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Home » Civil Services Examination Strategy » Civil Services Strategy For General Studies

Civil Services Examination Strategy For General Studies


Strategy for Prelims

Looking at the pattern in which questions have been framed in General Studies (GS) from 1985 onwards, one is tempted to say that possibly the principle design of the examiners is to eliminate candidates rather than test their mental calibre.

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Moreover, examiners have not correctly followed in all the years the pattern of allotting specific number of marks for specified for each syllabus expect for the area on Mental Ability.

Such being the current trend of setting the GS paper in the Preliminary Exam, candidates have no option but to bank upon chosen optional subjects while making reasonable amount of preparation for all areas of GS. Besides, it is wise to prepare these areas from the view-point of the Main Examination. The areas to be taken care of are Modern India, Polity, Indian Economy, Geography, Current Events and General Science.

Considering the general nature of the examination the tactics must be to focus on greater rather than intensive coverage. One is expected to know history, science, polity, geography, economy and other such disciplines, all at the same time. However, only basics of each of the disciplines is needed. Hence one must concentrate on basics and acquire as much facts about basics as possible but avoiding the element of over-kill in preparations.

While preparation for the Prelims large coverage is the key word. By going through large source of information it is expected that an image is built in the mind which will reflect the details. Do remember that human memory skills work better when there are less emotional in-puts or anxiety about inability to recall on account of exam-related stress.

Here is a brief dos and don'ts:

  • Final preparation must start by testing self with the revision-type Model Test Papers.

  • Do not get discouraged by initial low score.

  • Emphasis on your weak-spots.

  • Keep testing yourself at a regular interval.

  • Make a mental note of areas you have covered and what remains to be covered.

  • Be analytical in response.

  • Do not overstretch yourself area of coverage-wise.

  • Revise your stuff a number of times.

  • A calm mental state is most important.

  • Since there is no negative marking in the exam, it is suggested not to leave any questions unanswered.

  • An intelligent guess can be made wherever necessary.

  • Do not get stuck at any question. Move on from question to question and attempt the difficult ones at the end.

  • In the first round, attempt only the answers which you are sure of.

  • In the next round, try to eliminate as many options as you can and darken the ovals which are the only one left out after elimination.

  • If you are confused between just two options, it is advisable to make an intelligent guess.

  • If you are left with about five to 10 minutes, select one option out of A,B,C or D and go on dealing with the left out questions.

Strategy for Mains
Paper I

History of Modern India and Indian Culture: The subject is like a story and there could be linkages between two questions. Students thus need to ensure that the entire syllabus is covered in detail while revising history.They can, however, do without preparing portions which appeared last year in the main stage of the examination. The general trend is that there are no repetitions from last year's papers, but once in a while students could be in for a surprise. The part relating to Indian culture will cover all aspects from ancient to modern times.

Geography of India: Students should concentrate on human and economic geography. Human section includes issues related to population. There will be questions based on the Human Development Report prepared by United Nations Development Programme. The World Development Report of World Bank deals in different aspects of economic geography like safe drinking water. Students should emphasise less on classical geography like types of soil and rocks. The stress should be on preparing cultural and economic geography and issues related to it.

Indian Polity: Different aspects of the Constitution like Supreme Court judgment during the past one year are important. At macro level, students need to know in detail issues like imposition of President's Rule in Bihar, why it was imposed and under what circumstances, significance of Bommai Judgment while implementing the same are important.

Current National issues and topics of social relevance: Students should go through major happenings at the national level during the last one calendar year. National newspapers, news magazines, journals and periodicals are good source of information to prepare topics related to national issues. Issues of social relevance which affect the lives of people should always be dealt in detail.


India and the World: Indian's relations with major world powers like US, China, Russia, France, UK and European Union should be covered in detail. The recent positive developments in Indo-US relations particularly in areas like civilian nuclear energy deal, space cooperation and education will be important in this year's examination.

Immediate neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar too play an important role in India's foreign policy. Disputes with Pakistan and China on the one hand and Bangladesh and Nepal on the other have come to play an important role in India's tryst to create a space in world politics. There should be focus on India's role in her neighbour's internal politics like maoist insurgency and return of democracy in Nepal. Issues related to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh too are important in this year's paper.

Indian Economy: The change of guard at the Centre has brought an ideological shift in how we manage our economy and issues related to taxation and spending pattern. There is more emphasis on the social sector, winding up of Ministry of Disinvestment, issues related to privatisation or profit earning and loss-making PSU entities. Queries related to disinvestment of government entities in a transparent manner too have come to play an important role during the past one year.

The role of government in our public life like running utility services too has become a matter of debate during the last few years. Areas like atomic energy, manufacturing of military goods should continue to remain in the public sector but the government should not own enterprises. The role of the government should be limited to budgetary support and providing direction on different policy matters like social work.

International Affairs and Institutions: Reforms in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and formation of G-4 to bid for permanent seats in the Security Council and US' role during the entire process will be important this year.

Developments in the fields of S&T,communications and space: Scientific development during the last one year, focus on development of AIDS vaccine, stem cell research, focus on non-renewable sources of energy and manned space are must during the revision. Geological disasters like earthquakes are still not being predicted inspite of technological advancements. Is it then justified to spend heavily on space research?

Statistical analysis, graphs and diagrammes: This section tests the candidates' ability to draw conclusions from information presented in statistical, graphical or diagrammatical form and to point out deficiencies therein.

Writing the paper: Students should be focussed in terms of language, and they should ensure that the answers are as close as possible. The examiner is usually in a hurry and if provided with facts and coherent replies,his job becomes easier. The answers should not be lengthy and written in a precise manner. Word limit should be adhered to, wherever mentioned. Students should focus on providing their side of justification in a jiffy. Repetitive and elaborate replies should be strictly avoided.

Strategy for Mains - India and the world

Paper two of General Studies in the Main Examination starts with the segment - India and the world. It accounts for around 50 marks out of 300 in this paper. Earlier this was part of a wider segment called issues of national and international importance. But in recent years, realising the significance of India's foreign policy, it has been segmented as a separate area and with focus on India's interaction with rest of the world.

Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India is regarded as the architect of our foreign policy. He used foreign policy as an instrument to defend and strengthen India's newly-won independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. His principles of 'Panchsheel' and non-alignment remained the guiding principles for successive prime ministers. During the time of Indira Gandhi, a growing assertiveness was quite evident in the Indian Foreign Policy, be it victory in the Bangladesh war of 1971 or merger of Sikkim in 1975 inspite of the Chinese protest. Her son Rajiv Gandhi believed in 'travel diplomacy'. As he had no ideological baggage to carry when he entered politics, he could interact with both superpowers - USA and USSR, with equal ease during the Cold war.

The end of Cold War heralded a new era for India too. With the beginning of economic reform, India started giving emphasis to 'economic diplomacy'. Consequently, India's relationship with major economies of the world like USA, E U, ASEAN improved considerably.

India and Pakistan continue to have a relationship that can be summed up as that of 'blow hot - blow cold'. Kashmir remains the most contentious issue, but the two countries finally seem to agree on a 'composite dialogue' within the sphere of bilateral ties. India's relationship with other smaller neighbouring countries of South Asia improved considerably in the mid 1990s largely because of the 'Gujral Doctrine'. This doctrine, which became as famous as its propounder enjoined upon India to give unilateral concessions to the smaller neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh without expecting any gains in reciprocity. A significant change seen in the recent times is the thrust given to normalising the relationship with China. Though we have outstanding border disputes but they have been kept on the backburner for the time being. At the same time, there has been more emphasis on enhancing the bilateral economic ties.

Our relationship with the USA is the hallmark of Indian foreign policy after the Cold War. The two countries have found 'natural allies' in each other mainly because of their common economic interests, common threats from international terrorism and common views on international security. On the other hand, India continues to have cordial ties with her time-tested friend Russia. It remains our biggest defence partner followed by Israel. Post-Cold War period has witnessed a change in India's foreign policy on West Asia. In 1993, India established diplomatic ties with the state of Israel keeping in view our security concerns. At the same time, India has not abandoned the cause of Palestinian Arabs. Finally, India's nuclear policy is an integrated part of our foreign policy. For India, its nuclear weapons are more as a deterrent or an insurance against extreme threats than weapons usable during war.

The General Studies (Main) Paper II includes international organisations too. The United Nations is the world's largest and most-vital organisation. It is formed of six main organs, which are the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council (ELDSOC); Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Secretariat, alongwith specialised agencies like WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNHRC and others. Then, there are various other international organisations like G-8 or a group of world's most industrialised nations, G-77 or a group of world's developing countries and G-15 or a more compact version of G-77. There are organisations too which focus on certain other subjects like OPEC, OIC, NATO, NAM, among others. One must know the outcome of their latest summits or meets, among others. SAARC is an exclusive organisation of seven South Asia Countries. One can see that it has become a victim of political rivalry between India and Pakistan, its two biggest members. Still efforts are being made to save it and the latest 'Islamabad Summit' has ignited that process. The European Union is perhaps the world's most successful regional bloc alongwith ASEAN and NAFTA. Finally, one can expect questions on leading international non-governmental agencies like Amnesty International, Red Cross, World Wide Fund for Nature and Greenpeace. Needless to say, India's involvement in these organisations should be emphasised while preparing this segment for General Studies Paper II of Main Exam.

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