Sunday, August 24, 2008

General Studies - Mains

If conventional topics (National Movement, Polity, Economics, Geography) are prepared well during Prelims itself, then it eases a lot of pressure in preparation for the Mains as during the period May-October effort can be focused on practicing for Mains and Current Affairs which have become very important in GS exam. I'll try to deal with each of the topics mentioned in syllabus.

For National Movement, I used to read from Spectrum “History of Modern India” and practice from NCERT. There is usually a surprise element in UPSC history questions (though this year's were straight forward) and practicing from NCERT without reading it gave me adequate practice. I'd read a chapter after solving the questions given at the back. I tried approx. 5-8 tough questions from most chapters. Also, some topics – State People’s Movements, Rise of Left Front, Communalism – are covered very well in Bipan Chandra “India’s Struggle for Independence” (Penguin).

For Polity, I read Dr. D.D. Basu “Introduction to the Constitution of India”, Wizard Indian Polity and Constitution and solved questions given at the back of Wizard book (they are just Previous Year questions). To add some extra points or clarify doubts for important topics, I used to go through P.M. Bakshi’s “The Constitution of India”

For Geography, I read NCERT books - India's Physical Environment, India People and Economy.

For Economics, I had notes from Sriram's institute and substantiated them from Misra/Puri. I was thorough with XIth Five Year Plan and would read important topics from Economic Survey. These were: State of the Economy, External Sector, Infrastructure, Social Sectors.

I practiced previous year papers for Statistics.

And now the most important part- Current Affairs - India and World; International Affairs; current topics in Economy and Polity; National, Social and Environment issues; Science and Technology.

I was regular with The Hindu - took clippings daily, underlined important points in them right away (so that I didn't have to read the article all over again later) and arranged them topic wise once every fortnight or so. I also read Chronicle and important topics from Frontline (20 pages in each issue out of 130 pages). By August mid I had a list of important issues from all topics. This includes:

  • Relations with about 10-12 countries (Russia, US, Pakistan, Nepal, Brazil, South Africa, China, Japan, ASEAN, SAARC, G8, Italy, Germany; any country important for that year). I arranged the clippings topic wise and wrote answers for relations with each country. For example: In India-Russia relations I divided answer into 6 sections (Energy, Defence, International affairs, Economy/Trade, Cultural, Miscellaneous). There would be about 5-10 points of recent developments under each heading.
  • Nearly 10-15 topics each from International Affairs, National issues, Polity issues and current Economy, Science and Technology.

I prepared and practiced answers for these important topics. Atleast 3-4 revisions are must to get the best out of this effort.

Many of the 2 markers were covered from these news clippings. Also, I practiced to write maximum information in minimum words. This is a must to do well in 2 markers.

Tackling the exam: For me time is a big issue in exam. I write quite slowly. So I would answer all the questions I knew first and leave all the flukes for the last (around 30-40 marks detailed questions). This way I could give my best in the questions I was thorough with. Moreover, before writing the answer I’d think on it for a few minutes and prepare a basic framework. This is a must. I wrote to the point answers. Moreover, if I could write only good 150 words for a 250 words answer, I’d leave it at that rather than trying to stretch my answer to required word limit.

I left 2 markers which I didn't know rather than attempting flukes in them.


Ashish said...

Hello Sir

Really nice of u to take the time out for the help of future aspirants...All the best in life and God bless !!


Supreet Singh Gulati said...

All the best Ashish. Feel free to ask any doubts/queries through this forum.

@sHi$h ViJaYvArGiA said...

thank u for your valuable suggestion

Anonymous said...

please do explain me how can i connect with news appear in paper with UPSC asked question
like daily i read about financial crisis in US ??? US economy mess up but i didnt find out any reason how this happen , what are the cause behind it , how this $700 bilion help to recover it from that , why other nations are worry about there economy if there is financial crisis in US not in there country , what is it relation with stock market , how a common man in india suffer if there is prob in US not in india , why our FM make daily statemnet our economy is stable no fear knowing that inflation is continously rising?????? n many things like that
give me suggestion how to read newspaper now that i m capable to take out some point from articles to write my answers in mains questions

Ashu said...


Congratulations for your excellent performance....What kept you going for four long years....was it frustating to have spent lots of time in the process...How did you manage to motivate yourself for a fairly long period of time.......


Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Ashu, that's one question I wish I had a good answer to. I still don't know how I persevered and succeeded in 4th attempt. Its easy to be motivated for first year or two. But its hell after that.

The real fight after two years is not about finishing the syllabus in time but keeping oneself in a good frame of mind throughout. Its a fight that all people reaching 3rd or 4th attempts fight every minute.

In this regard, its important to have a good support system which helps you in time of need. I had very strong shoulders to cry on (and I did it quite often during my 4th attempt). I was lucky in that regard. I also kept taking some other exams to fall back on in case I didn't make it. That kept me safe professionally.

In short, every small safety net that you can build for yourself will help in tough time. The thing that I missed was faith in God. I keep doubting Him, and that does no good mental health!!

I hope this answers your question a bit.

ashok said...

sir congratulations for ur splendid success in ICS ...
sir i hav got 21st rank in IES 2007 now working in oNGC ..getting railway not joining that but i want to prepare for IAS so sir should i opt for electrical or should go for geography which would be bettter for me ...please give ur valuable suggestion
Ashok Kumar Narwaria

Supreet Singh Gulati said...

What is your second optional? I always suggest only one science optional - whatever it may be.

Secondly, did you clear IES with EE or EC? People with EC background usually find it tough to handle Paper 2 (It is mostly Power Systems and Measurements). Go through previous papers and see your comfort level (since syllabus has changed, see only relevant questions from previous year papers).

Lastly, it is comparatively easy to clear Prelims with EE than with an arts optional.

ankit tiwari said...

hello sir,myself ankit from delhi n m from dias coaching too..sir i am in a big dilemma n wil be very thankful to u if u can help me out.
actualy sir right now m in final year,i hav got placemnt in infosys n i hav 2 join in jan 2010.but sir i had planned not 2 join.but besides parents u also said that there should some sort of BACKUP,wen u came in our coaching in sir please very strictly tel me what to do.n from my side all is that finaly i hav 2 crack this exam..n m not much interestd in job.thank you sir.

Nuke said...

Sir its 3 am am taking a break and reading this and God I feel energized.This is the best help I have got one question sir I am an IT student we had 3 electronics papers in the past but they were very confined so I am piking up history and pub admin,i do have a flair of writing I feel but still I would like your opinion.

Will be waiting for your suggestions

Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Nuke, if you've picked these optionals up according to your interest it's quite good. Don't worry about the choice of optionals if that's the case.

God bless.
Supreet Singh

vishu said...

hello sir,
Thank you for ur detailed analysis of gs paper 2.I have some queries to ask u .It would be very helpfull if u can answer these
1)Can u plz suggest a good coaching institue for geography at present.. i know its not ur subject but i just could not get in touch with anybody who has cleared the exams with geography.rigt now i am preparing for my second optional ie literature ..
2) i am planning to leave for delhi in september ..i have been preparing for this exam from december 08 but decided not to give the exams without thorough preparation..i will be joining for gs and geography.. i was thinking of completing geography first and then joining gs classes after giving prelims... but some suggest to complete both togather and keep time after prelims for self study.. my thinking is if i join 2 classes togather i will be leaving no time for my self study.. what do u say sir..
3)Can u plz put me in contact with come body who has cleared exam with geography ...

shaveta.s said...

Hello Sir....
came across your blog through this year's topper Ms Shubhra Saxena's blog....
Sir its a really commendable job that people like you are doing to help the aspirants.... thank you Sir....
I have a general query sir, preparing for my 1st attempt next year with Psychology and English literature as my optionals, I read in your blog that one should be ready to defend one's choice of optionals during the interview, this has set me thinking on the subjects that i have chosen...
Sir do you think its a wise choice...
Thank you Sir....

Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Vishu,

As you have yourself mentioned I can give only second hand information about Geography. One of my friends (he made it to IRS) told me once that K Siddhartha classes were good in concepts and Majid Hussain good for answer writing practice (tests).

You took a good decision by not appearing without thorough preparation. Also, I concur that you should be taking only one classes at a time. Forget GS classes before Prelims. Tackle it on your own. Concentrate on optionals (and again, rightly, this is the time for second optional and a bit of GS - start of with polity, national movement on your own). GS classes can wait.

In short, good planning.


Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Shaveta

There's nothing called 'a wrong choice of optionals' or 'a wrong optional'. With effort any optional is good enough.

First criterion for choice of an optional is your interest in it. I personally fail to see why literature and psychology would be a bad choice. If you have interest in them, please go ahead without any hesitation.


varun said...

Hello sir
All our aspirants shud be very thankful to u for the help u r extending. I am following the same stretegy of covering parts of GS and 2nd optional. Could u pls throw some light on ESSAY also. Can we expect a detailed post on "How to prepare for essay from day1 of our prep'. Could u pls tell hw can we broadly divide the essay paper into sections so that we can go focus on particular sections?

U r justifying the word ' SERVICE' before u r into it.


shaveta.s said...

Thank you Sir for your words of encouragement...

Sir do you think a beginner can go without coaching and that too with optionals like mine (psychology and English literature). If one has to rely on self study, what should be the strategy, all the three (GS, 1st and 2nd optional) or pairing GS with one the optionals...



Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Shaveta,

In one line, answer is: It is possible to clear the exam without coaching.

There are basically two things to take care of for every subject: Concepts and specific needs of this exam for that subject (for ex: how to write answers, which areas to focus on etc.)

For concepts, it is easy to know the good books and follow them. Nobody can help much to clear your concepts. It needs hard work from the aspirant.

However, where coaching usually helps is to cater to specific needs of the exam. You can get it through other means like studying previous years papers thoroughly, talking to other aspirants and those who have already cleared the exam with your optionals. This is the aspect where studying in isolation may not work.

I was under-performing in Physics mainly because I didn't know how to write a good answer for Physics, which areas to focus for exam and I had nobody to talk to in my home town for it. Coaching helped me with this aspect.

So get out of your home, talk to people and see how they prepare. Get a decent idea about requirements of this exam. After that it's your call about taking coaching or not.

For beginners it is advisable to focus on one subject at a time. For those taking Prelims in 2010, this would be the time to focus on 2nd (i.e. non Prelims) optional and a bit of GS (say, national movement and polity). In November it would be time to shift over to first optional and GS.

Once the concepts are clear only then all the three should be done together (if needed). But that can wait till July 2010 (after Prelims)

shaveta.s said...

Thank you so much Sir....
I shall try to follow your words to the 'T'.....
For a beginner the most difficult part is to get started with the right kind of orientation, some are lucky enough to get that without much struggle and for the others, samaritans like you appear, to extend help, guidance and encouragement........
Thank you again Sir, your words have rejuvenated my lost strength and re-energised me to make a fresh beginning.....

Chetan said...

First of all Congrats Sir for ur stupendous achievement.I will appear in 2010 and right now working with Infosys chandigarh

I have following queries:

1. U have said u were thorough with 11'th V year plan. Did u just read it from page to page or also made notes from it of the important sections.I read some chapters of it from net. but hardly able to retain anything.
Sir i am asking this coz i am always in a dilemma whether to make notes or not. suppose i read an edition of yojana or kurukshetra , should i jus mark in them or make notes.
And sir is internet the only source of V year plan and Economic survey or i can also get a hard copy from book shops.

2. Sir regarding current affairs of Mains exam. I have to appear in 2010. Write now I jus make daily short notes of imp things happening.
When should i start collecting news articles and editorials deligently for mains-2010 point of view(I mean in mains how much old events are asked).

3. Sir u have given a very elaborative stratgey for GS. Thanks a lot for that.
Jus one more doubt, i am not taking any coaching for GS, i know the standard books and will prepare on my own. I am thinking to get Vajiram notes of G.s from Delhi.should i get them or not?.
Do they update them every year.
How can I get the latest ones from Delhi(Any book shop name). I am working in Chandigarh and will have to go there to get them


Supreet Singh Gulati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hello Chetan,

First, since you are preparing for 2010, please don't go for magazines (Yojna, Kurukshetra or any Civil Services specific magazine) at this stage. Get thorough with your optionals and conventional GS portion during this time.

For Current Affairs, right now you should just concentrate on studying The Hindu for Current Affairs. After a few weeks you will be able to identify major events and understand the analysis
given. This is enough for the time being. Serious collection of editorials etc. can wait till March next year.

Understanding an issue is the most important thing in GS exam. Nobody remembers all the facts or analysis. The thinking process which develops (esp. by regular studying of newspaper) carries one through the paper.

My strategy during Mains preparation was to collect newspaper clippings and underline important points. Then once or twice a month, go through them and prepare notes topic wise. This way larger picture gets clear. For ex: If you write notes daily, every bomb blast in Gaza will seem important. If you write them after going through happenings of the month, you'll get a good overall picture. Many small news items will be weeded out.

Regarding 11th Five Year Plan: It is a good document to understand where we are heading towards in coming five years. Read the Approach Paper to Eleventh Five Year Plan very well. Remember, nobody will ask you exact provisions of 11th Five Year Plan. You'll at best fit in a point or two in the answer from your readings. Give weightage accordingly. My notes for this wouldn't have been more than 5 pages - giving a broad overview of where we stand in specific sectors and what we plan to do/achieve; and some important facts. That's more than enough. Read smartly.

Hard copy of Economic Survey is easily available. It will be tough to get a hard copy of Eleventh Five Year Plan, but it's not needed. Get a print of Approach Paper. Be thorough with it. The three volumes can be read selectively as per your interest and time availability. In the first attempt, you can skip these three all together and just focus on Approach Paper.

Don't worry about Vajiram GS notes at present. At best, you'll need them in September 2010. The notes which people arrange are class room notes (usually for current affairs)and not the printed ones which are supplied through correspondence. All this can wait. Your priority right now should be optionals, conventional GS and studying newspaper daily for, say, 1-2 hours.

rishu said...


sir i m also goin to appear cse in 2010,have just completed my engineering.
n i have decided to take up,EE and pub adm as optionals.
i have a good grip on electrical,but the biggest prb i m facin rite nw is,"how to start my preparation",especially GS.

coz i have start history,geography,economics...everything which is there in GS syllabus,rite frm scratch.
sir i m nt able to plan my study routine,subjects which i sud start wid...

sir plz tell me. to start,n what to start wid,when preparing for GS. much time sud b dedicated everyday,so as the finish the whole syllabus in time.

3.which papers,magazines,books etc sud b followed by a fresher,who has just started his preparation

4.n sir do you thk,a sincere preparation of 1 yr is enough for getting thru

thank u sir.

shaveta.s said...

Hello sir...
I have read in many of the interviews of the successful candidates that the preparation for Prelims and Mains differs greatly. If one is to prepare for CSE 2010, how to go about the GS and the 1st optional (psychology). At this moment should one keep writing, or only reading would suffice. And if one has to make notes then how is that to be done, specially making notes from news papers...?



varun said...

Hello sir
All our aspirants shud be very thankful to u for the help u r extending. I am following the same stretegy of covering parts of GS and 2nd optional. Could u pls throw some light on ESSAY also. Can we expect a detailed post on "How to prepare for essay from day1 of our prep'. Could u pls tell hw can we broadly divide the essay paper into sections so that we can go focus on particular sections?

U r justifying the word ' SERVICE' before u r into it.


Chetan said...

Thanks a lot sir for such an elaborate response to my queries.
I will surely heed to your advice.


rishu said...

where r u sir??

Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Rishu,

In GS it is good start with standard books on National Movement and Polity. These two topics cover quite a bit of syllabus and also lay a good foundation for GS.

Time needed is entirely upto an individual. Start the process and within a few weeks you'll realise what you need to do.

If you've just started, follow newspaper 'The Hindu'. Other magazines can wait. Read my response to an earlier post on preparation for Current Affairs.

Sincere preparation of one year is quite good. Work hard.


rishu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rishu said...

THANK YOU SIR......SIR IS IT NECESSARY TO START WID NCERT BOOKS OF CLASS 6 TO CLASS 10 for history,geography,economics.......

Manpreet said...

Hi Supreet,

Many congratulations to you from my side on your grand success.. !!

I gave the interview in 2007 and 2008, but still not selected.I am into my 3rd attempt now.

The July 2008 edition of Pratiyogita Darpan is very special for me.It carries your photograph on the front page.Since then , i have preserved that issue and keep on seeing it time and again for motivation.

I always used to think that how would i get in touch with you,but now here am i...its really a good feeling.

I have read your strategy for the mains gs paper..and have learnt lot many things from there..I scored 355 in 2007 mains in gs,,but i am seriously in doubt about my Sociology you said that we should go out and meet people to know the way they are preparing to get an idea about the right way of preparation.

My score in socio in my previous 2 attempts had been 294 and 283.Though i have taken the classes but i feel that a successful person with this subject could assist me in a better way.

I know you do not have the knowledge about this subject but do you know anybody who had cleared the exam with good marks in sociology, whom you can let me get in touch with ?

I will be highly grateful to you.


Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Rishu: I didn't start with Std. 6 text nooks. I started with Std. XI and never really missed text books of other lasses.

Manpreet: Please throw away that issue. That interview is highly distorted version of what I said or wrote. All magazines modify interview to suit their own interests. You can simply observe this by seeing how they quote me incorrectly anf out of context in a prominent box next to my photograph. My complete statement appears on the next page.

As for Sociology, check your mail.



Gaurav said...

hello sir, though my optionals are different from yours but reading this blog was of great help.

do u know if anyone in your circle cleared this exam with law or geography as optional?

anyway to contact him/her?


Ramesh said...

Hello sir,
I will take my first attempt at I.C.S exam in 2010.I have just started my preparation.
You have mentioned D.D.Basu and Wizard Indian Polity.Did you read their each and every portion?If not, then please tell me the approach followed by you(for Polity).
I have Sriram's(printed) and Vajiram's(hand written) Polity notes in addition to the books mentioned by you for Polity.
Thank you.

Sashi said...

U have given the books for GS main ,can iuse these books itslf ror Prelims also no.or is thr any othr diff books i should follow for gs prelims any coaching class notes.pls do clarify

Anonymous said...

i did not clear 2009 prelims,and i got very less score for general studies,sir ,if you could provide me few suggesstios as how to prepare for prelims gen.stu at whole,like if you could suggest few books,mags(i know sir it will b like endorssing them but can you plz ...send the books name on my email id i.e help me i know it may sound silly but plz.........sir i beg you please,that will be of great help .
god bless you.
thanking you,

prateek dhanwaria said...

hello sir
i will be writing ias exam in the year 2011.
i have not yet started with the preparation( currently in the final year of engineering)
i intend to take up electrical and pub ad as optionals.
i am in dilemma with regard to the 1st optional ( electrical). i found the paper 2 quite difficult as most of the topics covered there are not in my syllabus( electronics and communication). should i go ahead with optional or should i change it.
is it advisable for the student from ec background to opt for elctrical as the optional??

Supreet Singh Gulati said...

Hi Prateek, if you haven't studied electrical during your graduation, please don't take the optional. Paper II is almost entirely power systems and even in Paper I a substantial portion is from Machines and Power Electronics.


DON said...

I was not aware of this means of communication (blogging)and guidance
so was very tensed at prima facie when i thought of preparing for cse.your(esp. and most) and few other toppers blog appeared to be boon for aspirant.I went thro most and still going thr ur replies under several blogs.I hav few queries to my relevance(may b 4 others):-
Can i get any contact(blog,mail id etc) of u and ur batchmates or toppers with chemistry as optional for guidance.Reply soon.

Best Regards,

DON said...

my mail id is

Prince said...

Hello Sir

Firstly, many many thanks for putting up so much useful information about EE optional since its not available easily. I wanted to ask two questions regarding this optional:

1) Although I have read your views about usefulness of coaching for the IAS exam, I wanted to know, if coaching for EE optional is available and did you take any coaching for this optional?

2)We generally followed slightly different books for some topics in EE (mostly power topics) during my engineering education and I am very thorough with the books that were followed in my class. These books also cover the topics for the exam. But the books suggested by you are different. So should I also read the books suggested by you for the power topics or can I stick to my books and continue my prep?

Thanks a lot in advance for your time.


Lovers Fantacy said...

Hi sir gud mrng. i was ur junior in lady fatima convent school You have really made our patiala and school proud....sir i am to appear in 2010 ist time and taking GS coaching from sriram insti. am not at all happy with them they give booklet and cover 2-3 topics and go back !!what shd i do or what shd i do to get max benifit from institute.....thanking u...manu

abhinav said...

hi sir,

Its 2:30 in the morning and in my break time while surfing for motivational stories I came across ur precious blog. Let me tell u abt my academic and professional backgnd first.. I am a B.E in Electronics & Telecom + MBA (Finance). Worked for an yr with Cognizant(IT firm).

Sir, I have taken Economics(Prelims) and Management as my subjects as I am good with stock Market. I decided not to take E&TC because its been 4 years since I finished my B.E and have no interest in it. For G.S I have prepared notes from Hindu since May 2009, read Chronicle since May '09, NCERT(History, Geography),Bipin Chandra (India's struggle for independence), Gandhiji's life story, D.D.Basu.

Sir, I am confident of my preparation but still feel as if I know nothing. Ur blog has really broadened my horizon on answer writing esp.. the 3 sample Qs and the answer style. Currently working on Eco(Prelims) and doing 10yr Q pprs + IIMS Eco Question bank. Left management for after Prelims as have done it for 2 yrs.Eco interests me and even though I have never studied it am comfortable with it.. revision is the key...

After prelims would work on my answer writing.

Sir, a few words of advise would really boost my confidence.

Nila said...

Hi Sir,

Its very kind of you to spare some time to guide the aspirants to follow the right path towards success.
Like the rest of them I too have few queries.

I am preparing economy on my own without any coaching and was stuck up due to doubts in few topics. Could you please spare some time out of your busy schedule to provide provide clarification for the below questions:
1) The diff between balance of payment(BOP), trade deficit and current account deficit.
2) What is meant by exchange rate. How is it controlled in general and rupee in particular.
3) Why does rupee appreciate when there is lot of inflow of foreign investment.
4) What is meant by RBI intervention in foreign exchange market and how exactly does it interfere.
5) What are the positives and negatives of increasing statutory liquidity ratio(SLR).
6) Why should RBI release currency corresponding to the amt of foreign currency acquired.
7) What is the pblm if there is accumulation of foreign currency
8) What is the present issue of currency war all about and how does the country strengthen or weaken its currency and how is china able to maintain a devalued currency while India is not.

Thanks in advance

jagdish said...

very good work sir ji nothing to ask i will do it myself but i like ur attitude all hats off to you jai ho .

Arvind Sharma said...

Your links are not working sir..

rehya sharma said...

very informative post indeed.. being enrolled in,I was looking for such articles online to assist me.. and your post helped me a lot :)

tarini Sharma said...

Yea really helpful… Please Share more such articles specially for optional subjects if you can…
Also i have been studying general studies mains from this online course
From a really experienced teacher i must say and getting analysis of the paper is useful forme to know how my prep is gng atleast for the general studies prelims mains part you have given i felt really confident…
Please keep uploading Thankss

rehya sharma said...

very informative post indeed.. being enrolled in,I was looking for such articles online to assist me.. and your post helped me a lot :)

Reddy Mahesh said...

Dear Surpreet,
Thanks a million for sharing such valuable information. God bless you.

Examantra said...

Thnx a lot for sharing the information

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