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Preparation Guide for PT ’18 – Part 1

"Believe All the power is within you, you can do anything and achieve everything"- Swami Vivekananda.


Finishing your graduation, you may have decided to pursue a career in the Indian Civil Services - the ‘Steel Frame of India’. Pursuing a career in Indian Civil Services – the highest of Indian bureaucracy - might be your childhood dream or a decision taken by you after your graduation or instilled in you by your family or friends. A career in Civil Services will give you an immense opportunity to do social service as well as participate in nation building, first hand.

The first step in this endeavor is to pass Civil Service Examination (CSE) conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). CSE is an annual affair. It consists of three stages that test an aspirant of his/her capabilities and skills to become a good public servant. Touted as one of the toughest exam in the world, preparing for UPSC exam deserves appreciation. It makes an aspirant preparing for the exam transform into a better person with empathy and perseverance even though one fails to succeed in clearing the exam.

Annually around 1000 candidates are selected for various services including Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Revenue Service (IRS) through UPSC’s three stage examination process consisting of - prelims, mains and interview. Out of five to six lakh students who appear for prelims only fourteen to sixteen thousand are chosen to proceed to the next stage i.e., mains. After evaluation of mains test around 2500 are selected for interview and finally 1000 candidates among them are selected for prestigious administrative posts in India.

In this text, we will predominantly focus on guiding you through preliminary examination preparation.

Approach Towards Exam


First stage of CSE, preliminary examination consists of two papers: Paper 1 - General studies and Paper 2 – CSAT. The questioning pattern is of multiple choice questions in both the papers.

Paper 1 consists of 100 questions for 200 marks covering subjects like History, Geography, Polity, Economics, Art and culture, Environment, Science and Technology and Current Affairs. This is to test the aspirant’s basic understanding on various subjects of day to day necessity, happenings and their impacts. This paper is of qualifying in nature.

The pattern of questioning in prelims by UPSC has changed over the years. Unlike State PSC exams, which ask factual and direct questions, answering UPSC’s questions in prelims need both basic understanding and in-depth analysis of concepts. It is visible in the way questions are being asked upon various issues of world importance, from climate change events to scientific discoveries and from various global institutional reports to world summits; governance and societal issues; and various other issues arising within the country. Dynamism and toughness of the exam is growing year by year owing to huge competition.

The difficulty of answering UPSC’s prelims is evident in the nature of close proximate options given for choice. Unless one has an in-depth understanding of the concepts it becomes difficult and confusing to answer such questions. For example, any changes in the economic policies by the government have its impact on various sectors of the economy, as the demonetization policy’s impact on banks and overall macroeconomic scenario of the country shows. Aspirants’ knowledge on one particular impact of demonetization will not suffice. UPSC is ever ready to outsmart you. In light of this, aspirants must keep their knowledge on current affairs up to date and build a strong understanding of basic concepts.

Questions from the static portion of syllabus such as Art &Culture, History and Geography need a thorough studying by the aspirants with multiple revisions. Though this subject matter is static, UPSC toughens the task of aspirants by putting adjectives like ‘not, correct, incorrect’in the questions. Candidates have to be careful while reading the questions and go through it twice in order to avoid mistakes. Also, UPSC has a habit of giving multiple statements and asks to select among them. At times, by using elimination method, wherein by having knowledge about one or two statements, we can eliminate the irrelevant one and choose our answer. But, most often that would not be the case and the only way we can answer is by having knowledge about the concerned issue in totality. Thus, studying thoroughly and effectively with multiple revisions is the key to success. Practice as many mock tests as possible to gain confidence and forming a strategy to answer.

Questions related to science and technology in prelims have been growing over the years. Apart from few questions that requires basic understanding of science concepts from biology and physics, majority of the questions related to science and technology come from current affairs. Being up to date in current affairs by reading newspaper and following good magazines will help in tackling questions from this area. Also, one can find questions related to map pointing in preliminary examination. In order to answer such questions having a good knowledge of atlas will help. Looking into a good atlas regularly will make one well versed with the geographical features of the country and the world. Care should be taken to integrate places of importance, national parks, national and world heritage sites etc. with that of the surrounding physical features while studying maps. Questions of such a manner have become common in prelims.

With rising concerns over climate change and loss of biodiversity, environmental and ecological issues are bound to be tested and prelims exam is no outlier to that logic. Also, the impacts of changes in ecology and environment are far wide and apart ranging from agriculture to health of people and from threats to wildlife to the rise of anthropocene era. It is therefore advisable that the aspirant never neglect this section of syllabus while preparing for prelims. UPSC tests aspirant’s knowledge on various environmental policies of the country, knowledge on pollutants, and conservation status of wildlife, global conventions and frameworks that help tackle climate change and many more issues concerning environment of humanity’s only home.

Indian Polity and economics are two such areas in CSE where an aspirant’s knowledge on both the basic concepts and regular news issues is tested. It is true for both prelims and mains. Every year questions from these sections are a must for prelims. The need forcomplexity, dynamism and need for analytical skills increases for questions asked from these areas. For polity, one needs to be well versed regarding various provisions of the constitution, executive functions and functioning of various institutions. Economics is another dynamic area which is frequently touched upon by the UPSC. An aspirant who is strong in basic concepts of economics can easily answer questions from this section and is one of easy scoring options. Aspirants should have thorough knowledge about macro and micro economic policies, monetary policy of RBI, budget and various other developmental policies. Therefore, it would be appropriate to stress the point that current affairs play a very important role in clearing preliminary examination and one should not lose sight of this in their preparation.

Very few questions will be direct and factual in nature. These can be attempted easily. Also, there are bound to present some questions that one may have never come across. It is wise to not touch those questions and waste your valuable time during the exam.

Coming to the issue of time, it is advisable to develop a proper time management strategy both for the preparation and for the exam. Do not get bogged down by trying to attempt those questions which put us in a tough situation. First and foremost, try to attempt all those questions which you are comfortable with. It boosts your confidence during the exam and helps in managing time.

 *In Part-2, we shall look into knowledge resources, approach to preparation and Do’s and Don’ts while preparing.

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