How is the preparation of those aspirants who clear the UPSC IAS different from those who couldn’t, despite that they all try their best?
The million-dollar question that I hear from many students after discovering that they couldn’t clear the Civil Services Exam! Some come to me teary-eyed, some with frustration, and the rest with a blank mind. Every one of them has the same question that they could not answer even after much thinking – “Why did I not get my name on the list even after I gave all my time, heart and life?”
Civil service is a highly competitive exam, and also, the vacancy for much sought after posts like IAS, IPS, IFS etc., are limited in number. Hence there are many candidates who, despite their best attempt, fail to reach their dream. In hindsight, these candidates have done nothing wrong, as they too have worked hard and studied all the reference books. Even still, success evades them.
What makes the preparation of toppers different?
A quote is apt for this situation-“Winners don’t do different things, they do things differently”. The same is followed by those who crack the Civil Services Exam. These toppers will study the exact book others follow and may even study for a lesser time than the others. But what they do here is smart work + hard work, the real secret for cracking this exam. Now, one might think that smart work is a deceitful way of getting things done. Absolutely not- You are required to be smart and do the necessary work to make the best use of resources and time. I have already mentioned that the toppers do things differently to get their name on the list. These include,
1) Making the syllabus a holy book- The purpose is simple. What to study and what not to study can be deciphered from the syllabus. Accordingly, you can ensure that you are not needlessly wasting your time on things you are not required to focus on. Moreover, by frequently referring to the syllabus, you will be able to track your progress and understand the areas you are yet to finish.
2) Re-purposing the information- Knowledge that you gain is of broad nature when reading a textbook. Most of the students fail to understand the nature of the Civil Services Exam and not end up in the rank list. To simplify, what you learn has to be converted in such a way that it can be aptly used for the different stages of the exam viz, Prelims, Mains & the Interview. Hence, instead of rote learning, transform what you study into knowledge that helps you to clear each stage.
3) Having a reference point- Every aspirant, including the toppers, will doubt whether they are studying it the right way so that the re-purposing mentioned above is happening correctly. Here lies another difference between the topper and others. The toppers will go through the previous years’ papers and understand the nature of each stage, how questions are asked in each stage and how the answers have to be given accordingly.
4) Training yourself- Now, even after the would-be topper is convinced that they are re-purposing the information the right way and have gone through the question papers, they would still need to polish their skills and make sure that they are getting it right. Here lies the importance of mock tests, which can make a topper out of an aspirant. The re-purposed information, combined with how an answer should be, will be tried on mock tests until an aspirant is convinced. This is a trial and error method, and true aspirants should learn from their mistakes and actively heed the feedback from these mock tests.
The toppers do one final thing differently, and the beautiful lines of Robert Frost can sum that up. To those hardworking aspirants, this is not a conclusion but a new light, and hence I do not wish to write a concluding paragraph but dedicate to them the lines by Frost.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.