By Sri Jitin Yadav, Indian Administrative Service(IAS) at Government of India.
After spending three years in preparation for UPSC, I deployed the following dirty secrets. Most of them might be or might not be true but they used to benefit me psychologically. I wrote mains twice and got interview calls both the times. Also, I got selected both the times, the first time in Railways and then into IAS.
- Quantity matters – No one has seen any mains answer scripts from UPSC. Copies have never come out it is open for review or anything. So, there could be a possibility that the checker would not read each and every question. This motivated me to attempt each and every question, to write neatly and in points so that it looks good the first time one sees it. Imagine a situation when the checker is having tea with friends and he might just flip pages of your answer script. Filling all the pages and attempting all questions would make a lot of difference here.
- Average Quality – It has been heard that UPSC answer scripts are checked by some university professors. I always used to think by seeing my professors in college days, a good professor would never check these copies and he would definitely indulge in research practices in his field. So, there could be a possibility that these copies are checked by so-called normal professors who just want to mint some money. In a way, writing technical and using big English words would just go above their head. So, always write answers in simple English so that a layman can understand. I used to write answers in a language similar to NCERT books. (I am not demeaning anyone by saying good or normal, but we all must have seen different category of professors during our college days.)
- Beat around the bush – many times, questions would come in the mains and we have no idea about it. It’s impossible to know each and everything. If A is asked, writing B, C and D would not do that much harm rather writing Z or not writing at all. Use common sense and just attempt the answer, and don’t write the concrete or factual points in the answer which might put you in trouble.
- Presentation – It is not about how much you study, it’s about how you present your answers. I have seen many candidates who gave minimum hours to study but they knew how to write their answers. Introduction, main body and conclusion along with points format would entail their answer structures. Even if they had less information, their answer would look wonderful on the face of it. A good presentation does half of the work. Writing practice would yield more result that revising a topic again and again. So, give time to answer writing as much as you can.
- Confabulation – many times we don’t remember the exact points we have read and could just recollect them in parts. Confabulation is connecting the distorted dots and making sense out of it. This used to work a lot in the answers in the test series and rewarded many times.
- Common Sense – It has been found that there are no proper answers to some of the questions. So, they are judged on a relative scale. It doesn’t matter whether you wrote it fully right or not, but if its better than others then it might end up giving a good score. Your answer writing practice would be beneficial here. I still remember, in the test series, I used to get good scores in those questions which had no specific answers and were constructed on the spot and got average marks in traditional predictable questions. This happened because everyone(most) wrote similar content in predictable questions, whereas they liked my answers better than others which were constructed during the test at that moment only, which were not prepared before and answered using common sense by gathering all information studied during preparation.
- Confidence – Many of my friends used to feel underconfident before the examination. I always used to tell them, no one can snatch these three hours of examination(for each paper) which you have earned it. And stop judging yourself on the basis that someone will judge your answers. Due to anonymity, no one would know who has written the answers and just write what you feel like. During the exam time, I used to feel that I am writing the best answers and this would keep my frame of mind in the right direction. I used to be calm, composed and peaceful. Your best comes out it such situations.
- Ethics and Essay -The two game-changing papers are Ethics and Essay. Most of our energies are put in the first three GS papers and the optional, maximum number of candidates put the least energy in these two papers. Whereas, the risk to return ratio is the highest here. By risk to return, I meant the amount of time one studies these two papers and the number of marks that can jump. So, I would suggest giving more time to these two papers so that one jumps on a relative scale of preparation as compared to others.
The above dirty secrets I have written before were developed during the course of my preparation time. They were only used to please myself psychologically to reduce the pressure of the exam.
Also, I worked with Visionias coaching institute for some time and checked answer scripts of candidates. Some of the strategies were developed after the observations during that time. SInce, I never got the feedback from mains examination I wrote, so I have used test series as my reference in few of the points.
Caveat : These points mentioned above may not work for everyone, and are subject to selection risk 🙂 . Please deploy them wisely!
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