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Eye on the Mains chance

Run the final laps of the Civil Services Examination race powered by these handy tips.VP Gupta Reports

education Updated: Aug 20, 2009 09:50 IST
VP Gupta

The Civil Services Examinations (Mains) is less complicated than you think. This does not mean it is a cakewalk; it only means that the feeling of chaos as you start preparations will fade as you progress.

Points to focus on
n Try to base your study of any topic on only one or two textbooks, instead of trying to read very advanced books or collecting material from many sources. It is usually difficult to make sense of material coming from several sources and each author has a slightly different view. Thus, the advice is to stick to the mainstream view of any topic, instead of trying to cater to all shades of opinion.

n You must be able to recognise and arrange the ideas as major or fundamentals and minor or secondary points while studying a theme. Thus, the fundamentals or major points will give you the idea of the big picture, while the minor or secondary points will complete the picture.

n In most situations, when you are preparing for different topics, you will have two types of inputs —
a) facts and

b) analyses or comments. If you have clearly understood the facts in the shape of cause and effect chain, you can very easily understand and remember the analyses or opinion part in any topic.

n IAS examinees often ask how many hours they must study every day on an average. While some students are said to put in 12-14 hours a day, you really need 6-8 hours of dedicated work daily to cover the whole syllabus of General Studies and optional papers in one year’s time. It is advisable to temporarily stop any other courses one may be doing while preparing for the Civil Services Exam.

The author is Director, Rau’s IAS Study Circle, New Delhi

Winning combos
“Trends show that there are four-five subject combinations that get you the maximum marks — history, geography, public administration (PA), sociology, psychology, law, commerce and in literature, Hindi literature,” says VP Gupta, director, Rau’s IAS Study Circle. Gupta adds that combinations that brighten your chances are: History + geography; PA + geography; PA + history; Sociology + psychology. Such combos help you cover the compulsory General Studies paper.

Book nook
Gupta suggests reading the following, over and above others — NCERT textbooks as a base for every subject (Class IX and X ones for science, Class X for economics and Class XI and XII for history and geography);

Constitution of India by Subhash Kashyap; Economic Survey; and the India Year Book, brought out by the Union government’s Publications Division

Exam wise
Paper I One of the Indian languages picked from those mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. The literature subjects are: Arabic, Assamese, Bodo, Bengali, Dogri, Chinese, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Pali, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu
Paper II English
Paper III Essay
Papers IV and V General Studies
Papers VI, VII, VIII and IX Two subjects picked from among the following 25 optional subjects, each of which has two papers.

Agriculture; Animal husbandry & veterinary science; Anthropology; Botany; Chemistry; Civil engineering; Commerce and accountancy; Economics; Electrical engineering; Geography; Geology; History; Law; Management; Mathematics; Mechanical engineering; Medical Science; Philosophy; Physics; Political science and international relations; Psychology; Public administration; Sociology; Statistics; Zoology. But note that the UPSC does not allow certain mixtures — (a) Political science & international relations and public administration; (b) Commerce & accountancy and management; (c) Anthropology and sociology; (d) Maths and statistics; (e) Agriculture and animal husbandry & veterinary science; (f) Management and public administration; (g) Of the engineering subjects, viz., civil, electrical and mechanical engineering — not more than one subject; (h) Animal husbandry & veterinary science and medical science

Slated for October and November, the examination is a ticket to careers in the following services and posts:
(i) Indian Administrative Service
(ii) Indian Foreign Service
(iii) Indian Police Service
(iv) Indian P&T Accounts & Finance Service, Group ‘A’
(v) Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
(vi) Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) Group ‘A’
(vii) Indian Defence Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
(viii) Indian Revenue Service, Group ‘A’
(ix) Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Group ‘A’ (assistant works manager, non-technical)
(x) Indian Postal Service, Group ‘A’
(xi) Indian Civil Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
(xii) Indian Railway Traffic Service, Group ‘A’
(xiii) Indian Railway Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
(xiv) Indian Railway Personnel Service, Group ‘A’
(xv) Post of assistant security officer, Group ‘A’, in Railway Protection Force
(xvi) Indian Defence Estates Service, Group ‘A’
(xvii) Indian Information Service (Junior Grade), Group ‘A’
(xviii) Indian Corporate Law Service, Group ‘A’
(xix) Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, Group ‘B’ (section officer’s grade) (xx) Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service, Group ‘B’
(xxi) Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Service,

Group ‘B’
(xxii) Pondicherry Civil Service, Group ‘B’
(xxiii) Pondicherry Police Service, Group ‘B’
This year, about 580 hopefuls are expected join the various services

Face the interview test with humility, not fear

The personality test, or interview test, is the final lap of the Civil Services selection process. A candidate’s selection or ranking will be affected by the marks scored in the interview.

Analysis of interview test
[A] The candidate will be asked questions on matters of general interest.
[B] The interview tries to assess the suitability of the candidate for a career in public service.
[C] The test is intended to judge the mental calibre and attitude of a candidate. The major qualities to be judged are:
{i} mental alertness;
{ii} critical powers of assimilation;
{iii} clear and logical exposition;
{iv} balance of judgement and a sense of proportion;
{v} variety and depth of interest;
{vi} ability of social cohesion (inter-personal relationship skills) and leadership;
{vii} humane attitude and sensitivity towards people’s sufferings

[D] The technique of the interview is not that of a cross-examination but of a natural, though directed, conversation intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.

[E] The interview test is not intended to be a test either of the specialised or the general knowledge of the candidate.

[F] Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects but also in the global and national events, modern thoughts and new discoveries.

Make your personality felt
1 Speak only the truth. This not only is easier to defend but also considered more convenient.
2 The board makes ‘statements’ and the candidate ‘responds’. If a statement is on a field about which you are ignorant, do not be perturbed. The board always searches for areas known to you so that they can make you converse.
3 Keenly follow what is asked. While responding, reuse a few words or phrases the board used in the statement.
4 Never make categorical statements. Use phrases like ‘as far as my knowledge goes’, ‘I think’ etc.
5 Always make an attempt to break the ‘question/ statement’ into its constituent parts and then proceed analytically. If you are not able to tackle all the parts, you can frankly express your inability to do justice to some part of the question.
6 Maintain a pleasant expression, particularly when you are not able to tackle a question. Poise and grit are the most important requirements of an administrator.
7 Do not blurt out your ‘answer’ even if you know how to handle a particular ‘question’. Give yourself a couple of seconds to arrange your ideas.

What to read
1 Read carefully only one major newspaper. Also do go though good articles in other national dailies.
2 Read at least one or two recently published books on talking-point topics. Also select one or two books having a bearing on your special interests.
3 Dip into your own areas of study for the written part of the exam. If you happen to be a student of any branch of science, you must be dead clear about the fundamentals and the areas or topics of current interest associated with it. If you are an arts student, you must know well all the topics of your subjects that have a link to current happenings.

What the board covers
1 Every detail in the application form, including the meaning of your surname
2 Issues of interest, primarily national
3 Good knowledge of one’s own state and district
4 You may have to bring into focus the knowledge of your specialised field of study while talking on current affairs
5 Be prepared for probing questions on your special field of study, including the papers that you have offered for the Mains — the fundamentals of the subjects studied; big developments; and a panoramic grasp of the optional subjects.

Finally, what the UPSC is looking for in an IAS candidate is a person of substance who has the intelligence and courage to take on any job and give their best to it without fear or favour.