GS: Swimming in the ocean

  • by Manoj K. Jha

For the bright and ignited minds of India, Civil Services have always been the ultimate career choice.

By Manoj K. Jha

Success is a diffused term. It is hard to define success.  But lone substance is assured only with positive outcome of the effort, put by any one to the direction of one’s goal. Appearing for civil services has always been a tough decision to make and an act of courage in itself which demands a strong character and steely nerves. This is basically because of three reasons:
• Because of the character of the syllabus associated with it, wherein you are expected to know almost everything under the sun. Now the new dimension in the whole strategy is about concept-integration-approach.
• Because of the unpredictability of the exam wherein you cannot afford to make selective study purely based on previous years question papers. How your study, information and knowledge are updated finally matters.
• The immense competition which you are confronted with, wherein you face the best minds in the country which come from their respective streams and sweat it out to become a part of the steel frame of the government. So there is hardly any room for carelessness, complacency and even overconfidence. Mind it, You have to earn every mark hard to remain a cut above the rest
Indeed, in the past few years, equation of appearance in the civil service examination has been changed. Total count of student has gone high following few reasons that resulted in an atmosphere of cut-throat competition.
Large count of students preparing for civil services, consider this examination as a ‘battle field’. Now even those aspirants struggling for survival in this ‘battle’ are ready to claim for their success. Such outcome is not because of their positivity, but they are very much convinced and satisfied by merely on  their labour. Often students count their labour and strategies in terms of hours they spend on reading. But the big question – will it work? Do not count hours only, but examine your out-put. Try to build skillful strategies and interdisciplinary approach, which is the demand of new scheme of things in UPSC.
Needless to describe the extent of general studies worth 1000 marks in main examination. It is something like swimming in the ocean. So, you must be very selective while preparing for civil services. Otherwise one can mess up with their attempt.
Extensive study is essential. Reason behind this case is the vastness of the syllabus and changing configuration of questions. Year after year toughness of competition has been multiplying and so is the case with predictability of success. Despite the fact that the bar of difficulties is touching new high with all the passing years, number of students has gone high. To beat your nearest rival, you need a sound strategy.

Nature of the examination
Every year Union Public Service Commission conducts most prestigious examination of the country for the recruitment in various All India and Central services. This examination is conducted in three stages – objective preliminary examination, subjective main and final interview.

In its latest avatar, General Studies plays most crucial role in all the stages. It counts for 1000 out of total 1750 marks in the main examination. Essay Paper is of 250 marks. If you are reasonably good in General Studies, it helps a lot even in the essay paper.

Importance of General Studies
When the contest has gone high, every single mark matters in this exam. If one can even score 45-50% in written examination, be confident to get a place in final selection.

Most of the students are worried about General Studies, but at the same time they also give evidences of careless attitude by carrying loose mode of preparation. Aspirants generally go through N.C.E.R.T. books and some crash materials. N.C.E.R.T. books are certainly important, but only to begin with. You cannot depend solely on these books. You are required to concentrate on applied books and capable mentors.

One can easily score 50%+ in the General Studies in the main examination, provided he or she is not following conventional way of preparation. Unfortunately, if you failed to score good in General Studies, optional alone cannot help you out, unlike the previous configuration. At the same time even one cannot afford to ignore optional either. It would be better to strike a balance between these two.
Preliminary examination is little bit unpredictable. The aim of prelims is to test candidate’s range of information and aptitude. So you need to read extensively and practice more for the CSAT.

Impact of revised syllabus
In past two years significant changes have been made in General Studies as well as in optional subjects, first in the preliminary exam and later in main exam. General Study is likely to get more contemporary out line.

In the revised syllabus various topics have been reshuffled between Papaer I,  II and III. Paper IV – ethics, integrity and aptitude is altogether a new pitch to play with.
You must keep in mind that this was not a routine change. Now questions will be of contemporary nature. You are required to share ample time with news paper and magazines.

Undoubtedly, these modifications will provide opportunity to score high in the examination, provided you could understand the nature and purpose behind these changes.

So, First things first, you have to create an approach to follow right through the exam, thereafter draw a strategy out of it and finally stick to it till the time you clear the final level. Although the best approach for you is the one which you have created for yourself because you are the one who know yourself the best, you are the one who know best as to what are your strengths and weaknesses, what is it that inspires you keeps your energy and confidence levels high and also what is it that makes you timid and withdrawn.

What are your strong subjects and what areas you find tough or challenging?
Remember you need all this data to frame an approach for yourself, so if you have not done this exercise better start it today. What we can do is to tell you as to what are the basics and the specifics which this exam demands and seeks to evaluate and the line of action which we think would be more productive.

Scheme of Examination


The Examination shall comprise two compulsory papers of 200 marks each.

Paper I – (200 marks) Duration : Two hours
• Current events of national and international importance.
• History of India and Indian National Movement.
• Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
• Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public

Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
• Economic and Social Development Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion,

Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
• General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization.
• General Science.

Paper II- (200 marks) Duration: Two hours
• Comprehension
• Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
• Logical reasoning and analytical ability
• Decision-making and problem-solving
• General mental ability
• Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level),

Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)
• English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level).
Note 1: Questions relating to English Language Comprehension skills of Class X level (last item in the Syllabus of PaperII) will be tested through passages from English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper.
Note 2: The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type having .33% negative marking.


Syllabi of the papers included in the scheme of Civil Services (Main) Examination are given as follows:-

Essay: Candidates will be required to write an essay on a specific topic. The choice of subjects will be given. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion, and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.
English Comprehension & English Précis will be to test the English language Comprehension and English précis writing skills (at 10th standard level).

General Studies- I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
• Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
• Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
• The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
• Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
• History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
• Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
• Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
• Effects of globalization on Indian society
• Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
• Salient features of world’s physical geography.
• Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)
• Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International
• Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
• Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
• Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
• Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
• Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
• Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
• Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
• Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
• Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
• Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
• Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
• Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
• Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
• Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
• Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
• Role of civil services in a democracy.
• India and its neighbourhood- relations.
• Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
• Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.
• Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
• Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
• Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
• Government Budgeting.
• Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers
• Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
• Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
• Land reforms in India.
• Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
• Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
• Investment models.
• Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
• Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
• Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
• Disaster and disaster management.
• Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
• Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
• Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention
• Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism
• Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

General Studies- IV: Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude
This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects. The following broad areas will be covered.
• Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
• Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
• Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service , integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections.
• Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.
• Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.
• Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.
• Case Studies on above issues.