Saturday, March 21, 2015

What are the dimensions of available writing space in UPSC Civil Services (mains) Examination answer sheets?

This question is asked with a genuine intention, because UPSC Main exam sheets have questions followed by a fixed space thereafter. 
I appeared in Main 2013 and I did not care about this aspect at all. Let me assure you that enough space is provided for each answer. Each answer (in Main 2013) was expected within 100 words and keeping in view a normal human being's handwriting, the space provided could accommodate at least 500 words (per answer!)

For your quick reference, the first line is my normal handwriting. Considering is smaller than average, nearly 70% space remained unused after each answer.

Compare your handwriting size with a 3.5 mm audio jack
If you write as big as in the last sentence, you might have to worry.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Strategy for GS (Advanced- Unit Wise) by Ms. Rukmani Riar

Vote of Thanks
First, I must thank Ms. Rukmani Riar (Rank-2) for being very kind to spare some time and share her strategy for GS preparation. She will try and reply to any queries you post. She has scored exceedingly well in GS (311 marks) and so I feel she will be able to guide the candidates much better. I thank her on behalf of all the candidates once again.
How to prepare for GS
General Studies is the most crucial paper of CSE. With the news taking rounds thatUPSC is planning to do away with the optionals the importance of GS has increased manifold.
Newspaper the best friend!
First and foremost reading a newspaper (I read Hindu) is the starting point. Now the question is how to read the paper.  Initially one must spend 45 minutes to one hour on the paper. With time the duration can come down to half an hour.  The national news, international news and the economy sections of the paper must not be ignored. One can choose to make notes from the paper daily and keep the editorials which can help immensely to answer essay, bilateral and international sections with ease and efficiency.  As science and technology section of UPSC is very unpredictable therefore newspaper will be most handy means to answer this section.  One more point to be kept in mind is that not to stop reading the paper at any time of the preparation, as this helps the aspirants to write up-to-date answers which will give them that extra edge needed to clear the exam with eminence.  The notes made from the newspaper must be revised at least 2-3 times before the prelims and editorials be read once before the mains. You can separate the editorials subject wise (if they are on topics in optional syllabus) which will make the revision more organised.
Monthly Magazines
After the newspaper, reading of two magazines is a must. I recommend you to pick fromPritiyogitaDarpan (PD), Competition wizard and Civil services times. The special editions of these magazines are very helpful in attempting the CSE. For example the economy edition of PD, Geography and history special of wizard are very comprehensive and detailed.Yojna and Kurukshetra should be selected edition wise, if the topic is very contemporary or useful for the optionals, as the entire magazine is on one topic so magazines like these need not be read in entirety and only two articles can be selected to prepare oneself adequately on the topic of that edition.  Some of the yojna issues last year on rural development, urban migration, Agriculture helped me immensely for my optionals and GS.
When magazines are read it’s advisable to mark on the outset the points for P.T and the sections for Mains (you can use different pens or just write PT, Mains on the side) this will help in quicker revision at a later stage and help you to save very crucial time.
Indian Polity
For Indian Polity I read D.D Basu along with bare act from P.M Bakshi. Each topic must be read along with the articles which makes the preparation more through.  Indian Polity Wizard book (ALS Publication) is available in the market it can be consulted along with the books mentioned. Any news with regard to Indian polity (elections, political and democratic institutions) must be read on the internet to have more factual information for prelims and in depth analysis for the mains. (e.g from the last month news following questions need a clear understanding: should we move towards a presidential form of government?,  what are the advantages of having parliamentary form of democracy, when was lokpal bill first introduced what is its composition as proposed by government at present? Details of Electoral College for Indian President’s elections).
Indian History
For history I recommend NCERT books (6th to 12th) for ancient, medieval and Morden sections.  The modern history is most important from the point of view of CSE hence it requires additional effort.  You can refer to wizard book on Modern History or General Studies manual (Tata McGraw) for the same. Apart from this solving previous year question papers and expected questions must be practiced to give oneself a fair idea about the level of preparation.   For Indian culture any book can be picked up which covers Indian festivals, art and literature forms, Architecture, poetry, literature and drama history of India.
In Indian geography section, physiology, drainage, population, location of all scientific institutions, mineral distribution, industries, environment, ecology and wildlife, energy need special emphasis. Energy chapter in India year book can be consulted to update the information if time permits. Industry must be studied from both geography and economy point of view. Ecology and wildlife is very crucial and hence must be updated regularly from the newspapers. Small maps in the atlas on soil types, scientific institutions, mineral deposits etc can be looked at to memorise easily.
For general geography and world geography the same wizard book on geography will be more than sufficient. Special editions on these topics are published in Competition Wizard magazine which can be helpful for quick revision (only for prelims). Any place which is in news should be looked up on the map to understand its exact location and surrounding areas.
Indian Economy
Indian economy needs special emphasis. I recommend reading a basic book for clearing the concepts (for those of non-economic background), it could be 12th level economics book. These concepts need to be regularly updated from the economic sections of newspapers and magazines.  The fundamentals  need to be clear and for that one should make a list of all basic terms of economics that one comes across on daily basis and discuss with teachers or friends e.g what is the difference between FDI and FII or between fiscal deficit and revenue deficit.  I also would recommend the CSE aspirants to read the following chapters in economic survey
  1. Social Security
  2. Agriculture
For the prelims the order of preference must be biology > physics> chemistry. General Studies manual (tatamcgraw) serves the purpose or one can refer to 10thand 12th standard books of these subjects (ncert).
One must focus on statistics as they are sure shot marks in the mains. Statistics must not be ignored as they can make a difference of 50 marks to the final total.
Bilateral and International relations
The reason I have put this under a separate head is because for the mains bilateral and international relations form veryimportant part of GS paper 2, in which candidates tend to have a low score. It is important to keep all updates on this topic from the newspapers and monthly magazines. Towards the mains a special wizard book (mains special) comes out which I referred to update this section. Civil services times (magazine) constantly updates the development on this front which proved very useful.  Also, this section must be prepared with a equal focus on factual information and its analytical part. (e.g. How are regional organisations impacting the geopolitical canvas of South Asia?)
Science and technology
Science and technology section is very vast and unpredictable. I would not advice non science students to spend too much time on this section. Whatever can be covered from newspapers should be done. Defence, environment, nuclear and space science are some important sections which need special emphasis.
Is there a difference between mains and prelims preparation?
Many have their own views on this question, but if you were to ask me, there isn’t much of a difference as one needs factual and analytical information for mains as well as the prelims. Based on my experience one should start GS preparation from the mains point of view at the onset (about 8 months prior to prelims). The detailed and exhaustive preparation for mains helps CSE candidates to become adequately prepared to tackle all kinds of questions in prelims. 2-3 months prior to the prelims ones focus for GS preparation should only be prelims, which includes fast repeated revisions, solving previous year questions or some test series available in the market, going back to the notes from the newspapers, re-reading the marked sections for PT in monthly magazines and practicing mathematics for CSAT .
The last word!
Revision is the key to score well in GS. I made a consistent effort to revise conventional GS at least 4 times before the mains, and also go back to newspaper notes and magazines (marked portions).
When it comes to attempting the GS mains two things are important one, stick to the word limit and second attempt 250 plus in both the papers.

Basics of GS preparation


The following are some points that may be useful for GS preparation in general. A more detailed unit wise strategy will be uploaded in another post.
  • As we all know, these days UPSC has made the GS paper very very challenging. It has become dynamic and more opinion based. Students need to do an extensive coverage of current affairs and they can’t neglect the conventional aspect.
  • It is important to know the difference between a generalist and a specialist. A generalist is a person who knows “less and less of more and more”, while a specialist is a person who knows “more and more of less and less”. The Civils Exam in the GS paper is testing the Generalist approach.
  • One point that I would like to emphasize upon is how to use YOUR coaching class in your preparation. Please understand this very carefully that given the current trend of GS paper, everything cannot be served on a platter. The student will have to make a lot of effort from his side apart from attending the classes and memorizing the class notes. The coaching will certainly help you in many ways:
    • Gives you an approach to the subject. When you see the kind of questions being asked in Test Series and you try and pin-point from where they were asked, you understand what all to read in newspapers and magazines from exam point of view. You understand how to study GS.
    • It strengthens your fundamentals. The conventional part of GS is more or less static and you can pick that up at a faster pace with coaching classes.
    • It highlights issues of current importance. This way it does cover a lot of portion of current affairs too. But the students will still have to cover a lot on their own.
    • You will certainly be able to move at a faster pace with the coaching class.
    • Finally you can easily clarify your doubts with the faculty members in the class.
  • Some points from my personal experience in GS:
    • Study your class notes and Yellow Books multiple times. The current affairs material that would now be given for the Main Exam is especially very good and should be studied carefully.
    • NCERT books for classes XI and XII (History, Geography, Polity, Economics, Sociology and World Politics). Try to attempt questions given at back.
    • You can refer to DD Basu, Economic Survey, India Year Book (especially important for Mains exam these days), Economy issue of PD, Atlas and Manorama Year Book.
    • Newspaper reading is crucial given the current trend. You must try and make your own hand-written notes. While reading newspapers observe the following- abbreviations; new terms; organisations; quotes and examples, which can be used elsewhere; etc. It is very effective for retention and you are able to revise very quickly. Read the editorials carefully and try and understand the main points. After reading, write a summary of the editorial in your notebook. This would help you build your own opinion.
    • You can read selective articles from Frontline and Yojana. If you want to, then you may also look at some competitive magazine.
    • Internet can prove very useful especially for Science and Tech.
    • You may join a Test Series to practice writing and organizing answers. Also in test series, you learn to control your nervousness when faced with questions that you do not know.
    • For India and the World- Understand the core issues between India and various nations. The external relations can be structured into political, economic, defence, cultural, S&T, etc. so prepare in these dimensions.
  • Answer writing in the Exam
    • You must form original opinions on matters of current interest around you. Try and organize your answer in such a way that it appeals to the examiner.
    • You can use an intelligent mixture of paras and points in your answers.
    • You can make intelligent guesses to answers of questions you don’t know but do this in the end.
    • When direct questions come from conventional areas, you MUST attempt them very well since such questions would be attempted well by many other candidates. You cannot afford to lose unnecessary marks in this area. For instance, even though less questions may be asked from History recently, that doesn’t mean you can now ignore History. In fact that means, you now need to be all the more careful because if any direct question comes, you should be able to answer it correctly.
    • For current affairs, apart from current events in national and international sphere, focus on Govt. Policy decisions. Try and understand the rationale behind the decisions. You must know both the positives and negatives of each action of government.
    • For Paper-II, international affairs questions, it is useful if you first give some historical aspect of the relations between the nations and then talk about the current aspect. You can cover this area well from the Yellow Book.
    • Please remember that analysis of issues rather than mere memorization of facts is becoming more and more important and that is what the examiner is looking for. Even if the question is factual, it is always a good idea to give some analysis along with it.
  • Effort from your side
    • Earlier, I talked about the need to make a lot of effort from your side. By that I mean, you must not only have a mastery over the class notes, but you must always be open to new information from other sources. You cannot rely only on material given in the class.
    • You must also try and visit the websites of ministries, spend a little time on the Internet surfing for information of interest, read some news magazines and try and read at least the editorials from one other newspaper apart from The Hindu.
    • Newspaper Reading- This is very important.
In the end I just want to say, that for GS especially, do not judge your coaching class by the fact as to how many questions in the exam finally came from your class discussions. Instead, you must judge the class based on whether it taught you how to approach and handle the GS subject. Even though, the class will steer you in the right direction, the hard-work has to be yours.

Getting in the right frame of mind


Hello everyone,
Before I actually start sharing some experiences about the exam, I wish to write a post about the mind set with which one must approach this exam. I feel before anyone starts preparing for the Civil Service Exam (CSE), he/she must have clarity on some fundamental issues in his/her mind.
Firstly, as I have mentioned elsewhere too, the CSE is not just an exam, it is a journey. This journey is long and you must have a lot of patience and dedication to traverse it.
Do not rush through your attempts. Spend time with your subjects before you appear in the exam. Keep in mind that there are no shortcuts to success. Each individual has his/her own pace of studying. Some people like me, take more time to grasp things as compared to others. You must know yourself well. Know what timings of study suit you; know what inspires you; what motivates you; know what relaxes you; know what you ultimately want to do as a civil servant; know what are your strengths and your weaknesses. If you know yourself well, then things will get easier.
When you are walking on the road of the CSE, keep in mind that there will be highs and lows. Just like all fingers of our hand are different, so will be your days. Some days you will study more, some days you will study less and on some other days you will not study at all. But you must thoroughly enjoy all your days and each moment of your study as well as free time.
Never ever think about your marks or probable rank in the exam, just think about answers to the questions in-front of you. Choose your optionals keeping in mind your interest in the subject. All subjects are equally scoring but you must be able to study YOUR subjects for long hours. Keep your cool and peace of mind.
Another important point to be kept in mind is that this journey is a long one. Shortcuts may work but the only sure way to reach your destination is to take the longer route. So do not be in a hurry to give your attempt. Spend a lot of time doing each of your subjects and then GS. I would advice to do everything sequentially i.e. one after the other and not simultaneously. This way, one would realize that at least 1.5 to 2 years of dedicated preparation is must before you give your first attempt. However, I must say that for some people a shorter route works whereby they do some subjects simultaneously. It is risky but may take you to your final destination. The longer route on the other hand is safe and will surely take you to your destination. The choice between the two is subjective and is a decision best taken by YOU and no one else.
Finally believe in your hard-work and in GOD. Whenever you do something, believe that YOU can actually DO it. This is true for any task in life and not just CSE. Self confidence and self-belief is crucial.
Always remember- Preparation will only take you to a certain extent; beyond that you will have to take some leaps of faith.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012