From TNPSC to UPSC ...! - How to face competitive exams?

In Tamil Nadu this year alone TNPSC shall be conducting competitive examinations for over ten thousand higher posts. Of which, 130 posts of Assistant Director Horticulture; 147 posts of Assistant Engineer; 9351 Group 4 posts including Village Administrative Officer, Junior Assistant, Field Surveyor, typist, draftsman; 4 posts of Executive Officer; 60-80 Group 1 posts including Deputy Collector, Deputy Superintendent of Police; 1200 Group 2 posts including Revenue Inspector, Municipal Commissioner, Sub Registrar; 325 posts of Assistant Engineer in Tamil Nadu Electricity Board are all going to be filled up through competitive examinations. 

For those who may feel, ‘All these are not needed Sir.. Straightaa Hero only!’, there is the Union Public Service Commission. This year, for civil services including IAS and IPS, 1000 people are expected to be selected. 

What if, instead of seeing the above as mere vacancies and competitions, we see each of them as opportunities that can change our life? So many opportunities right in front of our eyes! No matter what qualities essential to success we may have, including talent, hard work and perseverance, it is the manner of grabbing and utilising the opportunities presented to us, which will differentiate the achievers from the also-rans. Success is something we all like. We give tremendous importance to achieving success. At the same time, we tremble to think of failure. Treating failure as a fearsome prospect instead of as just another result, will badly affect our future chances of success, without us even realising it. Failure is something that we all face. But it is those rare few, who learn from the lessons taught by failure and forge pathways to success from them, that end up as achievers. 

To talk about competitive exams in simple terms, they are very similar to going shopping in Ranganathar street during Deepavali time. ‘What is our budget, what are our requirements? Which are the shops that carry the products we need?’ - if we go with such correct planning, we shall be able to finish our purchase and return home within a reasonable time. However if we go without any planning, or idea of what is it that we need, thinking ‘we will go to the shop and see’, ‘we will decide there’, etc., we will lose most of our time running around from shop to shop among the crowds, unable to purchase anything properly. Competitive examinations are the same. They line up one after the other just like shops in Ranganathan street. Which exam is right for us, and what needs to be done to win that particular exam - in the absence of such planning, we will also be running around from exam to exam among the crowds!

Talking of crows reminds me of something. “10 lakh people are appearing for that exam, 20 lakh people are appearing for that exam.. There isn’t a chance of success for the likes of us! How can we pass exams written by so many people!” - is not an attitude to cultivate. For instance, let us say 10 lakh people have applied for an exam. Among these, just like those who give a missed call to join a party and then disappear, there will be 40 percent people who will apply for the exam but wouldn’t even appear for the exam. Another 30 percent will be appearing for the exam with the mindset of ‘let us write the exam and see!’ Of the remaining 30 percent, those that come for the exam with correct guidance and preparation would only be around 15 percent. Therefore, this 15 percent alone is our competition. If we advance with appropriate strategies and efforts for the exam with only our goal in mind, then we need not bother ourselves with even this 15 percent.

We appear for each examination with sincere efforts. However, in order to assess whether our strategies and approaches are accurate, we need proper guidance. We need someone to tell us, ‘the nails you pull are all the ones not required!’ Thus, in our preparation, the friends, books or websites that prevent us from taking a misstep are all our guides. We all have dreams and aspirations for our future. We all may have shared our anguish in Facebook or Twitter that “Street lights are not burning properly in my area, roads are full of potholes”, etc. We all would have fought against having to pay a bribe for our getting a rightful title for our land. If we ourselves are sitting in positions where we can correct these things? Yes, the time to transform our lives has come. The chance that gives life to our dreams has also come. 

Five essential strategies:

1. Create a clear plan as to what all are you going to study each day. Do not add to your own burden by loading your plan with too many items per day. Make sure you add only that much portions as we can reasonably expect to learn in a day. From this daily planner, work outwards to create a weekly planner and a monthly planner - this will surely give a correct shape to your goals. 
2. It is absolutely essential to not stop with merely learning a topic and to keep revising it every chance you get. The more we revise, the stronger the lessons will be impressed upon our memory. If we make it a habit to revise our lessons in the small gaps we get as we wait in traffic signals or wait for our mother’s dosa, it will surely aid us greatly during the examination.
3. ‘How much have we learned? What are our shortcomings?’ The answer to these will be given by the exams we write. It will give us great confidence to write and evaluate exams in our own house using the model test papers that we have. Per day if we attend 100 questions, then for ten days 1000 questions, for a month 3000 questions, so on until we would have faced and trained in over 15000 queries before we even attend the actual examination. 
4. It is of prime importance to keep yourself updated on current affairs. If we prepare and collect notes on events pertinent to the exam from our newspapers on a daily basis, then it will be easy to revise them before the examination. 
5. It is as important to find time to keep your body and mind happy, as to find time to study. When facing examinations without even knowing how long it will take, only a fresh mind and body will sweeten the journey of writing competitive exams! 
To be continued...

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About Dr. K Vijayakarthikeyan, IAS

Commissioner and Special Officer, Coimbatore Municipal Corporation. He is a 2011 batch Indian Administrative Service officer. After getting trained as Assistant Collector in Erode, he was posted as Sub Collector, Kovilpatti. There, he started a group named “Kovilpatti Study League” and trained village students for competitive examinations. In 2014, at 28 years of age, he assumed charge as Coimbatore City Municipal Commissioner. He was the prime-mover behind Coimbatore getting chosen as the top city from Tamil Nadu as a “Smart City” in the very first selection round. His first book, “Ettum doorathil IAS,” was published by Vikatan Publications. Recently, his latest book “Adhuvum Idhuvum” has also been published. He continues to be engaged in training and motivating youngsters for appearing in civil service examinations.

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