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PRECISION APPROACH

Now let us extend this analogy to preparation of Civil Services Prelims. Let us assume somebody is preparing for Prelims. He or she will naturally start with the syllabus given by UPSC. Here is the syllabus for Prelims.

Current events of national and international importance.
History of India and Indian National Movement.
Indian and World Geography - Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
Indian Polity and Governance - Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
Economic and Social Development - Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change.
General Science.

There are 7 major areas in the syllabus. Let us assume the student starts with ‘General Science’. What would anybody do to master this topic? He will try to understand the scope of topic and start identifying books that need to be read. As we all know science means Physics, Chemistry and Biology. We also know that NCERT book are the best source for preparation of UPSC exams. So, the person with ‘General Approach’ will start reading Physics, Chemistry and Biology books from VI to XII standard thoroughly. But the person with ‘Precision Approach’ will try to get more information before starting the preparation. They try to pin point the areas within the sub-topics and understand the trends before starting the preparation.

There are 4 components in ‘The Precision Approach’.

Concept of ‘going forward’ vs. ‘working backwards’
Thorough understanding of past 6 civil services question papers based on
       Sub-topic analysis
      Analysis of dynamic versus static nature of questions,
      Analysis of sub-type of questions (trivia/concept based/analytical)
Concept of traceability
Arriving at ‘Precision Rout Map’ which gives customized route map for success.


Concept of working backwards:

We found that preparation for civil services preparation is like similar to solving a mathematical problem and ‘working backwards’ is a critical component of this approach. Concept of ‘Working Forwards’ is described by Math Forum as follows.

Working backwards is a particularly useful problem-solving strategy when you can clearly define the goal or end state of the problem, and you know a sequence of operations that were used in the problem. Reversing the operations and working backwards from the goal helps problem-solvers to describe the initial conditions or the most efficient path to the goal state.

Problem-solvers who work backwards might use the writing process to:
Organize and keep track of complicated sequences.
Describe the problem context in terms of the quantities and relationships that can be “unwound” or worked backwards.
Facilitate the transition from verbal descriptions to mathematical representations.
Make one’s thinking available for comparison and testing.

Now let us put to use the concept of working backwards to mastering topic of ‘General Science’, which is part of syllabus for civil services prelims.

Going Forwards Vs. Working Backwards

Syllabus
("General Science")

List Subtopics
(Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc.)

Start Preparation
(NCERT Books, Guides etc.)

Read Questions Papers

Allocate Questions to Subtopic

See if the questions
are Dynamic or Static

Analyze questions
(trivia/concept based/analytical)

Trace Questions to sources (News Papers,NCERT etc.)

Start Precision Preparation

Analysis of old question papers: Now let us analyze each and every question given in the previous civil services prelims question papers starting from the year 2011 to 2016. We would like to get answers to following questions for each question.
It is dynamic or static in nature?
Is it matter of fact question or concept based question or analytical question?
What is the difficulty level of questions
Which sub-topic this question belongs to?

Dynamic / Static Nature of questions:
We call a question as ‘dynamic’ if it is based on developments in recent past. These are based on news in the past one year. Sometimes questions may get framed based on older news also. All current affairs based news in the field of ‘General Science’ will get listed here. Answers to these kinds of questions can be found only from news papers and not from text books.

Those questions based on the content in the text books are called ‘static’ questions. We get answers to these questions from NCERT books or any other standard text books/guides.

Sub-type of questions (factual/concept based/analytical):
Straight questions based on basic information are matter of fact questions. For example ‘A recent movie titled The Man Who Knew Infinity is based on the biography of whom?’ is a matter of fact question. It is not based on any concept and it doesn’t require any analysis to answer this question. Whereas ‘Viruses can infect which of the following ?
Bacteria
Fungi
Plants’ is a concept based question.

Difficulty Level: Are the questions are of easy or of medium difficulty or of high level difficulty?

Sub-topics Analysis: We have steps involved in arriving at the sub-topics.
To come up with a list based on our present understanding of what ‘General Science’ means.
To allocate each and every question asked in previous papers to one of the topics listed in the previous step. If the question belong to a sub-topic which is not in the list prepared, we need to add those sub-topics to the list.
Identify the sub-topics in which questions are coming in the exam.


Step 1: We all know general science contains Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The sub-topics in these areas are given below as a starting point.

Physics Chemistry Biology
Units and Dimensions Separation of mixtures Viruses
Mechanics Inorganic chemistry Kingdom of Monera
Liquids and gases Organic chemistry Kingdom of Protista
Heat Physical chemistry Plant Kingdom
Light Biochemistry Animal Kingdom
Sound Hydrocarbons Plant physiology
Magnetism Nuclear Chemistry Animal physiology
Electrostatics Metals and metallurgy Cell biology
Current Electricity Chemistry of some elements Evolution
Modern Physics Miscellaneous Branches of Botany / Zoology
Step 2: Now let us allocate each question of previous 3 years question papers in general science to a subtopic identified. We will add new topics if any question doesn’t belong to the topics identified above.

Physics Chemistry Biology New Topics
Units and Dimensions Separation of mixtures Viruses ICT
Mechanics Inorganic chemistry Kingdom of Monera Biotechnology
Liquids and gases Organic chemistry Kingdom of Protista Robotics
Heat Physical chemistry Plant Kingdom Nanotechnology
Light Biochemistry Animal Kingdom Space Technology
Sound Hydrocarbons Plant physiology Defence
Magnetism Nuclear Chemistry Animal physiology Energy
Electrostatics Metals and metallurgy Cell biology Healthcare
Current Electricity Chemistry of some elements Evolution
Modern Physics Miscellaneous Branches of Botany / Zoology


Q1. With reference to ‘LiFi’, recently in the news, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. It uses light as the medium for high-speed data transmission.
2. It is a wireless technology and is several time faster than ‘WiFi.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Sub-topic : ICT (LiFi)       |        Type : Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Concept based        |        Difficulty: Moderate
Reference: February 24, 2016: The Hindu “Internet by light promises to leave Wi-Fi in the shade”

Q2. ‘Project Loon’, sometimes seen in the news, is related to
(a) Waste management technology
(b) Wireless communication technology
(c) Solar power production technology
(d) Water conservation technology

Sub-topic: ICT(Project Loon)       |        Type: Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Factual        |        Difficulty: Medium
Reference: December 17, 2015: The Hindu “Pichai pitches Project Loon for connectivity”

Q3. With reference to ‘Bitcoins’ sometimes seen in the news, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. Bitcoins are tracked by the Central Banks of the countries.
2. Anyone with a Bitcoin address can send and receive Bitcoins from anyone else with a Bitcoin address.
3. Online payments can be sent without either side knowing the identity of the other.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Sub-topic: ICT(Bitcoins)        |        Type: Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Concept based        |        Difficulty: Medium
Reference: February 24, 2016: The Hindu “Internet by light promises to leave Wi-Fi in the shade”

Q4. Which of the following statements is/are correct?(2016)Viruses can infect
1. Bacteria
2. Fungi
3. Plants

Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Sub-topic: Viruses        |        Type: Static        |        Sub-type: Concept based        |        Difficulty: Medium
Reference: NCERT Class XI: Biology => Section 2.6 Viruses, Viroids and Lichens

Q5. . In the context of the developments in bioinformatics, the term ‘transcriptome’, sometimes seen in the news, refer to(2016)
(a) a range of enzymes used in genome editing
(b) the full range of mRNA molecules expressed by an organism
(c) the description of the mechanism of gene expression
(d) A mechanism of genetic mutation taking place in cells

Sub-topic: Biotechnology (transcriptome)        |        Type: Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Concept based        |        Difficulty: High
Reference: December 19, 2015: The Hindu “Genome of the Asian elephant sequenced for the first time in India”

Q6. . Which one of the following is the best description of ‘INS Astradharini’, that was in the news recently? (2016)
(a) Amphibious warfare ship
(b) Nuclear-powered submarine
(c) Torpedo launch and recovery vessel
(d) Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Sub-topic : Defense (Launch Vessel)        |        Type : Dynamic`        |        Sub-type: Factual        |        Difficulty: Medium
Reference: October 6, 2015: The Hindu “INS Astradharani commissioned at Vizag”

Q7. . What is ‘Greased Lightning-10 (GL-10)’, recently in the news? (2016)
(a) Electric plane tested by NASA
(b) Solar-powered two-seater aircraft designed by Japan
(c) Space observatory launched by China
(d) Reusable rocket designed by ISRO

Sub-topic: Defense (GL 10 of NASA)        |        Type: Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Factual        |        Difficulty: Medium
Reference: May 4, 2015: The Hindu “NASA’s 10-engine electric plane completes flight test”

Q8. . With reference to ‘Astrosat’, the astronomical observatory launched by India, which of the following statements is/are correct? (2016)
1.Other than USA and Russia, India is the only country to have launched a similar observatory into space.
2.Astrosat is a 2000 kg satellite placed in an orbit at 1650 km above the surface of the Earth.Select the correct answer using the code given below
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Sub-topic: Space Tech (Astrosat)        |        Type: Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Factual        |        Difficulty: Medium
Reference: September 28, 2015 : The Hindu “ISRO launches ASTROSAT, first space observatory”

Q9. . Consider the following statements: (2016) The Mangalyaan launched by ISRO
1. is also called the Mars Orbiter Mission
2.Made India the second country to have a spacecraft orbit the Mars after USA
3. Made India the only country to be successful in making its spacecraft orbits the Mars in its very first attempt.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Sub-topic: Space Tech (Mangalyaan)        |        Type: Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Factual        |        Difficulty: Medium
Reference: September 24, 2015: The Hindu “On Mangalyaan’s first anniversary, understanding the gains from India’s foray to Mars and the Moon”

Q10. .India is an important member of the ‘International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor’. If this experiment succeeds, what is the immediate advantage for India?
(a) It can use thorium in place of uranium for power generation
(b) It can attain a global role in satellite navigation
(c) It can drastically improve the efficiency of its fission reactors in power generation
(d) It can build fusion reactors for power generation

Sub-topic: Non Con Energy        |        Type: Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Factual        |        Difficulty: Medium
Reference: Dec 07, 2005 : The Hindu “ITER project: India becomes full partner”

Q11. .A recent movie titled The Man Who Knew Infinity is based on the biography of(2016)
(a) S. Ramanujan
(b) S. Chandrasekhar
(c) IS. N. Bosen
(d) C. V. Raman

Sub-topic: Indian Scientists (Movie)        |        Type: Dynamic        |        Sub-type: Factual        |        Difficulty: Low
Reference: April 29, 2016: The Hindu “The Man Who Knew Infinity: A misunderstood mind”







What do we understand?: This is what we understand by analyzing each and every question asked in S&T in 2016 based on various parameters. Questions are not being asked in conventional topics such as physics, chemistry or biology
New and emerging topics such as nanotechnology, IT, robotics, biotechnology need to be focused to clear the exam
Most of the questions are dynamic in nature, i.e. they are based on recent developments in these emerging technologies
Questions are mainly factual in nature. Some of the questions are concept based. No questions asked which require analytical skills
Around 10% of the questions are of low difficulty level, 10% of difficulty and 80% are of moderate difficulty.
For current developments in these technology topics it is sufficient if we read standard news papers such as The Hindu. No need to go for specialized magazines such as Digit, Data Quest, Computer World, PC Quest, Biology Today, Discover, Nano Werk, Nature or any other magazine.
For conventional and static part it is sufficient if 11th and 12th Standard NCERT books are read.

Trend Analysis:Based on one year we cannot say anything. This year more questions have come from emerging technologies and next year it could be conventional topics. This year more questions are from recent developments and the questions are mostly of moderate difficulty level. More questions are factual in nature and there were none which demand analytical abilities. Will it be the same in next year? Is it a one year thing? Does any clear cut trend exist? To understand this we studied previous 6 years of question papers.

Sub-topic Trend: Given below is the diagram which graphically represents the number of questions asked in each sub-topic over the period of past 6 years.



It clearly shows that the conventional topics such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Statistics are not important anymore. Emphasis is given to new topics such as Information & Communications Technology, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Space, Defense, New developments in Healthcare and Non Conventional Energy. Emphasis is on applied science rather than pure science.

Dynamic (In News) Vs Static (In Books): There exists a very clear trend in the type of questions asked. We cannot answer majority of questions if we read books alone. Most of the questions are dynamic in nature. These questions can be answered only by reading standard news papers everyday.





Difficulty Level: More or less the questions are of moderate difficulty. They are neither easy nor difficult. We can find answers in standard text books such as NCERT if the question is static and from standard news papers such as The Hindu if it is dynamic in nature. Around 80% questions from the year 2011 to 2016 are of medium difficulty and 10% each with low and high level difficulty.





Factual vs Conceptual: As the trend is towards nonconventional topics and latest developments in science and technology, we naturally expect that the emphasis will be in conceptual and analytical questions rather than factual questions. But in reality it is other way round in S&T. Here are the percentages of factual and conceptual questions in static and dynamic questions from 2011 to 2016



So, we need to have an eye on facts. It is not sufficient to understand the concepts when we prepare for prelims. This is the major difference between Civil Services Prelims and Mains. In mains the questions are basically analytical and conceptual in nature where as in prelims it is predominantly factual in nature.


PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS: It is the latest technique which encompasses a variety of statistical techniques from predictive modeling, machine learning, and data mining that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future or otherwise unknown events. Let me apply these concepts to get some understanding on Prelims 2017 question paper. Here is the process of predictive analytics.

How to predict the subtopics and nature of questions in 2017 Prelims? One easy method is to take average of past 6 years question papers in each subtopic and expect that averages will work out. This can be misleading as the emphasis and nature of questions have changed in the last two years. So, we can improvise averaging model with weighted average model where we give more weightage to recent years. But, even these models precise enough. Time series analysis using regression is a better way to forecast.

In recent years time series models have become more sophisticated and attempt to model conditional heteroskedasticity with models such as ARCH (autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity) and GARCH (generalized autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity) models are frequently used.

In addition to quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis also need to be undertaken to come up with estimated numbers. It is not easy for any student to undertake all this due to his or her constraints for time and understanding of research methodology.

Therefore students need to choose the offline coaching institutes or online portals who cater to the learning needs carefully. Students shall get trained from institutes which are undertaking this analysis on regular basis and incorporate it in their test series, lectures and material.

How to prepare?: All this analysis is done to come up with a strategy to prepare for the exam with an aim to score at least 70% (ie., 140 marks out of 200) in prelims. We understood that there is clear trend wherein more and more questions are being asked from latest news in the field of science and technology. By reading standard news paper thoroughly we can ensure that most of the dynamic questions can be answered. A note book should be kept exclusively for S&T where key words found in the news paper should be noted down in each subtopic. Here is an example of how to identify key words. I have listed down the keywords in S&T based on the news covered in The Hindu in the month of September 2016.

Health ICT Space NCE/Defense Others
Zika Virus Algos GSLV-F05 Feed In Traffic Self Driving Car
99 Days Internet Of Things INSAT-3DR RPO Kardashav Scale
Antibiotic resistance Global Fishing Watch Chandrayaan – 2 Embraer Microscopic Bio-Heat Engine
Drugs For Neglected Disease Initiative Boundary-less Datacenter Space X Khan Research Lab Terahertz waves
Surrogacy Law BYOD GTO Shaheen III FAME India
Group B Streptococcus Smart Grid C-25 INS Virat Sec 52(1)(i) Copyrights Act
Guillain Barre Syndrome Magnetar
Dengue


Read The Hindu (or any standard news paper) everyday for 15 months preceding the exam (from Jan’16 for UPSC 2017 Prelims)
Identify new terms / concepts / developments in the field of science and technology
Keep them in your short notes. majority of the questions in ‘Science & Technology’ will come from your notes

How do people prepare?:
Generally people try to mimic successful people with a hope that they can also be successful by following the same plan
Find out all the details about successful people such as ..
       Coaching institute they attended
       Guides / Text books / News papers they read
       Number of hours they prepared per day