Preparation for Civil Service Examination is a long long process. The Civil Service Examinations conducted at the Union and State levels is divided primarily into three steps—(i) Prelims, (ii) Mains and (iii) Interview. Thus, it is a three tier system in which first tier i.e. prelims is comprised of two papers i.e. G.S.I and G.S.II for the UPSC and G.S. as well as optional paper in most states’ services which is an objective type examination. After first round of screening, those who qualify prelims examination take mains examination in the second round. It is comprised of two optional papers, two optional subjects and G.S. having two papers each in addition to essay and language paper. Thereafter, interview is conducted for those who qualify mains examination.
Changes in formats of question papers always tend to create a lot of mental discomfort in students. Specific fear of Mathematics may be baseless considering the changes lay greater emphasis on the “aptitude” which mainly involves reasoning skills and not just mathematics.
The civil services examination is manly a test to choose suitable administrators. It tests the candidate right from the stage when one starts the preparation. A candidate should have the right frame of mind and the will power to succeed in the exam. A proper action plan is needed for the preparation itself since he will be tested for some essential qualities like power of retention, clarity of concepts, ability to identify the correct alternatives with efficiency and accuracy. All this requires a quick decision making power.
With the new pattern, more stress is on language skills and analysis and decision making capacities, so work on these on a consistent basis as these are skills that are developed over years and not just in a few months. It would be advisable to start focusing on your problem solving and language skills as soon as you decide to take these exams.
Now we come to the actual preparation for the prelims exam. Since it is a multiple choice question paper, it needs a different preparation and a proper strategy. The first thing a candidate needs to bear in mind is that the examination is designed to evaluate certain qualities like a sharp memory and basic retention power. Important facts and figures can be simplified and represented on charts in the form of tables or graphs. Another thing to remember is to make short and brief notes on each topic so that the entire syllabus can be revised before the exam.
Since the preliminary exam is an elimination round the candidate should also learn to focus only on the information needed and filter out the rest. It helps to discuss with friends and teachers but the most reliable way is to solve past years question papers. One should also keep himself update with current events and information related to them.
The questions asked are of 10+2 level. Therefore emphasis has to be on conceptual clarity. Any concept has to be understood with its origin, merits and de-merits and it has to be correlated with the events that have taken place during the year.
One should make notes from the very beginning as soon as you have done your studying when the material is fresh in mind. This helps to fix it in your memory. It is better to make notes from all possible sources, from what you read, what you hear and from what you do. After making the first brief notes, it can be expanded and organized properly. You can then keep adding information to it from time to time
There are two types of making notes; one is the linear notes and the other pattern notes.
Let us start with Linear notes first, it is a method to use loose sheets of paper instead of an exercise book since it is easier to keep adding information. It is a good idea to leave space on each sheet of paper for additional information. Another way to make your notes more interesting is to use colors, block letters, making boxes and highlighting as and when necessary. All this will immediately draw our attention to the actual contents of our notes and make it more clear and comprehensible.
Secondly, in Pattern Notes we have to begin the topic at the centre of the page. Each line radiating from it represents a branch of the main idea. Each point is written as briefly as possible using a key word or a phrase. It is a better method to adopt because it is more flexible than making linear notes. One can add extra information to it at any point without any problem. Second advantage is that we can see the whole pattern at one go without actually turning the pages. Thirdly we can indicate the links between different topics more easily than we can do in a linear method. Another advantage of pattern notes is that it is exceptionally useful when making notes from memory for revision as you keep jotting down points as and when they occur to you. This makes it easier to revise for exams and writing out essays as only brief key words are used. Lastly, it is easier to remember as notes are made in a shape format.
The most effective way of making good notes from the sources available is to use a combination of these two methods. One important thing to remember is that for many subjects your notes will have to include diagrams and sketch maps. They must be accurate and labeled very clearly.
The civil services main exam consists of descriptive type of questions. It focuses on testing the candidate on various levels. The time limit for the essay paper is 3 hrs without a word limit, but for the optional paper, there are questions with specific word limit like 250 words in optional subjects and 250 words, 150 words and 20 words in general studies. The candidate then has to prepare himself to answer all types of questions. The most important thing to be kept in mind is the time constraint. Therefore it becomes necessary to answer these questions quickly and effectively and in minimum words.
Though there is no set rule, it is wise to adopt a style depending on the question asked. If the question says to discuss, analyze or critically examine, it would be better to answer the question in the paragraph format. On the other hand, if the question asks you to list the advantages or give reasons for/ against etc., it is better to go in for the point format of answering.
The next logical step is to know how to write a good answer. The first step is to prepare the framework where one can list all ideas, thoughts and facts and write them down. It is important to adopt an answering style which is natural, original and to the point. Emphasis should be given to the kind of language used, one which is simple and clear without unnecessary use of nouns and verbs. Use of archaic and fancy words or language should be avoided at all costs. Last but not the least, it is very important to have a good and a legible handwriting.
One should be objective and try to focus on about 70% of the syllabus instead of being over ambitious and trying to cover the whole syllabus. The next thing to be kept in mind is the choice of study material. It is a wise option to just refer to few standard books to get a deep understanding of the subject. Reading from too many books will do more harm than good.