Conceptual Clarity More Important Than Covering Syllabus, Says Sub-Treasury Officer Zujamo - Eastern Mirror
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Conceptual clarity more important than covering syllabus, says Sub-Treasury Officer Zujamo

By Moakala T Aier Updated: Jun 19, 2024 10:00 am

DIMAPUR — For Zujamo A Lotha, the turning point in his journey towards competitive exams came through an article in his college magazine. In this article, Kesonyu Yhome (IAS) shared detailed tips and recommended study materials for such exams.

This was the first time Zujamo encountered a simplified and clear explanation of the concepts related to these exams, giving him an initial idea about what was involved. This experience planted the seed for his future aspirations.

After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Kohima Science College and a Master’s degree from Sikkim University, Zujamo found the transition to studying arts and humanities subjects for the competitive exams both intriguing and intellectually stimulating. He followed a routine that included disciplined study from Monday to Saturday and a break on Sundays for Bible study with UESI (Union of Evangelical Students of India). This practice not only reenergised him, but also provided the spiritual strength he needed to face the challenges of exam preparation.

Eventually, in his third attempt in 2021, he passed the NPSC Combined Services Examination with Rank 1 and was assigned as a Sub-Treasury Officer/Junior Accounts Officer.


How can students streamline their post-graduation confusion?

One does not write or sit for exams keeping in mind the posts. You may think at one point but for someone like me, we give exams because we don’t have options other than the exam. Right after graduation, think of the opportunities present before you – either you want to do freelancing, start your own business or write exams, as in our Naga context, the opportunities are fewer. Either you choose this or that; we do not have many choices.

Do not stay idle waiting for clarity or calling but look at what you have in your hands at the current moment. So if time and hardwork is something in your hands, just go ahead start preparing.

What insights did your exam attempts provide that aspiring candidates can benefit from?

I was trying to study the exam from a purely academic perspective – mugging up, memorising, to complete the syllabus. But this exam demands more than just memorisation. It requires understanding conceptual clarity. It is a very slow process. I realised in my second attempt that I had to go back and unlearn so many things as I had learned them the wrong way. Slowly, the understanding dawned on me that it is not so much about ‘completing the syllabus’ but understanding what you are studying.

I would advise aspirants to take it a little slow and not hurry because if you get a concept wrong, to come back and correct it will take a lot of time.


When is the ideal moment to begin preparing for the exam?

Anytime. Provided you are willing to accept that this journey of preparation is not a 100 metre heat but a marathon. Ideally, it will take you 1.5-2 years. For those who think that only those who were preparing since their college days or during their high school days clear the exam. Maybe true but in my case I started to prepare only after my Masters. Although I had certain knowledge about what this exam was all about. So, if you plan to start now, you are still not late. Be willing to sincerely devote 1.5-2 years of your time. And make sure that during this initial year do not be involved in any part time teaching or any other attachment. This is the first sacrifice you will have to make.

Could you describe your experience with the prelims stage?

Personally I found prelims to be the most difficult stage. The reason could be the element of surprise as well as the cut throat competition. I missed my first prelims by a margin of 0.6. However, in my third attempt I managed to score 130+ ways up above the cut off. What went wrong or right? First attempt: Lack of syllabus coverage, shaky conceptual clarity and Lack of revision. Second attempt: Syllabus coverage but still shaky conceptual clarity and Lack of revision. Third attempt: Maximum syllabus coverage, strong conceptual clarity and proper revision. I managed to revise the entire syllabus six times before prelims.

Can you share us the importance of syllabus and previous year questions?

These two are going to be the most important tools in your reservoir. The syllabus will tell you what to study and what not to study. The PYQs will tell you how in depth one has to go on each topic. Remember, you are preparing to clear the exam and not to publish a research paper. Do you have to study the ‘Surat Split of 1907’? 100%. But you don’t have to study who threw the slippers during the session and who hit it. Not important. The ‘Lucknow pact of 1916’ is important, the provisions are vital. But what did they eat and names of all the participants are not. I hope you get the point. Syllabus and PYQs are key.


Which books do you recommend for aspiring candidates preparing for this exam?

There is not much difference in material for pre and mains. Remember, this is not an academic exam where we try to cover the syllabus hurriedly and write randomly and pass. There is no point in trying to mug up topics. One has to understand the concepts properly as you begin to read each book that I am about to mention. Give enough time to all subjects. My one profound error was reading the subjects half-heartedly and having to come back again to unlearn and relearn certain topics. It was a waste of precious time.

Indian polity by Laxmikant, Indian History: Ancient History – R.S Sharma, Medieval History – NCERT, Modern History – Rajiv Ahir (Spectrum publication) and Indian Struggle for independence by Bipan Chandra, Indian Economy: Sriram IAS, Indian Economic Development (Class 11 NCERT). I also watched Mrunal Patel videos on YouTube.

General Science: For Science what I did was I solved multiple mock tests from various question banks online and collected about 2000+ questions from various online sources. It paid off well.

Indian Geography: Class 11 and 12 NCERT.

Current Affairs: For this there is no one source. I would suggest you pick up one National paper. I read The Indian Express (PDF). I compiled current affairs monthly based on many sources like GK Duniya, GKToday, Exam Race, Vedanta, Lead the competition, Textbook, Study IQ (YouTube).

Can you provide materials for the mains paper as well?

The book list for pre and mains is the same so it won’t be much of an issue. Even here the syllabus and PYQs will be your guide. After you clear prelims (which is qualifying in nature). You will have to write mains which are for 600 marks (200 each paper): Essay and Comprehension (200 Marks), General Studies I (200 Marks), and General Studies II (200 Marks).

Essay and Comprehension: For essays, you need content as well as structure. For content all your preparation of Polity, History, and Economics, etc. will be useful. You just have to arrange it coherently. One additional thing you can do is to prepare a sample of about 30 essays from generic topics like Women, Poverty, Hunger, Health, Education, and Climate Change, etc. One strategy that worked for me was to copy the introduction and conclusion on UPSC toppers essay. Anudeep Dureshetty essay on ‘Education’ had a wonderful introduction which I modified and used in my essay on the topic “Education is not synonymous to learning” which was asked in the exam.

For Comprehension, you will be given four passages and after each passage there will be 20 questions, each based on the passage, totaling 80 Marks. For comprehension, read newspaper editorials and try to understand properly. And before the exam, solve all the previous year comprehensions and mock comprehensions.

General Studies Paper I: This is an objective based question for 200 marks. This paper approach is always similar to the prelims approach.

General Studies Paper II: The paper is divided into two sections Part A and Part B. It contains topics such as Polity and Administration, Geography, Economics, etc. Part B carries 74 marks for questions on Nagaland.

Batchmate outing to Benreu village 1

What tips do you have for aspirants preparing for the interview round?

Knowledge-basis is also very important. The basic thing to prepare for is to know about your own place (hometown, village, and tribe). Besides that, current affairs must be prepared as well. However, at the end of the day, questions can be very random – the element of surprise is always present and presence of mind is also important. The day’s newspaper must be read as well.


Favourite time of the day

Morning – the quiet times that I take by spending time reading the Bible and praying.

Biggest learning experience

Coaching, because most of my conceptual clarity took place here.

What makes you smile the most?

The UESI ministry friends hanging out together and just roasting each other (laughs).

(Zujamo can be reached at for any queries related to exam preparation)

By Moakala T Aier Updated: Jun 19, 2024 10:00:00 am
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