My Preparation Strategy for Civil Services Prelims – Arjun Mohan
Prelims is the most crucial stage in the Civil Services Examination as far as I am concerned. This is where our factual knowledge is getting tested. In the first prelims which I wrote in June 2017, I had scored less than 70 marks. Even though I haven’t given any preparation for that I still analysed where I had made the mistakes. The following areas where very peculiar.
1. My clarity on certain subjects were very less. This reduced my accuracy.
2. Speed was an issue. I couldn’t go through the question paper twice.
3. My wild guesses were a disaster.
After this failed attempt I understood that dedicated preparation is required from my end and I wont clear any exam without preparation and with partial knowledge.
Thus I started my preparation for Civil Services during the month of November 2017. Even though I had bought some coaching books (which I haven’t used during any stage of my preparation) I was almost zero in my preparation. I had made reading The Hindu a habit when I started working with MRF Tyres (from March 2017). This was the only thing which I did before my dedicated preparation for CSE 2018.
The first thing I did was to prepare a plan. I had joined for a Prelims cum Mains class at Enlite IAS Academy in Trivandrum. With the help of the mentors and referring through previous year rank holders strategies I prepared a booklist which I will refer for the examination. The most important thing was I recognised the importance of NCERT books.
I made a schedule for my studies. I made a plan such that within the initial two months (ie; November and December) I will be completing all the NCERTs which is the basic reference material. I haven’t made any notes during this stage. My first aim was to draw a boundary and understand what all things I need to study. Parallely I was attending coaching classes at Enlite Trivandrum and it helped me to increase my clarity on things that I study.
So by the end of December 2017 I had an idea about what all things I need to study properly for this exam. I decided to learn each things properly. For that a time table was necessary. So what I did was I joined Enlite Prelims test series. The schedule was such that most often there was one test per week. But during some weeks there will be two tests (Wednesday, Sunday). So I prepared a timetable to study each subject according to the exam in that week.
● My plan will be to complete the study materials for that particular subject in first 4 days.
● The next two days I will be revising important points of that subject.
But when there are two subjects per week this cannot be followed. During those times I ensured that I had completed the materials at least once.
Time was an important constraint in front of me. I knew that if I miss to complete any study material I would hardly get any time to study that material again before prelims. So i ensured that I completed the study materials before each weekly exam. If time permits I used to revise once the things that I learned for the exam (this was not possible in weeks when there are two exams).
Last Lap – April and May
My focus during these months was revision.
● I did all the previous tests in Enlite atleast twice. I revised the portions where I made mistakes again and again. This helped to analyse why I make those mistakes. It helped me to improve on my accuracy.
● Full Test in ENLITE. This helped in time management. I was able to go through questions atleast thrice. But ultimately in the final CSE 2018 prelims examination I could hardly go through the questions twice.
● I did previous 5 years UPSC Prelims Question paper ( was available in VISIONIAS website where we could do that and get proper analysis). This helped to understand the UPSC question pattern and attempting those gave a confidence.
● 60 day prelims plan by IAS Baba (did once a week).
● Discussion with my Cousin Brother who was preparing which helped me to revise my portions again. This actually helped to increase the retention of things that I learned.
To conclude my important focus during last few days were revision. This now I consider as a key aspect in my success.
Prelims Test – Number of Attempts
● I used to attempt maximum number of questions. 2018 Prelims I attempted 97 questions.
● I take chances when I attempt a question. This proved to be fruitful in my 2018 prelims. The one which I thought will be correct for sure went wrong. But where I took risk gave me the extra points. (But I cannot advice taking risks. It is very individualistic in nature).
My Book List
Here I list my booklist for Prelims (not comprehensive). I had a habit of going through strategies of different toppers. And each one had a different strategy. So it will be better for everyone to make a strategy and booklist which suit themselves.
● Subject Material
● All subjects Enlite Study Material
● Polity Indian Polity – Laxmikanth New NCERT 6-12 Constitution of India
● World Geography Certificate Physical and Human Geography – GC Leong New NCERT (relevant classes)
● Modern History A Brief History of Modern India – Rajiv Ahir New NCERT (relevant classes)
● Environment Environment by Shankar
● Economy New NCERT (relevant classes)Indian Economy – Shankar Ganesh
● Ancient and Medieval History New NCERT (relevant classes)
● Indian Geography New NCERT (relevant classes)
● Art and Culture New NCERT (relevant classes)
● Science Current Affairs only
● Economic Survey Enlite Economic Survey Highlights
● Budget PIB Budget Compilation
My Current Affairs Preparation
● Read ‘The Hindu’ regularly. Please atleast read one newspaper regularly. This will be very useful for you.
● Vision IAS monthly current affairs compilation.
● Read GK Today occasionally.
● Read Mathrubhumi daily occasionally ( this helped my optional paper – Malayalam – as well)
● Enlite Current Affairs Class and Last lap session
● Revise portions as much as possible.
● When I attempted 2018 Prelims I felt first 50 questions as very tough. As a result I lost my confidence. But when I analysed the paper after the exam I understood I made many wrongs in the second half (which was very easy and which I shouldn’t have missed). So you should not lose your confidence while solving the paper. If the paper is tough it will be equally tough for everyone. So be confident and attend your paper. It ll help you to maximise your scores.
This booklist which I provided is not comprehensive. I might have read some extra materials online as well which I can’t remember right now.
This is not the best strategy. This has worked for me. You have to devise a strategy which suits you.
Best of Luck to all aspirants. If you need any further clarification I am happy to help.