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Preparation Guide for PT’18–Part 2

Knowledge Resources

For building up your knowledge on fundamental concepts, there are some important books to study. These include - NCERT books from class 6th to 12th standard of various subjects, India Year Book, Atlas etc. It can be noticed from previous years' question papers that, many of the questions are directly/indirectly asked from NCERTs. Therefore, it would be wise on the part of aspirants to not take lightly of NCERTs in their preliminary examination preparation. These books provide the aspirants with basic understanding on all the issues that are given in the syllabus.

Most important of all in the preparation for prelims is the reading of newspaper. Aspirants must follow a newspaper religiously. Being an exam of selecting a generalist administrator, one should be aware of 'something about everything' rather than 'everything about something'. This is capable only by constant reading of newspaper. It is considered as 'Bible' for a Civil Service Aspirant. Also, if you have looked at previous years question papers carefully, many of the questions in PT and mains - especially paper 2 and paper 3 - come from current affairs. So, choose a good newspaper from which one can get relevant information for the exam, preferably - 'The Hindu' newspaper.

Internet is one more source from which aspirants can get relevant information for the exam. There are many government websites to follow, many online encyclopedias that can be used as reference source and many news websites for gaining information. In a sense, internet is a big leveler among the aspirants for preparation.

Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) is Paper 2 of preliminary exam. This paper consists of 80 questions for 200 marks and is qualifying in nature. This paper is to test candidate's English comprehension, general mental ability and arithmetic ability. This paper covers topics like - Comprehension; Interpersonal skills including communication skills; Logical reasoning and analytical ability; Decision-making and problem-solving; General mental ability; Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.); Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. Class X level. All these are of class 10th level.

Though it is a qualifying paper, (one needs to get 33% marks out of 200 to qualify) do not under estimate CSAT paper. It is often noted that people who got good scores in paper 1 failed to qualify for mains due to disqualification in CSAT paper. Therefore, it is very important to practice CSAT papers. One can go for practicing previous year question papers and mock test papers.

While coming to the second stage of CSE i.e. mains, the syllabus for it appears to be exhaustive. The mains examination include nine papers of which two are qualifying papers - English and one recognised Indian language of 300 marks each (25% of 300 i.e. 75 marks required for qualifying); Essay paper; four GS papers; and two papers for optional subject - each carrying 250 marks.

The four GS papers range from history to geography, from polity to economics, from society & globalization to science & technology and ethics. This diverse and dynamic category of syllabus requires an aspirant's in-depth analytical skills, regular up gradation of one's knowledge on current affairs along with strong basic understanding of concepts provided in the syllabus. The optional paper includes two papers - paper 1 and paper 2 - on a subject of your choosing from the list of optional subjects provided by the UPSC in its notification for the exam.

The final stage of CSE is Personality test - interview. Members of the UPSC will test the candidate's personality in this stage. Start to know more about your personality so that you will be ready to answer questions without hesitation. Also have good knowledge about your hobbies. If you don't have one, then start developing a hobby. It enhances your personality showing that you are immersing yourself in activities of your interest instead of wasting your leisure time. Be truthful while answering the questions during the interview. If you don't know the answer to the question then straight away say that you do not know instead of nagging. This shows your confidence to the interviewers.

Approach to Preparation

While preparing for the Civil Service Examination we cannot compartmentalize the preparation based on various stages of the exam. One needs to follow a holistic approach. There is no such thing as separate preparation for prelims and separate preparation for mains. Approach should be comprehensive as GS mains syllabus is vast and huge that it includes prelims syllabus within it. Thus, aspirants should adopt integrated approach in their preparation. Even during the interview phase the candidate is asked questions ranging from current affairs to some basic concepts and things from your optional. For example, look at the issue of demonetization. Many discussions and debates had taken place regarding the issue and many suggestions and solutions came about during the process. It is entirely possible for the UPSC to ask questions regarding it both in prelims and mains. The same happened with a question on demonetization finding its place in Prelims' 17.

By focusing your thought process only in prelims point-of-view, you would be losing your sight on writing 1200-word answer in your mains. Also, it can be asked in interview too. So, your preparation must be in totality rather than nitpicking.

Preparation for CSE needs discipline, determination and dedication. Aspirants have to keep their body, mind and soul in control. By following a systemic and organised plan, you can achieve your goal of becoming a civil servant.

The question that commonly pops up during the initial stages of preparation is whether to join coaching institutions or not? It depends on individual preference, time availability and affordability. It is not compulsory to join some coaching to clear CSE; there are people who cleared the exam without getting coaching. But for optional subjects, if the subject you chose is not of your graduation background or one that needs refinement, then go for coaching. Overall, coaching centres help you only for a certain extent. What is important is self-preparation. And, coming to Delhi for coaching is not necessary as there are many avenues open now for preparation in various parts of the country and also one can go for joining online classes, test series and referring to good magazines for relevant information.

Do's and Don'ts

An aspirant's focus should not be just on reading the newspaper. It is not sufficient. Regular note making of important points is the key. This gives a ready reference for understanding various issues and makes it easy to revise. One major issue that crops up is selecting relevant issues to read from the newspaper. It is often noted that aspirants tend to pick up irrelevant news for reading. This leads to wasting of time and absolutely unnecessary. To know which topics to choose for reading, first of all go through previous years' UPSC question papers. This should give you a sense of what to choose and what not to and save yourself some time. You must give a minimum of 2 hours a day for newspaper reading. It is not possible to get all the necessary information from newspapers alone and some important topics might get missed. In such cases good magazines (like Chronicle) and internet are very useful.

Internet is a great source of reference for the aspirants and is loaded with immense information. Here too one should not fall into the trap of irrelevant information sources. Following authenticated government websites like PBI, PTI, and Ministry websites would provide you with the most relevant and appropriate information. Websites like Wikipedia, UN, other international websites etc. are of immense importance. While doing all these things never forget to jot down important points of information and revise constantly. Most important thing for this type of examination is study from limited sources.

"We must all suffer from one of two points: the pain of discipline or pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons"

For the rest of the GS papers in mains follow a limited set of sources and keep revising them. Especially for GS paper 1 which is predominantly static. Studying from limited sources will be a good strategy and it will help in easy revision before the actual examination.

Essay paper is so dynamic in nature that an aspirant can utilise his/her entire knowledge gained during preparation for CSE in this single paper. Consisting of two sections with four questions each, candidate has to choose one question from each section. The combined total marks for both the questions are 250 marks. This paper has immense scoring potential only if you are capable of putting in various views for the asked topic. The topics asked by UPSC range from philosophy to science and developmental issues to societal issues. One should be careful in choosing the topic, it should be within the comfort zone of the aspirant so that more energy could be provided in writing the essay or else you will get bogged down owing to paucity of information. So be careful. For scoring good marks in essay it is important to practice writing at least 10 to 15 essays before exam (follow kiss approach- keep it short and simple, language should be lucid and in organised format to get good score).

The long process of CSE preparation, which extends for a year, needs immense mental strength. There will be times of lows and failures. Don't get depressed and give up, keep yourself motivated, introspect and rectify your mistakes. This exam is all about consistent and disciplined smart hard work. Prepare a timetable of your preference and follow it religiously. Keep short term targets like hourly, daily, weekly rather than long term targets and try to achieve them. Give yourself a reward after achieving the target. This will motivate you to study further.

Studying for long hours and days take a toll on your physical wellbeing too. Remember, without good health you cannot achieve anything. Along with training your brain muscles you need to train your other muscles of your body in order to keep yourself fit and healthy and stress free by the time you write your exam. So, keep a daily exercise routine. No one wants to fall sick just before the exam after going through a grueling preparation phase. Also, it is often common for an aspirant to find oneself in a rut. No wonder after studying for so many long hours one feels in such a way. To come out of this phase stop studying for a couple of days and do other things that excite you or follow through your hobby or go for a movie. After you feel refreshed bring back your focus on studying and continue your pursuit.

A myth about UPSC that should be debunked is about studying for 16 to 18 hours a day. It is humanely not possible to study for such long hours, though there are some exceptions to this criterion. But, a regular, disciplined study hour of 8-10 hours or the hours in which you are able to comprehend things without deviating from your focus will do it. Sleeping for a minimum of six hours is a must, as science proved that sleep reduces your stress levels and increases attention levels during the hours you are awake. Also, follow good hygiene and a healthy diet.

One of the greatest of life's lessons is that there are many possibilities waiting to happen. CSE might be one such possibility. There may be lapses in the preparation or health problem might have affected the exam or mistakes might have occurred. Do not get dejected when faced with failure in prelims. Work on the mistakes and keep your hopes alive. There is life beyond Civil Services. Be passionate at what you want to achieve and success follows you. Do not give up easily.

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