Monday, March 19, 2012

Strategy for Civil Services(IAS) Preliminary Examination 2012

The civil services preliminary examination for 2012 would be held on 20 May based on the new pattern introduced by UPSC in 2011. The preliminary examination would consist of two papers of two hours duration carrying 200 marks each. Paper-I is General Studies and Paper-II is the Aptitude Test. It would be worthwhile to clarify at the very outset that the number of questions for both the papers have not been mentioned by the UPSC and thus subject to change. Preliminary examination 2011 consisted of 100 questions for Paper-I and 80 questions for Paper-II.

Paper-I being the General Studies consists of familiar areas like Current events of national and international importance, History of India and Indian National Movement, Indian and World Geography, Indian Polity and Governance, Economic and Social Development, General Science and General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change. The students should pay special attention to the Environment topic as this is a newly added topic and the number of questions from this section will increase in the coming years. Students would do well by going through the class XI and XII NCERT biology books which has some of the chapters on Environment.

Radical Shift in Pattern
Last two years have seen a drastic change in the nature of questions asked in this paper. The questions now being asked are very conceptual and not factual in nature. Students would do well by keeping last ten years question papers with them while preparing for this paper. A close comparison of the question papers will reveal this difference to the students. The students should always keep this difference in mind while preparing and should not be tempted to memorize too many facts as it used to be in the case of prelims preparation earlier. Any disregard for this critical difference will render the preparation futile and counterproductive.
Paper-II is the aptitude paper having topics like Comprehension, Logical reasoning and analytical ability, Interpersonal skills including communication skills, Decision making and problem solving, General mental ability, Basic numeracy, Data interpretation, and English Language Comprehension skills. Here it is important to make a distinction between Comprehension and English Language Comprehension. Comprehension section tests the comprehension knowledge of the student so it will be both in English and Hindi. 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. This passage is relatively easier than the passage falling under the comprehension section as it merely intends to check the basic English language skill. The students should in no case leave or miss these passages in a hurry to complete any other section as it is easier to score well in these passages. A general and sound advice for Paper-II is regular practice even if it is only two hours every day.


The mathematics section for civil services preliminary examination (which includes Logical reasoning and analytical ability, General mental ability, Basic numeracy, Data interpretation) has a different flavor as compared to bank or management exams. The questions are not too calculative in nature rather more conceptual so once the student identifies the correct concept the question is solved. This was the nature across all mathematics questions last year. Thus students are advised to work more on the conceptual understanding than the speed. The detailed preparation strategy for this section will be discussed in a separate article.

Decision Making
The questions on decision making are compulsory questions as there is no negative marking rather the options have differential marking. For e,g option (a) may fetch 50% of the total score while option (b) 75% and option (c) 25% and option (d) 100%. Thus a student should not leave any of these questions as at worst it will fetch 25% of the total marks assigned to the question. The questions in the decision making section are of the common sense nature so the students should not waste too much time in preparing for this section.
The distinction between two comprehension sections has already been made in this article. The key to do well in the comprehension section is to strike a balance between speed and accuracy. Neither of them should be sacrificed for the other. While practicing comprehension students should keep in mind that they should select passages from different areas like Science, Philosophy, Economics, Art and Litterateur etc. This will equip them in dealing effectively with any kind of passage that they might encounter in the examination. A suitable source for practicing comprehension is picking up passages from any standard Year Book for civil services or the ones that are available in the coaching material packages. The detailed preparation strategy for this section will be discussed in a separate article.

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