Tips to tackle Civil Services (Main) Examination in new format

After a long gap there is some calm and encouraging atmosphere for Civil Services Examination aspirants as for past many years, expectations of change for pattern were keeping rumour mills running and dilemma about the proposed changes kept them quite anxious.

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For analyzing the new format for Civil Services (Main) Examination you don’t need a crystal ball. Use your mind to evaluate the changes and try to read the psyche of UPSC to bring in such modifications.

No doubt, when changes occur there are some apprehensions that lead to pressure and stress among candidates. My goal is to make an attempt with the purpose of removing all impediments from your preparation-path and make them uncomplicated so that you can focus all your energies on the goal – career in IAS.

A new face of Civil Services Examination has emerged
With gradual changes in Prelims (from 2011) and now, in Main Examination, the face of Civil Services Examination has changed completely.

While changes in Preliminary Examination altered the quality of candidates reaching the next level (Main Examination) by introducing Aptitude based testing; and now, the modification at Main Examination level will test capabilities of the candidates with greater precision.

As the clarity has emerged regarding the newly introduced format for Main Examination, now it is up to you to understand the changes thoroughly and in what way these are going to impact your preparation strategy.

For the beginners as well as the candidates who have taken attempt earlier, the new format have certain aspects that require a complete new look at the preparation  strategies.

Now, some radical changes have come at Main Examination level
Some can say that almost all components of earlier scheme have been present with only difference in with worth. So, where is need of any new strategy?

Some of you may feel so. But, the fact is that this re-jig has made it a new-ball game.

Compulsory Papers:
After the removal of newly-added contentious ‘English Comprehension & English Précis’ paper, two compulsory qualifying papers (Indian Language & English) are back. These are worth 300 marks each and the marks secured in these would not be considered for ranking purpose.

Candidates need to care for these qualifying papers on ‘Indian Language’ and ‘English’ and try to cross the minimum standard set for these by Commission. Otherwise, your all effort can go in wane as the notification says, “the papers on ‘Essay’, General Studies and Optional Subject of only such candidates will be taken cognizance of who attain such minimum standard as may be fixed by Commission at their discretion for the qualifying papers on ‘Indian Language’ and ‘English’.”

The increase in its role in overall examination set-up indicates that UPSC has clear intentions to check the range of thoughts, expression and writing skills of the candidates.

After all, the purpose of this exam is to recruit the suitable candidates for 21st century Civil Servants.

The increased share of Essay Paper would require some skills as if taken lightly; it can hinder your chances of success. On other hand, a well written Essay can enhance the prospects and can play a vital role in selection and rank.

General Studies in IAS new pattern: identify basic needs

So, we had to go a long way to understand the value of General Studies. Yeah; it is right there in the new-format for Main Examination as the domain of General Studies get the might it deserved.

Now, General Studies has become the "worthy" from the "Less worthy" and all attention seems to be shifting towards it.

While framing the new syllabus, UPSC has gone a step ahead and come out with highly structured syllabus defining it in detail. A boon for the candidates as earlier, with two General Studies paper only, they had to run around to cover everything under the sun.

It is not only that number of papers for General Studies has doubled or worth has been increased but, the fact is that complete balance of preparation has undergone a dramatic shift.

Some of the topics in General Studies syllabus are new; but, major portion is facets that are newly re-defined. If you talk about the addition, it would be approx one third of the complete syllabus and in that too, the major share has come in shape of Paper IV (Ethics, integrity and Aptitude).

A glance over the syllabus for Paper I, II and III gives a feel that UPSC has blended two different themes traditional as well as dynamic in such a way that it would require a candidate to be well informed.

General Studies Paper I
(Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)

From History, a lot of new topics like Indian Heritage and Culture and World History have come. Post-Independence History has got significance that would make this quite challenging for the candidates.

Some extension from Prelims syllabus is visible as World Geography has found place here. Geographical topics are going to be in more prominence.

Inclusion of Society, social issues is just an extension of the syllabus that existed earlier.

In all, this paper is bound to give confidence to lot many candidates as presence of many traditional parts would boost confidence. But, one should not just stick to conventional portion only; a lot of questions can be raised from the contemporary developments as well.

General Studies Paper II
(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Indian Polity has always been an integral part of syllabus and is more dynamic in nature that truly echoes in more significance to current developments. There is nothing that could raise eyebrows; a glance at previous years’ papers would reveal that most of the aspects covered in new syllabus were in focus earlier as well.

Role, working of the government/institutions and related topics are in focus and syllabus duly outlines the examiner’s expectations that require comprehensible knowledge as well as updated information base.

Very timely focus on International Relations and Social Justice Issues make it look contemporary and forward looking.

General Studies Paper III
(Technology, Economic Development, Bio‐diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Economy has again been important constituent and now, in new format should continue to get prominence. It is more of contemporary issues and a vast coverage of current economy developments.

Agriculture, food and related subjects have caught the attention and requires serious look at related news flow. This area is quite significant that would require any candidate to prepare it effectively.

Science & Technology is area that requires attention and newly added security issues will touch more of current problems our country face right now. Role of media, social networking sites and issues relating to cyber security are to be taken care.
You will not be able to ignore Environment, Bio-diversity and related issues and Disaster Management has come as priority addition.

General Studies Paper IV
(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)

We need to go back to understand the need of this paper as three years back when reforms in recruitment process for higher post like ‘Civil Servants’ initiated, UPSC and even the Government had talked about ‘the moral and ethical dimensions’

With introduction of psychological aptitude and value system tests in examination scheme, endeavour is to attract the brightest candidates who can perform the functions through the lens of integrity and ethics. It is an attempt to ensure that people with right attitude are taken in the government service, especially at the senior level post and services.

A glance at the syllabus for this paper clearly reflects the present theme where we are witnessing rapid changes due to liberalization and globalization. The role of the Government is more of a facilitator than a regulator.

With an aim to recruit the right person for the right job, UPSC is looking out for candidates possessing effective qualities to perform the task for carrying forward the complex and diverse agenda to meet challenges that arise in front of a ‘Civil Servant’.

So, be ready to face some situational questions that will require overall understanding as   UPSC has clearly mentioned “This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects.”
So, clearly the objective would be to assess the personal attributes like attitude, leadership, identifying and addressing problems, decision-making abilities, sense of responsibility, emotional stability, communication skills, moral skills, capacity to take professional stand and meeting dead-lines etc.

Do you know what examiners expect of you?
Before drawing any conclusion about the syllabus, candidates should give pay attention to the points included in the notification and should consider these while formulating preparation-strategies:

“The main Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates rather than merely the range of their information and memory.

The nature and standard of questions in the General Studies papers (Paper II to Paper V) will be such that a well‐educated person will be able to answer them without any specialized study. The questions will be such as to test a candidate’s general awareness of a variety of subjects, which will have relevance for a career in Civil Services.

The questions are likely to test the candidate’s basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyze, and take a view on conflicting socio‐ economic goals, objectives and demands. The candidates must give relevant, meaningful and succinct answers.”

Optional Subject

Now, in new format, candidates have to pick only one optional subject. We will touch related aspects in details separately.

Last Update Wednesday 18th March 2015     

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