This year civil services preliminary examination, due on May 20, 2012, will be the second based on the new pattern. It will consist of two objective-type question papers. Paper 1 (general studies, or GS) and Paper 2 (GS/ Civil Services Aptitude Test or CSAT) are of 200 marks each. Here’s the strategy and just-in-time advice for CSAT candidates
If we analyse Paper 1 of the 2011 exam, we find that total 100 questions were asked from the seven topics prescribed in the syllabus. The topicwise analysis of the hundred questions (see box).
Looking at the pattern in which questions have been framed in GS, one is tempted to say that possibly the principle design of the examiner is to eliminate candidates, rather than test their mental calibre. Moreover, the examiners have not uniformly followed the pattern of allotting a specific number of marks to each specified area/segment mentioned in the GS syllabus. The candidates are advised that they should prepare all these topics of the syllabus in a holistic manner because you never know whether this year the number of questions asked from the different themes will be the same.
Now considering the general nature of the examination, the tactics must be to focus on extensive, rather than intensive, coverage. One is expected to know something about science, history, geography, environment, polity, the economy, current events and general trivia — all the disciplines at the same time. However, one must bear in mind that the expectation is not to be an expert in all these disciplines. Only basics of each of these disciplines are needed. Hence one must concentrate on basics and acquire as much facts about basics as possible, but at the same time, avoid the element of over-kill in preparations.
While preparing for the preliminary examination, large coverage is the keyword. Do not try to over-stretch yourself and attempt to remember a great deal of information; which is not possible when the coverage is very huge. By going through a large source of information, it is expected that an image is built in the mind which will reflect the details. Please do remember that human memory skills work better when there are less emotional inputs or anxiety about inability to recall on account of exam related stress.
Paper 2 - CSAT is designed to check aptitude and a certain administrative attitude required of IAS officers. The CSAT is a true aptitude test checking for the language, reasoning, numerical and data analysis skills as well as specific contextual decision-making and ethical traits that an IAS officer needs in effective delivery of his duties.
The language skills tested under comprehension, the most scoring topic, are not English language specific as it is a bilingual topic available in Hindi as well.
Instead, the focus is to check capacity of the mind to perceive and understand. The reasoning part checks a candidate’s critical and analytical thinking skills.
Numerical and data analysis is not the scary maths a lot of students run away from, instead it checks comfort in playing with numbers and a certain ability to understand graphs and tabulated information.
The decision-making component of the exam needs a different perspective. All decisions are right in their contexts, but what decision a true blue Indian mandarin has been trained on taking is what is expected in the exam — a tall order, no doubt, without even a stint at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. Put simply, it needs a decision taken in the interest of the country and countrymen, based on ethics and reflecting your administrative acumen.