IAS Main 2011 GS Paper II is mostly based on Current Affairs, and except questions on Statistics the rest of the questions can be answered effectively if you are an avid reader of newspapers and other Current Affairs magazines and websites. A good preparation of GS Paper II is based on current readings and new knowledge. In addition, the conventional knowledge of events, organizations, and economic and scientific aspects can help you limitedly.
Types of questions asked
In 2011, about 75% of the questions were purely based on Current Affairs. Out of these, about 60% were based on International Affairs. For example, questions were asked on topics as varied as Central Asian Republics (Q. 1a), SAFTA (Q. 1c), Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (Q. 2a), India’s terrorism strategy with China (Q. 2b), etc. At the same time, questions on economics, environment and ecology, and science and technology were based on International Affairs plus conventional knowledge. For example, questions were asked on Small and Medium Enterprise Expo in Dubai (Q. 2c), and melting of Arctic Sea Ice and interest of Arctic Council nations (Q. 4a). As expected, the questions on Science and Technology were based on terms and events, which were in news. Examples are: International Year of Chemistry, ‘Designer’ poultry eggs, INSPIRE programme of Department of Science and Technology, Kessler syndrome, Arsenic bug, CCTV, etc. (Qs. 5a to 5n).
The extra focus on Environment and Ecology is the new trend as was obvious from the Prelims 2011. It portrays the current focus worldwide, which has been considered important by the Government of India as well as UPSC.
How difficult were the questions?
The difficulty level of the questions should be considered above average. Questions such as meaning of colours of flags used in a Formula-one car race event (Q. 4e) should not be considered a conventional type of question. Mostly, students of IAS wouldn’t be interested in an event like this. Even if they read about it in the newspapers, magazines or websites, not many would memorize the colours and their meaning. Similarly, questions such as Strategic Interests in the Cam Ranh Bay (Q. 4c), Kessler syndrome (Q. 5e), Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Q. 5f), various applications of Kevlar (Q. 5m), etc. should also be considered difficult. Other examples of questions which may be difficult for a large number of students are: Personalities and terms (Q. 8a to e and Q. 7a to j).
The approach of a candidate
Let’s consider the conventional Statistics part first as it hasn’t been discussed in the rest of the article at all. Those students who find Statistics hard should attempt it in the end if there’s time available for it. Those who are quite confident of securing good marks in Statistics may attempt it in the beginning also. The logic is that these may bring full marks and should be able to impress the examiner as well.
Next, long answers should be attempted first and should be as analytical as possible. If you do answer writing practice regularly, you should be conversant with the analytical approach. Even if a question is difficult and you want to attempt it, your practised analytical approach should come handy in writing an effective answer.
If you feel comfortable, you should make a skeleton or the outline of each answer before you attempt it. It helps in the right sequence of thoughts. It would definitely enhance the visibility of your answer.