My Two Cents on CSE
People tend to go doe-eyed when I talk about my preparation for civil services on two aspects. The first, I was in a job and had a slipshod style of studying. The second, I took up law as an optional, even though I am not a lawyer.
I made up my mind, on various accounts, to share my preparation strategy. But then, my way of studying is so precarious that I don’t suggest anyone, even my cousins, to study my way. Those, who know me well, call it the ‘perfect recipe to flunk the CSE’. The good, non-sadistic guy that I am, I usually direct them to the blogs of Gaurav and Riju, for I know theirs is the correct way to study. That’s analogous to every great sinner knowing the difference between right and wrong – I didn’t study the right way but I know what the right way is! The CSE is very unpredictable on its own; you don’t want to make it more complex by your own shortcomings. Nevertheless, we all have our unique journeys and stories – what clicked for me, mayn’t for others.
1. I have almost an eidetic memory for the lectures in social studies from school times, obviating the need to go full steam astern for devoting time to history and geography during my preparation. I believe that I had the greatest teachers ever at MCL Saraswati Bal Mandir, a school in Hari Nagar, New Delhi. During my MBA, I read texts like Salvatore, Dornbusch, Shapiro and Peterson & Lewis cover to cover. I remember basics from them; so I didn’t have to worry much for economics, too. My teachers from Biochemistry department at Sri Venkateswara College always laid a lot of stress on how to make sense of scientific journals and new scientific developments. So I studied no book for science and tech. Good memory, yes, I have, yet, at times, it so happens that I forget the name of a case as fundamental as ‘Keshwanand Bharti’. With age, memory starts playing tricks on you. In effect, it is only about doing bare minimum things you must know before appearing for the CSE. If you remember them from your school/college days, fine; otherwise, you will have to devote time for traditional topics, too.
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.