top tips about civils
1. Don't sit for this exam. Far too many people apply for this exam without knowing many of the details. Far too many people sit for this exam without knowing if they are capable of overcoming the huge pressure which the exam brings. As a result far too many people apply again and again, hope again and again, and are shattered again and again. Know that this exam is very difficult, that it calls for a level of commitment which might be a luxury to some. I will say what I was told at an SSB Interview- just because one has been rejected by the SSB doesn't mean that one is less intelligent, that one is hopeless- it simply means that one is better suited to be someone else. I have known a few, and am sure there are lot many others who chase this exam when it is like a chimera to them- they should rather sit for other exams. If you find you are not good enough, you can do two things: study harder so that you are good enough, or bring down your expectations and apply for lower jobs, like the Staff Selection Commission Exams, CPF and CPO, the State Civil Services, the Bank PO exams, etc. It is a folly to think that perseverance, motivation and hard work can make anyone an IAS; however, if you have the basic raw material, then motivation and hard work can work wonders. Here is the dilemma - it is better not to bite more than one can chew, but all the same, without biting one cannot know how much you can chew. You are the best judge of your competence - know thyself. Try, try again and again, but when you still have realistic hope. Don't blind yourself. Switch to smarter but lesser things (maybe) when you still have age in your advantage.
2. Prelims is just preliminary. It doesn't matter how well you do in that so long as you can clear it. Therefore, beyond a certain level which is just good enough to clear the Prelims, it is useless to study for it. The written Mains is the main thing - it carries 2000 marks. The Interview is not that important - it carries just 300 marks. Therefore, it is your Mains marks which, more than anything, decide your rank. Therefore, again, it is better to emphasize on this written Mains stage more than anything else. Simple.
3. In the Prelims stage, the Optional paper carries 300 marks, for 120 questions (2.5 marks for each question), whereas the GS paper carries 150 marks for 150 questions (1 mark for each question). Further the GS syllabi is very huge, and frequently questions from outside the syllabi come. Inference: Optional paper is much, much more important that your GS paper. In fact, it is possible to clear prelims by just answering the Optional paper and not even touching the GS paper; the other way round is not possible. Now this is surely something which goes against what you have been taught by everybody.
4. While you go to sit for any multiple choice question test, carry a good pencil. What is a good pencil? A soft and dark pencil but not too soft. Forget the good old Nataraj and Camlin. Buy yourself a not too soft drawing pencil with a nib of medium thickness. Why am I emphasizing on a silly pencil - well, a good pencil can save you easily 5 - 10 minutes in your Prelims papers, and they mean much. Carry a good sharpener along with you. Carry your own water - you don't have to go outside to fetch water this way, and this can save another minute or two. Don't drink lots of water - you might have to relieve yourself in the middle of your exam, and that is going to take another 2-3 minutes. Silly.
5. While preparing for your Mains, don't wait for your Prelims result to come out first. The Prelims result is declared in the first week of August, and the Mains start from the third week of October. The time in between is absolutely insufficient for even an Einstein.
6. Technically it is possible to get better marks in GS than in your Optional papers in Mains. Why? The GS papers contain many small answer questions in which you can score high. The Optional papers contain mainly long answer questions in which you cannot score as high. On the other hand, GS syllabi is huge, whereas Optional syllabi are manageable. Thus, you have to distribute your time and efforts to get the best advantage.
7. Statistics in the GS paper II. Since it is cent percent scoring (you can get full marks if you write correctly), many people prefer to do it first. Problem is it takes longer to solve this part than questions of equivalent marks from other areas. Thus, to solve the forty marks of Statistics, many people spend 40 minutes or more, and lose time.
8. How fast should you write? Fast, very fast. If you cannot write fast, you can do two things: one, go home; two, practice writing faster at home. You will be hard put for time in your GS papers even if you manage to complete the Optionals and Essay in time. Especially GS paper II. Each Mains paper consists of 300 marks (except for the Essay paper, 200 marks) and is of 3 hours. This means that in each hour (60 minutes) you have to solve questions worth 100 marks, or each mark every 36 seconds. If you are cannot solve 100 marks each hour, know that you are going slow and should hurry up. As mentioned earlier, Statistics usually takes more than its due of 24 minutes (for 40 marks), and examinees lose time for other things of equal value.
9. Many people argue that language, grammatical correctness and other aspects of verbal construction are irrelevant to marks. I don't buy that argument. Of course I cannot dispute that between content and presentation the former is more important, but it must be agreed, I suppose, that a well written answer in terms of both content and presentation would score higher than one with mere content. Besides, there are times, say in subjects like literature, philosophy, sociology, psychology, even political science, where complex language constructions, and complex thoughts have to be expressed. Shallow linguistic skills can attract penalty. Good vocabulary can write succinctly. Even in GS, a well written answer in terms of language is better. Thus language counts; if you have linguistic skills, don't disregard it in your hurry.
10. The Essay paper. Many are scared of it. To write a good essay you need two things: a proper grip on the topic on which you wish to write, and enough linguistic power to express them in an attractive form. If you are good in language, this is the platform where you can display it. In a way, the essay paper is easy. You get three hours to write one. In no other paper can you afford to be so relaxed, in which you can afford to think as much and write as slowly. You are given many topics and you are required to write on just one. Of course, you cannot predict the topics and hence study specifically for this paper. One good way to prepare for it is not to prepare for it at all- whatever you read in your other studies would come of use here. Even then, try to read a little more on one particular topic- say, science and technology, politics and parties, democracy, culture and religion, etc. And hope that a topic comes for your chosen area.
11. The language papers are easy for those who have some basic language skills. The comprehension part in the Indian language paper, as well as the translation parts might be a little stiff for those who have lost touch with the language. But given that it is just a qualifying paper, and marks don't count above the cutoff, relieves us a lot. Only one advise: don't neglect this paper if you are bad in language; don't sweat over it if you are good in the language.