An in-depth understanding of subjects in the General Studies Paper of the Civil Services Exam can help candidates sail through.

The civil services preliminary examination conducted by the UPSC has two papers in General Studies under the revised scheme of examination. The examination in General Studies Paper I is a two hour test where students have to answer 100 questions. Each question carries two marks. While a correct answer gets a candidate two marks, an incorrect one means a loss of 0.66 marks. Questions asked in this examination can be grouped into three categories:

(i) Multiple Choice Questions - single response correct

(ii) Multiple Choice Questions - multiple response correct

(iii) Multiple Choice Questions - Matching type

The Syllabus

The syllabus for General Studies Paper-I comprises seven sections: History of India and Indian National Movement; Indian and World Geography; Indian Polity and Governance; Economic and Social Development; Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change; General Science; and General Knowledge and Current Events.

The syllabus does not give much detail of the topics to be studied under each section. However, since the minimum eligibility for the examination is graduation and the syllabus is common for aspirants coming from different streams, it is assumed that the level of knowledge expected is slightly below the level of a specialised graduation (Honours Course) in these diverse disciplines.

Preparation Strategy

The questions are based on basic principles and their application, factual information and current affairs. Questions based on applied aspects of principles and factual information have been asked in previous years. Mere reading of NCERT texts does not give the reader a sufficient depth to handle such questions. The number of questions asked from different sections has varied over time. Many of the questions asked in the examination overlap with more than one section of the syllabus.

While preparing for this examination, the candidate should adopt an integrated approach. One should understand the principles and then strive to find their applications in day-to-day life. The principles of anaerobic degradation, for example, find application in the generation of biomass energy as well as pollution of water bodies. Likewise, while studying about river valley civilizations, an understanding of alluvial soils and their importance comes handy. One should start with the basics, and for this NCERT books are useful. It should be followed by in depth study of relevant topics from graduation level text books in relevant subjects. Alternately, a good general studies book can also be used. This facilitates availability of most of the reading material in one source. Reading newspapers and magazines and periodicals on economic, political and social issues keeps one updated with current developments and policy changes. In the examination hall one should read the questions carefully and thoroughly before selecting the correct answer. Time management is also vital during the examination. If a question cannot be answered immediately, one should move to the next question marking it as unanswered on the question paper. Such questions should be revisited after going through the whole question paper and answering all the questions. Since a wrong answer is negatively marked, one should avoid making wild guesses.

Dr. Surender Singh is Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Shivaji College, University of Delhi.