Talk with Toppers

Name: Petal Gahlot

Rank: 96

Marks in Political Science: Paper 1-133 Paper 2-130 Total-263


1) Do you have a Political Science background? Are there any specific reasons why you chose Political Science as a optional for Mains examination?

  • Yes, I have a MA degree in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. That is why I chose PSIR as my optional.

2) From Perspective of a successful candidate do you suggest the aspirants to take political science as optional subject in Mains examination?

  • I would suggest this optional only if a candidate is good with theoretical concepts. Otherwise taking this optional may be counter-productive.

3) It is often said that political science optional will help an aspirant in scoring good marks in Essay and GS paper 2. Do you think it is true? What are your views on it?

  • If someone has a grasp over this optional, it can definitely help prepare for GS and Essay. The entire GS II is covered by this optional. Issues like Security, Environment of GS III are also covered, and Ethical Thinkers of GS IV also get addressed in this optional. For Essay, there always is a politics related topic, and therefore a candidate will find ample material to write, thanks to Pol Sci optional.

4) Do you think the notes of Shubhra Ranjan ma'am are sufficient to get maximum marks in this subject?

  • That really is a personal choice and how one presents their answers. If one is good at framing answers then the notes are enough, otherwise even reading many books is insufficient.

5) What is the ideal time to master the subject?

  • I honestly cannot say. I've studied the subject for 10 years, over +2, graduation, post graduation and civil services, and I still don't feel like a master at it. But for the purpose of the exam at least 2 months is required to get a hang of it.

6) To what extent answer writing practice is important in scoring maximum marks in the subject?

  • It is extremely important for the following reasons:
    • Gives you practice in writing fast
    • Gives you an idea of what to include and exclude in an answer given the limited time and space given to you in the exam
    • Boosts your confidence in answer writing

7) Do you think solving previous year questions helps?

  • Yes it does help. It gives you an idea of the type of questions that occur, the trend of the exam, which are the frequent topics, which are not.

8) How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?

  • To be frank, I did not practice a lot of it because I have been a Political Science student so I was used to writing such answers. But for a beginner I would suggest the sooner you start the better. Even if you write one answer a week about 6 months before the exam, and increase it to 3 answers a week by the time you appear for the exam, you will have made a drastic improvement.

9) What mistakes did you do in preparing this optional? Are you satisfied with the marks that you have got in Political Science? If you were to write mains examination again what course correction you would do with respect to political science?

  • I really don't know. I did the best I could and I'm satisfied with my performance.

10) Did you write any test series for political science?

  • No I didn't.

11) What is the importance of Test Series? How many tests an aspirant has to write before the mains examination?

  • Test series help in writing practice and the assessment of this practice. You will be able to figure out your faults and correct them. Write just enough tests to give you confidence. I wouldn't put a number on it.

12) Did you link the concepts of paper 1 in Paper 2 and vice versa? If so, please give a example.

  • It has been a while since I wrote the exam so I honestly don't remember. But as an examiner I would think a candidate has depth in the subject if they are able to make these links well. But a word of caution: do not do this until you are absolutely sure of your concepts.

13) Did you quote names of scholars like C Rajamohan/Harsh Pant while writing answers in International Relations?

  • C. Rajamohan, yes. And a few others that I cannot recall. But I always was in the habit of quoting authors, both contemporary and older ones. It was something I had picked up when I did my MA.

14) What are the common mistakes that the aspirants make while preparing this subject?

  • I honestly don't know. I didn't know a lot of people who were appearing with this optional.

15) In what format you wrote the answers in optional subject? Did you write in paragraph form or did you write in points format?

  • I wrote in point form and would underline sub-headings. The examiner should be able to read your answer easily without having to spend too much time on your paper. This applies to GS as well I feel. Essay you obviously write in para form.

16) Do you think it is important to maintain standard, Introduction-Body-Conclusion, format in writing answers for optional subject?

  • Yes I think it helps in organizing your thoughts. It shows that you have a holistic thought process.

17) On which paper did you focus more? On paper 1 or Paper 2?

  • I gave both papers equal focus.

18) In paper 1 and Paper 2 which sections did you focus more?

  • In paper 1 I think I focused a little more on Political Theory and in paper 2 on Theory of IR and Comparative Politics.

19) Many students write three answers from section B of both Paper 1 and paper 2. How many questions did you attempt from section B?

  • Again, it has been a while so I'm not sure. But as far as I can recall, I attempted more in Paper 1 Section B, but not in Paper 2 because I have a firm grounding in IR and Comparative Political Theory. And I personally feel that if one is good with theory then the chances of scoring increase.

20) Which paper do you find easy Paper 1 or Paper 2?

  • Paper 2 is easy to study, but Paper 1 is easier to score according to me. But this may have worked for just me. Others might feel differently.

23) What are the other general tips that you would like to give to the aspirants so that they get maximum marks in this subject?

  • Know the subject well. Stick to minimal sources and be thorough with them. Don't waste time studying the same thing from 10 different sources. If you can find good notes for the subject, there is no harm studying them well. You can use quotes from some good books to just add to these notes.

24) Do you think optional subject will be removed in the near future? What are your views on it? Optional should be retained or removed?

  • I actually have no opinion on the subject. Since I belong to the Indian Foreign Service, I feel candidates must have a good knowledge and understanding of International Relations, both theory and practice and for this, it would not be a good idea to remove the optional.

25) What according to you is important, writing as many answers as possible or reading as much material as possible?

  • A balance of both. As I said, don't read the same thing from 10 different sources. Cover more topics. The idea is that you should be able to write an answer on any topic from the syllabus.

26) Do you think preparing answers and remembering some stereo type statements in hand will help during the exam? Did you remember any of the quotes you studied and reproduced in the exam hall?

  • No. I would not advise anyone to memorise stereotypical or standard stock shot type quotes because there will be at least 50 other people writing the same quote. Remember quotes that nobody else will remember. Yes I did reproduce some. I quoted Karl Marx, Machiavelli and Gandhi, from what I remember and may have quoted some other authors as well. I had registered these because I had studied their original works in MA. This particularly came handy in the Essay paper.

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