This cheat sheet is a compilation of many hacks which have been tried, tested, refined and curated for optimal efficiency for UPSC preparation.
These hacks can be used by anyone wishing to use their time optimally and learn more. How to prepare for UPSC is just one of the many applications of these cheat codes.
CHEAT 1: Buy YOU-TUBE PREMIUM subscription
Its not expensive and you will get a discount if you are a student or if you buy a family pack.
You don’t have to hold the phone in your hand and the videos wont pause when you exit the you-tube app. Your video will keep playing even when the phone is in your pocket.
- The advantage is that the video will play the audio EVEN AFTER YOU LOCK YOUR phone screen AND you will unlock some premium content like this amazing documentary about ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE narrated by Robert Downey jr.
- This means you can be plugged in whenever you are not doing something important all the time during UPSC preparation.
- This will reduce time-wastage AND keep things very interesting if you choose to watch or hear good quality content.
CHEAT 2: Replace ALL the day-dreaming time with learning time
- Invest in a pair of earphones and listen to podcasts, lectures or audio-books while jogging, walking or travelling. Basically, anytime you are free enough to pay attention to something interesting about the world.
You can read a detailed analysis about managing time for UPSC preparation while working here
- Stay curious without going off-track. If you find something interesting while browsing you-tube, ADD it to your ‘WATCH LATER’ playlist.
- Beware- It is easy to get lost in an infinite sea of videos on youtube.
- DO NOT go off-track and watch only videos of topics you have pre-decided.
- SAVE the good videos in your playlists.
- Make a separate playlist in your you-tube account for different topics. This will help in revising later. I have a separate playlist for Philosophy, Music, Psychology and Science.
- Don’t tolerate a bad or boring video for more than 5 minutes.
- If your video is boring, refine your search and find a better one.
There is so much content out there that it is virtually impossible to not find something interesting about a topic during your UPSC preparation.
You should also read this to know the hidden messages in the UPSC syllabus.
This little tip helped me learn a lot more because even if I don’t see videos, while driving or commuting, I listen to podcasts or audio-books or something interesting ALL THE TIME.
CHEAT 3:Use your Morning-brain like a sponge
While figuring out how to prepare for the UPSC exam is a lot about figuring out how your own mind works. And using your unique strengths to maximum advantage.
- Use your brain intelligently.
Sounds confusing but it means that you should use your brain for doing the things it is good at doing AT THE TIME of the day, it is good at doing it.
Your brain is at its freshest and most receptive to new information in the morning so –
- Schedule all the Difficult material to be learned at this time.
- Schedule NEW material to be learned at this time.
- If you wish to revise something and commit it to memory, do it within the first 60 minutes of waking.
- Keep the book or video READY the night before and try to look at it first thing in the morning during UPSC preparation.
- Do a quick glance of whatever you were learning the NIGHT BEFORE. Even a few minutes of LOOKING at the material ( Video or text, doesn’t matter) , You brain will consolidate learning and commit the material to your long-term memory.
And this morning session will prime you for the rest of the day.
If you need some solid advice about UPSC preparation, it is here.
CHEAT 4: Manage your ENERGY instead of just your TIME
While you go about your daily routine, what you read in the morning will keep fermenting in your sub-conscious mind, sometimes leading to amazing conceptual insights later.
- Time management is actually energy management.
- You can control your energy levels.
- IF you prepare for the UPSC exam while working, plan to do the EASIEST learning the EVENINGS. Schedule only light material or content which you want to revise for evening study.
This is because your WILL-POWER and MENTAL ENERGY will be at the lowest point later in the day.
Read this to understand how to maintain motivation during UPSC preparation.
CHEAT 5: DO NOT WAIT to feel motivated or inspired to learn.
The ideal time for studying NEVER comes. You can’t wait to feel curious or interested to learn. You will have to create the right conditions in YOUR BRAIN. You can use supplements for this.
- Use safe supplements to boost mental- energy when you NEED it the most.
I use a drink mixture right before I schedule my learning which predictably gives me a few hours of energy and concentration.
- I use is a mix of strong black coffee +half tablespoon of white unsalted butter+ 1 spoon Ashwagandha (300-500 mg)
Ashwagandha is an amazing Ayurvedic herb known for its cognitive benefits and has lot of research backing.
You can read the research here.
I prefer to use Ashwagandha powder(Patanjali brand) instead of tablets. I think that Ashwagandha powder is better than tablets because of better absorption.
- Ashwagandha is fat-soluble so you should have it with a source of fat and NOT on an empty-stomach. Full-cream milk will also work.
- I also sometimes add Brahmmi (Bacopa Monneiri) which is great for memory.
But Brahmmi can cause indigestion sometimes. It too, is fat-soluble so mix it with butter, ghee or cream.
There are many other nootropics, but these are tried, tested and safe in my experience.
- This mixture will improve concentration and energy BUT it might hamper sleep.
- If you take this mix, You will have to time drinking it- take it 5 hours before you want to be asleep.
- Begin with low doses and assess your tolerance of caffeine before you begin and use discretion.
- It suits me, it may not suit you.
- Don’t take it more than twice a day.
When you consider how to prepare for the UPSC exam, thoughts of taking supplements may come to your mind. It is important to research any supplement you take.
I always look for the science behind it. The best website out there for scientific analysis about supplements is examine.com .
CHEAT 6: Use videos and audio to boost absorption
- There is a whole community of learners out there like you who learn by themselves. Join them and have fun.
Basically anything you need to learn, can now be learned online in the best most entertaining way possible. Usually, FOR FREE!
- Visual material is easier to process and remember according to research.
Also, dont worry about other people and the never-ending general knowledge syllabus which you hear about.
If you want to get good at General Knowledge, get it from documentaries at least, in the beginning.
Not only will you gain conceptual understanding about topics in the UPSC syllabus, you will learn a lot about the world.
Esp if you are not in a hurry to give the exam and have time. The world has changed and the BEST learning content out there is now in the form of videos.
Knowing this makes the question- how to prepare for the UPSC exam a simple matter of choosing the right content to watch and read.
If you watch just 3 or 4 documentaries documentaries in a week, your general knowledge base will grow exponentially.
CHEAT 7: When it is idle, feed your brain information.
I don’t know about your commute but I find the hours spend sitting in traffic is an unforgivable waste of time.
Especially when you are a working professional wondering about how to prepare for the UPSC exam.
While travelling you can listen to an audiobook or just REPLAY the videos you have watched and listen to the audio.
Just listening to the audio will help in memory consolidation.
- Focus only on understanding the material deeply in the beginning.
I usually listen to 20-30 minute videos or audio files while exercising on the treadmill.
- Leave the books and text for later when the exam is nearby.
- Use reading material ONLY for details which the VIDEO DOES NOT COVER.
When the UPSC exam comes close and you need to learn facts, you can learn these from books and notes. but until then let your leaning be as much fun as possible.
CHEAT 8: Have a strategy for UPSC preparation and set your own punishments and rewards
This is the way I approach in all my learning. I have learned Math, Philosophy, Biology and pretty much almost everything this way.
And the quality of learning has been superior to any college or school could give me.
By knowing how to prepare for the UPSC exam, you can reduce the needless expenditure of money and pain which is involved with UPSC preparation.
Make your life as easy as possible. Use these smart-cuts.
Some very detailed cheat sheets about UPSC preparation and articles on strategics will be published on BecomingIAS-Super simplified
But for now, this should be enough to get you thinking and get a head start.
Get to work!
Tc and all the best.
Ravi kapoor, IRS & Amit Kumar Singh, IRS