Tips on IAS Preparation
How To Prepare For Prelims
How to Prepare Notes
How to Write Answers
How to Read for the IAS
We see many people around us who spend their time in a frenzy of activity but achieve very little because they are not concentrating on the right things. They are perpetually busy but it does not necessarily mean that they make optimum utilization of their time. So there is a great need for effective Time Management in our lives today.
We keep hearing the word “Busy” a lot. There are two kinds of busy, chaotic, disorganized busy and calm effective busy. It goes without saying that being the latter helps to pack in more productivity in your work. Improving our “effectiveness Quotient” calls for mastery of basic time management skills.
We constantly hear the refrain that we do not know where the time goes. Whether you are an executive, a student or a homemaker, you need to achieve more in every minute of the day and to enjoy each task that you take up. We will be well on our way to the top if we know how to squeeze the most out of even a minute.
The first thing to bear in mind is to question whether you have a personal sense of time or a time log. This helps you to keep track of how you spend each hour. There is a way to do this. Divide each day for a period of two weeks into one hour intervals and jot down what you do in them. You can sub divide the activities under such headings as business meetings, writing, making phone calls, reading, time spent with the family etc. At the end of the week, examine your time log.
What you may find is that very little time goes into top priority activities and more into activities such as phone calls, coffee breaks, chatting with friends etc. Now is the time to analyze what activities are a waste of time and what need more time. Try to cut down time spent on useless activities or stop doing them altogether. Once you have prioritized your time, you will find your efficiency level rising and the end result is that you will be an achiever!
How To Prepare For Prelims
The civil services examination is basically a test to choose suitable administrators. It tests the candidate right from the stage when one starts the preparation. One common misconception about the prelims is that it is a test of facts and figures. This is not so. A candidate should have the right frame of mind and the will power to succeed in the exam. A proper action plan is needed for the preparation itself since he /she will be tested for some essential qualities like power of retention, clarity of concepts, ability to identify the correct alternatives with efficiency and accuracy. All this requires a quick decision making power. Since the preliminary exam in particular is a test of endurance the candidate needs to prepare himself on the physical as well as mental level. The main constraint is the time one gets to answer questions. On an average one gets around 40 seconds for each general Studies question and around 50 seconds for each optional question. Added to this time constraint is the fact that the exam is conducted in the month of May which is usually the hottest month all over the country. Most of the centres for the exam do not have proper facilities which adds to the stress. One sure way of dealing with this stress is to count numbers or to take a few deep breaths. Meditation and Yoga also help in dealing with stress to a great extent.
Now we come to the actual preparation for the prelims exam. Since it is a multiple choice question paper, it needs a different preparation and a proper strategy. The first thing a candidate needs to bear in mind is that the examination is designed to evaluate certain qualities like a sharp memory and basic retention power. There are ways to increase one’s memory like preparing charts. One gets confused when faced with mind boggling facts and figures. Important facts and figures can be simplified and represented on charts and they can arranged in the form of tables or graphs. Another thing to remember is to make short and brief notes on each topic so that the entire syllabus can be revised a day before the exam. It is better to use diagrams and link words which make it easier to understand difficult concepts. One more technique to help in retaining information is the use of abbreviations. Since the syllabus involves exhaustive information abbreviations help you to remember it better. It is a good method to remember dates, facts and figures in a picture format and to break up complex names and places into smaller and simpler words. The last and the most important technique is doing regular revision. This helps in retaining the maximum information. A separate time slot should be given to doing not only regular but multiple revisions like daily, weekly, monthly etc.
Many candidates make a mistake of overloading themselves with lots of information and end up remembering nothing. One should be able to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information. Since the preliminary exam is an elimination round the candidate should also learn to focus only on the information needed and filter out the rest. It helps to discuss with friends and teachers but the most reliable way is to past years question papers for the optional subject whereas for the general studies paper, one should keep abreast with current events and information related to them.
An important thing to remember is that for this exam it is just enough to remember information but to understand the concepts well instead of memorizing facts and figures. The questions asked in the General Studies paper are of 10+2 level whereas for the optional subject it is graduation level. Therefore emphasis has to be on conceptual clarity. Any concept has to be understood with its origin, merits and de-merits, then it needs to be analysed with other relevant topics and lastly it has to be correlated with the events that have taken place during the year.
The preliminary exam requires candidates who have the acumen and the ability to choose the right option of many given options. This needs a proper method of elimination. It is a good idea to go through previous years and model question papers and solve as many as possible. Taking a mock test of a certain number of G.S. questions and optional questions would be a good practice and help to pick out the most appropriate option.
Each prelims paper is for two hours but a lot of time is wasted in signing attendance sheets etc, therefore there is a lot of need for effective Time Management not only for the exam but in the preparation as well. It is not enough to know the right answer but it has to be marked correctly on the answer sheet. Speed and Accuracy are important, so solving model question papers on a regular basis would be a great help.
A good presence of mind is needed to eliminate the least appropriate options and arrive at the right one. Tick out the least correct answer first and go on to the next option. Even when faced with a question for which you do not have a ready answer, with basic common sense and a good presence of mind, it is possible to make your guess a smart and a correct one.
Throughout the preparation for the prelims exam, it is important to remember that any topic or concept should not be studied in isolation. It is better to understand and establish a correlation between related concepts from other subjects and current events and happenings.
Even with all this preparation, it is necessary to have a positive attitude and a great amount of will power to succeed to achieve your goal,that of getting through the civil services examination with flying colors!
How to Prepare Notes
Appearing for any competitive exam requires a lot of preparation. Students should be ready to face this challenge in the best possible way. Though there is no one way of studying, there are ways to study more effectively and with less stress and more enjoyment. It is important to know how to make use of the sources available to you in the best possible way. It is wise to take a three pronged approach to preparation, reading to learn, making effective notes and able to write answers to various kinds of questions.
Students are often faced with the daunting task of making voluminous notes. Now the question arises as to why make notes at all. There are several good reasons, one is that you cannot make notes without understanding the given topic, since you have to pick out the important points and try to summarise them. Next is that writing down any information helps you to remember it better. Thirdly, it makes a good practice for thinking and writing out essays. Fourth, it will prompt you to revise your work since it does not take a long time to go through a set of well made notes. Lastly, it helps you in your final revision by reminding you of the most important points of each topic.
The next question is when should one make notes? One should make notes from the very beginning as soon as you have done your studying when the material is fresh in mind. This helps to fix it in your memory. It is better to make notes from all possible sources, from what you read, what you hear and from what you do. After making the first brief notes, it can be expanded and organised properly. You can then keep adding information to it from time to time. One important thing to remember is to never treat a set of notes as the final version.
There are different methods of making notes and one should decide which method suits you the best. There are two types of making notes, one is the LINEAR NOTES and the other PATTERN NOTES.
Let us start with Linear notes first, it is a method in which you condense the material you have read using headings and sub headings and jotting down the most important points. This method works best when making notes from a book where the material is already properly organised. But one disadvantage of this method is that you end up copying a lot of material from the book which defeats the very purpose of condensing.
The right way to use this method is to use loose sheets of paper instead of an exercise book since it is easier to keep adding information. It is a good idea to leave space on each sheet of paper for additional information. Another way to make your notes more interesting is to use colors, block letters, making boxes and highlighting as and when necessary. All this will immediately draw our attention to the actual contents of our notes and make it more clear and comprehensible.
We now come to Pattern Notes. For this we have to begin the topic at the centre of the page. Each line radiating from it represents a branch of the main idea. Each point is written as briefly as possible using a key word or a phrase. It is a better method to adopt because it is more flexible than making Linear notes. One can add extra information to it at any point without any problem. Second advantage is that we can see the whole pattern at one go without actually turning the pages. Thirdly we can indicate the links between different topics more easily than we can do in a linear method. Another advantage of pattern notes is that it is exceptionally useful when making notes from memory for revision as you keep jotting down points as and when they occur to you. This makes it easier to revise for exams and writing out essays as only brief key words are used. Lastly, it is easier to remember as notes is made in a shape format.
But this method has some disadvantages as well. If there are too many facts and too much of information, your pattern becomes messy and over crowded. Using key words can remind you of basic ideas but when it comes to remembering details, this method cannot be sufficient. Therefore the most effective way of making good notes from the sources available is to use a combination of these two methods. One important thing to remember is that for many subjects your notes will have to include diagrams and sketch maps. They must be accurate and labelled very clearly.
For example while making notes for Science, the general lay out has to follow the one given by your teacher with as little variation as possible. There are four basic stages which should always be there, Purpose, Method, Result and Conclusion If there is a description it will have to include a diagram and if it is recorded data, it will require a table or a graph.
Whatever method you decide to follow, one thing to remember is to keep your notes handy at all times and in a proper file. It is a good idea to use colored flags to demarcate different topics. With such systematic preparation, a student can face the challenge of any competitive exam with confidence
How to Write Answers
The civil services main exam consists of descriptive type of questions. It focusses on testing the candidate on various levels. The time limit for the essay paper is 3 hrs without a word limit, but for the optional paper, there are questions with specific word limit like 250 words in optional subjects and 250 words, 150 words and 20 words in general studies. The candidate then has to prepare himself to answer all types of questions. The most important thing to be kept in mind is the time constraint. Therefore it becomes necessary to answer these questions quickly and effectively and in minimum words.
One common doubt that students have is with regard to the style of answering questions, whether to adopt the paragraph or the point style of answering questions. Though there is no set rule, it is wise to adopt a style depending on the question asked. If the question says to discuss, analyse or critically examine, it would be better to answer the question the paragraph format. On the other hand, if the question asks you to list the advantages or give reasons for/ against etc., it is better to go in for the point format of answering.
STYLE OF ANSWERING QUESTIONS:
For this it is very important to understand the question first. Depending on what the question is, whether one is asked to “discuss”, “elucidate”, “explain”,”critically Appreciate” or “give reasons for and against”, the answer should be written Accordingly because it is only through the examinee’s style of answering questions that one can assess his or her originality of thought and analytical abilities. The question should be read properly, in fact the question paper should be read thoroughly in the first five or ten minutes of the exam and then one should decide on the questions which are to be answered first. Time should also be given to frame the answer so that there is no confusion later on.
A good way to write effective and precise answers is to pracise writing out answers. our answers should present the facts and concepts in an interesting way and should never read like a passage from a book. It is best to use simple English and avoid flowy and decorative langauage wich takes our attention away from the original facts and our opinions about a given topic. Making a practice of writing out answers is especially useful in managing the time limit set for the exam and to write the best possible answer in the allotted time It not only improves one’s style of expression, but also one gets used to the time and word limits.
HOW TO WRITE A GOOD ANSWER:
It is just not enough to know all the facts and information but the most important thing to be kept in mind is to write an answer which has a clear and a logical frame, which presents information in a clear and concise manner, which does not contain any irrelevant or piling up of information, which is interesting and able to hold one’s attention.
So the next logical step is to know how to write a good answer. The first step is to prepare the framework where one can list all ideas, thoughts and facts and write them down. It is important to adopt an answering style which is natural, original and to the point. Emphasis should be given to the kind of language used, one which is simple and clear without unnecessary use of nouns and verbs. Use of archaic and fancy words or language should be avoided at all costs. Care should be taken to avoid grammatical mistakes which will give a negative opinion however good the answer may be. Last but not the least, it is very important to have a good and a legible handwriting.
Students are often at a loss when faced with the extensive syllabus of Mains exam. One should be objective and try to focus on about 70% of the syllabus instead of being over ambitious and trying to cover the whole syllabus. The next thing to be kept in mind is the choice of study material. It is a wise option to just refer to few standard books to get an deep understanding of the subject. Reading from too many books will do more harm than good.
Lastly it is good to be selective while preparing for a given topic, to list out all the important points and the relevant information in a logical framework. It is important to remember that studying for the exam involves Purposeful reading which is basically reading with a certain focus on the given topic and preparing for the possible questions accordingly. Before starting on any topic, it is a wise move to go through the questions asked in the past about the given topic and jot down the probable questions for the current year. It gives an idea to the king of material one needs to study to be able to answer such questions effectively. After this mentally analyse all that you have read and try to logically link all the points and see if you have understood everything.Such a kind of periodical revision will help in the long run as it will ensure that it increases your understanding, improves and enhances your memory, and makes you more confident so that you give your best performance.