The effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference. This article is written with a special focus on doing smart work for IAS preparation. The importance of this discussion is at a time when there are a wide variety of resources available around every aspirant to make him/her get confused.
Hard work vs Smart Work
In school, we would have come across both hard workers and smart workers.
Hard workers would study the entire year, make notes on almost everything, and prepare hard for examinations. However, when final results come, some ‘dark horses’ emerge to top the list, often overtaking the hard workers, surprising everybody.
Yes, they are the smart workers.
The smart worker completes the most important tasks first. They prioritise their actions. If the effort is not worth the return, they may even don’t do it.
In contrast, hard workers try hard and attempt to learn almost everything. In the process, they tend to devote more time on unimportant topics and materials, resulting in the loss of valuable time.
Smart workers would pay more attention to their final goal and clear the examinations in flying colours spending less time, energy and money!
Know what to study and what not
There is no shortage of books, materials, or coaching in the market, but there is no proper guidance regarding what to study and what not. The root concept of smart work for clearing IAS exam lies in the same – knowing what to study and what not.
If you are a beginner (or veteran) who is confused about the right strategies, we strongly recommend you to download our ebook (PDF) – “UPSC Civil Services Exam – The Beginner’s Guide to Success”. You can download it for FREE!
You may also check the article Strategy and Books for Early Birds To Clear IAS Exam if ‘civils’ is a long-term plan.
Utopian model of Civil Services Preparation:
If you are thinking that you need to read N number of books (the big ones you know, with near size of a pillow where N is a variable which starts only from the smallest possible 3 digit number), attend IAS classroom coaching at ABC institute, BCD institute, and XYZ institute for specialized classes for each subject, browse 15-20 websites and prepare notes from 5-10 newspapers and magazines each day to clear IAS, you are probably wrong.
The exaggerated actions highlighted above are Utopian cases, which are neither practical nor necessary to clear Civil Services Exam. Even if an imaginary person does all that is stated above, there is still a chance that he/she, not clear Prelims/Mains.
What matters in the UPSC Exams is the Quality of Learning and not the Quantity!
What matters in UPSC IAS preparation is not the quantity (volume) of materials one had gone through, but the quality of learning and revision done.
Besides, aspirants should develop personalized strategies knowing their strengths and weaknesses, as general strategies might not work in individual cases.
‘Collector’ or ‘Book Collector’?
As books in physical form are an indispensable prerequisite for IAS preparation, candidates should not worry spending a few bucks on the necessary books for UPSC exams. In fact, from the very beginning aspirants should keep aside a sum of around Rs. 5000-10,000 entirely for basic books, magazines and newspapers.
But what are the essential books for IAS preparation? Don’t worry. We are coming to that.
Book-Buying Habit of Aspirants – Two Extreme Cases
Two versions of candidates can be observed if we keenly analyze the book-buying habit of aspirants.
The first group are extremely reluctant to spend on books, though they are happy to spend thousands on coaching classes (without any use), drinks, latest gadgets or parties. Instead of the original books, the depend on pirated PDFs, photocopies, and the coaching class notes.
The second version of aspirants considers being a book collector as the prerequisite for becoming an actual collector. Rooms of these guys can at any time beat any central library in terms of quantity of materials 🙂
Choose the middle path!
We at ClearIAS.com suggest a middle path. Though books are lifelong assets and the money spend on books can be seen as an investment, you should also consider the time factor. You have only limited time and UPSC does not expect you to read all the textbooks and magazines available in the market.
So candidates are advised to adopt a basic minimum program in the case of books and study materials that should be bought. Depending upon on time available, you may expand your book base from this basic minimum.
We have listed out 30-40 books recommended by toppers (considering the requirements of Prelims, Mains, and Interview). Once you begin, you may not buy all of them together. Start with 1-2 books for each subject. However, get NCERT textbooks for all subjects from class 6-12.
Even the minimum book list (listed below) might look exhaustive for some of the aspirants, but unfortunately, we can’t help that. The one year long UPSC exam cycle expects you to go through at least these basics. After all, you are doing smart work for IAS, and not any school exams! 🙂
Smart Work for IAS Preparation: The strategy, books and study materials
1. Download ClearIAS app for overall guidance
ClearIAS™ was started with a vision of quality, but affordable online education, giving stress to self-study. ClearIAS has released free mobile apps (android apps as well as iPhone apps) as a complete self-study package for free. Our Android app has already crossed 5,00,000+ downloads.
2. Follow ClearIAS ‘Prelims cum Mains Integrated Approach’
Prelims and Mains, though two separate stages of UPSC Civil Services Exam, are not water-tight compartments. Many of the topics included in the Main Exam are mentioned in the Prelims syllabus too.
3. Buy the recommended books for IAS preparation
Don’t forget to get copies of NCERT books from class 6-12. A detailed list of useful books needed for IAS preparation is available on ClearIAS.com.
4. Enroll for ClearIAS Prelims Mock Test Series
As you may know, only when tested in an exam atmosphere with negative marking, you can improve the ability to deliver in the actual exam hall. Try for free the UPSC Prelims online mock exams by ClearIAS in the new innovative platform which integrates learning with test-taking.
We strongly recommend all serious aspirants to join our flagship program – ClearIAS Prelims Online Mock Test Series. You would be surprised to find how fast you can learn.
5. Write ClearIAS Mains Mock Tests
Proper answer writing practice, a good understanding of the latest UPSC syllabus, and familiarity with current topics are important prerequisites of clearing IAS mains in flying colours. It is with this aim of equipping aspirants with the latest requirements of UPSC mains exam we launched our UPSC Mains Test Series. Join our free online mocks which focus on answer writing practice.
6. Keep in mind the important tips for IAS interview:
IAS interview is a half-an-hour exercise which can change your life. A high score in UPSC interview can sometimes create a difference of more than 100 marks with fellow candidates in just under 30 minutes. Read our UPSC interview tips.
What not to Study for IAS?
As we have covered the minimum materials (under basic minimum program!) one should study for clearing IAS, let us cover another most important area – What not to Study for Clearing IAS. You should never spend much time on the areas listed below. ( These details are never worth the time of a serious UPSC aspirant!)
- Bollywood and all the other “filmwoods”- Don’t spend time remembering the pet names of actresses, music director’s uncles’ names, gossips, latest flops and masala stories.
- Sports – Don’t spend time remembering all the centuries of Sachin, sixes hit by Gayle, IPL purple caps etc. Remember that you are going to write UPSC exam and not any Crorepathi shows on Television.
- Politics – Neglect the entire local/state political news. Just brief through central politics news, but there is no need to mug up the details of stories.
- Names of Uganda President, Currency in Kiribati etc unless these make headlines during the year.
In short, the right materials and mock exams along with a focused prelims-cum-mains integrated approach should be your mantra – for clearing UPSC exams with minimum time, effort and expense.
Always remember the 80-20 principle! Even if you were hard-worker before, if you can adopt at least some strategies of a smart worker, you can significantly improve your marks.
Hard work without focus might not help you, but smart work in the direction required by UPSC surely will!