This question in itself is an interesting one. There are a bunch of tales circulating out there regarding the life of an UPSC aspirant, especially about the toppers. Please keep in mind that truth is often different. When someone says that an UPSC aspirant has to study 16 hours a day to crack this exam or that one aspirant just glanced through the textbooks and reproduced the facts to clear the exam, rest assured, these statements are highly wrong. No UPSC aspirant, in fact, no human being can continuously study for 16 hours a day without exhaustion engulfing him/her. Nor can anyone clear the exam by just reproducing the textbooks. Each aspirant is built differently, and hence, the study hours will vary from person to person. But, there will be few commonalities in every UPSC aspirant’s life. These traits are what creates a topper out of an aspirant.
- Every day of an UPSC aspirant should consist of reading the newspaper, preferably the Hindu, as this is a good source of current affairs and has editorials that enhance your understanding of various crucial topics. Regular reading and jotting down important points from the newspaper is a must.
- This has to be supplemented with the reading of a suitable current affairs magazine. Daily reading will help you stay updated on current affairs and assist you in the exams. As current affairs play a significant role in Prelims, Mains and the Interview, this simple step will make your preparation much more effortless.
- Another activity that takes up space in an aspirant’s life is the study of reference books. These would include NCERTs, Laxmikanth, or any other standard reference textbooks that one may refer to. At the beginning of the preparation, one must give enough time to study and understand the topics and prepare for questions that could be asked for both Prelims and Mains.
- As preparing for questions is an integral part of the preparation, it is to be noted that an aspirant must give adequate time for Prelims and Mains questions. Hence, test yourself in MCQ type of questions and subjective type questions through various Mock Tests that are available in the market. The time allocated for these will vary according to your area of expertise, as well as the proximity to the exam. For example, you may give equal time for Prelims and Mains in the initial preparation stage, but you can gradually give more importance to Prelims once you have just three to four months for the exam. Similarly, once you clear the Prelims, you should give 100% attention to the Mains exam to maximize your chance of getting the interview call. Hence, writing practice has to be done daily to improve your chances. Click here for MCQ’s/ Mains Answer Writing if you wish to join our online initiative for aspirants for free.
- Another area that is an integral part of an aspirants’ daily life is their Optional preparation. If you are an absolute beginner, you can start your Optional preparation a couple of months into your preparation. Use this time to understand the basics of UPSC preparation, and at the same time, decide on which Optional would best suit you. Once the Optional preparation starts, you may allocate 30 to 40% of your time to your Optional preparation. Once you start your “Prelims only” preparation (when the calendar says 3 to 4 months for prelims), you can gradually reduce the Mains/Optional practice and fully go into Prelims preparation mode.
Since each aspirant will have his/her strengths and weaknesses, one must formulate a timetable that will suit him/her the best, be it on a subject-wise preparation or Prelims-Mains preparation. With this, as time progresses, one must do revisions daily on what you have already learnt. Regular revisions are the key to remembering what you study for extended periods. Hence, allocate some time of the day for revisions.
As mental fatigue can affect the preparation adversely, kindly create a timetable that allows breaks and time for rejuvenation. Make sure to study at least 6 to 8 hours a day in the initial stages, and you can increase the time to around 12 hours. The body of an aspirant needs enough rest as the exam preparation takes months or even years. Hence, a good sleep of 6 to 8 hours is mandatory, and moderate exercises/meditation are necessary to keep your mind fresh. A balanced diet is also advised for healthy living. My best wishes!