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How to go about UPSC Civil Services examination without coaching?

Vijay GarG

UPSC Civil Services Examination, also known as UPSC IAS Exam is considered to be amongst the toughest examination in India. It is not because the exam difficulty level is such, largely, it is because of the vast syllabus that this exam is considered to be one of the toughest to crack. Aspirants from small cities and towns across India shift to big cities like Delhi to prepare for UPSC Civil Services Examination. But does that mean, coaching is the only way to prepare for this exam? Well, to be honest, no!

There are some questions regarding that every aspirant has in his/her mind and one of the persistent ones is that “Is coaching a must for the preparation of UPSC CSE”; another one that is often asked is “How to prepare for UPSC Civil Services Examination without formal coaching” Examination that makes it utterly difficult is the vast syllabus. Hence, the lack of proper resources and expert guidance is one of the key problems faced by students who prepare without any formal coaching.

Students find themselves at sea when it comes to relevant booklist or study materials. Bookshops and internet resources are filled with materials that are never-ending. Hence, fresh aspirants always get in “too many books and too little time”!

The strategy is the key area when it comes to covering the entire syllabus. There are many topics that can be skipped, many topics that are extremely important and scoring. Fresh aspirants may feel overwhelmed with the vastness of syllabus and free resources and may end up wasting a lot of time aligning the same.

Step 1: Go through Previous Year Questions

Previous Year Questions will not only help you in assessing where you stand but will also give you a fair bit of idea about the trend and pattern of questions that are asked in the UPSC CSE exam. This will allow you to finetune the preparation and readjust that part which is relevant. Going through PYQs will help you in mastering the art of relevant studying. So, when you’ll actually start preparing for the exam from books, you will know which part to study and what you can just skip!

Step 2: Prepare a robust study Plan

After you are done with the previous year question papers, read the syllabus of both prelims and mains. Know each and everything about the exam pattern and then prepare a robust study plan. Make monthly, weekly and daily goals to efficiently cover the entire syllabus. Make small goals that are achievable. Keep the weekends for the revision so that you don’t forget what you’ve read. Doing so will help you in concept building and concept retention.

Step 3: Start with making your foundation strong

It is extremely important to have a strong foundation for each of the subjects. It will help you in building on and scaling up your preparation strategy to cover the entire syllabus extensively. To do that, start with something as basic as reading NCERTs of History, Polity, Economy, Geography, and General Science. Practice through Maps to understand the Indian and world demographic better.

Step 4: Make news-paper reading a habit

After you’ve done that, you’ll enjoy reading newspapers as you’ll be able to connect it to the theoretical knowledge that you have. Make it a habit of reading important newspapers like The Hindu and The Economic Times. At least go through the editorial of these pages and important news coverage that may be relevant to the exam. You can also read our daily current affairs analysis and monthly current affairs to get full coverage of the news. Additionally, supplement your knowledge with monthly magazines such as Yojna and Kurukshetra. They have brilliant articles on the current news and static areas. Make notes of important points that can support your answers.

Step 5: Practice, Practice & More Practice

Once you’ve made your foundation strong, read recommended books for each paper. You can check the entire booklist here. The next step is to practice. Practice answer writing rigorously. Also, do not forget to prepare for CSAT, it is qualifying, but still, you need to score more than 66 marks to qualify for Mains. Hence, prepare it through mock tests. Join a good test series that can take care of the CSAT and GS paper. The syllabus for UPSC CSE Prelims and Mains is not compartmentalized and hence you can prepare for both together. But from January or February, go in complete Prelims mode and prepare strategically.

The writer is Ex.PES-1, Retired Principal, Government Girls Senior Secondary school MHR Malout Punjab


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