IAS-Revised Tips for Beginners & Under Graduates By Wilfred Raj

IAS-Revised Tips for Beginners & UGs By Wilfred Raj

Let me begin with a brief introduction of me. I’m Wilfred. Aged 39, belonging to (Trivandrum) Kerala. Presently living in Uttar Pradesh in connection with an important project relating to IT being carried out in my department. I’m working in Ministry of Defence as a Civilian Gazetted Officer.

After completion of my PG in History, I got through the Combined Graduate Level Examination by Staff Selection Commission and got appointment in my present department. I had no intention to appear for the Civil Services Examination (CSE). My intention was to pass UGC – NET and become a professor in History. It was only at the age of 24 that I decided to appear for CSE, and appeared for the same in 1996,1997,1998 & 1999. I got through Prelims in all attempts, but failed in the Mains in the first three. In my last attempt, I got through Mains (written), but failed after interview. From my mark sheet, it came to know that I got excellent marks in History and GS, but my performance in my second optional (Public Administration) was miserable. I got fairly good marks in interview also. My total marks were 14 below the cut-off-mark that year.

I am not ashamed to state this, because almost all the people associated with coaching classes are failed candidates. (Some of them publish their marks in their failed attempts, in their advertisements.) They are the best people to guide you, because they know the dos and don’ts. In retrospect, I think the two main reasons for my failure were beyond my control; (1) I started my preparation quite later and (2) as I was working, the non-availability of single reliable standard study materials did cost me dearly as I had to refer to a number source materials and prepare my notes on my own. I had subscribed to the postal notes of a reputed tuition center, but only after receiving the notes that I could understand I would not get even 10% marks if I depended on them. My sincere advice to those who opt for postal notes is only go for some trusted notes.


I was determined to bring an end to this state of affairs, and produce standard single source study material for IAS candidates (for optional subjects). With this aim in view, I completed PG Course in Public Administration also. But I was not sure, how would I undertake my venture.

I started to give free career guidance to youngsters in my town. So far, 12 of my students have got through various examinations of Kerala PSC. But soon I understood that they were not as sincere as I was. So I left it.

By chance, I became a member of one of the IAS Communities in Orkut. Here, I happened to see a lot of candidates posting their doubts on their individual threads and nobody giving them reply. Thus, I decided to start a new thread and give them general tips. I became member of more communities, drafted some tips during a journey, and posted them in some of the communities. I had no books or magazines for reference purpose. These tips were typed from my memory and hence some factual mistakes were there (I would like to say 0.001% error). But the response to my postings were enormous. At first, I was not interested in giving replies, thinking that I have done my piece of work. But when the queries got increased, I began to give specific answers to their queries.

Some of the optional subjects where the candidates asked for help were totally new to me. So I avoided queries on these subjects also. For instance, Psychology. But I was fortunate enough to find some friends who were ready to help me in this venture. Thus, I posted some tips for psychology students. Soon, I was flooded with requests for tips on other subjects also. I posted the list of books for history and economics also. Taking the demand for more subjects in to account, I decided to revise the tips, by avoiding the errors and including all necessary information.

Meanwhile, I started to work in close co-operation with the newly launched website www.toolika.com. This site was launched by a working couple in Delhi, with the intention of making knowledge regarding everything under the sun available in one site. But it will not be the type of an encyclopaedia, where only boring details are packed up. They wanted the information to be authentic and accurate. Their target group was students (from 5 to 25 years of age), parents and teachers. I extended my co-operation to them after getting the following assurances:

  • It will never be made a payment site.

  • No password or user name will be introduced for log in purpose. Instead, it will be kept open for everybody.

  • Main focus of the site will be IAS aspirants.

Many other similar minded people volunteered to work for the above site, without any reward. At present, I’m the Honourary Editor of www.toolika.com and having the charge of their Home Page, Real Life Stories, History and related Features and “Quiz”. The purpose of Quiz is not to measure your knowledge, but to give you complete information on a topic. So we have devised a different method for this session.
My revised tips are posted here. I’m happy to continue answering the queries from all friends. Please try to be specific in queries. Also, I would request you to post your queries in this forum for early reply. I would reply the queries in my scrapbook as and when I get free time. Preference is given to the queries in this forum because it may be useful for the other candidates also

Deciding the Optionals

Deciding the optionals is the most important stage in CSE preparation because once you have decided your optionals, it is going to decide your fate. Here the catching phrase is ‘ a scoring subject”. The fact is that there is no fixed formula regarding a scoring subject. The percentage of candidates getting selected by opting a particular subject varies from year to year. It depends upon the nature of questions appearing in that year, the approach of the evaluators, etc. But it creates a wrong impression that some particular subjects are “more scoring”. I would like to make it clear that it depends upon how many “serious candidates” opted that subject for that year. For instance, Geography was considered to be a “non-scoring subjects” till 15 years ago. But suddenly, the picture has changed. Many “brilliant students” got through CSE by opting this subject. Thus, it became popular. Consider the case of Management on the other hand. It is one of the least popular subjects in CSE. It does not mean that it is a “non – scoring subject”. The real reason is that the number of students who opt the subject are less because one who has studied this subject would not opt to serve in government. They may get attractive jobs in private sector.
Then, how will one decide the optional subject best suited for him/her? Some candidates tend to look in to the performance of others in previous years and choose the optionals selected by them. This is to be avoided. The last year’s rank holder selected that subject because it was his favourite. He fared well because the subject helped him score good marks. It may not be true for you. By selecting a totally un-known subject, you may be in trouble. Never leave a chance to repent.

  • Another tendency that I have noticed in the past few months is that the science students have a notion that science subjects are tough and that they are not scoring. On the other hand, they think that the humanities subjects are scoring ones. This is totally wrong. I would like to present a few lines for you to consider before making a decision:

  • Some candidates wrongly think that the arts subjects have an advantage in General Studies (GS). It is true to some extend. But the truth is that the science subjects also figure in GS. The arts students find it very difficult to conceptualise scientific terms and glossaries, while studying science for GS.

  • The humanities students have to read from a lot of sources to collect information from a particular topic. A chronic example is history. No reliable source is available in arts subjects. On the other hand, you can get through CSE by depending on your university level notes, if you supplement them with some additional readings.

  • You will get definite answers for a question in science. For example, (a+b)2 would always be a2+b2+2ab. Also, in Physics, if you are asked to explain Newton’s Third Law of Motion, you have got a definite answer. But in history, if you are asked to express your views on the statement “The Mutiny of 1857 was the First War of Independence”, you will have to present at least ten different viewpoints and at last, you will have to reach your own conclusion. The science students who have switched over to this subject will be baffled with the flood of different opinions on the same issue by different authors. On the other hand, a candidate who has studied history in his college days may not find it difficult to understand these streams.

  • A student who has opted a totally un-known subject has to struggle hard to cope up with that. If you study a subject where you have at least some basic knowledge, it will be very easy for you. i. Some candidates think that science subjects in CSE are tough. I would say all subjects are tough in CSE. They want the best in each subject. When a zoology student opts history and compete with a history student, think who is having the natural advantage.

  • In my independent enquiries, I have come to the know that some “famous” coaching centers in Delhi are responsible for this tendency. They give coaching only in arts subjects. Those science candidates who approach them for guidance are brain washed to take arts subjects. These students explain to others that science is tough.

  • It is a fact that a few candidates who have switched over to arts from science stream get through CSE every year. But most of them fail and repent. Don’t gamble with your career and life.

  • My suggestion is; if you are sure that you can do well in science subjects, stick on to that. If you find the going tough, the reason is that your preparation is not on the right track. So change the strategy, not the subject.

  • On the other hand, there may be a few students who are not comfortable with their own subjects. They may select a suitable subject from any of the streams; science, arts, professional subjects or commerce. x. While selecting the optionals, you may keep the following points in view:

  • Syllabus of the subject & List of suggested books: This is available in the free site www.toolika.com. See the write – up within the small box under the heading “IAS Guidance” in their home page. Follow the link from here. You will get the scheme of examination, list of optionals, their syllabus, the combination of subjects not allowed, list of books for each subject, conditions of eligibility, general information, etc. The list of books I have not posted in forum because it is a painstaking exercise to post it again and again in different communities. You may refer to toolika. If you do not find their link from their home page, go to the link “Other Sessions”. There, you will find it.

  • Previous years’ question papers. This can be availed from New Vishal Publications (Pvt) Ltd,

  • Consider your tastes, aptitudes and comfort level.

Consider the availability of study materials. (v) Even after reading this, if you think you can switch over from Science to humanities, my humble advice is to begin from G.S. for Main. Thus, you will be sure whether you can do this. Those who want to opt history may read the book “National Movement in India” by Cosmos Book Hive”, New Delhi. After reading this, you may decide whether you can proceed with this subject. (Keep in mind that for optional more in-depth study is required.) If you find the subject not of your ilk, do not worry that you have wasted your precious time. Any way you have to study it for GS. So study hard. The efforts you have already put in will not go in vain. Similarly, Those who want to opt Geography may begin by reading the books on “Indian Geography” prescribed for GS (Main) in the site www.toolika.com and find whether Geography is your cup of tea. Those who want to taste economics may begin with “Indian Economy” for GS (Main) and the ones who want to choose either Political Science or Public Administration may begin with “Indian Government and Constitution” for GS (Main). Again, I would caution that the taste of the subject you will get from the above books for GS will be only superfluous and you will have to devote more efforts to master the subject for optional. One of my friends has already thanked me for advising this tonic. He wanted to opt Geography, on the basis of the information he got from his friends. His friends were mis-led by some coaching classes that Geography will land you in IAS. I told him to begin from Indian Geography for GS (Mains). After a week, he scrapped me saying he found Geography as boring, and hence, he took physics. I swear this test may help you find out whether a subject suits for you. (In fact, this method was devised by me.)

Courtesy: Wilfred

General Studies

General Studies (GS) is a vast subject. The syllabus given is only indicative. Especially, in the Prelims, many questions figure are related to current affairs. There is no fixed formula in this. For instance, in the GS Paper of Prelims 2009, a question asked was; “The Elephant Pass which figured frequently in news recently is with reference to which of the following countries?”
The right answer is Sri Lanka. It is a narrow land strip linking the Tamil speaking areas of the Jaffna Peninsula and the Mannar region in northern Sri Lanka. In fact, those who have gone through the feature on “Sri Lankan Crisis” published in toolika may not find this question difficult. They have given this with the help of map in the above article. Those who think that the above site is a time waste are cautioned once again. Their target is at least 50% of GK Questions in Prelims 2010. My point is that the Geography of Sri Lanka is not mentioned in the syllabus. But a candidate of CSE is expected to keep his/her eyes and ears open always. Such questions may be termed as exceptional by you, because you may find it difficult. But remember that it is these difficult questions, which decide the final selections. Questions like “Who wrote National Anthem” of India will be answered by all. Only those who answer the tough questions will be selected to the next round of bouts.

You are requested to go through the “Current Affairs” and “Sports” links of www.toolika.com at least once a week. They have given “Expected Questions”, along with each item in these links, to help the CSE candidates. Many friends have intimated these were helpful. Some of the latest events have not been updated in their site (as on 2nd October 2009). But I have told them to cover the past events also. These areas will also be covered soon.

Here also, I will mention that do not think these are superfluous. The pattern of their “Expected Questions” are based on past question papers. Remember “Elephant Pass.” Some people ask me whether questions such as “What is the nationality of the pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva” figure in CSE. I would like to mention that the question “What is the nationality of the famous chess player Alexi Shrinov?” figured in 1999 Prelims. (The answer is Spain, but hearing his name, you may mistake him as a Russian. Such areas are the favourites of the people behind question setting.)
Now my tips to improve your GK;

As I have mentioned in my earlier threads, keep a note book for current events. Make entries by numbering them 1,2,3,….

Try to know the background of the events. For instance, the issue regarding the nuclear disarmament of Iran is going on. Here you have to note down your details. Why Iran is against the US? What back-ground information you want to remember ( a Shia country, Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran is a signatory to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, etc). Then comes the related question what is NPT, what is Shia, etc. Then comes, why India is opposed to NPT? Then the question of North Korea’s proliferation attempts and Pakistan’s role in it. Related to this is the topography of east Asia (the countries, their location, etc). North Korea, its neighbours, why there are two Koreas? What are the positions of each of its neighbours on its nuclear adventure. Then comes into the picture, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). Try to know of it. Where is its HQrs? Who is its present Chief, and who is going to take over soon, etc. Thus, the thread will develop. Well, we began from Iran and reached Austria via east Asia. (If you regularly follow the feature “Quiz” in toolika, you will find some related information.)

i. Revise your notes once a week. After one month, your knowledge level will increase by leaps and bounds. When you revise your book after two or three months, you may begin to think “ Oh, even this I didn’t know then!”
ii. There may be repetitions in your note book. Don’t worry; if you feel un-necessary, strike down the repeated portion, during revision.
iii. Keep away all pre-judices. A student of sociology may agree with me that every nation, every religion, every caste, every state, every language believe that theirs is the best. Throw away this belief. Open your mind to learn about the others.
iv. Never think that only one – word answer type questions are asked in Prelims, because it is an objective type exam. Let me present another question from this year’s Prelims (2009). The question was;
Consider the following statements:
1. Kerala has no east flowing rivers
2. Madhya Pradesh has no west flowing rivers
Which of them are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
The answer is (d). Again those who think that toolika gives you un-necessary details may listen. In their home page they have given a write up under the heading “God’s Own Country”. Follow the link from there. You may get details of Kerala. In the chapter on Kerala’s Geography, you will find the answer to the first portion of the above question. Kerala has 44 rivers, 41 of them are west flowing and three of them are east flowing. These three are the tributaries of Cauvery. Friends, be cautious. We never know questions will come from which area. Toolika has already covered three states; UP, Kerala and Goa. More states are in the offing. They will soon make some changes to the existing pages to make them more UPSC candidates friendly.


1. While analysing the above question, the following points are clear:

  • One should have a serious approach to the exam.

  • Some kind of ‘overall’ knowledge is not enough. Such a candidate will only look for the major rivers in Kerala. The major rivers are Periyar, Bharata Puzha and Pamba. A non – Keralite might not have even heard these names. They would soon leave the topic thinking that it is un-important. So, a serious approach is needed.

  • A good knowledge of map is necessary. For instance, some of us may know the river Narmada originates in MP and flows through Gujarat to merge with the Arabaian Sea. The clue to the second statement above is here. Gujarat is in western India and lies west of MP. Thus, Narmada is a west flowing river.

  • Objective type questions may cover more than one area also.

2. Do not make notes from the books or magazines you have purchased. It will be a waste of time. Instead make a mark on the book to show that these are important areas. While doing quick revision, look only those topics marked so. The notes taking may be limited to newspapers and websites like toolika.

3. In your note books, periodicals and text books, put any mark to show that this topic or paragraph needs second reading. I used to put a / mark. In the second reading, if a third reading is felt necessary on some of the topics, put a cross mark over it (\). Then it will look like a “cross mark” (X). Again, put a small dot on the left of it in the fourth reading and another dot above that on the fifth reading and a new dot on the right of it in the seventh reading and son on. Thus, you will not waste your time by reading the portions already you know. This may be very useful for the two days before Prelims. Otherwise, you may get mad seeing the multitude of areas left for revision.


The above idea will work only for Prelims. For Mains (optional), you may keep a note book for each paper and make summary of notes in it. For instance, the short notes on Jallianwalabagh massacre may begin as below:

Jallian- turning point in freedom strugl- emergence of Gandhi in to national leadership. Inflamed anti-British feelings.  April13, 1919-Amritsar – homicide – more than 2000 deaths. Firing by soldier under Gen. Dyer. WW-I (Ist World War) 1914-1918 – India supported Brit – 1917 declaration of Montague (Viceroy) – ultimate aim of Brit rule in India is growth of self govt inst.s.
Began as protest against Rowlatt Act= keep anybody under custody without proper trial. Offence against civil rights.
(You can use SMS lingo while making short notes, provided you can develop it into your own meaningful sentences. I’m an expert in SMS lingo. I used to take notes in this style even before mobile phone became common. But I’m fanatic about grammar.)


Many friends have asked me which pages in www.toolika.com are important from the point of view of GS. I would say that all their pages are important. I would like to present a short description of their contents:

  • Home Page: While all the other websites devote their home page for links to inner pages, this site gives you an article on the- upper  right part of their home page. Read it and make notes. Definitely, you will get at least one new information from each of their pages, including home page. Also, they present small write-ups in their home page regarding various features they have recently published. You can go to these pages from the links provided in these write ups. Their previous home pages are available under the link “Archives”.

  • Current Affairs, Sports – The names tell it all. Expected questions are given along with the news items covered in these items. It may obviate your doubts as to which items on newspapers are to be read. My advice is politics and accidents may be avoided by the candidates, while reading papers. But keep your eyes and ears open. For instance, there existed a boat accident two days back in Thekkady in Kerala. Be ready to face the question “the famous wildlife sanctuary at Thekkady is situated in which of the following states?” All the events from January 2009 are available.

  • Science – this area mainly covers the science questions that may figure in objective type exams.

  • Science News – Latest developments in Science

  • Science Digest – Interesting developments in science which even the non – science students may also love.

  • Snippets – Miscellaneous items

  • Tidbits – small information about big things.

  • The World –Descriptions about the countries of the world. The complete list of countries, capitals, their rulers, currency, etc, is available with map. Also detailed information on Iceland (14 pages) and Latvia are given.

  • Economics – developments in economics. Available features are: the most comprehensive coverage on Global Financial Crisis available on any Indian website, complete text of the Economic Survey in downloadable/printable PDF and economic news.

  • Fun facts – interesting corrections about common beliefs

  • Quiz – This is something different. To present complete information about the items covered, they have devised a new method.

  • School plus – Simple information meant for school students. Useful for IAS candidates also. For instance, see how simply the American presidential system is dealt with.

  • Master Story Tellers – Simple stories for kids & grownups.

  • Students Plus – The session meant for giving you complete study material. At present, notes on “Napoleon” are available in PDF Files. No need to study from other sources on this topic. More such reliable single source study material are available.

  • Real Life Stories – The real incidents related to historical personalities. Simple and inspiring. It tells the human side of great people.

  • News Digest – interesting news items

  • Other sessions – available features are; G.K. Plus, Indian States (presently covered – Goa, Kerala, UP), Indian culture (presently covered – Classical dances of India, dances of Andhra Pradesh and dances of Punjab) and IAS Guidance (all you want to know about IAS).

  • History – No description needed. Available features are; The reforms of the British Governors General and Viceroys, Sri Lankan Crisis, Fact File related to freedom struggle and more. Very useful for Prelims.

  • Political Science – Available feature: Complete text of Indian Constitution in downloadable/printable PDF File and a note on the Preamble to the Constitution.

    More useful features are coming up. See this site at least once a week. Their policy is to give you complete information on everything so that the candidates may not wander elsewhere for more information. See their session “What is New?” to know the latest pages added.

Courtesy: Wilfred

Map & Geography

While studying about mountains, rivers, countries, lakes and places, a map should be necessary. Buy a school atlas. Refer to it frequently. Soon you will be an expert in such things. I have never been to Bihar so far. But when my Bihari friends tell the name of their village, I would soon tell the important place or town near their village. They will be baffled to see I know the places in Bihar without actually not going there. The secret is map. For instance. If you study about river Narmada, see the river on the map. Where does it originate? It flows through which states? Which are the important towns on its bank? It mergers with the sea at which place? Thus, you have reached the Gulf of Khamphat in Gujarat where Narmada merges with the Arabian Sea. (Remember that MP has no sea shore). There you will see another Gulf on Gujarat’s map- the Gulf of Kutch. Thus, your mind will definitely ask the doubt what is a Gulf? Find the answer yourself. Which are the famous Gulfs in the world? Why are the ‘Gulf countries’ (in fact, they are called Middle East countries by the westerners) called so? Is there any Gulf on the map of India? Thus, we began from Madhya Pradesh and arrived the Gulf of Mexico or the Persian Gulf. Map is a license to dreams unlimited. You can reach Kenya or Switzerland with minimum expenditure and minimum time. In the exams in the past, there used to be questions based on map. Sometimes, a country’s name will be left out on the map and you have to identify it from the neighboring countries. Countries of Europe, Africa and Central Asia were the favorites of question – setters. So, whenever you here a country name, locate it on the map, see who are its neighbours, which are important geographical formations, etc. I remember a previous year question in 1990s. “Which among the following is a land-locked country?” The options were Thailand, Laos, South Korea and North Korea and the answer is Laos. Be prepared for such questions.

Also, once the description of the course of a river was given, and we were asked to identify the river. The answer was River Irrawady in Burma. (Burma’s geography is not included in syllabus).


(These are tips on how to study history for General Studies.)
History is a seemingly easy subject, but for a non-history student, it may be confusing. Chandragupta Maurya, Chandra Gupta – I and Chandragupta – II or Chandragupta Vikramaditya make them a little confused. Then comes Samudra Gupta, Skanda Gupta and Kumara Gupta. Oh God, SOS!
I remember watching cricket, tennis, football and hockey since my early childhood. How many Rogers have come to my life; Roger Binny (Cricket, India), Roger Milla (football, Cameroon), Roger Federer (tennis, Swiss) are only a few among them. I remember their play, style, face, action and even statistics. Why? Because I liked them and related them to my life. How I related them to my life? Of course, through my thought. Similarly, we identify how many Sharmas; Chetan Sharma, Ajay Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma. These Sharmas do not make any confusion, but those Guptas do. Why? Because we know them only as “somebody who lived somewhere at some point of time”. If I can remember Roger Binny who played 1983 World Cup Cricket for India, Roger Milla who played for Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup Football and Roger Federer who played tennis in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for Switzerland, why shouldn’t I be able to remember Chandragupta Maurya who lived in 4th Century BC, Chandragupta – I, Samudra Gupta, Chandragupta – II Kumara Gupta and Skanda Gupta who lived between 4th century AD and 6the Century AD? While these Rogers played different games, all these Guptas were rulers. While these Rogers played for different countries, all these Guptas ruled over Magadha (modern Bihar) with Patalaiputra (Patna) as their capital. Also, while the only one Gupta who lived before Christ established the Maurya dynasty, the other Guptas who lived after Christ belonged to the Gupta dynasty.

How funny it will be to remember Akbar was a hero like Shah Rukh Khan, but he excelled in another field because he lived in another point of time! My point is, try to think that they were real characters and human beings who lived in different points of time. We have made an effort in toolika to present the human side of the historic personalities. The result is our session “Real Life stories”. It will introduce some of the historic personalities to you, through some interesting incidents that happened in their life.

While reading history, the following aspects are to be taken care of:

  1. Names of personalities: If you remember Arnold Shwaznegger and Milen Kuntera, why not Robert Clive and Warren Hastings?

  2. Important Years and dates.

  3. Important Administrative Measures: very important because the CSE is conducted to select administrators. Those who want to make money (Rupa or Rupee) by serving the ‘Sarkar’ should know who used the words Sarkar and Rupa in the administrative context for the first time? (The answer to both the questions is Shershah who ruled over Delhi for five years during the interim time between two spells of Humayun in the 16th century. Humayun was the father of Akbar and the son of Babar, the founder of the Mughal empire. Sher Shah also established a dynasty called the Sur Dynasty, which lasted only for 15 years).

  4. Important books written during the historic periods, their importance, their authors, their period. For instance, even Kama Shastra is an important source of history.

  5. Important Wars, their dates, between whom, what is their importance.

  6. Important historic monuments, who buil them, whne, for what purpose?

  7. Names of important places.

Those who find it difficult to remember the years and names may remember them by relating one to another. For instance, Bala Gangadhar Tilak and Gopala Krishan Gokhale belonged to Maharashtra (like Sachin & Kambli). Gokhale was a moderate, while Tilak belonged to the extremist group within the Congress. The Surat split between these two groups occurred in 1907. Gandhiji Called Gokhale his ‘Rajagru’. Gandhiji returned from South Africa in 1915 and Gokhale passed away in the same year. (Tilak died after 5 years in 1920). The next year (1916), Tilak launched the Home Rule Leaugue and the Lucknow Pact between the moderates and the extremists occurred. As a result, Tilak and his group re- entered Congress. Home Rule League was launched in Madras in 1917 by Annie Besant. Gandhiji entered active politics in India in the same year by participating in the Champaran Satyagraha. Dr. Rajendra Prasad decided to enter active politics after meeting Gandhiji at Champaran.

How many years and persons? Imagine them like a story. Rajaendra
Prasad helping Gandhiji in Champaran and becoming attracted towards the latter! If you imagine them like a story, there will be no difficulty in remembering them. We remember the characters of Ramayana and Mahabharata because we like them. We know who were the respective fathers and mothers of the five Pandavas, who were the parents of Draupati, who was her brother, what was the blood relationship between Lord Krishna and the Pandavas, who were the cousins of the Pandavas, who were their parents, etc. It is funny to notice that we all may know the names of the girl friends of some European football players, but it would be difficult to remember the name of Atanasius Nikitin, a Russian traveler who wrote about Vijayanagar empire in the 16th century. I do not think that his name is more difficult than the name of the brother of Panchali (Drishtadyumna). My point is; we remember the names of the characters of the epics because we like them.

Similarly, if we develop a genuine liking of history and historic personalities, we will never find it difficult to understand.

These are not tips to learn English or its grammar. I try only to rectify some common mistakes;
1. The usage “according to me” and “according to you” are wrong. The phrase according to is used to quote somebody or some book considered to be an authority on a subject. For instance, we can say “according to Dr. C.V. Raman” or “according to “Bhagawat Gita”. When you want to express your views, use “In my view,………” or “I think” in spoken language. In written language, use “We can conclude that……..” or “In view of the above, we may say that………” or “Hence, it may be true to say that…….” You may find many anchors saying “according to you” and “according to me” on TV channels. That’s why I say watch DD News or BBC World. They will never employ a reporter or anchor who speak such below – grade language. They do not know that their mistakes make the others also commit the same mistakes. Also, the teachers in some improvised English medium schools learn from them and spread these mistakes to their students. (Luckily, I had my education in Malayalam medium school!). Never use such type of language in your answer sheet. Somebody may say that in spoken language, anything is OK. But do you imagine how the others will view a boy from a village speaking very bad Hindi or Tamil or Bengali? Bad English is considered to be a symbol of status only because the majority think it is good. But the UPSC interview board members do not belong to this majority. So, improve your language.

2. A popular Malayalam TV anchor often says “anyways.” Now it has become a common practice in Malayalam TV channels to use this word. “Any ways” is wrong and “anyway’ is correct. Otherwise, you can say any how (There is a slight variation in meaning of these words, but both are being used as inter-changeable words”. This TV anchor had her education in England and she claims she thinks in English. It shows how tolerant are the people of England!

3. The above anchor frequently uses the word “runners-up” to refer to a single individual. When we refer to a team or more than one person, the above word can be used. A single person should be called “runner-up.”
4. Never say “speak in English” or “speak in Hindi”. You can think in English and write in English, but when it comes to speak, the correct usage is “speak English.” The wrong usage came because we translate the usage from our mother tongue to English. While speak English, think also in English. Never think in your mother tongue and translate your thoughts into English. Also, try to improve your vocabulary, grammar and style of writing.
5. I have suggested Frontline fortnightly and Yojana magazine in the list of periodicals for GS (published in toolika.) Yojana gives you information about the welfare schemes of government which may be useful for you in Prelims, Mains & Interview. Frontline has helped me improve my English. You may agree with or ignore their views on politics or economics, as per your discretion. But they are 100% right in international affairs and social, religious and environmental issues. It will help you a lot. (Thank to Abhishek, my friend from Nainital, who has suggested to include these also in the list of books)

Courtesy: Wilfred

Summary of Previous Tips

The summary of my previous (original) tips are given below:

  1. One optional subject is required for Prelims and two for Mains. Decide your optionals carefully. Half of your success depends upon selecting right combination of optionals.

  2. For a good result, it is advised that one of the optionals for the mains should be the same as that for the prelims. Also, the subject of your graduation should be one of the optionals.

  3. Some combination of subjects are not allowed in Mains. Hence, careful consideration should be made while selecting optionals. Avoid repenting later.

  4. If you are a UG student, study your Main subject thoroughly, and be 100% ready to face the Main/Prelims exams by the time you leave the college.

  5. Get notes for PG Courses on your optional subject and concentrate all your efforts on IAS.

  6. Maximum efforts should be paid for improving GK basics also. An IAS aspirant should not be the one who confuses Holland with Poland. These are two different entities just as Manisha Koirala and Madhuri Dixit.

  7. Start preparations today itself.

  8. Proper time management is the key to success.

  9. Many candidates commit a big blunder by preparing for the Prelims throughout the year, awaiting its results doing nothing and starting preparation for the Mains, once satisfied that they have got through the Prelims. As the Prelims is only a screening test, over-emphasis should not be given to this area. But its importance should not be down played as failure in Prelims means loss of a chance. I feel if a candidate prepares for his Mains in advance do the preparation for the Prelims from February onwards, it would be the best strategy. Your preparation for Mains would give you a good understanding of the subject and would help you in preparations for Prelims.

  10. It is true that there is a probability of forgetting a part of that you learned for the Mains, during the preparations for the Prelims. The remedy is that you should keep a study diary, and note down the topics learned against each date. Review the progress every day. One day in a week should be devoted for revision. Also, keep short notes on the topics/essays/short questions you learn wherein important points only are noted down in broken sentences. This may be used for revisions. It is also advisable that one or two days a month may be allotted exclusively for revision of the entire portion studied so far.

  11. After Prelims, never await the result of the Prelims. Start (second round) preparations for the Mains from the next day of the Prelims. Even if somebody fails in Prelims in the first attempt, they may continue the preparation in the same manner for the next year. After the Prelims, do a round of revision of the already covered portion for the Mains using the short notes. This would help you come back to the right track.

Two important areas where preparation should go on all through the year are General Studies including Current Affairs and Interview. G.K. is such a vast area that nobody can prepare for it in a year. Never waste your time surfing a large number of sites. But what you do should be meaningful and productive. Never forget that G.K. cannot be acquired by making ten thousand questions/answers by heart.

Similarly, constantly prepare for the interview, because the two weeks you get for it after declaration of the Mains results would not be sufficient for this. Read the interview experiences of IAS toppers and note down them in a separate note book. Also, analyse the current events and find out how these questions may figure in the interview. Discuss these with your friends. Conduct mock Group Discussions. Always be prepared mentally to face the interview today itself.

Current Affairs is an important area of GK. It includes every day happenings, Sports, Economics and developments in science & technology. I have seen doubts of my friends in various forums as to what to read from news papers and how to prepare for current affairs. The following are important areas to be noted from among the happenings:

  • Presidents/ Monarchs/ Prime Ministers of various countries who visit India. While the President or the Prime Minister of India visits foreign countries, their capitals and rulers.

  • Important international conferences, their venues. If it is a conference of some organisation, note down its member countries.

  • Important international/national awards, winners of important trophies, records, venues where important records were born, etc. No necessity to learn who were the men – of the matches in all cricket matches. But surely notice the men of the series in all the test/ODI cricket series played by India. When talking of Muthaiah Muralitharan becoming the highest wicket taker in test cricket, never forget who was his “record victim”, and who held the previous record.

  • The books that make it into the news, their authors.

  • Important constitutional issues behind political controversies.

  • Change of rulers in other countries and Indian states. If the newly appointed Governor of an Indian state is an already known fellow, the same should also be noted. For example, some years back I have seen one SSC question who is the new Governor of Andhra Pradesh? Answer was C. Rengarajan who was the former Governor of Reserve bank of India.

  • The names of important personalities who passed away recently, their areas of excel, their important contributions, the important awards won by them and the year. To put an example, when Mother Teresa demised, the question “In which year did Mother Teresa win the Nobel Prize for Peace” figured in many question papers.

  • India's achievements in S&T, their related details.

  • Important welfare schemes taken by the Govt.

  • Details of Govt’s policy decisions.

Avoid reading minor accidents, murders, political mud-slinging and inch-by-inch details of sports matches. These will kill your valuable time.

Go through previous years’ question papers. If anybody can afford attending coaching classes, select your centre on the basis of past performance and the experience of faculties. Another area commanding our attention is our writing style. Constantly try to improve your language and power of expression. This is important for the Essay paper in Mains also. Write essays on social issues and get it evaluated by seniors. Pay adequate attention to grammar. Never mix up SMS lingo with your exam language.
18. The best prescription for grammar is Wren and Martin High School English Grammar. There is a tendency among people to learn English though their respective mother tongues. They never think of learning English through English. The problem is that the English of those who learned English through another language will be influenced by the rules of that language, and not English. It will give a lot of confusion to the others, and fail to convey what you exactly mean. Hence, being IAS candidates, take the bold step of learning English through English.

I will be happy to clear your specific doubts in future also. Post your doubts in this thread. The previous one will be abandoned and the questions posted therein will not be answered.

Best wishes to all!

Courtesy: Wilfred


hello sir, i read ur post which makes the aspirants to work hard and it gives the other dimension of upsc exams for most aspirants i think.. but sir i cant find the toolika website as u said all i saw is a website with links for gsat, gmat and others.. can u give me the correct link please... i cant find it in search engines too thank you one again for giving a detailed note on upsc...