With the number of vacancies dwindling each year and the competition getting tougher, with the number of aspirants increasing each year, one must consider all the pros and cons before jumping into the fray. One should preferably have an alternative job, which gives one the confidence and makes a wholehearted effort possible.Selection of Subject:
The first and foremost thing to decide while aspiring for Civil Services is the judicious choice of subjects for the Preliminary and the Mains examinations. The selection of subjects should be done most carefully, if it goes wrong, everything will go wrong.
Normally students have the advantage of selecting one of the optionals, which they are familiar with, or have at least studied till graduate level. If you are not comfortable with the subject, you should not select the subject as an optional. Example: One who studied Medicine in his/her graduation may have to refer many books for one topic. On such occasions it is better to take a subject of one's interest.
The aspirants should opt for a subject of their interest - technical subjects like engineering, medicine, veterinary sciences. Students from science background may find it difficult to understanding economics and vice-versa. Agriculture or Veterinary Sciences will be opted by the students who have studied it at their college level. Hence, the competition is among the people who have opted for the same subject. One should top in his/her subject to succeed in the examination.
One should analyse the syllabus of previous years and the question papers. The comfort levels with the subject opted for and the past trends should be analysed. While going through the questions of previous years, one can judge himself/herself about the knowledge base and comfort level with the subject. After a detailed analysis one should decide the subject for the first optional. One can get some feedback/advice from seniors and fellow students who are well versed in the subject. To avoid confusion at advanced stages of the examination, one should have some consultation with experienced/senior colleagues. They can guide you better than any coaching class.Preparation:
Preparation for General studies can be done hand in hand, along with the preparation for optional papers. Good mix of study hours for General Studies and the Optionals makes studies enjoyable and it becomes easy to sustain the momentum for longer hours, without boredom setting in and without losing interest and enthusiasm. The most important aspect for the preparation for GS (Prelims) is to identify the loopholes and plug them urgently. But remember one thing; never sacrifice the time of optional for General Studies. Because each question in optional carries 2.5 marks and in total it carries 300 marks. More importantly, input-output ratio in optional is much better than that in General Studies.
Always go in for a planned and systematic study. Work out your own study schedules in a manner suited to your style and stick to it.
One should read a leading daily regularly and also a magazine that will give an insight into the writing skills and observe how facts are presented clearly and succinctly. Also watch news & current affairs programmes on a good TV channel. The latest trend has been a shift towards the current issues; hence a thorough awareness of recent happenings is mandatory. In-depth knowledge of such events is most important, as the questions will test the knowledge of details of any given event/happening.
First one should cover the entire syllabus and then one month preceding the Mains, practice with the help of question papers of previous years. Sometimes students may end up studying topics, which are connected to the syllabus, but are practically irrelevant from your preparation point of view. For this, one should always keep a copy of the syllabus handy and keep referring to it time and again to reassess the direction of the preparation. One should also keep question papers of the previous years. Compare them and see what types of questions are repeated every year.
Try to attempt question papers of previous years and General studies papers. This will expose your weaknesses and give you an idea about the extent of your preparation, your knowledge base, your speed and accuracy.
General preparation can be broadly classified as long-term or short-term depending on the available time for preparation. Preparation for Mains examination should begin soon after the Prelims are over, without waiting for the result, as it involves wastage of time.
The generally accepted strategy for CSE is that one must have studied the entire syllabus for the Mains before the Prelims or at least before the result is out. After the Prelims results are announced, all three subjects - two optionals and General Studies should be divided equally in three quarters to revise the subjects. If the subject is not revised, it is as good as not read because preparation is a continuous process. One might have covered the syllabus long back, but memory detoriates with time
One should read/study daily 10-12 hours per day. Some people say that used to read 18-20 hours. However, don't go by the claims of other persons who say that have studied for more than 18 hours a day. It is humanly impossible. Each person knows one's own capacity, so one should prepare the timetable accordingly and follow the same for the whole period of preparation. The execution of the timetable is of crucial importance.
One should be dedicated and have faith in one's own capabilities and in the Almighty. Do not get depressed if you are unable to achieve the targets. Remember, it is your preparation; you are the one who will appear in the examination. You know yourself better than anyone else. Quality of hours put in is more important than quantity of hours. Your time and energies should be used in an efficient and effective manner.
During the entire period of the examination, take a light diet. One should maintain good health during the preparation and also maintain a hobby, which relaxes you during your preparation. Take adequate amount of sleep, as both - body and mind require it. It is always better to study when the body and mind are fresh. This helps in easy grasping of things as well as in retaining them.
To save time during revision, aspirants may mark/highlight important points during their first or second reading. The aim of the first reading is to reduce the study material to half by eliminating unnecessary points. The second reading is to make it more concise, so that you can revise the entire syllabus within two days before the examination.
Information from any source of relevance to your goal should be welcomed, as long as it is from a standard source. Discuss with your friends, talk to them and listen to their views. This will expand your knowledge base and also expose you to different views. (But while discussing be careful and don't waste time on unnecessary details). You should have a guided discussion. It is important to peak at the time of the examination. So, channelise your preparations in such a manner that you don't burn yourself out before the examination commences.
Those who still have two-three years of time left for becoming eligible to appear for Civil Services must begin the preparation for the examination in the right earnest - right now.
Once you decide that you wish to be a civil servant, as your career has to follow certain steps to be abreast with the latest trends and be ready in the first attempt itself.If you are schooling:
- Read your school textbooks thoroughly. This is the building block of your general knowledge base.
- Read one national newspaper regularly.
- Watch one TV news regularly.
- Follow discussions/debates on one TV channel regularly.
- Read one national news magazine.
- If possible, read one competitive examination magazine also.
- Discuss news items with family members and friends that will confidence and different points of view.
- Be alert to learn new things.
- Keep an open mind to learn what is happening around you.
- At college stage:
- If you decide to make civil services a career at college stage, try to follow these things:
- Learn your subject thoroughly.
- Read NCERT books very carefully as they are little encyclopedias and also comprehend them carefully.
- Study India yearbook published by Publication Division, Ministry of I&B. This will give you the base and a bird's eye view about India.
- Read one national newspaper and a magazine thoroughly.
- Watch TV news (one prime time bulletin which covers major national and international news every day). TV channels give an overall news/views scenario on their prime time slots.
- Listening to morning news bulletins/analysis of All India Radio is a must. They provide invaluable background information and a balanced opinion on major issues. Evening news bulletins of AIR give an overview of the prominent news stories of the day.
- Follow one competitive examination magazine regularly. That will give you the latest trends about civil services and other competitive examinations and also give you important information in capsule form.
- Discussions on current affairs on standard TV channel should be followed by a student to learn "how the arguments take place and how arguments are built up".
- Discuss things/news items with your friends and family members that will give confidence of taking a stand against any issue.
- Once you enter 3rd year of your preparation, you can go through the question papers of the previous years of CSE. Students in the first year also can go through these papers, but it would be difficult for a person to understand all the questions because he/she might have not studied the entire syllabi.
- Normally four questions from the syllabus are asked which are of PG level if the subject is from the Arts or Science stream. So one should go through the syllabus first, then decide about taking the questions for the test.
- In the first step itself, if you take the question paper and if you don't know most of the questions, it will deject you. There is nothing to get dejected at this stage.
- If you complete your one optional at the college level itself, it will be easy for you to crack the Civil Services in the first attempt itself. If you clear the exam before the age of 23 that will make you eligible to become Secretary to Government of India/ Chief Secretary of a State - and even go up to the rank of Cabinet Secretary.