In first article of this series “Nothing beats Hard Work, Patience and Perseverance”, we touched upon issue that deal with beginners’ mind-set.
I caught up again with Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan, IAS (AIR 22; CSE 2010), author of recently launched book ‘Once Upon An IAS Exam’ to get answer to some of the queries that an aspirant usually ask.
We move a step forward and talk about things that surround your mind when you commence preparation.
Civil Services Examination preparation requires bit of planning and a well laid out strategy that helps you enjoy the preparation journey and ultimately, reach the desired destination.
Some of the issues that we touched upon are common things that every candidate hunts for.
Be it a fresh candidate or consistent campaigner, everyone is going to be benefited by experience and insights shared by Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan, IAS and will have some clues that may help you in charting your own strategy.
Q. How should your Preparation-plan look like ?
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: That balance between the rigid / fluid preparation is very important.
Can’t have a very rigid schedule and burn us out or have a very fluid schedule and have gala time!
For every 6-7 hour schedule, I would recommend a break/leisure of 1-2 hours.
Q. A few things that preparation-plan should involve on a day-to-day basis
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan:
1. To do list for the day and sticking to it
2. Quick Recap of previous day’s things
3. Study the Portion for the day
4. Evaluation of the studied portion (Do 100 MCQs in case of Prelims or note/answer writing in case of Mains)
Q. Some of the choices and major decisions one has to take while preparing for IAS Exam
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: First major decision of course is taken during the failures; the decision about going for next attempt. That decision has to be taken by the candidate assessing her / his situation and the amount of fire left to fight (the very first chapter of Once Upon An IAS Exam speaks of this)
Then as we clear the various stages of exam, need to make choices with respect to choosing optional (discussed later) , choosing the service and cadre (which again is purely a personal choice based on ones likes and dislikes)
Q. Preparing for General Studies, UPSC talks about Generalist approach
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: Like I said, generalist approach knows “something of everything, rather than everything of everything.”
There is also a clear cut syllabus and previous years’ questions which are indicators on how to proceed with the topics.
Listing out the topics by these two pointers and then building on it will help.
Q. Choice of optional subject
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: It is a very significant decision. I wrote my first attempt with Medical Science and failed (incidentally Vishy the protagonist of my story too writes his first attempt with Mechanical Engineering and fails!).
It’s always important to choose an easy; “coverable” optional which also would add value in General Studies.
Apart from that availability of study material in market and individual inclination towards the subject are also important factors in choosing the optional.
Q. For IAS Aspirants, how life has changed with only ‘ONE’ optional subject after changes in CSE 2013?
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: It has made life easier honestly! Lesser things to study, lesser choices to make!
Q. Choosing study-material resource
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: For the candidate to know what is really needed for her/him.
Books or internet doesn’t really matter as long as the content is relevant and not duplicated.
Every resource is valuable; but, it has to be relevant and has to be consolidated for revision.
Q. What to read and what not?
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: That decision making comes with time.
Initially candidates may find it difficult but with time, looking at past question papers, question banks and syllabus I’m sure that decision making would automatically come.
Q. Gap in your preparation v/s Examiners’ expectations
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: End of the day, it is us who set the Exam standards.
We need to set our preparation-plan too comprehensively to cover everything and have adequate revisions, mock tests.
If we can focus on our preparation rather than worrying about external factors, we should be through.
And the gap between that adequate and inadequate preparation standard can only be bridged by honest assessment of our own preparation and tinkering wherever required.
Q. In the end, Share with us what helped you survive the most trying times of your life?
Dr K. Vijayakarthikeyan: A good backup system in terms of family and friends, lots of humour and the ability to take things easy and not put pressure on myself.
I have dealt with the same with a lot of interesting anecdotes in ‘Once upon an IAS Exam’.