IAS Target

Nitin Sangawan

Year : 2015

Rank : 28

Topper Story - NITIN SANGAWAN Background
I am from a small town Charkhi Dadri with rural roots. My father is in banking and mother a housewife. I have been married for the last 4 years and in fact, started preparation around the time of marriage and now we have a 3 year old daughter. My schooling and graduation was also from average institutions. However, after graduation, I decided to write CAT and this was the time when I gave serious thoughts to studies. But Civil Services were still not in my mind at that time. Finally, in 2012 when I was in Infosys and was on the bench I saw the question paper of that year’s preliminary exam. That was the time I started the preparation while still being in the job.
As I was working when I started preparation, it was difficult to carry books in the office and read them. So, I started to read NCERT books, newspapers, etc online and started making notes out of them. Later I found making notes online very convenient as well as one can edit them anytime anywhere. I used to write a few paragraphs and then on my own as it helps you in organizing your thoughts. I always emphasize on making notes in my own language and I did that regularly. I never accumulated newspapers, but rather made soft notes out of that on regular basis (these notes are also available on my blog – www.meandupsc.blogspot.in). It is of utmost necessity that you read the basic books again and again and don’t get distracted by the other material. Once you are done with the basic stuff, explore other material and buy/download only that much which you can read and digest. This exam is about developing an understanding of things around you, so, do that first.
Everyone has his or her share of distractions, but one has to know his or her priorities in life. I kept myself away from social media for the whole phase of my preparation. For working professionals, the following tips will be useful (as I was also working for most of my preparation time, I also used to do the same):
First of all, never ever waste even a single minute of your time. Even your lunchtime should be limited and the rest of the time should be devoted to studies. Similarly, whenever you go to your hometown, utilize the traveling time to study.
Secondly, for working professionals who sit on a computer for work, the computer can be used to store the study material. Read that and make soft notes whenever you get even 10 minutes free.
Thirdly, if your profile provides you the flexibility to move into such a division of your organisation which has a lesser workload, move into that division.
Fourthly, if the above doesn’t work, move to another organization if possible. Also, try to switch to such an organisation where you have to commute a little and have a Saturday and Sunday off.
Finally, don’t get discouraged by the fact that you get lesser time as compared to other full-timers. We also learn a lot of other things while being in a job which can be used in this exam. If others take one year to prepare, you will take one and a half year at the max. Just believe in yourself and keep studying.

Topic strategy/booklist/comment

History Ancient and Medieval

NCERT books (read both new as well as older ones). This portion is also helpful to cover the culture part. You cannot read culture notes alone without knowing the history our society as culture is a product of our society and its working. Further, there are some important aspects like – related to administration, social setup and political dynamics that need to be given special attention.

History Modern (Freedom Struggle)

Old NCERTs or the Orient Blackswan book on history (slimmer one) by Bipan Chandra will be sufficient as the basic material. I have myself prepared some elaborate notes and they are available on my blog (www.meandupsc.blogspot.in) for reference of the aspirants.

Culture and society

For beginners, the NIOS notes/book and the NCERT 11th class book is sufficient. On this topic also, I have myself prepared some elaborate notes and they are available on my blog (www.meandupsc.blogspot.in) for reference of the aspirants. Try to visualize things related to culture and history by looking at the related pictures from the internet.

Polity (theory + current)

Laxmikant Jindabad! Apart from that, for current – any good newspaper like The Hindu or Indian Express is sufficient.

Economy (theory + current)

You may refer any standard book like Ramesh Singh and Dutt and Sundaram. Apart from that, for current – any good newspaper like The Hindu or Indian Express is sufficient.

Science (theory + current)

I don’t think one should spend time reading the NCERTs on science. Nowadays only those questions are asked which are related to today's science. So, read the newspapers thoroughly.

Environment (theory + current)

It has two sections – one is historical developments and the other is current efforts. For the first portion, take notes of any popular institution or read any standard book. For the other part, again, the newspaper is the only source.

Geography physical + India + World etc

NCERTs (both old and new) are adequate. Apart from these, the ‘Certificate Physical and Human Geography’ by Goh Che Leong is also a very good book. You make take the help of the internet and take diagrams from there to understand some physical phenomena better.

Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff

Earlier, direct questions were asked on schemes, but nowadays you can you these schemes only in your general GS answers. So, in a way, you need not cram all the small details of such schemes, but their broad feature, their objectives, and shortcomings. A newspaper is the only source. You may also read the India Book released by the Government of India.
Never ignore the basic books in over-enthusiasm to attend test series. Always remember, test series can be of any use only if you are well prepared. 40-50% of questions are very conceptual and are asked from basic topics, so you should read them quite well. I would have gone through solved objective papers of the past couple of years of the other exams conducted by UPSC.
Secondly, I would have tried to solve multiple objective types of test papers and have noted down those areas in which my preparation is lacking. Just read past years papers of UPSC and practice those kinds of questions yourself. That would be much more helpful.
I never prepared separately for the essay paper and always paid my greatest attention to GS papers. However, I tried to learn a few quotes, note down some interesting and catchy information, and jot down some basic facts for use in the essay.
The foremost thing that you should keep in mind is that – your essay should have a clear well-defined structure and smooth flow. If you can have a catchy opening (with some anecdote, non-cliched quote, some short story, etc) and a thought-provoking conclusion (preferably with some suggestions if the topic demands so), nothing like that

Topic Preparation


This section of the examination is considered as the scariest part by most of the aspirants if not by all. However, it should not be the case. Indian culture is something that we all can relate to as we are part of it and we create it daily as we live our lives.
My suggestion would be – first of all familiarize itself with a broad outline of our history – from ancient to modern. This is because – culture is all about our accumulated achievements – in both tangible and intangible spheres. It is not about monuments and figures, but about the people and their lives also who created these.
Secondly, culture is also about the visualization of human creation. When you see and hear things, you become more comfortable with them. So, whenever you read about some cultural items, Google its image or videos. It will deepen your understanding and will also simplify things.
Thirdly, don’t understand the culture in terms of facts and data, but understand it in terms of stories and narratives. Stories that are driven by political factors, religion, geographies, and above all human values. I think shall be very useful to all future aspirants and it can be found here at my blog – http://meandupsc.blogspot.in/.

Indian history

It is advisable that you read Old NCERTs thoroughly or may read “History of Modern India” by Bipan Chandra, Orient Black Swan Publication (It is a thin book and is a republication of the old NCERTs, read either of these).
After reading these, you may refer to the new NCERTS as well. Google those events/topics which are not adequately covered in these (but are mentioned just in a few lines), but never go too deep into that as you just need to have conceptual clarity about that particular event. After doing that, you may refer to my notes which are there at http://meandupsc.blogspot.in/

World history

It is advisable that you read Old NCERTs (9th and 10th class) thoroughly. They cover almost all the topics. I have my notes on my blog as well.

Post-independence India

For this section, the recommended books (India after Independence by Bipan Chandra or India after Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha) are quite bulky. You can Google some of the topics and add them to your notes. While reading these books, keep in mind that you need not memories those points which are total of political nature. Don’t miss the nationally and socially important events – understand their background, causes if any, and their consequences on the national democratic and socio-economic framework.

Indian society, Role of women, poverty, globalization on Indian society etc.

This area is very generic and you have to use your common sense. For contemporary issues, try to locate the articles in newspapers and magazines. Don’t stress yourself too much on this area by reading specialized books. Do that only if you have sufficient spare time. This is because if you are an aware member of society, then you know most of these issues. For their solution, it requires a certain amount of critical thinking that you must exhibit in the examination hall. Read sociology NCERTs (new ones).

Communalism, regionalism, secularism

Bipan Chandra has explained the meaning and evolution of communalism quite well. You can Google such topics and you should get fairly good articles.

World geo physical, resource distribution, factors for industrial location, earthquake tsunami etc, impact on flora-fauna

I myself relied on new NCERTs and Goh Che Leong books. Try to Google a bit about the physical phenomenon that you read. Also, read the past years’ papers to get a hang of the kind of questions they ask.

Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. parliament, state Legislatures, executive-judiciary, ministries departments, pressure group, informal asso., various bodies:

Constitutional, statutory, Laxmikanth only + read newspaper diligently

Comparing Constitution with world

A short compilation is given in the Public Administration book by Laxmikanth and that is quite useful and lucid.

Representation of people’s act

Just have a look at the important provisions of the bare act. Questions are more likely to be asked from the contemporary issues related to elections etc. For example – the recent scrapping of a section pertaining to disqualification or the recent Rajya Sabha elections and controversies thereof.

NGO, SHG etc, welfare schemes, bodies, social sector, health, edu, HRD

Here your beloved Yojna or Kurukshetra can be of some help. For basic definitional concepts, you may Google the terms, but their actual functioning and challenges, articles in these magazines and newspapers can help.

Governance, transparency, accountability, e-governance

It is more of a recent origin. Try to follow the relevant news items. Also read the basics from India Book.

Role of civil service

Just google it or read a few relevant pages of Laxmikant book of Public Administration

India & neighbors

Any good book on foreign policy (or refer to Ministry of External Affairs website for detailed IR related documents) and newspaper.
Refer Bilateral/global grouping, international bodies- structure mandate Newspaper and any standard notes or books effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest, Newspaper


Refer to the Ministry of External Affairs website and Google the topic.

Indian economy, resource mobilization

Any standard book like Ramesh Singh or Dutt and Sundaram

Inclusive growth

Newspaper and Yojna etc


Read the highlight of the recent budget and eco survey apart from Laxmikanth for the general process.

Major crops, irrigation

NCERT geographic books

Agro produce – storage, marketing Newspaper articles + you may refer my notes at http://meandupsc.blogspot.in/

  • E-technology for farmers
  • Farm subsidies, MSP
  • PDS, buffer, food security
  • Technology mission
  • Animal rearing economics
  • Food processing
  • Land reforms India after independence notes or books
  • Liberalization
  • Infra Newspaper only
  • Investment models


  • Tech day to day life,
  • India book,
  • Newspaper plus any standard notes of any institution or website,
  • Indian achievements in sci-tech, awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR


  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Disaster Management
  • Non state actors, internal security
  • Internal security – role of media, social networking site
  • Cyber security
  • Money laundering
  • Border Management
  • Organized crime, terrorism
  • Security agencies- structure mandate

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

  • Ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics
  • I referred to only one book for Ethics – by Donald Menzel (Ethics Moments in Government).
  • Attitude, moral influence etc.
  • Civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc
  • Emotional intelligence, its use in governance
  • Moral thinkers of India and world
  • Ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.
  • Corporate governance
  • Probity in governance, work culture
  • Citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.
  • Challenges of corruption

Case studies on above topics

I tried to answer all the questions, but this doesn’t mean that I also answer those questions about which I have no idea. If you are prepared well, you would like to attempt a maximum.
You should write as per the demand of the question and situation and your capabilities. If you know less about a question, writing in paras is preferred. I too think that it is futile to think too much about the introduction, conclusion, etc. Writing to the point saves time and also gives the examiner what he or she really looking for.
I had Sociology as the optional and it was by sheer chance that I took it after someone advised it to me. However, I think the choice of optional should be made after a lot of deliberations, interests, and consultation as once you take it, there is no looking back. Indeed sociology is optional with a comparatively smaller syllabus and everyone can relate to it. So, one can think over it.
Most of us are generally familiar with the topics which are part of the syllabus (except the thinkers’ part), so this subject is relatively familiar to every aspirant with Sociology as optional. You should try to read thoroughly, but should never overlook the core concepts (for example, while studying caste – you should not overlook the very basic definition and perspectives on caste. You should ask yourself.
  • What is caste?
  • How it has changed historically?
  • What is the theoretical framework lying beneath it?
  • Is that framework accepted as it is by various social thinkers?
  • If not, how and why?
I would suggest the following material – New NCERTs on sociology – According to me, new NCERTs are much well-designed than the older ones. Try to read them again and again during various phases of your optional preparation. (Old NCERTs were more suitable for the older syllabus and hence may not be as useful, but if you have a hell of lots of time, you may read them as well).


Themes and Perspective (Haralambos and Heald) (the one with a reddish cover and not so thick) – I have never read the thicker one, but read this book (available on flipkart, etc). It is a bit outdated in terms of the data it uses as it has not been revised for long. But the case studies it has used are classical ones and are still referred to by social scientists and students alike. Try to match the topics of the syllabus and read selectively. Its writing style is extremely lucid and most of the concepts are explained very well.

Sociology (Anthony Giddens)

While Haralambos gives you a conceptual framework, Giddens Sociology is more about the contemporary perspectives in sociology. It gives fresh and novel perspectives through novel examples and illustrations. It helps you in developing a unique sociological perspective.

Sociology Dictionary (Penguin)

Dictionaries are helpful because they provide the fundamental definitions of the topics of the syllabus. They also carry a reference to the works of important social thinkers and their works. This dictionary is relatively simple in its language than the Oxford ones. You should read the dictionary thoroughly from first to the last page and note down those terms and topics which are either part of the syllabus (directly or indirectly) or have appeared in previous years’ exams. Some case studies may also be found here.


They are especially useful for Paper Two as one generally doesn’t find the topics anywhere else and that too compiled in one source. You may refer to some other books as well. For example, for Mead (you may refer to the Sociology book by Ritzer), for Indian thinkers, you may prefer a book by B K Nagala, and so on. Try to consolidate what you have read in a single place as it is easier to revise that during an exam. Making your own notes also serves as a kind of writing practice and boosts your confidence as well.
From day one, you should keep in mind that since the subject is about society and its relationship with individuals, so, you should be a very keen observer of it. Whether there is some news article (say on marital trends, caste, family, demography, tribes, polity, socio-economic indicators of development, and so on), some development in your neighborhood, or even a personal observation, you should try to think over these and note down a thing or two. Such illustrations about society and its working will come in handy in form of examples while attempting the questions in the mains paper and will fetch you some extra marks.
I have also shared a few notes on the so-called ‘difficult portion’ of the optional; they are there on my blog www.meandupsc.blogspot.in I made my own notes.

For interview

The prime focus should be your DAF and current affairs. Though questions might be asked from your graduation or optional, but they will be very basic questions and hence you may only brush up your optional/grad subject. Yes, I attended 1-2 mocks (but not more than that) each time. They help you in refining some behavioral aspects (the way you sit, enter the room, greet, look at the board, or answer the question). It doesn’t matter if the mock-interview is the same or different from the actual interview (and it can never be), it gives you an opportunity for self-introspection which is required at this stage.
Read the instructions carefully. Sometimes people go to the board with a heavy breakfast and it may cause some trouble in Sugar tests etc.

Chairman of interview board

Shri D K Diwan
Click here to see full interview