Vote of Thanks
First, I must thank Ms. Rukmani Riar (Rank-2) for being very kind to spare some time and share her strategy for GS preparation. She will try and reply to any queries you post. She has scored exceedingly well in GS (311 marks) and so I feel she will be able to guide the candidates much better. I thank her on behalf of all the candidates once again.
How to prepare for GS
General Studies is the most crucial paper of CSE. With the news taking rounds thatUPSC is planning to do away with the optionals the importance of GS has increased manifold.
Newspaper the best friend!
First and foremost reading a newspaper (I read Hindu) is the starting point. Now the question is how to read the paper. Initially one must spend 45 minutes to one hour on the paper. With time the duration can come down to half an hour. The national news, international news and the economy sections of the paper must not be ignored. One can choose to make notes from the paper daily and keep the editorials which can help immensely to answer essay, bilateral and international sections with ease and efficiency. As science and technology section of UPSC is very unpredictable therefore newspaper will be most handy means to answer this section. One more point to be kept in mind is that not to stop reading the paper at any time of the preparation, as this helps the aspirants to write up-to-date answers which will give them that extra edge needed to clear the exam with eminence. The notes made from the newspaper must be revised at least 2-3 times before the prelims and editorials be read once before the mains. You can separate the editorials subject wise (if they are on topics in optional syllabus) which will make the revision more organised.
After the newspaper, reading of two magazines is a must. I recommend you to pick fromPritiyogitaDarpan (PD), Competition wizard and Civil services times. The special editions of these magazines are very helpful in attempting the CSE. For example the economy edition of PD, Geography and history special of wizard are very comprehensive and detailed.Yojna and Kurukshetra should be selected edition wise, if the topic is very contemporary or useful for the optionals, as the entire magazine is on one topic so magazines like these need not be read in entirety and only two articles can be selected to prepare oneself adequately on the topic of that edition. Some of the yojna issues last year on rural development, urban migration, Agriculture helped me immensely for my optionals and GS.
When magazines are read it’s advisable to mark on the outset the points for P.T and the sections for Mains (you can use different pens or just write PT, Mains on the side) this will help in quicker revision at a later stage and help you to save very crucial time.
For Indian Polity I read D.D Basu along with bare act from P.M Bakshi. Each topic must be read along with the articles which makes the preparation more through. Indian Polity Wizard book (ALS Publication) is available in the market it can be consulted along with the books mentioned. Any news with regard to Indian polity (elections, political and democratic institutions) must be read on the internet to have more factual information for prelims and in depth analysis for the mains. (e.g from the last month news following questions need a clear understanding: should we move towards a presidential form of government?, what are the advantages of having parliamentary form of democracy, when was lokpal bill first introduced what is its composition as proposed by government at present? Details of Electoral College for Indian President’s elections).
For history I recommend NCERT books (6th to 12th) for ancient, medieval and Morden sections. The modern history is most important from the point of view of CSE hence it requires additional effort. You can refer to wizard book on Modern History or General Studies manual (Tata McGraw) for the same. Apart from this solving previous year question papers and expected questions must be practiced to give oneself a fair idea about the level of preparation. For Indian culture any book can be picked up which covers Indian festivals, art and literature forms, Architecture, poetry, literature and drama history of India.
In Indian geography section, physiology, drainage, population, location of all scientific institutions, mineral distribution, industries, environment, ecology and wildlife, energy need special emphasis. Energy chapter in India year book can be consulted to update the information if time permits. Industry must be studied from both geography and economy point of view. Ecology and wildlife is very crucial and hence must be updated regularly from the newspapers. Small maps in the atlas on soil types, scientific institutions, mineral deposits etc can be looked at to memorise easily.
For general geography and world geography the same wizard book on geography will be more than sufficient. Special editions on these topics are published in Competition Wizard magazine which can be helpful for quick revision (only for prelims). Any place which is in news should be looked up on the map to understand its exact location and surrounding areas.
Indian economy needs special emphasis. I recommend reading a basic book for clearing the concepts (for those of non-economic background), it could be 12th level economics book. These concepts need to be regularly updated from the economic sections of newspapers and magazines. The fundamentals need to be clear and for that one should make a list of all basic terms of economics that one comes across on daily basis and discuss with teachers or friends e.g what is the difference between FDI and FII or between fiscal deficit and revenue deficit. I also would recommend the CSE aspirants to read the following chapters in economic survey
- Social Security
For the prelims the order of preference must be biology > physics> chemistry. General Studies manual (tatamcgraw) serves the purpose or one can refer to 10thand 12th standard books of these subjects (ncert).
One must focus on statistics as they are sure shot marks in the mains. Statistics must not be ignored as they can make a difference of 50 marks to the final total.
Bilateral and International relations
The reason I have put this under a separate head is because for the mains bilateral and international relations form veryimportant part of GS paper 2, in which candidates tend to have a low score. It is important to keep all updates on this topic from the newspapers and monthly magazines. Towards the mains a special wizard book (mains special) comes out which I referred to update this section. Civil services times (magazine) constantly updates the development on this front which proved very useful. Also, this section must be prepared with a equal focus on factual information and its analytical part. (e.g. How are regional organisations impacting the geopolitical canvas of South Asia?)
Science and technology
Science and technology section is very vast and unpredictable. I would not advice non science students to spend too much time on this section. Whatever can be covered from newspapers should be done. Defence, environment, nuclear and space science are some important sections which need special emphasis.
Is there a difference between mains and prelims preparation?
Many have their own views on this question, but if you were to ask me, there isn’t much of a difference as one needs factual and analytical information for mains as well as the prelims. Based on my experience one should start GS preparation from the mains point of view at the onset (about 8 months prior to prelims). The detailed and exhaustive preparation for mains helps CSE candidates to become adequately prepared to tackle all kinds of questions in prelims. 2-3 months prior to the prelims ones focus for GS preparation should only be prelims, which includes fast repeated revisions, solving previous year questions or some test series available in the market, going back to the notes from the newspapers, re-reading the marked sections for PT in monthly magazines and practicing mathematics for CSAT .
The last word!
Revision is the key to score well in GS. I made a consistent effort to revise conventional GS at least 4 times before the mains, and also go back to newspaper notes and magazines (marked portions).
When it comes to attempting the GS mains two things are important one, stick to the word limit and second attempt 250 plus in both the papers.