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Civil service Exam 2012 : General studies get a makeover

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Click: Civil Service examination 2012

There will be two general studies papers in the Civil Services Preliminary Examination.


By SURENDER SINGH: A career in the Civil Services has again become coveted, thanks to the threats engulfing the economy and the lacklustre performance of the private sector.

Even engineering and management professionals are now keenly looking for a career as civil servants in the Union government.

Simultaneously this year, the pattern of the Civil Services Preliminary Examination has undergone a fundamental change.

Old scheme

Till the 2010 examination, an aspirant had to qualify in the general studies paper and an optional subject. Under the revised scheme of examination, the preliminary examination will have two general studies papers, each of two-hour duration and 200 marks.

The syllabus of Paper I is very much similar to that of the old general studies paper, except that the general mental ability part has been removed and added in Paper II.

The real change in the pattern is the appearance of Paper II that aims at a holistic testing of skills of the candidates in interpretational skills, comprehension, logical reasoning, general mental ability, numeracy, decision-making, and problem-solving.

New papers

Paper I is now popularly called general studies, while Paper II has got a popular tag of CSAT. The examination however continues to be on objective-based questions.

This fundamental change in the scheme of examination for the preliminary examination implies a number of things. In the older scheme, most of the candidates would try to excel in their respective optional subject with some correctly answering more than 100 of the 120 questions on the strength of their expertise in their respective disciplines — the subjects they had studied for graduation and beyond.

The general studies paper was considered a level playing field for all candidates and the number of questions correctly answered in this paper (comprising 150 questions in all) would be much fewer than in the optional subject.

This was mainly a result of the fact that no candidate would be equally skilled in all areas covered under this paper.


Also, the general studies paper in the old scheme had 150 marks, while the paper in the optional subject was for 300 marks. Thus while one correct question in the optional subject will fetch 2.5 marks to the candidate (120 questions in the paper for 300 marks), one correct answer in general studies would fetch only one mark (150 questions for 150 marks).

Therefore, there was an inbuilt bias in favour of optional subjects in the old scheme and a candidate could qualify even without excelling in general studies.

The present scheme of examination has done away with this bias in favour of the optional subject by doing away with optional subjects and thus provides a more level playing field, especially for the candidates who have a social science background. However, the new scheme also necessitates that in order to qualify in the preliminary examination, the candidate must be more widely read and his knowledge must be more application-based rather than based on rote learning.

Old scheme

The scheme of the examination emphasises that the examination will aim at testing the knowledge of the candidates as generalists rather than specialists in various areas. However, it is clear that in order to excel in the examination one really needs to study like a specialist.

This is very clearly borne out if one has a look at the question paper of the 2011 preliminary examination.

Many of the questions asked in that examination cannot be answered by being just a generalist. Therefore an aspirant has to choose good sources of information to fully prepare for Paper I.

Surender Singh is One of the authors of Tata McGraw-Hill's recently published title General Studies Paper 1.


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