PLEASE NOTE THESE ARE JUST MY OPINIONS AND MY WAYS OF DOING THINGS. IN NO WAY IS ALL THIS WHAT I ASK ALL OF YOU TO DO.
- I only prepared the topics I was comfortable with. I cannot mug up stuff so I left the topics which required mugging up. I do not prepare data and I don’t know data for anything. Never mugged up any.
- Left Art & Culture and Environment topics in G.S. and left Map completely in Geography. They required mugging up and I am not very good with that. So I focused on preparing the topics I could handle.
- Started from the basics. I found NCERTs are a must-read. But yes, some subjects require specialised books after that. But I found that you cannot ignore NCERTs. You have to do other books alongside NCERTs. Everything starts from there. Also we need to do them multiple times.
- Mostly depended on online material. Did not go to any one site, but checked multiple sources for everything. I like getting different points of view on everything so I would read as many sources as possible for the same topic. I did not revise anything though, something I should have done. I don’t necessarily recommend doing this because I ended up wasting a lot of time and effort and did not even remember most of the stuff I read. Though using more than one source is always a good idea.
- I am extremely, extremely lazy and since Current Affairs requires effort throughout the year, I had to depend on online websites at the last minute for getting my material. But if you can, please read the newspapers daily. Cannot recommend any magazines since I never read any. Do prepare your Current Affairs from the exam month of the previous year.
- I never prepared notes for anything, even when I read the same topic from multiple books. I just went back and read all the books again – mainly for my optional Geography where I consulted more than 35-40 books. I used to underline important stuff in the books but I was too lazy to write it all down. Please don’t take this is as what everyone must do. Do what makes it better for you to remember stuff.
- I used to discuss and debate a lot of stuff with my friends so it helped giving me different view-points and helped my analytical abilities.
- I am not someone who can study throughout the day or something, so my study plan is always about finishing a particular amount of course rather than studying for a fixed number of hours. For example, I would plan to finish 20 chapters in a day rather than study for 15 hours. I did not waste time starring at the same page for a long time and then get up telling myself that I studied for so many hours. Instead I spent a LOT of time on my multiple hobbies.
- I did not lock myself away from my friends and family or my hobbies. I somehow found time for everything…..but that might be because I used to avoid studying. I do realise sometimes talking to people can be a distraction because you will end up spending time thinking about the stuff they said and that can take your concentration away from your books when you start studying. Do what works best for you. I couldn’t lock myself away from all the other things I love but maybe you need to.
- I never prepared for Prelims or Interview. I used to directly prepare for Mains and answer prelims based on my knowledge of Mains syllabus. Which is why I never score very high in GS of prelims. I don’t recommend this but this is the reason I cannot help anyone with how to prepare for the prelims. I have given CAT so I didn’t need to prepare for CSAT so don’t know the material for that either.
- I didn’t prepare for interview because I see it as an opportunity to interact and exhibit my personality and thought-process to the interviewer rather than my knowledge. So I get good marks in interviews when the questions are about me and my hobbies and how I would handle situations but I do terribly when asked factual questions of Current Affairs.
- I have been asked many times about when to start studying for this exam – and this is what I believe and did for myself. I think it is important to find another alternate career before you stake your future on this uncertain path. That will give you confidence and a safe haven in case things don’t go your way. This exam needs a lot of hard work, a lot of mental strength and some amount of Luck. So to remove the luck factor, I decided to get a strong alternate career before this drowned me. Also working helped me analyse and see what I was good at and what I could handle. It gave me a lot of maturity and a wider, bigger perspective to things. Something that helped me a lot during preparation. And having a work possibility somewhere out there, keeps you positive and gives a lot of emotional balance.
- I never made clearing the exam as the only thing in my life. I did not connect it to my ego or to my personal success or made it my reason to live. I can’t be that intense about something like this. To me this exam is about what it allows me to do….like help manage things in my country, help improve lives, help make policy changes and work at the national and international levels to make lives better. I did not care about being rank 1 or something, I would have been quite alright even with rank 1000 as long as I get to do the work I want to do.
- I never took any test series or interview prep classes. I am too lazy to attend those. But if you need to practise and can’t do it yourself, it is upto you!