I don’t know how to analyse a given topic. Am I right to prepare for the UPSC?
Analyzing a topic is a skill that you acquire over time. Hence, if you feel overwhelmed in your early preparation days, trust your abilities and continue preparing for the exam. The thinking process required to grasp a topic in the Civil Services Exam requires a few qualities that you must cultivate over time: critical and analytical thinking skills. Again, these would be slightly different for Prelims and Mains. I will briefly explain how to cultivate the habit of adequately analyzing a topic.
Make sure that you read the syllabus thoroughly to understand the need of each stage- Prelims, Mains. This clarifies your understanding of a topic and, more importantly, what to skip and what not to. Moreover, the questions are based on the syllabus, and so this constitutes the very first step of understanding an area.
As a strong foundation is needed for acing the exam, it is wise to start with the NCERTs. This ensures that your basics are strong and while you go into topics from reference textbooks, you do not feel pressured. Also, the NCERTs are designed to explain concepts in simplified language.
For every topic, try to understand the crux of the subject instead of mugging it up. Ensure that you know what the topic is about, why it has come in the news, and where it would be associated with the UPSC-CSE syllabus. After having the basic idea of this, read through the topic and assimilate the significant points to help you build insights about it. For example, if you are reading about the Data Protection Bill, try to understand the necessity of introducing such a bill, the major features of it, how the bill would affect our everyday lives, the major concerns related to it, what else could be done to improve it, etc. Hence, for every topic, ensure that you have covered all the significant dimensions related to it and then proceed to the next topic.
For the Prelims exam, focus on the factuality and the basics of each topic. Hence, numbers, figures, etc., do not feature much for this part. Instead, each Prelims question is designed to test your understanding of the given topic. Assess the question and options for even the minutest details, and then apply your knowledge over it to get the correct answer.
For the Mains exam, while reading a topic, make sure that you read the crux of the subject and various dimensions related to it, like social, political, economic, etc., and then supplement it with facts, data, diagrams, etc. Multi-dimensional reasoning is the part that differentiates the Mains from the Prelims. An aspirant is supposed to evaluate, analyze, critically analyze, examine, etc., for answering questions in the Mains exam, and hence this has to be kept in mind while reading a topic. It means that for every concept, covering various dimensions related to it, as well as pros/cons, the way forward should be touched upon. Kindly keep this in mind while reading a topic. The factuality and basics are needed to crack Prelims. Hence, the analysis required for Mains is an extension of the Prelims itself, although, for Prelims, one will require the exact correct answer as the questions are objective in nature.
Please ensure that you do not rush your preparation if you are slow to understand something. Every aspirant feels the same when they read a particular topic. Hence, enjoy the learning process and take regular tests for Prelims/Mains instead of rushing through. You will automatically be tuned to analyse any topic by taking these tests. Please make sure you take tests from a reputed academy and also attempt Previous Years’ Questions from UPSC itself. Learning the pattern and turning yourself into the need of the question will help you properly analyze any topic. Kindly trust yourself as lack of self-confidence is the only enemy here. As time progresses, every aspirant will acquire the skill of analyzing any given topic.