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A Working Professional’s Guide to prepare for Civil Services Examination

Civil Services Examination being one of the most competitive examination due to the diversity of work profile it offers along with immense job satisfaction is attracting most of working professionals now, who are all set to leave their private sectors jobs to get into Civil Services. Some choose it as it gives an opportunityof addressing day to day concerns of common people in a country, where still a vast majority of people depend upon government for a lot of basic services, while some choose it for an enviable degree of social prestige it brings along.

While, with a view of having future policy makers and change agents for the nation, the examination demands from candidates a holistic and multidimensional understanding of the Indian Society and various issues of concern at regional, national and international level. Thus, the syllabus and the degree of competition makes the preparation very demanding which is like a marathon race which checks an aspirants’ endurance, thus testing the overall character of the person in this journey. And when an aspirant prepares for it with full time job, the journey becomes a different degree of challenge altogether.

The biggest challenge for a working aspirant comes at the beginning of the preparation due to the myth that preparation for this examination cannot be done with full time job. This self-doubt is compounded by the sheer realization of the degree of competition and a perception that how a working aspirant can compete in this examination with thousands of other aspirants who are preparing full time.

Looking at this increasing interest of aspirants into Civil Services who come from diverse backgrounds, UPSC has made the topics and pattern more dynamic with an aim to test the overall social awareness of the future administrators rather than just the bookish knowledge. This can be the plus point for working aspirants who get to interact with more people and have the scope of getting more social awareness than the students.

Taking note of various factors, following pointers are mentioned to help working aspirants in managing their preparation along with job

  • Integrate the preparation with your lifestyle. Mobile is the biggest asset & can use it judiciously to study anytime anywhere. Newspaper reading can be finished and daily quizzes can be practiced while commuting to work.
  • Don’t disclose the UPSC plan at workplace except very trusted persons, as it is bound to create completely avoidable hype around you which may become too difficult to handle
  • Since one cannot follow a fixed routine (in case of unpredictable working hours), keep weekly targets with flexibility where you can adjust as per your situation
  • You will have to steal golden hours (like lunch hour where you can finish your lunch in 10 minutes  & utilize remaining time to complete daily targets like current affairs, daily quizzes, newspaper  – this helps in maintaining continuity and prevents piling up of targets – Do not underestimate the huge impact of this continuity in long term)
  • Realize the truth that being a star performer at work winning accolades and shining in UPSC examination may need superhuman efforts, so better stick to the jobs specifically assigned to you (without being a nuisance for juniors, superiors or colleagues, as maintaining cordial relation at workplace is very much necessary for your mental peace)
  • Keep social obligations (office parties & various other things) to bare minimum & utilize week offs and Public holidays to maximum
  • At least respect and facilitate the work efforts of seniors, juniors or colleagues, if you are not giving your 100%.
  • Stay away from petty office politics and participating in various chat groups at workplace
  • Do not expect too much in terms of promotions, salary hikes; rather focus more on your real target
  • Plan your paid leaves well as per examination cycle & save them by keeping your visits to native or other things to bare minimum
  • Keep it in mind straight that you are not at any disadvantage due to preparing along with job, but consider it as an advantage that  will give you  unique perspective and enrich your subjective answers in mains making them interesting to read
  • Don’t be critical of your workplace or people there (neither at personal level nor during mains or interview)
  • MOST IMPORTANT: Develop thick skin (can be done gradually) – Try not to take criticism at your workplace to heart or praise to your head – imbibe equanimity. Just shrug it off & move ahead on your journey

General studies (Prelims & Mains)- sources to be referred

  • International Relations (Covers both Prelims and Mains): Daily reading of newspaper (The Hindu/The Indian Express) supplemented by monthly current affairs booklet
  • Indian and World Geography (Covers both Prelims and Mains GS): NCERT Books, Current affairs and Atlas
  • Indian History and Indian National Movement (Covers both Prelims and Mains GS): NCERTs, Spectrum Modern India & Bipin Chandra (For Main), and Current Affairs for having an informed opinion on contemporary debates
  • Indian Polity & Governance (Covers both Prelims and Mains): NCERTs, M Laxmikant,  Daily reading of newspaper (The Hindu/The Indian Express) supplemented by monthly current affairs booklet
  • Economic and Social Development (Covers both Prelims and Mains): NCERT (Class XI Economics book is a must), Daily reading of newspaper (The Hindu/The Indian Express) supplemented by monthly current affairs booklet, Economic Survey, Budget
  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude (Only Mains): Any one book (Lexicon/Arihant/G Subba Rao for clearing various concepts). Then suitable examples can be picked from current affairs (newspaper), professional experiences, personal experiences & keen observation and opinion on these things.
  • Science and Technology : NCERTs (6 to 10) for clearing basic concepts and then newspaper for having an understanding of recent developments
  • Art and Culture: NCERTs including Art class XI  Art and culture book(Even History books contain various details related to art and culture topics) and Selective reading (as per syllabus and referring to previous year questions)
  • Environment and Ecology: NCERT Class 12th Biology Book (Last 5 chapters) for clear understanding of basics and then newspaper along with monthly current affairs booklet

CSAT Paper-2

Though qualifying paper, one should not undermine the importance of practice of this paper. Those with science background who feel confident about this paper should also practice previous year question papers to get into the mode of solving aptitude questions

Those having difficulty should refer basic books on quantitative aptitude and verbal reasoning by R S Agrawal to get their basics right. The comprehension part will be taken care by daily reading of newspaper and practice of previous year questions.

By Mr. A.K Mishra, Founder & Director, Chanakya IAS Academy

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