How I prepared for the GS Paper III – Economy

The ONLY book I’ve read for Economy part in GS Paper III is the Macroeconomics – NCERT.

Many people have been asking me about how to prepare for Economics. So, here it goes.

For the GS Paper III, you don’t need to be an economist to answer the questions that are being asked. You need to be a generalist.

The ONLY book I’ve read for Economy part in GS Paper III is the Macroeconomics – NCERT. It helped me in getting the basics right. After that I DID NOT refer to any other book at all. I feel that Economy is all about understanding the meanings of various terms correctly. Once you understand what a term really means, the logic that goes around that term isn’t very difficult to understand. So for this purpose I’ve maintained a table of 2 columns, in my notes, consisting of various terms in one column and their definitions + relevant contemporary examples in the other column.

To get the list of different terms I did 2 things, but before I mention that I based my preparation on one basic assumption. That is, UPSC will not ask for an Economics concept which has not been in news/Union Budget/Economic Survey. I believed that it is rational for me to think that there is no reason why UPSC would ask a question on a topic which doesn’t fit into this criteria. Being an ardent follower of newspapers, I believed that I wouldn’t miss any important topic or issue that comes up in the newspapers. So with this as my base, I did the following 2 things:

Whenever I see any new Economics related term in newspapers that I don’t know, I would first go and study the definition and try to understand the concept in the context of the newspaper article. This made it easy for me to remember the concept. For example, I read about “Sovereign Debt Crisis” in the context of Greek crisis. It serves me 2 purposes – understanding the concept well and also remembering that concept well because I have the context of some contemporary issue around that concept.

Went through Economic Survey and Union Budget, not to get a hold of the numbers scattered in there, but to identify different terms (like ‘tax expenditure’) and then know their meanings (by looking it up in the internet). This year’s economic survey is quite good – especially the First Volume. Several concepts were well explained there and I strongly recommend the aspirants to go through it, from the mains point of view.

Apart from this, I’ve also read the Fourteenth Finance Commission Report and I’ve written an analysis on it earlier. In summary, the sources that I had followed:

  1. Macroeconomics – NCERT
  2. Newspapers
  3. Economic Survey and Budget for identification of different terms


Why did I choose Mathematics as my optional?


I have been asked this question many times and some people keep asking me which optional is better and why. In this post I’ll try to address these issues.

To begin with, I strongly believe that UPSC is extremely fair and free from any bias. Every year you’ll find people getting selected from every optional and also getting rejected from every optional. So I conclude that the selections from all the optionals are fair. The given set of optionals had remained pretty much the same and their syllabus had also remained pretty much the same, after evolving over several years (decades may be?). So they must have brought the difficulty level of all the optionals to the same level. I thus conclude that every optional is equally easy/difficult.

When I had to choose my optional, I wanted to take my graduation subject which is Computer Science and Engineering. But that is not there is the UPSC list of optional subjects. So, I wanted to choose Mathematics as my optional. But then, many people have told me that it is a difficult optional, the syllabus is huge and that the selections are few. I then looked in the internet and found that many people were able to clear the exam with top ranks consistently (AIR 1 – Mutyalaraju and AIR-2 Prakash Rajpurohit). So I have no reason to believe them. And also, I am not familiar with the so called ‘traditional’ optionals like Geography, Public Administration, Sociology etc. as I have never studied them before.

I had a choice – either take Mathematics based on my own judgement or take one of the traditional optionals based on someone else’s judgement who knows very little/nothing about me. It seemed logical to me to go with the former.

That’s how I chose Mathematics as my optional. I recommend all the aspirants to choose their optional based on their interest and not on the irrational talk that is in the air from the smoke emitted by the coaching wallahs.

How to prepare for Prelims?

Of late, many people have been asking me about how to prepare for the Prelims.

Before I begin, I would like to share my own personal experience with the Prelims 2014. Coming from an engineering background, I found Paper II to be extremely scoring. I used to solve 1 question paper of Paper II everyday and in total I have solved about 40 of them before the prelims exam. I also tried to cover as many topics as possible in Paper I, given the time constraint of 2-2.5 months, that I had allotted exclusively for prelims preparation. I hadn’t covered the Sciences part like Physics, Biology etc.

I had enrolled myself for the Career Launcher (CL) test series, in which I used to score moderate marks in Paper I (as Paper I of CL test series used to be extremely difficult – more than the UPSC level) and consistently high marks in Paper II (160-190 out of 200 in the last 3-4 exams).

When I solved the CSP 2013 paper II at my home, a few days before the 2014-Prelims exam, my score was 190 and solved the paper nearly 20 minutes before the time. This was a big confidence booster for me.

But on the day of the prelims exam, I unfortunately fell sick (could be because of the tension). I did quite well in Paper I but because of a bad headache, my performance in Paper II was a disaster.

I had left almost 25-30 questions (including the excluded English comprehension questions). After the exam, I was devastated and was almost certain that I would not clear the prelims. I decided not to check the key as I knew that I would fall in the border range. Nevertheless, I tried to calm myself and began preparing for mains with a heavy heart.

The next 2 months was torturous for me, but despite that I kept on studying for mains as I did not want to squander even the slightest chance of clearing the prelims. Thanks to the Lord, I fortunately cleared the prelims and that was such a big relief.

The most important lesson that I learnt from this experience is that never neglect any topic in Paper I.

And also, one must prepare so well that he/she should clear the exam not just with the best performance, but even with the worst performance.

Coming to the Prelims-2015, one must cover all the topics exhaustively – including topics like Biology, Physics etc. Environment and Ecology have become extremely important as many questions are being asked from these areas. NCERTs, I think, are indispensable. And for paper II, I’m guessing that it would be a very difficult paper. So, even though it is now a qualifying paper, it will be so designed to eliminate a good number of people there. I strongly recommend the aspirants to focus entirely on prelims (both paper I and paper II) and not to neglect it. After the exam one must be sure that he/she would certainly clear the prelims, so that entire focus can be put on the mains.

Studying newspapers, magazines and making notes

I started reading studying newspapers from 1st November 2013 and I didn’t miss even a single day till 13th December, 2014 (Mains started from 14th December, 2014). I restarted the newspapers again from 1st Jan, 2015. I feel that one year of newspapers reading studying before mains would suffice (this is purely my personal opinion).

The reason why I’d like to call it studying newspapers is because unlike reading, this involves a lot of thinking and analysing the issues. Try and see, in what way it fits into the static portion covered from standard textbooks. For example, last year there was a controversy that was sparked off when a former Chief Justice of India was appointed as a Governor. First I’d identify what the qualifications are for a Governor and then the restrictions on post-retirement positions for judges, along with respective articles in the Constitution. Then accordingly, I’d make notes of this whole issue including its pros and cons. In the end, I’d also try to form my own opinion on the issue.

The “news” is something that I’d ignore in the newspapers. For example, isolated developments like petty crimes and all news about politics are some of the things that I would not care to look into. I would study an article only if it fits in to the exam syllabus. I would also study the newspapers from Geography and History points of view. Friday Magazine and Sunday Review cover important articles from History point of view, so its better not to neglect them.

I would start my day with newspapers. I used to study 2 newspapers till mains – theHindu (hard copy) and the Indianexpress (digital). After mains I started studying Livemint (through feedly) and (for State news) and restricted to the opinions section of Indianexpress, in addition to the Hindu. It used to cost me about 3 hours to complete the newspapers including the notes making.

I used to keep the weekends for reading magazines – frontline, downtoearth and idsa (selected articles) using feedly, a chrome app.

I used to make notes online on Google Docs which makes it easy to maintain and access. I would make notes on topics/issues basis and I’d write all the developments regarding a topic/issue at one place. This would help me in tracking all the developments at one place and also be able to cover multiple dimensions of a topic.