Tips to prepare for prelims, mains and interview for IAS Exam 2012

IAS, a dream being tougher in the past has become a reality and to get through this has been doable these days. In this context, preliminary IAS exam is set to be retooled with changes in the pattern namely CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test). This resource deals in detail related to the IAS Exam 2012 including the syllabus, study materials, and tips to prepare for prelims, mains and interview.

History behind the IAS

Prior going deep into cracking IAS exam, it is imperative to garner knowledge about history behind the concept of Indian Administrative Services. Indian Administrative Service Exam remains to be the second toughest exam the first being the French Civil Services Exam to get through as per a survey report. Yet it is a proven fact that cracking IAS exam could be achievable with sapience and hard work. In fact, Indian Civil Service seems to be the best opted career in India that offers status, privileges, perks, and job satisfaction above all. It is indeed a wonderful opportunity of service that enables the personnel to relish levers of power and take over the most responsible positions in the Indian administrative setup. Every year in India more than 100 IAS aspirants do manage to get through this prestigious administrative services exam. Do we all know that the brains behind our renowned policy makers are certain intelligent IAS personnel? Yes! Each and every scheme or legislation framed out in the administration with great deal of fanfare has been well planned and executed by IAS officers of various disciplines, it should be noted. The career as an IAS officer is, of course, multidimensional, challenging, and extremely fulfilling too. They need to frame out and implement different policies and programs and to govern all sectors both public and private for sustenance of economic development.

The concept of IAS originates as a colonial innovation of Indian Civil Services (ICS) before Independence and the most important position then was the district collector or magistrate since the 19th century. The Collector with more powers at that time was the most authoritative person of the government in the administrative setup at the district level. After Independence, the first Indian Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhahi Patel, the mastermind behind the present day Indian Administrative Services launched the 'Steel Frame' to cater to the needs of our enormously large, but a poor, undeveloped and fledgling democratic country. Since then up until the present day, IAS officers are responsible to carry out all sorts of functions and duties effectively.

Revised 2012 IAS exam – Basic features


The pattern of IAS Exam to be held in 2012 undergoes changes from 2011 and will feature the new CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) syllabus at the preliminary level. It also indicates that as per the existing type, the questions in paper I and II of the preliminary exam would be bilingual both in English and Hindi, exceptional for testing comprehension skills in English Language that ought to be in English. A sample of questions for new CSAT syllabus has been also published on the UPSC web site for reference of the IAS aspirants.

The IAS exam conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC), a governing body set up in New Delhi by the Indian Constitution comprises three stages namely prelims (preliminary), mains and interview (personality test). With the prelims being objective type of new CSAT syllabus, the mains are written-type and the interview to test the aspirant's personality goes obviously viva voce.

Preliminary pattern
1. As mentioned above, the new CSAT prelim exam of objective type with multiple choices consists of two papers paper I and paper II compulsory to all Civil Services aspirants including IAS, IPS, IRS, IRTS, IRPS, and so on.
2. Negative penalty is applicable, i.e., negative marking of 0.33 marks for each wrong answer.
3. Each paper carries 200 marks and two hours in duration, number of questions not fixed.
4. Candidates need to appear for both papers that would be held on the same day and dates need to be crosschecked with the notification in the web site or Employment News.
5. The attempt will be counted even if one paper is attended. In case, the aspirant simply applies for the preliminary but unable to attend the exam then the attempt will not be counted.

Mains pattern
The main examination consists of nine papers that have been of descriptive pattern to be held in a period of 20-day schedule. It has been designed in such a way to analyze the aspirant's academic intelligence and ability to coordinate and showcase his/her knowledge coherently and convincingly. Overall, 2012 IAS Mains exam will carry 2000 marks and candidates scoring more than 940 marks (under general category) can be shortlisted for Interview Test from the UPSC. The duration for all nine papers of the Mains exam is of three hours with a three-hour break between the two papers held on the same day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
Paper I - one among the 22 Indian Languages included in the VIIIth Schedule of the Constitution to be chosen by the IAS aspirant, a qualifying paper (300 marks)
Paper II – English a qualifying paper (300 marks)
Paper III – Essay in the medium that the aspirant has chosen (200 marks)
Paper IV and V – General Studies with 300 marks for each paper (total 600 marks)
Papers VI, VII, VIII and IX - Any two subjects (each consisting of two papers) selected from the prescribed optional subjects (300 marks for each paper and in total 1200 marks)
Interview or Personal Test in the medium selected by the candidate (300 marks)

Eligibility criteria to appear for IAS exam

1. Must be an Indian citizen
2. Minimum age to be 21 years at the time of filling up the prelims application form and not more than 30 years for general category, 21-33 years of age for OBC and 21-35 years for SC/ST.
3. Graduation in any discipline from a recognized university or final year students awaiting result provided they are able to submit it while applying for the mains exam.
4. Considering the number of attempts, candidates under general category are eligible to take not more than four attempts inclusive of preliminary, aspirants under OBC not more than seven attempts and under SC/ST class no attempt limit is mentioned.

Scheduled dates for 2012 IAS exam

The notification for the IAS preliminary examination will be published in the Employment News as well as on the web site of UPSC on 04/02/2012 and application can be processed through either online or by post. The application forms would be available at the Head Post Offices in major cities across the country. The last date of receipt of application is 05/03/2012 and the prelims exam (first stage) of the IAS will be conducted on 20/05/2012. The Civil Services or IAS (Main) examination will begin from 05/10/2012 to continue for 21 days. General Studies (GS) will be on the first day followed by Essay and English (compulsory), the Indian Language paper on the third day that would be followed by different optional papers on various dates.

Syllabus for IAS exam

Prelims - Paper I
1. Current events of national and international importance
2. History of India and Indian national movement
3. Indian and World Geography- physical, social, economic geography of India and the world
4. Indian Polity and governance constitution, political system, panchayati raj, public policy, Rights issues, etc.
5. Economic and social development sustainable development, poverty, inclusion, demographics, social sector initiatives, etc.
6. General issues on environmental ecology, bio-diversity and climate change-that do not require subject specialization
7. General science

Paper II
1. Comprehension
2. Interpersonal skills including communication skills
3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability
4. Decision making and problem solving
5. General mental ability
6. Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude etc. (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. Class X level)
7. English language comprehension skills (Class X level)

Optional Subjects for Mains
Optional subjects include agriculture, animal husbandry and veterinary science, botany, chemistry, civil engineering, commerce and accountancy, economics, electrical engineering, geography, geology, history, law, management, mathematics, mechanical engineering, medical science, philosophy, physics, political science and international relations, psychology, public administration, sociology, statistics, zoology.

Subjects in Literature for Mains
The list contains Arabic, Assamese, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Marathi, Malayalam, Manipuri, Nepali, Oriya, Pali, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.

Combinations not allowed
The following list of combinations is not allowed while taking optional subjects in the syllabus for IAS exam:
1. Political Science & International Relations and Public Administration
2. Commerce and Management
3. Anthropology and Sociology
4. Mathematics and Statistics
5. Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
6. Management and Public Administration
7. Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science and Medical Science
8. Combination of two branches of engineering.
9. Combination of two literatures specified in the literature list.

Study material for IAS exam

To achieve success in the IAS exam 2012, the aspirer has to equip with recommended books and magazines that support the new revised CSAT pattern for prelims. With a different adoptive approach for the prelims, the candidate has to spend equal time to those two papers of CSAT since they are based on general studies. Following part lists out the suggested books to get-go with the CSAT preparation.

Books for CSAT paper I
General Studies Manual: As it contains all aspects of paper I in detail and from revision viewpoint also GS manual will be useful.
Modern History: India's Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra
Ancient and Medieval History: NCERT text books of class VIII to X
General Sciences: NCERT text books of class IX and X
Geography: NCERT text books class XI and XII, a good Atlas, Certificate Course in Physical Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
Indian economy: Spectrum's books on Economy and Economic Survey for figures and analysis
Current Affairs: Manorama Year Book, The Hindu newspaper, Frontline, and magazines like Civil Services Chronicle, Chanakya, Competition WIZARD or Civil Services Today.
Politics: Our Constitution by Subhash Kashyap with bare constitution containing just the articles.

Paper II
With paper I being unchanged, paper II includes new varied topics such as mental ability, data interpretation, English language test, passage, decision making, and logical reasoning. While topics like mental ability, logical reasoning, and data interpretation being tracked by a single book subjects like English language test, passage and decision making may be gone through by another. Some notable books have been CSAT Manual by Pearson, Crack CSAT by Disha Experts, CSAT Paper 2 by Unique Publications and Quantitative Apitude by R.S. Aggarwal for mental ability.

Tips to prepare for prelims, mains, and interview of IAS exam 2012

To crack this premier services exam since it is of voluminous like an ocean, aspirant needs to outperform its crests and waves. To acquaint with right books, study material, hints, focus, planning, efforts, and finally aspiration all lead to success in getting through the exam. Hard work along with smartness is the key factor in preparation for IAS. One has to dedicate at least a year to crack up the IAS exams as the prep involves three stages namely preliminary, mains, and interview and every stage requires distinct approach or point of focus.

Plan the right way
Get along with right things to garner a competitive edge.
Set preparations a year before the preliminary or at least ten months prior.
Get the right books for prelims and mains.
Try to solve past year questions to analyze your knowledge.
Study the scoring sections earlier to cover the syllabus with strategic approach instead of going for cram or 'prepare all' approach and equal importance to be given for paper I and II of prelims.

Develop a routine
Since the IAS exam is like a marathon set a routine is appropriate so that you will be able to focus for longer duration to cover the syllabus within the stipulated time. Scheduling two or three subjects a day within the allotted time-span will support to cover the scoring sections of the preliminary syllabus for the subjects taken. Developing a routine on a daily basis too definitely would help to finish and revise the portions at least second time for prelims and to schedule for mains as well. This way of approach certainly enhances the prospects of high scores in the prelims through first attempt itself.

Cover the scoring areas early
The syllabus for preliminary exam contains some sections to which scores could be easily garnered than some other parts. Hence these sections need to be sorted out and prioritized to pile up the marks. Current Affairs, General Knowledge, Politics, English Comprehension, Passage, Maps are the areas that could bring in good scores with least effort for CSAT. First priority should be given to these sections. Other sections such as History, Science, Mental Ability, and so on would be dealt with at the latter stage since these are considered empirically to be tougher to fetch good scores.

Test yourself regularly
Requiring at least 10 months time duration for preparation of IAS it would be easy to stay examining yourself with previous IAS papers. This would surely assist to identify and get over the weak points. To grab high scores by this way, attempt on previous set of solved section-wise prelims questions of not less than five years' papers is optimal. If more than five attempted, it would be great.

Seeking guidance from the best toppers or institutions
With a plethora of coaching institutes in almost all metro cities, to save time and attempts availing the best guidance is possible if time is a binding factor for preparing IAS exams. But it is crucial to segregate the best institutes for the optional that has been chosen for Mains. It is necessary to opt for guidance from IAS toppers and fellow aspirants those who have gone up to the interview stage related to choice of books, professional coaching centers to join, strategies to be practiced for IAS goal and so on. Certain online blogs or sites also provide wonderful tips to prepare for prelims, mains, and interview of IAS exam 2012.

Hints to crack IAS exam at first attempt
Candidates aiming for the 2012 IAS Exam may be perplexed that they can crack IAS exam 2012 at the very first attempt. It is of course, possible with appropriate goal orientation, planning, hard work, guidance and aspiration that are primary requisites paving the way for success of joining this elite service.
1. Make it a routine of noting down important current events and GK snippets in a diary or flip cards on a daily basis that could be gone through in a week or two prior to commencement of the preliminary exam.
2. Sort out the subjects in accordance with time duration, categorize and study as per the schedule. For instance if you allot ten to twelve hours a day divide for subjects, GK and English language and learn accordingly.
3. Take reference from one good newspaper and two magazines for current affairs along with Manorama Year Book for GK and current affairs instead of going for multiple magazines or newspapers. As far as newspaper is concerned the Hindu is ideal otherwise Indian Express can do better. In regard to magazines, Civil Services Chronicle or Pratiyogita Darpan is better choice for current affairs.
4. Attempt on previous years' solved question papers before and after reading a subject is the best means of approach to track progress. It is important to choose first scoring sections and to finish them well in advance.
5. To prepare a written record of micro notes will facilitate to have a quick go-through prior to a week for prelims exam.
6. Learning the right way of reading the newspaper is a must.
7. Besides the basic knowledge, the right approach has been that the aspirant has to feel and visualize as an IAS officer and surely s/he will automatically get a path to success.

Dos and don'ts while appearing for IAS interview

To clear the civil services IAS interview carried out by the UPSC requires a combination of traits such as presence of mind, smartness, unique and constructive thoughts, honesty, commitment, firmness, and patience that are expected from the candidate. We look into the 'dos and 'don'ts' while attending the personality interview.

1. While taking up the IAS interview, certain core areas need to be focused including birthplace, state, hobby, educational and familial background, job experience especially in public sector (if applicable), current affairs, extracurricular activities, and educational institutions attended by the aspirant.
2. Most essential is the filling up the application form for Main exam once the CSAT exam or prelims exam has been cleared. The mains form must be filled out honestly and carefully since questions from the interview panel can be expected on the facts regarding birthplace, name, job, optional subjects, family background, hobby, sports, education, city, State, etc. So a good practice of having minute-detail knowledge on such areas mentioned in the mains forms need to be focused.
3. Another right approach, while attending interview test is appearance/dress code. The aspirants are expected to be in formal dress code. Saree or salwar would be ideal for female candidates while male wannabes may wear formal shirt with tie and suit may also be perfect if it enhances confidence level. The costume colors are ensured to be sober to well-suit the occasion.
4. Presence of mind matters along with knowledge that has been exhibited as UPSC panel members do not simply judge your knowledge but assess your personality, ability to work under pressure, and the way of dealing certain situational crisis during the IAS interview also. If you are unable to answer any particular question accepting your inability politely with an intact smile and poise will just be appreciated.
5. The aspirant should be alert to answer some catchy queries posed by the UPSC board members. To say for example, if it's stated in the mains application form as if you are formula one racing lover then you might receive some out of the blue questions like what would be height of Michael Schumacher or his age in days in the context of 2011 formula one racing in India. You must be acquainted with the answer knowing Michael Schumacher's height or days of age in response to this.
6. To maintain tactical diplomacy is important. Candidates may be questioned most of the time to establish firmness in disclosing their statements or decisions. He/she needs to stick to their point as it has been rightly perceived despite board members' cross-examining. Or in case if it is impossible to arrive at a consensus, to express politely that the questioner's view is respected but not in agreeing with it would be appropriate. On the other hand, if it is realized what the board member points out is right then accepting the fault and thanking panel questioner to have him/her learnt about the subject more is certainly a diplomatic way of negotiation.

1. Being over enthusiastic. For example, if a candidate is requested to list out the strategies necessary to boost up the economy, he/she has to stick to the subject alone but not deviate to something else related to his/her profile of interest.
2. Replying as if it is a coaching class. Answers need to be genuine and straightforward.
3. Wearing fancy shirts or sarees that would distract the attention of juries. The candidate is required to be dressed in elegant formal cotton wear most preferably.

So, would you like to be a part of the so-called steel frame of Indian constitution, the elite Indian Administrative Service? Here is the web page offering good guidance as how to crack this ambitious Indian civil services exam in the simplest possible manner.

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Guest Author: sunita19 Aug 2014

Yes, I liked it but it is too long, could you send a short interview tips.

Guest Author: sunita19 Aug 2014

Excellent tips. Well written

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