Civil Services Exam is the most coveted exam in India. Every year lakhs of Civil Services Aspirants begin their preparation for Civil Services exam, but only few of them successfully get through it. There are many reasons why some aspirants successfully crack the exam in first attempt, while others do not in any of the 6 attempts. It could be lack of right preparation strategy, lack of right guidance, lack of financial or family support and many other reasons.
Based on our analysis, we approached the most reputed institute, Chanakya IAS Academy to share their experts’ guidance to help us compile everything aspirants must know before beginning the preparation for Civil Services Exam. The article consists of valuable inputs and preparation guide shared by Mr. AK Mishra, Founder and Chairman of Chanakya IAS Academy.
To appear in Civil Services Exam, one must have a graduation degree in any stream from a recognized University. The canddiates waiting for the final result are also eligible to apply for civil services exam. Number of attempts and age limit varies for different categories. Students can get all the information about the eligibility critera and age limit by visiting www.upsc.gov.in
The exam dates are subject to change as per the UPSC guidelines. So, an aspirant is required to keep an eye on the new dates released by the commission on the official website.
Before stepping into the preparation, aspirants must have a thorough knowledge of what the exam is all about and what is the expectations or demand of the exam. Hence, mugging up the syllabus is the crucial step. The exam is conducted in 3 phases; Prelims, Mains and Interview.
Now let’s discuss the stage wise strategy
Points to note before appearing for UPSC Prelims exam 2018:
- The questions in the UPSC Prelims exams are objective type also called as multiple choice questions.
- There is “Negative Marking” in the Prelims exam. There is a penalty of 33% marks or 0.83 marks for every wrong answer. Though decision making and problem solving section doesn’t have negative marking.
- Blind candidates are allowed extra time of 20 mins for each paper.
- It is mandatory for the candidate to appear in both the papers (GS and CSAT) of Civil Services Prelims examination
As stated above, syllabus is the first and the most crucial step before you begin your preparation. Take a print out of UPSC Civil Services Exam syllabus, read it thoroughly, rather learn it and stick on your wall. By having knowledge of syllabus, you will know exactly what you need to cover to meet the demand of UPSC.
Choose optional subject wisely:
It’s of an immense importance to choose your optional wisely. You might be a victim of a continuous blabber from the unserious candidates about picking up a scoring optional. It is clearly a myth that an optional is a scoring or non-scoring. Contrarily to the previous statement, one must pick the optional in entirety of his/her personal interest, knowledge and academic background. Few things you must keep in mind;
- Every optional has equivalent amount of syllabus with an exception of one or two.
- The trendiness of an optional like geography and Public administration must not interfere with your decision of picking it.
- Always get an advice from a trusted source; either someone who has cleared the exam or a faculty. In short, someone has sound knowledge about the exam and its criticality.
Relevant Study Material:
As the syllabus is vast, candidates are suggested to prepare under the guidance of the trusted source and study only what is relevant. A concise approach is important to cover and meet the actual demand of UPSC. Build a knowledge base with NCERTs of 6th to 12th standard with integrated study plan. Once you form a stronger base, then go for standard books for each subject.
Read Newspaper and stay updated with Current Affairs:
Current Affairs has become a very important component in the emerging pattern of Civil Services Exam. The growing trend of current affairs based questions in all 3 stages has made it extremely important to stay updated with current happening around. Be it History, geography, international relations or take up any other subject, you will find maximum number of current affairs based questions. Hence, make a habit of reading Newspaper every day and do not forget to make notes. Read The Hindu and Indian Express; read editorials given in these 2 Newspapers. Besides, Focus on Issue rather than News. Suppose there is a news headlined as ‘HC orders floor test in Uttarakhand, allows disqualified MLAs to take part’, don’t focus on who is CM, who are disqualified MLAs, why they rebelled or so. Focus on the constitutional mechanism of forming and dissolving legislative assemblies, rules regarding the Presidential rule, Whether CM can disqualify MLAs before floor test, whether Court can interfere in matters of Presidential Rule, whether assembly can vote under presidential rule etc. Other important sources to stay updated with current affairs are pib.nic.in, Yojana.gov.in, prsindia.org, India Year Book, economic Survey, All India Radio, Rajya Sabha TV, Lok Sabha TV and other websites of various ministries.
Previous Year question Papers:
Once you get a basic knowledge about subject and topics with NCERTs and standard books, the next step is to get familiar with the examination pattern and questions format. For this, pick the question papers of past 5 years, analyze and solve them. Practice solving papers as much as you can within the stipulated time to improve your time management skills and your ability to handle trickier questions within the stipulated time.
Mock Tests reduce the scope of error or mistakes in the exam and prepare students to face real environment where they have to tackle and solve the questions within the stipulated time. Mock Tests/Test Series provide students a platform where they can assess their weaknesses, mistakes and with answer evaluations, they also develop a better understanding to solve different types of questions.
Students are suggested to make notes of everything they study and keep a day in a week for revision. Maximum revision is the key to cracking UPSC. It’s is advised that candidates must revise the syllabus at least thrice for the required retention and assimilation.
Points to note before appearing for Mains examination
- The UPSC mains Examination is subjective and intends to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates rather than merely the range of their knowledge and memory.
- As Mains is an analysis based examination, your answers must analyze the situation and show the contrast between the two sides of the topic.
First and foremost, even if you have studied NCERT books during your prelims preparation, bring the books out once again and study them thoroughly. Priority should be given to Geography, History, Economy and polity related NCERT textbooks.
Since current affairs is a crucial part in all 3 stages, make sure you maintain the habit of reading Newspaper every day and keep a good tab on other important sources of current affairs.
Keep the preparation sources concise and relevant:
Since the Mains syllabus is vast, make sure you study only what is relevant. Rather reading numerous books for each subject go for one relevant material and study it well.
Read this article to get the list of recommended books for Civil Services Mains preparation
Practice Answer writing:
Don’t forget to practice answer writing as mains is all about how you present the knowledge you have in your words within the stipulated time
Indulge yourself in discussions and debates:
Do not keep confined yourself to the bookish knowledge, as Civil Services exam is not just the test of your knowledge, but your overall personality, your outlook and your aptitude. You must indulge yourself in discussions and debates with your peers and faculties to get new perspectives on several topics, and deeply understand the current issues in the society.
Solve previous year question papers and case studies:
Similar to the Prelims stage, solving previous year question papers is equally important for Mains exam preparation as well. Students must analyze previous years question papers and solve them as much as they can to enhance writing skills, presentation skills through answer writing, time management skills and to get familiar with examination and question pattern. Besides, Ethics paper would give you case studies which you need to solve, so practice solving as much case studies as you can while covering different aspects in your answer.
Once all the basic preparation is done, students are advised to enroll in Test Series to assess their weaknesses and work upon them to eliminate the scope of any error at the final quest. Test series provides set of probable questions for all 4 papers of GS as well as optional papers. Further the answer evaluation and discussion with experts help students get their doubts cleared and enhance their knowledge base.
Writing Answers for Mains
- Your writing should be legible and must have proper spacing.
- Give some variety in your answers in both length and format. UPSC expects you to look at issues from Social, Political, Economic, Ecological, International, Administrative, Ethical, Legal and Security dimensions. So cover all the aspects in your answer.
- Whenever possible—use bullet points.
- Attempt all the questions in the exam, except a few of which you do not even have a slight idea.
- Since the examination is subjective; be careful to choose a middle path and focus on finding a solution instead of expressing an extremist opinion.
- You must use a language that’s easily understandable. This doesn’t mean you cannot use big words to be rhetoric but, one must not get too vague for using a flowery language.
- Do use diagrams and flowcharts wherever necessary.
- Do not make your entire answer sheet in points—do give variety to the examiner. Always mix paragraphs and points.
It’s advised to start preparing for your interview as soon as the mains exam phase is over. First things first—the interview carries 275 marks out of the total 2,025 marks. Unlike prelims and mains, the interview not only checks your knowledge, but as the name suggests, it is your personality test. For interview, make sure you read and fill you DAF (Detailed Application Form) very carefully and genuinely, because most of the questions asked in Interview are from candidates’ DAF form.
Following are some points you should consider:
- Your past career choices and your current job
- Your educational degrees
- Languages that you can speak
- The places you have lived in and their intricate societal issues
- Recent Headlines that are topping the charts
This is by far generalized preparation tips, covering ‘where’ and ‘what’ might pop up in your interview session. It is highly recommended to go for a mock interview, to get a first-hand experience of what it is like to go for an UPSC interview. From the last 10-minute pressure to a churning night before the interview, everything plays a significant role.