Dr Tanu Jain is a 2015 batch Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services (AFHQCS) officer who managed to clear the exams in her third attempt. After completing her Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS), she began studying for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams. She is currently an officer at the Ministry of Defence.
Speaking to The Better India, Dr Tanu says, “I chose to prepare on my own without enrolling for any coaching classes. In 2012, I gave my first attempt and that is where this journey began.” In her first attempt, she cleared the prelims and that was a boost to her confidence. Dr Tanu attempted the examination six times and says that each time she cleared the prelims and even reached the interview stage four times.
“It felt like destiny was playing tambola with me. I would lose out on a very slight margin every time,” she says.
Having gone through the rigours of this competitive examination, Dr Tanu shares some of the strategies that worked for her, while preparing,
1. Prelims Is a Screening Test:
“This is an examination that will test the expanse of your knowledge. Your general knowledge will be tested in this examination. Aspirants must ensure that they stick to the syllabus and complete it all,” says Dr Tanu. While one must do an extensive reading for the prelims it need not be exhaustive. Do not restrict yourself to one or two sources and ensure that you have a good well-rounded understanding of the subject.
“Concentrate on increasing your depth and breadth of knowledge on any given subject. That will hold you in good stead during the examination,” she adds.
2. Do Not Bank on Just One Source:
Aspirants must pick multiple text sources for each subject. “Do not bank on only one resource or book while studying,” says Dr Tanu. While the preparation for the prelims is vast, one must indulge in smart studying. “Keep one book or your notes as your base and thereafter look for other books and notes for further information that is missing from your base. Either make notes of the additional information or find another way of storing the new information,” she adds.
“While studying, develop the art of looking at the resource before you from an examiner’s point of view. Think of ways in which a question from that topic may be asked. This will help you prepare better,” she says.
3. Tweak Your Circle:
“While preparing for the examination, try and look at the bigger picture before you. There might be small sacrifices that you will have to make to succeed,” says Dr Tanu. While preparing for the examination, Dr Tanu says that she did not completely cut herself off from family and friends. What she did instead made a circle of friends who were as invested in clearing the UPSC examination.
“Choose the friends you wish to hang out with. I would consciously discuss current affairs and topics of interest with family and friends. All these are small steps but help in the overall preparation,” she says. You become the person you most interact with, so choose your circle wisely.
4. Make a Schedule You Can Stick to:
“Drawing up a schedule is easy, sticking to it is what often causes problems,” says Dr Tanu. While making a schedule one must be realistic and not over-ambitious. “Break down your schedule and ensure that whatever you pick for a day is completed by the end of the day. Do not let it roll over to the next day,” she adds. As one goes along optimal utilisation of time will also happen to make it easier to schedule.
“Once you complete your task it gives you a sense of achievement. That in turn makes scheduling an enjoyable process. Set a goal and once completed do treat yourself for it, it will keep you motivated,” she adds.
5. Show Utmost Honesty Towards Preparation:
If you have chosen to attempt the UPSC CSE it must be for reasons personal to you. Dr Tanu says, “Having seen aspirants do this to impress others or because they have been asked to is of no use. Giving this examination has been associated with gaining prestige and that motivates many aspirants as well. Do it, only for yourself. Doing it for someone else might not motivate you the same way. So, be completely honest with your intentions.”
The hard work an aspirant puts in for the preparation should not be for someone else. It is something that an aspirant does for themselves alone. “Remember that the hard work you are putting in is for yourself, not to please anyone else,” she adds.
6. Be Smart with Time and Resource Management:
“There are ample resources in the market to choose from. Be smart in picking what works for you the best. Make schedules that work for you and not generic timetables,” says Dr Tanu. With the number of resources available, always take on only as much as you can chew. This will help you prepare in a focused manner. Aspirants must also remember that no matter how many resources they prepare, what matters is their performance in the examination.
“The examiner does not know whether you are knowledgeable or not. The only thing that matters is what you write on your examination sheet. So, ensure that you are cohesive in your examination. Evaluate yourself frequently to keep getting better,” she adds.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)