Anthropology – by Mohammad Roshan (Part 1/2)

Here’s the strategy of my friend Mohammad Roshan for his optional Anthropology and I thank him on behalf of the aspirants. Following is the text written by the man himself.


First of all let me take this opportunity to congratulate my dear friend C M Saikanth Varma (AIR 18) for his tremendous success in the Civil Services examination.

Optional subject:

Optional subject means that one has choice. One must exercise one’s choice with a lot of care. Choice of optional is very important in civil services as one may end up appearing for this exam more than once. Interest towards the subject must be the driving force while choosing an optional. Also, other factors include availability of teachers, mentors and books. Anthropology was all that and much more for me. Therefore, my choice. This attempt I scored 288 marks out of 500 in anthropology. There is no short cut to this subject. If one wants to crack this exam with Anthropology as their optional then one must be a Subject Matter Expert in Anthropology. Here’s my way of studying this wonderful subject. Let’s take the bull by the horns. I believe that we must start with the tough topics first, get a foot hold and later just breeze through the simple topics. In this write up I will deal with Paper 1 and very soon another write up on paper 2 will follow.

  1. I would recommend everyone to start with Paper 1 Chapter 2.1 The Nature of Culture: The concept and characteristics of culture and civilization; Ethnocentrism vis-à-vis cultural Relativism and 2.2 The Nature of Society: Concept of Society; Society and Culture; Social Institutions; Social groups; and Social stratification. For these topics please refer Ember and Ember Anthropology published by Pearson. Chapters to be covered include Chapter 13 and chapter 19.
  2. After this, please read Chapter 6 anthropological Theories; Read Ember and Ember Chapter 14 for a broad understanding of the theories and later read History of anthropological thought by V.S. Upadhyay and Gaya Pandey. Even after this many topics like structural functionalism and Cognitive theories may not be clear. I will take up these topics at the end of this write up.
  3. After this Read paper 1 Chapter 7. Culture, language and communication: Nature, origin and characteristics of language; verbal and non-verbal communication, social context of language use. Read Ember and Ember Chapter 16. Now that we have a foot hold on the broad concepts of anthropology, we may look at a few other and more interesting topics.
  4. Now Chapters 2.3, 2.4, 2.5 and Chapters 3,4 and 5 that is marriage, Family, Kinship, Economic Organisations, Political Organisations and Religion. For these topics I attended Dr. Lakshmaiah Sir’s online classes. They were quite helpful. Topics like marriage also cover topics from Anthro Thought like structural Functionalism. One may also refer to the book written by Dr. Lakshmaiah sir on these topics.
  5. Now let’s take a look at Chapter 1.3. We have already covered socio cultural anthropology and linguistic anthropology. What remains in Archaeological anthropology and biological anthropology.
  6. Let’s now start with archaeological anthropology. For this I would recommend one to combine paper 1 and paper 2, that is both World and Indian archaeology. Refer Nadeem Hasnain’s General Anthropology Chapter “Section C” for world archaeology and Nadeem Hasnain’s Indian Anthropology Chapter 7 for Indian Archaeology. I also read D.K. Bhattacharya’s “An Outline of India Prehistory” for enhancing my answers. This would cover Chapter 1.8 b in paper 1 and Chapters 1.1 and 1.2 in paper 2.
  7. For Human evolution, that is Chapter 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6 in paper 1 please refer Dr. Lakshmaimah sir’s books. One may also refer to the book written by B.M.Das titled Outline of Physical Anthropology. I read only Part 2 Man and Living Primates and Part 3 Evolution from B.M.Das in this section.
  8. Now we shall take up one of the most difficult topics to remember, Chapter 9.5 Race and Racism. For this I read Dr. Lakshmaiah sir’s book and also read B.M.Das’s Outline of Physical Anthropology Chapters 24, 25, 26 and 27. This would also cover parts of Chapter 2 in paper 2. This part needs a lot of revision and there is so much to remember.
  9. For Genetics I attended Dr. Lakshmaiah sir’s online classes and read P. Nath’s Physical Anthropology Section A topics 1 to 29. I would recommend sir’s online classes for this as it would make your life quite simple.
  10. For Dating techniques Chapter 1.8 a; read Chapter 2 Measuring Time from D.K. Bhattacharya’s An Outline of Indian Prehistory. For Research methodologies in anthropology, please refer to Nadeem Hasnain’s General Anthropology chapter 4, Tools of Data Collection in Anthropological Fieldwork.

Most of the syllabus in paper 1 would be done by now.

Miscellaneous topics

  • Chapter 9.6- refer Dr. Lakshmaiah sir’s book.
  • Chapter 9.7 found most of the topics on the internet.
  • Chapter 9.8 read a medical book that my Father gave me. (Both my parents are doctors)
  • Chapter 10- I read P. Nath’s Physical Anthropology Section C Human growth and development. This chapter is very important from the exam point of view.
  • Chapter 11- I read Sosin ma’am’s notes for these topics. These topics were also covered by Dr. Lakshmaiah sir’s online classes.
  • Chapter 12- this topic has been beautifully covered in Dr. Lakshmaiah sir’s book.

For topics like Structuralism, structural functionalism, symbolic, interpretative and cognitive theories please check out related videos on youtube. There are some wonderful videos explaining these theories both in terms of sociology and anthropology.

Public Administration – by Rakesh Chintagumpula

Rakesh had scored a magnificent 284 out of 500 in Public Administration, this year. He has been kind enough to share his strategy for Public Administration for the benefit of future aspirants and I thank him on their behalf. Following is his strategy in his own words.

My basic profile


Rank: AIR 122,  UPSC-2014

Education Qualification: B.Tech (EEE) from CBIT; M.A. (Public Administration), IGNOU

I had given 3 mains with Public Administration as optional scoring 330/600, 335/600 and 284/500 marks.

My Marks


Paper I: 118

Paper II: 155.83

Total: 274


ROLL NO. : 115513

Books/Materials/Guidance I followed during my preparation

  1. MK Mohanty sir’s class notes and I also attended his classes

*From here on I will refer Public Administration as PA

  1. Vajiram and Ravi PA notes of Rajesh Gupta sir and Kiran sir (I didn’t attend their classes though and I am referring to the old notes which have been very neatly written and compiled)
  2. Certain Insights on the subject by Rajesh Kankipati IAS sir, 2011 when he had taken one month long course in the approach to frame answers and linking concepts of P1 with P2.
  3. Sriram Sir’s guidance on current events and Indian polity topics which I used extensively in paper 2 of PA
  4. Public Administration and Public Affairs Nicholas Henry (Selective reading of few chapters; Chapters 2, 3, 8, 10 are compulsory, Chapters 4, 6, 9 are optional)
  5. Essentials Of Organizational Behavior Stephen Robbins (Selective reading of few chapters; Chapters 5,6,11 are compulsory, Chapters 4, 10, 14 are optional)
  6. IGNOU materials which I received when I enrolled for MA course in PA, I have done selective reading of the same.
  7. Public Administration by M. Laxmikanth, TMH Publications (This is the book I have been reading right from my first attempt, Infact in my first attempt I had given prelims with optional PA, that is when we had mastered the book word by word for prelims exam and it had helped me a lot in future course of prep)

Well,  I also bought Prasad and Prasad, Mohit Bhattacharya, Poli Naidu, Subhash Kashyap- Our Political system, Indian Administration by Arora and Goyal, Fadia and Fadia etc but they were mere show pieces in my book collection. I sincerely suggest people to refrain from buying more and more books as I feel reading few books with good understanding is the key rather than reading more materials.

I am also attaching some pics of my answers during test series, in the end of this post.

My journey/strategy into world of CSE:

After quitting my job and reaching Delhi, I attended MK Mohanty sir’s classes at Synergy Academy, Delhi in 2010, and I had no knowledge of PA initially. I could not understand the concepts also thoroughly. Later on I felt the subject was very lame and simple. I referred to Prasad and Prasad while the classes were going on but felt the classes were more easy to understand and sir was covering all the points in the book, so there’s no need of reading the book again.

I also felt we could understand the concepts of PA if one has a real time experience in an organization , like how the hierarchy work, why it is important to have chain of command, use of IT/E-Gov in Organization or Administration etc. Here my work experience at Infosys Tech did help me.

I gave my first attempt just with sir’s class notes, mind you those were the times when PA, Psychology, PSIR were favored optionals and thus scoring was sort of liberal. and my score of 330 was not extraordinary I guess, but my paper 2 score of 175 was good I would say.

For Paper 1, I feel I never got extraordinary marks in my 3 mains papers (I got scores of 155/300, 156/300 and 105/250) and I believe one would succeed if he has strong theoretical knowledge and clarity in core concepts and strong grip on technical words and vocabulary necessary for using them liberally in the exam. Especially this year’s paper and 2012 papers were shockers for our PA civil service aspirants fraternity, and here I believe covering the ‘LEAKED SYLLABUS’ would be handy as many questions were asked from those topics.

For Paper 2, I would say right from my first attempt I was writing it like a GS paper and hence used all sorts of current events related to paper 2 topics liberally. Here I would like to mention, the conceptual clarity that Sriram Sir provided in Indian Polity, which in fact has almost everything overlapping with PA, did help me a lot. In recent pattern polity qs were themselves becoming dynamic like centre state relations, concepts of federalism, secularism, GOMs, E-GOMs etc and all this helped me in PA too.

The current events in paper 2 are a strong point in my prep as I would follow The Hindu religiously (I know it’s sort of critical always and leftist in a way but I had time constraint, so stuck to this one paper; though I would appreciate going through editorials of The Indian Express and The Economist). Right from day 1 of my prep in CSE, I almost never skipped reading Hindu, I would read, reflect, write short notes and revise it regularly for maximum retention and connection and link formation with various topics. This has helped me to use examples liberally in paper 2.

Few examples of such interlinking of theoretical and practical issues

  • Chris Argyris concept of Maturity-Immaturity paradigm can be referred to in P2 when a minister asks a matured administrator to act in an immature way leading to dissonance and loss of initiative and efficiency in administration
  • Concept of participative management used in Teacher-Parent committees in Sarva shiksha abhiyan/RTE and maintenance of Mid day meal scheme
  • Antonio Gramsci concepts of Ideological hegemony or concepts like circulation of elite used in the functioning of PRI’s (Panchayat Raj Institutions) and their ineffectiveness, How a zilla parishad chairman despite being granted a cabinet minister rank is less valued than an MP/Member of Parliament
  • CPA/Comparative Public Adm will lead to enrichment of PA by placing one’s nation in a cross-cultural setting and the need for paradigmatic shift from look east policy to link east policy etc

Like this there can be plethora of linkages, one needs to expand one’s horizon of thinking and experiment radically in presenting concepts of P2 linked to P1.

Another important thing that happened to me is that I started teaching Public Administration, Indian Polity and Current Affairs in an IAS Academy in Hyderabad after my second attempt for degree and post degree students wherein I gained immense conceptual clarity and thoroughness in my subjects. I would make it a point that I would not refer to any book or material throughout my lecture. I was adamant that I have to memorize everything before the class and give lecture unhindered and in this process I was the ultimate beneficiary.

Also I conducted many mock tests on preliminary based questions and mains based qs for my students, I evaluated their papers too and in this process, I started to observe from the mind of an examiner like what would one look while correcting a bunch of papers and what would their mindset be in awarding relative scores to the candidates. I found that an examiner would look for 3 things to stand out in an answer:

  1. Definite presence of  the core points of an answer. Example: An answer on Fred Riggs should not miss concepts on Prismatic societies, formalism, heterogeneity etc.
  2. Some exemplary knowledge a student displays in the answer writing which gives an impression that she/he is well read and is better than the competition.
  3. Good flow of language, neat handwriting, diagrams, flow charts, pie charts are all added advantages.

During my prep in Delhi, I also attended test series every time before mains, not majorly to guess what questions would come in the forthcoming exam but as a way to have a discipline prep of PA. Once I has taken test series of Vajiram too. I had got decent scores I would say during the tests. And I have to mention the point that I never missed any question whatsoever in the exam. I had made it a point to answer every question in the paper how so ever remotely I could relate and write .

Also I had to mention I had stint with Pavan Kumar sir, I attended only one test with him and I was totally disappointed with his style and didn’t attend any other tests. I know in one test, I cannot judge his method of teaching, but that’s my opinion. Also I feel opinions regarding him are quite polarized – people are extremely favorable or extremely unfavorable to him.

Meanwhile during my second attempt , I met this gentlemen RAJESH KANKIPATI sir. He struck a conversation and asked me to try his short course on PA answer writing which I would say has given me a new perspective on social sciences and re invigorated my love for the subject on PA.  He would give many quotes of different authors and theorists, their key points and loads of technical jargon which I had memorized to some extent to be used in the exam. He had explained how we could link concepts from P1 to P2 and P2 to current events.

After my first attempt I got enrolled in M.A.(PA), IGNOU. I started out to get an additional degree while I continue my prep. But in the coming days, I would discover the profound love I would find in this subject. And friends I have to admit that during this MA, I gained some insights into the subject and that has helped me too, eg. I could understand the concept on Max Weber Authority in a whole different angle which I had not contemplated during my previous prep. Additionally their material is awesome and comes along with the course enrollment which also aided in my prep. I see people buying the material from Delhi markets or asking me if they could order it online. I say enroll in an MA course and prep for the course and get the books and an additional degree too in the process :)..well, it’s not a tough exam to finish and its part of our prep only.

And I have to wholeheartedly appreciate ‘doodlebean’ initiative on covering the new syllabus on This issue of ‘LEAKED SYLLABUS’ which actually is a double whammy for us PA optional aspirants as UPSC is hitting under the belt by asking questions that are actually OUT OF SYLLABUS and its and unfair game. But, I have to say I didn’t cover that syllabus during my prep and was planning to do it for next attempt. And I would definitely suggest anyone to finish that syllabus also for the exam to be on the safer side. I could answer those questions by using my previous knowledge gained during my teaching process and from IGNOU materials.

And finally friends, my scores especially 179 in paper 2 did push me in securing a rank. But I can assure you that there’s is no secret James Bond formula in this and I would attribute it partly to the unpredictability of UPSC and their obscure Moderation/Scaling formula besides our strategized preparation, good answer writing skills and most importantly our loads and loads of hard work.





Jai Hind.

Anthropology – by Raja Gopal Sunkara (AIR 49)

Raja Gopal has been kind enough to share his strategy for his optional – Anthropology and I thank him on behalf of the aspirants. The following text was contributed entirely by Raja Gopal himself.

Anthropology Preparation

In my first attempt, I scored 198 marks in Anthropology. In this attempt, I scored 293 marks. The reasons behind this drastic increase (apart from the fact there has been an overall increase in optional marks) will, hopefully, give us some pointers on how to prepare for Anthropology.

Reason 1 – I covered close to 95% of the syllabus

In my first attempt, I left vast portions of the syllabus. Obviously, I could not answer many questions despite the choice available. This time, I corrected that mistake. So, how did I go about covering the syllabus:-

  1. I do not hold a brief for anyone but I took coaching under Mrs. Sosin in Hyderabad. I read her notes time and time again. I suggest that aspirants should stick to notes of one teacher and gather notes of others only for those chapters which haven’t been covered.
  2. For physical anthropology, I referred Physical Anthropology by P. Nath and Khan Academy videos. I made my own notes.
  3. I also selectively read General Anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain, Tribal India by Nadeem Hasnain and Indian Social System by Ram Ahuja.
  4. One of my doctor friends helped me out in covering topics like primates, archaeological anthropology, etc.

Reason 2 – Choice of questions

Being an engineer, I would generally shy away from answering questions from physical anthropology. This is despite being told repeatedly that these questions fetch good marks. This time, I overcame my phobia of physical anthropology and attempted those very questions and my marks are proof that these questions live up to their reputation of being marks fetching.

Reason 3 – I answered almost all questions

In my first attempt, I left around 5 questions in each paper. This time, I left 1-1.5 questions in both papers put together. This brings in to the picture, the importance of practising writing answers. Good quality answers in anthropology consist of not just text but diagrams, flowcharts and examples as well and all this has to be done in limited amount of time and in the limited space provided. This level of time and space management can come only with practice. So, practise writing answers.

Reason 4 – Structure of my answers

My doctor friend introduced to the world of side-headings and I am thankful to him for the same. Side-headings, according to me, have the following advantages:-

  1. They bring structure to your answer. This, I believe, is also easy on the eye for an examiner who has to skim through pages and pages of text day in and day out.
  2. They make remembering content easier. Few days before the exam, you’ll realise that you don’t remember much of what you have read over the last couple of months. This is where side-headings will help. For example, for topics like land alienation, tribal health, indebtedness, I would remember the side-headings – cause, consequences, government measures, way forward. For lithic ages, my side-headings would be time period, location, settlement type, occupation, culture, etc. I would then generate the content under these broad side-headings.

Reason 5 – Value Additions

Once you have written a good quality answer, a diagram here and a flowchart there can fetch that extra mark which makes a lot of difference.

Below is a diagram of great and little traditions given by Mrs. Sosin.


The following is a flowchart depicting Linguistic Elements of India.


Examples are great value additions and newspapers were my source of latest examples. One can quote the Vedanta and Posco issues when it comes to tribal anthropology. In archaeological anthropology, once can quote a new discovery like the one in this link.

I quoted research papers in some questions and committees (Dhebar, Bhuria, Virginius Xaxa, Ministry of Tribal Affairs reports) in others. I also sprinkled names of some thinkers (Frazer, Geertz) in Paper II. The point I am trying to make is that all these value additions separate the wheat from the chaff.

Now that I have run out of reasons, I would like to tell you that I owe my rank to anthropology and I wish my brethren with this optional all the very best.

Studying newspapers, magazines and making notes

I started reading studying newspapers from 1st November 2013 and I didn’t miss even a single day till 13th December, 2014 (Mains started from 14th December, 2014). I restarted the newspapers again from 1st Jan, 2015. I feel that one year of newspapers reading studying before mains would suffice (this is purely my personal opinion).

The reason why I’d like to call it studying newspapers is because unlike reading, this involves a lot of thinking and analysing the issues. Try and see, in what way it fits into the static portion covered from standard textbooks. For example, last year there was a controversy that was sparked off when a former Chief Justice of India was appointed as a Governor. First I’d identify what the qualifications are for a Governor and then the restrictions on post-retirement positions for judges, along with respective articles in the Constitution. Then accordingly, I’d make notes of this whole issue including its pros and cons. In the end, I’d also try to form my own opinion on the issue.

The “news” is something that I’d ignore in the newspapers. For example, isolated developments like petty crimes and all news about politics are some of the things that I would not care to look into. I would study an article only if it fits in to the exam syllabus. I would also study the newspapers from Geography and History points of view. Friday Magazine and Sunday Review cover important articles from History point of view, so its better not to neglect them.

I would start my day with newspapers. I used to study 2 newspapers till mains – theHindu (hard copy) and the Indianexpress (digital). After mains I started studying Livemint (through feedly) and (for State news) and restricted to the opinions section of Indianexpress, in addition to the Hindu. It used to cost me about 3 hours to complete the newspapers including the notes making.

I used to keep the weekends for reading magazines – frontline, downtoearth and idsa (selected articles) using feedly, a chrome app.

I used to make notes online on Google Docs which makes it easy to maintain and access. I would make notes on topics/issues basis and I’d write all the developments regarding a topic/issue at one place. This would help me in tracking all the developments at one place and also be able to cover multiple dimensions of a topic.

Answer Writing for General Studies

Many people have been asking me to write a post on “Answer Writing”. So here it is!

I am not a literary genius who knows how to play with the words. If you have seen my sample answer script which I have uploaded here, you would have realised the same thing.

You need not use any jargon or a high vocabulary set of words in your answers. The only set of vocabulary that you need is something that you can easily acquire from newspapers without any extra effort. If you read the newspapers for about a year, you would have automatically acquired the required vocabulary skill set. I personally did not focus on improving my vocabulary nor did I try and use any jargon in my answers. A word of caution here  –  if you use words which you don’t normally find in newspapers and which are difficult to understand then there is every possibility of things getting backfired on you. Remember the persons who correct your GS papers are not experts and are largely generalists. They are only aware of the normal vocabulary that comes in the newspapers and if they find anything strikingly different from that or something that they do not understand, like highly technical jargon, then they would simply not award you marks. So stick to plain simple language.

Answer writing should be done for 2 aspects

  • to be able to express what you wanted to say clearly
  • to be able to think and write answers quickly within the stipulated time

I personally do not believe in writing an answer every day, because you may be able to write a well structured and a high quality answer for one question, with/without a strict time limit. But doing that for 25 questions in 3 hours for 2 times every day, for 7 days in a row with 2 breaks in between is quite tricky. Instead I strongly recommend the aspirants to write full tests for 3 hours and try to maximise the precision as well as the attempt. I feel that test series is all the answer writing practice that you ever need to do.

Whether you adopt a paragraph model or bullet points model is entirely up to you. I used both of these models in my answers depending on the type of question asked. Usually if I don’t have much content, then I would write it in paragraph form. I also did not stick to the rigid “Introduction-Body-Conclusion” format. I only tried to answer to the point and if the question demanded for an introduction or a conclusion, I gave one in not more than 2 lines.

So I wish all the aspirants a very happy answer writing! 🙂

Preparation for Ethics

Disclaimer: Despite my best efforts and the perception that I performed quite well in this paper, I was able to score only 95 out of 250 in this paper. So please read the following article with your own discretion. Unlike what most people think, Ethics is actually a very narrow area. Compared to the other GS papers, the syllabus is extremely small. This is one paper which is less about studying but more about thinking and writing. I started my preparation for this paper after the prelims results came and thus I spent not more than 2 months on this paper. Sources:

  •  Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude – Chronicle (an excellent book)
  • Case studies from various sources, especially from test series
    • Sri Chaitanya Narayana
    • “the-most-famous-test-series-of-Delhi”

One must practice this paper by writing as many exams as possible. It helped me in streamlining my thoughts, come up with more real life examples and also taught me how to manage time in the exam. Time is a big factor in this paper and you’ll not have much time to think if you want to attempt the whole paper (which you must, in my opinion). Also I did not study many theories, but focused more on strengthening my reasoning to be ethical. I believe UPSC doesn’t appreciate you saying that one should be ethical because Gandhi or some philosophical theory said so. I think UPSC appreciates you realising that being ethical is not just in the best interests of the society, but also in your own interest driven by logical and coherent arguments. And like Rachit Raj (scored highest marks in Ethics in CSE 2013) had mentioned in one of his video blogs, one must try to project that being ethical at individual level would lead to larger national interest and prosperity. And for case studies I think one must adopt a “bring it on” kind of an approach and try to give possible courses of action thinking from every possible way. Remember that it takes multiple courses of action to solve a real life problem. So I think the key is to be able to think from multiple points of view.

While interacting with some of my friends who scored high marks in Ethics, they said that they’ve mentioned the thinkers and their quotations in the Case studies. This was done by at least 2 of my friends who scored more than 100.

Saikanth Varma’s Notes

Sorry to disappoint you, but I am not going to share my notes. Not now, not ever. And I have a strong reason to do so. I truly believe that one’s notes is extremely personal. Not in the literal sense, but what I mean is that one’s notes is the world only to him/her. But for others, it is nothing but a collection of random keywords lacking coherence with incomplete analysis and may even contain several mistakes.

I have a theory that studying another person’s notes can be a recipe for a disaster. Let me explain. For example, consider the notes of current affairs. The original source for everyone would be the newspapers. Now one would read the newspapers, try to understand the issue and then make notes. Suppose the content in newspapers is 100%. Then by human nature, only 80% (say) can be understood/grasped by an individual. Of this, only 80% would be written in the notes (this number of 80% in reality is extremely high). So that means, one’s notes would contain only 80% of 80%, which would be 64% of the original content. And now you read from that 64% – you learn 80% of it and write 80% of that in the exam, which comes to 41% (approximately). In the exam, even if you write a perfect answer, at best, you’d get not more than 50% of the marks. In that sense for such a 41% answer you’ll get 20% of the marks allotted to the question. Do that for all the questions and you can kiss your chances of clearing the exam good bye.

In addition, you’ll also be learning the person’s mistakes or misunderstandings of concepts.

Some aspirants have asked me to share my notes at least as a reference to understand how to make notes. I think Gaurav Agarwal’s notes can serve as such a pointer. Remember that notes is an individual thing and there is no right way or wrong way of making notes, so long as it is convenient for you to revise. By the way, I made my notes online on Google Docs which made it easy to edit.

Its my strong advice to all the aspirants to take no short cuts but rely on “your own notes”, as the notes making in itself is a strong learning exercise.