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How to make a good strategy for Civil Service Preliminary Examination?

Every year, UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination for various services such as IAS, IPS, IFS, etc; the competitive examination comprises three successive stages:

  1. Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination (Objective Type) for the selection of candidates for Main Examination;
  2. Civil Services (Main) Examination (Written) for the selection of candidates for the personality test or Interview and
  3. Civil Services Interview (Personality Test) for various Services and posts.

Post Includes Vital Tips for Civil Services Examination by Haritha S. Kumar (1st Rank Holder, CSE, 2013)

Enlighten Your Views on UPSC Tests

  • The topics of Paper – I fall under the umbrella of general awareness. The preparation for this paper may be treated as part of the preparation for the General Studies in the Mains Examination as well. 
  • General awareness can be broadly classified into two, namely classical or traditional knowledge and current affairs. 
  • The area covered by this paper is very vast. But you have to be selective on certain things, as otherwise learning may turn out to be tedious and boring. 
  • Traditional knowledge can be acquired well before the examination. But for current affairs, the preparation has to be continuous up to the examination. 
  • Aspirants should carefully watch current events and contemporary development in science, technology, economy, polity, sports, foreign relations, social issues and so on. New policies declared and launched by the government are important. You should pay attention to news analysis by experts, in the print and electronic media. 
  • Aspirants need not wait for the notification of the Civil Services Examination for starting your preparation for General Studies. Develop active interest in diverse subjects that are usually discussed in the public domain. If you maintain intellectual curiosity coupled with keen observation, half the battle is won. 
  • Many people are obsessed with “starting trouble”. They may go on postponing the commencement of their preparation. A very useful formula you can trust is “Do it now.”

It is a good idea to subject yourself to a self-test using a previous question paper, before intensive preparation. This exercise of pre-test will help you to assess where you stand – your strengths and weaknesses. This can offer some guidance regarding the emphasis you should give for specific areas during your preparation.

  • Paper – II does not check your knowledge of any subject in particular, but attempts to judge your overall aptitude and ability to effectively discharge the functions of an officer of the Civil Services in the form of administration and management. It involves certain aspects of psychometrics. 
  • An important attribute is the willingness to listen to others. The vital points have to be grasped quickly. A complainant may give an endless narration of his grievance. The officer should prove that he has understood the complaint, by summarising it. This is possible only if he has grasping power and effective communication skills. 
  • If he/she has good analytical skills, they can quickly reach the crux of the problem. Smooth interaction with others, especially strangers, calls for good interpersonal skills. All these should suggest that the test should examine comprehension, communication skills, interpersonal skills, reasoning and mental ability.
  • Another essential attribute is skill with numbers, which would help one to quickly quantify requirements, estimate revenue, judge sufficiency of funds, assess effectiveness of programme implementation and present statistical data in a convincing manner. 
  • Aspirants should not feel threatened by the complexity or the length of a comprehension passage. Be calm and tackle the passage with confidence. Some questions may be based on the common theme of the passage. Others may be confined to a particular paragraph or specific sentences.
  • Decision-making is indeed the key function of administrators. The essential guiding principle should be fair. You should not be a robot that interprets rules and implements them in cold blood. Your prejudices should not prevail over justice. Neither should the decision be based on your intuition or blind faith. A rational and humane approach should guide in your decision making process.
  • The General Mental Ability part checks your cognitive skills, an essential ingredient for effective performance of administrative functions. Questions may be asked using only words or with the aid of pictures as well. Lessons in arithmetic and bordering areas such as age and years / averages / clocks and needles / equations / logarithm / mensuration / partnership / percentage / permutations and combination / probability / profit and loss / ratio and proportion / simple and compound interest / time and distance / and time and work have to be brushed up.
  • Questions of data interpretation involve the simple process of translating what is given in diagrammatic form into verbal form, for the purpose of comprehension. It is well-known that data involving statistical figures, trends in economics / commerce and characteristics in science and technology are best represented using easily understandable tables, bar charts, graphs, histograms, pie-diagrams, Venn-diagram, etc. Once you are familiar with the style of representing data in these graphical forms, interpretation is fairly simple. If you solve a few problems of this kind, this segment should not trouble you.
  • A good score in this paper would reflect the right aptitude to face challenges in administration.

What Strategies should be Adopted in the Prelims Test?

Many will be unfamiliar with question papers exclusively of objective-type questions. The answering style has to be different from that of conventional descriptive papers in a State Board Examination or University Examinations. The very objective of preliminary examination is the elimination of a large number of candidates in the effort to identify the cream. There are only two papers in the preliminary examination. The questions are of the multiple-choice objective type.

  • It is impossible for anyone to prepare for tests solely based on the declared syllabus. The content of the syllabus is invariably vague. Only questions from the previous examinations can offer a reliable guidance in the matter.
  • Not to go for guesswork and hence one can easily avoid negative marks in the examination. Many aspirants managed to pick right answers, but they failed to clear prelims on account of the increasing number of wrong answers and negative marks. 
  • Even the best candidate may not be able to answer all the questions correctly in the allotted time; nor is it necessary to do so to clear the preliminary examinations. So when coming across a difficult question, skip it without a second thought. 
  • The objective papers are in general a time test, much more than a knowledge test.
  • For many candidates, the examination proves to be a test of nerves, since they take it as a life-and-death struggle. The performance of those who lack in confidence may not reflect their knowledge and capability. Hence, focus on nothing but the questions and answers, and not allow the mind to wander during the test.  
  • Increase answering speed through constant practice using questions of the previous examinations or with those of comparable standard, keeping time using a timer. The clock needle does not wait for anyone.
  • During rehearsals and the examination, follow certain styles to get the best results. If there are several independent points that would challenge your memory, you may make a mnemonic like VIBGYOR. This will help you remember the points in the right sequence.
  • Do not waste time by reading all the questions from the beginning to the end of the paper. This exercise is of no use, since there is no ‘choice’ in the questions. Not a moment should be wasted in the examination hall. All movements should be rehearsed repeatedly and things should proceed strictly according to plan.
  • Better read the questions one by one from the beginning and move forward answering the easy ones and skipping the tougher variety. You may get time for a second round to try a hand at the questions that were skipped. If some of the answers are partly correct, we should choose the most correct answer.
  • Make the preparation an enjoyable experience. Do not consider it a difficult task that can never be done satisfactorily by us. It is the will that paves the way.

Vital Tips for Civil Services Examination by Haritha S. Kumar (1st Rank Holder, CSE, 2013)

A quick look at the syllabi of the two papers of the preliminary examination will tell you that the first paper focuses on general knowledge, whereas the second paper stresses on reasoning and aptitude. The first paper may be treated as General Studies and the second one is sometimes called CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test). The approaches to the two papers have to be different for gaining mastery over their contents.

  • Garnering the syllabi and previous question papers
  • Planning schedules of preparation
  • Identifying the most useful sources of information
  • Selective gathering of the most useful information
  • Focused and goal-oriented learning
  • Practice tests
  • Learning from the errors committed in the practice tests
  • Correction of the errors and error-free work
  • Discussion with fellow candidates and focused group works
  • Select viable and interested optional subjects
  • Periodic review of work and consequent course-correction

Vital Tips for Civil Services Examination by Haritha S. Kumar (1st Rank Holder, CSE, 2013)

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