By Pooja Ranade
Hello, I am presently preparing for UPSC and will be giving my attempt in 2013.
I will not mention all the books and magazines, because the books suggested earlier blogs are the main ones.
For a basic preparation, decide and analyze the perspective and scope of UPSC CSE. Begin by checking the GS syllabus, check earlier question papers, and understand the changing trends in papers, decide which books are needed, don’t purchase unnecessary books, but buy the essential ones, decide which subjects are going to be optional subjects depending on liking, interest and availability of guidance, check the syllabus, papers and decide its books and fix a time table for everything, which is extremely important.
At the same time you need a resource person, a guide who can check whether you are on track. So joining a good class with dedicated teachers and seniors always helps. If no class is there, it can be done through contacts.
Important thing for preparation: This is hard and smart work together. A minimum 10-12 hour a day schedule is a must, or else we can never finish reading the whole syllabus or revising. Fix up a time and place for everything. Also advisable is to reduce unnecessary time spent chatting or social networking. It can be done in a limit but we don’t realize how much time is wasted in that. Rather use it for having a group to get UPSC related information. By smart work I mean, doing what is necessary, and avoiding repetition of what is easily available.
Another thing is the newspaper reading (please refer to earlier write-ups to see details). Do not miss a single day of Hindu or Express. It is a must. If you are slow reader, try to improve reading speed and comprehension and finish both papers within 2 hours initially and then decrease the time required without cutting down on amount read and understood.
Also right now do not spend time in paper cutting. The file goes wasted later as issues become old and all current relevant material is available in Chronicle (which has to be a compulsory reading every month), so better not spend energy in newspaper cutting. Newspaper reading at beginning needs to be used to understand the current issues, later we can develop linkages and use them for case studies.
Beginners should start with preparation of mains and optional subjects and essay now. It should ideally be started in June (but it’s high time to begin immediately now) and must done till November and then prelims study can be started.
For essay paper, a peripheral reading of all subjects us needed. So read editorials and articles carefully, but don’t imitate that language. Also use mind map systems and using, developing linkages from multiple areas helps to show a holistic approach.
For GS mains, I think all beginners can use a basic strategy to refer to the relevant NCERT book first because all the concepts are explained in easy language and in short way. Then prefer reading the other books. For example with History, go for NCERT Modern India first, then skim through relevant points in spectrum and prefer Bipin Chandra for analytical part. Same way can be used with geography, NCERT first then Goh Che Leong and Majid Hussian. Same with Polity NCERT, then move to Laxmikant and if time permits read D D Basu. Now this is comparatively easy, because all have studied history and geography and civics at school level.
Many people are scared of Economics and India’s economic interaction with world and Institutions which carries over 100 marks together and hence no options can be kept. For this, if students have studied economics before and are clear about concepts, they can go for Pratiyogita Darpan and newspapers (the IE and Hindu) for related topics.
But for really beginners, get your concepts clear with maybe Vajiram notes or NCERT 11th std (for Indian development). India year book also helps. Then go for reading Uma Kapila or Mishra Puri for analysis of Indian economics.
The paper has become so dynamic that we need to link the current events to theory, which is done only through papers. BBC site is great for economics and can be referred for global economics terms and recent happenings.
For social and current issues (GS 1), science and tech and India and the World (GS paper 2), the only contemporary source is newspapers and magazines, so do not miss that. If you like multimedia and are bored by only black and white, check out websites of BBC, IDSA, and Indian Ministry of External Affairs for IR, they are brilliant (please refer to earlier articles). For all environmental issues/ summits, refer National Geographic site. However that does not mean books and newspapers are exempted. (Since my optional subjects are political science and geography I have listed these extra sources).
However seeing that last few years marks in GS have been less, pay careful attention optional papers. While GS is basic, optional requires a specialist study. So spend equal amount of time studying that. Here I think the best thing would be to meet the resource person as per syllabus and decide the strategy or join a good class, but check that with senior students or class turns out to be waste of time.
An ideal way, even for a beginner is to practice writing answers for both GS and optional in given format and with good content, and get them checked from teachers. Their feedback helps to improve and to encourage us. Another thing is the revision, do that its compulsory or we tend to forget once we read further. So once in a month go for a cumulative revision.
That sums up a basic beginners preparation strategy for 2013, however the actual efforts and dedication are the key to success.