About The Civil Services Exam
Who conducts it? Ans:UPSC (Union Public Service Commission)
About the ‘services’? Ans:There are 24 services. All-India Services (2), Group A Services (17), Group B Central Services (5)
Exam centres? Ans:45 across India
Can blind candidates appear for the exam? Ans:Yes, from any of the seven centres – Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Dispur and Mumbai
Who can apply? Ans:Candidates who have attained 21 years of age
Maximum age limit? Ans:32 years (3 years’ relaxation for OBCs, defence personnel disabled during combat operations, 5 years for SCs, STs, J&K domicile and ex-servicemen, and 10 years for blind, deaf, mute and orthopaedically-handicapped)
Stages of the Exam
There are three stages – Preliminary, Mains and Interview.
Two compulsory papers -- General Studies Paper 1 and General Studies Paper II, of 200 marks each and featuring objective multiple-choice questions
Two stages – written exam (1750 marks) and interview (275 marks)
Written exam has two papers -- one qualifying in nature and the other for merit Nine papers are conventional essay type. Of them, two (compulsory English and language papers) are qualifying in nature. Marks secured for the rest of the papers (compulsory papers -- Paper-I to Paper VII) are considered for merit.
Candidates called for interview will number about twice the number of vacancies. Interview marks are counted for final ranking.
Marks secured in Mains (written and interview) are counted for final ranking. Candidates are allotted services based on their ranking and preference of Services and Posts.
‘Knowing where you want to go helps you get there.’
As mentioned earlier, a mix of hard work and smart work should help you crack the Civil Services. The around 1000 candidates who make it go through the rigours, ups and downs and highs and lows associated with all competitive exams.
Plan. Settle into a study routine. Shed laziness. Devote. Involve. Immerse yourself. Observe. Organise and order. Brush up basics of relevant topics. Make notes meticulously. Get good grasp of relevant subjects, topics and issues and critically analyse them.
Refer previous years’ question papers. Stick to the syllabus. Keep going back to the syllabus to check what is relevant. Discard the irrelevant without any mercy – it will keep you from wandering, and save time and wasted effort. Ruthlessly implement what you plan.
Discuss with teachers and friends. It will aid memory and discovery of angles you may not have thought of before. Stay alert for every bit of information that comes your way while you pore over study material or flip through newspapers and magazines.
Fix deadlines to cover subjects and topics and stick to it. Enjoy the pressure, keep working and stay on track, something we at VAJIRAO give importance to. You will be rewarded. And as they say, the view from the top when you reach there will be worth the effort!
PRELIMS: The First Step
The Preliminary Exam is a screening test to filter our candidates for the Mains Exam. Marks secured in Prelims are not considered for determining the final merit list.
The number of candidates selected for the Mains Exam on the basis of the Prelims Exam is about 12 or 13 times the total number of vacancies.
There are two papers in Prelims – CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) and other General Studies -- common for all candidates. The two papers are of two hours each. Each has 100 multiple-choice questions. The papers are held in two sessions on the same day.
Tips to tackle Prelims:
General Studies Paper I: General Studies is, as the term suggests, ‘general and, therefore, vast. You need to know about almost every topic under the sun -- Indian history and polity, geography, science, economy, current affairs and sports. As questions are objective type, paying attention to the smallest details of subjects and topics in the syllabus is essential. Above all, taking notes and revising them is a must. Questions can be asked from anywhere.
There will be more questions from a certain subject depending on its relevance in a certain year. So, you need to stay tuned to latest developments with regard to subjects -- especially polity, economy, science and geography.
There is a trend to ask questions that test candidates’ understanding of concepts and theories. So, you need to get a grasp over the basics of subjects and topics and the background of issues to form a clear understanding of them. The NCERT syllabus can be a useful resource to understand the fundamentals of many subjects, but candidate should use it only as a launching pad to go deeper and understand application-based aspects.
Developments in polity, science and technology, economy, international relations and sports are almost every day. So, following latest news reports and analysis on these is indispensable Further, questions can be interdisciplinary in nature. A question like the impact of India’s Mars mission on India’s global standing combines science and international relations. In short, no topic or subject should be left out.
Syllabus Paper I (200 marks) – 2 hours
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
General Studies Paper II:
This paper tests your aptitude, ability to analyse data and English language comprehension skills. More than half of the questions pertain to comprehension, logical reasoning and analytical ability. A third of the questions are intended to test general mental ability and basic numeracy skills. Some questions test your decision-making ability.
A number of the questions test the candidate’s administrative and ethical judgment, ability for logical thinking. You can answer these with common sense and taking an honest approach.
Syllabus Paper II (200 marks): 2 hours
Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
Logical reasoning and analytical ability
Decision-making and problem-solving
General mental ability
Basic numeracy (Class X level) – numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.; Data interpretation -- charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc.
A lot of the answers for subjects have specific answers. At least some you can predict. Not so with English. With English, you will have to comprehend or understand a given question or passage. Hence, General Studies Paper II English will test your comprehension skills. In fact, it is a preparatory for the compulsory English paper that you have to clear in the Mains.
Tips to tame the English paper:
Read the given passage carefully.
Go through the questions first before reading the passage. It will help you spot the answers when you read, and save time.
Read with interest and try to catch the main idea in the passage.
The first few lines and the last few lines may give you the clue to what the passage is trying to convey.
Watch out for words like ‘but’, ‘however’, ‘yet’, ‘although’ that might convey an idea different from that in the preceding sentence.
Solve previous years’ question papers.
Practice will perfect you
Test of decision-making ability:
Decision-making is a critical attribute for civil servants. Hence, questions will test the candidate’s decision-making and problem-solving skills. The basic thing you should do is base your decisions on logic and ethics. A separate paper on "ethics, integrity and aptitude", of 250 marks, was introduced in the Mains exam from 2013.
Test of General Mental Ability:
Most of the questions on data interpretation can be solved quite easily. Brush up your Arithmetic – Percentages, Ratio and Proportion, Time, Speed and Distance, Time and Work, SI/CI and Profit Loss and Discount. Also, get a grasp of Permutation and Combination. Solving previous years’ question papers will help.
MAINS: Don't Drop Your Guard!
The Mains, as the word suggests, means ‘most important’. So pull up your socks. This is the time to go the extra mile, put that extra effort, carrying on from where you left in the Prelims. The focus should be to gain in depth understanding of subjects in the syllabus.
While preparing for the Mains, sorting the papers under broad categories will make learning easier. You can put them under ‘fundamental’ and ‘critical’ heads. As mentioned earlier, a grasp of the fundamentals and relevance of concepts in terms of applicability is a must. Further, understand the interdisciplinary nature of subjects and topics. Take notes on relevant news items.
General Studies holds the key to success. Marks for GS have been increased from 600 to 1000 in 2013 – 750, excluding marks of the newly-introduced ethics and aptitude paper. As per the new pattern, there are four GS papers. In fact, preparing for GS of Mains will equip you for the Prelims GS as well. Here again, taking notes is very important.
A majority of questions in Mains will be based on current affairs. Facts are important in Prelims. In Mains, it is analysis and perspective that will be useful when you reach the interview stage, which will be more a test of your outlook towards issues than your knowledge of facts. That does in no way mean you can ignore facts.
Here too, you need to identify and focus on what is relevant. It will save time and keep you focused.
An understanding of the Indian Constitution and politics is indispensable. Knowledge of Indian polity is important for both Prelims and Mains. You can expect more questions on Polity in the Mains.
Get a good grasp of Fundamental Rights, DPSPs, Union government, good governance, e-governance and related topics. Instead of just memorising, take an in depth and analytical approach taking into account current trends.
The maze of Indian Economics can be both challenging and engaging, given its relevance in our everyday lives. Along with the current trends in the national and international economy, you need to understand theoretical and data-centric aspects, too. Get a good understanding of developmental economics related to poverty and unemployment, Five-Year Plans, especially the latest, and survey reports, among others.
A good number of questions in GS are from History, in both Prelims and Mains. The new syllabus includes Indian Heritage and Culture, and post-Independence consolidation. In fact, an understanding of the history of everything, from countries to political parties to government policies, is important.
Indian History and Culture is a very important segment of the GS paper in Prelims and Mains. An understanding of Ancient, Medieval and Modern Indian History is essential. Ancient Indian history is divided into Prehistoric, Proto-historic and Historic. Questions from Prehistoric and Proto-historic focus on archaeological findings and historical sites. In the Historic age section, socio-cultural aspects such as social changes, literature, art and architecture and religious life are the focus, rather than the political aspects.
Similarly, from the Medieval period, literature, architecture, painting and technological developments are important. Modern Indian History deserves more attention. Here, study the chronology of major events, especially during the freedom struggle. History section for GS Mains also includes history of world events from the 18th century.
You can expect a good number of questions on physical, social and economic geography of India and the world.
Questions have also been asked on the structure and composition of the universe, tsunami, earthquakes, tectonic movements, soil, rocks, landforms, components of atmosphere, insolation, wind systems, cyclones, meteorological instruments, climatic regions of the world, ocean currents, physiographical features of India, and geographical distribution of minerals, agriculture, industries and population.
Mains exam has regularly featured questions from natural geography (monsoon, crops, etc), besides the El Nino phenomenon. Environmental issues deserve special attention. Some other important topics are floods, drought, heat budget, Western Disturbance, weather forecasting, sea-level rise and urbanisation, arid zone, shifting agriculture, dams, river systems and irrigation projects.
Equally important are environmental degradation and conservation, global warming, social forestry, pollution and related issues and bio-diversity.
This includes Physics, Chemistry and Biology and is particularly important for the prelims but also sets the tone for Mains. Application of science in science and technology is of significance.
INTERVIEW: The Last Stage
‘I think therefore I am.’ – Rene Decartes, French philosopher
You are what you are because of the way you think. Honesty and uprightness, with yourself and your interviewers, will go a long way in helping you clear the last stage. The UPSC notification says questions will be asked on ‘general interest’.
Besides, the interview will evaluate your:
Critical powers of assimilation
Clear and logical exposition
Balance of judgment
Variety and depth of interest
Ability for social cohesion and leadership
Intellectual and Moral integrity
The objective of Personality Test: It will assess how suitable you are for a career in public service. It will assess the overall personality traits that you have acquired over the years. Keeping a positive outlook will see you through this stage. In addition to your grasp of facts, equally important is ‘how’ you answer questions on them, and the stand you take.
If you have done your homework well during the Prelims and Mains and grasped subjects and topics thoroughly and stay updated about key issues around you and in the world, interview shouldn’t be a problem.
ALL THE BEST!