It is good to start early, but it is more important to start correctly. A right start would give an edge over others in the preparation. In the last couple of months, I met people who ask me almost same questions about how to start preparation. In this article I tried to present my suggestions regarding how to begin and rough time line. I would focus on following issues.
- For beginners who just graduated from college / joined some coaching
- For students who are in last years in graduation
- For students who are in intermediate/ +2/ or in schooling stage
First thing for all, who wanted to appear for civil services is to do some basic research about following things
- What is this exam? Primary detail about exam
- What are the subjects and syllabus in the exam?
- How the questions have been asked? What are key areas in prelims? Mains? Etc..
- What is the competition and last few years trends in the marking system, cut-offs etc…
- Listen to some toppers talks and their strategy of how they started the preparation.
- What is optional? Why optional is important? What are optional subjects?
- Which optional to select? Coaching centres available and guidance?
Once you do this basic research about the exam, you will get a feel of exam, competition and how much effort you should put to crack this exam. This basic primary research would make you tune your mind into the preparation.
For beginners who just graduated from college/ joined coaching
- Start you preparation with reading NCERT books from 9th to 12th. You can go to lower classes if you find these books tough. These books are basic and will provide the basic foundation. Ideally you should be doing this is first 2 months.
- The other important thing is to start reading news-paper. You can pick either THE HINDU or INDIAN EXPRESS. Anything is fine. You can go with THE HINDU for beginners. Initially it will take about 3 hrs. to complete the paper. But don’t worry over 2-3 months you should be able to complete the paper in 1.5 to 2 hrs and reduce it further over time.
- You can see this following link about how to read news paper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUXLYLtHM7E
- If you wish to make notes of the news-paper you can do that, but do not do more than 1 A4 sheet. Even when making notes do make notes only for issues, not every fact from news-paper.
- For example- you can make few points about Air India disinvestment. What is this? Why govt. is doing disinvestment? Advantages? Issues? If any suggestions from editorial etc..? you can make notes of these content. But don’t write down the facts related to this. Try to present different opinions from several articles. Over time you will be able to frame you own opinion in the issue.
- Again pick any monthly current affairs compilation of any institute like vision or vairam or insights and do them 2 times in a month. This will help you keep updated with currents.
- One more thing I did was to watch RAJYA SABHA TV BIG PICTURE AND INDIAS WORLD debates regularly. I did not put any time for this but used to watch while I was doing my lunch or dinner, or while I was bored etc… do this, these shows are good.
- Other important this is about optional. You should have selected optional in first 15-20 days of the preparation. Once selected either join in some classes or do self-preparation for the subject. I would suggest you can go for coaching for optional part. It will make things relatively easier.
- You target for the optional should be to complete it by November ( Start by July – End by October or November). I would suggest prepare you own notes, or micro notes, for the entire syllabus. In this preparation you should also have a look at the previous year’s questions and some basic idea of how the questions are being asked. You can spend about roughly 4-5 hrs on the optional in this time (including 2 hrs of coaching)
- By the end of Oct- Nov you should have done one reading of the optional, you should be clear with the material and books to be read.
- Then you see that year’s mains optional paper and try to solve the questions. Even if you don’t know exact answer, you should be able to identify which question is from which topic in the syllabus and basic idea of how you should answer the questions.
- Once you did this you should wrap up all optional things by November. This you will be touching only after prelims.
- Next comes- how to do GS preparation? After spending about 2-3 hrs. on news-paper and 4-5 hrs. on optional you will be left with about 5-6 hrs for GS. Again most of you might have class for 2.5 hrs daily. So that leaves only 3-3.5 hrs for GS daily.
- I would suggest you to spend 30-45 min. on preparing for class, like what was told in last class, what is the plan for next class, and some reading related to that.
- Post that you should put some target on weekly basis. Like I will do history in next 10 days, geography in next 15 days, polity in next one month etc… based on this you can spend time of like 2 hrs daily on history, 1 hr on polity etc.. Because subjects like history, geography doesn’t need any coaching or teaching. You can do on your own. Like-wise you can pick Polity from Laxmikanth and read the book in 1-2 months.
- Like this you can have one basic reading of History, geography, polity, Economics even before the actual classes. During classes you will have further clarity of concepts and you will gain confidence in the subject. I would say this should take till Nov- December.
- In case you wish to put the material in an orderly way, you can make notes. Again you don’t need to make notes for everything. Like spectrum and Laxmikanth no notes making is needed.
- Post November, you will have some level of understanding of exam and you maturity will grow. You should use these months in doing the static part – like world history, India post-independence, disaster management, security issues, and ethics. You can spend the time left from the optional preparation. Spend daily 2-3 hrs. on these topics and finish them in November and Mid -January.
- If you wish to practice answer writing, you can start in December and do it for next couple of months. ( as such I didn’t do any answer writing before prelims, I prepared notes of issues in an answer format, I saw previous years toppers papers to get a feel of answer writing)
- Post January you will be bombarded with Budget, economic survey, Year book, prelims test series and all. You can plan prelims oriented preparation from Feb. you will have about 4 months for prelims, which is more than sufficient for the preparation.
- In this next 4 month, you should have come to mission mode in reading the standard books several times, solving lots of tests papers, and analysing them and also doing the current affairs magazines repeatedly. This would prepare you for the prelims
- This is general temple of time lime till prelims. post prelims you will have more understanding of exam and also maturity to plan how to do for the mains and future ahead. You can see my posts about the answer writing for any more points.
For students in last years of their graduation
- Good that you wanted to start early. You have 1-2 years of time and you started the race early.
- You can start with basic research like I mentioned above. Then pick up NCERT books from 6th to 12th. Do the first reading like story, don’t worry about what to be understood and written etc. just read the books as story and do the first reading.
- In the second reading try to go deep and understand the things and get clarity on what is the subject and books. You can prepare notes in the second reading on-wards. With every reading your understanding increases and you note becomes short and more precise.
- You should be able to do these books in 5-7 months, considering your degree related works.
- You will also develop the habit of extensive reading. Like you should be able to read for 6-8 hrs daily. You will develop this by reading books like INDIA STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDECE- Bipin Chandra, INDIA AFTER INDEPENDECE- Bipin Chandra etc. which are useful for the preparation as well.
- These books will keep you engaged for next 2-3 months.
- And also daily you wills start reading news-paper. You can start with some interesting news-paper till you are comfortable. Like TIMES OF INDIA for initial 2-3 months and then slowly switch to THE HINDU.
- If you could do these things you are on right track. Even after this you get time, you can slowly upgrade to next level books like Laxmikanth, economy books etc..
- If possible try to spend some time on watching RAJYA SABHA TV DEBATES – BIG PICTURE, INDIAS WORLD etc.. this will expand your horizon.
- This basic preparation should make you ready for civils. In case you have more time, you can enrol in some coaching and preparing for GS and optional as well.
For students in school and below graduation level
- Well, you have lot of time for the preparation. It is good that you had decided to come to this field early in studies.
- Only thing I would suggest is for you to develop extensive reading habit. You should be able to read daily 4-5 hrs daily.
- You keep your mind open and curious about happenings in the surroundings.
- You can read books right from stories to autobiographies and history related books.
- Don’t take stress right from schooling about civils but be open and receptive. Listen to people’s opinions, debates etc..
- You can read news-papers slowly, start from regional news-papers and slowly over time upgrade to English national dailies.
- Enjoy your schooling….
The most important thing about preparation is not to start early or read more books or attend so many classes, but to keep the motivation high even after some points of low. If you can carry and have same motivation levels that you have today for the next two years or till you become a civil servant, I would say your half job is done.
ALL THE BEST GUYS….