn from watching good movies. It will show you the bigger picture and is bound to stay with you a lot longer,” says Dhivya. It helps achieve the twin goals of stimulation and relaxation.
5. Use Online Educational Tools
“There has been an exponential growth in e-learning tools and one should make use of these. The biggest advantage of these online tools is that you access them from anywhere,” says Dhivya. However, one must exercise caution while trawling the internet. Time is of the utmost importance during the CSE preparation. So once you find what you are looking for – a website that you find useful – then stick to it. Do not go hunting for new avenues every day and waste your time.
6. The Power of Effective Notes
“One thing I learnt and tried to follow was to make concise notes. Notes are effective only when you are able to fit it all into 2 or 3 pages, at most,” says Dhivya. Making bulky notes will not serve the purpose during revisions.
“Revising is as important as preparing, and therefore make notes that will hold you in good stead,” says Dhivya.
7. Find Your Journey and Own It!
Before you start the preparation, it is important to understand that every aspirant goes through his or her own journey. Comparing yourself with another aspirant will be of no use. “It is next to impossible to control the human mind, and some amount of comparison will creep in,” says Dhivya. “As long as you use this to your advantage and work harder, it is good,” she says.
“Remember that each aspirant comes with their own share of struggles, so while drawing inspiration from that is one thing, comparing does not help,” says Dhivya. “I have felt very low several times and mourned about how unfair life is, but that has never helped, so pick yourself up, and keep marching.”
8. Step Back and Breathe
It is natural to feel the pressure rising during the months leading up to the examination, however, Dhivya says is that is important to understand when to take a step back and breathe. “Be patient and stay focussed on what you wish to achieve,” says Dhivya.
“Approach the examination with a very positive mindset. Even after clearing the exams, do not think that you have arrived. In fact, it is just the beginning and along the way, there might be many challenges and disappointments to face. Brace yourself!” she says.
In an earlier conversation with The Better India, Dhivya spoke about her motivation for joining the service and shared tips on how to appear for the interview. Read all about it here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)