When did you start preparing for Mains Examination?

It was an integrated preparation. In fact, I started with mains prep (answer writing) after revising my basics.

How did you cover Current Affairs?

Newspaper Self notes on paper, keeping important articles in books themselves and VisionIAS monthly booklets. Apart from that, daily I used to go thorough insightsonindia.com current affairs. It takes hardly 15-20 mins but it refreshes you in the evening.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 1

GS1 can be said to be comprising of 3 parts basically – History, Sociology & Geography

For History

a) Art & Culture can be done from Nitin Singhania Sir’s notes and CCRT printouts. Please read Sir’s notes first and then CCRT, not the other way round. It may appall one a little in the beginning, but one should be patient. please do not try to memorise everything in first reading itself.

b) Modern History (including freedom struggle) should be done from NCERT and Spectrum. For Mains, one should be thorough with the last chapters of spectrum, like the economic impact one, the evolution/freedom of press one etc as from these the probability of making analytical questions is more.

c) World History: here one can make a choice between NCERTs or VisionIas booklet or as recommended by Sh. Gaurav Agarwal ji, Balyan Sir’s World History handwritten notes. Personally for me, as I could take only a cursory reading of NCERTs before prelims, I decided to go with Vision as the matter here is short and concise. Apart from them, one needs to use internet for a few topics, with an eye on what has been in current affairs, for example WWII anniversary type (70yrs in 2015) etc.

For Sociology

It was my optional, so I had more some knowledge in this regard.

For Geography

NCERTs, and Vajiram Notes on Geography. I have had a liking for this subject, so I did an extensive reading on it, through a friend’s Geo optional notes.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 2

I expected much better marks in GS2 vis-a-vis what I have been awarded. Nevertheless, I will share my strategy. The portion of GS2 can be divided into 5 parts.

Part 1 : it pertains to all the topics that are satisfactorily covered in the book – Indian Polity by Laxmikanth. In addition, one has to go through newspapers thoroughly here, read and analyse topics and most importantly, relate them with the syllabus.

Part 2 : RPA Act and Constitution comparison: One can again go through VisionIAS booklets here, they are helpful.

Part 3 : development process, welfare schemes for vulnerable sections, social sector, poverty and hunger etc: For this newspaper is very important. I have used all 3 newspapers extensively – The Hindu (main), IE (editorials, explained & sometimes these long articles after editorial on infra, schemes like mnregs etc, rural dev.) and Business Standard (editorials and economy & public affairs section).

Part 4 : governance related, role of civil services: for this Lexicon helped and also, hand written notes of M.Puri are good. I went through them and after one is throrough with Laxmikanth and Newspapers, these are an easy and joyous affair.

Part 5: International Relations: read newspapers and make some mental notes. One can cover this part from Vision Current booklets, that is more than sufficient.

Apart from this, I wrote answers on “ insightsonindia.com ” before switching to pen-paper format (as finally we need to write on paper) , which helped me in many ways like answer structuring, understanding the demand of question, how to balance facts, how to conclude etc. So after one is done with basics, she/he could practice answer writing – it really helps and also gives confidence. One thing that I would like to add here is that the quality of answer matters. So, initially, please do not stress on time, more emphasis should be on organization of thoughts and development of approach. For ex. in the beginning, I would write an answer in around 20-25 mins. When I read any question, my first aim was to understand what the examiner is asking and why is she/he asking this? then do some research, develop an understanding and finally attempt. Please focus on quality, time can be reduced with practice.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 3

GS3 is again a 4 part paper.

Part1 : Basic Indian economy: for this one can refer to Sriram printed Notes/

Vajiram yellow booklet to get an understanding of basics. Economy is a bit technical and therefore, it was my strength. After one is good with basics, use of newspaper comes into play, especially a financial newspaper like BS. If there is any doubt in economy,

investopedia.com is a good reference. Also, Mrunal.org can be very useful. Government Budgeting can be done from Vision booklet, but I couldn’t do so due to paucity of time.

Part2 : “Applied” economy like farm subsidies, msp, liberalization, industrial policy, inflation, monetary policy changes, infrastructure etc.: This portion is very dynamic and therefore very interesting. For this, NEWSPAPER will form the foundation of one’s preparation. Here, one needs to connect the dots, relating what is happening outside as perceived through newspaper reading and what should/can be the way to go forward. Kindly make your own notes of this part and revise them regularly.

Part3 : Science and Tech.: the syllabus of science and tech is vast and here one feels lost. Personally, what I did was that I bought notes from outside, made them the “bare minimum” and along with that, covered S&T from vision current booklets. Here one needs to be a little innovative too, for example, this year there was a question regarding IRNSS and If one did not have enough points on that – like remembered only 7 satellites, PSLV, divided in geosynchronous & geostationary, 1500 kms, problems faced in GPS in Kargil war, China’s Beidou etc. one could begin by saying that astronomical prowess is not new to India – Observatories(jantar mantar) in Jaipur & Delhi constructed by Swai JaiSingh stand as testimony to the developments in this field.

Part4 : Disaster Mgmt and Internal Security: DM can be prepared from internet and newspapers. for example, the Chennai floods that had happened in December, were accompanied with many articles on how to tackle them and why they happened in first place. similarly, the EQ in Nepal. Also, drought affected areas. Here one should not only read, but also, keep oneself in the shoes of the affected people, like imagine what will happen if the water supply to your home gets damaged and takes a week long to repair.

For Internal Security, one can get a good idea by a book which is written by an IPS officer, Ashok Kumar, it’s titled internal security challenges, if I am able to recall correctly. One should try to solve the questions, at least mentally, which are given at the end of chapter. Apart from that, newspaper is again, very helpful.

Like GS2, I did an extensive writing practice (around 3-4 months) of this paper too. Please do economic survey fully, not summaries, and in fact, summarize them yourself. For example, the previous economic survey was summarized by me in 6 pages itself, with all necessary data and statements. ES 2014-15 was a beautiful document – JAM trinity, wiping every tear from every eye etc…i used these statements in my answers. ES 2015-16 is nice too. For my interview, I made notes out of it, and shortened them to only 3 pages. Why the shortest possible content is being emphasized is because one has to revise, re-revise, re-re-revise these things, so that they get etched in memory. So, please focus on your summary, your notes, your short-hand, your own effort. When you summarize, it automatically leads to revision.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 4

Ethics was my stronghold, and again, marks were disappointing. It may be due to the fact that I started paper from last question (i.e. case studies first) and then rest of the questions, and therefore the quality may have declined. So, if I had to attempt again, I’d’ve begun from the 1st question itself.

For ethics, please take a printout of syllabus and paste it in front of your study table. I referred to lexicon, and also some notes of SK Mishra Sir, and more importantly, some notes prepared by Sh. Daya Shankar ji (selected in UP PCS) which he had made by reading 2nd ARC report on ethics and extensive internet research.

Writing practice is very important in ethics. I repeat – very very important. There is a proper vocabulary of an ethics answer, which differentiates it from a normal philosophical/altruist remark. While attempting ethics’ question, one’s answer must contain words like integrity, compassion, dedication, empathy, attitude, tolerance, objectivity etc. Initially, one has to force-feed these words, but with time, one starts using them befittingly. The quality improves exponentially with examples and diagrams, they may be simple ones. Examples come from newspapers, for instance, there was an article in the hindu about a tribal man selling his son for Rs 50 so that he could pay for medical expenses of his wife – when one reads such articles, one shouldn’t just move on to next page. One should himself be that tribal man, think about the moral, ethical dilemma and actualize and internalize that situation.

For case studies, one should have at least 4 ready-to-serve lines for any situation. For example, if there is a case study of making one a manager and a case of personal misconduct being brought before him/her – one should start like ” a manager, who is a leader, is the mirror of the organization. She/he is not just followed but is evoked and exemplified in difficult situations. Her/his conduct inspires and motivates those working alongside. Therefore……..”. Not only such an introduction gives a kick-start to your answer, but also, it improves your presentation. Prepare such intro from the point-of-view of a DC/DM, a village sarpanch, a minister, an SP, a corporate leader etc. There will be 10-15 such introductions only but they will help a lot.

My optional sociology has helped me with the thinkers part. Though i didn’t name them, I used their though-process extensively, e.g. functional, dysfunctional, non-functional – latent/manifest approach etc.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of ESSAY

No specific preparation of essay, read yojana magazine and had already guessed one essay – so completed it in 45 mins itself. What happened in the essay paper was that I thought the answer sheets will be enough (12-14 for one essay) and they were only six. So I started without counting (time crunch factor – anxiety). I realised my precarious situation after I had used 4 out of 6 sheets only for introduction. So please do have a look for the number of pages before starting your essay, and adjust your writing accordingly. The second essay was written carefully.
Thank you.
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