By Anu Kumari, Rank – 2, UPSC CSE-2017, Sociology Marks – 318
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Firstly let me tell you that when I started preparing, I had never thought that I would be penning down my thoughts to help fellow aspirants some day. So, its a great feeling, a surreal one.. and feel really blessed that my thoughts can help someone. Earlier, when I used to read other toppers’ strategies, I found it hard to believe when they used to say that they never expected getting a good rank. I would think ..no no ..they must have been really good at preparation/studies etc and must have been aware of their intellect and quite confident of their success. But trust me, with the benefit of hindsight; I can say that when we start, we start with self doubt, lack of confidence, fears and uncertainties. Quite quite possible, one of you reading this strategy here will emerge as a top ranker next year.
So, I would say- start wherever you are, at whatever stage you are, full of apprehension, full of self doubt or lacking self belief BUT remember the only way you can go is UP..higher and higher….and that is doable when you are ready to slog yourself, work diligently and remain optimistic.
Basic material that I referred to was- Upendra Sir classroom Notes available in the market (covered both Paper 1 and Paper 2 end to end from these except the thinkers of Paper 2). Mahaptra Sir classroom notes – I did Paper 2 Thinkers from this, which has been covered here in minute detail. Harlambos Blue Book (the bigger one not the orange one)- I did selected topics from this book eg chapter 1, 14 etc and IGNOU books.
I joined a test series for my optional Sociology at Nice IAS (Praveen Kishore sir) after preliminary exam which helped me a lot in structuring my answers and understanding the concepts lucidly (coming from a science background and taking up a humanities subject, I found it difficult to prepare on my own, Test series helped in clearing the doubts). I would advise, if possible, seek guidance for this subject if you do not have sociology background (from friends, coaching institute or online).
For Paper 2, the test series helped me a lot as Praveen sir explained several important concepts which I had missed from above sources eg waves of women movements, social movements topic etc.
DETAILS about my strategy and advice to aspirants
One can start by covering the course from some standard source such as any good teacher’s notes available in the market. Make this as your basic material and then keep supplementing it with few other sources such as IGNOU books, HARLAMBOS book, Ritzer etc. If possible, do join a test series. Keep a question bank with you and go through the past years’ Qs to understand the level of your understanding and preparation (whether you are able to answer those Qs or not, is there some topic that you have missed etc).
What exactly to study and from where to study is a very subjective thing. It differs from aspirant to aspirant. I am going to present here what I referred..Please note that my sources (to begin with…before Pre exam) were haphazard and very extensive (they were based on multitude of information available online). Post the pre exam and before mains, I narrowed down to few resources and this narrowing down was not systematic or methodical. Rather, it was random and influenced by factors like paucity of time and also the guidance received at test series. So, there’s no certainty that covering only what I covered would suffice, So please be cautious and pick what you feel comfortable with.
Some bits of my experience and my advice to you are:
- Firstly, let me tell you that it is difficult for those who do not have a background in this subject to prepare without guidance. I tried and I tried hard, but it was quite straning to understand the abstract concepts. Gradually, things started making sense after multiple readings but initially it was difficult. I remember when I joined test series, I asked Praveen sir how much chance I stood at clearing the exam because I had not read many of the Books/sources that Sir was suggesting, and concepts were also not clear to me. Sir replied- Do you have any choice other than to give your best. I replied “No”. So, I did what I could do best…study study and study. Thankfully, things turned out well.
- Don’t blindly follow others’ advice. Someone (on the sociology telegram group) said that covering only two books by a particular Indian author on Paper 1 & 2 respectively would be sufficient. (But, it is not so, as I found after spending a lot of time on reading those books). You may refer such concise books for supplementing some of the topics which you perhaps could not find elsewhere but they are not enough for comprehensive preparation.
- In the beginning (befor Pre exam), Since I was finding it difficult to understand thsi subject, so I started referring multiple sources like Graduation and Post graduation IGNOU books (PDFs are available online); Aditya Mongra online notes (available on FB), Notes of Tusharanshu, AIR 75, CSE 2014 (pdf available online); Kshitiz Tyagi Paper 1 Notes (scanned copy of his handwritten notes), Vikas Ranjan books on Paper 1 and 2 . No doubt, it did enrich the content of my answers but let me tell you that after reading from so many sources, I was at total loss as to wherefrom to learn or memorise (So many sources can be read(no doubt) but I seriously doubt if all of these can be memorised.) Hence, one advice is- keep your sources limited and revise them multiple times.
- As mains approached (post preliminary exam), I narrowed down to few basic resources which are
- Upendra Sir Notes (classroom handwritten notes available in the market)- covered both paper 1 and paper 2 from here but paper 2 needs more content (paper 2 is not fully covered through these)
- Mahapatra Sir classroom handwritten notes (referred them only for Indian Thinkers section)
- Harlambos Blue book (the big one, not the small orange one)- Covered few topics from this which are-
- INTRODUCTION (Chapter 0),
- Chapter 1- till Page 26 ie from “Introduction” to “A critique of the neoliberal perspective”, then page 30-34 ie from “Social stratification- a marxist Perspective” and “Social stratification- a Weberian Perspective”
- Chapter 7 “Religion”- page 431 to 436 ie “Religion- a functionalist perspective” to “Evaluation of Marxism”. Then 446 to 451 ie “Religion and Social Change“ to “Religion and Social Change- Conclusion”
- Chapter 14- full
- Chapter 15- page 953 to 984 ie from Introduction to “Ethnomethodology Critique”
- Complemented and enriched above content with the learnings from the Test series that I joined at Nice IAS (Praveen Kishore Sir). One good thing about Sir is that he is very patient. I had so many doubts and queries and let me tell you- sir very patiently responded to all my queries. Even on the day of mains paper, I asked him one query. The biggest help from this test series was in better structuring of my answers (maintaining flow and continuity), better clarity of concepts and time management in answer writing. Earlier, I had to memorise through force, but now the clarity of concepts made me not only fall in love with this subject but also precluded the need to memorise…(ab concept samajh aa chuka tha, so it was internalised easily)
- I covered several topics like social movements (caste movements, women movements, social change etc) from test series’ discussion only, as they were not lucidly covered elsewhere.
- Certain topics that I covered from particular sources-
- Sociology vs common sense (Tusharanshu Paper 1 notes, available in pdf format)
- Comparison of Sociology with other Social science subjects- covered this from Kshitiz Tyagi Paper 1Notes (handwritten notes scanned copy)
- Tusharanshu notes for Paper 2which earlier sounded Greek to me, now started making some sense. I referred few portions from this to enrich my answers and also to cover certain topics which I could not find comprehensively elsewhere. These are- Topic 1 (Perspectives on the study of Indian Society), Topic 2 (Impact of Colonial Rule on Indian Society), Topic 3 (Rural and Agrarian Social Structure) and Topic 4 (Caste System). (Caution- these notes are very detailed (perhaps compilation from multiple sources and hence a little lack of flow), they might confuse you. Refer them only selectively, only if you want and only after you have covered the syllabus from alternative source), No need to cover every single line, Cover only what you find relevant and understand properly.
- Yogendra Singh book- Modernisation of Indian Tradition- I covered 1stand 7thchapter from this book.
- IGNOU books- Please note that I did not refer all the ignou books after preliminary exam (which had consumed a lot of my time before pre). Now, I covered only selected topics viz. ESO 13 Sociological Thought- From Unit 1 (Emergence Of Sociology In Europe) to Unit 31 (Critique of Parsons and Merton). Here, I want to emphasise that first, my basic source was Upendra sir Notes, I would then supplement them using Ignou content. If I found anything additional in IGNOU books, I would add that in Upendra notes itself so that revision becomes faster and concise. (The help that I received from these IGNOU books was that it brought clarity to the concepts (coz questions are framed from every topic in IGNOU books and answers are given) that I was reading from Upendra notes and also better presentation)
- Join some whatsapp or telegram group for sociology optional, Get in touch with someone who is seriously preparing so that you can get your doubts resolved if you are preparing on your own. Try watching online tutorials (though I did not do so as I found that very time consuming, Moreover I did not know to what depth we need to cover a topic).
- One thing that you should do (whether or not you are preparing on your own) is- after covering a topic, see all past year Qs from that topic and assess yourself whether you are able to answer them. (there are last 10 years/20 yrs Q banks available in the market, Go for only Question banks and not the model answers booklets- generally such model answers’ booklets are not upto the mark)
- Do practise answer writing. (I did do some answer writing before mains too, but very little). Mainly, I practised answer writing at the test series that I had joined. I wrote 5 tests there.
- Try incorporating current affairs in your answers, especially in paper 2
- Please continuously assess yourself how you fare vis-a-vis others. I used to go through the answer sheets of other students who had written good answers in Test series (Praveen sir used to scan the best answer sheets of every test) and learn from their good answers.
You may refer to some of my answer copies here (test series that I wrote at nice IAS). These are just for reference, may not be good answers because my knowledge base improved and concept clarity came after the test discussion with Praveen sir while the tests were written prior to test discussions.
All the best to you dear aspirants!!
I sincerely hope that one of you turns out to be the topper next year and then will pen down his/her strategy to help others.
CSE 2017, Rank 2
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