Public Admin paper 1- sample answers

I have uploaded two of my answers for pub ad paper 1. I have deliberately chosen theoretical questions as I feel in 2009, paper 1 was devoid of questions (except SHG and few others) where much creativity could be exhibited. Hope it helps.

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Newspaper reading

I tried to do it for The Hindu. But couldn’t do it properly at http://www.thehindu.com. I need either the newspaper or epaper, which isn’t available.

Anyways, it doesn’t matter much as 2 examples (ToI and ET) are enough to get an idea. Just apply the same concept to Hindu as well. I will try to get hold of an issue of the paper in the next few days and let you know.

The Economic Times, Tuesday, 29 June 2010, Delhi edition

(available on http://www.epaper.timesofindia.com)

Page1: Look up terms such as base rate if you don’t know. Also, the G20 article is worth reading. I wouldn’t have cut it. But it gives an idea about how negotiations involve give & take and what is the talk of the town as far as world economy is concerned.

Page 2: I would have cut the article on India- Canada civil nuclear deal. Facts such as it’s the ninth one for India, other 8 are also given, etc are important.

The article on good Taliban is worth a read as it gives a decent idea about the present situation.

Page 3: The article on Centre defending CRPF is worth a read. It gives a very balanced viewpoint on the whole issue. I wouldn’t have cut it. But certainly would have remembered government’s reply as CRPF action is totally justified and is based on logic and reasoning and not emotions.

Page 4 to 10: irrelevant

Page 11: note terms like TDS and look up on the net if you don’t know.

Smart cards for NREGA workers is worth cutting. It can be used as one of the points in answers involving use of smart cards, ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness of government schemes, etc.

The article on FATF is important…know what FATF is…what is money laundering and PMLA…i would have cut the article…

Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development is worth cutting. Government is funding it.

Page 12: A very good article on malnutrition that I would have definitely cut. This is why ET is very good. As most of the edits are written by serving/retired govt servants, it results in a very balanced and fact-based article. NFHS data, correlation between land productivity, women’s education and other factors such as sanitation, safe drinking water, good governance with malnutrition is definitely worth noting. Data on anaemic children and women, protein deficiency among Indians, etc is important.

Other articles which are good but I wouldn’t have cut them: the one on mobile tech, look up terms such as 3G, CDMA, LTE, BWA, Wi-Max, etc on the net.

As I have said many times, my S&T prep was from the newspapers only.

Article on structural reform is worth a read. Look up what structural reforms mean, what is Keynesian economics, stimulus, etc.

Page 13: I would have cut the article ‘Environmental governance & a new authority’ as it gives good info on the proposed NEPA, but noting that nothing concrete has happened as of now.

The article ‘Right climate for energy peg’ is worth a read. It conveys the problem of balancing development and  protecting the environment at the same time.

But I wouldn’t have cut it as it is short on facts.

From the article on aggro business, look up FCI, NCDEX, MCX, if you don’t know.

Pages 14 and 15: irrelevant. But look up BIS if you don’t know what it is.

Page 16: Terms like ULIPs, teaser rates, etc should be known.

Even though today’s ET in the classroom on CTS is not that relevant, but it is one of the few columns I always looked forward to reading. Gives very good info most often.

Pages 17 to 23: irrelevant.

Page 24: ‘Abolish death sentence’: it is a typical Hindu-like article. Strongly opinionated. Yet, I would have noted how many countries have abolished death sentence, how many have retained it, number of executions that have taken place in 2008 and 09, etc. No need to remember what Amnesty International says. But yes, cost factor when not abolished and on the other hand using captured terrorists for better understanding of their psyche, etc are good points to write in an answer on capital punishment.

I hope it was helpful in getting an idea of how to read the newspapers. I will look into Hindu in a couple of days.

earlier:

The Times of India- Thursday, 24th June, Delhi edition

(available on www.epaper.timesofindia.com)

I will point out the relevant articles and reasons why I would/wouldn’t cut some of the articles.

Page 1:

Cabinet decision on rupee…it’s relevant but it hasn’t been decided yet. I would still cut it as it talks about the whole procedure of selecting the symbol which may not be described again later.

For those with pub ad, the matter of absentee cabinet ministers is worth cutting. In the exam, do not take names in this matter. Just write, some ministers have been absent…it’s alarming as political factors are playing more important role than governance…

In the news digest, the only one relevant and to look forward to is the Canadian PM’s apology on Kanishka…you should know what the matter was and who is the Canadian PM.

Honour killing issue not worth cutting as you are not going to write specific names/incidents in the GS paper. It is a wider issue which needs to be known in its entirety.

Page 3: irrelevant

Page 4: irrelevant

Page 5: irrelevant

Page 6: irrelevant

Page 7: irrelevant

Even though city section rarely has news relevant for the exam, yet I glance through it as sometimes it might have some important news.

Page 8: irrelevant.

Page 9: irrelevant

Page 10: irrelevant

So, 10 pages take around 15 minutes. With practice you would be able to decide whether an article is relevant or not by just reading the heading or 2-3 lines at most.

Page 11: irrelevant

Page 12: You should know what super 30 is…also coz this year the PM invited the teacher for a meeting. No need to read the whole article. Also, the only line I found relevant was “the Internet has grown the fastest in this world. It took 38 years for radio to reach the people, 13 years for television and just 4 years for the Internet.”

Finished the page in less than 5 minutes.

Page 13: irrelevant

Page 14:

Loharinag Pala is important. May be asked for 2 marks.

Kanishka is important. If you don’t know what it was, definitely cut the article.

Page 15: irrelevant

Page 16: The article on China’s support to Pakistan on nuclear plants is important if you haven’t cut an article on this before. This can be used in China-Pak r/s. I would have definitely used it in China’s peaceful rise doctrine had it happened last year.

China’s pudina patent also important. Also, remember terms like bio-piracy and TKDL.

Page 17: For those with pub ad, Karnataka’s Lokayukta resigning is important. Do not take names. Just write recently Lokayukta of Karnataka resigned…giving reasons.

Also, CVC request for tackling corruption important. It’s a government body. So CVC recommendation can be written in the exam straightaway.

Page 18: only the article on Tamil conference is important. But it’s not worth cutting. You should cut some article which presents the facts and not what TN CM has to say. Where the conference is being held, what is a classical language? Which all languages in India have been declared as classical languages, etc should be known.

Page 20:

The only relevant article and a very good one is that by Prakash Singh on Maoists. He has presented some new points such as security forces themselves being one of the biggest arms- providers to the Maoists (as they attack and decamp with weapons). The solutions he provides, local police: CPF ratio, etc and also terms such as ‘irregular war’ are important.

Rest of the articles aren’t good. Indo-Pak is the usual blah blah, nothing new. Honour killings one is just opinion based. No tangible info.

Page 21: only relevant one is the article on LHC. I wouldn’t cut it. Only look up LHC, ‘god particle’(Higgs boson), etc on wikipedia. This was my standard preparation for science and tech.

Page 22: Only know 2 lines about who Nikki Haley is. If she wins, it might be asked (even though probability is low). But if she loses, forget about her. But there is definitely no need of cutting the article.

Page 23: irrelevant.

Page 25: just note down terms like HNI, MF, ULIP, etc if you don’t know them. The article on HNI is useless. In fact, the article today (Sunday, 27th June) on the increasing concentration of wealth in India is very good, which actually uses the same data.

Page 26: irrelevant

Pages 27 to 30: irrelevant

Page 31: Just know why John Isner and Nicolas Mahut were in the news. But I think probability of being asked in the Mains is very low.

Page 32: Just know Clean Sports India movement. But again, very low probability of being asked.

So, with some practice, it would take 30-35 minutes to finish this issue.

Do ask me questions. If you feel some article I left out was relevant or an article I chose was irrelevant, kindly let me know.

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Tips on covering the books

I would like to point out a few things before I start. Firstly, as I have always said, it’s better to read one book 5 times rather than reading 5 books once. Whichever book you have selected on a particular subject, keep reading it again and again till you are so thorough that you can point out what is given where.

The tips which I am suggesting here are entirely based on the way I read a particular book. Your style of reading/studying might be very different. So if you have already adopted a strategy, and it is different from mine, kindly ignore what I have to say. The only goal is to complete the book and revise it, whichever method it might be.

The books I am covering here are the ones I have suggested in my earlier posts. They are:

  1. Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence
  2. DD Basu’s Constitutional Law of India
  3. Statistics by Spectrum
  4. India Yearbook, Min of I&B, GoI
  5. Civil Services Chronicle (magazine)
  6. Economic Survey

Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence

The first time I attempted to read this book, I could reach only the 70th page before I surrendered. In my opinion, those who do not have the HABIT of reading books (and I am one of them), will find it very difficult to cover it in one go. So the method was to concentrate on one chapter at a time and adopt a strategy to not only understand but gain an insight as to why the events described happened.

After reading 1 or 2 pages at a time, I thought of the questions which might be asked if the examiner happened to focus on those 2 pages. I made a notebook in which I covered this book chapter-wise. I wrote all the questions from a particular chapter I could think of. This way on an average I made 7-8 questions from each chapter.

For example, when I was reading the chapter on Non-cooperation movement, few incidents were described which forced the launch of NCM. Then the incidents during the movement were described and why it was finally called off. The reaction of various leaders and parties was also covered in the book. So I made 3-4 questions from it such as:

Q. Describe the events which led to the launch of NCM.

Q. How was the NCM different from earlier movements?

Q. Why was NCM called off and what was the reaction to Mahatma Gandhi’s decision?

Q. What was the impact of NCM on Indian National Movement?

This way I could link all the different aspects of NCM and every other movement/ incident. This helps in not only gaining an insight but also remembering the points to write in the exam so as to present a complete answer.

After I finished all the chapters (left one or two in the middle which I found were too specific and hence not useful), I had with me around 230 questions. I went through the previous 10 years’ question papers and was happy to find that not even a single question was asked on INM which was not there in my notebook.

The other thing which I did was to note the name of the persons I came across while reading the book, on the last page of my notebook. So if Indulal Yagnik was mentioned on, say page x and again 300 pages later on page y, I noted it down as Indulal Yagnik (x,y…). This way I could remember everything about the person mentioned in the book as well as relate the events in which the said person was involved.

Whether you finish the book in one go or read it in between other things entirely depends on you. The aim should be to cover it well before the exams and be able to revise the questions you made.

But keep in mind that you should not concentrate only on making the questions. Question-making is only to help you remember the content and relate the events. Concentrate on the content and when you have finished reading all the things which were related directly to each other, then only think of the questions. As I said, I made only 230 or so questions, which makes it 1 question/ 3 pages approximately.

DD Basu’s Constitutional Law of India

I must have read this book at least 10 times during my 3 attempts. It is one of the best books I have come across and certainly THE base book for the Civil Services exam, especially when you have public administration as an optional.

There is no need to remember each and everything given in the book and neither do we have to remember the Articles verbatim.

Instead, focus on the outline of an Article and only in the case of important Articles do we need to remember the details. Important Articles would be FRs, DPSPs, election of the President, CoM, office of profit, budget, CAG, EC, UPSC, FC, emergencies, etc

There are 2 versions of DD Basu available. I had the detailed one. There is another one which is concise. Either will do. But I covered the Articles Part-wise, i.e. Article 1, 2, 3…and so on.

Firstly, I mugged up the Parts of the Constitution. The Constitution is divided into 22 Parts. Remembering the Parts helps in recalling the Articles quickly. So I remembered that Part III is FRs (Articles 12 to 35), Part V is The Union (Articles 52 to 151), Part XVIII is Emergency Provisions (Articles 352 to 360), etc

Then I started with the Articles. I covered 20 Articles at a time and continued revising them till I was able to recall all 20 without looking in the book. Then went ahead and after I had finished first 50 Articles, tried to recall all 50 in one go. Then first 100 and so on.

As I said, no need to remember the Articles verbatim. You need to know that Article 72 is regarding the power of the President to grant pardons and roughly in what kind of cases, i.e. court-martials, death sentences and cases to which the executive power of the Union extends.

This way I remembered around 400 of the 440 or so Articles in the Constitution and left the ones I considered not important, especially the ones in the end.

Shortcut: One of them is that many Articles of the Union correspond to Articles of the States. So from Article 72 onwards add 89 to get the corresponding Article at the State level. Keep doing it till Article 111. Article 201 is extra which relates to the President’s powers when a Bill has been reserved for his consideration by the Governor under Article 200. So after this, from Article 112 onwards add 90 to get the corresponding Article at the State level.

I concentrated on the Constitution as many of the questions can be answered through the Articles in the Constitution by directly quoting the Articles in the introduction part of the answer.

No need to go too deeply into the explanations provided in the book. Just read them for understanding what the Article is about. Thereafter, you can leave it out when you revise. Also, there’s no need to remember all the cases relating to various Articles. Only very important ones such as Golak Nath, Keshvananda Bharti, Minerva Mills, etc and the recent IR Coelho, TMA Pai, PA Inamdar, etc need to be remembered.

Also, only the important Amendments such as 42nd, 44th, 86th, etc and the recent ones 91st, 92nd, 93rd and 94th need to be remembered.

For more on the Constitution, refer http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/welcome.html

Statistics by Spectrum

One of the biggest mistakes which many commit is merely “reading” the questions in the book and not practising the statistics questions by attempting them in an exam-like situation.

I remember in XI standard when we had vectors. I just read the questions in R D Sharma and they appeared to be very easy. However, in the test when I attempted the questions, I couldn’t even go beyond the 1st step. Same is the case with statistics. If you think questions are very easy, most often than not, when you attempt the questions in an exam-like situation, serious doubts are going to emerge.

Keeping the above point in mind, covering the book on statistics by spectrum is more than enough. Statistics was my strength in the 2nd paper and therefore, first analyze your ability, and then try to execute your plan.

The basic thing to remember is that 80% of the questions asked in a particular year are repeated ones. They might change the numbers, etc but the graph/diagram more or less remains the same.

Statistics in 2009 was the easiest compared to 2007 and 2008 (2008 was the toughest according to me), and the only thing to guard against was the time factor as the graphs and questions were very simple, but at the same time, very lengthy. In such situations, always take a scale such that the bars will be small and shading, etc should be done freehand.

The method which I adopted to cover spectrum was based on the decision that I would practice/ go through statistics thrice-

  • In July, I would read as well as practice some of the questions
  • In October, I would mostly read yet, solve few of the questions
  • On October 23rd, during the time between the 2 papers, I would revise statistics as I always started GS II with statistics.

July:

I went through the basics given in spectrum, such as the definitions, different types of bar diagrams, area diagrams, ogives, tables, etc. Thereafter, I went through the sample questions and made it a point that I would READ 2 questions and SOLVE the 3rd question. Always solve the question in an exam-like situation, with pencil, scale, graph paper, etc.

I applied the same rule to all the previous years’ question papers given in the book. Every year, 1 or 2 questions are asked which are different from previous years. I noted such questions on the front page of the book, as page 97- q 6…and so on…

At the end of this exercise, I had a list of around 100 questions which I would again read/solve in October along with revising the basics.

October:

I went through the basics again and went through the 100 questions which I had identified as “different” from previous years’ papers. I again applied the rule of READING 2 questions and SOLVING the 3rd one. At this point of time, I was comfortable with most of the questions and formulae and ticked the questions which I felt I should revise again just before the exam. So I shortened the revision list to about 30 questions.

October 23rd:

During the time between the 2 papers, I revised the basics in 10 minutes (I had written all the different types of graphs/diagrams and formulae on a paper) and READ the 30 questions from my list. This way I went into the exam-hall in the statistics “frame of mind” and attempted the questions straightaway.

This is one of the reasons why I said earlier in the importance of mains post that howsoever the earlier papers go: good or bad, always concentrate on the next paper and prepare yourself for it.

India Yearbook, Min of I&B, GoI

Before I begin, I would like to point out that this book should be read thoroughly only for the prelims. For the mains, only government programmes and few chapters need to be covered.

So if you are taking the prelims in 2011, go through the whole book. But if you are going to take the Mains in 2010, no need to cover the whole book at present.

For prelims

GS prelims in 2008 and 2009 had many questions directly asked from the India Yearbook. The only issue was that any line from any page was turned into a question. So a true or false statement such as salt water crocodiles are found in Andaman and Nicobar islands was from the 1st chapter Land and the People (under Fauna).

Therefore, I covered all the chapters in the book except the one on States and UTs (Chapter 30 in 2010 Yearbook).

I put a lot of emphasis on making notes as it is very difficult to cover a 1000 page book in 3-4 days in the last month or week before the exam. Moreover, 99% (or even more than that) of the India Yearbook remains the same year after year.

So I went through the India Yearbook 2009 and reduced it to 1/10th of its size by making notes. Special attention needs to be given to the following things:

  • Government programmes: write on a paper at the end of the book all the government programmes you come across. Mid-day meal scheme may be described on page x and again 400 pages later on page y. So I noted it as Mid-day meal scheme (x, y…)
  • Agricultural data is presented very nicely. I wrote on a paper all the values. So rice: 97 million tonnes, wheat: 74 million tonnes, eggs: 46 billion, banana:1st, grapes/area: 1st, etc can be easily mugged up.
  • Various government institutes/ bodies are specified such as NSD, ASI, ZSI, National Library, National Museum, NBT, KCCs, etc. I noted the names and page number on a page and their HQ (if any).
  • Factual data such as India’s land area, EEZ, land frontier, coastline, energy production, major and minor ports, international airports, teledensity, etc need to be noted.

For mains

If you already read the IYB for prelims, just go through what you underlined and revise your notes. But if you did not, then apart from the GOVERNMENT SCHEMES and agricultural data, read the following chapters from IYB 2010:

Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11 (NCES only), 13 (terms like FIPB, FCCB, ECB, ADR/GDR, FDI, etc), 18, 24, 25 and 28.

Note: I have not specified chapters 16, 17, etc as I have assumed that you must have covered all the government schemes such as NRHM, JNNURM, etc irrespective of where they are given in the book.

In Mains 2009 many questions could be answered on the basis of information provided in the IYB, e.g. significance of coastal regions, UMPPs, BSUP, fruit production in India and NNRMS.

But if you don’t have time, newspapers should be preferred over standard books such as the IYB.

Civil Services Chronicle (magazine)

Since I read the Civil Services Chronicle, I am going to give some tips on how to go about it. If you read some other magazine, not a problem. You may apply the same strategy if you want to.

Regarding CSC, it’s important because newspapers are not Civil Services exam oriented. So they are bound to miss a few things which may be important for the exam. Also, it is sometimes possible that you might miss out on an important development, such as an appointment, etc. So reading CSC (or any 1 exam oriented magazine) is beneficial.

I always aimed at finishing the chronicle in a day or two (apart from newspaper reading on that day). If you find it time-consuming, always keep in mind that 3 days is the maximum time you should be spending to go through an issue.

My strategy to go through CSC was as follows:

  • While reading it, tick mark the articles which are good as many times articles too specific to a given place or even issues with very little probability of being asked in the exam are covered. While reading, underline the important lines then and there. Concentrate only on the facts and not what should be done, what is good, what might happen, if, but, etc.
  • I used to write on a paper all the important issues (just the heading and page number) and on another paper the names of all the important persons mentioned in the issue which could be asked in the exam. For example, winners of Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan are important, but there’s no need to remember about each and every person who has won the Padma Bhushan or Padma Shri. Similarly, winners of Nobel Prize, Magsaysay Award (only if given to an Indian), Jawaharlal Nehru prize for international understanding, etc are important, but not some obscure science award or social service award or Magsaysay award to someone from Malaysia, Thailand or Philippines.

REVISION of the issues just before the exam is very important. Just one reading wouldn’t do any good. So revise only what you have marked and only the articles which you have written on the page. 3 issues of the magazine should be covered in 1 day while revising (apart from newspaper reading/revision) or it’s going to be unmanageable.

Economic Survey

You should aim at finishing the Economic Survey in 4 days (apart from newspaper reading on those days). Only 10-15% of it is useful for the exam.

  • If you feel you need to improve your knowledge of economics, take note of the terms you come across. For example, in ES 2009-10, page 2 has terms such as GDP at factor cost, broad money, capital formation, RD, FD, PD, current account balance, etc. If you do not know what they mean, look up on the net. No need to remember their values and advanced estimates etc. for all the years. Just remembering the last year’s actual values would suffice.
  • Concentrate on the boxes. But do not pay attention to tables such as the one on page 3. No need for such in-depth knowledge.
  • Pay special attention to the steps recommended by various bodies to the government. Example, 13th FC on page 18, UID on page 26, boxes on pages 30 and 34, measures to control inflation on page 75, etc.
  • Terms used in between such as CoP 15 on page 19, Project Arrow on page 57, NHB Residex on page 72, BPLR and FCNR(B) on page 94, etc should not be missed.
  • Do not even look into the statistical appendix.
  • Most important chapters: 1, 2, 6, 8 and 11.

Do not forget to REVISE what all you have marked at least twice before the exam. Therefore, whichever book you select for any given subject, keep in mind that it should be read at least 3 times.

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GS Prelims

I am putting up this post for all those who are going to take the prelims in 2011 or later. As far as I know, the GS paper is going to remain the same for prelims and the changes being proposed are only applicable to the optional.

After giving a list of the books, I will let you know my strategy and how I covered the books. Also, it is important to understand that my strengths and weaknesses might be very different from yours. So keep in mind that you have to introspect and chalk out a plan for yourself which might be very different from what I did. I am only giving an outline and how I prepared for the prelims.

Also, there are many books I have mentioned and others that I have left out. If you have read some other book on the topic, consider it as good as the book I have listed. It is all about choosing one book for a topic and making yourself comfortable with that book.

Books:

  1. Spectrum – General Studies for Prelims (1200 pages one)- base book- (www.spectrumbooks.in/books/english/gen_studies.html)
  2. DD Basu’s Constitutional Law of India
  3. India Year Book- Ministry of I & B, GoI
  4. Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence

Newspapers:

  1. The Times of India
  2. The Economic Times
  3. The Hindu

Magazine

  • Any one magazine of your choice (I read the Civil Services Chronicle).

Strategy

GS Prelims requires a very wide knowledge base. You need to have some idea about almost everything which has been prescribed in the syllabus to be sure of cracking it. The difficulty level of the paper is such that it is almost impossible to know each and every answer. Therefore, intelligent guessing plays a crucial role.

Since it’s a recognition exam where one of the choices has to be selected, extensive reading gives a very good probability of knowing something related to the question asked and hence attempting it.

I always made notes. My aim was to reduce any book I read to almost 1/10th of its size. How you make notes, mark important lines in the book itself, etc depends entirely on what suits you best.

I began my preparation for the Civil Services exam in January 2007 and Spectrum was my base book. NCERT books are considered by many to be very good for base knowledge but I didn’t go through them. If you have already started with NCERT books, do not worry. You can consider them as your base books and Spectrum can be your reference book.

Spectrum is divided into various sections. I went through the Geography, History, Polity, Indian National Movement, Economy and Science & Technology sections only.

I made notes from it and must have revised them about 4 times before I took the prelims in 2007. Thereafter, I revised them twice before the prelims in 2008 and 2009.

I left out General Mental Ability as the questions asked in the Prelims were very easy according to me and hence no preparation was required. But for those who are not comfortable with GMA questions such as those on probability, speed and distance, numbers, etc. kindly do not leave them out. Every year at least 15 questions are asked and answering them can ensure your selection for the Mains.

A good book for basic mathematics that I came across long back and which I think is good for CSE prelims’ maths is Quantitative Aptitude by RS Agarwal. So if you are not comfortable with GMA, kindly refer this book.

India Year Book (Min of I & B) is absolutely necessary for the CSE. There were a large number of questions asked directly from it in the Prelims in 2007, 08 and 09. Even though there might not have been many questions asked from it in 2010 (as I am told), yet it is the best book for information on India and government schemes. I read all the chapters except the one on States and UTs.

DD Basu’s Constitutional Law of India should be read after you have gone through the Indian Polity section in Spectrum. There is no need to mug up the Articles verbatim. What is required is remembering the outline of each Article and concentrating on the important ones such as those on FRs, election of the President, etc. I knew around 400 of the 440 or so Articles in the Constitution. It can be used in other papers such as the essay, public administration, sociology, etc. in the Mains as well.

Easy way of doing it is to read 20 Articles at a time and trying to remember them by writing them on a paper till you can readily do so without looking in the book. Also, from Article 72 onwards just add 89 to get the corresponding Article at the State level and add 90 from Article 112 onwards (as Art 200 is extra). So around 50 Articles are automatically done.

Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence is a very good book for the mains. But most of the questions asked from History in the Prelims are from the post 1857 period (Modern History). So if you have time, go through this book.

I read the Civil Services Chronicle regularly since February 2007. There are many other magazines such as Pratiyogita Darpan, Wizard, Civil Service Times, Kurukshetra, etc. You should read only 1 magazine, whichever it may be.

I did not keep newspaper cuttings during my first two attempts. I read only the Times of India but did not cut the articles. In the 3rd attempt I started doing so only from the day after the prelims till October 1st week. But it is one of the biggest mistakes I committed in my earlier attempts. Newspaper reading is absolutely essential. Also, mere reading won’t do. It is the REVISION of the cuttings before the exam that is of essence. Only those articles which are relevant for the exam should be cut. It is going to be difficult in the beginning to understand what is relevant and what is not. But going through the previous yrs’ Prelims and Mains papers is going to give a good idea. The target should be to finish reading the newspapers under 2 hours. If you are not able to do so, you may leave out 1 of the 3 newspapers.

A key exercise should be to classify and segregate the articles into different folders such as national issues, international issues, security and defence, economy, climate and miscellaneous (S&T, etc). Kindly refer to the GS Mains post for more on newspaper reading.

Always remember that rather than reading five books once, you should aim at reading one book five times. REVISION is the key to remembering, gaining an insight and relating various events.

My net scores in the 3 prelims (2007, 08 and 09) were approximately 70 (86 right and 48 wrong), 97 (107 right and 29 wrong) and 87 (100 right and 40 wrong) respectively. A net score of 60 + was considered good at the time. So always aim at a net score of 75 to improve your chances.

During my 1st attempt, before the Prelims, I had gone only through the Spectrum and 4 issues of Civil Services Chronicle magazine. So it’s definitely possible to clear the Prelims with less preparation. But it is certainly not a good idea to do so. Extensive reading and a good knowledge base is very important for the Mains and going through the aforementioned books ensures that the performance in the GS Mains papers is going to be above average. The amount of time between the Prelims and Mains exam is not enough to cover all the books for GS and simultaneously prepare the other 2 optionals. So, devise a long-term plan and strive towards implementing it successfully.

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Test series for pub ad

I spoke to Pavan sir today. He told me that he is going to start test-series from June 23. It would also include discussion and analysis on the same day itself (as many students have to travel long distances).

During my preparation, I went to Pavan sir for writing tests and getting feedback on my answers. So if you have any queries, you can surely ask me here.

His number is 9911366520. Speak to him if you are interested.

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Coaching classes, test series, correspondence courses I attended/enrolled for

In light of the advertisements appearing in various newspapers and magazines, I have been asked by numerous aspirants whether I attended a particular class, correspondence course or test series, etc.

Therefore, it behoves me to clarify as to which all classes, correspondence material or test series I attended or enrolled for during the last 3 years and all the teachers who have guided me.

Year 2009 2008 2007
Prelims None None None
Mains Pavan sir at Sriram’s for pub ad. They didn’t have any formal classes for pub ad. But I took extensive guidance from Pavan sir. My whole orientation and approach to pub ad was based on Pavan sir’s advice and assessment of my answers.

Mukul Pathak sir at Vajiram for psychology. Didn’t join the classes. Went to him to get my answers checked and he helped me realise some of the mistakes I was committing in my earlier attempts.

None GS crash course at Vajiram. I have commented on it earlier.

Pub ad at Vajiram. I have commented on it earlier.

Interview Samkalp mock-interviews. Did not attend the classes.

Also, a mock interview by Sriram sir.

But received extensive guidance from Pavan sir for the interview.

Samkalp. Classes weren’t that good. Mock interviews were good. Vajiram. Didn’t join it thereafter.
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How to choose the optionals

This is one of the most important decisions one has to make while planning to take the Civil Services exam.  There are 25 optionals one has to choose from. I assume you know the list and the combinations not allowed to be taken. If not, kindly visit the UPSC website www.upsc.gov.in and look up in general > examinations conducted by upsc > civil services (main) exam.

Since there is uncertainty regarding the scheme of the Civil Services (prelims) exam and UPSC may introduce the Civil Services Aptitude Test from next year onwards, I am going to concentrate on the 2 optionals one has to choose for the Mains.

While choosing my optionals, I started the process by eliminating all those optionals which I wouldn’t choose anyways. So Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Medicine, Geology, Statistics etc were eliminated.

I was left with a list of 6-7 optionals from which I had to choose 2. This decision has to be based entirely on your INTEREST and APTITUDE.

To help you decide, go through the syllabus prescribed for each optional you have short listed and try to further shorten the list. When I saw the syllabus for Mechanical Engineering (since I am a mechanical engineer) I took the decision to leave it out as I felt it was very vast and I could not manage it with General Studies and another optional. But if you are confident that you have good command over a subject, it shouldn’t matter even if the syllabus is vast. I was not interested in engineering anyways, and it was a back-up for me since I knew I would take the civil services exam. So the decision to leave it out was easy for me to make.

The reason why INTEREST should be the foremost criterion is because the minimum period of time you would be studying for the CSE is 2 years- from 1 year before the prelims and another 1 year, the duration of the exam. If you find your optional boring then it is going to be difficult to study it for a long duration (both number of months as well as number of hours in a day). So go with what interests you.

Also, APTITUDE has to be one of the important factors as what interests you will not necessarily be easy to study for you. For example, I always liked Mathematics in school and had good scores in it, but the level of maths in the CSE is certainly beyond my abilities.

After going through the syllabus, kindly refer the previous 5 years’ mains exam question papers for the given subject. The papers are easily available on the net. Do not assume by looking at the questions whether the optional seems to be easy or difficult. This is because even if the questions seem to be easy, the answer you would have to write in the exam might require a very good grasp over the subject, which isn’t that easy for any given optional.

By this time, I am sure you would be down to at most 3 optionals. It would now be a question of either this or that between 2 of them. To make the decision, kindly get a basic book for each of the two. This you can easily find out from someone who has prepared for the CSE with that optional. For example, the book I read for psychology was Introduction to Psychology- Morgan and King. I immediately realised it was the right optional for me. So I guess you would also be able to make that decision.

There are some other factors which many aspirants consider- overlap between optional and GS syllabus, availability of study material, toppers’ optionals, trend, etc. I am not in a position to comment on the availability of study material as I do not have much idea about other optionals. But yes, overlap between optional and GS syllabus can also be a good reason, provided interest and aptitude have been taken care of.

But factors such as toppers’ optionals, trend, average marks last year, etc are to be avoided at any cost. Such decision-making is completely illogical. What person A has studied is entirely based on his/her interest and aptitude which is not necessarily same as yours. The average scores, etc keep on changing every year for a given optional. For example, average scores in pub ad mains were well over 300 in 2008 but the situation was completely reversed in 2009. Who knows what might happen in 2010. Moreover, average is nothing but a calculated number. What you score is entirely independent of the average.

At the end of the day, whichever optional you choose, the decision has to be made entirely by YOU. You are the one who has to study for the exam, not your parents, teachers, friends, etc. Do seek advice from others, but make the decision yourself. Coaching classes very often discourage candidates from choosing certain optionals. It is a heavily biased opinion which they offer. Moreover, it’s easy to see that they discourage taking any optional which they do not teach in their institute. Kindly guard against it.

I have tried to give an outline of the method I followed while choosing the optionals. There might be many other factors. Always remember, my advice may be one of the many you might seek, but the decision has to be entirely yours.

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