Though I think that there have been many candidates who have performed much better than me in the GS Mains and Essay, however for the sake of completeness of this whole effort, I am putting down how I went about tackling these papers and what more could have been done.
General Studies Mains
The sources for my study of GS Mains have been quite similar to that for GS prelims:
Took coaching from Vajiram and Ravi and studied their notes and books multiple times. Especially, their Current Affairs material and the notes/books they give before mains is quite beneficial.
NCERT books for classes XI and XII (History, Geography, Polity, Economics, Sociology and World Politics). I also attempted the questions at the back of each chapter to improve retention and answer writing ability.
Other books for General Studies –
– DD Basu (Introduction to the Constitution of India)
– Constitution of India (Bare Act)
– Economic Survey (Selected Topics)
– Familiarity with the Atlas
– Manorama & India Year Book (Selected Topics).
Newspaper – The Hindu. In this section, I think I could not give due justice to newspaper study due to paucity of time, as I had to devote much of it to Mathematics and Physics. What I could have done had there been more time available, was maintaining a register and noting important news/current issues under various heads (National, International, Polity, Economy, India & World, Social, Sports, etc.).
Magazines – Important articles from Chronicle, Yojana & Frontline. Here my focus was the main articles of Chronicle and Yojana which are quite helpful in covering important current happenings/issues.
I did not take any Tests for General Studies, which can be taken if time is available.
For any topic of General Studies, especially Current Affairs, Internet (Wikipedia, etc.) can prove to be a valuable source of background information.
An Insight : Keeping in mind the changing trend of the GS Mains paper, I think command over four things can really help a candidate in doing well in GS:
Answer writing ability – Can be improved by making short summaries of whatever you study in Newspapers/magazines/GS coaching material/NCERT books. This also helps in retention of the content and in your ability to present crisply what is specifically asked in a question.
Analysis – The analysis of whatever major happenings take place in the country/world is very important as the GS paper is getting more opinion based. Relevant editorials of newspapers like The Hindu, Times of India, Tribune can build your opinion regarding important issues. Yojana magazine is also quite helpful in this regard.
Subjects – Direct questions from subjects like Geography, Polity, History, Economics can still be expected in plenty. Therefore thorough study of these subjects from coaching material & NCERTs can make you attempt these questions quite well.
Current Facts/Happenings – Though this is an infinite reservoir of possible questions, still important happenings in the recent times can be prepared to attempt such questions as they are still asked to a considerable extent. Magazines like Chronicle and coaching material helped me in this regard, though this could have been supplemented with notes from newspaper study. Further, it is important to cover major decisions in Govt. policy which can be covered from Economic Survey, Yojana, India Year Book, Press Information Bureau (www.pib.nic.in), etc.
In the assessment of an essay, the content, structure & flow of ideas, and your ability to hit directly at the requirement of the topic are the factors which are taken into account.
I feel that if a candidate has prepared GS well (keeping the above points in mind), he is automatically prepared (to a considerable extent) to write the Essay in Mains. However to make a proper mindset to write the Essay I listed down the topics which had been asked in the past 10 -15 years.
Going through the list of past year essays, I
clubbed these essays under various heads – Environment/Climate, Judiciary, Media, Democracy, Gender and Child issues, Women empowerment, Youth, Indian Society, Education, Health, etc. Even if one can sit down and write
one proper essay for each topic mentioned above, it can give a candidate the practice to write reasonably well in the exam (I could do this for only 4-5 topics).
To know the various aspects of these topics and the social/legal/historical/govt. background of these topics I arranged the Yojana magazines of about the last two years, which holistically covered almost all of the above mentioned areas. The editorials of newspapers can also help in collecting relevant data in learning how to build up & structure an essay (Introduction – Background information of the topic – Various aspects/dimensions of the topic with analysis – Any suggestions, if possible – Conclusion on a positive and optimistic note).