Monday, 25 June 2018

Preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Examination - Prelims by Satyakam Dutta - Part 2

We shall discuss the following two topics in the syllabus for the preliminary stage of the UPSC Civil Services Examination – 
1) Current events of national and international importance and,
2) History of India and Indian National Movement.

One should be aware that “Current events of national and international” can encompass anything and everything under the sun, which is being talked about in current times. Generally Current events in UPSC parlance is anything within the time period of 3 years. Endosulfan was in news much previously but the question in UPSC regarding Endosulfan came a couple of years later. Hence, it is important that one should follow news roughly for a period of 3 years but news within 2 years should be covered invariably. However, the most recent news are asked more in numbers than those 2-3 years ago.

For the current events portion, one should religiously follow newspapers everyday. It is a thumb rule that anyone who prepares for the Civil Services reads The Hindu newspaper. There is a good reason behind it. The Hindu (as also the Assam Tribune, which I read religiously now and has become a morning habit for me) explains each and every thing from a beginner’s point of view, without resorting to sensationalism. I used to supplement my reading of Current Affairs with another newspaper The Indian Express in order to have a neutral point of view regarding current affairs and reading multiple newspapers balances our views to a large extent.

Along with a few good newspapers for Current affairs, reading a few magazines is a must for the Current Affairs portion. Though many recommend The Frontline, I used to pick it up for reading only when I had a lot of free time, because topics were detailed a lot therein and in UPSC examination, in the Prelims it is only a multiple choice paper and in the mains, not more than 10-12 points are expected in any answer. I suggest one should have a wide knowledge of many things and not deep knowledge of a few things. UPSC exam does not require research level study. For Current Affairs, I used to read “Competition Wizard” and sometimes “Civil Services Chronicle”. Both these magazines are very good in terms of Current Affairs. One can also read “Pratiyogita Darpan” and “Civil Services Times”, if the above two are not readily available. I do not know much about the latest magazines, but during our times these magazines were followed widely. There is a good thing about Competition Wizard that they use to put a box along with the articles wherein the main points in the article are summarized. This helps in quick revision of the article later. Also, in case the aspirant finds the articles very long, one can try to skim through it and find out the relevant paragraphs and read them only. As I said earlier, UPSC is not looking for researchers.

These days in the Prelims question paper, Paper -1, roughly 50-60% of the questions come from Current Affairs or are somehow related to Current news only. Sometimes even more. Hence, it is the most important topic to cover. And newspapers are the best resources for Current Affairs, supplemented by a good magazine or two.

For the “History of India and Indian National Movement” topic, the focus was primarily on the Indian National Movement more than the History of India part during the time I wrote the examination. One should be very clear about the Indian National Movement part. The books I followed were “India’s Struggle for Independence” by Bipan Chandra and Spectrum’s “A brief History of Modern India”. These two books if read thoroughly shall suffice the Indian National Movement part. For History of India, many selected candidates read “The Wonder that was India” by A. L. Basham. Though the book might take some time for one to read, such investment therein shall definitely bear results.

Apart from these, for both the topics discussed today, one should be very thorough with the newspapers. If a matter of history or freedom struggle is highlighted in a newspapers, or comes in news, it becomes important for the purpose of the examination. The aspirant may also would like to read the analysis of the Prelims question paper of the earlier years done in the website For current affairs portion, one can explore and

Other articles in the series on Prelims:


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