“Explore the length and breadth of the optional paper you opt for,” says Surabhi Gautam, AIR 50, CSE 2016
“I would have been very happy if I had managed to get some more time to prepare for the CSE,” says Surabhi Gautam, All India Rank (AIR) 50 in the 2016 examination, speaking about utilising this lockdown period for the upcoming UPSC prelims 2020 (October 4).
Divya S Iyer who secured an AIR of 48 in the 2014 examination agrees. “If one were to look at this period in isolation from everything happening around us, it is a blessing in disguise for aspirants. There are very few distractions around, hence all time and energy can be channelised towards preparing well,” she says.
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Work on Improving Optional
“Use this time to work a little more on your optional paper,” says Surabhi. Those who already have a job or are in the service but want to appear again to improve their rank should treat this period as a golden opportunity, to work harder on their optional subject.
Improving your hold over the optional paper can push your overall score higher and help you achieve a better ranking, says Surabhi. “There isn’t much news that one can consume now, given that most of it is COVID-19-centric. So work on your optional instead,” she reiterates.
“Explore the length and breadth of the optional paper you opt for during this waiting time for Prelims 2020,” says Surabhi.
Adding to this, Divya says, “Do note that there might not be adequate time between the prelims and the mains, so utilise this time to prepare for the optional paper as well. While the recipe for success might not be the same for all, some of the ingredients we need to make it a success are the same – work hard and consistently so.”
Form a Study Group
Speaking from experience, Divya says, “During my preparation period I used to have a group of friends who were also preparing for the exam with me digitally. We would set targets for each day, share relevant articles, and lessons which would aid in the process of study during the day.” What they also did at the end of each day was to discuss and deliberate on all that each of them had learnt.
In a way, the group became accountable to each other. “It helped that we had a group to fall back on.”
Manage Time Leading Upto Prelims 2020
One of the things that Surabhi urges aspirants to do is carve out some time for themselves amidst all the studying and revisions. She says, “Look at it this way – perhaps in your Detailed Application Form (DAF) you mentioned sketching as a hobby. Pursue it during this time; spend some time each day learning something new about it. It will not just help you unwind but also help during the time you appear for your interview.”
The two extra months that aspirants have this year could be a burden as well as a boon. Surabhi says aspirants could also carve out some time to watch movies, listen to music, and indulge in hobbies that they would otherwise not have had the time to do.
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Along with that Divya feels that it is imperative for aspirants to have a schedule or time-table. “Aspirants are in a state of equilibrium at this moment, during the lockdown, and therefore it is important to not lose sight of what they want. This is the ideal time to catch up with anything that you left out. Try and stick to a schedule and you will find that you achieve success.”
It would help to design your day in such a way that it allows you time to relax and do some meaningful study as well, says Divya.
Draw Inspiration from the Current Scenario
“If nothing else,” says Surabhi, “draw inspiration from the current COVID-19 scenario. You will see how hard bureaucrats are working now. It is their time to implement change and they are all doing such a fine job of it.” It should motivate aspirants to work harder and achieve their dreams. If one is keen on making a difference to society at large and be a part of decision making, then there is no other place you would rather be.
“Be very focussed on the end goal, and see this as a period to assimilate and consolidate all you have learnt so far,” says Surabhi.
“It is also important to focus on understanding what this epidemic is all about and how world-over, policies are being framed to fight it. Given how much importance current affairs holds in the UPSC papers, it is advisable for aspirants to read up and be up to speed on all that is happening,” says Divya.
“Watch motivational movies. I remember watching Mary Kom, Panga and those inspired me. Maybe, aspirants now should watch Contagion,” chuckles Surabhi.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)
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