Identify the Exam Skills demanded by UPSC through the reverse engineering process, says Jithin Rahman (Rank: 176, UPSC CSE 2019).
Indian Civil Services is one of the most coveted professions in the Indian government.
UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) is designed in such a way to select aspirants with required skill sets into this profession. The CSE is spanned over 10 months, targeting a pool of 10 lakh candidates, testing them through three phases 11 papers (2 prelims and 9 mains papers), and the dreaded interview.
The sound of this – though intimidating – is the sheer reality every candidate faces year after year when she/he attempts the examination. If this is how the examiners designed the process, we students are expected to design a complementary process to ensure, we glide through the phases and clear the CSE.
Metaphorically, let us assume we are all doctors who are performing a diagnosis to solve this process. The art of curing the patient lies in diagnosing the problem at hand to arrive at the most effective cure. For this diagnosis, one is expected to have the right approach in place and the right diagnosis will lead us to the right skill sets.
A few of us already have these skill sets and require only a small nudge in the content building to crack the exam. However, the lion share of us are devoid of these skills and faces the pressure of developing both the knowledge and skills required for the exam. The focus of my discussion lies today in sharing with you the approach to discover your skills, that I developed over the last 4 years.
1. Ask the right questions
How many hours should I prepare each day?
Such queries posted by candidates reflects the attempt to quantitively analyze the exam. However, if you tweaked the question and asked instead: how effective was the last hour I prepared today? Answering this will reveal the mantra to effectively practice time management coupled with mindfulness. Once you solve the issue of productivity, you will discover that you have more than 24 hours in a day.
2. Understand that Coaching institutes’ material should SUPPLEMENT and not SUBSTITUTE your intellect
In the race of dealing with the constrained resource that is ‘time’, we often tend to completely depend on ready-made materials. The overdependence on these materials often comes at the cost of our ability in pooling in points at the examination hall. While attempting exams, no amount of pre-prepared answers is going to help you, rather the skill of effectively collating your insights is tested. The means to achieve this is by constantly practising the following.
- Read a topic.
- Understand and formulate your insights.
- Supplement your insights with those received from the institute’s material.
Repeated practice of the above mantra shall not only widen your horizon of knowledge but also ensure that you are able to answer any question asked.
3. Build superstructures, add weight and capitalise on the emotional component to memorise
They say everything under the Sun can be tested for UPSC, and it takes a genius to be able to recollect all of this. What I have devised over the years, is rather than attempting to learn anything and everything, trying to fit the insights into respective buckets.
Take, for example, one is aware of the different stages in a woman’s life, starting from birth, adolescence, youth, maturity. When I read issues or schemes related to women, I try to link these to the respective stages of a woman’s life. This effort to emotionally visualize the purpose of the scheme to a stage in a woman’s life, not only helps me in retaining the memory of these but also empathize with the solutions taken by the Government to help them. And I can vouch on the fact that those memories formed with an emotion attached to it, never fade away.
This technique sounds a bit confusing for you. But give it a try before judging this tactic. “ADDING WEIGHT”, means reading more on the topic, that you find difficult to memorize.
For example, if you very often forget the names and events associated with a movement, say Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, then try to read more about the organization and their actions from various sources. It may consume time, but the picture that you have developed from the extra reading builds up in the memory palace, and aids in reproducing it during the examination.
As a concluding remark, I would like to advise the aspirants to identify the skill sets demanded by UPSC through the reverse engineering process.
Which qualities would enable you to attempt the UPSC mains questions in a hyper tensed environment? Which qualities would enable you to sail through the interview process? Which qualities would help you in stress management?
The answer to these questions lies in the strategy that you are looking for.
Believe in yourself, discover yourself, build content, and constantly practice with your skill sets through the phases of the CSE. THE FUTURE IS YOUR’S.
(The author is Jithin Rahman, Rank: 176, CSE 2019. Current Designation: ICLS, Assistant Director (UT), Ministry of Corporate Affairs)