Disclaimer: Considering the SUBJECTIVITY associated with exam, NOTHING SHOULD be taken for GRANTED (meaning if u do what I did, success is assured, etc..nothing like that). It’s all my personal experience with the PSIR paper which will CERTAINLY differ from person to person. Take only what you deem fit. I had got 309 marks in CSE 2017 and 312 in CSE 2018. With that experience, would like to share briefly what all I did in FAQ format. Please add if I miss out any questions in the comment section. I will address them.
When did I start my preparation?
I decided to take Pol Science in 2015 itself when I was working as I was having keen interest in International Relations. I joined Shubra madam’s classes from August 2016 to Dec 2016.
Did I finish PSIR reading before prelims 2017?
NOT AT ALL. Not even all the class notes. I had only read class notes on western Political thinkers.
What all books collection I had based on previous toppers suggestions, interviews etc?
Almost all standard sources like: Andrew Heywood’s Global Politics, Brayon Nelson, Balley and Smith, O P Gauba, Rajeev Bhargav, Does Elephant Dance?, Pax Indica.
Did I read those books?
NO WAY. They were kept for decorating my rack in room. I tried reading O P Gauba prior to joining classes sometime in Feb or March 2016. Didn’t get anything. Couldn’t understand the concepts well. But yeah, I read word by word book authored by Rajeev Bhargav on Political Theory and two books on foreign policy viz. Does Elephant Dance by David Malone and Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor. And I remember, I read them before Feb 2017. I found them too interesting. But again, NEVER EVER REVISED.
If not books what else did I refer to?
I was done with madam’s classes by Dec 2016. I had listened to the class with EXTREME SENSE OF INVOLVEMENT. I loved the way students asked questions and the way madam clarified things. Though I didn’t use to ask questions (because of fear, hesitations, etc), I used to note down everything in my notes including madam’s answers. Hence, I had kind of comprehensive notes at the end of the course and I had ARRANGED all of them in a topic wise manner as I used to write in A4 sheets. Hence, it helped me to quickly take those topics which I feel reading. My involvement in the class really helped me to understand the CONCEPTS very well and link them to CURRENT AFFAIRS (CAs). Many of my thought processes regarding nation, state, politics, culture, west, east way of lives etc were enriched by my way of understanding them and linking them to CAs. It gave some sort of clarity for me.
The bottomline being, once I was done with the class, I was having clarity regarding the importance of reading and revising madam’s notes. And then I decided to stick to those notes itself along with my as usual CAs through The Hindu and Indian Express.
What I did for mains after the announcement of prelims 2017 results?
I had very brief window of 90 days to appear in mains 2017 as I was in confusion regarding whether I will qualify in pre or not as I was having hell lot of apprehensions. 2017 attempt was my third overall attempt and 2nd serious attempt. After results, joined madam’s crash course immediately. Again, I was completely mesmerized by madam’s command over the subject. She helped clarify many of the doubts during crash course.
So, did I only completely DEPEND on madam’s notes?
Yes to an extent for I had only referred her class notes, crash course notes, test series solutions. But obviously one can not get expertise simply by external helps. They act as certain stimulants. Ultimately what I firmly believe is, we should have that internal desire to know better abt subject by interlinking the concepts we understand to CAs. Fortunately, I was good at it. Hence, it helped me as in mains almost all questions will be having one or the other connection to CAs both in GS as well as in optional.
How many tests I wrote in PSIR test series 2017?
I wrote only 4. Two sectional and two full lengths. In first test I had got 68/250 marks. In the last two tests, cumulatively I got 251/500 marks. But I did have this feeling that test series will always be for practice purpose and marks won’t matter much. Hence, didn’t give much importance to marks. I used to tell my friends the same thing even though many of them believed marks will act as stimulant. They may be true in their views.
How many times did I refer class notes in the gap between prelims and mains in 2017?
3 times. Two times very diligently. One time fast revisions.
Did I make any self notes?
Yes, I had this habit of cutting and pasting catchy lines by academicians, brilliant authors like C Rajamohan in my soft notes which I prepared in very unorganized way through Telegram. Will attach certain screenshots of the same.
What I did for 2018 mains?
Hardly I had 77 days for preparation as I was again not sure of qualifying in pre due to semi depression for getting out in 2017 despite 309 marks in optional. Hence, I simply repeated the above processes. Fortunately all boxes got ticked right and ended up getting 312 marks again and hence 307th rank in CSE-2018.
So eventually what’s required for PSIR in my personal opinion?
- Absolute conceptual clarity.
- Interlinking ability of different concepts to concepts as well as to CAs.
- Keen INTEREST in the subject. It will unconsciously help us have clarity on issues.
- Dispassionate approach. Meaning, we should not be blown away by the personal attachment to any ideologies, persons, political opinions etc. Our study should be purely like that of an academician and not politician.
- Awareness regarding where to draw boundary on sources to be followed based on our own SELF ASSESSMENT.
PS: Let me repeat the known universal truth regarding UPSC, that no one can claim with cent per cent certainty that this will work, that will work. SUBJECTIVITY IS VERY HUGE. Hence preparation for everyone should be based on SELF ASSESSMENT and ANALYTICAL THINKING by considering previous 5-10 years QPs and the syllabus copy. Thanks for reading. Hope it will help you guys in one or the other ways. I know the feel of REJECTION. But trust me friends, no moment is permanent. Whoever are facing downs
today will definitely face ups again. And after some time, u will certainly face downs and ups again. This is LIFE. We should hence take things as and when they come for us- the lesson I learnt from 2017 debacle. Wishing you tonnes of luck in UPSC preparation. All the best to all.