Atul Vikas Kulkarni
Rank 180, CSE – 2014
(This compilation is derived from his blog)
Examination Framework and Study Strategy :
It is my pleasure to share whatever little I have and opine that the purpose is served if it helps the aspirants to whatever extent possible. Before starting the preparation, it is very important to have a complete understanding about the exam process, its structure and the various aspects related to the preparation.
The following points should be kept in mind while doing preparation:
- The focus should be on gaining basic clarity in each topic, which will come only through lot of logical questioning. This is most important for clearing the prelims stage.
- For any topic, try to do a horizontal and vertical reading of all the related topics which will definitely help to cover any topic holistically.
- A thorough analysis of the previous year’s question papers and the recent trends so that one is in tune with UPSC recent trends.
- Discussing elaborately with teachers, successful candidates and seniors so that one is on track during preparations.
General Studies :
Newspapers, Magazines, Journals, Internet (Most Important), and books of general reading. NCERT school books of history, geography, polity, economics, sociology and all humanities and arts (excluding languages, mathematics and science) from class 7th to 12th. Science NCERT school books of only class 9th and 10th.
History – NCERT textbooks, history of modern India – Bipin Chandra and Spectrum publications and any other books on Indian history of general interest.
Geography – NCERT textbooks of class 11th and 12th, physical geography by Go Cheng Leong and an ATLAS. Referring maps is very important.
Polity – Indian Constitution by Laxmikanth or D.D.Basu, NCERT school texts.
Science and Technology – The Hindu S&T page (weekly), Science Reporter by C.S.I.R., What, How & Why by C.S.I.R., Internet, NCERT 8th to 12th science textbooks.
Economics – NCERT 10th, 11th & 12th texts, Economic Survey, Indian Budget, Sriram Class notes, Mrunal.org, Pratiyogita Darpan special edition on Indian economy and any business daily.
General Knowledge – India year book, Manorama year book (Not to concentrate on unnecessary details)
Make use of Google Documents, Google Reader, News and such other internet tools to prepare notes online and for greater, better and easy accessibility. Making notes online helps in cutting down time and must be done on a regular basis without fail.
Mains Stage :
I strongly recommend the future aspirants to take answer writing on daily basis very seriously and practice to improve their writing skills, structure, speed and time management so that one can get maximum marks in GS papers.
Few more points on mains preparation are
- More time should be spent on thinking about the topic and making innovations, rather than on reading too many study materials available in market.
- The previous papers should be thoroughly analyzed to understand the trends and the expectations of the examiner.
- The preparation should be focused and all the hard work should be channelized in the right direction.
Common mistakes to be avoided while writing in GS mains papers :
- First, try to address the question in the introduction rather than giving irrelevant answers
- Second, A balanced approach in answers are usually missing, either it will be very critical or totally out of context.
- Third, most of the times, aspirants was unable to fully understand the requirement if the question
- Fourth, most of the times,only few of required aspects/dimensions were covered in answers
- Fifth, write in points so that you can more marks rather than writing same point in big paragraph.
Tips for better GS Mains answers :
The creativity and innovation is not something that you will get in the textbooks. They have to be developed on your own. It requires lot of thinking and observation. By innovation in answers what is meant is –
- Catchy introduction which addresses the question head-on
- Diagrams- so that one can break a monotonous answers
- Graphs- to better represent data.
- Flow charts
- Maps- draw India or world maps in geography/history papers
- Contemporary touch and applicability -use current affairs to strengthen your argument
- Catchy conclusion- giving solutions
Essay writing :
UPSC wants to know your general traits. When you are asked to write 10 sentences about a topic, how u write discloses lots of things about you! So, UPSC want to know who you are, than knowing how much you know! Your traits like, positive attitude, imagination, innovation, etc come out on the essay! The major difference between essay and others papers is: While the other papers are based on knowledge and logic, essay is based on imagination! Thats why essay question never seek factual answers.
Once the question paper is received, choose either 1 or 2 topics which you feel you have more points. On the last page of the answer booklet make note of topics and points under following headings
- Intro – try to write a quote, story, poem etc so that it catches the eye of examiner
- Different issues under this topic such as history, present status and statistics, impact-social, economical, biological, ethnological, political, psychological, cultural, religious,historical, geographical,etc
- Pros n cons
- Relate the topic to present day social conditions prevailing.
- Closing remarks n conclusion
Sociology optional Papers :
While writing sociology answers, try to keep in mind 3 things, Thinkers and their ideas, coherent arrangement and expression, and using contemporary topics in answers. Thinkers should be used in all answers . Arrangement of answers means the contents with a definite structure to be framed.
The structure must be exposed indirectly through the flow of writing with interlinking of sub topics and paragraphs explaining the scope meaning, description and discussion.
To go to Delhi or take coaching classes ?
I took a hard decision to start preparing for civil services at very late age of 28 years. I had to invest my time, energy, money, effort in my preparation along with independent consulting job as I still face financial difficulties(I am still working even after getting Rank 180. I laugh at my fate). Many who are from poor rural background need not venture out to New Delhi or attend any coaching institutions. One can study on their own and If I could do it, then everyone else at younger age and who are better off financially can also definitely do it.