Chapter 7 - Preparations for Preliminary Examination UPSC Notes | EduRev

Crack Civil Services in First Attempt by Divey Sethi, IRS

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UPSC : Chapter 7 - Preparations for Preliminary Examination UPSC Notes | EduRev

The document Chapter 7 - Preparations for Preliminary Examination UPSC Notes | EduRev is a part of the UPSC Course Crack Civil Services in First Attempt by Divey Sethi, IRS.
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I personally find preliminary examination competitively tougher than mains! Look at the statistics and you shall know why. Only 14000 students are selected roughly from around 5 lacs appearing in any year, that is, more than 97 percentile is needed. The competition has become fiercer since the introduction of CSAT. The position of the aspirants of forest services has become even more precarious since CSE preliminary has become the qualifying exam for writing the mains of IFoS. Only the first 1000 or so students, those who have ticked IFoS in CSE, are eligible to appear for the mains of forest services. This would require a percentile of around 99.

Further, the cut off increased every year due to pattern predictability from 2011 to 2013. However, CSE 2014 is a departure from this trend of increasing cut off every year. Because there had been last minute change in the marking scheme of GS paper 2 for CSE 2014, another change in CSE 2015 was more or less expected to stabilize the marking scheme. Thus, in this highly competitive atmosphere an aspirant, especially a fresher, is baffled as to how to go about his/her preliminary preparations. I have summarized the broad analysis of the CSAT, 2014 papers.


  • Comparative Analysis of paper II, CSAT – 2014 and CSAT 2015
Comprehension (printed in both English and Hindi) 26 34
Mathematics 18 24
Logical reasoning 19 13
Data interpretation 6 5
Figure based 5 4
English comprehension (written only in English) 6 Discontinued
Decision making 0 Not there


CSAT, 2014 again reinforced our belief in the unpredictability of UPSC question setting trends! The major surprise was the deletion of the decision-making questions from Paper 2. Moreover, the GS paper had an extreme nature – questions were either far too easy or considerably tough. In CSAT 2015 paper 2 was qualifying only with minimum requirement of 33% across every category. However, inspite of that, I had seen some aspirants not clearing preliminary because they fell short of minimum required marks in paper 2. Such candidates and those who do not feel confident yet in CSAT paper 2 must read the section “Smart strategy for CSAT Paper 2” given below in this chapter.


² The Earlier controversy

     The CSAT paper-2 had been the source of all controversy surrounding the preliminary examination to civil services. It was contended that the paper promotes English speaking students, urban Indian population and engineering and management background students. On the same lines, it creates a bias against Hindi speaking and regional language speaking aspirants, rural India and humanities students. The following were the independent general views of various aggrieved sections;

a)  Hindi medium aspirants: the section of English comprehension (written only in English), which tests the understanding of English language is a bias against Hindi speaking students. Further, the conversion of other comprehensions in Hindi is verbatim and through translating software such that the meaning of paragraph distorts a little. Thus, the Hindi student has to refer to the English version of the comprehension in between so as to get the exact meaning of the comprehension. This leads to wastage of time.

b) Regional Language student: what will a graduate do if he/she speaks Oriya and lacks both English and Hindi skills? Is it mandatory that graduates speaking other than Hindi must have sufficient functional literacy in English to write CSAT exam? Or is it expected that every graduate college offers functional literacy in English? Does this also amount to a preference of Hindi belt areas over the rest of India? Many tough questions remain here.

c)  Rural Aspirants: Does language bias as contended by Hindi and regional language students leads to urban-rural divide widening through civil services examination? The basic assumption for rural bias to exist would be that English is majorly the language of urban India, especially the metropolitan centres.

d) Humanities students: the contention is that mathematics, which has around 17 percent weightage, is above the standard of 10th class. Also, it is asserted that logical reasoning and data interpretation, which amounts to 30 percent weightage combined, is more managerial than administrative. It is further argued that engineering and management students have a clear cut advantage over humanities aspirants and simultaneously the administrative skills required for services can’t be judged by this pattern of examination.


  • The present scheme of marking

     The protest took off from Mukherjee nagar, Delhi after the announcement of the final result of CSE 2013 by UPSC and within three months or so it captured the imagination of the people’s representatives sitting in the parliament of India. To pacify the outrage, government hurriedly proposed the following changes to be done by the UPSC for CSE 2014;

A)  The marks of English comprehension (compulsory, which has no translation in Hindi) won’t be counted in the final merit

B)  The aspirants, who gave the paper in 2011, the year when CSAT was introduced for the very first time, would be given an extra attempt in the year 2015.

     The government has tried to alleviate the concerns of the Hindi students by the above proposals. However, UPSC, an autonomous constitutional body, was unrelenting in its pursuit till the eleventh hour. With the change of chairmanship the above written modifications were notified in the gazette.

     There are several issues related to this supposedly trivial issue of removing compulsory English questions. The first and the foremost deal with the autonomy of the constitutional bodies itself. If UPSC, is pressurized to change the pattern or the marking scheme at the last hour by the government, its autonomy will be questioned. And then the question pertaining to the autonomy of other constitutional bodies such as the election commission, comptroller and auditor general may be brought into public debate.

     The second issue is that the fiduciary value of the institutions has been challenged. The intentions of the people running these institutions and their capabilities have been debated. Are not the members of UPSC, who have been entrusted the responsibilities to recommend civil servants to DoPT, doing justice to their jobs and thus, to the nation? Do they not have the vision and the corresponding autonomy to change the structure of the examination as per the requirements of the current times? These questions not only torment an aspirant but are also of concern to every common man because the process of selection of civil servants affects the nation itself.

     The above pacifying act of the govt. rendered the pattern of preliminary unstable – what would be the purpose of English comprehensive questions when their marks is not taken into merit? Thus, it was evident that CSE 2015 would attract a major change at least in the preliminary part of it. And this happened. In preliminary 2015 paper 2 became only qualifying paper with 33% fixed minimum criteria for every category. The paper 1 of 200 marks would be considered for merit. The grievances of the protesting aspirants were addressed in a long term constructive manner by the CSE 2015 notification which has been elaborated in the later part of this book.


  • The way ahead

     As we have discussed earlier that the success of a candidate is not entirely through his/her own efforts. There is a direct external contribution from parents, family and peers and there is an indirect contribution from the society at large, which has to be virtuously returned to the society by public service. Thus, the discussion entails that there are certain factors beyond the reach of an aspirant that will influence the chances of his/her selection. The efforts must be directed to maximize the positive factors and minimize the negative factors as far as selection is concerned. Coming to the case of the alleged disadvantaged lot comprising of Hindi students, Regional language students, Rural and humanities students, their efforts were directed towards scrapping the paper 2 of preliminary exam. As per their contention this would have given them a level playing field and thus, enhance the chances of their selection. However, the present mechanism of testing a basic level of proficiency in the paper 2 and considering paper 1 for merit is certainly not adverse to the above mentioned section of students.

     Dear aspirants certain things are beyond our control. Thus, after a point one cannot change the external factors and even if that change may occur it might take time to transcendent into action. That stage is important to realize, as after this, the aspirant has to let go off external factors and work on factors that he or she may control directly, such as the subject knowledge, language command, analytical skills etc. With this thing in mind one should set the right strategy of further preparations during the present times of volatility in pattern and marking scheme.

     So what is there for an aspirant in all this turmoil and confusion? Many aspirants halt studies when there emerged a speculation that the date of preliminary exam would be postponed to the month of September in 2014. It is in these times the clever aspirants benefit. The best way is to stay away from tea stall discussions. Avoid such news in media – both print and electronic. Dear friends, the only source of confirm change is a notification on UPSC website or in Gazette of India. Till that is done, do not be cheerful or sorrow, but, be disinterested in such speculative affairs. This disinterest won’t allow you to dissipate energy without purpose. You shall hear everything, at those times which suits you, resist giving proclamations about the speculations and thus, no imprint would be left on your mind which could have consumed precious energy.

     I will give you an example. In October/November 2012, there was a widespread speculation that UPSC might do away with one of the optional subject and in place of that introduce two more papers of GS. At that time I had taken philosophy as a second optional along with civil engineering. While wandering to tea stalls I encountered various opinions, of what UPSC is going to do. The people spoke with so much conviction as if they were the member of the committee which was to finalize the changes! I heard them silently, their strategy of going ahead during this indecisive period, whether to stick to doing optional or switch over to GS for the moment.

     Although I heard talks but avoided giving any opinion. A friend forced me to utter something in this regard. I said, “There is no confusion. Two optional exists for me till the previous pattern is replaced by the new one through a notification in Gazette. Thus, I continue studying philosophy along with GS.”

     Nevertheless, the notification of CSE 2013, did drastically alter the pattern. One optional was replaced by GS. The western philosophy and Indian philosophy which I had completed were now redundant. The people advocating a change in the pattern taunted me for my wasted efforts. “You remember I told you. Didn’t I? It is not useful to study for civil services till the notification is released.” One of my friends teased me. But he had neglected the fact that I was studying GS along with philosophy. He had further ignored the fact that I had been in continuous touch with studies and he had taken a break. Dear aspirant you must know that it is better to maintain continuity of studies rather than taking long breaks in between.

            Coming to CSE 2015, there was quite a speculation before the notification of the changes that may be done in preliminary. But, the aspirants for 2015 must have had continued with their GS preparations till the notification for 2015 was out. Bothering about paper 2 before the notification for CSE 2015 was an utter waste of energy which one should have avoided. Now when the notification of CSE, 2015 is out one can plan accordingly. The changes have been dealt with in the chapter ‘Deciphering the CSE, 2015 notification’ later on in this book.


  • Smart strategy for CSAT Paper 2

     The pattern of preliminary examination for 2015 remains same (that is, the paper 2 is now qualifying only), it is expected that for CSE 2016 also the pattern and marking scheme shall remain same. Now what should be the approach of an aspirant? How should he/she place the timing of his/her preparations? How to strike a balance between GS and CSAT?

     Hereby, I present to you a strategy that is bound to give result if followed with a commitment;

     Step 1: Aspirants of CSE 2016 must be free from any coaching engagements at least two months before preliminary examination.

     Step 2: Join the test series of that coaching which gives paper closest to what is asked by CSE. Weekly tests are preferable. Three or four are sufficient.

     Step 3: Simultaneously write the summary of any one article of newspaper each day for at least 30 days. Hindi medium students must also do the same either in Hindi or English as per their convenience. This will also be helpful in GS.

     Step 4: Get question paper of any two other coaching institutes at your home so that diverse questions may also be accommodated.

     Step 5: Give 2 or 3 CSAT papers at your home almost equally spaced throughout the last two months, that is, after an interval of 7 or 8 days.

     Step 6: Tests must be taken in a strict time bound manner and completed within 1hour 50 minutes at home.

     The analysis of the question paper must be diagnostic first and then curative study. The first paper of CSAT paper 2 should be given unprepared. See closely which the problem area is and attack that area only. For example, consider an aspirant who is not able to solve logical derivation questions and blood relation questions in a particular time-frame. Why should he/she do speed – distance questions, data interpretation, geometry and probability? Why should he/she not focus on just the problematic area and do around 30 independent questions each of logical derivations and blood relations. In fact that aspirant was me and I did attack only my weaknesses instead of covering every aspect of CSAT. The result was upto my satisfaction.

     In the present scenario, there is also a tendency to neglect paper 2 altogether as it has become qualifying only and doesn’t count in final merit. This has become a trap for some. Avoid taking this paper 2 for granted and devote time to solve at least 3 or 4 mock after diagnosis of the problematic area has been identified.


  • Comparative Analysis of paper I, CSAT – 2014 and CSAT 2015 


SECTION QUESTIONS in 2014 QUESTIONS in 2015 Moderately difficult question in 2015
POLITY 11 13 9
History 5 13 6
Art and Culture 15 4 2
Geography 14 15 7
Environment (pollution) 4 3 1
Environment (Ecology) 16 10 6
Science and Technology 15 9 5
Economics 11 21 12
 Current facts and schemes 9 12 9


(I wonder why the translation of GS paper 1 from English to Hindi didn’t suffer from the alleged infirmity which exists in the translation of GS paper 2. May be because there are no long comprehensions in paper 1 that need to be translated like that in paper 2!)

As per the above analysis the following conclusions can be drawn;

  1. The weightage of art and culture decreased drastically in 2015. So there is a good probability that it may be sufficiently increased in CSAT 2016.
  2. Economics increased and was almost doubled in 2015, thus there is a possibility that in 2016 the number of questions of economics may be decreased and that of environment and S & T be increased.
  3. According to me 55 – 60 were easy to moderately difficult questions. The total attempt should have been around 85 questions at least and I expect the candidate to be 90% correct in these easy-to-moderate difficulty level questions, that is, let us say 54 questions correct out of 60. Out of the rest 25 questions attempted (which I assume to be tough to very tough) a candidate should have 30% accuracy, that is, 8 more questions correct.
  4. Thus, a total of 62 questions correct and 23 questions wrong would render a candidate with a score of around 116. Thus, in this paper a score of 114 – 118 is achievable and a decent enough score.
  • Subject-wise analysis:

     Polity : It is one of the most predictable and scoring part of GS paper 1. A starter must first cover the fundamental aspects of our polity by reading NCERT class IX and class X textbook called DEMOCRATIC POLITICS. It will establish a sense of some basic polity terms - ideals, constitution, election system, power sharing etc. There are almost no articles that are encountered here. Thus, it is a very interesting with some prominent examples. After this, an aspirant is required to be familiar with the parts, articles and the schedules of the constitution of India. For this, instead of going for the coaching notes, an aspirant must read a standard text such as Laxmikant along with the bare act. A concise substitute of Laxmikant is a book titled as ‘our constitution’ by Subhash Kashyap. The candidate must read either of the two but not both. Please note that D.D Basu is an exemplary commentary on the constitution of India. Nuances to that extent may not be required for UPSC.

     Those who have already done polity once need not go through the whole standard text again and again. They should only attack their weak areas or the areas of their particular interest. For example, curiosity may arise for an aspirant if he/she reads that the verdict of Cauvery tribunal is challenged by Tamil nadu inspite of the fact that the tribunal judgments are exempt from the jurisdiction of higher judiciary as per A 262 (parliament, by law, has provided for this exemption). That curiosity arising from current polity of the country must be quenched instantly by referring to the relevant parts of the bare acts. Thus, after one complete reading of polity it should be brought into habit. Later on, we shall deliberate upon how to extract the polity news from the politics of the country.


     Modern History : Modern India is easier and should be done first. The questions are such that a broad idea of the chronological events and their causes and consequences is suffice. This can be done by reading NBT freedom struggle, a concise ‘novel’ like book for those who find history boring. Read it like a novel, anticipate what would happen next and when you are through with it for the very first time, it would set you for a little elaborate texts in history. After NBT book, an aspirant is in a position of critical analysis of NCERT books of class VIII titled as OUR PAST – III (both part 1 and part 2). Because the factual details are not asked in greater depth in CSAT, old NCERTs of modern history are not recommended. The above analysis is sufficient for prelims with regards to modern Indian history. Those who invested a lot of time in modern history were disappointed to see the easy level of questions. However, their knowledge will create a difference in the mains examination. An aspirant is advised not to reduce the study of the basic text in modern history by witnessing the easy questions of this paper.

Art and Culture : High fluctuations in the number of questions asked from this topic has been witnessed. It is expected that the questions will increase in the year 2016. Further, this topic has been a cause of worry for many due to the opaque nature of the content, that is, the aspirants are confused about what to study and what not. Also, the next question is from where to study. With presence of so much diverse and in depth material it becomes all the more confusing for the aspirant to select the relevant parts as per the exam requirements. Thus, regarding this another separate section has been introduced which deals with both preliminary part and the GS 1 of the mains. Readers particularly interested in this section may skip directly to the chapter on preparations for mains.

     Geography : The subject can be divided into physical, human and economic geography. Physical geography deals with the phenomenon of atmosphere, hydrosphere and landforms, causes of these and processes associated with it. Thus, physical geography has to be studied at a global scale and also some phenomenon shall be peculiar to India, such as monsoons. Therefore, the suggestion is that a standard text dealing with world level phenomenon must be complemented by a text that is specific to Indian settings. The book J.C Leong deals wonderfully with atmospheric systems, ocean currents, landforms and their causes, as well as the interaction of abiotic factors with the biotic factors to create different biomes all over the world. Each biome has some generalized characteristics of temperature, rainfall, flora and fauna. A substitute for this book would be NCERT class XI publication titled as ‘Fundamentals of Physical Geography’. Read either Leong or NCERT book. But do not read both as it would be repetition of work and count as redundant effort.

     After getting a broad view of the global phenomenon, we have to study the particular case of India. This is well elaborated in the class XI text book of geography titles as ‘India physical environment’ which deals with our mountains, rivers, climate, vegetation and soil. As we see in the analysis of GS paper 1 above, map based questions were increased. Two questions from world map were also included. Out of the 9 questions based on maps, four could have been answered quite easily. The rest needed specific knowledge. The following maps (on physical map of India) are required to be practiced thoroughly with the help of atlas;

a)  Mountain b) Rivers c) national parks d) wild life sanctuary e) tiger reserves f) soils g) vegetation

     (Check out the difference between national parks, wild life sanctuary and tiger reserves)

     The next part is human and economic geography. As far as preliminary is concerned only Indian context is required. And out of the two, economic is more important so we shall focus on it more. This entails a thorough reading of NCERT class VIII textbook titled as ‘Resources and development’ and also of class X book ‘contemporary India – II’. For preliminary these two books would be sufficiently dealing with mineral, agriculture, water, forest and wildlife resources of India, location of industries and factors influencing the same.

     Human geography deals with human resources, human capital and its management including capacity building. This part has some areas common with economics also. Thus, we shall restrict our reading of human geography as questions directly dealing with it are not asked; the questions may be coupled with economics or current policies. Therefore, the aspirants are advised to go through NCERT class XII textbook titled ‘India – people and economy’.

     Environment : this is a tricky subject as it has vast overlapping domain with geography; it entices aspirants to repeat their efforts leading to time wastage and no significant knowledge addition. However, we shall precisely focus on what composes our analysis of environment. It can be broadly divided into ecology, biodiversity and pollution. The standard text in ecology is NCERT class XII biology textbook where in an aspirant is advised to read unit X titled as ecology. Look at the previous years’ questions and you shall find that many the questions can be tackled using the fundamental knowledge in the above mentioned text.

     Biodiversity and pollution are orderly presented in the ‘Teachers’ handbook on Environmental education for the higher secondary stage’ in the last 4 chapters. There is another standard text called ‘Environmental studies for graduate’ by ErachBharucha. Both are through in their analysis. Thus, an aspirant is advised to read teachers’ handbook first and then wildlife part dealing with prominent, endangered, extinct species from E. Bharucha. All the rest details in Bharucha would become repetitive and would lead to a loss of time. Also, go to the website of ministry of Environment and forest and download the latest list of endangered species in India. This also contains the photographs of these organisms. It is recommended that the aspirants must specifically look at these photographs. Questions may be asked pertaining to the minute physical differences among these endangered species. In the present paper, the weightage of pollution related questions decreased while that of ecology increased as compared to that in the previous year. Questions on pollution were from predictable areas, while those from ecology were a little tricky this time. By reading the last unit of environment and ecology from NCERT class 12th biology book and the selected chapters of Teachers’ handbook on environment, an aspirant could have solved 8 questions out of 20 asked in the paper. Extra efforts are required to crack other questions; Global programs/initiatives regarding wetland protection, forest and biological diversity conservation is required to be studied in detail from the website of UNEP, UNDP, UNFCCC etc. Framework of our national laws in this direction is required to be looked into.

     Science and technology : Let us divide science and technology into two parts. The first would deal with the traditional concepts of physics, chemistry and biology and the other aspect would consist of the current advances in scientific theories and technological breakthrough. The humanities students may not feel scared of science as the level of understanding required is up to 10th level. The aspirants are required to go through basic concepts of science given in NCERT class VI, VII, VIII exhaustively. As far as the NCERT class IX and X standard text books are concerned, we need to be highly selective in our efforts which should be synchronous to the requirements. The physics and the chemistry content of class IX and X are not required for civil services. However, the chapter on light in class X dealing with reflection, refraction and dispersion is to be studied minus the mathematical details related to it.

     The second aspect deals with the current related science and technology news. The factual details will not be asked by UPSC. But while dealing with the current related events the underlying principles has to be delineated from the information. The best way is to deliberate and reflect on that news which you have collected in your separate diary devoted to this purpose while reading the newspaper. Also, the science reporter magazine is a great source of awareness of recent advances in the field of S&T. It is however difficult to read each and every issue thoroughly as it involves too many factual details. An aspirant may replace the science reporter with The Gist, which contains the concise news of the science reporter. But do not read both.

     Economics : This is one of the most interesting subjects in the civil services preparations. It is because one can relate to this subject the current happening in India and world. Also, the fundamentals of economics are prevalent in the capitalistic outlook which has taken roots in most of the parts of the contemporary world. Thus, a basic understanding of fundamentals is a prerequisite for an exhaustive study at national and international level.

     An aspirant is advised to start the journey by one thorough reading of economics NCERT text books of class IX, X, XI and XII. Here, the class XI micro economics should be easily skipped and doesn’t require discussion at all. On contrary the macroeconomics book of class XII is the cornerstone of civil services preliminary exam which deals with money, banking and finance, role of RBI, public finance and related deficits. A second reading of this book also would not be considered a waste of effort as these concepts are majorly required for mains examination also. Once these basics necessary texts are done an aspirant may relish reading the economics and business section of the newspaper.

Although the foundation will be laid by NCERT textbooks in economics but these won’t suffice your knowledge to tackle all the questions of preliminary examination. The vacuum can be filled by coaching notes which deals with matters not elaborated in NCERTs such as development indicators, money and capital markets, International monetary bodies, International trade and finance.  In CSAT, 2014, one of the easiest part of the paper 1 was economics. The NCERT text book of class 12th macroeconomics was suffice to answer most of the questions. However, an aspirant is not advised to restrict to only one book as study of economics is required for detailed analysis of many questions in mains. Some people were also disappointed to see such an easy level of economics!

Current Affairs : These questions came as a surprise for many. Direct facts were asked in the paper. Many aspirants compared this paper with that asked in common graduate level of SSC. However, the comparison is not justified merely on the introduction of 9 current affairs questions. The questions were related to places/countries in recent news which could not have missed the eye of serious aspirants. Also, one who has studied the schemes (highlighted in the box) in the economics survey must have not found any difficulty for scheme related questions. For major flagship schemes three things are required to be known for every scheme – funding ratios of Centre & state, nodal ministry/agency and the target audience. Overall, if an aspirant has not answered six questions out of nine correctly, then there seems to be a problem in reading newspaper. He/she must refer to the chapter on the role of newspaper, magazine and website in the book. Note that no current affairs package of any coaching is required for answering these questions. Referring to packages of vajiram for current related developments would unnecessary create burden of not required facts.


  • Consolidated strategy for preliminary 2016:

     Taking into account the above considerations, I present to you a combined strategy of preliminary 2016, provided that the pattern of examination remains the same or doesn’t change much. Assuming that an aspirant settles down by 15th September 2015 and the CSAT 2016 is scheduled in the month of August 2015, an aspirant is provided a time frame of at least 10 months and the same has been constructively used to lay down the strategic study path to crack preliminary 2016 in the following manner;



Important dates

What to do

2015    Sept

1st week

Thought of civil services must be incepted in the mind.

  1. Analysing that thought, introspecting for the reasons to join civil services. Talk to people selected as well as studying. Ask their reasons to take up studying for civil services. Try to develop a long term vision – what will civil services give you? That can be realised by searching for the job profile of every service that fills the post through civil services examination and try to develop an opinion as to which service is synchronous with your needs and expectations. Remember your interview preparation has begun.

(Read The decision to go for civil services, chapter 1)

  1. If you decide to go for GS coaching then search for that coaching whose timings suits your need. Ideally it should not be more than 3 hours in a day and maximum 4 days a week. (Read how to decide good coaching in chapter 2)
  2. Do not take to studies in a hurry and abruptly. Be patient. Speak         less and have an ear to listen.
  3. Don’t be in any hurry to finalize the optional.
  4. Start reading newspaper whenever you are free not as a part of study but as a source of entertainment. Do not be disheartened if you cannot make sense of some news. Leave it and move on. Do this for 15 days and get familiar with the types of sections the newspaper has.

2015 September

15th – 30th

  1. If you want to take coaching of GS then finalize it before the end of September.
  2. If you have decided not to join then refrain from joining coaching after September.
  3. Create 5 small diaries one each of polity, economic, social, environment/ science & tech and     International relation. The relevant news must be segregated and entered into the respective diary.                 (Read the art of reading newspaper in chapter 3)

2015 October

Full month

  1. Whether you join coaching or not an aspirant must be through with two GS subjects in the month of                 October. At least the basic text must be complete (Read above - subject wise analysis for the basic texts)
  2. Best combinations of two subjects to start off would be – (Polity + Economics) and (History + Geography). Avoid taking up science and technology in the        beginning.
  3. For this whole month of October start thinking of the optional subject. Whether to go for coaching of the optional subject or not and if yes, which should        be the best coaching that can work in synchronous with the continuing classes of GS (if any).         These issues and more have to be    worked out by the end of October. (Read more on deciding the optional subject in chapter 2)

2015 November

1st week

  1. The optional subject along with coaching (if any) must be finalized.
  2. Two GS subjects must be have been done by now.

2015 November

Rest of the month

  1. Now the three tasks are continuous; firstly, the newly
    decided optional subject is a   new entrant to the study. Thus, it has to be given a major chunk                   of your time.
  2. Secondly, along with the optional only one GS subject can be managed in tandem. Take any suitable subject of GS, preferably the one that continues in coaching.
  3. Thirdly, by now you should be thorough with the smart reading techniques of the newspaper.                  Here this technique will save at least one hour daily which would prove beneficial in accommodating the extra optional subject.
  4. Be immune to any controversy regarding the scrapping of optional subject, if any. This       confusion is quite probable in CSE 2016.

2015 December

Full month

  1. By the end of the year an aspirant must be through with 3 GS subjects, good advances should have been made in the realms of the optional subject and newspaper study time should not exceed one hour.

2016 Jan/Feb/Mar/ April/May

Watch for the Notification of CSE 2016

  1. By the arrival of the notification an aspirant should have completed the 3 GS subjects remaining.
  2. The aspirant must have made way into more than half course of the optional subject.
  3. Continuous reading of monthly magazine ‘yojana’ from the month of Jan, 2015
  4. In this period, another newspaper should be introduced on consecutive days. For example,                  an aspirant may read The Hindu one day and the very next day switch to The Indian Express and                   then again The Hindu on the third day. The same strategy is applicable to Hindi students who            can read two Hindi newspapers in tandem. This leads to incorporation of diverse views in both your analysis as well as the      segregated diaries of different subjects.
  5. In the month of May an aspirant must think of whether or not a test series is required for CSAT. If yes, a coaching institute that has relevant papers (according to the pattern and difficulty level of that   of CSE) must be selected for Test series supplements.

2015 June

1st week

  1. The coaching classes for GS and for optional subject must be brought to a halt, whether the course over there is pending or not. Now is not the time for       coaching but only self-study.
  2. Study of optional subject must be completely discontinued.
  3. Decision must have been taken by now whether or not test series for CSAT of any coaching is          required.
  4. The first CSAT paper, whether you give it in a coaching or at your premise, should be taken without                        any preparations. This is utmost necessary to identify your weakness – the critical areas – aspirant is required to work on these rather than deliberating on the whole course.
  5. The 1st week of june shall also see the end of newspapers and the entry of analysis or facts in the                   diaries.

2015 June

2 nd / 3rd/4th week

  1. Focus on improvement of comprehension of paper 2 of GS      by the use of newspaper. Write the summary of any one article in any newspaper within 6 to 8 minutes, the summary should be approximately one-third of the length of the original article. Continue the practise for at least 15 days.
  2. One revision of at least 3 subjects of GS must be completed within the last three weeks of the month           of June.
  3. Every alternate week one complete CSAT paper must be given to analyse the performance. A list of weak topics must be prepared for both paper 1 and paper 2.
  4. If the CSAT paper is taken at the comfort of your room/house then the time frame should be                            contracted by 10 minutes, that is, maximum time allowed should be 1 hour 50 minutes only.

2015 July

Full month

  1. The month of July has to be dedicated to the rest 3 subject revision of GS.
  2. This has to be maintained with the continuity of taking CSAT papers at least once a week.

2015 August

Crash pre - 2016

  1. The part of this month available before pre – 2015 is critical.
  2. This half month or so is dedicated to attacking weaknesses which have been complied into a list by taking several CSAT papers earlier.
  3. Frequency of CSAT papers must be increased to twice a week. The goal for this part of the month is              to stabilize the score at around 110 for paper 1. Because the papers of coaching institutes are tough than that of the actual CSAT examination of UPSC, the score in the exam              would generally increase that what an aspirant maintains in the coaching test series or at home.
  4. The timing of the papers must be adjusted such that an aspirant should not give any paper 4 days           before preliminary examination.


Day of pre - 2016

  1. After the examination, an aspirant must not be
    apprehensive of his/her performance. Also, indolence or tiredness must not come in way to check for the solutions released by the coaching institutes. To                         know your performance, whatever it may be, and its assessment is critical for planning the very next move. The variation in the scores assessed by solutions                  of coaching institutes and the actual score may not differ by 5 percent.



A) Engineering students have an edge over arts students.

     I have generally witnessed arts students approaching me for help in preparations with dampened spirits, especially during this present CSAT controversy. My inference is that their contentions of relative disadvantage as compared to the engineering students work to their disadvantage further. Those aspirants from humanities background should not consider their self-worth any lower than any other engineering and management student. Take a look at the ‘subject-wise analysis of GS paper 1’. You will find that there are subjects in GS where expertise level of more than class X is required, such as economics and geography for preliminary examination. In addition to it, Polity and History would involve a detailed analysis when taken up in mains. On contrary, science and technology will not, in any case, attract analysis at class XI and XII level and not even mathematical analysis up to tenth level.

       Thus, as far as GS is concerned an arts or humanities student must act fearless. He/she is at a better footing than the rest of the competitors. This slight disadvantage for the arts students apparently prevalent in paper 2 of CSAT had been done away with by making it qualifying with 33% requirement only.

B) You have to read a lot of current affairs from newspaper, magazines and internet to crack preliminary examination.

     Look at the previous four years’ paper available on any platform. Upon its cursory analysis one may be able to tell that facts on current affairs are generally not asked. UPSC has refrained from stressing the memory of the aspirants. At the max what may be asked is the concept behind the current related news, especially in science and technology and environment.

     Thus, when an aspirant creates segregated facts from newspaper analysis underlying concepts should be more stressed upon. This habit, in fact, would be of much greater assistance in mains than the preliminary stage.

C) Test series is mandatory to join.

     For an aspirant who can create an exam-like temperament at his/her home, complete the paper in a time bound manner and maintain honesty and integrity while taking paper, test series is not required to be joined in coaching institute. In fact, you can always select mock papers of different coaching institutes so that a variety of questions with varied difficulty can be touched upon. Nevertheless, an exam like settings can be created by enrolling in test series program of that coaching institute whose papers appears closest to the pattern of questions asked in actual exam. For this, an aspirant may take the guidance of known selected candidates and their teachers who would provide an unbiased opinion.

D) I have qualified preliminary successfully last year but could not get through mains. This year it’s better to focus on mains, preliminary would be a cakewalk for me.

     It is true that we must study everything with a perspective of mains examination in mind. This is well reflected from the ‘Consolidated strategy for preliminary 2015’ written above, where in, for the first nine or ten months of preparations a concrete foundation has to be created to build further concepts for the mains examination. You must realize here that the direction of study is mains oriented. It is only in the last two months that full efforts are required to press escalator to your specific requirements of cracking objective questions in preliminary.

     However, the contention that an aspirant who has successfully qualified preliminary examination once would succeed every time in the same pattern of examination is highly misleading and even dangerous. To house this line of thought in mind is a treacherous trap.

     One of my close friend said two months before prelims 2013, “You are a newcomer in this field. Do not neglect preliminary examination. I know you study from a mains point of view but do not neglect this first stage of examination. So please join some test series or give few papers at your home.” I adhered to his genuine advice and started taking CSAT paper 1 and 2 at my home in a time bound manner. I am indebted to his advice but I regret the fact that the guidance he vouched for was not followed by him and he could not clear the prelims cut off by mere 10 marks. He had downplayed the fight in prelims 2013 or maybe clearing the prelims 2012 had made him complacent.

     Any aspirant should not underestimate the competition in preliminary examination. I would repeat here that I find preliminary competitively tougher than mains just because of the ratio of successful candidates. What an aspirant can do is to contract the period of last two months to may be one month, not less than that.

E)  Can preliminary be managed while continuing job in PSU, Govt (centre or state), bank or private sector?

     The question can be reframed as whether an aspirant can clear preliminary without coaching and while engaged simultaneously in some other pursuit. Undoubtedly, the task can be achieved. For this discipline and dedication is required. If an aspirant adheres to the aforesaid chart/time table, the results can be achieved without coaching also. I personally feel that an aspirant can manage two tasks in tandem although the working hours will definitely increase. Further, the last two months would be critical and the aspirant will have to manage holidays during that period. If that can’t be done, he/she may also resign the present job for long terms goals.

     Generally, it is only in the govt sector (centre or state) that the atmosphere may be conducive for preparation, if the work load is less. In the present day scenario, banks, PSUs and private sector jobs are too demanding that it generally drains out energy from an aspirant for any further course of concrete action.

F)  Comment on the cut offs in preliminary examination.

 Year General OBC SC ST Ph1 Ph2 Ph3  
2012 209 190 185 181 160 164 111  
2013 241 222 207 201 199 184 163  
 %increase 15.31 16.8 11.9 11.1 24.4 12.2 46.9  
2014 205 204 182 174 167 113 115 …….Max. Marks 385
2015 107 100 93 85       …..Expected cut off out of 200 marks

      There is also a minimum marks to be scored; 30 for paper 1 and 70 for paper 2, irrespective of any category in 2013 and in the year 2014 these minimum marks were 40 and 70 respectively. The mammoth increase in the cut off in each category is possible for two reasons that exist together, first; the preliminary examination of 2013 was easier as compared to that in 2012 and secondly; competition is increasing due to increasing number of candidates and pattern predictability.

     The cutoff for CSAT 2014 went lower because of two reasons; firstly the maximum marks were reduced from 400 to 385 and secondly the questions, in particular the paper 2 mathematics section, was a little tougher than that of previous years’ paper.

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