UPSC prelims preparation strategy by Kanishak Kataria topper Rank 1

Prelims Strategy:
I'll elaborate upon it over a period of time. In the meantime, you can use following template to simulate at home. It is very important to mimic exam conditions to perform efficiently.




The boxes have correct and incorrect count in top and bottom rows respectively.

1st column is total. Each successive column shows my performance in 1st, 2nd and 3rd iterations.

1st iteration: no elimination. I am almost 100% confident of the answer.

2nd iteration: confused between 2 options (only 2, not 3) and putting extra thought to identify the correct one.

3rd iteration: equivalent to shooting in the dark. Don't know at all. Do it RARELY, only if you have no other option as the 1st 2 iterations were very poor.

Over an entire test series, goal should be to increase accuracy in 1st 2 iterations and ensuring > 25% accuracy in 3rd iteration.

If you have less than 25% in 3rd iteration, it means you are going into negative.

Only People who understand this strategy clearly should go for it. Otherwise stick by what you do the best and are more comfortable in.

Overall effort should be to reach high accuracy without worrying about the no of attempted questions.

I expect around 105 +- 6 marks in my prelims using this strategy. I completely relied on statistics and focused on clearling the cutoff.

Utilising test series:
1. Attempt sectional tests for revision and Full tests for evaluation. Try to mix and attempt -> sectional interspersed with full tests.

2. Each attempted paper needs to have a thorough self-analysis. From solutions of the test, revise what you have done correctly and learn about what you didn't know or got incorrect.

3. Overall aim should be to have high accuracy. In initial tests, you might attempt only 50 questions with confidence but in 1.5 months duration it will gradually increase along with your confidence.

4. Don't dwell into poor performances. Keep in mind that you have to put in best performance on June 2, 2019. Be optimal and don't peak too early.

Which test series to follow?

Any 2 of your choice. If possible one should be hard and one relatively easy. It helps in developing a balanced approach. Otherwise you might have a tendency to follow a particular pattern.

Personally, I followed Vision and Vajiram in 2018. Get feedback from some reliable people and pick for yourself. Just don't do anything merely because everyone else is doing.

As far as static vs current affairs is concerned, do not overthink. UPSC is too smart to let anyone predict the pattern. So better not waste time and energy on it and focus on own performance.

Remember: "Maximise performance in your strong subjects, Minimise mistakes in weaker ones"

Prelims is only about crossing the cutoff. You are not competing against anyone else. So share questions with friends and discuss whenever you have time.
Try to beat your own performance from the previous day. If you commit a silly mistake, promise to not repeat it again.
That's the minimum commitment you can make to yourself. 🤞

[Prelims Tip:]

Option elimination and intelligent guessing is important to increase the no. of attempts.

Initially, I had the tendency to leave a question as soon as I encountered something which I hadn't read or heard somewhere. However, many questions can be done through smart thinking. Information is present in subconscious mind. You just need to be more confident in your acquired knowledge.

Once you are confident in the guessing game, apply the technique in 2nd iteration which I had described earlier.

[How I approached it?]

In addition to test series, I utilised multiple online foras and practiced random MCQs in my spare time like when travelling in bus or while having tea etc.

I didn't worry about the negative marking while doing so - remember we are trying to improve our guessing skills.

But, I ensured that I learn from each mistake and see what changes are needed in my thought process to be able to guess correctly in future.

There are many peculiar cases or exceptions. I made an extra effort to remember them.
For example: Which ministry launched the "Stree Swabhimaan Initiative"?
1st time I got this wrong but since then this is example is engrained in my mind!

There are many questions which you already know. They become a source for revision and checking your accuracy.

From Jan/Feb till prelims, I tried to solve atleast 20-30 such questions daily (in addition to test series).

My sources on daily basis:
1. Insightsonindia: current affairs(5) and static(5)
2. ForumIAS: Prelims Marathon(5-7) and 10 PM current affairs (5)

I found Insights as difficult and Forum as easy. So it balanced my overall performance. Many a times I scored 0/5, but i took it as a learning and went ahead. Just try to do the same.

Additionally, I used:
1. GradeUp app: about once a week. (Repetitive questions)

2. Self-made QnAs and sharing it with my flatmates through WhatsApp.

Doing this exercise for 3-4 months helped me revise simple basics in static subjects and increase my confidence in current affairs.

Also, doing the current affairs quiz at night helps you revise the topics you read in the newspaper (Always try to read newspaper in morning!)

Not much time is lost, you can even start with these small tests from today. If you have more time, go back to previous dates and attempt the old quizzes. Just try and solve as many questions as possible.

[Prelims - Filling the OMR]
:

1. Filling each question in OMR just as you answer is suboptimal. There is lot of brain context switching.

2. Filling all at the end might lead to panic situations. Also in case of lengthy paper, like in 2018, you may miss out even if you solved in paper. (I've seen this happen to 1 of my friends.)

3. After 1st iteration(100% confidence), fill all in a batch and mark with a small sign in the paper. Your brain will get time to rest. Also, in 2nd iterations you'll not spend time in re-reading them and hence save crucial time. Once OMR is filled for a particular question, there is no coming back.

4. Do similarly for 2nd iteration.

5. After this you can be more dynamic in approach and fill each question as you answer, as there will be very little time left.

Adopt this strategy as per your comfort level and try to use it for a prolonged period of time. You have more than enough time to get used to it. If you are uncomfortable after 3 4 tests, please revert back to what you had been doing earlier.

Try to be little strategic and mechanical in solving prelims papers. The less emotions you involve, the more efficient you'll become. It's all about conquering fear of failure in prelims. With a strategic approach, you'll get into a rhythm and worry less about the "toughness" of the exam.

It's like using Machine Learning on human beings! 😄