I didn’t think much before choosing my elective subject for the Civil Service Exam, 2020. With a BA (Hons) from SRCC and an MPhil in Economics from Oxford, that was a no-brainer , not to add the fact that I was working as an economist at a London-based research institute while I was preparing for the exam.
For those in other fields who are considering going for the economy, I have a few quick tips. Do not intervene unless you have a deep and lasting interest in the subject. One of the two articles will be quite technical, which some people might find a little unsettling. A good way to test your interest in the subject is to consult the textbooks of Intermediate Microeconomics by Hal Varian and Macroeconomics by Dornbusch and Fischer. Also read relevant editorials in major newspapers and Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) articles and see if you like to engage with them.
A quick point on the list of books for paper 1 – Students often refer to voluminous books written for aspiring UPSC. Although I bought them, I couldn’t spend more than a few days reading the material. They are miserably written and do no service to the beauty and nuances of the subject. Instead, I referred to my Delhi University Reading List and only studied the subjects of these books. Economics can be somewhat difficult for those who have never been exposed to its intricacies before, which is why I suggest referring at least to the best books for the theoretical article.
For microeconomics, Hal Varian‘sand Nicholson and Snyderthe books are excellent. Macroeconomics and money can be covered with Blanchard and Dornbusch and Fischer, with Froyen be a good companion. For the international economy, you can refer either to Krugman Where Salvatore. I took a look at both and preferred each for different topics. And finally, Debraj ray will be very useful for the “growth and development” part of the exam.
Of course, correlate the content of these books with the UPSC curriculum and study only the overlapping topics. A simpler solution is to cover only the DU’s undergraduate program for introductory and mid-level microeconomics and macroeconomics, public economics, development, and international economics. Here you will find readings for almost every topic in the program, including environment and wellness. Finally, explore the Google Scholar collections to find resources on the remaining elements, such as the basic needs approach and alternative distributive theories which are very outdated concepts.
I neglected the economy until the very end and spent no more than two weeks preparing this article. It showed up in my results as well – I only got 109/250 – but based on the time value it was a wise move that, in hindsight, worked out pretty well for me. I used the time he freed me up to prepare for General Studies (GS) in which I had a relatively weak base. There were some interesting questions in this year’s paper as well, but that’s exactly how Economics 1 works.
On the other hand, I spent a lot of time preparing for Economy 2. Uma Kapila Indian Economy: Performance and Policies is a good place to start. However, what helped me get a decent 137/250 score was reading scientific papers published in reputable journals like EPW, checking the latest working papers from IGIDR researchers, and browsing proceedings of academic events such as the NCAER Indian Policy Forum. For the benefit of future aspirants, I have linked the non-free and freely available versions of all the 150 or so research articles I have referred to on my website, grouped by subject: https://agrawalsarthak.wordpress.com/economie-ii/.
Critical engagement with editorials, blogs and articles on economic issues occupied the rest of my time. The Explained section of Indian Express is emerging as the # 1 resource for aspiring UPSCs. Plus, it’s impossible to miss Udit Mishra’s excellent weekly posts. If you can learn to write economics like him, Indian economics will seem like fun. Vision IAS also has a nice annual compilation of news. Finally, it’s crucial to refer to articles from the previous year – I could easily find CSE articles dating back to 2005 – and students can also check out articles from the Indian Economic Service (IES), although those- these tend to be a bit simpler and more factual.
However, be sure to read different perspectives while preparing for the Indian economy, and especially the pre-independence part which is (weirdly) getting quite important. For the latter, I referred again to my BA (Hons) program, where we took a semester course on Indian Economic History. Later, I deliberately searched for writings from academics on either side of the ideological divide, and after carefully going through these articles, synthesized the evidence and tried to come up with my own opinions. I think having an evidence-based stance is very important to Economics 2, so don’t feel the need to procrastinate if you can defend your point using data and theory.
A few weeks before the exam, I tried to memorize relevant data and statistics for different parts of the program. Besides remembering verbatim, getting a rough idea of ââvarious economic indicators is also very helpful. This will happen automatically when you read economic news regularly – you don’t necessarily need to refer to an economic newspaper; The Indian Express is quite good. During preparation, I also did a bibliography of various articles I referred to – along with the key empirical or theoretical contribution of each one – and cited them generously throughout my responses to Economics 2. as is done when writing an academic essay.
In addition to sprinkling data in my answers, citing academic research, and taking a firm stand when necessary, I have tried to be concise in everything I have written. It’s different from the way you try GS papers, for example. Keeping all of these things in mind can help you get good grades in economics electives, but more importantly, reading well-written books and cutting-edge articles will help instill a deep interest in economics. subject that will survive well beyond your UPSC days.
(The author is AIR 17 in UPSC Civil Services 2020 and is a researcher at the World Bank)