While the Optional (Paper-I) subject is very important, the candidates also need to do well in Paper-I. This paper has a maximum of 150 marks but in a competition like this where even a single mark matters a lot, these marks play a decisive role. Most candidates do well in Paper II since the subject chosen is of their interest and knowledge. As such the importance of Paper I is immense. Paper-I determines the top honours and a candidate doing well in this paper as well, can hope to find his/her name in the list of candidates qualifying for the main examination. As there is no choice of subject for Paper-I and all the candidates are required to solve the same questions, this paper assumes enormous importance as anyone spoiling this paper cannot have any chance of qualifying the examination.
General Studies paper consists of questions on Indian Polity and Economy, History of India including Indian National Movement, Indian and World Geography, Current Affairs of National and International Importance, General and day-to-day Science, Mental Ability and Basics of Statistics etc. Questions on planning, budgeting, developmental programmes, latest issues of political and constitutional importance, panchayati raj, electoral reforms, natural resources, culture, growth of nationalism, Committees, Commission etc can be expected almost every year. Emphasis normally are placed on the general aspects of the subject which every educated person aspiring to join the Civil Services as an officer, is expected to know.
The fact that this paper needs special and thorough preparations need not be over-emphasised. The aspiring candidates are expected to have keen interest in the General Studies and are supposed to have a good amount of interest in current affairs. All the preparation starting from a scratch cannot be completed in the short period of 4 to 5 months and the candidates must begin preparations early. Regular and detailed reading of a good national newspaper, a standard competition magazine and a basic book on general knowledge is the essential pre-requisite. Those readers who still have two to three years of time left for becoming eligible to go in for Civil Services Examination must begin preparations now. The candidates who do not have enough background in20the General Studies may have to put in harder effort to catch up with the others.
"General Knowledge Refresher" by O.P. Khanna and "The Competition Master" make a unique combination for this purpose. In addition, a good and basic book on Indian Constitution, latest plan document and budget/economic survey, basic books like NCERT books on Indian History and National Movement, World and Indian Geography and General Science are certain other books which can fruitfully supplement the efforts. A good backgrounder on major national and international events assists the fresh starters to understand the background of any social, economic or political event, enabling them to understand the details and developments in a better way. In addition, the candidates who have recently taken the examination may also be consulted.
The candidates must bear one thing in mind. Exhaustive study of each and every aspect of the General Studies is essential. It would be wrong to presume that any single book would suffice. Every book has its strong and weak parts. It is, therefore, left to the candidate to consult as many books as possible, so that every aspect is studied in the required detail. Another important point is efficient time planning. The time available with the candidates for preparations is limited and it has to be intelligently utilised. The candidates must not waste the time unnecessarily by going into lengthy details of one particular aspect, leaving other important aspects untouched. Moreover, it is better to draw up a formal time table so that no aspects of both the papers is left unprepared.
To conclude, proper selection of optional subject, availability and selection of proper books and magazines, meticulous time management, proper planning, hard work and will to succeed are some of the attributes which play vital role in making a candidate successful. One thing good about this examination is that the preparations made do not go waste and are properly utilised for the main examination. Hard work invariably is rewarded with the sweet taste of success.