Let us take a quick look at different test areas of Paper II as given by UPSC.
Comprehension & English language comprehension skills
In general usage, and more specifically in reference to education and psychology, Comprehension has roughly the same meaning as understanding.
Reading comprehension measures the understanding of a passage of text based on specific questions related to the text in the passage. The questions could be direct references to the facts quoted in the text or could be indirect questions like, inferences, course of action based on the information available, tone of the passage/author etc.
Reading speed plays a key role in ones success in such questions. Familiarity with the topic is another key parameter. Hence, the students are advised to work in increasing their reading speed and also t increase their familiarity with a variety of topics like sports, science & technology, social issues, economics, polity & politics, philosophy and psychology.
Interpersonal skills including communication skills
The 3 basic part of language which people use to interact with each other in a sensible manner are Grammar, Vocabulary & Reasoning. The students' skills to communicate effectively using English language will be tested in this section
The students need to develop ability in functional usage of words, idioms and phrases. This can be achieved by going through any book that gives a summary of the rules of grammar. Thompson and Martinet's 'A Practical English Grammar' would be a good starting point. Coaching institutes like TIME also provide such works, which will help you start your preparation. Remember, however, that there is no shortcut to grammar.
The basic method to prepare would be to first complete the basics of grammar, and then start practising by attempting as many questions as possible.
One of the ways to start building your vocabulary is by reading 'Word Power Made Easy' by Norman Lewis. There are close to 50 exercises/ sessions in that book, and ideally one can finish the same in as many days. In addition, a couple of books that are very good for building vocabulary are 'All about Words' by Rosenblum and Nurenberg, and '30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary' by Wilfred Funk and Norman Lewis.
But the best way to improve your diction is by reading (it cannot be stressed upon enough!). After you have finished your reading for the day (for Reading Comprehension), check out the meanings of all the words that you have come across that day, and write them down in a book, or make flash cards for yourself. Everyday you will come across a minimum of 10 words that you either do not know the meaning of, or are not sure about. This exercise will ensure that over the next 150 days, your repertoire of words will increase by at least 1500 words.
Vocabulary will actually help with all sorts of questions that are presented in aptitude tests viz Synonyms, Antonyms, Analogies, and Fill-in-the-blanks. In addition, better diction will improve your reading speed (discussed above)to a large extent.
Reasoning questions are similar in nature to the Reading Comprehension questions, except that the passage is small and all questions are inferential. The only way to prepare for these questions is through constant practice.
There could be questions based on Assumptions, Conclusions, Facts, Inferences and Judgements. The key to solving these questions is to understand the context of the passage in which they are given.
The following question has a paragraph from which the last sentence has been deleted. From the given options, choose the sentence that completes the paragraph in the most appropriate way.
Robotics is not just a fascinating subject but a stream of science that is expected to take the world by storm in the near future. Experts say robots will change our lives by the middle of this century just like personal computers changed the way we worked and lived in the past. For many, robots may be only fictional contraptions like R2D2 in Star Wars, or the infallible Robocop. ------------------------------- .
- However, robotics is now a new stream of science.
- However, with computer science advancing rapidly, the use of robots for unexplored possibilities is becoming a reality.
- However, the reality is that this field of science is slowly impacting human lives in different dimensions.
- However, regulators are assuming that, within the next two decades, robots will be capable of adapting themselves to complex unstructured environments.
Logical reasoning and analytical ability & General mental ability
This would test the students ability to apply common logic which one can arrive at by putting the available information together into a proper mental sequence. Questions here would be of various types and the success of the students is determined by their ability to practice as many types a possible.
Money lenders cheat a villager, if the villager cannot read. Every villager who completed schooling can read. Only those who can read can write. Ghanshyam, a villager, was not cheated by the money lenders. Which of the following can be said about Ghanshyam?
(1) He completed schooling but cannot write.
(2) He can write.
(3) He can read and but cannot write.
(4) He can read and may be able to write.
In an institute which has 100 students, each student is given a unique roll number. If all the students are made to sit around a very large circular table such that the maximum difference between the roll numbers of any two adjacent students is 10, then what is the maximum possible difference between the roll numbers of any two students?
Decision making & problem solving
This area would need the students to understand the given information, place the available information in the context applicable and then take a decision on based on the out come. This would most of the times, fall under the umbrella of Data Interpretation, but is generally classified under a separate head because this is something that managers/IAS officers need to do day in & day out. A sample on this is provided below.
Numeracy (as defined by Department for Education and Skills (UK)) is "a proficiency which is developed mainly in mathematics, but also in other subjects. It is more than an ability to do basic arithmetic. It involves developing confidence and competence with numbers and measures. It requires understanding of the number system, a repertoire of mathematical techniques, and an inclination and ability to solve quantitative or spatial problems in a range of contexts. Numeracy also demands understanding of the ways in which data are gathered by counting and measuring, and presented in graphs, diagrams, charts and tables".
The topics listed under Numeracy by UPSC are Numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude etc, and Data Interpretation (consisting of charts, tables & data sufficiency). All these would be of Class X level.
The students need to plan their preparation topic after topic instead of just solving questions from all the topics at once. They should concentrate on knowing the basics of each of the topics as it is highly likely that UPSC will only test the application of the concepts.
Sample Question (DI):
The following is the number of votes obtained by four persons – Sachin, Amitab, Murthy and Manmohan – from the four metros, in a poll to find the Youth Icon of the year. These persons are disguised in the table as A, B, C and D in no particular order.
It is also known that,
in Chennai, Murthy had a maximum number of votes
Amitab Secured 30 votes more than Sachin in all the four metros combined.
1. Among the following statements, what is the minimum number of statements that can be simultaneously true?
(a) In Mumbai, Sachin secured the highest number of votes.
(b) Manmohan secured the highest number of votes in total.
(c) Murthy secured more votes in total than Amitab.
(d) Sachin secured more votes than Manmohan in total.
(1) 0 (2) 1 (3) 2 (4) 3
2. What can be said regarding the following two statements?
Statement A: Manmohan secured his least number of votes in Kolkata.
Statement B: Murthy secured his highest number of votes in Chennai.
(1) If statement A is true, then statement B is necessarily true.
(2) If statement A is true, then statement B is necessarily false.
(3) Both statement A and statement B are true.
(4) Both statement A and statement B are false.
Sample Question (DS):
Choose 1 if the question can be answered by using one of the statements alone, but cannot be answered by using the other statement alone.
Choose 2 if the question can be answered by using either statement alone.
Choose 3 if the question can be answered by using both statements together, but cannot be answered by using either statement alone.
Choose 4 if the question cannot be answered even by using both the statements together.
In a class of 50 students, how many students like horror movies?
I. 24 students like sci-fi movies
II. The number of students who like sci-fi as well as horror movies is five more than those who like neither of the two.