Today, we live in a world which is driven by the English language. No matter which field we are in or which role we are assigned, English will be critical to our professional success. This statement is even more true for IAS aspirants, who is preparing for the UPSC Civil Services or IAS Exam. Although the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) allows candidates to choose the language and medium of their choice for the IAS Main Exam, there is a compulsory English language paper of qualifying nature that has to be dealt with. In addition to this, good command over English as a medium of communication is also necessary during the interview stage and even during the final training after being selected for IAS.
But, like all important things building a comfort and command level over English is not an easy task. In fact, many people have tried and failed despite their best efforts. One of the biggest problems in their strategy to master English for IAS Main Exam was their focus on the formal educative style of learning. However, when it comes to English, there are many practical and fun ways in which one can learn English for IAS Exam. We have discussed a few of them below:
1. Read Editorials
Ask any IAS aspirant and he will tell you how important reading Newspaper editorials are when it comes to IAS Exam Preparation. In addition to providing vital information and clear opinions about the raging issues of national importance, the newspaper editorials can also be used to improve your English. All the editorials which appear in the newspaper are written by established editors and columnists. The words, format, style and language used by these established writers is not only grammatically correct but also provide a contextual understanding of the right usage of the English language.
2. Write Letters to the Editor
Keeping up with the theme of newspaper editorials, it is very important that IAS aspirants also learn to express their views about on-going happenings and current events in socio-political and economic space. And what better way to learn it than writing letters to editors. IAS aspirants who are serious about improving their writing skills must write a letter to editor daily. These letters will help you learn the art of conversation in written English format and also assist you in keeping updated regarding the latest happenings. However, aspirants must not feel disappointed if your letters are not published in the newspapers. Newspaper editors get thousands of ‘letters to editors’ daily and it would be simply impossible to publish them all. So, you must take it as a learning exercise and continue writing letters to editors. You can also share it with your peers and ask them to point out mistakes or improvements in them.
3. Converse in English
One of the most common challenges that are faced by IAS aspirants during their interview process is regarding the ‘art of conversation’ in English. Even aspirants who are comfortable with reading and writing English often face problems when it comes to speaking in English. The thousands of ‘Spoken English’ courses and classes back this statement that despite having a formal English education, very few are actually able to use in conversation. This could turn out to be a major hurdle for you during the interview process, where the panel would be looking for India’s top bureaucrats of the future. So, it is very important for IAS aspirants to start conversing in English. Make it a point to talk English with your teachers, peers or even to yourself alone for at least 1 hour. Try to use the difficult words you encountered in newspapers and study materials as part of your conversation. This will help you learn the usage of different words in different context. If you follow this process thoroughly, you will see considerable improvement in your spoken English within a few days.
4. Write 100 words daily
In our earlier point, we have already established that writing ‘letters to editors’ to leading newspapers like The Hindu. The next step in improving your writing prowess in English would be by ensuring that you write 100 words daily. By words, I don’t mean jot down 100 different words, but build a paragraph of at least 100 words that makes sense. You can pick any topic of your choice to write the paragraph on; it can be about current events, on some topic you're studying or it can even be a movie review or a short story. The important thing here is to be comfortable with writing English, and doing so in a right and meaningful manner. So, make it a habit of writing one paragraph of 100 words in English daily.
5. Watch English Movies, Documentaries and TV Series
Like we said, unlike technical subjects, learning a language is an art and there are many ways other than the established ones that can be employed to learn English. One such fun and practical way of learning English for IAS exams are through TV. While the majority of us deem TV as an idiot box and try to completely cut-it-out of our routine during our IAS preparation; it can turn out to be your biggest ally when it comes to learning English. So, use watch English TV channels like Discovery or Nat Geo, follow the news on good English channels like BBC or CNBC, you can also watch entertaining movies like Inception or Slum Dog Millionaire or follow TV series like Game or Thrones or Walking Dead. While you watch TV / English movies, make sure you follow the dialogues, jot down difficult words in your mind palace, learn how to construct sentences on a topic, learn about the usage of words in different context. The point here is to transform your TV from merely an entertainment platform to a learning source. And if you do it right, you will be fluent in English before you know it!
6. Think in English
Now coming to more serious stuff, apart from learning how to read, write and speak good English; there is another aspect that is involved in learning English for IAS Exam. This is about thinking in English. While many of IAS aspirants learn the first three aspects of learning English quite easily they are unable to think in English. Many linguistic experts have identified that many IAS aspirants first frame an idea and sentence in their mind either in Hindi or their regional language and then translate the same in English. This not only forces the brain to put in extra effort, but often also leads to them using incorrect form of English. For instance; to say that you appeared in the Exam, an IAS aspirant would often use the term ‘I gave the Exam Paper’ because s/he is translating it from Hindi i.e., ‘Maine Exam Paper Diya’. The right sentence construction for this would be ‘I took the test’ and you will be able to put this sentence together only if you are able to think in English.
7. Build your vocabulary
The critical importance of vocabulary is not a secret to any IAS aspirant. However, what one needs to keep in mind that you don’t really need to learn every difficult word that exists, you only need to focus on words that are part of our daily usage and are included in policy decisions, government orders and current news. Therefore, the best way to move forward in this direction would be by ensuring that you jot down all the difficult words you encounter daily, it is being while reading the newspaper or while talking to someone else. The critical importance of vocabulary is not a secret to any IAS aspirant. However, what one needs to keep in mind that you don’t really need to learn every difficult word that exists, you only need to focus on words that are part of our daily usage and are included in policy decisions, government orders and current news. Therefore, the best way to move forward in this direction would be by ensuring that you jot down all the difficult words you encounter daily, it is while reading the newspaper or while talking to someone else. At the end of the day, you should have a minimum of 10 to 15 words for which you can find the meaning and start using them in your daily conversations. If you follow this process, at the end of the month you will know around 300 new words which are phenomenal progress in improving your vocabulary... At the end of the day, you should have a minimum of 10 to 15 words for which you can find the meaning and start using them in your daily conversations. If you follow this process, at the end of the month you will know around 300 new words which are phenomenal progress in improving your vocabulary.
8. Read Government Scheme & Policy Documents
Many IAS aspirants despite being well-versed in the English language often face challenges while building an answer for IAS exam. This is because, while their casual and academic English is good, they are not really aware of the words, style, format and terminology being used in the government scheme and policy documents. The government documents released by either the central or state government have their own style and format; familiarity with it will prove to be very advantageous for all the candidates appearing for the IAS exam.
9. Solve Previous Year Question Papers
Like any other examination, IAS exam even the IAS Mains Exam is a recruitment test at the end of the day. Therefore, you will need to be well-versed in the examination pattern in order to use it. Even when it comes to preparing for the English sections, one needs to practice with the help of previous year question papers. This will help you to understand the kind of language being used to frame questions for IAS Main Exam. Similarly, previous year question papers will also help you understand what the examiners expect you to write in your answers and kind and level of English language which is expected from you in the IAS Main Exam answers.
10. Be Patient
Although listed last on this list, this is probably the most important point when it comes to learning English for IAS Main Exam. Learning a language or mastering one, especially for the IAS Main Exam is a very tough task and won’t happen overnight. You will have to be persuasive, committed and hard working in order to achieve this feat. And despite all of your hard efforts, you will have to invest a considerable amount of time in learning English. Therefore, your patience and commitment during this entire process would be critically important for your success.
As mentioned above, learning English, especially for UPSC Civil Services Exam or IAS Exam is going to be a long and hard-fought battle. But, like all long and hard fought battles, the fruit it bears will be very rewarding. So, begin this process today take your first step towards the success in IAS Mains Exam today.