About Civil Service

About the Exam

              Before starting the preparation, it is important to have a complete understanding about the exam process, its structure and the various aspects related to the preparation.
The structure of the exam and related information can be obtained from the UPSC website. Go to www.upsc.gov.in link to examination sections. Then link to the archives, where you will find the notification of Civil services exam. The complete notification should be studied carefully.

 Nature of the Exam
              In any competitive exam, understanding the nature of the exam is the most crucial phase. The preparation will be more focused when you know exactly what the examiner is expecting. At the same time, the competition is relative. You only need to be better than the other aspirants to get a final place in the merit list. The nature of the exam can be analyzed through the following ways:


-A thorough analysis of the previous year's papers and the recent trends.

-Discussing elaborately with teachers, successful candidates and seniors.

-Carefully understanding the requirements of the exam as given in the notification.


              The preparation should start only after having the basic idea about the exam. Later on, as you study, there should be a continuous analysis and comparison between your preparation and the requirements of the exam. This kind of assessment will help in being very focused and all the efforts can be channelised in the right direction. 

               Understanding the nature of the exam is very critical for success in civils exam. First of all, lets examine why it takes so much time for many in clearing this exam. There is lot of hype around the IAS exam. People have very ridiculous ides about the preparation for it. The coaching institutes, magazines and toppers almost everyone associated with the exam try to increase this hype due to vested interests. So a fresh aspirant comes with the idea that he has to do some hi-funda preparation and be like a scholar in the subjects. He starts his preparation on a high note and works hard in the beginning. For each topic he tries to do maximum and best preparation. In the process, he reads all the text books and the coaching material available in the market. Some spend 2-3 days on each topic and prepare 10-15 pages of notes. Gradually, he feels exhausted and the momentum slows down. Due to this approach, he is not able to complete the syllabus. So, he goes for a selective study as the exam nears. Now the pressure becomes unbearable, as on one hand he has not completed the syllabus and on the other hand he prepared so much notes for each topic that revision becomes impossible within a short time.  People have a funny idea that civils can be cleared only in multiple attempts. So, the aspirant starts succumbing to pressure and convinces himself that it is only his first attempt and, therefore he can prepare better next time. Naturally, his performance in the exam affects and he is in no position to clear the exam. When the marks come, he will compare his marks with what he has written. Then, he will also compare the marks of toppers. With experience, he realizes that the exam does not expect him to be a master in the subject. But merely that the aspirant should be thorough in the basics.

               The civils exam is all about the basics with lot of clarity. The exam process is complex, but the solution should be a simple one. If the    aspirant complicates the preparation also, then he is in real trouble. To understand the exam, just observe the following facts:

      -The candidates who qualify for IAS (say top 40) get marks in the range of 55-60%.

      -To make it to the final list, a candidate requires 50-55%

      -To qualify for the interview a candidate requires  48-50%

               That means, it is sufficient to get a 'Second class' to clear the exam. Even the toppers get only around 60% marks. The reason is due to the nature of the exam itself. The syllabus is so huge that it is not humanly possible to be a scholar in all the papers – GS, essay and two optionals (preliminary, main and interview). In the final month, when revision has to be done, there will be around 2000 topics in all including various sub-topics from which questions can be asked. It is not possible for anyone to master that much syllabus. The exam can be written well when the preparation is simple and the aspirant is very strong in basics with clarity.  

               In Public administration, there is a theory on Decision making by Herbert Simon. Taking an analogy of that theory to exam preparation, the strategy should be a 'Satisfying' approach. It means a preparation which is 'good enough' for the exam. Whereas, many try to do a 'maximising' approach where they want to do the best preparation without considering the requirements of the exam. The civils exam is all about basics and a Satisfycing approach.

               Anyhow, the exam process itself is psychologically very pressurizing. We should devise ways to reduce this pressure. By adopting a Maximizing approach, the revision becomes very difficult and the exam days will be a nightmare. When the preparation is complicated, there is a real danger of confusion with respect to clarity. Since, revision is difficult, remembering and reproducing in the exam hall will be affected. Therefore, the focus should be on getting clarity on the basics. When the foundation is strong there is no problem of revision and reproduction. Moreover, the exam only requires 50% marks, which is quite easy with good basics. The marks can be further enhanced with innovation in writing answers. That will take the scores beyond 55-60%, ensuring a top service. So, the real key to the civils exam is – basics with clarity and innovation.

           The creativity and innovation is not something that you will get in the text books. They have to be developed on your own. It requires lot of thinking and observation. By innovation in answers what is meant is –

-          catchy introduction

-          diagrams

-          graphs

-          flow charts

-          maps

-          case studies

-          contemporary touch and applicability

-          Conclusion.

               Basics with clarity will come when there is lot of questioning while studying. The topic has to be studied in a logical manner. Suppose you are  studying a topic on Inflation. Think logically as a layman, then you should get the following sequence of questions

-          what is inflation

-          why should there be inflation, i.e., causes

-          So what if there is inflation, i.e., impact

-          If impact is negative, then naturally we should be doing something to reduce it, so what steps were taken  and what happened

-          If still inflation is there, then what's wrong with the steps taken

-          How to control inflation , any suggestions by experts and recent developments.

              You can add innovations like say a simple graph showing how the inflation has been in recent times and also a flow diagram about the impact of inflation.
 In this manner, the basics in the topic can be covered with clarity. And the topic should be remembered in this logical structured way for the exam. It should be understood that once you have done the topic in this comprehensive method through logical questioning, the preparation is over for that topic. You need not go through any journals or hi-funda text books for becoming an expert in the topic. This much of basics with clarity is sufficient for the exam. And, this is what is humanly possible in view of the huge syllabus.
               Secondly, since the preparation will be simple with a Satisfycing approach, it is easy to complete the whole syllabus. The reason why many go for selective preparation is because they maximize each topic, spend 2-3 days on it and in the end there is no time for completing the syllabus. It becomes very risky in the exam if the paper is not favourable. So, its very important that no topic is left out in the syllabus. It should be noted that completing the syllabus with basic clarity itself requires lots of efforts. But the hard work would be channelised in the right direction and there would be no reason why the candidate would not be successful.

So, to summarize, the following points should be kept in mind while doing preparation:

-          It is a Second class exam which requires a satisfycing approach

-          The focus should be on gaining basic clarity in each topic, which will come only through lots of logical questioning

-          The whole syllabus should be completed

-          More time should be spent on thinking about the topic and making innovations, rather than on reading too many study material.

-          The previous papers should be thoroughly analyzed to understand the expectations of the examiner.

-          The preparation should be focused and all the hard work should be channelised in the right direction.


Choosing the optionals

                 The most important step in the exam is  chosing the optionals. There is a need to be really cautious about the optionals. The main problem is lack of level playing field between the optionals. In fact, the result depends a lot on the optionals that we take.
Some criteria which should guide you while chosing optionals are:


 -          interest in the subject. This is quite important for sustaining the momentum in studies and completing the huge syllabus.

-          Availability of guidance – in the form of seniors who cleared with the optional, coaching, material, etc.

-          Performance of the optional in the last few years.

-          Time gap between the two optionals. Chose the optionals combination so that there is some time gap between them.


                 Some of the optionals which a majority take are: Anthropology, Geography, History, Political Science and International Relations, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology and Literature.
The main advantage with these optionals are:

-          availability of guidance, which reduces the efforts to a large extent

-          the knowledge also helps in GS, Essay and interview.

-          They are also relevant for an administartive career.

                 The reason why they are called 'scoring' is not because the examiners give more marks here. The guidance helps a lot in understanding the exam quickly.  So, we can prepare accordingly and score well. Also, because there is market for these subjects, the material available is also of good standard. Moreover, there is no risk associated with these optionals.
If a person is from professional education background, which optionals should he choose? This is a basic question for many. There is a tendancy to opt for the graduating subject. Lets understand the problems associated with these subjects.


-          There will be no guidance available. So, lots of time will have to be spent in understanding the requirements of the exam. Then, searching for the material. It becomes a trial and error process. All the energies will be spent on this, while you get exhausted when really studying. At the same time, you will also have to complete the huge syllabus of another optional and GS.

-          Because of the above problem, it will take more time and more attempts. While, your friends in other fields go far ahead. So, both peer and social pressure starts. The exam is anyhow psychologically draining, if other pressures add to it , then it becomes unbearable. Finally, your goal of cracking the exam becomes impossible.

-          You will have to do every thing on your own. Initially it might be fine. But the exam is of long duration. It becomes difficult to sustain the momentum on your own.

-          Previously, science and engg. Optionals used to do very well. In top 20, there used to be 18-19 from IIT and engg background. But after 2000, UPSC has modified the syllabus. It became a very huge syllabus and even the exam questions are made tough. Thats the reason why, very few are writing the exam from IITs now. Many engineers are taking arts optionals instead of sciences.  Just observe the background of the toppers and their optionals.

                A person might be University topper, but we have to understand the difference between an academic exam and a competitive exam. Moreover, the optionals are not on the same platform. So it is very important to be careful, while chosing optionals, even though you might feel you are really good in a particular subject.


                Still, if you are confident about your subject, then do take that optional. Because, there is nothing like a scoring or non-scoring optional. There are some people who cleared with optionals that others don't take generally. But take into consideration the following points

-          do you have a senior who has cleared with this optional and who can guide you well

-          do you have close association with professors who have good understanding about this exam.

-          Are you clear about the requirements of the exam? Study the previous papers thoroughly and assess yourself

-          Be clear about the books to follow. Don't do trial and error process. Do a focused exam oriented preparation.

-          Be aware that you have to put double the efforts compared to other aspirants. This should always be on your mind.

-          Do not neglect other optional and GS. Give equal importance.

-          Form a group of aspirants with same optional. If you prepare in isolation, then there will be no flow of information.

 There are some succesful candidates with following optionals – Agriculture, Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science, Botany, Chemistry, Commerce and Accountancy, Managemet, Mechanical Engineering, Medical Science, Philosophy, Physics, Zoology.

Do not be in a hurry to decide about the optional. Be very cautious and consult the right people about the information. Analyse carefully all the pros and cons, and then take a decision purely based on your assessment.


                Due to the complex exam procedure, the coaching assumes a crucial role. Unfortunately, it is a costly affair. But the coaching has the following advantages:

- helps in understanding the requirements of the exam quickly, so that the preparation is focussed.

- reduces the efforts in preparation, as subject experts teach the topics in exam orientation. Any  how, the candidate has to prepare for atleast one new optional.

- helps in getting many contacts with co-aspirants which is useful for exam related information. Never prepare for this exam in complete isolation. In any complex situation, information plays the key role.

- It is advisable to go for some coaching classes. But remember that there are not many genuine teachers available. So be very careful while joining any institute. Please take into account the following points:

- do not merely go by the advertisements, nor the claims made in magazines or the interviews supposedly given by the toppers.

- meet the successful candidates and the seniors who have taken coaching from that institute.

- do not go by the advise of only one person. It is better to contact as many as possible and get a general opinion.

- meet the teacher personally,ask for their programme details, results,etc,  and assess yourself if it is worth joining there.
If you are working somewhere or economically under privileged, and therefore, cannot go for coaching, please do not get discouraged. There are many people who cleared the exam without coaching. You can device ways of getting the required information about the exam. But you should always be aware that you will have to work harder than others to clear the exam. So be prepared for that and believe that hard work will always be paid back in the end.

Check out the competition magazines to get the addresses of various coaching institutes.


                 The following data about the marks and the ranks will give a general idea about the efforts that are required. The marks and the ranks keep varying every year depending on the vacancies and the standard of the question papers.
In prelims, a score of above 300 out of 450 is desirable to be on the safe side. In GS, it is better to be above 80. The scores for the optionals should be in the range of 80-90 or above depending on the subjects. Usually, it is believed that a proportion of students are taken from each optional. So, in any case, you are expected to be in the top segment in your optional to get selected for the mains.

The scores for the mains are in the range of 50-55%. Usually, a score of above 1050 is better to ensure a place in the final list.

                 In the interview, a score around 150-180 is a normal performance. Some get a score of even 220-240. The UPSC has deliberately kept a wide range in interview (scores vary between 50-240), so as to have the final say in who would get into the service. So, it is very important to make personality development a vital part in your preparation. The final rank is going to depend very much on the interview marks.
In general category, the score should be above 1290 to get into IAS.
The actual ranks and the service placements can be obtained from the personnel ministry website. www.persmin.nic.in

Exam time table

                The exam time table is almost the same every year. This information will be useful in selecting the optionals. But remember clearly that you interest in the subject should be the main criteria.
The exam sequence is as follows:

Essay and English
Indian language paper
Mathematics, Statistics
Sociology, Anthropology
Engineering subjects
Political Science, Public Administration
Commerce, Management
Agriculture, Veterinary Science


 General Suggestions:
Observe the following points:

-          Long hours of study and lot of other sacrifices are needed. You should have a very determined mental make up and a never-say-die kind of spirit.

-          The fortune favours the brave. So work hard with courage inspite of the failures. The final reward is bound to come. The luck factor does not help if you don't work hard to your full capacity.

-          to err is human, but the one who rectifies is a champion. So, do lots of introspection as you progress in the preparation. This will help you in identifying the mistakes and rectifying them at the right time.

-          Devotion and Determination are the keys to the success. Be ready to work hard. But at the same time, ensure that your efforts are channelised in the right direction.

-          Plan your study and try to work it out within schedule. Set weekly targets and at the end of the week, do a self-appraisal.

-          Patience and perseverence always pays. You should have the confidence and the killer instinct. Remember clearly that there are no shortcuts to success.

-          there will be lots of temptation to give up the attempt, as you progress in the preparation. This is mainly due to the huge syllabus and the accumulating pressure. But be aware that these are the critical moments. You should face all these pressures with courage. Be determined to clear the exam in the first attempt.


 How should a fresh candidate  approach the exam?
A new aspirant should keep in mind the following points:

-          first try to understand the exam. Gather information from various sources, analyse the previous years' papers, meet seniors and teachers, and think deeply about the exam and the way you should prepare.

-          chose the optionals very carefully.

-          Settle down in some place where you can study without disturbances, it is better to be isolated for a year during the preparation.

-          select the coaching centers carefully after enquiring from various sources. Do not merely go by the advertisements.

-          Do not be in a hurry to buy all the material available in the market. Be selective and chose only the best, based on advise of right seniors.

-          Establish good relation with the teachers and make complete advantage of their experience.

-          Remember always that you are going to have a tough period for next two years. So be well prepared for all situations. Keep working hard right from the beginning without any distractions.

-          Believe strongly that you will clear the exam in the first attempt itself and do not compromise at any stage. If required work harder than ever before.

-          Take care of your health aspects. It is better to learn 'Sudarshan Kriya' as early as possible.

-          Do not be in a hurry to complete the syllabus. Go slow when you read new concepts. Do regular revisions.

-          make writing practise a part of your daily routine.

-          The current affairs notes should be prepared every day.

-          The preparation should be started atleast a year ahead of the prelims exam.

-          Do not give the attempt unless you are confident of qualifying for the interview. The first attempt should be the best one, so work hard with determination.


For More Details: http://www.civilserviceindia.com/

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