Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to Study General Studies for Mains :

The biggest challenge before an IAS aspirant is to clear the Mains exam and with good marks. Successful candidates and experts says that it is one of the toughest nuts to crack because aspirant need to understand things, remember them and reproduce them within the allotted time frame in such a manner that fetch them good marks. In other words, aspirants need to work 10 times harder to complete the whole syllabus General Studies, two Optionals, one Essay paper and not to forget one Indian Language and one compulsory English paper.
Among all these papers, General Studies play a vital role in the final selection of the candidates. General Studies have two papers each having 300 marks. Out of these 600 marks one can easily score 300+  and obviously between 350-380 with little bit of extra effort. A very good score i.e. something between 350-380 in GS can give you an extra edge over other candidates, as most of the students neglect it. Good command over GS also helps aspirants to score some extra marks in Essay paper and Interview.
The two papers of General Studies are quite rigorous. You need to be well informed on a number of topics. The questions in both these papers are a mix of 20 words answer type to 150 words answer types to 200 words answer types. However, most of the questions are factual in nature and almost all the questions stipulate word requirements in them. In other words, if you know your facts well, you will do well and you won’t know your facts well unless you have made a serious study of the subject matter. Remember the speed of writing is also directly correlated to the knowledge of facts that you are going to write. One should always maintain the habit of writing at least 2 pages daily on any topic. Also the numbers of 30 marks questions have also been reduced in the recent past which has made the paper lengthier.
Here we give some tips to prepare your General Studies:-

Changing Trends
An indication of big change in the syllabus of General Studies was evident from Civil Services Examination 2008. Besides, drastic changes were made in the last year Mains General Studies papers. Two types of changes in General Studies question paper have been introduced:

1. First category includes the changes which were visible in the notification itself.
2. The second category includes the changes which became visible only with the question paper. 

Analysis of 2009 Main General Studies Papers
Last year's Civil Service Mains witnessed a complete change of pattern of question both in Paper-I and II. Not only the questions on the sectional areas have been changed but also there was a new range of word limits. The nature of the question paper has become more current oriented. There is a subtle message UPSC is trying to give to the aspirants – mere spoon-feeding will not work. The aspirants need to be thoroughly prepared with all dimensions. 

We are presenting you last year’s analysis with breakup to familiarize you with the current trend. But warn you to be prepared with unexpected in future too. Here we go first with analysis of last year’s paper:-
1. Conventional history questions were not asked. Instead three statements were given and wanted you to comment on it. Besides, conventional 2 marker questions on freedom movement were absent.

2. There wasn't much from polity except the question on 'voting behaviour of Indians' [conventional questions related to Constitution were not asked]

3. The routine computer terminology of 10 marks was absent

4. People thought UPSC would ask on ‘Chandrayaan’ but asked ‘Hubble Space Telescope’.

5. In Paper –II there were many questions on biotech/bioinformatics/ DNA finger printing/biometric ATM etc and 1 conventional question on nanotech.

6. In statistics 2 graph questions were asked and the rest stuff was easy as well.

7. There was emphasis on international relation both in GS paper-II and Essay paper. There were 3 essays that had direct relevance to international relation of India.

8. In geography there were conventional questions: wetlands & ecosystem, biodiversity etc. People thought UPSC would ask in detail about monsoon mechanism/ drought/famine (as the coaching classes have been saying) but they did not ask anything on these. Instead there was one question on the role of Meteorological Department of India.

9. In previous years UPSC would ask 2 markers 'definition /terminologies' from Economy but they did not do it this time. Instead they asked straight 30 marks question for example: do you think we should stop liberalization after meltdown?

10. The reason people are saying tough paper because it didn't have the conventional 260 Marks worth Polity +History+Economy combo and nothing was asked that coaching classes considered as important. Instead they asked Questions on sports, Television, folk dance, current affairs etc. The 2 markers were also unique compared to previous trend. Let’s consider the individual breakups in GS Paper-I and II.

Memorization & Analysis
The next major factor which plays a great role in the examinations is the twin challenge of assimilating the facts and using them in Main particularly in GS. In Mains, intelligence has the say. Making suitable and scientific notes play the vital role here. Moreover, neither memory nor intelligence can fetch success independently in civil services exam. They have to supplement as well as compliment each other. There must be achieved a perfect equilibrium.

Importance of Content
Content is more important than the style in General Studies. Sometime very long topic/issue is asked to answer in 20 words. In that case style, powerful language, word power does not help too much. Expression does not given much importance, but the content of the answer. Candidates should develop a skill to write long and short answer on the same topic. You may ask to answer Indo-US Nuclear deal for 2 mark question sections. It means students should not know what is core of the issue? Skill is needed. Thinking is needed.

No selective study
In order to be successful one has to give equal consideration to all parts. Selective study in no way can make you clear this exam. It has been seen that many students don’t give much importance to statistics and science part which finally proves to be fatal for them.

Focus on Current Affairs
The present pattern suggests that G.S. exams are becoming more and more comprehensive. Major part is dominated by current affairs. Even questions coming from traditional areas are somehow related to current affairs only. This requires that a student must have a wider outlook rather then just cramming of certain facts. One should always maintain the habit of reading daily newspapers and at least one magazine in a month.

Timely Revision
Timely revision is a must for G.S. because of its vast nature. Most of the successful students accept that what helped them a lot was the preparation of short notes which could be revised again and again during the last 10 days of preparation.

Time Management
Effective time management is the sine qua non for success in any endeavour and the Civil Services Examination is no exception. It can make or break your chances in Civil Services. Therefore, judicious time management becomes all the more important at this stage.

1. Time Management during preparation
(a) Plan ahead. This is because if you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail. Keep your monthly, weekly and daily plans ready. Revise your plan periodically, considering your progress.
(b) Adopt a balanced strategy that takes equal care of your Optionals, General Studies and Essay.
(c)  Short notes for revision must be prepared. Last time preparation is the most important phase and must be planned from the starting.

2. Time Management during Exams
Questions in both General Studies papers of Mains are a mix of few words answer type to slightly lengthy answer types. Most of the questions are factual in nature and almost all the questions stipulate word requirements in them. It is important that one should plan one’s 3 hours before entering the exam hall. You have almost 6 minutes for every 10 marks and one can plan accordingly. Statistics part is often found to be lengthy but one can complete it by appropriating proper time to it. Many students (especially with science background) do this part in starting only by giving 35-40 minutes. 

One must make complete utilization of time and words limit available and should avoid writing irrelevant information. The more points you write, more will be the chances of getting good marks. Most of the students have this complaint that they wrote so much, yet they didn’t get good marks. It is largely because of mismatch between what you write and what the examiners want.

1. Read the questions and decide in advance which questions you are going to attempt. Give your first five to ten minutes for this exercise.

2. Since all the questions carry equal marks, devote equal or more or less equal time emphasis to each of these questions. At the most a difference of extra 5 to 10 minutes of greater or less emphasis between two questions can only be expected under human conditions.  And also remember the fundamental fact of scoring: that you don’t gain proportionately for giving that extra-time but you definitely lose much by giving little time to another question. 

3. You may use few minutes in planning the answers to each question. You would be gaining because once you have planned your answers as to the point to be included, you will write a balanced and better answer in less time. You may be able to enhance your score with less efforts and scientific approach and consequently get rewarded in direct proportion to your labour as against not getting due rewards for enormous amount of labour that you may be putting in simply because you fail to manage your precious time properly.

Linguistic skills
Directly or indirectly your grasp over language plays a crucial role not just in the Civil Services but also almost in any sphere. Language is the Vehicle of your thoughts and a mirror to your mind. Whenever you speak or write you express not just on the topics in question but also about yourself. Therefore, you have to be very careful in choosing words, expressions, sentences while speaking and writing. Language ability means the ability to say or speak and write exactly what you mean to say, without making mistakes.

In the Mains exam, you have an independent essay paper. It tests your language ability directly. The score in essay paper is counted towards the final ranking. The ability to handle the language well gives you an edge here as well. Besides, in the Mains exam itself it is not that every one qualifies in the qualifying language papers. In the other papers of Mains whether these are the optional subject papers or the GS papers, the language skill helps you in toning up your answers. Know it for sure that language ability decisively gives you an edge in the scores you get for your answers.


  1. Nice and helpful tips/ points you have mentioned... One should ponder and put into use these tips... i also would like to ask if anyone can help me with my query.
    I actually wanted to study online since i think travelling time or living in a p.g is a waste of time as well as money so i found this course for general studies for ias

    1. @Tarini .thnx for the link. it was really helpful. i have joined the above mentioned course for general studies for IAS 2013

      one of the best online course currently and a must for every IAS aspirant.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thankyou for the above information. It was very helpful .
    It is for all those who are preparing for the IAS exams. I was preparing for IAS Exam and was looking for regular coaching but was unable to find. Then i opted for the online course for IAS general studies and it was beyond my expectations. It is both time and cost effective. So got myself enrolled at :
    IAS General Studies and CSAT Prelims Online Video Coaching Course

    Check it guys!! it's a must and a great Online Coaching course for IAS preparation.
    hope it was helpful!! thanks


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