Darius, the dying King, told his son Xerxes on his deathbed – “Only the Gods can defeat Greece.”
A young Xerxes had two choices – to believe his father and never take chances.
Or to take his chances, and be remembered in history.
Xerxes, had almost given up, when he realized that if at all he did defeat the Greeks, he could be God-King.
What we do in life, and what becomes of us – let me tell you with a decade long experience – in general and this exam in particular – and having been around a few hundred success stories – some of which I built – some of which I humbly witnessed around me – is that it is our mindset that matters in the end – much more than our skillset.
And this part of our prelims preparation phase, – these last few dozen hours – is the end. And the trick to win any game is, to not give up in the end hours.
Even if you are running short of breath, even if your lungs feel like collapsing.
A day will come when you will need to sleep, rest, talk, gossip, “netflix and chill”, but that date is not today. Not this week. You will have enough time to do so on the night of October 4 [*]. Not this week.
For some of us, the Prelims examination feels like an effort at rolling a rock up an endless mountain.
I want to tell you that the mountain is not endless.
It just feels steeper for some of us.
But if we persist long enough ( not even hard enough at this time ), we can pretty much reach the peak.
And since a part of winning always has to do with not making crucial mistakes in the last moment, here are some basic commandments for each of us to follow in a nervous time.
So, let me be your shepherd, and put things in your mind you probably already know.
#1 Be aware of the Prelims Center one day in advance.
Especially if you are the panicky types -or have parents who are the panicky types – and since on this planet we cannot change our parents[*], or the case whether they panic or not.
It is best to minimize our chances of getting panicked on the day of the exam. [*]
#2 Take a print out of your e-Admit Card,
if you have already not done so. Right away. Do not wait for the October 4 morning – as some of you will – to take print out when you realize that your printer’s ink is over and markets are closed – and you do not have shops open in the morning to do so – and your friends are equally panicky and no one is taking your phone call to rescue you, even if they have the printer. While the world can someday fight climate change, there is no solution to human stupidity.
#3 Make sure you have the original ID Card with you.
If your originals are at home, last week was the time to get it speed couriered to you. Do not be the guy who does not have his original ID card and comes to see me on October 4 – like last year – saying I missed my exam because of so-and-so reasons.[*] In short, get prepared.
#4 Get a good mask for yourself
That lets you breathe for two hours at a stretch without fogging your glasses. I have been doing this myself to be in your shoes as I type this, and I realize that the only masks not fogging my glasses are the unsafe ones. So get set go on that. It will be different for everyone.
#5 Meditate. Be Calm. Peace.
Stay calm and composed in the last week. Do not waste your energy educating people around you – and burn your energy. The quiet guys always win [*] because well they have their energies conserved and minds composed.
#6 When you see the paper, do not judge the difficulty level
of the paper immediately. Only an idiot will do it. There are two rules regarding Prelims paper – and those rules stay – like forever.
One, your assessment of the paper in the first 10 minutes is going to be drastically different from your assessment at the end of two hours. And again – let me warn you – drastically different when you see the answer key two days later.[*]
Two, it will always be the silly mistakes that you will regret most doing. No matter what, it is not the difficult questions – but the silly mistake questions – that will get you in the end. Your goal should be to be careful and mentally alert while attempting the paper so as to not make them.
And with this grand revelation, please know that even if you have not covered some part of the syllabus – it is perfectly alright.
#7 Change your paper attempting sequence
if you don’t know the initial questions. I mean there are 4 sets of the Paper. It may happen that your set has all Art & Culture and Environment questions in the beginning.
And you lose your mind given that these may be weak areas for you. In such a case, before judging yourself – change the sequence of solving the paper – and maybe start from 100, 99 and so on.
#8 Let go of your ego.
The Commission for years designs paper so as to get a question from a known concept wrong – based on the choices.
Do not stick to a single question for long. Especially long sentences ones – given that sometimes we may not have patience or the focus to solve them in the beginning. Do not take things on your ego. How could I not solve such aneasy question – wali feeling.
As time passes by, we develop more concentration while solving the paper. You can always get back to an old question you think you know, but cannot solve in the beginning. Its like getting back to an ex after a few years and knowing why it didn’t work the first time.[*]
#9 Make sure to look at the watch every 30 minutes.
You must be solving about 25 questions or so every 30 minutes. While people do not usually have time management problems in GS 1, you may still run out of time, if you do not time yourself well.
Keep in mind that you should have scrolled through 25 questions every 30 minutes – even if you have not solved each of them.
#10 Do not listen to songs one day before the exam.
Some people have this issue of a movie song or dialogue running in their minds for the duration of the test. You could meditate if you need to relax. Sleep on the last day – all acceptable. But no movies dialogues or filmi songs. I mean if they work for you – and you have been doing it for your 10th / 12th/ college exams- well and good – but if you are not used to it – avoid it. At least don’t fall for it unknowingly.[*]
#11 Don’t talk to people on the exam day.
Asking people how the paper went. Prelims is of such nature that a lot of people will tell you – I have attempted 85 questions, and I am getting 2 wrong. Cut off will be 125 according to me.
There will be a time for Cut off debate and discussion, but that should be after the CSAT Paper is over. Not before. The forum champions in this, so you do not really need to do the speculation outside exam center.
#12 Do not take CSAT lightly.
Every year there are some kickass geniuses who leave CSAT questions because it is qualifying only and there is not point topping it. Trust me, 66 marks is not easy as it looks . To score it, even if you don’t have the tools and techniques – you need the will, intent and the energy – to do it.
Solve as many questions as you can correctly solve. Don’t leave questions and sleep in the paper ( some people do ) just because cut off is 66 and you have solved questions worth 80 marks.
Those are not the chances you take.
Have faith in yourself.
Last but not the least – Have faith in yourself. Remember, in the end what we all need is that little faith.
You may not be the smartest, the most studious, the most organized person on the planet.
And yet, there are no rules for success in a competition.[*] We merely maximize our chances, that’s all.
No one – absolutely no one – thinks they are super prepared for Prelims.
You have done a decent amount of hard work, and now you must leave everything to the Gods – you can pretty much invent one – even if you do not believe in one.
There only as much we can do.
So at this point, the last things that you need are – faith in yourself and a good night’s sleep.
I am not going to say they are easy to come by.
But now, it does not matter if you have studied in the past five days or not – or one day before the exam. Or wasted time because a family issue.
So keep that faith in yourself.
Take a leap of faith.
Write the best paper ever. With as much energy as you have.
And let the kayanat conspire secretly, quietly, while you do your job.
Until next time,
P.S. I gave small talk ( but wasn’t really doing “small-talk” a few weeks back, where I have said pretty much there things. For he curious ones, you can watch it by clicking here.
P.P.S To the Jagtap sisters who write to me from Maharatra ( I think ) after every article, Thank you for the motivation! Hope to see you do well 🙂
 Add that to your GS IV Notes. Difference between Attitude and Aptitude – Mindset vs Skill set.
[*] Like those of you who have some N P Girls School as your centre, let me tell you there are 2-3 N P Girls Schools in the N P Girls School area. So when you reach the center, make sure your roll number is there at the Gate. Again, if your Center has “Vivekanand”, chances are some people would have built two vivekanand schools in close distance. So be wary of that. Stupid things happen even to nice people.
[*] Heightened Adrenaline usually prevent people from sleeping early on the night before the Prelims exam. ( Non ) Alcoholic drinks and friends and more Adrenaline usually have the same effect on the night following the Prelims Examination.
[*] One week later, most people think that the paper was easy, and they made silly mistakes. Everything is easier in hindsight.
[*] A guy I met three years back said that he watched the film GOW a day before the exam – and the whole time one Ramadheer’s Singh was running in his mind – when he declares to son – Son, you can’t do it . Do not google it now. This year he has made it the final list and gotten IFS , so he is not writing the exam anymore, and I have his permission to write this here, as long as I don’t mention his name. You see people can be crazy. And stupid. Or crazy and stupid – both at the same time.
[*] There are some best practices, though.