My background :I am a resident of Mumbai. My parents are from Kerala. So I’m a Keralite by roots and Mumbaikar by heart. I have done by graduation in Electronics Engineering from University of Mumbai. I graduated in 2013. I started preparing since then only. I had joined ForumIAS 4 years ago ( you can see on my profile page, my username is Louislitt ) and followed number of posts and comments, to come up with the final strategy for my this years attempt.
My strategyNote: I had failed two times in Mains before I cleared in my third attempt. What I can offer to potential aspirants of value are areas of possible improvement and methods to improve. I’m assuming that you have read the basic books(NCERTs, Laxmikanth, Spectrum etc). I would not be dealing with the book list and sources to refer. You can find many such lists across various blogs and platforms. So read the subsequent parts with this in mind. My GS marks in my various attempts were 2014 Mains
- GS 1 - 56
- GS 2 - 77
- GS 3 - 74
- GS 4 - 93
- GS 1 - 91
- GS 2 - 57
- GS 3 - 97
- GS 4 - 81
- GS 1 - 105
- GS 2 - 92
- GS 3 - 106
- GS 4 - 129
Initiatives that I followed & ImplementedI was following Answer Writing last year as well on other websites, but I was somehow not able to improve my score. I needed to figure out what I was doing wrong. So I concluded that
- The quality and quantity of questions that you attempt is important. So its not that of you just solve random questions everyday and you will get good practice. Questions quality has to be good.
- Even after practicing so many questions, If I was not able to score well, then I needed some guidance or help in writing answers.
- Firstly, me and my group of three flatmates decided to follow the Mains Marathon religiously and not join any Test Series, but do daily answer writing practise.
- I later thought that I will need some guidance and need to write questions in exam atmosphere for three hours, so I joined ForumIAS MGP ( offline ) which was started last year. I realized that we need to get our copied checked and evaluated at least once from someone to see deficiencies that I am unable to see. Otherwise, I will keep repeating the same mistakes that I made in my last attempts. It bore fruit for me and I was able to score
- My MGP Answers Booklets - Book 1| Book 2 ( Attached at bottom )
- My attempt of the UPSC Questions Paper - all 4 Papers, which I gave to ForumIAS for evaluation after the Mains. It must be at the Offline Center.
General Strategy for all PapersAny answer can be written with focus on the following points: content, presentation and lucidity. If you are getting low in your test series or main exam, it is a given fact that you may be lacking in any or many of these points. More often than not, people end up blaming the examiner for low marks. This is a useless argument that defends your failure. To move ahead of the failure acceptance of your weakness is the first hurdle. Without this no one can help you. Another common complaint that people sight is that they lack content to write and end up gulping down more books. This happens to be the most inefficient utilization of your time and energy for improving your score. If you follow this strategy to improve your scores, the chances of succeeding are slim. So what should be the way forward? My Assumptions: Before we jump into the specifics, bear this is mind that you are expected to write an average answer to all questions rather than writing a rockstar answer for 2-3 questions and ending up wasting time and missing questions. One’s target should be to attempt all questions with average answers and if luck and time permits, answer some questions well. If we do the math, assuming average marks to be 4.5 marks per answer, 20 average answer gets you 90. Some answers will be good and will take your marks to 100 and above. If you practice answer-writing, average marks can be pulled to 5-5.5 marks. That translates to 100-110 score. How to do this? We shall see in the subsequent sections.
Content:This is the most basic requirement to write an answer. What we can argue over is the amount of content required. Bear in mind that you have barely three sides of paper and 9 minutes to answer a 12.5 marks question. You have no time and space. So be aware of the fact that irrespective of the content you have, you are limited by the time and space to present the same. So read less and try to reduce concepts to its bare skeleton. There is no point in reading large sources for covering bullet points given in the syllabus. You could read a complete book on Indian constitutional development but be unable to write a basic answer on the same topic in the given time and space. So there should be a good focus on reducing the size and increasing the brevity of notes while covering the syllabus. I’ll illustrate my point. For example, if we take a topic from GS-2 Social Justice part :
”Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.“Take education and prepare on following points:
- Basic data on GER, literacy, ASER Report etc
- Present status of education in India at all three levels(primary, secondary, tertiary)
- Any policy on the same(TSR Subramaniam)
- Various schemes that you may have observed in newspapers related to education(Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, SSA, RMSA etc)
”Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes;”You can prepare on these lines
- Try making some framework for answering. I did it as follows
Welfare schemes are of 3 kinds
- Social security nets - UBI, Pension, medical insurance etc
- Specific sections for vulnerable sections - gender specific, tribe, SC/ST specific, Antyodaya schemes
- General schemes that covers all sections - NFSA, PDS, TPDS, Jan Dhan Yojana
- Focus on constitutional framework for favouring such sections. Build a list of all provisions vulnerable section wise. List them out separately so that you get a clear idea and are able to recall them and use them in exam.
- Prepare general data points on each vulnerable sections. For example, take women and searcgh data like LFPR, wage rate disparity, health access, insurance access, no of entrepreneurs, health indicators vis-a-vis men, etc. Read them and use them in your answer-writing practice sessions. This will build your command over them.
- Focus on the performance of each type of scheme by looking at the data of the vulnerable section. For example, for tribes look at their health and education data. Similarly for women. This exercise should focus on recent schemes more.
- GS 1 - Social Empowerment - Download Link
- GS 1 - Women’s Movement - Download Link
- GS 2 - Good Governance - Download Link
- GS 2 - Transparency - Download Link
- GS 2 - Role of Civil Services - Download Link
- Formatting of points(paragraph/point)
- Using the space smartly, making various parts of the question stand out
- Underlining of keywords
- Sub-headings according to various parts of the question
Lucidity:This is a facet of answering that explains why people with good vocabulary and skills in English do not score the highest marks in GS. Lucidity in writing is reflective of clarity of thought. The most simple answers are also the most difficult to write. How can you get this in your writing? You should be clear with your sources. If you are not clear with them then you must read your (limited)sources repeatedly and revise them. Make notes on topics as shown above and try incorporating the format of notes into the answers. This facet is something that comes at the very end of your improvement cycle. It requires you to be well-versed with your own notes. It is difficult for me to explain this with an example. But I will try. Take this question from GS-2 paper of Mains 2016.
Q9)Professor Amartya Sen has advocated important reforms in the realms of primary education and primary health care. What are your suggestions to improve their status and performance?I have uploaded a copy of my attempted answer for this GS2 Question. I have attempted this question in it. Here is the link Notice the format for notes that I presented for the same topic above and the answer I eventually wrote. This is one way of making answers lucid. When the actual answer mirrors your notes, it automatically reflects clarity of thought and becomes very simple to follow. I created additional sections to answer the question in a very broad way. The additional section of “Present Status’ is not demanded by the question but since I knew it due to my notes and it added value to the answer I added it. The answer looks complete. Second method is to use short sentences and be less verbose in answering. It is easy to write in paragraphs, but they also represent less number of points and require more words to say the same thing. ForumIAS Mentors taught me two things here analyzing my answers at the micro level
- Write two short sentences instead of one long sentence
- Your arguments should be self explanatory. You should not waste your time by giving some high funda and then waste the rest of the answer trying to explain or justify it.
Q5)Law and ethics are considered to be the two tools for controlling human conduct so as to make it conducive to civilized social existence. (a) Discuss how they achieve this objective. (b) Giving examples, show how the two differ in their approaches.These questions cannot be answered without knowing the difference between the various terms. We tend to use many words synonymously. This erodes the value of your answer. So prepare all the words given in the syllabus and try finding differences. Another way to increase marks in GS-4 is to spend time in contemplation. I used to take bullet points from the syllabus and think over them. I used to note down whatever used to come to my mind. The focus was on building ethics specific material. For example, there are over-lapping topics of GS-2 and GS-4 like Citizen Charter. The method of covering these topics have to be different for different topics. Here I present the different notes for the same topic but for different papers.
- Mix note for Corporate Governance - Download Link
Q4.a) Corruption causes misuse of government treasury, Administrative inefficiency and obstruction in the path of national Development. Discuss Kautilya’s views.I will present a some notes that I specially prepared for GS-4. These are some Evernote files that I prepared over the course of my 3 attempts. I have shared them too. Since I switched between handwritten and digital notes the notes are incomplete. Please bear with me. My apologies. :)
EVERNOTE Ethical Terms: