Preparation tips

Preparation strategy and book list for Civil Services Mains exam by Suman Sourav Mohanty, AIR 9, CSE 2016

There are total 4 papers in GS mains for 1000 marks, 200 each. GS paper is very important because even if in case a candidate fails to score well in the optional subject, and somehow score well in GS papers, he/she can fetch good rank in Civil Services Exam. And most of the optional subjects, such as polity, sociology, economics, and geography can be prepared while preparing for GS.

Most of the students make a mistake of becoming selective with questions, which is not a right strategy, as, in my opinion, the candidates should try to attempt every question because every single mark is important in this exam. On an average, you get around 9 minutes to write an answer to a question, which is good enough time if you have done good writing practice.  You should right best answer for every question in an optimum time limit.

In GS paper 1, there are 6 subtopics, which are; Geography, Indian Art of Culture, Modern Indian History, Post-independence history, Indian Society and culture and world history. The trend of UPSC has been very unpredictable; in 2012, around 20% questions were asked from the post-Indian constitution. And in 2016, almost 45% questions were asked from geography; which means around 110 to 112 questions. 10% questions were asked of Indian Art and Culture, 15% from Modern History, 25% from Post Independent Society and only 5% from world history. This means, that none of these 6 topics can be ignored as UPSC is unpredictable, and each topic should be prepared well.

Book sources for Civil Services Mains exam

Click here to see the recommended books

For Geography, the most important source is standard NCERT books, and then after NCERT if you think you should study some more relevant material, then Shialendra Singh for Physical Geography and Majid Hussain or K Siddhartha for World and Indian Geography. In geography, Current affairs are extremely important. For instance, If you see the last year pattern of geography, most of the questions were asked from Himalayan Landslides and urban flood which is basically current affairs topic. Read current affairs here

Think in multiple dimensions; geographical, economic, political and social. In 2016, questions were asked from land and water resources, micro-watersheds, urban flood as well as the smart city; which is again geography and urbanization-related topics. Therefore applied geography should be studied; read concepts, theories, the static portion, but keep in mind that UPSC is currently focusing the most on applied geography. Unconventional topics such as International relations related topics are also being asked.

Indian Art is very traditional and static topic, from which we can expect static questions. But according to the recent trend, UPSC is asking very analytical questions, an analysis is required; such as why Panipat was chosen for battles, If Gandhi Ji would have been there, then what would have been the output of freedom struggle, so aspirants should start thinking analytically. On culture, questions were asked from Krishna Devaraya, which is very factual but pinpointed topic. Earlier UPSC used to ask about architect, cultures, on which there is a lot of content and material to study and write, but when it comes to Krishna Devaraya, most of the students do not know about it well, and hence most of the students left this question unanswered. Questions were asked from Buddhist Stupa this time, which is little abstract, but one should have sound knowledge of Stupa Art and architecture. Therefore, read sources very carefully, and understand every topic analytically.

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In 2017, current affairs related questions were asked from Paika rebellion, Champaran Satyagrah on its completion of 100 years, Saint Tyagraja’s statue were few current topics.

For history, NCERT is a must. Read NCERT thoroughly before reading any other book, NCERT 6th to 12th. Then Modern Indian History by Bipin Chandra, Spectrum for Indian History. Although Spectrum would not give you that much analysis which Bipin Chandra and Shekhar Dutt Bandopadhyay can give for modern Indian History.

For Culture, there are 3 very important sources. First is CCRT (Centre for council culture research and training), you’ll get very good material to study about art, dance and culture on the website. Second important is NCERT fine arts and fine crafts. The 3rd important source is another NCERT material for culture named ‘Our Arts and our themes’ which students must refer. Next is post-independence and history, for which the recommended books are Ram Chandra Booha or Bipin Chandra’s post-independence consolidation. Choose any one book out of these two. This time the expected topic is emergency and green evolution which has been already asked; Read Indian China 62 war, its consequences, and its history.

Next topic is Indian society which is again a complex topic. Basically, UPSC asks questions on women rights regionalism, communalism, and diversity. Question on poverty can also be asked. UPSC asked a question, in 2016, on constitutional articles for schedule tribes. To prepare for these topics, read government schemes related to tribal issues, related to women, anti-poverty and inclusive growth. Read these government schemes very carefully. Backward classes’ commission was also in news, to provide constitutional status to underprivileged and backward classes’ people, read about this also. Read about Beti Bachao Beti Padhaao, check the analysis; see whether these schemes are getting success ad acceptance or not. Questions on these topics are expected this year from Indian society.

Stay tuned with us, strategy for other GS paper will be shared in our next article



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