General Strategy

— Ms. Anuj Malik, IAS Topper 2016-17 (16th Rank)

The Civil Services Examination is considered one of the most toughest examinations of our country. This examination takes place in three stages i.e. Preliminary, Mains and Interview. Thus a detailed strategy is required to ace the examination.

For the Preliminary level, a detailed strategy is required to tackle the multiple choice questions and the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). For General Studies Paper I, a thorough reading of basic NCERTs is required. The booklist should include all the NCERTs from Class VI to Class XII. Along with this a detailed reading  of standard books such as Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth, Physical Geography by G.C. Leong is required.

The next input required for Prelims paper one is regular reading of the newspaper such as The Hindu and competitive magazines such as Competition Success Review. A reading of such magazines gives an edge in the examination. As the Preliminary level is focussing on current affairs, acquaintance with it is a must.

Along with self-study, a regular practice of mock test papers is required. Practising questions for prelims helps in strategising the elimination technique.

The Competition Success Review magazine provides mock test papers of various coaching institutions. Thus a regular follow-up of these questions helps to minimise negative score and optimise the positive marks.

To improve score at Prelims level, a regular practice from a standard Atlas is also required. To tackle CSAT paper, a revision of Class X Maths syllabus is required. Along with it a regular comprehension practice is also required. The CSAT paper also checks the logical and analytical abilities of a candidate. Along with this it also checks the problem solving and decision making ability of the candidate.

To perform well on these parameters, a regular practice of decision making is required. This can be done by discussing daily problems with friends and family. Following such a strategy helps to take decisions in lesser amount of time. Along with this, practice of data and graph interpretation questions is also required.

After preparing for Prelims level, the next stage of preparation is the Mains level. It is the most important stage of this examination. A candidate’s writing skills, time management and analytical skills are checked at this level.

Further this stage of examination consists of one Essay examination, four papers on General Studies and two papers on the Optional subject. To prepare for essay, a generalist approach is required. The essay should be written in simple language and should consist of diverse interpretation of a given topic.

The best strategy to prepare for essay is to do it with the General Studies preparation. Along with this a regular essay writing practice is also needed. To tackle the four papers of General Studies, a step by step strategy is required. The syllabus of GS I, II and III papers is overlapping with the Prelims preparation. So along with reading of books, an answer writing practice should also be done.

To write answers in a good format, the answer should be divided into 3 parts i.e. the introduction, the body of the answer and the conclusion to the answer. Also, writing answers in point form gives the answer a very pleasant appeal. Answer to a given question should always contain suggestions on a positive way out to a given problem.

Writing good answers in the examination requires a regular practice. This can be done by solving previous years’ papers. Also mock test series are also helpful to write good answers. The General Studies Paper-IV is the paper on ethics, aptitude and integrity.  The syllabus of this paper is quite different from the pattern of other papers in the Main Examination. The GS-IV Paper is divided into two parts i.e. theoretical part and case studies part.

To score good marks in Part A of the ethics paper, a basic study of all the terms of the syllabus is required. After familiarising oneself with terms such as leadership, compassion etc., their application is required in day-to-day-life of a civil servant.

The Part-B of GS-IV Paper deals with case studies, which involve decision making powers of an aspirant and also his or her problem solving ability. To answer case studies well, the question should be read 2 to 3 times.  Along with it a highlight of key terms should be done. The answer to case studies should take into consideration all the stakeholders involved in a given situation and also all the possible solutions to a given problem should be listed down.

Eventually the best alternative should be selected by the candidate, which should be backed with a logical argument. Thus the key to master General Studies paper is memorisation of important areas of the syllabus, focus on current events and answer writing practice. This allows better time management in the final examination.

Next, to prepare for Optional subject, a slightly different strategy is required as compared to the General Studies portion.

The most basic hurdle for Optional preparation is the selection of optional subject itself. One should select such an optional subject with which one is familiar and most interested in. UPSC offers more than 20 optional subjects, so to make a rational choice, one should understand the syllabus of a given optional and also the kind of questions which are asked in the examination.

After taking into consideration all the above factors, a serious candidate should begin Optional preparation in a gradual manner. Firstly basic reading of NCERTs on the given Optional should be done. Post that advanced study should begin along with note-making on all the areas of a given Optional.

A sincere preparation of the Optional would require 5 to 6 months of self study. So, to keep oneself motivated during this time period, a general interest should be cultivated in the Optional subject. Along with time, linkage of theory with current life events is also required.

Answers to Optional papers in the Main Examination should consist of relevant examples backed with theoretical explanation. Proper use of flowcharts and diagrams in the answers make them objective and consumes less time while answering them.

Thus the key to perform well in Main Examination is hard work, along with a disciplined strategy. Answer writing is the most important part of this level of the examination.

The final step of Civil Services Examination is the personality test or the interview. As it is a test of personality, thus a requirement of a pleasant and impressive personality is a must for the interview. This stage of examination does not focus on knowledge test but only on the personality test of an individual.

The only area which can be prepared for the interview is the detailed application form. As this form consists of all the necessary details about the candidate, it should be filled with utmost sincerity and honesty. The candidate should prepare on all the facts and details given in the form.

A special focus for the interview preparation should be given on the graduation subjects, optional subject and the current national and international events. The interview board can ask questions on any related area of the background of the candidate.

The best strategy to prepare for the interview is to develop communication skills, which can be done by speaking with friends or practising in front of the mirror. Confidence-building activities should be done. As interview primarily focusses on the speaking skills of the candidate, so the answers to the questions should be to the point and in simple language.

The candidate should remain calm in the interview and should stay positive, even if he or she does not know the answer to a particular question.

The situation-based questions asked during the interview should be answered in a manner which is not polarised or anti-state in its orientation. Display of your true intentions and personality in the interview can help fetch great marks.

Thus, to conclude I can say that Civil Services Exam is a real check of patience and perseverance of a candidate. So to stay motivated during the preparation, the candidate should focus on the strong areas and such areas in which he or she can score well.

The ultimate key to clear this examination is hard work and discipline. Prepare a study plan for yourself and stick to that till the end of your preparation.

Further, never lose confidence in oneself and
never stop believing that you can clear this examination with flying colours. All major events begin with a
thought, so always keep positive thoughts in your mind. Bear in mind  that ultimate goal is to serve the nation and Civil Services is just a medium to achieve that goal in
our life.  

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