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IAS Preparation Guide - For Those in Their Middle Years of Graduation

Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the highest civil service post of Indian administration is the dream job that one can ask for. Achieving the tag of IAS is the goal of many youth of the country. By preparing for long hours and fighting tough competition they write the three-tiered civil services examination (one of the toughest exam in the world), conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and achieve their dream job. Being in the middle of your graduation and wanting to become an IAS? Then this article is for You.

Having decided by yourself or by parents or through friends You might have decided to become an IAS officer and set it as your life goal. This decision might have been taken at the start of Your graduation. As a follow up, in the first years of your graduation, you might have started preparing for the exam by going through the basics of Civil Services Exam - its three-tiered structure, the gargantuan amount of knowledge to be gained, having discussions with the likeminded people, speaking to seniors who have prepared for the exam, talking to relatives who have appeared for the exam, taking their suggestions and ultimately You might have  carved out some time of your busy schedule for preparing for UPSC.

Middle years of graduation is a crucial period for you to decide on your future as an IAS officer. In the past years of your graduation you might have started preparing for the exam at a very slow pace. Going through the syllabus of UPSC, understanding the nuances of current affairs, picking up a habit of newspaper reading, having group discussions with likeminded people on issues of importance etc. Also, this is the phase where you have to be cautious of your motivation levels.

In this phase, you might have some doubts over the career choice you made. Questions about achieving it might have started to creep in your mind. Pessimists might have spoiled your mind saying that the exam is tough to crack and is even tougher to clear the exam in a single attempt. Also, the thought that you are not able to provide sufficient time for UPSC preparation and oh! the ever-present relatives who snuff out the very idea of you becoming an IAS officer, and many more are all putting immense pressure on you and might demotivate you.

If the sole aim of yours is to become an IAS and if you are committed to the decision you made, you can easily handle this negativity. This is the phase where you should start readying your bookshelf to become battle ready.

Starting this year, you should get yourself ready for the bigger battle that is to take place in the future – Civil Services Examination. First and foremost, you should start collecting NCERT books. These books are of vital importance. If you have asked any of the civil service aspirants, you must have heard this – ‘Read NCERTs compulsorily’. Yes, what you have heard is right. Reading NCERTs is a must for having a basic understanding of various issues underlined in the syllabic content of UPSC.

One can start with sixth standard books and gradually read till twelfth standard. As your target for IAS is in the future, say two years from now, there is no need to hurry through these books. Take your time in understanding the concepts thoroughly. Read the books twice by the end of your graduation. This gives you immense confidence by the time you appear for the exam.

The syllabic content of CSE involves varied subject domains. Geography, history, economics, ecology and environment and general science. Though NCERTs cover the basics of these subjects. One needs an in-depth understanding of some of the issues pertaining to these subjects. This can be taken care of by joining a good coaching centre after your graduation. If you want, many coaching centres provide weekend batches to cater to students who are doing their graduation.

The next thing you should do is to improve upon your newspaper reading habit that you might have started in your freshmen years. Ever since the change of exam pattern by the UPSC in 2013, general studies became the dominant factor in deciding the future of an aspirants’ success. In this scenario, newspaper reading is a must. But, this should be done in an intelligible way, so that you do not waste too much time on newspaper and study for your graduation simultaneously. First and foremost, is the choice of newspaper. Consulting your seniors or going through various websites, you might have picked a standard newspaper daily. For many of the aspirants, The Hindu newspaper is the standard guide in their preparations. Hope you too have made the right choice.

In a newspaper, not all the topics are relevant for UPSC exam. Choose the topics wisely. For an understanding of what you have to read from it, go through some of the previous years’ question papers of UPSC (both prelims and mains). After analyzing them, you will get a sense of what to read and what to leave. After that, start preparing notes from the topics you read. Categorise them according to the syllabic content of the exam. Always remember, in these years of your preparation, even if you do not prepare notes, it is ok. But, never stop reading newspaper as it might lead to breakup in your understanding of various issues. There will always be a running thread to the issues that you read now and to the time when you start preparing for the Civil Services Exam (CSE).

The next thing that you can do in this phase is to start testing your answer writing skills. A question a day and raising the number gradually will help you in writing answers for mains (the second stage of the exam). Ask those who have experienced the taste of UPSC to correct your answers and get valuable feedback. Don’t become complacent in the writing process. Even when you feel that you have mastered the answer writing skills, there is always be a room for improvement. Also, UPSC which is mischievously called as the Unpredictable Public Service Commission, is adept at throwing surprises to you and hitting your well laid out plans. That’s why follow this old maxim – ‘Better be ready than feel sorry’ for becoming an IAS officer.

Another important thing to do during these years is to decide on the optional subject that you will be writing. Many a times, students make the mistake of choosing the optional after their graduation. This may prove costly. To clear the exam in the first attempt, the decision you make now is very important.

If the optional subject you chose is the same as your graduating subject then you are at an advantage. This makes your preparation for the optional paper in UPSC exam easier. Also, you can prepare along with your graduation subjects and notes making will not be a problem.

For those who could not decide on the optional subject or whose chosen subject is different from your graduation subject, do not worry. You can start your optional subject preparation by collecting various books regarding the subject and preparing appropriate notes. You can also join coaching classes right after your graduation to further be ready for the exam.

After covering these basics in your graduation years, you will feel that the battle is won. Don’t be overconfident. One always finds shortcomings in one’s preparation. As you have spent time both on your graduation and civils preparation, the quality of preparation may not be to the par, except you are an exceptional human being. But worry not. There are many number of avenues for you to improve your preparation levels to crack CSE.

You can opt for full time coaching classes for both general studies papers and optional subject after your graduation to make yourself comfortable in your preparation process. You can join mock test series for testing yourself, further improving upon the mistakes you have made. Choose the best institute and follow through the classes diligently. Clear your doubts immediately when they arise. Form a good discussion group with cooperative friends.

The choice of writing UPSC civil services exam is a brave one. The long duration of the examination process (almost a year including the preparation phase after graduation) will test the candidates mental, physical and spiritual strengths. As the old saying goes, ‘Success Embraces the Brave’, your battle for CSE is half won with your decision of making civil services your career choice.

Do not let negativity creep into you. Do not compare with others. Trust your preparation process and enjoy it. Maintain good health and have some lighter moments. At the end of the day, life is bigger than being an IAS or not. Hope you achieve success in your endeavor and achieve the job of your dreams – Indian Administrative Officer!

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