Sunday, August 23, 2009

In this article we will talk about the process involved in becoming an IAS or (Indian Administrative Services) officer!

Please Note: Becoming an:

· IAS (Indian Administrative Services) officer

· IPS (Indian Police Services) officer etc…

Is all done though the same “UPSC held Civil Services” examination! This guide is written from the point of view of becoming an IAS officer. However, the procedure to become an IPS etc. officer is also the same!

If you are interested in becoming an IAS officer, you probably know what the IAS is all about and why becoming an IAS officer is a very good career option. However, just incase you do not know, let us give you some quick information on IAS!

If you become an IAS officer, you become part of the Indian Administrative Service. You will be part of the Govt. You can work from “the inside” and change “the system”!!

If you have a dream for India , or if you, like us, believe that India will soon be a “super-power”. If you want to be part of the process of making India a great nation, IAS is for you! Being an IAS officer, there is a lot more power and control you have so that you can be part of Emerging India !

Besides that, IAS is a great career option! You get many “perks of the job” when you are an IAS officer. You will have “job security”, “discount on Govt. services”, “Govt. provided transportation” and many more things... Even though the monthly salary provided by the IAS career is not too high, the “perks” make up for the less salary!

However, getting into the IAS is not that easy! There is a very competitive “one year long” exam! To get into the IAS, you probably will have to try more than once before you succeed. And even if you clear the exam, then you have to get a very good score to qualify for the IAS! So, basically getting into the IAS is not that easy. However, here on, we will try to show you “how to..” get in.

To get into the IAS, you will have to give the “UPSC held Civil Services Examination”. It is a common exam for getting into the IAS, IPS etc. To succeed in the “Civil Services Examination” you first need to understand how the examination is conducted or the “examination format”! But, before we understand that, let get some "Frequently Asked Questions" out of the way….

How do I apply for the “Civil Services Exam”?

The Application Procedure for the Civil Services Examination is pretty simple. The “Application Form” and “Information Brochure” can be obtained from the “Head Post Offices or Post Offices” throughout the country.

The filled Application Form should be sent to:
Union Public Service Commission,
Dholpur House,
New Delhi - 110011.

Just to give you an idea, here is a sample application form. Note: This is just a sample form to give you an idea. You cannot use this form for application. You will have to take an actual form from the Post Office/Head Post Office in your town!

Here is the information brochure you will get along with the application form. You should download it and read it properly. It tells you about the filling of the form, the exam and some other details.

Can anyone apply, what is the eligibility criteria?
I. Academic Eligibility
The candidate must possess a degree from an Indian University or an educational institution deemed as a University or possess an equivalent qualification. Those in the final year of a degree course can also appear in the Preliminary Examination.

II. Other Eligibility Conditions

1. For the IAS and the IPS, the candidate must be a citizen of India .

2. For the other services, a candidate must be either:

· a citizen of India , or

· a subject of Nepal , or

· a subject of Bhutan , or

· a Tibetan refugee who came over to India before January 1, 1962, with the intention of permanently settling in India , or

· a person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia and Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.

iii. The candidate must have attained 21 years of age on August 1st of the year of examination and must not have attained 30 years of age on that date. The upper age limit will be relaxed by 3 years for OBC candidates and 5 years for SC/ST candidates. The upper age limit is also relaxed in favor of certain categories of civil servants working under the Government of India and Defense Services Personnel.

These are the Govt. stated eligibility criteria. If you come under these, you can give the exam.

When is the examination usually conducted?
The notification for the examination (giving the rules and syllabus for all the subjects in the examination) is published in the month of December every year in the 'Employment News' / 'Rozgar Samachar' and 'Gazette of India ', as well as, in some leading Newspapers.

You should try to get a copy of this notification. The “Preliminary Examination” is usually held in May / June and the “Main Examination” in October / November of the same calendar year.

If you are wondering what the “Main Examination” and the “Preliminary Examination” is, don’t worry! We will be explaining all this in the next page.

People give the exam many times!? How many times are you allowed to give the exam?
· If you belong to the “Open Category” you can give the exam 4 times maximum!

· If you belong to the “OBC” you can give the exam 7 times.

· If you belong to the “SC/ST” you can give the exam as many times as you want. There is no restriction on the number of times!

Where is the exam conducted? Is there a exam center in my city?
The following cities have exam centers:

· Agartala

· Gangtok

· Panaji ( Goa )

· Ahmedabad

· Hyderabad

· Patna

· Aizawl

· Imphal

· Pondicherry

· Aligarh

· Itanagar

· Port Blair

· Allahabad

· Jaipur

· Raipur

· Aurangabad

· Jammu

· Ranchi

· Bangalore

· Jodhpur

· Sambalpur

· Bareilly

· Jorhat

· Shillong

· Bhopal

· Kochi

· Shimla

· Chandigarh

· Kohima

· Srinagar

· Chennai

· Kolkata

· Thiruvananthapuram

· Cuttack

· Lucknow

· Tirupati

· Dehradun

· Madurai

· Udaipur

· Delhi

· Mumbai

· Vishakhapatnam

· Dharwar

· Nagpur

· Dispur

Okay, now let us understand the “format” of the exam...

Pattern or Format of Civil Service Exam!

The Civil Service Examination has a complicated format! The complete exam stretches over a period of one year! So, before you go ahead, let us first try to understand the “format” of the exam.

First of all, in the month of May or June there are the “Preliminary examinations”. Now, in this examination, there are two papers. The papers are on:

1. General Studies (150 marks)
2. Some optional subject (300 marks)

This exam is just to get you to the next round of the “main exam”. This is just to short list candidates. The score you get here is NOT added to your final score.

Now, you are probably wondering what “general studies” and “some optional subject” means, so let us clear that up!

General Studies Paper….
General Studies paper consists of questions on:

1. Indian Polity & Economy

2. History of India including Indian National Movement

3. Indian and World Geography

4. Current Affairs of National and International Importance

5. General and day-to-day Science

6. Mental Ability and Basics of Statistics etc.

Questions on planning, budgeting, developmental programs, latest issues of political and constitutional importance, panchayati raj, electoral reforms, natural resources, culture, growth of nationalism, Committees, Commission etc can be expected every year.

Now-a-days, there is a lot of emphasis on “current affairs” in the general studies paper!

Basically, the syllabus is HUGE and vague. But, don’t worry we shall try to help you with what you need to do. How to prepare for these papers is given later on in the “How to prepare” section…

“Some optional subject” paper
Here you have to give a paper on a subject of your choice. You can choose from the following subjects:

· Agriculture

· Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

· Botany

· Chemistry

· Civil Engineering

· Commerce

· Economics

· Electrical Engineering

· Geography

· Geology

· Indian History

· Law

· Mathematics

· Mechanical Engineering

· Medical Science

· Philosophy

· Physics

· Political Science

· Psychology

· Public Administration

· Sociology

· Statistics

· Zoology

As, you know, to give the exam you need to be a “graduate” in some field. People generally choose their optional subject as the same subject that they graduated in. However, there is no such compulsion. You can choose any subject and give your "optional subject paper" for that subject.

Okay, now after you have given the prelims, you have to wait for the result and see if you got selected for the “Main Examination”! The results generally come out by July or August!

Once the results are out, you will know whether you are going to be appearing for the “Main Examination” or not!

Now, in the main examination, there are “9” papers that you have to give! These papers include:

· 1 Essay type Indian Language Qualifying Paper (300 marks)

· 1 English Qualifying Paper (300 marks)

· 1 General Essay type paper (200 marks)

· 2 General Studies papers (300 marks each)

· 4 Optional subjects papers (300 marks each)

You can find the syllabus for these papers here. Then finally, if you qualify after the “main examination” stage, you have to go for an interview. In the interview, you are tested on basis of your personality, mental ability etc. It is seen how suitable the job will be for you. And, if the interviewers like you, you are selected.

This complete process takes about one year. The preparation for this starts 4-5 yeas in advance. And out of the 2 lakh people that apply, only 400 to 500 are selected! To add to all this, if you are selected and only if you have a good enough score, you are free to choose what you want, whether IAS, IPS etc… IAS and IPS get filled out fastest. If you want to become an IAS officer, you will need a great score!

It’s hard, but we will try to guide you….Next, let us see how you should prepare for the prelims…..

How to prepare for the Civil Services Preliminary Exam?

Now, as you saw in the previous section, in the preliminary examination there are two papers.

1. General studies

2. Optional Subject

Preparing for General Studies Paper
We discussed the “syllabus” of the General Studies paper in the last section. However, as we saw, the syllabus is quite large and vague. However, to prepare for it, you could do the following:

FIRSTLY: For this paper, it is very important to be updated in “current affairs” in all fields.

For History, Economy, Polity, etc, you should read Class 11 and 12 books published by the NCERT. Here are some NCERT e-book downloads that you can use free!

For general knowledge and objective-type questions, refer to the book “General Knowledge Refresher by O.P. Khanna”.

According to IAS topper of 2000, Sorabh Babu Maheshwari, you must read “Competition Success Review” issues from December to May. Just go through them and try to pick as many facts as you can. Also solve the previous years' General Studies Prelims and Model Papers published in Competition Success Review.

When studying for General Studies, you should try to read up as many business and political magazines, newspapers etc. that you can. This has two advantages. It will give you a good control over the English language. This "good control" helps you in many of the papers like the "essay paper", the "English qualifying paper" etc. It will also keep you updated with the latest facts and current affairs.

However, do not over do this. You should not waste your time reading a lot and picking up very few facts! You must try to read only things that matter and take an extra effort to look out for things that could be asked in the exam papers!

How to prepare for the Optional Subject paper?

Before you prepare for the optional subject paper, you first need to select the optional subject.

What subject should you take?

If you have got your “bachelor’s” degree in a particular field, and you are confident about that field then choosing that subject as your optional subject would be a good idea.

It would be wise to look though the syllabus of the subject you are selecting and seeing whether you have covered all of the topics in your degree course and how well you feel you know those topics. You could take a look at the syllabus from here.

Another strategy is to select a subject like “Geography” or “History” if you can mug-up a lot of facts. These subjects help some people to score really well in the prelims and this is what gets them to their “Mains Exam”!

One important thing to remember: After the prelims, you are not going to get much time to prepare for the “Main Exam” if you get selected. It would make a lot of sense to try to study both “General Studies” as well as the “Optional Subject” properly, as if you are studying for the Mains! At least one optional subject of the mains will be almost over! If you do this, your load for the mains will reduce a lot!

How to study for the optional subject?

Well, there are many different subjects and it would not be practical to explain how to study for each individual one. However, we shall help you with the general way to go about it!

Obtain the latest syllabus for the civil service exam you will be giving. Then, gather up all your books, and cover the topics of the syllabus while SIMULTANEOUSLY referring to the question papers and seeing the kind of questions that are asked on each topic!

Now, as you know, the paper will be a multiple choice questions paper. So, people look though the syllabus and make the mistake of assuming something like, “This cannot be asked as a multiple-choice question! What can they possibly ask?” This is a BIG mistake!

They can convert just about anything into a confusing multiple choice question. So a good understanding of all the concepts of the syllabus is a must!

Another thing to remember, when you start to study for the prelims, you might tend to want to focus more on the “optional subject” since you already know it and it is easier! Do not do this! Make sure you concentrate on the “General Studies” paper also. If you do not, you will just not reach the Mains!

Remember also not to over concentrate on the “General Studies” paper. It has fewer marks than the optional subject. So, basically, do not “over” or “under” focus on any one! Do both in the right proportion. (We know that all this is easier to say than do!)

Now, let us assume that you have given your Prelims exams and are now going in for the MAINS, let us see how to tackle them…

How to prepare for the "Mains Exam"? - Part 1

Okay, just to re-cap, let us first understand what are the papers you will have to give in the mains examination:

· 1 Essay type Indian Language Paper (300 marks)

· 1 English Qualifying Paper (300 marks)

· 1 General Essay type paper (200 marks)

· 2 General Studies papers (300 marks each)

· 4 Optional subjects papers (300 marks each)

In case you are confused about what "4 optional subject papers" means, let us just clear that up first. You see, for the "mains exam" you have to select 2 optional subjects. And on each of these optional subjects, you will have to give 2 papers. So that makes 4 optional subject papers in all!

As we said earlier, when you are studying for the prelims, you should study both the “optional subject” and the “general studies” really well! If you do this, you can use the same knowledge to give the mains exam. It will reduce your study load for the mains exam a lot! When studying for the mains exam, one of the optional subjects will be almost done and a lot of the “general studies” syllabus will be covered!

If you are confused about what the “mains” is all about, you might want to go back and take a look at the “Format of Civil service exam” page!

How to choose the second optional subject?
To select the second optional subject, you must decide on basis of two factors:

1. The availability of study material/books etc. on the subject you select.

2. The amount of interest you have in that subject!

Study material is generally a problem! So you should keep a look out for good books etc. that cover the syllabus of the optional subjects you select.

Now, as we decided previously, one optional subject will be the same as the optional subject you chose in the prelims! The other optional subject could be something like “history” or “geography” etc. if you can mug-up a lot of facts! On the other hand, if you have interest in some other subject and you can find enough study material on it, you should definitely go for that subject.

The list of options you have for your optional subject's is here:

· Agriculture

· Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science

· Botany

· Chemistry

· Civil Engineering

· Commerce

· Economics

· Electrical Engineering

· Geography

· Geology

· Indian History

· Law

· Mathematics

· Mechanical Engineering

· Medical Science

· Philosophy

· Physics

· Political Science

· Psychology

· Public Administration

· Sociology

· Statistics

· Zoology

· Arabic

· Assamese

· Bengali

· Gujarati

· Hindi

· Kannada

· Kashmiri

· Konkani

· Marathi

· Malayalam

· Manipuri

· Nepali

· Oriya

· Pali

· Persian

· Punjabi

· Russian

· Sanskrit

· Sindhi

· Tamil

· Telugu

· Urdu

Here is the link to the mains syllabus of these subjects!

Please Note: You see many languages listed about as optional subjects. In case of these languages, the syllabus consists of literature etc. that is written in that language. You can check out the syllabuses here.

How to prepare for the "Mains Exam"? - Part 2

What is “General Essay Type” paper? What do they ask in that paper?

In this paper, you will be required to write an essay on a specific topic. The choice of topic will be given. You should keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange your ideas in orderly fashion, and to concisely!

Just to give you an idea, here are the topics of the 2001 essay type paper.

Write an essay on ANY ONE of the following subjects:
1. What have we gained from our democratic set-up?
2. My vision of an ideal world order
3. The march of science and the erosion of human values
4. Irrelevance of the classroom
5. The pursuit of excellence
6. Empowerment alone cannot help our women.

So, how to tackle the essay type paper?

Read a lot of essays. Read as many essays as you can get your hands on. One good source of high-quality essays, are the essays published in the CSR or Competiation Succes Review. Try to get a hold of their magazine. It is full of useful information!

Make sure you read only “great” essays by “top” authors! This will give you a feel of how essays are written. Also try to get a good book on writing essays. There will be many available in your local book store. There is pattern or way in which you essay must be structured. All this can be learnt from a good book on writing essays.

Finally, practice! Write essays on challenging topics and get them read by friends and colleagues or teachers who have a degree in the English language. They may be able to give you some good pointers to improve your presentation on performance.

Vinod K.Jacob, Topper 2000 suggest that this is how you should actually use your time when writing the essay paper in the exam:

45 minutes can be given for planning out structure and content of your essay, then two hours of writing (around 200 words). Finally, 15 minutes just in case you need some extra time to write some more or read though your essay and improve and correct it!

What is the “English qualifying paper” all about?
The English Qualifying paper is just a “Qualifying” paper. It does not add to your final score.. The paper is designed to prove that you have a good command over the English language.

The paper will consist of:
(i) Comprehension of given passages.
(ii) Precis Writing
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary
(iv) Short Essay

If you have studied in an English medium school, this paper will be easy for you to prepare for. This format is very similar to the format that the school English papers have!

If you have not studied in an English language school you will have to take some effort to master the English language. You can do this by reading a lot. You need to read and try to properly understand what you read. Keep a dictionary with you always. Keep referring to in with any new word you come across. Interact with fluent English speakers. All this will give you control over the language.

You could also try to read’s “How to speak English fluently?” article. It has many useful tips to help non-English speakers learn and master the English language.

However, if you are from a non-English medium school, you have on thing in your favor. The “Qualifying Indian Language paper” will be easy for you!

What is the “Qualifying Indian Language paper” all about?
This paper is just like the English language paper. It is designed to prove that you have a good command over some Indian language. This paper too is just a qualifying paper. The marks you get in this paper is not added to the final score. You just need to get enough to qualify!

You can give this paper in one of the following Indian languages:

· Assamese

· Bengali

· Gujarati

· Hindi

· Kannada

· Kashmiri

· Konkani

· Marathi

· Malayalam

· Manipuri

· Nepali

· Oriya

· Punjabi

· Sanskrit

· Sindhi

· Tamil

· Telugu

· Urdu

This paper generally consists of the following:
(i) Comprehension of given passages.
(ii) Precis Writing
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary.
(iv) Short Essay
(v) Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa.

If you do not have command over an Indian language, this paper could be a problem for you. You might have to read up and concentrate on the paper until you get a hang of the language you select.

If you have a good command over an Indian language, you will not have worry too much about this paper. Just worry about your presentation and practice writing a few papers!

Okay, finally after all this is over, we get to the last part of the “Civil service exam” selection process! The interview!! So, lets try to understand, how to tackle the interview next!

How to give the civil service exam interview?

Now, if you have got though all the 9 papers of the mains exam well, you should get your interview call by about March or April. In the interview, your confidence, personality and understanding of the world is judged.

The interview is quite subjective. We cannot give any definite advise about how you can prepare for it. It would definitely be good if you read some book about how to prepare and deliver an interview.

Here we have provided for you a huge compilation of “tips” given by civil service exam toppers like Mr.Sorabh Babu Maheshwari, Ms. Manju Rajpal, Mr. Santosh Kumar Misra etc.

Here is what they think about the interview and how they think you should deal with it:

"Questions posed before a candidate by the interviewing board are very well framed and answers to them should be made taking into consideration all possible views and a balanced approach is expected from a candidate."

"One should prepare for the interview with a group of 3-4 people as the preparation for Interview cannot be done in isolation. Personality is a life-time asset and expecting miraculous changes in personality in a span of a few days or weeks is not possible. Yet, efforts can be made to overcome major deficiency and polishing of views and opinions."

"Remember, non-awareness of something should be admitted with politeness. It is okay to not know something!"

"If at any point of time, you could show that your approach is flexible the world is yours."

"It is better to say 'No' than to bluff around. Those interviewing are highly experienced persons and know much better than us."

"If the question put is not clear to you, politely ask for more information. It is not the factual knowledge but your views which are on test in the interview."

"Always observe interview etiquette and be honest, polite, convincing an modest. Arrogance, rigidity, flicking round the issue should be avoided."

"When preparing for the interview, keep in mind that no Training institute can improve your personality! Some of these institutes can be helpful if they conduct Group Discussions and Mock Interviews"

"General Do's & Don'ts for the Interview:

1. Be utmost respectful to the board. They are usually very senior and learned people.

2. Have no biases for any Board . Don't go by any stories doing rounds in your campus corridors.

3. Never make any sweeping statement

4. Accept your mistakes boldly."

"Interview preparation does not require one to stuff oneself with facts, ability to analyse and to critically examine an issue is what actually counts."

"Speak honestly, truthfully and with modesty. Understand the questions before answering them and clarify the points if you did not understand them. Many a time what happens is that your answer is misinterpreted, so do not hesitate in clarifying it."

"Framing your own questions and answering them (especially recording them on to a tape and listening them) is a very useful technique, if you don't feel confident. Otherwise also it is extremely helpful in making a correct choice of words while answering a question."

"Reach the Exam centre well in time, so some deep breathing to maintain your cool and be charming during the interview."

"Interview preparation is not just a matter of a few days - your whole personality counts. Still you must acquaint yourself with your home State, district your college, your hobbies, general concepts of Public Administration, etc. also you can brush up the Mains GS material like Polity, Economy, History, etc."

"Interview is more of a psychological test than just content based. But along with good communication skills and self-confidence, good knowledge base gives you an upper hand."

"For the Interview read as many newspapers and as many magazine as possible. Discuss with your friends. Take mock-interviews. Try to find loop-holes in your arguments and plug them. Form your views on various subjects in a very logical and rational manner supported by data whenever necessary. Do not get nervous."

"Do not get nervous before the Interviews. Improve your communications skills by giving mock-interviews. These will also open you up. Ask your friends to grill you, so that you can face pressure from the Board easily."

"Always pause a bit before answering even if you know the answer. Do not give a hasty reply.. Answer in an orderly and logical fashion an always look into the eyes of the interviewer while answering. Be polite and courteous."

"Don't be argumentative. Be consistent in your views, i.e. just don't change your views because of the fact that the Board is differing with you. Remember that they are only testing you and often even try to provoke you. Give balanced answers and avoid taking extremes."

"The most important thing to know about the Interview is that it is not a question-answer session and what they are looking out for is different aspects of one's personality. As far as possible, the answer given should reveal a particular aspect of one's personality and attempts should not be made to present a make-up appearance or politically correct answers. There is no harm in taking extreme views if one is able to justify them."

That is the complete compilation of all the tips on facing the interview provided by the IAS toppers. Now, finally, let us look at a sample study plan as suggested by an IAS topper…

A study schedule for the Civil Services Exam!

Here is a suggested Study time table by Exam topper Santosh Kumar Misra. It can help you plan out your studies for giving the exam!

Start in December

December to February: Finish your Optional Subject preparation. The "Optional Subject" is NOT the one you are going to be giving in the prelims! The other optional subject! The one you will be giving in the Mains!

March & April: Devote fully to the Preparation of Optional 1 (i.e., the subject you'll opt in the prelims) thoroughly.

May should be spent exclusively for Prelims. A selective and precise coverage of syllabus for the prelims is required.

Give your Preliminary Exams!

Take a break after the Prelims for 10-15 days. Relax and re-energize yourself for the last four months.

Complete the Optional-1 where you left it at the time of Prelims. This should be done by the middle of July.

Give second half of July and August to your Optional 2, once again.

Prepare all your General Studies including current events in September and leave October for Revision. Also prepare for your "English qualifying paper" and "Indian Language qualifying" paper now! However, you are weak in English or the Indian language, you will have start this preparation a little earlier!

Give your mains!

After your Mains are over, take a break for say a month or so. Just keep reading Newspaper/Magazines (Hindu & Frontline's international events are a good combination).

From January you should start preparing for your round two. Prepare the topics you could not do in your 1st attempt and try to cover any, new areas where you feel you were weak. By March, you should be fully prepare to tackle the Mains once again (hopefully you won't need it, still it pays to be prepared).

In March the results come out and immediately afterwards you should start your interview preparation.

Give your interview! Get selected! OVER!

We hope that you found this article useful. If you did, remember to tell your friends who are studying for the IAS/IPS or Civil Services Exam about it. Besides that, we wish you BEST OF LUCK! Just writing all this is easy. However, actually doing all this is a very different story!

We hope that YOU do succeed and help change the face of the county and contribute to India becoming a super-power!

Best Of Luck!

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