Dr. Ambedkar Competetive Examination Centre (ACEC)
Excellence Through Coaching


Strategies For Beginners...

This article is an attempt to awaken the beginners to the ideas which are crucial in the preparation for Civil Services Examination.

In fact we intend to focus upon some practical realities of the preparation. Much has been written on how to prepare for the Civil Service Examination but little attention has been given to the fundamental facets of preparation in the beginning. This article will provide answers to a good number of questions which bewilder the beginners.

The beginners have varied perceptions about the preparation and a good number of them are not aware of the realities of the same. They begin but on wrong lines, they go astray and meet failures in initial attempts. It takes them a year or years to be conscious of the realities and that too, at the cost of some attempts. Some take attempts without preparation just to gain some experiences because they do not have a good guide to suggest them that attempts are precious and must not be wasted this way. This article has relevance in the above-mentioned context.

All the beginners have a great problem when they embark upon the preparation that is how to begin. We provide you step-by-step guidelines as regards how to go in for the preparation for the Civil Services Examination.

1.  Buy the prospectus which is available in a booklet form in those bookshops which sell books & guides on competitive exams. It   contains all the information required.

2.  Go through it and know the pattern of the examination well.

3.  Go through the syllabus of the optional subjects — consider five things in selection of optional subjects.

               i.            The Subject interests you

               ii.           You have familiarity or background

               iii.           Subjects (two optional subjects) have common areas

               iv.           Subjects help you in General Studies

               v.            You get proper guidance for them (the most important)

4.   Buy the booklets containing previous years' questions of those subjects (Both Prelim & Main) and go through them. Proper idea of the questions will also help you decide optional subjects. 4. Buy booklets of previous years' questions of General Studies, (Both Prelim & Main) and Languages (Hindi & English) and be well-aware of the pattern of the questions.

5.   After doing all these you come to know all about the examination, the subjects, the nature of questions and of course what you have to study. This way you take the first step in the direction of preparation which is very significant.

6.   Study on the basis of the syllabus and previous years' questions. Just do not finish topics, as this is eventually meaningless and make sure that study enables you to write good and standard answers. This is essence of preparation.

7.   Practise writing answers. Create answer formats of typical questions and get the help of a guide.

8.   Join any coaching after considering point (1) to (5). Coaching before these considerations would not be meaningful. On the basis of you would be in a position to assess the significance of the coaching. In reality, coaching helps you in your preparation when it makes you comprehend topics, makes available to you standard study material and the most significantly it enables you to write good & standard answers. And if in a coaching you just work on topics and finish them, it has no value finally when you are writing examination.


New aspirants are usually in a dilemma in selecting the optional subjects. After embarking upon the preparation this state of dilemma is quite natural as well. Impact of mixed opinions like opinion on the part of the friends, seniors, teachers, coaching institute etc bewilder them and they are not in a position to take a right decision. Above-mentioned opinions are at times influenced by individual outlook, at times by wrong perception, at times by personal experiences, at times by prejudice or bias and at times by vested interests.

We are presenting some of these opinions which new aspirants come across and which do not have any rational basis. We are presenting the explanation and the rational basis related to such opinions as well.

1.   Some subjects are very lengthy and their preparation takes a lot of time.
The truth is that the syllabus of almost all subjects is equally vast and comprehensive. The UPSC does not discriminate among subjects. The commission has determined a standard for each subject and has incorporated all important topics into the syllabus of each subject. All popular subjects selected by the candidates like History, Sociology, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science etc. have comprehensive syllabus.
One popular basis to determine the length of the syllabus of any subject is the area it covers or columns it covers in the Employment News. Syllabus of some subjects cover two-three columns, whereas some cover just one column or half the column. This is completely irrational. Coverage of area / column depends on the way syllabus is presented (like if only large topics are mentioned this will cover less area while if topics, sub-topics and description of topics are given it will cover more area). If you pay attention to it, you will find the same as truth.

2.   Two such subjects (having lengthy syllabus) should not be chosen like History & Political Science, Geography & Anthropology, History and Geography The rational view is that there are other criteria to select the optional subjects (we shall describe that later) for the syllabus of almost all subjects are lengthy (we have already discussed).

3.   Some subjects are more scoring like Geography or some are not like Anthropology The truth is that the Commission / Examiner does not discriminate among subjects in giving marks. Fetching of good marks solely depends upon one's performance, not the subject. One can get good marks in any subject. The results of the Civil Services Examination every year too establish the same fact. The only rational criteria for the subjects being more scoring or less scoring is the stream they are associated with. Subjects associated with science may be more scoring than those of humanities because of greater objectivity. Likewise subjects from humanities may be more scoring than literature.

4.   One should not opt for subjects like Commerce & Accountancy, Economics, Anthropology etc. because candidates do not get marks in these subjects or candidates do not qualify with these subjects The truth is that one can opt for any subject, provided one fulfills certain criteria (we shall describe later). Basis of selection is not subject rather performance in a particular subject.

5.   Some subjects are very good for Preliminary Examination like History The truth is that every or any subject is good for both Preliminary and Main Examinations. Besides one must not select three subjects — one for Preliminary Examination and two others for the Main Examination. The subject in the Preliminary Examination must be a subject in the Main Examination. To prepare two subjects itself is a difficult task — to prepare three subjects may become an impediment in one's success. One should give a serious thought to the selection of the optional subjects. A wrong decision in the beginning might prove an obstacle in one's success. There are a good number of candidates who were capable of qualifying but only because of wrong selection of the optional subjects they eventually failed. Optional subjects play a decisive and crucial role in qualifying Preliminary & Main Examinations. Don't be in a hurry in selection, consider properly and give time to it.

There are certain rational criteria for selecting the optional subjects. We are putting them forward in point form.

1.     Every subject is good.

2.     The syllabus of almost every subject is equally lengthy and demand equal amount of labour.

3.     The syllabus of all popular subjects like History, Geography, Political Science etc. are equally vast.

4.     One can get 340-350 level of marks (required to make one successful) in all subjects through proper guidance and adequate labour.

5.     One may take into consideration one's interests in the subject but this is not important. Success of many candidates has proved it.

6.     One might take into consideration one's background in the subject.

7.     One might take into consideration the similarities of topics of subjects for example History and Political Science, Commerce & Accountancy and Public Administration etc. This lessens the burden of the candidates. This is an important criteria.

8.     Go through the syllabus and previous years' questions of the subjects, you are considering to opt.

9.     One might take into consideration the fact that to what extent the optional subjects help a candidate in General Studies. Subjects like History, Public Administration, Political Science etc. play significant role in this context.

10. The most important criteria is the guidance one gets in the subjects. Guidance makes subject / subjects easy and enables candidates to write standard answers. Experiences of a large number of candidates have established the truth that any subject is a good subject provided one gets a good guidance for that subject. A good guidance does not mean teaching of topics, rather teaching in such a way so that one comprehends all the topics, one has adequate and quality content and more significantly one is in a position to write good & standard answers - which is the essence of the preparations.


One has to perceive the meaning of real preparation. Real preparation does not mean attending classes, procuring study material packages and finishing the syllabus. Real preparation has an altogether different connotation - it has to be a meaningful preparation. One need to understand finer aspects of preparation — that is, to develop comprehension of questions, to develop approach to write answers, to practice answer-writing etc.

Meaningful and effective preparation which makes one attain qualifying level subsumes various facets

1.     Planning preparation

2.     Formulation of strategy

3.     Guidance for preparation of compulsory subjects

4.     Adequate & revised study material packages

5.     Analysis of questions

6.     Expected topics / questions for forthcoming examinations

7.     Answer - formats

8.     Information related to strategy & approach

9.     Information related to approach to answer-writing

10.   Series of Questions

11.   Examination and evaluation of answers.


Success in Civil Services Examination calls for a holistic development. We want to put forward some suggestions in this connection.

1.     Study all the relevant topics of various subjects, develop broader understanding.

2.     Study all the relevant topics of various subjects, develop broader understanding.

3.     Prepare topics on the basis of the trends & nature of the questions.

4.     Create answer-formats in point form so that they prove handy in revising things.

5.     Learn approach to writing. Think over ways & presentation of answers. Take the help of some guides.

6.     Practice answer-writing and get them evaluated.

7.     Develop a good language & expression so that you might write good answers.


In the overall preparation, pay attention to General Studies on a long term basis because of the nature of syllabus, trends of the questions and the significance of the subject in scoring higher marks.

What we have felt and tested is that gaining of 370-380 marks or more in the optional subjects in the Main Exam calls for great efforts—besides what I have tested is that just 25% of total efforts one makes in the optional subjects has made one attain that level (370-380 marks or more) in the General Studies.

One thing is very conspicuous and intelligible to almost all is that in the General Studies the questions are plain & straight and do not involve much analysis or explanation or examination etc what one comes across in the optional subjects. The Second thing which too is very distinct that questions comprising about 120 marks are very-short answer-type questions. The third thing is also very simple to understand that the part of statistics constituting 40 marks is scoring in nature.

Finally what we can conclude is that one follows a plain and to-the-point approach in full - length questions and one gets good marks — that in very-short-answer-type questions comprising 2 marks each, one can get full marks — that in statistics, right answers also fetch full marks — and that in rest of the questions of 50 words, 75 words and 100 words there is always scope to get very good marks if one writes well the essence of answers.

Preparation of the optional subjects calls for somewhat different orientation. We are putting forward certain points below which are relevant in this context :


1.     First study the entire topics of the syllabus just to develop ideas about them.

2.     Develop conception about the inter-connections and relation among the topics wherever required.

3.     Pick up all relevant topics from examination standpoint on the basis of the number and type of questions put in the examination.

4.     Prepare the relevant topics taking into consideration the kinds of questions put or may be put in the examination. Take help of a guide.

5.     Take different kind of questions into account is important in the preparation; for only on this basis you will be competent to write good answers which is key to getting good marks.

6.     Prepare notes in brief or in point-form where topic or question is typical or intricate.

7.     Try to learn approach to write various kind of questions. Take help of a guide.

8.     Practice answer-writing and get them evaluated. For this purpose you may pick up questions from previous years. Take help of a guide.


Without writing preparation becomes meaningless. Writing is in fact a part of the total preparation. In General Studies, optional subjects and Essay effective writing plays a vital role. We are giving below certain tips on good writing.

Candidates should follow them and put them into practice.


1.     Read standard books — collect standard information.

2.     Express in you own language — your answers should give impression that they are your creation.

3.     Elements of bias or prejudice must be absent from your writing.

4.     When you critically examine, you must examine a fact in the light of socio-economic-politico circumstances — this would give your answer a moderate tinge.

5.     Use effective language but do not make it verbose.

6.     Write a simple answer — do not use very long sentences and paragraphs.

7.     Split your answers in various paragraphs — change paragraph when you shift to a new subject-matter.

8.     Do not quote views, opinions etc. frequently — at times you can quote from original work.

9.     Give major points of your answer in separate paragraphs and put all the minor points in one paragraph at the end. — try to give as many points as you can.

10. You need not write a lengthy introduction, you can even do without it write the main body of the answer and a good and very effective conclusion — in the answers where you analyze or critically examine you must write a conclusion.

11. Write the answers (of full questions carrying 60 marks) in 600 to 800 words.

12. While writing, make sure your handwriting is legible — do not be under the impression that whatever way you write the examiner would make all efforts to go through that — help the examiners read your answers comfortably.

13. Do not exceed the word limit — 200 words, may be 210 or 215, not more than that in any case.

14. Your answer must not lose coherence — points should be in order so that the whole answer presents a balanced and integrated view.

15. Practice writing answers of model questions and get them evaluated.

And finally a piece of advice, that is, hard and diligent work is a boon. Develop a habit of sustained reading. Do study on a regular basis but be sure that you are doing this on right lines


CourtesCareer Point IAS Academy, New Delhi