In the context of preparing for the UPSC Civil Services exam, “hard work” is often equated with the quantity of books read and the frequency with which they have been read. The ability to take effective notes is also considered as a factor contributing to the definition of “hard work.” However, this approach is incomplete and fails to capture the essence of what is required to succeed in the exam.
The critical aspect that is missing in this definition of “hard work” is the amount of practice the candidate has put in. While many aspirants do engage in some form of exam practice, such as solving mock tests, practicing answer writing, and occasionally essay writing, this focus on practice is often insufficient or not pursued until just before the examination, which is far too late.
Developing skills such as problem-solving, analytical thinking, critical thinking, and risk-taking, which are essential for success in the Civil Services exam, requires consistent and focused practice. These skills are not innate and must be honed through repetitive and deliberate effort.
Practice also helps to build and solidify a candidate’s passion for the exam and for the service. Passion is fueled by engagement and enjoyment of the activities being pursued. Merely daydreaming or participating in activities that do not challenge and improve one’s abilities will not foster passion. Instead, it is through sustained and purposeful practice that a deep and meaningful passion can be developed.
For those who have a 2-3 year timeline for preparing for the Civil Services exam, it is recommended to solve at least 15,000 to 20,000 MCQs on all topics related to the preliminary syllabus, including 2,000 questions on polity, 2,000 on the economy, 2,000 on geography, 1,500 to 2,000 on the environment, 1,000 to 1,500 on modern history, 1,000+ on science and technology, 500+ on art and culture, 500+ on ancient and medieval history, and 5,000 to 6,000 questions on current affairs, and at least 1000 CSAT questions. In preparation for the Mains exam, it is advised to write at least 800 to 1,000 answers and 25 to 30 essays as part of daily practice and various test series.
It is important to note that the value of this practice is diminished if it is pursued without first gaining a solid understanding of the syllabus from standard sources and gaining conceptual clarity. Furthermore, regular feedback is crucial to assess and improve one’s progress. Practicing in the absence of guidance or with an outdated knowledge base is ineffective and can lead to a lack of originality and individuality in one’s answers and essays. It is imperative to continuously update one’s notes, knowledge base, and skills to stay ahead of the competition.
Competition in the Civil Services exam is intense, with new talents entering the field each year and bringing fresh energy, knowledge, and attitudes to the competition. To succeed, it is crucial to stay informed and aware of what one’s competitors are doing and to continuously strive to improve and stay ahead of the curve.
Right practice any day beats the best of the talent. It is important to note that in the preparation for a prestigious exam such as the one being discussed, merely having talent is not enough to ensure success. Right practice, in this context, holds a higher value than raw talent. As an aspirant who has taken the risk to give the exam, it is crucial to understand that the efforts being put in may not be enough to guarantee success. The huge amount of information available both online and offline can be overwhelming and may lead to a focus on merely reading and retaining this information, rather than utilizing it to prepare effectively. While this may seem like a never-ending task, it is crucial to make time to revise and incorporate the information into practice exercises, such as solving questions.
For instance take CSAT, there is vast pool of aspirants who believe they are good in aptitude and ignore practicing CSAT questions. Most of them have failed in the exam. And there is another majority of students who are just scared about aptitude questions. One can conquer fear only through practice. Without facing what you fear most, you can not master that particular subject. CSAT requires one to do intense practice – more than one does for general studies papers.
The aspect of practice not only has implications for developing qualities such as patience, perseverance, and discipline, which are crucial for cracking the exam, but it also lays the foundation for leading a peaceful and stable life.
According to our analysis, to achieve success in the Civil Services exam preparation, a minimum of 40% of the 10 hours (if this is the amount of time you are spending on a daily basis) dedicated to exam preparation should be devoted to practice. The adage, “practice or perish”, is particularly relevant in this context. The Union Public Service Commission, being highly professional won’t be kind towards anyone who is not prepared as per its requirements. The key to success in this exam lies in one’s commitment to sustained, consistent and rigorous practice, which is the fundamental aspect of true hard work.
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