This post is written by Avi Prasad (CSE 2013, Rank 13) and Riju Bafna (CSE 2013, Rank 77). Your queries can be submitted in the comment column below.
At the outset, we would like to clarify that this methodology worked for us, many other successful aspirants may differ.
Those who have read our previous post on prelims preparation will note that coaching may not be of much assistance when it comes to preparation for preliminary examination. The prelims examination tests limited skill set in CSAT paper (that can be mastered through practice) and the General Studies paper (of which syllabus is covered through basic books). Thus, at the prelims stage, it is advisable to limit the sources of study and stick to them as the coaching institute/material is not very helpful.
The same may not strictly hold for the Mains preparation. Mains syllabus requires sourcing of material from multiple sources, depending on the quality of the material.
Mains examination is where UPSC really checks awareness of current affairs and the ability to read and follow myriad of topics. There are two strategies to prepare for GS. One may prepare own notes for topics that are dynamic in nature through internet and other published material and depend on books for the static part of the syllabus. This requires extensive note making and is advisable only if a candidate has started Mains preparation well in advance. However, for those who set to study seriously for Mains only after Prelims examination, the note making business may not be very convenient. They may be better served if they can get decent quality prepared notes which they can improvise through their own research. This is where coaching material comes real handy. We have mentioned three coaching sources we relied on and this material was improved upon by us through multiple sources—books, newspaper articles, published research mostly from online resources.
This is why coaching material might be an important tool for preparation. Yet, at the same time usefulness of coaching material does not mean that one should join any classroom coaching. Classroom coaching may not be of great help for general studies as no coaching institute is in a position to arrange quality resource persons and material for the entire syllabus. Most may have some very good faculty for particular areas but the overall coverage of any particular institute remains mediocre. So the time is better spent in self study and the coaching material can be purchased from market/ arranged from friends.
Our coaching sources, in order of their usefulness in our preparation:
- Subscription of mains Programme of GKtoday (www.gktoday.in) offered in form of online material.
- Postal Coaching Material of Shankar IAS academy, Chennai
- Classroom material provided by Sriram Coaching, Delhi
We will be sharing topic wise sources of our study for all the four general studies paper in the days to come on this website. The primary coaching material used will be mentioned along with the source which was relied upon to further understand the topic and improve the quality of the coaching material.