Aspirants for the civil services need to gear up for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination this year. For the first time in the last three decades, a revised preliminary examination - the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) - will be conducted on June 12, which is expected to uniformly test students on their knowledge and aptitude.
Until last year, the Civil Services Examination Prelims had two papers. Paper one, common for all candidates, was a general studies paper, with 150 questions to be attempted in 120 minutes. Paper two, was chosen by the candidate from a list of 23 optional subjects. In the revised pattern, though there still will be two papers, each will be of 200 marks (120 minutes each).
The syllabus for paper one will be as per the previous years, with students tested on subjects like general science, current events of national and international importance, history of India and the Indian national movement, Indian and world geography, and Indian polity and governance. This year two new subjects have been included in the list, namely, economic and social development and general issues on environmental ecology, biodiversity and ecological change.
Major changes have been introduced in paper two. General mental ability (earlier part of paper one) is now what constitutes paper two. It includes comprehension (general and English), interpersonal skills like communication skills, decision-making and problem solving, basic numeracy and analytical ability and logical reasoning.
One needs to prepare a detailed study plan, which outlines different targets to be achieved at different points of time and then religiously follow it. It is imperative that you spend at least eight hours daily on the preparation.
The fundamental difference between paper one and paper two is that while the first will test one’s memory-based learning, the second paper will deal with one’s analytical, logical and conceptual abilities. For paper one, you need to thoroughly read the study material available, go through contents of magazines, newspapers and books on current affairs, to expand your knowledge-base. However, paper two questions will test one’s grip on concepts of the seven specified subject areas. Make sure that you work on two to three subject areas, in each of the two papers, on a daily basis.
Apart from the daily preparation, one needs to keep doing self-assessment by taking individual tests related to the topics. While solving the test papers, keep a time target (say 30-35 minutes) and focus on maximizing the net score. Identify your shortcomings and work on them. In the month before the examination, focus on taking mock tests. The main learning will be in tackling the individual paper within an overall exam scenario, thus developing abilities to take on the real CSAT.
Preparing for the CSAT calls for determination, patience, time-management and personal strategy. A systematic preparation and right approach will help one tackle this new hurdle.