If you study the success rate of the Civil Services Prelims Exam, you would notice that around ten lakh aspirants (according to the UPSC in 2019), who filled the form and around twelve thousand of them got a chance to appear for the mains exam. Statistically, this will lead to a success rate of just 1.2% only. Even if we consider the candidates, who actually took the prelims exam, which is around 5 lakhs (rest of them did not feel confident enough to appear for the exam and chose not to waste their precious attempt) only, the success rate in the civil services prelims exam won’t go over mere 2.4%. In simple words, out of every 100 candidates, 97.4 candidates WILL NOT get chance to appear for the mains exam. You might be feeling this is tough considering the fact that CSE Prelims is just a qualifying paper, conceptualized by Kothari Commission way back in 1979, to filter the serious aspirants for the mains exam.
Anyone who is serious about the UPSC Civil Services Exam and wants to become an IAS or an IPS or an IFS (or in a generalized term, a civil servant) must understand that Prelims exam is the first frontier that you must conquer. We must also assure that this is not easy and you have to put your best foot forward to achieve this goal. A good prelims test series is a very potent tool that can help you in achieving success. The point is how to short list the test series that is right for you. In order to understand this, first understand what you would need to score 110+ out of 200 in the prelims exam (going by the cut-offs that we have seen in the last 3-4 years).
Let us first understand what would you require from a test series that can help you in clearing the prelims exam with ease.
a) Completely revising the NCERT books for Prelims:
Every year those who clear the Civil Services Exam underline the importance of NCERTs in preparing for the Civil Services Exam. However, very few aspirants take this advice seriously. Most of them feel that when we are covering standard reference books like Lakshmikanth and Savinder Singh etc then there is no need to cover the NCERTs. Nothing can be further from truth as we have seen many times in the last so many years that NCERTs hold the key to success in the IAS Prelims exam. You need to go through them very exhaustively. At the same time, you need a benchmark that can help you understand how well have you gone through. A good test series must pay due attention to the NCERTs and you should keep this as one of the important selection criteria for the prelims test series.
b) Covering all standard reference books for UPSC IAS Exam:
Most of us know that the preparing for the Civil Services Exam would require you to cover everything under the sun (of course guided by the syllabus). At the same time, you need to rationalize your resources for your preparation. We have observed that there are some standard sources which have been used by the UPSC for creating the prelims exam paper. You should go through these books and understand through regular testing about your level of preparedness. So, coverage of all the standard source must be the second criteria for shortlisting a test series for you.
c) Learning and testing should be linear and progressive in nature:
All of us learn things progressively and this is the right way to prepare for the exam. At the initial stage when you go through the basic books, the tests should focus on concept building and revision. As you move up the ladder of learning, the tests should become more comprehensive, analytical and linked to the current affairs of the respective subject. Let’s take a simple example, if on the day one of Kindergarten class, a toddler is made to understand the famous plays of Shakespeare or Kalidaas then it would help no one. A learning cycle has to be well defined. It should be progressive and should help you understand the requirements of the prelims exam in a balanced manner. This (Progressive learning through topic tests, thematic tests and Full Length Tests) should be your next important criteria to choose the right test series for you.
d) Coverage of Current Affairs for IAS Prelims exam:
Current Affairs has emerged as the most important ingredient for brewing success in the exam. Before we move further, let’s understand how current affairs is important. Quantitatively, in the last 3-4 years, more than 50 percent of the questions in the prelims exam were from the current affairs. At the same time, qualitatively, these questions are asked as part of subjects like Polity & Governance, Economic Development, Environment, Ecology and Biodiversity etc. So, the current affairs have to be studied in such a manner where you can backlink them to the subjects/topics mentioned in the syllabus and spill over subject. Over and above this, you have to ensure that you cover current affairs of about 17-18 months prior to the exam. So, anyone who is going to appear for the exam on 31st May, 2020 should cover current affairs from January 2019 to May 2019. Choose the test series which helps you in covering the current affairs qualitatively and quantitatively.
e) UPSC Prelims Test Simulation:
The objective of any good prelims test series is to prepare you for the actual examination conducted by the UPSC. Keeping this in mind, test simulation is very important as the prelims exam is not only a test of knowledge, it is also a test of nerves. A good test series should make you feel that you are attempting the actual test through its coverage, distribution and difficulty. It is important that the difficulty level of FLTs should be at par with the Prelims paper. It should be neither less nor more. So, choose a test series which helps you identifying the level of the paper and makes you practice on the parameters mentioned above.
f) Flexibility and Frequency of Tests:
It is very difficult to come to a perfect number of tests in the test series that can help you in preparing for the exam. However, considering the level of competition and length and breadth of the subject, it is advisable that you appear for the test every week starting from now. Gone are the days when people use to start preparing for prelims from the January and February. You have to start from today and attempt sufficient number of tests before you take up the actual test. Moreover, the test series should give you the flexibility to choose when and what topic you want to study first, second, third and so on.
g) Identification of Knowledge gap:
The greatest blessing of a test series is that it helps you in understanding your knowledge gaps while covering important topic for the exam. The journey is simple, you prepare a topic, attempt the test and you check how well you have done vis a vis actual competition. This gives you a window of self-assessment and this will help you to do better and better with each test. A good test series through its detailed analysis and exhaustive solutions help you in covering all important things that you must know as a serious civil services aspirant.
We hope that above points will help choose the right test series and make the most of the coming prelims exam. All the best!!!