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How to Prepare UPSC Political Science and International Relations Paper

Today we are providing UPSC Civil Services  Political Science and International Relations Paper preparation tips & strategies. Now we will teach you strategy of “How to Prepare UPSC Civil Services Political Science and International Relations Paper 2019“. This post is aimed to help you in forming your strategy for Political Science and International Relations optional for Civil Services Exam, considering its various aspects.

How to Prepare UPSC Mains Political Science and International Relations Paper 2019

UPSC Mains Political science is a social science which deals with systems of government, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts and political behavior. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics which is commonly thought of as determining of the distribution of power and resources.

International relations is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of the interaction of the actors in international politics, including states and non-state actors, such as the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and Amnesty International. One of the key features of the international system is that it’s a state of anarchy – each state in the system is sovereign and does not have to answer to a higher authority.

To Prepare UPSC Civil Services Political Science and International Relations Paper for 2019, you need to follow below given steps.

Step 1 : Know the Syllabus – Political Science and International Relations Paper

UPSC MAINS POLITICAL SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS SYLLABUS 2019. Get UPSC Mains Political Science and International Relations Syllabus, Paper structure & Applicable Topics covered in UPSC Mains Political Science and International Relations Syllabus. Earlier we’ve provided UPSC Mains Exam Pattern & Structure for 2018 & 2019 exams .

Read : UPSC Civil Services Political Science and International Relations Syllabus 2019


Step 2 : Select the Best Reference Books for Political Science and International Relations Paper

Books for Political Science and International Relations Optional



Part A is mostly theoretical and static in nature and one can master this section by understanding the basics thoroughly. Contents can be sub divided into 4 groups:

1) Political Theory:

  • Introduction to political theory – OP Gauba
  • Political Theory – Rajeev Bhargava
  • IGNOU Material on Political theories

2) Political Ideologies:

  • Political Ideologies – Andrew Heywood
  • Political Theory – Rajeev Bhargava
  • IGNOU material on Political theories

3) Indian Political Thought:

  • Foundations of Indian Political Thought – VP Verma
  • IGNOU Material

4) Western Political Thought:

  • Western Political Thought – OP Gauba


Part B is highly dynamic in nature and linked to history and polity portion of GS.

1) Nationalism and Making of Indian Constitution:

  • Bipin Chandra – Indian struggle of independence

2) Salient Features of the Indian Constitution, Principal Organs of the Union/State Government, Grassroots Democracy, Statutory Institutions/Commissions, Federalism:

  • Indian Polity – Laxmikanth
  • Newspapers – Hindu, Indian Express

3) Planning and Economic Development, Caste, Religion and Ethnicity in Indian Politics, Party System, Social Movements

  • IGNOU material
  • Indian politics student edition


  • Global politics – Andrew Heywood
  • Comparative Politics – J.C Johari
  • IGNOU material
  • Newspaper and Magazines


This is mostly a dynamic section and deals with India’s foreign policies.

  • Newspapers – Hindu, Indian Express
  • Does the Elephant Dance – David Malone
  • Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor
  • MEA Website, IDSA
  • Indian Foreign Policy – Rajeev Sikri
  • Yojana

Step 3 : Prepare Important Topics

The preparation for Mains must be over before you start with Preliminary preparation, as the Main exam syllabus covers nearly 75% of the requirements of the Preliminary examination.

If a student has not done graduation with Political Science and International Relations, the suggested strategy would be as follows.

(1) Surveying the syllabus of Political Science and International Relations carefully and identifying the completely unfamiliar areas.

(2)  Doing a careful survey of the past 5 years’ Main Examination Question Papers and identifying the areas of significance.

(3)  Identifying the most fruitful areas:

(4)  If we see the Main Examination paper of last few years, then it is obvious that the UPSC can ask even a short note on a topic which is otherwise quite long in coverage.

How to Study Political Science and International Relations for IAS Mains

Study approach for Political Science and International Relations

Political Science and International Relations 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. 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.

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:

We 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.

We would suggest columns of Ashutosh Varshney, Ramachandra Guha and Pratap Bhanu Mehta as mandatory reading for this section.

Political Science and International Relations 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.

Answer writing

  1. For Long answers-Introduction can be either indirect through some lines or quotes or direct with general explanation followed by exact definition.
  2. Thereafter topic need to be explained in short followed by establishing links with other chapters and focusing on the question again. Here give a pause,read the question again & think again. Diagrams can be used effectively.
  3. Ending of the answers should always be visionary/positive and solution based with example if needed or with some lines.
  4. There should be mixed use of paras and points. Examples should be quoted wherever possible but refrain from using one enterprise again & again.
  5. For short answers, write the basic definition and then directly hit the core.
  6. Ending should be solution based. For merit/demerit/feature use diagram or points.
  7. Test series can be joined for practice.

Step 4 : Prepare Previous Question papers

How much time it takes to prepare?

4-5 months, if you study Political Science and International Relations 12-15 hours per week. This should be enough. Also, it depends on how much can you recall your graduation concepts.

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