Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tackling with GS

Some sends their query mentioning they are zero in GS and what is to be done to build on the subject. Eventually, those who are selected in CSE have a very good background in GS and they did not build it up in a year or two. When they mention their period of preparation as one or two years, it does not include the time they have spent on GS. Ninety per cent of them started to build up on GK, even before they heard of CSE. What they did during their period of preparation was only streamlining their knowledge towards the requirements of CSE as per the syllabus.
If you lag behind in this count, the only remedy is devoting more time to this area and leaving nothing to chance. As I mentioned earlier, no selective study is possible in this subject, except for current affairs.
Some students complain that they read news papers daily, but they have no idea as to what is to be studied from the paper. For them, my tips are:
1. Leave petty political news such as meaningless controversies and statements, minor accidents, stealing, chain snatching, rape, minor skirmishes between the countries, etc.
2. Pay more attention to major accidents (the place/countries where these occurred, the reasons, impacts, etc.), names of storms/cyclones and the countries affected, the constitutional implications behind the controversies (for example, the Women’s Bill), age old disputes between the countries, peace/climate conferences, the places where these conferences occurred and their results/impacts, elections and change of governments in other countries, the background of such changes, major development initiatives of the governments (at centre/states), people’s initiative towards better governance, news/developments related to RTI Act, activities of CVC & Election Commission, elections in states, India’s relations with other countries, especially her neighbours, political developments in SAARC countries, major Bills passed by the Parliament, important books published in the year, etc.
3. Read in detail the items figured in DD News.
4. As I mentioned earlier, take note of important items that you may forget. If practical, keep paper cuttings and go through it regularly.
5. Read all items in the editorial and op-ed pages of “The Hindu”.
6. Go through previous years’ questions on GS (both Prelims and Mains) frequently. This will help you to have a self-evaluation of the importance of a news item.
7. Assess your knowledge with the help of “model questions” appearing in periodicals and intensify your efforts accordingly.
8. The Current affairs items featuring in magazines like Civil Services Chronicles give you an indication as to which news items are to be concentrated.
9. While going through the previous questions, you may see that the 2 marks /5 marks questions (short answer type) are very important. In fact, your final ranking will be decided by these questions. It is very easy to score full marks in these questions. So, never leave any portion in GS and pay attention to even the minutest points. It is challenging as well as interesting to learn these items.
10. Keep your eyes and ears open. You may get a new idea or piece of information from a piece of paper or even from conversation between two strangers sitting beside you in train. Keep the curiosity of your mind alive. When somebody tells you that he is coming from Cooch Bihar in Assam, do not think that he is “some Bihari.” Instead, take it as an opportunity to come across a new place name which may help you increase your knowledge and finally get through the IAS.
11. Many candidates ask me where to begin with, for GK. The best starting point for GK is the knowledge about the countries. Many people end up learning the capitals and currencies of the countries in a mechanical manner. But there are many things more about the countries. Try to learn everything about a single country. You will learn much about its mountains, rivers, great leaders, influence of that country in history, art, science, great writers, etc. It will definitely lead you to another country because no country existed in total isolation. I often advise my friends to begin from the test playing countries. For instance, if you explore the reasons for a small “fraction” of the British Flag (Union Jack) in the national flags of Australia and New Zealand, you will get amazing and interesting facts about these two countries. Also, it may be interesting to know that there are many countries which play test cricket under the common banner of West Indies. Also, many candidates know how these countries got the common name West Indies. But there was an “East Indies” as well! To trade with this country, many European nations formed “East India Companies”, Dutch East India Company, French East India Company and English East India Company. Yes, the “East Indies” was none other than our motherland. The English succeeded in establishing their monopoly in the real “East East Indies.” The French got monopoly in farther east. To overcome their disappointment of not getting control over India, they called the land “French East Indies” (presently Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). The Dutch got control in still farther east and in their fondness to India, they called the land “Dutch East Indies.” It later came to be known as Indonesia. Cricket originated in England. But do you know, what is the difference between England, Great Britain and UK? Which are the major contributions of Britain in sports, polity, science, literature and culture? This type of relative knowledge will lead to a good basis in GK.
It is the curiosity in us that prompt us to know more. You cannot get a good basis in GK, if you learn only to get through the CSE. You are sure to fail in CSE also, because the exam is designed to test your foundations and not your objectivity. So, never seek short cuts. If you have not enough time to improve your GK, it is your necessity to find time. (My point is, the GK base should be made from the very first day of your education, and not on the day you decide to give a try at CSE).{ Courtsey: Target IAS community}

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