The clock struck 1…”I must sleep now” she thought to herself and pulled the blanket over her face- maybe that would help her close her eyes? But underneath the warm embrace the blanket offered, she was wide awake with anxious thoughts swirling in her head-“Did I revise that last chapter of polity? What was that river flowing through that state? Is that species endangered or critically endangered? What was that soil rich in? OMG I don’t remember ANYTHING! Maybe I should wake up and study. But sleep? What if I can’t focus during the exam? Let me sleep!”….that internal dialogue continued well into the wee hours. Sunday had dawned- Prelims was here to greet her like an old friend (or foe? Definitely her foe- It was her 2/3/4/5/6th attempt after all).
Does this scenario seem familiar to you? The panic, the stress (especially for those of you’ll who’ve given many attempts- we see & feel you!), the feeling of SO much riding on 2 papers. It is not easy. Kudos to you for your grit & perseverance. This article isn’t going to give you tips and tricks to clear prelims(there are MANY of those last minute hacks on YouTube- most don’t work- we’re saying it with experience). Instead, we’ll talk about the attitude and mindset needed to face this seemingly insurmountable mountain (we’re sure you will have great suggestions too- do leave your valuable tips in the comments!). Let’s start!
- *drum roll for the oft-repeated suggestion*: BE CALM. We’ve heard this a million times, right? But how do we remain calm like Buddha amidst so much uncertainty (people say U stands for unpredictable). We’ll give our 2 cents on how we learnt to remain calm through trials & tribulations.
- PRACTICE: You know, they’re not lying when they say “Practice makes perfect”. It’s not just about writing mocks (especially not online!). From now on, every Sunday think it’s THE prelims exam. Sleep early (Actually sleep comes easily on other days, are we right?), print out any mock Question paper & OMR sheets. And attempt the paper with the black ball point pen in the same time slots as the real prelims. Do it with all the disturbances possible- to train your mind to focus only on the paper. It helps in case you get a noisy centre or an invigilator who talks too much. So START NOW, it’s not late at all. June 5th will be just another exam on a Sunday for you.
- STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP– over the material you didn’t complete reading. Raise your hand(or drop a comment & educate your peers) if you have 10000000 booklets, mock tests, “100% guarantee on clearing prelims or money back” course materials, infinite bookmarked articles, YouTube videos/playlists on tricks & tips. Do not become a collector of materials (We both know you’ll be donating it for recycling or deleting them). So no, you don’t need to read all that. How should you counter the supply glut of materials?
- STICK TO THE BASICS: Heard of NCERTS? (we know you have).Read them, re-read them, revise them a minimum of 3 times at least? Please? Trust us, you won’t feel miserable if you are unable to answer some random question but you will feel sad if you somehow forget a basic concept & fail to answer a simple conceptual question from the ncerts. So every time you see those shiny new objects- the freshly photocopied material or newly uploaded PDFs- on “the 1000 most important topics for prelims” – resist the temptation and RUN AWAY(physically & digitally).
- GET A FEEL OF THE REAL EXAM: It’s not just about attempting mocks of various coaching institutes. Nobody can emulate the way UPSC sets the question papers. Therefore, attempt PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTION PAPERS (GS+CSAT). This will give you an idea about the language used, format, option elimination techniques and other snippets of wisdom. Read about the various answer choices too. Familiarity helps & familiarity comes with deliberate practice.
- BE KIND TO YOURSELF: Give it your best. Study & revise the basics, solve the PYQs, do not neglect CSAT. Tell yourself that you are doing your best every single day. Didn’t study much today? It’s alright. Wake up tomorrow and give it your 100%. No time for regrets. Do not compare yourself to anyone else(your fellow aspirants, cousins, friends who are probably working,earning,travelling while you sit in your room or library studying or if you’re managing both work and study & have no time left for anything else). Life is not a competition. We all choose different paths. Appreciate yourself & be your own cheerleader.
- THE EXAM IS NOT LIFE: You know all that pressure you put over yourself? About multiple attempts, being unemployed, the hydra-headed monster of self-doubt that plagues you-if you’ll clear it or invest another year…the thoughts of “what will people say?” Banish such thoughts. Tell yourself that “It’s just an exam”. It’s not bigger than your happiness & well-being. It really isn’t. Take regular breaks to recharge, relax, and talk to your parents or friends/mentors who encourage you. But most importantly, talk to the person staring back at you in the mirror & tell them “Hey, you’re doing your best. That’s all that matters. Keep going.”
About that girl in the beginning who thought this exam was life & gave multiple attempts with varying degrees of success- what happened to her? No, this isn’t a fairy tale story of how the aspirant FINALLY cleared in the last attempt (& attended multiple felicitations & gave a million talks) – she didn’t. She tossed and turned about for a few more days after the results wondering “What next?” But that was the magic of this journey she undertook – there was always a “What NEXT?”- She didn’t see an END- only a better beginning again.
So, forget the past or how you didn’t study last week or how many attempts you’ve given, focus on the NOW in your preparation. Are you going to try and face the prelims boldly with a calm attitude?
Tell us in the comments, what next? We’re eager to know!
Until next time!