ABC of Civil Services | A few guidelines for beginners

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be present in our public and private life, there are speculations about the end of classrooms and the world permanently switching over to digital platforms of learning. At least a few more months are needed to resume face-to-face interactions between teachers and students. That is why the government started offering classes to schoolchildren through the television channel so that they do not miss much time. Similarly, aspirants who want to pursue civil service have  to start doing things themselves for the time being.

There are numerous YouTube channels and other social media platforms to get information regarding civil service examination. Many institutes have started webinars and interactive sessions using different social media platforms. The abundance of information could be really confusing for a beginner. So, let me give you a few guidelines regarding how to start your preparation regarding civil service examination.

Be ready to work hard

A person who begins to prepare for civil service examination should be mentally ready to work five-to-six hours daily for a period of at least two years. The habit of last-minute mugging has to be unlearned as the journey ahead is a slow and steady one. Have a copy of the syllabus and previous questions of both preliminary and Main exams always with you while studying to understand the depth and pattern of questions.

One advice the newcomers always get is to start with the newspapers. Many seniors may mention the habit of making albums of newspaper cuttings. The idea is to have a ready reference of current affairs. In an era of digital learning, one can save the relevant articles anywhere instead of cutting and pasting them physically. Make sure that you read important things and understand them. One can browse further to get deeper insight to things rather than just stopping with a news article. The current affairs can be updated with the Press Information Bureau website as it gives a complete coverage of government policies and programmes.

It is very important to have a basic understanding of General Studies in order to be successful in civil service examination. Most people suggest NCERT textbooks for this purpose. They are easy to understand and well written. Since most of the students might have forgotten the basics, which they have studied in school, these school textbooks are useful. But people who are comfortable with basic facts need not mandatorily go through this ritual. They can pick up other standard books, preferably one each per subject and start reading them. There are no officially prescribed text books for civil service examination. So, one should check the previous questions to identify areas of importance while studying.

As the final ranking in the civil service examination mainly depends on the Main examination marks, one needs to start answer writing practice. The art of writing effective answers within the prescribed time and word limit needs constant effort from the candidate. For this one needs a mentor to correct the answers and give feedback.

The marks of optional subjects are very crucial in the Main examination. So, one needs to choose the subject well in advance and start preparation. Take your time while choosing, considering the available options. Here also it is advisable to get guidance from experienced people.

I suggest the aspirants to stick to standard text books and official websites for their study. This will help in better understanding of concepts. Similarly, it is advisable to make one’s own notes rather than collecting it from elsewhere. One needs to be strong in basics and well aware of current happenings.

Stay connected, stay motivated

It is important to get connected and motivated while you prepare. Joining study groups and interacting with fellow candidates can be done easily now using online platforms. One should use these avenues fully.
When it comes to the process of learning, technology is only an accessory but not a replacement for quality human resources. Eventually, the classrooms and academic activities will be back. Till then, maintain a safe distance yet be connected to the world.

(Remya Roshni, ex-IPS, is a civil service trainer and author of "How to Ace Civil Service Interviews")

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