Of late, many people have been asking me about how to prepare for the Prelims. Before I begin, I would like to share my own personal experience with the Prelims 2014. Coming from an engineering background, I found Paper II to be extremely scoring. I used to solve 1 question paper of Paper II everyday and in total I have solved about 40 of them before the prelims exam. I also tried to cover as many topics as possible in Paper I, given the time constraint of 2-2.5 months, that I had allotted exclusively for prelims preparation. I haven’t covered the Sciences part like Physics, Biology etc. I have enrolled myself for the Career Launcher (CL) test series, in which I used to score moderate marks in Paper I (as Paper I of CL test series used to be extremely difficult – more than the UPSC level) and consistently high marks in Paper II (160-190 out of 200 in the last 3-4 exams). When I solved the CSP 2013 paper II at my home, a few days before the 2014-Prelims exam, my score was 190 and solved the paper nearly 20 minutes before the time. This was a big confidence booster for me. But on the day of the prelims exam, I unfortunately fell sick (could be because of the tension). I did quite well in Paper I but because of a bad headache, my performance in Paper II was a disaster. I had left almost 25-30 questions (including the excluded English comprehension questions). After the exam, I was devastated and was almost certain that I would not clear the prelims. I decided not to check the key as I knew that I would fall in the border range. Nevertheless, I tried to calm myself and began preparing for mains with a heavy heart. The next 2 months was torturous for me, but despite that I kept on studying for mains as I did not want to squander even the slightest chance of clearing the prelims. Thanks to the Lord, I fortunately cleared the prelims and that was such a big relief.
The most important lesson that I learnt from this experience is that never neglect any topic in Paper I. And also, one must prepare so well that he/she should clear the exam not just with the best performance, but even with the worst performance.
Coming to the Prelims-2015, one must cover all the topics exhaustively – including topics like Biology, Physics etc. Environment and Ecology have become extremely important as many questions are being asked from these areas. NCERTs, I think, are indispensable. And for paper II, I’m guessing that it would be a very difficult paper. So, even though it is now a qualifying paper, it will be so designed to eliminate a good number of people there. I strongly recommend the aspirants to focus entirely on prelims (both paper I and paper II) and not to neglect it. After the exam one must be sure that he/she would certainly clear the prelims, so that entire focus can be put on the mains.