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Right strategy: Find out your ‘comfort zone’ while sitting for the Civil Services examination
Right strategy: Find out your ‘comfort zone’ while sitting for the Civil Services examination

With vacancies on the increase in the Civil Services, this would be the best time to aim for being included in the list of selected candidates

The examination system devised for selection to the higher Civil Services is exhaustive and comprehensive. The system follows a sequential pattern based on the time-honoured principle that the “average quality would get richer as the stream proceeds from one stage to the next.” Sequences would improve the efficiency of the selection process and make it more ‘homogenous.’

The sequential selection begins with the Preliminary examination, followed by the Main examination and concludes with the Personality Test. About 1.9 lakh candidates had appeared at the Preliminary in May this year and about 12,000 were declared as qualified for the Main. The latter is scheduled to commence in the last week of October.

The Main examination comprises nine papers, all of them of a descriptive type conducted within a span of 20 days. It is designed to test not only the academic talent of the aspirant but also his ability to coordinate and present his knowledge in a clear and cogent manner. Hence the examination by its very structuring is multi-dimensional in approach. To begin with, the basic skills of an aspirant in a modern Indian language and English are tested. This is followed by two papers in General Studies, a General Essay Paper and two papers each in the two optionals chosen by the aspirant.

There are two qualifying papers i.e., a modern Indian language and General English. Marks scored in these papers are not counted for ranking.

However, scoring a minimum of 35 per cent would be necessary. The paper would consist of essay, translation, precis writing, sentence formation, idioms/proverbs and their meaning etc.

Candidates who have lost touch with writing Hindi etc., should devote time for writing practice.

The right strategy would be to answer all the questions in the examination without over-confidence.

General Essay

Ever since this paper was reintroduced in the scheme of examination in 1993, it has played a crucial role in determining the rank of the student. Most of the top rankers have scored above 55 per cent in this paper. Some candidates have also scored around 60 per cent which has helped them secure a position in the top ten ranks.

How does one score high in the Essay paper?

A two-pronged strategy involving the correct choice of topic and the appropriate method of writing can be adopted. It is advisable to choose the factual topics which are non-controversial in nature.

Devote the first five to ten minutes to ‘zeroing in’ on two topics. The next five minutes can be spent thinking about both the topics and arriving at the one which is in your ‘comfort zone.’

Having decided on the topic, start brainstorming: write down all the ideas that you have about the topic. At this stage, do not classify or systematise your points. Put them on paper randomly as they flow in. Later, arrange these ideas in a logical and sequential manner.

Having arrived at the sequence, start writing, giving due care to the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Ensure that you have time for revision. Remember, it is a General Essay paper and you should not be highly technical.

Likely topics

The topics that can be expected this year are:

Globalisation and the human empire; Reservations are only a part of affirmative action; Public libraries as a foundation of knowledge economy; India and the emerging Non-Proliferation order; 50 years of Indian television; Women in Indian politics.

In General Studies, we have two papers i.e., Paper-I and Paper-II. Paper-I comprises History of Modern India and Indian Culture, Geography of India, Indian Polity, Current Issues and topics of social relevance.

Paper-II comprises India and the World, Indian economy, International affairs and institutions, Developments in science and technology, communications and space, statistical analysis and graphs and diagrams.

Scoring high in these papers requires a business approach i.e., the time allocated by you should be commensurate with the marks that will accrue from the question.

Assuming that the foundations are in place, it is better to focus on the most important areas. The list of important areas is given below:

a) History: The Swadeshi Movement, Peasant Movements in the 1930s and 1940s, Agrarian Reforms.

b) Economic Geography of India: State of power generation in India and power reforms; Inter-State Trading Regulations 2003; Entrepreneurship in India; Progress of special programmes for raising agricultural production; Infrastructure and its multiplier effects; Constraints in public-private partnerships in the process of development; Gangavaram Port; Project Snow Leopard; Ganga River Basin Authority; the Bombay-Worli sea link.

c) Current Issues and Topics of Social Relevance: Law Commission’s recommendations on ‘Narco-Analysis’; World Health Organisation and swine flu; Ethical issues involved in stem cell research; Sixth Pay Commission and Armed Forces; Central strategy to deal with Naxalism; Government’s plans to strengthen maritime and costal security; Reasons for poor performance of India at the Olympics; Ragging; National Knowledge Commission and Indian systems of medicine; Recent measures for social protection; Racial attacks; Social networking; Social audit; Exclusion of women from productive employment.

d) Indian Polity: State politics vs national politics of the Punchhi Commission on Centre-State relations, Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Bill 2000; Supreme Court’s observation in T.N. Seshan vs Union of India; Steps in the process of the removal of a judge; RTI Act; Right to Education; National Security Guards; Law Commission report on appointment of judges; India Development Foundation; Independence and removal of Election Commissioners; Delimitation Commission.

After having identified the important areas in the compulsory papers, it is advisable to repeat the same exercise in the optionals. Such an effort will ensure a rich harvest at the examination.

With the number of vacancies on the increase, this would be the best time to aim for being included in the list of selected candidates. Ensure you do so by adopting the winning strategy.

Gopala Krishna,

Director, Brain Tree


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