With less than a month to go for the Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) Civil Service Examination (CSE), Shubham Kumar, who secured the All India Rank (AIR) 1 in 2020, shares the strategy that worked for him.
Having failed to clear the UPSC CSE prelims in his first attempt in 2018, Shubham made some changes to the preparation strategy in his next two attempts in 2019 and 2020, which changed things for him.
Hailing from Katihar, a district in Bihar, he went on to pursue an engineering degree from IIT Bombay. While at IIT, during a corporate internship, Shubham says that he was certain of not wanting to be a part of the corporate sector.
On why he chose to attempt the UPSC CSE, he mentions that societal influence to get into administrative service always played on his mind. Speaking to The Better India, Shubham says, “For me, it was also a means to improve my socio-economic standing in society. The fact that being part of the administrative service allows one to make ground up changes was also a motivating factor for me.”
“A concrete plan of attempting the UPSC CSE came to me only during my final year of engineering.”
Pay close attention to the static portion of the syllabus:
Shubham says, “The static part of the syllabus forms the core of the prelims. A minimum of 55-60 questions comes from the static portion. To have a good understanding of the static portion, one must cover the syllabus with the basic textbooks (NCERTs) or any other source. Ideally, aspirants should not have more than one source for a particular topic.”
He goes on to say that aspirants must develop the ability to read and understand a question conceptually. “While appearing for the examination one must think clearly and use their intellect to take an informed guess,” he adds.
Aspirants will also be rewarded if they pay attention to the trends and analyse the past year’s question papers well.
Current affairs preparation:
Another very important part of the prelims paper is the current affairs. Shubham says, “Current affairs has to be read in tandem with the statics portion. I used PT 365 along with Google and online sources while preparing.” He also adds for those who are preparing from a monthly magazine, there is no need to go to PT 365.
For current affairs preparation relying on one source is good enough. If one feels the need to gather more information on a particular topic, Shubham recommends using Google.
Practice makes perfect: Embrace mock tests
Attempting mock tests is of prime importance for any aspirant preparing for the UPSC CSE. Shubham says, “One should attempt both sectional as well as full-length mock tests. One can attempt the sectional tests from any one coaching institute and the full-length tests from three or four different institutes.”
Shubham recommends attempting a minimum of 40 mock tests before appearing for the prelims. “Doing this will significantly reduce the errors and blunders that one might make. It will also increase the aspirant’s efficiency and comfort in attempting the exam. These mock tests have the potential to raise your overall score by at least 20 marks,” he adds.
During the last month aspirants should attempt at least 20 tests and must avoid attempting the mocks one week before the prelims, he says. “If you intend to perform like ace cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni, then keep practising,” he adds.
Make time for revision:
While making the study schedule, an aspirant must ensure they have adequate time for at least three revisions before the paper. Helping aspirants plan this, Shubham says, “The last revision should happen four days before the exam date. One should allocate at least 20 days for the second revision and one month for the first revision.”
While revising, aspirants must cover static portions in-depth, limit current affairs but revisit the older studied topics well and focus on making fewer blunders while attempting the paper. “Good revision will help boost the confidence of the aspirants and it is good to go into the exam feeling good,” says Shubham.
Choose your optional paper wisely:
In his first attempt, Shubham had chosen civil engineering as his optional paper but decided to opt for anthropology in the next attempt in 2019. “I did this after spending a fair amount of time researching the optional topics, speaking to a few seniors and looking at previous years’ question papers.”
He says, “While attempting the optional paper, aspirants must draw on everything they have learnt thus far. Linking the topic and creating a larger picture will help one score better. Working on making your answers unique will result in a better overall score.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)