UPSC Civil Services Exams: What, Why and How?
Civil Services: An Overview
Indian Administrative Services (IAS) is seen as one of the most reputed careers in India. Every year, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conduct the civil services examination for making the recruitment to the various post under the Indian administration, like the IAS, IPS, IFS and other Allied Services. The examination is conducted to recruit the administrators, who are supposed to administer the different departments of the governmental machinery. Thus, UPSC expects the aspirants to have a wide knowledge base.
The examination is conducted in three stages. The first stage is the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, which is generally conducted in the month of June every year.
The Preliminary examination is conducted to test the basic understanding and awareness of the candidates. The exam consists of two paper:
- Paper-I of General Studies (GS), which includes Indian history, geography, polity, science and technology, economy and current affairs.
- Paper-II, the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) was introduced in 2012, and includes questions to test general aptitude of the candidates, and include questions on Reasoning, English comprehension, Basic Mathematics, Decision Making and Data interpretation.
There is no restriction on candidates, for their educational background. The only criteria being- 'the candidate must hold a degree of any of Universities incorporated by an Act of the Central or State Legislature in India...'
Tackling the UPSC Preliminary Examination: G.S. Paper-I
Looking at the previous year UPSC Exam Papers, the level of difficulty of the civil services preliminary examination is not too high. Generally, it is of the level that any person, with basic awareness of the world around us, can qualify. However, it is important to keep in mind that tackling the civil services preliminary examination requires a comprehensive understanding of the subjects covered by the examination.
Given the nature of the exam and level of competition, an aspirant should prepare a study plan, keeping in mind his/her strengths and weaknesses.
Thus, the preparation should start with a plan to create a basic understanding of the different subjects like reading NCERT Books etc. It should be noted that, since the task of an administrator is to manage the different aspects of the administration, a civil servant should be aware of the different issues and disciplines.
Thus, the first task that confronts an aspirant is to understand the different subjects. The understanding should not limit to just 'mugging up' the topics, but, to understand the logic and learn the ideas behind it. The recent trends of the UPSC examinations have witnessed a shift from the traditional descriptive questions to more analytical questions. Thus, UPSC has been trying to look out for the candidates who are able to link the different topics and make connections between them.
Thus, the aspirant should study, with an aim of understanding the underlying logic of the subject. A more logical approach, in this regard is to select the subjects, that the aspirant is comfortable with, and then to move towards more complex topics.
Let's take up an example of how to prepare for the Prelims Paper-I:
Note: the idea given here is just indicative. You must prepare as per your understanding and comfort level.
Possible Strategy for Science Students:
for a person with a Science Background, the preparation might start with geography. It is important that while studying any subjects, logical connections are established between the theory and practice. For example, while studying geography, study the theory and try to link it with the reality. This would help in keeping the facts in mind. Next, complete the subject, and move to the other subject of interest. For instance, after geography take history, and then Polity, and then Economy, and so on.
This systematic approach would help the candidate move ahead with a comprehensive knowledge base, while ensuring the linkage between different subjects.
Possible Strategy for a Commerce Student:
for these IAS Aspirants, the preparation might start with an in-depth study of Indian economy and the latest trends. Since the basics are already clear, the person might move to studying polity, history, science, environment, and so on.
It shall be noted that it is important to maintain a continuity in the study plan. A rational study plan can help in maintaining the flow of the studies, which can maintain the interest and productivity.
Possible Strategy for an Arts/Humanities Student:
for these IAS Aspirants, you might begin with the re-enforcement of the social science subjects, and then move towards economy, science and environment.
Don't try to mug up every thing that is covered under the Preliminary examination syllabus.
Always maintain a proper link between the different subjects and topics. This will help you in the Long run.
Try to know your areas of strengths and weaknesses, and prepare the study plan according.
If something is too difficult to understand or too complex to grasp, don't stress yourself by Over-indulging in it. Rather, try to compensate for the topic by strengthening the other topics.
It might not be rational to take risk by attempting the questions that you are not sure about. A more rational approach is to secure your place in the merit list, and not taking risk of attempting all the answers.
Paper-II (CSAT) is more scoring, as compared to the Paper-I. Thus, the candidate should try to fetch maximum marks in the second paper.
What's the CSAT Riddle?
The CSAT examination is conducted to test the general aptitude of the candidates. An advantage for the civil services aspirant is that the level of difficulty is not as high as it is in the CAT or other management examinations. Thus, any serious aspirant can fetch as high as 170+ marks in the CSAT examination.
Tackling the CSAT is a simple task. Since the level of difficulty is not high, a candidate can fetch high marks by understanding the basic concepts of reasoning, English, decision making, and data interpretation. This does not require as much effort as needed for Paper-I. Initial preparation can be done by studying any basic material on aptitude.
However, to fetch good marks, practice is very important. For example- even if you practice 50 questions daily, for about 50 days, it would suffice.
For decision making, it is important to understand the basic principles that guide the decision making process of an administrator. An added advantage of the decision making section, in the CSAT, is that there is no negative marking. Thus, a candidate can attempt all the questions in this section, without the fear of negative marking. Thus, an understanding of the decision making section can help in giving a boost to the aggregate marks of the candidate.
In CSAT, the old saying follow- 'Practice makes a Man perfect'. So practice some questions daily.
The difficultly level of CSAT is not too high. Thus, there is no need to feel panicked by the aptitude section.
It is a MYTH that CSAT favors the students with science and commerce background. In fact, the level of Questions in CSAT is that of Class X, and can be handled with simple Understanding.
The biggest advantage of CSAT is that- it does not need a whole year for preparation. It can be easily prepared in 3-4 months.
UPSC PRE Exam: The Right Approach
The Civil Services Preliminary Examination is onlt few days away. Therefore, the time has come that a serious aspirant shall start preparing for the same. However, there are certain points that should be remembered to the upcoming examination:
The First and Most Important 'Mantra' for any Civil Services Aspirant is to be consistent with the studies. Once you loose touch with the study plan, things start to deteriorate. Thus, it is a sacred duty of any civil servant to maintain consistency in the study plan. However, it is also important to maintain the contact with the outside. Civil Services, in these days, is not the forte of the bookworms.
Make a concrete plan of study. The amount of time does not matter. What matters is the matter that you can grasp with an adequate level of understanding. Thus, don't fall for the market rumors of 10-12 hours study. Rather, prepare a short and long-term goal for yourself, based on you strengths and weaknesses.
Don't get demotivated by the market claims. Have trust in yourself and the material you have. However, it is also important to check the authenticity and reliability of the resources that you are relying on.
Read NEWSPAPER Current Affairs daily, whether Hindu, Indian Express, or any other reputed paper. It is a cliche, but a necessary one. Learn how and what to read in a newspaper. Also, instead of jumping between different papers, stick to a good daily and develop a comprehensive understanding, by linking what you read with what you have read. It is also important to keep a track of major event and developments. Since, it is humanly impossible to remember everything for a long time, it is advisable to maintain a record of the major developments and event from the newspaper. However, it is also an art to develop notes from the newspaper. Instead of cutting the strips of the paper, just write down the main development. This would hardly take an hour, but can be very productive in the long run.
Write down the upsc syllabus and the different areas, and keep a record of your progress. This would help in evaluating your performance. After all, self-study is nothing but a psychological game. Thus, evaluate yourself regularly.
How to Cover the UPSC Syllabus?
The syllabus of the civil services is a giant. It might not be possible to cover each and every topic with full understanding and expertise. Therefore, one must adopt a strategy that can ensure maximum possible marks.
The first thing is to understand is the structure of the examination. Given the multiplicity of the disciplines and issues, the weightage of every topic is in a fixed proportion. Once that is understood, it is important to decide, before hand, which sections to be prepared strongly, and which ones are to be left feeble.
However, leaving a topic does not mean complete abandonment of it. Even if a topic is difficult, an attempt should be made to go through it a few times, so as to get some elementary knowledge.
The questions asked in the civil services preliminary examination are categorized, according to their difficulty level. Thus, going by the recent trends, about 70% of the questions lie in the intermediate level of difficulty, while about 15% questions fall under the category of Easy level. The remaining 15% questions come under the high difficulty level. Therefore, an aspirant shall not waste the time in digging deep in search of resources, rather, one must reinforce the knowledge base and understand the various disciplines. A basic understanding of the different subjects can secure one's place in the next stage of examination process.
Best of Luck for UPSC Exams!