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Special Content


Issue no 06, 06-12 May 2023

Unleash Your Full Potential! Preparation Tips for Civil Services Prelims

S B Singh

 The Civil Services Preliminary Exam is a challenging and diverse exam that requires extensive coverage of its syllabus. Success in this exam hinges on a balanced prepara-tion that takes into account the weightage of each topic in terms of the number of questions asked. While achieving complete mastery of the syllabus is unrealistic, a well-rounded pre-paration is both necessary and feasible. Candidates should focus on intensive preparation in three major areas of the syllabus, such as history, geography, polity, and economy, which account for a significant number of questions in the exam. Selective study should be conducted in other areas like science and technology and current affairs. In the previous article, we discussed the preparations strategy for History. This article delves into those aspects of preparations for some of the other prelims topics which most aspirants (especially, in their first attempt) fall short of identifying and addressing. In the prelims, it is crucial to recognise that attempting all 100 questions is an unrealistic task, and candidates should focus on securing the required cut-off.

Polity: To excel in the UPSC Civil Services Examination, it is imperative to prepare well in polity. Polity is an interesting subject, owing to topics like elections, parliament, judiciary, and fundamental rights, which have been learned by aspirants in school. Moreover, everyday news related to polity is covered in newspapers, news channels, and magazines, which makes the candidates familiar with polity and keen to study it. Polity is an important subject that counts in all three stages of the examination - prelims, mains, and interview - and a good command over it can be a determining factor for success. To understand the syllabus of each area from UPSC's perspective, one should refer to previous years' questions. The next logical step is to find the right sources of study, such as textbooks, newspapers, journals, and magazines. It must be kept in mind that the syllabus provided by UPSC in each discipline is only indicative and not exhaustive. Therefore, while the components of Indian polity and governance, such as Constitution of India, political system, Panchayati Raj Institutions, public policy, and rights issues, must be kept in mind, there is also the need for a closer study of various provisions of the Constitution to understand issues pertaining to governance. Reading the original Constitution document called the bare acts is recommended. Reading and memorising all 448 Articles in the Constitution and the 12 Schedules is a stupendous exercise. Therefore, one has to concentrate on the major chapters of the Constitution from where most questions will be asked. For example, the bulk of questions come from aspects of the Constitution like the Preamble, Citizenship, Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles, Union Executive, Union Legislature, State Executive, and State Legislature.

Economy: A sound understanding of the fundamental concepts of economics is essential, which can be found in NCERT books. A good textbook on Indian economy should be read, with emphasis on agriculture, industry, and foreign trade sector. Latest developments in the economy, reported in newspapers, must be covered in detail. Government documents such as the budget document, Economic Survey, and report of the Finance Commission are also essential readings.

Geography: NCERT books provide an excellent foundation for the geography section, which must be mastered through at least two or three serious readings. A good atlas is also necessary while studying physical, economic, and human geography. Geographical regions making news stories frequently invite questions in prelims, so candidates should keep abreast of such regions during their preparation.

Environment: Extensive study of the environment and environmental issues is required due to its diverse nature. Candidates must read the NCERT book on biology, annual reports of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, and the government website www.envis.nic.in. Major areas of preparation include wildlife, climate change, and the state of forests.

Science and Technology: In this section, candidates should emphasise the latest develop-ments in Medicine, Biotechno-logy, Defence, Communications, Information Technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Nuclear and Space-related news. Annual reports of important scientific ministries and departments such as those of Space, Biotechno-logy, Nuclear research, Defence, Earth Sciences, and IT must be thoroughly studied. Space should be given priority for this year's prelims exam as a large number of space missions are being executed both in India and abroad. For example, ISRO has planned several ambitious missions, including Gaganyan, Chandrayan-3, and the Aditya L1 mission to study the sun. Similarly, NASA is on track to revive its manned moon program with its Armetis 1 mission. It has already successfully conducted its DART mission to redirect an asteroid to protect from its possible collision with the Earth. James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is already functional and generating interesting data. Then, the European Space Agency has just launched the JUICE Mission- Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer. The Mission will study the three moons of Jupiter- Europa, Ganymade and Callisto apart from studying Jupiter's environment. The OSIRIS -Rex Mission, launched in 2016, took off from the asteroid Bennu and will return to earth this year carrying samples of the asteroid. NASA also plans Asteroid Psyche Mission to study the asteroid of the same name. Thus, there is a lot on the plate on the space front to study for this year's exam.

Current Affairs: The task of covering current affairs for the Civil Services examination, particularly for the prelims, is a formidable challenge. The sheer volume of events that occur on a daily basis can seem overwhelming, and yet it is essential to extract relevant information from this ocean of news. Neglecting current affairs is not an option, as static portions of the exam are often linked to current developments. For example, recent revisions to the list of national and state level political parties by the Election Commission are a matter of current affairs, but understanding the criteria for recognition as a national or state party is equally important. The linkage between the static and dynamic aspects of current affairs is critical to answering prelims questions. One must focus on events that have been regularly reported in newspapers and magazines over the past year, with greater emphasis on issues from the last six months. While UPSC may ask questions about older current issues, it is impractical to read up on all of them to prepare for a handful of questions that may or may not be asked. The most efficient and effective way to prepare for current affairs is to make notes on a daily basis, writing them by hand rather than compiling them on a laptop or mobile device. This approach helps to commit topics to memory better. Commercial current affairs materials may be overwhelming, as they often include all kinds of current issues without much thought. Moreover, reading a complete article on an issue from a newspaper directly is essential to clarify one's concepts. Spending a good amount of time reading newspapers daily and deliberating on possible UPSC-style questions for each issue is critical. Current affairs should be prepared under various headings and regularly updated with inputs from newspapers. Depending on a single newspaper is risky, so reading at least two newspapers regularly is advisable. The habit of tuning in to AIR's Spotlight program every night can be highly beneficial, as other news channels tend to focus more on noise than news. Government websites such as PIB and Niti Aayog can provide information on current news relating to policies, schemes, and development challenges. The essential headings under which current affairs should be studied include international issues, environmental issues, political issues, economic issues, science and technology, art and culture, and government programs and policies. It is essential to cover all critical events such as treaties, conflict zones, international conferences, wildlife, climate change, heat stress, water stress, forests, recent judgments, important bills and acts, election related changes, bankruptcy of banks, inflation, food prices surge, oil prices, science and technology developments, places of cultural importance, and flagship pro-grams of the union as well as state governments.

 (S B Singh is an academician and competitive examinations mentor. He can be reached at sb_singh2003@yahoo.com

Views expressed are personal.