Public Administration old

Public Administration Strategy

The competitive examination comprises two successive stages:

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION is a relevant subject for IAS mains examination as it is interlinked with governance and administration. Incidentally many of the students feel that the PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION was not an interesting subject. But if approached with the right strategy and analysis, one can easily fetch high score . The aspirants have to gain the confidence and know the approach to write answers .

In fact, Public Administration is not rocket science. It is very easy to understand. But, to express it beautifully on the answer sheet requires you to know the strategy and you need to spend considerable time for the preparation.

To do the above, you really need a strong interest in the subject.

Is pub ad optional good or bad?

The recent performance of Public Administration has not been very encouraging. For this ,a number of reasons can be quoted.

External reasons

  • relatively tougher papers
  • abstract questions
  • stricter evaluation
  • less generous marks given
  • mysterious scaling/moderation by UPSC and many.

Internal reasons

  • – Choosing this optional based on bandwagon effect; (The bandwagon effect is a psychological phenomenon in which people do something primarily because other people are doing it, regardless of their own beliefs,)
  • -writing very general answers in Paper-2;
  • -not stressing enough on basics;
  • – writing scholarly answers and so on.

These are the general mistakes made frequently by aspirants

This might be the reason for the decrease in the number of the applicants for this optional year by year. But it may be assumed that the present trend is unlikely to continue for long.

You should NOT take the subject solely because

  • It covers GS II, III & IV substantially
  • Don’t be with bandwagon effect. In fact, its applicable to every optional.
  • Syllabus is less and can be finished earlier than most of the other optional papers
  • It seems easy to comprehend and effort is less You should GO for it
  • If you really like reading Indian Polity
  • If administrative matters in general genuinely evoke interest of the aspirants
  • If you have some experience of working in an organization and you have begun to show interest in group management/organizational behaviour/personnel management etc.
  • If you enjoy reading highly abstract and theoretical stuff like perspective of administrative thinkers

But, please do not choose the subject if you are not interested in it. A lot of aspirants take one subject and lose interest after some time.

Understanding a subject and presenting the same on the answer sheet – are two entirely different issues. This is what most of the aspirants miss.


A well-thought out strategy makes the difference between success and failure. Intensive and focused approach built on analysis needs to be scrupulously adhered to.

  • writing practice – Ability to express the concept clearly
  • Ability to relate the subject with current affairs of the both administrative and political issues
  • Ability to substantiate the argument with facts, evidence, and committee reports etc.
    Support the answer with theoretical foundations and perspective of various thinkers
    Contemporary Administrative Practices should be included.
    Comparative Public Administration angle should be intervened.

#Be thorough with the basic books and concepts

Every candidate should be conversant with the fundamentals of the structure, process, behaviour and environment of the administrative system.

The Public Administration optional needs more analysis and hard work. The aspirants must be thorough with the basic concepts, theories, and principles. Without conceptual clarity, one cannot fetch good score in Public Administration optional exam.

Concept’s clarity is very much essential. UPSC is not looking for scholars of Public Administration. Candidates should be able to identify ‘core areas’ which cannot be avoided in the context of the mains examination . study and writing practice should reinforce each other. Identification of ‘thrust areas’ for concentrated pursuit is very much essential.

#less material more marks

As all of you know, since Public Administration is a very popular optional, there is no dearth of material in the market. All the candidates are eager to collect as much material as possible. There is no point in reading hundreds of books and gathering so much material.. It is absolutely a wasteful exercise if you cannot comprehend what you have studied. Our sincere recommendation is read less material more number of times than reading more material once.

#Makes short notes

The aspirants should make good notes on the topics which ever they have covered. But one should prepare the notes after 2-3 readings. All topics are interlinked and some or in another way it will help you especially during revision hence you can club the topics together accordingly. For ex, the chapters civil services and personnel management are interlinked. This will help you to get a comprehensive idea about the topics.

For short questions, answers should be direct and precise. In a long essay, introduction should be appealing and effective. But now in the present pattern , no long essay type question. Elaboration of the theme should be properly prioritised. Sequencing should be done in such a manner that one paragraph logically follows from another. Depending upon the paper I or II, apt illustrations add value.

#Study optional regularly

One should not ignore optional subjects. Along with the General Studies, aspirants should study the optional subject on a daily basis. One should spend daily two to three hours for the optional subject. This suggestion is relevant to public administration also.

#Remember quotes from thinkers

Citing quotes from thinkers and personalities will help you to fetch good score in this optional.

#Answer writing practice and Test series

It is very highly recommended by successful candidates to join test series. The test series for Public administration optional will help you to gain new knowledge, widen the analyzing skill etc. Along with that aspirant will learn to manage the time also. This will certainly help you in a UPSC IAS Mains examination.

# Perusal of question papers of previous years

The previous year question paper is the best sources for UPSC exam preparation. Candidates should solve at least past four years UPSC question paper. One has to read a question and try to frame the answer. Frame the answer like a Public administration student by including quotes from thinkers, concepts according to the need of the question. Then, one should jot down the answer in a notebook below the question.

#Approach like a Pub Ad Student , Examination-bias

If you are a candidate who has opted Public Administration as an optional subject for IAS Mains Exam then irrespective of whether you are from the same subject background or not, it is recommended to you to approach the questions in a right method. the student should be conversant with the contemporary and the current developments of socio-political and economic nature that have a close bearing on the functioning of the administration. Candidates may tend to approach this optional paper same as they would attempt the General Studies Papers and this would not fetch them a good score in the subject. As a Civil Services aspirant with the same subject background or not one should understand the question and attempt the answers using proper citing of theories and concepts which will definitely fetch good score.

  • Building a general overview
  • While answering a question on welfare administration, the concept of welfare needs to be supplemented with the initiatives undertaken by the government highlighting the different types of programmes, the coverage and the resource profile. Unlike general studies, public administration requires interpretative skills, ability to correlate theory and practice; and synchronise conventional with the current.

Strategy for Paper-1

Most aspirants opt for public administration as an optional because of its perceived benefits in the general studies papers. One does derive some help out of it for our GS papers. Nevertheless, to score well in the subject one has to go beyond the generic content and acquire specific domain knowledge that needs to be complemented with the current issues, case studies or facts to make the content more relevant.

Before referring any book, go through previous year papers of 10 years for that topic to become acquainted with the demand of the subject.

For clarity of the concepts, you need to refer books that deal with the subject in the simplest manner possible. Avoid coaching materials that may seem to cover the entire syllabus but they will not add much to your conceptual clarity.

You will need to read the same book 5-6 times until you internalize the entire vocabulary of Public Administration.

You will need to understand the subject both intuitively and logically.

1. Introduction: Read it from Sharma and Sadana or S Polianaidu. Supplement your reading with Mohit Bhattacharya. It will enrich your perspective. Almost all the pages will be important and there is a little possibility of converting them into short notes. But you should jot down key ideas and concepts after second reading. Do not make notes right after first reading as you will not have a broader outlook of the subject and you may write everything in your notes.

2. Administrative Thought: One and only Prasad and Prasad should be referred for this. Since questions will inter-link thinkers, try relating the theory of one thinker to that of other. Also read the background of the thinker that you can always correlate the theories with his/her background
Underline important lines/keywords like Mental Revolution, Zone of Indifference etc. Do try to remember some lines of these thinkers verbatim as it adds value to your answers in the exam. Also, learn to apply these theories in real life administrative situations. UPSC has been asking case studies on the same.

3. Administrative Behaviour: Sharma and Sadana covers it pretty exhaustively. For motivation theories of Herzberg, Maslow etc, you can also refer to Prasad and Prasad. There is an immense scope of making short notes here and also the topics are also very easy to understand.

4. Organisations: Refer Sharma and Sadana for all the topics except PPP. For PPP refer Fadia and Fadia. Please do not refer Fadia for other topics because this book, is not being edited properly ; very repetitive; lacks coherence and clarity. There is a lot of scope for relating this part to the Indian administration (paper-2). Quote examples and facts from the Indian context in answers and you need not necessarily quote international examples.

5. Accountability and control; sadhana and sarma

6. Administrative Law: For both of them refer Sharma and Sadana. For dynamic topics like Civil Society, Right to Information, Citizen Charters keep an eye on international and national developments and quote them heavily in your answers. Use small case studies if possible.

7. Comparative Public Administration;
8. Development dynamics :
Ramesh K Arora – CPA is a brilliant book. It is a small book and covers the topic exhaustively. You can be assured of answering even the most twisted questions on CPA. For those who don’t have Arora, refer S. Polianaidu. Even though he covers CPA in a fragmented manner, it covers the topic thoroughly. Development administration is covered better in Polianaidu.
Try to use cross-cultural examples heavily in answers.

9. Personnel Administration: Sharma and Sadana should be referred. This topic should be covered alongwith Civil Services of Paper-2.

10. Public Policy: IGNOU BA and MA Public Policy covers it thoroughly. There will be various modules that cover the same topic in BA and MA modules. So read it selectively. You can analyse present Indian policy decisions with respect to the various models given here.

11. Techniques of Administrative Improvement: There is no single good source. Mohit Bhattacharya covers in a scanty manner, nevertheless go through it once. You will need to rely on the internet mostly. Questions from these topics do not carry much weightage.

12. Financial Administration: Combine this with Financial Management from Paper-2. Both can be covered from Sharma and Sadana and current events in India. A lot of questions are being asked from this area. Prepare it well. Try making consolidated notes of both theoretical financial administration and Indian financial management


After reading all these books once, go through Mohit Bhattacharya which is often called as the “Gita” of Public Administration. After finishing this book, you will begin to see the entire subject much more clearly and seamlessly connected. A lot of questions come directly from this book. Also, this covers the “new horizons” of Public Administration like Network Governance; Feminism in Administration etc. which may not be found in other books.


Now, go through previous year papers again. Try answering questions. If you cannot, you will need a few more readings.


Start making notes from all these books in the second or third reading. Revise your notes as frequently as possible and as many times as possible. Understand the subject in and out. When you write, your understanding should reflect on paper.

Strategy for Paper-2

IN THIS PAPER, three sources are sufficient:

1. Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh Arora – entire book. Making notes is not very useful as a large part of the syllabus coincides with Indian Polity of GS-II. This book covers almost all topics exhaustively

2. Second ARC reports cover the rest of the issues. These are very high quality reports. Its recommendations should be used heavily in Paper-2 answers. Also try to make short notes. Reports that should be referred are:

  • Personnel Administration
  • State and District Administration
  • Public Order
  • Disaster Management
  • Local Government
  • Ethics in Governance (Selectively)

3. Other topics are mostly dynamic. Newspapers are the best source. The Hindu, Indian Express and Livemint editorials frequently comment on administrative matters. Also note down any new policies, plans, committees etc. Make issue-wise notes. Questions from current issues have a very high weightage. You will also need to quote facts/examples/ideas from the editorials quite often in your answers.

You need not refer to IJPA journals. IJPA journals are PhD plus stuff. You only need a graduate plus level of understanding here.

Answer Writing

Writing practice holds the key to success. Adequate writing practice for time management and evolving right content is the best strategy to win the race. Writing practice ensures legibility, time management and adherence to word limit. Effective introduction, logical build up and balanced conclusion send the right signals to the evaluator. Again the secret of success for writing good answers in Public Administration lies in understanding the questions. Most of the students fail to write good answers simply because of their failure to understand the questions. . Every question needs to be studied carefully to understand the exact requirements. Several times, the questions are general in nature and not direct. In the last few years, UPSC has deliberately increased the difficulty levels of question paper as they are more interested in those students who have conceptual clarity and ability to write those concepts in a simple manner. Continuous review of performance and appropriate corrections are required. Of course,at least two weeks before the examination, writing exercises should be stopped and the entire attention should be on revision. Since UPSC has increased the number of questions to be answered, one must have good writing speed as you can get marks only when you write answers to the questions.

  • Write answers in as simple manner as possible. There is no point in using difficult language and complicated jargon as it becomes difficult for the examiner to understand what you are writing. Whatever you write, it should be understood by even a tenth class student. Your answers should be so simple that anyone with absolutely no background in Public Administration should be able to understand what you are writing.
  • Write in point format. There is always confusion among the candidates regarding whether they should write in point format or in paragraphs. Presenting our thoughts in a more precise manner – can be achieved by this pointwise presentation.
  • Important aspect about answer writing is your ability to interlink the concepts. UPSC wants us to have conceptual clarity and more importantly have in depth knowledge about inter linkages among the theories and thinkers.
  • Next comes the ability of the candidate to link concepts in Paper – I with the examples from Indian Administration. Again the trend in the last few years is that there is not much of difference in the questions that were asked in Paper – I and Indian Administration. Candidates are expected to give examples from Indian Administration while explaining the concepts in Paper – I.
  • Similarly while writing answers in Indian Administration, you are expected to relate them to thinkers in Paper – I. While studying any thinker or any topic, make sure that you are able to understand it in as simple manner as possible. Remember, making things simple is the most difficult thing in the world.
  • As far as examples are concerned, you will find them in newspapers and more importantly in Second Administrative Reforms Commission Reports and Punchhi Commission and other government documents.

There are no separate strategies for Paper-1 and Paper-2. In both the cases you will need to give Indian examples, write logically, and present arguments from both sides. Once you internalize the subject, answer writing will not require a lot of effort. But, if you have read the subject only once, you may face problems in presenting your viewpoint logically. Keep the following in mind while writing answers.

Do not write general answers as you write in GS. They should be ‘Pub Ad’ answers. Use administrative terminology from the subject; quote thinkers and theories in your answer; and explore the issue on administrative lines.

One must concentrate more on Indian Administration to get good score in Public Administration. Indian Administration also helps us in our Polity & Governance Paper in General Studies.

  • 1. Arc Reports are a must
  • 2. Punchhi Commission Reports
  • 3. Magazines like Yojana and kurukshetra are helpful(special issues on panchayats,women,developmental issues must be read –
  • 4. Following experts for certain areas( urban Development-Isher Judge Ahluvalia’s articles)
  • 5. Other important government reports like Law commission report on electoral reforms.
  • 6. Reports like ADR (association for democratic reforms),SCOPE(Standing Conference of Public Enterprises).
  • 7. Economic Survey
  • 8. Newspapers- follow The Hindu and The Indian Express
    every aspect and every point is substantiated by a concrete example. Please maintain a separate notebook and made chapter wise repository of such information from daily newspapers and magazines.
  • It is better to write in point format.
  • Try to write as many points as possible rather than explaining a single point.
  • The question must be well understood and only relevant material must be written which justifies the context of the question.
  • Writing answers in as simple manner as possible with a focus on basics.
  • Improve ability to interlink the concepts,whether in paper 1 or paper 2.Do link the concepts liberally.
  • Aspirants are expected to give examples from Indian Administration while explaining the concepts in Paper – I.

Paper I

Administrative theory : Section - A

Theories of Administration: Scientific Management, Human Relations’ School, Bureaucratic Theory and Systems Approach – These are all essential theories and students need to focus on critical aspects, Students need to be exhaustive with their preparation, which should be based on 3Cs – comprehensive, clarity and critical approach.

Structure of Public Organisations: In GS, a general approach to public sector is required whereas in Public Administration, the approach to this is actually amplification of government policy.

Administrative Behaviour: This topic is a real challenge and students need to be thorough with a concept like motivation. They need to be thorough with atleast three thinkers which include Maslow, Herzberg and Macgregor. They need to make a comparative account of all three of them. The year preceding, a quotation from Macgregor’s original book of quotation was given.

Accountability and Control: We are in a parliamentary system and students need to be clear about Parliament and its functions. They should read books on governance by Arun Shourie and Bimal Jalan. They also must be conversant on how Parliament functions in all aspects.

Section B

Administrative Reforms: This is a dynamic area as the emphasis is on technology. Students need to be thorough with legislations like Right to Information, rendering administration through people-centric institutions like panchayats and nagar palikas. Concepts like social auditing and participatory governance need to be studied in detail.

Comparative Public Administration: You need to read thinkers like Riggs. Earlier, public administration was centred around Western concepts whereas the focus is now on third world countries like India. Students are expected to be familiar with issues like governance, rural development, privatisation and human rights in Brazil, China and South Africa.

Development Administration: Students need to approach this topic with an open mind and with some amount of reading. They need to follow international trends on how technology is impacting administration across third world and elsewhere. This is relevant for India as there is a political dimension to the whole concept as it deals in issues like federalism and decentralisation. It has a dimension of administration where you deal with various aspects like poverty alleviation, empowerment, retraining and administration machinery.

Public Policy: It’s a challenging topic and students need to be aware about Dror who spoke maximum on issues related to public policy. Students need to be aware of how the country is developing particularly on issues related to disinvestments. Students need to be aware of anti-poverty programmes and how employment-generation schemes have evolved all these years.

Financial Administration: This topic is routed in Indian practices. You have issues like Parliament and Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and how do they function but students have to be absolutely clear on these issues.There is premium on latest knowledge like the PM’s and finance minister’s recent speeches as well.

Paper II

Indian Administration : Section - A

Evolution of Indian Administration: Areas which are crucial include criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime, President’s rule, Federal system in context of coalition government, fiscal and monetary policy.

Constitutional framework: President, Parliament and judiciary: These are important but students should not follow the conventional mode preparing for mains followed for the paper. Questions are generally twisted and they need to muster facts while giving right interpretation. Like in GS, the questions will deal with discretionary power of Governor (Article 116) whereas for public Administration, they might ask, ”Governor is an agent of centre”. Similarly in GS, the question might be based on Panchayati Raj System based on 73rd amendment. In Public Administration, they might ask, ”Panchayats are not development delivery vehicle, they are an independent tier of governance in true Gandhian spirit”. Students need to read national dailies to prepare for these kind of topics.

Union Government and Administration: The focus is on Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Cabinet Secretariat. The PMO has acquired enormous importance during the last three to four decade. Students should focus on how the relationship between PMO and Cabinet Secretariat has evolved under these c i rc u m s t a n ce s. Newspapers and journals should be good source of information on this issue.

State Government and Administration: Students need to be thorough with the Sarkaria Commission’s report on Centre-State relations and National Commission to Review the Working of Constitution report.

District Administration and Local Government: The changing role of collector vis-a-vis technology, District Rural Development Authority, District Development Authority, structure of panchayats and nagar palikas. There should be focus on issues like Right to Information, Cyber Governance.

Section B

Public Services: There should be focus on UPSC, State Public Service Commissions and how ”recruiters should be properly recruited”. The constitutional aspect and functions of these institutions need to be studied.

Control of Public Expenditure: Sections like Parliament and CAG have already been dealt in paper I. They need to further focus on Public Interest Litigation, judicial activism which includes extra ordinary intervention by Supreme Court and High Courts in order to restore dwindling public faith in system because of declining public morality at highest level.

Administrative Reforms: Queries on Right to Information, social audit, panchayati raj, Voluntary R e t i re m e n t Schemes are part of the administrative reforms.

Machinery for Planning: Student need to focus on Planning Commission and how the role has changed during all these years. They need to find out that whether Planning Commission should be merged with Finance Commission in the context of liberalisation. Students can gather information from national newspapers, periodical and journals.

Welfare Administration: This is an evolving area and there is no specific reading material available on this issue. Students need to go through annual report of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.