Prelims preparation requires smart hard work as you must be aware by now. One of the first steps in your CSAT preparation is to develop a daily routine. Once you do that start your Prelims preparation, the next step is to keep the past five year’s General studies question papers and GS syllabus with you whenever you are preparing for the Prelims.
After selecting a topic to study from the GS Syllabus, go through the past five year’s questions from that topic before you read the topic. Once you do this, then read or more correctly, study that topic. Now you will encounter answers to the questions you just went through and pronto, you know that this part is important and requires extra attention. But wait, there’s more.
Whenever you finish a section, again refer to the past year’s questions to see how many can you answer correctly. If you found some questions that weren’t covered in your first reading go through the material again or even refer additional sources so that all questions are covered.
Let me give you an example. Suppose you’re studying the Fundamental Rights part of Indian Polity (BTW get Subhash Kashyap’s Our Constitution and P.M Bakshi’s book for all the Articles as I mentioned in my post on IAS Books) for GS Paper 1, first go through the past five year’s questions on Fundamental Rights from a good section-wise handbook like Arihant (they have the most authentic answers); then go through the Fundamental Rights part. After you’ve gone through the relevant articles, you should test yourself against the previous five year’s papers on Indian Polity and see how you performed. If you could answer all the questions correctly, you’ve covered Fundamental Rights part quite thoroughly.
But if you couldn’t, no need to fret. Just see which questions you had some idea about but weren’t sure about the answer and which ones were completely new to you and had not encountered while reading the articles on Fundamental Rights. Now go back to your source and read again covering the points that you may have skipped earlier. If the material doesn’t cover it, refer additional books or notes so that you’re comfortable in answering all the past five year’s questions on Fundamental Rights.
Benefits of this Approach
Continuous Tracking: These two reference books, the GS Syllabus and Question Papers, can lessen your workload considerably in the long run and enables you to track your Prelims preparation very effectively. Suppose you were preparing Physical Geography from the Oxford Student Atlas (Again the best one for reasons mentioned in Books for CSAT), you can track how well you have covered the map-based questions just after you started going through the Atlas instead of leaving it till the end of February or March which might be just too late for course correction.
Test Yourself: Suppose you don’t have time left to enrol for Prelims or CSAT test series, because you have been solving the previous year’s section-wise questions all year through you won’t feel uncertain about your preparation level. Instead you will feel confident about attempting the IAS Prelims even without the help of any test series. So you save some money for other important stuff related to the civil services, right Anil?
Save Precious Time: Let’s consider a scenario. You’re covering Modern India from Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence and adopt a ‘read all strategy’. What is this strategy? Well, simply reading a book from the first page to last without bothering to find out the more important topics or chapters from the lesser ones. Also not testing yourself mid-way is included within this. Suppose you take 20 days to cover the book and then after some months you decide to solve some questions related to Modern History but you realize that many of the questions are completely new, the matter for which you never encountered while reading the History material. You panic. It not only spoils your strategy but dents your confidence as well. On the other hand, adopting the above approach admittedly requires more effort but is far more useful for your Prelims preparation in the long run.