First, let us tell you in detail about how prepare and face the preliminary examination in civil service examination, also how to choose to main subjects for the main examination
The Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) includes two objective type question papers of two hundred marks and two hours time duration for each paper. One is on General Studies and the other is General Aptitude Paper( which has now replaced the optional subject that was there earlier). With the Civil Service exam having very limited seats, its a very difficult exam to crack. Many students appear multiple times to clear it.
Changes in formats of question papers always tend to create a lot of mental discomfort in students. Many students are fearful of subjects like mathematics. This fear may be baseless considering the changes lay greater emphasis on the “aptitude” which mainly involves reasoning skills and not just mathematics.
The civil services examination is basically a test to choose suitable administrators. It tests the candidate right from the stage when one starts the preparation. One common misconception about the prelims is that it is a test of facts and figures. That was never so and specially now. A candidate should have the right frame of mind and the will power to succeed in the exam. A proper action plan is needed for the preparation itself since he /she will be tested for some essential qualities like power of retention, clarity of concepts, ability to identify the correct alternatives with efficiency and accuracy. All this requires a quick decision making power.
With the new pattern, more stress is on language skills and analysis and decision making capacities. So work on these on a consistent basis as these are skills that are developed over years and not just in a few months. It would be advisable to start focusing on your problem solving and language skills as soon as you decide to take these exams.
Paper 1 is on General Studies
This includes areas like Indian National Movement, Indian Polity, Basic Economic Understanding, Geography while the dynamic part includes current affairs, GK and has no proper definition and syllabus making quite vast.
Paper 2 includes English, mathematics, reasoning, analytical ability, and interpersonal skills. Unlike paper 1 which has a static part this paper provides no such respite.
Unlike paper 1 where quantity of questions is a major determinant for the static section paper 2 cannot be tamed without solving quality questions, though few in number. Since the preliminary exam in particular is a test of endurance the candidate needs to prepare himself on the physical as well as mental level. The main constraint is the time one gets to answer questions. On an average one gets around 40 seconds for each question. Added to this time constraint is the fact that the exam is conducted in the month of May which is usually the hottest month all over the country. Most of the centres for the exam do not have proper facilities which adds to the stress. One sure way of dealing with this stress is to count numbers or to take a few deep breaths. Meditation and Yoga also help in dealing with stress to a great extent.
Now we come to the actual preparation for the preliminary exam. Since it is a multiple choice question paper, it needs a different preparation and a proper strategy. The first thing a candidate needs to bear in mind is that the examination is designed to evaluate certain qualities like a sharp memory and basic retention power. There are ways to increase one's memory like preparing charts. One gets confused when faced with mind boggling facts and figures. Important facts and figures can be simplified and represented on charts and they can be arranged in the form of tables or graphs. Another thing to remember is to make short and brief notes on each topic so that the entire syllabus can be revised a day before the exam.
It is better to use diagrams and link words which make it easier to understand difficult concepts. One more technique to help in retaining information is the use of abbreviations. Since the syllabus involves exhaustive information abbreviations help you to remember it better. It is a good method to remember dates, facts and figures in a picture format and to break up complex names and places into smaller and simpler words. The last and the most important technique is doing regular revision. This helps in retaining the maximum information. A separate time slot should be given to doing not only regular but multiple revisions like daily, weekly, monthly etc.
Many candidates make a mistake of overloading themselves with lots of information and end up remembering nothing. One should be able to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information. Since the preliminary exam is an elimination round the candidate should also learn to focus only on the information needed and filter out the rest. It helps to discuss with friends and teachers but the most reliable way is to solve past years question papers. One should also keep abreast with current events and information related to them.
An important thing to remember is that for this exam it is just enough to remember information but to understand the concepts well instead of memorizing facts and figures. The questions asked are of 10+2 level. Therefore emphasis has to be on conceptual clarity. Any concept has to be understood with its origin, merits and de-merits, then it needs to be analysed with other relevant topics and lastly it has to be correlated with the events that have taken place during the year.
The preliminary exam requires candidates who have the acumen and the ability to choose the right option of many given options. This needs a proper method of elimination. It is a good idea to go through previous years and model question papers and solve as many as possible. Taking a mock test of a certain number of G.S. questions and mathematics and general ability questions would be a good practice and help to pick out the most appropriate option.
Each prelims paper is for two hours but a lot of time is wasted in signing attendance sheets etc, therefore there is a lot of need for effective Time Management not only for the exam but in the preparation as well. It is not enough to know the right answer but it has to be marked correctly on the answer sheet. Speed and Accuracy are important, so solving model question papers on a regular basis would be a great help.
A good presence of mind is needed to eliminate the least appropriate options and arrive at the right one. However beware of negative marking, so it is better to mark only sure shot answers than making guesses.
Throughout the preparation for the prelims exam, it is important to remember that any topic or concept should not be studied in isolation. It is better to understand and establish a correlation between related concepts from other subjects and current events and happenings.
Subject Strategy - How to Choose your subjects for the Mains exam
How to choose a subject? That's one question that haunts many students who many times, loose precious time waiting for that decision to happen. Now that UPSC has done away with specific subjects at the preliminary stage, students should perhaps find it easier to get down to preparations straight away. Even then, One should choose one's subject well ahead of time, so as to have ample time to collect notes and books, and also to form study groups.
Normally one should select optional, which one is familiar with, or has at least studied till the graduate level. If you are not comfortable with the subject, you should not select the subject as an optional. But the choice should not only be as per your interests but also be based on the study material available. Even science and engineering students take up subjects like history, sociology, anthropology, grography, political science, psychology and public administration because there is a huge amount of study material available in these subjects. Also keep in mind that you may have been proficient in a subject, but lack of touch may make it tougher to crack technical subject where freshers may do better. The competition is among the people who have opted for the same subject.
One should top in his/her subject to succeed in the examination. The Point is, if you are an electrical engineer with 2 years of experience go for a new subject like public administration or sociology.
Analyze the syllabus of previous years and the question papers, and analyze past trends. Get some feedback/advice from seniors and fellow students who are well versed in the subject. Remember no subject is bad. History is good if you can spend more than 4-5 hours every day. Geography is a good option if you can spend at least 4 hrs every day. Pub Ad, more than 3 hours. Sociology, more than 2 hours and so on.... So, it all depends on how much time you can spend a day and your liking of the subject. You have a very good memory then a technical subject may help else a social subject would be better. Lastly look for overlap in subjects like, sociology and public administration; history and political science etc.
Subject Combinations not allowed by UPSC for IAS exam
The following are some combinations that the UPSC does not allow:
Political Science & International Relations and Public Administration
Commerce and Management
Anthropology and Sociology
Maths and Statistics
Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
Management and Public Administration
Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science and Medical Science
Any two branches of engineering.
Combination of two literatures.
Even with all this preparation, it is necessary to have a positive attitude and a great amount of will power to succeed to achieve your goal that of getting through the civil services examination with flying colors!