I have been working on imparting practical training to young lawyers who want to secure the best law firm jobs, in-house counsel jobs or establish their own practice for the past 8 years.
Test prep was a vast expanse of unknown territory. We made a super-successful training program for the All India Bar Exam, but the domain of competitive exams is infinitely more vast.
I have been speaking to candidates who want to attempt the judiciary exam for the past few months.
My learning – success requires so much more than just cramming or hard work, or signing up for a top coaching class, but that is seldom discussed.
The opportunity for personal development and optimising your preparation is tremendous if you are preparing for competitive exams like the judiciary. I wrote about how mindset, health and nutrition can optimize your preparation here.
Past years’ toppers over-generalise their success if they refer to hard work or their coaching class.
In fact, good coaching classes have a percentage, say, 3-5%, of their students crack the judiciary exam every year.
But which 5% crack it, and which 95% don’t? How can you figure it out?
What are the secrets that you won’t know from toppers and coaching classes?
Starting late is like chasing a 500 run target in T-20 cricket
Is it easier to chase a 500 run target in a Test match or 1-day cricket? Is it even realistically possible to chase the target in T20 cricket?
Starting at the earliest possible time is important to give you the maximum window to prepare. It also enables you to create a backup option, whether it is litigation or corporate law jobs.
Decide early, and if you have decided to attempt the exam in first year, start preparing then itself.
Judiciary preparation for any one state takes at least 3000 hours to complete the syllabus alone. That is about 600 hours per year if you start in first year, or two hours per day.
If you want to attempt the exam for other states, or attempt other government exams such as the UGC-NET which have common subjects, your preparation time would range between 4000 – 5000 hours.
That is, approximately 3 hours per day, at 25 days per month. You will be able to take Sundays off.
This schedule gives you time to manage college activities, exams, internships and take short vacations periodically as well.
If you have a bad day, or exams, a vacation or personal emergencies, you can cover up by 6-8 hour study bursts over a 2-3 week period.
If you start preparing properly in 5th year, study time mounts to 14 hours a day for a consistent 12-18 month period – which is very challenging.
The window for bad days, emergencies and breaks is eliminated.
It is like chasing a target of 500 runs to win the match, but in T20 cricket.
Study of law subjects for college exams alongside your college syllabus is not comparable to competitive exam preparation
The purpose of college exams is very different from competitive exams. The syllabus and teaching in colleges varies and is not comprehensive, nor focussed on state judiciary exams.
With the judiciary exam, the syllabus is comprehensive, questions are very technical, paper patterns differ across states and evolve constantly.
Lakhs of candidates compete for 10, 20, 50 or 100 seats, depending on the state.
Needless to say that keeping pace with college preparation by no means gives you an advantage.
In fact, you are losing the advantage that you could have obtained by slowing yourself down.
Cracking college exams for most law schools requires you to study for 6-8 hours for 1-2 weeks before the exam, along with some breaks in the preparation.
If you study for 6-8 hours per day for an entire semester, you will leap ahead of your college syllabus, batchmates and even teachers.
You must ensure that your subject-wise preparation is aligned to the state-specific questions in past years’ papers of previous states.
Once you complete the subjects being covered in college, follow this method with respect to new subjects.
You cannot succeed in competitive exams with high school learning techniques – improving learning techniques is important to reap the rewards of study
Our learning strategy is formed in our early years of schooling.
One of the common habits of studying is to read a chapter and then hope that you remember it.
Sometimes, we try to mentally recall specific aspects to validate that we remember.
The same method of studying applies to watching videos or attending live classes – candidates watch and listen passively, in the hope that you remember the content.
This is an inaccurate and error-prone method.
You need to test retention of the provisions, the concepts and your ability to apply the knowledge to different situations.
It is possible for question-setters to prepare 3 different types of questions from the same sentence of information.
If you have not practiced it in that manner, chances are that you will not get all answers correct, despite having read the information.
Therefore, you need to practice reinforcement of your learning by attempting topic-wise and subject-wise MCQs and writing long answers on an everyday basis for the concepts that you have studied.
You will need to take out some time to check your answers, review results, and fill in the gaps.
This needs to be done everyday.
Writing answers by hand ensures retention and gives you the added benefit of preparing for mains exams from a very early stage.
If you practice studying with this method, you will notice a difference in a few weeks.
Don’t wait for attempting ‘mocks’ after you complete the syllabus. You will be able to retain information better, identify gaps and improve your learning daily.
Switching between writing, corrections and revisions can be exhausting.
We may not be able to detect all our mistakes – some mistakes follow a pattern which we are blind to, but a coach can notice it.
Guidance of a coach helps in noticing such blind spots and in reducing the time we spend switching tasks.
It is the same as having a gym trainer guide you through a workout, versus yours trying a workout from a textbook.
While you may find the workout, the challenge will be in implementing it as per the schedule, posture correction and pushing yourself so that you can fully benefit from the workout.
It is not difficult to create backups in litigation or corporate jobs while preparing for judiciary exams
It is prudent to prepare for one backup option while preparing for the judiciary exam – that will give you more confidence for your judiciary preparation as well, if things don’t turn out the way that you expect.
If you start preparation early, this is possible by giving 1-1.5 hours of focussed study everyday on the specific area of law, whether it pertains to corporate, intellectual property law, technology law, arbitration, litigation or any other area.
It will also help you in securing better internships in that area.
Not focussing at all on a backup is too dangerous. You cannot accurately predict your chances of success in a competitive exam, irrespective of how well prepared you are.
Be careful not to create multiple backup options – you may get distracted easily.
Also, watch out for the following distracting thoughts:
“But I am only in the first/ second year! How can I decide so early?
“Why can’t I explore like the others in my batch?”
These thoughts will prevent you from fully committing to a career, whether it is in judicial services or any other area of law, or preparing for both.
You run the risk of pursuing disconnected internships which do not properly open up another career option for you.
I will discuss backup options in the coming days.
Planning is highly underrated – you can use it to maximise results
Planning is important for maximising the benefits of your study.
A superior plan will keep you motivated on a day-to-day basis as you finish the day’s goals and keep your overall judiciary preparation on track.
You will also be able to cover more ground everyday in comparison to others, because of superior direction.
Owing to huge competition and a vast syllabus, judiciary preparation requires very elaborate planning.
Planning takes time, and expert coaches can definitely help in a huge way.
However, most judiciary candidates do not spend time planning at all.
I will explain what a study plan needs to look like briefly here:
- You need a master planner which will help you complete the entire syllabus in a holistic manner somewhere within the time frame of 3000-5000 Hours.
- The master plan will have breakdown for subject-wise study plans. It will also include time for revisions and additional mocks for practice.
- Study anywhere between one to two subjects, along with general studies.
- Practice answer-writing and attempting MCQs everyday.
- Create a goal sheet to identify what you will complete in one month, three months and six months.
- You need a daily study plan as well – if you study for 9 hours everyday, this is what a study plan could look like:
- Attend live class – 2 hours
- Read 3 chapters each from two subjects – 2 hours
- Attempt 3 objective-type mocks for each subject in 1 hour
- Break – 30 mins
- Practice writing 3 answers for each subject in 2 hours
- Review results for another 30 minutes
- Revise the areas where you made mistakes in the remaining 1 hour.
- You will need to mark time accordingly in your personal calendar. You can use Google Calendar for this.
- This daily plan also needs to integrate into the master and subject-wise study plan.
- This plan will need to adjust from time to time. You will need to account for internships, exams, short vacations and personal emergencies.
You can see that this kind of planning is very elaborate and time-consuming. We are not used to it either. An expert may be able to help you in creating and following your study plan, and with periodic improvements.
Spend 1-2 hours on mental health, physical fitness, no matter what. Fix your nutrition.
Apart from your preparation, there are 3 additional pillars for your success – your mindset, health and nutrition. You cannot afford to compromise on these.
I have written more about these here. Your concentration and study time will increase and you will be able to prevent yourself from getting distracted, if you take out about 2 hours everyday to do this.
Read this article to understand more.
If you have implemented some learnings, share with me.
State-specific preparation is very important. You cannot confuse judiciary preparation for one State with other exams.
The number of vacancies is very low, and in several States vacancies are not released every year. For example, this year, Haryana has decided not to conduct the exam.
One bad day could ruin years of preparation.
Therefore, most candidates prepare for multiple judiciary exams to increase their likelihood of cracking at least one exam successfully, even though they may have a preference for a specific State.
If you follow this strategy, remember to prepare as per the State-specific paper pattern and syllabus for each subject.
Some States have focus on local legislations in their syllabus, while others also have a regional language component in their exam.
Questions from common subjects, such as Indian Penal Code or Evidence Act, are also framed differently.
In some States, direct questions on concepts are asked. Other States may focus more on memorization of the statutory provisions. In Delhi and Maharashtra, application-based questions are asked.
Therefore, a one-size-fits-all preparation strategy will not work if you plan to attempt multiple judiciary exams.
That is why about 50% additional preparation time is necessary to pursue State-specific preparation.
It takes time to become familiar with General Studies, answer writing for mains and judgment-writing, so starting early helps here as well
General studies for judiciary exams is quite unique – covering current affairs, international conventions, information about various commissions and committees, historical facts, geography, Class X physics, biology and chemistry.
To prevent last minute overwhelm, it makes sense to spend some time everyday staying in touch with current developments, and cover some static GK everyday.
Feel free to subscribe to Lawsikho Youtube channel, and visit the Daily News Analysis playlist. It is free, and we cover daily news in around 20 minutes everyday, with a focus on current affairs for judiciary exams.
Candidates also face a mental block with respect to answer-writing and judgment-writing. They want to defer preparing for answer-writing and judgment-writing after cracking the prelims.
Others believe that mere memorization of what they read everyday, without writing the answers themselves or having them checked is sufficient to prepare for the mains.
While most students only prepare for answer-writing for a few months, those who use this method for 3-4 years will remember answers better for prelims and mains exams both.
Think about the difference between a candidate who has practiced answer-writing and judgment-writing for 3-4 years, in comparison to another candidate who has spent a month or two on answer-writing.
Which candidate is more likely to succeed in the mains exam?
Years of gym workout is much better to build a great body than a 1-month crash course – the same logic applies to judiciary preparation as well.
Your first attempt must be your best attempt – the cost of attempting the exam for the second/ third time is very high
Many candidates do not invest 100% of their time, energy and resources in their first attempt.
Don’t you have the opportunity to attempt the exam a second or a third time? Why can’t you cover up for any mistakes made in your subsequent attempts?
Why should you invest fully in your first attempt?
If you start preparing early, you have more time in law school to prepare for your first attempt than you will for your second or third attempt.
If you don’t crack the exam in your first attempt, there will be a lot more disappointment to deal with, as some of your friends become judges or move on with other jobs, while you dropped out to give the judiciary exam another shot.
Candidates preparing for the second or third attempt also face a greater fear of failure. There is more at stake because they have already lost one or more years after graduation in their preparation.
There may be uneasiness or pressure from your family to start your career.
You may feel a sense of guilt that you have not become independent.
To avoid the risk of a second or third failure, many candidates start working with a senior.
However, they cannot focus full-time on practice either lest it impact your preparation for your second attempt.
It is difficult to be torn in such a situation.
What is the alternative? Start early, and make sure that your first attempt is your best attempt. Commit fully and access all the resources and training possible.
All coaching classes are not the same – choose one that fits your needs
I got a special medal in Class X for securing second rank in my school without taking private tuition. Back then, taking tuitions for the board exam was the norm in cities such as Mumbai. I think it still is.
However, there are no special medals for cracking the judiciary exam with self-study alone, and taking coaching does not make you inferior.
Remember that great businessmen, world leaders and Olympic champions have multiple coaches to help them out with different aspects of their performance.
In fact, whether you take coaching or not, self-study will always be important. Merely enrolling in judiciary coaching does not ensure that you will crack the exam. Only a handful of candidates who enrol for coaching classes crack the exam.
Thus, you will need to study effectively on your own and select the right kind of assistance that you need.
However, taking the help of a judiciary coaching that meets your requirements can ensure that you reap more benefits from self-study and that you have all the help necessary to prepare for a difficult exam such as judiciary.
I will discuss how to select an appropriate coaching in the coming days.
The journey is long – having a community of peers with you will create belongingness
The most successful people – actors, businessmen, sportspersons, have to deal with a lot of loneliness.
Loneliness is familiar to those who have been performing at the top of their craft. There are very few peers whom they can share their journey with.
Candidates who start judiciary preparation face similar challenges – the road is long and uncertain, you are striving to be amongst the top 0.0001%.
It is important to have others you can share the journey with. This is where having a community helps.
I do not recommend hanging out for hours after a coaching class – that is wasteful. The key here is to share the challenges, learn from each other and push each other to do better.
Science justifies how sharing our journey with others makes us happier. When we are performing activities in a community, our brain releases a hormone called serotonin, which creates a sense of belongingness, and thus, greater happiness.
Interviewers don’t want practical experience, but they don’t appreciate a fresher’s mindset in a future judge
Officially, there is no requirement of prior work experience or practical knowledge to crack the judiciary exam.
However, imagine an interview for the judiciary exam, where a lawyer with 3 years of experience and a fresher face the same questions from the panel.
Who do you think will answer the questions better? Who is likely to impress the interviewer and clear the interview?
There are high chances that the person with practical experience will answer better and clear the interview.
I have spoken to candidates who did not intern in courts during law school in order to focus on preparation for the judiciary exam.
This had a serious cost.
An interviewer asked, “What do you know about the judicial system?”
The answer was, “I have heard the same stuff that they popularly say in the movies – tareekh pe tareekh, and so on.”
Can you imagine how the interviewer would perceive the answer?
The candidate appeared insensitive and immature from the interviewer’s perspective.
You can guess the outcome of the interview easily – obviously, the candidate did not make it.
These errors may be unintentional, but can cost you years of hard work.
Interview preparation is not about superficial speaking skills, but goes to the substance of your personality. You must come across as a well-rounded lawyer who is fit for being a young judge.
If you start preparing early, you will have the opportunity to acquire practical skills as well through structured learning and pursue internships on the side. This can not only nurture a viable backup career option for you, but also increase your chances of cracking the interview for the judiciary exams.
Did you find this useful? I recommend that you start creating your study plan.
We will develop it further on December 8th from 6-9 pm in a free 3-hour workshop on how 99% of the judiciary aspirants sabotage their preparation and how you can do it right.
If not, you can start now. These practices will help you in sticking to your study plan, and enable you to get the most value out of the workshop on 8th December.
If you are a judiciary aspirant, you can directly join our Whatsapp group by which has been especially curated for aspirants. Please click on the link below to join
You will also get access to some other amazing resources through the group as well.