If there is one exam that requires you to know everything under the sun, it has to be the Civil Services exam. The UPSC wants all-rounders, which is why the Humanities student ends up studying science and the science student is introduced to the world of Arts. By bringing in the subject of science and technology, the UPSC has ensured that only well rounded personalities achieve some of the highest posts in the country.
As an Arts student this subject is probably your Achilles heel, and as a science student you are perhaps wheeling under its vastness. Below we address both these issues and assist you in designing a well researched strategy.
The subject forms a part of both the Prelims as well as the Mains syllabus (sub-topic of GS Paper 3). For prelims you need to have an overview of everything, from theoretical aspects and fundamentals of Physics, Chemistry and Biology to the latest technological developments.
For the Mains, the syllabus contains the following topics:
- Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
- Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
These are the sub-topics of GS Mains Paper 3 that come under Science and Technology. If you observe the trend in previous year’s papers you will notice two things:
1. The number of questions on the topic can be anywhere between 8 and 19. In 2011 the highest number of questions (19) appeared, while the past 3 years have only seen 8 to 9 questions.
2. The questions primarily focus on current happenings in the field of science and tech rather than detailed theoretical knowledge. For example, the IRNSS Mission has been in news and the UPSC formulated a question asking about Standard Positioning System and Precision Positioning System along with the Mission. So a static topic gained importance because of its mention in recent news. Again in 2016, the aspirants were asked to list features of Indian Government’s Mission on Nanoscience and Technology along with a short note on the importance of nanotechnology. Therefore, pay attention to the static portions of technologies that are trending currently.
2. WHAT TO STUDY
For a better understanding, we have split the subject into:
1. Science 2. Technology
This forms the static aspect of the paper. A general overview and basic understanding of fundamental concepts is the only requirement. Pay more attention to biology rather than chemistry and physics. Within biology, focus on human anatomy more rather than plant anatomy. Microbiology and biotechnology have emerged as important topics too.
Current affairs is central to Technology as most questions focus on it. The following areas are important:
a. Government policies and announcements in the field of Technology. Any new developments enlisted by the Government must not be skipped.
b. Day to day technology. Themes you come across on a daily basis like RFID, GPRS, 4G, Internet of Things, Bluetooth etc. must be familiar to you.
c. Take a note of the recent Noble Prize winner’s research fields along with the achievements of Indians in other important forums. Any new inventions/discoveries also need to be read. For example the questions on Graphene and Stem Cells were asked in the exam as they pertained to new research by Noble Prize winners.
3. BOOKS TO STUDY
a. Official website of the Department of Science and Technology. Here you will find valuable information about the new developments and policies in this field. It has been observed that a lot of times questions are directly lifted from official governments web portals. Therefore visit this site frequently to stay updated.
b. Class 11 and 12 NCERT for clarity on some basic concepts.
c. Read Science Reporter magazine. It is a monthly magazine published by the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources. You will find ample material here to cover both Prelims and Mains.
d. Science and tech section in The Hindu (features weekly).
e. 1000 Plus Questions on General Science – TMH. You can refer to this book for Prelims.
4. UPSCPATHSHALA PRO TIP
1. For science students, revising basic notes will suffice for the static portions. Just a quick read through of NCERTs is what you need at the most to brush up your memory. The questions asked in the exam have been designed keeping in mind that aspirants are from different streams, therefore very simple and basic questions are asked.
2. If you are a Humanities student, we suggest skipping Physics and Chemistry entirely and focusing on Biology and recent developments instead. This is because hardly 1-2 questions are asked from these subjects; spending this time on other topics in the Paper will prove more beneficial in terms of scoring high. There is no point in trying to understand something that is entirely new to you when you can focus more on your strengths and increase your score.
3. Emphasize on biology. An analysis of recent trends shows that the UPSC is focusing on biology and latest developments in medical and health sectors. Although the UPSC pattern cannot be predicted but compared to Physics and Chemistry, this is more important. One of the reasons for its importance is that it spills over into topics like biotech, biodiversity, conservation, environment etc.
4. Be aware of ongoing research and new breakthroughs since the UPSC tends to ask questions from here. Concentrate on physics, chemistry and medicine for maximum return on time spent.
Being an interesting subject, the study for S&T will not seem like a burden. Develop a curious temperament that is enthused by the fascinating world of science and its thrilling applications that make our lives more comfortable.
Author: Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.