How to prepare for the Civil Services Preliminary Exam?

Now, as you saw in the previous section, in the preliminary examination there are two papers.

  1. General studies
  2. Optional Subject


Preparing for General Studies Paper

We discussed the “syllabus” of the General Studies paper in the last section. However, as we saw, the syllabus is quite large and vague. However, to prepare for it, you could do the following:

FIRSTLY: For this paper, it is very important to be updated in “current affairs” in all fields.

For History, Economy, Polity, etc, you should read Class 11 and 12 books published by the NCERT. Here are some NCERT e-book downloads that you can use free!

For general knowledge and objective-type questions, refer to the book “General Knowledge Refresher by O.P. Khanna”.

According to IAS topper of 2000, Sorabh Babu Maheshwari, you must read “Competition Success Review” issues from December to May. Just go through them and try to pick as many facts as you can. Also solve the previous years' General Studies Prelims and Model Papers published in Competition Success Review.

Here are some sample General Studies papers to give you an idea:
General Studies 2006 Prelims Paper 
General Studies 2005 Prelims Paper

When studying for General Studies, you should try to read up as many business and political magazines, newspapers etc. that you can. This has two advantages. It will give you a good control over the English language. This "good control" helps you in many of the papers like the "essay paper", the "English qualifying paper" etc. It will also keep you updated with the latest facts and current affairs.

However, do not over do this. You should not waste your time reading a lot and picking up very few facts! You must try to read only things that matter and take an extra effort to look out for things that could be asked in the exam papers!


How to prepare for the Optional Subject paper?

Before you prepare for the optional subject paper, you first need to select the optional subject.


What subject should you take?

If you have got your “bachelor’s” degree in a particular field, and you are confident about that field then choosing that subject as your optional subject would be a good idea.

It would be wise to look though the syllabus of the subject you are selecting and seeing whether you have covered all of the topics in your degree course and how well you feel you know those topics. You could take a look at the syllabus from here. 

Another strategy is to select a subject like “Geography” or “History” if you can mug-up a lot of facts. These subjects help some people to score really well in the prelims and this is what gets them to their “Mains Exam”!

One important thing to remember: After the prelims, you are not going to get much time to prepare for the “Main Exam” if you get selected. It would make a lot of sense to try to study both “General Studies” as well as the “Optional Subject” properly, as if you are studying for the Mains! At least one optional subject of the mains will be almost over! If you do this, your load for the mains will reduce a lot!


How to study for the optional subject?

Well, there are many different subjects and it would not be practical to explain how to study for each individual one. However, we shall help you with the general way to go about it! 

Obtain the latest syllabus for the civil service exam you will be giving. Then, gather up all your books, and cover the topics of the syllabus while SIMULTANEOUSLY referring to the question papers and seeing the kind of questions that are asked on each topic!

Now, as you know, the paper will be a multiple choice questions paper. So, people look though the syllabus and make the mistake of assuming something like, “This cannot be asked as a multiple-choice question! What can they possibly ask?” This is a BIG mistake! 

They can convert just about anything into a confusing multiple choice question. So a good understanding of all the concepts of the syllabus is a must!

Another thing to remember, when you start to study for the prelims, you might tend to want to focus more on the “optional subject” since you already know it and it is easier! Do not do this! Make sure you concentrate on the “General Studies” paper also. If you do not, you will just not reach the Mains! 

Remember also not to over concentrate on the “General Studies” paper. It has fewer marks than the optional subject. So, basically, do not “over” or “under” focus on any one! Do both in the right proportion. (We know that all this is easier to say than do!)

Now, let us assume that you have given your Prelims exams and are now going in for the MAINS, let us see how to tackle them…

Next - How to prepare for the "Mains Exam"? - Part 1 >>


<< Previous - Pattern of Civil Services Exam

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Table Of Contents

  1. How to become an IAS/IPS officer? - Introduction
  2. Civil Services Exam - FAQ
  3. Pattern of Civil Services Exam
  4. How to prepare for the "Preliminary Exam"?
  5. How to prepare for the "Mains Exam"? - Part 1
  6. How to prepare for the "Mains Exam"? - Part 2
  7. What to do in the Interview?
  8. Preparing a study schedule!