Sorry for the delay in writing this first post. I’ve been quite busy after the results have come out. In this first post, I would like to address some general queries regarding the exam before starting on specific tips for different stages of the exam. This article contains a few questions put to me over the last few days by potential IAS aspirants. The answers are based on my experience and may not apply to all the candidates. From now onwards, I will be writing as regularly as possible. If you have any queries, you can post them in the comments below the article. I would try to respond to each and every query.
Q1. I am a beginner. From where can I get knowledge about this exam?
Ans. Please visit http://upsc.gov.in/exams/notifications/csp2010/notcvl.htm#PageTop.
Q2. How should I decide about my optionals?
Ans. Interest and aptitude should be the foremost criteria for deciding the optionals. If you are comfortable in your graduation subject go ahead with it. Carefully look at the syllabus, previous year papers and some basic text books of that subject before deciding.
Q3. How much time should I devote daily?
Ans. I would say you should try to utilize every moment if you are preparing for this exam. But do not take too much stress. I used to study regularly for 10-12 hours. A couple of weeks before the main exams, I increased that to 14-15 hours.
Q4. Which newspaper/magazine should I read?
Ans. The Hindu is a very good newspaper for all stages of the exam. I did not refer to any magazine for the Mains exam. They are irrelevant if newspapers are followed regularly.
Q5. What books I should follow for GS?
Ans. This will be discussed in detail in a separate article.
Q6. How should I manage time for both the optionals and GS?
Ans. One should allocate the available time (from day1 till exam date) in weeks/months among the optionals and GS on the basis of extent and difficulty of syllabus as well as her confidence level. Try to study GS on a daily basis. For optional I followed the cycle Optional I-Paper I -> Optional II-Paper I -> Optional I-Paper II -> Optional II-Paper II -> Revision in the same order. One can follow any pattern according to her comfort level.
Q7. Do I need to make notes?
Ans. It is a personal choice. Ideally one should have a mixture of notes and underlining. I did not have the habit of preparing notes, and preferred underlining. But one should have regular practice of answer writing.
Q8. How much time should I devote to the newspaper?
Ans. During initial days it is natural to devote more time to newspaper. But one should be selective. For example, during later days in the preparation I devoted half-hour only. I will cover in GS article what I used to read in a newspaper.
Q9. Should I go for selective or exhaustive study?
Ans. I went for exhaustive study. But if time does not permit one can go for selective study.
Q10. Do I need to attend coaching?
Ans. There are both pros and cons of joining coaching. For me cons were: It would affect my study schedule, my independent thinking, risk of getting bad teachers and thereby wasting time and money. However they might be helpful if one is totally new to a particular subject. I did not join any classroom coaching or mock interview for any subject for CSE-2009.
In subsequent articles, I will be talking about all exam-related issues in more detail.