What is the 1 thing you learned from your Prelims failure? - ForumIAS

What is the 1 thing you learned from your Prelims failure?

Failed prelims twice, cleared prelims twice with a 50/50 track record, I majorly learned:

1. Don’t underestimate the prelimsand give it the time and energy it required. It’snot going to be a 2 month affair if it’s your first serious attempt. You will have to learn to balance both GS and optional for a good 4-5 months.

2. Don’t think you are above rote learning(huge mistake I made my first 2 attempts). If you think you’re bad at it,develop a systemto become decent at it. There will be things you have to mug up. It makes no sense when you’re doing it, but you won’t crib about it in the exam hall when you are able to mark the right/ eliminate the wrong option.

3. Revise your static, be thorough with it. My spectrum came apart, so I made notes of them, my notes have now come apart. Same is the case with my Lakshmikant. You might not find direct questions from these books to a large extent, but it will give you theconfidence to eliminate things without doubting what you know(also prelims was never a book based test to begin with). I missed my 2nd prelims by 3 marks because of not doing this.

4. Goes with the point above, butread your basic sciencebooks as well. It helps you to logically decipher a lot of questions as well.

5. Test series are not a knowledge bank. It doesn’t matter how many coachings claim that “X no of questions came from our test”, don’t be gullible enough to fall for marketing. No test series can replace revision. The purpose of a test series is to merely help youpractice your timing and accuracy ratio. And to figure out what kind of questions you should avoid/ do. When doing tests I used to have a system where after correcting it, I would mark out few questions which I thought were basic and likely to be asked, it would total to around 10-15 per test, the rest are only filler questions to bulk it up to a 32 test series, treat them as such.

6. Stay calmand don’t think about what will happen if you clear/ don’t clear the prelims while attempting it. In those two hours, everything except those 100 questions cease to matter. I again lost out my 2nd prelims because I panicked for 15 minutes straight after getting the paper and messed up my timing royally afterwards.

7. If you have not donemathsafter 10th, or do not feel comfortable with maths,practice it for CSAT. Don’t rely on English solely, it’s going to be an uncomfortable 15 days of waiting for results otherwise. Don’t ignore it at all.

That’s about it.

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@LetsGetThisBreadCan you please elaborate on the basic science books? Did you mean NCERTs (if yes, which one of them) or some other book?


Yes just the NCERTs. I didn’t even buy them just used the NCERT app to read them online. I paid close attention to the biology ones.

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@LetsGetThisBreadThank you for the reply. And did you do all the class 6-10 NCERTs?


6- 10 and 11-12 for bio

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@LetsGetThisBread hey, could you elaborate upon the system you developed for rote learning?


Is it ok if I get back to queries after the 16th? Pakka promise will tell

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@LetsGetThisBread hey, could you elaborate upon the system you developed for rote learning?


Hi, so basically Istart with a timetable. The first iteration is longer compared the others, and with each iteration is usually shave off a day. It keeps the pressure up and makes sure you waste as little time as possible sitting at your desk. Basically it ensure your productivity isn’t decreasing with each round of revision.

So if I keep 5 days per subject for the first iteration, then the second I take 4 days, and third I take 3 days so on and so forth. Bear in mind I’ve already given 3 prelims before so at this point I’m not really understanding concepts just recollecting the details.If you are still in the conceptual stage take your time to understand those first.

Secondly, it is important tolayer information. Don’t try to learn everything in one go you will overwhelm yourself. If I’m trying to learn modern history, the first time I read spectrum I just try to read the book as a story to recollect the facts of what happened after what, not “which resolution was passed in which session of congress presided by whom”. That stuff comes later. Once you’ve learned certain facts with one reading then Itry to break the topic into chunks. Suppose I start with Swadeshi movement and learn all the facts about the moderates, the movements, the leaders involved, the sessions conducted as well as the swadeshi programme. Then you proceed onto the next block. It helps to have notes written or make your notes alongside this stage. When you write you’re less likely to get distracted.

I do not believe in the concept of integrated studies, because the demand of both stages of the exam is fundamentally different socreate a different set of notes. It might feel like duplication but when you need to go through a large volume of the syllabus in a week you will thank yourself. You wont need to pore over copious notes to find the relevant portions for the exam. My modern history notes are basically 5-6 A4 sheets that I folded into 4, compressed all of spectrum into and stapled it like a small booklet. They only contain dates, important chronologies, events, resolutions, features of Acts, revolts, social reform movements, basically a prelims cheat sheet. The size is convenient since it fits inside spectrum as well. But the essence of saying this isgood notes are absolutely necessary because they simplify the process of learning immensely.

Lastly, tryactive recall. I know you can use anki and other such devices but I was very old school that way using a notebook to physically write things multiple times to revise them. I’m sure there’s enough science that says writing helps to reinforce the memory process but I’ll leave the googling to your discretion. While revising I write, after I finish a topic, I quickly jot keywords or sometimes even the first alphabet of the keyword. The next time I come around to the same topic, I first try to recall and write all that I know and then go over the things I missed. Similarly with my current affairs as well, I make online notes and the pages app has a table of contents feature which i basically use as an active recall device- a sort of flash card if you will. Whenever you see the topic try and write down all that you know and then see how many things you miss out. You’ll see that it also cuts down successive revision time.

Is all this tedious? Yes. But is it rewarding? Also yes.

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@LetsGetThisBread Can you elaborate on the timetable a bit? How did you manage multiple subjects? How did you fit them all in your revision timetable? For me it gets overwhelming to keep track of all that needs revision, that I end up postponing the revision.

I failed my last prelims largly due to me doing improper revision. I read all the standard books first, and then started revising them in bulk. But by then I had forgotten what I read at the beginning.

Please shed some more light on your time blocks for revision. It will be of great help!

Few tips to keep in mind while making your schedule:

  1. Keep a physical planner to schedule your day as well the month and the months ahead. It gives your studies some structure and tangible targets you need to achieve. Also helps to delineate your syllabus.
  2. Break your P5 :p (geo, pol, MIH, econ, environ). I made a spreadsheet to breakdown topics into various blocks. Group similar topics together so that it makes it easy to revise the chunks for you. For eg: one of the blocks for MIH is social reforms, tribal and civil movements, workers and peasants movement. And for polity would be FR, DPSP, FD.
  3. I always start with a backwards timetable (D- style) this helps you have clarity over exactly how many days you have to compete the entire syllabus. So
  4. I also divide my day into 2 halves. One for GS and the other for optional. You’ll have one ore productive half than the other so divide your topics accordingly where you feel you are lagging or topics that require more attention. I used to switch it up constantly. Your timetable should be flexible enough to grow with you but have enough structure to give you discipline.
  5. Since you have effectively five months and if you’re just beginning give 5 months to pre, splitting the time between pre and optional prep. The first iteration of revision you can give 1.5-2 months. This will the stage that you really understand the concepts. Don’t try to make detailed notes at this stage because you’ll realise with successive revisions that (a) the effective notes you require are much less than you will make at this stage (b) you might make conceptual errors now
  6. Then in the next 3 months you peg your revision to a test series schedule and you keep revising accordingly deciding your syllabus into blocks. You’ll easily be able to manage 4-5 iterations in that time. I would also say that you need to do at least 2 iterations in the last month itself. It might seem daunting but trust me if you try to actively recall things you’ll be able to do it. I finished my polity at least 4 times in the last month itself (of course you will need to pull incredible hours in the last month, but once you have a target at hand it wont feel so terrible) 


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