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S. B. Singh

The notification for the coveted Civil Services Examination 2016 has been issued. This examination provides gateway to the most sought after career in the government as top ranking decision makers influencing almost all spheres of public life. The annual notification issued by UPSC gives details of eligibility criteria, the syllabus, the pattern of examination and the examination calendar.This has stimulated
the aspirants to brace up for the Prelims Examination to be held on 7th August, 2016. In fact, UPSC notification galvanizes the candidates into action and causes them to get into the examination mode. This article is intended to help the aspirants understand the true nature of the Prelims Examination as also to put them in the right trajectory of preparations. Prelims is the first part of a 3-tier examination in the UPSC selection process. This year, the candidates were eagerly waiting for the UPSC notification expecting some changes in the  examination pattern, more particularly about removal of the optional papers from the main examination.
However, no such thing has happened and the exam. pattern remains exactly what it used to be last year. I
feel that the changes, if any, will be introduced next year by which time the recommendations of the committee constituted for suggesting changes are made available. It is worth recalling that sweeping changes are expected in the pattern of recruitment to the civil services once the 7-member committee, headed by Mr. B.S. Baswan, IAS and former HRD Secretary, submits its report. For now, the examination stands where it was previously and there is no need to worry about coping up with sudden changes.
Basic information about prelims.
2016 exam
Online application: Available on UPSC website- www. upsconline.nic.in
Last date to apply: 27th May, 2016
Commencement of prelims exam. : 7th August, 2016
Expected number of vacancies: 1079
Understanding the prelims
examination: The best way to succeed in an examination is to understand its nature and requirements. Those who are unable to clear prelims do not lack mental capacity or hard work, rather, they lack clarity about this exam owing to which, their preparations hold little relevance to the real requirements. For example, few candidates know that practising last several years of UPSC GS questions can be extremely useful. Instead of doing this, they keep on reading anything and everything as served to them by the coaching market. Also, UPSC conducts other examinations like, SSC, CAPF etc. In these exams also, there is a General Studies paper. So, sometimes UPSC takes questions from these exams. for IAS Prelims also. In fact, this is a vital clue to success. If you can master all these questions, you are bound to get a considerable number of questions in prelims-2016 exam. All these questions are available on UPSC and other websites.The following points may be kept in mind by the candidates.

*The first thing to bear in mind about the Prelims examination is the fact that it is a common examination held for both the Civil Services as well as the Indian Forest Service (IFS). This has altered the pattern of questions considerably. In other words, the prelims examination seeks to remain relevant for both the IAS and IFS by combining questions that would justify a common test like this. As a result, the number of questions on Environment and Ecology and basic sciences has increased in the last few years. Moreover, the traditional questions from areas like history, polity, economics etc have also undergone some changes. Questions from these areas are simple and straight now, which is definitely, because the IFS aspirants, with science background, cannot deal with complex, questions in humanities. Finally, the number of questions on current issues has been raised so that there is a larger common area for both IAS and IFS candidates in the Prelims test.

* Secondly, the Prelims Examination is a screening test, which seeks to weed out non-serious candidates so that only promising candidates are allowed to appear for the Main Exam.

* Thirdly, with Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) being made just a qualifying test, the GS Paper I has become the deciding factor for success in the Prelims Examination. This has tilted the prelims test in favour of core areas of GS i.e.History, Geography, Economics, Polity, General Science etc. The earlier advantage of clearing it with scoring well in CSAT has gone now. It has made the prelims slightly tough for candidates with Science and Engineering background who used to clear it on the strength of CSAT. They will have to contend hard preparing for the core areas of GS. It has indeed placed the art students in a position of comparative advantage because of their familiarity with art based parts of the prelims GS syllabus. However, the silver lining is that there are many questions belonging to Current Affairs, General Knowledge, programmes, policies and schemes of the govt. These questions do not give any advantage to Art or Science candidates and seek toprovide a level playing field for all.
Area wise analysis of syllabus
1. Current Events of National, International Importance: In terms of coverage, this section covers major events of the last one year. However, one caution here. UPSC has begun to ask some current events questions which were reported two or three years back in the newspapers. So, to be safe, one should cover last three years major events reported in newspapers (2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 events). Going by the questions asked in last two years, only few direct and information based questions are being asked. A good number of questions require understanding of the issue in a wider perspective. For instance, instead of asking a direct question on polio eradication, a question was asked on small pox and chicken pox eradication in India. In other words, one has to get into the habit of collecting wellrounded information on an area rather than just narrowing down to the obvious news that appears in the media. Another pertinent point to note here is that this area is not just about current events as it is generally  perceived but also about general knowledge. For instance, many schemes being run by the central/state governments may not be very new, still questions pertaining to those may be asked. The idea,therefore, is to cover more than just what is frequently appearing in the newspapers. A careful perusal of govt. publications like India Year Book-2015, Annual Reports of certain Ministries, particularly those which have rolled out various welfare schemes will be quite helpful. All these are available on the websites of the respective Ministries.
2. History and National Movement: By its very nature, History is the lengthiest part of GS syllabus for both prelims and main examination. As far as Ancient and Medieval History of India is concerned, questions are asked from cultural, religious and social aspects. Attention must be given to understand various Art and Architectural forms, Evolution and Growth of Religions, social divisions etc. Besides, many difficult  terms associated with ancient and medieval administrations can also be asked. For instance, terms like… sannidhata, samharta, pradeshika, yukta( Mauryan officials) or muhtasibs, barids( medieval Indian officials) are asked. You should minutely observe these aspects rather than just following political history of
ancient and medieval India. In modern India, questions are mostly from the National Movement, Constitutional Developments, Social and Religious Movements, Lower Caste Movements and the Administrative Apparatus of the British Rule. To cover such a wide range of topics, it is mandated that one should consult different books on history written from different themes. The book list given at the end of this
article will be helpful.
3. Indian and World Geography: At prelims level, geography takes a major share of questions, which necessitates intensive preparations. The best way of doing it is to master all the geography books of NCERT from standard VI to standard XII. In addition, one should also look up ICSE Geography books of standard VIII- X. There are many map-based questions for which the best method is to develop an understanding of major areas of crops, climatic zones, mines and minerals from textbooks and then refer to a good atlas.

4. Indian Polity and Governance:Although this section generates common interest of Civil Services aspirants, yet, not all of them are able to answer all the questions asked. This is largely because they go for just understanding the constitutional provisions without applying their minds on the actual working of our polity. What needs to be done in this regard is to simultaneously absorb the constitutional provisions and then link them up with any recent happenings relating to those provisions being reported in news. To cite an example, Uniform Civil Code is a constitutional provision in article 44 of the directive principles, but it is in news because of Supreme Court intervening in favor of implementing it. Therefore, it is highly desirable that this topic is read by linking up both the provision regarding Uniform Civil Code and current developments around it.

5. Economic and Social Development: This part involves the basics of Indian Economy. The safest way to cover this part is to read up on various sectors of Indian economy viz; Agriculture, Industry, Service Sector and Monitor all the recent initiatives of the government to induce growth in these sectors by state intervention. Apart from this, one must master over the Budget, Economic Survey.

6. General Science: In this section, there are two types of questions. One, relating to pure sciences and two, relating to Application of Science, say for example, Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, and new discoveries in Medicine etc. For pure science, NCERT books are most handy. For application based scientific information, the only way out is to pick up Science related news on day-to-day basis.
Recommended Book List-
Current Affairs:

2. Economic Survey 2015-2016
3. Annual Reports of Ministries of Environment and Forest, Tribal Welfare, Women and Child Welfare, Social Justice, Rural Development, Department of Science and Technology, Atomic Energy, Renewable Energy.
4. Newspapers: National political and business dailies
5. Magazines: Yojana, Frontline, Down to Earth
1. NCERT: Ancient India( R S Sharma) , Medieval India( Satish Chandra), Modern India( Bipin Chandra)
2. A L Basham: The wonder that was India
3. The Gazetteer of India: vol . II
4. Bipin Chandra: Struggle for India's Independence
5. A R Desai: Social Background of Indian Nationalism
6. B L Grover: Modern India
Art and Culture
1. Basil Gray: The Arts of India
2. Publications Division books on Art and Culture
3. A. L. Basham : The Wonder That Was India ( chapter on art and architecture)
4. The Gazetteer of India, vol. II: Chapters on Art, Literature, and Culture
1. All NCERT books on Geography from std. vi to xii
2. ICSE books on Geography.. 8th-10th standard.
3. Goh Cheh Leong: Certificate Human and Physical Geography
Polity and Constitution:
1. P M Bakshi : Constitution of India
2. D.D Basu: Constitution of India
3 S.C Kashyap: Our Constitution
4. M P Singh: Indian Federalism
5. B K Sharma: Indian Constitution
1. NCERT: Indian Economic
2. Mishra and Puri: Indian Economy
3. Economic Survey 2015-2016
4. Yojana
5. The political and business dailies
General Science:
NCERT: Standard X books on Physics, Chemistry and standard XI and XII books on Biology
(The list of books is indicative only)
(S.B. Singh is a noted academician. Views expressed are personal. email: sb_singh2003@yahoo.com)