Civil Services Examination
A Comprehensive Strategy
Civil Services Examination has been one of the highly competitive and prestigious examinations in India since independence. UPSC selects few hundreds of candidates every year out of lakhs of applicants vying for the top government services such as IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS etc. after a lengthy process of selection which spans over more than an year. On the face of it, the competition appears mind-boggling and many feel it is almost impossible for any ordinary candidate to clear the exam. No doubt the competition is fierce but, if one focuses on the requirements of the exam and orients himself towards those needs, one can surely succeed in the first attempt itself.
Many aspirants fail or clear in multiple attempts not because they lacked in doing hard work. Majority fail because they didn’t adopt the correct strategy and didn’t focus on what qualities/skills/priorities the exam demands at each stage. Unless an aspirant interacts with teachers and good seniors, it is very difficult to know the right way to go ahead and to avoid mistakes which may prove fatal in the final exam. It is true that many won’t be having that opportunity of being guided by good mentors throughout their preparation.
To fill this gap between the aspirant community and the successful candidates, here is an attempt to give you a comprehensive overview about the Civil Services Exam and how to go about in each stage. It is said that ‘An old patient is better than a new doctor’. Various guidelines and suggestions given in this note are derived from the experiences of various successful candidates including the authors of this note.
There may not be any single and unique strategy to clear the civils exam. After careful analysis of the nature of the exam, each one may chart his own path or strategy to succeed in the exam. Through this note, it is only hoped that the budding aspirants make use of these suggestions and avoid common mistakes during the course of their preparation and clear the exam successfully within minimum possible attempts.
Before reading this note, please have complete understanding about the whole examination process. The various stages of the exam and other details including optional-related information etc. can be obtained from the latest notification published in Employment News, generally in Nov-Dec, every year. One has to go through the notification thoroughly and the latest notification (CSE, 2009) and other details about the exam are attached herewith for your benefit. You can also access the UPSC website (www.upsc.gov.in) for more details.
(This note was originally prepared by Mr.Vineel Krishna, IAS. It is subsequently edited and revised by Mr. Ravi Kiran Edara, IRS. Please go through the note thoroughly. If you have further queries or suggestions, e-mail to: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com )
Nature of the Civil Services Exam:
Like in any other competitive exam, understanding the nature of the exam is the most important phase. The preparation will be focused only when you know exactly what skills / aspects the examination demands from the aspirant. As competition in any case is relative in nature, you only need to be better than the other aspirants to get a final place in the merit list.
Have a glance at the competition for the exam. Every year, 3-4 lakh aspirants apply for the exam. Out of that, 1.5-2 lakh aspirants actually appear for the prelims exam. Out of these, 6,000-10,000 (depending upon no. of vacancies that year) will be selected for mains. Out of these, 400-800 aspirants get selected finally to various services.
Broadly, the Civil Services Exam can be divided into 3 stages. Preliminary Exam tests your facts/information. At mains stage, it tests whether you are able to analyse the facts and issues and information you posses. Thus, in mains, it is more a test of your scholastic aptitude rather than your intelligence or memory. In interview stage, your personality traits are tested and whether you could arrive at balanced opinions and conclusions based on your factual knowledge and analysis of issues. Thus, there are no short cuts or quick-fix solutions to succeed as the exam tests overall skills acquired by you over a period of time. That’s why, ‘orienting oneself towards the requirements of the exam’ is more important rather than looking for an overnight strategy.
The nature of the examination and information about each optional can be known from following ways:
- A thorough analysis of the previous year’s question papers and the latest trends in the mode of questioning.
- Discussing elaborately with teachers, successful candidates and seniors.
- Carefully understanding the requirements of the exam as given in the notification.
Broadly, the skill set required for the exam is:
1. Strong inherent zeal to get into Civil Services and to have perseverance till one clears the exam
2. Constant urge to learn new things on a variety of subjects (GS and two optionals)
3. Good expression and presentation skills
(in Telugu or English depending upon the medium of the candidate)
4. Analytical skills (ability to analyse a given issue in all its dimensions, pros and cons etc. and to arrive at a balanced conclusion)
5. Time management
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 that right direction.
First of all, let’s examine why it takes so much time for many in clearing this exam. There is lot of hype about the IAS exam. Some people have very ridiculous ideas about the preparation for the exam. Unfortunately, some coaching institutes, competition magazines etc. try to increase this hype due to vested interests. So, a fresh aspirant comes with the idea that he has to do some hi-fi 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 even 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.
For a typical aspirant, prelims is a tough stage to clear where the filtration is too merciless - about 1.8 lakhs to few thousands who qualify for mains). For an average aspirant, clearing prelims may take 1-2 attempts. Keeping previous prelims failure in mind, many tend to equate civils exam to prelims and forget about mains till they clear prelims. Once the prelims results are out, there is hardly 2-3 months to prepare for mains. Now, they go to mains with a very little of mains-oriented preparation, i.e., without doing enough writing practice, improvement in expression etc. Finally, they fail in mains though they have cleared prelims this time and the cycle starts once again. That is why, preparation for prelims and mains must be done simultaneously while the priority may change few months before each stage (prelims/mains).
Another reason for failure, especially in prelims is lack of proficiency in English. One has to remember that Prelims paper will be in Hindi and English only. So, those who are writing mains in Telugu medium also have to face prelims in English only and they should have minimum proficiency in English to quickly grasp what is asked in the question and locate the answer. This is especially important in optionals like Public Admn. where good knowledge in English gives an edge to the aspirant over others. Majority of the Telugu medium aspirants fail to give sufficient importance to this aspect and lag behind others who are good at English. So, improving English should be continuously done throughout your preparation for both Telugu medium and English medium candidates.
The best way to improve English proficiency is to read Newspapers (Preferably, The Hindu), Weekly Magazines, Good novels and general books in English (in your interest area). While reading newspaper or books, many read them just for content or information given there i.e., ‘what is being said’. But, to develop English, one has to focus equally on the presentation and the words used in a given context i.e., ‘how it is said’. Keep an eye on the language and note down ‘key phrases’ and ‘new words’ in a separate notes. Our aim should be to learn how to convey something in a better way using the appropriate words. Then, refer to Advanced Learners’ Oxford Dictionary which is an indispensable reference as it emphasizes on usage of words in different contexts. If you do this exercise daily for an hour or so for an year, you can see dramatic improvement in your English proficiency.
And there is the myth of ‘Hhhard Work’ required for the exam. Some think that one has to read some 18 hours a day to get success. This is simply absurd. As noted earlier, it is not the ‘hard’ work that matters but the ‘smart’ work you do which suits the requirements of the exam. It can be said that for an aspirant with reasonable merit, 6-10 hours of daily study for about an year before first prelims should be sufficient to get his desired service, provided he had adopted the correct strategy.
The civil services exam is all about ‘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 and the marks required for clearing it, just observe the following facts:
- The candidates who make it to the top ranks scores 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 for the answers written by the ‘toppers’ (relatively the best ones among all aspirants) a maximum of 60% marks will be awarded. 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 ‘Satisfycing’ (Satisfying + Sufficing) approach. It means a preparation which is ‘good enough’ and sufficient 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 success in civils exam is possible through such ‘Satisfycing’ approach.
Anyhow, the exam process itself is psychologically very demanding. 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. 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 a little of 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
- flow charts
- case studies
- contemporary touch and applicability
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. 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 fundamentals 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.
When you read anything, keep a separate note book with you which may be called the ‘DOUBT BOOK’. While you are reading, if you get any doubt or any new word or phrase on which you require clarity, just note it in the ‘doubt book’ and continue your reading. Once in 2-3 days, sit before internet with the ‘doubt book’ and search for the info and note them in the book. Internet has emerged as a very powerful tool in preparation for civils because for many topics asked in the exam, there are no books or sources which can be directly referred to. Making use of Internet in preparation definitely gives you an edge over others. If you don’t know how to use internet, please learn it. It’s very simple and takes few minutes to learn basic browsing.
Those with Telugu medium background in intermediate and degree can write the exam in Telugu also. But, the availability of standard books in Telugu may be difficult. However, recently, Telugu Academy, Hyderabad Book Trust and other private competitive magazine publishers like Vijeta Competitions, Udyoga Sopanam etc. have brought out several books and translation works in Telugu.
So, to summarize, the following points should be kept in mind while doing preparation:
- It is an 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 while studying
- The whole syllabus should be covered and more time should be spent on thinking about the topic and making innovations, rather than on reading too many study materials.
- The previous papers should be thoroughly analyzed to understand the trends and 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 choosing the optionals. There is a need to be really cautious about the selection of optionals. One main problem is lack of level playing field between the optionals. In fact, it is very difficult for the UPSC also to ensure such uniformity among all optionals in terms of marks awarded. Remember the choice of your optionals can make or mar your success in the exam.
Some criteria which should guide you while choosing optionals are:
- Interest (Liking) for a particular subject: This is quite important for sustaining the momentum in studies and completing the huge syllabus.
- Aptitude (ability to learn a particular subject): Some are good at memorizing, some are good at analysis and presentation, some are good at a subject due to their previous association with the subject. Take an optional that suits your personal abilities.
- Availability of guidance – in the form of seniors who cleared with the optional, coaching institutes, material, etc.
- Thorough analysis of syllabus, previous papers and consultation with successful candidates
- Familiarity with the subject i.e., having studied it at graduation or PG levels
- Performance (i.e., the level of certainty in getting marks for a given performance in the exam) of the optional in the last few years.
- Based on above factors, you can zero in on few optionals (say, 5-10). Then you can go through some representative books in these 5-10 subjects to get a ‘feel’ of each optional.
- Let all this exercise take few days/weeks.
- Finally, you can select two optionals for the exam.
Many aspirants won’t do this basic exercise and choose optionals in a jiffy just because some coaching centre had directed him to choose so or many of his friends took the subject or a particular optional is very scoring etc. These people may regret later for taking wrong optionals. By that time, it’d have been be too late for them to change the optional. Please don’t do this mistake. Remember you have to study the optionals over next 1 or 2 years or even more. So, take a wise decision.
Some of the popular optionals are: Public Administration, Anthropology, Geography, History, Political Science & International Relations, Psychology, Sociology and (Telugu) Literature etc.
The reasons for the popularity of these optionals are:
- Availability of guidance, material and coaching which reduces the efforts to a large extent
- Some topics of these optionals help in GS, Essay and interview.
- Some of them are also relevant for an administrative career.
The reason why they are called ‘scoring’ is not because the examiners give more marks in these subjects. The guidance is easily available and that helps a lot in understanding the exam quickly. So, we can prepare accordingly and score well. As majority of aspirants take these optionals, the probability of finding successful candidates with those optionals will be obviously more. Also, the material available is also of good standard. Moreover, there is less uncertainty associated with these optionals regarding marks, i.e., the possibility of getting very less or very high marks.
If a person is from professional education background (Engineering, Medicine, Law etc.), which optionals should he/she choose? This is a basic question for many. There is a tendancy to opt for the subject in which one has graduated. Let’s understand some problems associated with these subjects.
- It is very difficult to get good guidance in terms of coaching, material, seniors etc. So, lots of time will have to be spent in understanding the requirements of the exam and searching for the material. 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 may 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.
- You will have to do every thing on your own. Initially, it might be fine. But the exam is of long duration. So, it becomes difficult in the long run to sustain the momentum on your own.
- However, this doesn’t mean one should not take their graduation (professional) subjects. In fact, many people scored excellent marks with these optionals also. Only question one has to ask oneself is whether he/she is very good at that subject and whether he/she can compete with the best in those subjects (say aspirants from IIT’s etc.)
- 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 for the professional subjects and even the exam questions are made tough. That’s the reason why, very few are writing the exam now with optionals like Engg., Medicine etc. and we can see many engineers and doctors 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 don’t have a level playing field. So, it is very important to be careful, while choosing optionals, even though you might feel you are good in a particular subject.
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? Analyse the syllabus and study the previous papers thoroughly to assess yourself
- Be clear about the books to follow. 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 exchange of ideas and strategy.
There are many successful candidates with following optionals – Agriculture, Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science, Botany, Chemistry, Commerce and Accountancy, Management, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engg., Medical Science, Philosophy, Physics, Zoology etc.
Take your time to decide about the optional as it is the most important determining factor for your success. 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.
- As a candidate has to prepare for atleast one new optional, coaching reduces the efforts in preparation, as subject experts teach the topics in exam orientation.
- helps in getting in touch with co-aspirants which is useful for exchanging exam-related information. Never prepare for this exam in complete isolation.
So, it is advisable to go for some good coaching institute. But, remember that there are not many genuine teachers and institutes 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 advice 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, previous results, etc, and assess if it is worth joining there.
- Some institutes are known for particular optionals because of good teachers associated with that institute. Find out those details also.
- You can check out the competitive magazines to get the addresses of various coaching institutes.
- If you belong to SC/ST/OBC, there are govt. institutes like AP Study Circle, BC Study Circle etc. in Hyderabad which guide aspirants almost free of cost. There are institutes like Hyderabad Study Circle which are run on non-profit basis and charge reasonable fees.
- If you can afford, you can go to Delhi but the cost of preparation will be high. The quality of coaching and the overall preparation environment will be good compared to Hyderabad. You’ll have to spend about 5,000 – 10,000 Rs. per month for food and accommodation. Coaching Institutes charge anywhere between 12,000 -23,000 Rs. per subject (fees vary based on reputation of the institute etc.). Some institutes offer ‘Prelim cum Mains’ course as single package. Prelims (2 subjects – GS and Optional), Mains (3 subjects – GS & 2 optionals).
- Remember that going to Delhi is not so compulsory, especially if you can’t afford it. You can get some good material from Delhi and prepare well in Hyderabad or sitting in your home.
If you are working somewhere or financially not sound, and therefore, cannot go for coaching, please do not get disheartened. There are many people who cleared the exam without coaching. You can devise 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.
Trends in Marks:
Usually, it is believed that a proportion of students are taken from each optional at prelims level. So, in any case, you are expected to be in the top segment in your optional to get selected for the mains. Note that while a threshold minimum score may be sufficient in GS (65+/-10), one has to score as many marks as possible (200+/-20) in optional to be selected for mains. (These are only approximate marks and taking negative marking into consideration. Please note that the marks and the cut-off keep varying every year depending on the vacancies and the standard of the question papers.)
For general category, the required score in mains to get selected for interview will be around 1000 (ranging from 960 to 1020 for a variety of factors such as no. of vacancies etc.). For reserved candidates, the cut-off will be slightly lesser (say 20-40 depending upon the category). Usually, a score of above 1050 in mains is better to ensure a place in the final list.
In the interview, a score of 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 and the 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 also.
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.
The exam sequence is as follows:
1. General Studies (Paper I, Paper II)
2. Essay & 3. General English (On same day)
4. Indian language paper (Telugu etc.)
5. Optional Subjects:
Political Science, Public Administration
Agriculture, Veterinary Science
Observe the following points:
- Long hours of study and 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.
- For civils exam, there are several optionals and difficulty levels may vary from paper to paper and year to year and mains is entirely a descriptive type exam. And the UPSC has scaling system to normalize marks in some optionals. Due to these factors, there is an element of built-in ‘uncertainty’ in the exam. So, be 100% detached about the result.
- As far as possible, avoid telling about your preparation to your relatives some of whom ask you from time to time about the result.
- After putting your best efforts also, if you could not clear the exam or exhausted your attempts, don’t get disheartened. There are umpteen other careers on par with civil services. The present hype about civils is more due to the aura created around it due to various reasons. Remember that life as a Civil Servant is also not a bed of roses but fraught with several challenges and limitations as one can know only through experience.
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. It is better to learn ‘Sudarshan Kriya’.
- 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. This is the most important thing to be done for mains but rarely anyone does it. Remember that it makes a lot of difference.
- 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. Especially, general category candidates should think twice before giving prelims because every attempt counts.
- Generally, it is observed that aspirants tend to try their luck with UPSC prelims without sufficient preparation. Some give attempt carelessly just to have the ‘feel’ of the exam and waste 1-2 prelims before qualifying for mains. Remember one can’t afford to take chances with prelims exam.
- The first attempt should be the best one, so work hard with determination.
- To decide whether to take the attempt or postpone it, try solving previous papers few days/weeks before the prelims exam under strict examination conditions and tell your scores to seniors and teachers who can tell your prospects of clearing the exam. By this exercise, you can definitely take an informed decision rather than going to exam hall without being confident of clearing it.
This is the first and most important stage of the exam and should never be taken lightly. The preparation should be such that you should not have any doubt about clearing the exam. The prelims should only be a passing phase. If you prepare well for the mains exam and be clear about the basics, then clearing prelims should not be a problem. The preparation for the prelims should start by the end of preceding year depending upon your attempts, confidence etc. Since there is well defined syllabus for the optional, you should prepare thoroughly in all aspects and score as much as possible. The main focus should be to score maximum in the optional subject and at the same time, the GS should be done regularly to get a minimum threshold score.
The prelims is a test of your memory and recognition. It is sufficient if you can recognise the correct answer from given choices. So, if you are strong in basics this should not be problem. Do not spend too much time in memorising facts. Prepare some mnemonics which will help you in memorizing various facts.
As noted earlier, prelims paper will be in Hindi and English only. So, those who are writing mains in Telugu medium also have to face prelims in English only and they should have minimum proficiency in English to quickly grasp what is asked in the question and locate the answer. This is especially important in optionals like Public Admn. where good knowledge in English gives an edge to the aspirant over others.
Practising previous papers under strict examination conditions is very important. You can practice on mock OMR sheets available with coaching centres. It will help you in time management and also in identifying the weak areas. This practice should be right from the beginning and not in the final stages. Plan your mock prelim schedule based on available previous papers. Remember that previous papers are an asset in your preparation and don’t ‘waste’ them by have cursory look at the questions and answers. Of course, you can see few previous papers (but, don’t look at answers) to know the way question are asked. Thus, by practising previous papers, we can assess our preparation on a continuous basis. Do practice some latest papers just few weeks before the exam to gain confidence. This exercise before exam answers your doubts whether to give attempt that year or not.
The GS paper is feared by many at the prelims stage as very difficult questions are asked from wide areas. It should be remembered that GS paper will be generally set on a higher difficulty level compared to optional. Remember that even the toppers feel many questions in GS prelims very hard to tackle. That’s why the scores in GS paper are relatively less compared to optional. In the present negative marking scenario, the cut-off’s are still lesser.
While preparing for the GS paper, the first efforts should be to analyse the previous years’ papers and then start preparation. Even while studying, you should keep looking at past questions. This will help in a focused preparation. In GS, it is equally important to know what not to study. So, preparation should be made in such a way that in every area the basic understanding is very clear. All the basic questions should be answered correctly in the exam. That is sufficient to qualify for the mains.
The areas to be covered are the history from ancient to modern period. The basic understanding can be obtained from below 10th NCERT books. The focus should be more on Modern Indian history which is covered in the mains also. The basic contours in other areas is sufficient. Some cultural aspects should also be covered.
The NCERT books (Ancient India, Medieval India & Modern India) are good enough for the purpose.
The Constitution and various related aspects of polity should be studied well. Some important articles of the constitution and other facts should be memorised. It is better to prepare this area well since it will be helpful in mains and interview.
The Indian Polity by Laxmikanth (Thorough reading required)
DD Basu’s book on Indian Constitution. (for reference)
Geography of India may be emphasized apart from Principles of Geography and World geography.
All NCERT Books (VI to XII)
Any one good atlas (Orient Longman / Dreamland etc.)
The basic concepts are being asked along with current affairs based questions. The basic clarity can be obtained from the standard books.
1. Economy section in daily newspapers or any Finance/Economy Newspaper
2. Economic Survey
3. Dutt & Sundaram or Mishra & Puri or IC Dhingra (any one among these 3)
4. Evolution of Indian Economy - NCERT
Some times the questions are asked very difficult that even science graduates cannot answer. But the preparation should be in such a way that all the basic questions can be done correctly. The questions are also asked in applications orientation.
1. NCERT books VIII to IX Std. (Biology, Physics and Chemistry)
2. What, Why & How books by CSIR
3. Science and Technology supplements in the Newspapers and magazines
4. General Science Portion of TMH Prelims Guide
Do lots of practice from previous years papers. The preparation can also be made from some standard guide like the TMH Publications or S Chand (Quantitative Aptitude). The speed and accuracy should be improved over time.
This has become a very important component. The preparation should be continuous from the sources given in mains strategy. The notes should be focused on the factual aspects that come in the news. Many questions are asked from this area, so prepare thoroughly. The efforts will be useful for all stages of the exam. It should become a part of your daily routine.
One national newspaper, preferably, The Hindu
One Monthly Competitive magazine (Don’t read everything but glance through important articles etc.)
One Current Affairs Yearly Compilation (RC Reddy / Wizard etc.) – Study this thoroughly, especially few days/weeks before the exam.
Quite a few questions are asked from this area. Some difficult questions are also asked. Do not spend too much time in memorising unnecessary facts. You should have a broad awareness about various fields. At the same time, focus more on areas which have been asked in the past.
1. India Year Book (Govt. of India Publication) - This is very important for the prelims and also for some mains two mark questions. But do not read every thing in the book, be logical and concentrate on the basics which can be asked in the exam. You should prepare notes on the various terms that are given in the book. Do not focus too much on unnecessary facts given in the book.
2. Manaroma Year book - This book should also be taken as reference.
For the GS prelims, If you want a compilation of all material at one point then you can refer some standard guide like TMH. But, do not ignore the NCERT and other basic books mentioned above since they give better clarity and focus on fundamentals.
The mains is the crucial stage of the civil services exam. While prelims is a qualifying exam and its marks won’t be considered for final ranking. Interview is for 300 marks only. Hence, the whole Civil Service Exam may be equated with mains (in terms of marks) which accounts for 2000 marks. If you are well prepared for the mains, then a good foundation will be made for prelims also. The risk involved with the interview can also be reduced with good performance in mains. The preparation should be mains- oriented right from the beginning. You should try to gather as many marks as possible in the main exam.
Broadly, the requirements for mains are:
1. Content / Information
2. Clear and effective expression
3. Time management
4. Balanced analysis
Note the following points:
- ‘Read less, Think more and Write even more’ is the mantra for success in mains. Selective reading and more of writing practice is the key for success.
-Writing practice within time limit should be done from the beginning. Study a topic thoroughly and attempt questions from that area from previous papers under strict time limit. Perhaps, this is the most important thing in mains preparation but rarely given enough importance by the aspirants resulting in failure. Unfortunately, coaching centres in Hyderabad also not stressing much on writing practice. Writing practice helps in understanding what you could grasp and whether you could reproduce within the time limit. Not only writing answers but you have to get them corrected by the teachers and good seniors who can give suggestions to improve your answers. This should be a continuous process from the very first day of your preparation. Some aspirants do the mistake of postponing writing practice on the wrong assumption that writing practice should be started only after a lot of study and experience.
- Improve your handwriting if it is not legible. Remember that our handwriting need not be beautiful but it should be easily readable / legible by anybody.
- The answer is the medium through which you are communicating to the examiner. So, you should think as to how to impress the examiner with your answer. Your pen, handwriting, writing style, logical presentation, innovations, relevance to the question, etc.- everything matters. Be careful about these aspects right from the beginning.
- You can use colour pens when you draw figures, diagrams etc. and to highlight details.
- While writing answers, focus on good introductions and conclusions. The presentation should be logical. The introduction should introduce the reader about the path he is about to take and what’s in store for him. It should raise the curiosity of the reader. While, the conclusion should sum up what the reader has gone through in the path. There should be a balanced judgement in the conclusions.
- You need not have a very good vocabulary or scholarly writing style. It is sufficient if you can present your answer in a simple and logical manner.
- your aim should be to score equally well in all the papers.
- In general category, an average score of about 300 in each optional and GS (Paper I & Paper II put together) and a score of about 100 in essay should be just sufficient to fetch you interview call. So, after that total of 1000 marks, how many extra marks you get decides your place in the final list. Depending on your strong areas, you should get more marks in some papers. In this way, for general category, if you manage to get around 1100, and 150-180 marks in interview, then your chances are very bright to be in the top slots. For reserved candidates, the above scores may be reduced by 20-40 marks. Note that these marks are illustrative only and based on the trends in the last 4-5 years. The actual cut-offs, as noted earlier depends upon a lot of other factors.
- One should not dump the information in the answer, but present it in a logical and attractive manner. The point form can be used only for some factual answers. Otherwise, paragraph mode with good analysis should be used.
-The final two months should be devoted to repeated revisions.
- read the question carefully and grasp the aspect being asked. The answer should be relevant to what is being asked.
- Due to lot of optionals and descriptive nature of mains exam, and different examiners valuing papers, an element of ‘uncertainty’ will be there in terms of marks one get for a given effort and this affects our chances of success in the exam. Keep this in mind and be detached about the result. Only thing in our hands is to give the best effort possible and leave further to UPSC.
The GS paper is common to everyone both at prelims and mains stage. It is usually observed that the aspirants fear the GS paper. But with proper orientation GS becomes very interesting and scoring. In fact, many try to concentrate more on optionals than GS. This may not be a good strategy, as GS gives good marks with relatively less effort. The preparation for GS is also helpful in essay and interview , and also later on in our career as civil servant. Therefore, proper attention should be given to GS preparation.
Firstly, the nature of GS should be understood. This can be done by a thorough analysis of the previous years papers. It can be observed that the questions are asked from a variety of areas, they are focused only on certain dimensions, especially those related to current affairs etc.
In this context, it is important to know the difference between a ‘generalist’ and a ‘specialist’. A generalist is a person who knows “less and less of more and more”, while a specialist is a person who knows “more and more of less and less”. To get good marks in GS, one has to follow the ‘Generalist’ approach, i.e., focusing on basic information and fundamentals in a wide variety of areas.
The national movement and related developments have to be studied with basic clarity. The aspirant should have a clear idea about the chronological sequence, the linkages between various topics and a good analysis about each stage of the freedom struggle. It should be remembered that the portion is not to be studied as if writing History optional. The GS paper will only test the basic clarity on the national movement. Thoroughly analyse previous papers to understand the nature of questions being asked.
1. ‘Modern India’ by Spectrum Publications – This is infact a concise and exam-focussed version of Bipan Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence.
2. Bipan Chandra’s book or Grover & Grover (for reference only)
3. NCERT XII Std. book for basic understanding.
4. Indian Culture (Spectrum)
5. Art and Culture portions of history books and Gazetteer of India
6. Books on culture / cultural topics brought out by Publications Division of Ministry of Information and broadcasting and National Book Trust. (Refer only if one has enough time)
7. Culture Chapter in the India Year Book.
Take care of following points:
- observe the forward and backward linkages at every stage of national movement and its importance in the overall context. Note that all the events were related in some way or the other.
- prepare simultaneously for the two markers- note down the personalities, places, terms, movements, journals etc. You should be able to identify them and their role in the national movement.
- innovations like maps (eg. 1857- spread and centers of revolt), flow diagrams etc can be made.
- try to attempt factual and non-controversial questions.
- Concentrate on the cultural aspects also which are asked for two markers.
There should be a basic understanding about the geography of India. If your preparation for Geography Prelims is thorough, it’ll take care of your Mains-Geography also. As this area accounts for relatively less marks compared to History, polity etc., lesser time may be devoted to this area compared to other major areas.
NCERT books on Indian Geography
Note the following points:
- Some current affairs based questions are also asked. eg. MRTS etc.
- Lots of maps and diagrams can be used while answering these questions.
- this part is quite scoring with focused efforts.
There is standard syllabus for this part and good material is also available. The questions are also mostly asked directly and this is one of the highly scoring areas. The knowledge in this polity also helps a lot in the essay and interview. This will give a good foundation for the career as an administrator also.
- Indian Polity by Laxmikanth (TMH Publications) – To be read thoroughly
- DD Basu (For Reference)
- NCERT books on polity (Democracy in India etc.)
Note the following points:
- You need not mug all the articles. There are only around 50 articles which are important. Note them when referred to in the text.
- Its better to quote some articles and Court judgements (only very important ones) while writing answers.
- give examples with contemporary relevance.
- prepare simultaneously for two markers.
- some questions are repeated, so be thorough with previous years papers.
- Questions are linked to various topics. So, while preparing you should be aware of the inter-linkages between various topics.
- Various current affairs topics which are linked to polity are asked. Also, some times basic questions linked to current affairs can be asked. For e.g., When TN Legislative Assembly punished some media persons, a question on Legislative privileges can be expected.
There is no standard material for these topics. Further, questions are also not asked every year. Even if asked, mostly they are of general nature which can be answered with common sense. So do not spend too much time on these areas or in search of material. Prepare well for other parts of GS and later if time permits then come to these areas.
- Social Issues (Chronicle Publishers)
- Competition magazine articles
-Social Issues in India by Ram Ahuja (For reference only)
Note the following points:
-you only need a basic information for each topic. If there is no material, just spent time in thinking on the topic and to prepare a basic structure. Then, you may spend time in searching for material. For. eg. Drug abuse, you should raise following logical questions:
what is drug abuse; what are the causes; distribution; impact; efforts to check; loopholes in present strategy; suggestions etc.;
- discuss it with other aspirants and get the information.
- Current affairs based question can be asked. For e.g., Some controversial case related to Child labour comes in media, then one may expect a question on Child labour.
India and the world:
The questions are asked to test the basic understanding about the relations with other nations and India’s foreign policy. Mostly, questions are related to current affairs. There is a need to have clarity about the basic contours of the evolution of India’s foreign policy. But do not get into too much depth or controversial topics. You are expected to have a basic clarity on India’s external affairs.
There are not many standard books available on the subject. Mostly, the preparation has to be based on current affairs.
-The Hindu and any other newspaper– Articles on foreign policy and global affairs in Edit page and op-ed page
- Frontline Magazine
- NCERT 12th Std book on Political science
- Radio- AIR ‘Spot light’- analysis by experts after ‘News at 9’.
- External Affairs Ministry website
Note the following points:
- Understand the core issues between India and various nations.
- The external relations can be structured into political, economic, defence, cultural, S&T, etc. so prepare in these dimensions.
- The relations with important nations are to be done for long answers, while for other nations it is sufficient for the two markers.
- note the various terms e.g., Track 2 diplomacy, which can be asked for two markers.
- There is no material for the topics on Overseas citizens of India. So, look out for any issues that come in media related to NRIs. They can be asked for the two markers.
- you can make innovations like maps, flow charts, etc. For eg. A map for Indo-Iran pipeline, or for Munnabao-Khokrapar rail link etc.
The questions are mainly current affairs related. The most important developments which appear in the newspapers will be sufficient for the preparation. Observe the terms, personalities, places, etc which can be asked for the two markers. Also prepare for the international institutions. List out the various important world bodies, conventions, nation groups and then gather basic material on them. You can also try the web sites of the UN and its agencies etc. The Hindu and Frontline Magazine may be followed regularly. One may also follow Current Affairs and News Analysis of BBC.
This is an area which is feared by many, especially because of lack of proper exam-oriented text book with clarity. But with some basic understanding, economy can become very scoring because of 15 two mark questions.
- Dutt and Sundaram or Mishra and Puri (Any one among these) - These books are a big compilation with lots of unnecessary facts. Do not read the book from end to end. You should be able to get clarity out of each topic. So, first scan through the topics and the side headings. Then question logically in various dimensions. Try to find the answers to the questions raised as you go through the material and prepare a logical structure.
For. E.g. Unemployment…What is unemployment; types; extent and distribution in India; causes; impact; efforts to reduce; appraisal of policies; recent measures; suggestions;
- Latest Economic Survey- It is a very very useful book documenting important trends in various areas of Indian economy. You can underline important points or prepare notes from the Survey. Also observe the graphs which can be used as innovatively in answers. While reading, note the terms which can be asked for two markers. The box items are very important.
- NCERT XII Std. books
- One financial daily (for latest news)
- Political & Economic weekly ( Important articles only)
Note the following points;
- Questions can be on basics or current affairs based.
- you can use innovations like graphs, diagrams, flow charts etc.
- the main aspect is to gain the basic understanding with clarity. So, spend more time on logical thinking and inter-relating, rather than on various books or articles.
- Simultaneously, prepare for the two markers. Note various economic terms that keep appearing in the newspapers. Also, be thorough on the previous years’ papers.
Science and Technology:
Some Arts students fear this part and leave them for the exam. However, note that the examiner is not interested in the technical aspects. They are only testing whether the candidate has basic understanding on the technological developments. In fact, technology is going to play a very key role in changing the administration. So, do take an active interest in the technological developments, as they will help you in being an effective change agent when you join the service.
In the exam, the questions are being asked from both the standard and the current-affairs based . While preparing, concentrate on the relevance and the application of the topic. The following dimensions should be focused:
- What is the basics technological dimension of the topic
- How is it being used; applicability
- developments in India
There is no good material available for this area. The notes has to be prepared from various sources. The synopsis should also focus on the diagrams and figures, wherever applicable.
- S&T - RC Reddy Publications / Wizard / Spectrum (Any one among these)
- Science Reporter
- Eenadu - Thursday paper
- S&T articles in competition magazines
- Websites of various related ministries and departments related to S&T, Agriculture etc.
Note the following points:
- Do not go into much technical details, even if you are from technical background.
- Concentrate on applications and related issues.
- put innovations like figures, diagrams, flow charts, etc.
- prepare notes on the various computer related terms.
This is another area which is feared by students from Arts background. While, others from technical background take it too lightly, and lose marks in the end. This area is very scoring for anybody who can concentrate on the basics and do lots of practice.
- Spectrum publication on statistics
- NCERT 11th std.
- Koteshwar Rao sir’s notes
- Statistical Methods by S.C.Gupta (for reference only)
Note the following points:
- Understand the basics with clarity.
- Practise the previous papers within the time limit
- Show the calculations clearly
- Draw the diagrams and graphs neatly.
- Do not forget to take the basic calculator (non-programmable) to the exam hall.
- Some times difficult questions are asked. Do not orient preparation keeping those questions in view. Just be strong on the basic standard questions that are asked every year.
- If you are very good at statistics, attempt statistics questions in the beginning of the exam. You can spend about 45 minutes in the exam hall on these questions.
This is the most important component of the preparation. It has crucial role in prelims, essay and interview. It requires continuous efforts throughout the year. The notes has to be prepared from various sources. The effectiveness of the preparation will increase if you have a good understanding about the questions that are asked every year. That way you will be in a position to discriminate between what to read and more importantly what not to read.
- The Hindu newspaper, some aspects of the New Indian express
- The Frontline
- AIR news - 8AM, 2PM, 9PM.
-Dr. Khurram. He is a current affairs expert in Hyderabad. He prepares material for the Indian Army. The books are not available outside. They bring out 2-3 books in a year. The material is quite good with clarity and back ground information. They can be obtained from
United academics International, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.
You contact the through e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
Note the following points:
- Apart from above books, make full use of internet to get information on various aspects of syllabus for which there are no books directly available.
- prepare topic-wise. As you go through various sources, identify the topics that can be asked in the exam. Write the topics on a sheet of paper. You will be preparing notes for those topics only. Now, for the notes you will have to go through the material. The main source will be the Hindu newspaper. While reading newspapers observe the following- abbreviations; new terms; organisations; quotes and examples which can be used elsewhere etc.
- Everyday listen to the AIR news bulletins. They cover all important topics in a dispassionate manner. The analysis after the bulletin is also quite good. Try doing some thing else while listening the news so that you don’t waste time. If any political or unimportant issue is being discussed in the news you can ignore and concentrate on your work.
- Next day by the time paper comes, you already know what to expect from that since you followed news on AIR previous day. So, go to the important topics and read slowly, and prepare notes.
- Do not read everything in the newspaper. Read only that which is important for the exam. Do not even look at the items from second page to centre page. The main focus should be on front page, editorials, edit page articles, news analysis, business & economy etc. In the sports page, just spend time on recognising the personalities and tournaments which can be asked in exam (prelims).
- Before reading a news item, question logically about that topic or issue. Then read the article. This way the eyes try to gather the answers for the questions raised. Also, the clarity on the topic increases.
- The logical and intense questioning is very important. For e.g., if there is a news item on Siachen Glacier, then you should question and find answers as following:
what is Siachen Glacier; where is it; what is the problem; why the problem developed; what is the impact on Indo-Pak relations; what efforts have been made to solve the dispute; what are the difficulties; what is its significance; how can it be solved;
Once you have a logical structure, the preparation is over. And, this is what the examiner expects from you.
- With practice, you should increase efficiency and should not spend more that 1.5 hrs on newspaper.
- many innovations can be made like maps, diagrams, flow charts, graphs, case studies etc.
- Keep two mark questions in mind while preparing for the current affairs. Make separate notes for the personalities, places, awards, terms, etc.
- keep cuttings of the editorial in a monthly file.
With some good preparation and writing style, it is easy to get a score of 100-120. There is no standard material for the essay preparation. You will have to gather material from various sources. As far as the content is concerned, your preparation for general studies is broadly sufficient for essay also. First, list out the broad topics from which questions can come. Then think logically, raising questions intensively, and try to find answers for them. The main purpose will be to gain clarity on the essay topic. Prepare a brief structure on each important topic which can be revised before the exam.
Note the following points:
- Practise previous essay papers under strict examination conditions and time limit. Most of the aspirants don’t do this and fumble in the exam hall. Over a period of say, 1-2 years of whole preparation, you must have practised atleast one essay per month. As noted earlier, the essays have to be assessed by experts to know our mistakes and we have to continuously improve our presentation and style.
- While writing in the exam, brainstorm for about 30 minutes and jot down everything related to the topic on the last few pages of the answer booklet. Next 15-30 minutes, prepare a broad structure of essay with side headings. You can neatly write this structure/synopsis in the beginning of the essay also. Then, it’ll be clear for the examiner in the beginning itself as to how you’ve analysed the topic. Once you are satisfied that all dimensions of the topic are covered in a comprehensive manner, then start writing. Now you need not think much about content but how to present in the best way possible. Keep your sentences short and don’t use pompous language to show your vocabulary. Right word at right place makes a lot of difference. In essay, language matters a lot because everybody writes some thing or the other relevant to the topic.
- Try to give a good introduction. It should guide the examiner to what you intend to convey in the essay. The conclusion should be good and satisfy the examiner. Always conclude on a positive and hopeful note.
- the main focus should be on giving a comprehensive and balanced analysis of the topic.
- you need not use flowery language. Simple logical presentation is sufficient.
- Do not divert into areas which are irrelevant to the topic.
- The whole essay can be in the form of series of paras without sub-headings. If you feel that you can’t maintain exact connection and flow between paragraphs, you can put broad side-headings also.
- Make sure that you have sufficient understanding and material to write, before choosing the topic.
- If you want to have a look at some good model essays, you can find them in every monthly competitive magazine. If you observe few essays, you can learn how to analyse a topic in a logical and sequential manner.
Language Papers (Compulsory):
These papers are only of qualifying nature, but at the same time cannot be ignored. If you do not qualify then there is a real danger that all your other mains papers will not be evaluated. Note that every year there are some candidates who get disqualified just because of their underperformance in compulsory subjects. So, ensure that you have the minimum knowledge about the languages. The score should only be above 40% and the questions are also set in such a manner that this is not difficult at all to answer. There is no need for any special preparation. But, do practise previous years papers to gain familiarity.
Those from non-English medium schools might face some difficulty in English paper. Then there should be more emphasis on English Language. A good knowledge of English very much helps in prelims also to read and grasp the questions fast and answer them quickly. Note that the grammar is not much tested, but it is only the functional knowledge in the language that is tested in compulsory papers.
Similarly, some aspirants face difficulty with the Indian language paper also. Ensure that you have functional knowledge in atleast one Indian language.
The Interview stage has emerged as the most deciding phase of the exam. The range of marks awarded itself is a proof for that, it varies between 50 to 240. If the UPSC board feels that a candidate is unsuitable for administration, then it awards very low marks. As a result, one may not get service or gets a service with low priority, in spite of good performance in the mains exam. So, it is very important to prepare for the interview right from the beginning.
Aspirants writing in Telugu medium can do interview in Telugu with the assistance of translator / interpretor. Where it is difficult to express in Telugu or when you feel the interpretor is not translating exactly what you’ve expressed, you can very well use English words to explain clearly to the members. Note that those writing mains in English have to invariably do interview in English only.
The personality is some thing that cannot be developed overnight or in few days. It is a continuous process since your childhood. But, you can modify it suitably to get good marks in the interview. You will have to be conscious about this aspect throughout the preparation. The personality cannot be developed after the mains exam results and just before interview. So, the process should start from the initial stages of preparation itself.
During preparation, discuss on various current issues with friends in English only so that you can develop the flow in language. It is to be noted that your fluency doesn’t count much provided you are clear and balanced in your words and opinions.
The UPSC is looking for some traits which can be summarised below:
- suitability to a public career
- mental calibre
- not only intellectual traits but also social traits
- interest in current affairs
- mental alertness
- critical powers of assimilation
- clear and logical exposition
- balance of judgement
- variety and depth of interest
- ability for social cohesion and leadership
- Intellectual and moral integrity
- Mature opinions and ideas on a variety of issues
In the words of former UPSC Chairman Surendra Nath, an ideal civil servant should be:
“Firstly, an officer must be a gentleman. He should possess good character qualities. He should have courage of conviction, intellectual and moral capabilities, leadership qualities and capable of taking the right decisions at the right time. He should have in-depth professional knowledge, self-confidence, good communication skills, analytical in his thinking, flexible and not rigid, must be able to inspire and motivate his colleagues and his sub-ordinates. There should be a balance of judgement in decision-making”.
So, you will have to improve these qualities as you progress towards the interview stage.
Note the following points:
- Start specific full scale preparation for the interview, immediately after the mains exam and not after mains results are announced.
- The preparation should be at two levels- the subject matter preparation and the way you present yourself.
- Use a handy cam or a mirror to see how you speak, the facial expressions, mannerisms etc.
- Keep visualizing the interview scenario and modify yourself accordingly.
In interview- you are assessed right from the moment you enter the room. So, the following aspects are important—The way you walk; the way you sit down; the way you are dressed; the enthusiasm and cheerfulness in your face; the way you talk; your mannerisms; facial expressions; politeness; behaviour; the way you tackle the questions; the confidence you display; the way you take leave and walk out of the room etc. So, in all these dimensions you should keep contemplating and put your best performance on that day.
- be very careful while filling the mains application form. This form is the basis on which the whole interview depends. So, consult the seniors and fill the information carefully. Through this form, you can direct the board into your strong areas. The interview will go on expected lines and you can give well prepared answers.
-The broad areas of preparation should be
1. Bio-data ;
2. State issues;
3. National issues;
4. International issues;
5. General issues (e.g. ragging etc.)
- Keep in mind that you will get only 1-2 minutes to tell the answer. So, prepare in this direction for all the expected areas. You should be in a position to counter any other supplementary questions.
- the best way of preparation is to just sit and do brain storming intensively. Think what type of questions can be asked and how you can give a simple and logical answer. This will not come from reading many books. It requires lot of introspection.
- some areas to be focused are: name; why IAS; why optionals; background of the parents; places where you stayed; academic background and related aspects, optional subjects; graduating subject; service preferences; positions if held; job experience if any; hobbies; sports;
- have good knowledge about civil services, general debate, reforms etc,
- show a positive body language. You believe that you are suitable for the job. Convey to them the message that you are the person they are looking for.
- speak slowly and clearly
- do not bluff to the Board. You cannot substantiate if they go into depth. It is not easy to fool such experienced persons.
- Do not entertain any rumours regarding the integrity of the board. The UPSC interviews are of the top class and the marks awarded are also proportional to what the candidate deserves. The rumours are mainly spread by people who do not clear the exam. Instead of criticising others, it is better to introspect and make efforts to develop one’s personality. So, go to the interview with utmost respect for the board and confidence in their integrity. Put your best performance on that day.
- The main aspect is to be calm and cool on the day of the interview. Go with high self-esteem and self confidence. Do only those things which will increase the ‘feel good factor’.
- Take good number of mock interviews to get used to interview conditions. The best mocks can done with our friends who are preparing for the interview and we have to ensure that they give a frank feedback and suggestions for improvement. One may take 2-3 mocks in a institute to gain confidence.
- Read the various original interviews given in the magazines to understand what the UPSC expects from you.
- Check out the article which appeared in Eenadu Chaduvu page on April 4th, written by Rajamouli IAS. It gives a strategy as to how to prepare for the interview.
Some more info about interview:
‘Interview’ is a popular term but in the words of UPSC, it is ‘Personality Test’. The reason being that it is not a test of knowledge, but of the overall personality of the candidate/aspirant.
Interview is more of a psychological test that is just content-based. Along with good communicative skills and self-confidence, good knowledge base no doubt gives you an upper hand. However, it has to be borne in mind that nearly all the aspirants/candidates in the Personality Test start more or less as equals in the sphere of knowledge base.
The most important thing to know about an interview is that it is not always a question-answer session and that the Board members are looking for different aspects of one’s personality.
One is not expected to know everything under the sun. If you do not know the answer to a particular question, do not hesitate to say – I don’t know, Sir/Ma’m. However, even “I don’t know Sir/Ma’m” should be said confidently and with a reasonable amount of cheerfulness. Remember – your knowledge levels have been thoroughly checked during the earlier stages of the CSE – viz Prelims and Mains.
Always remember that the interview is not a cross examination, but a natural, purposeful conversation.
Personality is a life-long asset and a thing, which evolves and changes every day.
Keep a photocopy of the form filled for the Mains examination handy. Most of the initial questions – viz the meaning of your name, educational background, professional experience, hobbies etc will be based on this form only. Try to prepare on your bio-data; roughly 70% questions are based on bio-data, 20% questions are based on your subject and 10% are based on current affairs.
Aspirants to CSE should take an intelligent interest not only in areas of their specialization, but also in what is happening around them – both within and outside the country.
Be well informed about your interests and hobbies as there will be a few questions probing your levels of knowledge as regards your hobbies and interests.
Prepare thoroughly about your hometown & home state. If you hail from a place of historical importance or tourist interest, prepare well on it.
Know yourself. Prepare brief answers to choice of your subjects, family background, meaning of your name. You should try to take the lead by answering questions based on your bio-data.
One of the secrets of success is to prepare for the Personality Test along with the written test.
If a person gives the impression of being a bookworm, the chances of his/her selection are reduced. The candidate must exhibit an all-round personality, which indicates that the aspirant possesses a complete personality.
* MOCKS /PRACTICE:
One should form a group of 4-5 people, as the preparation for Personality Test cannot be done in isolation. Try holding as many mock interviews as possible.
No training institute can develop/transform your personality in a few days. However, some of the tips may help in ironing out some weaknesses/grey areas and can provide an avenue for a well-planned preparation and group discussions.
Take mock interviews. In the mock interview, ask your friends to grill you so that you can face pressure from the Board easily.
Discuss a lot with your friends. This not only helps in you assimilating different points of view, but also enhances knowledge levels.
* DRESSING UP:
Dress sense is of crucial importance. The choice of dress should be according to the weather conditions. Try not to wear newly stitched clothes, as they might make you uneasy. Light colours should be preferred. White colour is a good choice.
Wear comfortable clothes. Men need to wear light coloured shirt and a dark trouser with a tie (if weather permits). Women appear best in a saree or salwar/kameez.
Pay attention to the details, ironed dress, polished shoes, hair accessories, trimmed nails etc. Polish your footwear meticulously. Use convenient footwear like black or brown leather shoes.
Women candidates should take care to avoid the hair falling over the face as it could annoy both – you and the interviewer.
Do not wear anything that connects you with a religious or political group.
Do not use heavy perfume/deodorants.
In case you have a running nose or have caught a cold, carry a handkerchief, or sufficient stock of tissue paper. Tissue paper is preferable.
Some candidates take medicine to relax on the previous night of the interview; this should be avoided as the effect of medicine may decrease your alertness during the interview.
What and how you eat is also important. Have a light meal on the day of the Personality Test. Do not go for the interview on an empty stomach. However, also avoid over-eating, or having a heavy meal.
First impression is often the best impression. So create a positive, good impression within the first few minutes of the interview.
Arrive 20-30 minutes early. Prepare a route map and arrive well in time. This will give you enough time to relax
While waiting for your turn in the waiting area, read a newspaper or a magazine and try to remain focused without thinking too much of what will happen in the interview. Try not to presuppose situations.
Do not get nervous when you are waiting for your turn for the Personality Test. When waiting for your turn, try relaxing with closed eyes and practice deep breathing. It really relaxes you. Do not try to pre-suppose situations in the Personality Test.
Take a final, deep breath before entering the boardroom.
Do not forget to knock at the door before entering, as it indicates basic courtesy.
On entering the room, greet all the members cordially and do not sit down on the seat without being asked to.
If there is a lady member in the interview board, greet her first.
Be conscious of your body language when you are seated.
Men should keep the feet flat on the floor during the interview, knees at waist level, and hands on your thighs and place your elbows on the armchair. Avoid locking hands.
Women, cross your ankles or legs, but keep the bottom leg straight down and do not swing it over the top leg and keep your elbows positioned on the arms of the chair.
When the Board members thank you at the end of the Personality test, do not forget to thank the members one last time and keep your body posture straight at the time of leaving the room.
Remember that interview is a two-way process.
Be cool. Be yourself during the Interview.
Your aim should be to make the board members feel comfortable in your presence.
Be truthful, transparent and Predictable.
The object of the interview is to assess the suitability of the aspirant/candidate for a career in public service.
Most of the questions posed in the Personality Test are opinion-based.
Don’t expect any expression on the faces of board members, even if your answer is very good.
* During Interview:
In a personality test, what is of importance is how you say what you say. It is the style of presentation that matters.
Your personality is, on an average, assessed in 25-30 minutes, it is your responsibility to bring out your very best in front of the board.
Be attentive and listen to each question carefully. Try not to jump into an answer before the complete question has been posed as you will end up wasting time on answering a question that you were not actually asked. If you are not sure of what was asked, you can always politely seek a clarification.
Do not try to answer the question as soon as it is posed. Think over the question, take your time and organize the broad outline of the answer before airing it. Pause a while before answering, even if you know the answer.
At times, you will be given situations wherein you will be required to take a decision. In such situations, the board is testing your ability to comprehend issues and use reason and good judgment logically, precisely and arrive at a balanced decision.
Your replies should be crisp and to the point. Do not beat around the bush.
Maintain a gentle smile off and on during the Personality Test without overdoing it. It displays a sense of ease and confidence. Wherever possible use your sense of humour judiciously.
* General Do’s and Don’ts for the personality test:
The board members are usually very senior and learned people, so give utmost respect to the board.
Don’t go by any stories/rumours spread by others. Avoid unnecessary details.
Don’t ask the previous candidate about his/her interview.
The board has no biases towards anyone.
Never make any sweeping statements/generalized descriptions.
Accept your mistakes boldly.
Speak honestly, truthfully and modestly.
Do not give a hasty reply.
Answer in an orderly and logical fashion and always maintain eye contact with the Board members while answering.
Be polite and courteous.
Don’t try to be too argumentative.
Be consistent in your views. Don’t change your views just because the Board differs in its opinion from your opinion.
Never make an attempt to present a made-up appearance or politically correct answers.
If you are taking an extreme view, you should also be able to justify the same.
Take tea or coffee, if any member offers the same to you. This will show you are relaxed and it will also help in lightening and relaxing further proceedings and give them an informal touch.
Avoid chewing gums and other munching items as it gives a negative and a careless image.
Try holding mock interviews in front of a mirror. Look out for unwarranted actions/emotions and try to rectify any shortcomings. If possible record your own answers and play them again for finding out errors.
Don’t criticize any government policies or even individuals.
Take a good night’s sleep. A good, sound sleep will keep you refreshed, cheerful and relaxed. Otherwise you will have a fuzzy head and you will betray a confused personality. You will neither be able to grasp questions correctly, nor be able to think clearly.
Do not speak rapidly. Speak slowly and clearly so that the Board members grasp what you are saying and do not have to interrupt you or ask you to repeat your views.
The Board will check you for certain traits – such as honest and integrity, logical exposition, balance of opinion, leadership skills, mental alertness, variety and depth of interest, social cohesion, moral integrity, acumen, your response to a peculiar situation, your views on varied topics.
At times, the Board members might pile pressure upon you. Do not panic – it is a strategy aimed at gauging the point till which you can maintain your cool under pressure and can think originally even in pressure cooker situations. Try to resemble tealeaves – show your true colours when in hot waters.
Form your views on a subjects in a logical and rational manner supported by data whenever necessary.
To be in touch with the latest happenings/events – nationally and internationally, candidates should read magazines and newspapers (at least two for interview), watch current affairs-based television programmes.
Assume that all questions are asked with a good reason and answer them accordingly.
Keep a file/folder to keep your certificates and documents in an organized manner. They are verified before you enter the interview room. (You don’t have to carry file/folder inside board room)
Date: April 11th, 2005
Chairman of the Board: Mr. Gurubachan Singh Jagat (GSJ)
Interviewee: Mr. Vineel Krishna (VK)
Venue: UPSC, New Delhi
The following interview proceedings are as far as could be recollected. It should be having 90% accuracy with respect to the questions asked and the answers given. The interview proceeded in a very cordial and smooth manner. The members were relaxed and smiling all the time. The interview was the first in the afternoon session.Vineel Krishna : May I come in , sir.GSJ : Yes, Please come in.VK: Thank You ,Sir, and Good Afternoon to you all.GSJ: Good Afternoon Mr. Vineel Krishna, Please be seated.VK: Thank You, Sir.GSJ: Mr. Vineel, I see that you are from IIT Madras. Did you not get any campus placement?VK: Sir, I got placement as Systems Engineer in Wipro Technologies. But, I did not join the job.GSJ: What is the reason?VK: Sir, I had already chosen Civil services as my career. I wanted to have a single focus on the exam. If I had joined the job, neither would I have satisfied the job nor the exam. So, I did not join the job ,sir.GSJ: Why do you want to join the Civil Services?VK: Sir, I want to be part of the developmental activities. I am also attracted by the challenging and diverse nature of the job. The opportunity provided to make a positive impact on the society, is unparalleled by any other job.GSJ: But don’t you think the scope of bureaucrats has reduced. Your friends must be in good jobs and some must have gone abroad. They must be doing well there. Why do you want to swim against the current?VK: Sir, I am just listening to my inner voice, which says that this is the area where I must be and doing which I would realize my potential. Regarding the scope of bureaucrats, sir, I agree that there is reduction. But I feel that the govt. is finally concentrating on the core areas.GSJ: Can you explain it?VK: Sir, previously, the govt. expanded into unnecessary areas like running hotels, where its presence is not really required. Now, the govt. is focussing on the core areas like social sector – education, health, etc.GSJ: I see that you played cricket. Are you still involved?VK: No Sir, I used to play it during school and University days.GSJ: Why are you not playing it now?VK: Sir, I don’t have the opportunity now. To play cricket we need a team and presently, I don’t have one.GSJ: So, you don’t do anything for physical fitness?!VK: Sir, I go for jogging every day and also I practice yoga and pranayama.GSJ: Is it Art of Living or…VK: Yes sir, I practice the Sudarshana Kriya of Art of Living.GSJ: How much distance do you run every day?VK: Well sir, I go to the ground and then decide upon the rounds and ensure that I complete it , come what may. Usually it is around 8-9 rounds sir, approx. 3-4 km.GSJ: Interestingly, you worked as Sub-editor of a magazine. Can you explain this?VK: Sir, I worked for this telugu youth magazine. It caters to the educational and career requirements of the rural youth sir. I was contributing for their Science and technology section. Since I was following the current affairs part and since it also helps me in exam preparation, I joined the job.GSJ: What is its circulation?VK: It is around 12000, sir.GSJ: Mr.Vineel, you come from Hyderabad, which had been doing well in many areas and been constantly in news…VK: Yes sir, the previous govt. under Chandrababu Naidu, had special focus on Hyderabad and developed it in many ways. There was expansion of the roads, improving the infrastructure like the MMTS,parks, water supply, sanitation. Also there was development of tourist locations. The IT sector was particularly developed e.g. the Cyber towers. Recently, the construction of international airport has also started.GSJ: Is there any problem with respect to housing?VK: Yes sir, there is a problem, especially for the lower income group to find low cost accomodation. There has also been concerns regarding slum growth in recent times.GSJ: What do you know about “Women empowerment”?VK: Sir, Women empowerment is about providing the necessary tools to the women so that they can over come the discrimination against them. So that, they can stand on their own and realize their potential. It involves various dimensions like social empowerment, political empowerment and economic empowerment. There are various measures like providing education and job reservations , as done in our state, then providing legal frame work, say against dowry, sexual harassment etc, then providing inheritance right to property etc.GSJ: You said discrimination, how?VK: Sir, woman is subjected to discrimination right from the birth. In many families, there are no celebrations when a girl child is born. Then with respect to provision of nutritious food, the male child is given preference. Also, the education of girl is a lesser priority. Then , after puberty, the sole concern of the parents is to marry her off some how. The further education of girl is highly discouraged and she is not allowed to stand on her feet. She is made dependent forever and therefore, the discrimination continues lifelong.GSJ: In fact the discrimination starts in the womb itself, you must have heard of female foeticide…VK: Yes sir, unfortunately in many places they conduct pre-natal tests and the female foetus is killed.GSJ: What do you know about women’s reservation?VK: Sir, there is a bill pending in the Parliament which provides for one-third reservation to the women in the Parliament and the State legislatures. But there is no consensus among the political parties.GSJ: We have already provided for reservations in the PRIs. But there seems to be some problem…VK: Yes sir, it has been observed that in many cases her husband or brother or relatives influence the woman member. There is a proxy rule.
1st member (1M):
Mr. Vineel, do you have any understanding about rural areas?VK: Yes sir, I often go to my grand parent’s place.1m: Where is it situated?VK: Sir, it is a village near Tenali, near Vijayawada.1m: Which geographical region does it fall under?VK: Sir, it is in the central part of coastal Andhra.1m: Can you name the geographical regions in AP and the cropping patterns?VK: Sir, we have three regions, namely, telengana, coastal andhra and rayalseema. The coastal andhra grows mainly rice. The irrigation facilities are good and therefore, they have 2-3 crops per year. While, the Telengana and the Rayalseema regions are rainfed, depending on the monsoons and are in the rain shadow zone.The irrigation facilities are also less, so mainly there are some dry crops. In rayalseema , they grow groundnuts, and in Telengana, they grow Jowar and cotton.1m: You said your parents live in Coastal…VK: Excuse me sir, my father works in BHEL, its actually my grand parents who stay in village.1m: ok, so coastal area is affected by cyclones. How are they formed?VK: Sir, the cyclones are weather disturbances formed in tropical seas like the Bay of Bengal. It forms when some conditions are fulfilled like continues availability of warm moist air, some low pressure , the influence of the upper air atmosphere etc. 1m: Which part of the year do they occur?VK: Sir, during the oct-nov and also during May.1m: Are you sure they occur in May?Vk: Sir, I remember that in 1991 they occurred during the month of May.1m: What measures would you take for cyclone prevention?VK: Sir, actually my B.tech project was in AP cyclone hazard mitigation project (APCHMP). In that we were using the GIS – geographical information system, for cyclone warning and prevention of loss to life. The system is installed at all the coastal district head quarters. The network is integrated with the Indian Meteorological Department(IMD). The IMD gives information about the cyclone, its intensity and possible direction. Then, the district administration can get specific details of the villages that would be affected by storm surges. Immediately, evacuation orders can be given and suitable measures can be taken.1m: What measures would you take as Head of the district?VK: Sir, firstly the complete picture should be understood with the available information. The field level officials should be contacted and asked to take steps for evacuation to cyclone shelters. Then, the disciplined forces like police and the army should be alerted. Also, the state road transport buses should be kept ready. The health department should be prepared for any eventuality. In the long term, sir, the constructions along the coast should be regulated and proper standards should be maintained to withstand high wind speeds.1m: What do you know about the disaster management in India?VK: Sir, in India we have a disaster management structure from the centre right upto the district administration. The Central govt. has the Disaster management division in Home Ministry, the Crisis Management Committee consisting of the various Secretaries and , also, the Centre for disaster management. Similar structures exist at state level and there are detailed manuals for the District administration. The finances are provided by National calamity and contingency relief fund and the PM’s relief fund.1m: Are you aware of any recent developments?VK: Sir, in the wake of the recent Tsunami disaster, a need was felt for a comprehensive review as to how we should tackle disasters. So, there has been a decision to set up a National disaster management agency with centres at various strategic locations to tackle both natural and manmade disasters.
2m: Why is transparency in administration being given so much importance?VK: Sir, there is a quotation that “corruption thrives in secret places”. The power of the corrupt people comes from the information that they possess and not available with the citizen. The transparency is about providing the citizen with the information about the services of the department and the processes involved. There are many tools being advocated like the Right to information, citizen’s charter, e-governance etc. This will help the citizen to be more clear about the quality of services to expect and how to deal in case of a grievance. The pressure will be there on the officials and the effectiveness of the administration will improve. 2m: what is the difference between Freedom and right to information?VK: The NDA govt. is actually accused of diluting the original demand and instead giving a Freedom to Information Act. Now, the NCMP promises to introduce Right to information Act. The basic difference is that if it is a right then the citizen will have more power and can initiate legal proceedings also. Otherwise, the official will have discretion in case it is a Freedom.2m: In S&T, which area do you like the most?VK: Sir, I like the Space technology.2m:Can you explain the launch vehicle technology of India?VK: Sir, India started developing the launch vehicles during 1970s. The first vehicle was the SLV. The initial test was a failure in 1980. Then the SLVs became a success and the programme was upgraded to the next stage, ie, Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV). Later, the commercial vehicles like the PSLV and the GSLVs were developed during the 1990s. Presently, the ISRO has capacity to launch 2 ton satellites into geo-synchronous orbit. It is in the process of developing GSLV mark 3 which will carry the Insat systems.2m: Can you explain why the SLV 3 was a failure. What exactly went wrong?VK: Sorry sir, I don’t know the technical details.2m: Who led the team of SLV?VK: Sir, it was led by the Honourable President APJ Abdul Kalam ji.2m: What is the latest technology used in GSLV?VK: Sir, the GSLV uses the cryogenic engine in its last stage. Presently, we are using Russian engines, but in near future our cryogenic engines will be ready.2m: Why do we use cryogenics?VK: Sir, with present technology only cryogenic engine can be used to place heavy satellites like Insat in a high geostationary orbit. They use low temperatures and the liquid hydragen and liquid oxygen. It is a complicated technology.2m: Do you know about Hyderabad Central University?VK: Yes sir, its quite near to my place.2m: What special things happen there?VK: Sir, the university is known for its high standards. They have a very good social sciences department, then the management course is also good and the computer science department also has good reputation…2m: What about the basic sciences?VK: Yes sir, the basic science is also quite strong in HCU.2m: What is the difference between Sudershana Kriya and Kapala Bhatu?VK: Sorry sir, I don’t know.2m: What technology developments take place in Hyderabad?VK: Sir, Hyderabad is main centre for many technological developments. Especially, in defence technology, the complete development of missiles takes place here. Also…2m: Can name the specific labs of DRDO here?VK: Sorry sir, I don’t know the names.2m: Any other area of defence tech, say, don’t you know about electronics and metallurgy…VK: Yes sir, the metallurgy related developments are done in MIDHANI.2m:MIDHANI?!VK: Sir, I am not sure if it is only for production or if there is research lab attached to it.2m: Can name some CSIR labs in Hyd.?VK: Sir, we have the CCMB and the IICT, as far as my knowledge goes.2m: can you name the research that takes place in IICT?VK: sir, the Chemical related aspects are dealt in this lab. I don’t know the specific technologies, but I am aware that IICT is involved in developing alternatives to ozone depleting substances like CFCs, so as to comply with the Montreal Protocol.2m: But that does not involve India , it is only for the developed nations…VK: Sir, the IICT is involved in the development of the alternative technology…2m: Can you name the products developed?VK: Sorry sir, I don’t know the exact technical names.2m: Mr.Vineel, as a technologist, you must have thought about using creativity and innovation in improving the administration. Can you explain?VK: Sir, I always believe that the technology can be used to improve administration to be more efficient and citizen friendly. To take a specific example, the biometric systems can be used. They can be applied in ensuring the attendance of the staff. In rural areas, often the staff is absent from there work. The biometric system can be used to ensure compliance. Also, it can be used in identifying the loan beneficiaries. Often, the same group in a village corners all the loans under different schemes. Using biometric systems, this can be avoided. Also…2m: But these things are already being used. Tell me something more innovative?VK: (pause for a couple of seconds to think)…2m: ok ok, 3 rd member (3M):
Mr.Vineel, are you proud to be an Indian?VK: Ofcourse sir, I am proud to be an Indian.3m: Can you say why, some important factor…VK: Sir , I particularly like the composite culture of India. If we look at the world, even small nations with hardly one or two communities are not able to exist peacefully. There is so much of conflict. Whereas, in India, every 500 km the language changes, the culture changes. But still we exist as a nation. I believe we have an important message for the world, we are a role model…3m: What about the achievements in S&T, say in space technology?VK: Yes sir, we are among handful nations who have the complete technology to manufacture and send satellites into space. Our remote sensing data is of high quality that even the USA is purchasing it from us. It has been a remarkable achievement for India considering the financial and other constraints…3m: Why do you think India was able to do this?VK: Sir, I think the visionary leadership of Vikram Sarabhai played a major role. He created leaders at various levels, which ensured the continuity of the programme…3m: Don’t you think Nehru contributed…VK: Yes sir, Nehru had a great role. He believed that technology can elevate the nation and provided the necessary resources and autonomy to the scientists like Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. The foundation was really quite strong.3m: How will your technological background help you as an administrator?VK: Sir, firstly I think the problem solving techniques learnt in engineering can as well be applied in administration. The technological background helps in a structured and logical framework of mind, which is useful in any problem-solving situation. Then, the tech orientation will always be at the back of the mind. So whenever any new technology comes, we tend to think how it can be applied in improving the administration. Also, sir, I have the contacts with my college friends who are now working in various technology areas and management. We keep discussing the developments on our e-groups. This gives me awareness in latest developments and how they can be applied in administration.
4th Member (4M):4m: Mr.Vineel, you are having a background in Telugu. I will ask you a question – “ Thinte garele thinali, vinte bharatame vinali” (telugu) who said this?VK: …(pause) .. Sir, I think it is said by character in Gurajada’s play – “Kanyashulkam”.. (actually, a wrong answer)4m: Who wrote Andhra mahabharatam?VK: Sir, by Nannaya, Tikkana and Yerrapragada.4m: Do you know about the Civil society- its characteristics and the status in India?VK: Sir, Civil society is a broad term which includes ngos, pressure groups, tradeunions etc. In fact, it is not properly defined and therefore can include any organisation, which is not related to govt., working on some area of public interest etc. The civil society organisations have developed well in the recent past in India, but there is good potential for improvement. In USA, the civil society is really quite strong.4m: Can you name some civil society groups?VK: Sir, we have Sulabh international, Human rights watch, PUCL, CSE, CRY etc.4m. What do you understand by Third sector?VK: It is other than the Public and the private sector, sir. In recent times, the Third sector has been given a major role.4m: Can you specifically tell me the Maoists talks in AP?VK: Sir, the previous elections had Maoist as the main issue. In fact, there was an assassination of the previous CM…4m: Assassination or assassination attempt?!…VK: Sorry sir, I meant assassination attempt. Then the early elections were called out on the issue. The Congress promised in its manifesto that peace talks will be initiated. Therefore after coming to power, the Congress govt initiated the talks and the …4m: ok ok. Then, can you tell me about the Telengana movement. Not about TRS or recent elections, but specifically about the movement.VK: Sir, the Telengana was part of the Hyderabad state under Nizam. After independence, when the Andhra state was formed, the Telengana area was merged with the Andhra. At that time promises were made regarding Telengana’s interests. But, by late 1960s, there was growing discontentment and a feeling of betrayal among the people of Telengana. There started a “Jai Telengana” movement for the separate statehood, and …4m: Ok Ok. Do you think small states will lead to development?Vk: Sir, we have many small states which are backward, at the same time there are big states like Maharashtra which are …4m: But even in Maharashtra there is demand for Vidharba…VK: Yes sir, there are some relative differences in development. In fact, we cannot have a general rule that only a small state will lead to development. It really depends on the political and administrative skill as to how they use the resources optimally.GSJ: You have a hobby of reading books. What kind of books do you read?VK: Sir, I read all types –both fiction and non-fiction, in general. But I like reading about the life stories of great people.GSJ: Whose biography did you read recently?VK: Sir, I was reading about Marie Curie, written by her daughter Eve Curie.GSJ: Which is your favourite fiction?VK: Sir, I like reading the novels of R.K.Narayan.GSJ: Ok Mr.Vineel. Thank You.VK: Thank You sir.
Finally, 201 marks were awarded for this interview
The importance of good health should be understood very clearly. This exam is of very long duration, under severe psychological stress. If suppose you become sick at any stage, you will have to write the exam again and lose out another year and half. Say, you are not well on the day of the interview, then you cannot put your best and you may not get a good rank. The UPSC will not shift the date of the interview. It is you who will be at loss finally. And, who knows what will happen in the next attempt. So, it is very important to take care of the health throughout the exam preparation period.Remember - Healthy mind in a healthy body.
Please note the following points:
- Get up early in the morning. It is the best time to make the body vibrations in tune with that of the nature’s.
- spend the first few hours in fitness activities. This is not a waste of time, but an investment. It ensures that the whole day is active and focused.
- take care of the water and the food that you eat. Do not eat junk food which will not help in anyway.
- practise jogging everyday to keep you fit.
- learn and practise yoga, pranayama and meditation. They will develop the mental fitness, which is most essential in studying for long with concentration, to excel in the exam.
An important dimension in life which is grossly ignored is the breath. A person can live for a few days without food or water, but cannot exist for a few minutes without air. We take unnecessary care about food and water, but ignore the breath. The more oxygen we take the better will be the burning efficiency of carbohydrates in the cells. With more energy, the cells perform to their maximum capacity and the body becomes very active. This is also important to have good focus on whatever we do. However, we use only 25% of the lung capacity. That is the reason why we do not function to our potential. In India, there were ancient techniques which have been developed to increase the capacity of the lungs and to use them to their full potential. They are called the Pranayama techniques.
In fact, the breath can be used to control the emotions in the mind, like using a thread to control the kite. There is a direct relation between the breath and the emotions in the mind. Observe the breath as the emotions change. If you are angry or depressed, the breath is shallow, short and rapid. If you are in a cool and happy serene mood, then observe that the breath is deep and of long duration. Normally, the breath is involuntary and its rhythm depends on the emotions. But through some techniques, you can reverse the process. That is by controlling the rhythm of breath, you can control the emotions in the mind. It is important to learn these techniques since they help a lot in preparation for the exam. You will have to sit and study for long durations throughout the year. Above that there will be lot of pressures both social and psychological. To face them all, it is important to manage the emotions in the mind.
In this context, the ‘Sudarshan Kriya’ taught by the Art of Living Foundation assumes significance. There is a basic course organised in various centres under which the kriya and the pranayama techniques are taught. This is highly recommended for the civil services aspirants. There are also many advanced yoga courses under the foundation. They are also useful for stress management and personality development. There will also be a remarkable improvement in the health. You will become very active and the efficiency and productivity increases.
Address: 5th Floor, RK Plaza, near Punjagutta Cross Roads, on left side in the route from Punjagutta towards Begumpet, Hyderabad.
Ph.No. 040- 23400782, 55218418
The candidate will be going through a lot of emotionally fragile moments due to the pressure of the exam. These are the real turning points since they determine whether he can handle that pressure or succumb to it. So, in order to manage the stress, diary writing is an effective technique. Normally, such moments can be managed well if you can talk to some one with whom you can talk freely without any inhibitions. But since the preparation would be mostly done in isolation, this may not be possible. So, the diary can come to rescue during that period. This is nothing but ventilation therapy which will help you reduce the emotional burden. Another advantage of diary writing is that every day you will have some time for introspection. It can be analysed how best you utilised that day for your studies and in case it has not been productive, then find out the reasons and eliminate them. In this manner, every day you can be very focussed on the exam and tackle effectively all distracting tendencies. Also, dairy writing is nothing but writing practice which helps in improving your language also.
Books and cassettes:
You should make it a habit to read good books and listen to good talks or music. The exam preparation is all about how you make the mind calm so that you can study with full concentration. There will be occasions when you will feel frustrated and depressed. During that phase, you can gain motivation or inspiration from books or talks or music.
Some of the following can prove to be useful:
- Books by Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi.
- Life stories of Gandhi, Patel, Nehru, Abdul Kalam, Marie Curie etc.
- Good novels in Indian English e.g., RK Narayan etc.
- The Alchemist by Paoulo Coelho
- Talks by Swami Ranganatha of Ramakrishna Math
- Classical music and relaxation music
- Music by Ronu Majumdar, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Viswa Mohan Bhatt, Prem Joshua etc. which are help in calming down a disturbed mind.
- Books on meditation.
- India after Independence by Bipan Chandra
- Talks by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living, especially the talk on” The Four Pillars of Knowledge”
- The Mind and its control by Swami Buddhananda (Ramakrishna Math)
Most of the books for the exam can be obtained from the following shops:
Sri Book Square,
# 3-4-283/13, Vysya Hostel Building, Kachiguda X Road, Kachiguda, Hyderabad - 500027
Phone: 040-23446848, 09866048064.
Jawahar Book Depot - Shop No-14, DDA Market, Opp. JNU Old Campus, Ber Sarai, Delhi – 110067.
Phone: 26528601, 26962973, 26564337, 09811347103
While filling up the mains application form, there is a column for the hobbies and other interests of the aspirant. It is better to cultivate some hobby and indicate it rather than leaving it blank. So be prepared for this aspect from the initial stages itself. It helps a lot in the interview if the questions are asked from your areas of interest. You can also think of some peculiar hobbies to attract the interviewer. But be careful that you have a genuine interest in that area and do gather good information so as to answer any question.
Some of the hobbies of candidates are:
- reading books
- listening to music, even some have special interest in old Telugu Melodies, Fusion music etc.
- reading short stories and good novels
- Philately and numismatics
- bird watching
- conducting alcohol de-addiction camps
- social work
- yoga and meditation
- weapon systems
- physical fitness etc.
Many candidates give their first attempt without even properly choosing the optionals or completing the syllabus. This is a wrong step which will have severe consequences later on. This exam can be cleared in the first attempt itself with focused preparation and Satisfycing approach. Mainly, the thought that the exam requires multiple attempts should be removed from the mind. With right information and proper material, and sustained hard work for about an year, there is no reason why you can’t clear the exam.
The preparation with full momentum should start atleast one year before the prelims. Ideally, the preparation should be started in May and by December the mains syllabus should be completed to a large extent. Then from January, focus should be on prelims, while consolidating the mains knowledge. After the prelims, the preparation should be continued with out any break in view of mains. The next 5 months will be very crucial and the preparation should be at full momentum irrespective of your chances of getting through the exam. The syllabus in any case should be completed by July. Next, 1-2 months are required for revisions.
After the mains exam, interview preparation should be started immediately. Simultaneously, prelims preparation should also be made. This is important since the final result will be announced only few days before next prelims. In case of failure, you should be in a position to give next prelims. So, from the beginning it is better to be prepared for that possibility.
Studying while doing a job:
The exam requires complete devotion for about an year. So, it will be difficult if some one wants to manage both the job and the exam. Also, it might be difficult to get leaves for various stages of the exam. It is better to make the preparation full-time. If you can take leave only for few months, then give your best in prelims and take leave from June to October so that you can prepare full time for mains.
However, if there are any financial problems, then please continue with a job. But be aware that you will have to work harder. So be prepared for tough time. Ensure that you do not waste time on any other activities. There are quite a few who cleared the exam while doing a job.
Whether doing a job or studying post graduation, the only requirement is to get sufficient time for preparing well for the exam. So take a wise decision based on the personal situation and requirements.
How to Study?
The main requirement when you sit for studying is total concentration. Without 100% focus, whatever time you spent on study will only be a waste. You should not do things which will be distracting when studying. The room should also be neat as it has an impact on the mental conditions. So you should always ensure that the situation should be tuned to have a concentrated study. Even what you do when not studying is also quite important. Suppose you go for a movie because of boredom, then after coming back when you sit for studying then there is every possibility of not focusing completely as all the scenes from the movie starts flowing in your thoughts. That’s why its important to ensure that you don’t do distracting things even when you are not studying. If you feel tired, you can go for a walk or listen to some lecture or calm music. So, first requirement for study is the context which you create for yourself to have 100% concentration. If you can afford it, take a single room. Get a comfortable studying chair and plank. Have a bottle of water and other tging by your side so that you won’t be disturbed often.
Then, you should go very slow while reading trying to understand the core concepts.The technique which can be applied is called SQ3R.
Scan- first scan the material and try to get an awareness about what you are going to read.
Question- Then question the topic intensively in all possible dimensions. The questions should be logical, which will give you the clarity on the subject.
Read- only after above steps, you should start reading the material slowly and with proper understanding. You should try to get the answers for all the logical questions that you raised. Simultaneously, you should prepare notes for the topic. (Especially for Mains)
Remember- You should try to remember the basic logical structure and the important facts. You can use mnemonics to improve memory. You should not try to remember the sentences, but should have a structure in the mind with the key terms. Based on this, you should be able to elaborate it into an essay. Note that you should be very careful while trying to memorise. You should spend more time in memorising them the first time itself. Do not postpone it, as you will be wasting more time lateron in understanding it again and remembering.
Revision- It is not possible for anyone to remember everything that they read. Lot of revision has to be made at regular intervals. In fact before exam, you should be able to do 3-4 revisions. You should try to improve the efficiency of the revision. So the notes should be prepared in such a manner that the revision becomes easy. Remember that repeated revisions are key for good memory.
Using this technique, the study can be made very productive. Your hard work can be channelised in the right direction.
Use the 'Doubt Book' and constantly update yourself as explained earlier.
How to prepare notes?
Preparing notes in very important aspect in the preparation. Finally what you write in the exam only matters. You write only what you remember. You remember only that which you revise just before the exam. Note that you will have to revise some thing like 2000 topics including all the sub-parts in GS and optionals. Therefore your efficiency in revision matters a lot for your performance in the exam. The revision efficiency depends on the notes that you prepare. So you should always be aware of this practical aspect while you prepare notes for the exam.
At prelims level, preparing notes may not be good idea because it’s a never-ending effort. Virtually anything can be asked in prelims. But for mains, you can prepare notes in select areas.
The notes should not be prepared as if writing a thesis paper. For any topic, you should have a brief synopsis. Do not even use sentences while writing notes. Note down the key terms and the logical structure with side headings. Also note down the figures and diagrams in a simple manner which can be reproduced in the exam within time limit.
For most topics, one or two pages of notes is sufficient. Write them down in a logical framework using different inks, so that your efficiency in revision increases. Finally, when revising just before the exam, you need not spend more than 5-10 minutes for each topic.
Do not spend days together on any topic. The exam only requires a basic clarity which can be obtained by studying one or two standard books and spending more time on thinking and doing writing practice. Just be cautious if you are spending more time on preparing notes in spite of availability of good material.
Where to prepare?
The place of preparation becomes important. It is better to be close to where many aspirants are preparing. The main places of exam preparation are Hyderabad and Delhi. There will be lot of study material and information circulating in these areas. Also, psychologically it is better if you have co-aspirants with whom you can share your experiences and the mistakes.
In case you are not in a position to do so, do not worry. You can very well sit in your home and prepare provided you are adopting the right strategy and be in touch with good friends in Hyderabad or Delhi who can share their experience, material, trends and other inputs about the exam.
How to write answers?
Your answer is the medium through which you are communicating with the examiner. Your final marks depend on how best you can convey to the examiner. Otherwise, all you study and hard work is irrelevant. So ensure that you perform the best while presenting the answer.
The important steps are:
- You can use ball point/gel/ink pen depending upon your writing speed and comfort.
- the hand writing can influence the marks by 5-10%. It is the first impression on the examiner and matters a lot. It not just sufficient to have a mere legible hand writing. Many feel it quite difficult to change their writing at this stage. But contact some hand writing experts and make suitable changes in your writing so that it looks not only legible but better.
You can contact: Mallikarjun, National Handwriting Academy, Hyderabad. Ph.no. 040-55579800, www.ymallikarjun.com, email@example.com
- The matter that we write in the answer is more important. It is about how logically we present the answer.You will have to structure the answer in such a way that it becomes easy for the examiner to identify various dimensions of the issue in question.
- concentrate on giving good introduction and balanced conclusions.
- You can underline the important terms and key phrases you use.
- make innovations like diagrams etc to impress the examiner and to convey the concept better.
- for analysis type of Questions, use the paragraph form, while for the factual answers, you can use point form. But remember that the examiner is not much interested in your memory, but in your intellectual abilities in analyzing a particular issue.
- you can use different colours for the diagrams.
- for long answers, you can make a brief structure in the last pages before writing the answer. This will help you in ensuring that all the points are covered.
How to remember?
This is the common question before a civils aspirant. There is such a huge syllabus and so many facts to memorise that some times it seems impossible. Anyhow, remembering is some thing that has to be done well for good performance in the exam.
Information is to be stored as done in a computer. You will have to direct the information to store it in your brain system. Do not merely mug and memorise facts. You will have to develop inter linkages based on what you already know.
Do not try to remember unnecessary numerical facts.
Use mnemonics for remembering facts or some points. The popular mnemonic is the VIBGYOR to remember the colour sequence in a rainbow. Prepare similar mnemonics using your creativity. Your real intelligence depends on how efficient you become in this area.
Regular revision is essential to ensure that what you remember stays in your mind till the exam date. So keep revising as per a pre-planned schedule.
The civils exam is highly stressful and pressurising. It is in fact testing the mental strength of the candidate. The administrator in the Indian context has to deal with very complex and testing situations. So the exam structure and the process is aimed at preparing the candidates for the real administration. Therefore, take the process as a learning experience.
You will have to learn how to manage stress. There are no hard and fast rules for stress management. It is individual specific and has to be developed on your own based on observation.
Some of the following points may be helpful:
-Stress means a disharmony between the mind and the body. The body is in the present moment while the mind keeps fluctuating. It is either regretting the past, anxious about future or dreaming an imaginary situation. This disharmony between the mind and the body is the main reason for the accumulation of stress. So, it is important to live in the present moment, i.e, concentrate 100% on what you do. In this context, the breath techniques, pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya will help a lot.
- Take deep slow breaths whenever you feel stressed or tensed. Close your eyes and observe the breath. Keep doing this till you feel light and focused.
- Go out for a long walk .
- if you feel agitated in the mind, don’t do things which will aggravate the agitation. The idea is to calm down the mind, so do things which will reduce the agitation. In fact, these are the critical moments which have a major impact on your preparation. So, be very careful during these phases.
- talk to some one with whom you can share your emotions without any inhibition.
- Meet people who can give you inspiration and motivation.
- listen to good music or lectures by great people.
- Practise meditation. This is a very effective way of improving the energy flow.
For aspirants in the long term (Those in 8th, 9th or 10th, Intermediate or Degree):
There are many school and undergraduates who have the target of joining the civil service. At this stage there is not much to be done for the exam. However they can note the following points:
- Build a good academic record in school and college.
- At school level, put emphasis on English and Social Studies (and to some extent Sciences)
- spend lots of time reading general books in your interest areas not only for information but also for language improvement.
- Read daily newspaper (preferably The Hindu) and good magazines like the Frontline etc. regularly. You should have overall awareness of what’s going on around you.
- Develop aptitude for general knowledge. You can refer to Manorama Year Book, India Year Book etc.
- You can participate in NCC, NSS etc. to get organizing skills and imbibe spirit of service.
- Cultivate the habit of participating in extra-curricular activities such as Quizzes, debating, essay-writing.
- Develop some good hobbies
- Choose such subjects at degree level which will be helpful for the exam later on as optionals.
- if interested in arts subjects and if there are reputed colleges then join the arts courses. However, even if you have to join the professional courses, do join. In fact, it will act as a safety net in your career even if you couldn’t make it to civils finally. But, do concentrate on your courses and excel in your graduation and PG.
- Improve your personality traits.
- you can read the life stories of great people as an inspiration. Also, meet the successful people in various fields.
- listen to good programs on radio and watch TV selectively.
BEST OF LUCK !!!