Many aspirants have been asking me about my PSIR Strategy. I could score well i.e. 313/500 (169+144) in my optional which has played a crucial role to secure a good rank. I had to work hard to raise my score from 240(2016) to 313(2018). You may find this quite surprising..!! But yes, it happened .!!
So, here I am sharing my PSIR journey..!!
(Disclaimer: This complete strategy may not suit you. Spot and pick up the pointers according to your needs.)
I chose PSIR as an optional because my interest in International Relations even before I decided to prepare for the civils. This subject overlaps with GS2 and saves the time during preparation. It actually proved beneficial for me in GS2 where I could score 124/250. (Of course, GS2 needs seperate answer writing approach). Thus, my interest, subject utility and time benefit were crucial factors to decide this optional. Moreover, availability of resource material and guidance, online test series etc. were the other deciding parameters.
2. What went wrong earlier? (2016)
The dependence on single resource was the mistake I had committed in previous Mains. Though, I could learn well the various concepts of PSIR from single notes,the contextual understanding was missing. I had opted this “notes only” reading exercise because of paucity of time, but it costed me a lot. I couldn’t develop an answer writing according to the need of the subject. Even though I had completed my papers in 2016, I couldn’t write qualitatively and in the language of political science. I could score only 240(119+121) in PSIR. Overall,I missed the final selection by 4 marks. I could have got a good service then only by additional 30-40 marks. Furthermore, I lost 2017 prelims and I was out of the process for one more year. So, when my prelims went good in this attempt, I decided not to spare anything from my side to score the maximum possible.
3.Increase in resources
For this attempt, I read more number of books, notes, model answers. This increase in resources helped me to improve the contexual understanding, my ability to interconnect different concepts, theories and current affairs. It not only improved the content, but also developed my language aligning to PSIR. The improvement of language was much necessary considering my non-humanities and vernacular background.
4. Increase in time slot for Optional :
I consumed 70-80% time for optional in the time period between prelims and Mains. I could afford less time for GS because of my strong hold over the GS subjects. It was quite necessary due to my poor performance in previous attempt and a gap of about 7-8 months in the preparation.
I didn’t go for note making for GS because of limited sources. In opposite to this, for my optional, I preferred notemaking to compile the data from various sources. I made my notes in hard format to get my hands used to heavy writing. I organised notes according to syllabus topics and subtopics. I didn’t make micronotes as we had sufficient time (5 days) to revise all the notes. I was cautious enough while note making so that those should be crisp, enriching and revisable.
6.Answer writing practice
I couldn’t give dedicated time on daily basis for PSIR answer writing. However, daily answer writing for GS helped me to increase the speed. The students with vernacular medium background, are habitual of thinking in their mother-tongues. This is very much time consuming, if they opt for writing in different (English) medium. So, the writing practice becomes essential to develope a good coordination between a translating brain and a writing hand. Hence, I would suggest the aspirants to assign seperate time slot for daily answer writing for optional also.
7.Followed 2 Test series.
I couldn’t go for the coaching because of time constraint. I had developed the subject understanding on my own.But my previous Mains score made me aware of my weakness in PSIR writing. Thus, my answers needed to be evaluated by third person. Also, as I did not write much regularly, I decided to join two Test series at The Unique Academy, Pune and Shubhra Ranjan IAS Academy (Both Online Mode). I religiously followed their tests (Total 18) to improve my content, quality and speed. I paid more attention towards the remarks than the marks. I also did self evaluation by comparing my answers with the model answers. This multidirectional evaluation pointed out numerous flaws in my writing on which I worked upon later.
I regularly followed newspaper articles, editorials from The Hindu, The Indian Express and some amount from The Economics Times. I used to note down the examples, specific criticisms, subject opinions in short note format (keeping syllabus in mind). I also read some book reviews in the newspaper related to the syllabus topics. e.g. Opinions of Fali Nariman over judiciary in his newly published book. In addition to the newspapers , I followed RSTV’s “India’s World” summaries for Paper-2.
9.Following the toppers
This is the most important one. We shouldn’t follow the toppers blindly.Rather read number of strategies and choose the suitable suggestions from them to develop your own. I had read strategies of Ananya Das Ma’m ( AIR 16, CSE 2014), Mirant Parikh Sir (AIR 67, CSE 2016), Ankit Pannu Sir ( AIR 31, CSE 2017) and many more. I learned some lessons from them. I integrated those with my strategy according to my strengths and weaknesses.
10.Content of PSIR answer.
a.According my optimal understanding, dynamism is the crux of this subject. So, the conceptual clarity becomes essential component, because only after that we can have interconnections across the concepts, theories, current affairs and opinions etc.
b. Reading the question carefully is important to understand the context. In 2018 exam, Paper-2 was quite unusual in this aspect. So, we should give at least 30 seconds to understand the context and develop the structure of an answer.
c. We should try to interlink the theory with the current examples. e.g. Trusteeship theory of Mahatma Gandhi can be linked to the example of Warren Buffet (who donates 99% of his wealth to charity).
d. We can try to connect the concepts across the sections of this subject.For e.g. Marxism in Paper-1 (A) can be used to write the perspectives on Indian Economy in the words of Pranab Bardhan. Neo Marxists point out the cultural domination of west over the east to rule the globe.
e. We can bring out the comparisons in the answers at various places. For e.g. Comparing Rawlesian concept of “strengthening the weakest link” with Gandhian notion of ” Sarvodya”.
f. Criticisms by various schools of thought is always welcome in theory part.In addition to this, Model answers give fresh content. For e.g. I got few more new streams of thoughts who criticise the conventional conception of justice and ask for the development of contextual & relevant idea of justice.
g. We can put latest criticisms just by being alert while reading newspapers. Criticism on judiciary in the words of Pratap Bhanu Mehta would enrich and balance our answers.
h. The answer should be written as a specialist. The specific words like rights, equality, justice etc can be used more often. The specific phrases of various scholars can be utilised wherever possible.
11. Maintaining psychological posture
Yes.. It’s necessary for the optional too. This subject might drain you because of its vast and diverse nature. However, we all know that the subject helps in GS, Essay and Ethics preparation. So, it’s absolutely of worth..!! Sometimes you might get frustrated for not understanding the various themes. In such scenario, we can watch short YouTube videos to learn such complex things. Don’t get panic initially itself on reading your poor answers. You need some patience to develop the well versed answer writing. It will happen over a period of time.. Keep practicing more and more..!!
Finally, you may find this strategy little bit complex and heavy. But it was essential for me to improve. In 2018,I had resumed the optional preparation not only with the less understanding but also with the worst ever confidence. So, hard work was bit necessary to improve the subject learning and boost my confidence. Fortunately I could give my best to bring the PSIR preparation at par with my strong-footed GS preparation. My scores in optional & GS nullified the effects of my poor score in Essay (111) and average score in Personality Test (176).
So, I would advise the aspirants to pickup the things wisely from my strategy. Kindly choose whichever suits your preparation level, your way of study and your style of answer writing. Keep faith in yourself..!!
Besides, there is always a scope for an improvement. Keep fetching that and strive for the excellence..!!
Best Wishes Always..!! 😊
MY RESOURCES :
1.OP Gauba : Political theory
2.Andrew Heywood: Ideologies part
3.IGNOU Notes for Indian and western political thoughts
4.Shubhra ma’m notes
5.Unique academy notes
2.Oxford Companion to politics in India
3.Shubhra Ma’m notes
4.Unique academy notes
5. Newspaper articles on Indian politics (The Hindu, The Indian Express)
- Globalisation of world politics
- Shubhra ma’m notes
- Unique academy notes
- Model answers of test papers
- Newspaper articles on global politics (The Hindu, The Indian Express)
- Does the elephant dance by David Malone
- Shubhra ma’m notes
- Unique academy notes
- Model answers of test papers
- Newspaper articles on India’s Foreign affairs (The Hindu, The Indian Express)
- Oxford Handbok on Indian Foreign policy
**Link for my test papers: