With Whom You are Competing

           I have seen people who jokingly refer that UPSC stands for Un-Predictable Services Commission instead of Union Public Services Commission. This is because UPSC examination poses to be a difficult nut to crack and students perceive UPSC expectations and question to be too high to compete with. This is a common complaint, I always hear from students discussing among themselves in the library, book stores, examination centers etc. But for this reason no students quit taking the examination. They perceive UPSC to be heartless, specifically on the examination day and result declaration date. The problem is if you see your opponent as huge as a dinosaur, it is implicit you lose your strength because of fear and subsequently the fight.  

        I have seen several candidates, who are dedicated, with excellent knowledge and skill set required to be a civil servant, but failed the examination for no vital reasons. In most cases there can be no excuse or reason that optimally suit to explain their failure.
          On my analysis and interaction with so many such students.  I can see a common thread/psychological brake which they apply in their preparation. They set their task to confront UPSC question paper, its evaluation methods and its expectation which is usually very high.  It is a bitter truth that as far as you see the exam from this frame of reference, there is little or no chance to succeed in the examination.
           A simple but important paradigm shift is required to overcome this psychological brake to push hard on the accelerator to reach your goal as fast as possible.

Consider the below parable
        Two men A and B are hiking bare foot through a thick forest. Suddenly, they see a ferocious tiger in the distance, approaching towards them. Both of them started sweating on the site of the tiger and decided to run away from the tiger to save their lives. At that moment, B pulled a Nike shoes from his bag and started wearing it in his legs.
        On seeing this A was surprised and asked B “What are you doing? Do you think you will run faster than the tiger by wearing those shoes?”
        B replied “I don’t have to run faster than the tiger, I just have to run faster than you.”
Now tell me who is going to be eaten by the tiger and who will survive. It is obvious that A will be eaten by tiger because for A the enemy is the tiger and he decides to compete with the tiger which is much stronger and faster than him.
            On the other hand B is going to survive, because he understood the rule of the game. The hungry tiger needs to prey on one of them and the tiger is stronger and faster. Hence there is no reason to compete with it. B just changed his competition with A who is equal to him. B just equipped him little more to be efficient than A to succeed and survive.
            The tiger doesn’t have any preference among A and B, it is unbiased. All it wants is to attack one among the two and that too the weaker one who will be of least resistance to its attack.
            In real time A and B are the civil services aspirants, the tiger is UPSC. All that UPSC wants is to eliminate and select. So candidates who see UPSC as the competitor get eliminated in the exam and candidates who compete with other candidates and see UPSC as an examination system succeeds. B is the candidate who understands the exam format in detail and proceeds to equip himself with the required skill set.
          From now on realize that your competitor is other candidates and not the examination body. Make your preparation to stand out from all your competitors. Read more, write more and keep thinking about the preparation, subjects and examination.

To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don’t isolate.
- Michael Jordan

All you have to do is just do more than what other candidates are doing. Read little extra than the ordinary preparation. Equip yourself with additional soft knowledge on improving your reading speed, memory techniques, handwriting (legibility and speed), comprehension skills etc., Keep moving towards your goal.  Keep the map, dictionary and thesaurus handy. Take notes and take time often to review your notes.  

                 Some of the additional skills you can develop is Speed Reading and Speed Writing. You can read more books and take more notes. Imagine you read more books than your competitors, you write faster than your competitors. Doesn’t it provide a winning edge over others who still ponder over guide books and bullet point notes who struggle to write even few pages. Improve your memory, work on that skill, create anagrams, story board, flash cards etc…… One of the my favorite quotes of Mark Twain is “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority it is time to reform”. This perfectly applies for UPSC exams.

       Be innovative; just do more than what other candidates are doing. Don’t settle for less.
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All the best
Kind Regards
Purush & Team
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Keywords are the Key to Success in CSE

      ‘There’s plenty of fish in the sea, but until I catch one, I just stuck here holding my rod.’
All civil services aspirants are in the job of fishing with eyes and ears open carefully watching not for fishes but for Key words.  Keywords are the real hemoglobin which carries all the essence of preparation. If your preparation lacks for keywords it’s like your blood is in lack of hemoglobin, the state of being weak and anemic.
                                     We should be watchful for key words, unusual words, phrase, terms that appear on your way on preparation let it be either subjects or current events.  Be watchful for the key words that is not necessarily used in the common conversation but appears in the news or in the text. These key words are the pieces that will solve the big jigsaw puzzle of clearing your examination. I have been part of several  standard quizzes and in all the times I have interacted with quiz maniacs, I have seen them carrying a thick notebook all along with them and keep noting down even the minutest detail which they feel interesting, unusual or that seems to be important. They patiently collect the key words, topics, images, advertisements etc., the patience and perseverance pays them at the stage.  
           Such a kind of dedicated preparation should be applied by the CSE candidates. Key words appear all the way in our preparation, it just takes a minimal awareness to be on top of those keywords and putting it in your notebook. The more keywords you have the more informed you will be.        
            Let me tell you few examples of key words. When we read through large amount of contents we should be able to reconcile at least one or two key words. For example Village is a common word, but imagine words that appear in the news like global village, seed village, smart village. These are unusual combination of common words which need some attention. If you have reviewed the previous year question papers, you can understand the importance of all the three words, since they appeared in the prelims and main examination. I always insist my students to pick up key words and investigate on those key words. In a transcript of PM’s Address at the Combined Commanders Conference, there were few key words we can find such as Digi locker, Digital India, Digital armed force etc., as a correlation can be found, I asked my students to do some web search on Digitalizing and its essentiality. It is no surprise for the term Digital India as well as Digital armed force appeared in the main exam paper. Similarly in a press release about Niti Aayog ,the attention drawn words are only two, one being Niti Aayog itself and other being Cooperative Federalism. In the very next prelims and main both term appeared giving an opportunity to earn more marks.
           Looking for Key words, recording it in your note book makes you well informed and technically strong in your preparation. But nevertheless the information gathered and recorded doesn’t make any sense until it is put to use. As part of your preparation strategy make sure to find the answer yourself by prefixing the question words to the key word. It’s very simple, just prefix the questions words such as what, why, where, who, how, which. If you can explain in a simple manner in simple words for the questions framed yourself, you are far ahead from your competitors.

Let’s pick a key word we saw above for example, just prefix it with question words
Key word: Cooperative Federalism
1. What is cooperative federalism?
2. Why cooperative federalism is important
3. How Cooperative federalism works
4. Where does cooperative federalism has its role
5. Who are the stakeholders in the subject of cooperative federalism and how are they linked.
6. What are the for and against arguments for Cooperative Federalism
7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of Cooperative Federalism?
If a candidate inculcates the habit of identifying key words on a daily basis and can able to provide simple answer to all the questions created by combining the questions words with the key words, I assure, such a candidate will just bulldoze his way to succeed in Civil Services Examination leaving all the competitors far behind. 

You can subscribe to to stay updated on the latest key words, key phrases and key terms. 
All the best
Kind Regards
Purush & Team

How to Read Books for CSE

Civil services examination, for this case any competitive examination is a treasure box for the publisher’s world. Many publishing companies come up with hundreds of books published every year stating the most relevant material for the upcoming examination or an updated and revised edition. In the same subject the same publisher publishes several books with different attractive cover page making it visually attractive for students. In real the content in the same as it is in all other books, the only difference is on how it is aligned; presented and formatted is the difference. Average book shop dedicated for competitive examination contains close to 3000 different books related to competitive examination among which the books for civil services examination is some were around 600 books. 

If we take each book having an average number of pages as 250, then the total number of pages will be around 162500. Every student receives advice from their teachers, colleagues, online groups and other mentors who claim to have cleared the examination or really cleared the examination that each of the books is important. Adding to this number include the list of NCERT book list along with NIOS and INOU study material.  The volume of content to be read becomes humongous and it literally becomes humanly impossible to study such huge content. I haven’t included the newspapers and dozens of monthly magazines on Civil Services examination and millions of pages created in the online blogs, websites and material available in the PDF format. We should also consider the list of tutorial videos available in the YouTube and other similar websites. This kind of huge amount of content and material literally poses a challenge to the students in their preparation. In this post, I  shall give some tips to overcome this information avalanche.

Many of the Civil services aspirants, probably most of the aspirants develop what is psychologically called as bibliomania syndrome. Bibliomania is the unusual behavior characterized by the collecting of books, study materials, online content, magazines, newspaper and other hoax of information which have neither use to the collector nor any essential value to a genuine aspirant. A Bibliomaniac purchases multiple copies of books from the same subject assuming he will draw any benefit from the book or for pride. The accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use for exam preparation is a problem with aspirants to be understood and handled properly in order to avoid inefficient preparation, wastage of time and confusion caused by enormous dump of learning material.
The reader of this blog post should read unbiased and perceive that the below advise is for the readers benefit in managing time, and efficiently handle the information overload created by ‘n’ number of people around the student trying to take the time and money of the students.
Having many books in your shelf doesn’t mean you are master in that subject and having less books doesn’t mean you are falling short in your preparation. It is not necessary to have all the books in the market except very few popular ones that is of vital use.

Classifying Books
Take a list of books available in the market. Identify the most popular books recommended for this examination. Among that identify one book as a text book (core book) and the remaining as guide book (ancillary books)  for that subject. Then start reading the text book as if considering that book is the bible for that subject. Read it word by word, phrase by phrase focused with the goal of mastering the content. Never read the chosen book for the purpose of examination, instead read the book as if you are a subject matter expert in that field with natural interest.

Mastering Text Books:  Apply the following methods to study (Master) the text books.

Critical reading: Think as if you are a critique and read the content with the intention of criticizing the topic. View the content with at most skepticism and decide not to take the given text at face value, but involve a deeper examination of the claims put forth with the supporting points and possible counter arguments.  The information gets assimilated in the brain easily when we start criticizing or engage in critical reading instead of trying to by-heart it.
As a tutor: read the topic as if you are going to simplify the topic and teach content to a school kids. In this way you will master te subject in surprisingly sort period of time. A popular quote by Albert Einstein states ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough‘. Frequently ask yourself, can I explain this to someone not in class?

As Subject Matter Expert (SME): A student cannot master any subject as far as he thinks himself as a student and he is preparing for an exam. To master a subject a learner should think from an expert point of you. A candidate should learn how to think well within the subject domain. When you study geography, think geographically as a geographer, while learning polity, think legally like a lawyer. As far as you read a book like a student, your performance will lack far behind the expectation. The moment you realign you’re thinking to be professional in that domain, you can experience exponential improvement in mastering the subject.

Read like a bible: We often come across a term asserting ‘The ________ book is the bible of ______ subject‘. The reason for referring a book as a bible of a particular subject is that the specific book should be read like a bible. A bible is read with at most attention giving focus on each and every word, the arrangement of words, the logic of sentence formation and organization of chapters. Literally reading bible is like analyzing a diamond using microscope with all the craving for information and detail from it. If you see a Christian pastor giving a sermon from the bible, the pastor will pick only one phrase and speak on it for an hour or two or even longer. They see all the paradigms and dimensions of that phrase.  Similarly, when you read a text book, read it like a bible. Specifically when you read the constitution, it must be read with a view of understanding all the paradigms and dimensions of each article.

Story Board your learning: Pictorial learning is several times powerful than verbal learning. There are hundreds of studies that proved pictorial/visual learning is much powerful than verbal learning. When you read a topic or finish reading a topic, try to imagine couple of pictures in your mind related to the topic and correlate the pictures to form a meaning for the content you read. This will dramatically improve your retention ability.

Creating Anagram: If you have a list of things to remember, try to pick the first letters of those items and try to form a meaningful word. If you cannot form a meaningful word, input the first letters in the website and you will get a meaningful word which will be easy to remember the entire content.

Additionally you can see some techniques and essential study material list classified as core material and ancillary material for each subject in my video link

Hope the above mentioned techniques will be of help in your preparation. I will be covering more on this topic in my future blog post. Stay tuned.

All the best
Kind Regards
Purush & Team