We welcome all the new aspirants to have a great time preparing. More, we welcome, with great hopes and aspirations from our side, all those people who have lots of potential and commitment, who finally decided to leave their current (many times, lucrative) career and other opportunities and work for the betterment of the nation, through the civil services.
There must be a thousand questions running around your mind. It would be tougher than said, when we say to not to worry. The starting phase of any activity or effort is always the toughest of the times. We try to help as much as we can by trying to answer as many of your queries as possible to have an effective preparation. All we ask in return is to have conviction in your decision, belief in your potential and confidence that the exam can be cleared.
This document can really help in filling the role of that ‘big brother’ whom you probably are missing. Lot of people told us they don’t have anyone to guide, this document should be that guide. The best way to start the preparation is through newspapers. There is no better alternative than newspapers. In fact, newspapers are the single most important source of information that can get you through the exam!
Take any one newspaper, to start with, and read it thoroughly. The Hindu is the most popular suggestion for the choice of newspaper but other papers can also be followed. To list:
Read the newspaper religiously, every single day. This has to become a habit, newspaper is from now, a part of your daily routine. You can start with reading everything from the newspaper, and then slowly try to make selective reading, which will come naturally after some days. Try not to go into much of political news, but rest of all of them are always useful to read. Some of the sections to cover (not in any order):
National and social events
Newspaper reading should be complemented by background study through internet and weekly magazines. For example, once you read a news item, say on Nuclear Reactors in India, try to get as much information related to the area, by reading from Wikipedia or reading an analysis from Frontline. This is the way to improve your knowledge and understanding about the topic.
It does take quite a bit of time to complete the newspaper, anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, or more. Don’t worry on the time as such, though you can try and reduce the time taken, slowly. Time saved this way should be utilized for more background study as mentioned above, to get better understanding of the subject.
As mentioned, while picking up on newspapers and once getting comfortable, it is time to get into some more study. Any of the below mentioned sources can be taken up, depending on your access and taste.
Frontline, or any other similar magazine of your interest.
DD Basu’s Introduction to the Constitution of India (with a copy of the Constitution also along).
Subhash Kashyap’s books on Parliament and Constitution
India’s Struggle for Independence and India after Independence by Bipin Chandra.
These are chosen so that, one gets a perspective of the fundamentals of the country and the basic premises on which the rest of your preparation can depend. Do not try to mug up, or by heart, or remember anything at this stage. Your reading should be more to understand the philosophy of these books and form your personal opinions out of them.
Frontline complements The Hindu as they are from the same publishers. This way, there can be a nice revision every two weeks of all the topics you read in the paper as Frontline analyses most of the topics from the previous weeks.
In our opinion, this is the best way to make a start for your preparation. It does take a considerable amount of time to get through the above sources. So, if someone is looking for starting the preparation just a few months before the exam, the above suggestions might not work. They have to do a very selective study out of the suggestions above and quickly go with working on practicing for the exam.
Get used to studying from the internet from this phase itself, it helps immensely. In fact, most of the resources suggested in this document are web links. These can also reduce the time take for preparation significantly. Many aspirants coming from the engineering background, foreign universities, the digital freaks, people from IT and other corporate sectors are well versed in using the internet, and to compete with them, one has to adapt to it.
Initial times of the preparation is also the best time to study many books and novels, which one cannot give time to, at later stages of preparation or before the examination.
Some of our recommendations include the following:
Books by Ramachandra Guha (India after Gandhi, etc).
Amartya Sen’s writings, especially, “The Idea of Justice”,
“Development as Freedom” and other books.
Books by Shashi Tharoor (Pax Indica etc.)
India Unbound (Gurucharan Das)
‘The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of the World Order’ by Samuel P Huntington
The Wonder that was India by AL Basham
The above suggestions for novels and other books are purely through our personal likings and tastes. These could easily be replaced by many other novels that you can grab. Please do so. Our intention here in mentioning some novels is to appraise the kind of study one can do.
This is also the best time to improve and practice all those things which take a long time to get used to, such as:
Once you are going along good, move ahead for the next steps, by making a plan for the rest of the preparation. Do not rush through your attempts. Spend time with your subjects before you appear in the exam. Keep in mind that there are no shortcuts to success. Each individual has his/her own pace of studying. Some people like me, take more time to grasp things as compared to others. You must know yourself well. Know what timings of study suit you; know what inspires you; what motivates you; know what relaxes you; know what you ultimately want to do as a civil servant; know what are your strengths and your weaknesses. If you know yourself well, then things will get easier.