Page Not Found

UPSC 2018 Mains Analysis By Stephan Tobias IPoS

Analysis – CSE Main 2018
GS 1

  1. The Art and Culture questions were relatively easier compared to the previous years. The
    question regarding Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, although specific in nature, could have been
    answered using common points of all Bhakti saints. Such an approach would definitely fetch
    the candidate average marks. The question regarding ‘preservation of our art heritage’ was
    extremely generic in nature and marks would depend on how well the candidate has
    approached the question. The question regarding account of foreign travellers to India
    required specific knowledge regarding the various travellers and their accounts which are
    readily available in the NCERT books.
  2. There were no questions from the Freedom Struggle, which has always been an area of
    interest for the UPSC. Questions from Indian history required a rudimentary understanding of
    Gandhian philosophy and basic knowledge of the plight of indentured labourers which is often
    mentioned in all books that cover the freedom struggle. There were no questions from World
  3. Geography questions were relatively straightforward and tested the basic conceptual
    understanding of the candidates. Some of the questions were also dynamic in nature as they
    involved current affairs such as IRNSS, Industrial Corridors, depleting groundwater resources
    etc. Therefore conceptual knowledge coupled with general awareness of recent issues would
    have enabled the candidates to answer these questions.
  4. Questions concerning Indian Society were quite challenging and would have immensely
    benefited those who have a Sociology background. However, a keen understanding of current
    events by a thorough reading of the newspaper, especially editorials, would have equipped
    candidates to deal with these questions to a certain extent.
  5. Questions or certain themes have been repeated this year (eg- Indian secularism, India’s
    interest in the Arctic region, etc). Thus, going through previous years’ papers would have
    helped the candidates immensely.
    GS 2
  6. Questions regarding Indian Constitution and Polity involved a good mix of static portion and
    also current events. While a bias towards current affairs was seen till the 2016 exam, this
    year’s paper struck a balance between the two
  7. Current affairs based questions from Polity included some very straightforward questions
    such as the controversy regarding EVMs, the tussle between the Delhi CM and the LG, the
    controversy surrounding the ToR of the 15 th Finance Commission, etc. The static questions

from Polity also covered issues such as Financial Emergency, an area which is often neglected
by candidates while preparing for the Main examination. Therefore, the seemingly obscure or
unimportant topics from standard books like Laxmikanth must be covered by candidates for
the Mains exam was well.

  1. The questions from the Governance section could have been answered by candidates who
    had gone through the report of the 2 nd Administrative Reforms Commission. The suggestion
    for the formation of an umbrella Human Rights Commission body, issues regarding Citizens
    Charters, financial capabilities of Panchayats etc are all comprehensively addressed in the
    specific reports of the 2 nd ARC.
  2. The International Relations questions were on expected lines as they reflected the
    uncertainties in the global sphere such as the impact of the ‘trade wars’ and the withdrawal
    of the US from the Iran nuclear act. Candidates while reading about these challenges must
    assess the specific impacts that they have on India and think of possible solutions for the
    same as the questions were India centric and also called for solutions. The questions also
    covered new and emerging relations such as with Israel and Central Asia, whose importance
    can be easily gauged from the increasing number of editorials that appear in the newspapers.
    GS 3
  3. Economy based questions included current issues such as rising protectionism and currency
    wars along with recent Budget measures. Thus, both 2017 and 2018 exams have seen an
    increased importance of the Budget.
  4. The questions from the Agriculture and Food processing sections were quite generic in nature
    and required candidates to have a good grasp of the various issues and challenges and also
    good writing skills. However, there were also current affairs oriented questions such as
    organic farming (Sikkim was recently declared as an organic state), millets (2018 was
    declared as the International Year of the Millets). Therefore, a basic understanding of Indian
    agriculture, the cropping patterns and the challenges that the sector faces would have
    enabled the candidates to answer the questions.
  5. Internal security questions did not evoke much of a surprise on the candidates as they
    covered trending topics such as LWE, drug trafficking (Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent)
    and the challenges posed by CPEC. Cyber security continues to be an area of focus for UPSC
    especially in the wake of the Justice Srikrishna Committee report which was discussed
    extensively in the media.
  6. Environment related questions tested the candidates’ understanding of issues that have
    gained prominence in the recent years such as wetland conservation, solid waste
    management, bio diversity etc. Therefore, a thorough understanding of concepts that
    frequently appear in the newspapers is called for.
  7. There were also some tough or challenging questions. While the Bose-Einstein question
    would have been answered only by a very few, questions regarding biopharma and
    comparison between Hyogo and Sendai frameworks (Disaster Management) were also very
    GS 4
  8. The case studies were very straightforward and easier compared to the 2017 exam, so the
    key differential would be how candidates were able to answer the theoretical (Part A)
  9. The Part A questions were public administration centric and required a very nuanced and in
    depth understanding of the various ethical issues and concerns. As the syllabus is limited and
    the paper has been in existence for around 5 years, candidates can continue to expect
    extremely challenging and analytical questions in the future as well. Only such an approach
    would enable them to answer questions that seek the difference between actual and potential
    conflicts of interest and also the difference between Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics.
    Reading of the reports of the 2 nd Administrative Reforms Commission would have be
    beneficial in this regard.
  10. The other questions, especially the quote based questions were also analytical and
    challenging and would require candidates to have good writing skills, coherence and proper
    time management.

Analysis – CSE Main 2018
Public Administration- Paper I

  1. In general, the paper was easier and more open ended compared to the previous year. Thus,
    it was quite similar to the 2016 paper which saw high scores in Public Administration.
  2. The compulsory questions, barring a few, were relatively simple and straightforward. The
    questions covered relevant issues and topics such as NPM, Administrative Law, Weber’s
    bureaucracy, Simon’s approach etc which could all have been answered by any well prepared
  3. While the optional questions in section B covered a myriad range of topics from Comparative
    Administration, Development Administration, Personnel Administration, etc, they could have
    been adequately addressed by a candidate who had practiced answer writing along with
    multiple revisions. The optional questions in Section A, however, were a bit more challenging.
    Here, the candidate’s understanding of concepts, his ability to inter link various disparate
    topics as well his general understanding of the basic subject matter were tested. The
    questions in this section also included relatively easy concepts such as MIS, Barnard’s
    Contribution Satisfaction Equilibrium etc.
  4. All in all, thorough preparation along with a proper choice of questions to be answered is
    likely to fetch a candidate good/ very good marks in this paper
    Public Administration- Paper II
  5. The questions were very generic and GS type. Therefore, the key would be to answer them
    from a Public Administration perspective and not to make the answers very GS oriented. (Eg-
    in the question pertaining to role of distract administration in mitigating climate change,
    knowledge of PM Krishi Sinchayee Yojana should be brought in with a focus on the
    preparation of District Irrigation Plans.) This would be the differential as some candidates are
    likely to be carried away.
  6. The questions also covered dynamic issues such as the setting up of the NITI Aayog, the ToR
    of the 15 th Finance Commission, the position of the Governor, etc
  7. Here again, the choice of questions made by the candidate is likely to be a deciding factor in
    the final scores. Those who have chosen to answer GS type questions such as the ones on
    TRAI and small and marginal farmers should have brought in adequate Public Administration.
    Similarly the ones who chose questions related to the Governor, 15 th Finance Commission etc
    should have comprehensively covered all the major points to ensure maximum marks as
    these questions are likely to be attempted to by a vast majority o the candidates.

Why Civil Service?

“If we are born ordinary, it’s not our fault. But if we die ordinary, that’s solely our fault”
The Indian Civil Service Exam is perhaps one of a kind in the world because it offers a cheat code to life. It is an exam which opens up the highest seats of permanent power to one who manages to clear it. Thus, by merely cracking an exam, an aspirant irrespective of his background enters the corridors of power in India. While those in political sphere have to compete ever five years to maintain power, a Civil Servant enjoys the same till retirement, with a steady rise in position and reach.

Civil Service consists of three stages, the preliminary examination, popularly known as prelims, the mains examination and the personality test. The prelims consists of two papers, the CSAT I or the General Studies Paper which deals with the current affairs and other knowledge based questions and CSAT II or the aptitude paper which tests the mental ability of the aspirants through comprehension passages, simple mathematics and logical reasoning questions. The first paper decides the candidate’s fate in the prelims round. The second paper is qualifying in nature and requires one-third marks to clear. The mains papers are divided into nine, three-hour-long written papers. These include essay, general studies papers I-IV which includes an ethics paper, two papers on the optional subject opted by the aspirant and two qualifying papers, one in English and one in the regional language of our choice. Personality test endeavours to assess a candidate’s mental acumen as a civil service officer. As the candidate’s knowledge has been assessed in the previous two stages, this stage is not an assessment of the candidate’s knowledge but of his capacity to become a bureaucrat. There is a clear cut syllabus for the prelims and mains papers, but none for the personality test.

Even today, many see this exam as an impossible task, only to be attempted by the extra-ordinarily bright. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only a negligible percentage of the total intake into civil service every year falls under the category of bright. The vast majority of aspirants who make it are regular people from regular backgrounds who have put in dedicated effort and thousands of hours of hard work. Intelligent hard work is what civil service finally boils down to. The ability to sit down and read, to practice hundreds of question papers, to undertake hours of writing practice, to shift through books, newspapers, web sites and coaching material on a daily basis, the ability to do this for an year or two, without losing patience or motivation. At the end of the day it’s a numbers game.

Civil service coaching used to be an expensive affair. People still associate civil service preparation with images of aspirants taking the first train to Delhi after graduation to attempt this impossible feat, spending lakhs in the process. Times have changed. Now quality coaching is available much closer to home. Thiruvananthapuram now house some of the best coaching centers in the country, so much so that even people from Bihar and UP can be found preparing for civils in our little heaven. While individual classes in Delhi usually hold up to three-hundred students, classes in Trivandrum usually keep a ceiling of fifty students. Thus classes here ensure that the students get personal attention and one-on-one care. Perhaps more important is the expense incurred. A single prelims class in a good institute costs over one and a half lakhs in Delhi. Living expense is astronomical. Closer to home, a prelims, mains and optional package costs less than a lakh while maintaining, if not surpassing the Delhi counterparts in quality. It begs the question, why go anywhere else?

Civil Service is, at the end of the day one of the best jobs that India has to offer. Successful candidates are inducted at a senior bureaucratic post which provides ample opportunity for affirmative action. This is the beauty of the job. A civil servant gets to lead from the front and make key policy decisions in her twenties. To be an active participant and contributor to nation building is no mean feat! And the power, status and privileges that accompany the job are second to none. This is utopia for someone who wants to serve the nation but also wishes for a stable life. And all that stands between you and this life is one exam. So the question you should be asking is
“If they can, why can’t I?”

What to do during the final week before UPSC Civil Services Prelims?

June 3rd, 2018- The date most aspirants dread already is a week away and butterflies are in swarms inside your stomach. You may want to revise every subject on the planet, heart would be racing at 140 bpm.
If you are a person who missed out on last prelims the pressure intensifies.
What is the ideal preparation on the final week before the prelims exam?
DISCLAIMER: If you have not done proper preparation or is planning to give a casual attempt at civil services examination, STOP READING NOW and go back to the other pleasures of life.
For the rest of the people, lets take a look at the important To-Do’s a week before prelims

1. Do Maximum MCQs: Because Prelims is all about ABCDing Target around 100 questions per day minimum.
Identify how you attempt known and alien questions, accuracy of smart guesses. Feel free to experiment with number of attempts and find your own sweet spot.

2. Quick revision list – Ideally the revision list should be topics in which you are neither too strong nor too weak; the point being revising strong area is unnecessary while revising the unknown is no revision at all. Apart from that the following lists would come in handy
• International organizations and reports
• INC sessions(Freedom Struggle)
• Newspapers and publications (Freedom struggle),
• Govt schemes
• Diseases and vectors
• National parks
• Articles & provisions
• Timeline of Indian history (links to YouTube videos)

3. Revising what is already done

4.SNOOOZE!- A minimum of 7 hour sleep is said to boost memory retention and recall. Make sure you get your sleep cycle figured out.

5.Beat the stress – A healthy level of stress would increase your productivity by keeping you alert when it matters the most. However, it is natural for candidates to go over and freak out in those crucial hours. Find your inner peace – Be the Kung FU Panda. PS- Maybe Yoga and Exercise would help

6.Avoid daytime sleep especially during exam timings i.e. from 9-11 AM & 2-4PM. (If possible try out MCQs during the same time slots)

7. Breathe out!! You’d do well!!


How to select the right optional for UPSC Civil Services

In the present scheme of exam for Civil Services, optionals hold a position of paramount importance. Choosing the wrong optional could mean whether you become IAS, IPS or not even clear the mains.

So what are the parameters you should have in mind when you choose an optional? The usual parameters are possibility of getting high marks, overlapping with GS syllabus, availability of guidance and material, number of people in service and also your personal interest in the subject. Lets look at them one by one:

1.Possibility of scoring High Marks

The bottom line in Mains examination is the marks you score. Optionals which help you score high are in great demand as it usually increases the probability of you getting into the top services.

Analysis of past 10 years UPSC marks shows that subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Engineering subjects and the Literature of Regional Subjects are those which fetch the absolute premium marks.

However, except the Literature subjects every other subject also comes with the risk of “hit or miss”, i.e. subjects like Mathematics or Physics you may score really low as well.

Public Administration and Geography are two subjects which usually return high scores as well.

Both also have the same issue of “hit or miss” as certain years the paper is tough.

Political Science and International Relations, Anthropology have also been doing well in the past 2 or 3 years.

Economics died very well for a couple of years (2012 and 2013) but has been under the radar now mostly.

Sociology is one optional which may not always touch the real high marks but is always a stable subject.

2.Overlapping with GS Syllabus

Certain optionals have very high overlapping with GS syllabus which will help with the preparation for General Studies for prelims, mains and even interview. The overlapping can greatly reduce the overall load on the student during preparation.

Public Administration is the subject which overlaps maximum with GS syllabus. Starting with polity topics Public administration is present in all four GS papers and will definitely help with personality test/interview as well.

Political Science and International Relations has an overlap especially with General Studies Paper II in mains. It also covers polity topics which are important for prelims. It covers various topics which come for Personality Test as well.

Sociology has good linkages with mains and also is helpful for personality test or interview

Geography has overlap with Paper I and III of General Studies mainly and would be really helpful if you also want to try for Indian Forest Service exam.

History is another subject which would helpful in Paper I (and a bit of Paper II/III) and in personality test/interview.

Philosophy and Psychology would be a tiny bit helpful in General Studies Paper IV i.e. Ethics.

3.Availability of Guidance and Material

The major subjects like Public Administration, Geography, Sociology, History, Political Science etc. have tonnes of free material and guidance available in the internet. However, it is still advised that you go to a proper course for these topics in case you choose one of them.

Economics and science subjects are taken up at specialised institutes in Delhi only.

FortuneIAS offers Sociology, Public Administration, Political Science and International Relations, Geography, Anthropology, English Literature and has a tie up for Malayalam Literature.

4.Number of people who cleared with an optional

As per data from UPSC annual reports over the past 10 years, Public Administration is optional with maximum number of selections. . The annual average has been ranging between 15 pc to 35 pc in final selections

Geography comes second with an annual average ranging from 32 pc to 9 pc in final selections.

Political Science and International Relations is one optional which has had good number selections and also a very good conversion ratio of about 10 pc.

Sociology has a maintained a stable number in most years in final selections over the past 10 years.

Literature of Malayalam Language has had excellent results and conversion ratio.


This perhaps is the most determining factor in deciding the optional. Even the toughest optional for general public can be easy for certain people with aptitude for it.

If you are good in Physics or Maths you can take it and clear with it. There are people who take Agriculture and clear as well.

All these aspects in mind, you must do soul searching and decide on the topic after reading essential material, conversing with the people who have cleared with the optional and also looking up good institutes for the same.

How should I be sure of leaving my job for the UPSC CSE preparation?

Leaving a job to prepare for UPSC Exam is a very difficult choice to make. Here are some of the things that you may think about before making such a decision.

  1. Pause, reflectand ask why – please understand that what you’re essentially doing is seeking a “job change”. A career in the civil service is just another job. Please ask yourself why you want to do this job and not another. Try to understand the requirements of the job. Don’t let Lal battis (which are on their way out anyway) and the larger-than-life status mislead you into thinking that what awaits you is a Lala land. It isn’t. Understand the flip side by talking to people already in the service. For one, this career may be financially less rewarding than your previous job. I know people who earn less than the income tax they paid before resigning from their previous jobs. This may require serious lifestyle changes. Also, your reason for joining the civil services must be personal, strong and well thought out. By personal, I mean that the reason must not be the result of extrinsic factors. “My brother is a civil servant. I think I should be one too, so that my parents don’t think I’m an idiot”. When you don’t fully believe in the cause it’s difficult to do justice to it.
  2. Support System– emotional and financial. Cracking the exam requires generally requires a team effort (I know lone elephants who have done it as well, by they are few and far between them). This team is generally your family and inner circle of friends. They must support you emotionally through what can be a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs. You must also be able to live a life that is financially comfortable. You may have to get ready to be frugal for the most part. Also, you must be comfortable asking your parents (or whoever) for extra cash for the occasional partying. Your friends must respect your new limitations, in terms of both the clock as well as the purse and not make any demands that may affect your peace of mind and preparation. Hence getting your family and inner circle of friends on board is absolutely critical before you quit your job to start UPSC prep.
  3. Can you put in the hours? Ask yourself if you will have it in you to sit down and study for long hoursafter being cut off from academics for since you left college. Going back to sitting in front of a table to read things you thought you had left behind for good perhaps a decade earlier can become very challenging for some. Most jobs in the world are about solving problems in one way or another. You get to see the results of the solutions you offer relatively quickly. UPSC prep on the other hand is a completely different ball game. You prepare for an exam that is a few months away. The syllabus is vast and you will feel that you’re making little progress. This can become quite disheartening. You may get overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. “Why am I learning this school level stuff, yet why am I not able to finish this quickly enough?” Prepare yourself for such situations.
  4. It’s risky business– even if you have given it your best, you may not crack this exam. You may have to write the exam more than once. You may have always stood first in class throughout your academic life. You may have landed the best campus placement from a prestigious B School. You may be the rockstar at your workplace. All this is no guarantee for quick success in UPSC CSE. So have the humility to understand that in a game of outrageous numbers, survival of the luckiest (and not necessarily the fittest) is the governing rule. You may face setbacks. So be ready to take them in your stride and keep moving forward.–Sidharth Babu (AIR 15, 2017) Indian Foreign Service

How to start preparing for UPSC Civil Services examination?

Any aspirant who is to start preparing for civil services must bear in mind two things- Firstly, Civil Services is an exam which anyone can crack with determination, discipline and application. Secondly, one must be prepared to put their entire energies into the preparation as nothing less can guarantee

As soon as you have decided to pursue civil services, you must first go through the notification of the exam as brought out by the UPSC. Learn about UPSC’s requirements for each stage so that you can prepare yourself accordingly. You can also call up people who have cracked the examination for their tips and strategies.

The first and most important step for preparation is to make yourself aware about the current realities around you. Newspaper reading, listening to AIR or Rajya Sabha TV can be the best avenues for the same.

Choose a really good newspaper to start reading. For people in the south the main option is The Hindu, but for those in the north there is an option between The Hindu and Indian Express both of which are good papers with decent analysis of current issues.

If you want to make notes from newspaper do make them but it should not be a cut and paste job. You must look into the objective facts behind the news and collect those. For e.g.:- Recently the French President visited India. A proper note about that visit would be about the various deals signed and how it has benefitted both countries.

The knowledge base for your preparation should be your NCERT textbooks. NCERT texts of all major topics like History, Geography, Political Science, Economics, Environment, Science from VI-XII standard should be covered. A strong NCERT base will help you in prelims, mains and interview

Apart from these listening to talk shows like Big Picture in Rajya Sabha TV, News Analysis in All India Radio etc. will help us in building up our opinions on various issues. The next important step towards preparation is choosing your optional subject which we would be covering in our next post.