Strategy and Booklist for General Studies Prelims and Mains
Rank 160, Dinesh Gurav
AIR-160, Essay-132;GS-419, PSIR(
Hello Everyone, This is Gurav Dinesh Ramesh (AIR 160). I am glad that ForumIAS has provided me this opportunity to share my strategy with everyone.
I am 23 years old. This was my 2nd attempt,1st mains. My score in PRELIMS is 141.33. In mains, I secured 874 marks(with a split up as follows: Essay-132;GS-419;PSIR(
It was due to ForumIAS and threads of @Neywan’s articles, I could understand what UPSC wants from me and what this competition is all about. After first failed PRELIMS, I joined PRELIMS test series by ForumIAS and the online platform by ForumIAS helped me provide quality questions, get conceptual clarity, analyse my mistakes, gauge my rank at all India level and provide motivation to improve my score.
At the mains stage, Mains Marathon helped me in daily answer writing and improvement.It was also helpful for me to cover the current content for GS2 and GS3.
Below is my Booklist and Strategy for both GS PRELIMS and MAINS
BOOKLIST PART 1: PRELIMS MY SCORE(141.34)
- YOU NEED NOT FOLLOW MY BOOKLIST. BUT GO THROUGH BOOKLISTS OF ME AND OTHERS AND DEVELOP YOUR OWN BOOKLIST BASED ON YOUR COMFORT.
- COVER TOPICS AS GIVEN IN THE ForumIAS TEST SERIES DETAILED SCHEDULE. IF SOME TOPICS ARE LEFT, SEARCH THE NET. BUT READ THE TOPICS AT BASIC LEVEL(rather than depth the multiplicity of topics is imp).
- MODERN HISTORY :SPECTRUM(ONLY BOOK TO READ THOROUGHLY…REVISE IT 4-5 TIMES AT LEAST…LAST SUMMARY PAGES ARE IMP)
- ANCIENT HISTORY:NCERT(R S SHARMA. FOR IMP TOPICS LIKE IVC,VEDIC PERIOD,VIJAYNAGAR,SANGAM AGE THE FLOW OF KINGDOMS,VISITED MONKS(THOSE TOPICS ASKED IN UPSC PREVIOUSLY. DO IT FROM ARIHANT) ETC.DON’T DO IN DEPTH STUDY OF POLITICAL ISSUES LIKE WARS…ONLY VERY BASICS OF MAJOR WARS ARE IMP)
- MEDIEVAL HISTORY:IMP TOPICS ASKED IN PREVIOUS YEARS FROM OLD NCERT OR TAMIL NADU BOOK
- ART AND CULTURE:NITIN SINGHANIA BOOK.
- GEOGRAPHY(MRUNAL VIDEOS AND MAKE NOTES OF THE SAME. 11TH AND
- 12TH NCERTS FOR THE TOPICS NOT COVERED. G C LEONG (SPECIALLY HUMAN GEOGRAPHY AND REMAINING TOPICS.SUMMARY PAGES OF HUMAN).
- MAP READING: WORLD MAP AND INDIA MAP.
- ECONOMY(RANJAN KOLMBE OR SRIRAM IAS OR MACROECONOMY NCERT FOR CONCEPTS. REMAINING TOPICS LIKE AGRI,WORLD BANK,IMF AND OTHERS FROM RANJAN KOLMBE RECENT BOOK OR SRIRAM AND OTHERS FROM CURRENT)
- POLITY(LAXMIKANTH…REVISE IT 4-5 TIMES…CAN READ CONSTITUTION AT WORK FOR SIMPLE UNDERSTANDING INITIALLY)
- ENVIRONMENT (SHANKAR IAS …REVISE IT 4-5 TIMES)
- S AND T(TMH. IMP TOPICS AT VERY BASIC LEVEL, ex: VIRUSES AND OTHER MICROBES ARE IMP)
- CURRENT(READ HINDU DAILY….IF YOU HAVE LESS TIME READ THE IMP NEWS FROM 9 PM BRIEF BY FORUMIAS)
- SOLVE FORUMIAS TEST SERIES AND MAKE NOTES(OR UNDERLINE IT. AND REVISE 3-4 TIMES) OF THE IMP EXPLANATIONS FOR THESE QUESTIONS. DAILY QUIZZES CAN COME HANDY FOR IMPROVING PRELIMS SCORE.
- PAST YEAR QUESTIONS (SPECIALLY AFTER 2000) ASKED IN UPSC PRELIMS ARE VERY MUCH IMP. SOLVE THE TOPICS AND UNDERSTAND THE TYPE OF QUESTIONS ASKED IN LAST FEW YEARS. ANALYSE AND GET SENSE OF IMP TOPICS.
STRATEGY PART 1: SUGGESTIONS FOR PRELIMS
TIPS(what I understood during preparation) 1)In Prelims,Rather than reading very much in depth one should have knowledge of multiple topics at basic level. 2)Do not leave any section untouched ,this may hamper your marks severely(because Upsc is unpredictable and we can’t say which section will have more questions in prelims). 3)Practice as many questions as possible 4)Focus on past year papers by Upsc, helps one understand the focus of Upsc. 5)Do not focus much on the numbers (as Upsc papers until now have not emphasized much on numbers, the general and IMP numbers are only important). 6)Try to know your own optimum attempt and solve accordingly in Upsc (i.e.some people get good marks by solving 90+ mcqs, while others get good marks by solving 85- mcqs) 7)Make sure that your number of attempt is such that you are safe(I.e.for 2016 120+ was safe score) . 8)Focus on map reading,international Institutions. 9)If possible, join any test series to see where you stand at all India level, and try to improve the ranks. 10)While solving MCQs,think which option can’t be the answer to the question and use elimination. 11) Do not think too much in details for any question. 12) Read every question carefully and don’t miss on key words like ‘not correct’ etc. 13)Generally if extremes like ‘only’ , ‘never’ are in sentence of a question…the sentence can be wrong.
Planning:(which I followed) 1)Plan your schedule according to the schedule of any test series(you should judge the days which you would require to complete the syllabus and should not necessarily be same as given in test series) 2)Try to complete all the SUBTOPICS given in schedule bit by bit. 3)Take one subject at a time and decide the date on which you would give the test(call it Test1) of that subject(for ranks). 4)Read the books decided for that subject and revise the books at least 2 times(varies from person to person), Give other test(Test 2) after revision, then ANALYSE the mistakes and revise the solutions. Also, solve the questions for that subject asked in past years in upsc and revise the answers(ANALYSE the types of questions asked and also the options framed) 5)At last give Test1 and ANALYSE mistakes and revise solutions. 6)Repeat same for all subjects. 7)After completing sectional tests,start solving comprehensive tests. Now at this time start revising all subjects and also the solutions for earlier papers. 8)Decide the no of comprehensive tests you will solve. Solve them and revise solutions. 9)Upsc questions of past years should be solved.
P.S : Do read strategies of all toppers to develop your own. Apply your own mind to devise strategy and plan of your own.
BOOKLIST PART 2(a): MAINS(GS) BOOKLIST
Basic Funda for mains is Read(only such things which you can reproduce, do not read the stuff because you like reading the book etc)+Revise*2/3/4(whatever suits you)+Writing and improving (more than you read and revise).
Booklist: (List not very much different than PRELIMS …just the approach to read needs to be changed) (A)GS1: Art and culture :Nitin SINGHANIA (here read the same stuff as u have read for PRELIMS. But focus to read should be based on past years questions asked in Upsc e.g.know the factors related to the term CULTURE.)
Modern History: Spectrum(if you have read it for prelims,then just revise it for mains, sense the questions asked in past years and read accordingly. Focus more on the broader aspects e.g. women contribution in freedom struggle or economic drain from 1757 etc. Key is to read and revise only those things which you can put in exam, but the knowledge of imp facts is must here).
Post Independence History: NCERT will be more than enough…skip the irrelevant part like politics etc in too much details…knowing the imp events and their reasons,consequences can help…one can also generate reasons etc by connecting it with international events or socio economic conditions of that period
World History:I read Baliyan notes(by focussing on major events) and made notes.
Geography: One can make the preplanned points for location of industries etc. One needs to know how to roughly draw indian map and diagrams.
Society:I did not read anything for it…Just go through papers of toppers and know how you can bring every other part of GS in this section… Mainly you cover this section by writing answers. Some people also suggest ncert of society(But I don’t think it is worth a read….rather you can devote this time to writing answers)
In GS2 and GS3, I referred to ForumIAS mains marathon data.
(B)GS2: Polity: (1)One can revise laxmikanth for static things like knowing the fundamental duties,DPSPs(how are they classified)or the elements in basic structure….no need to do the revision as done in PRELIMS (like no need to know what kind of majority is required for a small provision etc..) (2)For dynamic part,one can rely on self notes of the hindu or the monthly magazines. One can prepare notebook for issues in GS2 and make notes from the issues covered in mains marathon.
GOVERNANCE and SOCIAL JUSTICE: Preparing basic points for SHG,NGO,Education,Health based on the past year question papers can help…just put the same points in context of the question..
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: My optional was POL Science (so did not do it specifically for GS).
AGAIN FOR ALL THESE SECTIONS RATHER THAN READING MORE AND MORE THINGS…WRITING THE ANSWERS TO MANY QUESTIONS ,FRAMING SOME GENERAL STRUCTURES CAN HELP(WRITING STRATEGY MATTERS THE MOST)
(C)GS3 Economy: (1)Revise sriram IAS/11th ncert for static things like GST,libralisation etc. (2)One can go through Summary of Economic Survey. (3)Prepare points for land reforms(there are 4 subheadings mainly under it…one can use these subheadings for many questions related to land reforms)
Agriculture: (1)For the static topics NCERTs- covering these topics (e.g.cropping patterns,types of subsidies,food processing related terms etc)are useful. (2)For dynamic topics, monthly compilations would help. (3)General structure for answers related to food processing etc can be prepared beforehand.
S and T: Go through Upsc papers and guage the level of s&t asked previously.
Environment: No need to revise Shankar IAS as done for PRELIMS…revise it for the sake of mains (just make the list of IMP keywords or facts or environmental terms that U can put in answer).
DISASTER: Again one can be prepared with the content/things in pre,during,post disaster stages and put it in the context of answer.
Security: One can view past year papers. Answer writing can make huge differences
IN GS3,ALONG WITH NOTES OF SOME STATIC PARTS AND MONTHLY MAGAZINES, ANSWER WRITING TO QUESTIONS ASKED IN TEST SERIES IN PAST YEARS CAN BE HELPFUL(ONE NEEDS TO PREPARE WRITING STRATEGY FOR THE SAME).
(D)ETHICS One needs to have good hold over ethics syllabus. (1)One can refer to Lexicon for basic terms (2)One can take help of toppers papers etc to find good examples and the ways to solve case study (3)Answer booklets of toppers can help you knowing the structure to solve the case studies. (4)If some topic remains uncovered one can refer to notes by shrikrishna panchal Sir(Air 16).
HERE ALSO WRITING STRATEGY MATTERS THE MOST. MAIN THING HERE IN GS IS WRITING AND IMPROVING THE WRITING
STRATEGY PART 2(MAINS WRITING)
(A)GENERAL SUGGESTIONS (1)Solve all questions in 3 hrs(even while practicing. Solving 17-18 questions would reduce your chances of getting selected) .
(2)For proper time management,one can follow simple strategy of allocating 9 minutes for 12.5 marker and 7 minutes for 10 marker and accordingly practice completing given words in the time. From my experience of test series, I found that rather than writing 10-13 quality answers and giving less weight-age to other questions,the 20 average to average+ answers would get more marks.
(3)While answering, write only the things asked with a small introduction,solutions and broad conclusion.
(4)Underlining the keywords does help one score additional marks.
(5)In questions like discuss,critically examine both positive and negative sides should be written. If negatives are not there one can write challenges etc.
(6)Do not explain one point in too much details,try to write maximum points in two to three lines.
(7)Point format generally should be followed which will help examiner in evaluation (many also prefer paragraph format. In paragraph format, there is high probability that one goes on explaining the point in details so avoid long paras).
(8)In answers,the format of answer writing can be developed based on past year papers of toppers.
(9)Introduction should be small,simple.
There can be different types of introduction:definition (which can use maximum keywords and commas making it comprehensive), repeating the statement by adding some facts,objectives etc.,if reasons are not asked in question then writing reasons,for few questions historical background is helpful,some current examples can also come handy. Too long intro should be avoided and jump to the main body as early as possible.
(10)Main Body: (a)Here many subjectwise changes can be made. But in general, while writing to sub-questions one can separately mention and underline the parts asked and proceed for content . (b)In differences ,use of tables can come handy. e.g. in Subhashji Bose and Gandhiji question(CSE 2016), 1st column can be of themes for differences ,2nd column can be of Subhashji Bose,3rd column can be of Gandhiji. (c)While writing 2 similar or different things one can use tree diagram. e.g.for positives and negatives in 2 branches. (d)Subheadings can be useful …Rather than thinking about subheads in main exam, one can have prepared heads (for general topics), e.g. For measures,short and long term can be the classification. (e)One should practice for how to generate different relevant points for questions. Even if one doesn’t know the full and exact content, one should think of different keywords,facts related to the concept and generate point in the asked context. (f)For broad questions,generate points based on social,historical,geographical, political,economical, ethical,technological etc.angles. (g)Write references ,facts,names of committees,names of ministry ,schemes,policies,laws to make the content objective.(While quoting references,writing in bracket can save words).If one doesn’t know any reference,report by annual ministry or economic survey etc. can be quoted based on relevance. (h)Use of horizontal/vertical flowcharts,maps,circular representation,vicious cycles,block diagrams at proper places can fetch you additional marks. (i)one can quote current examples in max 1-2 lines (j)Upsc doesn’t expect you to become an expert in GS, so avoid quoting many Thinkers or quotes(only a few can certainly be quoted in GS4). (k)Even if any point is very simple and one thinks everybody knows it,then also write such simple points.(for every relevant point one writes,s/he is awarded with marks)
(11)Conclusion: It needs to be broader ,balanced,solution ORIENTED,comprehensive(
(12)Even if it is not asked one should write way forward or solutions if problems or negatives are discussed earlier.
(13)Try to differentiate between keywords in question.e.g.illustrate means examples are IMP,if critically is there negatives or challenges must be put,for discuss..analyse…generally both sides are important.
(14)Generally first impression matters Thus one should write first few questions carefully and using relevant strategy but within time limit..(1 minute extra can be okay for 1st 2-3 questions…But try to finish the questions from start in 9 minutes).
(15)If 2-3 subquestions are there,write only according to the possible marks to be allotted to each subquestion. Do not go on writing 2 pages for 1 subquestion even if you know more about it…Similar thing should be done for time alloted to each subquestion.
(16)In certain question,even if one knows current affairs related examples… (Generally)Try to give general statements first and then write the examples to justify it…Even if one knows 3-4 examples try to avoid giving all examples to say same thing…It saves words and one can cover other broad points.
(17)Try to give a broader and general analysis rather than very much in depth analysis of issues(for GS).
(18)Sometimes the psychological impressions can be made on examiner by writing 180-200 words in given pages(2.5 for GS).
Role of ForumIAS
I WOULD LIKE TO THANK FORUMIAS. Mains Marathon Answer Writing and 9 PM Brief has helped me a lot.