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    Civil Service Exams: Tips For Better Preparation

    By Dr Srividya
    2 Jun'22  8 min read
    Civil Service Exams: Tips For Better Preparation
    Synopsis

    There is a certain prestige and aura related to the Civil Services. Lakhs of students write the Civil Services exam every year to pursue their dream job. A rigorous and extremely competitive exam with multiple rounds of tests and an interview, it can be daunting to the most studious student. However, every year we also see successful students achieving their dreams and joining the rank as civil servants. Are there any specific facts or recommendations that will make it easier for you to pursue this career? This article highlights the factual and emotional aspects of the preparation.

    Civil Service Exams: Tips For Better Preparation
    Synopsis

    There is a certain prestige and aura related to the Civil Services. Lakhs of students write the Civil Services exam every year to pursue their dream job. A rigorous and extremely competitive exam with multiple rounds of tests and an interview, it can be daunting to the most studious student. However, every year we also see successful students achieving their dreams and joining the rank as civil servants. Are there any specific facts or recommendations that will make it easier for you to pursue this career? This article highlights the factual and emotional aspects of the preparation.

    Most people know about Civil Services and government servants. This career evokes mixed responses, ranging from extreme respect to extreme anxiety regarding the preparatory schedules and rigour. Civil Service aspirants are known to study long hours and need to be motivated with a sense of service to the nation. Excellent communication and general knowledge coupled with a keen interest in a variety of subjects associated with administration become imperative for one to clear the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination.

    Stages Of Exams

    The UPSC conducts exams to screen applicants for the Civil Services. These exams are conducted in three stages namely, prelims, mains, and interview.

    Application Process

    The exams are conducted once every year and aspirants need to apply in advance on the official site of the UPSC (www.upsc.gov.in). The preliminary exams are usually held in June and comprise of two papers namely, Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) and General Studies. Aspirants who clear the preliminary exams are shortlisted for the next stage of written exams.

    Main Exam: Structure

    • The Civil Services Main exam has nine theory papers of which one is a compulsory Indian language paper which you need to pass.
    • Other theory papers cover subjects like Economics, History, Social Justice, Polity, Integrity, Governance, International Relations, Disaster management, Security, Ethics, etc.
    • There are also two optional papers wherein you choose a subject of your preference and take two papers. There are over 40 options to choose from like Anthropology, Psychology, Commerce, specific languages, etc. for your optional paper. The marks you score in this stage are counted based on merit and high scorers are shortlisted for the interview round.

    Also Read | Top Career Options For A Political Science Major

    Personality Test (Interview)

    Applicants who qualify and clear the Main exam enter the Personality Test or Interview stage. Here, the candidates are evaluated on personality traits such as the presence of mind, critical thinking, a service mindset, communication, honesty, positivity, perseverance, etc. to see if they are fit for a career in civil services.

    Every year lakhs of aspirants apply for the Civil Services but only a handful of individuals are selected. Depending on the performance and ranking, aspirants are assigned to any of the following like Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Forest Service (IFoS), etc. Non-gazetted officers are also appointed in areas like Indian Postal Services (IPoS), Indian Corporate Law Services (ICLS), Indian Information Service (IIS) etc. The basic pay scale for newly appointed civil servants usually starts from Rs 55000 a month and varies depending upon the category and office.

    To understand more about the Civil Services exam, do look up the government website and download relevant documents, and question papers, and fill out the necessary forms for your application.

    The civil services exam is one of the toughest exams you may undertake. It takes months and often years of preparation, and many students take multiple attempts to clear the exam. Before you embark on your Civil Services journey, note down your purpose or reasons for joining the Civil Services. This purpose will help keep you focussed and motivate you through the months and years of your studying and sitting for exams.

    The next critical question to answer is, how do you study for such a challenging exam? Listed below are some tips to help you.

    Study And Mindset Tips

    For all those aspiring to become civil servants, the following few tips may be helpful during preparation for the UPSC exam.

    civil service preparation, civil service exams preparation, civil service exam prep, civil service selection process, upsc exam preparation, upsc preparation tips, upsc tipsStudy Smart And Build A Service Mindset

    Follow A Schedule | Many IAS aspirants take a few attempts to clear the exams, however, a select few are able to do it in one or two attempts itself. The key to Civil Services preparation is consistency, focus, and a good daily schedule so you achieve your goals.

    Know When You Study Best | Some of you may be nocturnal in your study habits and prefer to study into the late hours of the night, while some of you may be more attentive during the day. Identify the time(s) when you work more efficiently and schedule your study periods during that time. In addition, make sure you concentrate during the time that you study. Many students stay locked in for ten to fifteen hours and become rather dull. You may want to focus on working seven to eight hours everyday instead and keep time for leisure and social activities.

    Quality Academic References | With the extensive number of coaching centres, it is very difficult to know which reference is good quality and which is poor or not worth your time. Make sure you check the credibility of the books and references you read and preferably make your own notes for revision. Revise from the same book or notes to aid retention and understanding.

    Segregate Your Syllabus | Identify parts of the syllabus that you may be very familiar with and need less time to revise, and parts that you know need more time to learn and understand. Plan and invest your time accordingly so your preparation is as per your requirements.

    Set Study Goals | Set down specific goals of topics you wish to read, complete and revise. Make these goals monthly, weekly, and daily so each day you are making some progress in your preparation.

    Read Current Affairs | Reading a diverse set of newspapers and magazines in different languages is essential to get a balanced perspective on social, economic, and political matters. Make it a habit to read newspapers, watch reliable news channels, and do analyses to understand what is happening in the nation.

    Also Read | How To Develop A Habit Of Reading The Newspaper

    Physical And Mental Fitness | Eat nourishing meals and stay hydrated during your study periods. Make sure you get enough physical exercise everyday and keep yourself fit. Engage in deep breathing and meditation to beat stress and burnout. Write affirmations everyday, and keep yourself motivated and energised.

    Be With Positive People | The encouragement and energy of people around you makes a huge difference to your emotional well-being and health. Try to connect with positive people who are also motivated to do their best. It is beneficial to have a study group that is supportive and helps each other through the process. However, this may be rare given the nature of the competitive exam.

    Previous Years’ Papers | Practice the previous years’ question papers: Schedule time regularly to attempt the question papers and see how you fare. This will help you build your competence and confidence in the subject and identify the gaps in your learning.

    Connect With Officers In Service | While this may sound very difficult to implement, even if you have one or two successful aspirants in your extended network who are willing to help, it will be very beneficial to give perspective and help you focus.

    Engage In Social Activity | Becoming a civil servant is often considered just a series of exams or interviews. However, it is much more than that. You need to mould and build a service mindset wherein you truly enjoy and aspire to create a better world for your community. See if you can join an NGO and volunteer a few hours weekly there, this will bring you a much-needed break from your study and help you understand real challenges in the world.

    Decide Your Attempts | You need to decide in advance how many attempts you plan to take for the civil services exam. Far too often, there are aspirants who take it very easy for the first couple of attempts and then realise too late that they have wasted precious time. Try to be ambitious and stretch to accomplish this feat in minimal attempts. Set a maximum limit for yourself that you feel will be reasonable given your context and situation. By doing this, you protect yourself from being in a situation where you have tried for five to six long years and have nothing to show on your resume.

    Have A Plan B | Counter-intuitive as this may sound, it is important for you to know what you plan to do in case the Civil Services attempts do not turn out successful. Your plan B may be a job, joining a family business, continuing in your current vocation, pursuing a degree, etc. Ideally, this should be a good ‘go-to option’ that will help you stabilise your career and move ahead in life.

    Apart from the tips above, shared below are some useful nuggets of wisdom from the UPSC Chairman D P Agrawal to IAS aspirants. (The detailed article is available on the website www.civilserviceindia.com)

    • Respect your culture and society as being a civil servant is a matter of attitude and perspective apart from knowledge and skill
    • Avoid mugging and rote memorisation, focus on understanding and critical thinking, and try to avoid studying at coaching centres that emphasise rote learning
    • Learn to be interested in your own country, state, city, district, and village first as knowing about your place is more relevant and shows your interest in nation-building.
    • During the interview, speak honestly about issues and share only hobbies that you really do enjoy and pursue.

    Overall, Civil Services are a challenging and satisfying pursuit. The career gives you a lot of stability, challenge, and the power to implement many useful schemes and policies. Preparing for the same requires a mix of intellectual, emotional, and social competence. Wishing you all the best, go, build the nation.

    Also Read | The Cost: Civil Services Coaching Fees; Living In UPSC CSE Hubs

    Dr. Srividya is an Organisational Psychologist, Career, and Personal Growth Coach. She works with teens, parents, adults, and returning professionals, to help them align their personal and professional needs, desires, and overcome personal and professional challenges. She can be reached at www.lifevidya.in.

    • Education
    • Cognition
    • Cognitive science
    • Psychological concepts
    • Psychology
    • Concepts in metaphysics
    • Applied psychology
    • Branches of science
    • Test (assessment)
    • Civil service

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