My Tryst with the UPSC

Rahul Pandey (AIR-52 CSE 2013) (711 marks in Mains & 229 in Public Administration)



I am Rahul Pandey and have secured 52nd rank in this year’s examination. Through this post, I would like to share with you some tips regarding Civil Services preparation.

Since I am already an IPS (I got into services in 2011 and this was my fourth attempt), I did not get much time to prepare for this year’s Mains. You will be surprised to know that I have not written a single answer before I took my Mains Examination this year.  I got fairly good marks in the written exam (711/1750) and especially in Public Administration (229/500). Foundations for my success were laid during my preparation for this exam in my first attempt.

In my first attempt, I had prepared extensively for both prelims and mains which helped me to get into services in all my previous attempts (I got selected in all my previous three attempts with ranks 106,330 and 290 respectively). Let me share the strategy I followed for my first attempt.

First, I shall discuss my preparation for Public Administration and then will come to General Studies.


Public Administration

For Public Administration, I took coaching from Pavan Kumar Sir. In almost all my attempts, I got very good scores in Public Administration (372 in first attempt, 240 in my third attempt and 229 in this attempt). I have not studied anything beyond the class notes dictated by Sir. What I have learnt from Sir is about answer writing. He has made the concepts very simple and that really helped me to write answers to any question. You will be surprised to know that I studied very less for this year’s examination. (As I am already in IPS and that too in Uttar Pradesh, you can imagine my situation. I did not get much time to prepare). But the techniques I have learnt from Sir regarding answer writing helped me immensely as I could relate to the questions very easily and write relevant answers.

There is no point in reading hundreds of books and gathering so much material. As all of you know, since Public Administration is a very popular optional, there is no dearth of material in the market. What I have seen about the candidates is their eagerness to collect as much material as possible. It is absolutely a wasteful exercise if you cannot comprehend what you have studied.  My sincere recommendation to candidates preparing for Public Administration is read less material more number of times than reading more material once. It is not about reading more books, it is more about understanding the concepts in a simple manner.

The secret of success for writing good answers in Public Administration lies in understanding the questions. Most of the students fail to write good answers simply because of their failure to understand the questions. In the last two years, UPSC has deliberately increased the difficulty levels of question paper as they are more interested in those students who have conceptual clarity and ability to write those concepts in a simple manner.

So as far as Public Administration is concerned, the following steps can be followed by candidates.


  1. While studying any thinker or any topic, make sure that you are able to understand it in as simple manner as possible. Remember, making things simple is the most difficult thing in the world.
  2. Read basic books.  For all my attempts, I relied only on the class notes of Pavan Sir and some standard text books like Administative Thinkers by Prasad and Prasad.
  3. As I mentioned earlier, my preparation for Public Administration was complete in my first attempt and in the next attempts I simply glanced through the study material.
  4. I must mention another important aspect of my preparation….. writing answers. I must have written at least 200 answers in my first attempt and used to bother Sir to evaluate them regularly. Because of this strong foundation, I never felt the need to write answers again in my next attempts.
  5. What I have learnt through my answer writing is (of course with active cooperation and suggestions from Sir) that what really matters is NOT the knowledge that we have about a particular topic BUT our ability to express the same in the examination. It is all about developing the skills of writing good answers to any question.
  6. Since I had Public Administration as my optional in Prelims (2010), it helped me to understand the concepts in a simple manner. Laxmikanth’s prelims book on Public Administration was also very useful in my preparation.

Answer Writing Techniques

I would like to share here some of the tips regarding answer writing in Public Administration which I have successfully used in General Studies also:

  1. I used to write in point format. There is always confusion among the candidates regarding whether they should write in point format  or in paragraphs. I followed the point format as it helps in presenting our thoughts in a more precise manner.
  2. Writing answers in as simple manner as possible.This is how you should be writing answers. There is no point in using difficult language and complicated jargon as it becomes difficult for the examiner to understand what you are writing.
  3. Remember the golden principle about writing. Whatever you write, it  should be understood by even a tenth class student. You answers should be so simple that anyone with absolutely no background in Public Administration should be able to understand what you are writing.
  4. Another important aspect about answer writing is your ability to interlink the concepts. If we take a closer look at the questions that were asked in the previous two years, one thing is very much clear. UPSC wants us to have conceptual clarity and more importantly have in depth knowledge about inter linkages among the theories and thinkers. For example in this year’s exam, there was question regarding Simon and Bernard’s views regarding decision making.
  5. Next comes the ability of the candidate to link concepts in Paper – I with the examples from Indian Administration. Again the trend in the last few years is that there is not much of difference in the questions that were asked in Paper – I and Indian Administration. Candidates are expected to give examples from Indian Administration while explaining the concepts in Paper – I.
  6. Similarly while writing answers in Indian Administration, you are expected to relate them to thinkers in Paper – I.
  7. As far as examples are concerned, you will find them in newspapers and more importantly in Second Administrative Reforms Commission Reports and Punchhi Commission and other government documents.
  8. Since the number of questions to be answered are more (in the last two years UPSC has increased the number of questions), one must have good writing speed as you can get marks only when you write answers to questions.


Books for Public Administration


As I mentioned earlier, I read very few books even for my first attempt. I read the following material:

  1. Pavan Kumar Sir’s Class notes (which I revised many times).
  2. Administrative Thinkers by Prasad and Prasad
  3. Public Administration: Theory and Concepts by Fadia and Fadia
  4. Indian Administration by Goyal and Arora
  5. Synopsis of Second ARC reports given by Pavan Sir
  6. Synopsis of Punchhi Commission report given by Pavan Sir
  7. Regular reading of The Hindu.


I sincerely hope that the above information should help the candidates regarding preparation for Public Administration and I am more than willing to help those candidates who have doubts regarding their preparation. They can write to me and I shall reply to their queries as soon as possible.

Wishing all of you best of luck.

Rahul Pandey (AIR -52)

I shall write about my preparation for General Studies in the next few days.