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How to Crack CSE by Dinesh Kumar Chandrasekaran, IAS, AIR 24, CSE 2016 2

Preparing for UPSC Civil Services Exam? Here is what Dinesh Kumar Chandrasekaran, (IAS officer, AIR 24, CSE 2016) has to say;

I have secured AIR 24 in CSE 2016 and got my desired post, ‘IAS’.  I had also secured AIR 525 last year i.e, CSE 2015 and am currently an Officer Trainee of Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS). This was my third mains with Public Administration as the optional subject.

I was working as a Senior Manager in Ashok Leyland Ltd when I cleared the exam last year. As the work consumed a good 10 – 12 hours of my time everyday, I had to be very careful and choosy with my sources for preparation. I did not refer to many books, did not read many competitive magazines, did not attend any coaching (except for a test series for optional and mock interviews). I had my own set of trusted resources which I must admit , have never let me down!

The most important part of my strategy during the preparation fir IAS, was to not read many books for the same subject but to read the same book many times and to get a conceptual clarity. The following are my sources for preparation.

Preliminary Examination :

  1. Current events of national and international importance : The primary source for this should be any one newspaper + any one current affairs material. The Hindu was my primary source along with Vision IAS Monthly current affairs. I refer to Indian Express for Editorials and Explained session. For current affairs you can refer to either of Vision Monthly current affairs or PT 365, Insights daily current Events or GK Today daily current events – in that order.
  2. History of India and Indian National Movement : I referred to Old NCERT for Ancient History. Having Said that, old NCERT is one good source for Ancient History. For Modern History and Indian National Movement – Spectrum Modern History and India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra would suffice. If time permits, one can read From Plassey to Partition too.
  3. Indian and World Geography : NCERT 6th to 12th Geography and Certificate Physical Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
  4. Indian Polity and Governance : Look no further than Laxmikant for Polity. This must be your bible for CSE. Read it at least 5 to 6 times. I would not recommend D D Basu as the language is quite tough and I found it difficult to keep reading that. Laxmikant would be more than enough. Do go through the schemes of the Government too as some good number of questions appear from there.
  5. Economic and Social Development : Mrunal.org is an amazing source for Economics. It has that art of explaining economic concepts in a funny yet simple manner. I was able to lay a strong foundation in Economics, thanks to Mrunal. NCERT is also a very good source for Economics.
  6. Environment : Shankar’s book on Environment was quite good. Select chapters from NCERT for Environment and Environment Current Affairs from Mrunal must also be read along.
  7. Art & Culture: Nitin Singhania’s book on Art and Culture is a very good source for both Prelims and Mains. NCERT Class 11 book on Art is also a good read for the same. Apart from the conventional sources, one must prepare Buddhism and Jainism separately from the Internet along with a brief reading of the list of GI Tags.

Apart from these conventional topics, IAS aspirants should also keep the following aspects in mind :

  • There would be a visible trend if you look at the past few years paper. You have to prepare from those areas too. For eg , International Organizations and their reports, Funding by various Environmental organizations, Geographical Indication Tags etc. These areas must also be covered.

Chanakya IAS Academy’s student resource page is a good source to get that: Click here

  • Along with test series for prelims, it is very important to solve previous year papers too. This will give you an idea of from which areas the questions are coming from and if you are lucky you may get the same/similar question (For eg : Buddhism question in CSP 2016 and Borders of Mediterranean Sea in CSP 2017. I found examrobot.com to be one useful site where questions were segregated topic-wise and related questions from other exams like IES, CDS, NDA, CAPF etc were also linked along with these questions.
  • Remember that Prelims is the most important phase of the exam and you have to put sufficient efforts for the same. Never take Prelims lightly.

Main Examination :

The preparation for Mains needs to be very structured and systematic. You need to enhance your knowledge base, have a good amount of facts and statistics that you can use for your answers and have a good command over the syllabus. Luckily, the book list for prelims and mains has a good overlap. The book list for mains is as follows :

GS Paper 1 :

  • Art & Culture – Same as prelims – Nitin Singhania’s book on Art and Culture and NCERT 11th Art and Culture book. While preparing this area, have a special focus on Indus Valley Civilization and Buddhist architecture from various other sources on the internet.
  • Modern India – Same as prelims – for Modern History and Indian National Movement – Spectrum Modern History and India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra would suffice. If time permits, one can read From Plassey to Partition too.
  • Post Independence Consolidation – The cost benefit analysis of reading India Since Independence is not that great. Read it if you have time else you can cover this topic from NCERT.
  • World History – I followed Arjun Dev’s book on World History. It as concise and simple. However, for certain Pre – Nineteenth Century Syllabus like Industrial Revolution, American and French Revolution, you have to refer to other sources like NCERT.
  • Geography – Same as prelims, NCERT 6th to 12th Geography and Certificate Physical Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
  • Distribution of Natural Resources : There is a series of articles from Mrunal. Very informative and structured source for the same.

I have not mentioned sources for other topics like society, role of women etc because questions from those areas can be prepared based on your overall preparation for mains.

GS Paper 2 :

  • Indian Constitution, Polity and other related topics – Laxmikant again to the rescue. Significant part of syllabus of Paper 2 will be from Laxmikant. So, as i had said earlier, please read the book thoroughly for at least five or six times.
  • Government Schemes and other Bills etc : Compilation of Government schemes is brought out by various institutes. One can go through that. Watch out for the individual ministry websites. They bring out some beautiful reports time to time.
  • PRS India – PRS India is a treasure trove of information for both GS Paper 2 and Paper 3. Legislative brief, Monthly Policy Reviews and PRS Blog will provide you with lots of fodder material for both papers.
  • Bilateral Relations : Vision Current Affairs and PT365 material have a dedicated space for this. One can prepare from that and also from Ministry of External Affairs Website.

GS Paper 3 :

  • Economic Survey – This must be the most important part of your mains preparation. Economic Survey provides amazing insights about various fields and will help you enrich your answers with various facts and opinions. It is a must read and will help you for both paper 2 and paper 3.
  • Food Processing – Can be covered from Mrunal’s Series on Food Processing.
  • Land Reforms – Can be covered from Mrunal’s series on Land Reforms
  • Topics related to Internal Security : I found this book to be very interesting and concise for the syllabus related to internal security. Challenges to Internal Security of India
  • Insights Secure Compilation – GS Paper 3 is more about Current Affairs, Analysis and Editorials. Apart from Editorials of Hindu and Indian Express (do cover the explained section of Indian Express too), regularly follow up Insights Secure Answer Writing Challenge. They regularly post good articles from Indian Express, Livemint and Business Standard. The more you widen your horizon of reading the more it will help you for this paper. Hence do follow columnists and their blogs, RSTV Big Picture etc.

GS Paper 4 :

  • Since I had Public Administration as an optional, I did not prepare separately for this paper. I will try to list some sources.
  • Please do read about the life and lessons of leaders like Gandhiji, Vivekananda, Dr. Ambedkar, Nelso Mandela etc. You can use their quotes to enrich your answers
  • ARC report on Ethics in Public Governance is a very good source for this paper.
  • I found the case studies portion of Lexicon Book for ethics very useful.
  • Try to find out the definition of general terms like Ethics, morality, integrity, emotional intelligence etc and use them accordingly.
  • Try to give real life examples wherever possible.
  • Approach the case studies from a rational and neutral point of view.

These are the sources I used for main examination. Please feel free to contact in case you need more information on any related topics.

I would be coming up with answers on How to write an effective Answer and How to manage time to prepare while working very soon.

I have secured AIR 24 in CSE 2016 and got IAS as service. I had also secured AIR 525 last year i.e, CSE 2015 and am currently an Officer Trainee of Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS). This was my third mains with Public Administration as the optional subject.

I was working as a Senior Manager in Ashok Leyland Ltd when i cleared the exam last year. As the work consumed a good 10 – 12 hours of my time everyday, I had to be very careful and choosy with my sources for preparation. I did not refer to many books, did not read many competitive magazines, did not attend any coaching (except for a test series for optional and mock interviews). I had my own set of trusted resources which I must admit , have never let me down!

The most important part of my strategy was to not read many books for the same subject but to read the same book many times and to get a conceptual clarity. The following are my sources for preparation.

Preliminary Examination :

  1. Current events of national and international importance : The primary source for this should be any one newspaper + any one current affairs material. The Hindu was my primary source along with Vision IAS Monthly current affairs. I refer to Indian Express for Editorials and Explained session. For current affairs you can refer to either of Vision Monthly current affairs or PT 365, Insights daily current Events or GK Today daily current events – in that order.
  2. History of India and Indian National Movement : I referred to Old NCERT for Ancient History. To be frank, I have not read much of Ancient History which reflected in CSP 2016 wherein i was not able to attend a single question from Ancient History 😛 . Having Said that, old NCERT is one good source for Ancient History. For Modern History and Indian National Movement – Spectrum Modern History and India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra would suffice. If time permits, one can read From Plassey to Partition too.
  3. Indian and World Geography : NCERT 6th to 12th Geography and Certificate Physical Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
  4. Indian Polity and Governance : Look no further than Laxmikant for Polity. This must be your bible for CSE. Read it at least 5 to 6 times. I would not recommend D D Basu as the language is quite tough and I found it difficult to keep reading that. Laxmikant would be more than enough. Do go through the schemes of the Government too as some good number of questions appear from there.
  5. Economic and Social Development : Mrunal.org is an amazing source for Economics. He has that art of explaining economic concepts is a funny yet simple manner. I was able to lay a strong foundation in Economics , thanks to Mrunal. NCERT is also a very good source for Economics.
  6. Environment : Shankar’s book on Environment was quite good. Select chapters from NCERT for Environment and Environment Current Affairs from Mrunal must also be read along.
  7. Art & Culture: Nitin Singhania’s book on Art and Culture is a very good source for both Prelims and Mains. NCERT Class 11 book on Art is also a good read for the same. Apart from the conventional sources, one must prepare Buddhism and Jainism separately from the Internet along with a brief reading of the list of GI Tags.

Apart from these conventional topics, please also keep the following aspects in mind :

  • There would be a visible trend if you look at the past few years paper. You have to prepare from those areas too. For eg , International Organizations and their reports, Funding by various Environmental organizations, Geographical Indication Tags etc. These areas must also be covered.
  • Along with test series for prelims, it is very important to solve previous year papers too. This will give you an idea of from which areas the questions are coming from and if you are lucky you may get the same/similar question (For eg : Buddhism question in CSP 2016 and Borders of Mediterranean Sea in CSP 2017. I found examrobot.com to be one useful site where questions were segregated topic-wise and related questions from other exams like IES, CDS, NDA, CAPF etc were also linked along with these questions.
  • Remember that Prelims is the most important phase of the exam and you have to put sufficient efforts for the same. Never take Prelims lightly.

Main Examination :

The preparation for Mains needs to be very structured and systematic. You need to enhance your knowledge base, have a good amount of facts and statistics that you can use for your answers and have a good command over the syllabus. Luckily, the book list for prelims and mains has a good overlap. The book list for mains is as follows :

GS Paper 1 :

  • Art & Culture – Same as prelims – Nitin Singhania’s book on Art and Culture and NCERT 11th Art and Culture book. While preparing this area, have a special focus on Indus Valley Civilization and Buddhist architecture from various other sources on the internet.
  • Modern India – Same as prelims – for Modern History and Indian National Movement – Spectrum Modern History and India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra would suffice. If time permits, one can read From Plassey to Partition too.
  • Post Independence Consolidation – The cost benefit analysis of reading India Since Independence is not that great. Read it if you have time else you can cover this topic from NCERT.
  • World History – I followed Arjun Dev’s book on World History. It as concise and simple. However, for certain Pre – Nineteenth Century Syllabus like Industrial Revolution, American and French Revolution, you have to refer to other sources like NCERT.
  • Geography – Same as prelims, NCERT 6th to 12th Geography and Certificate Physical Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
  • Distribution of Natural Resources : There is a series of articles from Mrunal. Very informative and structured source for the same.

I have not mentioned sources for other topics like society, role of women etc because questions from those areas can be prepared based on your overall preparation for mains.

GS Paper 2 :

  • Indian Constitution, Polity and other related topics – Laxmikant again to the rescue. Significant part of syllabus of Paper 2 will be from Laxmikant. So, as i had said earlier, please read the book thoroughly for at least five or six times.
  • Government Schemes and other Bills etc : Compilation of Government schemes is brought out by various institutes. One can go through that. Watch out for the individual ministry websites. They bring out some beautiful reports time to time.
  • PRS India – PRS India is a treasure trove of information for both GS Paper 2 and Paper 3. Legislative brief, Monthly Policy Reviews and PRS Blog will provide you with lots of fodder material for both papers.
  • Bilateral Relations : Vision Current Affairs and PT365 material have a dedicated space for this. One can prepare from that and also from Ministry of External Affairs Website.

GS Paper 3 :

  • Economic Survey – This must be the most important part of your mains preparation. Economic Survey provides amazing insights about various fields and will help you enrich your answers with various facts and opinions. It is a must read and will help you for both paper 2 and paper 3.
  • Food Processing – Can be covered from Mrunal’s Series on Food Processing.
  • Land Reforms – Can be covered from Mrunal’s series on Land Reforms
  • Topics related to Internal Security : I found this book to be very interesting and concise for the syllabus related to internal security. Challenges to Internal Security of India
  • Insights Secure Compilation – GS Paper 3 is more about Current Affairs, Analysis and Editorials. Apart from Editorials of Hindu and Indian Express (do cover the explained section of Indian Express too), regularly follow up Insights Secure Answer Writing Challenge. They regularly post good articles from Indian Express, Livemint and Business Standard. The more you widen your horizon of reading the more it will help you for this paper. Hence do follow columnists and their blogs, RSTV Big Picture etc.

GS Paper 4 :

  • Since I had Public Administration as an optional, I did not prepare separately for this paper. I will try to list some sources.
  • Please do read about the life and lessons of leaders like Gandhiji, Vivekananda, Dr. Ambedkar, Nelso Mandela etc. You can use their quotes to enrich your answers
  • ARC report on Ethics in Public Governance is a very good source for this paper.
  • I found the case studies portion of Lexicon Book for ethics very useful.
  • Try to find out the definition of general terms like Ethics, morality, integrity, emotional intelligence etc and use them accordingly.
  • Try to give real life examples wherever possible.
  • Approach the case studies from a rational and neutral point of view.

Is there anything you’d like to add to the strategy? Comment below.

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