Studying Smart to crack the UPSC Civil Service Exam

study smart


The duo of hard work & studying smart for Civil Service Exam


Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” – Stephen King.

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Success doesn’t necessarily come from a breakthrough but from flawless execution. A great strategy alone won’t win a game or a battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling. That is where one has to be smart. Mere hard work won’t give result through the constantly changing pattern of the civil service exam. It is the changing strategy along with changing the style of preparation that will get better results. The combination between working hard and studying smart is what will be discussed in this article.


Smart studying entails getting better grades, leading a balanced life as well as learning vital life skills. In fact, the CSE is the perfect harmony of social and personal good, an opportunity that only few careers can provide. In order to study smart, spread out study time for each subject. In so doing, your brain will have more time to consolidate your learning.


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    • Make a time bound schedule for completing a defined course-matter. Try reading selectively but read well. Doing selective reading, mixing books and notes, making micro notes, in the shortest span of time is the right way to go about it.


    • One thing at a time – In spite of the huge syllabus comprising of history, geography, current affairs, mental ability etc., don’t prepare all at once. Stick to the syllabus. Chunk it down. Pick one subject; combine a subject with current affairs which you should cover for some time every day. Don’t try to multi-task. Mixing a subject with other will lead to loss of concentration and will lower your capacity of processing the information.

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    • Don’t wait for the Last Minute – Instead of waiting till the last few days to take mock tests you should evaluate yourself right after completing a particular section in a topic. This removes the uncertainty and anxiety to a certain level, if not completely, and makes you aware of the areas covered and still left to be covered. Quiz yourself on the key concepts and areas.


    • Leo Tolstoy writes in Anna Karenina “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” And then, “Perfection is the child of time”. The crux here is to be limited in your sources.  Managing time during the preparation is the ‘make it or break it’ aspect of CS examination. Reading one or two books for a topic is more than sufficient. You don’t have to become a scholar of the subject, instead, UPSC expects you to have the ‘General’ knowledge of everything, combined with a wise opinion and sound ability to express yourself.


    • Make handwritten notes. Even when laptops are used only for note-taking, learning is less effective (Mueller, P. 2013). It is often that those who take notes by hand tend to process and reframe the information; also self-written notes stay longer in one’s memory for the brain is actively involved in the processing of the knowledge being jotted down.


    • If you feel anxious, worried or extremely tense, try journaling your feelings. It will make you process your thoughts better. Also, Researchers at the University of Chicago discovered that students who wrote about their feelings about an upcoming exam for 10 minutes performed better than students who didn’t.

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    • Revision. This is the most important part of the process. You go on acquiring new information from books, references, newspaper, magazines etc. But not all of it stays back in your mind. In order to not only remember the information but also to connect it with the stuff that you already know, regular revision is required. Instead of reading 2 books for one topic, read the same book twice. The result would be better.


    • Pursue a hobby. Leaving everything you love for the sake of studying is neither healthy nor feasible. You need to incorporate the time you give to studies with some personal time; this will help you from getting burnt out in the middle of your preparation. Also, it will help you to maintain a well-balanced personality.


    • Use mnemonic devices like acronyms, relating the information with some incident, mind mapping etc. can be done as these are proven to increase learning efficiency. You would be able to learn and remember a lot more without the pain of mugging up the information. As far as possible, comparison tables, diagrams etc. should be used.

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  • Sleep plenty and eat healthy. Maintain a social circle. Go out and have fun twice a month with a friend. Make sure you watch/read something for 15-20 mins a day that makes you laugh out loud. Don’t become a recluse.


What this exam really is about is discipline, it doesn’t want you to turn into a machine which suppresses all emotions, likes and dislikes, and just studies. This exam requires a person who is able to manage other spheres of his life efficiently without losing his disciplined routine. So take study breaks, make those breaks happening but in a way that you get back to your preparation with double the  zeal and enthusiasm.


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Happy preparation!


Author: Anushka Mishra