Though the exam demands hard work from the aspirant, it should be “intelligent hard work”. Through the current times, hard work seems to be not just sufficient.
It has to be supported by a good planning, a lot of selective reading and thorough feedback to yourselves about your preparation.
The most important aspect of the whole preparation is to plan it. Without planning, how much ever you read, how much hard work you invest, they might not be directed towards the goal and it all ends up getting wasted.
Most of the hard working people don’t realize this and they fail in the attempt. Others can only see their hard work and feel things are unfair to them. It might not be so all the time!
Plan your preparation. You will always know the date of the examination well before hand. So you know how much time you have with you.
You need to then know what your speed is. Unless you know how much time you take to go through a certain topic, it is not possible for you to know whether you can complete all things you want to complete before the exam.
We know this speed can vary from subject to subject, but all we want to convey is for you to know your speed. Invest time to observe yourself and come up with some speed numbers for yourself.
After this, you need to obviously know what all to read. Make a nice chart for yourself, write all the books/topics you think you have to read and start estimating the time they need. Gross approximations would suffice, the estimates would give an idea how long you need for each of the topics/subjects.
There might be a worry that you will not be able to know what all stuff you might have to read to be sure to clear the exam. So you put constraints only through the time you have. This whole exercise of estimating time gives a definite idea how much you can cover.
There is no way you can cover more! You don’t have time. So let’s not worry about what cannot be covered, instead let’s try to find out how best one can cover topics and how to maximize the efforts. Planning is all about maximizing the outcomes of the efforts.
So, to repeat, make a list of best possible books/topics to read. Collect more from friends, seniors and other places and make a good list. Try to mix and play with the whole plan, giving weightages to different topics, keeping in mind your strengths and weaknesses etc.
Next is for you to know how to read. Suggesting in this area is a tough ask. It is a very specific and subjective. Yet, we will try and put some basics. Read for understanding the concepts, read for getting clarity, even if it takes more time.
Try to find patterns while reading. Read only one or two books for a certain topic/subject, do not read too many books for the same topic/subject. This way one can remember better. Look for side headings and try to summarize all that you read below the sub heading into it.
This exam is all about the basics with lot of clarity. The exam can be written well when the preparation is simple and the aspirant is very strong in basics with clarity.
And the topic should be remembered in this logical structured way for the exam. It should be understood that once you have done the topic in this comprehensive method through logical questioning, the preparation is over for that topic. You need not go through any journals or hi-funda textbooks for becoming an expert in the topic. This much of basics with clarity are sufficient for the exam. And, this is what humanly possible in view of the huge syllabus.
The following points should be kept in mind while doing preparation:
The focus should be on gaining basic clarity in each topic, which will come only through lot of logical questioning.
More time should be spent on thinking about the topic and making innovations, rather than on reading too many study material.
The previous papers should be thoroughly analyzed to understand the expectations of the examiner.
The preparation should be focused and all the hard work should be channelized in the right direction.
Discuss what you read with your friends or colleagues, you would be able to talk about a topic only when you understand it, and when discussions help in looking at different aspects of the same topic, poses new questions to clarify upon.
Revising often what was read is required constantly. Revision also gives a different perspective of the same topic, gives better understanding. And to have this all happen, you have to read from same sources. It is always better to revise something already read than going for new topics or books.
One good way of revising is to solve questions or practicing answer writing. It will recollect all that you read and also helps in organizing your ideas.
When it comes to the question of whether to make notes or not, it is again entirely a personal call. If you are comfortable making notes, please do so. If you are not, please don’t do just for the sake of making them.
Making notes is note compulsory for clearing the exam, let’s be clear about this. It is just another aid for your preparation. If you use your textbook itself for revision, you do not need notes.
Even when you make notes, don’t just copy some sentences from a textbook into your notebook, doing that you are just increasing the number of pages you have to read. Make notes in your own words. That way, it is sort of trying to revise already. And one last mention about notes, make notes if you really are going to take a look at it later.
We have seen people making notes from newspapers and not going through them while revising because they don’t have time anymore! You need notes if you are reading from very many different sources because it will be tough to go through all of them again.
Let us also talk quickly about the notes from institutes or from previous rankers. It is tough to judge their value, but notes are never a better option compared to textbooks or original source of information. It is not mandatory to have these notes, the best way to find out is going through them for some time and deciding yourself.
Summing up, plan for your holidays, cool-off periods, visits and all other breaks. More so, plan for your downtimes. It is inevitable for all of us to have such low times that we can hardly do anything, let alone concentrated preparation. So, one needs to have some buffer time as well in the plan. Make place for solving questions, for mocks, everything.
See how much efforts you need to put each day. It might be 3 hours or 13 hours, depending on your speed and choice of books/topics and other criteria. It is your plan that defines the quality of your preparation. So do not judge your preparation just by the number of hours you put in. This plan would be unique, to each of you, depending on your preparation styles. You can have diverse topics planned for a day or one can plan and finish a certain subject in one go etc.
Once the plan is in place, don’t think that it cannot be changed and final. Indeed it is final to a large extent, but be ready to have flexibility for making amendments (just like our constitution).
You can always change your plan, but you need to have one first!
Finally, the idea of having a plan is to implement it, to follow it. Otherwise, this exercise is futile.
Planning is so important not only to track the time versus effort but also to find for yourselves how you are doing with your preparation. It gives a way to provide feedback to oneself and find whether we are on the right track, before it is too late.
Once you know where you stand, you can make necessary changes and get back on track. Remember to set targets and daily or weekly goals in your plan and see how many times you are able to reach them and how many times you fail to.
For example, if you can plan for writing one mock per month, or some answer writing for mains per week, and actually do them accordingly, you will know how much of your study helped you and where you are falling short. Or, if you have suddenly got a new material like say, Economic survey of India in the month of February, you might have to adjust your plan to fit it.
This will be a great way to fix the problems very early in your preparation and by the time the exam is near, you would be in a better shape, or better, you would be READY.
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