“In my mind there was no doubt that I was meant to be a part of the civil services. All I had to do was work towards achieving that goal,” says IAS Officer Naveen Kumar Chandra, who clinched an All India Rank of 490 in the Civil Service Examination (CSE) 2017.
Evidently, Naveen’s persistence has paid off.
With aspirants in the last leg of CSE preparation, we talked to him about last-minute preparation and revision techniques that you could adopt.
Currently posted as the Assistant Collector and Magistrate, Malda district , West Bengal, Naveen attempted the UPSC CSE twice, once in 2016 and then again in 2017.
The IAS officer has many points to share especially the mistakes that can be avoided while preparing for the exam.
1. Find Patterns in Mock Tests
“Aspirants usually start solving mock tests about two months before the examination,” says Naveen. It is imperative that they gauge their own preparation level on the basis of the mocks and also derive potential questions on the basis on what is asked. But what should they especially look for?
“Look for unique characteristics, facts and figures from the questions in previous year papers. This will give you an edge over others and push your score to about the 80 to 100 bracket,” informs Naveen.
Elaborating on the need to find repetitive patterns in mock tests, the IAS officer says, “Once you find such questions, make sure you practise as many similar questions as you can. Actively look for such patterns in the mock papers.”
2. Extrapolate From Mock Questions
Do not solve mock papers just to see where you stand – extrapolate from each question as much as you can. “While attempting the mock paper, aspirants check for answers and move on. This is a mistake,” cautions Naveen. There is a reason why a certain type of questions is repeated across mock papers. Thus, it would be advantageous for you to keep a note of such questions and practice accordingly.
Speaking from experience, Naveen says, “One of the mock papers I was attempting had a question which required us to arrange the capitals of countries in South East Asia from North to South. While this question was simple, it indicated that the UPSC question paper would carry such a question.”
Spend time reading up and understanding as much as you can about such questions. Now that you know that questions like these can be asked, extrapolate them to look at other continents, states of India, and the subcontinent. That will give you an edge.
3. “Utilise This ‘Grace’ Period Well” – says the IAS Officer
“There is bound to be some topic or chunk of the syllabus that you may have left out during your preparation time. Now would be a good time to revisit it and gather as much information as possible on it,” advises Naveen.
Leaving out anything from the syllabus is a bad idea, even if you believe that it is not important or of any significance.
“Remember that leaving an entire portion or part of the syllabus is a huge risk. If a question is asked from that portion, you won’t have even have a vague idea of how to attempt it. You will not even be in a position to make an intelligent guess,” shares the IAS officer.
If there are such portions of the syllabus in your preparation, utilise this time to go through it, even if it is just a quick read through. “That would be a good use of this time, since you would anyway have done everything else so far. Remember, for the prelims, being able to take an educated guess is very important,” says Naveen.
4. Spend Time Analysing Your Mock Paper Test
“If you have solved about 80 questions in the mock paper and gotten 60 of them right, you can attribute a majority of it to your knowledge on the subject. However, you must focus on those questions which you got right due to an educated guess or just luck.”
He says that often aspirants move on to the questions they got wrong, but time must be spent on analysing the ones you got right as well and see how much information you have about them. Would you be able to answer a follow up question on the same topic, if asked? he enquires.
5. Focus on the UPSC Prelims For Now
“Try and stay focussed only on the prelims at this point. While it may be very tempting to pick up and study your optional subject as well, do not do that,” says Naveen, adding that a typical day for an aspirant should be focussed on getting the following done:
a) Current affairs
Revise atleast 15 to 20 days worth of current affairs daily.
b) General Studies
Each day you must also pick one subject from the general studies paper to revise thoroughly.
c) A Mock Paper a Day
You should not even consider attempting the CSE without solving atleast 40 to 50 mock papers beforehand. In solving 10 to 15 mock papers you will not be able to analyse where you stand because it is a very small percentage of the entire syllabus. So keep attempting mocks.
6. Focus on your Weakness
“One of things that everyone will tell you to do is to focus on your strength. Here I say the complete opposite – focus and pay a lot of attention to your weakness,” says Naveen.
If polity is you strength, remember that it will remain that way, unless you completely ignore the subject. “Instead of constant reinforcement about your strength, try and turn your weakness into strength,” suggests Naveen.
“Focusing too much on what you already know might give you a false sense of confidence. Use the mocks to find your weakness and work doubly hard on those areas as well,” says the IAS officer.
While these are tips that Naveen has shared from personal experience, he also urges all aspirants to stay calm during preparation and more so when they are sitting for the examination.
Playing to your strengths is always the game plan, but working on your weaknesses will definitely help you in the endgame. So what are you waiting for? Get to your mock test now!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)