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How to crack Civil Services exam 2011

Last updated on: September 28, 2011 15:01 IST

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In an online chat with readers on September 23, expert P Gopakumar, Asst Commissioner of Customs & Central Excise, Indian Revenue Service, Bangalore addressed reader queries related to cracking the Civil services exam 2011.

The Union Public Service Commission examinations for the year 2011 that will qualify eligible candidates to the Indian Civil services examination will be held between October 29 and November 26, 2011. For those who missed the live chat, here's the unedited transcript:
udayp :
How can I choose optional subjects? what should I keep in mind while choosing options?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Optionals can be chosen only after seeing the syllabus, old question papers, your aptitude , chance of scoring..you can consult successful candidates.
wolverine : what is the starting salary of an IAS officer? what are the qualifications required to clear the exam?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
An IAS officer gets the Group A payscale.. and as of now, you will get around Rs.40000 in the beginning.. You need to be a graduate..then you have two stages to clear.. preliminary (screening round- objective) and Mains(descriptive and interview).
shameen : Can engineers also apply to UPSC? i applied for a bank exam and they wanted to know why i am applying in bank why not engineering? what should i answer to such questions during interview?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
why not? it gives equal opportunity for all...We have Engineering optionals to choose from for the exam.. You can answer that now a days opportunities are equally available..being an engineer you can utilise your skills in a better way in the administration.
rohitb : what are the subjects i can practise for essays? what kind of books should i read for general studies? will u prescribe some books or newspapers for reading?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Sure.Essays are asked from various areas..philosophy, polity, culture, science and technology, current socio-economic matters, world affairs and so on..whatever be the subject, your awareness and articulation matters. You should practice a lot in essay writing.. no short cuts.. For GS, you cultivate the habits of reading a standard English daily daily and prepare your own notes...Over a period, you will gain confidence.. Standard books are available for various sectors like Polity, Economy , Modern India and all..First you get to know the syllabus fully.. and consult successful candidates..
Vidhya : Hi Sir, How to get knowledge from daily newspapers? or as a Civil Service aspirant, how should one read news paper?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
News paper reading for Civils preparation is quite different.. It is different from the perspective of a common man.. You should be able to skim off the information for your purpose. You should segregate unwanted information-for ex. the political news which have no bearing on knowledge and a lot of entertainment news..Once you see the syllabus and question papers of the Main exam, you will get a fair picture as to what to read.. And,newspaper reading is the most essential part of preparation now days.

Image: Office of the Union Public Service Commission
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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shom : I am pursuing BBA from Annmalai University (Distance learning), Can you say if i would be eligible for the IAS after completion of my graduation.

P.GOPAKUMAR :
You have to check up whether its is a recognised degree or not..anybody with a recognised graduation can apply for the exam.
upsc : what were the changes in the pattern that you mentioned in your article. can you pls elaborate in detail?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Yes.. It is for the prelims now-applicable from 2011 onwards..The paper on optional is taken off and a second paper in GS introduced-with reasoning, comprehension, decision making skills, communication skills, English Language, mental ability, data interpretation and all...And the syllabus of paper I altered to include environmental issues etc.
Vidhya : Thank you so much Sir! Apart from newpaper, should we read any magazines to crack the exam? If yes, plese provide us with the names of those magazines.

P.GOPAKUMAR :
You also need to read magazines .. selectively.. Frontline, Economic and Political Weekly and a standard competition monthly (which consolidates the matters), these are suggested.
supriya : where can I get previous years' question papers for UPSC exams?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Last three years on all subjects, available in the UPSC website.. Previous years', you can get from book stalls.
ravireddy : sir, is it possible to crack preliminary of CSAT 2011, if i start from now? the exam is on may 20th......do you think 8 months are enough to crack prelims?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
For 2012.. 8 months time is good enough.. You first see both prelims and mains syllabus thoroughly.. then see the question papers, and start with dedication

Ratnakar : Dear Sir Now I am B. Com Pass. What I Do?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
B.Com pass is enough to appear for Civil Services.. Apply in 2012.
Caesar : Dear sir, I will be 27 years this October.Can i apply for the preliminary exam and later on for other levels of exam in UPSC?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
There is no sepaparte application as such.. It is an yearly process.. When you clear the prelims of 2012, you can write the next part. If you fail, you have to write again prelims in 2013. 30yrs is the gae limit for Gen category.
ritika : which coaching is best for mains GS

P.GOPAKUMAR :
It depends.. there are specialists in various subjects in many places.. you have to make a survey and find out..Some are good in Gs and some in specific optionals.
pulkit : Dear P GopalKumar sir, Do you think the Main pattern of Exam might change in 2013 or 2014 just like Pre pattern changed in 2011 ??

P.GOPAKUMAR :
There is a possibility that Mains pattern may change in 2014
ram : sir, what are the age bar for attend the USPC exam?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
30 for General, 33 for OBC and 35 for SC/ST.
gp : Which are the best coaching centres available to train the aspirants

P.GOPAKUMAR :
There are experts in various areas in various cities.
ravireddy : sir. how to begin preparation initially ? my optionals are PUB ADMIN and AGRICULTURE...whts your opinion about agriculture as optional for CSE?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
First you see the syllabus and old question papers .. have a detailed analysis on the trends and style of questions.. then select the right material( pl consult successful people).. Agriculture is definitely scoring optional..
ravireddy : what books to be read for CSAT PAPER 2(apti)?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
CSAT II requires nothing short of practice.. Plenty of books are available in the market..Select a good one.. then practice a lot.
arif : sir i did graduation in biotechnology then MBA ,,which subject should i opt for civil servies

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Management is there as an optional.. But you see the details.. otherwise u can select general optionals like History, Pub ad, Sociology, Geography etc..consult successful candidates..
gp : can you suggest any coaching center in Hyderabad

P.GOPAKUMAR :
In Hyderabad, there are many... Brain tree, AP Study Cicle, Hyd Study Circle, and so on..U please consult some candidates there.
Abhishek : I want to prepare for civil service cxams...i m computer science professional..suggest me plz?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
You first decide on two optionals. then go through the patter, syllabus, question papers ...consult some successful candidates..
ravireddy : is coaching necessary for cracking CSE?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
may not be required.. practice matters.. u develop the habits of scientific reading of newspapers and basic simple books prescribed..then form groups and study.. for advice, consult successful candidates
raj21 : How safe is Sociology for main?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Sociology is considered as a safe optional..But you should develop lot of analytical and writing abilities ..observation about the society and analysis.. If get these abilities.. you can score well
arif : do we have to select 2 subjects before prelim?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
yes.. after prelims, we get around 3-4 months only for Mains.. So better decide on the optionals before hand(also prepare to a great extent)
Chandrashekhar : Hi sir, I had attempted prelims but didn't clear.. I am thinking that cracking the exam whil working is very difficult. Do you share the same opinion? or you think it can be cleared while working too?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
many clear the exam while working.. If you make a long term strategy , it works..then before the exam , you can study by taking leave for 2-3 months.. many do like that and enter into the Civils.. You need not leave the job.
ravireddy : reading NCERT books is must for cse? if so, from wht standard onwards NCERT books are to be read?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
that is must. Because NCERT books give clarity of ideas. Class X to XII books on Polity, Economy, History etc are must-read. What we write in the exam should have the same clarity as in these books.
Nachiketa : how should I answer a question ??

P.GOPAKUMAR :
be specific to the question..See what is asked.. see whether to describe, elucidate, comment, analyse or critically evaluate.


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'Abstract questions can be tackled through effective newspaper reading'

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Madrock : How are Law & Management as Optionals ? I am a law Graduate pursuing MBA. Appearing for Mains 2011..Due to hectic schedule in my MBA haven't been able to prepare much....any last minute tips ??

P.GOPAKUMAR :
While writing the answers be specific to the questions and keep word limits..clarity of expression to be developed.
ramm : how many papers for main?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
there are 9 papers including English and Indian Language
abhay : What is height of a person required to appear in UPSC?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
height matters only for IPS
Chandrashekhar : Sir, I see many people go to delhi institutes to prepare for the exam. DO you really think one should go to delhi and attend those class?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
In Delhi, there is lot of material and guidance available, thats all.. If you prepare scientifically , you can crack it from anywhere.
vineet : Hi sir, I have done Btech in computer science. I want to start my preparation for next year's exam. How about keeping physics and public admin as subjects for me?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Both are unrelated to ur subject of study directly.. See the syllabus, question papers and decide.
Deepa : Gd evening Sir, I did prepare very well for this year, but couldnot qualify the prelims. I had thoroughly studied the current affairs and the general studies plus csat part. Sir, please suggest the possible way to cross the prelims, what is the probable cut-off? What will be the trend for CSE 2012 prelims considering the fact that 2011 was a short Current affair paper?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
2011 paper was in nobody's hand. It was surprising. You don't leave out any topics for next year.. And concentrate on paper II and improve time management skills.. Abstract questions in paper I can be tackled through effective news paper redaing.
ravireddy : wht will be minimum score(cut off) to clear CSAT?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
We cant say.. it varies.. in 2011, people were predicting around 200..really don't know.. Be careful on negative marking.
ramm : you are saying 9 papers , i am postgraduate in commerce , english language one, second my mother tongue, then how many on my specialisation and what are the others

P.GOPAKUMAR :
GS two papers, Essay one, two optionals two each
abhay : I am graduate with Information Technology . What subject will be better for me to choose?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
You can go for some scoring general subjects- History, Geography, Sociology or literature
Chandrashekhar : sir, I have taken Geography and Sociology as optional. Due you think it will help to fetch good numbers?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Geography and Socio is a good combination.. In paper II , there are so many common areas.. Geo paper I is really scoring too.
ravireddy : Is UPSC Transparent in selecting candidates? i heard from so many people that you have to pay bucks to get selected... whats your say about this?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
that's not correct.. It is still a transparent exam.. many of our friends get selected you witness.. any common person can crack it.. moreover, it is a really testing and lengthy process.
rani : sir,please describe me the better strategy for the prepration of csat with the subject sociology and public administration.will management as a optional subject a better option?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
sociology and Public admininstration combination is good.
ravireddy : I have good command over Kannada (regional language). if i give exam in kannada, is study material available for Pub Adm & Agriculture, and whts the possibility of getting selected if we write exam in regional language?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
there is equal chance.. but you should be able to present the technical terms in Kannada properly.
abhay : how many stages in this Exam ? in first exam what type of questions be there

P.GOPAKUMAR :
3. I- objective; II- descriptive and then interview.
ramm : GS two papers fine, paper one will be related to what, and paper two related to what, my question- area of chapters i need in a broader sense of meaning , please help me out, second question essay one - full question paper of essays on various topics, fine, two optionals suppose if i take public admn so papers on public admn, and two papers on another optional so totally it comes to 7 i a m right please answer, it is a request only

P.GOPAKUMAR :
total nine, it comes with English and Indian Language papers.
rni : sir,what should be the right way for the general knowledge prepration?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
sound knowledge can be gained through newspaper reading ...and discussions.
rni : sir,what should be the right way for the general knowledge prepration?

P.GOPAKUMAR :
Time is up for the chat.. Thank you all for participating and making it lively.. Wish you all the best in your Civil Services Exam.

Image: India's leading newspapers
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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