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Best Resources To Crack UPSC Civil Service Main Exam

Best Resources To Crack UPSC Civil Service Main Exam

The Civil Service Exam, one of the most competitive exam, is conducted on a national level.

The exam is conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). It is organized to recruit appropriate candidates for various civil services like IAS, IPS, IFS, etc.

The exam is conducted in two phases, viz., a preliminary exam and a mains exam.

A candidate is allowed to sit for the main exam only if s/he qualifies both the papers of initial exam.

Though preliminary exam is objective type, the main exam is a subjective (essay) type.

There are nine papers in the main examination followed by a personality test, i.e., an interview.

A candidate becomes eligible for the applied post only if s/he clears all the levels of the UPSC Civil Service Examination.

Since I have  discussed about UPSC Civil Service Preliminary Examination in another article. In this article, I will explain in detail about UPSC Civil Service Main Exam.

  • UPSC Civil Service Main Exam Pattern

The main exam consists of nine papers and an interview. All papers are descriptive in nature.

This exam aims to check the academic excellence and ability to write answers in a coherent manner.

Out of the nine papers two are of qualifying nature while seven are of ranking nature.

The marks of paper A and B are not included in the merit list of the main exam.

Candidates who qualify the first two exams are ranked to their marks. Then among these candidates, a few are shortlisted for the personality test/interview.

According to the new marks allocations in Civil Service Examination, the following is the exam pattern of the main exam.

Paper Subject Nature Marks
Paper A Any Modern Indian language from the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India Qualifying 300
Paper B English Qualifying 300
Paper I Essay (in any language as per candidate’s choice.) 250
Paper II General Studies I (Indian Heritage and Culture,

History and Geography of the World and Society)

Paper III General Studies II (Governance, Constitution, policy, social justice, and international relations) 250
Paper-IV General Studies III (Technology, economic development, biodiversity, environment, security and disaster management) 250
Paper V General Studies-IV (ethics, integrity, and aptitude) 250
Paper VI Optional Subject-I (as per the candidate’s choice) 250
Paper VII Optional Subject-II (as per the candidate’s choice) 250

Optional Subjects For UPSC Civil Service Main Exam

The subjects available for Papers VI and VII are:

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Commerce and Accountancy
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • History
  • Law
  • Literature of any one of the non-English languages listed above
  • Management
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Zoology

Public administration is one of the most sought after optional subjects due to its overlapping content with other subjects like Current Affairs, History, and Polity.

The standards of Optional papers is of Post Graduate level.

The paper I is theoretical whereas Paper II mostly contains Current Affairs and Application based questions.

The subtotal of the written exam (including all 9 papers) is 1750.

The written exam is followed by an interview/personality test. The number of marks for the interview is 275.

Further, I have explained in detail the composition of all written papers.

  • Paper A

This paper is of qualifying nature. Though marks of this paper are not counted, clearing this exam is mandatory.

The composition of the paper is as under.

(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.

  • Paper B

Similar to paper A, clearing this exam is compulsory. However, marks obtained in this exam are not considered while calculating the merit.

This exam aims to check reading, understanding, and comprehension skills of the candidate.

The pattern of questions would be as follows:-

(i) Comprehension of given passages

(ii) Precise Writing

(iii) Usage and Vocabulary

(iv) Short Essay

Note: Please note that both papers will be of 10+2 level. The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where translation is involved).

Paper I

  • The candidate has to attempt the paper in the language of his/her choice.
  • The essay should be written on a particular topic.
  • The topic will be one of choice given to the candidate.
  • The content should be strictly according to the topic.
  • The candidate will be marked as per the effectiveness and authenticity of the content.

Paper II

  • Indian culture: salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian history (18th century-present)- significant events, personalities, issues.
  • The Freedom Struggle
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  • History of the world: events from the 18th century like the industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
  • Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
  • The role of women and women’s organization, social,  and, political issues.
  • Effects of globalization on Indian society
  • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
  • Salient features of world’s physical geography.

Distribution of the main natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).

Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

Paper III

  • Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, important provisions and basic structure.
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges about the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  • Separation of powers between various organs disputes redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.
  • Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Statutory, regulatory and diverse quasi-judicial bodies.
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Issues related to development and administration of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency, and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • Role of civil services in a democracy.
  • India and its neighborhood- relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and affecting India’s interests.
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Major international institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

Paper IV

  • Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development, and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Significant cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
  • Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
  • Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • Land reforms in India.
  • Effects of liberalization on the economy changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  • Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.
  • Investment models.
  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

  • Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
  • Disaster and emergency management.
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  • The role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering, and its prevention.
  • Security problems and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
  • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Paper V

This paper will include questions related to relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem-solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society.

The aim of this paper is to test the candidate’s attitude and approach to issues.

Questions may utilize the case study approach to determine these aspects.

Broadly, following areas will be covered in this paper.

  • Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants, and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships.
  • Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers, and administrators; the role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
  • Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
  • Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections.
  • Emotional intelligence concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.
  • Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.
  • Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s
  • Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.
  • Case Studies on above issues.

Paper VI and VII

Topics will vary as per the candidates chose the subjects.

Please note that marks of the exams (except Paper A & B) will be considered while preparing the merit.

However, the Commission will have the discretion to fix qualifying marks in any or all papers of the examination.

For any other information, candidates can visit UPSC’s official website (www.upsc.gov.in).

Interview Tips For UPSC Civil Service Main Exam

The objective of the interview/ Personality Test is to assess the worthiness of a candidate as a public servant. This round evaluates the mental calibre of a candidate.

Broadly, several aspects like social traits, mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, the balance of judgement, variety, and depth of interest, the ability for social cohesion and leadership, and intellectual and moral integrity are assessed in this round.

Candidates are expected to have a deep knowledge of their special subjects of academic study, and current affairs.

How To Prepare For UPSC Civil Service Main Exam

After getting acquainted with what all is included in the main examination, it’s time to know how to prepare for the UPSC Civil Service Main Examination.

No doubt, clearing the main exam is a hard row to hoe but one can be through it with right preparation.

Therefore, all that you need is a good plan, a right mindset, and a correct approach.

Cling to these basic yet vital tips to make your way through the exam.

  1. Go through the syllabus from top to bottom.
  2. Make notes while you prepare for the exam.
  3. Do lots of written practice and improve your presentation skills.
  4. Practice previous year question papers to understand the pattern.
  5. Work on your time management skills.
  6. Don’t refer too much books for a particular topic. Select a standard book and stick to it.
  7. Work on you written language and general awareness.
  8. Be regular in your preparation.

And now I would like to mention a few resources that’ll help you prepare for the exam.

Resources To Prepare for UPSC Civil Service Main Examination

  1. India’s Struggle For Independence – Bipan Chandra. (History)
  2. Geography of India – Majid Husain. (Geography)
  3. Oxford School Atlas – Oxford. (Geography)
  4. Certificate Physical and Human Geography – Goh Cheng Leong. (Geography)
  5. Manorama Yearbook. (Current Affairs)
  6. Contemporary Essays by Ramesh Singh OR 151 ESSAYS For UPSC Mains (Essay Paper)
  7. India After Gandhi – Ramchandra Guha (History – GS1)
  8. Norman Lowe OR History of Modern World – Jain and Mathur (World History – GS1)
  9. Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations – M. Laxmikanth. (Polity)
  10. Indian Economy – Ramesh Singh. (Economy)
  11. Economic Survey. (Economy)
  12. Science and Technology in India – TMH. (Science and Technology)
  13. Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure – Rajagopalan. (Environment)
  14. The Wonder That Was India – A.L. Basham. (Culture)
  15. India’s Ancient Past – R.S. Sharma. (Culture)
  16. Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania. (Culture)
  17. History Of Modern India – Bipan Chandra. (History)
  18. The environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains – Khuller. (Environment)
  19. India Year Book (Current Affairs)
  20. Social Problems In India – Ram Ahuja. (Indian Society – GS1)
  21. IAS Mains General Studies Paper 2 (Arihant Manual – GS2)
  22. Governance in India for CSE. (Governance – GS2)
  23. Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor. (Foreign Policy – GS2)
  24. India and the World by Surendra Kumar. (Foreign Policy – GS2)
  25. IAS Mains General Studies – GS3. (Arihant Manual – GS3)
  26. India’s National Security: A Reader. (Internal Security – GS3)
  27. Challenges to Internal Security of India. (Internal Security – GS3)
  28. Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. ( Ethics – GS4)
  29. IAS Mains General Studies – Ethics. ( Arihant Manual – GS4)

Bonus Tips:

Let’s hear from the toppers Tina Dabi (AIR 1) and Athar Aamir (AIR 2).

Cracking UPSC exams is not a child’s play. It requires utmost dedication and devotion along with consistent hard work. The good part is that clearing UPSC exams doesn’t require you to have topped in school or college. Even if you have been an average or below average student all through your life, you still can make it to the civil services. All you need is strong determination and a serious desire to become a civil servant.

CaptureA statement by R.A. Israel Jebasingh. Source: The Hindu

Indian Civil Services exam is arguably the toughest of all competitive exams. While preparing for it, every minute is crucial. In this context, here is an important advice by Ishan Pratap Singh (AIR 201):

.12Source: Quora


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