Saturday, July 23, 2011

Preparing for Civil Service Exams

Preliminary exam:
The format for preliminary exam has changed from this year. From this year on, UPSC has introduced what is called as Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). It has two papers, paper 1 and paper 2. The syllabus for the two of them is as follows:
Paper 1 (200 marks) - Duration: Two hrs.
  • 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 environmental ecology, bio-diversity and climate change-that do not require subject specialization
  • General science.
(Paper II) (200 marks) – Duration : Two hrs
  • 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.

Preparing for Paper 1:
The trend is changing from asking fact based questions to asking analytical questions. Stress is now on to see whether the candidate has in depth understanding of issues or has only superficial knowledge of them. So it is important to get into the core of the things instead of just hovering over the surface. For instance, while reading about various schemes it is not enough to just know what it is but also to know when was it started, in how many districts it is being implemented, its various clauses etc.  If one could club the preparation of main exam and prelims, then it is surely going to help as while preparing for the written exam one develops a broader understanding of topics which would help to score well in prelims too.
·         Two newspapers daily. The Hindu and Indian Express are the newspapers that I read.
·         India Year book. It is a very useful resource. Do not skip reading it. For Indian history, read NCERTs and Spectrum
·         For geography, read NCERTs. I also read class notes of vajiram and ravi institute, New Delhi and their hand outs. But if that is not available then one can read special editions of Pratiyogita Darpan or Civil Service Chronicle. Do not miss reading about the latest Census.
·         For polity, read Lakshmi kant for constitution; one should know about fundamental rights, human rights, UN Charter of human rights, national human rights commission, child rights commission, international human rights organizations, The role of Supreme Court in the interpretation of constitutionally guaranteed rights, etc; one can go to and know the latest schemes of the government.
·         For economics and social development read India Year book, follow newspapers and magazines, Geography NCERT on human geography.
·         For environment, read all the different protocols and conventions, their genesis and their clauses. Go to the website of Ministry of Environment and Forest to know about the treaties India is a part of, latest initiatives taken by the government, and the environment policy of the Government of India.
·         For General Science, read NCERTs. Also keep your eyes and ears open to new concepts in science, those scientific terms that are in news etc.
·         Read all the special editions as that would broaden your knowledge base. As there is no fixed syllabus, try and accumulate as much knowledge as possible from different sources.
·         Go to for latest article on various topics.

Preparing for Paper 2:
There are several books available in bookshops on logical reasoning and analytical ability, and general mental ability. One can read Maths NCERTs of 7th to 10th for basic numeracy and data interpretation. For comprehension, one should develop the habit of reading newspapers. This goes for students from Hindi medium too. Please do not be disappointed with the introduction of questions on English comprehension as the questions are not very difficult to answer. Further, read an English language newspaper every day to improve your comprehension skills.

Written Exam:
Written exam is the most important step in your path for becoming a Civil Servant. It will translate your dream into reality. So, undoubtedly, you need to give your heart and soul into its preparations. Now, the most important thing to realize is that there are almost 4 months’ gap between prelims and mains and the result for prelims comes somewhere in the middle. One has to make the maximum utilization of this time. Often, candidates (usually first attempters) wait for the result to be out before they start preparing for the written exam. Please do not do this! The two months between prelims and result are very crucial and are not to be wasted. Those who secure good ranks are not the ones who wait for the result. They start studying a week after the prelims. Focus, determination, and smart hard work sail you through this exam. Any compromise with hard work will be counter-productive. So put your best foor forward and do not leave any stone unturned!

Preparing for General Studies:
There are two papers in General Studies. The syllabus for the two of them is as follows:
Paper I
(1) History of Modern India and Indian Culture
The History of Modern India will cover history of the Country from about the middle of nineteenth century and would also include questions on important personalities who shaped the freedom movement and social reforms. The part relating to Indian culture will cover all aspects of Indian culture from the ancient to modern times as well as principal features of literature, arts and architecture.
(2) Geography of India
In this part, questions will be on the physical, economic and social geography of India.
(3) Constitution of India and Indian Polity
This part will include questions on the Constitution of India as well as all constitutional, legal, administrative and other issues emerging from the politico-administrative system prevalent in the country.
(4) Current National issues and topics of social relevance
This part is intended to test the candidate's awareness of current national issues and topics of social relevance in present-day India, such as the following:

(i) The Indian economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
(ii) Issues arising from the social and economic exclusion of large sections from the benefits of development.
(iii) Other issues relating to the development and management of human resource.
(iv) Health issues including the management of Public Health, Health education and ethical concerns regarding health-care, medical research and pharmaceuticals.
(v) Law enforcement, internal security and related issues such as the preservation of communal harmony.
(vi) Issues relating to good governance and accountability to the citizens including the maintenance of human rights, and of probity in public life.
(vii) Environmental issues, ecological preservation, conservation of natural resources and national heritage.
(1) India and the World
This part will include questions to test candidate's awareness of India's relationship with the world in various spheres such as the following:-
  • Foreign Affairs with special emphasis on India’s relations with neighbouring countries and in the region.
  • Security and defence related matters.
  • Nuclear policy, issues, and conflicts.
  • The Indian Diaspora and its contribution to India and the world.
(2) India’s Economic Interaction with the World
In this part, questions will be on economic and trade issues such as foreign trade, foreign investment; economic and diplomacy issues relating to oil, gas and energy flows; the role and functions of I.M.F., World Bank, W.T.O., WIPO etc. which influence India’s economic interaction with other countries and international institutions.
(3) Developments in the Field of Science & Technology, IT and space
In this part, questions will test the candidate's awareness of the developments in the field of science and technology, information technology, space and basic ideas about computers, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and related issues regarding intellectual property rights.
(4) International Affairs and Institutions
This part will include questions on important events in world affairs and on international institutions.
(5) Statistical analysis, graphs and diagrams
This part will test the candidate's ability to draw conclusions from information presented in statistical, graphical or diagrammatical form and to interpret them.

·         For History, read Bipan Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence. This is a very useful resource and should not be missed.  You would have already read NCERT and Spectrum for prelims so you can give them a quick read if you wish.
·         For geography, read NCERTs and special editions. Also you should know the map of India and the world very well. Besides, if there is a geological event in news, like tsunami etc, then read in depth about it.
·         For Constitution, read Lakshmi Kant. Have a clear understanding of the fundamentals of our constitution. This is extremely important to score well in your GS paper. Also, newspaper reading is of great help here.
·         For current national issues and topics of social relevance, read the newspaper and one magazine regularly. Besides, subscribe to the Frontline and read relevant articles from there. Also, read Yojana magazine regularly. Read the India Year book to know about the various social sector schemes. Use the internet whenever possible. As I said, go to the website It has topic-wise articles on subjects and they update the website on a regular basis. Further, know your stats on various health pointers and read articles on them. Newspapers and magazines write regularly on these issues. Finally, you should know all the environmental treaties, what they pertain to, their clauses etc. Different environmental issues in news, India’s environment policy, steps taken by the government, etc.  Read special editions on environment.
·         Two/three/five markers have become very important now. So read the newspaper closely for all the different personalities in newspapers, right from award winners, to PIOs in news, places in news. Know about all the latest infrastructural projects. If there is a big one under construction, like the Golden Quadrilateral etc.

Paper II:

·         India and the world: Newspaper (especially Indian Express) and World Focus magazine. Also visit the website of Ministry of External Affairs to know the recent changes in the bilateral relations between India and other countries. India’s nuclear policy and its nuclear program and different treaties and conventions pertaining to nuclear energy should be known. India’s defence policy, its missile program, latest defence related purchases. For this you can read Wizard’s special edition for main exam and also visit the website of ministry of defence.  Rather, follow the news on people if Indian origin/NRIs closely in the newspapers and magazines.
·         For India’s Economic relations with the world read special issue on economy of Pratiyogita Darpan.
·         For Science and Technology, read newspapers, magazines, internet, vigyan prasar, etc.
·         For statistics, get a standard book on statistics and practice past year’s question paper.
·         Also, go to the website . It is a very good source for information on various issues. It is Government of India’s official website.

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