Category Archives: General-Studies

How to prepare General Studies and Essay for Civil service exam

Hindi Medium Guidance from Hindi Topper- Santosh Rai (AIR 107, cse 2013)

I had been painstakingly looking for this for quite some time now. A lot of hindi medium aspirants had come to me for guidance and I used to feel sorry for not being able to help them much since I myself didn’t know much about preparation via Hindi medium.

But, finally found Santosh ji and thanks to him for responding to my call on fb and offering to guide the hindi medium aspirants via facebook. His fb profile is

Below are his other words of wisdom which I have been able to gather from here and there… For any more queries please contact him on fb.


Santosh ji’s Marksheet

GS 1-69
GS 2 67
GS 3 67
GS 4 100






Santosh ji on Medium of Examination

“still i feel medium doesnt make any difference…….d fact is that less people from hindi r appearing in d exam ……… r d less results……… normally hindi medium ones lack in financial resources generally………then lack of good coaching ……..books……….newspaper etc in hindi……….these r some obstacles………….bt no prob…..where dere is will……..dere is a way…………. dont give up d medium……..there is nothing wrong in hindi medium…….”



Santosh ji on Books for Preparation


– HISTORY – modern ncert of 12th for modern india, freedom struggle and india after independence from bipin chandra

– GEOGRAPHY – mahesh bernwal……11th 12th ncert

– polity – laxmikant

– science tech – vivas panorma or spectrum

– economy – any one good book. may be ramesh singh of tmh or lal and lal or even extra issue of pd wud suffice

– environment – bharoocha’s book plus 12th old ncert





– “i didnt take coaching from anywhere for gs……….yes i had gone to discovery and attended 4-5 lectures on indian society in crash course.”



Is it Possible to Clear With Job?

“some of my friends say dat dey r working or have less time…….i want to share for them dat i was not only working full time but i m married……….since past 6 years having kid 2”



Santosh ji on “Ideal” Timetable

“frnakly speaking there was no general routine……….but surely whatever time i had after my job eating and sleeping i used 2 devote to d civils…..even i was not studying physically ……….mental preparaton was going on…….so passion to clear d exam was always dere……..neither i got bore anytime nor lost self confidence.”



Santosh ji on History Optional Preparation

“i think coaching class is gud 4 optional……..i took history class from balyan sir n also did d test series 4m dere………class is ok type…..but test series of balyan sir is excellent……..definitely do that……..regd study material…….i read class notes of balyan sir and manikant sir……..manikant’s class note is really gud………den dere is limitation of class n notes……….so must cover the left over topics of the syllabus particularly some small small topics generally left by d teachers from wtever sources u can………freedom struggle and india after independence of bipin chandra is must……..also follow ignou notes for cultural, economic sections………dere r some chapters like arts n culture of regional kingdoms…….u wil find only in ignou……..for mapping take d manikant’s map booklet…… ncert……..take a blank map…..get it laminated……..n practice site location with sketch pen…….u wil b master of it………also update the map from google as some of the sites in manikant or ncert r not pin pointed…….like simpley written ………on the bank of some river…….google dat upto at least district………plus very few sites r wrongly located also or not clear… google wil help in pin pointing dat… u wil remember 4 long time………practice map in d beginning itsself not at the end……….bcz at d end…..u have lots of stuff 2 go thr.”



Santosh ji on Paper Management

“finally……….cover d entire syllabus…….not a single topic sud b left……..must join test series……….in d exam attempt all d questions…… short questions….try to write point wise instead of para………master the mapping…… fetch gud marks……..”



Santosh ji’s Interview in Pratiyogita Darpan August 2014 Issue





UPSC / IAS Preparation: Culture, S&T, Environment

Some topics in GS syllabus are very tricky… specially culture, science and tech and environment. A lot of people wonder where to study them from and waste a lot of time studying this and that. I too did the same and could never find any single good source for these. However, after lot of this and that, I was definitely able to find some useful bits here and there which I kept on consolidating in my notes. So sharing here the relevant portion of my notes so that others may not waste their time. However, it is my duty to add that even these may not be ‘sufficient’ or ‘good’, these are simply what I studied.



I had history optional last year, so ancient and medieval culture I didn’t prepare specifically for GS. Being an optional student, naturally I had read many books and extracted the culture bits from everywhere into my notes. These notes can be found here..

Naturally the ancient and medieval culture notes are very deep (prepared from optional perspective) but what is relevant for GS part, I have highlighted in red.

Modern was very difficult and I found material by Insight, Nitin Singhania and 2 pdfs titled ‘Compilation of Indian culture’ and’Compendium on Indian Culture’ very useful.

These pdfs are and .

I tried to memorize all folk songs/dances/drama etc. state-wise i.e. state first and then all its dances because remembering and recalling the name of a random dance was too challenging.


Science and Technology

This is one section I could never prepare properly. Each year I prepared something and UPSC asked something else (except for 1-2 questions). What I used to do was I prepared google alerts for various S&T related topics (say satellite, telescope, robot, nano, computers) and 1 month before the mains, I used to read the coaching material of various coaching institutes available on photocopy shops in Old Rajendra Nagar. But no use.

However, seeing this year’s paper, I have an intuition. The questions asked were on Fixed Dose Drug Combinations (FDCs), silicone tape and hotspot, digital signature, 3D printing and FRP composite material. Now all of these had been in news for some reason or the other (though not in news for technology as such). FDCs were related to the Drug Control Pricing Order, 2013, silicone tape was related to Kevin Pieterson controversy, 3D printing related to ISS news, FRP was in Hindu. So I believe the key to preparing S&T is that while reading any news / issue, we should also think about the technology involved in it (if any) and then read on internet about the technology. This should be given preference to reading the coaching material 15 days before the exam which gives us confidence but no questions come from it.



In environment, there is some static portion and then there is some current portion. The static portion is various environment conventions and protocols (Basel, Nagoya, CBD etc.). I have most of these in my notes which can be seen here

(Read the Environment Protection Note only)

The current portions include global climate talks. Every year the COP happens and one should know the diplomacy of various groups before the talk, during the talks and the outcome of talks. And then what did India gain / lose in the talk, whether what has been achieved is good enough or not etc. Then IPCC / UNEP come out with their reports sometimes which are important. The other news like “Green Corridor” question have to be captured from the news itself. I have realized Hindu is very important to capture these news.

This year Ganga is in news, so one should be thoroughly prepared on Ganga – Ganga Action Plans, Ganga Authority, what has been achieved so far, reasons for failure, what do experts say, what do environmentalists say, what should be done in future etc.

UPSC / IAS Preparation: How to Read Newspapers

Disclaimer: Below is purely my personal opinion and may not be the best way of going about this task. This is just the way I followed. Optimum way for others may vary from person to person.

All of us read newspapers, but many of us don’t read it in the way it should be read for UPSC exam. There is a common complaint that we spend too much time on newspapers or we read the topic, still couldn’t write well in the exam on it. Many people complain of quantity versus quality tradeoff in the exam i.e. how to attmept maximum number of questions while maintaining good quality in answers. This happens mostly because we are not able to structure our thoughts well in the exam and don’t recall our points quickly. And the main reason for this is unorganized way of studying. Our mode of study should be structured and we should then make our notes in a way UPSC asks questions. Then our thought process would be structured, we will write good answers and recall maximum number of points in the exam. UPSC asks ISSUES and NOT NEWS. So while reading newspapers, we should focus on issues and not news.

An aspirant, chocoboy was kind enough to send me pdfs of today’s hindu. Instead of replying personally to him, I thought it would be useful if I write a public post on it. So below is how I think we should go through today’s newspaper.

Page 1
Click here to see Page 1.

In this page, only 2 articles should be read – one on judge appointment and other on high speed trains. In the judge article, the things we should focus on are: collegium system, its origin, what it is, government has what powers to overrule judiciary (as has happened recently), what can judiciary do now, how the collegium system has worked so far, its criticisms, recent JAC act and constitutional amendment, pros n cons of the act, way fwd / our opinion… Now obviously most of these things we will not find in this news article. Here is where internet steps in. We should google about all these things, read expert opinion, watch Rajya Sabha TV youtube video on it etc. and make our own notes in our own words on all these topics. Better to have online notes so that we can edit them later.

Next article of use is high speed train where we should study sad affairs of railways today, what are issues with railways, how it should be improved, various committees formed in last 3-4 years, any major committee formed whose recommendations have had a major effect on railways, is running high speed / bullet train a good idea or wastage of money, pros and cons of it, privatisation of railways – pros and cons, is any new technology being used in high speed / bullet / maglev trains? Again obviously we will not find all these in a single place, we will have to toil and search for all these things on internet.

Page 3
Click here to see Page 3.

Normally page 3 doesn’t contain anything, but here there is this ‘blue fuel’. So blue fuel must be focused upon – what it is, what will be its impact, pros and cons.

Page 8

Click here to see Page 8.

Judiciary article – we have already read in page 1, so may be just glance through it to see if anything new covered.

Islamic state article – new thing for me, so I would read it, try to link it with what I know. Things which are new to me or I can’t understand, I would google starting with Baghdadi’s name. If this is an important story, we would get to read more about it in coming days.

Page 9

Click here to see Page 9.

Ecology article – Usually such articles contain repetitive and often said things. So just a glance through is needed to see if this contains anything new. If it doesn’t no need for any further action. If it does, underline it, make notes and if needed search on internet.

Privatisation of health sector – This is an important question for us. We should read the article and then search on internet what are the weaknesses in present system – both public health system and private health system, and the pros and cons of privatization, and how to achieve privatization while minimizing its harmful impacts. Internet study is needed.

Page 10

Click here to see Page 10.

Only article of use to us is Indians in Mosul. This is a developing story, we will read the article, most probably there will only be 1-2 lines of use to us in this article which we should underline and add to our notes.

Page 12

Click here to see Page 12.

Again the article of use is Kurdish leadership one. This again is a developing story, read it fast and underline and make notes of 1-2 new things we find.

Next article is that of shift in Japan’s policy – we should be aware of the nature of this shift and its impact. Japan – China question is an old one and so much we already know about it that not much time needs to be spent on it.

Page 15

Click here to see Page 15.

There is an article on El Nino. Don’t read the article, we just need to know the mechanism of El Nino from Geography point of view.

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.

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: … 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:

GS Paper 3 Notes:

GS Paper 4 Notes:

Social Issues Notes:

S&T Notes:

International Affairs Notes:

Internal Affairs Notes:

India’s Neighbors Affairs Notes:

Environment Notes:

Culture Notes:

Polity Notes:

Geography Notes:

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:

Modern India Notes:

Medieval India Notes:

Ancient India Notes:

Economics Optional Notes (+ GS Paper 3 Economy Part)

Micro Economics Notes:

Macro Economics Notes:

International Economics Notes:

Indian Economy Notes:

Developmental Economy Notes:

PDF Format

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

UPSC GS Mains: How to Improve Answer Writing

Disclaimer: These are just my inferences from my experiences last year. May be all this is wrong… may be I get as bad or even worse marks than last years. No guarantees. But that is life… When obstacles come, we change course and try to steer our way around them somehow :-)

The Background

I gave my first mains in 2012. My preparation was excellent and I thought I had written all the papers reasonably well. That my preparation was not lacking can be seen from the fact that I got in 130s in prelims GS paper and since prelims I had only improved the preparation. The interview was good as well.

Yet I could secure a rank in only 200s. Everybody except me thought I would have got less marks in History since I had no background in it (took it only out of interest). Economics was my other optional. But when the final marks came, the picture turned out to be entirely different – and frankly darker for me. For it turned out that it was not history which sunk me, but GS and Essay. I had scored reasonably good marks in Economics (280s) and History (240s) and interview (210s) but failed miserably in GS (170s) and Essay (80s). GS and Essay combined took me over 80 marks below average!

I was disappointed and frustrated – for I didn’t know what went wrong in GS and Essay. And the bad news was that from 2013, weight of GS and Essay, where I had scored miserably, would become more than double while that of optional, where I had done well, would be halved. Had history been the culprit, I could have simply dropped it next time and given the exam again without doing anything extra. But it was now GS, with double marks, and I didn’t know what went wrong and what to improve – forget about how to improve. Its like being stranded in the middle of Pacific on a small boat without sails and rudder in a dark hurricane night… And yet we are expected to find the coast on the next morning!

Anyways, one thing would be clear to anybody given the above marks distribution – the main problem lay not in preparation but in answer writing. And so it had to be answer writing alone which had to be improved drastically, even at the cost of preparation.

So how to write better GS answers

So I analyzed, joined 3 test series (vision ias GS + vision ias essay + Synergy GS), wrote answers, sent them to some friends for feedback, discussed with my father and finally felt following things were important.

– GS and optionals answers are completely different. In optionals, one can write a PhD types answer and be confident of getting good marks – because the examiner who is checking an economics paper would be an economist herself. But in GS this will not work. The examiner who is checking the economics answer in a GS paper in more likelihood would not be an economist. She would be a generalist with limited knowledge and interest in the subject.

– So if you write some specialized answer or use some specific terms or models from your optional while writing a GS answer, good luck! Most probably the examiner would not understand/appreciate it. And she would not spend additional time or effort in going back and study the term/model you wrote. She would simply give a zero.

– Similarly, if you write any unconventional answers like say Aadhar cash transfers are not going to increase inflation and even give a logic based proof from basic economics, the examiner will not give any marks. Because she would have read mainstream media where everybody is saying Aadhar transfers would increase inflation. And she has no interest in taking the pain to understand a contrarian view point in your answer. Her life would be much simpler if she just gives a zero.

– So the bottom line is, our answer should be such that they make the life easier for the examiner. She would be happy while reading them and would give us more marks. So no PhD types stuff… just stick to basic points and present them in a way which is easy to read.

– Next, this exam is not a science exam. This is a generalist exam, a humanities exam. Its like a BA or MA exam. In a science exam, if there are 5 points in an answer but point number 1 is the most important point and rest are insignificant as compared to point 1, so if you cover point 1 only in your answer in great detail showing good understanding, you would get good marks. But in a BA, MA exam this doesn’t work. You have to not only write those 5 points, but also invent 2 more points and write. Only then the examiner would feel that you have covered all ‘relevant’ points. So one cannot ignore the trivial points and has to blindly write everything.

– Going further, in BA MA exams, if the question asks something say what is RBI doing to contain inflation and you answer all the points (including the trivial points) on what is RBI doing to contain inflation, you still won’t get good marks. Your answer still won’t be considered complete. In BA MA exams, an answer would be complete if we also write a bit about what preceded the question and what succeeded it. For example, in this RBI question, if I also write 1 para in the beginning on what is causing this high inflation and 1 para in the end on the effect of high inflation if RBI is not able to control, my answer would be considered better (even though a science student would find all this utter stupidity).

– Now the question arises, how to think of so many points in the exam hall? Well, because this is a BA MA exam and doesn’t require any specialist knowledge, the good thing is, if we just pause and think for 1-2 minutes before writing an answer in the exam hall, we would be able to recollect 70-80% of the points.

– Another thing which helps is to beforehand prepare a list of points for few broad topics. For example, one can remember 10 points on how to improve citizen charter, 10 points on how to remove corruption, 8 points on how to contain inflation, 7 on small states or not, 10 on problems of panchayats and so on… The good thing is these broad topics are limited and most questions in the GS exam come only as a subset of these broad topics or ask a particular aspect of these broad topics. Once you remember this block of points on any broad topic and a question comes asking you to look at the topic from a particular angle, you can easily and very quickly modify your existing points to meet the demands of the question. Then you just have to write 1 para each on what came before the question and what happens after the question, and your answer is complete.

– Finally on presentation style. Many coachings tell many things. Don’t believe in any of them. Just use common sense. The examiner is a human being who is checking your copies not because of any interest but because its her job. She would like to get over with it as soon and with as little mental pain as possible and attend to rest of her life. So just present your answers in a way which you think makes her life easier. Personally, I preferred writing point and section wise answers this time with proper section and sub sectional headings. It gives an impression that I have covered all aspects, given a thought to the answer before writing and created a structure. But the choice is yours.


Through this article, I just hope to help some others who may be finding themselves in the same small, rudderless boat in the middle of the Pacific as I found myself after the result last year – and may be again will find after this year’s results.

Anyways, I understand that merely reading the above words is not sufficient in improving answer writing. One has to practice. I didn’t have any systematic guidance and practiced in near darkness. May be I am still in dark. But I want to try my best to make life easier for other deserving students. So mebbe if somebody wants, he/she may post her answers along with the question to any GS questions here in the comments. I would try to come back with feedback. It may take some time due to heavy training activities and interview prep here, but I would surely come back. If I feel I won’t be able to do justice to the question, I would clearly say so. Other fellow readers may also chip in. Les see how it goes. Even if a few are able to benefit by this to whatever extent, the purpose would be served.

UPSC GS: How to Prepare


The base development phase has to be strong. This phase includes studying the basic books and developing the right techniques for things such as books reading, newspaper / magazine reading, using the internet, reports reading etc. UPSC questions will not be from this level, but if we don’t get this right, we won’t get the subsequent phases right. The idea is – our base should be so strong that when we study the higher things, we should be able to understand them straightaway. If our base is not strong, then we would have to keep revisiting it and will waste a lot of time. A good base means we should not feel the need of ever revisiting the basic books again.

Basic Books

In this phase we should cover all the basic books. These include:
– Bipin Chandra for Indian freedom.
– DD Basu for Indian constitution.
– Class 11th and 12th old ncert textbooks: 3 in Geography (1 physical, 1 India, 1 economic), 3 in History (Ancient and medieval for the culture, philosophy part only, and the modern one for modern history)
– Class 9th and 10th Science old ncerts (specially the biology part)

We must prepare notes in our own language when we read these books and not merely underline for reasons mentioned later.

Once we do this strongly, we will also realize we won’t need to prepare much for prelims as well!

Notes Making

Underlining vs Note Making

Some people prefer underlining to note making. However, note making is preferable for at least 3 strong reasons:

1. In UPSC Mains exams, its the stuff we have internalized which helps. We may have studied something in some context but in exam we may apply it in some other context. This kind of ‘cross referencing’ is very helpful and can make our answers very powerful. While making notes, we convert the language of the book into our own language and this process helps a lot in internalizing stuff.

2. It saves time! This may sound contrary to common sense because underlining is definitely faster than painstakingly writing stuff in our own language. True, preparing notes takes lot longer than underlining books. But because they are in our own language, revising them takes lot lesser time than revising underlined stuff. In fact, with well prepared notes, it may be possible to revise your entire syllabus some 5-10 times and each successive revision will be faster!

3. Notes are customizable. We can frame our own questions which we think may be asked in UPSC and prepare our notes accordingly. But we can’t do the same for underlined stuff.

Notes on Paper vs Notes on Computer

Try to make notes on computer if your typing speed is even half decent.

– Making notes on computer has one very very big advantage over making notes on paper. It is editable and can be formatted easily. We can delete, format, append, insert, do anything with notes on computer and yet make it one clean nice story. For instance, many stories in current affairs develop over weeks and months. eg. the question on Maldives. No newspaper story will have a complete picture of it. But the question will only ask the complete story. So in our notes, we will have to edit bit by bit over time so that by the exam time we have the entire story in one place. The choice is yours – read n number of newspaper cuttings or physical paper notes, each containing partial information or read one coherent, complete story in one place only on computer. This will help us in quick revisions as well.

– Online note making will also help us in revising our entire syllabus 5-10 times, so that all the stuff is so well placed in our mind that when we are solving 25 questions in 3 hours in the exam, we don’t take a long time to recollect and arrange stuff.

– We should also get into the habit of making notes for anything and everything we read. This may include the basic books, the advanced books, newspapers, magazines, reports etc.

– These notes must be organized issue-wise (eg. say Coal energy) irrespective of the sources we may read from. Thus whether we read from a book, newspaper, internet or wherever, all our notes on coal energy should be in one place only. To give an example of what I am talking, uploading here my note on ‘Energy’. Click here to see the note on energy. This will provide a picture of how to organize the notes (forgive me for some instances of lack of formatting in the note as they were added when I had grown lazy).

Newspaper and Magazine Reading

News vs Issues

People in the beginning tend to focus on news and make notes accordingly. UPSC never asks news… it asks issues. For example, MDR-TB is an issue, we need to focus on that and not any individual news item. While reading any news on MDR-TB, we need to connect it to the key points of the issue. An issue specific reading thus tries to:

1. identify key points with the issue in hand. For eg. in MDR-TB, the key challenges are the challenges it poses to the public health, why is it different from normal B, why is it more difficult to handle, what are the institutional factors which are leading to its spread, what needs to be done to tackle it, what steps is the government taking.

2. Then when we read any news, we need to connect it to the key points so identified and not bother about facts and figures. For eg. a news item on MDR-TB may talk about some places, some drugs, some persons… we need to only worry about our key points and skip all the rest.

Other aspects of newspaper/magazine reading

1. Politics, sports, masala news etc. can be skipped straightaway.

2. Keep an eye on any committee, any law, any rules, any policy, any supreme court orders etc. These are our bread and butter in upsc preparation.

3. Hindu has become very very important since last 2 years. Read one more newspaper at least. Since Hindu is left leaning, so may suggest a pro-reform newspaper say Indian Express.

4. UPSC is a left leaning exam. So one may read EPW magazine, but beware of the excessively left leaning rattling. Similarly yojana is a helpful magazine as well.

5. We should never go in too many details or detailed news/articles can be straightaway skipped. GS is a generalist exam and reading has to be kept generalist too. For eg. no need to spend hours in reading and understanding about what Higgs Boson is. Even if we get a common man’s understanding on Higgs Boson, its good enough. No need to do a PhD on an issue – no use in writing things the examiner doesn’t know about.

Our goal should be to finish one newspaper in max half an hour.

Using Internet And RSS Reader

Using the internet is of vital importance for proper UPSC preparation. The reason is simple:

– Very often the newspaper/magazine/book/report we are reading will only contain partial information on the issue (say just the committee or bill name and only 1-2 points). But for our exam we need full information. Only place today to find complete information is internet.

– Even reading 2 newspapers will never be sufficient. We should scan everything so that there are no ‘surprises’ in the exam. This can be done only on internet.

How to use the internet

1. As mentioned earlier, the moment we find something useful and yet incomplete in the newspapers/books, we should look up for it on internet.

2. Since newspapers and magazines can’t cover everything, we should use a RSS reader (say feedly on Google Chrome) and subscribe to the editorials / sections of all major newspapers. It is free and easy. Any new item will show up with title and one line on your feedly. We can decide to either read it or skip it. We will find that we would normally skip ~95% of the items. But remaining 5% are needed.

3. For certain topics like WTO & India, one may create Google alerts. This way one will get an email everytime something is published on the net containing keywords such as ‘WTO’ and ‘India’. Other meaningful alerts may be created.

Report Reading

During our preparation we will need to read multiple committee reports.

– Sometimes newspapers talk about certain reports and publish a few of their recommendations. There is always a temptation to just make our notes based on that newspaper article. But this is not the right approach – because the newspaper article has not been written for the upsc exam and the reporter may not have covered all points relevant to us in our preparation for the exam. So the correct approach is to always look up for the original report on the internet and read it.

How to read bulky reports

But many reports are bulky. If we read them in detail, it would take an inordinate amount of time.

– A common temptation is to read merely the recommendations part. But again this is faulty because the recommendations don’t contain the context, discussion which is as important for our exam purpose as the recommendation itself. We need the context and discussion because only rarely does UPSC ask ‘enumerate the recommendations’… Mostly it asks ‘discuss the recommendations’.

– So we must read the entire report. But to save on time, we need not read each part in same detail and concentration. We should put in only that much effort to read the bulky text of the report so as to get an overall gist / idea of what is being talked about in that part. This will quicken up our reading substantially.

– We can then highlight the relevant ‘important’ parts of the report text in our first reading. (If Adobe doesn’t allow you to highlight a pdf, download Nitroreader) Then in the 2nd reading, we can read only the highlighted parts and add it to our notes in our own words. The second reading and note making part would be substantially faster.

– We must also search on the internet for any discussions on the report (because UPSC asks ‘discuss’ kind of questions).


We reach this stage when we have read all our basic books, made notes from them and have perfected our newspaper reading and internet using skills. Now we address our syllabus directly.

Coaching Material

There are handwritten classnotes of various coaching institutes available in the photocopy shops of rajinder nagar and mukherjee nagar. Notes from vajiram, insight, sriram (printed material) are good for various parts of GS. We should read them and in fact for Vajiram and Sriram, I found them to be better than the actual classes.

ARC and Puncchi Commission Reports

For many topics in 2nd and 3rd paper, 2nd Administrative Reforms Commissions reports are very good ( along with the Puncchi Commission reports ( Each volume should be read and notes prepared from them as mentioned earlier. In 2013 mains, at least 5-6 questions were asked directly from ARC and Puncchi Commission reports.

Bills, Rules, Drafts and Government Actions

– Every bill, policy, committee, rules, drafts, governmental action etc. has to be tracked.

– PRS ( is a good source for bills.

– Others have to be tracked on internet. PIB website ( is a very good source for all governmental actions and may be subscribed to in the RSS reader.

Specific Readings For Various Parts of Syllabus

PAPER-II – General Studies- I

Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

I had history optional, so ancient and medieval culture were easy. Modern was very difficult and I found material by Insight, Nitin Singhania and 2 pdfs titled ‘Compilation of Indian culture’ and’Compendium on Indian Culture’ very useful. Click here and here to download the pdfs. I tried to memorize all folk songs/dances/drama etc. state-wise i.e. state first and then the dance.

Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.

Shekhar Bandopadhyay’s “From Plassey to Partition” is by far the best book. Also read Bipin Chandra’s book to get a different perspective. Read both because writing a balanced perspective is very imp.

Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.

There is a book by Bipin Chandra “India since Independence”. Very thick book, but we need to read only 3-4 chapters.

History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.

Read Insight world history optional class notes first. for colonization, there was one chapter in old class 9 or 10 history ncert book.

Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Effects of globalization on Indian society
Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

All above is very general. answer writing style matters. everybody knows everything.

Salient features of world’s physical geography.
Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)
Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

NCERT class 11 n 12 books + insight academy + vajiram notes + follow main themes like recent IPCC report, IPSO report, IMD website for cyclone mechanism. In 2013 mains, the cyclone naming question was directly from IMD website. Click here to download cyclone pdf of imd.

General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.
Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

For all the polity, read DD Basu or Laximakanth thoroughly. Read 2nd ARC relevant reports and Puncchi Commission Reports. These reports directly cover most of the topics.

Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

Vajiram came out with an online pdf on various schemes (Click here to download), its printed copy would be available on photocopy shops in Rajinder Nagar. Handwritten classnotes by the same institutions were also helpful. Newspapers, pib etc. will come in handy here. CAG reports have very good analysis on various schemes as well which can be found on internet.

Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Role of civil services in a democracy.

These topics are well covered in 2nd ARC reports.

India and its neighborhood- relations.
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

IR has to be newspapers n internet based.

General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.

Economy section has to come from budget, economic survey, 12th 5 yr plan, newsppr n intnt. Coaching hand written material may also help in some topics.
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Government Budgeting.
govt budgeting has to come from 2nd ARC report.
Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers
agriculture – there was “State of Indian Agriculture” report tabled in parliament in March 2012.
Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
Land reforms in India.
Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Investment models.

All the above issues are well covered in newspapers, internet and editorials etc. Just keep an eye for anything relevant. + I had economics optional, so never really prepared above specifically for GS.

Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

S&T: Mostly adhoc preparation. coaching classes material is relied upon in the final month to boost confidence but it doesn’t really help in the exam.

Disaster and disaster management.

Disaster: 2nd ARC report and CAG report on disaster preparedness

Linkages between development and spread of extremism.

2nd ARC report: 5th schedule, PESA, FRA, 6th schedule topics are imp. here

Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention
Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism
Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

Security: coaching material and newspapers etc.

General Studies- IV: Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude

Basic material has to be 2nd ARC report #4 and also Vajiram and Insight handwritten notes. For moral thinkers, attitude, emotional intelligence topics, refer to Sriram printed notes.