UPSC CSE Prelims 2023: A week before Civil Services exam, check last minute do’s and don’ts
This week, the UPSC Prelims exam 2023 is set to take place. An aspirant may be experiencing a lot of anxiety, stress, and numerous questions in her mind. I have observed this for over three decades, so I understand what is going on in her mind and the kind of stress the person is experiencing.
Let me identify those stressors and then we can discuss what we can do about them and what we should avoid doing. I believe a student may be anxious about the time she might have wasted, perhaps due to celebrations, health issues, or some other reasons, and the mind is fixated on the thought of, 'Hey, I wasted that time.' But tell me, who hasn't wasted their time?
Everybody has had a long preparation period, and some time was inevitably wasted. So, it's a common thing that one shouldn't worry about, as one will be competing with people who have also wasted their time. An aspirant may be experiencing anxiety about the fact that 'Hey, I may not be very well prepared.' Well, I have met people who achieved the highest marks in the country, and they were saying, 'Sir, it seems like I am not adequately prepared for this examination.'
However, they ended up getting the highest marks and became the top scorers in the final ranking. Another point I want to emphasize is that one is uncertain about the trend as it keeps changing. What kind of trend will emerge? I have no idea, but let me tell all the aspirants, this trend will be the same for everyone. Every person one is competing with will face the same questions. Generally, an aspirant has a fear that 'If I fail, a full year cycle will start.' I believe failure is a possibility.
I have met many students who have appeared for interviews in their 4th or 5th attempt, and two specific instances come to mind. When I asked them, 'Why are you still writing it? You seem so bright,' one person responded, 'I couldn't clear the PT in any of my previous attempts.' I was surprised, so out of curiosity, I asked, 'What did you do differently to clear the examination this year?' She replied, 'Sir, this year I wasn't afraid of failure at all.' That's a valuable lesson I learned. It is crucial to be less afraid of failure. When one is not afraid of failure, it starts seeking out those who fear it. If one is not afraid of failure, then one is definitely making progress.
An aspirant may fear that she hasn't revised everything she has studied. Well, no one can revise everything they have studied. Trust me on this, there are numerous people who cannot fathom revising everything they have learned. One fears that she may have forgotten what she has read because she can't recall it. However, the good news is that UPSC provides answers in the Prelims examination, and generally, one won't forget those signals that appear after seeing the options.
One can't recall them by looking at the sky, but when the options are given, one can always identify the answer. Most coaching institutes or organizations conducting test series tend to set the bar slightly higher to make one struggle and work harder. It's like running on sand so that one can run faster on the track. Therefore, scoring a little lower is a common occurrence in tests conducted by reputable coaching institutes. So, all the problems an aspirant is facing are common problems. These are all very normal. There are a few things I would like an aspirant to keep in mind during this stage, especially in the last week. Give more focus to the high-weightage areas from where we have been getting more questions. Work on improving time management skills, as that is very important.
The whole week during the time when PT exams are held, make sure not to sleep and instead sit down for the two sessions each day and take the test. One can skip this Saturday. Additionally, take good care of yourself both physically and mentally. I usually advise people to meditate, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep.
Meditating, hydrating, and sleeping are three important things one should prioritize throughout this week. It's important to take some time to calm oneself and approach things more carefully. On Saturday, I recommend making logistical arrangements. Make sure one knows which papers and documents are needed to be carried, the location of the centre, and how one would be commuting there. Also, plan how one would spend the gap between the two sessions.
It's essential to have a clear mental picture of these arrangements during this time. Spend a lot of time with your well-wishers as they will provide positive energy, which can be really helpful. Also, allocate time to go through previous years' questions.
Spending time with the previous years' questions helps one become familiar with the frequency and types of questions that are asked. Don't panic or worry if not able to solve some questions, but do spend time with the previous years' questions as they are very important.
Now, there are a few things aspirants should avoid doing at this stage. Don't start reading new material because I've seen people become overwhelmed when they stretch themselves too thin. Ultimately, there is no end to the resources available. Also, in the examination hall not to panic if one is not able to solve a few questions. Move on, one can always come back to those questions later.
Additionally, avoid experimenting with new techniques or approaches during the examination. Stick to what has been practised and executed. Avoid long study sessions now. Be careful with reading the questions, as many students have come back to me after the PT examination saying, 'I wish I had read it more carefully because I knew the correct answer and I missed it.'
Every 5-10 questions, one has to remind herself to be more careful, and her mind will adjust to a higher level of concentration, which is expected. Any panic that may arise during the examination hall should be avoided. I want to conclude by emphasising that there should be no self-doubt at this stage because the only thing that can stop an aspirant this week is one’s self-doubt.
If one is taking the exam for the first time, she has the chance to top the country. And if one hasn't cleared it in previous attempts, then one can still clear it this time and will have the advantage of mains preparation that one can utilize.
Authored article by Mr A.R. Khan, Director of Khan Study Group (KSG)
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