Competitive exams in India are a big thing. A majority of the students start their preparation for competitive exams from standard 9 or 10. I have seen in Bihar, students preparing for competitive exam when they are in class 7 or 8. Therefore, you will find many people searching for competitive exams after 12th.
So, you can easily judge the craze around these exams! and why not? If you qualify these exams, your whole life is set! Good salary, security for whole life and much more. So, most of the people start googling how to prepare for competitive exams quite early!
However, if you are planning to start your prep, you need to have a solid study plan for competitive exam. Without time management and proper studying of the important study material, it will be difficult to qualify these exams.
In this blog, I will tell you how you can prepare for any government competitive exam in India properly. So, please read on.
1. Set your goals and prepare yourself for the struggle
If you are planning to crack exams like the UPSC, I am sorry to tell you that it will be a struggle. You need to dedicate most of your hours into the preparation of the exams. So, instead of thinking how to prepare for UPSC, you should first set goal and be determined about it.
Majority of the aspirants of UPSC or other competitive exams leave their preparations midway because they don’t qualify. But that’s where they are going wrong! You need to stay focused and try your best to achieve the goals that you will be setting for yourself.
You need to start your competitive exam preparation by preparing yourself physically, mentally and even socially. Yes, during the preparation period, you have to lessen your social life. You need to be determined about your goals.
How to start preparing for competitive exams?
- First you need to learn all about the exams you are planning to appear. So, give one day and research all about the exams. Go on quora and see what people have discussed regarding the exam.
- Search how many exam divisions are there. Most of the competitive exams start with a preliminary followed with mains and the interview. However, it is different for every exam. So, do check that out before you start your preparation.
- Learn all about the question pattern, popular books, other resources such as competitive exam apps, youtube channels to follow and much more.
- Find out what are the best websites to study daily current affairs. You will also need to find if there are any apps which provide with daily current affairs.
- Gather all the resources you need before you get started. You will need books, past question papers, an online app, a few youtube channels, you will have to subscribe to a few magazines and newspapers as well. So, get all those things done beforehand.
- Listen to news! When I tell Listen to news, I don’t mean cover every news. For your exams, you will need to cover a few news topics. However, it is always better to have an all round knowledge about what is going around you!
2. Create a suitable Time-table
If you want to become an IAS officer, or any other Government officer, you have to organized. You need to make your life organized. Here organization means, that you need to know what to do at what time. It won’t be a random decision.
If you keep on changing your moods or decisions regarding what to study or what to do during your preparation, it will be difficult for you. So, you need to create a time table for competitive exam, which you can follow. It must be suitable for you.
You may go through all the available time tables online. But make sure that the time table you prepare is suitable to your life.
How to prepare the time table for a comeptitive exam?
- Take your journal or diary and write down all the topics you are planning to prepare in a month. Then dedicate each topic a time slot in your time table for the week. You must have a goal regarding the number of topics you are planning to cover in a month.
- You must be comfortable with the time table for the competitive exams preparation.
- Ensure that there are deadlines for each topics. Deadlines can make anyone complete their work efficiently. Well, at least that works for me!
3. Learn all about the syllabus for competitive exam you are preparing for
It is necessary that you are memorizing the whole syllabus. If you don’t know your syllabus properly, you will end up wasting time on unnecessary topics. Also, it will be a waste of time if you have to check your syllabus everytime.
- So, the first thing you need to do is learn the syllabus by heart. You should be well-aware of all the topics that are in the syllabus! Most of the competitive exams have questions from the syllabus. Don’t worry, there won’t be anything out of the syllabus.
- Where to find the syllabus for the competitive exam? You can directly get the syllabus online in pdf form. Just type ‘(The competitive exam name) syllabus pdf’. You will get the syllabus from many websites. However, I will recommend you to download the syllabus from the main exam website!
- Once you get the syllabus, go through all the topics. Obviously, it is not possible to memorize the syllabus in a single day. But you need to familiarise yourself with these topics. So, just go through them and check whether you have the books, the study material and more for each of the topic!
- When you are going through the syllabus, you will find a few of the topics difficult or completely unknown. So, you may have to dedicate extra hours to them. So, you also need to jot them down separately, so you can focus on them more.
Read More: Exam Tips: How To Score More Marks In Exam?
4. Following Current Affairs for competitive exams
Competitive exams such as the UPSC require the aspirants to study the current affairs. There are high chances that most of your questions will be somehow related to the current affairs. This is not only for the UPSC, but for every Government exam in India whether lower level or high level.
How to study the current affairs for competitive exams?
- Go through the quora and google and ask which newspaper is best for competitive exam. You will find many people suggesting many newspapers. So, either you can subscribe to all or just go through them online once and then decide. You will find e-newspaper for almost each newspaper company. So, you can simply check them if they are worthy!
- Planning to skip to current affairs part studying because you want to watch all the news on TV? Wrong decision. Don’t do that! You will need to know about every news that is of interest to the Indian Government or the exam you are appearing for.
- You will have to study them minutely. The TV news channels never go into details and most of them even skip news that will be useful to you! If you wish to follow a TV channel along with your current affairs study, I will suggest you watch the DD News Channel!
- Collect important news. There are many events in our country which has the potential to impact your future exams. So, if you are following each news religiously, ensure that you find out the relevant news and go through them again and again. It can be an important statistic, or a detailed explanation about an important event and so on!
- Subscribe to important Government magazines during your preparation for your competitive exams. Most of the statistics and detailed explanation of any important initiative or scheme of the Government is published in these magazines. So, ensure that you are reading them as well.
- Follow youtube channels for current affairs. There are many youtube channels who only focus on current affair news that is important for competitive exam aspirants. So, you need to subscribe and listen to them on daily basis. These channels also upload detailed analysis of every news that is significant for the aspirants. So, ensure you listen to them!
- Don’t want to use youtube channels because you may get distracted? Fine, then use the apps which disseminate information about the current affairs. You will find many of them in the play store or apple store. So, just download them and listen or read the daily detailed news analysis. It will be highly beneficial for you.
5. Selecting the right optional
People have started discussing how optional is useless for any competitive exams. But that is not your headache. If your syllabus says you need to select and study an optional, you need to do that anyhow. So, just buckle up.
How to choose the right optional for competitive exam?
When you think of the optional exam you will think about selecting the easiest one. Most of us simply google ‘easiest optional paper for UPSC’ and choose that!
But is it the best way? I say no.
Your optional must be something that you will enjoy reading. Just because Google is saying that this optional paper is easy, it doesn’t mean it will be easy for you.
- You should select the optional after thorough thinking. Take all your time and then decide on it. Evaluate all the pros and cons of the subject you want to choose. By the way, not every competitive exam have optional paper, so you can chill! But for UPSC aspirants, you need to select an optional paper.
- What are the factors to select your optional paper?
- Passionate about that subject.
- Have enough interest to continue studying it.
- Should have prior knowledge about that subject. Like you should have studied that paper in your higher secondary!
- You need to see whether all the required study material for that study material is readily available or not.
- If you are selecting a subject that is not that known to you, you must also find out the best coaching centres who teach the subject.
6. Get all the NCERTS and start studying
No matter what competitive exam you are appearing for, you will have to study the NCERTS books! You don’t need to study all the NCERT books. However, try to follow the important subjects from standard 6-12. If you have studied them in school, you may have the books in your home unless you have sold them or given them to someone!
How to study from NCERT books for competitive exams?
- Collect all the NCERT books that you will need. If you don’t want to buy them-borrow them from someone, or simply download them online from the NCERT website. The ebooks are available for free. So, it won’t be an issue.
- You need to go through these books and match with the topics in the syllabus.
- Next, you will have to study those parts and understand the main concepts. No, you don’t need to memorize every portion of the books.
- Don’t miss the coloured square boxes which have some extra facts.
- As these books are published by Government channels, you can rely on them blindly.
- Many times, the questions directly come from NCERT books. So, you need to prepare well.
- If you want to finish them fast and wish to cover all the topics too, you can use apps like the Unacademy where they provide a detailed analysis of each chapter according to the Government exam syllabus!
- You should also go for some additional reference books along with the NCERT ones. Since you have to prepare the topics, having extra information regarding the subject is important!
7. Start preparing concrete and organized notes
You will find this suggestion everywhere. Making your notes is an important part of your competitive exam preparation. You can download and or buy prepared notes online or in stores.
However, I would recommend you to prepare your notes by yourself if you have time. When you write down and read points and concepts, it gets stored in your brain for a longer time.
How to prepare notes for competitive exams?
- When you start studying your books and study material, you need to shorten the information. It is impossible and a waste of time to memorize everything. So, shorten the information and write it down in bullets.
- Use good quality notebooks and have many of them. I will suggest you have a notebook for each topic especially if you are targeting for UPSC. Each topic in your syllabus is quite vast. You cannot jot all the points in one or two pages! So, yes have them segregated into different notebooks. This is also great for organization!
- Create tables and other diagrams for any important topics in a paper and have them in a file. There are several concepts which need you to understand through diagrams. So, you can do that in sheets and store them in the files.
- Moreover, if you wish to remember statistics, try to write down in papers and store them! This is also helpful for organization.
- You may also write down news analysis in the sheets or keep the paper cuttings of the current affairs in such files. In this way, you will know where everything is placed, But don’t forget to label them properly!
8. Practice writing Answers for competitive exams
In Competitive exams, where they ask you to provide brief answers, you will have to be fully prepared. If you are only studying and not practising writing, you will be in deep trouble.
Even if your exam doesn’t ask you for writing answers. You must try to practice the MCQ mock papers online. There are several free online MCQ mock papers for various exams, but I will suggest you go for the paid ones only!
How to practice writing for competitive exams?
Repeating, not all Government competitive exams demand descriptive answers. But the ones that do, for them you have to practice writing! If your exam only has MCQ questions. Practice them as many times as possible!
- Your answer writing skills should adhere to the demands of the examinations. That means to learn what your competitive exams wish to test you for. Are they testing your analytic skills, your innovative thinking, communication skills or clarity of concepts? Once you know that you have to start structuring and writing accordingly!
- Most of the competitive exams just want to test your conceptual understanding, organization of your thoughts, views, perceptions and opinions in a systematic manner. So, while practising, you must remember these and structure your answers accordingly.
- I will suggest you go through sample answers available online. Check the answers of the people who have qualified the said exam. When you read their answers you will get an idea of how you should structure your answers to get the maximum marks.
- Time constraint is a major thing in your writing! So, when you are writing at home you set a timer. Try to finish the writings within the time limit. You can find the information regarding the time limits online on any website. Moreover, they will be even available in the syllabus or the past question papers.
- Learn to say many things using minimum words. As you have a time restraint so you need to expand your vocabulary. You cannot risk wasting time by explaining everything word by word like it is done in this blog!
- Keep in mind about the space in the booklet. In the UPSC exams or any other Government exam, they will provide a booklet. You will see that the booklet is quite small. So, if you have bigger handwriting then you are in trouble. You need to finish your writing within the space available in the booklet. So, write fast and use minimum words!
- Go through the pictures of booklets. You will find many of them online. And if you have enrolled in a coaching centre, they will provide booklets which have the same number of pages and size of the real ones.
9. Practice the Mock papers
Ask any person who has qualified the exams, they have all done it by solving mock papers repetitively. So, you must do the same. This part is for that time when you are done your studying! Don’t start solving mock papers in the beginning. Keep this for the last half of your preparation. At that time, you need to spend hours on solving mock papers.
Why you need to solve mock papers for competitive exams?
- After studying for months you may feel quite confident, but believe me, it is not that easy. Solving mock papers will help you do a self-assessment.
- Self-assessment will make you realize the portions you still need to revise. So, attempt as many mock papers as possible after your ‘study phase’.
- Moreover, the more mistakes you do, the more you are memorizing important facts and figures. So, don’t feel disappointed if you are making too many mistakes.
- When you are working on mock papers, you are also practising with time. The final exam will have a time constraint. So, whenever you try to solve a Mock, ensure you have a timer fixed. The free and paid online mock papers have set timers, so it is best if you can use them!
- These online mocks replicate the same design and interface of the real exam. So, it will be good for you to familiarise yourself with the system!
- If you are preparing for a competitive exam while doing a job, then for you practising mock papers is more vital. Also, the aspirants who are not taking the help of coaching centres should dedicate hours in practising these!
- The ultimate result will be that you will understand what your weakness and strengths are. And accordingly, before the exams, you can prepare yourself and get ready!
10. Follow the Government Resources religiously
If you were ignoring reading Government published, broadcasted or telecasted information, then you should stop that right now. As soon as you start your preparation for competitive exams, you must learn each and every step the Government is taking.
So, how will do that?
- Follow the important Government resources such as the PIB, PRS, Rajya Sabha Tv, and more. There is a PIB app which you can download. Moreover, you must subscribe to the e-newsletters that are provided by the Government each month.
- These sources consist of the analysis of all the schemes and initiatives that the Government are taking. At the same time, you will familiarise yourself with the happenings of the country and country’s relationship with foreign countries. You can also learn about all the personalities who are important for the Government!
- I will suggest you to also follow twitter. But don’t get distracted with useless news and gossips. Follow the Government handles and keep an eye on any tweets. You can do the same thing with Facebook. Simply like and follow all the pages that belong to any Government related body. You will remain updated with all the information you need.
11. Join forums, groups and clubs
This may be helpful to you or may not be helpful. But you can try. There are several telegram groups, whatsapp groups and Facebook groups where there are only Government exam aspirants. For each exam, there are different groups. You may follow these groups and remain updated with what others are studying. These groups also host quiz competitions which may be useful to you.
Even some competitive exam apps have such groups where you can join. Joining such groups while make you understand and realize that the competition! You can speak to other aspirants and know about their tricks.
But I don’t know whether they will be generous enough to tell you all their practice secrets! However, if you want you can give these a try.
12. Revise, Revise and Revise
Revision is the most essential part of your preparation for the competitive exam. No matter, how many mock tests you have successfully solved or how many hours you have dedicated to studying, it all comes down to hours you are revising!
How to revise for competitive exams?
- Go through the syllabus once again and just think about all the things you have read after seeing the topic. Your brain will tell you which one you need to see once again or read once more.
- Prepare an organized schedule for your revision.
- Start revising for your competitive exam at least 3 months before the prelims.
- Take out all your short notes that you prepared and go through all of them one by one, word by word.
- Syllabuses such as the NET, UPSC and more are quite diverse and vast. So, you need to cover a huge number of topics. It’s completely natural you will forget a lot of important points. So, it’s necessary that you start your revision quickly!
14. Prepare for the Interview part
Almost all Government competitive exams will have an Interview. And since these are Government job interviews, you need to prepare differently. Government jobs may look fancy and great, but they are quite tiresome and need an alert mind to work. So, when you will go for your interview they will test a lot of things about you.
The panel will try to understand your personality, aptitude, decision-making skills, diplomatic skills, stress reaction, communication skills and much more. So, if you are weak in these, make yourself ready before the interview.
Please don’t take the interview lightly. This interview will be the make or break for you.
How can you prepare for Interview for a competitive exam?
- Learn what kind of questions the panel generally asks the aspirant.
- Go to youtube and watch all such mock interviews. See how the aspirants are answering.
- Also check their body language, way of speaking and more.
- Understand the pattern of questions they generally ask and prepare yourself like that.
As majority of the aspirants focus on the academic exams, they don’t get enough time for the interview. But you must prepare for the interviews as well.
15. Be confident and positive
If you start your preparation with a negative mind and doubts you are bound to fail. You need to stay positive no matter what happens. If you have set a goal you must be determined to achieve it anyhow.
You can go to youtube and listen to the interviews of the people who have qualified the competitive exams. You will understand that they are simple people like you. They don’t have any extraordinary powers or intelligence.
While watching those interviews you will also find out that many of them don’t qualify the very first time. For some people, it event takes 4th attempt to qualify. So, be positive and stay focussed. Don’t let the failures of the first attempt depress you. Learn and start studying again.