The most important aspect of GS (mains) preparation is newspaper-reading. I did read The Times of India earlier, but mere reading is of no use. One has to cut articles and REVISE them before the exam.
I read 3 newspapers this time: The Times of India, The Economic Times and The Hindu.
I spent less than 2 hours reading these newspapers and one should not invest more than that as some other books in GS and also the 2 optionals have to be prepared.
I feel with little practice (10-12 days or so) one can aim at finishing the papers in under 2 hours. If that’s not the case, then certainly articles not relevant for the exam are being read.
Also, do not let the newspapers pile up. It is very difficult to clear a backlog. Instead, try to read newspapers while you are travelling to the class. You need not require a lot of concentration and can use this time to weed out the irrelevant articles and mark the ones to be read. Once back home, you can then read them with better concentration.
I started cutting articles on 18th May, the very next day after the prelims, and classified the articles and placed them in folders titled: National issues, International issues, Economy, Security and Defence, Climate and Misc (S&T, etc). This I continued till 20 days before the mains. In the last 20 days, I REVISED the cuttings in the time I had allotted for newspaper reading earlier.
Times of India: It’s good for current events and the biggest advantage is that more often than not diagrams and figures in tabular form are given. It helps in remembering the facts. There’s no specific page, article, etc to be read. The only criterion is what is relevant for the exam and what is not.
The Economic Times: It has got the best editorial. The articles are mostly written by IAS officers, other Civil Servants, Planning Commission members, NCAER members, etc. The factual knowledge one can gain from reading ET can be used in each and every paper, be it GS, public administration or essay.
The Hindu: I used to read Hindu as it’s the paper of choice of civil services aspirants. I didn’t want to miss out on something which almost every other person taking the exam would know.
Only those articles having factual information should be cut. Articles based on opinion, conjecture, etc have to be avoided.
I used to mark the important lines then and there. Whichever newspaper covered the issue most widely was the one I cut the article from. If some other paper has an extra point, write it on the article you have cut.
If you have to choose between REVISING books and REVISING the newspaper cuttings in the last month before the mains, I would suggest newspaper articles should be your choice. It not only helps you gain knowledge, but also gives you a broad perspective on each issue, helps you in linking events and eventually in improving the quality of your answers.
Polity: DD Basu’s Constitution of India
History: Bipin Chandra’s India’s struggle for independence
Statistics: Spectrum (small one; 300 or so pages)
Economics: Economic survey (only the boxes; do not delve into figures. Focus on the issue as a whole and the steps to be taken by the government)
Just a perfunctory reading of India Yearbook (Min of I & B). I assume one must have read it before the prelims. If you haven’t, leave it.
Magazines: There was only 1 magazine I read- Civil Services Chronicle. Other magazines I have heard about are- partiyogita darpan, wizard, civil service times, kurukshetra, etc. Keep in mind, only 1 magazine is necessary. Whichever you feel is the best or you are used to reading, go with that.
Internet: I did use internet occasionally for GS. If I came across terms like LLP, QIP, etc in ET or bodies such as OPEC, OASIS countries, etc, I looked up on the net and maintained a word document.
Coaching: I don’t think any coaching is required for GS. If you have read the books properly and have been regular with newspapers, coaching is going to be a waste of time and effort. Coaching classes do nothing but guess what might be asked. Your guess is as good as theirs.
I joined Vajiram and Ravi for GS mains in 2007. It was good at that time since a significant number of questions in the exam could be answered from what was taught in the class. But the changing trend of the exam has made self-study necessary as it’s difficult to predict what is going to be asked.
I didn’t go through any class-notes even once during the 2009 exam as I expected this new trend to continue.
But if you feel you need to join a coaching institute, go for the one where personal attention is provided. Every person’s requirement is different.
Test series: In my opinion, test series are not required for GS. Most of the time should be spent in studying and revising rather than travelling and taking tests.
The only exception to this is if you have been having problems with time management.
Get the paper from your friends who have joined test series and just glance over them and find out if you don’t know the answers. No need to panic if you can’t answer; only 5-10% of what is asked in these papers ends up being asked in the exam.
I glanced through Sriram’s test series question-papers in 2009.
- I wrote answers in points. I had a lot of content as I read newspapers regularly and revised the few books I read and the cuttings.
- Always underline. Do it with the pen as you write.
- Write telegraphically when the content is much more than the word limit.
- I usually exceeded word limit. If 30 words, 50. If 150 words, 200. If 250 words, 300. But I did this only because I was sure I would still complete the paper.
- Use simple language.
- Diagrams are not that important for GS. If a diagram comes readily in your mind, e.g. one depicting orographic precipitation, etc then draw it.
I attempted around 580-585 marks in the GS papers. First write the answers you are sure about. Thereafter, always try to guess the answers to questions you have some idea about. One can’t be expected to know each and every thing. Just 3-4 marks here and there after intelligent guessing can lead to getting 20 marks more in each paper.
I have been asked on how to prepare for science and tech. I didn’t do anything specific. Just the newspapers. I suggest in addition to newspapers, one should also look up on the net (wikipedia) the nobel prize winners of last 3 years in physics, chemistry and physiology and their researches.
For geography, again nothing specific is required. Questions asked this year such as the one on importance of coastal regions,etc is not geography. It’s current affairs. My answer included points such as india having coastal length of 7516.6 kms, so security vis-a-vis terrorism, china’s string of pearls, diego garcia as economic development is dependent on peaceful and stable conditions.trade:77% by value and 90% by volume through sea. EEZ and minerals. Fisheries. Sustenance of population living along the coastline.marine biosphere reserves. offshore oil fields such as the bombay high. import of LPG from countries such as Qatar through the sea route. Running of underwater fibre optic cables for connectivity, etc…
eg:china’s peaceful rise doctrine: first say wht it means, china says
its rise is peaceful and not confrontational…china 1/6th world
population, shud be heard at multilateral forums such as WTO, G8, UN,
climate talks,etc…also, building economic power for welfare of its citizens,and military power
only as a deterrent,etc but then in reality its not because
1. building military power, star wars(shooting down satellites)
2. border disputes: india, japan, russia
3. dalai lama; any country supports, china goes all out against, eg us, france, germany, eg during olympics
4. WTO; dumping and currency undervaluation
5. proliferation of missile technology,etc to pakistan; string of pearls
6. internal problems: tibet, uighars and problem with chinese taipei
7. cyber-terrorism: hacking by chinese state institutes; google problem,etc
8. ambiguous stand at int’l bodies: india@nsg, india,japan@unsc,etc
There is no need to know about the source of a statement (as in History questions and China’s peaceful rise doctrine, etc). What is required is a holistic answer linking all the related incidents/issues.