Anyone with the right amount of practice and a little common sense can do well.
Easiest topic first is a time-tested strategy that should be used to get a good score.
The time has come to sit down and start preparing for the most competitive exam in India. Aptitude tests have become an integral part of any competitive examination, especially if it is meant to select the people who would be the drivers of the Great Indian Growth Story. Civil Services Aptitude Test, the new pattern of the Civil Services Preliminary exam, conducted by UPSC, need not cause heartburn among the lakhs of candidates who are set to appear for it. A first step in any preparation should invariably involve understanding the syllabus. Now it is time to shore up your skills with some tips and tricks.
General mental ability
General mental ability is a basic measure of IQ which is used by psychologists the world over and is commonly found in most competitive exams. It involves tests of verbal and non-verbal ability. Verbal ability is generally measured by means of verbal analogy where the relationships between words are tested. For example, if word A is related to word B, then word C is related to what? It is necessary first to determine the relationship between A and B and apply the same to C. Here a good knowledge of synonyms and antonyms of standard words is required. But now is not the time to start gobbling up that dictionary. Most tests only involve words of general usage. While reading the newspaper next time, try to understand words with the help of their context and usage.
Non-verbal ability may be tested by means of visual tests which involve choosing the picture which comes next in a sequence or which fits best in the given picture. Many such questions based on visual ability are available in standard books on mental ability.
Coding and decoding is another type of question you might encounter which involves use of letters, numbers or symbols in a code that is to be deciphered. So, give a free rein to all your aspirations to be a spy! But you don't have to be a James Bond to solve them. All it requires close attention to the symbols given.
It also helps to write out the whole alphabet and number the letters in a rough sheet so as to avoid careless mistakes. Finding the odd one out in a given set of letters or words again involves first determining the relationship between the given set and choosing the one that does not belong to this set.
These kinds of questions are part of logic which involves statements, conclusions and rules to arrive at the conclusions. You should arrive at the given conclusion based on the statements or state whether a given conclusion can be inferred from the statements.
Some basic rules should be kept in mind solving such questions. Never make any assumption other than what is already stated in the questions, however logical it might seem. Choose only the conclusion which must definitely follow from the question.
Numerical ability can be brushed up by refreshing knowledge of basic mathematics from school textbooks, starting from Class VI if required. Topics such as calculus and algebra can be safely ignored. Number sequence is a favourite in such tests. Using simple arithmetic rules, a single or sometimes, two alternating number sequences are to be identified and the missing number chosen. Practising many such sequences would make it easy to identify them in tests. In recent years it has been noticed that general mental ability requires adequate knowledge of probability, permutation and combinations too.
This topic can be easily covered by referring to NCERT books for mathematics for Class XI and XII. Data interpretation skills can be improved by starting from the basics of statistics, which can be found in the NCERT statistics books, all of which are available online at http://ncert.nic.in/NCERTS/textbook/textbook.htm.
Interpersonal skills including communication skills cannot be easily tested in a written test. But the examiner can give real life situations and expect you to show your communication skills in choosing the right response by understanding the meaning conveyed in a passage. Here the questions on comprehension, problem-solving and decision-making might easily overlap. In all such questions, it is important to read the hypothetical situation carefully. It is necessary to use both common sense and knowledge of how a good leader and administrator might react. Always analyse each of the alternatives given and evaluate their consequences with respect to efficiency and propriety.
Needless to say, this section should not require you to burn the midnight oil. A cool head is all it needs. In reading comprehension questions, don't panic if you see a passage full of jargon. Ignore the technical words and try to understand the gist of the passage in the first read. Then read all the questions and with them in mind, read the passage again, this time identifying the relevant portions for the answers. One basic strategy that experts say should be part of your arsenal is the art of elimination. If a question seems difficult or if you are hard pressed for time, it is recommended that you try to eliminate as many alternatives as possible based on your analysis of the question. You should keep in mind the one-third negative marks applicable for a wrong answer. This means that out of four alternatives, if you have eliminated two, it's a safe bet to choose any one of the other two.
Another trick is a basic strategy of problem-solving in psychology. It involves working backwards from the question starting from each of the alternatives. The alternative which lets you arrive logically to the question statement is the correct choice. But this is possible only if you have enough time on your hands. So it is imperative that while practising you identify your strengths and weaknesses in terms of the topics in the syllabus. Easiest first is a time-tested strategy that should be used to get a good score.
There are many standard texts available for reasoning and aptitude tests in the market. It is advisable to choose a comprehensive one and practise the questions repeatedly instead of trying to solve new problems each time. The trick is to solve a set and check the answers right away.