History Optional Strategy

Hi, This post is divided into 3 parts..

Part 1
The main purpose of this post is to reblog the history preparation post by Gaurav Gupta (part 3). However, I too had history optional last year (cse 2012) and got 235 marks in it. Gaurav Gupta has given his book list. Additional books referred by me are here:

1. From Plassey to Partition by Shekhar Bandopadhyay (best book, most scholarly work I read)
2. “Bharat Ka Itihaas” (hindi) by Aashirwadi Lal Srivastava
3. “Madhyakaleen Bharat” Part 1 and Part 2 by Harish Chandra Verma
4. Delhi University Compilation for Ancient India, Medieval India and Modern India.
5. Romilla Thapar on Ancient India
6. Europe Since Napoleon by David Thomson
7. For map, I got a book “Indian Historical Places” by Dr. H.C. Jain and also a blackboard and chalk and duster. My father would then take a quiz where he would take the name of the place and I would mark on the board and tell stuff about it. Of course this is no longer the pattern now.
8. A. L. Basham.
9. Satish Chandras for medieval.

Still I found my preparation lacking. There were some questions which were asked out of the blue. Basically in History, historians often debate among themselves on various topics. A question may be asked out of that debate and to get good marks, we have to read those debates and write material discussed there. Although I haven’t read it, I am told the book by BL Grover on modern India which has many such debates.

My notes for history optional can be downloaded from my other post..

Part 2

D. Amarkesh (AIR 217, cse 2012) is one of the strongest history students I know. His notes are available at

Amarkesh Notes

Amarkesh Notes Alternative Site

I will request him to add more.

Part 3

3. I am reblogging here the History optional preparation post by Gaurav Gupta who got 239 marks in it (highest so far heard). Pls direct all queries to him at https://www.facebook.com/gauravg85 or his blog https://abhipraay.wordpress.com.


Abhipraay: The Blog

History as optional –

First of all one should take optional based on his interest as this subject is you would be reading for next 1-2 years or more so you must have zeal to go deeper, read new books by new writers to learn and understand various perspectives. And that is why I took History as optional despite being told by some people that it is not ‘scoring’, or it has ‘large syllabus’. However once I decided, I made sure that I should not get such thoughts. In UPSC all subjects are scoring provided you are answering what is asked.

Other benefits of History as optional (once you have decided that you have interest in it) –

  • I take history as very scientific, analytical and objective subject as you have to frame your answer based on historical evidences/facts and records.
  • I liked to read about how was our past…

View original post 1,389 more words

IAS / UPSC Preparation: Public Administration Optional – IAS Prem Ranjan Singh (Rank 62, CSE 2013)

This post has been written in entirety by IAS Prem Ranjan Singh ji (Rank 62, CSE 2013). My role is just to host it.
Public administration has become very tricky to score in UPSC. Fortunately I have been able to score good marks in this subject… 2010- 340; 2011 – 330 ; 2012- 210 (good by any standards as pub ad was butchered that year); 2013- 228 ..

Some of the things which we must remember/follow/understand in pub-ad..
• The most important thing in pud-ad is conceptual clarity. Unfortunately most of us rely completely on coaching notes and end up having only superficial knowledge which is very dangerous in present setup of UPSC exam and especially in pub-ad.
• Untill n unless u have conceptual clarity you won’t be able to understand the question in the first place.
• All of us write answers in pub-ad and feel that we have written it well but the problem is most of us interpret questions differently and end up writing different answers. The correct interpretation of question will only happen if ur concepts are clear.

I know you may think that what is so new in that but I tell you very honestly that this is the reason why most of us are not able to score good marks in pub-ad (apart from UPSC recent break-up n hate for pub-ad).

Rahul Pandey (rank-52) who scored 230 this year has written on his blog: – “The secret of success for writing good answers in Public Administration lies in understanding the questions. Most of the students fail to write good answers simply because of their failure to understand the questions. In the last two years, UPSC has deliberately increased the difficulty levels of question paper as they are more interested in those students who have conceptual clarity and ability to write those concepts in a simple manner.”

• I am not against any coaching notes but you need to study some basic books so that you develop good understanding of the subject. Books can vary from person to person.. there are many books on pub-ad .. all of them are equally good but whichever book you are studying , study it well .. study it multiple times.
• Answer writing is very important in pub-ad. You must write some answers before mains and show it your pub-ad trainer or to someone like me. you can scan and send it me. It would be great if you share it with someone scoring good marks .
• I have always tried to write answers in point format as much as possible so that I can stuff more content in few lines. And also your answers will be more concise and to the point which will be helpful for the examiner to evaluate.
• Use as simple language as possible. Strict no to flowery language without any content. This is not semester exam of B.Tech/ MBA. They will punish you if you start faking answers by using flowery language. Since my command over English language is very limited, I did not have such issues  .
• One of the very important thing which we must follow while writing answers is our ability to interlink Paper-1 and Paper-2. For this u must remember syllabus completely. Read the syllabus everyday for 5 minutes. Close your eyes and try to interlink them.

I will again quote Rahul (Rank-52) here “Another important aspect about answer writing is your ability to interlink the concepts. If we take a closer look at the questions that were asked in the previous two years, one thing is very much clear. UPSC wants us to have conceptual clarity and more importantly have in depth knowledge about inter linkages among the theories and thinkers. For example in this year’s exam, there was question regarding Simon and Bernard’s views regarding decision making. Next comes the ability of the candidate to link concepts in Paper – I with the examples from Indian Administration. Again the trend in the last few years is that there is not much of difference in the questions that were asked in Paper – I and Indian Administration. Candidates are expected to give examples from Indian Administration while explaining the concepts in Paper – I.”

I will give you chapter –wise detail of study material which “I followed”. U need not follow this. Just follow your own study material but pls follow the basic instructions mentioned above.

1. Introduction: – Vajiram class notes of Gupta sir (best for this chapter), Paradigms of Public Administration by Nicholas Henry(only few pages), New Horizons of Public Administration by Mohit Bhattacharya . Restructuring Public Administration A New Look by Mohit Bhattacharya
2. Administrative Thought :- Prasad & Prasad, New Horizons of Public Administration by Mohit Bhattacharya .
3. Administrative Behaviour :- Prasad & Prasad, New Horizons of Public Administration by Mohit Bhattacharya . Organization Behaviour by Stephen robbins.
5. Accountability and control :- New Horizons of Public Administration by Mohit Bhattacharya, 2nd ARC report. Fadia & Fadia Paper-1
6. Administrative Law :- Fadia & Fadia Paper-1
7. Comparative Public Administration :- Prasad and Prasad (Riggs) ,CPA by Ramesh K Arora, Fadia & Fadia Paper-1
8. Development Dynamics :- Social Theory and Development Administration by Mohit Bhattacharya, Fadia &Fadia Paper-1
9. Personnel Administration :– New Horizons of Public Administration by Mohit Bhattacharya, 2nd ARC
10. Public Policy: – Vajiram class notes of Gupta sir, Mohit Bhattacharya, Prasad n Prasad (Dror) ,
11. Techniques of Administrative Improvement:- Fadia & Fadia, Mohit Bhattacharya
12. Financial Administration :- Vajiram class notes , 2nd ARC

Paper- II :- For this paper 2nd ARC is the most important study source. Aaprt from that Economic survey is also very good for collection of datas. And news related to administrative problems and reforms are also very very useful.
1. Evolution of Indian Administration- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora.
2. Philosophical and Constitutional framework of government- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora.
3. Public Sector Undertakings- Vajiram class notes.
4. Union Government and Administration- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora. 2nd ARC.
5. Plans and Priorities– Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora. 12th plan approach paper of Planning Commission .
6. State Government and Administration- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora. Punchi commission report, 2nd ARC Report.
7. District Administration since Independence- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora , Punchi commission report, 2nd ARC Report.
8. Civil Services- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora, 2nd ARC Report.
9. Financial Management- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora, 2nd ARC Report.
10. Administrative Reforms since Independence- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora. Punchi commission report, 2nd ARC Report.
11. Rural Development- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora, 2nd ARC Report.
12. Urban Local Government- Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh K Arora. 2nd ARC Report.
13. Law and Order Administration :- 2nd ARC and Punchi Commission report.
14. Significant issues in Indian Administration- 2nd ARC , Internet , Current affairs.
These are the things which I followed , u can follow your own study material. As far as coachings are concerned, I have observed that Vajiram, synergy and Pawan kumar are relevant to some extent for this optional. Others are just making money.

Its very difficult to explain everything here.. if you have any other query related to pub ad, u can contact me on my fb page :- https://www.facebook.com/Prem.Ranjan.Singh.1985
My email id where you can send me your scanned or typed answers:- prem.gkp.mnnit@gmail.com

UPSC / IAS Preparation: Economics Optional

Has Optional Weight Gone Down in CSE 2013?

Even though on paper, UPSC has reduced the weightage of optional to half and doubled GS, by its marking pattern the effective weightage of optional has become more than GS! This is because in GS people have been awarded very low marks. So even if someone has done exceptionally well in GS, it is likely that his/her difference from others will still be less. On the other hand people have been awarded higher marks in optional, so that if someone has done exceptionally well in optional, he/she will score a lot of marks more than others. UPSC is a relative exam, only difference of marks matters. So importance of optional in CSE 2013 is more than GS for sure!

This year I have scored 296 / 500 in Economics (last year I scored 280 / 600). It won’t be unfair to say it was economics that made me an IAS this year.

Choosing an Optional

People often have many criteria to choose the optional.. some of them are…
– ‘Scoring’ optional: People think some optionals are more scoring than others.. Don’t know what to say on this. Every year UPSC changes the optionals it favors / punishes, so u never know whether the ‘scoring’ optional u took may end up in the ‘butchering’ list of UPSC next year..

– Overlap with GS: “Pubad le lo, GS ki bhi taiyyari ho jaayegi”… Nothing could be more dangerous than this attitude.. coz if we don’t like pubad, and still take it, then we anyways won’t be able to study it well enough and not only will we screw the pubad portion of GS but also additional 500 marks optional. We only amplify our weakness by this attitude.

I believe an optional must be chosen out of our strength. When I took economics, many people advised me against it saying economics is technical, not scoring etc. etc. But I knew economics was my strength… doesn’t matter if no one has scored 400/600 in economics so far, I know I would score it (as per the older marking scheme). When UPSC is giving us 500 marks to play by our strength, why should we pick anything else? These are our marks and let us score the maximum out of it. And ofcourse, such a strength can only develop when we have deep interest and luv for the subject.

Optional preparation requires a great deal of in depth study as well as wide coverage. One has to write like a historian to take history optional, one has to write like an economist to score well in economics. This is only possible when the subject is our strength.

I have no Economics degree. Should I take Economics as Optional?

That depends on your reason. If you want to take Economics optional only because the topper this year had it (and so it has become ‘scoring’), pls don’t.

If, on the other hand, you want to take it because u have been exposed to it briefly and found it very interesting and could understand it, then you can explore more. Even if you have no prior exposure, but think you will like it once exposed, you can explore more.

The only way to decide whether to take it or not is to study it for a week or two. Take any topic from the syllabus, say macro. Read the books i am mentioning below (or any other standard textbooks). If you are understanding what you are reading and can read it for long hours and still feel good, economics is your subject. Don’t worry if you can’t attempt previous years’ questions at this stage. That will come later. Only your understanding and keen interest should suffice at this stage.

So How to Prepare Economics Optional?

Stages of Preparation

There are multiple stages of preparation in a subject like Economics.

– Stage 1: In this stage, we just focus on understanding what we are reading. While reading, we must understand the concept fully. We will forget the thing 2 days after we have read it, don’t worry. We will not even understand half the questions which have been asked in previous years, don’t worry. We don’t even have a clue of how to write answers in the exam, don’t worry. Just ensure you understand what you are reading and finish the syllabus.

– Stage 2: This begins after the syllabus has been finished once. In the second time, we again focus on understanding what we are reading. This time we would find, it takes less time to understand all the stuff and most of it seems familiar once we read. Our retention would increase at this stage. Read, re-read, revise the syllabus 2-3 times, ensure that we can recall without any aid what was said in a given topic / theorem and can reproduce it on paper. At the end of this stage, we would still not be able to even understand half the questions in the paper.

– Stage 3: Many questions in the eco question paper are not direct i.e. they ll not ask write abt XX theorem. These questions are indirect and we won’t even know which theorem / model to apply! The aim of this stage is to identify which model to apply. This can only come if we sit down with previous years’ question papers and think and think and discuss with others on what model to apply for a particular question. by now we have internalised all the stuff, we can not only reproduce the entire model / theorem on paper but also understand when and where to apply them. We will be able to answer most (90-95%) of the questions in previous years’ question papers now.

Method of Studying

– In economics, diagrams are of utmost importance. UPSC economics is completely non mathematical and totally diagramatical. So while reading any model / theorem, we should simultaneously practise its diagram on paper / computer.

– Assumptions are very important while writing answers. We should clearly state all the assumptions in our answers and so we should systematically remember all the assumptions in any theorem / model.

– Stats: In eco 2, stats are very important. If we supplement our answers with stats, nothing like it. Not all stats need to be remembered, only important ones. I am mentioning the important stats to be remembered in the book list section.

Book List / Sources for Syllabus

Paper – I

1. Advanced Micro Economics:

(a) Marshallian and Walrasiam Approaches to Price determination.
(b) Alternative Distribution Theories: Ricardo, Kaldor, Kaleeki
(c) Markets Structure: Monopolistic Competition, Duopoly, Oligopoly.
(d) Modern Welfare Criteria: Pareto Hicks & Scitovsky, Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, A.K. Sen’s Social Welfare Function.

These topics have to be studied from HL Ahuja “Advanced Microeconomics”. Find the relevant chapters to study from this thick book. In addition, questions are asked on “Rent, quasi rent” and “Product Exhaustion Problem”, so study the relevant chapters also. HL Ahuja is UPSC exam standard book for micro. Sen’s swf and proof of Arrow can be studied from my notes. I took Sen’s swf from one of his book and proof of Arrow from one of Sen’s paper. Proof of Arrow given in HL Ahuja and taught by most coachings is wrong, it is simply a proof of Concordet’s paradox, not Arrow. Just imagine, had the proof of Arrow been so elementary, would he have got the Nobel prize for it?

2. Advanced Macro Economics: Approaches to Employment Income and Interest Rate determination: Classical, Keynes (IS-LM) curve, Neo classical synthesis and New classical, Theories of Interest Rate determination and Interest Rate Structure.

These topics should be first studied from HL Ahuja’s “Macroeconomics” book. This book is below UPSC exam standard, but reading this is essential to understand higher concepts. The UPSC level book is Brian Snowdon and Howard R Vane “Modern Macroeconomics” (given to me by Amit Sahu). Only first 5 chapters need to be studied from this book.

3. Money – Banking and Finance:

(a) Demand for and Supply of Money: Money Multiplier Quantity Theory of Money (Fisher, Pique and Friedman) and Keyne’s Theory on Demand for Money, Goals and Instruments of Monetary Management in Closed and Open Economies. Relation between the Central Bank and the Treasury. Proposal for ceiling on growth rate of money.

This can be studied from HL Ahuja’s Macroeconomics and Snowdon’s Modern Macroeconomics (Ch 2, 3). Also, although UPSC doesn’t mention post keynesian Baumol’s and Inventory theory of money demand in syllabus, it asks questions on these. So read them from HL Ahuja. There are some topics for which material may be scarce, read them from my notes.

(b) Public Finance and its Role in Market Economy: In stabilization of supply, allocation of resources and in distribution and development. Sources of Govt. revenue, forms of Taxes and Subsidies, their incidence and effects. Limits to taxation, loans, crowding-out effects and limits to borrowings. Public Expenditure and its effects.

I studied from Musgrave and Musgrave, selected chapters. People also mention HL Bhatia a lot. I was satisfied with my preparation until I saw the public finance questions this year. I couldn’t even understand the questions. I don’t know where else to study public finance from.

4. International Economics:

(a) Old and New Theories of International Trade

(i) Comparative Advantage
(ii) Terms of Trade and Offer Curve.
(iii) Product Cycle and Strategic Trade Theories.
(iv) Trade as an engine of growth and theories of under development in an open economy.
(b) Forms of Protection: Tariff and quota.

(c) Balance of Payments Adjustments: Alternative Approaches.

(i) Price versus income, income adjustments under fixed exchange rates,
(ii) Theories of Policy Mix
(iii) Exchange rate adjustments under capital mobility
(iv) Floating Rates and their Implicationns for Developing Countries: Currency Boards.
(v) Trade Policy and Developing Countries.
(vi) BOP, adjustments and Policy Coordination in open economy macro-model.
(vii) Speculative attacks
(viii) Trade Blocks and Monetary Unions.
(ix) WTO: TRIMS, TRIPS, Domestic Measures, Different Rounds of WTO talks.

There is only one book on International Economics and it is by Dominick Salvatore. Diagrams are the key in IntEco.

5. Growth and Development:

(a) Theories of growth:

(i) Harrod’s model,
(ii) Lewis model of development with surplus labour
(iii) Balanced and Unbalanced growth,

These topics are covered well in A P Thirwall’s book. Todaro may also be referred for some topics.

(iv) Human Capital and Economic Growth.
(v) Research and Development and Economic Growth

These are dicey topics and cover many models. I studied them from a paper by John Bluedorn “The human capital augmented solow model” and a book “Introduction to Economic Growth” by Charles I. Jones (given to me by Amit Sahu).

(b) Process of Economic Development of Less developed countries: Myrdal and Kuzments on economic development and structural change: Role of Agriculture in Economic Development of less developed countries.

Myrdal and Kuznets can be studied from AP Thirwall. Not all aspects of Myrdal are covered in Thirwall, I had one pdf I found after googling on Myrdal which covered aspects like how less developed economies have backwash effects strong and how developed democracies have stronger spread effects, I don’t seem to have the pdf now.

(c) Economic development and International Trade and Investment, Role of Multinationals.

(d) Planning and Economic Development: changing role of Markets and Planning, Private- Public Partnership

(e) Welfare indicators and measures of growth – Human Development Indices. The basic needs approach.

(f) Development and Environmental Sustainability – Renewable and Non Renewable Resources, Environmental Degradation, Intergenerational equity development.

These are general topics and haven’t found a single source for them so far. Very little preparation.

Paper – II

1. Indian Economy in Pre-Independence Era: Land System and its changes, Commercialization of agriculture, Drain theory, Laissez faire theory and critique. Manufacture and Transport: Jute, Cotton, Railways, Money and Credit.

These I studied mainly from my hitory optional preparation for cse 2012. You can see some in my notes.

2. Indian Economy after Independence:

A The Pre Liberalization Era:

(i) Contribution of Vakil, Gadgil and V.K.R.V. Rao.

Till date I have not found a single decent source to prepare this. I have never been able to prepare this. If someone has a good source, pls let me know, I ll update here.

(ii) Agriculture: Land Reforms and land tenure system, Green Revolution and capital formation in agriculture,
(iii) Industry Trends in composition and growth, Role of public and private sector, Small scale and cottage industries.
(iv) National and Per capita income: patterns, trends, aggregate and Sectoral composition and changes their in.
(v) Broad factors determining National Income and distribution, Measures of poverty, Trends in poverty and inequality.

Uma Kapilla is a very good source for these topics. One should also focus on economic stats. Can also see my notes. Stats on efficacy of land reforms need to be remembered (see my notes), stats on economic growth rate, growth rates of agriculture, industry, manufacturing, capital goods, services, per capita income need to be remembered for 3 periods – 1950s to 1965, 1965 to 1980, 1980 to 1990.

B The Post Liberalization Era:

(i) New Economic Reform and Agriculture: Agriculture and WTO, Food processing, Subsidies, Agricultural prices and public distribution system, Impact of public expenditure on agricultural growth.
(ii) New Economic Policy and Industry: Strategy of industrialization, Privatization, Disinvestments, Role of foreign direct investment and multinationals.
(iii) New Economic Policy and Trade: Intellectual property rights: Implications of TRIPS, TRIMS, GATS and new EXIM policy.
(iv) New Exchange Rate Regime: Partial and full convertibility, Capital account convertibility.
(v) New Economic Policy and Public Finance: Fiscal Responsibility Act, Twelfth Finance Commission and Fiscal Federalism and Fiscal Consolidation.
(vi) New Economic Policy and Monetary system. Role of RBI under the new regime.
(vii) Planning: From central Planning to indicative planning, Relation between planning and markets for growth and decentralized planning: 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments.
(viii) New Economic Policy and Employment: Employment and poverty, Rural wages, Employment Generation, Poverty alleviation schemes, New Rural, Employment Guarantee Scheme.

No single source. EPW helps. One also has to study a lot of research papers by eminent economists working in India. I studied a lot of them n put the gist in my notes. So can see my notes. Stats on poverty, unemployment (recent ones as well as from 1993-94) need to be remembered. See notes.

Answer Writing in Economics

Neeraj Singh (AIR 11, CSE 2011) told us the following things about answer writing. I am sorry I am reproducing his email without his permission but I hope he won’t mind. I don’t think I can put it in better words than him…

For paper 1

1. Make maximum use of graphs – I think ‘a picture is worth thousand words’ is much more than just an adage. Graphs are extremely helpful in writing precise answers in Econ. When you look at a question in paper 1 the first question you should be asking yourself is – What graph(s) would best answer this question? Try to think of ways in which you can answer the question through graphs. The benefit of using graphs is that once you make a graph, the writing part becomes very easy as it is only an explanation of the graph. It might not be possible to put graphs in every question but do give your best shot at explaining things through graphs.

2. Precision matters – We would agree that Econ is quite technical a subject with it own vocabulary. Being an economist you cannot hence afford to use words loosely. For example, if we are using the term ‘depreciation’ we must mean ‘depreciation’ and not ‘devaluation’. The answer that you write should reflect your absolute clarity over technical economic terms. Where it is possible to use a technical word go ahead and use it instead of explaining it in layman’s terms provided that you know that it is the precise technical term to be used in that place. I am sure all of us on the group are already good at this but just felt like pointing it out explicitly.

Precision is equally important in graphs as well. One simply cannot afford to draw graphs that look rough in the exam. If you are drawing isoprofit curves, for example, for firm A marked on X axis you have to ensure that the higher isoprofit curves are such that the maxima is always to the left of the lower one and the reaction curve passes through all these maxima. If you happen to draw the curves in such a way that the reaction curve does not pass through all maximas then you are drawing an imprecise graph. I believe one’s basic understanding of microeconomics is tested in the precision of these graphs. If the graphs are not precise it leaves a bad impression about your basic understanding. Agreed that it is near impossible to draw graphs as good as the computer generated ones but at least we can practice enough to ensure that we do not violate any principle of mircoeconomics while drawing our graphs. I personally had devoted a lot of time and effort before the exam in getting my graphs right. It so happened that on the day of my Econ paper I had forgotten to take an eraser with me (it isn’t a nice feeling when you get to know that in the exam hall) but I had all my graphs so well etched in my mind that I didn’t need to use an eraser in my paper.

3. Cut the chase and get to the point – Your first sentence of the answer should itself reflect that you have a command over the topic. Even if you know the topic and you don’t get down to the job right from the first sentence it gives an impression that you are trying to fool your way around. So at least for Econ paper 1 get straight down to the core of the answer. You need not explain what’s the background or history – the examiner isn’t really looking for that.

4. Avoid math – Yes, for UPSC at least. The less equations you put the better. If at any place there is a way to show something through a graph and the same thing through a mathematical proof, go for the graph.

5. Be logical – Economics is as close to decuctive logic as any social science can get. Most answers in paper 1 are based on deductive logic. Make sure you get the premises right and place arguments in such a way that the conclusion flows.

6. Choose questions wisely – At times there may be some questions from the similar topics. Like for HO there maybe two questions of 20 marks, one in question 3 and one in question 5. As far as possible attempt either question 3 or 5, not both. But if you have no other choice attempt them anyways but be strategic there. Suppose question 3 is about criticisms of HOS model and question 5 is about Leontief Paradox then you have to make sure that you don’t get carried away writing a lot about Leontief Paradox in question 3 because anyways you have to answer that in detail in question 5. You cannot write similar things in two answers and expect the examiner to give you marks for both.

7. Cut the et cetera – This is a small point but I say this because I see people all too often using the indeterminate ‘et cetera’ (yours truly being guilty himself). In Econ, you have to show your precise knowledge and understanding of the topic asked. Using ‘et cetera’ simply gives an impression that you are trying to cover for things you do not know. So if there are multiple things and you want to mention only few of them state upfront that the ones you are stating are in your opinion to more relevant ones for this particular answer.

For paper 2

1. Have a narrative – In my opinion, this is the most important thing in both Econ paper 2 and Pub Ad answer writing. Paper 2 is where you have the luxury to present your own opinions. Your opinions, should hence look like they are firmly grounded in facts. For that you need to build a narrative into your answer. By narrative I mean it should be a piece standing all by itself. It shouldn’t be on crutches. If shouldn’t read like an excerpt from a chapter. It shouldn’t read like a part incomplete without the whole. It should read like a whole in itself. A precise, clinical dissection of the issue in hand and inferences drawn from the dissection aided by facts – that is what a good answer is according to me.

2. Use data wherever possible – It is good to use data if you remember. If you don’t, do not attempt the questions that require you to. I, for one, am bad at remembering data. So I let the data heavy questions in paper 2 pass.

3. Use examples liberally – Use them to support your arguments. Use innovative examples, not the routine ones. Keep your ears and eyes open for such examples when you are reading newspaper. Look around you, see what is happening in your state or district. You could quote examples from your state which will make your answer different.

4. Never take a radical stand on any issue unless you have strong data and facts behind you.

5. Use a style that befits the question – You will have to decide then and there whether the question best lends itself to a paragraph format, point format or tabular format. Do not go with preconceived notions about one style being better than the other.

Finally, practice writing answers a lot and set absolutely high standards for yourself. When you have written a piece you cannot let yourself be content if your don’t think it is your absolute best. Re-write, re-write – that’s the only key.

Oh Poor Coachingwallahs…

Looks like my post on my personal experience with the coachingwallahs has unsettled quite some nerves at their end.

After the post, I began to be bombarded with some nasty comments in the comments section – all apparently coming from different different aspirants. I couldn’t understand it until I checked my email. I ve put the settings in my blog that if anybody makes a comment, I get an email notification.

Below I am producing the screenshots of some of these nasty comments… The good thing is, in the email, apart from the comment content, the IP address of the commenter also comes… And I found out, as you can see below in the screenshots, all the nasty comments came from ONE SINGLE IP. hahaha… Oh poor coachingwallah… One single coachingwallah was putting all these nasty comments (and I leave it to the readers to guess / find out who this coachingwallah is). Notice the IPs in the screenshots below


Then I just did a sanity check that not all comments (sane ones as well as nasty) were coming from same IP addresses .. mebbe wordpress server puts its own IP… But no.. it turned out that the sane comments were all coming from different IPs i.e. different people…


So my message to coachingwallahs… you do your best to fool innocent aspirants taking my name… I don’t have the resources to match your marketing prowess, but I will do my best to guide them on the right path… So stop messing with me…

UPSC / IAS Prep: Vision IAS Answer Scripts – Gaurav Agrawal

Friends, I am uploading below my checked answer copies for the vision ias test series I joined. I found Vision IAS very good and professional.

Vision IAS Essays

Essay 1: Juvenile Justice

Essay 2: Governance

Essay 3: Regulatory Institutions

Vision IAS Tests: GS Paper 1 and 2

Paper 1 & 2: Test 1

GS Paper 1, 2: Test 2

GS Paper 1, 2: Test 3

GS Paper 1, 2 Test 6

GS Paper 1, 2 Test 7

GS Paper 1, 2 Test 8

GS Paper 1, 2 Test 9

GS Paper 1, 2 Test 10

Vision IAS Tests: Paper 3 and 4

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 1

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 2

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 3

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 4

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 6

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 7

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 8

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 9

GS Paper 3, 4 Test 10

UPSC / IAS Preparation: Improving Essay Writing

Improving Essay Writing
I thought I had written a very good essay last year. Yet, when the marks came, I found out I had got only 80 / 200. Essay, together with GS, had pulled my rank down. So I sat down with my father, spoke to a couple of friends, took everybody’s feedback and concluded that there were 3-4 things I needed to work upon. I tried to improve upon them this year, and thankfully it worked and I got 135 / 250 this time. So in this article, I would just try to list those lessons learnt so that others may take some cues.

Click here for my last year’s essay.

Click here for this year’s essay.

Lesson #1: An essay should be for a general person and not a subject expert
Last year I wrote on the PPP topic which was from my subject area (Economics). So while writing the essay, I put in many higher economics concepts like lemon’s problem, information asymmetry, agent – principle problem. I thought this would give my essay a killer punch. But this didn’t and couldn’t have worked as the persons checking the essay are not economists – they may have other background. So I should have written an essay without the use of any technical concepts and phrases, in simple simple language only. This is what I did this time.

Lesson #2: Points should be covered in sufficient depth
While practicing last year, I used to write in detail about whatever points I was writing. It used to take around 1900 – 2000 words. I used to send my mock essays to my friends for feedback, and a friend wrongly advised me (and I believed him) that I should cut down the length to around 1200 words. I did that in the exam but the result was that I couldn’t cover any of my points in the needed detail. If you look at my past year’s essay, you would find I began a point, wrote one sentence about it and then immediately concluded it. Now I am not saying that 1200 words essays are not good, but just that one should write as much as the proper coverage of points in the essay demands. It may be 1200 or 2000 or 2500, but coverage should be proper. This year I worked on it and covered my points in somewhat greater detail.

Lesson #3: Wide range of points should be covered
Last year, I later realized, I had covered only a narrow range of points and that too from a limited economist’s perspective. I had neglected the social, political, cultural aspects of the problem and as such my essay was not comprehensive. So this year I worked on it and tried to cover S&T issues from as wide angle as possible and as many relevant points as I could think.

Lesson #4: ‘Continuity’ in Essay: Essay Structure
Almost everybody advises us to have continuity between various parts of the essay and make them coherent. Now this is an art and many people are able to accomplish this. But I am not as gifted with arts, so I tried to create at least an ‘appearance’ of continuity this time. I chose a central theme of my essay (that S&T are very important, without them nothing will happen, but they are not the panacea and we need proper policies and administrative framework to reap maximum benefits) and reinforced this theme from the introduction to throughout the essay. For any point I took, be it agriculture or energy or medicine or industry, I kept on reinforcing this point again and again. This gives an impression and also actually lends some continuity to the essay. Second thing I did was to divide my essay into various sections with headings (in bold) for each section and then in the introduction part itself, I mentioned that the essay is divided into following sections and these are the sections to come. All this lends a basic structure to the essay and this basic structure, together with the central theme, provides that needed ‘continuity’ to the essay – at least in the minds of the examiners.

Other things have to be there like a strong opening, use of examples from daily life to drive home a point, good handwriting etc.

Coachings – The Good and The Bad

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are purely personal and may be wrong from someone else’s perspective.

Hi, I am writing this post so that no one gets misguided in my name by the various advertisements being put by the coaching institutes. My aim is just to prevent students from wasting their money n time and tell wot I found good n bad even though some of these coachings may become unhappy with me.

1. Vajiram classroom coaching: I joined their classroom coaching in 2012 but found it to be an utter waste of my time. So left it within a couple of weeks and never went again. What they taught could be studies by self in less than half the time.

2. Baliyan’s Insight classroom coaching: This was the only classroom coaching I found good and upto standards. I also liked his approach. I joined history optional coaching there.

3. Lalwani’s Axiom for Economics: Again an utter waste of time and money. He doesn’t teach more than half the things n wotever is taught is mostly lacking needed depth. I used to go to the classes only coz I had baliyan’s class after him n coz I travelled from Gurgaon to Delhi for the classes.

4. Sriram classroom: total waste… Attended 3-4 lectures only. His printed notes are good.

5. Vajiram interview: Liked the one on one sitting with raveendran sir and their panels last year. But this year their panel was very bad with some arrogant former IFS officer at head.

6. Samkalp interview: Good panels. Took 2 mocks.

7. Chanakya interview: Very good panel. They made me realise what areas to focus on this year. Many of their questions were asked in actual interview in sone form or other.

8. Vision Ias test series: I joined test series for GS n Essay and found them very good. They conduct the test series professionally n their notes are good too. 1 ques I could answer only by studying from their notes.

9. Synergy test series: I joined only test series. It is good and feedback professional but unka staff bhaav bahut khata hai and is uncooperative with students.

10. Sri Chaitanya interviews: good panel and good mock.

11. HYDERABAD study Circle: I joined mock interview and was a very good n professional experience.

Editorial: Open Letter from Justice Shiv Kumar (High Court) and Reply

After the IAS result, Justice Shiv Kumar wrote an open letter to me through the editorial page of Rajasthan Patrika (popular hindi newspaper in Rajasthan). In the letter he cautioned me against the challenges which lie ahead. I then replied to it which was published in the editorial page of Rajasthan Patrika too.

Reproducing both in this blog.

Open Letter from Justice Shiv Kumar

Letter part 1

Letter part 2

My reply

My Reply

My UPSC Marks – CSE 2013

Hello friends

Below is the distribution of my marks

Essay: 135 / 250

GS 1: 85 / 250
GS 2: 63 / 250
GS 3: 88 / 250
GS 4: 102 / 250
Total GS: 338 / 1000

Optional (Economics)
Economics 1: 134 / 250
Economics 2: 162 / 250
Total Economics: 296 / 500

Total Written: 769 / 1750

Interview (Dr. Kilemsungla board): 206 / 275

Total: 975 / 2025

Rank 1


Last Year’s Marks

Essay: 82 / 200
GS: 173 / 600
History Optional: 234 / 600
Economics Optional: 280 / 600

Written Total: 769 / 2000

Interview (IMG Khan Board): 210 / 300

Total: 979 / 2300

Rank 244

UPSC / IAS Preparation Notes: Gaurav Agrawal

Dear friends

As I promised and always intended, I am uploading here all my online notes for various papers of the IAS / UPSC exam. You may find some overlap here and there and some unstructured portions as well, but please forgive me for that. It has been a long journey with a lot of distance to cover so quality may have been compromised in some notes. Anyways, my idea here is to give all I have and help as many as I can in their journeys. Also, if anyone has any doubt or query regarding or whatever and wants to communicate with me, I am open for communication here in comments and also on my email: crazyphoton@gmail.com … If I can inspire and help even anyone of you to their destination, I would believe my purpose would be served. I promise I would reply to each and every single query, though it may take some time.

Gaurav Agrawal.

GS Paper Notes

GS Paper 2 Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/paper2

GS Paper 3 Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/paper3

GS Paper 4 Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/paper4

Social Issues Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/newspapersocial

S&T Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/newspaperst

International Affairs Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/international

Internal Affairs Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/internal

India’s Neighbors Affairs Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/neighbours

Environment Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/environment

Culture Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/culture

Polity Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/polity

Geography Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/geography

Interview Preparation Notes


History Optional Notes (+ Ancient and Medieval culture part of GS Paper 1 + World History part of GS Paper 1 + Modern India part of GS Paper 1)

World History Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/historyworld

Modern India Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/historymodern

Medieval India Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/historymedieval

Ancient India Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/historyancient

Economics Optional Notes (+ GS Paper 3 Economy Part)

Micro Economics Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/economicsmicro

Macro Economics Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/economicsmacro

International Economics Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/inteco

Indian Economy Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/economicsindia

Developmental Economy Notes: https://www.evernote.com/pub/crazyphoton/deveco

PDF Format

Click here to download in pdf format. Thanks to Jaideep Saharan for saving them in pdf and hosting on his google drive.