To succeed in the civil services examination, time management is essential, especially during the several months of preparation.
In the Civil Services Examination, the General Studies paper in the main covers history of modern India and Indian culture (including principal features of literature, arts and architecture), geography of India, Indian polity, current national issues and topics of social relevance, India and the world, Indian economy, planning, public health, human resource management, Constitution of India, International affairs and institutions, law enforcement, internal security, developments in the field of science and technology, environmental issues, communications and space, statistical analysis, graphs and diagrams.
We should not go for too many textbooks or journals. Limit their number, but ensure their quality. Remember, we would be racing against time. We should study one or two standard textbooks in our optional subjects. The school textbooks prescribed by NCERT for Classes 10, 11, and 12 provide basic facts on many subjects in a simple form. The previous question papers should guide us in limiting the boundaries of our study areas.
Our descriptive answers should reveal analytical skills. News and views in the media should not be taken hook, line, and sinker. We should exercise our judgement and skills in evaluation, for sifting the wheat from the chaff. Facts and political statements should be intelligently distinguished. Make the habit of reading at least one English language daily of quality. The reading should not be casual. We should focus on names of places and people of significance, dates, numbers, important developments in the national and international scenes, and major sporting events. Editorials and leader page articles in dailies, one or two news magazines, one competition journal, news and good discussions in radio / TV, will help us in forming clear views and drawing inferences.
It is a good idea to engage ourselves in serious discussions with knowledgeable friends.
As part of the preparation, we should write a few essays simulating the conditions in the examination hall, using a watch to confirm our writing speed. Even if we know the answers well, it would not be of help unless we can effectively transfer the knowledge to the answer book within the prescribed time limit.
Time management is vital during the several months of preparation, as well as in the examination hall. Let us not leave anything to chance. Rehearsals will ensure our ability to perform well in the main papers, thereby boosting our self-confidence.
Whenever we read seriously as part of the preparation, we should note down the main points as also fine expressions and significant quotes.
We should not waste time by reading the same essay again and again. Study it once with full concentration. When we learn an essay, it is essential that we note down the main points, and if necessary make a mnemonic so that we can present all the points in the right sequence without missing any point. Remember that VIBGYOR reminds not only the seven colours of the solar spectrum, but the colours in the order of their wavelengths.
Before starting to write an essay, we can conveniently note down the points in the right sequence and then proceed to expand them appropriately and provide introductory and concluding paragraphs, as required.
Strategies for interview
We had given an indication of the interview as an important component of the selection exercise. What strategies would help us to secure the highest possible marks in this significant segment, which carries 300 marks out of the total of 2,300 marks for the final ranking?
The interview is a comprehensive personality test and not an abominable cross-examination. We will be interviewed by a board, which will have before it a record of our career.
We will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The board comprises competent and unbiased observers, who are familiar with the nature and working of the civil services, and the possible demands on officers in the services.
The prime objective of the interview is to check and confirm our suitability for a career in public service.
It is not a test either of our specialised or general knowledge which has already been evaluated through written papers. The board would examine our ability and skill to analyse facts in the crucible of our mind, draw inferences, arrive at logical conclusions, and articulate them with clarity and precision.
We are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in our special subjects of academic study, but also in the events which are happening around us both within and outside our own State or country.
We should be familiar with modern currents of thought and with new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of well-educated youth.
The interview may not be totally in a conventional question-answer mode. It would be in the form of a natural, but directed and purposive conversation which is intended to reveal our mental qualities.
UPSC mentions thus: “Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity.”
Even though we have performed well in the written part of the examination, and there is no minimum score officially set down for the interview, our performance in the interview may tilt the balance one way or the other. So it is essential that we give our finest possible performance at this crucial stage.
We should follow the general principles for success in any interview, as also specific strategies in tune with the demands of the personality test in the Civil Services Examination. It is a good idea to attend a few mock interviews held by experts to identify our weaknesses and eliminate them.
Further, this would enhance our confidence in facing the real interview. The slogan “I will win” should ring in our ears at every stage of preparation and performance.