The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world so much that many things which we were used to are not normal anymore. A world of social distancing with masks and sanitisers is the norm now and it may stay for long. For many people, these changes will be difficult to accept but one has to adapt and move on. These things are very relevant while preparing for the civil service examination too because there could be sudden changes in the pattern as well as timing of the examination.
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) announced changes in the civil service examination schedule last week. The preliminary examination, which was supposed to happen on May 31, is rescheduled for October 4. The Main examination will happen only in January, 2021, which was earlier scheduled for September. This created a bit of confusion for many candidates, particularly the seniors who are used to a different time schedule.
The personality test, which was supposed to be concluded in April first week, had to be abruptly stopped during the last week of March due to the countrywide lockdown. Around 600 candidates are yet to face the interview board. The personality test will resume from July third week. After that the final result for the year 2020 will be announced around the first week of August marking the end of the process. Those candidates who need to go through the personality tests are heaving a sigh of relief after two months of uncertainty. They were worried that they may not get enough time to prepare for the preliminary examination in case they need to write again. Since the preliminary examination will happen only in October, they have ample time to prepare.
Till now, people who seriously prepare for civil service joined classes during June-July. This was the time they finished their graduation/post-graduation studies and pursued full-time preparation for the most competitive examination in the country. They used to apply for the examination in February next year and wrote the preliminary in May-June. The preliminary results were announced within a month and the Main examination took place in September-October. The Main results were declared in December-January and the personality test went on till February-March, while the final results were out in April.
But now those who were preparing from last June have to wait till this October to write the preliminary examination. So, how to manage the additional time productively?
Ideally, one should finish the Main syllabus first before devoting time exclusively for preliminary examination. If one is preparing one year in advance, the first six months should be used to cover Main syllabus, including optional subjects. There are core subjects like freedom movement, Indian geography, Constitution and Indian economy which one needs to master for both the Mains and the preliminary. These should be covered first. The concepts are to be understood properly. One could start practicing for Mains too at this time. The optional subject should be decided at the earliest and one should attend classes for the same if necessary. The last five to six months before the preliminary exam should be spent for preliminary alone where one needs to practice as many questions as possible.
Someone who has been doing all these things, should go back to Main revision now. Both optional and general studies can be revised in the months of June and July. This is important because one may not get enough time later because the time gap between the preliminary result and Main examination will be just two months. Since the preliminary examination is in October first week, one should revise and attend tests for it in August and September.
The civil service examination is like a marathon race. One has to be steady and should adapt well to the conditions around. One should always consider the time in hand and plan accordingly. Only a person who works systematically and adapts to changes whenever necessary will fit into the dynamic career of a civil servant. So, use the extra time wisely and productively for a bright future.
(Remya Roshni, ex-IPS, is a civil service trainer and author of “How to Ace Civil Service Interviews”)