Friday, August 29, 2014

Geography Notes

These are the notes which I had prepared for my previous attempt. Use them with caution as I myself did not score great marks plus the data might be outdated. Sharing since some candidates had requested.

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All the Best


Hey Guys!

Essay is definitely the most subjective element of the entire process, far more subjective than the interview. Although I do not consider myself qualified enough to talk on this, I thought I should share whatever I did. I scored 80/200 in my first attempt and 125/250 in my second. Last year I had written on working women.  We had a chapter on Gender psychology in my optional and my mom and every other relative is a working woman, so I had good content on the topic and I thought I wrote well. But even then, I ended up getting mediocre marks. On the other hand, I wrote a pretty ordinary piece according to my own standards and had barely finished within time but ended up getting great marks. I have no clue as to how to explain this.

1)    I do not have great command over English. I can write grammatically correct plain English but with no frills. You need not be a Shakespeare to score good marks in essay!

2)    There is no need to prepare separately for essay as far as the content part is considered. Your preparation for mains will suffice for essay from content point of view

3)    I did not prepare on any topics in advance

4)     I did not use any quotes in the entire essay. You should if you can. Try making a list of quotable quotes from stuff you come across while preparing

5)    Practice at least 5 essays.  Get them peer reviewed. Try finding an English teacher/prof around and take his/her inputs.

6)    Coaching: coaching for essay is not really useful. I joined Ramaswamy and his inputs were useless. The only good thing was unlike other coachings which give a lot of Gyan and conduct only a couple of tests, he conducted 7/8 tests. So luckily what happened was that I was able to utilize introduction of one of the essays as it is in my mains.

7)    Introduction is the MOST IMPORTANT PART. Spend atleast 15-20 minutes thinking about  it.,

8)    Another 15-20 minutes should be devoted to conclusion which should be equally powerful

9)    In the main body, organization of thoughts is the most crucial thing. The essay should flow like a river as they say. Try covering as many aspects as possible – historical, social, economic, scientific or any other dimension that comes to your mind.

10) Length: Keep it moderate. It should be neither too long or nor too short. I do not remember how many pages I wrote but I devoted 2 hours for writing and 1 hour for brainstorming the content, organizing it and thinking of innovative introduction and a befitting conclusion. Roughly 1500-1700 words should be OK.

11) This time there might be two essays so manage time and word limit  accordingly

12) Essay remains a poor cousin of other subjects when it comes to preparation. Please do not commit this mistake! Last time what happened was that I wrote only 1 essay and that too I showed to only 1 person who praised it a lot and hence I did not feel the need to write more and hence could nt improve. Write at least 5 essays.

13) Long term : start blogging

14) You can also make a list of proverbs, idioms and phrases

15) CHOOSING THE TOPIC: please do not have any preconceived notions that a particular type of topic fetch more marks. The only criteria for selection should be availability of content!!!

16) In the end, pray to god! Because even after  doing all this results may/may not be commensurate the efforts made J


1)      FIRST PARA: dhamakedaar bomb.  Write something very catchy which invites the reader to read what lies ahead
2)     Second: define the topic. Eg. This year I wrote on “Science  and Technology is the panacea for the growth  and security  of the Nation”. So go about explaining what is science, technology, ‘growth’ etc. I remember mentioning growth is just not GDP rise but includes social dimensions as well.
3)      Third: what follows/ major issues to be covered. Tell the reader what lies ahead
4)       Main body
5)      Pre conclusion summary: try to recapitulate all the points that have been stated earlier.
6)      Dhamakedaar Optimistic conclusion: give suggestions/constructive solutions. Don’t paint a gloomy picture.



These are written by my senior who is now a novelist!! I followed them word to word! In Part 2 of the series, I post what I had to say on Essay

Its realistic to target something around 130. Whatever one gets above this is a bonus.

What is expected:
If one goes through the essay question paper properly, esp. the instructions, it’s easy to realise that
- Content relevance
- Logical presentation
- Concise format
- Effective language
are the key requirements.
Do not use any hi-fi language. Just plain, school student English would be good enough. The essay needs to be interesting. 

How to choose a topic:
  • Don’t have any mindsets. At that point of time, inside the exam hall, we have to choose that topic which we really feel like writing. That one we would enjoy thinking and writing about. No other criterion to choose a topic.
  • One way of making a quick decision is to firstly eliminate those topics that we are averse to. Of what remains take the one closest to your hearts.
  • Also ensure that you choose a topic that you understand well – that you know the meaning of all the words in the topic.

How to go about it:
  • Read the topic chosen 4-5 time thoroughly. Underline the key words. Read again. Get the actual meaning of what’s asked for very clearly. If you have doubts about the meaning of even a single word in the topic, just leave the topic. Choose something else. Or one has to be contended with the scores around 60.
  • Go to the last page of your answer sheets and just do a random brainstorming of the topic chosen. Random points - issues / events / definitions / narrations / quotes / news items etc. Whatever comes to the mind.
  • After doing this for about 30-40 mins, Cluster the similar points together.
  • Then sequence the clusters simply in a logical manner. Have around 11-12 clusters.
  • An idea/para should just naturally flow out of the preceding one. The essay needs to be smooth.
  • Now start writing the essay. It can be done in about 2 hours' time.
  • It’s just the expansion of each of the clusters. Make it around one page each. We’ll end up with about 13 pages. That’s it!
  • But while expanding, and after ever page of writing go back to the essay topic again. Just to ensure you are writing on what’s asked for. Else it’s quite easy for one to drift away from the topic, landing-up around 60 marks.

Introduction/ Conclusion:
Crucial. The inrtro needs to be appealing. The reader should feel like reading more and more! It can be done in a few ways:
- Use of quotes
- An interesting narration
- Some event invokes attention
  • After that initial para, the introduction needs to set the framework for the whole essay. It needs to be of one page, about 100 words. It needs to say what’s in store - areas explored in the essay / issues addressed. It’s like an abstract of a report or a cinema trailer.
  • Conclusion is the climax where one presents his/her own view point. It needs to be futuristic/positive and original. Quotes can be used here too, just to make one's point get across.

  • Don’t write the essay too technically. This usually happens when one chooses a topic related to his/her option. Be careful. The essay needs to be a very general one, a XII-class school student reading the essay should understand it, like it.
  • Do not use many quotations. 2-3 max will do.
  • Do not underline.
  • Don't stretch the essay till the last minute. Finish it off  5-10 mins ahead of time and just have a reading. Nor finish it too early.
  • Don't make the essay too lengthy. 1300 - 1600 words is ideal.
  • Don't scribble. Write legibly.
  • Don't make any grammar mistakes. Make short sentences and use common words.

Just take about an hour to think on some famous topics like :
-        Women empowerment, Culture/Religion, Globalisation, Democracy, Vision for India, Environment, Science / Space etc.
Look at the old essay topics. Keep a watch on the newspapers etc with this perspective also. Just jot down some interesting issues / quotes on some of these topics.

Just write 2 essays max before the exam. Time it well. Exam conditions

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How I did It- Psychology Preparation

Hey Guys!

Kindly watch this video for all I had to say on Psychology preparation. Thanks Dr. Roman Saini, IAS and team for coming up with this!

All the best!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How I did it- Lessons learnt from mistakes in the first attempt

Immediately after completion of mains examination in oct 2012, I had set up a commission called the ‘Lessons Learnt Commission’ to look into the mistakes made in the first attempt. Today, the report of the one man commission (whose only member was obviously myself :P) is being declassified!

Over all, the difference this time was in Essay and the interview. I will share blunders made in the interview preparation in a separate post shortly!

1)              SLEEP WELL BEFORE THE EXAM!!! ## essay paper screwed

2)              Never change YOUR last minute plans- I decided not to cover a particular topic (Map pointing of Indian rivers) after talking to a friend who said it’s not important. And as you can expect, lot of simple rivers were asked that year in map pointing!

3)              Need to prepare psychology in such a way that whole of it can be revised in 1 day!

4)              Segregate topics based on whether LMR (Last Minute Revision) required or not and calculate the total time required for LMR . Further brand the important LMR topics into LLMR (Late Last Minute Revision). Must to revise LLMRs (Late Last Minute Revision)!!!!

Take section wise care (in case of optional papers) ie After revising a chapter from section A paper 1, move to Paper 2 section one and so on ie all sections need to be covered in a balanced way as one has to attempt few questions from all sections in case of optional

5)              Practice at least essays and get them evaluated by few experts! (Due to overconfidence, I had written only one essay and had showed that to only one person who praised it a lot. This made me casual in my preparation and I ended up with just 80 marks out of 120)

6)              speed speed speed!!!  

7)              Lack of answer writing was evident..

8)                    Not thinking before writing.. Possibly due to lack of time but needs to be handled

9)                    Nothing is too trivial.. mug up at least once even the mundane topics like causes of draught etc. Was Not able to write outstanding answers to general/simple questions (answer to question on renewable energy was lackluster)

10)                 Get done with culture, history and polity. Be thorough with these topics so that you do not have to revise them just before mains

11)            The good old (previous year) questions!! Every one of them! cover them thoroughly ## trans fats question in GS 2012

12)                 Wasting time in geography question paper analysis before psycho paper!!! (What an Idiot I am!)

13)           Avoid duplication of efforts-Not aligning with coaching notes and making notes from scratch!

14)                 Timing of stats needs to be moderated/adjusted (had spent 45 minutes on statistics in GS paper!! Height of idiocracy! Well this topic has been deleted now but the lesson is that don’t spend disproportionate time on any question/section)

15)           GS current affairs of the last few days(read news paper till about 20-25 days before the exam) are very very important. Due to pressure on other fronts I left reading the newspaper about 2 months before the exam and was made to pay through the  nose!

16)           At least number the questions correctly!!!

17)                 No PIB now!!

18)           NON REVISON OF THE HINDU NOTES/news paper markings made by myself ; not reading opinion based part in vision ias notes. My newspaper reading was a complete mess. In the end, I had to rely totally on current affairs notes of various coaching classes.
DON’T SPEND more than 1.5 hours on reading the newspapers at any cost!

19)           Bills and laws that are even a year old need to be covered!!

20)           Complete coverage of entire one year current affairs. Give due importance to current affairs predating prelims


22)           Do monthly revision of GS current affairs notes

23)           At least write what u have thought in the exam hall! ##missed WRITING even the jottings on the question paper /rough space

24)           Revise ancient history from culture viewpoint for mains also; also read ALS wizard’s book.. on topics like religion

25)                 More analysis oriented material to be read for foreign affairs. Read IDSA website and world focus special editions


27)                 In science, focus more on conventional issues rather than trying to find some exotic stuff. DON’T WASTE TIME CHASING EXOTIC STUFF!!especially in SnT and Environment

28)           Important to revise even the most basic things. Don’t overlook basic things ## like article 21, UNFCCC

29)                 Your subjects failed to fire!! Specially psycho.. could nt revise paper 2. DO NOT DISCUSS paper with friends before all exams get over!!

30)           Deeper coverage of science and tech terms.. not just for 2/5 marker but for 15-20 markers(was not able to implement this in 2013 either )

31)           In geography and psychology, the mistake of leaving 12 markers for the end## need to decide on the approach to attempt the paper-big questions first or the smaller ones!

32)           Read about domestic and international river water disputes. They form an important topic

Saturday, July 5, 2014

How I did It- My Notes for General Studies


link for paper 1

Please follow this link to download my notes for GS paper 2

link for paper 3

link for paper 4

Most of what I studied is in digital format. I shall soon post the list of text books I   read for GS.

How to Use these?

1) Color code: yellow/green highlighted material is somewhat important. and was revised by me in my last but second revision. RED UNDERLINED means the stuff is very very imp and  was revised in the last revision. The portion not highlighted/underlined is useless and can be skipped for revision purposes or even on first reading.
2) LMR stands for Last Minute Revision meaning the stuff was revised on the eve of the examination
3) only read the docs which have been highlighted ie touched by me. some of the docs are useless.

All the best!

How I did It- Book list for Prelims and Some Suggestions

Hello friends!

I am sharing below what I did for clearing the Prelims in 2012 and 2013. I believe it should not be difficult for sincere candidates to clear the Prelims but at the same time this stage should NOT be taken lightly!

I began serious preparation for GS in Nov 2011. Devoted about 2 months exclusively for prelims in my first attempt and 15 days in my second attempt. I did not join any test series for prelims but used to solve question papers of ‘reputed’ test series after buying them from the bookshops in Rajinder Nagar.

For Prelims 2014: With about 1.5 months left for Prelims 2014, my advice to candidates would be to focus on ‘conventional’ areas like Polity, history, Geography, Govt. Schemes and Economics. The relationship between inputs and outputs is pretty linear here. More hard work means more marks in these subjects. Don’t spend too much time on ‘unconventional’ topics like Science and Technology and Environment which can prove to be a wild goose chase. These areas can’t be prepared in a short span of time.

My score in 2013 was-Paper 1: 136 and Paper 2: 162.

CAUTION: the book list is not exhaustive!!! These are the things which I read!




1.     Spectrum’s modern India
2.     Sriram’s class notes (not good enough though!)
3.     NCERT- modern India, ancient India(selected chapters) , medieval India(selected chapters)
4.     ALS wizard’s history book (can read if you have lots of time)


1.     For ancient and medieval India, focus only on the cultural and economic aspects. Political aspect eg. Who killed whom is never asked.
2.     Indus valley and Aryan civilization, Jainism and Buddhism are imp. topics for ancient India. Try to know few terms associated with Buddhism.
3.     Modern India obviously has to be studied in GREAT detail



1)    documents compiled by GK today/ vision IAS
2)    SUMMARY of India Yearbook (vishal publication)- Please don’t read the whole (unabridged version) of India Yearbook as it’s a complete waste of time.


1)    Know in greater detail about the flagship schemes and those schemes which were in news



1)    Book of ALS on culture (selected chapters)
2)    NCERT Ancient Indian history and Medieval history(selected chapters)
3)    Websites


1)    Classical dances, architecture, paintings, dance-dramas ex. Yakshgana etc are important
2)    Generally folk dances/songs etc are not asked. Focus on classical stuff.



1)    NCERT- 11th and 12th
2)    NCERT -6th to 10th (did nt read myself but should be good)
3)    G C leong – selected chapters


1)    It was one of my optionals in the last attempt and I have read Geo in great detail from other books too. Don’t know whether the above sources shall suffice. Please consult someone who prepared Geo only for GS purpose.
2)    Spend some time with the atlas.

ENVIRONMENT - A Tough Area To Prepare


1)    The best way to prepare is to religiously follow the current affairs and to go through the coaching notes of any 2 ‘reputed’ coaching institutes. Questions in Prelims can be quite tough and random but the good thing is that in mains questions usually emanate from current affairs.
2) Modules by GK today on a) Biodiversity and b)Environment were quite good.
3)    People read some textbook by UGC. I have n’t.
4)    My geography preparation helped a lot
5)    Websites(for long term prep):


1)    UPSC is giving great importance this section and rightfully so! It’s bit difficult to prepare too as we do not have a single consolidated source.
2)    Know about main endangered species of India-their habitat etc, climate change, conservation efforts(national parks, biosphere reserves), environmental acts etc in great detail.
3)    Cant be prepared in one day and requires a long term approach. I used to randomly search on the Wikipedia portal on environment. Not advisable though as its a waste of time.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – Another Tough Area To Prepare

Well, Even though I am an Engineer (who did his Engineering well!), I still find this area toughest to score. So apart from following the news and reading notes of couple of ‘reputed’ coaching institutes, nothing much can be done.


1)    The Hindu news items
2)    Vision IAS study material on conventional topics. Please DO NOT waste time reading books of ALS wizard and TMH on SnT. 
3)    Long term strategy (which I could nt follow :P): You may subscribe to newsfeed from popular science news websites like, etc. Just read 2 articles per day!


1)    Very difficult to prepare as again there is no particular source
2)    I am from Chemical Engg background so I had a lot of background knowledge. Others (from non technical background or otherwise) should consider revising science text books from class 6 to Class 10th I guess.
3)    Don’t spend too much time here as efforts are not proportional to marks. Aim should be to score average marks.



1)    Sriram’s notes
2)    NCERT  Class 11th – Macroeconomics
3)    Budget and boxed items of economic survey


1)    Almost all questions asked are current affairs based
2)    International bodies like IMF, WTO are imp topics
3)    Important to understand the concepts. Mugging of data is not required as such
4)    My approach in the first attempt was to google search every term I used to come across and collect it in a word doc. For ex. If you come across the term ‘GDP’ and don’t know about it, search it and make a compilation of such terms



1)    Sriram’s Polity notes ONLY. Did not read Laxmikanth but you may.


1)    Keep a track of topics in news. For ex. Death penalty has been a hot topic for some time now. Know about such topics inside out
2)    Very very important part of GS Prelims. Its very scoring too as efforts are directly proportional to results in this section


1)    I read only ‘The Hindu’.   More on newspaper reading on a separate post. Covering Newspapers from 5/6 months before prelims should suffice.
2)    Could not read Yojana, Kurukshetra- but I recommend reading them
3)    Current affair Notes of Vision IAS, Sriram and Vajiram
4)    Could not read frontline and any other magazine and no need for the same.
5)    These days not many questions in prelims come directly from current affairs but needless to say that questions from economics etc will emanate from news


Hmm.. I did not prepare much for this paper as I was confident of performing well. So I don’t have much idea as to how one should go about this.
Solve the previous 3-4 years papers. If you score an average of say (figures for general category, adjust accordingly)

1)    >160: All seems to be well. Just practise 2-3 papers to get an idea of time management. There is no need of any coaching etc. Don’t waste your time on paper 2-you will do well.

2)    120-160: Practise little more. You are in the safe zone but keep practising. I always prefer accuracy over speed. Try not to attempt too many questions rather attempt every question well. I always find mathematics portion very easy so one might consider solving the comprehensions first which are quite demanding or vice versa depending upon one’s comfort level with maths and English comprehension

3)     Less than 120:  you may consider joining some test series/coaching classes for regular practise and brushing up of concepts. Also work much harder on paper


1)    Guessing Policy: I used to make a guess if only 2 options remained to be chosen.
2)    Try to be inquisitive. Whenever you come across some term or something you don’t know about, try to look up on the internet!
3)    It’s not important to just clear the prelims but one should clear it with a big margin. One needs to be sure of clearing the Prelims the day he/she writes the exam. Otherwise crucial 1.5-2 months are wasted in eager anticipation of the result.

If I have not covered something you wanted to know, Please ask questions in the comments section