Sunday, February 12, 2012

UPSC Civil Service - IAS Planner - Preliminary Examination

 Preliminary Examination

The Examination Consists of two paper:

Paper I General Studies : 200 Marks
  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and Indian national movement.
  • Indian and World Geography – physical, social, economic geography of India and the world.
  • Indian Polity and governance – constitution, political system, Panchayati Raj, public policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and social development – sustainable development, poverty, inclusion. Demographics, social sector initiative, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental, Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change - that do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science.
Paper II Aptitude Test : 200 Marks
  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level),
  • Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. - Class X level)
  • English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level).
Total Marks : 400

Note 1 : Questions relating to English Language Comprehension skills of Class X level (last item in the Syllabus of Paper- II) will be tested through passages from English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper.
Note 2 : The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type.
Note 3 : Each paper will be of two hours duration. Blind candidates will, however, be allowed an extra time of twenty minutes at each paper.

Preliminary Examination

This is the first stage of the exam and should never be taken lightly. Candidate should clear it to keep himself in the race. But it’s never been easy; it is a hard nut to crack. 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 prelims should not be problem. Now, we have a brand new syllabus for PRELIMS with two papers, the nature of syllabus requires a candidate more to concentrate on the General Studies section. Though we have Paper 2 which is more or less an extension of Paper 1. The new Recruitment Process of Civil Services Exam conducted by the UPSC is called theCSAT or the Civil Services Aptitute Test. The CSAT has in effect from the Civil Services Examination, 2011. CSAT will not only enable us to choose civil servants with right aptitudes but also end the use of scaling system for varying subjects that has been a matter of concern for many. Earlier it used to be one paper of General Studies and other is one of the 23 optional subjects offered by the UPSC now the paper 2 has changed to a new Paper called CSAT. There are no optional subjects as both the subject is common to all candidates. The preliminary exam is a test of recognition. It is sufficient if you can recognize 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 memorizing facts. It’s fine if you can recognize it. Prepare some mnemonics, which will help you in recognizing the right answer. One should do as many previous year papers as possible. It will help you in time management and also in identifying the weak areas. Please remember that this practice should be right from the beginning and not in the final stages.

With the new pattern, more stress is on language skills and analysis and decision making capacities, so work on these on a consistent basis as these are skills that are developed over years and not just in a few months. It would be advisable to start focusing on your problem solving and language skills as soon as you decide to take these exams.


There is Penalty for wrong answers marked by the candidate in the Objective type Question Papers. Except some of the questions where the Negative Marking will be built in the form of different marks being awarded to most appropriate and not so appropriate answer for such questions. The underlined sentence must be read carefully as in the PRELIMS 2011 Paper 2 there were questions which didn’t had any penalty. It was free from negative marking. Candidate should keep in mind.
  • There are four alternatives for the answers to every question. For each question for which a wrong answer has been given by the candidate, one third (0.33) of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as penalty.
  • If a candidate gives more than one answer, it will be treated as a wrong answer even if one of the given answers happens to be correct and there will be same penalty as above for that question.
  • If a question is left blank i.e. no answer is given by the candidate, there will be no penalty for that question.
  • Negative marking was introduced in the year 2011 to filter out candidates who get selected on the basis of smart guesses and luck. So, the serious candidates should cheer up now. Negative marking make paper more complex. But it is easy for well prepared students and gives an extra benefit to genuine candidates.

How to tackle negative marking?

  • Identify the areas of your strength in the question paper. Solve questions from these areas first. Solving easy question will boost your confidence.
  • Don’t waste your time for particular questions. Leave time consuming questions to take up in the end.
  • The definition of intelligent guessing changes now with negative marking. You should tick only those answers which you feel 70% correct.
  • Don’t play any blind and stupid game of guessing.
  • Practice…Practice…Practice…Mock tests reduce mistake in the exam and prepare you to face real environment in which you can tackle & solve the questions within time limit.
  • Mock tests provide you a platform where you can check your own weakness, mistakes and errors and develop a better understanding for solving different types of questions.


General Studies is playing most crucial and decisive role not only in prelims but also in mains. This requires not to undermine the General Studies. General Studies for Prelims have always been a nightmare both for freshers as well as experienced campaigners. Objective nature of the examination, which makes it important to go through even the minutest details of everything in the syllabus and to be able to recollect and reproduce it accurately in the examination. It is increasing need to have an in-depth knowledge of concepts across various disciplines to another questions as amalgamation of concepts from various disciplines into one question is being increasing observed.
The preparation strategy for Paper I involves good knowledge base, extensive reading, thorough practice, regular test and performance feedback. The prelims is going to be relatively easier to those candidate who is adopting integrated. Isolated study approach is no more useful to crack the exam. Isolate study will land you in isolation. Prelims 2011 confirms this trend. Interdisciplinary learning is the best way to go forward instead of insolation approach.
We should understand that main objective of Prelims is to test candidates’ range of information. So this needs to read extensively. And it’s time to give up traditional way of studying and take up fresh challenges that has emerged and emerging day by day. The nature of question of Prelims exam is factual as well as analytical, we must keep this aspect in mind. Preliminary examination intends to focus on analytical abilities and understanding rather than the ability to memorize.
General Studies (GS) has to be prepared on quite a different plane because the content of this paper is too spread out and because any issue, major or minor, can be asked objectively. This also means that studying NCERT is necessary but not sufficient as the candidate has to cultivate the skill of understanding concepts beyond the conventional perspective himself. Traditionally, 10 + 2 level books of NCERT or any state education board had been covering a major part of the content but, these days, the items in news during the last one year or so, are being asked quite frequently. Problems are generally faced in everyday science (by the candidates with social sciences background) or in mental ability or in the fundamentals of economics. The most important aspect for the preparation of GS Prelims, therefore, is to identify the loop-holes and plug them urgently. The books available in the market is good but the skill which requires nowadays is lacking there are which is incorporated with each other.

Quick Recap of Syllabus of Paper I

Marks : 200
Duration : Two hours

1.Current events of national and international importance.
.History of India and Indian National Movement.
3.Indian and World Geography - Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
4.Indian Polity and Governance - Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
5.Economic and Social Development - Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
6.General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and ClimateChange
7.General Science.

Note 1: Total Marks 200
Note 2:
The duration of the paper will be of two hours.
Note 3:
The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type.
Though UPSC has given the syllabus of both the papers but we cannot measured merely by it. We have to understand that anything that exists in the Universe can be a part of UPSC Prelims syllabus, as nothing is very mention in syllabus. Sticking to the syllabus is good, you feel that the preparation is good, but certain new trends have been emerging in the examination. So we should go beyond the given syllabus. It is challenging but not impossible.

But understanding of the trend can be of some help in the changing scenario. For that you need to go through previous years' questions again-and-again and try to understand why UPSC asks questions of current development. Configuration of questions has been changed in the last few years. However, previous years' questions will give you clear idea about the formation of questions. You need to give up the traditional approach in order to accept fresh challenges. More time should be devoted to GS. General Studies is as vast as an ocean. It cannot be measured merely on the basis of topics or sections.
UPSC is not following a standard pattern of allotment of questions for various topics. It is becoming difficult now to attempt or even to prepare for complete syllabus. Hence, it is wise to stress on those subjects, which are common for Main Examination. The areas to be taken care of are Modern India, Polity, Indian Economy, Geography, Current Events and General Science. Considering the general nature of the examination the tactics must be to focus on greater rather than intensive coverage giving more stress on subjects, which are common to Main Examination.

Preparation for general studies is composed of two parts:

  • Conventional topics.
  • General knowledge and current affairs.

Conventional topics are those which is termed as traditional parts of General Studies, for instance history of India and Indian national movement, Indian and World Geography, Indian Polity and governance, Economic and social development, environmental ecology, biodiversity, climate change and general science. While the other parts of General Studies is composed of General Knowledge and Current Affairs, this part is more comprehensive and important than earlier one. This isperhapsthe most important part because if you see the trends of questions that has been asked over the years it will show you how important it is.
As the whole scenario has change with the introduction of new syllabus, the new syllabus requires a candidate more focused and up-to-mark study. We will discuss this Paper with the help and important takeaways of 2011 PRELIMS Question, it will help us to find out what the new trends are adding in the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

Conventional Topics:

It is composed of:
1. Indian History : History has always been a important component of each and every competitive examination being conducted in India by different recruiting agency. It is also a vital component for the Civil services exam. It is considered that a good and successful administrator must have knowledge of history because it is history which gives us culture and makes us civilized. Just as we should know our family history to know our family better it is Indian History to know the India better as well. History is important in developing a larger understanding of our country and its culture. The subject is like a story and there could be linkages between two questions. Students thus need to ensure that the entire syllabus is covered in detail while revising history. We all, whenever think studying history is all about mugging up events and dates, but we should take history beyond this perception. They can, however, do without preparing portions which appeared last year in the main stage of the examination. The general trend is that there are no repetitions from last year's papers, but once in a while students could be in for a surprise. The part relating to Indian culture will cover all aspects from ancient to modern times. One need to have a good understanding of the National movement (1800s-1947). 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 on modern Indian history, which is covered in the mains. The basic knowledge in Ancient India and Medieval India is sufficient.

Topic wise Trend Analysis of previous 6 years:

TopicsAncient History710323

Ancient History710323

Medieval History611120

Modern History91412131110


The Analysis clearly shows that our focus should be on Modern India. Especially Indian’s Struggle for Independence part is important for prelims point of view. Now take some examples:
1. Which one of the following observations is not true about the Quit India Movement of 1942? (PRELIMS 2011)a. It was a violent movement
b. It was led by Mahatma Gandhi
c. It was a spontaneous movement
d. It did not attract the labour class in general
Ans: The Wardha Propsal of Quit India Movement was passed in historical Tank Ground in Bombay on August 8, 1942. Mahatma Gandhi gave the sologan for the Movement “Do or Die”. The Quit India Movement attracts all classes from the society despite one or two, the labour class was also part of the movement. Though, many contemporary labour organizations didn’t actively participated in the movement.
2. With reference to Indian Freedom Struggle, Usha Mehta is well-known for-(PRELIMS 2011)a. Running the secret Congress Radio in the wake of Quit India Movement
b. Participating in the Second Round Table Conference
c. Leading a contingent of Indian National Army
d. Assisting in the formation of Interim Government under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Ans: Usha Mehta along with Ram Manohar Lohia and B.M.Khakar had gone underground and had been running the Secret Congress Radio in the wake of Quit India movement of 1942.
The questions requires a candidate in-depth study of any topic and interconnects it to another topic, if any interconnection. The interdisciplinary approach of study will always helpful to crack it.
The NCERT books (Class XI and XII) are good enough for the purpose.
You can refer following books
  • Ancient India , NCERT Class XI
  • Medieval India , NCERT Class XI
  • Modern India , NCERT Class XII
  • A book comes with the publication of NBT(National Book Trust) it cover certain parts on India’s Struggle for Independence.
  • History Study Kit provided by UPSC Portal.
  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra is a good book. Read it cover to cover.

2. Geography:

There is significant change in the Geography syllabus, several new areas has been added. Major inclusion is the Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate. As we are in the era of Global Warming and Climate Change, we can expect most of the questions on this topics. A significant number of questions are being asked from these topics every year. Students should concentrate on human and economic geography. Human section includes issues related to population. There will be questions based on the Human Development Report prepared by United Nations Development Programme. The World Development Report of World Bank deals in different aspects of economic geography like safe drinking water. Students should emphasise less on classical geography like types of soil and rocks. The stress should be on preparing cultural and economic geography and issues related to it. But do not invest too much in the pure Geography rather focus should be on issues like ecology, sustainable development, green living, environmental impact assessment etc.

Year wise question analysis of Geography.


World Geography  253456
Indian Geography  123374
Census Based Questions 214100
Power Projects, Irrigations Projects, Dams 004111
Minerals and Natural Resources of India 021122
Indian River Systems and Water falls 322323
Map Based Questions 8116520
Current Affairs Based Questions 052411
Total 162825222017

Suggested Reading:

For Indian Geography
  • Physical Geography of India, NCERT Class XI
  • Land and People, NCERT Class XI

For World Geography

  • General Studies Manual by TMH or Spectrum Publications.
  • Google and make notes onunfamiliar terms you may come across in the newspapers.
  • Physical and Human Geography by G. C. Leong
  • Atlas (Oxford and Orient Longmon)
For Both Indian and World Geography, follow Study Kit of UPSC Portal, it has covered those sections which is useful for exam and covers the topic comprehensively. Chronicle Magazine or Competition Wizard Magazine is also good. Candidate must go thorough suggested reading thoroughly. Map based questions and questions on locations, lakes, rivers, mountain ranges etc. are being increasingly asked. Map of India (particularly physical) should be properly studied. Same is true about world map albeit with lesser intensity.Geography must be studied with the help of ATLAS, it will help you to understand the Geography better. There are no. of Atlas available in the market I would suggest OXFORD School Atlas, along with ORIENT LONGMAN. Internet resources could help in your study make it as a tool for your preparation. Whenever you find any new term i.e. any new country, capital, river, strait, mountain, places etc Google it right away. And make note of your finding. While reading newspaper always keep a Atlas with you as more and more questions are getting location oriented e.g. instead of asking the venue of APEC meet they might ask you to locate the place on world map.

Some examples of previous year questions:

1.A state in India has the following characteristics-(PRELIMS 2011)a. Its northern part is arid and semiarid.
b. Its central part produces cotton.
c. Cultivation of cash crops is predominant over food crops.
Which one of the following states has all the above characteristics?a. Andhra Pradesh
b. Gujarat
c. Karnataka
d. Tamil Nadu
Ans: Gujarat state is located on western coast. Its northern part is dry and semidry.
2.La Nina is suspected to have caused recent floods in Australia. How is La Nina different from El Nino?
i. La Nina is characterised by unusually cold ocean temperature in equatorial Indian Ocean whereas El Nino is characterised by usually warm ocean temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
ii. El Nino has adverse effect on south-west monsoon of India, but La Nina has no effect on monsoon climate.
Which of the statement given above is/are correct?
a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

3. Indian Polity and Constitution:

The Constitution and various related aspects should be done well. Some articles and facts should be memorised. Different aspects of the Constitution like Supreme Court judgment during the past one year are important. At macro level, students need to know in detail issues like judicial activism. It is better to prepare this area well since it will be helpful in mains and interview. Now a days the pattern of questions are being asked on Indian Polity is completely different from what it used to be asked till couples of years back. Earlier we used to have more questions directly from the Constitution of India which has now fallen to around 2-3 questions, even the nature of question which were being asked on Constitution is more or less conceptual explanation which is now changing fast now whatever question are being asked from the Constitution are complex in nature, to solve the question one have good grasp over concepts and with their application as well. Further these constitutional issues are related to what is happening currently in the country. Like if a question is on the clemency power of President of India. The question and answer should be better understand in the light of recent happening and issues related to mercy petitions pending with the President. Issues related to mercy plea of Afzal Guru and killers of former PM Rajiv Gandhi have been on the news for the several and it’s been in the front pages of Newspapers in the recent times. Therefore candidates keep yourself abreast of burning political and constitutional issues. To tackle these questions we need to incorporate a lot of additional study material in our preparation apart from the traditional ways of studying. For instance we need to add newspaper in our study material and collect information on the contemporary issues and take a note on various opinions of eminent scholars on those contemporary issues. Newspaper also keep us up-to-date.

Year wise last 6 year question analysis:

Indian Constitution and its various Concepts645638
Indian Political History244411
Current Constitutional News211211

Any good book on the constitution is fine.The Indian Polity by Lakshmikanth and NCERT books are sufficient. Also refer, DD Basu. Read it also cover to cover.

4. Indian Economy:

First of all, the heading of Economy in the prelims level has been changed to “Economic and Social Development Sustainable development”. It shows growing importance of Indian Economy of General Studies of civil services exam. It is one of the most important constituents of General Studies as well. If we analyze the last 5-6 years question pattern of UPSC we will discover number of questions from economics is increasing every year. It has increased from 5-6 to 25-30. Moreover, the nature of the questions have become more contempory, analytical and interdisciplinary. The candidate should have a grip over the basic economic concepts. The important current topics should be studied extensively. We are in the global financial crisis and at the domestic level the changes is very structure of Indian Economy that is leading to a paradigmatic shift in the policy focus. These all developments within and outside has not gone unnoticed by the UPSC and hence a frequent change in the syllabus, questions nature and the pattern of the Civil services exam. Along with, Budget and Economic Survey the two most important documents of India. These two documents should be read in details every minute details is important. The role and functions of World Bank, IMF,WTO, WIPO, etc. which influences India’s economic interaction and have effect on Indian Economy. It should be understand clearly.

For instance the questions in the prelims as:

Why is the “teaser loan” by commercial banks a cause of economic concern? In the terms of economy, the visit of foreign nationals to witness the 19th Commonwealth Games in India amounted to….
There were questions which is mixed of current economy and basic of economy for example
Economic Growth is usually coupled with------? It is called Inflation. We all are suffering from Inflation. Candidate are expected to know the facts and facets of Inflation or such topics.

Year wise previous 6 year question analysis:


Pure Economy - Conceptual3302710

Pure Economy - Conceptual3302710

Indian Economy - History100460

Current Economic News and their Conceptual parts74110235


One needs to know about some basic terms of economics like repo rate, reverse repo, CRR, SLR etc. These are needed for understanding articles in newspapers also. Just google them when you come across then in the papers and keep a separate note-book. Read one good book on Indian economy. Indain Economy by Dutt & Sundaram. The book by Uma kapilais also a good one. In both of these books, each chapter deals with an issue. Download the latest Economic Survey of India and update the stats as you make notes. Follow the budget. Read some business newspapers at that time and also read the summary of the budget which will be posted in the net.

5. Government policies and programmes:

Make notes on the policies that you come across in the newspapers. But this will not be exhaustive. Use India yearbook published by the Publications division for an exhaustive approach. It’s a huge book with a lot of unnecessary facts and details which should be skipped. Just make short notes on the various programmes ministry-wise. For example the NREGA, a programme launched by the GOI, study every aspect of it i.e. when it was launched, what are the various provisions under it, who are the target audience for this programme etc.
UPSC Portal has come up with a comprehensive study on Govt. Policies and Programmes. In this Study Kit they have incorporated all the major Progammes and policies into one booklet and have given gist for the same. It is must for an Civil Services aspirant, go through it.

6. Science, Science and Technology:

In the recent years this section has emerged as an important component of the General Studies Paper. Now a days it plays significant role. Questlivering good to the society.
In the past few years’ Science has emerged as most important and crucial section of General Studies in Civil Services Exam. Science and Technology has also been constitutes important role. It is wrongly perceived the it has certain degree of technical aspects and concepts are required to solve the questions in this section, that are difficult for large count of candidates particularly for those who are from non-science background. The aim is to test candidate awareness of the development in this field, though questions were on the traditional areas science as well. However, analysis of the past year’s questions reveled that candidate should give special emphasis on of biotechnology, space technology, information technology and electronics.
Percentage of questions has increased in recent years. In prelims 2011 there were 25 questions on this section out of a total 100 questions. This undoubtedly shows the importance of this subject. General Science basically include-Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. Among these Biology contains more weightage. The syllabus broadly covers Human Anatomy and Physiography. In Physics and Chemistry, basic concepts related to combustion, optics, energy, nuclear physics, basic chemicals etc. are asked.
In Physics, almost all the questions might be application oriented. Thus, understanding of basic principles is very important. Ares like Newton’s laws, heat, sound, optics etc. are important. One must know the practical application of subject.
For example, in 2010 questions asked on the principle by which a cooling system in a motor car works.
In 2011 the questions in this topic was : the surface of a lake is frozen in severe winter, but the water at the bottom level is still liquid. What is the reason?
In Chemistry, important minerals and their ores, etc. are important from prelims point of view. Maximum questions will be pertaining to chemicals which are of economic significance. Thus characteristic of different compound like plaster of paris, bleaching powder, etc are also important.
The question that came in 2010 was: Chlorination is a process used for water purification, is mainly due to? In 2011 it was Microbial fuel are considered a source of sustainable energy. Why?
Biology, in general, has important section in science. In Botany, plant physiology, plant tissues, etc. In Zoology, human physiology,, genetics, various disease, and their control measures occupy the most important place.
Pervious questions: At present, scientists can determine the arrangement or relative positions of genes or DNA sequence on a chromose. How does this knowledge benefit us? (PRE 2011).

Previous year questions analysis :

Physics - Pure Conceptual18610-
Physics – Applied200241
Solar System20110-
Chemistry - Pure Conceptual12300-
Chemistry – Applied20112-
Animal World015431

Science and Technology are another major area. This generally include the application parts of the science as space technologies, IT, electronics, biotechnology, nuclear science, defence etc. recent trends showed that this part is growing significance.
The questions in this sections in 2011 are related to Bluetooth, wi-fi, CFL, LED lamp?
Exhaustive preparation on these topics can be very hard. Try to cover as much ground as possible and hope for the best. When studying, try to point out the applications rather than going through on the technological part.

General knowledge and current affairs:

General Knowledge: Quite a few questions are asked from this area. Some difficult questions are also asked. Do not spend too much time in memorizing 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.
India Year Book - This is important for the prelims and also for some studies paper, both in the mains and the prelims. At the interview current affairs news rules and decides the rank of the candidate and even whether she/he will get through or not. In such a scenario the coverage of current affair in india as well as current world affairs, becomes an important part of your preprations.
Students should go through major happenings at the national level during the last one calendar year. National newspapers, news magazines, journals and periodicals are good source of information to prepare topics related to national issues. Issues of social relevance which affect the lives of people should always be dealt in detail.
This isperhapsthe most important part because if you see the trends of questions that has been asked over the years it will show you how important it is. I recommendThe HinduandFrontilne. The Hinduhas less unwanted news and has a balanced perspective on issues and is pro people. Youshouldn’tbe an ultra leftist or a right-wing hawk. The editorials and Op-eds present a very balanced picture on issues.
When reading newspapers, go beyond the issue. Use the newspaper as a guide to broaden your GK. So when you come across something you don’t know in the newspaper, google it up and make a comprehensive note on the topic. For eg, if the news item is “Pakistan Prez visits India”, I will google about India-Pak relations and make notes on it with a historical perspective and also leave some space to update future news. If the news is ‘ Jacques Diouf assumes charge as head of FAO’ , I will make notes on FAO and other UN organisations from Wikipedia. The advantage of using wiki is that when you read about one topic, you can move to other topics by clicking on the ‘Related’ links. Follow the references in wiki if you want to go deeper or confirm something.
Newspaper reading should be done on a daily basis without any gap until the interview is over. You will need 2-2.5 hours daily for this initially. You can bring down the time as you progress with your preps. Reading topics of Indian economy and op-eds from any one of the business newspapers will also help.

Suggested Reading:

  • The Hindu News paper
  • Frontline Magazine
  • Yojana Magazine
  • Competition Wizard or Pratiyogita Darpan or UPSC Portal Monthly Magazine. This is just to make sure that you have covered all the current affairs issues in News Paper.
Newpaper is best to prepare for Current Affairs and General knowledge. One has to follow at least one newspaper to keep abreast of National and International developments. It will keep your current affairs up-to-date. But most of us don’t know, how to read a newspaper and make it useful for the exams. Here are some tips, how to read newspaper:
Newspaper reading is an art in itself. Thenumberof pages in a newspaper varies from one to another. Leading dailies have between 16-24 pages on weekdays and 32-48 pages on weekends. Normally a standard newspaper has 18-20 pages. Front page, as the name indicates, is the first, or thefront pageof the newspaper. The lead story of the newspaper is the main, first, or the most prominent story on the front page. It is given in bold letters with big fonts and is the most importantstory of the day.A front page normally has five-six prominent news stories on issues of national and international importance.It is very important for UPSC exam.
Pages second to fourth page are normally reserved for local news stories, though it depends upon each newspaper. If the newspaper is published from Delhi, the local pages would have news reports about Delhi (or any other city) if a newspaper is published from that city. Pages fifth to seventh contain news from various States.We can skip these pages as we don’t need to know about local news. Pages eight and nine, are normally the most important pages of the newspaper. These two pages combined form the ‘heart and soul’ of the newspaper and are together known as ‘Centrespread’. These contain, most importantly, editorials (usually two in number), two edit page articles aading. Skimming is usually resorted for quick identification of the main contents of any given material.Some people read the first and last paragraphs using headlines, sub-headings, summaries, searching for keywords. But while scanning, it is advisable to read the first sentence, for it gives a fair and a broad idea of the contents of that paragraph.
If you are a beginner than it is strongly advised that read newspaper seriously, do not skim, or scanto startwith. Skimming requires trained movement of eyes from one word, sentence, or paragraph to another. This will come with sustained practice and one must increase the speed of reading gradually.
Civil Services preparation point of view is important for an aspirant to read a newspaper. If one goes through the previous years questions of Current Affairs, it will give broad idea that no. of questions are comes from the newspaper. Normally asked questions are about Personalities, Places, News of National and International importance. Bilateral issues relating to India and other Nations, Visit of Head of the States of other Countries, Visit of Indian President and Prime Minister to other Countries, Important agreements etc.
One should concentrate on above items and avoid every day politics, gossip news, crime reports, unimportant corporate news, local issues etc. One should concentrate on the first page for Latest development, Edit page for Editorial and analysis, ‘Op-ed’ (Opinion-cum-editorial pages) for the views of commentators, analysts, opinion-makers on a particular issue.


1. One should select standard, prescribed books for the preparation.
2. A detailed study of good textbooks and whole syllabus only give good input and a decent chance to answer maximum questions to score high. It is better to consult various books on different aspects, as it is very rare that one single book covers the entire syllabus in its totality.
3. After reading/understanding the basic concepts, it is desirable to have sufficient or a good question bank on the subject concerned may assist the students a great deal.
4. Questions asked in the Preliminary examination for previous 10 years are available in the market. As a first step, one should sort out the questions of according to the syllabus topics. This will give an insight into the nature of questions, important areas, and twists in the questions etc. Once the basic strategy is formed, it will be easier to study the subjects according to the nature of questions asked in UPSC.
5. A four-month exclusive preparation for Preliminary examination is a must. It may differ from candidate to candidate. Make your own strategy of preparation.
6. As the question paper is objective in nature, it would not be advisable to confine the studies only to the multiple choice type questions. Practice with question banks.
7. This provides a candidate with loads of self-confidence and knowledge to answer the questions correctly.
8. This practice would perfect the art of answering the questions correctly and rapidly. This will also help the candidates to properly understand the questions asked in various forms.
9. A candidate doing well in the practise paper is expected to fare well in the examination.
10. Practice of correctly marking the answer sheets by using minimum possible time will go a long way in helping you succeed. It helps to assess one’s progress in that particular subject.
11. As the questions in the Preliminary examination are objective in nature. Therefore, general tendency to do intelligent guesswork when you don’t know the precise answer. However, in this negative mark scenario you should strictly avoid any guesswork. But you can make some guesses. While solving the paper you may take three rounds. In the first round solve the easy questions. In the second round may be taken up statement and reason. The third round can have the tough questions where the intelligent guesswork may be applied.
12. Read newspapers and magazines carefully, this will expand your knowledge base and give good command andwriting skill.
13. Preparation forGeneral studiesshould bedone hand in hand.
14. NCERT books and newspapers like The Hindu and magazines such as Frontline should be studied carefully
15. Trend nowadays has shifted more towards current issues, hence a thorough awareness of recent events/happenings is mandatory.
16. Other than thesyllabusgiven, questions on planning, budgeting, developmental programmes, latest issues of political and constitutional importance, Panchayati Raj, electoral reforms, natural resources, culture, growth of nationalism, committees, commissions etc can be expected almost every year.
17. Emphasis is normally placed on the general aspects of the subjects, which every educated person aspiring to join the civil services is expected to know.
18. The General Studies paper needs special and thorough preparations and does not need to be over-emphasised.
19. In General Studies, other thancurrent affairs, each and every aspect is covered in our school syllabi. Whatever one has studied upto Class XII is only asked in General Studies. The only thing which is different is that it has an application but the basic is from our schooltextbookonly. A good, bright student who understood the basic concepts during his/her school studies will definitely be strong in General Studies too.
20. Exhaustive study of each subject and every aspect of the General Studies is essential.
21. An important point is efficient time management and proper planning. The time available with thecandidates forpreparations is limited and hence has to be intelligently utilized.
22. Keep on referring to previous years papers to check if you have missed any topic.
23. Note down extra facts for the prelims as you make descriptive notes for the mains exam. A Prelims is just a necessary evil.
24. In the Prelims, the GeneralStudies played important role, all the candidates are required to solve the same questions, hence, this paper assumes enormous importance, as anyone spoiling this paper cannot have any chance of qualifying for the Mains stage of the examination.
25. Just exploit the internet. You have all the information you need at your fingertips.
26. One should aim at scoring 200+ in both the papers.
27. The basic approach should be STUDY-REVISE-IMPROVISE.


As we all know that a new syllabus of UPSC PRELIMS has revamped the entire Prelims exam pattern. Now we have a brand new Paper two and we have named it CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test). In the new pattern of exam there is no optional subject for Prelims though we have Optionals in Mains. Earlier the Paper two used to be one of the 23 optional subjects offered by the UPSC. With the new Syllabus both the Papers are common to all candidates. Both these papers will have equal weightage. The emphasis will be on testing the aptitude of the candidate for the demanding life in the civil service and on the ethical and moral dimensions of decision-making. In the new format the traditional way of studying and the rote learning of concepts would no longer help to crack the exam.

CSAT has came into effect from Civil Services Exam, 2011. As of now, the change is effective only for the Preliminary Test, i.e., the first stage of the Civil Services Exam from 2011 onwards. The second- Civil Services Main Exam and third stages- Interview will remain the same.
The syllabus of second Paper is to test the candidates' skills in comprehension, interpersonal skills, communication, logical reasoning, analytical ability, decision making, problem solving, basic numeracy, data interpretation, English language comprehension skills and mental ability. With the new pattern, more stress is on language skills and analysis and decision making capacities, so work on these on a consistent basis as these are skills that are developed over years and not just in a few months. It would be advisable to start focusing on your problem solving and language skills as soon as you decide to take these exams.



2.Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
3.Logical reasoning and analytical ability
4.Decision-making and problem solving
5.General mental ability
6.Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level),
7.Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. - Class X level)
8.English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level).

Total Marks200

Note 1: A Hindi equivalent / translation will be available for the initial six tested areas, while the seventh area , English Language Comprehension skills, will be available exclusively in English language, indicating a need of understanding of English language in prospective IAS officers as English is the Lingua Franca of our country.
Note 2: The duration of the paper will be of two hours.
Note 3: The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type.

Moreover, there are sections in the paper 2 which a candidate thinks that it is more or less like on the lines of banking or MBA but this is a mistake we should understand that the very purpose of this examination is to select Civil Servants, that’s why the syllabus adds decision making and problem solving.
Paper second contained only 80 questions but indeed it was a lengthy paper as it was fully loaded with comprehension passages. Comprehensions (bilingual) had 28 questions and English comprehension had 9 questions which most almost half the paper. Quantitive Aptitude section had 13 questions, Logical reasoning contributed 13 questions including 3 questions of syllogism and 9 questions were from data interpretation. Decision making and problem solving had 8 questions which was purely application based. Comprehension, quantitive aptitude and reasoning were the dominant section of the question paper. For better understanding we can use following table:

English Comprehension9
Quantitative Aptitude13
Logical Reasoning13
Data Interpretation9
Decision Making and Problem Solving8

1. Comprehension

In terms of Comprehension Candidate needs to improve their comprehend power as comprehension consists half of the paper. It is bilingual, hindi and English both, daily newspaper reading could keep you in safe. The paper also gave importance to testing English language skills. A comprehension exercise consists of a passage upon which questions are set to test to candidate’s ability to understand the content of the given text and infer information and meaning from it. English Language Comprehension skills. Questions relating to English Language Comprehension skills of Class X level (last item in the Syllabus of Paper-II) will be tested through passages from English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper.
For doing best in comprehension one should keep few points in mind while attempting this. Firstly, read the passage thoroughly and carefully, if the meaning of the passage is not clear in very first reading then quickly go through the passage again. The meaning of the passage should be very clear and one should understand what the writer is trying to convey. Understanding of vocabulary, rhetorical tools, hunting for the required information while keeping the holistic picture in mind, etc are essential comprehension skills at play in this area. Here we can find that paper one is helpful to solve, for instance in the the Passage section questions like “inclusive growth”, ”creative society” ”ecosystems” are the part of 2011 paper second, which is very much part of paper one. English Language Comprehension is a major concern for hindi medium candidates they should take it seriously, a basic english grammar such as High School English Grammar & Composition by Wren and Martin could be useful.
This section tests a candidate’s understanding of the language that a candidate uses.

2. Interpersonnel Skills

Inter-personal skills is basically a skill of communication that entails face-to-face communication which is best tested in a Personal Interview or a Group Discussion format. It is people skills the ability to work with and get on with other people. Questions reflecting the ability to understand and manage the dynamics of social interaction can be tested such as Fill in the Blanks, Analogy, Synonyms, Antonyms, Jumbled Paragraphs, Single word substitutions, Meaning Equivalence of sentences, etc.

3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability

Reasoning is a major component of every aptitude test, as per UPSC has also include it in the syllabus though the exact type of questions depends on the purpose of the aptitude test. A Civil Servant will need to be objective and practical and not get swayed by assumptions and prejudices. On the other hand Analytical ability questions measure a candidate’s ability to analyse a given structure of arbitrary relationships and deduce new information from that structure.

Logical reasoning and analytical ability has as many as 13 questions, there were 4 questions on Syllogism which were slightly difficult than the usual syllogism and did require a good concentration to solve them. There were 2 questions on counting where in the first question candidate were supposed to count the number of triangles and in the second they were asked to find the missing number. There were one question on direction, three on family tree which was not as easy as it used to come. There were 3 questions on tabulation. These questions were decently easy and requires a candidate a good amount of practice. One think should be cleared very clearly if we look at the question paper it is clear that the questions are not like other CAT, MAT, Bank PO. Rather than the reasoning is innovative in itself. This shold keep in mind while preparing for this section. You are required to solve problems related to blood relation, syllogism, sitting arrangement, series completion, coding decoding, puzzle test, logical sequence etc. Verbal and nonverbal Reasoning by R S Agarwal and General Mental Ability Section of Tata McGraw Hill Guide have good parts in this section. Solve the Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning questions that come out in magazines like General Knowledge Today, Pratiyogita Darpan etc. Questions can range from basic reasoning problems to intricate caselets (short case studies) to check a candidate’s ability to take a technically sound decision under a proclivity to ethics. Reasoning is the ability to correlate information properly and reach a technically correct conclusion on the basis of rules. Logic is the science of valid or right reasoning. So, we need to learn the rules of logic before we apply them to a particular argument, making it necessary to understand the correct meaning of an argument and to understand the implied meaning of that argument. In other words, understanding the obvious and the implied meanings of the sentences is the basic requisite for understanding the arguments properly.

4. Decision making and problem solving

This section measures a candidate’s ability to take a decision based on given conditions and information. The questions generally relate to situations that require you either to take some action, or take a decision for the betterment of majority of the society.
Although Decision making and Problem Solving section had less contribution in question paper but there is difference, the questions asked in this section had no penalty for wrong answer. All questions are purely application based. For example ” You are officer in charge for providing medical facilities to the survivors of an earthquakes affected area. Despite your best possible effort, people put allegations against making money out of the funds given for relief. You would………”. Student must attempt this section it is quite scoring and the nature of questions is also practical, one must have experience the given situation at one or another moment. Here again paper one will help you out as the questions being asked is socio-economic-political in nature. In administration Decision making is a process of first diverging to explore the possibilities and then converging on solution. One of the touchstones of Decision making is its successful implementation. There is no virtue in merely taking quick decisions. What matters is whether the decision is implemented or not. It is also necessary that your course of action must figure out the situation well. There are books available in the market but as far as I am concern this books won’t help in your preparation, this section have to develop by yourself. Search Techniques of Decision making and Techniques of Problem Solving in Google and Wikipedia and read some 30-50 pages on them. You can also read chapters like Decision making from different books available in the market to have theoretical knowledge.

5. General mental ability

General Mental Ability verifies a candidate’s cognitive skills. Questions can be based on Coding, Ages, Relations, Venn diagrams, sets, dices, direction sense, abstract figure, etc. General Mental Ability can test for Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning skills. This section should be taken as seriously as it dosen’t require any extra knowledge or extra reading, you just need to practice as much as you can. Your aim should be to solve maximum questions which comes in this section but with high accuracy. If we access the questions on this section in Prelims 2011 we will find that there were questions on Venn Diagram, basic counting. As it is main component of syllabus we should take it seriously first of all main focus of the study should be at understanding the basics of the topics and then practicing those concepts through concepts. Then try to focus more and more on practicing the paper rather than merely studying.

6. Basic numeracy

Quantitive Aptitude, basic numeracy and data interpretation is also a major section. You should make your mathematics, reasoning & mental ability side strong . This section is to check numerical proficiency of a candidate involves solving simple numerical problems. It will also include questions which require a candidate to sift through and interpret data in tabulated or graphical format. Data sufficiency questions test less for numerical and data mining skills and more on a sense of Maths are also an integral part. We have Basic numeracy in syllabus but there is nothing basic in questions paper, yes your basics should be clear but you should raise your level beyond the basics. Number System, Average, Percentage, Ratio and Proportion, Profit and Loss, Time and Work, Time and Distance are the important topics. Data interpretation has charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc.
Break up of questions on this topics which came in the Prelims 2011, there were a total 12 questions from this section out of which 7 questions was from basic Arithmetic which included 3 questions from Time, Speed and Distance. There were 2 questions on Permutation and Combination etc. In all this paper constitutes 15% of the complete paper, this means a good amount of preparation should be devoted in this section. The approach should like this, firstly understand the basics of any topics then focus on those topics which is likely to come in the examination. One should never focus solving difficult problems of the topics and mugging up questions and their answers. Main focus of the study should be Arithmetic which will include Percentage, Ratio and Proportion, Time and Distance, Time and Work, Simple Interest and Compound Interest and Profit and Loss. Permutation and Combination should be studied as well.
Basic concepts from your 11th and 12th class mathematics should be very clear and you should be able to derive and apply the formulas to any given situation. If the concepts are clear you will be able to relate and then solve each problem confidently. Solving mock question papers is the easiest road to cracking any Maths paper.Don’t just solve questions, solve them quickly, and keep track of them time you take to solve a question. You will have limited time during the papers so stick to your time limit and solve mock papers within the stipulated time. Keep a stopwatch if required.For this section you must go thoroughly, Quantitative Aptitude by R S Agarwal and Quicker Maths (Magical Book Series) by M. Tyra.

7. Data Interpretation:

Data interpretation, which covers questions based on data analysis. The data can be represented in different forms such as tables, graphs, bar diagram, line graphs, pie charts etc. and Data Sufficiency, where one just has to check the sufficiency of data for the question asked. It measures the numerical ability and accuracy in mathematical calculations. The questions range from purely numeric calculations to problems of arithmetical reasoning, graph and table reading, percentage analysis and quantitative analysis. In all, the candidate are tested for their sharpness to analyze the given data in a short span of time.
In Data Sufficiency, a question is followed by two statements and you will be expected to answer whether the information provided in the statements individually or collectively is sufficient to answer the question.

A lot of practice is required to do well in the Basic Numeracy section and the students are advised not to look at the solution of the problem if they are not getting a clue to solve it, instead attempt the question at least twice before looking at the solution. This will help in the development of their aptitude in solving a new question. Also, one should learn the techniques to solve the questions from the given options or try to solve the questions by eliminating the options.

Taking a mock test of mathematics and general ability questions would be a good practice and help to pick out the most appropriate option.
Develop the skill to solve mathematical & reasoning problems faster. It comes with practice. So the sooner you start practicing, the better your chances of clearing CSAT in 2012.
The examination also tested the candidates' understanding of civic issues. There were questions that checked the understanding of rural development schemes, fiscal stimulus, inflation and demographic dividend.
The prelims is going to be relatively easier to those candidate who is adopting integrated approach. Isolate study will land you in isolation. You cannot rely on any single source to prepare. You need vast coverage and institutive eye to spot and pick. It is high time to figure out your even and odds, if you sit idle and wait for the notification till February 2012 and then start your preparation, in all respects, you are missing out opportunity.
Any guesswork or supposition would not be beneficial any longer. The evolving situation requires an environment where sense of empathy would work wonders. It is better not to be isolated while preparing, being in touch with other candidates through group study is also helpful in exchanging information and discussing your strategies.
In the new format the traditional way of studying and the rote learning of concepts would no longer help to crack the exam. In the CSAT paper only application of knowledge is required, there is nothing to mug-up. The plan and examination standards make it very demanding in nature. You are supposed to catch and collect newer information and fresh ideas whenever it comes to you.
More emphasis on understanding and analysis than memorizing
This is test of the candidate's aptitude for the prestigious civil services from the ethical and moral dimension. Candidates with low moral and ethical aptitude will get weeded out. Spruce up your general awareness and mental ability
Focus more on decision-oriented analytical questions. Be prepared to answer situational questions faced in real life by the civil servants. Throughout the preparation for the prelims exam, it is important to remember that any topic or concept should not be studied in isolation. It is better to understand and establish a correlation between related concepts from other subjects and current events and happenings.
Also IAS candidates who used toconveniently ignore mental ability, data analysis can no longer hide from such questions and will have to face them head long. So start practicing such questions. Also non-English background students will need to improve their English passage reading skills whereas everyone will need to reflect on their communication skills in order to tackle tricky questions on the topic. So start preparing for the prelims right away

1 comment:

  1. Very useful information for a starter to plan his/her strategy towards Prelims exam.