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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How to prepare Economics for UPSC/IAS Prelims

My very good friend Saurabh has agreed to share his experience of appearing and clearing UPSC/IAS prelims with Economics optional.So here it is in Saurabh's own words how to go about your preparation ...

"Economics is not a very popular optional for civil services like history, geography or say public administration, but surprisingly it can be a very safe optional in prelims for those who have economics or commerce background. As the syllabus of economics for prelims is relatively concise (as compared to geography or commerce) and can be covered in a short span of time and the cut off is also reasonable. Any thing above 70 should be safe with negative marking. But people from non-economics or non-commerce background should avoid this optional because there is hardly any good coaching available and the subject is as such a little bit technical, so they may find it difficult".

Distribution of Questions

1. Indian Economy – majority of questions are asked from this area; there are usually about 40-45 questions per year from this section.
2. Statistics- there are about 7- 10 questions every year.
3. Growth and Development - about 10 questions.
4. Micro and Macro Economics - about 35 – 40 questions every year.
5. International Economics - about 15-20 questions every year.
6. Money, Banking & Public Finance – about 10 –15 questions every year.


Reference / Sources
1. Indian Economy - Any one good book on Indian economy, it can either be Mishra-Puri or Dutt-Sundaram. Pratiyogita Darpan special issue on economics,economic survey and budget from news paper.
2. Statistics – class 11’th NCERT book is more than sufficient.
3. Growth andDevelopment- M L Jhingan and NCERT book of class 11’th.
4. International Economics - book by H.G.Mannur or Salvatoire.
5. Money, Banking & Public Finance - S.B.Gupta & Pratiyogita Darpan (Special issue) for banking and H.L.Bhatia for Public Finance.
6. Micro Economics - NCERT & Koutsoyyiannis or Ahuja.
7. Macro Economics – NCERT & JHINGAN.
8. Solved 10 years paper and any one practise book(eg.IIMS Question bank) of any publication.


Strategy
1. More emphasis should be on NCERT BOOKS .Do it properly and don’t underestimate them because many questions are asked directly from them only.
2. Practise and revise diagrams regularly.
3. Concentrate mainly on Micro, Macro & Indian Economy because majority of questions are asked from these areas.
4. Solve all the statistics questions from previous year papers.
5. Do read economic survey properly and pay special attention to the boxes of survey.
6. It is not necessary to cram all data and figures just memorize only important and relevant ones.
7. Solve previous year papers and practise book(eg.IIMS Question bank) regularly.

I(Saurabh) did not take coaching for optional anywhere but always managed to secure 88+ and cleared prelims twice and also appeared in interview in 2008.Therefore I suggest you to don’t go by rumours that economics is dangerous or difficult. If you have the background like Eco.(hons) or B.Com(hons.) then you must go for it, it is safest.You can post your queries regarding economics in comments section and i will be personally answering them.
So all the best for prelims …

Saurabh Mishra
MA (Economics)

Friday, January 23, 2009

How To Select An Optional For UPSC/IAS Exam

"Which optional/subject should I take ?" is the most often asked query in the comments section of this blog. This question like any other important question does not have a simple answer. The choice of optional may prove to be one's undoing in this exam as optionals carry huge weightage in terms of marks in all three stages. But if anyone thinks that just by choosing a safe optional one will clear all stages then one is just fooling oneself.At the same time choosing an optional in which you have more than a passing interest and one which you feel you have the aptitude for ,may prove to be an invaluable asset in this exam.Go through the syllabus and prelims/mains question papers of 2-3 subjects that you would have shortlisted from the unending list of UPSC optionals.Just see for yourself what kind of questions are being asked and whether you feel you will be able to answer them once you are thorough with the syllabus.Selecting optional remains more of an art and if you have to go by something then go by your interest in the subject alone,everything else should take a backseat.
Some of the basic factors that one must consider before zeroing down on an optional are:
1.Never choose a subject solely because everyone else is going for it.Consider your own interest and inclination for the subject especially if it is going to be your first optional as you will have to read it in much detail and get clarity of concepts.
2.The availability of resources in terms of books,guidance,coaching etc.For popular subjects ,resources are more easily available but it should be considered after you satisfy the first criterion.
3.Your subject in graduation or post-graduation should be considered if you are really comfortable with the subject.But do not go for it just because you have read it in college.
4.Once you decide on an optional ,fully back yourself to clear the exam with it no matter what others may say.In this exam individual performances only matter ,general trends count for little.
Finally, no optional is safe or unsafe despite what the coaching institutes or other experienced people might say.It is your preparation level which will determine whether the optional that you have selected will have one more successful/unsuccessful candidate.Listen to others,but do your own thing.All the very best !!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Preparing Political Science for UPSC/IAS Prelims

Political Science is almost as popular as Public Administration as an optional and where political science scores over other optionals is that it covers a very scoring segment of General studies in Mains as well.My very good friend Vivek took political science as his first optional despite coming from an engineering background and he has appeared in interview twice and awaiting the result of mains.Here he is sharing his views on preparing political science and general studies for UPSC/IAS prelims...

I(Vivek Tripathi) have a background of computer science and yet i was lucky enough to qualify prelims and mains in my both attempts with political science(prelims) and psychology as optional subjects.The result of mains for 3rd time is awaited by me. The strategy followed by me in both general studies as well as political science was simple-Rotate/Twist all the information which you encounter in books or newspapers.Neither too much nor too little thinking on particular topic is required.I will explain this by few examples-

General studies-Everyone knows that Sam Pitroda is head of NKC.The UPSC will never ask this question. Rather we should ask to ourselves that why Sam Pitroda was made head of NKC.It is he who pionereed telecom revolution (C-DOT exchanges) in India. It is this critical information that we must know. Similarly, we can see Sulabh Toilets outside every railway stations.Thus, we should know who is behind this movement( Bindeshwar Pathak!) .Also, we are facing the problem of naxalism these days. As an intelligent citizen, we should know when,how and where this problem started-1967-Naxalbari village(darjeeling district,west bengal).The early leaders were Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal.In this way we can approach toward the general studies.The paper of general studies in prelims is,now, too general to need any coaching.In my opinion,a regular and intelligent reading of newspapers alongwith efficient use of wikipedia,if possible, is sufficient enough to provide cutting edge in prelims paper.

Political science- I never took any any coaching or guidance for political science.One can easily score 85-90+(after negative marking) in this paper with certain degree of conceptual clarity.For begineers, I would recommend following books-
1.The Constitution Of India- D.D.BASU
2.An Introduction To Political Theory-O.P.Gauba
3.Spectrum's Political science for Prelims
4.The Constitution Of India-P.M.Bakshi
The thorough study of O.P.Gauba may help you in getting basics entrenched in your mind.This subject is so wide that it is difficult to make a list of all the books that are required.I can only suggest the approach through which one should/may go toward the subject. For instance,
Art 1 of the Constitution states that India that is Bharat shall be union of states.This article gives us several important information-
a) The use of word 'union' rather than 'federal' ;The word federal is nowhere used in the consitution.This point is explained in all the major books on the subject.
b) What about Union Territories??? This means that India can exist without Union Territories but not without states.Of course, the boundaries, name and ,in fact, new states can be created. But States in some form must exist.India can not exist without states. You will not found this point in many popular books on the subject.It is this ability of extracting hidden information from the common information that comes when one go repeatative and of course, focused study of the subject.The 'common sense' of any person actually unravels the effort person put on the suject.
c)What about panchayats?????Think about it!
Important point-The term 'states' here do not have the same meaning as the word 'state' in Art 12 of the constitution.

I hope all this strategy/approach etc. become redundant for you once you actually start putting effort for the examinations because you will develop your own method of qualifying this examination! Best of luck !!!

Vivek Tripathi

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to prepare History optional for UPSC Prelims

History is ‘The Optional’ as far as appearing in UPSC/IAS examination is concerned. Every year, the highest number of aspirants take History as their first optional in this most coveted examination. Even I had this idea of taking up History as my first optional, but after some introspection and one reading of NCERT text-books ,the realization dawned upon me that it was not my cup of tea as an optional. My very good friend Trilochan Rao has appeared in UPSC prelims successfully four times with History as his first optional and has agreed to share his experience with fellow aspirants with History optional. So here it is in Trilochan’s own words what one needs to do if one has decided to take History in UPSC Prelims ….

I (Trilochan) had done MSc Biotechnology before entering into civil services preparation and my optionals are History(1st) and Geography(2nd) .One might have this doubt that how this guy managed these optionals while coming from a science background. My answer is simple, it was my interest in knowing our hisorical facts and stories and places of ecological, economical significance that prompted me to opt for these subjects.
Few of my seniors advised me to take History as my first optional, they told me the advantages of taking history as it is safest and intake for mains from history is also more(because most people appear with history optional).
I listened to what seniors told me, that is different, but at the same time I also introspected regarding subject and important areas. One thing I have realized is that "revision and comparision" is very important to succeed with this optional as it contains more facts like years, names and other theoretical facts.
I did not attend any coaching classes for History as it is theory based and especially for prelims I feel coaching is not required. After the introduction of negative marking, safest mark to clear prelims is to get 70+ questions correct.
There are so many books in the market which helps us to become master in the subject .I, myself have studied all NCERT books for history which gave me an idea about the limits of the subject and later on i studied TMH(Tata McGraw Hill) written by Krishna Reddy .Here, I prepared my notes from NCERTs and TMH , I emphasised on facts which require at least 5 revisions ( i revised my notes 3 times and 2 times those books) . With this kind of preparation, I landed in 50+ mark which includes both direct questions and indirect questions (means through elimination process). After this home work, I opened Romila Thapar for Ancient , Satish Chandra for Medieval, Bipin Chandra for Modern (this includes both books that is struggle for freedom and after independence) . These books I revised only once which helped me to touch 80 marks.
Generally ,few of my friends studied only text books by avoiding TMH, this is also good because during mains it will save our time and one can have very good concept of any particular topic.
I also had IGNOU material, Gazetteer Volume2 (Publication Division) and Grover & Grover, but I did not get time to read all these books.
I didn’t take coaching anywhere, so naturally I committed few blunders while in preparation, later on I rectified those after taking suggestions from my friends. Facts are very important for prelims, at the same time one should not neglect their mains preparation, I mean to say take 2008 mains history paper , those who have studied texts books which I have suggested are well placed to get very good marks. Of course revision and comparision is always required, i.e. take "society", how was it during pre vedic, vedic, post vedic periods; what are the additions in the later stages and like that...this kind of analysis is important in solving assertion and reasoning type questions and true and false questions in prelims. These type of questions are most tricky and eat our marks as these had maximum weightage in 2006, 2007 and 2008 papers.
Preparing notes is the best method for remembering facts, because we'll write only those points which would need revision.

General Studies
Every time I could cross 75+ in general studies paper as my preparation was extensive which generally eats lot of time and memory power to be honest. I followed the current trend, suppose geography is my optional I have to study many things for map pointing so i focused on atlas .In prelims questions on geography part contains questions like this ... one country and capital, island, river , mountain, transport, mineral etc .So, I always kept one thing in my mind that i have to pick up the answer from the given multiple choice question. For example ,i can tell more than 100 countries and its capitals ,but i can pick up the capitals for all 200+ countries if i get multiple choice .Though i was little bit tensed regarding prelims general studies, i was never afraid even if i dont remember any fact. But I kept on revising...as general studies contains many segments we need to be perfect in at least 2 to 3 segments along with current affairs which would help us to clear prelims easily .
Last but not the least, after reading all these areas if any body feels that paper is tough ,be relaxed because paper will be much much tougher for all others and one can start mains preparation without counting on cutoff mark. Just stick to few standard books and keep revising, naturally success will come …. All the very best to you all !!!
Best Wishes
Trilochan Rao

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Best Books and Sources For IAS UPSC Prelims General Studies

This has been one of my most popular and helpful post for IAS Civil Services aspirants and now I am updating it to reflect the new changes in IAS UPSC examination pattern both in Prelims stage as wells as Mains Examination. The importance of General Studies has improved tremendously as in Prelims stage the second paper which used to contain logical reasoning, quantitative aptitude, english comprehension questions has been made qualifying nature from 2015 exam onwards. So General Studies is the King in Prelims stage and without solid preparation of GS one cannot hope to progress.
So here is an updated list of books and sources for starting your General Studies preparation for IAS UPSC Civil Services Examination preliminary stage.

I have been asked this question again and again and bowing to popular demand i am sharing the list of books and sources from where one can prepare general studies from UPSC prelims point of view.The list by no means is comprehensive but a starting point to get you on track to clear UPSC prelims.

GS is a vast ocean ,especially for first timers as they have time constraint plus a very vague idea about what to study and from where to study. First and foremost ,one has to prepare the core areas and later on one can try to cover some of the fringe areas as well. General Studies is not about preparing everything under the sun (though it comes close to it) and there has to be a method to the GS preparation madness.

CORE AREAS
1.Current Affairs : Make daily notes from The Hindu or read current affairs updates from any monthly magazine (I was a subscriber of Competition Wizard but hardly read anything other than toppers interviews) ; Read the diary of events (supplied with The Hindu in first week of January that covers all happenings of previous year) and mark all important happenings both national & international. Also one can follow Vision IAS monthly news magazines which are available in most bookshops in Delhi. But no substitute to making your own notes from newspapers.
Current affairs, needless to say, is worth at least 40-45 marks in GS, so ignore it at your own peril.(kindly refer my article on current affairs for more details at www.civilservicessynopsis.in)

2.History : Modern Indian History is important from both prelims and mains point of view.The best source for me was NCERT social studies books of classes 8 and 9(Contemporary India is the name of the book). Just go through the history portions and make notes, it will hardly take much time and will give you a clear idea of the chronology of events. One can expect 10-12 questions from modern indian history (freedom struggle) but be ready for surprises.
I know many people would not be satisfied with only the NCERT books ,so for those hard to please souls Spectrum's Modern Indian History booklet will be a good book to read. Even after this if one is not content then read Bipin Chandra as well ;)
For ancient and medieval India (fringe areas of GS) try to get hold of Vajiram classnotes or special supplements of Competition Wizard or any such magazine. From that also focus only on books and authors (eg.Mrichkatikam was written by Shudraka and Amuktamalyada was written by Krishnadeva Raya,who was the most famous King of Vijaynagar empire,which was founded by Harihara and Bukka and so on), Indus Valley sites and where particular things were found,important kingdoms and their rulers etc. I will be discussing it in more detail in a later post on Ancient & Medieval India which you can find at www.civilservicessynopsis.in.

3.Geography : Mostly atlas/location based questions are asked. One should not miss out on those. Read Ensemble's Geography and also get a good idea of India and world map.Location of countries,important rivers,which countries are cut by tropic of cancer/capricorn and equator etc should be seen on a regular basis from Atlas. One should get either Oxford Atlas or Orient Longman Atlas and make it a habit to locate all places that you read about anywhere and which you cannot immediately locate in your mind as to where the place is on Atlas. For example, if you are reading a news article that Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola free by WHO and if you do not know where Sierra Leone is in Africa and which are its neighbouring countries, then you should look it up on Atlas. Gradually, you will get better acquainted with places and their locations and it will come very handy in Civil Services Examination.
Read India and its states portion from Manorama Year Book and make notes of the salient features of all states and important rivers flowing through them, historical sites etc.
Note down all important national parks and their locations(which state) as it is asked often in matching type questions and also wetlands.

4.General Science : Focus more on biology and environment part as that is asked the most these days. One can follow Vajiram's class notes or special supplement of Competition Wizard.In addition one can also refer books- What,Why and How (3 very thin books) by Publication Division or any other source you are comfortable with. One can also look up important inventions and discoveries in Manorama Year Book. Plus one can also refer xerox of Shankar's Environment which is available in bookshops in Rajender Nagar (Delhi).

5.Polity : Generally conceptual questions are asked and one also needs to know important articles and amendments. For instance Article-143 is concerned with President of India seeking Supreme Court's opinion on any important issue and 73rd Amendment Act is concerned with Panchayati Raj Institutions. The Polity book by Laxmikant which is readily available online and bookshops is one of the best books for preparing Polity as the information is presented in easy to read manner and in point-wise format. There is no need to follow any other book for this section.

6.Paper II of CSAT : This paper should not require any extra preparation as such, as it is now a qualifying paper but one should not take it lightly. The best preparation is to go through previous years UPSC question papers and attempt these to see which areas you are finding difficulty. Attempting previous years IAS UPSC question papers will give you a good idea about the level and kind of  questions asked in GS Paper II in Prelims and one can then decide how much time and effort needs to be put into individual sections. One good book for preparing this section is by Tata McGraw Hill for General Studies Paper II. This paper requires practice and some more practice, as simple as that.

I look forward to your queries and feedback which you can post in comments,but please make sure you are posting your queries in my blog (www.civilservicessynopsis.in)and not at some other site which might have copied my content.
All the very best !!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

UPSC Prelims 2009 : Countdown Begins !!!!

First of all, i (Abhishek, www.upsc-prelims.blogspot.com) would like to wish all the civil services aspirants a very happy and successful year ahead.So,finally we are in January and this leaves us with precisely 4 months- January,February ,March and April for UPSC prelims preparation.From now on, time is going to be even more precious a commodity for all serious aspirants.Whatever people may say ,but based on my experience i definitely feel that 4 months is quite sufficient for prelims preparation. If i was writing prelims this time this is what i would have been doing as first priority :
Reading 'The Hindu' daily and making notes for current affairs.Reading newspaper is well worth the effort and time that goes into it ,but i remember that in my first attempt i could hardly find any time to read the newspaper regularly or makes notes from it.I was attending classes from 11 am to 1:30 pm (GS) and then again from 2pm to 4:30 pm(Psychology mains) ,and on certain days there used to be the psychology prelims classes as well (5:30 to 8:00 pm).After all this,newspaper used to be the farthest thing from my mind.But i had to compensate for not reading the newspaper regularly by putting in much more effort on current affairs at the time of exam.Next attempt onwards ,i made daily notes from newspaper and it saved a lot of time and effort ,which i could devote to other not so strong areas.
Many aspirants are confused as to what actually they should be noting down from newspapers and in what way.There is no hard and fast rule but taking todays's 'The Hindu'(1st Jan 2009) as example ,this is what i feel one should at least note down :

Kalpana Chawla - Columbia Space Shuttle(2003)
National Security Guards (HQ is in Manesar which can be asked or may become apart of matching type question;info not given but you need to pick out areas from where questions might be framed,so it is essential to practice or at least go through previous years upsc question papers).
Bangladesh has a new PM in Sheikh Hasina (Awami League)(look up Bangladesh in Atlas and see which are the Indian states that border Bangladesh and if tropic of cancer cuts it or not )The idea is not to read facts in isolation,relate them to what you already know and what you want to know.This way reading newspaper would become a more enriching exercise rather than merely a ritual.
Former Davis Cup Player(Tennis) Premjit Lall has passed away.Just remember the name and the sport with which he was associated.You can also look up the countries that have won the recent Davis Cup(men), Federation Cup(Women) and Hopman Cup(Mixed).Whenever there is mention of a tennis player in newspaper ,note down his/her country of origin as well.UPSC paper setters have a liking for tennis :)
Netazi Subhash Bose Airport is in Kolkata,fair enough but try and find out where some other well known airports are located .For instance Raja Sansi Airport is in ....? I hope the point is understood.
Look up SriLanka and Cuba in Atlas,their locations,neigbouring countries and whether they are being cut by any tropic of cancer/capricorn or equator etc.
Look up China in Atlas and important cities like Shanghai,Beijing,Lhasa,Gunagzhou,Hong Kong,Macau etc and their ordering from left to right ,north to south etc.
A word of caution ,some of my posts have been taken by other sites without my permission and aspirants have posted their queries on those sites which have remained unanswered or worse answered by someone who does not have much idea.so please do check whether you are reading it in my blog www.upsc-prelims.blogspot.com,if not please visit my blog and read all articles.You are welcome to post your queries which i will be personally answering.
Coral reefs - can look up something on it (refer www.wikipedia.com).
Satyam Computers ,Chairman - B.Ramalinga Raju.
Chris Hoy - Cyclist(triple gold medallist at Beijing Olympics)
All the very best !!!