This post is in response to many requests by Civil Service Aspirants who needed to know various things about preparation and strategy. I encountered frequently more or less same questions from students when I was teaching at my institute FEM IAS ACADEMY or when they mail me through address of PREETI PUBLICATION or NEW VISHAL PUBLICATION for whom I have written some books on Civil Services. Or most recently I started getting chat messages in Facebook and I receive a lot of requests daily, but I apologize because my FB A/C limit of 5000 friends is already subscribed to. However, I never want anyone to remain in doubt for lack of sufficient guidance.
I do believe that after reading this post many of the queries of students will be solved and at least they will be able to start work systematically. Should there be any doubt, I invite them through comments.
When to start preparation for Civil Services?
I firmly believe that one should start preparing for this exam as soon as possible. However, I was very late in starting preparation as I had no idea about the exam at all. I heard about UPSC or PCS only after I had completed my graduation. But this may not be a case with everyone and so one should take advantage of their awareness.
How much time should one devote for reading?
Maximum. Yes, one should devote maximum effective time for reading because it would be a risky thing to compromise even a single mark. There may be risk of failure or at least of poor rank where one cannot get a service of own choice. As the competition is increasing day by day it is strongly advised to optimally use one’s potential.
Is coaching necessary?
It is more personal than general answer but utility of guidance cannot be denied. If you have a chance it should be utilized to get a good coaching. However, I never mean that coaching is essential and without it one cannot clear exam but it certainly reduces efforts on wrong directions. Coaching and good material helps in systematizing efforts however it does not imply that one cannot succeed without a professional coaching, I had not taken any professional coaching at any stage.
Which optional subjects are scoring?
There is no such rule. Candidates have scores handsomely in subjects which frighten others while at the same time marks touch abysmally low in quite popular optional subjects. I may sound theoretical here but it is 24 carat gold. One can score better in a subject if it fulfills the following criteria:
1. Availability of Material
2. Availability of Guidance
3. Interest of the candidate
4. Length of Syllabus
5. Availability of Time
6. Educational background
7. Inter relationship with General Studies
8. Inter relationship with second optional subject
Think over these points and then decide what should be your optional subject. It will be an objective decision. Do not select an optional subject just because someone says it is scoring or it is easy.
Is there any trend in optional subjects’ scoring?
I have seen that if one subject gives more selection, the same subject results into maximum failure in the same year ! Surprised? But it is true. For example, if Public Administration is the subject which gives 300 selections in a year out of total 700 seats, you can find out that ratio of failure in Public Administration would be (in all probability) higher too. Similar is the observation with regard to marks in a subject. Therefore, I propose that there is nothing like trend in favour of or against any optional subject.
Should one make notes for General Studies?
Note making is helpful but it is really very time taking function. If one is taking coaching, there is no doubt that taking notes of lecture is useful and essential. Out of coaching one should be careful of time to be spent in making notes. One can be selective and divide reading in either underlining material or note making material. If the material is concise and available in one book, it can be just underlined and in case of it being scattered in different books, note making can assimilate all information at one place and reduce time of going through different sources.
Should one make notes for Optional Subjects?
Yes, the same criterion applies for Optional Subjects also. In fact, notes are more helpful for optional than GS.
Should one make notes for Current Affairs?
Yes, one can make note of important facts, in brief, without details. Newspapers cannot be collected for the whole year and so taking notes would help in revising.
Should one make notes for Main Exam?
Yes. One can make notes of points – not details because revising points and facts can help in elaborating them at the time of exam. One does not need to write elaborated notes because once details are revised it is easy to express them in sentences. Brief notes can save time but unnecessary details are time robbers of which one should guard against.
Should one make notes for Interview?
No. No need of making any note for interview.
Is there any difference in Preliminary, Main and Interview?
Difference lies in method of acquiring and expressing knowledge. For Preliminary one needs skill of reading, Main requires good command over writing and Interview is test of Oral expression including body language.
What should be difference in approach for different stages of exam?
As said above, Civil Service three stage exam tests Reading, Writing and Speaking skill of a candidate.
For Preliminary exam one should grasp the comprehensive idea of the subject and should be able to identify correct fact when asked in paper. The understanding of the subject should enable the candidate to analyze given facts and arrive at conclusion because nowadays papers are more analytical than based on mere factual knowledge.
In Main exam candidate should be able to express his thoughts in brief, crisp and logical language with proper terminology and sentence structures. Language may be simple but should be expressive. It must answer all the parts of the question. Answer writing is an art which can be acquired through practice and perseverance.
Interview is the last stage which can be cleared through expressing your all skills, information and understanding. Your reading of General Studies and Optional Subjects inter mingle with each other. All the things learnt during schooling and from society also build up personality of candidate. Try to improve speaking and body language.
Ancient India: History – NCERT of Std. 11
Medieval India: History – NCERT of Std. 11
Modern India: History – Bipin Chandra – “Freedom Struggle of India”
Geography of India and World – NCERT of Std. 8 to 12
Indian Economy: NCERT of Std. 11
Indian Economy – Uma Kapila
Indian Polity: M. Laxmikant (Tata McGraw Hill); “Basics of Indian Polity Q-A for Main” – Rohit Vadhwana
General Science: NCERT of Std. 8 to 10
Science and Technology: “Science and Technology Q-A for Main” –Rohit Vadhwana
Mental Ability: R.S. Aggrawal (S. Chand)