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Why do newbies have trouble clearing prelims but then there are people who clear it each time with not much trouble?

Topic created · 21 Posts · 1175 Views
  • Appreciate comments from those who’ve qualified prelims. Also, how can one be best equipped to qualify it in very first attempt.

  • In my case:

    • Thinking too much about strategy & 'perfect' plan

    • Too much influence of toppers talk, following 'their' strategy

    • Reading like it's colg exam, nhi samajh aa rha toh rat lo(doesn't work)

    • Pre conceived notion of attempting 90+ ques(peddled mostly by YT channels)

    • Solving tests w/o a firm hold over basic books

    • Neglecting NCERTs

  • @Caesar said in Why do newbies have trouble clearing prelims but then there are people who clear it each time with not much trouble?:

    In my case:

    • Thinking too much about strategy & 'perfect' plan

    • Too much influence of toppers talk, following 'their' strategy

    • Reading like it's colg exam, nhi samajh aa rha toh rat lo(doesn't work)

    • Pre conceived notion of attempting 90+ ques(peddled mostly by YT channels)

    • Solving tests w/o a firm hold over basic books

    • Neglecting NCERTs

    Genuine points. My 2 cents-

    1. Ignoring newspapers and over dependence on readymade CA modules.

    2. Reading too much between the lines and hence missing the woods for the trees, especially relevant in multi statement questions. It is GS paper, go with general theme of the question rather than dwelling deep in intricacies.

    3. Importance of NCERT can't be emphasised in words.

  • @Murugan True that NCERTS are such a delight to read, if read properly along with thodi googling. I fell in love with NCERTS all over again.

  • @Hermione_Granger

    This was my first attempt and I qualified for mains'19. I kept my sources to a bare minimum and didn't follow the conventional topper talks/strategy because I had my own reservations about certain things.

    I focused more on core/scoring/static subjects- Modern history, Polity, Economics, Environment, Map-based, Reports.
    These are the areas from where the chance of getting an answer right is high. If one has strong grasp over the fundamentals, they will qualify for the exam notwithstanding other factors. This is the reason why veterans are able to crack with ease. They reduce this unpredictability factor by strengthening their grasp on static/core questions.

    Coming to the current affairs part-
    I didn't focus very much on current affairs in so far as note-making is concerned. Just read TheHindu and one standard CA monthly. The unpredictability associated with current affairs doesn't warrant spreading energies thin over referring them from different sources. This is where I believe most freshers go wrong. They do TheHindu, Indian Express, PIB, Insights/IAS baba daily CA, CA monthly magazines, PT365 etc.

    The insecurity associated with the exam is such that every new source appears as a key to success in the prelims. Newbies aren't usually very much confident about what they study. This stems from the fact that they want instant results. They want to succeed very soon. Almost every newbie comes with the dream to crack the exam in 1st attempt. Seldom they pay attention to the process and their approaches towards the exam. And, when their work doesn't produce quantifiable outcomes in terms of numbers in test series, they become restless. Confidence and patience runs out, brings inefficiency and results into failure.

    This exam is more about patience than anything else. I think sticking to basic books with patience is the key.

    Obviously, focus on concepts over rattafication doesn't need to be mentioned separately for it is an imperative.

  • If there is one thing that I am confident in this upsc process, it is my prelims strategy. So far, I have cleared prelims four times in a row (every year since 2016 and scores have been 126, 133, 108, 141 {vision key 2019}). It is mains where I have failed as many times but that is a discussion for another day.

    My prelims strategy is primarily based on multiple revisions.

    For static portions, I have a set of basic material which I ensure I do atleast thrice before appearing for prelims. The sources are slightly diverse and haphazard but all this has evolved over a period of four years (feel free to ask me via dm or in thread if you wanna know more).

    For current affairs, I have relied on vision monthlies and insights compilations. Again, the focus is on doing them 3-4 times before appearing for the exam. For the past two years, I have tried to do compilations of the previous years as well as upsc these days ass questions from news items as old as 2-3 years.

    As far as test series is considered, I ensure that i attempt around 15-20 tests. Though the number of tests have varied every year (in 2017 I gave around 40 tests but in 2019 it barely touched 15), the idea is to learn though those tests and get syllabus completed. Three things that i have learnt over the years regarding tests are:

    • Giving full length tests is more beneficial.

    • It's always a good idea to mix and match. My suggestion would be to attempt all vision FLTs and a few from other institutions. My personal favourites are Vajiram and Drishti. For some reason I find insights tests as more of examiner's ego reflected in test questions than mimicking upsc patter.

    • Making one pager notes for the new things/ important facts/ wrong questions in the tests is crucial. Plus, revising these pages one week before exam. It will optimise your time spent on these tests.

    But I think the most important thing that has worked for me is attempting as many questions as possible. While it is true that estimation and aptitude hones with more practice, I have seen newbies being more conservative in number of questions attempted. Some people fail to realize this even after multiple attempts.

    There is an adage of sorts in upsc universe that you prepare for prelims only once and that preparation helps you sail through subsequent attempts. While this conventional wisdom has diluted over the years with massive changes in prelims pattern every year, its core still holds true.

    I hope these musings are not considered as some kind of bragging. Far from it. Having to clear prelims four times is some kind of a badge of dishonour as it reflects my constant failure in the subsequent stage of exam. But it has taught me a few things which can be helpful to you guys. All the best!

    PS: This turned out to be pretty long. Sorry about that!

  • @paranthapijja Please give your prelims sources too. I cleared prelims this time after 2 failures and still don't feel comfortable with the exam.

  • @paranthapijja Please share your previous years mains score.

  • @paranthapijja said in Why do newbies have trouble clearing prelims but then there are people who clear it each time with not much trouble?:

    If there is one thing that I am confident in this upsc process, it is my prelims strategy. So far, I have cleared prelims four times in a row (every year since 2016 and scores have been 126, 133, 108, 141 {vision key 2019}). It is mains where I have failed as many times but that is a discussion for another day.

    My prelims strategy is primarily based on multiple revisions.

    For static portions, I have a set of basic material which I ensure I do atleast thrice before appearing for prelims. The sources are slightly diverse and haphazard but all this has evolved over a period of four years (feel free to ask me via dm or in thread if you wanna know more).

    For current affairs, I have relied on vision monthlies and insights compilations. Again, the focus is on doing them 3-4 times before appearing for the exam. For the past two years, I have tried to do compilations of the previous years as well as upsc these days ass questions from news items as old as 2-3 years.

    As far as test series is considered, I ensure that i attempt around 15-20 tests. Though the number of tests have varied every year (in 2017 I gave around 40 tests but in 2019 it barely touched 15), the idea is to learn though those tests and get syllabus completed. Three things that i have learnt over the years regarding tests are:

    • Giving full length tests is more beneficial.

    • It's always a good idea to mix and match. My suggestion would be to attempt all vision FLTs and a few from other institutions. My personal favourites are Vajiram and Drishti. For some reason I find insights tests as more of examiner's ego reflected in test questions than mimicking upsc patter.

    • Making one pager notes for the new things/ important facts/ wrong questions in the tests is crucial. Plus, revising these pages one week before exam. It will optimise your time spent on these tests.

    But I think the most important thing that has worked for me is attempting as many questions as possible. While it is true that estimation and aptitude hones with more practice, I have seen newbies being more conservative in number of questions attempted. Some people fail to realize this even after multiple attempts.

    There is an adage of sorts in upsc universe that you prepare for prelims only once and that preparation helps you sail through subsequent attempts. While this conventional wisdom has diluted over the years with massive changes in prelims pattern every year, its core still holds true.

    I hope these musings are not considered as some kind of bragging. Far from it. Having to clear prelims four times is some kind of a badge of dishonour as it reflects my constant failure in the subsequent stage of exam. But it has taught me a few things which can be helpful to you guys. All the best!

    PS: This turned out to be pretty long. Sorry about that!

    You could not be more right. For me, revision is the key. Most people that I come across read the basic books and their source once or twice and think of attempting the paper. Things have to be read 3,5@4,5,6 times until you can guarantee that you won’t get a question wrong from that source.
    People don’t flunk because they failed to solve the debatable equality questions. They flunk because they get basic common questions wrong.

  • @Rags Don't think they are worth sharing, tbh. 😛

  • @paranthapijja though not relevant to this thread, can you also share your learnings about mains in short.. your experience will be highly valuable for all.

  • @nikhilrai0827880 actually I might not be the best person to comment on that. There are aspirants here who know more than me about mains exam. People like @sat_009 @Champak have cleared mains and they'd be able to better guide you.

    But one thing is sure, choose your optional wisely. You don't want to be stuck with a bad optional because overcoming that sunk cost fallacy is not something that everyone can decide upon. It takes fearlessness and subsequently, meticulous execution, to ensure payoff.

  • @paranthapijja As some of you have dm'ed me asking for my booklist, here it goes. A lot of things here might seem diametrically opposite to conventional wisdom. However, as much as this process suits me, it might not be perfect to the T for you.

    Polity - My focus is on the bare text of the Constitution. Reading it 4-5 times allows you to digest the small nitty gritties. UPSC has a tendency to lift questions directly from the bare text. Some might kill me for saying it, but I do laxmikanth only selectively. Things like parliamentary procedures, committees, background to formation of constitution etc.

    History - History is the most spread out of all subjects. Core of my preparation is my class notes (Sanjay Singh sir's class notes from rau's ias). However, the depth in which history is being asked makes our job tougher. I have constantly updated my notes with my learnings from test series. I also read fat bipan Chandra and thin bipan Chandra selectively. For ancient and medieval, I do new ncerts extremely thoroughly. Plus, I do RS Sharma (old ncert) selectively. I also read the glossary of romila thapar for ancient India terms.

    Art and Culture - I do my class notes, ncert summary, very short ccrt handwritten notes and test series learnings. I haven't done nitin singhania yet but might do it if I have to give exam again.

    Environment - class 12 bio ncert ecology part, civilsdaily primers on conventions and protocols and current affairs. I haven't done Shankar ias yet.

    Geography - fundamentals of physical geography ncert, India physical environment ncert, India people and economy ncert. Over the course of my attempts, I have increased my focus on maps as well. Being thorough with maps is critical. More true for India mapwork. Both physical and political.

    Economics - macro economics ncert class xii, some random notes for static portions like tax expenditure, tax buoyancy, stagflation, fiscal drag etc, current affairs is super important for eco and learnings from test series.

    S and T - current affairs

  • @paranthapijja What is your optional ??

  • Prelims will surprise even the most exerienced among us! I myself flunked it the 5th time after clearing IFoS cutoffs for 4 years straight. This year I was expecting 126. So the "experience triumphs and newbies stuck" theory might not entirely be true.

    Prelims isn't a "quick response situation" as many might have been used to in other objective competitive scenes. We all realize that most of the questions, at least the ones that will make a difference, are intelligent guesses and option elimination.

    Consider this question

    1. Which one of the following groups of plants was domesticated in the 'New World' and introduced into the 'Old World'?

    (a) Tobacco, cocoa and rubber

    (b)Tobacco, cotton and rubber.

    (c) Cotton, coffee and sugarcane

    (d) Rubber, coffee and wheat

    Few of us will know the answer with certainity. So the thought process begins : What is the "new world" and "old world"? I know this because of my optional anthropology. Now, an anthro student might also know that wheat was initially cultivated in Far East/Central Asian regions and eliminate option D. Then we start asking ourselves these questions,
    "When did the earliest humans migrate to new world through the berring strait"? (I vaguely remember it was 15-20k years before present )Cotton is associated with clothing. "Would Homo sapiens survive in equatorial climate of South Asia without cotton clothing?" South Asia got populated earlier than the new world. Now, this line of thinking is giving a strong indication that cotton was not introduced into the old world by the new world. Funny fact : Though completely wrong, this line of thinking actually led me to the correct answer. 😄

    Some will adopt a geographical line of thinking "What are the climactic/soil conditions necessary for growth of cotton" "Where are they more likely to be found in the world" "Given our knowledge from previous discussion, how likely is it that New world settlers would have been the pioneers in cotton cultivation?"

    Now this guesswork in any question is not at all failproof. But, the wider your knowledge, the better your ability to link all disciplenes and the faster your computational abilities, the more likely it is that you will get the correct answer. And that's what matters. In the 30/40 decisive questions, you may get a few wrong but good guesswork will get you most right and that will give you the edge.

  • Now we are all competing with peers, none of whom have an insurmountable advantage over us. Yes, how sincere of a student you were in your school or college academia makes a difference. I am not denying it. But it isnt insurmountable. We all have the same basic books, same access to resources. It is up to us to get a sound undertsanding of basic economics, geography, science, history, polity etc and apply it rigorously to analyze new information and current affairs. We can hone our skills through an infinite number of mocks available online. We will be exposed to new knowldge and the flaws in our guess game. It will grow like an onion, layer by layer. The strong foundation supporting new value additions. The process in itself is immensely satisfying.

    Yes, this is easier said than done. But the exam,again, isn't for everyone. And there is no subjectivity here. I disagree with people who say "prelims has become luck based". It is not. However "out of syllabus" the questions, an intelligent person will alwyas break them down to the basics he knows and beat it.

    Personal note : I will share my mains gyan too but frankly, of all the stages, this is my favourite. I cannot remember a more joyous occassion in my life then when I sat down to calculate my pre 2019 marks and I knew there was no way, I wouldn't get in. I had very efficiently utilized my 29 years of knowledge despite the Job and family shit. In the depressing randomness, this gave me happiness.

  • @paranthapijja Thanks for calling me here. Always good to know that I am being remembered.

  • Be @paranthapijja how did you compile prelims content for last 2 years. Did you make notes of them?
    I have been reading vision CA since 2017. Made mains notes but not pre notes.

  • @Kapiushon One generally reads 12 months of current affairs for prelims. Usually from June to May. Apart from doing these thoroughly, I quickly revise my previous years insights modules. For instance, for 2019 prelims, I just quickly went through my eco, science, env, govt schemes compilations of 2018 as well. So, I don't make notes for prelims but I don't throw away my previous years current affairs modules.