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 It is our immense pleasure to know that Umesh N S K who has secured Rank 77 was benefited from Insights’ initiatives. He is 24 and it was his 3ed attempt at CSE.  He has sent an article outlining how he prepared for his Optional subject – Political Science and International Relations (PSIR).  He has scored 278 Marks in PSIR.

We congratulate him on behalf of all of you.


By  Umesh N S K Rank – 77,  CSE – 2014

I am not trying to share a foolproof fit-for-all strategy to crack PSIR here because there cannot be any such strategy. Instead,I will share the sources I studied for each and every topic here. I must confess that I never did writing practice, I did not attend any mock tests and I did not take notes except for loose sheets like “List of International Organisations”,”Names of  thinkers and their famous books” and other such school-level stuff. But what I had as my strength was a diverse reading habit which ranged from newspapers to magazines to works of non-fiction by Granville AustinAshutosh Varshney,David Malone et al. A topic-wise analysis of syllabus follows :

Paper I 

Part 1

This section can be divided into four parts : Political Theory, Indian Political Thought,Western Political Thought and Political Ideologies.

For Political Theory, my basic text was Andrew Heywood’s “Political Theory” which helped me attain conceptual clarity in all fundamental topics like Equality,Rights,Power,Liberty and Democracy. Once Heywood is done, we can move on to O.P.Gauba. I must confess that I never completed even half of this book because of it’s convoluted style of writing. (In engineering,local authors helped me clear exams whereas in PSIR, foreign authors were more lucid).But O.P.Gauba has it’s utility because it fills the gaps in Andrew Heywood and it is written keeping in mind an Indian syllabus. So numbers 1 to 7 (refer syllabus)in Part 1 of Paper I can be mastered by thorough reading of Heywood followed by selective reading of Gauba.

For Political Ideologies, Political Ideologies by Andrew Heywood is a gift from Heaven. Look no further. Gandhism alone can be covered in Indian Political Thought.

For Western Political Thought , the book by Brian Nelson is very good. This book covers some ideologies too. Some quotes and questions from Paper 1 related to Western thinkers in 2013 were directly from this book only. Gramsci and Hannah Arendt are missing in this book.

I covered Gramsci and Hannah Arendt in O.P.Gauba’s “Political Theory” and also through some online reading.

For Indian Political Thought , V.R.Mehta’s book is a good source to study even if the language is not easy to master. Ambedkar and Syed Ahmed Khan are missing in this book which can be covered in IGNOU PDFs.I read the original texts of “Annihilation of caste” and “Hind Swaraj”.

Part II 

Indian Government and Politics:

I considered this entire section as an organic whole and the basic texts for it are B.L.Fadia, Laxmikanth, Ramachandra Guha and Bipan Chandra. But ultimately,this is a current affairs oriented section and we win or lose within the pages of a good newspaper.

Answers in these sections must have contemporary examples and can quote good authors. For example, for a question on “Marginalisation of Left Ideology in India” in 2014’s paper, I quoted Ramachandra Guha’s points from a piece for Caravan Magazine in June,2011. So, every weekend, few hours can be spent to browse websites of Indian Express, Outlook and India Today etc. There is a tendency to see Times of India as a frivolous page- 3 paper but it features columns of great writers like Sunil Khilnani and Gurcharan Das on a regular basis.

I would suggest columns of Ashutosh VarshneyRamachandra Guha and Pratap Bhanu Mehta as mandatory reading for this section.

Paper II 

Part I 
Comparative Political Analysis and International Politics:

This can be divided into two sections : Comparative Politics and International Relations.

Comparative Politics was the only portion in PSIR’s syllabus which never kindled my interest enough to do extensive reading. All I read for this section were IGNOU PDFs.

For International Relations,a wonderful introductory text is Globalisation of World Politics. This book is an absolute delight with great illustrations,brilliant design and most importantly,quality content. Any gaps in this book can be filled by selective reading of V.K.Malhotra’s “International Relations”.

Again,answers for this section can be written with references to recent examples. For example,an answer on National Security can mention Syrian crisis as an example.BBC website provides great summaries of all current international crises (Sample: See this).”Frontline” is a good Indian magazine to cover international events if one discounts it’s blinkered worldview.

Part II

For Indian foreign Policy, a topnotch introductory text is David Malone’s book. Gaps in this book can be filled by reading Shashi Tharoor OR Rajiv Sikri selectively.

But as anyone who saw/wrote 2014’s paper would know, even without reading any book, this section can be mastered if we follow The Hindu and good columnists regularly. Some expert foreign policy commentators include : C.Rajamohan, Brahma Challaney ,Suhasini Haidar and Srinath Raghavan. (For a question on India-Russia relations, I almost reproduced Srinath Raghavan’s viewpoints written in the pages of The Hindu five days before the exam.) I never read a single issue of World Focus (even though I bought so many issues only for them to rest in the attic) and relied more on these commentators I have mentioned.

Thus, PSIR can be mastered by a diverse reading habit along with very good writing. Why I insist on Andrew Heywood first  (and not Gauba) and Srinath Raghavan (and not World Focus) is because when we read such lucidly written prose regularly, our writing will also gain finesse with time. So,our answers for PSIR should

i) introduce the statement in the question , analyse the viewpoints associated with it and conclude it . It is important to ensure our answers have a closure to it. We must not write like students appearing for B.A Pol. Sci exam.Rather,we must write like a bureaucrat submitting a report to a higher official.

ii) Our answers should have contemporary examples and touches.For example,a  question on women panchayats should mention examples of successful and popular woman sarpanches.

iii) We can quote authors and columnists in answers. It adds to the intellectual heft of our viewpoints.

iv) Above all, reading more means writing better.

The above is not exactly a strategy but a recounting of what I did to score 138+140 in PSIR this year. All the best to all aspirants who are taking up this wonderful optional.

  • Sameera Pillai

    Today is Day One of the Political Science and International Relations optional class for me and I am glad it is starting on a great note with guidance from INSIGHTS. Grateful to both Mr. Umesh N.S.K for the wisdom shared and INSIGHTS for the wonderful initiative. ?

    • Abhishek Bhal

      Hey Sameera, from where you are taking classes?

      • Sameera Pillai

        Shankar IAS Academy, Chennai

    • rakesh calicut calicut

      Hey,,,,,Im also having the same optional…Could you pls give me yur email to mine..? [email protected]

    • vktripathi

      Hi Athena,
      For Paper 1 , Which books shall i refer as a beginner?

      • Athena_India07

        Paper 1 is divided into two parts:
        Part A – Political Theory and Part B – Indian Government and Politics. As a beginner, the following books/ study material can be referred to:

        1. Introduction to Political Theory – O.P. Gauba (Mandatory)
        2. IGNOU Material of BA and MA Political Science (MPS 001 and MPS 003 covers most of the topics mentioned in the syllabus)
        3. Political theory: An Introduction by Rajeev Bhargava
        4. Political ideologies by Andrew Heywood
        5. IGNOU material: EPS – 03 and EPS – 11 of BA Political Science
        6. Foundations of Indian Political Thought by VR Mehta
        7. A History of Political Thought: Plato to Marx by Subrata Mukherjee, Sushila Ramaswamy
        8. Oxford Companion to Politics in India
        9. Indian Polity by Laxmikanth (Mandatory)
        10. India’s struggle for independence by Bipan Chandra (selective reading)
        11. India since independence by Bipan Chandra (selective reading)
        12. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh (selective reading)

        • vktripathi

          thanks a lot, so it will cover all the topics from Pol Sc optional for static points…..rt!!!!

          • Athena_India07

            You are welcome. Yes. Do complement it with current affairs.

  • aspirant

    Please provide insight for sociology also ….

    • Vamsi

      Be in touch @powcpol:disqus.. I am also going with sociology..

      • aspirant

        Ohh sure thanks 4 considering
        but i am at my nascent age

  • Ashok Yadav

    Nice article! ..I request Insights team to please provide an interview of the candidate with Geography as optional. Thanks in advance. 🙂

  • ashwin kumar p

    Waiting one story on Pub ad plzzz

    • Rohit bhagat

      Haiiii my name is Rohit Bhagat and I m from himdi medium, but I am going to take medium English in upsc exam. Please any one from you can tell me , am doing wrong or not.. Pleasweee

      • Rehab Wani

        Its btr u try urself out 1st, visit the weekly essay section of insights, take on the latest essay and try writing in english and then in hindi , by ur flow , command nd ease f writing , decide 4 urself.
        Look coming frm hindi medium doesnt mean u cant take english or u r obliged 2 take hindi, u cn take english.Decide the language u have command over, where u hve a great flow bcz tat z imp 4 writing in mains, knowledge needs 2 xpressed well in mains nd interview.
        Good luck.

        • Rohit bhagat

          thanks REHAB WANI didii for your sugesstion, but my all the friends and also my sir have taken english as medium in upsc. But i m from hindi medium so i m panic to take english medium. if i cleared prelims , no problems butwhen i will sit in mains than there is problem to write english all the paper, and also eassy is the big problem,of 250 no.

          didi you have qualified prelims or mains. i think ypu have cleared.

          • Rohit bhagat

            oh by mistake i have written qualified instead of cleared.

            • Rehab Wani

              Wat if I say I hvent yet even written civils nd tat I m nt even writing it tis tym bcz I m nt eligible bcz f the lower age limits upsc has set up (the motive f which I m yet 2 understand).
              Nyways u dnt need 2 write civils 2 understand choice f language.b it ny exam u hve 2 b comfortable 2 clear it nd 4 tat u need 2 b comfortable with the language u r writing the xam in.
              Seems u r writing this year.
              Good luck bro.
              Gve ur best.
              Nd hope u chose the language u r comfortable with rather than what someone else z comfortable with.
              This z an xam where u cn learn frm others but plz dnt follow sme1 but urself!
              Learn frm others and follow urself.
              I just tried helping a novice like me.Hope u dont mind my inexperience.

              • Rohit bhagat

                thank you REHAB WANI DIDI , I became very happy after reading your mail. I will try to give my best and will never forget your precious sugesstion .

  • aspirant

    Pub ad strategy plzzz

  • Dev

    Hi Umesh, thanks for this. Can you pls share your PSIR score in 2013 if you can? I got 223 in 2013 but didnt write in 2014. Personally I found 2014 paper had some difficult questions but rest were scorable more than 2013.

    • Dev

      278 is really awesome. I thought 250 was maximum 🙂

    • Umesh

      Hello Dev, I didnt clear prelims in 2013. I got 225 on 600 in 2012 mains

      • Dev

        Thanks a lot for replying Umesh. 🙂

  • BL

    Please share strategy about geology optional

  • Siddesh DDA

    Respected Vinay Sir plz give me mail- id of D.k.Balaji.we want to contact him sir plz.

  • Anuj Gupta

    My stratergy is shickingly same ,only i follow diplomat website which is awesome.
    And yes ive also brought World Focus and all editions rest in a corner,except the indian thinkers one.

  • Rehab Wani

    If some advice could be put up on public admn , its strategy, study plan nd books

    And if its safe 2 chuz pub admn since many say upsc z buthering pub admn.??
    A timely reply wud b greatly helpful and appreciated.
    Thank you.

    • aspirant

      I was in same dilemma and had pub had for 1.5 yrs after studying some basic books and going for questions i realise pub add is definately not my cup of tea
      And last week i switch to socio..
      Though i have a great obsession with this sub …
      !!conclusion : check out last 2-3 yrs Q papers nd u will find ur way

      • Rehab Wani

        Oh thank u , really kind of u 4 providing such a valuable advice.u showed me a way, lets see if it works, I m humbled by ur advice.

  • rajan

    @insights Sir, I’d be indebted if you could share toppers’ articles about economics optional

  • Prince George

    Excellent and in-depth explanation. Thanks for taking away most of my tension. I was thinking that probably I have made some sort of a mistake by choosing PSIR as an optional as I find few people scoring good in it, although I love reading it. You have shattered the myths around the subject being a low interest on investment provider. Thanks once again. Prince George is happy. 🙂

  • P.Sainath Fan Club

    Insight Please provide some guidelines on History as optional paper.

  • rs

    Please provide for civil engineering also…

  • lazygoose

    This is an amazing writeup listing all sources and all help! Thanks umesh and insights!! 🙂

  • ganesh

    Can any one please help me out ,I am planning to take mechanical engg., as optional ……any plan or strategy……

  • Jugal

    My sincere request to # Vinay sir , If you can , please publish the toppers interview who took Public Administration! It will a great respite to the aspirants who are still in dilemma.

    • Rehab Wani

      I wonder if there r any in past 2 yrs, hvent heard f ny1 in top 50 as such!

      • Jugal

        Hi Rehab, thanks lot for your response. But what is happening with pub.ad. completely unpredictable. All aspirants with pub.ad have to give a heavy price. Only God save me this time.

        • Rehab Wani

          I would say , if ur heart goes 4 a risk, go 4 it, if not, try something new bcz mains r far, it shudnt b lyk , bfre few weeks f mains or aftr results, u wish u hd given a 2nd thought 2 ur optional, it btr 2 chck last few yrs papers f pub admn nd decide 4 urself, nd frankly aim 4 the top nd if upsc z butchering some subject , I dont think v xpect it on top!

          • Jugal

            Hi Rehab, is it possible now to switch over to a 2nd thought? As we have already preferred for optional subject in mains during the form fill up stage for prelims 2015

            • Rehab Wani

              IDK.U can ask some knowledgeable person of this field but I dnt think tere z ny.
              And when I said , it shudnt b like u hve tots after mains r bfre results, it was 2 chck ur confidence, I know I m no1 to do so, sorry,but brother tis z gonna help u, b confident in what u hve chosen , wat u hve decided 4 wen tere z no going bck .Know its ur decidion nd believe me nothing leads u to success as self motivation and self belief do! It shud b lyk if tere has been none in top 50 wid pub admn, I vl chnge it, I vl b AIR 1 with pub admn , ofcourse upsc wont butcher a lion, sheep are butchered! Make urself tat lion of pub admn , truly the thought before or after results you should fear is “wish I had studied well, I would have cleared”! Dont leave any space for that thought ! Do everything you can , there should be nothing left and the only fear you should be having before results is “I m so very well done with all of the syllabus if I dont clear it would be boring to study again” ! Believe in urself and strike hard, bcz its u who can win! Tell urself tis everyday , work 4 it and u will win! The problem is we dont believe, just believe in yourself! Comeon Almighty made u unique , u dnt need 2 follow others, just learn from others but follow urself!
              Good luck!
              Give ur best !

  • Jatin Tyagi

    post about geography optional .
    desperately needed.


    Any one please post strategy for ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING!!

  • megha_

    Great advice. Thanks Umesh and of course, bless you insights!

  • Sandhya

    I have been preparing for last one year and aiming for 2016.I found that I’m losing tide when i rely on self study.I have chosen PSIR as optional.Looking forward to an aspirant for strategy making,preparing and answer writing.You can reach me out in [email protected] serious aspirants pls..

    • ram

      my optional is also pol sci.i am interested in sharing notes and practising answer writing.


        me too planning psir , it would be great to discuss

    • Sudheer

      Even I have been preparing from one year,i guess it would be helpful if we share our notes and practise answer writing

  • aps

    pls provide history optional strategy

  • Rajveer Singh

    is 4th edition of political theory by andrew heywood available in india

  • gyanaranjan sahoo

    very lucidly written and clearly expressed the views. Thanks sir.

  • Jaya Swatantra

    Thanks Umesh sir..:)…. is there any one else whose optional is political science in the group?

    • Ganesh

      hi can you guide me regarding pol science as optional..

      • Jaya Swatantra

        I have started studying for the optional recently… reading Andrew Heywood and Arihant solved mains question paper of upsc … reading then confirming the type of questions.. i shall refer to other books mentioned by insights and IGNOU after clarifying the basics from Andrew Heywood… Its about analysing more rather than reading from different source … i am planning to make a group of those who seriously want to study the optional so that we may share ,discuss and may refine our approach… practicing answer writing is of immense help…. thanks

        • azad

          Yeah my optional is psir,,, I too was looking for some serious aspirants…. So that we can discuss and share our ideas

          • Jaya Swatantra

            Exactly .. i am in view of chalking the pattern like secure mains but it would be once weekly.. suppose first chapter political theory… after the completion of the chapter those questions can be reviewed and attempted… so if you are seriously interested we may follow.. if you want to share something different but effective you are welcome.. 🙂

            • azad

              OK… Fine let’s do that way itself.. Form a group or something of that sort

              • ajit parate

                Me too

        • GZ

          hey thanks for the reply…i havent started reading optional as of yet.. i am studynig mains & pre syllabus stuff till now.how many months it will take to complete psir thoroughly..is there any wats up group for this otional..

          • Jaya Swatantra

            Never believe on what app groups… so completion of psir syllabus is different as pace varies …. with individuals… 🙂

        • Neelam Kadam

          Hey, Jaya… My optional is also PSIR, and I too have started for the optional preparations very recently, I found your strategy somewhere close to mine… so it would be great if you add me to your group…kindly let me know on my email id : [email protected] …… Thanks

          • Abha goel

            Hey guys! My subject is also PSIR and in my previous 2 attempts it failed me from getting a decent score. So, i am eagerly looking for somebody with whom i can share the strategy and learn to perform well. In case you are interested in studying together please drop me a mail on
            My id [email protected]

  • ajit parate

    Does anyone here tried political science lectures by UGC on YouTube?

  • chaitanya krishna

    Regarding – UPSC Political Science Optional – Articles and Content- One time failure Political science optional.

    I used to write blog at http://nottatti.blogspot.in/, but could not keep up with all the content writing myself. So we formed a small set of group where we share and discuss articles,but they are not very enthusiastic, which has offline reading and uses email and not phone number [Finally!]. If anybody is interested in helping each other in both finding and distributing content and get all the important articles. Please do message me your email ID and I will add you to the group.

    My email ID is – [email protected]


    Thank you.

  • Bhushan Thakare

    thank you insight for giving such wonderful guideline on pol. science it will help alot..

  • anvit
  • Nandita

    ty sir 🙂