PSIR Optional Strategy for UPSC Mains

PSIR optional strategy
Written by Dr. SS

In this article, we are trying to cover sources of reading PSIR optional for UPSC Mains Exam. No one in the world can give you any foolproof strategy to get success with any of the optional paper. But, consistent effort in any field gives a result. In all UPSC success stories, few things are very common such as diverse reading, disciplined approach, time management etc.

PSIR optional strategy

Let’s start with the understanding of PSIR syllabus. Latest and revised Syllabus of PSIR optional demands scientific attitude to score better. The new syllabus gives emphasis on topics like globalization, feminism, terrorism, nuclear threat/nuclear proliferation, environment, recent developments in Indian Foreign Policy, etc.

New syllabus is more relevant and all pure factual portions of the PSIR syllabus have been deleted.

Political Science & International Relation (PSIR)

Syllabus of PSIR optional is divided into two papers over 4 broad categories:-


  1. a) Political Theory
  2. b) Indian Politics & Government


  1. c) Comparative Politics & International Politics
  2. d) India’s International Relation

It would be easy to plan your preparation schedule if you will divide your complete PSIS syllabus in small capsules.

PSIR Optional-Paper-I Strategy

Nature of PSIR Optional Paper-One:

  • Paper is more static in nature.
  • Conceptual clarity of theory is very important.
  • Direct questions are being asked.
  • Answers can be enriched with contemporary views.
  • Multiple revisions will be the essence of success.

I would suggest you to divide PSIR Optional Paper one in five capsules as given.


Time to be devoted:Part-I- One Month

First Reading-15 days

Revision-15 days

Part-II-One Month

First Reading-15 days

Revision-15 days

Total Capsules:i.  Political Theory,

ii. Indian Political Thought,

iii.Western Political Thought and

iv.Political Ideologies.


v. Indian Government and Politics


Capsule one-Political Theory:

The relevance of Political theories:

  • Political theories give answers of tough political questions
  • Allows one to think about the relationship of government with people
  • Helps to examine Governments’ priorities

Strategy for Capsule One: Political Theory

You should start your preparation by reading “Political Theory” by Andrew Heywood.  Of course, it is a book of a foreign writer but it is a very good book for conceptual clarity. PSIR subject demands your clarity of concepts for interrelating them with events. Read all basics like equality, Rights, Power, Liberty and Democracy etc. very thoroughly.

Give a patient coverage to the book and read topics mentioned in the syllabus of UPSC exam. Once you cover it successfully, you should give a selective reading to O.P.Gauba. This book will be helpful only after finishing Andre Heywood. While reading O.P.Gauba, you would feel that it is complementing Heywood.  At few places, you will find Gauba has covered better.

Click on Link to Know About Books
Political Theory: An Introduction by Heywood


Capsule Two: Political Ideologies:

The relevance of Political Ideologies:

  • All government policies are a reflection of political ideology
  • Provides an explanation as well as a description of the political phenomenon of the country
  • Helps in the selection of the political goals and actions for a community

Strategy for Capsule Two Political Ideologies:

Political Ideologies by Andrew Heywood is a gift from Heaven. Don’t waste your time for looking better book. However, you can keep Gandhism to cover in the fourth capsule i.e. Indian Political Thought.

Best Book-Check Link

Political Ideologies: An Introduction by Heywood

Capsule Three: Western Political Thought:

Strategy for Western Political Thought:

Can read History of Political Thought from Plato to Marx by Mukherjee. Brian Nelson is considered as a good source for the portion but Gramsci and Hannah Arendt are missing in this book. This book covers some ideologies too.

You can read O.P. Gauba’s Political Theory for Gramsci and Hannah Arendt

Capsule Four: Indian Political Thought:

Strategy for Indian Political Thought:

If you have command over the English language you should read V.R.Mehta’s book for the portion. Though few topics like Ambedkar and Syed Ahmed Khan are missing, which you can cover from IGNOU PDFs.

Few toppers also suggest reading the original texts of “Annihilation of caste” and “Hind Swaraj”.

Capsule five: Part B of Paper-I

Strategy for Indian Government and Politics”

This section overlaps a lot with UPSC Syllabus of GS I and II, but its preparation strategy should be different. You cannot write a general answer in your optional subject. You need to have a remarkable command over Current Affairs to do better than others.

Recommended Readings:

Laxmikanth (Avoid 3rd edition as there are few printing mistakes)

Bipin Chandra India before Independence

Modern India Political Thought by Bidyut Chakraborty

Introduction to the Constitution of India – D D Basu

Indian Polity – B. L. Fadia



PSIR Optional Paper-2 Strategy

PSIR Optional Paper 2 Section A -Comparative Politics & International Politics

Dynamic as well as static in some sections. Need time to fully grasp the concepts, as they can get a bit confusing at times.

Recommended Readings: 


Andrew Heywood

Internet for a selective study like WTO, UN.

Globalization of World Politics.

V.K.Malhotra’s “International Relations” (selective reading )

PSIR Optional Paper 2 Section B-India’s International Relation

More or less ALL about current affairs, with some links to static stuff. For International Relations

  • Reading Newspaper is the best source for this portion.
  • Don’t underestimate the relevance of the Internet in IAS preparation of PSIR.
  • Visit MEA website to read India’s relations with countries in news.
  • Though this paper is more dynamic but after analyzing last pear papers you can find few static portions also. For ex- Questions of NAM-Non Alignment Movement.

Suggested Readings: Some basic books for foundation building should be reading.

Challenges and Strategies – Rajiv Sikri

Can the Elephant Dance? – David Malone

Other sources

PSIR by N.D.Arora

Heywood series



RSTV Videos (India’s World)

Mahroof Raza special on Times Now,



Wall Street Journal

Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) website

Selective study of certain editions of World Focus magazine

Check here->

Note Making Strategy for PSIR Optional Paper

Prepare Note in the second reading:

I never suggest anyone to make notes in the first reading. There is no sense of writing everything. First reading should be enjoyed like a lover and book text should be appreciated like a blind lover who likes everything about his lover. After first reading, give a look to previous year’s questions papers just to have an idea of the type of questions, repetition of topics year by year etc. Now start making notes with your second reading.

Bullet Points:

Static: Avoid noting down all static things. Decide about crucial points and Write 15-20 points related to every topic/thinker for last-minute reading. Read these notes so many times to bring them on your tongue. As paper one is more static you need to bring it one your fingertips. Make it so that if you are stirred awaken in the middle of the night and inquired something from these notes, you should be in a position to answer with clarity and confidence.

Non-Static: Notes you make for mains should be on dynamic. Whatever you come across –RSTV Debates, Daily newspapers, IDSA articles etc. make notes of suited issues and topics. Usually, mobile apps are best suited to give handy storage on go.

Answer Writing Strategy For PSIR Optional

(1) “Initial perception Lasts”:

“First Impression Lasts”– by Harvey Specter assists and plays a pivotal role in all walks of life. Exam is no different from the commonly applicable quote. Evaluators are also binded by common human instincts, they will create a certain perception about you while going through first two three answers. So, it is always better to go all guns blazing and express yourself in the clearest fashion ab initio. Once examiner makes a certain prejudice about you, he will assess the rest of the paper with similar assumptions. (I am suggesting so considering the basic trends of general psychology and do not want enfeeble rigor or potential of examiners.)
Whilst penning down your answer always keep the examiner on the back of your mind. – Will it catch examiner’s curiosity?? Will it seem plagiarised to the examiner?? You are expected to present your things in a manner to not make examiner more tedious. Keep this in mind and tie a knot in your subconscious think center that it’s your responsibility to catch the attention in first go as the examiner is already burdened with innumerous evaluation assignments.

  • Follow basic and clear font style,
  • Avoid excessive beautification,
  • Continuity must be maintained while scribbling the answer.

(2) Impressive Writing:

Practice makes a man perfect; keep working on your writing skills.

One can use this in his preparation like:

  • Have access to daily newspapers, The Hindu is most preferred and critically acclaimed. Go for Hard copy and not the soft copy.
  • Read the editorial column with full concentration and try to grasp it fully.
  • Discuss a few aspects yourself and jot down your views alongside the article in order to enhance your hold on material you went through.
  • Put aside the article for a couple of days.
  • Then from the key words or title try to imitate the article in your own words.
  • Consider you deviation from the core idea by comparing your writing with the original article. Assimilate your mistakes in mind and try to remain original as exact message not the words is desirable.
  • Include certain keywords you missed and repeat the whole process.
  • Do this on a regular basis and if done religiously then your essay writing will start resonating with Hindu’s.

(c)Train your thought process to work like web :

Have you seen spider’s cob, hard wire you’re thinking ability to interlink things from one corner to the other. Initially, you have been drilled to read syllabus by segmenting them in manageable parts but ultimately you have to intertwine these strays of thoughts. Your ability of knitting your thoughts and recent current affair developments into a fine fabric will give you an edge over your contemporaries. The ability to relate a theoretical concept with a recent happening or case study will add cherry on top.

For example linking cinema award shows with surrogate marketing as both intend to indirectly promote something specific via other Or Indo-Pak relations can be said to be a victim of Social Constructivism.

So, rather than having a chain of thoughts it’s advisable to have a Web-based inclusive thinking to touch many spheres across horizon.

Last Strategy for PSIR Optional Preparation

Don’t dive too deep in the ocean of information: –

Those looking for pearls sometimes feel the urge to go deeper for better pearls but often end up compromising on their life. Not so drastic but a similar analogy can be drawn in IAS aspirant’s case. Avoid downloading and creating a heap of PDF’s and text. Be precise in what you read for PSIR optional and stay focused.

Keep Calm and hit the bull’s eye. All the best.

About the author

Dr. SS


  • Thanks a lot Sir for the wonderful PSIR strategy posted. Read a lot of strategies but this is going to be my base for UPSC. Thank you again.

  • respected sir I am preparing for upsc with my optional as PSIR since 2 years but hadn’t got such insight ever. thank you sir for this post….

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