General Studies is an extremely dynamic component in the entire scheme of Civil Services Examination. It is multidimensional in nature as it deals with diverse subject matter that is constantly evolving to keep pace with the new developments. The preparation for this subject is considered as increasingly onerous by many students. A total lack of understanding of the syllabus and the trend of the questions in the exam is the reason behind such a feeling. GS can be handled with ease by meticulous and strategic planning both during the time of preparation as well as during the exam.
The basic reason why GS becomes the grey area for many students is the wrongful notions or beliefs, which has got associated with the paper.
The first and foremost wrong notion which many students have is that the GS paper is without any syllabus. This is entirely false as a close analysis of the previous years' papers reveal that the GS paper does have a syllabus which is shaped and guided by the developments around. A good understanding of the relevant events through varied mediums like newspapers, magazines, internet, television etc is the need of the hour. UPSC is in search of vigilant and well-informed aspirants rather than the book worms.
The second myth about GS preparation is regarding reading the basic books like NCERT. Many students consider reading such books as a waste of time keeping in mind the less proportion of questions coming from these books. This is fundamentally wrong as the basic books should never be discarded. They form a robust foundation of GS preparation. Moreover, the simple language used in these books gives a much better understanding of the subject. Thus one must begin one's preparation for GS with the NCERT books and gradually couple them with other relevant books required.
An important aspect of this exam is the minimum marks required in GS paper to clear the Preliminary Exam. This is normally around 50%. So, general studies should be taken very seriously. The recent changes in the nature of the examination further make it a formidable challenge. The newly added Civil Services Aptitude Test (C-SAT) is the new twist in the preparation for the Civil Services Preliminary Exam. To cater to this new change, the GS Strategist book has been upgraded and enriched in a comprehensive way.
The Examination shall comprise of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each.
General Guidelines for handling the GS Papers
The questions in both the GS paper I and paper II will be of multiple choice objective type. There will be penalty for wrong answers marked by a candidate in the objective type question paper except some of the questions where the negative marking will be inbuilt in the form of different marks being awarded to most appropriate and not so appropriate answers to such questions. This would apply for questions in the paper II as well.
There are four alternatives for the answers to every question. For each question for which a wrong answer has been given by the candidate, one third (0.33) of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as penalty. If a candidate gives more than one answer, it will be treated as a wrong answer even if one of the given answers happens to be correct and there will be same penalty as above for the question. If a question is left blank i.e no answer is given by the candidate, there will be no penalty for that question.
Since the answer sheets will be evaluated on computerized machines, candidates should exercise due care in handling and filling up the OMR sheets. HB pencils should only be used to darken the circles.
In order to excel in G.S. and mould the change in the syllabus in your own favour, what is needed is a comprehensive and strategic preparation covering all the dimensions of the syllabus well. The preparation especially for the newly introduced CSAT paper should be elaborate covering all sections well rather than focusing only on areas which were dominant in the 2012 Prelim Exams in terms of questions. For instance, the 2012 paper had more questions from English while very less from a topic like Interpersonal Skills. Students should escape the mistake of treating it as a model paper for the 2013 Prelim Exam. The emphasis should be on a comprehensive preparation, doing justice to each and every topic of the syllabus.
The G.S. and the CSAT papers, therefore, are not a tough nut to crack as such. They can be handled with much more ease provided the preparations are done in a systematic and strategic fashion. The Wizard's Strategist for GS can be an excellent guide in this regard as it provides you the pattern and the trend analysis of questions asked in previous years. Let us look into the subject-wise breakup of GS Papers.
GS Paper I
Of late, the importance of 'Indian Polity' has increased tremendously in Preliminary and Main exams. It is expected that this trend will continue in future also. In 2012, 18 questions were asked out of 100 questions. The best part is that the questions from Indian Polity are more or less straightforward which can be easily answered with a careful study.
In polity, there are chapters from which questions are frequently being asked. These are the Constitutional Developments, FRs, FDs and DPSP, Union Government, Judiciary, Amendments, Local Governments, Federalism and Election process. Till 2000, questions on comparative government were asked. But now-a-days Amendments, Elections, Federalism and Parliament have assumed significance.
Most of the available books lack information on current constitutional developments. So, a keen perusal of newspapers and magazines is essential with a good knowledge of provisions of the Constitution. After all, chapter-wise break-up is imperative which simplifies the problem and facilitate your understanding. Wizard's book on Indian Polity can be of great help in this regard.
It can be divided into 4 parts—Science and Technology, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. On an average, 25 to 30 questions can be expected from this section. In the past, sometimes more than 40 questions were asked from this section. This year the total number of questions was 15. For students with Arts backgrounds, this section is always a nightmare. But basic understanding of Science, especially a thorough understanding of NCERTs, can solve most of the questions. Ignoring this area can be suicidal for any candidate.
Science and Technology
Science and Technology has become an important section of GS since last 4 years. This year there were 6 questions from this section. Questions are mainly from the developments in India.
Among the General Science subjects, Biology is the most important. This year, however, only 3 questions were asked. At least 8 to 10 questions can be expected from Biology in the coming years. Recent analysis shows that questions on General Science covers general appreciation and understanding of day-to-day science. So, observing and experiencing everyday science could be handy.
In Biology, the thrust is on Zoology. Only 2 to 3 questions are being asked from Botany, particularly from agriculture, biological diversity and plant system. In Zoology, most of the questions are related to human system and diseases. Communicable diseases and nutrition have always been significant.
In Chemistry, questions are comparatively less. Normally 5 to 6 questions can be expected. Application part of chemistry is more important in the exam. Technical details and equations are not that important.
Around 6 questions were asked from Physics this year, which is in the expected lines. After a keen analysis of the Previous Years' Questions, we come to know that questions are frequently asked from the chapters like Mechanics, Optics, Heat and Thermodynamics, Electricity, Nuclear Physics, Modern Physics, Sound and the Universe.
In Economics, even though most of the questions are from Indian Economy, one has to keep abreast of International Economics that has its bearings on India. In Indian Economy, now-a-days, most of the questions are asked from Industry, Agricultural production, Exim Policy, Money and Banking, Public Finance and Reforms. National Income and International Economic Forums constitute at least 2 questions. 3 to 4 questions are from different programmes announced in the previous and the current fiscal year. In Economic reforms, infrastructure and reform policies are to be taken care of. In Money and Banking, one has to keep an eye on Financial and Banking Reforms.
The latest trend in Indian Economy shows that the importance of this section is increasing. Moreover, most of the questions are of current nature. But these questions cannot be answered without a proper understanding of traditional areas. 'Wizard Current Affairs' for Preliminary as well as 'Economic Survey' will be handy in this section.
This year, 18 out of 100 questions were asked from Economy. Many students are really afraid of Economy. This is because of lack of understanding in basics. A good understanding of the subject can be achieved by reading Class XI NCERT book on Indian Economy.
In Geography, the thrust has been on the Indian Geography, which covers around 70 per cent of the questions.
In 'Indian Geography' a thorough understanding of physical aspects of India with a proper clarity of locations, is the minimum requirement. This will help in the economic as well as the human aspects of Indian Geography.
In General Geography, the emphasis is on conceptual aspects. A careful study of 'A Certificate Course in Physical and Human Geography' by Goh Cheng Leong is the least expected of you. In World Geography, the emphasis is more on current developments, which can be covered by map reading while going through the newspaper. This year, 12 questions were asked from Geography. Around 6 questions were asked on Indian Geography. In future, the weightage on Geography, especially Indian Geography, is expected to be more. But the beauty of Geography lies in the fact that, it can be mastered with least effort. A proper preparation of NCERT textbooks on Geography (from 6th to 12th) along with Goh Cheng Leong and regular study of Atlas are more than sufficient.
A decent analysis of the previous years' questions gives the impression that in the last three years, the total number of History questions has shown a declining trend. But the level of toughness has increased. Moreover, the questions are being asked from hitherto untouched areas, which have made the preparation more difficult. So, over-dependence on History may prove to be fatal for non-History background students in the future. Of the total 18 questions asked this year, 12 of them were from Modern History, 1 question from Medieval and 5 from Ancient.
In 'Indian History', maximum number of questions have been asked from the Modern History section, particularly from the period between 1857 to 1947, i.e. the 1857 uprising, social reform movements, British reforms in civil administration and in the other fields, Governor Generals and Nationalist Movement under the Congress.
In Ancient India, the Vedic Age, Mauryan Period and the Gupta Period are dominating. Sultanate and Mughal periods are the most important in the Medieval India. But, Marathas, Vijaynagar and Bahmani kingdoms are getting more weightage since 2001.
The level of history questions in GS is often similar to that of Optional Paper. The conceptual questions are mainly asked from socio-economic sphere. Such questions are more often asked from Modern India. Ancient and Medieval parts are generally factual in nature.
Of late, the importance of environment has increased manifold in the Civil Services Preliminary Examination. The number of questions being asked in the Exam is increasing consistently. This year around 16 out of 100 questions were from this section. The trend is expected to be maintained in the coming years as well.
Current Affairs is one of the most important modules in the entire scheme of Civil Services Examination because of its high utility at all the three levels i.e. Preliminary, Main and Interview. Though the number of direct questions in the Prelim Examination seems to be on a declining trend but that should not be taken as a set pattern because the trend may reverse any year. One thing which must be kept in mind is that questions from conventional areas like Science & Technology, General Science, Environment, Economics, Geography and Institutions are more current in nature which further makes this section of paramount importance.
Current Affairs is a vast area comprising of events of national and international affairs, bilateral developments, sports and personalities in various fields along with prizes and honours of highest accolade. The UN and its agencies and heads of corporate sectors which falls within the ambit of current affairs have also become important.
GS Paper II (CSAT)
From 2011, the UPSC has introduced a new format for the Civil Services Preliminary Examination. It has added CSAT in the form of GS Paper II. The total number of questions asked in this paper is 80. Out of these, 4 questions were from General Mental Ability, 1 question from Data Interpretation, 28 from Reasoning and Analytical Ability, 7 from Decision Making & Problem Solving and 40 questions were from English Comprehension. However, we should not make the mistake of treating it as a Model Paper for next year Prelim Exam. The emphasis should be on comprehensive preparation, rather than focusing only on areas which were dominant in the 2012 Exam.
In the final analysis, if we categories the questions beings asked, it is found that GS can be handled with much more ease. It is not as frightening as what is projected by many. In fact this book can be an excellent guide for beginners in understanding the pattern and trend of GS questions of both papers. A successful candidate is the one who has faced the challenge with a proper planning and strategy.