The First Step towards Success
As we know, preliminary examination is the first step towards achieving the success in the Civil Services Examination and the State Public Service Commission Examinations. You can appear in the Mains examination after clearing the Preliminary examination only. Therefore, clearing the prelims exam is the basic condition to progress ahead in this prestigious examination.
As per my experience, this phase of the examination is the most unpredictable and difficult phase. It is extremely difficult to predict the pattern of examination in this phase, i.e., you cannot guess the number of questions from a particular section or topic of General Studies. You cannot guess the safe cut-off score. You cannot even assess, whether you will come around that cut-off or not. It is difficult, not because you cannot prepare, but because you have to face the maximum competition in this phase.
An interesting fact about the preliminary examination is that, though many toppers have cleared this stage by a minimum margin, i.e., secured just a few marks more than the cut-off, but in the final score, they secured good ranks. In this regard, you need to keep one thing in mind that, though your fate will play a considerable role in this examination as well as in all the examinations of your life, but taking this phase lightly can be detrimental to your prospects in it.
Do not take Risk in this Phase
In this phase, about eight to nine lakhs aspirants apply per year; about four to five lakhs aspirants appear in the examination; while only a few thousands aspirants (generally 12-13 times against the total vacancy) get selected for appearing in the Mains exam. Therefore, carelessness in this stage can prove to be harmful for you. Hence, the better and the safer option is that, you should make such a strategy for the preparations of the Prelims examination, so that you may clear this phase with a comfortable margin.
Preliminary Examination : Scheme and Syllabus
We know that the Preliminary examination is an objective type exam. It is conducted in two shifts on a single day. These is a provision of 1/3 negative marking in this phase.
The General Studies consisting of 100 questions of 200 marks, is the first question paper; and the C-SAT, consisting of 80 questions of 200 marks is the second paper. After the year 2015, the marks obtained in the second paper, are not included for the merit of the prelims exam. Second paper is a qualifying paper. The syllabus of the prelims exam is as follows:
General Studies: Paper-I
1. Current events of national and international importance.
2. History of India and Indian National movement.
3. Indian and World Geography: the physical/ social and economic geography of India and the world.
4. Indian polity and governance, constitution, political system, Panchayati Raj, public policy, Right issues etc.
5. Economic and social development, Sustainable development, poverty, inclusion, demographics and social sector initiatives etc.
6. General issues on environmental ecology, biodiversity and climate change (that do not require subject specialization).
7. General science.
General Studies: Paper-II (C-SAT)
2. Inter-personal skills, including communication skills.
3. Logical Reasoning and Analytical ability.
- Decision making and problem solving.
- General mental ability.
6. Basic numeracy (numbers and its relation order of magnitude etc.-class 10th level), Date interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, date sufficiency etc.-class 10th level).
- Dimensions of the Overall Preparations for Preliminary Examination
- Try to comprehend and remember the things studied by you. Mere memorizing it will not help. Still, there are certain things, which you have to memorize, i.e., the Fundamental Rights from Section 14 to 32 of Indian Constitution.
- The tendency of being a good learner always helps you in your life. Further, it is important especially for the prelims exam. Try to learn from every person or every source, e.g., the advertisements of various government schemes, displayed in the Metro train or aired on F.M. Radio. Sometimes, information on such government schemes are asked in the multiple choice questions. Similarly, be aware of the news presented in the India Year Book, Yojana, P.I.B. and A.I.R. etc. In short, keep your eyes and ears open, as the preparations for one section of the General Studies can be useful in some other sections too. Such a diverse study and awareness helps a lot in this phase of examination.
- Focus on the sections of Current Affairs, History and Indian Freedom Movement, Geography of India and the World, Indian polity and Constitution, Economic Development and Environment etc., as it will help you not only in the Mains exam, but also in the Interview of the Civil Services Examination.
- Give a special attention to the current and contemporary events, related to all the sections of General studies, e.g., the contemporary achievements and technological developments; the recent bills and amendments in the Constitution; ordinances; monetary policy; banking reforms; the impact of conferences on the climate change and endangered species and the conferences of the International organizations; and the news about any new geographical or cultural excavations.
- It is better to prepare well each and every section of General Studies. It is quite difficult to predict which segment of the General Studies, the maximum questions will be asked from. Sometimes, the maximum questions are asked from the Freedom Movement and Public Governance, and sometimes, most of the questions come from Geography and Environment. No one could have even thought that in the prelims exam of the year 2016, so many questions would be asked from the Current Affairs.
- Nevertheless, the preparations for the prelims exam cannot be limited to the current affairs only. There was a trend in the previous prelims exam that in the Paper-I, the basic questions of various sections of G.S were asked. In order to prepare thoroughly, you should study from the social sciences books of NCERT, meant for Class 9 to 12. (A detailed list of the books and sources is given in the chapter 'What to Study and What Not ).
- Whatever you study in the current affairs, try to have a basic knowledge of the same, because very often in the prelims exam, the questions from the current affairs are not straight for ward, instead, they are linked with the traditional knowledge of the General Studies. Therefore, you should correlate the basic traditional knowledge with the contemporary events, while preparing for the prelims.
How to Prepare for General Studies - Paper-Il
The General Studies Paper-Il is popularly known as C-SAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test). Though, it has become just a qualifying paper, but you can clear the prelims exam only after scoring the passing marks in this paper.
In fact, this paper is a test of the aptitude of an aspirant, in which the various skills and qualities of an aspirant are tested. It also tests the applicant's comprehension ability, communication skill, logical ability, analytical ability, mental ability and statistical aptitude etc. In order to clear this test, you need to have a fundamental clarity in the mathematics, statistics, reasoning and comprehension.
In the examination, many questions are asked from the comprehension. In order to solve these questions correctly, you must have the ability to read and comprehend quickly and give the apt answers. Hence at the preparation level, you should do the maximum reading, and improve the speed of your reading and comprehending. Besides, you need not be afraid of the Mathematics and the Reasoning sections, because only the basic level questions are asked in the examination.
For the preparations of the General Studies Paper-Il, you should devote the major portion of your preparation in practice. Do not take this paper lightly. Rather, you should increase your capability level, so that you can score the cutoff marks with a fair margin.
Practice will Make Your Path Easier
You should give the utmost importance to the practice to improve the reading speed in both the papers of General studies, as it increases not only your reading and writing speed but also your alertness. It also helps in minimizing the negative marking. Therefore, do practice, after doing your basic preparations.
While doing this, practise the papers of previous years (especially the papers of last five years). These papers can be quite helpful to you, as going through these papers, you can get an idea of the examination trend, and thus, can boost up your confidence.
Besides this, you can participate in a test series, or practise it at home with the help of the objective - type paper, available online or in the market. There is no other substitute for the practice; therefore, keep practising. After solving a paper, find their correct answers; and include these answers in your preparation materials, so that you can revise these answers, while studying the materials. In this way, you can cover important aspects of the exam.
How to Tackle the Negative Marking?
It is important to handle the negative marking in the prelims exam; and it can be done only through the practice. You should never think that you have to solve all the questions being asked in the paper, as it is practically not possible to know the correct answers of all the questions in the paper.
I advise you that, in the first round, try to solve those questions, which you are confident about. You should keep in mind that there may be many questions in the paper which you will not feel confident about; or in some questions, there will be a situation of 50-50. The most effective way of solving such questions is the 'Elimination Method', i.e., cross the options which are definitely incorrect. If after doing so two options are still remaining, then you can take the risk of ticking one option as correct.
Some aspirants are so scared of the negative marking, that they attempt very less questions. This is not a wise choice. Therefore, try to attempt reasonably good number of questions.
There is no thumb rule for the number of questions to be attempted in the prelims exam. It depends upon the level of that question paper and your preparation and knowledge. In short, handling of the negative marking in the examination is an art, which can be perfected through a continuous practice of solving the test papers.
Just before the Preliminary Examination
We have already discussed the importance of qualifying the preliminary examination. Let us discuss the ways to handle the tough tie just before the examination and to succeed in it:
- First of all, stop thinking that you tend to forget the things you have studied earlier. Remain calm, and you will be able to remember and recollect them. The things which you have studied throughout the year, get saved in your memory; and when the need arises, you will be able to recall them definitely.
- Be confident that your preparation is up to the mark. If you remain confident, the chance of your success increases. Remember, out of lakhs of aspirants appearing in Civil Services examination, only few aspirants are able to maintain their level of confidence.
- The principle of 'Nishkaam Karmayoga' (disinterested action) will help you a lot during the prelims exam. Write the examination without taking stress of its outcome. Most of the aspirants, who have failed to clear the prelims exam, have accepted that, despite of knowing the right answers, they have selected the wrong options and have filled the wrong circles due to the tension, stress or the haste.
- Do revise. It is not the proper time to study the new things. If possible, do one more revision of sections of polity, geography, economy, environment and current affairs.
- For handling the negative marking, a continuous practice is essential. Therefore, solve the test papers; have an understanding of the calculation in the negative marking; and form an effective strategy for it.
- Do practice both the papers, i.e., Paper-I and Paper-II.
- The examination is conducted in the morning session, therefore prior to the examination, try to form the habit of sleeping on time and waking up early, so that on the day of the examination you can wake up with a fresh mind.
- Never neglect your sleep hours by imitating someone, and sleep at least for seven hours.
- Eat light and digestive food, like fruits, vegetables and salad.
- Walk for about half an hour in a park in the morning or evening.
- Have faith in God as well as in yourself.
- Avoid unnecessary things and negativity.
In the Examination Hall
- One mistake, which we all commit during the prelims exam, is that we do not read the questions carefully or attentively. Sometimes, in a multiple choice question, Due to being careless or in a hurry, we do not pay attention to the actual meaning of the question; and, instead of marking the incorrect answer, we mark the correct answer and lose the marks. Therefore, read every question and its each word carefully.
- The prelims paper is set both in the Hindi as well as in the English language. If you are unable to comprehend any word or sentence in one language, do see its translation in the other language, if possible. By doing so, you may get some important 'clues', which can help you in
comprehending that word or sentence and writing the correct answer.
- Do read the instructions given on the first page of the question paper. You are asked to fill the circle with black ballpoint pen only. Fill the circles as per the instructions.
- After having an overall view of the paper, you are able to guess the level of the questions in the paper. Some aspirants start panicking after finding the questions tough. I would like to remind such aspirants that the level (whether easy or tough) is same for all the aspirants. Therefore, do not panic, and give your best performance with your full capability.
- Some aspirants are so anxious, that they start looking for the correct answers of the first paper, even before the second paper begins. It is completely unadvisable. Forget about the first paper till the second paper ends. Try to relax, and appear in the second paper with a fresh mind.
- Do not start looking for the answer key just after finishing the papers. If you really want to know the correct answers, match your answers with a good answer key after some days. You must also keep this fact in your mind, that none of the answer key is completely correct, so without bothering about the cut-off of the prelims exam, start preparing for the mains exam with full dedication.