Saturday, September 4, 2010

CSAT format and syllabus!

Since announcement for 2011 prelims to be replaced by CSAT has been made, people are confused and anxious regarding its syllabus. This is natural since a totally different syllabus form the present one will offset the advantage enjoyed by those preparing for last 2-3 or even more years. Lets see what different sources have to say about CSAT:-
1)Students would have to give two objective-type papers that have emphasis on testing their "aptitude for civil services" and "ethical and moral dimension of decision-making".
2)The UPSC had told the government two years ago there was a need to test not just the knowledge of aspirants in particular subjects but their aptitude for "a demanding life in the civil services".
3)Recommendations of the 10th Administrative Reforms Committee: - The Preliminary Examination should consist of an objective type test having one or two papers on general studies including the Constitution of India, the Indian legal system, Indian economy, polity, history and culture. There should be no optional subjects.
The following questions pattern will be asked in CAST -
  1.   Current Affairs from National and International Events
  2.   Logical Reasoning and Decision Making Solution
  3.   Elementary
  4.   Mathematics
  5.   Quantitative Ability
  6.   Data Interpretation from Graphic and Chart
My initial impression about CSAT was same as the point made by However, what made me change my mind were the point no-3 and the following:-
a) Switching completely to a content speculated in point 4 will give an undue advantage to science/engineering/management students, something that UPSC would not like to do.
b) A radical changeover from current status in not a characterstic of government institutions.They like to proceed in small steps while trying to maintaining some continuity. One step has already been taken in this year's prelims by asking questions from geography that involved some analysis as well as knowledge of physical geography.
c)  "Aptitude for civil services" cannot exclude knowledge and understanding of India's History, Economy , Constitution and its political systems.
I would add the following to the speculated syllabus: -
  1. Questions from Constitution patterned along decision-making situations.
  2. Questions from geography involving data-interpretation and analysis
  3. Questions from History and Economy will also be there, though much more complicated than current ones.For example, instead of single-correct or multiple correct choice questions, questions would be having answers having varying degree of suitability/relevance to the question. Students might have to rank 4 different specified reasons for Rise of Muslim League in increasing order of importance. These are questions that involve decision-making as well as sound knowledge of History.
While existing sources for GS prelims continue to have relevance for CSAT, aspirants are advised to consult the following as well: -
  1. Questions asked in Banking P.O., S.S.C.
  2. Data- Interpretation from Any Management Exams Guide.
This is all I can speculate for now. Hope for the best and sit with a cool mind in the exams. Nothing else will make/mar your performance in prelims than your state of mind, especially in CSAT where you have to rely more upon your analytical skills than memory management.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A note for beginners especially those in jobs!

I have been asked by many aspirants about the right strategy, tips, "how to study", right books so as to qualify UPSC CSE. Since I was already working in a job aspirants already working somewhere come to me with a special hope.
I too like them, had wasted 3-4 years looking for same things. 2 years while in college and 2 years while in job. During this course I met many aspirants preparing with me, read interviews of successful candidates in the hope of discovering something. If I am not wrong, they are also looking for some particular magic, thinking  there must be some very special way in which successful aspirants prepare themselves.
Sorry to disappoint you all, but there is no such thing.There is no strategy, no golden list of books, no magic way. UPSC isn't looking for very intelligent, genius candidates. If at all there are some qualities that it is looking for, they could be retention, recall, reproduce. 
The only strategy that would help one remember voluminous study materials and reproduce them in a desired way has to be discovered by oneself. The test that a candidate should apply to check whether his strategy is working or not is this: Whenever you have gone through a particular topic think whether you can now write 300 words ( short topics) and 600-800 words ( long topics) on that particular topic.Whether you can relate that topic to other topics in the same chapter and happenings around you. If you cannot do all of this then you have not prepared that topic.
Many aspirants (especially engineers) apply the modus operandi of their college exams to UPSC, study a chapter and then think that since they have an idea about the topic and they already brilliant they would be able to answer any question from that topic. The sooner they realize their folly and correct themselves, better for them.
The right strategy can vary anywhere from going through the same topic again and again ( 3-4 times), reading different sources ( max 3) and making one's own notes or reading others' notes including class notes of coaching classes and adding noting to it or anything else. It depends on the person and his/her ability to mug up. One has to try until one gets it right. My strategy used to going through 2 or 3 sources for a topic and making my own detailed notes for topic like one writes the chapter of a book. 
My other successful friends have done it by making bulleted notes for topics after reading it from different sources or by not making any notes at all. For some people note-making leads to reproduction of book matter having no value addition. One might make notes after reading 2 basic books then come back to notes after 2-3 months and find that it was all junk. In that case one may have to rewrite the notes for that topic. This happens since note-making and reading abilities gradually improve with preparation.
 One might require a slight retouch to the old notes after going through a better source ( a new book or someone else's notes). This cycle goes on till the day of exam and one need not worry too much about this. It only means one is improving. However more than 2 rewriting s does indicate that a lot of time was wasted.
Those who are already in jobs must remember that there cannot be any special exemption for them. Having a job in hand has a small advantage and a big disadvantage. One does not have to worry about financial aspects and one can free anxiety that surrounds joblessness. However, it is also true that one has to compete with aspirants who have devoted much more time for the same preparation and on an average are better prepared due to peer feedback.
Depending on one's personal conditions including financial woes, parents' pressure/support, motivation, ability to risk one has to take call whether or not to prepare while in job. It is generally preferable to devote 1-2 years fully to UPSC than slogging it out in a 5-year along-the-job plan. If one is really determined to do it while working, then take care to devote 3-4 hours daily to UPSC without fail. At this rate one might be ready in 2 years. Don't do it without a plan. The plan should not be monthly or weekly. One must have a daily plan. whenever you try to satisfy yourself with a monthly plan, you are fooling yourself. You will have to come out of your comfort zone. There are no shortcuts.
This all for now. In a nutshell, I would say the following things:-
1) Stop looking for best strategy, best tip, best book list. Get down with the books in hand and start studying.
2)Do not look for shortcuts.
3)Preparation for UPSC is painful and boring barring a few subjects. Learn to live with it.
I hope my words are of some help.I will be happy to answer any further queries.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Booklist for Sociology

Sociology! The only subject that I have loved most after Physics probably beacuse both give a lot of food for thought.I did two courses of Sociology in college as part of my humanities but enjoyed only one of them, Industrial sociology by Amman Madan, beacuse of his interactive class sessions.
For aspirants of UPSC, it is a moderately popular subject.
I recommend it as an optional for UPSC only to those who have the ability to think critically beyond the obvious and model abstractions, especially in paper-I. Not that those who consider themselves challenged in this respect cannot prepare for this optional, but those who can will have a decisive advantage. Study Material for paper-II is not found easily, and the understanding of key concepts of Paper-I and ability to apply them to real life situations comes in handy.
Here's my recommended Booklist for Socio:-
1)Haralambos - The Bible. (Though this book seems easy, do not not take it lightly.You will find yourself going back to it again and again. Make clever use of real life studies in the book to substantiate your answers)
2) Mahapatra ( Vajiram) Sir's Class notes
3) Sociological Thory by Ritzer. (hard to find but gives a good account of theories)

Caution: - Do not study Bottomore (Useless). Refer to Ignou Material ( MSO notes) for only topics that you can't find in above.

For Paper-II, I have edited the booklist provided here.

A. Introducing Indian Society:
(i) Perspectives on the study of Indian society : Indian Sociological Thought. from B. K. Nagla

(a) Indology (GS. Ghurye).
(b) Structural functionalism (M N Srinivas).
(c) Marxist sociology ( A R Desai).

(ii) Impact of colonial rule on Indian society :
(a) Social background of Indian nationalism. Mahaptra Sir's Notes
(b) Modernization of Indian tradition. Modernization of Indian tradition - Yogenndra Singh,Handbook of Indian Socio by Veena Das
(c) Protests and movements during the colonial period. Protests and movements during the colonial period A R Desai
(d) Social reforms Spectrum's Indian

B. Social Structure:

(i) Rural and Agrarian Social Structure:

(a) The idea of Indian village and village studies- IGNOU ,Handbook of Indian Socio by Veena Das
(b) Agrarian social structure – evolution of land tenure system, land reforms. Praveen Kishore (Inspiration's) study material

(ii) Caste System:(a) Perspectives on the study of caste systems: GS Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille. – Indian Sociological Thought. from B. K. Nagla
(b) Features of caste system. ( Summarize the perspectives from previous topic)
(c) Untouchability – forms and perspectives Praveen Kishore (Inspiration's) study material

(iii) Tribal communities in India: Indian Society & Culture – Nadeem Husnain

(a) Definitional problems. Indian Social System – Ram Ahuja
(b) Geographical spread.
(c) Colonial policies and tribes.
(d) Issues of integration and autonomy.

(iv) Social Classes in India: – IGNOU
(a) Agrarian class structure.
(b) Industrial class structure.
(c) Middle classes in India.

(v) Systems of Kinship in India: - IGNOU
(a) Lineage and descent in India.
(b) Types of kinship systems.
(c) Family and marriage in India.
(d) Household dimensions of the family.
(e) Patriarchy, entitlements and sexual division of labour.

(vi) Religion and Society: Praveen Kishore (Inspiration's) study material
(a) Religious communities in India.

(b) Problems of religious minorities.

C. Social Changes in India:
(i) Visions of Social Change in India:
(a) Idea of development planning and mixed economy. – Contemporary India – Neera Chandhoke
(b) Constitution, law and social change. – Social Change in India – Yogendra Singh,Modernization of Indian tradition - Yogenndra Singh
(c) Education and social change. – IGNOU , ESO – 14, – Social Change in India – Yogendra Singh,Modernization of Indian tradition - Yogendra Singh
(ii) Rural and Agrarian transformation in India:
(a) Programmes of rural development, Community Development Programme, cooperatives, poverty alleviation schemes - Praveen Kishore (Inspiration's) study material
(b) Green revolution and social change - Praveen Kishore (Inspiration's) study material
(c) Changing modes of production in Indian agriculture - Paper by Hamza Alavi
(d) Problems of rural labour, bondage, migration. IGNOU , MSO – 14

(iii) Industrialization and Urbanisation in India: IGNOU
(a) Evolution of modern industry in India.
(b) Growth of urban settlements in India.
(c) Working class: structure, growth, class mobilization.
(d) Informal sector, child labour Handbook of Indian Socio by Veena Das
(e) Slums and deprivation in urban areas. IGNOU

(iv) Politics and Society:
(a) Nation, democracy and citizenship.
(b) Political parties, pressure groups , social and political elite.
(c) Regionalism and decentralization of power.
(d) Secularization

(v) Social Movements in Modern India: Social Movements In India by Ghanshyam Shah
(a) Peasants and farmers movements.
(b) Women’s movement.
(c) Backward classes & Dalit movement.
(d) Environmental movements.
(e) Ethnicity and Identity movements.

(vi) Population Dynamics: Social Demography : Asha Bhede & Kanitkar
(a) Population size, growth, composition and distribution.
(b) Components of population growth: birth, death, migration.
(c) Population policy and family planning.
(d) Emerging issues: ageing, sex ratios, child and infant mortality, reproductive health. : IGNOU (ESO – 16 )
(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:
(a) Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
(b) Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
(c) Violence against women. Women in India – Neera Desai
(d) Caste conflicts. Politics in India : Sudipta Kaviraj
(e) Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism. IGNOU (ESO – 16 )
(f) Illiteracy and disparities in education. Handbook of Indian Socio by Veena Das

A book on National & Social Issues by Smarak Swain, IRS is highly recommended for topics against which I have not mentioned any book and also to understand how to make notes in Sociology.It also contains excellent write-ups on topics on which I have already recommended some book.
Caution: - Stick strictly to syllabus while referrring to any of the book above, and preferably make your own notes ( detailed or short) to save time during revision.

Tips: Pick up a topic, scan all sources, collate them logically to make your own notes. You should do this atleast for paper-II in sociology, though it works well for all subjects, atleast for me.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Booklist for PubAd!

I had chosen this optional over Physics. No Doubt it was a good decision.This optional has become popular over the years, especially among science and engineering graduates, because of the high marks awarded in this subject and the short time in which it can be prepared (4- 6 months for thorough prep). However, last year there was some balancing act by UPSC and the average marks came down a bit. But I still believe this is going to be a good subject in years to come. Here's my recommended booklist for PubAd:-
1) S Polinaidu, Laxmikanth's PubAd for beginners
2) Mohanty's ( Synergy Classes) Class Notes and his study material. His study should be used to supplement his notes.
3) Fadia and Fadia for reference to topics not covered by above
4) Mohit Bhattacharya after topics have been coverred from above ( gives a depth in conceptual understanding of topics)
Caution: - Do not study Nicholas Henry or Stephen Robbins. Relevant topics from above are well-covered by Mohanty Sir.
Those too eager to get an unmatched depth in Administrative Theories can refer to Prasad and Prasad, but don't get too indulged.
I have not read Fadia & Fadia, I had referred IGNOU material on internet.
Do not underestimate Laxmikanth's PubAd Book thinking that it is meant only for prelim. It is still the only source which provides text on most topics in a lucid and concise way.

1) Indian Administration by Arora & Goyal
2) Mohanty's ( Synergy Classes) Class Notes and his study material. His study should be used to supplement his notes.
3) Shubra Saxena's 50 important topics for PubAd.
Caution: - Do not refer to Special Issues of IJPA, not event the important topics fom IJPA. Its not required.

Some might claim the booklist is too short, but trust me it is more about relating what you know to the question at hand. You might like to refer to Test Discussion notes of Mohanty Sir, if you can find them, to understand what I mean.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Booklist for General Studies (CSE)!

Times have changed. 5 years ago I had to struggle to find a good list of books recommended for any optional for UPSC CSE on internet. Today you can get several websites dedicated to help out a beginner for UPSC and most of them can give a comprehensive list of books required for almost any optional. However in their efforts to be exhaustive, they tend to include more books than required leading to wastage of time as well as scaring off someone who is trying to get feel of the study required for UPSC. I am putting down my own list of books, starting with GS because it has no defined syllabus.
General Studies Booklist:
Polity - Laxmikanth (both prelims and mains, nothing more nothing less)
Indian History ( Ancient and medieval) - Vajiram's Yellow Books or sections from Unique Guide (Prelims only)
Indian National Movement - Unique Guide (Prelims), Spectrum( Mains), Bipin Chandra ( for those who have time and want a DEEP understanding)
Geography - Unique Guide (Prelims, Both India and World Geog.), NCERT Class XI-XII & vajiram's Yellow Book(Mains)
Indian Economy - Vajiram yellow Book (Prelims), Vajiram's Class Notes( Mains), Pratiyogita Darpan Special Issue ( Prelims and Mains)
Science & Technolgy - Vajiram's Class notes, Tables of chemical names, etc. from Unique Guide(Prelims), TMH Sci. & Tech. ( Mains)
Bilateral and International relations - Vajiram's Yellow Book, World Focus magazine
Current Affairs - Chronicle Magazine, The Hindu newpaper, Wizard's Special issue on Current Affairs (Prelims, comes out in March)
Statistics - Spectrum ( Mains)

Caution: - 1) I could never study Ancient & Medieval History. Hence ask someone knowledgable for these topics.
2) Do not study any other book except Laxmikanth in Polity. It is quite lucid and exhaustive.
3) Spend atleast 1 hour everyday on Hindu.With changing pattern of GS wherein it is becoming more and more random and analysis-oriented, The Hindu is the only thing going to save you. Make short of notes of articles on burning issues. In order to streamline your study of The Hindu, see the headings under which articles are written in Chronicle. For example, Bilateral, International, nationa issues, Environment, etc. While readig Hindu choose articles that fall under these headings and read them.
Do not keep cuttings from newspaper, study it then and there and make notes if necessary. You will never ever study the newspaper cuttings. Do not bluff yourself.
4)Anything else other than mentioned above, do not study anything else. According to me it would be a waste of time.
Most important part is to think. Try to have a opinion on any issue you come across. You must think of points both in favour and against the topic. Your thinkig faculty would be your only defence against the vagaries of UPSC.
Booklist of Sociology and PubAd would follow later.