I took up physics as an optional because she had always been my first love. Though my subject in college was Computer Science and Engineering and even though I didn’t have any definite UPSC plans back then, I still took as many Physics electives as I could during my time there. Being an almost half graduate in Physics by the time I passed out,it was a natural choice even though I had heard not very encouraging things about science optionals from seniors. The other optional was the “popular” public administration. More on that one later.
My preparation for physics had a few major components
• Books – I did an indepth study of all the study heads in the syllabus from the original books. Initially I relied on foreign authors for their lucidity and clarity as well as presentation but ultimately came around to the Indian authors who focus on exam writing styles and detailed derivations.
• Senior’s notes – I cannot thank Abhijeet Agrawal enough for his help to his juniors. His blog at http://abhijeetagrawal.blogspot.in/ is a MUST for all physics aspirants. Although his book list might make even the most seasoned tayyari waala think again for a moment, but his online notes are priceless! Absolutely priceless! Mr agrawal, thank you so much!
• My own notes: After my first haphazard failed attempt, I sat down to make my own notes collecting(and discarding) material from AA’s notes as well as all the books I had read. Although lacking in heft, they were colorfully done and remain the only example of any sort of effort that I might have shown during my preparation. I will try and possibly upload them in a month’s time following in the footsteps of Mr AA. However, please note \my notes are far far inferior to his. (No, this is not false humility)
• Test Series/Coaching – I had joined Vajpeyi Sir’s classes in my first attempt but was unable to attend many classes as my preparation had started falling behind and I was unable to leverage the maximum out of the classes. However, in my second attempt I gave all the tests and sat for discussion classes and learnt a lot on answer writing styles, need for speed and accuracy required in the exam.
• Before Exam Day – The physics paper requires a level of practice that is staggering. The questions are never difficult and given enough time, every single person sitting for the exam can solve it completely. But thats the crux. We aren’t given enough time to breathe, let alone think the steps for derivations and proofs. Which means that all the processing has to happen beforehand. Its a must that every single major proof/derivation should be reproducible at a moment’s notice. Unless one reaches that stage for 6-7 syllabus heads, she/he is not ready for the exam. Its a very soul killing exercise(well, most of UPSC preparation is) but something that has to be done, even if that kills the beauty of physics as a subject
• Exam day – A lot of things come into play – the questions you will choose to write ( I tried to focus on the ones no one would attempt but only if I am sure that I knew how to do it), the possibility that You might get stuck(never a good idea, it wastes time and lowers your confidence especially if this happens early on), the size of the bench( UPSC tables are the best ) , and realizing mid way to a question that its wrong and being stuck with just half a page to do it right again. Unlike humanities, there are right and wrong ways to do a question, and with limited page space we have to be extremely careful and certain before even starting a question
• Tutorial Sheets by Vajpayee Sir as well as question papers from previous years (CSE as well as IFoS) were a constant comapanion to keep practicing from. The weekly tests also helped revise the syllabus heads one by one and kept the preparation on track till mains happened.
Books that I used
• Standing on shoulders of Giants, http://abhijeetagrawal.blogspot.in/
and http://piedhornbill.blogspot.com/ and
• Mechanics – Kleppner and Kolenkow, D S Mathur, a bit of Goldstein, Relativity from
Resnick •Waves and Optics Ghatak* and Hecht* are more than sufficient.
• E & M – Griffiths* and satyaprakash(also, relativity from here)
• Thermal – Zemansky and Dittman, Callen, Sears and Salinger*(Love this book), satyaprakash
• Q& M – Satyaprakash, Griffiths*
• Atomic and Molecular – Resnick and Eisberg*, Banwell*, Rajkumar*, S B Patel
• Nuclear and Particle – S B patel, Pandya and Yadav, Resnick and Eisberg, D C Tayal
• Solid State and Electronics – Did not prepare electronics at all except for basic logic gates, Puri and Babbar, S O Pillai
For some topics of general interest, notes from the internet can be prepared. Even otherwise, AA’s notes are incredibly helpful in all stages of preparation. A major component is going to be answer writing. Answers must be supplemented with as much “differentiators” as possible – elements like diagrams, definitions, boxes etc that differentiate your copy from the rest. Proper steps in derivations, definitions, diagrams are important for scoring higher.
And a word on luck. My preparation for physics last year was a magnitude better than this time and yet, it worked out in my favor this year.
“ There are things that are not in your control. Work hard for the things that are and it will eventually work out in your favor. “
Best of luck,