Civil Services Examination: Preparation Strategies that reflect the current trends

This so called ‘unpredictable examination’ has something unique every year and a blink changes life for many.

As usual, I have been talking to some of the top rankers and successful candidates in Civil Services Examination 2017 and have gathered some useful information that can be of some help to you.

You may or may not spot anything new or you have not heard; but, you can always make your own understanding of the things that are in trend.

I hope if you are able to relate yourself with these and include something that seems useful in your plan, you stand to gain.


 By:      On Thursday 15th November 2018           Read In Hindi

My job is never done when it comes to analyse CSE results and spot trends to list out the factors that contribute in success in Civil Services Examination.

This so called ‘unpredictable examination’ has something unique every year and a blink changes life for many. As usual, I have been talking to some of the top rankers and successful candidates in Civil Services Examination 2017 and have gathered some useful information that can be of some help to you.

Although, I had done this exercise two years back and even today, a lot of factors may look similar; but, many trends have signalled vast changes that require fresh approach particularly for Main Examination; and mind it - these are some of the most significant ones.

Civil Services Examination preparation is difficult and aspiring candidates are keen to know the preparation-strategies of the successful candidates and what worked for them in the recent examination.

I have listed a few points that are crux of the discussions with many of these successful candidates and views shared by them.

Important takeaways from successful candidates in Civil Services Examination 2017

    1. Civil Services Examination is still top-of-mind for educated and aspiring youth and craze is visible.
    2. First ranker and only top ranks are celebrated; people don’t look at the efforts of others who worked as harder (if not more) as these top rankers put in.
    3. With a resounding success of candidates like Tina Dabi (AIR 1; CSE 2015) and Anmol Sher Singh Bedi (AIR 2; CSE 2016) have created a wave among candidates that the Civil Services Examination is achievable in very first attempt with right focus. Koya Sree Harsha (AIR 9; CSE 2017) and  Saumya Sharma (AIR 9; CSE 2017) have proved this theory right.
    4. The biggest factor that plays in performance is looking at someone close, friend, batch-mates getting selected in Civil Services Examination.
    5. Many talented candidates come with a plan and have a time-frame in mind for this foray.
    6. Among first 20 ranks, while only two candidates have done it in first attempt; this result has many earlier selected candidates have made it to top 20.
    7. Engineers, doctors and professionally qualified candidates with higher degree continue to rule this arena.
    8. Reason for their success is nothing; but, looking at things rationally. They always give the impression of being in search for solutions rather than being a silent observer.
    9. With Durishetty Anudeep’s (AIR 1) success, ‘Believe in Purpose’ emerges as the most valuable attribute in success.
    10. Success of Anu Kumari (AIR 2) indicates determination and sight on Goal; “I will realize my dreams if not immediately; but, at the right time.”
    11. Saumya Sharma (AIR 9) has done it in her first encounter – It is sort of “Dream it; Believe it and Achieve it” Story.
    12. A lot of stories emerged where Peer-Group influenced the preparation-plan and played a role in success. Anubhav Singh (AIR 8) and Karthik (AIR 529); Gaurav Kumar (AIR 34) and Vishal Mishra (AIR 49) and many more successes indicate the importance of choosing the worthy group of friends.
    13. An offbeat service preference shown by a practicing CA-CS Shreshth Tayal (AIR 73) by opting IRS (IT) as first choice is commencement of an fresh trend; my views concur with many others who believe one can deliver much more if gets a chance to serve in the related field.
    14. Aim for top 50 ranks and set a benchmark little higher for yourself, come out of your comfort zone and strive hard to achieve it.

Preparation Approach

    1. NCERT Books are considered a must at the beginning of preparation for conceptual clarity. Newspaper reading and magazines continues to be an integral part of the study resource.
    2. ‘Integrated Approach’ for preparation makes things manageable at Preliminary Examination’ as Main Examination oriented study-plan covers Prelims General Studies Paper I related requirements effectively.
    3. Having lesser number of books in resource and many times revision of the same resource delivers better result. After all better understanding and clarity emerges with revision.
    4. Role of coaching has amplified and at some stage of examination or for a particular paper or may be for Personality Test (Interview) many candidates seek coaching institute’s help.
    5. Still, there are many candidates prepare and crack Civil Services Examination with self-help.
    6. ‘Mock’ Tests, ‘Test Series’ are delivering; not all but specialized players are really amazing.
    7. Fear is still the biggest factor than impacts the candidate’s performance.
    8. Candidates’ dependence on on-line resource/websites is increasing for contents as well as for motivation and iaspassion continues to be a source of inspiration and is like stress-buster for many.

Preliminary Examination Specific

    1. In Preliminary Examination, associating dynamic question asked in previous years with diverse constituents listed in syllabus is just an attempt to analyze; it has no role to play in preparation-plan. Having a balanced view about Prelims syllabus will only help as no one can read what is there in examiner’s mind next time.
    2. To adopt a set approach that normally candidates look for can be fatal. The change in trend visible in Preliminary Examination from 2016 to 2017 and now in 2018 clearly indicates that you cannot follow a set trend for preparation. A little tweak by examiner makes Prelims a puzzle; people call it unpredictable.
    3. As the competition at Prelims level intensifies, UPSC is getting more creative and innovative.
    4. Success in Preliminary Examination depends more upon practice
    5. Being aware of techniques for solving objective-type tests is a boon.
    6. Keeping in mind ‘Negative marking’ one should be careful and should not venture in to risk-taking attitude.
    7. Although, Prelims General Studies Paper II is qualifying; still, it should not be taken lightly. CSE 2018 Prelims GS Paper II states clearly what I mean to say. Don’t go in examination hall expecting a set pattern in mind.

Main Examination Specific

    1. Care is must for each constituent of General Studies and every paper has its own significance.
    2. Answer writing practice has become quite important.
    3. At Main Examination, presentation techniques matters a lot.
    4. In the only ‘One’ optional subject regime, still, lots of candidates are making cross-domain shift and opt for a new subject leaving their own. But, gradually, trust in own subject is also coming on fore.
    5. Optional Subject selection has reached an interesting stage as after a long gap, candidates have started acknowledging the significance of Optional subject in selection as well as in getting high ranks.
    6. This time candidates are able to score freely in General Studies and even optional subject score has gone up notably.
    7. Irrespective of Hindi or English medium, scoring pattern for General Studies has shown uptrend. (those who advocate that UPSC show bias towards Hindi medium candidates should take a cognition of it that if answers are as per expectations, treatment is similar whether it is an English medium candidate or Hindi medium)
    8. In Main Examination, General Studies papers continue to be lengthy and those who practice, are duly rewarded.
    9. Among General Studies, Paper I, II and III have seen an uptick in score particularly Paper II scores presents a satisfying picture. However, the view candidates maintained that Efforts-Rewards ratio for Paper IV is still very high and for Paper II it is the lowest – this theory has completely reversed. This time Paper IV marks are exceptionally low comparing earlier editions.
    10. Among most popular optional subjects, lots of candidates confirmed Geography is one subject that has been badly hit this year. Among the optional subjects that have come in limelight in recent years, Anthropology has made a very strong come back; Law, Commerce & Accountancy and Mathematics are roaring and Economy is one optional subject that is missing at least in top ranks. This should not perturb you as it happens every year with one or other optional subject.
    11. Essay writing is becoming a craze and most candidates keep some time for practice during Main Examination preparation. Look at the score of Gaurav Kumar (AIR 34) as he secured marks as high as 166 in Essay paper and that was instrumental in his top rank.
    12. Opinion is divided on use of Quotations, flowery language, use of some heavy words, phrases. It all depends upon your presentation style and how effectively it is done.
    13. This year, any score above 410 (out of total 1000) for General Studies; 270 (out of total 500) for Optional Subject and 130 plus (out of total 250) for Essay can be considered as a decent score.
    14. As part of strategy, ‘Essay’ and ‘Interview’ are two areas where one aims to score high.
    15. Almost everyone I talked to confirmed that it is essential to complete all the Main Examination question paper. Attempt answering even unknown questions based on a very little info, slight familiarity sometimes delivers.
    16. One needs to manage time in such a way that none of the question is left unanswered. If that is the case, one stands to gain. Even a single mark matters.
    17. Once again, candidates who had performed well in Main Examination (Written) have been stress-free and had low dependence on Personality Test.

Personality Test

    1. Personality Test (Interview) score has again been in wide range and has once again impacted fortunes of many.
    2. In Interview, how the marks are awarded remains a puzzle; still, candidates have learnt the significance to be original.
    3. Interview continues to play a vital role and good scores have worked wonders for many.
    4. With lot of awareness around and discussions, encouraging words and guidance from successful candidates make things easier for beginners and inspires for an outstanding performance.

You may or may not spot anything new or you have not heard; but, you can always make your own understanding of the things that are in trend.

I hope if you are able to relate yourself with these and include something that seems useful in your plan, you stand to gain.

 

Last Update Thursday 15th November 2018

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