IAS Exam is a tough nut to crack and it becomes even tougher if you are trying to do it while being a full-time working professional. The majority of candidates appearing for the UPSC civil services examination consider their full-time job as a liability in their pursuit of the ultimate goal of becoming an IAS officer. And frankly, at first instance, it does look like one. When other IAS aspirants are devoting around 18 hours per day for UPSC civil services preparation, you are only able to manage 3-4 hours that too not consistently. In fact, this is one of the most common queries and the dilemma faced by working professionals who are preparing for IAS Exam.
If you are also faced with this challenge, you will be pleased to know that you are not alone. Many working professionals are preparing for the IAS Exam and some have even managed to crack the toughest recruitment test in the world through their sheer hard work and determination. But as they say, hard work without a plan is like a Ferrari without a steering wheel; so if you are planning to crack IAS exam along with a job, your plan will play an equally important role as your hard work. To help you along on your tough journey, we have listed out a few important tips and tricks to crack IAS Exam while working a full-time job.
1. Make every second count
For an IAS aspirant, time is the most precious and scarce resource available in their arsenal. This statement becomes even more true for working professionals who are trying to take on the most competitive recruitment exam in the world. Therefore, as a personal working a full-time job, it is vital for you to maximize the time available to you. Taking 8-hour shift as standard working hours, you will not be able to dedicate more than 3-4 hours as dedicated time for IAS preparation.
Therefore, it is important to make use of whatever little time you get throughout the day for preparation. The best way to do this is by utilizing all the little breaks and even your lunch hour to cover your daily reading like newspapers and magazines. Generally, these materials consist of light reading topics with daily happenings and events; therefore it doesn’t require dedicated study time. It would also help if you maintain a personal journal and make notes of whatever you read throughout the day, this will help you sum them up at the end of the day.
2. Study in minutes not hours
We have already discussed that as a working professional preparing for the IAS exam, you will not be able to devote dedicated time for IAS preparation. Therefore, you will have to plan your study sessions very carefully. Limited time availability also means that you will have to make every second count and thus it would be better if you make a study plan that is based in minutes rather than hours. For instance, if you have to cover Modern Indian History; you can break it down into smaller topics like
- 1857 Revolts & Reforms undertaken
- Formation of Indian National Congress
- India After Gandhi
- Indian National Movement
- Government of India Act 1935
Now, these topics can be further classified into smaller sub-topics which can be studied and covered in a few minutes. Breaking large topics into smaller chunks will not only help you manage your time well, but it will also help you study and retain more information over a period of time.
3. Stay near your office
Although not really a revolutionary advice, but it surely serves the practical purpose of opening up more time for IAS preparation. Staying near to your office of place of work will help you reduce your travel time which you can then devote to studying for IAS Exam. Another advantage of staying near your office would be less exertion and fatigue. If you reach home fresh you will be able to focus on your IAS studies which will ultimately help your performance in the UPSC Civil Services Exam.
4. Avoid studying while travelling
In their quest to maximize their study time for IAS preparation, aspirants often tend to use the travel time to and fro from office for studying. This is a very common mistake that almost all working IAS aspirants commit. At first, this looks like a very optimal use of the limited time available to you, but trying to study while travelling in a bus or a train put a lot of strain on your eyes. With constant movement, jerks, noise and crowd all around you; it is not only difficult to concentrate, but it makes your eyes and brain work overtime in order to read a sentence.
Reading while in a vehicle will tire your eyes out by the time you reach home and you will not be able to do justice to the dedicated time you have set apart for IAS preparation. Instead, it’s better to rest your eyes and brain during travel by listening to some soothing music or just taking a nap, so that when you reach home you are fresh and ready to take on your books.
5. Don’t completely depend on the Internet
Internet is surely your ally when it comes to preparing for IAS examination. But, it can also be your worst enemy if you don’t show due diligence. In most cases, ‘the world at your fingertips’ format of Internet might be an advantage for most, but IAS preparation requires a focused approach to all the topics covered within your syllabus. This also includes current affairs and GK. Thus, reading a news story or an editorial on your smartphone might sound like a great idea; it might not be the best for your IAS preparation. With the Internet, there is always a risk of straying away from the core focus that you are trying to study. Be it the latest meme, a viral video or a hilarious tweet; it may look they are consuming only a few seconds, but ultimately they will all add up and hurt you later.
On the other end, newspapers and magazines undergo a thorough editorial process and only articles and stories that are worth it are included in them. In fact, newspapers like Hindu and magazines like Yojna or EPW have earned a cult status among IAS aspirants due to this very reason.
6. Opt for selective study
We have already stressed on the limited availability of time which will make IAS preparation process a very tough process for all working professionals. One way in which you can use this to your advantage is by opting for selective study. Without an iota of doubt, the UPSC Civil Services Exam syllabus is quite lengthy and IAS aspirants who are devoted to the cause full-time also find it difficult to cover everything.
Therefore, it would be wise of you to choose selective study. Selective study essentially means, performing SWOT analysis on the entire IAS syllabus. This way you can shortlist topics according to their difficulty level and devote time only to those that are going to help you crack the IAS exam. There will be a few topics that will be difficult to comprehend even if you devote maximum time to them. Instead of wasting your time on such topics, it would be wise of you to use that time to strengthen the topics that you are good at.
7. Consider your job an advantage, not a liability
The biggest mistake you can do as a working professional preparing for IAS exam is to deem your job as a liability. Your full-time or even part-time job is one of your biggest assets in your pursuit of being an IAS officer. Your job will support your IAS preparation financially with the help of your salary, which will not be possible for others. In addition to this, having a backup job option apart from IAS will also ease your mental stress compared to those who are completely dependent upon cracking IAS exam to get a job.
It has also been noted that during interview stages of IAS Exam, candidates above 25 years are expected to be working and contributing to the India’s GDP by the interview panel. In fact, over the years many committees like Alagh, Hota, ARC II have suggested curtailing the UPSC CSE age limit due to this factor. Put simply, it means that being a working professional will fetch you additional marks in the interview; thanks to your work experience and your zeal to serve the country despite having financial stability.
8. Outsmart your competition
Another very important aspect for working professional preparing for IAS Exam is to understand their competition. UPSC Civil Services Exam is termed as the most competitive exam in the world for a reason! Although at the first instance, your competition might look daunting, it is to be noted that only 30% of total IAS applicants are seriously preparing for the exam. Even among those 30% serious IAS aspirants, many follow the tried and tested route of selected the ‘safe’ subjects and opting for usual techniques and tricks to crack the exam. If you want to surpass them and emerge a winner, you will have to outsmart them when it comes to your IAS preparation. This means picking the right optional subjects for the IAS mains exams, working on your writing skills and personality along with building up a stable knowledge base.
Remember, at the end of the day, UPSC is looking for winners who can run this country efficiently. So, it’s your job to prove to them that you are the right fit for the job. If you feel that we have missed out on any other important tips that can help working professionals crack the IAS exam, do point them out in the comments section below.