Advice for Physics optional by Kashish Mittal , IAS 

Making use of availability of choice in the exam, I covered the first seven topics mentioned above completely, while for the last topic (Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics) I skipped the Devices & Electronics portion. This portion is extremely lengthy and can be skipped if you cover all other topics well and if you are not from Electrical/Electronics Engineering background.

I took coaching in Physics from Prof. Vajpayee (DIAS Institute), which helped in giving me a holistic coverage of the syllabus. Also, I got to learn the method of writing for the Physics exam in the UPSC.

After covering the theory and doing practice problems (from class notes plus solved examples in the books), I attempted the tutorial sheets given by Prof. Vajpayee and solved them properly on paper in the way I would write in the exam. This was a very helpful exercise as the tutorial sheets contain the past year UPSC questions exhaustively (arranged topic wise) and it gives one a clear picture of the way questions are asked in the UPSC and how one would attempt them. For solutions, I referred to Brilliant Tutorials, which provide solved problems for UPSC exams of past 15-20 years.

I also solved a few complete papers of recent years in exam like conditions to simulate a complete attempt like the exam. Finally, as in Mathematics, I also made summary sheets for every unit/topic (~ 4 pages per unit) in which I listed the important results/formulae/derivation techniques/tips/graphs/diagrams which can be gone through a day before the exam. This is helpful as it can give you a holistic & quick revision of the entire syllabus before the exam. In the exam, my correct attempt was ~ 290 in Paper I and ~ 270 in Paper II. My score in the exam was 184 in Paper I and 173 in Paper II.

Here I felt a characteristic difference in my score versus correct attempt as compared to the same for Mathematics. The reason is probably because in a dire want of completing the Physics paper in time (as I had fell short of time in Maths paper, so I did not want to end up with time shortage in Physics as well!), I may have not given due justice to answer writing. Putting it simply, while in Mathematics it is sufficient to write the solution of a question properly without the need to write anything extra, it has been seen that for any question in Physics (including numerical problems) candidates are given extra credit if they give some background of the topic in question, make a diagram/graph wherever it can be made, give the applications if you are asked to write about a particular phenomenon, etc. Prof. Vajpayee’s classes/notes can be quite helpful in this regard, i.e., in improving answer writing.

Proper theory building, writing style, problem solving ability and accuracy are very important to score well in the UPSC Physics exam. The books I referred for Physics are as follows. Here the books I did thoroughly for a particular topic are underlined, while the non-underlined books are those which I used to cover any remaining sub-sections of the topic.

Paper – I

1. Mechanics:
Mechanics by D.S. Mathur
An Introduction to Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkow

Classical Mechanics by Goldstein

2. Waves and Optics:
Optics by Ajoy Ghatak
Optics by B.S. Agarwal

3. Electricity and Magnetism: 
Introduction to Electrodynamics by David J. Griffiths
Electromagnetic Theory and Electrodynamics by Satya Prakash

4. Thermal and Statistical Physics:
Heat and Thermodynamics by Dittman and Zemansky
Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory and Statistical Thermodynamics by Sears and Salinger
Thermodynamics, Statistical Physics and Kinetics by Satya Prakash

Paper -II

1. Quantum Mechanics:
Quantum Physics by H.C. Verma

2. Atomic and Molecular Physics:
Atomic and Molecular Spectra by Raj Kumar
Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser
Quantum Physics by Resnick and Eisberg

3. Nuclear and Particle Physics:
Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser
Quantum Physics by Resnick and Eisberg
Nuclear Physics by D.C. Tayal

4. Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics:
Principles of Electronic Materials and Devices by S O Kasap
Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser
Quantum Physics by Resnick and Eisberg