Saturday, September 4, 2010

CSAT format and syllabus!

Since announcement for 2011 prelims to be replaced by CSAT has been made, people are confused and anxious regarding its syllabus. This is natural since a totally different syllabus form the present one will offset the advantage enjoyed by those preparing for last 2-3 or even more years. Lets see what different sources have to say about CSAT:-
1)Students would have to give two objective-type papers that have emphasis on testing their "aptitude for civil services" and "ethical and moral dimension of decision-making".
2)The UPSC had told the government two years ago there was a need to test not just the knowledge of aspirants in particular subjects but their aptitude for "a demanding life in the civil services".
3)Recommendations of the 10th Administrative Reforms Committee: - The Preliminary Examination should consist of an objective type test having one or two papers on general studies including the Constitution of India, the Indian legal system, Indian economy, polity, history and culture. There should be no optional subjects.
The following questions pattern will be asked in CAST -
  1.   Current Affairs from National and International Events
  2.   Logical Reasoning and Decision Making Solution
  3.   Elementary
  4.   Mathematics
  5.   Quantitative Ability
  6.   Data Interpretation from Graphic and Chart
My initial impression about CSAT was same as the point made by However, what made me change my mind were the point no-3 and the following:-
a) Switching completely to a content speculated in point 4 will give an undue advantage to science/engineering/management students, something that UPSC would not like to do.
b) A radical changeover from current status in not a characterstic of government institutions.They like to proceed in small steps while trying to maintaining some continuity. One step has already been taken in this year's prelims by asking questions from geography that involved some analysis as well as knowledge of physical geography.
c)  "Aptitude for civil services" cannot exclude knowledge and understanding of India's History, Economy , Constitution and its political systems.
I would add the following to the speculated syllabus: -
  1. Questions from Constitution patterned along decision-making situations.
  2. Questions from geography involving data-interpretation and analysis
  3. Questions from History and Economy will also be there, though much more complicated than current ones.For example, instead of single-correct or multiple correct choice questions, questions would be having answers having varying degree of suitability/relevance to the question. Students might have to rank 4 different specified reasons for Rise of Muslim League in increasing order of importance. These are questions that involve decision-making as well as sound knowledge of History.
While existing sources for GS prelims continue to have relevance for CSAT, aspirants are advised to consult the following as well: -
  1. Questions asked in Banking P.O., S.S.C.
  2. Data- Interpretation from Any Management Exams Guide.
This is all I can speculate for now. Hope for the best and sit with a cool mind in the exams. Nothing else will make/mar your performance in prelims than your state of mind, especially in CSAT where you have to rely more upon your analytical skills than memory management.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A note for beginners especially those in jobs!

I have been asked by many aspirants about the right strategy, tips, "how to study", right books so as to qualify UPSC CSE. Since I was already working in a job aspirants already working somewhere come to me with a special hope.
I too like them, had wasted 3-4 years looking for same things. 2 years while in college and 2 years while in job. During this course I met many aspirants preparing with me, read interviews of successful candidates in the hope of discovering something. If I am not wrong, they are also looking for some particular magic, thinking  there must be some very special way in which successful aspirants prepare themselves.
Sorry to disappoint you all, but there is no such thing.There is no strategy, no golden list of books, no magic way. UPSC isn't looking for very intelligent, genius candidates. If at all there are some qualities that it is looking for, they could be retention, recall, reproduce. 
The only strategy that would help one remember voluminous study materials and reproduce them in a desired way has to be discovered by oneself. The test that a candidate should apply to check whether his strategy is working or not is this: Whenever you have gone through a particular topic think whether you can now write 300 words ( short topics) and 600-800 words ( long topics) on that particular topic.Whether you can relate that topic to other topics in the same chapter and happenings around you. If you cannot do all of this then you have not prepared that topic.
Many aspirants (especially engineers) apply the modus operandi of their college exams to UPSC, study a chapter and then think that since they have an idea about the topic and they already brilliant they would be able to answer any question from that topic. The sooner they realize their folly and correct themselves, better for them.
The right strategy can vary anywhere from going through the same topic again and again ( 3-4 times), reading different sources ( max 3) and making one's own notes or reading others' notes including class notes of coaching classes and adding noting to it or anything else. It depends on the person and his/her ability to mug up. One has to try until one gets it right. My strategy used to going through 2 or 3 sources for a topic and making my own detailed notes for topic like one writes the chapter of a book. 
My other successful friends have done it by making bulleted notes for topics after reading it from different sources or by not making any notes at all. For some people note-making leads to reproduction of book matter having no value addition. One might make notes after reading 2 basic books then come back to notes after 2-3 months and find that it was all junk. In that case one may have to rewrite the notes for that topic. This happens since note-making and reading abilities gradually improve with preparation.
 One might require a slight retouch to the old notes after going through a better source ( a new book or someone else's notes). This cycle goes on till the day of exam and one need not worry too much about this. It only means one is improving. However more than 2 rewriting s does indicate that a lot of time was wasted.
Those who are already in jobs must remember that there cannot be any special exemption for them. Having a job in hand has a small advantage and a big disadvantage. One does not have to worry about financial aspects and one can free anxiety that surrounds joblessness. However, it is also true that one has to compete with aspirants who have devoted much more time for the same preparation and on an average are better prepared due to peer feedback.
Depending on one's personal conditions including financial woes, parents' pressure/support, motivation, ability to risk one has to take call whether or not to prepare while in job. It is generally preferable to devote 1-2 years fully to UPSC than slogging it out in a 5-year along-the-job plan. If one is really determined to do it while working, then take care to devote 3-4 hours daily to UPSC without fail. At this rate one might be ready in 2 years. Don't do it without a plan. The plan should not be monthly or weekly. One must have a daily plan. whenever you try to satisfy yourself with a monthly plan, you are fooling yourself. You will have to come out of your comfort zone. There are no shortcuts.
This all for now. In a nutshell, I would say the following things:-
1) Stop looking for best strategy, best tip, best book list. Get down with the books in hand and start studying.
2)Do not look for shortcuts.
3)Preparation for UPSC is painful and boring barring a few subjects. Learn to live with it.
I hope my words are of some help.I will be happy to answer any further queries.