To determine, how tough a particular examination is, one must look at its success ratio. By this standard, the civil services exam or the IAS exam would be deemed as the toughest test on the planet with a success ratio of 0.01%. Cracking such an exam would need more than just commitment, preparation and luck; it would require the aspirants to embrace IAS preparation as a way of life that is reflected and supported by the daily activities they undertake. It may sound like an overwhelming task at first, but if you are dedicated and serious about clearing the IAS examination, there is no better way of preparing for it other than embracing it as a way of life. To help you in making IAS preparation an integral part of your daily life, you should try and develop the following 10 habits as part of your daily routine. These habits will not only help you during the preparatory phase of the examination but would also aid you in long term considering that you would be part of India’s elite administrative services.
1.Build a Timetable
Being an IAS aspirant, no one should have to tell you the importance a well-balanced timetable during your preparation phase. However, aspirants should try and build a timetable that well balanced in terms of the number of study hours, relaxation, physical activity as well as social life. Devoting all your time to IAS study will lead to monotony and boredom resulting in lack interest in studies. Apart from this, you should also try and build a two or three different time schedules that help you achieve your daily, weekly and monthly study goals. This will help you keep track upon your preparation schedule and make amends as and when necessary. Following a managed and scheduled timetable will evolve into a more organized lifestyle that will help you in the long term even after your selection for the CSE.
2.Develop Conceptual Clarity
The extensive syllabus of IAS exam, which spans across length and breadth of the subject, often compels IAS aspirants to merely memorize the facts instead of developing a deeper understanding or conceptual clarity about it. This is a very wrong approach to IAS preparation. Human memory can only hold a certain amount of data, which is again subject to deterioration with passage of time. To ensure that you understand the topic you are studying, IAS aspirants should try and develop conceptual clarity about it. This will not only help you dwell deeper into the topic leading to more insightful answers, but also help you memorize and remember information / facts associated with the topic. For instance, if you are studying geography, always refer to a geographic map and place the concepts on it, it will help to build a visual memory guide to help you remember it back during examinations.
3.Develop Writing Skills
Many IAS aspirants only focus upon the preliminary examinations, which is an objective type test. While this may look like an appropriate strategy at first, but in long-term, it would come to haunt you. The main examination of IAS / Civil services is a traditional subjective test for which answers have to be written in text. Therefore, if you are serious about clearing the mains examination it is advisable that you start developing your writing skills from prelims stage. According to many prominent academics, study through writing has been known to be one of the best techniques to remember factual information as well as develop answer formats that aid in the final examination. Plus, it works to your advantage by avoiding duplication of work, as you can prepare revision notes during your prelims phase that will aid you during mains preparation as well.
For an IAS aspirant, Newspapers are their best friends. The biggest challenge as far as newspapers are concerned is that it expands the UPSC syllabus by one newspaper every day. But, despite this, there is no turning away from such an important resource for IAS preparation. In addition to developing a habit of reading newspapers daily, you should start identifying the important topics and stories that you should focus upon. In short, before you being you newspaper reading, ask yourself what should you read and why should you read it and from where should your read it. This will not help you to cut down the amount of reading you need to do and also aid in the collection of important information on a daily basis.
5.Follow Government Websites
Often ignored by the majority of IAS aspirants, government websites are an abundant source of information about policies, schemes, programmes, data and reports. These resources can be utilized by the IAS aspirants to gather information and understanding that will provide to be very useful in both preliminary as well as main phases of civil services examination. The advantage of referring the government websites is that they are updated more frequently compared to books and published reports. Secondly, being a digital resource, the websites are free to be used by anyone with access to an internet connection.
Another very important habit that IAS aspirants should develop as part of their daily routine is to indulge into healthy and quality discussions with their peers as well as teachers and coaching instructors. Quality discussions should focus upon a topic and look at it from different perspectives back them with verified data available in public domain. Discussions are a great way of gathering differing point of views on any given topics as well as necessary information. The viewpoints shared by peers and students can be used by an IAS aspirant to build a more holistic and balanced answer, which will be received well by the examiners. Being part of such a group also helps you to keep you motivated to study more and develop an alternative perspective to take the discussion forward. Being part of a quality discussion group also helps aspirants in building excellent interpersonal skills for the interview round of IAS examination.
One of the best qualities that you will need not only as an IAS aspirant but also as an IAS officer is that of a problem-solving attitude. IAS aspirants much like the officer they will become after clearing the civil services examination, need to address a host of problems and challenges in the preparatory phase and overcome them using innovative techniques. You may encounter problems of dealing with an extensive syllabus, time management, resources, peer pressure, societal pressure and many others during your IAS preparation phase. In such testing times, your problem-solving attitude will come in very handy to design solutions that are not only aimed at solving your problem. Therefore, IAS aspirants should develop a never-say-die attitude towards problems.
8.Be Your Own Teacher
IAS preparation is very long and tedious process, which is further made difficult by an ever expanding syllabus and lack of time on the part of the aspirants. Considering this, depending upon one teacher, guide, mentor or even a single coaching class material is not going to help you cross the line. You should transform yourself into your own teacher, who is able to develop questions as a student and answer them as well using reference materials and study materials. Adopting this dual-role approach to your preparation methodology will help gain confidence along with helping you with subjective studies. If you inculcate this habit for the long run, you will get into the mode of self-study to solve any question that arises in your mind about any topic.
‘All Work & No Play’ will not get any work done as far as IAS preparation is concerned. No one has ever been able to clear the civil services by locking themselves in a room with a bunch of books. Therefore, an IAS aspirant should develop a balanced lifestyle that focuses equally upon health and social life as well as the study aspects. Your daily timetable should allot dedicated timeframe for physical activities like light exercises, yoga, meditation, running and even sports. As far as social life is concerned, apart from your family, you should also develop a group of friends who have same goals, it will help you stay focused and motivated in long run. Ensuring excellent physical health of pivotal for cracking IAS examinations, therefore, ensure that you take healthy, nutritious diet and minimum 8 hours of sleep per day.
10.Commitment & Dedication
The journey to IAS success is a long and tough one and the only thing that will achieve your end goal is your commitment towards it. During this long and tiresome journey towards IAS success, aspirants will be faced with many challenges and problems which may waver their dedication from the cause. Many have also reported quitting after devoting more than 5-7 years for IAS preparation due to societal pressures and continuous failure. However, despite these challenges every year a bunch of aspirants crack the exam backed by their willpower to overcome all odds. This is only possible if you develop a high level of self-belief and dedication.