All posts by Riju Bafna

Guidance for Economics Optional in UPSC Mains

Note: Please scroll to the bottom of this article to download my notes for Economics Paper 2.

Why this optional?

Since last two-three years, UPSC seems to be awarding economics well and it is no longer considered to be a ‘low-scoring’ optional. The subject is technical in comparison to the other mainstream optionals but is equally (or rather more?) relevant in current times. All said and done, the input output ratio of this optional is positively correlated and it is unlikely that if you have done the paper well that you will get low marks.

Who should go for this optional?

I would strongly recommend students who have studied economics at graduation and/or post-graduation level to consider it as an optional for this exam. The level of questions is equivalent to BA Economics (Honours) course. Management students shall also not find it too difficult if they are interested in the subject and have studied basic Economics as part of their curriculum. Students from engineering background can also consider Economics as an optional but their learning curve might not be steep.

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Law optional – Constitutional and Administrative Law

This article is written by Avi Prasad, Rank 13, UPSC CSE 2013.

General Sources

One must have a source which provides topic-wise break up of Mains Examination questions asked in past years. I relied on the one published on UPSC portal which was just a compilation of previous years’ questions under different topic heads. Yet, it was a very important tool in my preparation as it gave insight into the repetitive nature of questions asked, the variations and the important areas of syllabus. It also helped me identify parts of the syllabus that have rarely been tested by UPSC. While past is no definite indicator for the future, I took the decision to focus only on the topics which have been frequently asked by UPSC. Thus, I was able to narrow down the syllabus considerably. This strategy has held me in good stead in both my successful attempts with Law.

In this entry, I will list out the books I relied upon and how they can be used upon along with additional sources. An important source is excellent case summary of important cases published by Delhi University for its LLB course. This material is available for download at DU’s website. I also read the ubiquitously called ‘Dukki’ (for those unfamiliar with the term; it is the ‘guide-book’ which is relied upon by most students of Delhi University for passing the examination held by the University). The guide-books are essentially quality notes prepared with references from multiple books. While they are very useful for some part of the syllabus, their drawback is that they don’t cover the entire syllabus. However, these can be read as a basic preparatory text. There are two major publishers/authors of Dukki – Ashok Jain and Singhal. One has to compare Dukkis for each subject to ascertain which one is better for a particular subject.

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Guidance for Geography as an optional in UPSC Mains

(This article is written by Chanchal Rana, Rank 7, UPSC CSE 2013. He is currently undergoing training as an IPS and shall be joining IAS soon)

Disclaimer: All that the esteemed reader is to find below are based solely on my experiences with the subject for 3 consecutive attempts. The tips or the sources are not full or final and hence not prescriptive in nature and the reader is expected to use his own wisdom in the course of preparation for the subject.

[I plan to answer/ help all my dear aspirants (HEREINAFTER ADDRESSED as SIR) in the form of FAQs]

My Credibility (if at all it is !!!)  for scribbling in this blog::

Attempt Paper-1 Paper-II
1st (CSE 2011) /600 marks 120 145
2nd (CSE 2012)/600 marks 95 170
3rd (CSE 2013)/500 marks 88 130

1.  Why should SIR choose Geography as an optional?

Ans: The importance of optional although is in a decline, has still been one of the major deciding factor for being recommended by UPSC at the end of years of patience. I choose the optional not by any rational decision but because some of my friends opted for it and because I had heard that it fetched good marks. I swear, I knew nothing more than that earth has 3 layers and that tsunami was a giant wave and had seen India and world map. But I would suggest it as an optional because :-

  • It is scientific in nature unlike other Arts optional. Hence, logical and rational. Good for engineers like me.
  • It is heavily covered directly in GS Paper-1 and also indirectly in many areas of GS Paper-3
  • Sufficient material is available in the form of books by Indian Authors as well as coaching institute materials.
  • Ample scope for diagrammatic representation.
  • Helps a great deal in interview.

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Views on Coaching for General Studies for Mains

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:

  1. Subscription of mains Programme of GKtoday ( offered in form of online material.
  2. Postal Coaching Material of Shankar IAS academy, Chennai
  3. 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.

Strategy for Preliminary examination, UPSC Civil Services exam

(This entry is written by Avi Prasad, AIR 13 and Riju Bafna, AIR 77, UPSC CSE 2013)

The Examination comprises of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each. Both the question papers-GS and CSAT are of objective type (multiple choice questions).

Practice Books:

TMH publication books for GS and CSAT. They have a lot of practice questions along with brief summary of all the relevant topics, especially useful for CSAT, as this paper is mostly about practice and basic concepts of analysis, reasoning etc.

GS for prelims: It is said that everything under the sun is GS syllabus. However, nothing can be further from truth. In the last two years, GS questions in UPSC prelims examination have been on expected lines. GS can be, for the present purpose, qualified under two heads-static and dynamic. The static part of the GS remains fixed and can be covered with the help of definite and limited source of study. However, the dynamic part of the syllabus has to be followed on a regular basis through newspaper, periodicals, coaching material and notes. The good part is that the prelims GS questions in recent two years have been mostly static. The static part comprises of History, Polity, Geography, Culture and Science. Environment and Climate change is also mostly static is nature. Only two areas of syllabus the current affairs and the social and economic issues are dynamic in nature. The latter also has certain static components which require conceptual clarity.

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