I’m Vidushi Singh, and I got AIR 13 in the 2022 UPSC Civil Services Examination. In 2021, I got my Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Economics from the Shri Ram College of Commerce at the University of Delhi. This was my first time taking the test, and the subject I chose was Economics.
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Economics Optional Preparation
I signed up to take Dr. Vibhas Jha’s Economics Optional Course at Next IAS in June 2021. Until October 2021, this kept going on. This class helped me put my notes together, especially for paper 1. This course helped me a lot, but more in paper 1 than in paper 2. Some parts of Paper 2 were kind of rushed, so that was one paper I mostly studied for after the prelims. I also didn’t just focus on this course. Along with the recorded lectures, which I watched twice as fast to save time, I also read all the standard books that past toppers had recommended.
H. L. Ahuja’s Microeconomics: Advanced Economic Theory
• Froyen and H. L. Ahuja wrote about macroeconomics.
• Salvatore and some of Paul Krugman’s books on international economics
• Theories of Growth: Debraj Ray (I bought M.L. Jhingan, but it didn’t help me much.)
• Government Finances: DU Readings and parts of H. L. Bhatia that were chosen
Before India’s independence, Tirthankar Roy
• After India got its independence, Mishra and Puri were the main sources for my notes. I also read parts of Uma Kapila’s Indian Economy Performance and Policies. Above these two sources were Yash Jaluka Sir’s (AIR 4 UPSC CSE-2020) Notes, which became my only go-to source for any kind of value addition for Paper 2. Also, I did look at IGNOU Notes for some very specific topics, like how capital is formed in agriculture, so I could understand the overall trends in different fields.
Before prelims, I put most of my attention on paper 1, so I mostly studied paper 2 in August 2022, which was 1.5 months before mains. But because I had worked so hard on paper 1, this one wasn’t as hard as it sounds.
After looking at PYQs from 2013, I understood that mastering PYQs will be much more useful than any test series. There is a lot of repeating of themes, and sometimes the whole question is repeated word for word (for example, the question about how using debit and credit cards affects the money multiplier came up in 2014 and then again in 2022). Since there was a lot of repeat, I wrote about 30–35 questions per subheading, on average.
Abhishek Dudhal Sir’s e-book was the only good source I found for PYQ answers. It had solutions to papers from 1995 to 2020. After the prelims, I also signed up for Next IAS’s Mains Advanced Course, where Vibhas Sir talked about the form of answers for both paper 1 and paper 2, which helped me a lot in learning how to write good answers.
Some paper specific pointers:
Paper 1: It is very important to answer the question straight in the introduction. Paper 1 is pretty detailed, and if you don’t get to the point, it will look bad.
• Mentioning a few assumptions, even if you’re not asked to, gives the impression that you know the model and idea well.
• Of course, drawing the right figure is one of the most important parts of any economics answer, if not the most important part.
• The body of the diagram is usually an explanation of the diagram, so it is very important to be clear, exact, and precise when writing it.
• Answers that end with a modern example or a link to the real world help bridge the gap between theory and practise.
Paper 2: Any data, picture, quote, or example that directly answers the question can be used in the introduction.
• If needed, the body should have tables and charts. Also, it’s very important to quote experts here because it shows that your ideas are based on something solid. I cited at least two or three experts in each answer. Some people think that constantly quoting economics backfires, but I think a score of 135 is good enough to disprove that.
• The conclusion can have something to do with an economic theory. For example, if the question is about how income is distributed, you must talk about Kuznets Curve and Idiosyncratic Growth from India’s point of view.
• Economics is a hard subject, and a firm grasp of the models will always win out over long, complicated answers. Because of this, it’s important to get things off on the right foot with clear ideas.
• It’s also a good idea to go over the course before the preliminary exams, since it’s hard to keep track of optional, essay, and general studies questions at the same time. At least practise writing answers to PYQs before the prelims, so that it doesn’t take up a lot of time between the prelims and the mains.
• In the end, I got a score of 276 (141+135), which is good but not the best. Still, I was able to do well. So, I think the big test is all about getting the right balance between things. I knew going in that crossing 280 would be hard for me, given how well I had trained. So, I put more weight on the GS and Essay tests to make up for the points I lost on the Optional.
• Optional doesn’t decide your rank on its own; 7 papers and a personality test do. Your rank on the final honour list is based on where your name is on these 8 tests. So, you shouldn’t spend too much time on the two optional tests.
• You can fully prepare for this paper if you spend 2–3 hours a day on it during integrated preparation (i.e., before the prelims), and it also needs 50% of the time between the prelims and the mains (4-5 hours). With this split, economics choice can be pretty well handled!