Appearing for civil services has always been a tough decision to make and an act of courage in itself which demands a strong character and steely nerves. This is basically because of three reasons:
Because of the vastness of the syllabus associated with it,wherein you are expected to know almost everything under the sun. Now the new dimension in the whole strategy is about your concept integration approach.
Because of the unpredictability of the exam wherein you cannot afford to make selective study purely based on previous years question papers. How your study, information and knowledge are updated finally matters.
The immense competition which you are confronted with, wherein you face the best minds in the country which come from their respective streams and sweat it out to become a part of the steel frame of the government. So there is hardly any room for carelessness,complacency and even overconfidence. You have to earn every mark hard to remain a cut above the rest.
Introduction of CSAT and twist in GS has finally drawn a line that says: Please give full stop to your mugging style approach to finish the syllabus; otherwise the whole exercise will only finish your attempt.
Given such a scenario preparing for civil services was always going to be a daunting task but now that you have made up your mind, Chronicle IAS Academy will try to make this daunting task a little easier for you by using our long experience in mentoring toppers in this exam.First things first, you have to create an approach to follow right through the exam, thereafter draw a strategy out of it and finally stick to it till the time you clear the final level. Although the best approach for you is the one which you have created for yourself because you are the one who know yourself the best, you are the one who know best as to what are your strengths and weaknesses, what is it that inspires you keeps your energy and confidence levels high and also what is it that makes you timid and withdrawn. What are your strong subjects and what areas you find tough or challenging?
Remember you need all this data to frame an approach for yourself, so if you have not done this exercise better start it today. What we can do is to tell you as to what are the basics and the specifics which this exam demands and seeks to evaluate and the line of action which we think would be more productive.
Keeping in mind the vastness of the syllabus you have to develop a go-getter attitude especially for GS where you are expected to know a very wide horizon of things. Your mind should be like a sponge which is always looking out for information which could be of any use to it. Anything and everything could of your use if you know how to put them in the right perspective. You should cultivate the habit of studying the whats, the why and the how of almost everything which affects your life or which affects the lives of people across the society. Now 'why' and 'how' is core of the new syllabus? Once this intriguing attitude is developed almost half the job is done you will find yourself ready with some idea of everything that is in the syllabus and the path to crack IAS GS would start looking much easier to you. Moreover this preparation also should not differentiate between prelims and mains on the account that prelims is fact based and mains is analytical as we have already seen that what we call 'fact' based is not totally fact based and what we call 'analytical' is not totally analytical as you cannot analyze unless you know the facts. Another feature of the IAS GS exam is the applicability of the topics vis-a-vis a bureaucrat. This feature is the most recent phenomenon in the IAS GS i.e. questions which concern current affairs and their different dimension which could be of ultimate relevance to a bureaucrat are to be given prime importance. This is one factor which has come into even more focus after the fresh notification of CSAT has spelled out the topics within an area. For example Economic and social development now tells you that you have to accord prime focus to elements like sustainable development, poverty, inclusion, demographics, social sector initiative. Indian polity and governance now tells you to primarily prepare constitution, political system, panchayati raj, public policy, rights issues etc. General issues on environment is now mentioned separately and areas like ecology, biodiversity and climate change are explicitly stated. The underlying thread behind doing this is to shift focus towards issues which are of immediate and ultimate concern to the people and those who aspire to take up the responsibility to serve those people. Given such a scenario what we can extrapolate is that a fresh trend is sweeping the UPSC which now wants to get people who not only have sound grip over general studies and current affairs but have more than general idea of the real issues which they are suppose to confront and wrestle with once they are in the service. Therefore what we are expected to do is to prepare these explicit areas specially both in isolation as well as in the broader perspective beyond the fact-analysis dichotomy. Moreover mentioning them explicitly in the prelims syllabus vindicates our contention of the indispensability of the integrated approach not only for mains and interview but also for the prelims exam.
In this regard what is to be done? Large count of students asks - Should we go for PT first or do we need to devise an integrated preparation? Preliminary test (PT) is little bit unpredictable because of its vastness. CSAT confirms it. But understanding of the trend can be of some help in the changing scenario. For that you need to go through previous years' questions again-and-again and try to understand why UPSC asks questions of current development. The aim of prelims is to test candidates' range of information. Configuration of questions has been changed in the last few years. However, previous years' questions will give you clear idea about the formation of questions. You need to give up the traditional approach in order to accept fresh challenges. More time should be devoted to GS. General Studies is as vast as an ocean. It cannot be measured merely on the basis of topics or sections. Anything that exists in the universe can be a part of General Studies, especially if that is in the news. Aspirants, those who are taking Civil Services Examination must be aware of this fact. Its Vastness often leads to directionless preparation. But understanding of the trend helps in carving proper focus. To tame the dreaded demon of GS, candidates must, first of all, select important areas and then go for extensive study. Reason behind this argument is the vastness of the syllabus and changing configuration of questions. Even CSAT is nothing but an extension of General Studies. Don't try to read it in isolation. It always gives a shock. Result of this year PT exam is the latest example.
Thus we have evolved a line of action for cracking the IAS GS having the following important elements:
Developing a fertile and questioning mind.
Trying to see things in a perspective, exploring the related concepts and the associated intra disciplinary and interdisciplinary linkages.
Focusing on current affairs and visualizing them in a regional, national as well as international perspective.
Ascribing utmost attention to the issues which have practical relevance to a bureaucrat in terms of applicability and functioning and which are of immediate concern to people.
Avoiding the temptation of indulging in fact based-analysis based dichotomy with respect to prelims and mains respectively.
So much so about how to tackle the content of GS, now some suggestions on how to apply yourself or how to launch yourself for the exam:
If you are reading for the first time, go at a slower pace. Underline the relevant portions in the reading material.
Second and subsequent reading should be faster.
In your reading material some portions are very important, others are less important and yet others are not important. Use your discretion in sorting out such areas and give them proportionate attention. It would be better to go through previous year paper to track the orientation of the questions.
Similarly, you are very strong in certain areas, weak in others and perhaps very weak in some. For example, as a student of history or science you are probably very strong in these areas. Give greater attention and time to the areas in which you are weak.
In the general studies paper of prelims, most of the questions apart from the current events, centre of the current developments of news. Therefore, keep your eyes and ears open for such developments/news. For example, in agriculture instead of pure agriculture, a news item 'Break through in rice production' will be more valuable to you from the examination point of view.
It is better to scrutinize and do a model paper in GS that closely resembles the examination pattern before you get down to study. A model paper will enable you to have a feel of the actual questions in the examination, thereby enabling you to orient your study style according to the examination pattern. It will also highlight your stronger and weaker spots.
Keep yourself in constant touch with the other examinees so that you are ever aware of the impending examination, the current events, and the important areas in a particular year and the other insights possible only in a group.
As you progress in learning, you must be able to retain what you have already learnt. For this, you need to refer back constantly and revise what you have done. More so, if you are a fresher and reading for the first time.
Learning in GS is greatly facilitated by group discussion. At acertain interval of reading period you should be discussing what you have learnt in the company of others. Sessions with a group help you to know your weaknesses and strengths thereby making you more and more motivated to learn.
Testing yourself at frequent intervals with the help of model test papers, highlights your progress. If yourscore goes on increasing, it is a very positive sign. A time will come when your score already high enough hovers around a particular level and doesn't show significant increase. Do not get disheartened by this as you have already reached a high performance stage. However, if your score is low and doesn't show significant increase it is a matter of concern for you. Most probably, you have neglected your study or haven't put much emphasis on your weak spots.
Avoid the temptation of postponing your work for the next hour.
Always try to stick to the framework and approach you have decided to follow this will save precious time and energy from getting wasted in directionless work.
Always try to stick to your routine and the work schedule you have decided for yourself.
Try to lay your hands over some good less bulky guidebook with crisp comprehensive coverage of concepts and be very particular with authenticity of the material you are studying and do not hesitate to cross check facts with authentic material in case you doubt the truth of any fact.
By Manoj k Jha
(Academic Head, Chronicle IAS Academy)
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