Double Your Bets
MBA entrance tests and the Civil Services exam have a lot in common. Why not prepare for both? — Garima Sharma
Last year, the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) announced a major change in the pattern of the Civil Services examination by introducing the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). This concept of an aptitude test in the civil services was first advocated by the YK Alagh Committee back in 2001. Following intense deliberations and discussion over the format, the UPSC finally introduced the CSAT last year. With this, central recruitment now consists of three stages:
In the preliminary section, candidates are given two objective papers. The papers utilise a negative marking scheme; the first paper tests the candidate’s general awareness. For this, you should focus on national and international
issues, Indian economy and policy, and Indian geography and history. These days, general science, environmental and social issues, along with science and technology, have also become important. Preparation for this paper requires both intelligence and diligence. Avid newshounds and those interested in current affairs will find this section comparatively easy. However, as a greater understanding of subjects is required for the Mains, it makes sense to have an integrated approach for both stages.
The second Preliminary paper, which has been introduced recently, consists of an aptitude test – the CSAT. Your general problem-solving skills are on display here - prepare to be examined on your analytical ability, decision making, problem solving and general mental abilities. Basic English language
comprehension and data interpretation are important areas too.
Now, as most of you will soon be
appearing for management entrance tests such as the CAT and CMAT, I’m sure you’ve noticed that this Civil Services syllabus is a bit like a management aptitude test. Both kinds of exams do differ a lot in their exact implementation, but many topics are common to both. For example, management entrance exams focus on current affairs, but for Civil
Services entrance, you need to prepare a bit differently – Indian history, economics, and politics takes precedence here. The second paper is more or less on topics similar to those in an MBA entrance exam. Logical reasoning, quantitative aptitude, and data interpretation are common to both. Of course, the skills are common, but the level and exact weightage is not – this is where a good test prep institute comes in.
In both exams, knowledge of English
language usage is a must. Your vocabulary and ability to grasp the meaning of passages is vital to both. This is often the stumbling block for many bright candidates, so pay attention! Also, time management plays a vital role in examination success. Due to negative marking schemes, both accuracy and speed are important. All sections are to be dealt in specific given time. Though intelligent guesses can be made by using the process of elimination, candidates should ideally avoid guesswork as much as possible.
The second tier is the Mains examination – which includes optional and compulsory papers. The thrust here is on academics and the syllabus is quite exhaustive. In order to be successful, candidates are advised to give equal consideration to both optional and compulsory papers. This stage is of course, quite different from MBA entrance tests.
Essays are also vital for the civil services Main examination. Writing essays is an art which requires practice. In a nutshell, an
essay puts both your thought process and your language skills on display at the same time. Keep it simple and precise. The right order - with an introduction, main body, and conclusion - is de rigueur. One requires clear understanding of the topic and should avoid deviating from it.
Overall, do note that the Mains stage is the toughest stage and requires planning, right orientation, and hard work.
The interview is an integral part of the
selection procedure for all competitive exams. The personal traits of candidates are
examined at this stage: Interview preparations for the Civil Services are again similar to any other interview because what is on display is: your personality. The interviewer will try to gauge your confidence, integrity, people skills,
reasoning skills, etc.
In an interview, first impressions are the last and you barely have time to explain who you are in your words; therefore, one must be neat in appearance and appropriately dressed. Aspirants should appear lively and enthusiastic – it shouldn’t seem as if you’re terrified or don’t want to be there.
Note: These skills cannot be acquired merely by reading books; rather, they are a part of a continuous learning process. Mock interviews should be as much a part of your Civil Services prep as they are a part of your MBA prep.
Looking at the above, it is clear that your MBA test prep can help you get started with Civil Services test prep.While the exact process varies in terms of implementation, the skills and talents that are sought out are quite similar. You will have to study individually for each test, but at least you won't be a fish out of
water. Best of luck!
GET SET! THE COMPETITION IS UNDERWAY
By The Management Compass Bureau
The Civil Services Preliminary Examination - 2012 will have taken place on 20 May. The days up to the exam are best used to consolidate all that you have learnt and studied over the past few months. While the Preliminary exam itself is not that hard, it is the toughest as far as the competition is concerned. Looking at the past statistics, it is obvious that barely 5% of the candidates who appear in the Prelims, make it through to the Mains. At the same time, the pass rate for the Main examination is around 25%, while that of the interview stage in the region of 33%. From this, it is clear that any aspirant should take the Prelims very seriously. In fact, it must be pointed out that the preliminary examination was originally envisaged as a method to filter out non-serious candidates. And in order to clear this paper, a candidate should have a firm strategy for both the General Studies and CSAT sections.
General Studies (Paper-1)
By looking at past papers, it becomes clear that the General Studies test examines the conceptual faculties of an individual. Here, candidates must pay attention to last year’s paper (2011). Also, we can even venture so far as to say that that the paper tests candidates on General Studies Aptitude. As far as question distribution goes, the maximum questions were from Science and Technology (21), followed by Economics (20), and Geography (18). Interestingly, Ecology is now an important part: Around 10 questions were based on ecology.
Many found the question paper to be very lengthy. It also expected good reading levels - to gauge the exact meaning of the questions. The presence of three statement questions (25) and two statement questions (14) attests to this. Going by the high level of difficulty of the paper, it appears that a score of around 80 marks can easily be considered to be a good performance. It is expected that in coming years too, the paper will follow a similar pattern with most of the questions testing candidates on their understanding and conceptual clarity, and not on facts. For performing well here, you ought to focus on the topics that are regarded as being more important (Science & Technology, Ecology & Environment, Economics, etc.). Another feature of the civil services paper – and what makes it different from MBA entrance tests - is that current affairs is tested within the ambit of different subjects. Therefore, preparation for current events should be done subject-wise.
The first CSAT paper of UPSC posed a challenge to everyone! The paper had a heavy bias towards reading comprehension. Almost 30 questions of the reading comprehension category were bilingual (Hindi/English); nine questions were in English. Most of these were inferential in nature, and demanded a thorough reading of the passage. There were eight questions on decision-making. An interesting feature of these questions was that there were no negative marking. However, in the initial notification, it had been mentioned that there would be questions for which a differential marking scheme was to be followed. These questions seem to belong to the same category. The syllogism questions were also found to be very challenging.
We would not be wrong in saying that the quantitative aptitude section was the easiest part of the paper. In total, there were around 30 questions in QA/DI/LR. Any serious test taker who was well-prepared would have finished this section in less than
40 minutes! It is recommended that one should attempt the paper in rounds. The first round (15
minutes) can be kept aside for decision-making, interpersonal skills, and syllogisms (15 minutes). The second round should be earmarked for short questions that can be done in 30 seconds (A total of 30 minutes). Any question that takes over a minute to solve should be discarded. In the third round, reading comprehension questions should be taken up (25 minutes), and finally, what is left should be
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