All that has to be done has been done already. Wading through the maze of GS syllabus, understanding the Optionals at a Masters level, writing lengthy essays in a rhythm and topping it all, practising tests that prepare us for the exam time conditions; we did it all. Trust me.
Some of us might feel highly confident. Some would be nervous. Some must be prodding over the things that should have been done. Let me tell you, this is not the time for all of these. A neurosurgeon trains himself in the most complicated of cases. But each brain tumor poses him a new challenge. It doesn’t depend on how well prepared he was in the past. It all boils down to the moments of application of his knowledge in the Operation Theatre.
The same applies to this stage at the exam. All that matters is execution. Laser-sharp, clinical and extremely rational managerial behavior. 10 days from now, things would be different. You will be back to the relatively laid back phase and will have all the time in the world to praise/curse yourself. Just, now isn’t the time.
What are the things to keep in mind now. It’s no more a preparation strategy. Take it as a personality development article and prepare yourself in the mind as you read the points ahead:
Before/ between exams:
- Glance through, do not read – The time before and between the exams is key to glance through the material you have read. It is not the time for in depth understanding and focussed reading of any topic. There’s no time too. If you haven’t read some topics before, forget it. It’s useless to read it now. You cannot memorise it, nor can you revise the other topics you are good at.
- Make a list – Have a list of topics you want to refer to. It helps in reducing the decision fatigue on which topic to refer/ which area to focus on. Neatly break down the time, allot topics to glance through, and stick to it. If a topic is taking too much time, move on. Ensure that you give at least a cursory look to all the key areas of a paper.
- Hold the nerves – I can’t stop quoting this. In 2017 mains, I had a nervous breakdown before my Telugu Literature paper. I felt under confident and wanted to give up the exam. All I could see at that time were the topics I haven’t covered. After wasting a few precious hours, I have stuck to what I finished and revised them. I could score a decent 140 in Paper II over which I was tensed. Sometimes, it is best to see the brighter half.
- Save the analysis for a later day – It’s tempting at times to go to discussion forums, talk to roommates about the relative ease/difficulty of the paper. In 2017 mains, there was an essay on natural laws and most of those who confidently attempted it started worrying once they are out. Because there are so many interpretations of the topic. It impacted the next paper of a good friend of mine.
- Repeating the age old wisdom – Get a decent amount of sleep. Eat good food and use mosquito repellants.
During the exam
As this is the most discussed part, I’ll quickly glance through the key do’s and don’ts.
- Glance through the paper. Attempt the most confident bunch first. Then, progressively decrease the time to the questions you know less and least about.
- Attempt all the questions.
- Mind the time and word limits.
- Fill the attendance sheet properly(I was warned in 2017 mains for making the same mistake, twice, in the attendance sheet :P)
- No emotions attached. Fully engage your left brain. No overexcitement on seeing a couple of known questions nor hurt when the Qs seem to be falling from the sky.
- Spending too much time on one Q. Sometimes, we feel that we know it well, just the right fact/ argument is not striking. Leave it for later. Mark it in the paper. Come back later(if you have time).
- Forgetting a Q – Yes, this happens. And it happened with me. I scored a 118 in my 2017 Mains GS -3 despite not attempting the Q on nuclear technology. Actually, I forgot it. So please, double check if you have attempted all the Qs.
Now that I’ve ticked off the list of making lists, we’ll proceed to the final gyaan-sandesh.
- It’s a process you have to go through, no matter what. So, why not face it with a smile. Enjoy the process. Sure, it’s easier said than done. But then why do we all love Po so much. Because no matter how big the challenge at hand, he didn’t stop eating the dumplings.
- Whenever there’s a doubt, think of how far you’ve come. Many people give up preparations midway, many fail at the level of prelims, many cannot afford the enormous social pressure this exam brings. You have endured all that. And now are one step shorter to realising your dream. Respect it. Respect your efforts. You will be good. Trust me.
- Sometimes, it just needs one final blow. You must be knowing the story of the gold digger. Don’t give up mentally, at the last shot.
- Be your best self. The highest potential you can bring, the bravest mental state you possess – these are your tools the next ten days. Be an Avenger who doesn’t just fight but fights his valiant best in times of need. Your confidence, inner peace and state of mind are your biggest strengths at this time. Not your years of preparation or the thousands of answers written.
I would like to conclude by saying that you are all on a relatively equal footing now; irrespective of the amount of work done in the past. From now on, how strong you remain and how clinically you tackle the papers one by one – as a tiger slowly waiting for it’s prey, one step at a time, with full focus – will determine how you perform.
All the very best. On behalf of the entire CD team.