What is the 1 thing you learned from your Prelims failure? - ForumIAS

What is the 1 thing you learned from your Prelims failure?

So Prelims is to come in about 5 months. For those of us who have written the Prelims before, what is the one thing prelims failure has taught you?

jack_Sparrow,DMand26 otherslike this
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The first day I had stepped foot in ORN, me and my friend were looking for places to eat. We found this place called Kathuria's which was located in one of those markets inside ORN, in the middle of main street. After we were done with the most expensive Paratha we had ever eaten till then, the old man sitting on the counter asked us if we had come for Civil Service preparation? We replied in the affirmative. Yes. The old man chuckled and said, "By the time you make sense of this examination, 4 attempts will have passed by". We laughed it off feeling invincible fresh out of a Tier 1 college. The world seemed ours to conquer. However his words were prophetic, at least for me (my friend got into IPS a couple of years ago), and as wisdom has finally dawned over me and mains exam got over leaving me with some time on hands, I can shell out a few bits with respect to Preliminary examination. 


This was my 4th attempt and 2nd Mains. The one thing I observed about prelims was that in a lot of questions I could eliminate 2 options and got confused between the remaining two and eventually I ended up coloring the wrong box. And the only way to not get confused was to be sure and to be sure I had to revise the material I had thoroughly. And this was the major lesson I got and it's something every topper who has ever cleared the exam told. It's common knowledge. An open secret. Why do we don't do it? 

1. We don't have a final source from which to revise from. 

2. Revision is hard. It's difficult. It's one of the most excruciating things we have to go through. 


After 2 failed attempts and going through a myriad of books - D D Basu, Shekhar Bandyopadhyaya, Sriram's Economy, Shankar IAS and what not, thought I had understood the concepts it were those factual questions that took me down. And I didn't have the temerity left to start over again and make notes for continuous revision. So I did the next best thing, I took someone else's notes (in this case it was Mandar Patki's) and started mugging up every thing in there. And for current affairs picked up PT365. I know people say that PT365 is useless these days and don't help at all, but I don't agree. The thing is whatever you pick you have to read it thoroughly. Whether it is your own notes, someone else's notes, some current affairs compilation. Don't start reading anything if you can't revise it gazillion times. And this is the key to prelims people. 

Revise. Revise. Revise and revise once more. Keep revising like your life depends upon it. Keep revising till you throw up. Keep revising till you fall down. And then revise once again. And no power can stop you from clearing prelims. 

D503,GaneshGaitondeand38 otherslike this
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@LetsGetThisBread hey, could you elaborate upon the system you developed for rote learning?


Hi, so basically Istart with a timetable. The first iteration is longer compared the others, and with each iteration is usually shave off a day. It keeps the pressure up and makes sure you waste as little time as possible sitting at your desk. Basically it ensure your productivity isn’t decreasing with each round of revision.

So if I keep 5 days per subject for the first iteration, then the second I take 4 days, and third I take 3 days so on and so forth. Bear in mind I’ve already given 3 prelims before so at this point I’m not really understanding concepts just recollecting the details.If you are still in the conceptual stage take your time to understand those first.

Secondly, it is important tolayer information. Don’t try to learn everything in one go you will overwhelm yourself. If I’m trying to learn modern history, the first time I read spectrum I just try to read the book as a story to recollect the facts of what happened after what, not “which resolution was passed in which session of congress presided by whom”. That stuff comes later. Once you’ve learned certain facts with one reading then Itry to break the topic into chunks. Suppose I start with Swadeshi movement and learn all the facts about the moderates, the movements, the leaders involved, the sessions conducted as well as the swadeshi programme. Then you proceed onto the next block. It helps to have notes written or make your notes alongside this stage. When you write you’re less likely to get distracted.

I do not believe in the concept of integrated studies, because the demand of both stages of the exam is fundamentally different socreate a different set of notes. It might feel like duplication but when you need to go through a large volume of the syllabus in a week you will thank yourself. You wont need to pore over copious notes to find the relevant portions for the exam. My modern history notes are basically 5-6 A4 sheets that I folded into 4, compressed all of spectrum into and stapled it like a small booklet. They only contain dates, important chronologies, events, resolutions, features of Acts, revolts, social reform movements, basically a prelims cheat sheet. The size is convenient since it fits inside spectrum as well. But the essence of saying this isgood notes are absolutely necessary because they simplify the process of learning immensely.

Lastly, tryactive recall. I know you can use anki and other such devices but I was very old school that way using a notebook to physically write things multiple times to revise them. I’m sure there’s enough science that says writing helps to reinforce the memory process but I’ll leave the googling to your discretion. While revising I write, after I finish a topic, I quickly jot keywords or sometimes even the first alphabet of the keyword. The next time I come around to the same topic, I first try to recall and write all that I know and then go over the things I missed. Similarly with my current affairs as well, I make online notes and the pages app has a table of contents feature which i basically use as an active recall device- a sort of flash card if you will. Whenever you see the topic try and write down all that you know and then see how many things you miss out. You’ll see that it also cuts down successive revision time.

Is all this tedious? Yes. But is it rewarding? Also yes.

Joeyisthebest,Darvey78and32 otherslike this
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Failed prelims twice, cleared prelims twice with a 50/50 track record, I majorly learned:

1. Don’t underestimate the prelimsand give it the time and energy it required. It’snot going to be a 2 month affair if it’s your first serious attempt. You will have to learn to balance both GS and optional for a good 4-5 months.

2. Don’t think you are above rote learning(huge mistake I made my first 2 attempts). If you think you’re bad at it,develop a systemto become decent at it. There will be things you have to mug up. It makes no sense when you’re doing it, but you won’t crib about it in the exam hall when you are able to mark the right/ eliminate the wrong option.

3. Revise your static, be thorough with it. My spectrum came apart, so I made notes of them, my notes have now come apart. Same is the case with my Lakshmikant. You might not find direct questions from these books to a large extent, but it will give you theconfidence to eliminate things without doubting what you know(also prelims was never a book based test to begin with). I missed my 2nd prelims by 3 marks because of not doing this.

4. Goes with the point above, butread your basic sciencebooks as well. It helps you to logically decipher a lot of questions as well.

5. Test series are not a knowledge bank. It doesn’t matter how many coachings claim that “X no of questions came from our test”, don’t be gullible enough to fall for marketing. No test series can replace revision. The purpose of a test series is to merely help youpractice your timing and accuracy ratio. And to figure out what kind of questions you should avoid/ do. When doing tests I used to have a system where after correcting it, I would mark out few questions which I thought were basic and likely to be asked, it would total to around 10-15 per test, the rest are only filler questions to bulk it up to a 32 test series, treat them as such.

6. Stay calmand don’t think about what will happen if you clear/ don’t clear the prelims while attempting it. In those two hours, everything except those 100 questions cease to matter. I again lost out my 2nd prelims because I panicked for 15 minutes straight after getting the paper and messed up my timing royally afterwards.

7. If you have not donemathsafter 10th, or do not feel comfortable with maths,practice it for CSAT. Don’t rely on English solely, it’s going to be an uncomfortable 15 days of waiting for results otherwise. Don’t ignore it at all.

That’s about it.

SA,prowessand28 otherslike this
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Person on his last attempt here.

Writing mains.

Have written all 6 attempts. Passed prelims 4 times. Failed twice. Once in 2018 and 2020. In 2018 because my prelims and mains from PCS happened the same week. (Failed by one mark or less)... in 2020 failed csat but had passed GS cutoff..

What works in Prelims?

First of all F**k all the coaching institutes. Their material and bullshit with their test series. In all of 6 years combined inhave solved a total of 2 prelims tests from the big boy of coaching but hated it... I have however solved all of previous 20 plus years of PYQs... Trust me, if you religiously solve and Google every piece of options in pyps, you will pass... And guess how many revisions I did of pee teee three six five ? Zero. I didn't even read it.... Have read it once in 17 and fell mentally sick.... NCERT, PYP, India year book, Read between the lines, Newspaper and a massive habit of googling the shit out of every thing. It should see you through




Darvey78,Magicand26 otherslike this
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Saw your video on YouTube- briefing about SFG & roadmap ahead. I don’t think there’s a better video that exist while we are blindly watching “Toppers Talk” to align our preparations. It goes on to say what the toppers don’t, so I can say for myself I focused too much trying to copy what they would do. 

Sir says that UPSC CSE is one such exam where people fail for the first time, well I can fit myself there. 
I have learnt :

- The best test series remain the PYQs of UPSC. Simulators (or Stimulators as I earlier called them:p) by Forum came rushing to me while I solved prelims. The award question & president by birth - I recalled then & there. No, I’m not advertising it, I casually solved only a couple of them. So good full length tests in the last month is a must do. 
 
- Cutoff is just a number. Focusing too much on less than 50% to get in mains race is suicidal. Remembering our marks in school to college, prelims seems easier than it is. The focus shouldn’t be 200/200 or 92 sharp but rather to maximise our potential so that cutoff remains a number.

- All UPSC experts, who solve the prelims paper at a later stage will continue to overemphasise on hacks & tricks. They’ll link the eco-san question to sanitation & hence arrive at toilets as answer. And oh, the cloud around ONLY is now acknowledged by UPSC itself. These fundas do work, not denying, only to supplement our knowledge. They work more while we’re solving them outside. 

- Ignoring any part will hurt and haunt you. Be it ancient, medieval or CSAT. I comfortably solved the CSAT paper and scored around 110-140 in PYQs. However, I managed to solve only 43 this time & knew this was the end as I walked out that day. The reason is lack of sleep & loosing the calm state. 

-Lastly, to gear up again & reading the same things again is daunting but it’s the only way out. The questions I’d have marked right keep coming back to me. But as sir says, revision is hard work & hard work is revision. 

Wrote this on second Sunday of 2022, so that 2/6 seems like another day & I get reminded every time I loose track. “Now that I know better, I try to do better.”
Darvey78,SAand22 otherslike this
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@LetsGetThisBread Can you elaborate on the timetable a bit? How did you manage multiple subjects? How did you fit them all in your revision timetable? For me it gets overwhelming to keep track of all that needs revision, that I end up postponing the revision.

I failed my last prelims largly due to me doing improper revision. I read all the standard books first, and then started revising them in bulk. But by then I had forgotten what I read at the beginning.

Please shed some more light on your time blocks for revision. It will be of great help!

Few tips to keep in mind while making your schedule:

  1. Keep a physical planner to schedule your day as well the month and the months ahead. It gives your studies some structure and tangible targets you need to achieve. Also helps to delineate your syllabus.
  2. Break your P5 :p (geo, pol, MIH, econ, environ). I made a spreadsheet to breakdown topics into various blocks. Group similar topics together so that it makes it easy to revise the chunks for you. For eg: one of the blocks for MIH is social reforms, tribal and civil movements, workers and peasants movement. And for polity would be FR, DPSP, FD.
  3. I always start with a backwards timetable (D- style) this helps you have clarity over exactly how many days you have to compete the entire syllabus. So
  4. I also divide my day into 2 halves. One for GS and the other for optional. You’ll have one ore productive half than the other so divide your topics accordingly where you feel you are lagging or topics that require more attention. I used to switch it up constantly. Your timetable should be flexible enough to grow with you but have enough structure to give you discipline.
  5. Since you have effectively five months and if you’re just beginning give 5 months to pre, splitting the time between pre and optional prep. The first iteration of revision you can give 1.5-2 months. This will the stage that you really understand the concepts. Don’t try to make detailed notes at this stage because you’ll realise with successive revisions that (a) the effective notes you require are much less than you will make at this stage (b) you might make conceptual errors now
  6. Then in the next 3 months you peg your revision to a test series schedule and you keep revising accordingly deciding your syllabus into blocks. You’ll easily be able to manage 4-5 iterations in that time. I would also say that you need to do at least 2 iterations in the last month itself. It might seem daunting but trust me if you try to actively recall things you’ll be able to do it. I finished my polity at least 4 times in the last month itself (of course you will need to pull incredible hours in the last month, but once you have a target at hand it wont feel so terrible) 


Darvey78,June_Osborneand21 otherslike this
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Failed last one. Cleared this one. Single most important thing in Prelims - 2011 Later Previous Year Questions. Around 15 questions were repeated directly or indirectly. Its ROI is even higher than Laxmikant.
Neyawn,Darvey78and18 otherslike this
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Revision holds the key to see your roll no in the holy pdf

You cant buy time!. if you are weak in some subjects or not motivated enough etc etc., then take help in form of coaching, mentorship etc. Money can be earned later but not time.

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.” Even after following all golden rules, you may still fail. But the reason shouldn’t be lack of your effort. Give your best, even if you fail, you will walk with your head held high.

Muhammed Ali once said “I don't count my sit-ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they're the only ones that count”. Studying those extra hours, postponing your favourite TV shows for weekend, attending mocks on time, analysing and understanding PYQs, waking up on time to attend SFG test at 7am etc…will make the difference 

Darvey78,SAand18 otherslike this
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Backing up yourself and reducing any negative self talk DURING the actual exam. Know that one may suffer, may be hard pressed but can still clear if you implement your learnings from prep.

Failed to realise this and missed out with 95 score in 2019. In 2020, similar fate awaited me, with me not knowing first 8-9 history questions and confidence dipping. But this time, above wisdom prevailed upon me and scored 127. 

Take away is not to look at 127 but, if you can withstand pressure and willing to suffer and carry on for a little while more, you will be rewarded for your efforts.

Prelims paper on D day is like a tsunami wave hitting, scrambling/disorienting minds and then it says, common lets play the game now. So need to devise a counter plan and play the game in head before (my perspective)

PS: Luck is another dimension that's always present. 

Neyawn,dalphaand18 otherslike this
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That, every year around 40 questions can be answered from NCERT's only. Even the so-called presence of mind and awareness ones like mention the crops introduced in India from new world types(class 12 history NCERT).

EVERY FRICKIN YEAR.

KatnissEverdeen,Darvey78and17 otherslike this
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We all face challenges in life. This failure was one of mine, and the experience taught me a critical lesson: changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for yea. We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you’ll end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.

It is a gradual evolution, a long series of small wins and tiny breakthroughs. The only way I can make progress—the only choice I had— is to start small.
Neyawn,DIVYA09and16 otherslike this
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Mocks - they are important. You can learn and cram all the concepts and facts. You may do pyp well, but don't underestimate the value of mocks. Sectional mocks can be skipped, but do attempt ~ 10 full length mocks. I remember giving one ForumIAS Simulator test, found it so absurd and random, thought UPSC don't ask these questions neither UPSC is such random and the rest is history. The one thing I have learnt is that be ready to test yourself in every situation, UPSC can throw any bomb be ready to face any situation.

Give some full length mocks. They'll help to recognize how much questions to attempt, how to approach the paper and so on. PYP are imp, but they only tell what topics are important, which type of questions come and what type doesn't.
And lastly train yourself to not panic. If I have not panicked in prelims this year, may be I had stopped myself from over-attempting.

Neyawn,GaneshGaitondeand15 otherslike this
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Failed in 2020 CSE (P)

Reasons: Tried to refer more than one sources for Test series, CA; Didn't cover Medieval; Relied on pvt mocks, and didn't have strong logic and smart guess work.


Cleared CSE(P), IFS(P)

Reasons: Jewel is PYQ; Sticking to one source with multiple revisions in loops; CONFIDENCE=KEY; COOL & CALM considering pehle 10-15 sawal nhi aayenge (presumption).


VonRitcher

SA,IamThatand14 otherslike this
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Neyawnsaid

» show previous quotes

You should write an article a detailed one sometime. To ne honest, it may take a person upto 2 months to just do laxmikant. That's because straight out of college it takes time to develop studying habits and sitting habits, and knack for how to speed read and how to make nemonics and all that.

If I were to start afresh, i would take at least 45 days just to do 1 book. The time of 5 months means you have some idea of the subject fro before. This year CSE 2020 the youngest candidate is 1999 born selected at the age of 22 ( applied at the age of 21) i know one such kid.


It may look heroic that she managed such a good rank in first attempt but the truth is she has been preparing since college.

Why? 

Because someone in the family was preparing. 

Things take time. We flunk prelims - half of us because we don't study, but another half who studies for Mains when prelims comes closer.

I think nearly everybody who decides to enter in preparation knows which books to study from (the basic 5 for prelims) but they don't know when to study what, how to study basic books, what to study/focus and the most important what not to study.

I have nearly stopped watching topper's videos a long back. It is not that they hide what they did right but sometimes they also don't know what exactly worked/ sometimes what they are trying to say gets lost in miscommunication/ something which works only for them and not others/ two topper's saying opposite things but both things work for them respectively, etc. Though I liked what Apala Mishra (Rank9) (in forumias community meet) said because my experiences were similar.

Maybe will write an article but that would mean going over and confronting past mistakes which will be painful. Maybe I will write when I become mentally stronger and don't judge my past self /mistakes and be kinder to myself.

dalpha,KatnissEverdeenand14 otherslike this
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4 consecutive prelims failed , 2 on border line ! 

lessons: easy to blame UPSC after prelims failure , very easy to hide your mistake by quotes, motivational lecture available in market specifically for this exam ( unpredictable , analytical , subjective etc etc kind of words ) . But it takes guts to accept tht every year almost 10000 are getting selected no matter what ! dont blame anyone even ur luck ! things didnt work in that manner in real life !! 

take practical approach ! dont make it regular affair and make preparation ur way of life ( i did it , i regeret it ) ...

fix number of attempts according to ur socio financial condition  after that be financial independent ..freinds did wonder in other field after they left UPSC after  1, 2 attempt...and i got stuck here with zero skill set to get a job

trust me this cycle hurts ..hurts badly ..from the most studious in school and college to most criticised adult in family now !!!! hurts hurts badly


, dont follow anyone blindly (even this comment)...

Darvey78,SAand12 otherslike this
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Its like scratching wounds which has not even healed properly but will definitely share my learnings.

1. When you hear "give 3-5 months before prelims exclusively to prelims" means you leave any mains preparation and revise only for prelims and does not mean you start studying for prelims for the first time in those 3-5 months. This time is only for revising and not understanding the subject for the first time. (especially for first timers and who are not from Delhi/ any coaching hub/did not join coaching and watched only topper's videos)

2. You don't give up before even trying.

3. You don't judge yourself/your preparation / performance /compare yourself with others in the exam hall.

4. Static books>current affairs

5. Run after basic/conceptual questions and not few obscure fact based questions.



Neyawn,prowessand12 otherslike this
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Deleted

There is Tolstoyan perspective of history that events are important, men are nothing.


But you have to accept things, the way they are.


Again preparing for battle and this time hopefully result would be different.


Joined SFG. 

HAVE ALL NOTES ( HAND WRITTEN HANDY) + Prepared for mains during this cooling off period ( Optional is thoroughly prepared with test series )



let’s see 2022.



Neyawn,SAand11 otherslike this
20.6k views

Bravesaid

Its like scratching wounds which has not even healed properly but will definitely share my learnings.

1. When you hear "give 3-5 months before prelims exclusively to prelims" means you leave any mains preparation and revise only for prelims and does not mean you start studying for prelims for the first time in those 3-5 months. This time is only for revising and not understanding the subject for the first time. (especially for first timers and who are not from Delhi/ any coaching hub/did not join coaching and watched only topper's videos)

2. You don't give up before even trying.

3. You don't judge yourself/your preparation / performance /compare yourself with others in the exam hall.

4. Static books>current affairs

5. Run after basic/conceptual questions and not few obscure fact based questions.



You should write an article a detailed one sometime. To ne honest, it may take a person upto 2 months to just do laxmikant. That's because straight out of college it takes time to develop studying habits and sitting habits, and knack for how to speed read and how to make nemonics and all that.

If I were to start afresh, i would take at least 45 days just to do 1 book. The time of 5 months means you have some idea of the subject fro before. This year CSE 2020 the youngest candidate is 1999 born selected at the age of 22 ( applied at the age of 21) i know one such kid.


It may look heroic that she managed such a good rank in first attempt but the truth is she has been preparing since college.

Why? 

Because someone in the family was preparing. 

Things take time. We flunk prelims - half of us because we don't study, but another half who studies for Mains when prelims comes closer.

GaneshGaitonde,Saint_and11 otherslike this
5.4k views
@LetsGetThisBread hey, could you elaborate upon the system you developed for rote learning?


Is it ok if I get back to queries after the 16th? Pakka promise will tell

Darvey78,chamomileand11 otherslike this
5.8k views

Saint_said

I realised something,correct me if I'm wrong. I was not able to clear prelims because I was never done with my mains syllabus. Actually the temptations during prelims to complete mains never let me focus full fledged on prelims. Even when prelims got postponed I took optional for a month. Seeing my condition it was a suicide. 

I think doesn't matter how much time it takes, one has to be done with his mains syllabus if he has this tendency of getting distracted by the left mains syllabus and then to focus for like more than 5 months on prelims if u r weak at it. 

And relying on just one institute for questions solving is also a huge mistake which I did. We must do minimum 2-3 institute question papers. And to have like a question bank for things we don't find on basic books and should revise it again and again.

Plus 20- 25 years PYQs. (Did just last 10 years). Upsc repeats itself. It is the best guide.

Fill in the gaps. My preparation was never complete because of the gaps and lack of discipline to fill them on my own. So maybe some classes or test series to help bridge the same.

And understanding that I am not smart enough to do this with less studying like some people do. I have to put in more hours than what others are doing.




I beg to differ here :

1) I haven't met even a single guy who has completed his complete mains syllabus before prelims, instead try to cover a substantial portion of the mains syllabus and decide a deadline after which reading mains stuff is a crime.

2) Fill the gaps, but don't expect that your preparation will be complete. As former NSA SS Menon says "foreign policy is a game of minimaxing" same goes with UPSC prep minimize your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. 

3) Believe in your preparation, most people fail in the exam hall, not in the preparation stage. Prepare for the exam, not for having a perfect preparation. Solve lots of questions and try to answer questions with your peripheral knowledge and intelligent guessing.

4) Regarding UPSC PYQ 25years is ideal but even 10 years would do. 

GaneshGaitonde,EiChanand10 otherslike this
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