Let me start by introducing myself and thanking Somesh for giving me the platform to talk to you guys. I am Utkarsh Gupta, AIR 78 in UPSC Civil Services Exam 2016. A graduate from IIIT Delhi, I have been working for the past two years at a research lab based out of Delhi. I will divide this post into 5 parts talking about whether to go for coaching with job, time management, being ruthless, answer writing practice and finally motivation. You can route any questions to me directly or through commenting below this article.
Table of Contents
Coaching with Job
So, this is one of the most important question an aspirant faces when he starts preparing for the exam. For me, I took a coaching for my optional subject which was Sociology as it was new to me, and I had no idea how to go about it. I also took classes for current affairs towards the mains as I had not prepared my own notes from current affairs. That being said, I think taking coaching or not is entirely a personal choice!
If you think you will benefit from coaching then sure go ahead, but in my personal opinion coaching helps in regimenting the study schedule and making sure that your syllabus is completed on time. If you can do that on your own, then you will not lose much by skipping coaching. However, coaching does have its pros like providing a study circle and also solace in the fact that you are not alone. It gives you a support system in terms of mentors, friends and seniors who have been or are still in the process.
Now with the advent of many online providers, it has become easier for the folks with a job to take help and it is your decision. Completely. There are pros and cons associated with each decision, it maybe the added travel time or the added burden on the pocket, you have to make your own assessment of the ROI and make a decision accordingly. The only thing I can say in this regard is, that coaching does help you kickstart your preparation but it is ultimately you who takes it to fruition. They can just provide outside support to your rigour and hard work.
This becomes extremely important if you are a working aspirant like me. After a painful 9 hours in the office it is tough to study, I have been through that and I feel you :), but trust me with the correct time management it is possible. Here are a few pointers:
- Learn to say NO, to the pointless work your teammates put on you. This is the most important thing. Talk to them and make them understand your situation.
- Get in an hour or two of study before heading to the office, this will make sure that you have started your day well.
- Leave office behind in office. Do not bring back work. Try to work from home if your company allows it. I used this facility very well.
- Follow a daily schedule. Wake up at the same time, leave for office at the same time. This will help you manage your time better.
- Reduce your social media time, it helps, trust me, it does wonders. I gave one of my friends my facebook password, told her to not give it to me until I am done with what I want and it helped.
- If you have time in office, try to squeeze in half an hour here or there, 5 minutes on insights, 10 minutes on the civilsdaily app to brush up your current affairs. Sometimes these things stick.
Always remember, that you can do this! It is not beyond you!
I think this is the most important part. You HAVE to be ruthless, with yourself, with the syllabus, with the people around you. I know this might sound a bit weird, but hear me out. You have to avoid the fact that your friends are partying, you have to avoid the fact that your colleague just moved to a job that pays 30% more. Shield yourself from these thoughts. Focus on the task at hand.
Be ruthless with work. Finish it as soon as possible and focus the rest of your time on your studies. Dont wait till the deadline, you wont be able to study or do your office work efficiently. Do it, as simple as that.
Be ruthless with the syllabus. Since you are anyway short of time, be very picky in what you are studying or reading. I always avoided the bulky books. I have not read Bipin Chandra as yet! But, that doesnt mean that you should not either. You follow any standard book list but be very choosey. Go through last years papers to have a fair idea of what to read and what to avoid. For example, for World History I did not read the recommended Norman Lowe, I just got some coaching material from the market and read it. Similarly for my optional subject, I did not read the low frequency topics in depth. I gave them a read just in case I am forced to answer the question in depth.
Answer Writing Practice
Okay, so imagine this, you are anyway short on time, and people around you are writing answer after answer and focussing on writing as many as they can. Here again, your experience and your confidence matters. If you know that you can manage without writing these many answers then great, but if you know that you can’t then please start writing. It is about knowing your abilities and having faith in them.
Having said that, I had done a test series for Sociology and out of the ten tests, I wrote about 7 or 8. I also did writing practice for essay. Please do not repeat my mistake and have a test series for GS as well. Any reputed test series, which gives you 2 practice tests of each paper should be good enough. Do not hesitate in giving the test if your syllabus is not complete. Completing the syllabus is a myth.
Write one answer daily, it will take 10 minutes. What is 10 minutes in a day ? But it may be pivotal in your success. Tell a friend to bug you till the time you dont send them that one answer of the day, show it to your roommate or parent. Just do it. Try it for a month and you will see improvement in yourself; you will feel ideas flowing through you.
This is the only thing that can keep you going. You have to have some form of motivation, be it a topper, your parent or just your zeal. Listen to a topper’s talk when you feel that you are not motivated enough. I will highly recommend this lecture of Sh. Gaurav Agarwal, the man who needs no introduction. The motivation has to come from inside; there is no external motivation.
For me the motivation was the impact that a job in civil services can make. Having seen my father working 16 hours a day even after 27 years of service makes me want a job that I am as passionate about. It is not about hating your current job but having the choice of doing something which actually makes an impact. Civil services as a career is not the sole opportunity to do so, but it definitely is the fastest.
It is all about finding the motivation and burning the midnight oil.
Many of us think that doing a job may be an hindrance in the preparation, but it can be very empowering. It was for me. I had that independence, confidence and the feeling that I can take on the world. It helped me be tension free throughout my exams and allowed me to have fun. There is no need to be scared of the exam. Just give it a bit of respect. A job helps you maintain a strict schedule and follow a regimented daily timetable. It helps you maintain your sanity and be calm throughout. You don’t go in the self questioning mode of “what happens if I don’t qualify”. It might just be the game changer as it helps you push the extra limit.
Also, to conclude I would like to reiterate the fact that don’t be scared. Don’t lock yourself in a room and study for 20 hours. These invariably are the best years of life, which should be full of fun and learning. Learning part is ensured by the exam itself, but having fun is on us. We always study about Buddha’s Middle Path, but we always fail to apply it in our life. Have a balanced life, go out with friends, have a beer, go watch a movie but yes of course, study.
If I can do it, so can you! All the best! May the force be with you!
You can leave your queries in the Comments!