The UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE) for recruitment to various posts of the Civil Services of the Government of India, including the IAS, IFS, and IPS etc. It is conducted in three phases – a Preliminary examination consisting of two objective type papers; General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper-II (popularly known as Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT), and a Mains examination of written nature consisting of nine papers and followed by an Interview as a personality test.
To clear this exam, especially for the first two stages, the aspirant has to study subjects like Polity, Economy, Environment, Geography, Science & Technology etc. All these subjects are collectively called the GS (General Studies) subjects. Hence, the range of subjects one has to study is comprehensive, and at the same time, the overall CSE syllabus itself is vast, especially in Prelims, where the syllabus is vague. This leads to a situation where there is a multiplicity of topics which in turn leads to a scarcity of time, and hence one has to be careful not to delve too deep into all the subjects.
How to decide what not to study for the UPSC?
- Using the CSE Syllabus to Filter Out –The digital age can easily offer plenty of information to you. However, this also brings the issue of irrelevant information to create a fallacy that more information helps an aspirant clear the CSE. Not only is this wrong, but it would also lead to time loss. You are not required to know everything but only what is required in the syllabus. Hence, make sure what you learn falls under the syllabus.
- Do Not Try to Become a Subject Expert- Many aspirants fall for this. The CSE expects you to know about a wide range of subjects, not as a specialist but as a generalist. You are not encouraged to acquire the knowledge in each subject at the level of a PhD student as this would lead to enormous time loss. Moreover, the questions framed are testing your conceptual clarity with a strict word/time limit. Hence, becoming a subject expert takes away your time and forces you to memorize more which could be used in other areas of study.
- Referring to the Previous Years’ UPSC Question Papers- Go through these question papers to understand the nature of the questions asked. Now, after you go through these papers enough times (for both Prelims and Mains), you will understand what kind of information is needed for preparation and automatically filter out the unnecessary ones.
- Keeping the Reference Textbooks Limited- CSE demands understanding of concepts and applying the knowledge. Hence, to get a strong foundation, stick to the NCERTs and then go for a standard reference textbook. It would help if you kept in mind that there should not be a multiplicity in the number of reference books. Keep revising the NCERTs and “a” standard reference textbook until you are confident. The danger of reading too many texts leads to mental exhaustion, time loss and unwanted information.
To conclude, try to be like a “Jack of all trades, master of none”, which suggests that you should try to understand all the subjects that come under the syllabus without becoming a master of all. Kindly remember that UPSC expects conceptual clarity from an aspirant so that an aspirant can use these skills in the real world when they are selected to become a civil servant. So, continue revising and be on track with the question papers to tune yourself, and you will not have to worry about learning anything unwanted. All the best!