Sajal sir was interviewed by The Indian Express as an expert for UPSC Civil Services exams to share last-minute tips for Prelims 2022 aspirants. Below is the interview that was published in the newspaper.
Sajal, just two days to go for the UPSC Prelims 2022. What is the most important advice you want to give to the aspirants who are under stress to perform well in the exams?
The most important advice to all the students will be to go with a positive frame of mind. Negativity causes more stress and there is a possibility of committing careless mistakes. It is important to have faith in yourself which will help in boosting your confidence. Confidence is an essential element for any exam. A positive frame of mind and confidence can restrict you from overthinking, and having irrelevant doubts and can save you from a negative mark in the prelims exam. Do not think of failure while giving the exam. Think it as another mock test where you have to give your best.
Aspirants often start thinking about cut-offs even before appearing for exams. What would you like to say to such students?
Yes, thinking about cut-offs even before or while appearing for an exam is a common issue among aspirants. Never keep previous year cut-offs in mind while appearing for the exam. Cut-offs fluctuate every year. In 2020, the cut-off was around 87 marks or 44 percent. In fact, while attempting the question paper focus should be on the question and not the cut-off. Look at the difficulty level of the question and strategize accordingly.
How do you explain the difficulty levels of questions?
Every question paper has three kinds of questions- easy, medium, and difficult. This is a thing that every aspirant knows. Still, they panic if their set of question papers has difficult questions in the beginning. One should not be scared. Always expect a mix of all kinds of questions in the paper. The questions as per your comfort area must be somewhere in the middle or in the end. So have patience while you are going through the pages of the question paper.
Students often have a doubt about when to fill the bubbles or mark the answers in the OMR sheet, at the end or simultaneously. What is your suggestion?
Past experiences tell that if you leave the task of filling the OMR sheet in the end, there are chances of filling the bubbles wrong. At times students panic and are not able to fill all the bubbles of the known questions. So filling the answer bubbles in the OMR sheet at the end can be a big mistake. So logically, marking simultaneously while going through sure-shot questions is advisable. Obviously, the questions where you have a doubt can be left to the end.
‘How many questions to attempt in prelims?’ This is the most important question in the minds of aspirants. What do you have to suggest?
There is no single way to decide how many questions will be required to clear this exam. However, from the past year’s trends at least 70-80 questions should be attempted. Some people will advise higher. So, it depends on an individual’s accuracy level. Mock tests would have helped you to know whether your accuracy level is good in attempting more questions or fewer questions. But remember there is negative marking and also that it is just a qualifying examination. You will not get a rank based on this exam.
Sajal, aspirants will really like to know a successful strategy in the UPSC prelims exam. Will you like to share any?
Aspirants have their own strategy. I often tell my students about ‘4-step solving strategy’ which is a pragmatic and fruitful approach to solving a question paper.
1st Round- attempt absolute sure questions and mark the answer immediately.
2nd Round- attempt questions that you are reasonably certain of or which require a little bit of application of mind.
3rd Round- attempt questions that require intelligent guessing.
If after these three rounds the aspirants feel comfortable enough, they should not go further with the fourth round.
4th Round- Attempt questions where you have doubts between 2 or more options. Go for this stage if you have no choice but to attempt the most tricky questions.
CSAT is a headache for a lot of aspirants. What is your brief advice regarding the CSAT paper?
There is a clear-cut message regarding the CSAT paper. Firstly, no need to attempt each and every question. Go for around fifty questions as per your strength. Targeting 50-60 questions will give you more time to use your brain and focus. Don’t be in a rush to attempt all questions. You might make silly mistakes. It is just a qualifying paper. But it has negative marking.
Also, my serious advice is not to check the answer key immediately after the GS paper. It might give you unnecessary anxiety and you might mess up the CSAT paper.
Since a lot of people already know what to do for qualifying UPSC prelims. Can you tell the aspirants what not to do?
Certainly, there are a few things that aspirants must not do at all.
1. Do not commit silly mistakes- pay attention to the words ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ used in questions. Also, do not ignore the word-play by UPSC like ‘all’, ‘none’ etc.
2. Do not be in a hurry- read all the options carefully.
3. Do not overthink- UPSC can ask simpler questions too. So, do not be surprised.
4. No mock tests on the last day- a low score can shake your confidence.
5. Do not read any new concepts on the last day- Revise maps and facts.
Sajal Singh suggests for aspirants at leisure : Panchayat series, The Crown , Bharat Ek Khoj and English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee.
Sajal Singh’s motto for life: Your positive action combined with positive thinking results in success.
All the best for UPSC-CSE Prelims- 2022!