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[MOTIVATION] by Jamir Sheikh, IFS – How to Stay Motivated and What to do before Prelims – 2020?

Jamir Shaikah Munir IFoS Rank 18 insightsIAS

Previous articles by Jamir Shaikh (IFS) 

  1.  Success story

  2. Prelims Strategy


Hello friends,

My name is Jamir M. Shaikh (IFS, 2018). I hope you all are healthy and trying hard to study in the midst of corona outbreak.  Almost all aspirants are facing lots of problems now-a-days to complete their decided targets. Many of you are at home who are facing problem of peaceful study place whereas many of you are far away from home struggling to get good cooked food and worried about the safety of their dear ones.

Many of you might have formed groups for discussions and to keep motivated each other in libraries or at study places since starting of this year’s preparation cycle but with this lockdown and many of group members after going home, your group will not be useful any more.  I know many of you are feeling stressed and frustrated after lagging behind your targets and might be passing time by watching web series and movies. I also noticed that many aspirants who are addicted to smoking and drinking are even craving for that and are not able to focus on studies. There are hundreds of things you cannot do now which you were doing so easily before lockdown.  I am getting mails, calls and texts from aspirants about possibility of postponement of prelim examination. There are lots of doubts about exam and lack of self-confidence among aspirants. Today very few people will be talking positive about exam and its preparation. I am really worried with this negativity amongst aspirants. This all writing effort is for those who want to get some positive thoughts and energy to continue their journey which may be marked as your successful journey next year in 2021.

Buddha has said that nothing is permanent, this time will also pass. But it is on us how to pass this time? By crying, criticising, sleeping, enjoying with family and friends or by bringing your life again in Discipline?  Fortunately, I took long time to qualify this exam and I suffered at almost all fronts. So I can understand the pain and frustration today many of you are facing. But I decided to bounce back every time. I used to visualise myself as a worrier rather than looser and frustrated person in the environment of challenges and struggle. Always remember wherever problem is, there is an opportunity. It depends on your ATTITUDE.   Every great success demands great sacrifices. That sacrifices can be in terms of improper food, and sleep, not attending festivals and functions with family. But believe me my dear friends, all these sacrifices are worth at the end.

This is a hard time to continue study but not that hard if we consider those who are dying every day and sleeping many nights without food. We are lucky in all sense. This Corona outbreak certainly had impacted our country and whole world badly. We can only cooperate with administration and help needy ones in such bad time.

Friends, this examination demands discipline, patience, commitment, dedication, good strategy and honesty with oneself. Ultimately, we cannot lie to our self about daily progress in preparation. At the end we are not accountable to any mentor or institute but to our self only. If I ask question to myself, why only few hundred aspirants get ranks every year out of 7-8 lakh aspirants? Then answer is same as mentioned- discipline, patience, commitment, dedication, good strategy and honesty. This exam hardly differentiates on the basis of financial, social, educational backgrounds but on the basis of PASSION and ATTITUDE. Therefore it is very much important to have positive, learning and fighting attitude towards exam and life to make anything impossible possible. So make better use of this lockdown period to make better version of you compared to previous day.


I will try to address some frequently asked questions nowadays,

  1. Whether this exam will postpone?
  2. If exam is postponed, can I start mains preparation?
  3. How to manage stress coming due to lack of proper study and lagging behind targets?
  4. How to solve papers as hardcopy is not available due to lockdown?
  5. How to find peaceful time for focussed study at home?
  6. How to go ahead with preparation till exam?


  1. Whether this exam will postpone?

It may or may not. Frankly speaking nobody knows about this, so better to focus on your study and completing daily targets rather than indulging in such discussions. It is the UPSC which will declare finally so have patience and continue your preparation with same zeal and energy which you were having before lockdown. Even if exam is postponed, it will be a bonus (days) for you, but don’t shift your prelim related targets and get relaxed.

  1. If exam is postponed, can I start mains preparation?

I will not suggest diverting your attention now on the basis of self imagined postponement of exam. UPSC has not declared yet that Exam has been postponed. So, it’s better to keep reading-revising-practicing for prelim only. Even if UPSC postpones exam with 15-30 days, don’t go to mains mode again. This may backfire in prelim itself. To write mains one must qualify prelim exam so again have some patience till prelim is over. Don’t underestimate any stage. Even most senior and experienced students fail prelim every year. So, it’s better to continue with prelim studies till prelim is over.

  1. How to manage stress coming due to lack of proper study and lagging behind targets?

Here you need to revise your strategy as per present situation. Add few rewards after completing targets. Keep daily study targets and finish them within the stipulated time to get rewards like watching good movie or one episode of any good web series or sleeping some time more or eating something good. It can be anything. When the situation is stressful in your surroundings, you must keep your study challenging and interesting. If your targets are missed already then manage them with rest of the available days. Try to finish important topics/subjects first and then other topics. But try to cover whole syllabus. Leaving any topic/subject incomplete may backfire in exam. 

  1. How to solve papers as hardcopy is not available due to lockdown?

Many aspirants are currently facing this problem. As we all are studying to enter into administration where you are supposed to get very less resources and expected to show efficiency. This is just a start of that. In this moment use available resources like mobile, laptop, ipad etc. With the help of internet one can study test papers at home. There are tools available to mark on paper while solving on electronic devices. Rather than delaying your target of attempting prelim test series, it’s better to download in available devices and keep solving/ reading, so that you will finish test series before your exam and you can revise multiple times. One can note down important points from test papers to revise later. One must not break consistency in solving papers. And try to attempt test papers in 2 hours at least on Sundays. So that before exam you can practice 7-8 tests in proper 2 hours.

  1. How to find out peaceful time for study at home?

This is very big challenge for those studying at home and having family members around you every time. First thing is let them clear about your situation and why you need some peaceful time at home for studies. Try to study very early morning or late night whatever suitable to you, so that you will get sufficient peaceful hours for focussed study. Personally I did many times. I used to start study at 4am in the morning or sometimes even I used to study till 3am in the morning.  It depends individually. Just observe which hours in your daily routine are less disturbed ones and prepare your study plan accordingly. I hope family members will cooperate with you in your studies but you also try to help them by keeping your study schedule little accommodative to family situations.

  1. How to go ahead with preparation till exam?

Now considering the present scenario, this lockdown will continue till this month end and may be more than that. In this situation please don’t get panic, keep yourself motivated by watching good spiritual/motivational videos or read good books. Do some meditation/yoga at home to feel relaxed and active throughout the day. Eat healthy food and take sufficient rest. Avoid judging yourself even if you are lagging behind targets. Be confident and try your best to bring your disturbed life in discipline. This will happen if you really want to qualify this year. You all know what to study and how to study but still we keep on changing strategy by seeing others. This is not good to change study plan or sources of study too frequently. Believe in your mentor/ guide and be in their contact so that you will not get diverted. This is high time where even most dedicated aspirant also can get distracted due to various reasons. This exam is not your life but this exam definitely can add some value to your life so without much stress just keep completing daily targets, weekly targets and monthly targets. Keep record of your study like which books you are reading, which test papers you are attempting and try to revise them more than 2-3 times till your exam. There are many aspirants for whom CSAT is a big challenge; I would recommend them to practice daily in the afternoon now onwards. Watch good videos of quantitative aptitude and reasoning.  This is a time to fix your weak areas and make strong areas more strong.

If anyone studying with discipline and under good guidance, this exam is very easy. We mess up many times by following too many sources of study material and guidance. Just stick to one good source and practice prelim test papers in the light of UPSC previous years papers. Have faith in yourself and use positive affirmations daily to keep your energy high. Get motivation and spread positivity amongst your friends. This is the key now to sail through hard time and come out with positive result in UPSC prelim 2020.

All the very best!!