Civil Services Exam 2015 – Strategies to make the most in the last few days

Dear PaGaLGuY reader,

With less then ten days left for the UPSC Civil Services Examination 2015, most of you would be looking to develop an effective strategy to fine-tune your prep. Even after months of rigorous preparation, if you feel the jitters, then fret not as we at PaGaLGuY are here to help you ace the test with ease.

In light of the recent changes, the General Studies – Paper II (informally known as CSAT) has been made a qualifying paper this year and hence candidates will have to score a minimum of 66 marks out of the total 200. The English Language comprehension skill section of GS -Paper II will no longer be there. Further, the syllabus and pattern for the GS – Paper I remains unchanged.

Before we discuss the preparation strategy, let us look at the break-up of GS – Paper I of the UPSC Civil Services – Preliminary Exam 2014.

    General Studies – I                                  No. of Questions

1. Current Affairs and General Knowledge           13

2. Indian Polity                                                        11

3. Geography                                                         14

4. Economic and Social Development                 13

5. History (Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Indian National Movement and Constitution of India)                                            10

6. General Science                                               17

7. Environmental Studies                                     22

Strategies for GS – Paper I

1. Focus on environmental studies – As is evident from the trend set by previous years papers, especially Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination 2014, questions on environment, climate change, biodiversity and ecology, etc have a lot of importance. In the next few days, revise basic topics related to these subjects and match concepts with current events/happenings. It is advisable that candidates visit the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change website to keep a track of developments.

2. Science and technology in daily lives – In general science and technology, concepts that have practical significance in our daily lives are critical and therefore revision of the same is a must. For instance – diseases, viruses, new scientific technologies/medicine, nutrition, day-to-day physics and chemistry-related topics are important.

3. Current affairs at fingertips – As discussed before, cut-off for this year’s preliminary exam will depend solely on candidates’ performance in GS – Paper I. Thus, candidates have to be thorough with all the current national and international developments. For those of you who have made notes of daily current affairs over the past few months, revision is key. For those who have not, reading through summaries of government reports, flagship government schemes/programmes, its features and details, key findings of committees and commissions, important laws passed (or amendments made), would be helpful.

4. Refer to condensed information presented in tables, lists- Instead of buying new books in the last few days, it would be prudent to revise from notes already prepared. Textbooks on History or Indian Polity will have information in tables, pie-chart and other infographic formats. Refer to them for a quick revision of the topics.

5. Topics to focus on in History – In ancient history, focus on art and architecture, religion and culture aspects. In medieval history, significant change of powers, revenue and administrative systems warrants attention. As for modern history, focus on the Indian independence struggle, contributions of women freedom fighters, important events and signing of pacts/agreements that culminated in freedom and lastly, creation of the Indian Constitution.

6. Topics to focus on in Indian Polity – Focus on principles laid down in the Constitution’s preamble, Fundamental Rights and Duties, Directive Principles of State Policy, 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, Legislature and Executive (both Union and state), the structure, appointment and removal of offices, Judiciary, important commissions, international organisations, regional blocs, etc. Knowing the latest developments on each topic is vital.

Let us now take a look at the break-up of GS – Paper II

General Studies – II                                  No. of Questions

1. Reading Comprehension                            25

2. Logical Reasoning                                      18

3. Numerical Ability (Mathematics)                14

4. Mental Ability                                               6

5. Data Interpretation                                      6

6. Analytical or Critical Ability                         5

7. English Language skills and

comprehension                                           06 (Not to be attempted)

8. Decision Making and Interpersonal skills   0

Strategies for GS – Paper II

1. Take mock tests – Solving mock tests of previous years’ prelim papers help in assessing the level of preparedness and so candidates can identify areas in which they need to improve. Those who score above 120 marks in CSAT mock tests should continue taking them to maintain speed and accuracy. Those who get below 80 need to strategize effectively to score highly in sections that are their strengths.

2. Aim for accuracy – As the exam has been made qualifying, focus on attempting questions that you are sure of in order to enhance accuracy and reduce negative marking as much as possible. Do not rush to attempt all the questions; focus on solving questions right and pocket the required 66 marks. For instance, you may solve 45 -50 questions in the areas which are your strengths to easily score qualifying marks.

3. Score in Reading Comprehension – Earlier, Reading Comprehension and English Language sections skills together approximately made up 45% of the GS Paper II. However, with the English Language section (which had around 08 – 10 questions) excluded, it is likely that the number of questions in Reading Comprehension and/or other sections may increase in the CSAT paper. So, it is wise to not take comprehension lightly and solve practice passages to get better at it. Make sure to answer strictly from the given information in the passage unless asked otherwise. For certain questions direct answers may not be available. For instance, questions like ‘what is the theme of the passage?’ or ‘what is the author trying to say?’ will require you to grasp the meaning and message of the whole passage.

4. Revise formulas and basic math – To tackle the numerical ability section, candidates should maintain a table of formulas and commit them to memory. Further, solve questions on basic topics like time, speed and distance, percentages, ratio and proportions, averages, as they will help both in the numerical ability and data interpretation.

5. Interpret graphs the right way – Data Interpretation has a fixed set of 5-6 questions and thus a basic understanding of percentage, ratio and averages should help you sail through this section. Nonetheless, as graphs can be extremely tricky candidates are advised to solve DI questions from past 5-6 years’ papers to understand the wide range of questions asked in the exam.

It is important to bear in mind that given the nature of the UPSC examination, the breadth of its syllabus and the competition, it is natural to feel unprepared for the test. There are a lot of other aspirants who feel the same, however – DO NOT PANIC. Build your confidence by taking mock tests and strategise better to avoid unwanted blunders in the prelims.

Last but not the least, be focused, confident and have faith in your ability.

Best of luck!