Tips for IAS aspirants
1. Go through the syllabus thoroughly. If you are not able to obtain the syllabus, log on to www.parikshaguru.com. They would allow downloading of syllabus by free members also. But, if you want to download previous unsolved question papers or study materials from this site, you should become a paid member.
2. One optional subject is required for Prelims and two for Mains. Decide your optional carefully. Half of your success depends upon selecting right combination of optional.
3. For a good result, it is advised that one of the optional for the mains should be the same as that for the prelims. Also, the subject of your graduation should be one of the optional. For instance, my friend Ram is doing UG Course in English literature. He may select Eng Lit as one of his optional in Mains. But in Prelims, Eng Lit is not allowed as an optional. Hence, he decided to choose Economics for this purpose (for he studies eco as a subsidiary). Naturally, Eco should be his second optional in Mains also. In the second example, another friend Navin is a Maths graduate. He decided to select Maths as for Prelims and Maths and Physics for Mains. This type of selection would help in minimize the efforts.
4. Some combination of subjects are not allowed in Mains. For instance, two literature's (e.g., Hindi + Eng) can not be offered. Medicine can not be combined with Zoology. Political Science and Public Administration can not be combined. A combination of two engineering subjects is not allowed. A student opting Geography can not select geology as the second optional. Hence, careful consideration should be made while selecting optional. Avoid repenting later.
5. If you are a UG student, study your Main subject thoroughly, and be 100% ready to face the Main/Prelims exams by the time you leave the college. A student would complete graduation by the age of 20. But IAS is allowed after the age of 21 only. (To clear all doubts in this regard, please refer to previous year’s notification from Employment News). It is advisable those who want to join coaching classes may utilize this one year gap also. It would help them keep in stream. If IAS is your ultimate aim and you are fairly sure to get through, do not do PG immediately. Get notes for PG Courses on your optional subject and concentrate all your efforts on IAS. Remember that you can do PG courses even after entering service. On the other hand, if you have plans to do research or UGC tests, better complete PG first and then concentrate on IAS. In any case, preparation for IAS should go on. Maximum efforts should be paid for improving GK basics also. An IAS aspirant should not be the one who confuses Holland with Poland. These are two different entities just as Manisha Koirala and Madhuri Dixit.
6. Those who want to apply for Prelims in 2010 should look out for the UPSC Notification which would come out on the second Saturday of December 2009, in Employment News. But do not await that date. Start preparations today itself.
7. Proper time management is the key to success. Now with almost one year left for Prelims 2010, make a brad plan for the next one year. From April 09 to 31st January 2010 (roughly 8 months)your preparations should be wholly devoted for the Mains 2010. Many candidates commit a big blunder by preparing for the Prelims throughout the year, awaiting its results doing nothing and starting preparation for the Mains, once satisfied that they have got through the Prelims. As the Prelims is only a screening test, over-emphasis should not be given to this area. But its importance should not be down played as failure in Prelims means loss of a chance. I feel if a candidate prepares for his Mains in the next 8 months and do the preparation for the Prelims in the next 4 months; it would be the best strategy.
8. It is true that there is a probability of forgetting everything you learned for the Mains, during the preparations for the Prelims. The remedy is that you should keep a study diary, and note down the topics learned against each date. Review the progress everyday. One day in a week should be devoted for revision. Also, keep short notes on the topics/essays/short questions you learn wherein important points only are noted down in broken sentences. This may be used for revisions. It is also advisable that one or two days a month may be allotted exclusively for revision of the entire portion studied so far. Start preparation for Prelims from 1st February.
9. After Prelims, never await the result of the Prelims. Start (second round) preparations for the Mains from the next day of the Prelims. Even if somebody fails in Prelims in the first attempt, they may continue the preparation in the same manner for the next year. After the Prelims, do a round of revision of the already covered portion for the Mains using the short notes. This would help you come back to the right track. For a prudent student, the interim period between the Prelims and the Mains is meant only for revision and mock tests.
10. Two important areas where preparation should go on all through the year are General Studies including Current Affairs and Interview. G.K. is such a vast area that no body can prepare for it in a year. Luckily, you live in the era of the so-called information revolution, and hence, make maximum utilization of it. Never waste your time surfing a large number of sites. But what you do should be meaningful and productive. Never forget that G.K. can not be acquired by learning ten thousand questions/answers by heart. I had a cricket – hating friend who prepared for Kerala PSC exams from a three year old guide where the name of Indian cricket team captain was given Kapil Dev, but Azharuddin had taken his place. He was perplexed to see that Kapil’s name was not there in the options given in question paper. This is a simple example showing the necessity of updating our awareness about the happenings all around. This is necessary even after your selection to the service, as without this, you would become a laughing stock before your subordinates. Similarly, constantly prepare for the interview, because the two weeks you get for it after declaration of the Mains results would not be sufficient for this. Read the interview experiences of IAS toppers and note down them in a separate note book. Also, analyze the current events and find out how these questions may figure in the interview. Discuss these with your friends. (Never argue whether these would figure or not. It is a waste of time.) Conduct mock Group Discussions. Always be prepared mentally to face the interview today itself.
11. Current Affairs is an important area of GK. It includes very day happenings, Sports, Economics and developments in science & technology. I have seen doubts of my friends in various forums as to what to read from news papers and how to prepare for current affairs. The following are important areas to be noted from among the happenings:
i. Presidents/ Monarchs/ Prime Ministers of various countries who visit India. While the President or the Prime Minister of India visits foreign countries, their capitals and rulers.
ii. Important international conferences, their venues. If it is a conference of some organization, note down its member countries.
iii. Important international/national awards, winners of important trophies, records, venues where important records were born, etc. No necessity to learn who were the men – of the matches in all cricket matches. But surely notice the men of the series in all the test/ODI cricket series played by India. When talking of Muthaiah Muralitharan becoming the highest wicket taker in test cricket, never forget who was his “record victim”, and who held the previous record.
iv. The books that make it into the news, their authors.
v. Important constitutional issues behind political controversies.
V. Change of rulers in other countries and Indian states. If the newly appointed Governor of an Indian state is an already known fellow, the same should also be noted. For example, some years back I have seen one SSC question who is the new Governor of Andhra Pradesh? Answer was C. Rengarajan who was the former Governor of Reserve bank of India.
vi. The names of important personalities who passed away recently, their areas of excel, their important contributions, the important awards won by them and the year. To put an example, when Mother Teresa demised, the question “In which year did Mother Teresa win the Nobel Prize for Peace” figured in many question papers.
Vii. India's achievements in S&T, their related details.
viii. Important welfare schemes taken by the Govt.
ix. Details of Govt’s policy decisions.
x. Avoid reading minor accidents, murders, political mud-slinging and inch-by-inch details of sports matches. These will kill your valuable time.
12. What to read is also an important issue. My favorites are:
i. The Hindu News Paper. If it is not available in your town/village, try www.hinduonnet.com. It is free. All their editions are available online. Their back issues are also available. Read all the important news. Their coverage of S&T is superb. Never leave their editorials and the articles on this page and Op-ed page (“Opinion” in their online edition. Keep a separate note book of day to day happenings. Use this for revision and preparation for exams. Keep paper cuttings of important events/articles.a lot of time. Often, the others are repetitions only. Some of them give wrong answers to you for multi option/objective type questions .
ii. Read only “Civil Services Chronicles” monthly magazine. Reading a number of magazines would cost you.
iii. Log on to the free site www.toolika.com at least once a week. See their links Current Affairs, Sports and Economics. The articles have the standard for IAS Main. They have given expected questions also, along with their latest additions in Current Affairs and Sports. These will help you understand how questions will figure in the exams from latest happenings. The most important point to be remembered is that questions may figure from last one year’s happenings. So never ignore a topic thinking it is old or outdated. Visit their other links also, which are useful. www.toolika.com is a growing site. I hope they will add more items in their other links also. They provide free study materials in their link “Students Plus”. The covered topics are limited. But nobody else can match their standard. I have seen the study materials of a few postal coaching institutes. So I can challenge anybody on this. I hope if they provide such free notes on more topics, all others will also be forced to improve their own standards. To know their latest postings, visit the link “What is New?” Other links such as “Snippets” and “Real Life Stories” are also useful.
iv. To improve your overall GK, the best solution is Manorama Year Book. Science students may go through +2 level CBSE books for Modern Indian History, Indian Culture, Indian Economy and Indian Polity. Conversely, students of Humanities stream may utilize + level CBSE books for the science area where they feel weak.
v. Watch DD news to know the policies and actions of the Govt as well as various welfare measures.
13. Go through previous years’ question papers. These are available on-line for payment. If free question papers (unsolved) are available on any site, any body may please post the URL of the site here.
14. If anybody can afford attending coaching classes, select your center on the basis of past performance and the experience of faculties.
15. Another area commanding out attention is our writing style. Constantly try to improve your language and power of expression. This is important for the Essay paper in Mains also. Write essays on social issues and get it evaluated by seniors. Pay adequate attention to grammar. Never mix up SMS lingo with your exam language. I have seen the resume submitted a lot of young professionals, most of them from IT sector. By personal contact, I know they are extremely intelligent and products of esteemed educational institutions. But the System Requirement Specifications (SRS) and similar documents prepared by them as a part of their job tells their quality of education is very poor. This is because they do not know how to express themselves. The mistakes they commit are the same as those committed by third or fourth standard students. The only difference is that their glossary is accurate.
Such a type of language in your answer sheet may give a poor picture about yourself. So, make sincere efforts to improve your language. The best prescription for grammar is Wren and Martin High School English Grammar. There is a tendency among people to learn English though their respective mother tongues. They never think of learning English through English. The problem is that the English of those who learned English through another language will be influenced by the rules of that language, and not English. It will give a lot of confusion to the others, and fail to convey what you exactly mean. Hence, being IAS candidates, take the bold step of learning English through English. Wren and Martin is the best Grammar book for that. Never ask ‘which is the best book in my language to learn English grammar?’ If you want to learn swimming, the first step is to plunge into water. So take a bold step.
16. These tips are only for serious candidates, and not for excuse – seekers and non – starters.
16. My personal advice: Never give much publicity that you are preparing for IAS. If you do so, you will find soon yourself flooded with curious enquirers and advice seekers. They want to do nothing but eat away your precious time.
Note: www.toolika.com provides free notes on “Global Financial Crisis.” The link can be found from their home page. The best notes on the subject available on net. If anybody has not utilized this opportunity, do it now itself.
Best of luck.