UPSC CSAT 2

Even though you only need to score 33% marks in CSAT Paper- II, it can become a little difficult given the unpredictability of UPSC. We take the example of CSAT 2014.

In 2014, the level of CSAT was a quantum jump from earlier years. Even scoring 100 seemed a difficult task for aspirants. Why?

  • One of the most tricky areas of CSAT paper is comprehension; and the easiest area is Decision-making questions. Contrastingly in 2014 CSAT, Comprehension was increased both in difficulty and number; and decision-making freebies (20 marks!) were removed altogether.
  • Other areas like Basic numeracy, General Mental Ability and Logical reasoning were also of a higher difficulty level. And interestingly a lot of questions were time consuming too.
  • Class Xth level English comprehension questions were removed altogether following a decision of the DoPT. These questions used to carry a weightage of 15-21 marks out of 200 marks.

So, given the uncertainty of CSAT paper and the low cut off, what should you expect this time?

  • Please do NOT expect freebies (20 marks) – Decision making questions this time too.
  • Moreover, expect scrapped English Comprehension (Class Xth level) questions to be replaced with Comprehension and General Mental Ability questions this time.
  • Thus, number of comprehension questions will be more. Expect the level of comprehension to be higher than before too.
  • Also, the level of General Mental Ability, Reasoning and Maths should go up this time given such a low cut off.
  • Expect the paper to be little more lengthier than before.

Therefore, the overall difficulty level of paper should go up this time. And this also means that you can not totally neglect CSAT this time.

So, What should you be doing?

  • Devoting maximum time to GS, but ensuring that you keep in touch with CSAT. The best way would be to solve 4-5 questions daily starting from now, especially tricky comprehensions.
  • In the last one month or so before the exam (depending on your preparation level for CSAT), start devoting more time for CSAT. Start solving few tough mock test papers to check your preparation level.
  • Since UPSC can load too many questions from any particular section (e.g Basic numeracy), if you feel you are weak in any area, start working on it from now itself.
  • We also suggest that you go through our Comprehension strategy to crack tricky comprehensions.

Also, on our website, we will be providing Daily CSAT questions (around 5) with solutions, tricks and explanations. We will keep the level of Qs a notch above that of UPSC so that even if the paper is tougher this time, you should not find it tough. Ideally speaking, you should be following this daily test religiously and keep yourself engaged with CSAT.

Paper II CSAT officially known as General Studies Paper- 2 contains totally 80 questions – each being 2.5 marks. It is most loved as well as hated section of IAS exam by different groups for different reasons.

While people who have a “strong” mathematical/English analytical background might find it a cakewalk .People who perceive the lack of same almost have a phobia of this paper.

We have tried to deconstruct some of the myths and provide insights into various aspects of the “dreaded/loved” paper. CSAT paper II tests your basic language skills, logical abilities and common sense at Class X/XII level.

There is provision for negative marking (1/3rd of total marks allotted to each question for each wrong answer).

The exam duration is of 2 hours – held from 2.30-4.30 PM in the second session.

In this section we have breakdown the syllabus and touched upon only the basic elements.

For a detailed analysis please click on the detailed analysis section.

It is followed up by pattern analysis of 2011-14 so that you efforts are in tab with the latest trends.

Index

  1. Syllabus – with sub-categories
  2. Pattern Analysis – with weightage of each section since CSAT 2011

 

Syllabus

Note: The text in bold is the syllabus as verbatim mentioned in the CSAT notification. The sub-categories have been elaborated for your information & understanding. Examples from each sub-category will be given in the “Detailed Strategy” Section.

It includes:

Comprehension

  • English/Hindi Paragraph Comprehension

Interpersonal skills including communication skills

  • Analogies
  • Critical Reasoning

Logical Reasoning and Analytical ability

  • Logical Reasoning based on Arrangement
  • Logical Reasoning based on Ranking
  • Team Formations
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Sequences and Series
  • Blood Relation
  • Direction Test
  • Puzzle Test

Decision-making and problem-solving

  • Hypothetical questions based on ethical dilemmas
  • Decoding facts logically into answers

General mental ability

  • Syllogisms
  • Logical Deductions
  • Statement and Conclusions
  • Statement and Assumptions
  • Assertion and Reason
  • Statement Courses of Action
  • Set Theory and Venn Diagrams
  • Network Diagrams
  • Verbal Reasoning Based on Binary Logic

Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level),

  • Number System and Number Series
  • HCF and LCM of Numbers
  • Fraction
  • Simplification
  • Percentage
  • Average
  • Ratio and Proportion
  • Partnership and Share
  • Mixtures
  • Chain Rule
  • Time, Work and Wages
  • Pipes and Cisterns
  • Profit, Loss and Discount
  • Simple Interest
  • Time and Distance
  • Trains
  • Clocks

Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

 

Pattern Analysis

Pattern Analysis

Untitled

 

 

Following inferences can be derived from the data above and from the experience of IASbaba:

Comprehension & Reasoning (General, Logical, Analytical) has carried very high weightage over all the years. And is expected to remain so. Hence, these two areas require high focus as they account for about 60-70% of total marks. Moreover,

  • Comprehension level is becoming moderate level (from easy) over the years. Plus UPSC is increasing the length of comprehension.

  • Reasoning questions’ level too has increased (except 2013 when it was easy). Practicing questions tougher than UPSC CSAT level will make the exam day easy for you.

 

Those who are weak in Mathematics need not worry as the weightage has been generally low – around 7-8% except in 2013. Even if you are not thorough with every topic in basic numeracy, you will sail through. So, you need not focus too much on maths. Focus more on comprehension and reasoning.

 

The weightage of Data Interpretation (DI) has remained constant throughout the years (except 2011 when it was not asked). And the level of DI is very basic. So, you need not practice elaborate DIs like the ones asked in CAT.

The lesson that you need to take from here is that focussing on core areas like Comprehension and reasoning will give you a better score, rather than breaking your head studying & practicing everything under the sky. Practice the kind of questions that are being repeated often in UPSC like critical reasoning, team formations, arrangements, rankings etc. Putting your energy in the right channels will save you substantial time (for studying GS).

BASIC STRATEGY

In the next 30 minutes, we will equip you with the broad strategy to handle CSAT paper 2 while busting some of the myths on which the coaching institutes make money and providing you the basic minimum gyan to crack the exam.

 

Index

  1. How to know the amount of time needed for preparation?
  2. Which skill areas to work on?
  3. Book List
  4. Section-wise basic strategy
    • Comprehension
    • Interpersonal Skills & Logical, Analytical Reasoning
    • Decision-making
    • General Mental Ability & Data Interpretation
    • Basic Numeracy

 

Understanding that the pattern has changed now with CSAT being only a qualifying paper, we have written an article on how CSAT still remains relevant to your preparation – expected changes in difficulty level of the paper? We expect the difficulty level to go up this year. Scoring even qualifying marks can be an issue for a lot of aspirants.

Also, even though the strategy below applies to the old format (before CSP 2015) of the Prelims examination, we are not removing it. Because, the expert committee constituted by the government for examining the pattern of the Civil Services Examination, can rule in favour of reverting to the old format. 

If you are weak in a particular area of CSAT, the strategy will surely help you.

How to know the amount of time needed for preparation?

Do this exercise whenever you have decided to prepare for Paper-2. This period should ideally be at least 3-4 months before the exam.

Take up a UPSC CSAT previous year paper (any one of 2011-2014); close your room; and without any disturbance sit for 2 hours and find out how much you can score without practice.

Now, sit and analyze your shortcomings in those specific areas where you may not have scored well. 

      • If you are scoring less than 100, phewww!!! There is a lot of work to be done. Start practicing daily for 2-3 hours for the coming 5-6 months and even more infact.
      • If your score is somewhere around 100-130, then you are weak in some particular areas for e.g. comprehension or basic numeracy OR your speed may be less than required. Know those areas, and work on them on a daily basis for the coming months for getting conceptual clarity and speed.
      • If score is around 130-150, you may be weak in any one of the areas or your speed of solving paper may be slow. Whatever it is, you need some practice for lets say something close to 2-3 months.
      • If its around 150-170, you may either be slightly weak in any one area; or you may be making a lot of silly mistakes. It can be slow speed too. Whatever it is, you do not need months of practice. If you can spend 1 month or a little more, with 2-3 hours of practice every day; and you are there.
      • If you have scored around 170-190, know that you need not study for paper-2. Just 15-20 days before the exam, start solving mocks so that you can increase your speed; improve your accuracy and work out few areas where you may be making 3-4 mistakes regularly.
      • If it is more than 190, Dude stop wasting your time reading this and prepare Paper-1!!!  😉

 

Which skill areas to work on?

It ideally depends on your educational and professional background. This is not to say that only those with a specific background can score high in Paper-2; it is just that we all have been in touch with a certain skill set for a long period of time – which becomes our forte and need to work on the gaps.

For e.g. relatively speaking, engineers are more in touch with Mathematics (equations, calculations etc.) and Data interpretation than a Political Science graduate. Similarly, humanities graduates are more in touch with comprehension skills – reading large amounts of text, verbal reasoning; communication skills etc.

Therefore, no matter what background you are from, you will have an edge on a certain skill area; and at the same time, you will need to work on other skill areas. So, engineers will need to work more on comprehension and interpersonal skills; and a political science graduate will have to work more on Mathematics and Data interpretation.

 

Book List

The UPSC CSAT paper is of Easy to Moderate level. The questions can be solved easily with common sense, basic logic and language skills. But what people generally lack is –

  • Enough Practice
  • Accuracy
  • Speed

Practice is the key here – which brings both speed and accuracy (amount of practice that you need is mentioned in the section on – what is the right time and energy?).

Then you need to pick the right book. Here we are mentioning the sections of CSAT exam with some good books which will give you clarity on the topic; and contain enough questions for practice.

  • GS Manual Paper-II by TMH
  • Concise CSAT by Madhukar Bhagat – TMH Publications
  • Cracking the CSAT Paper 2 – Arihant Publications
  • Word Power – Normal Lewis

 

Section-wise Basic strategy

 

ComprehensionUse the book Concise CSAT by Madhukar Bhagat – TMH Publications.

To sharpen and improve your comprehension skills, the first thing that you need to do is to ‘read a lot’. Read the same editorials, magazines, articles, columns etc. with more attention. Do not be in a hurry to finish them – take time, otherwise you will lose time and yet not get the correct comprehension.

Work on your vocabulary by referring to pocket dictionary (can be on mobile too ); read the book Word power by Norman Lewis (it is very good for building vocabulary)

Spend time with passages in the TMH book to see in which kind of options you are making mistake. Learn the art of ‘objective reading’.

Solve 20-30 previous year CAT passages too. Solving tough passages will give you additional insights into comprehension abilities; and it becomes easy then to handle relatively easier CSAT passages. As the saying goes, tame an elephant, and a monkey becomes easy.

Refer to the Detailed Strategy section to understand more about the above and scoring high in comprehension.

In the long run try to learn 10 new words a day. These words can be the ones which puzzle you while you go through the Hindu, Economic times,Frontline et al or you can directly pick them from the standard books.

 

Interpersonal skills including communication skills; Logical reasoning and analytical ability:

You will face questions like the one from CSAT 2014 (we are giving only one here – refer to the detailed strategy for a comprehensive guide on this section)

Given the statement:

“Buses are the cause of more accidents than cars, and trucks cause fewer accidents than buses”, which of the following conclusions can we draw?

(a) There are more buses on the road than trucks.

(b) Car drivers are more careful than bus drivers.

(c) Truck drivers are more skilled than either car or bus drivers.

(d) None of the above 

Answer: (d)

You need not apply too much thought. Just the skill of ‘objective reasoning’ is needed. Unless and until something , the questions in this section are pretty basic in nature.

With some practice from the book GS Manual for Paper 2 – TMH, it is easy to crack. The book covers questions 2 notches above UPSC level. Do not ignore these relatively harder questions. Practicing them makes the actual CSAT exam very easy.

 

Decision-making and problem-solving:

Use the book Concise CSAT by Madhukar Bhagat or GS Manual TMH.

Solve 40-50 questions to get an idea as to what UPSC demands from you.

Take a choice based on both Ethics and Prudence.

Being blind ethically will cost you marks as we have seen in the past.

For example :

Questions will be like (this is from CSAT 2014):

While travelling in a Delhi-registered commercial taxi from Delhi to an adjacent city (another state), your taxi driver informs you that he has no permit for driving in that city, he will stop at its transport office, pay the prescribed fees of Rs. 40 a day. While paying the fees at the counter, you find that the transport clerk is charging extra Rs. 50 for which no receipt is being given. You are in a hurry for your meeting. In such circumstances, what will you do?

  1. Go up to the counter and ask the clerk to give back the money which he has illegally taken.
  2. Do not interfere at all as this is a matter between the taxi driver and the tax authorities. 
  3. Take note of the incident and subsequently report the matter to the concerned authorities.
  4. Treat it as a normal affair and simply forget about it.

It is a situational dilemma. If you act ethically with pragmatism, your answers will be correct. You can choose either (1) or (3).

 

General mental ability; Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level):

Refer to the syllabus to know the sub-categories of the topics here. For these refer to GS Manual by TMH – covers the topics comprehensively. Instructions are given at the beginning of each exercise to make you understand. First understand the concept and then the techniques of each kind of sub-category (Let us say blood relations, set theory etc.).

A sample question (CSAT 2014):

 

Practice is the key here. The more patterns and types you would have practiced, the easier it gets in the exam hall. You will be able to quickly identify the right technique for solving each pattern.

Data Interpretation will be very basic in nature. A sample question (from CSAT 2013):

 

D3

 

You need not practice Data Interpretation a lot. Just glance through a few examples. Understand all the types of DIs. Solve 30-40 DI passages. This much practice is sufficient.

 

Basic Numeracy

As we have already stated in the “Syllabus & Exam Pattern”, this section does not carry a lot of weightage (7-10% questions). For this section, refer to the Cracking CSAT- Arihant Publications or GS Manual TMH. Any one will do. See the kind of questions UPSC has asked over the years and practice accordingly considering the difficulty level. We will be giving you a gist of the Basic Numeracy questions solved from all the years (2011-14).

A sample question (CSAT 2014):

A group of 630 children is seated in a row for group photo session. Each row contains three children less than the row in front of it. Which one of the following number of rows is not possible?

  1. a) 3
  2. b) 4
  3. c) 5
  4. d) 6

Solution: d)

It is a question based on sequence and series. You can even apply common logic to solve the question. Even in basic numeracy, there are several sub-categories (as mentioned in the “Syllabus & Exam pattern section”), make sure you practice several questions from each type for e.g. time & work; clock; ratio and proportions etc.

COMPREHENSION STRATEGY

 

Introduction

The first thing that you need to know is that NO ‘Theory’ of Comprehension will lead you to correct answers; because it is an ‘Art’. It comes with practice and understanding.

A number of books from RS Agrawal to TMH will give you a range of ‘Theories’ on how to comprehend and all that; but at the end of the day if you are stuck in any of these levels (mentioned below), you will always be making one or the other mistake in comprehension.

Even though UPSC’s comprehension is of Moderate level, aspirants end up losing 30-40 precious marks in comprehension which makes all the difference in ‘Being Selected’ OR ‘preparing again for next year’.

To sharpen and improve your comprehension skills, the first thing that you need to do is to ‘read a lot’. What you need to read is the same stuff that you read for your preparation i.e.

  • Newspapers daily, especially editorials ( freshers should give special thanks to the back-breaking The Hindu editorials here :-) )

  • Magazines weekly – can be Frontline or Yojana or what you prefer
  • Watching discussions on LSTV, RSTV will improve your language skills

 

But here is a catch. You need to read the same with utmost sincerity and attention. Until and unless you are able to get the meaning of an editorial completely, make a resolve not to move from the editorial. It can be the vocabulary of the editorials, their complexity or subject-matter that may be difficult to understand; but only regular and sincere effort brings the right comprehension.

Comprehending a piece of text correctly requires a combination of factors mentioned below. Any of that being weak, you will not be able to comprehend correctly. Lets start with the tricky areas of comprehension which can be any one or all of these depending on the individual –

 

Level 1: Vocabulary

Level 2: Able to gather meaning from the text

Level 3: Reading Speed

Level 4: Confusion in picking up the right option from similar looking apparently correct ones

 

Level 1: Vocabulary

 

Being stuck at this level, trust us, you need to first improve your vocabulary. We understand that UPSC’s comprehension is not of CAT level; yet a decent vocabulary is needed. This will also help you to write concise answers in Mains examination (if you get through Prelims :-))

You can improve your vocabulary in three ways:

  • If you don’t know the meaning of a word, try to extract its meaning based on the context of the passage. You will be right many a times. For e.g. Slow Judicial System of India ‘brooks’ no further delay in revamping it. You can figure out easily that ‘brooks’ means to allow or tolerate. Similarily, you need not know the meaning of each and every word, smart guess also works.

  • If you still can’t make out meaning, make it a habit to refer to Dictionary (not all the time). If you have a smartphone, nothing better than that. Install a dictionary – that makes referring again and again very easy. You will also be able to keep track of the words that you have referred to in the Dictionary app history.

  • With this, we strongly recommend reading WORD POWER by Norman Lewis (even for those who have a decent vocabulary). Do not read the book in one shot. Read the instructions in the book and follow accordingly – 1-2 sessions of the book daily. You will see a major change in the way you look at the English language itself. The same language that may have haunted you all these years will now appear so simple, lucid, logical and easy to grasp. The book is indispensable in this sense.

 

All this work on vocabulary not only pays off in CSAT, it is of significant value when you are writing Mains.

Finally, enhancing your vocabulary should not be at the cost of your reading. Please do not give yourself the excuse that I could not read newspapers, magazines etc. because I was busy enriching vocabulary. Make all of this an organic process where your reading, vocabulary building, comprehension and understanding (say editorials – from exam point of view too) happen simultaneously in an integrated manner.

 

Most importantly, enjoy the process. Don’t get bogged down. Trust us, it feels very good to finally be able to understand and fully grasp The Hindu’s enigmatic editorials. :-)

 

Level 2: Able to gather correct meaning from the text

 

Meaning from the text is not just about understanding the text, it is about understanding it objectively.

When you read a text, you read it with so many biases and prejudices in your mind. For e.g.

“TRAI will eventually take a call on whether India has to change its approach to Internet regulation. But isn’t the Internet perfect the way it is? Apparently not. At least that is what telecom companies believe. After spending billions of dollars in setting up infrastructure and bringing themselves under regulatory scrutiny, telecom companies can’t bear the fact that numerous applications ride on their networks for free. Some of the apps have millions of subscribers and command valuations of billions of dollars.”

Based on the above text, answer whether the Author is against “Net Neutrality” or not?

a) Against

b) For

c) Neither For nor against

 d) Insufficient text to determine Author’s view

The moment you read the article, you will fill it with your ideas of and opinions about net neutrality. A lot of people will choose ‘(a)’ as the answer – that the author is against net neutrality. But that is wrong, because no where neither the term ‘net neutrality’ occurs, nor does the author takes an explicit stand.

But isn’t the Internet perfect the way it is? Apparently not” does not mean that the author is against net neutrality.

So the correct answer should be (d), as insufficient information is provided.

 

Therefore, start practicing reading without biases in mind. Make it a habit to first empty your mind; and then read any article objectively. Because UPSC tricks candidates giving options in such a way that the ‘apparently’ correct answer will reflect the prejudice of the majority. Just be careful.

 

Level 3: Reading Speed

Comprehension ability and reading speed are very closely co-related. Contrary to popular belief, you need not be a superhuman reader who needs to read 1000 words per minute. On the opposite, if you read too fast, you lose comprehension of the text.

However, if you are too slow, 50-60 words per minute, then also you cannot comprehend the text properly. And you lose time in the exam too.

Best way is the way of the Buddha – the middle way. 😀

Even reading at an average speed , if you are able to read a 400 words passage in 2-3 minutes, its enough for UPSC. You will enough time to re-read the passage, to understand it clearly. Moreover, you can refer to the passage again and again in case you have doubt between options.

Its a misconception that you can solve the comprehension by reading the passage just once. We are not super-celestial beings who will remember each and every word of the article reading it just once. The purpose of first reading is to get the essence or gist of the passage. Now there will be several minor details, for e.g. in the passage below:

“After spending billions of dollars in setting up infrastructure and bringing themselves under regulatory scrutiny, telecom companies can’t bear the fact that numerous applications ride on their networks for free. Some of the apps have millions of subscribers and command valuations of billions of dollars. Some like Skype and WhatsApp compete head on with the voice and messaging offerings of the telcos, who to be fair also need money to invest in building networks. Still, what’s not to be forgotten is that the telcos do benefit from the apps that piggyback on them. More app usage means more data consumed and more money inflow. Whether telcos are really aggrieved or not is debatable.

Even if they are, violating the core principle governing the Internet will be a disastrous way of delivering justice. For, the licence to violate net neutrality will mean telcos could now be in a position to ensure some sites are served faster than others. It could also mean it becomes costlier to use certain applications. Most importantly, it could endanger the very feature of the Internet that has over the years made it possible for countless start-ups, right from the Googles to the Flipkarts, to dream and act big. It’s well acknowledged that the Internet has disrupted the world of business like no other technology has in recent decades. It has helped start-ups with hardly any capital and clout to still make a mark. So by rejecting net neutrality, which will enable telcos to play the gatekeeper to a valuable resource, we will be shutting the door on the entrepreneurial aspirations of millions.”

Based on the above passage, answer what services can NOT be offered by non-telecos if ‘net neutrality’ is violated?

  1. Voice
  2. Messaging
  3. Flipkart e-retail
  4. Google search engine

Choose the correct answer.

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 3 and 4 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1 only

The correct answer will be (d). Now to answer this question, you might have to go through the passage more than once. So be prepared to give one or two more readings to the passages asked in the exam. You can afford to give some extra time to the passages in the exam, but not make a mistake once you have spent your precious time.

So the lesson that you need to learn is – even if it is taking more time reading editorials, articles while studying; spend that time. It is worth it. Otherwise, you lose both your time and marks. The ability to comprehend is more important than your ideas about time and speed.  :-)

 

Level 4: Confusion in picking the right option

Passages in UPSC revolve around similar patterns every year, where a comprehension question is made tricky by including certain elements (discussed here), and aspirants often make a mistake in that very element. This is a series of 8 lessons that you need to keep in mind before attempting a comprehension question. By being aware of these 8 lessons, your chances of making these common mistakes (being tricked by UPSC) will reduce a lot.

Lesson 1

Here is a passage from CSAT 2014:

“Many nations now place their faith in capitalism and governments choose it as the strategy to create wealth for their people. The spectacular economic growth seen in Brazil, China and India after the liberalisation of their economies is proof of its enormous potential and success. However, the global banking crisis and the economic recession have left many bewildered. The debates tend to focus on free market operations and forces, their efficiency and their ability for self correction. Issues of justice, integrity and honesty are rarely elaborated to highlight the failure of the global banking system. The apologists of the system continue to justify the success of capitalism and argue that the recent crisis was a blip.

Their arguments betray an ideological bias/ with the assumptions that an unregulated market is fair and competent, and that the exercise of private greed will be in the larger public interest.

Few recognize the bidirectional relationship between capitalism and greed; that each reinforces the other. Surely, a more honest conceptualisation of the conflicts of interest among the rich and powerful players who have benefited from the system, their biases and ideology is needed; the focus on the wealth creation should also highlight the resultant gross inequity.”

The apologists of the “Free Market System”, according to the passage, believe in

(a) market without control by government authorities.

(b) market without protection by the government.

(c) ability of market to self correct.

(d) market for free goods and services.

Here you can easily discard options (d) and (b) because there cannot be made out from the text. For aspirants, there might be confusion between the other two, because as per your knowledge, both options show the characteristics of a free market system. And both are somewhere mentioned in the passage.

Now, you need to be a little careful and be objective in selecting the options. You need to select the answer “according to the passage”.

Now move on to examine the first option. Here is the supporting text – “…The apologists of the system continue to justify the success of capitalism and argue that the recent crisis was a blip. Their arguments betray an ideological bias/ with the assumptions that an unregulated market is fair…..”

Notice the word ‘unregulated market is fair’ and their focus on ‘self correction’. It means either of option A or C.  As per UPSC answer is C

SO LESSON 1 is – ALWAYS CHOOSE THE EXPLICIT OVER THE IMPLICIT.

 

Lesson 2

 

Here is another UPSC passage from 2014.

The Himalayan ecosystem is highly vulnerable to damage, both due to geological reasons and on account of the stress caused by increased pressure of population, exploitation of natural resources and other related challenges. These aspects may be exacerbated due to the impact of climate change. It is possible that climate change may adversely impact the Himalayan ecosystem through increased temperature altered precipitation patterns, episodes of drought and biotic influences.

This would not only impact the very sustenance of the indigenous communities in uplands but also the life of downstream dwellers across the country and beyond.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for giving special attention to sustain the Himalayan ecosystem. This would require conscious efforts for conserving all the representative systems.

Further, it needs to be emphasized that the endemics with restricted distribution, and most often with specialized habitat requirements, are among the most vulnerable elements. In this respect the Himalayan biodiversity hotspot, with rich endemic diversity, is vulnerable to climate change.

The Threats include possible loss of genetic resources and species, habitats and concomitantly a decrease in ecosystem services. Therefore, conservation of endemic elements in representative ecosystems/habitats assumes a great significance while drawing conservation plans for the region.

Towards achieving the above, we will have to shift towards contemporary conservation approaches, which include a paradigm of landscape level interconnectivity between protected area systems. The concept advocates a shift from the species-habitat focus to an inclusive focus on expanding the bio-geographic range so that natural adjustments to climate change can proceed without being restrictive.

Consider the following statements:

According to the passage, the adverse impact of climate change on an ecosystem can be a

  1. Permanent disappearance of some of its flora and fauna.
  2. Permanent disappearance of ecosystem itself.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Solution: a)

UPSC will always try to trick you giving options that will relate to the passage text, but will be an extreme version of it. For e.g. in statement 2: it says “disappearance of the ecosystem itself”. First statement too is extreme, but you can find its mention in the passage.

 

So Lesson 2 is: BE CAREFUL OF EXTREME AND EMPHASIZING WORDS LIKE ONLY, NECESSARILY, PERMANENT, TOTALLY, COMPLETELY ETC.

 

Lesson 3

Consider another question from the same passage.

Which one of the following statements best implies the need to shift toward contemporary conservation approach?

(a) Exploitation of natural resources causes a stress on the Himalayan ecosystem.

(b) Climate change alters precipitation patterns, causes episodes of drought and biotic interference.

(c) The rich biodiversity, including endemic diversity, makes the Himalayan region a biodiversity hotspot.

(d) The Himalayan biogeographic region should be enabled to adapt to climate change smoothly.

Solution: d)

On first look, it seems that all options except (d) are correct. But the reverse is the case.

Read the question carefully. It asks for the ‘need’ to shift, not the ‘cause’ of shifting to contemporary conservation practices. If cause was asked then all except (d) would be correct.

So, If you are confused in picking up the right option, you have not read the question carefully. Even a single word can make all the difference.

So, LESSON 3 is: BE CAREFUL WITH THE ‘KEYWORDS’.

 

Take another example of the same from the same passage.

 

What is the most important message conveyed by the passage?

(a) Endemism is a characteristic feature of Himalayan region.

(b) Conservation efforts should emphasize on biogeographic ranges rather than on some species or habitats.

(c) Climate change has adverse impact on the Himalayan ecosystem.

(d) Without Himalayan ecosystem, the life of the communities of uplands and downstream will have no sustenance.

Solution: b)

Even though all the options mentioned in the question have been conveyed by the passage, it asks specifically for the ‘important message’ – not ‘concern’, or ‘fact’ etc. Look at the ‘keyword’ here.

If it was ‘most important concern’ in the question, then the answers should have been (c) or (d).

If it was ‘most important fact’, answer would have been (a).

So, LESSON 3 is: BE CAREFUL WITH THE ‘KEYWORDS’.

 

 

Lesson 4

 

Consider another question from the same passage as above.

 

With reference to the passage, the following assumptions have been made:

  1. To maintain natural ecosystems, exploitation of natural resources should be completely avoided.
  2. Not only anthropogenic but also natural reasons can adversely affect ecosystems.
  3. Loss of endemic diversity leads to the extinction of ecosystems.

Which of the above assumptions is/are correct?

(a)  1 and 2

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3

(d) 3 only

Solution: b)

Thats a cakewalk. 1 and 3 cannot be correct. So the answer has to be (b). Simple elimination will save you a lot of time and makes your job easy.

 

SO, LESSON 4 is: FIRST ELIMINATE, THEN CHOOSE.

 

 

Lesson 5

Consider another UPSC passage.

It is often forgotten that globalization, is not only about policies on international economic relationships and transactions, but has equally to do with domestic policies of a nation. Policy changes necessitated by meeting the internationally set conditions (by WTO etc.) of free trade and investment flows obviously affect domestic producers and investors. But the basic philosophy underlying  globalization emphasizes absolute freedom to markets to determine prices and production and distribution patterns, and view government interventions as processes that create distortions and bring in inefficiency. Thus, public enterprises have to be privatized through disinvestments and sales; sectors and activities hitherto reserved for the public sector have to be opened to the private sector. This logic extends to the social services like education and health. Any restrictions on the adjustments in workforce by way of retrenchment of workers should also be removed and exit should be made easier by removing any restrictions on closures. Employment and wages should be governed by free play of market forces, as any measure to regulate them can discourage investment and also create inefficiency in production.

Above all, in line with the overall philosophy of reduction in the role of the state, fiscal reforms should be undertaken to have generally low levels of taxation and government expenditure should be kept to the minimum to abide by the principle of fiscal prudence. All these are policy actions on the domestic front and are not directly related to the core items of the globalization agenda, namely free international flow of goods and finance.

According to the passage, the basic philosophy of globalization is to

(a) give absolute freedom to producers to determine prices and production.

(b) give freedom to producers to evolve distribution patterns.

(c) give absolute freedom to markets to determine prices, production and employment.

(d) give freedom to producers to import and export.

Solution: c)

Although direct mention has not been made, its there in the passage in bits and pieces. So while reading the passage, you should be able to grasp the essence of it. Confusion reduces.

 

So, Lesson 5 is: WHILE READING TRY TO GET THE ESSENCE (CENTRAL CORE/IDEA/MESSAGE/VIEW) OF THE PASSAGE.

 Take another example for the same lesson.

 

In recent times, India has grown fast not only compared to its own past but also in comparison with other nations. But there cannot be any room for complacency because it is possible for the Indian economy to develop even faster and also to spread the benefits of this growth more widely than has been done thus far. Before going into details of the kinds of micro-structural changes that we need to conceptualize and then proceed to implement, it is worthwhile elaborating on the idea of inclusive growth that constitutes the defining concept behind this Government’s various economic policies and decisions. A nation interested in inclusive growth views the same growth differently depending on whether the gains of the growth are heaped primarily on a small segment or shared widely by the population. The latter is cause for celebration but not the former. In other words, growth must not be treated as an end in itself but as an instrument for spreading prosperity to all. India’s own past experience and the experience of other nations suggests that growth is necessary for eradicating poverty but it is not a sufficient condition. In other words, policies for promoting growth need to be complemented with policies to ensure that more and more people join’ in the growth process and, further,· that there are mechanisms in place to redistribute some of the gains to those who are unable to partake in the market process and, hence, get left behind.

A simple way of giving this idea of inclusive growth a sharper form is to measure a nation’s progress in terms of the progress of its poorest segment, for instance the bottom 20 per cent of the’ population. One could measure the per capita income of the bottom quintile of the population and also calculate the growth rate of income; and evaluate our economic success in terms of these measures that pertain to the poorest segment. This approach is attractive because it does not ignore growth like some of the older heterodox criteria did. It simply looks at the growth of income of the poorest sections of the population. It also ensures that those who are outside of the bottom quintile do not get ignored. If that were done, then those people would in all likelihood drop down into the bottom quintile and so would automatically become a direct target of our policies. Hence the criterion being suggested here is a statistical summing up of the idea of inclusive growth, which, in turn, leads to two corollaries: to wish that India must strive to achieve high growth and that we must work to ensure that the weakest segments benefit from the growth.

The author’s central focus is on

(a) applauding India’s economic growth not only against its own past performance, but against other nations.

(b) emphasizing the-need for economic growth which is the sole determinant of a country’s prosperity.

(c) emphasizing inclusive growth where gains of growth are shared widely by the population.

(d) emphasizing high growth.

Solution: c)

Just focus on getting the essence and overview of the passage while reading. Such questions will be a cakewalk for you.

 

Lesson 6

From the same passage above.

The author supports policies which will help

(a) develop economic growth.

(b) better distribution of incomes irrespective of rate of growth.

(c) develop economic growth and redistribute economic gains to those getting left behind.

(d) put an emphasis on the development of the poorest segments of society.

Solution: d)

Options (a) and (b) can be eliminated right away. (b) talks about “irrespective of rate of growth”.

Option (c) says, “redistribute to those left behind”. But that is not what the author is trying to say.

In the whole passage, he keeps talking about the growth of the poorest segments first. So, (d) has to be the answer.

So, Lesson 6 is: EVALUATE THE OPTIONS IN THE LIGHT OF THE ESSENCE OF THE PASSAGE.

 

Lesson 7

Consider the following UPSC passage. Three questions have been demonstrated based on it.

Many nations now place their faith in capitalism and governments choose it as the strategy to create wealth for their people. The spectacular economic growth seen in Brazil, China and India after the liberalisation of their economies is proof of its enormous potential and success. However, the global banking crisis and the economic recession have left many bewildered. The debates tend to focus on free market operations and forces, their efficiency and their ability for self correction. Issues of justice, Integrity and honesty are rarely elaborated to highlight the failure of the global banking system. The apologists of the system continue to justify the success of capitalism and argue that the recent crisis was a blip.

Their arguments betray an Ideological bias with the assumptions that an unregulated market is fair and competent, and that the exercise of private greed will be in the larger public interest.

Few recognize the bidirectional relationship between capitalism and greed; that each reinforces the other. Surely, a more honest conceptualisation of the conflicts of interest among the rich and powerful players who have benefited from the system, their biases and ideology is needed; the focus on the wealth. creation should also highlight the resultant gross inequity.

 

The apologists of the “Free Market System”, according to the passage, believe in

(a) market without control by government authorities.

(b) market without protection by the government.

(c) ability of market to self correct.

(d) market for free goods and services.

Solution: a)

Here you can easily discard options (d) and (b) because there cannot be made out from the text. For aspirants, there might be confusion between the other two, because as per your knowledge, both options show the characteristics of a free market system. And both are somewhere mentioned in the passage.

Now, you need to be a little careful and be objective in selecting the options. You need to select the answer “according to the passage”.

The temptation to pick up option (c) will come from this line – The debates tend to focus on free market operations and forces, their efficiency and their ability for self correction”.But notice that the word ‘apologists’ has not come into picture till now. It has been mentioned later. Moreover, “ability for self correction” is still a debate.

Now move on to examine the first option. Here is the supporting text – “…The apologists of the system continue to justify the success of capitalism and argue that the recent crisis was a blip. Their arguments betray an ideological bias/ with the assumptions that an unregulated market is fair…..”

Notice the word “unregulated” (not regulated by government). This is your answer. This option is more appropriate than the option (c), because it has been explicitly mentioned in the passage.

With reference to “ideological bias”, the passage implies that

(a) free market is fair but not competent.

(b) free market is not fair but competent.

(c) free market is fair and competent.

(d) free market is neither fair nor biased.

Solution: d)

The ideological bias of the apologists is that free markets are fair and competent. But the passage criticizes this bias. This implies that free markets are neither fair, nor competent.

“The exercise of private greed will be in the larger public interest” from the passage

  1. refers to the false ideology of capitalism.
  2. underlies the righteous claims of the free market.
  3. shows the benevolent face of capitalism.
  4. ignores resultant gross inequity.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 1 and 4

(d) 4 only

Solution: d)

It might appear that statement 1 should also have been correct. But it is not because the passage does not say it is a false ideology. It says it is an “ideological bias” and that a more “honest conceptualization of interests of rich and poor are needed”.

Therefore, don’t mistake by reading too much between the lines. Stick to what the passage suggests. Do not draw your own conclusions. Its very important to read the passage “objectively” for what it is- and not what you may think.

So, Lesson 7 is: DON’T READ TOO MUCH BETWEEN THE LINES. READ CAREFULLY  & OBJECTIVELY.

 

Consider another example for the same.

It is essential that we mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases .and thus avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change that would take place in coming years and decades. Mitigation would require a major shift in the way we produce and consume energy. A shift away from overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels is now long overdue, but unfortunately, technological development has been slow arid inadequate largely because government policies have not promoted investments in research and development, myopically as a result of relatively low prices of oil. It is now, therefore, imperative for a country like India treating the opportunity of harnessing renewable energy on a large scale as a national imperative. This country is extremely well endowed with solar, wind and biomass sources of energy. Where we have lagged, unfortunately, is in our ability to develop and to create technological solutions for harnessing these resources.

One particular trajectory for carrying out stringent mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions assessed by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly shows the need for ensuring that global emissions of greenhouse gases peak no later than 2015 and reduce rapidly thereafter. The cost associated with such a trajectory is truly modest” and would amount, in the estimation of IPCC, to not more than 3 percent of the global GDP in 2030. In other words, the level of prosperity that the world would have reached without mitigation would at worst be postponed by a few months or a year at the most. This is clearly not a very high price to pay for protecting hundreds of millions of people from the worst risks associated with climate change. Any such effort, however, would require lifestyles to change appropriately also. Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions is not a mere technological fix, and clearly requires changes in lifestyles and transformation of a country’s economic structure, whereby effective reduction in emissions is brought about, such as through the consumption of much lower quantities of animal protein. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has determined that the emissions from the livestock sector amount to 18 percent of the total. The reduction of emissions from this source is entirely in the hands of human beings, who have never questioned the impacts that their dietary habits of consuming more and more animal protein are bringing about. Mitigation overall has huge co-benefits, such as lower air pollution and health benefits, higher energy security and greater employment.

Why do we continue to depend on the fossil fuels heavily?

  1. Inadequate technological development
  2. Inadequate funds for research and development
  3. Inadequate availability of alternative sources of energy

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution: a)

Statement 2 is incorrect because “technological development has been slow arid inadequate largely because government policies have not promoted investments in research and development”; not because of lack of funds.

 

Therefore, Lesson 7 is: STICK TO WHAT THE PASSAGE TELLS YOU. DON’T EXTRAPOLATE FROM THE PASSAGE I.E. DON’T READ TOO MUCH BETWEEN THE LINES. READ CAREFULLY OBJECTIVELY.

 

Lesson 8

Consider this passage from CSAT 2012:

In a typical Western liberal context, deepening of democracy invariably leads to consolidation of ‘liberal values’. In the Indian context, democratization is translated into greater involvement of people not as ‘individuals’ which is a staple to liberal discourse, but as communities or groups. Individuals are getting involved in the public sphere not as ‘atomized’ individuals but as members of primordial communities drawn on religious or caste identity. Community-identity seems to be the governing force. It is not therefore surprising that the so-called peripheral groups continue to maintain their identities with reference to the social groups {caste, religion or sect} to which they belong while getting involved in the political processes despite the fact that their political goals remain more or less identical.  By helping to articulate the political voice of the marginalized, democracy in India has led to ‘a loosening of social strictures’ and empowered the peripherals to be confident of their ability to improve the socio economic conditions in which they are placed. This is a significant political process that had led to a silent revolution through a meaningful transfer of power from the upper caste cities to various subaltern groups within the democratic framework of public governance.

According to the passage, what does “deepening of democracy” mean in the Western context?

  • a) Consolidation of group and class identities.
  • b) Democratization translated as greater involvement of people.
  • c) Democratization as greater involvement of ‘atomized’ individuals in the public sphere.
  • d) None of the statements a, b and c given above is correct in this context.

 

Solution: d)

Option (a) talks about the Indian context. Option (b) talks about democracy in general.

Option (c) talks about the consequences of democratization in a normal society. In the Western context it simply means people embrace liberal values. So, none of the statements are correct.

A careful reading of passage will give you the solutions.

 

Greater democratization in India has not necessarily led to

  • a) The dilution of caste and communal identities in the public sphere.
  • b) Irrelevance of community identity as governing force in Indian politics.
  • c) Marginalization of elite groups in society.
  • d) Relative unimportance of hereditary identities over class identities.

 

Solution: b)

Option (a) could have been true; but its very general – it talks about public sphere; and not Indian politics in specific.

So, Lesson 8 is: KEEP A CHECK ON GENERAL AND OVER-ARCHING STATEMENTS.

 

To summarize the key lessons:

  1. Always choose the explicit over the implicit.

  2. Be careful of extreme and emphasizing words like only, necessarily, permanent, totally, completely etc.

  3. Be careful with the ‘keywords’.

  4. First eliminate, then choose.

  5. While reading try to get the essence (central core/idea/message/view) of the passage.

  6. Evaluate the options in the light of the essence of the passage.

  7. Stick to what the passage tells you. Don’t extrapolate from the passage i.e. don’t read too much between the lines. Read carefully objectively.

  8. Keep a check on general and over-arching statements.

 

Just be aware of these lessons while you are on a question. With more and more practice supplemented by careful reading, you will be able to solve most questions correctly.

Hope this would clear out the issues you had in comprehension.

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