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This is one of the many steps that UPSC is planning to include in the recruitment process of the civil services examination. By now CSAT has been conducted twice and UPSC has ensured that the Civil Services preliminary examination maintains its distinct flavor. It would be grossly wrong to think that the aptitude test (CSAT) of civil services is similar to that CAT, XAT, MAT, Bank PO etc. Few distinct features of the CSAT conducted by UPSC are as follows: Almost half of the paper is reading comprehension. Almost no emphasis on the quantitative aptitude. More than 25 % of the paper was logical reasoning (logical consistency). Decision making has a unique social and administrative flavor. What UPSC has ensured through paper of this kind? Most of the aptitude tests are highly biased in favor of people who are good in quantitative aptitude or those students who come from engineering/science and commerce background. A simple example of this is in the CAT examination 2012 close to 65 percent of test takers are engineers and test takers from humanities background is close to 6 percent. The representation of students from humanities background in the IIMs is far worse (less than 2 percent). But UPSC, through its paper, has ensured that such bias against test-takers of humanities back ground is done away with. In the CS pre exam-2012, the number of questions of quantitative aptitude was just 2. UPSC has got a special responsibility to short-list candidates who can perform duties that are entrusted on them. While performing these duties, the civil servant should be in a position to appreciate social and economic conditions of the people for whom he/she is expected to decide. Keeping this in mind, UPSC has included questions of decision making, which test a candidate not only on his decision making ability but also his ability to appreciate socio-economic conditions of the target group. Through these measures, UPSC has maintained a unique flavor of the civil services examination and has differentiated it from other aptitude based tests. How to prepare for the examination? Now the analysis above brings us to the next and the most important question: How to prepare for the test? Is there no need to prepare mathematics? How to prepare for Reading Comprehension? The questions can be many more. But we need to address the most important ones. Can I leave the quantitative aptitude section in my preparation for the preliminary examination? The answer is no. Regardless of the fact that the number of questions from this section is dismally low but one should not forget that mathematic is basis of logic and reasoning. Those who wish to train their logical reasoning and ability should know basics of mathematics as well. From the paper, it can be easily deduced that the level of mathematics that is used in the examination is hardly of VIII standard (CBSE board). All of those who appear for the preliminary examination must have passed the VIII standard examination. So there is nothing to worry. These things can be learnt very easily and this helps a candidate to solve the questions of logical reasoning and data interpretation etc. Moreover, the pattern of the UPSC is still in the nascent stage and it is possible that questions of quantitative aptitude may increase in the coming CSAT examination.
How to prepare for the reading comprehension section of the preliminary examination? It is beyond doubt that the reading comprehension has emerged as the most important section of the CSAT. On both the occasions (pre exam of 2011 and 2012), the reading comprehension section constituted more than 50 percent of the paper. So it is imperative to pay attention to this section. Now there are few important things that we need to understand when we prepare for the reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is not about reading very fast. No one expects you to be Swami Vivekananda (And I guess Swamiji won’t be interested in becoming a civil servant). Some say that Swamiji had the ability to read a page in one second (and remember the entire text verbatim). A decent level of vocabulary is required for the reading comprehension in English (For the Hindi medium students things are more difficult because of the use of literary Hindi used in the translation) It is advisable to prepare reading comprehension in English language as few questions are there to test proficiency in the English language. We should read the kind of text that is used by the UPSC in making reading comprehension passage more often. Regular practice and discussion is also required to sharpen one’s ability to approach reading comprehension questions. This section definitely holds the key to success not only in the preliminary but also in the main examination. Now many of you may think that how can reading comprehension section be important for the main examination. The answer is that reading comprehension ability of a candidate reflects his/her ability to comprehend, interpret and analyze the information that is given to him/her. Studying subjects like polity, economy, geography, history etc also require this type of ability. The UPSC has migrated from rote learning to analytical form of testing and considering this fact, reading comprehension is very important for a candidate’s success in the examination. How to prepare for the logical reasoning section of the CSAT? The logical reasoning section of the examination is a mixture of logical consistency, syllogism and verbal reasoning. The key to approach this section is to prepare syllogism and critical reasoning. The nature of the paper (CSAT) has been such that the focus was on syllogism. But at the same time the approach is to test logical consistency and critical reasoning ability, which is the pivot of the decision making ability of a candidate. The right approach to prepare this section is to blend syllogism with critical reasoning and this will ensure good accuracy in the questions of the mentioned type. How to prepare for the decision making section of the CSAT? A mere mention of this topic in the syllabus brought a wry smile on the face of those who had public administration as one of the subjects. They were of the view that Simon’s decision making would be asked and they will have an edge over others. But decision making questions asked in the examination was based primarily on the logical reasoning aspect of decision making. In some questions, UPSC also tested on the socio-economic aspect of decision making. The best way to approach this section is not have any bias against and selecting the best course of action (this section has multiple correct answers). It is expected that in the coming years, the type and the nature of questions in this section will increase and test-takers should be open to test their ability on newer formats of questions. Conclusion:
This is a bird’s eye view of an approach to prepare for CSAT-13. Here it is important to highlight that good performance in CSAT increases the chance of clearing the preliminary examination. The reasons for the same are simple. It is easier to score 125-150 marks in CSAT (and almost impossible in general studies). Considering the fact that cut-off for the preliminary examination was close to 200 marks, CSAT becomes all the more important. A systematic approach towards the paper can guarantee success in the Civil Services preliminary examination.
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