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Self-Study Guide to Crack UPSC-CSE

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

By Abhishek Patil is the CEO & Co-founder at Oliveboard, a leading online preparation portal for MBA, Banking and Government examinations

Can you clear UPSC Civil Services Exam (UPSC CSE) without going to a coaching institute?
The short answer, is yes.
The long answer:
Being able to clear UPSC CSE without joining any coaching institute, depends on a person’s will to work hard. This is an age where information is available in plenty for free, hence one can say with assurance that it is possible to clear the UPSC CSE examinations without coaching if the person is hardworking, dedicated and organized.

So, why do people choose coaching classes?
Following are some of the reasons why people choose to go for coaching:

  • Need a mentor for proper guidance.
  • Completely clueless about the whole exam preparation procedure.
  • Inability to analyse previous year question papers and devise a study strategy on their own.
  • Have very less time left for preparation and are overwhelmed by the vast syllabus.
  • Little or no knowledge about the optional subject they plan to take up for the Main exam.
  • Inability to find the right resources for preparation or having zero or limited access to study material.

It goes without saying, that a book cannot replace a mentor. A good coaching centre takes half the burden off their students’ shoulders and provides good guidance. However, it is important that you keep the following in mind before narrowing down on a coaching centre:

The coaching centre shouldn’t be stagnant, i.e. the mentors in the coaching centre need to be updated with the latest developments in UPSC CSE exams. UPSC is a dynamic exam. Therefore, the mentors must be willing to adapt the changes and modify their teaching methods accordingly. Coaching centres also cost a lot of money, so if you can put in the hard work on your own, you can ace the exam without spending any extra money.
 
Here’s how you can prepare for UPSC CSE without coaching
If you’re planning on preparing for UPSC CSE on your own, remember one thing: There is no shortcut to hard work. It’s important that you keep yourself motivated throughout the preparation process and stay consistent. Remind yourself often why you chose to take up the Civil Services Examination.
Having said that, below, we are providing a framework you can use as a guideline to devise your own preparation strategy:

Do your research about the Exam
Before you begin, go through the Official Exam Notification. The exam notification gives you a brief about the exam, and contains all the details about the exam.
Check for the eligibility (age, qualification, etc.), make a note of the exam dates, selection process, exam pattern, and the syllabus.
 
Gather the required study material
Going through the exam syllabus will give you a brief idea about the kind of resources/study material you will need for your preparation. Keep your sources minimal and follow the best sources available. Follow Government websites like, Income Tax Department, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, etc. for authentic information. These websites are periodically updated with the latest information and annual reports. Gather and analyse previous year UPSC CSE Exam question papers (at least last 7 years).

Make a time table & set goals
Go through the UPSC CSE exam syllabus. Your main goal is to cover the syllabus; set sub-goals to achieve the main goal. Divide the syllabus into topics and assign time for each topic (treat these as your sub-goals), as per the time left for your preparation. Make sure the time table covers the entire syllabus and leaves some time for revision.

Stick to this plan and follow it religiously for the rest of your preparation period.
 
Keep yourself up to date with current affairs
It’s highly important that you make a habit of reading a newspaper every day. Current affairs are a significant part of UPSC CSE. You should prefer newspapers over online websites due to accuracy issues. If you want, then choose only very reliable and proven websites for current affairs. But it’s not enough to merely read newspapers and remember facts; it’s equally important to analyse the information and have an opinion about it. While UPSC is concerned about your knowledge of the facts, it is equally concerned about your opinions on them.
 
Practice mocks and measure performance regularly
It’s important that you track your improvement and test your performance periodically.

It doesn’t make sense to merely study and leave it at that. You must test yourself to determine your speed and accuracy and identify your weak areas. You can do these by taking the UPSC CSE Mock Tests. Mock Tests can provide insightful feedback on your performance, your all-India ranking and speed and accuracy. You can use this feedback, to improvise your weak areas.

Avoid too many distractions
Try to reduce your distractions so that you channel 95% of your attention towards your preparation. Social outings and hobbies are needed but majority of your attention needs to be on the exam. The UPSC CSE syllabus is vast and it is important that you dedicate yourself to it.
 
Talk to your peers
When you’re preparing for the exam on your own, there is a chance you will miss out on something important. To avoid this, it is important that you network with your peers regularly. Networking will give you an opportunity to exchange ideas, insights and preparation tips with your peers; it will also help you reach out to people when you have doubts, and make you feel less lonely, thereby aiding your preparation. It helps you exchange your success, struggles and common problems and you will find encouraging words for motivation.
 
Don’t forget to relax!
While it is important to study at least for 6-8 hours every day, it is equally important that you make sure you are getting sufficient sleep and are well-rested. UPSC exam preparation can take months, so it’s very important that you don’t over exhaust yourself and neglect your physical and mental well-being.

Thus, we conclude saying, it is possible to prepare for UPSC CSE Exam without any formal coaching, provided you’re efficient, dedicated to self-study, and hard working.

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