- Expert Advice
Polity and Governance
- What are the possible implications of exclusion of 19 lakh people from the NRC list in Assam?
- India is moving from an era of policy paralysis to policy logjam. What are your views on this?
- Do you think Legislative Impact Assessment will have a positive impact in law-making?
- Can Reservation for women be a way to strengthen parliamentary institutions?
- What is the implication of abrogating Article 370 and instead of having two UTs? Can all-India services provide stability and growth to the region?
- Do you think bringing the office of CJI under RTI will hamper transparency in functioning of Judiciary?
- Define a balance between online privacy and fake news.
- Tell us about the convergence between constitutional amendments and subsequent transformation of India.
- Do you think present system of appointment of Election Commission is right? Should we replace it with the collegium system?
- How has GST impacted Centre-State Relations?
- The upper house has completed 250 sessions since independence however its efficiency has declined. What are the various measures required?
- Devise a balance between Right to Protest versus Disrupting Public life.
- What do you know about NPR? Do you think it will be a viable option for country’s security?
- The regulatory mechanism for data collection in India is in bad health. Recently the government has introduced National Statistical Commission Bill. Do you think it is a right step?
- Do you think UN is losing its significance today? It is also in news these days for the financial crunch it is witnessing. How should we reform it?
- What are the functions of UN?
- How is UN helping in Human Rights and Peace-keeping? What are India’s contributions in this regard?
- In the current West Asian mess what should be India’s Stand?
- What is the approach of India towards Afghan? Do you think we need to change the approach?
- Briefly state whether NAM is relevant to India in conducting its foreign affairs.
- Explain the reasons behind India’s stand on RCEP? Was it a right thing to do? What is the way forward?
- As per IMF paper “Is South Asia ready to take-off”, South Asia is moving towards becoming center of global growth and could contribute about one-third of the world’s growth by 2040. What do you think should be the role played by India?
- Tell us something about Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative? Do you think it will be viable option for India to float its interests in South Asia and neighboring islands?
- Is BRICS a viable platform for furthering India’s interests or is it mainly a China-dominated platform?
- India is having 2+2 Dialogue with various countries like Japan, USA etc. What is its efficacy?
- Tell us the main reason for Hong Kong Protests. Do you think democracy is the answer to all the evils in the society?
- How important is the principle of reciprocity in trade deals?
- What is One Country-Two Systems Formula of China? What is India’s stand on it?
- The recent escalation of tensions in US-Iran relations has led to bonfire in their relations. What should India do?
- Is WTO losing its significance these days?
- Suggest some measures to make India malnutrition free by 2022.
- What are the various challenges faced by higher education system in India? Do you think UGC’s new mandate is the way forward?
- India is witnessing a slowdown in economy since past few quarters. What measures do you think should be the top priority of the government in this scenario?
- The government has recently launched National E-Assessment Center for Income tax department. Briefly tell the benefits and challenges associated with it.
- Suggest some important GST reforms.
- How can Telecom sector be revived?
- What are the problems faced by real estate sector?
- India has Third largest startup ecosystem network in the world. Trace its evolution.
- Whether FTA is a boon or bane for dairy industry?
- Do you think bringing NBFC under IBC will solve the crisis in the sector?
- How can strategic disinvestment of PSUs help solve the economic crisis?
- RBI recently conducted “Operation twist”. Explain what it is.
Science and Technology
- What are the ethical issues in gene-editing?
- Should India spend huge sums of money in manned Mission instead of dealing with social problems in the country?
- India never had a Woman Scientist at the helm of ISRO. What should we do to encourage women scientists?
Environment and Ecology
- Briefly explain why humanity should focus on eliminating single-use plastic. Also, suggest the various alternatives to single-use plastic.
- How should India prepare itself for Urban disasters like fires, urban floods etc?
- Is odd-even scheme a viable option to contain pollution in Delhi?
- What are the various drinking water challenges faced by the country?
- India continues to have weak fire safety measures which are taking lives. What are the changes required?
- Do you think it will be a viable option to implement No Parking, No Car norm of NGT?
- Do you think Jal Jeevan Mission is a viable mission to obtain water security? Also, Discuss the National Water Policy.
- What are the various challenges faced by India in adoption of Electric Vehicles?
- The world is on the brink of Climate Emergency. How should India prepare itself for this?
Defense and Security Issues
- Considering the present claims that there has been inaction on the part of police in managing the protests, suggest reforms required in policing and also, SMART policing.
- What do you think security is a status symbol or is really required for protection?
- Recently the government appointed Chief of Defence Staff. What are your views on that?
- What is the relevance of Gandhian principles in present times? Also, state some of the principles that can be applied in order to resolve present-day crisis faced by the humanity.
- You are trained as a Doctor/ Engineer/Lawyer etc. How would you use your expertise as a generalist civil servant?
- Questions on your hobbies.
- Questions on Work-experience.
With UPSC preliminary examination just 3 months away, it is time to analyze yet another Section of UPSC General Studies paper, which has become a game changer in past few years. In this section, close to 19-20 questions were asked in last two years, giving it a hefty weightage in the overall paper (around 20% of total marks every year).
A conspicuous pattern of science and technology based questions is that most of them are either purely general science based questions or application based questions. To handle these questions, one needs grasp of latest scientific products and discoveries. Also, questions are sprinkled across various sub- sections of science namely, General science (i.e. Physics, Chemistry and Biology), space technology, defense technology, Information and Communication Technology and Biotechnology.
We have delineated the following pattern with various sub-sections, which has become quite evident in the Preliminary Examination Stage:
Space Related Questions are here to Stay
UPSC always covers space technology section through direct fact- based questions. In this section, focus is majorly on satellite launch vehicles, space observation satellites or space missions and related technologies. For instance, consider following questions from 2017 and 2018 prelims papers, which clearly highlight this trend.
Q. What is the purpose of ‘evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA)’ project? (Prelims 2017)
1. To detect neutrinos
2. To detect gravitational waves
3. To detect the effectiveness of missile defence system
4. To study the effect of solar flares on our communication systems
Analysis: eLISA project was widely in news due to discovery of gravitational waves by LIGO detector and subsequent success of the LISA pathfinder project. This is a space technology based factual question, which can be attempted with ease.
Q. With reference to the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), consider the following statements: (Prelims 2018)
1. IRNSS has three satellites in geostationary and four satellites in geosynchronous orbits.
2. IRNSS covers entire India and about 5500 sq. km beyond its borders.
3. India will have its own satellite navigation system with full global coverage by the middle of 2019.
Analysis: Again, this question is purely factual and was in news due to the failure of rubidium atomic clocks on the satellites of IRNSS.
Defence Technology is Another Constant
Defense technology based factual questions are also another constant in the last two year’s GS papers with at least 1 or 2 questions being asked every year. Moreover, these questions are based on defence technologies, which were in news. For instance:
Q. What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news? (Prelims 2018)
a) An Israeli radar system
b) India’s indigenous anti missile program
c) An American anti missile system
d) A Defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea
Analysis: This question is again current affairs based question on defense technology. It was in news due to deployment of American anti-missile THAAD system in South Korea by America in the wake of ballistic missile tests of North Korea.
General Science based Applications
Linking Items of Daily use with General Science
In this sub-section, focus is on application of general science especially physics, chemistry and biology on items of common use like LEDs, LCDs, electronic appliances etc. Additionally, purely factual questions on General science are also asked every year.
Q. Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) are used to create digital display in many devices. What are the advantages of OLED displays over Liquid Crystal displays? (Prelims 2017)
1. OLED displays can be fabricated on flexible plastic substrates.
2. Roll-up displays embedded in clothing can be made using OLEDs.
3. Transparent displays are possible using OLEDs.
Analysis: This question is based on application of General Science on items of daily use. In addition, it was frequently in news due to government of India’s UJALA scheme for LEDs.
Q. Consider the following phenomena: (Prelims 2018)
1. Light is affected by gravity
2. The Universe is constantly expanding
3. Matter wraps its surrounding space –time.
Analysis: This question pertains to basics of fundamental physics and is a direct factual question.
Information and Communication Technology
ICT-based Questions are Appearing in all Flavors
ICT has become the most favored section of UPSC since past few years. Questions are either directly factual or based on applications of ICT in day-to-day activities but from areas currently in news. In addition, various government products based on ICT have become a hunting ground for UPSC. For instance, consider the following questions:
Q. Which of the following is a most likely consequence of implementing the ‘Unified Payments Interface (UPI)’?(Prelims 2017)
(a) Mobile wallets will not be necessary for online payments.
(b) Digital currency will totally replace the physical currency in about two decades.
(c) FDI inflows will drastically increase.
(d) Direct transfer of subsidies to poor people will become very effective.
Q. With reference to digital payments, consider the following statements: (Prelims 2018)
1. BHIM app allows the user to transfer money to anyone with a UPI enabled bank account
2. While a chip pin debit card has four factors of authentication, BHIM app has only two factors of authentication
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
Analysis: Since post demonetization government had launched various ICT tools for financial transactions, UPI as well as BHIM was frequently in limelight. Therefore, UPSC captured the trending ICT products of Government to create simple factual questions like these.
Q. The terms ‘WannaCry, Petya, and Eternal Blue’ sometimes mentioned in the news recently are related to
c) Cyber Attacks
d) Mini Satellites
Analysis: Again, cyber issues were trending topics throughout the year and especially the crippling cyber attacks. Thus, a direct question based on these events found place in the question paper.
Biotechnology Sector is the New Favorite
UPSC has found a new favorite in biotechnology sector. Questions are sprinkled from various sub-sectors of this vast section. Questions from medical, agricultural, environmental and industrial biotechnology along with bioinformatics are on ascendancy. For example, consider the following questions:
Q. With reference to agriculture in India, how can the technique of ‘genome sequencing’, often seen in the news, be used in the immediate future?
1. Genome sequencing can be used to identify genetic markers for disease resistance and drought tolerance in various crop plants.
2. This technique helps in reducing the time required to develop new varieties of crop plants.
3. It can be used to decipher the host-pathogen relationships in crops.
Q. With reference to Genetically Modified mustard (GM mustard) developed in India, consider the following statements:
1. GM mustard has the genes of a soil bacterium that give the plant the property of pest-resistance to a wide variety of pests.
2. GM mustard has the genus that allows the plant cross-pollination and hybridization.
3. GM mustard has been developed jointly by the IARI and Punjab Agricultural University.
Analysis: These are agricultural biotechnology based questions. Since Genome sequencing as well as GM crops were trending in news due to controversy over GM crops, UPSC picked up there topics in two consecutive years.
Thus, our analysis highlights following facts with respect to Science and Technology section in civil services examination.
Consistency in Number of Questions
On perusal of last two-year’s question papers, we realize that weightage of Science and technology section is consistently around 20% with 19-20 questions appearing every year. Also, UPSC is focusing on General science and its application based questions. Every year at least one question is being framed from defense technology section also. In last few years, questions based on all major government ICT based products are also appearing in the paper. Additionally, there is an ascendancy of the number of questions from biotechnology field.
So what should be the best strategy to attempt majority of the questions from this section correctly and increase your probability of clearing Prelims exams?
Tips for Science and Technology Section
We have following tips for the aspirants looking forward to 2019 prelims.
Read the Newspaper and Link the Current Topics with Science and Technology
Read the newspaper with the aim of cherry- picking all the relevant sub-sections like space, defence technology, biotechnology, General Science etc.
For instance, CRISPR CAS 9, a gene-editing tool, is often in news these days and comes under the purview Biotechnology section. Therefore, basic facts related to it should be read thoroughly.
Try to Link any New Technology or Invention to its Innovative Applications
Whenever there is a new technology in the market or there is a scientific discovery, do cover its potential applications also. For example, recently in energy sector, gas hydrates are often in news. For preparing such topics, also analyze their implications on other inter-related sectors like economy, environment etc.
Give Importance to Areas having Direct Bearing on Society
Since UPSC has increased the weightage of biology-based questions, it is pertinent to focus on topics which have a direct bearing on the society. For example, major diseases like Swine flu, Zika virus, Nipah virus, Japanese Encephalitis etc are becoming a fodder for UPSC to frame questions. Also, other probable topics could be food fortification techniques, macro and micronutrients, rare and orphan diseases, anti-biotic resistance etc.
Be Thorough with General Science
Of late, direct factual questions from General Sciences like Physics, Chemistry, and Biology are being asked in UPSC civil services examination. These topics can be answered using knowledge of elementary level science. Also, this section gives higher output with minimal efforts.
Do Not Skip Space and Defence Technology
Every year UPSC gives direct questions from Space and Defence technology, which can be handled with factual knowledge easily. Therefore, cover major space missions, satellite launches as well as defence products to prepare this section. Probable topics from this area can be major missions of NASA, ISRO, Missiles and satellites launched by India, nuclear reactors etc.
Skip Biotechnology Section at Your Own Risk
This section can be sub-divided into agro-biotechnology, medical-biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, industrial biotechnology, bioinformatics etc. This makes certain topics like bioremediation techniques, GM crops, bio-fuels, H-CNG, micro-plastics etc important for prelims.
Some students ask us if they can prepare for Prelims in just 3 or 4 months time. Well, you can prepare for the Prelims in 3 or 4 months, if you have prior experience or gone through the Prelims before and covered the entire syllabus once. But, if you are a fresher in this entire civil services examination process, then you should start preparing for the Prelims ideally before 10 to 12 months in advance. In that, you should devote first 3 to 4 months in self study and after that you may join a coaching institute for Prelims cum Mains preparation. At “Career Plus”, we start with Mains cum Prelims preparation of GS along with Optional subject preparation and cover entire syllabus in seven to eight months. After Prelims exam, we focus only on revision part and practice sessions. We also provide special tips for General Hindi/Indian languages and General English papers including Essay.
Before joining a coaching institute, first step is to go through the entire Prelims Syllabus of General Studies Paper - 1 & Paper 2 and syllabus of Mains G.S., just to get the overview of whole Prelims syllabus. So, assess the syllabus and have a syllabus book in hand to readily refer it. You cannot login to your computer every time while preparing; that is a distraction in itself. So, handy books will always help you.
Next step is to know your comfort level with the exam. If you are a beginner to the entire IAS exam, then you might be wondering- Am I capable of clearing this exam? Of course, you are very much capable even if you don’t have any basic knowledge. But, having some basic knowledge will help you.
Another point in the planning process is to get the right books, magazines and newspapers for your Prelims preparation. As far as the newspaper is concerned, I always suggest any reputed English/Hindi national newspaper. And, for magazines, read one good current affairs magazine like ‘Civil Services Chronicle’; just one is enough. But, along with the current affairs magazine, also read any political magazine too, it will help in answering questions in Mains. You can skip the political and ideological part of it and concentrate on the Environment, Science & Technology part.
UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern
The UPSC Prelims comprises of two objective type papers (General Studies I and General Studies II or CSAT) for a total of 400 marks. Both papers are held on the same day in two sessions via offline mode (pen-paper).
The UPSC Prelims date for Admit Card is announced on the official website of UPSC 2-3 weeks before the date of the exam.
Implementation: It is the second part of Prelims preparation. Now you have got the syllabus, right books, subscribed to the newspaper and magazines. So, once you start preparing for the Prelims, how should you move further in the preparation? You should not try to cover entire syllabus at once or all the topics - like, trying to read History, Geography, Polity, General Mental Ability - everything at once. You know, this is not a right approach.
The right approach is to pick one topic in Paper - 1 and one topic from Paper - 2 and you can divide it accordingly or may study Paper - 1 in the morning and Paper - 2 by afternoon or in the evening. But, don’t go for more than 2 topics. Let’s say you pick Modern India History from Paper - 1 & General Mental Ability from Paper - 2 and prepare this simultaneously. Apart from these, you should develop a habit of reading newspapers for at least one hour a day.
- Focus on particular topics like:
- News articles of National interest
- Sports news
- Business news
- Science & Technology, etc.
Whenever you start with a topic, you should complete it before starting a new one. This will help you in the third step of preparation.
Test Yourself: Many people actually leave the testing part, which is basically like taking MOCK Test, attempting the previous year’s questions. If you start this later, you will have less time to rectify your weaknesses(if any).When you prepare for a new topic, after completing it refer the past ten years’ question papers on that topic.At “Career Plus” we always use this strategy. Joining a coaching will help you in this. And, if you find that you have left certain topics and have not covered very well, again you can go through that, so you can attempt Course Correction right at that time itself. This is a better approach instead of leaving it. Clearing the exam is very easy just by doing these basics in the right way. Obviously hard work is involved but that smart work is also important to crack this exam.
Before entering the minefield of UPSC Preliminary examination, it is of utmost importance to go through the trend of the previous year's papers. This will not only help aspirants to cut their preparation to the bone for maximum outcome but also to have a well informed and balanced preparation strategy. With this article we bring forth an in-depth analysis of the trend especially in Geography and Polity section of the Prelims Paper.
To begin with, a very conspicuous pattern which has come to light especially in last two year's question papers is increasing importance to basics in Polity section. However Geography section has shifted its gears towards more analytical and map based questions both in Indian as well as World context.
We have delineated the following pattern which has become quite evident in the Preliminary Examination Stage:
Physical Geography in a New Avatar
Physical geography question are still sprinkled across the paper but in a new avatar where analytical and conceptual knowledge is tested in map-based questions or on logical reasoning based questions. For instance, Consider following question from 2017 and 2018 prelims papers which clearly highlight this trend.
Q.At one of the places in India, if you stand on the sea shore and watch the sea, you will find that the sea water recedes from the shoreline a few kilometers and comes back to the shore, twice a day, and you can actually walk on the sea floor when the water recedes. This unique phenomenon is seen at (Prelims 2017)
Analysis: In the aforementioned question, one of the places currently in news like Chandipur in Odisha famous for Missile Testing range is used to make a question linked to Geographical Phenomenon quite peculiar for this beach.
Q.Consider the following statements: (Prelims 2018)
1.The Barren Island Volcano is an active volcano located in the Indian Territory.
2.Barren Island lies about 140 Km east of Great Nicobar
3.The last time the Barren Island volcano erupted was in 1991 and it has remained inactive since then.
Analysis: This question was framed keeping in mind the recent eruptions in the Barren Island, which is India’s only active volcano. So the question entails both current affairs as well as basics here.
However, some very factual questions related to physical geography are still doing the rounds. For example:
Q.Consider the following statements: (Prelims 2018)
1.The Earth’s magnetic field has reversed every few hundred thousand years.
2.When the Earth was created more than 4000 million years ago, there was 54% oxygen and no carbon dioxide.
3.When living organisms originated, they modified the early atmosphere of the Earth.
Analysis: This question is based on the Evolution of Earth and the subsequent formation of the Earth’s atmosphere and thus comes under the category of factual question.
Q.With reference to ‘Indian ocean Dipole (IOD)’ sometimes mentioned in the news while forecasting Indian monsoon, which of the following statements is/are correct? (Prelims 2017)
1.IOD phenomenon is characterised by a difference in sea surface temperature between tropical Western Indian Ocean and tropical Eastern Pacific ocean.
2.An IOD phenomenon can influence an El-Nino’s impact on the monsoon.
Analysis: This concept was quite evident in news as the reason for the deluge in Australia triggered by Indian Ocean Dipole. Thus, global atmospheric phenomena, with their fundamental principles become a favourite hunting ground for UPSC.
Inroad into Economic and Human Geography
Geography making an inroad into Economic and Human Geography is quite evident with questions related to energy, demographics, trade and communication taking a front-seat. For instance:
Q.It is possible to produce algae based biofuels, but what is'/are the likely limitation(s) of developing countries in promoting this industry? (Prelims 2017)
1.Production of algae based biofuels is possible in seas only and not on continents.
2.Setting up and Engineering the algae based biofuel production requires high level of expertise /technology until the construction is completed.
3.Economically viable production necessitates the setting up of large scale facilities which may raise ecological and social concerns.
Analysis: This question comes under the Energy Sector of Economic geography and focuses on recently in news non-conventional sources of energy. Thus, it becomes imperative to correlate the news related to Economic Geography especially from the energy sector which is a hot topic in national and international discourse.
Linking Current News with Geographical Underpinnings
Also for Geography section, question setter is linking current news with Geographical underpinnings. For example in following questions various Geopolitical conflicts have appeared in the form of Geographical Location of these conflict zones.
Q. Consider the following pairs (Prelims 2018)
mentioned in news
Analysis: This question has been asked from current news related to referendum in Catalonia, Russia Annexation of Crimea, declaration of Emergency in Ethiopia (Oromia) and terrorist activities in Philippine’s Mindanao for Map-based World Geography question.
Linking of Environment Topics with Geography
Another very common trend is the linking of Environment topics with Geography.
Q. Which of the following has/have shrunk immensely/ dried up in the recent past due to human activities? (Prelims 2018)
1. Aral Sea 2. Black Sea
3. Lake Baikal
Analysis: Due to environmental damages triggered by human activities, Aral Sea as well as Lake Baikal was in news for their ecological tailspin. And this question perfectly blends environmental topic with world geography.
Factual Questions are on the Rise
In polity importance of direct factual questions has gained foothold once again with the increasing number of questions being asked from basics of the issues currently in news. The following trend and respective questions can throw a light on the pattern which polity has picked up of late.
Direct factual questions which need a strong background of basics; for instance
Q.Which principle among the following was added to the Directive Principles of State Policy by the 42nd Amendment to the constitution? (Prelims 2017)
(a) Equal pay for equal work for both men and women
(b) Participation of workers in the management of industries
(c)Right to work, education and public assistance
(d)Securing living wage and human conditions of work to workers.
Analysis: This is a direct question based on the provisions of 42nd Amendment act and can be attempted successfully if one is well-versed with Directive Principles of State Policy topic.
Analytical and Conceptual Questions
There are some questions which are analytical and conceptual and at times lean towards subjectivity. For instance:
Q. Democracy's superior virtue lies in the fact that it calls into activity (Prelims 2017)
(a)the intelligence and character of ordinary men and women
(b) the methods for strengthening executive leadership
(c)a superior individual with dynamism and vision
(d) a band of dedicated party workers
Analysis: This question is an example of indirect question which requires interpretation of the topic like democracy which is in plain sight. Thus, UPSC expects aspirants to have the capacity to think on foot and deduce the answer logically in such type of indirect questions.
Number of Questions Coming Down, But…
In 2017 where around 24-25 questions were from Polity section alone, this number came down to around 10-11 in 2018. Also the nature of questions more or less is factual but some analytical googlies also prop up to make the paper a bit challenging.
So if the UPSC is juggling with such tactics to maintain a standard in the Prelims Paper, then the question arises as to what should an aspirant do to successfully dodge the minefield and come out victorious with flying colours for the second stage of the examination?
Tips for Prelims
Here are some of the tips for keeping oneself prepared for the upcoming Prelims.
Read the newspaper and link the topics of current importance with Geography and Polity:
For instance, If North Eastern State is under boil due to the Citizenship Amendment Bill, then focus on important Physical, Economic, Human as well as Environmental aspects of this region like major rivers, national parks, dams, mountain ranges, mineral wealth, demographic structure etc. Also, for polity section, it is important to cover the terms of the bill along with topics like North Eastern Council, various schemes for North Eastern Region, etc.
Pay special attention to topics from Economic and Human Geography
In geography pay special attention to topics from Economic and Human Geography as UPSC is now asking questions related to these aspects more than the usual Physical Geography related questions. For example questions can be framed from World Natural Resources, Migration pattern, Settlement types in India, tribes of India as well as World etc.
Things to do for map-based questions
For map-based questions, maintain a list of all the important national and international places in news for geopolitical reasons.
Go through the basics of the topics currently in news
For polity with increasing emphasis on factual questions in majority of the questions, aspirants must go through the basics of the topics currently in news. For instance, National Register of Citizens in Assam has created an uncertain future for close to 40 lakh people who have found themselves out of the draft NRC. Now, this issue can be approached by covering the basics of Citizenship, Human Rights Commission, Refugee status, etc.
Similarly with current political slugfest over CBI Director, topics like CVC and Lokpal become important for Prelims. Similarly, interminable controversy over Rafael deal makes the topic of CAG, Supreme Court, PAC and Parliamentary committees a probable area for Prelims questions.
Look for Interlinkages between Topics
Also look for interlinkages between topics to prepare well for them. For instance, environmental issues like climate change, pollution, deforestation etc can be used for map-based questions or for direct factual questions. This requires aspirants to analyse a topic from all perspectives. For example, the issue of climate change can be studied in geographical terms by studying about the places recently in news which are facing adverse climatic events like floods, droughts etc. Also, this can be linked to Environemental Geography by correlating the economic activities with the environmental degradation they result in like Rat- hole mining in Meghalaya, illegal sand mining, minins in ecologically sensitive Western Ghats, etc. Similarly, Sabarimala issue is a topic which has interlinkage with both polity as well as physical geography.
You must not ignore social and cultural aspects of Geography
An emerging trend in UPSC with respect to geography is also in terms of emphasis on social and cultural aspects of geography like food security, population demography, cultural practices, etc.
Thus, during preparation aspirants should also focus on these aspects of current news. For example, Sabrimala Issue is important from Geographical aspects like the name of the hill on which it is situated or the Tiger Reserve (Periyar Tiger Reserve) within whose precincts it is situated, etc.
Thus, with the recent trend of Prelims paper reflecting a tilt towards more unchartered territory, especially in Geography section, with more emphasis on economic and social aspects of Geography; it is imperative to link current affairs with broader aspects of geography.And for polity section, one must prepare well the fundamental aspects of relevant topics currently in news. In short, Prelims questions can be handled with ease if one follows an integrated approach to link the topics from one section to another during their holistic preparation.
A Guideline to tackle all Hurdles in the Last Mile
Clearing UPSC prelims is not about mugging up a lot of information in your head, but the exam is all about testing your patience, perseverance and optimism in the exam hall even against all odds. The ability to maintain a cool head under lot of pressure is a natural trait required of a civil servant and UPSC seeks for a similar trait in the candidates through its prelims examination. A common pattern is also observed, that once an aspirant clears prelims, he most probably goes on to repeat the feat each and every year.
So, how does a student clear prelims examination? Is there any tangible way by which a new UPSC aspirant can achieve this feat? Let’s find out...
The most important thing is the “management of time” in the exam hall. One’s mind should race against time to find some common link between the stated statements in the question and the knowledge he/she possess from the basic reference books. This linking of fact with the given statement helps in the elimination technique. If you find any statement in the option as redundant or false you can directly eliminate that option from your answer and this increases the probability of you marking a correct answer. In a scenario where the candidate is able to eliminate two options, the question should definitely be attempted. In such a case we would suggest you mark any one of the remaining option as the probability of you marking the correct option is almost 50%.
Another strategy commonly applied by students is to find extreme statements in given options. For example- “Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana failed to address the financial needs of rural India”. Here the statement directly contradicts the salient feature of Jan Dhan Yojana which is financial inclusion. Hence, the statement is false and can be marked wrong. This also implies that there is a possibility of you finding the right answer even though you may not know anything about the question through elimination of extreme statements. Therefore, the advice would be to not skip a question just based on reading at a glance, but following it up by reading the options. This strategy is bound to fetch you some extra marks in prelims. Also, while reading the question paper cautiously note the question terminologies like ‘Not’, ‘Incorrect’, ‘Only’, etc. For example- In a question which states “Which of the above statements are incorrect?’, many candidates have been found to mark the correct statements as they fail to notice the question terminology. These blunders need to be avoided to ensure success in prelims.
Another common mistake candidates make during exam hall is wastage of time while facing a question based solely on their ego. Let’s say Student XYZ has dedicated hours of his time in reading polity but is not able to solve a basic question of Polity in Prelims. This not only reduces the confidence in aspirant XYZ but also builds in negativity. Based solely on his ego, he wastes his precious time trying to solve the polity question, only to realize later that he could have fetched marks in other un-attempted questions. This clarity of thought is normally found lacking in new aspirants and should be kept in mind.
NOTE: The purpose of UPSC prelims is not to top the examination but to clear the cut-off marks.
This requires you to fetch marks, no matter from which subject. Another mistake commonly observed is the marking of OMR sheets in the last minute by students. The best strategy while marking OMR sheets would be to attempt 20-25 questions at a time. This would avoid last minute chaos.
While solving the qualifying paper of prelims i.e. the CSAT paper, students should focus on their strengths. It has been observed that many students are afraid of aptitude and reasoning in the CSAT paper. Revision of some basic concepts of Class 10 would go a long way in scoring a decent mark in aptitude. The students can also rely on passages and comprehensions to ensure they sail through the minimum cut off. Solving few CSAT papers would go a long way in building up that confidence.
Finally, during the preparation phase of prelims, it all comes down to limiting the source of reference books, revising the selected books religiously and preparing one’s own notes for each subject. These notes will help in quick revision and come in handy even during the mains preparation. The last two months before UPSC prelims is of utmost importance and needs a detailed strategy which would be based on solving the previous ten year UPSC prelims question papers and recognizing the trend of the exam. This will help you in devising a specific strategy, according to your needs focussing specifically on your weak areas. Once a study plan is fixed, stick to the time table at all costs. No prelims preparation is complete without solving multiple model question papers. These tests help in self assessment and builds up clarity and confidence on the subject in students over time. During preparation, students need to keep in mind that there is no dearth of books or study material in the market. Chasing a particular book or study material during the last stages of prelims is a mistake in itself. The students need to understand the paucity of time and stay away from such books and coaching institutes that claim guaranteed success in UPSC prelims in the last minute. There can be no substitute to faith and confidence in oneself during the preparation phase. The mantra- “Self-trust is the first step towards success” rings true in this regard.