LAW OPTIONAL TIPS FOR UPSC CSE
This Article has been curated after interviewing and interacting with various Law optional toppers of UPSC CSE of recent years, belonging to Law as well as non-Law backgrounds. It gives a brief to all those aspirants who have chosen or are thinking about choosing Law as an option for their CSE attempt. We have discussed strategies related to books, notes, tips, mistakes to be avoided, how to go about the syllabus and other tricks regarding preparation for the Mains examination.
This Article has been curated after joint efforts of discussion between Aditya Tiwari Sir and various rank holders in UPSC CSE over the recent years:
● Ayush Srivastava, AIR 437 - UPSC CSE 2020
● Avinash V Rao, AIR 31 - UPSC CSE 2021
● Jaspinder Singh, AIR 33 - UPSC CSE 2021
● Kanchi Singhal, AIR 223 - UPSC CSE 2021
● Nidhi Sehrawat, AIR 523 - UPSC CSE 2021
1. . BENEFIT OF CHOOSING LAW OPTIONAL OVER OTHERS
Many aspirants have this doubt of whether to choose law as an optional subject for their Civil Services examination, it includes not just non-law graduates but also people who have a law background.
Ayush Srivastava who is a Law optional Topper had a non-law background and believes that even though some subjects might be more scoring in comparison to choosing Law as an option, Law comes out to be a stabilizing factor. He said - “if someone has a good understanding in Law, you can reach the top ranks”.
For candidates who like reading, Law is a good option. Most of the rank holders interviewed above believe that taking Law as an optional subject overlaps with other papers such as GS, ethics and also sometimes during essay writing, which comes out as a great benefit to score better than other optional candidates.
Nidhi Sehrawat also suggested that for people from Non-Law backgrounds, they should make sure that they have a guide or mentor from Law background, so that they can help in preparation and evaluation of the candidates.
Jaspinder Singh - “If a person has invested 5 years or 3 years time with respect to law, I think there is no harm in taking Law optional subject. If you are interested in law, you must take it. If you think the syllabus is vast, yes it is a little vast, but it is well-defined. If you are able to answer a good number of previous year questions, then you will be prepared to choose for Law optional subjects. The only thing that is difficult is to revise the Law optional subjects since it is very vast but that can again be done if it is in your interest and if you have already invested 5 or 3 years during your law school.”
Kanchi Singhal - “I think the help that Law optional has is, what I have noticed, a lot of prelims questions also have some sort of Legal knowledge involved, so it can help in that.”
So, to summarize, we can say that following are the benefits of choosing Law as an optional subject for UPSC CSE preparation:
● Overlap with other subjects
● Substantive syllabus of what already studied in the Law School (For Law graduates)
● Easy to cover even for Non-Law background candidates
● Basic understanding of concepts are required, depth of knowledge is not necessary
● Helps in preparation for Prelims as well
2. STRATEGY FOR LAW OPTIONAL
Every candidate has a different method of preparation for their examinations, we got different points of views from each candidate.
Avinash Rao referred to his senior’s notes, basic books which are available and known to all and the Dukkis for his preparation. While he could refer to notes readily available, many people make their own notes.
Nidhi Sehrawat who is also from a non-law background made most of her notes by herself. She suggested making crisp notes with a basic conceptual understanding and a few case laws in order to justify the answers. Her trick was that she did not go deep into every topic and thus was able to cover a large part of the syllabus in just 4-5 months. She also suggested referring to the Dukkis.
While these candidates were referring to notes made either by themselves or provided by others to them,
Kanchi Singh suggested bare reading of the textbooks as many times as possible. Kanchi is a Law graduate from ILS, Pune and likes reading. She had a habit of reading textbooks since she was in her Law school, so she used to highlight the important parts there itself.
For her preparation, she referred to those highlighted parts only. Though she also suggested that she wasted a lot of time reading too deep into a few topics which is not required, a basic conceptual understanding of each topic in crisp is enough for preparation.
For candidates who have a Law background, Law school plays an important role in shaping your preparation for the exams. Jaspinder Singh who backed AIR 33 used most of his college notes for preparation. Even he suggested book reading as an important part of conceptual understanding and then making short notes for revision.
Ayush Shrivastava, who is a law optional topper and belongs to a non-law background gave a very important trick to be used - “I followed Shodhganga’s content for how to introduce my answers, followed with the rationale which is compulsory in the answers, and then judgments which I slowly picked up with time, and I concluded my answers by answering with what is the demand of the question, so this is how I understood the demand of the question and searched the content.”
Thus, it could be said that it is very important to structure your answers in a proper manner so as to get good marks. He also suggested practicing answer writing as an important part of a candidate’s preparation for mains.
All of the candidates interviewed above referred to Dukkis for their preparation, which came out as a common factor between all of them. Thus, to summarize their strategies, we can give the following pointers:
● Refer to Dukkis
● Do a plain reading of textbooks for conceptual understanding of topics whenever needed
● Make short notes for revision
● Keep yourself updated on each and every concept with what changes have been made recently in those subjects
● Always prepare for answer writing in advance
●Refer online sources such as LiveLaw, BarandBench, ipleaders blog, Shodhganga, etc.
● Go through your law school notes
● Do not go too deep in every concept, the main motto is to cover most of the syllabus with a clear understanding
Many of these candidates also referred to subject notes provided by Aditya Sir which are available on the website of DeFacto Law, which as per the candidates, helped them a lot to prepare a base for their conceptual understanding.
TEXTBOOKS/REFERENCES FOR LAW OPTIONAL PAPERS
The candidates explained how going through the previous question papers is a necessary procedure of preparation. It helps in segregating and reducing the syllabus, and preparing for answer writing well in advance.
● Constitutional Law - AK Jain’s Dukki, MP Jain, JN Pandey, Online articles
● Administrative Law - AK Jain’s Dukki, Upadhyay, Online Sources
● International Law - AK Jain’s Dukki, SK Kapoor, UN website, HO Agarwal, Online sources
● Law of Torts - Summary given in RK Bangia, Dukki
● Law of Contracts - RK Bangia - selective topics which get repeated, Dukki
● Law of Crimes - IPC Bare act, Pillai
● Contemporary Legal Development - Online sources, Pdfs circulated by Aditya Sir, Dukkis
While preparing, most of these candidates made case-lists for every topic in order to have an organized way of revising before the examination. Quoting lines from judgments also seem to be an important factor in answering the questions.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
● Do not read too much in depth while reading the textbooks
● Never miss on updates regarding subjects
● Never miss looking into previous year question papers before starting your preparation
● Do not think answer writing preparation is not necessary
● Not paying attention to remembering case laws and articles/sections is a wrong way of answering questions
ANSWER WRITING STRUCTURE
Ayush Srivastava - “I do two questions from Part A, then I do Part B, second and third questions which were 15 and 20 marker questions and I used to set up time for each question in how much time I am going to complete them and all. So, I used to cover 15-20 markers first then the five and ten marker questions.”
Ayush Srivastava, who is a law optional topper, very strongly recommended that structuring your answers is very important for scoring well in the mains examination. A good answer requires an introduction, rationale, judgments and articles, and concluding the answer with what is the demand of the question. He believes that once you get what the question is demanding, half of your job is done, the next part is to write your answer in such a way that it satisfies the demand of the question.
● Avinash V Rao - “I definitely have to give some credit to you, I did watch your videos which were available on youtube for breaking of the syllabus, I think that was one of the starting points. I started preparing notes from keeping your PDFs as a background and referred to LiveLaw and other websites for case laws which helped me in framing good notes.
For most of them, I referred to the bare acts because there were direct questions which were word to word questions, same as the bare act and hence it was useful and I could answer that very well. Interpreting the syllabus and sticking to the syllabus is very important.”
● Nidhi Sehrawat - “I did read Dukki so that I can be on the similar footing as other candidates with a law background, since I am from a non-law background. I followed a mixed approach, for example, for some topics I directly refer to your notes which are there, which I have highlighted while reading and I also make notes on the adjacent pages so I can directly read from there. However, before the examination, I prepared short notes for myself which included all the articles and case laws and some important judgments as well.
For a 10-marker, I wrote articles and maximum I wrote 2 judgments and for a 15-marker, I just cite 3 judgments and I think one thing which I do here, I do not cite the exact case laws or the effects of the cases, I tried to keep it as minimum as I could, so that I can save space for the conceptual requirement of the question.”
● Jaspinder Singh - “ I am more of a book reader so I read the book only twice or thrice. And later on for the revision purpose, when I had to give the test series, I started preparing short notes, so that is how I prepared. In my law college, we used to study from various books so there is not much material available, so I referred to my class notes.
While preparing for my exams in college, I used to prepare very short notes because I knew I also had to prepare for my optional paper also. If a person has invested 5 years or 3 years time with respect to law, I think there is no harm in taking Law optional subject. If you are interested in law, you must take it. If you think the syllabus is vast, yes it is a little vast, but it is well-defined.
If you are able to answer a good number of previous year questions, then you will be prepared to choose for Law optional subjects. The only thing that is difficult is to revise the Law optional subjects since it is very vast but that can again be done if it is in your interest and if you have already invested 5 or 3 years during your law school.”
● Kanchi Singhal - “I think the good part was that I stuck to the textbooks that were there so that my source of information was more authentic and enriched. I ensured that for every topic I have case laws, proper introduction and conclusion.
I made sure that I am sticking to the basics, not going into a lot of depth, since the syllabus of Law optional is pretty vast, so I made sure that I am making a wider coverage of the syllabus rather than going too deep into every topic. So, there we have to decide what topics are important.
I have heard many people from law background going for some other optional, I am not sure why they do that, but for me I was very comfortable, and if you enjoy reading it, please take it up. And the syllabus for law students is pretty small because during graduation we read many other subjects, it’s only the substantive part of it so I think it can be managed easily. One mistake which I think I made is for certain topics you do not need to go very deep, maybe you can consider making short notes.”
● Ayush Srivastava - “I started my preparation with what is the question and what is the demand of that question and I searched that content on the internet, so I followed Shodhganga’s content for how to introduce my answers, followed with the rationale which is compulsory in the answers, and then judgments which I slowly picked up with time, and I concluded my answers by answering with what is the demand of the question, so this is how I understood the demand of the question and searched the content.
For motivation, everyone should have a good mentor sir, a guide or a mentor is very important because they understand your issues also. And sir, having a good support system is also really important, like family members and friends. And I would say one thing: don’t get distracted, distraction is also one of the big factors because once you get distracted, it will hamper your preparation, don’t enter into bad relationships, and don’t follow many social media platforms.
Your inner desire to perform, your support system and your mentor is very important to keep you motivated.”