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
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
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
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
x. While selecting the optionals, you may keep the following points in
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
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.)
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
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
You are requested to go through the “Current Affairs” and “Sports” links
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Quiz – This is something different. To present
complete information about the items covered, they have devised a
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 &
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Names of personalities: If you remember Arnold
Shwaznegger and Milen Kuntera, why not Robert Clive and Warren
Important Years and dates.
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).
Important books written during the historic
periods, their importance, their authors, their period. For
instance, even Kama Shastra is an important source of history.
Important Wars, their dates, between whom, what
is their importance.
Important historic monuments, who buil them, whne,
for what purpose?
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
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)
Summary of Previous Tips
The summary of my previous (original) tips are given
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.
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.
Some combination of subjects are not allowed in
Mains. Hence, careful consideration should be made while selecting
optionals. Avoid repenting later.
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.
Get notes for PG Courses on your optional subject
and concentrate all your efforts on IAS.
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.
Start preparations today itself.
Proper time management is the key to success.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
The books that make it into the news, their
Important constitutional issues behind political
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
India's achievements in S&T, their related
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!