Strategy for General Study
The syllabus prescribed by UPSC for General studies is vast and diverse.It requires in depth knowledge of topic apart your analyzing & understanding capability.UPSC is very unpredictable in mains exam in term of number of question and format of question Any thing can be asked related to the topic mentioned in syllabus.But how to answer these questions is not easy task.covering whole syllabus and discovering which part is most important along with current affairs is not a cakewalk.
The first step to qualify civil services exam is to appear in Prelims exam.Although it doesnot contribute in final merit but without passing it you can not appear in next stage.It is like start of journey.It seems very easy to those who clear this stage but appear like climbing himalayas who can not make through.Your one year became waste,till new forms came.many unfortunate student waste their 2/3 attempts in clearing prelims exam.The main reason for their failures are…
Lack of self confidence, Casual approach toward prelims,
Unawareness about exam demands and study material,
Faulty suggestions of seniors or coaching and
Finally misguidance(sometimes) by coaching institute.
The competition is getting tough. To be ahead you must prepare carefully and consistently. Carefully because the market is flooded with irrelevant books and coaching materials. Add to this wrong guidance.
Consistency is very important if you want to clear this exam. Without it, you will be wasting a lot of time now and then. When you waste lots of time now, this mistake takes a toll on your preparation when exam is very near. The pressure builds and performance suffers.
Preliminary exam paper-I is crucial in two aspects: first, if you prepare thoroughly the syllabus given for this paper, it build a strong foundation to all the Four General Studies papers of Mains exam. Secondly, it is important to get at least 50-60 questions correct in it as you never know what UPSC has in store for you in future: it might make Paper-2 just qualifying in nature; or it might make it tough by including more aptitude questions; or it can even make paper-1 very tough and fix minimum cut-off.
So the first step to be successful in prelims is to choose correct study material and guidance. Second step is lot of practice of old question papers.Third step is determination and self belief that you can do it.A good coaching institute can make big difference in your success provided you utilise it maximum and by tracking that it doesnot deviate from the standard and needs of upsc exam.
Majority of you would agree that in the heat of the exam we seldom answer accurately to the question. We ‘explain‘ instead of ‘examining’ the question; or we just ‘enumerate‘ many points in the hope of filling the answer with ‘relevant points’ when the question was indeed asking you to ‘critically analyze‘.UPSC asks different kind of questions to test your analytic and critical abilities, which are necessary for any aspiring candidate to function impartially when he becomes an officer.
Bureaucrats, in their day-to-day business have to deal with many situations that tests their analytic and critical abilities. They ‘discuss‘ issues with their colleagues or subordinates; they have to ‘analyze‘ various factors before taking a final decision; they need to ‘examine‘ a case to assess its merit; they have to ‘evaluate‘ a situation before passing an order; and they may have to ‘comment‘ on different files based on empirical evidences.These skills will enable you to form an unbiased opinion or judgement in such diverse situations.
UPSC’s point of view, in-depth knowledge means multidimensional knowledge. It is the ability to connect across topics, inter-relate them and find a meaning out of the multiple dimensions. It is the ability to comprehend and consolidate your wide readings without any bias in mind. It is not deep and technical knowledge about a ‘particular’ topic. These are the most important traits of an administrator, which the UPSC is looking for. Therefore, the eternal question is how to build this kind of understanding?Keeping so many dimensions in mind with all the facts, concepts, values etc. is indeed difficult. And, this is one of the most common problems faced by aspirants. How to acquire, process and produce so much information critically and analytically?The way of handling this is to read less, think more and apply even more. Read slowly so that your mind can ‘grasp’ the information not only for remembering but also for inter-linking. The reason is that even if your eyes can move very quickly, your mind can not. Neural processes are very slow. And, the whole process of receiving, processing and storing information takes a lot of time if it is to be remembered forever and to be reproduced immediately. You must stop while reading and think over and over on an issue.
The basics that you read should be in your mind all the time so that you can cross-link them with whatever you read. At times, you would feel that you have understood a particular issue, but can’t interlink it with other issues. This is because you have only understood an issue and have not absorbed it. Reading, understanding and absorbing are three different stage of getting information. Absorption of information or a concept requires some more time. It happens sub-consciously and not consciously. It means that you may not even realize it. It is similar to learning dance, music, sports etc. You must be able to internalize this knowledge. It should become a part of you.
Points to remember when you are in the exam hall:
- Read the instructions on the question paper – there will be a chance of introducing certain changes from that of previous year’s
- Allot 5 minutes to scan the whole question paper – while scanning quickly mark the questions by pencil which you think you are comfortable answering
- Now start with big questions – Read 2-3 times the question. Underline the main topic/issue and most importantly, the directive word.
- Underline the word limit too.
- Don’t jump into the answer. Think on the question. And think quickly the outline of your answer.
The Basic Anatomy of an Answer
Introduction is a must. It is the best part of the answer where you tell the reader what is awaiting him in next few paragraphs. You must state your thesis in a clear statement. Introduction is not a summary of your answer. It leads the reader to your answer in clear manner.
In the next paragraph, you start arguing based on the thesis in the introduction and directive word of the question. Throughout the answer, you must remember the directive word.
Split your answer into few small paragraphs containing one single idea that is a continuum of the previous paragraph and an indicator to the next one.
Remember, you should read the question after each paragraph.
The introduction and all the paragraphs should lead to a logical conclusion. Don’t repeat the question or introduction in your conclusion. Also there is wrong perception that your conclusion should ‘suggest’ something. No, the conclusion to your answer must stem from the body of your answer. It can not be a separate part in the answer.
Don’t use jargon. Don’t be verbose. Don’t use flowery/ornamental language. Simplicity wins the hearts. Be precise and effective. Make the examiner happy.
Finally I would like to say that, when you answer a question, you ‘answer’ it. Don’t dump the facts, don’t exhibit superfluous knowledge and end up getting mediocre marks.
- A common mistake most of the aspirants commit is reading so many books for a single topic.This mistake costs both your time and ability to remember things clearly and concisely.
- Stick to a single source and read it again and again. Remember The Same Source. Avoid the temptation of doing ‘Research’ on a topic.
- Always Remember – UPSC tests Basic Understanding. Not mastery over a topic.
- Make short notes on each topic. It is while making notes that readers tend to do RESEARCH and scout various sources. Stick to one book even if you are not 100% satisfied with it.
- Remember that old saying? – Jack of all trades, master of NONE. If you try to do Research, most probably your name won’t appear in the Final List. I guarantee it.
- For Paper-II (i.e GS-1) being thorough with Current Events plays a crucial role in enabling you to acquire analytical skills.
Very Important Part In The Preparation
- Writing. Writing. Writing.
- But what? – One must practice answer writing to Previous year questions, or take a Mock Test. Whatever, before you enter examination hall, you must have spent lot of time on answer writing.
Most Important Part In The Preparation
- Revision. Revision. Re-Revision.
- You do this and you appear for the Personality Test.
- If you don’t Revise what you read all these months – you slightly miss the Personality Test, or You narrowly miss appearing in the Final List.
Break an issue into its constituent parts. Look in depth at each part using supporting arguments
and evidence for and against as well as how these interrelate to one another.
Weigh up to what extent something is true. Persuade the reader of your argument by citing
relevant research but also remember to point out any flaws and counter-arguments as well.
Conclude by stating clearly how far you are in agreement with the original proposition.
Literally make something clearer and, where appropriate, simplify it. This could involve, for
example, explaining in simpler terms a complex process or theory, or the relationship between
Pick out the main points on a subject and give your opinion, reinforcing your point of view using
logic and reference to relevant evidence, including any wider reading you have done.
Identify the similarities and differences between two or more phenomena. Say if any of the
shared similarities or differences are more important than others. ‘Compare’ and ‘contrast’ will
often feature together in an essay question.
Say what you think and have observed about something. Back up your comments using
appropriate evidence from external sources, or your own experience. Include any views which
are contrary to your own and how they relate to what you originally thought.
Similar to compare but concentrate on the dissimilarities between two or more phenomena, or
what sets them apart. Point out any differences which are particularly significant.Critically evaluate
Give your verdict as to what extent a statement or findings within a piece of research are true,
or to what extent you agree with them. Provide evidence taken from a wide range of sources
which both agree with and contradict an argument. Come to a final conclusion, basing your
decision on what you judge to be the most important factors and justify how you have made
To give in precise terms the meaning of something. Bring to attention any problems posed with
the definition and different interpretations that may exist.
Show how, with examples to illustrate.
Provide a detailed explanation as to how and why something happens.
Essentially this is a written debate where you are using your skill at reasoning, backed up by
carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the
advantages and disadvantages of a given context. Remember to arrive at a conclusion.
To give in more detail, provide more information on.
Evaluate See the explanation for ‘critically evaluate’.
Look in close detail and establish the key facts and important issues surrounding a topic. This
should be a critical evaluation and you should try and offer reasons as to why the facts and
issues you have identified are the most important, as well as explain the different ways they
could be construed.
Clarify a topic by giving a detailed account as to how and why it occurs, or what is meant by the
use of this term in a particular context. Your writing should have clarity so that complex
procedures or sequences of events can be understood, defining key terms where appropriate,
and be substantiated with relevant research.
Adopt a questioning approach and consider a variety of different viewpoints. Where possible
reconcile opposing views by presenting a final line of argument.
Give anaccount of
Means give a detailed description of something. Not to be confused with ‘account for’ which
asks you not only what, but why something happened.
Determine what are the key points to be addressed and implications thereof.
A similar instruction to ‘explain’ whereby you are asked to show the workings of something,
making use of definite examples and statistics if appropriate to add weight to your explanation.
Demonstrate your understanding of an issue or topic. This can be the use of particular
terminology by an author, or what the findings from a piece of research suggest to you. In the
latter instance, comment on any significant patterns and causal relationships.
Make a case by providing a body of evidence to support your ideas and points of view. In order
to present a balanced argument, consider opinions which may run contrary to your own before
stating your conclusion.
Convey the main points placing emphasis on global structures and interrelationships rather
than minute detail.
Look thoroughly into a subject. This should be a critical assessment and not merely descriptive.
Show how Present, in a logical order, and with reference to relevant evidence the stages and combinationof factors that give rise to something.
State To specify in clear terms the key aspects pertaining to a topic without being overly descriptive.
Refer to evidence and examples where appropriate.
Give a condensed version drawing out the main facts and omit superfluous information. Brief orgeneral examples will normally suffice for this kind of answer
Evokes a similar response to questions containing ‘How far…’. This type of question calls for a
thorough assessment of the evidence in presenting your argument. Explore alternative
explanations where they exist