Strategy for Civil Services Preliminary Examination By: Dr. Sachchidanand

Strategy for Civil Services Preliminary Examination

As per the decision of Government of India, there shall be change in the syllabus and pattern of the Preliminary Examination from 2011 in the scheme of the Civil Services Examination. The Preliminary Examination shall now comprise of two compulsory Papers of 200 marks each and of two hours duration each.

Detailed below is the new syllabus and pattern of the Preliminary Examination, which is brought to the notice of the prospective candidates intending to appear at the Civil Services Examination (CSE) in 2011 onwards:

Paper I - (200 marks) Duration: Two Hours

  • Current events of national and international importance
  • History of India and Indian National Movement
  • Indian and World Geography - Physical, Social, Economic geography of India and the World.
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environ-mental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change - that do not require subject specialization
  • General Science.

Paper II - (200 marks) : CSAT , Duration: Two hours

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic Numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. -Class X level)
  • English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level).
  • Questions relating to English Language Comprehension skills of Class X level (last item in the Syllabus of Paper-II) will be tested through passages from English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper.
  • The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type.
  • The prospective candidates are advised to note that no changes are being introduced at this stage in the Civil Services (Main) Examination and Personality Test in the scheme of Civil Services Examination (CSE).

What strategy should be adopted?

Modification made to the new syllabus of Civil Services Preliminary Examination 2011 has more focus on general studies. It requires early preparation and a relaxed approach. The recent announcement of the new syllabus for Civil Services

Preliminary Examination 2011 by the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions is likely to create ji0ers among aspirants.

A closer look at the syllabus and pattern of the examination mentioned in the text only stresses the need for more focus on general studies and revision of mathematics learned at the secondary school level. Aspirants analyzing recent question papers of other examinations conducted by the UPSC will have a be0er understanding of the new pattern and syllabus.

According to Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the Civil Services Preliminary examination will consist of two papers with a total of 400 marks. This is different from the earlier pattern that had one optional subject paper along with a general studies paper.

Hereafter, the civil services aspirants can be much more relaxed in their approach as the need for studying an optional subject has been dispensed with for the preliminary. But they have to complete two optional subjects for the mains. So balancing the main and prelims in the coming months will be the challenge before them.

Analysis of the changes in IAS Exams Syllabus

Paper I is worth 200 marks and has been allotted two hours. Earlier the pattern was 150marks for the general studies. In paper I, candidates will be tested on their knowledge of current events of national and international importance. Emphasis will be on Indian history, Indian national movement, ndian and world geography, including the physical, social and economic geography of India and the world.

The candidates can start preparation as soon as possible by reading newspapers and other periodicals to enrich their knowledge of current affairs. Questions on current affairs are likely to play a key role in scoring the required marks in the new pattern. Questions will also be asked on Indian Polity and governance as well as the Constitution, the Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy and Rights Issues.

Apart from NCERT books, the Union government publications that have information on latest developments on these subjects are also important. India 2011 year book published by the Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting may continue to be of use to answer a large number of questions. The new system is going to identify the comprehensive knowledge of an aspirant and his/her ability to apply it in decision making. The focus will be more on testing the personality of the candidate.

Study Material

Candidates will have to prepare for questions on Economic and Social Development, Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics and social sector initiatives. NCERT books will provide a chunk of answers to questions pertaining to general issues on environmental ecology, bio-diversity, climate change and general science. Candidates are advised to revise the class X English language books for English language comprehension skills of Paper II. Appropriate IGNOU study material on Interpersonal Skills, Including Communication Skills may be useful.

Study material used by aspirants of banking services are enough to tackle questions on Logical Eeasoning and Analytical Ability, Decision-making and problem solving as well as General Mental Ability. Class X books of NCERT should be studied in detail for solving questions on Basic Numeric Skills such as Numbers and Their Relations, Orders of Magnitude and Data Interpretation. Solving the paper is likely to be easy for the aspirants who go through the previous questions asked by the UPSC for other examinations such as NDA, particularly those conducted recently.

Spending at least six hours a day for solving such questions is crucial. Analysing the previous questions of examinations conducted by Reserve Bank of India and other banks is also likely to throw light on the new pattern of examination.

What has not changed in the new syllabus?

Some things which many candidates for the IAS exam were fearing have fortunately remained untouched. Here is a short list. Age limit remains 30 yrs. Older candidates can heave a sigh of relief. Number of a0empts have not been reduced. So those on the 3rd and 4th a0empts can rejoice. IAS mains exam pattern has not been changed from 2011 but will be changed after a few years most probably. The name of the exam. This is the biggest joke. Everyone rooting for CSAT and all those who started web sites on this title might be cursing themselves now. General Studies paper or Paper 1 is more or less the same. Only thing is that mental ability has now been included in Paper 2 instead.


Candidates who were against UPSC's scaling system due to variable difficulty level of optional papers can feel happy now as optionals have been removed from 2011 IAS prelims. As both papers will be common to all, there will be fair play and equal opportunity to all candidates. From now on what you score is what you see in terms of final results (whether qualified or not for IAS mains). Candidates who could not mug up or rote will also cheer the changed IAS syllabus as now wide studies on different topics is required and second paper will focus on Decision-making, Logical Reasoning, Mental Ability, English Comprehension.

None of these can be mugged up but have to be practiced, understood, tackled using common sense and presence of mind but not mugging up. Finally, candidates who haven't taken coaching can also feel relieved as coaching will make less of a difference now than in the past where optionals could be cracked simply by mugging up the coaching class notes. Now paper 2 will require individual efforts rather than coaching notes.


GS has always been a tough paper to clear and now candidates will have to clear two GS papers with more questions in less time (just two hours). So time management will be the most crucial factor in IAS prelims from now on. Also, the second paper will be tougher for those who ignored mental ability and were never too keen on data analysis and logical reasoning.

These cannot be skipped any longer but will need to be a0empted in order to clear the IAS prelims. Candidates from non-English background will face a tough challenge as there will be English comprehension passages and no translation will be provided for the same so they need to be read in English only. Questions on inter-personal skills and communication skills will test a candidate further and only those who are good at both can now answer questions confidently.



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