Exam Strategy for Public Administration

Given the time constraint, 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. Some basics of a ‘smart strategy’ are quoted below:

  • Inculcating a basic framework.
  • Perusal of question papers of earlier years.
  • Mark areas for concentrated pursuit.
  • Examination-biasness and ambiguity.
  • Adequate writing practice for time management and evolving right content.
  • Continuous go through of performance and appropriate corrections.
  • Atleast two weeks before the examination, writing exercises should be stopped and the overall attention should be on revision.
  • Every candidate appearing for the mains examination should be conversant with the fundamentals of the structure, procedure, behaviour and environment of the administrative system. It's equally crucial that the student should be conversant with the contemporary and the recent developments of socio-political and economic attribute that have a close bearing on the functioning of the administration. For example, changing governors; direct grants to panchayats; economic changes with a human face; globalisation and administration; second generation changes and the social infrastructure; right to information and componenticipative development.

Amassing information is a big ‘don't’ Candidates should be able to figure out ‘main areas’ which cannot be ignoreed in the context of the mains examination and consolidate. Most crucially, study and writing practice should reinforce each other. Writing practice holds the key to success. It ensures legibility, time management and adherence to word constraint. Effective introduction, logical build up and balanced conclusion send the right signals to the evaluator. Every question needs to be studied carefully to learn the exact requirements. For instance, some years ago, in the mains examination, the office of the Prime Minister was given and some took it for Prime Minister's Office. Many times, the questions are fundamental in attribute and not direct. For example, criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime; public sector enterprises are neither public nor enterprises; recruitment of recruiters needs to be reasonable and planning in India is crucial.

For short questions, answers should be direct and precise. In a long essay, introduction should be appealing and effective. 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. 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. Majorily fundamental studies, public administration requires interpretative skills, ability to correlate theory and practice; and coordinate conventional with the recent. For example, presidential activism in India; budget as an instrument of socio-economic transformation; citizen-administration interface and e-governance; regulation and development; development and delivery models.

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, which is not there in fundamental Studies (GS). 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 fundamental approach to public sector is required whereas in Public Administration, the approach to this is actually amplification of government policy. Few years ago, a question in the main stage in the Public Administration paper was, ‘Welfare obligation of public sector has been abandoned in the era of liberalisation'’ This question will never come in GS. The attribute of this question is provocative and you need to respond with a positive attitude. Your reply could begin with: ‘’ Public sector still fulfil nation's goal of welfare____ ‘’ Or, there might be a question which says, ‘’ Since 1967, position of governor has been politicised''.
  • Administrative Behaviour: This topic is a real challenge and students need to be thorough with a concept namely 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 changes: This is a dynamic area as the emphasis is on technology. Students need to be thorough with legislations namely Right to Information, rendering administration through people-centric institutions namely panchayats and nagar palikas. Concepts namely social auditing and componenticipatory governance need to be studied in well detail.
  • Comparative Public Administration: You need to read thinkers namely Riggs. Earlier, public administration was centred around Western concepts whereas the focus is now on third world countries namely India. Students are expected to be familiar with topics namely 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 influencing 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 topics namely federalism and decentralisation. It has a horizon of administration where you deal with various aspects namely 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 topics related to public policy. Students need to be aware of how the country is developing componenticularly on topics 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. Topics namely Parliament and Comptroller and Auditor fundamental of India (CAG) and how do they function but students have to be ultimately clear on these topics. There is premium on latest knowledge namely 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 crucial but students should not follow the conventional mode while preparing for main paper. Questions are fundamentally twisted and they need to muster facts while giving right interpretation. Namely 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 individual importance during the last three to four decade. Students should focus on how the relationship between PMO and Cabinet Secretariat has emerged under these kind of circumstances. Newspapers and journals are outstanding mode of information on this topic.
  • State Government and Administration: Students need to be thorough with the Sarkaria Commission's report on Centre-State relations and National Commission to go through the Working of Constitution report which was submitted in 2002
  • 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 focus on topics namely 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 sides and functions of these institutions need to be focus.
  • Control of Public Expenditure: Sections namely 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 involvement o Supreme Court and High Courts in order to store the public faith in system again, as of declining public morality rate at highest level.
  • Administrative changes: Queries on Right to Information, social audit, panchayati raj, Voluntary Retirement Schemes are a component of the administrative changes.
  • 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 added with Finance Commission in regard of liberalisation. Students can gather information from national newspapers, periodical and journals.
  • Administration of Law and Order: The role of central and state agencies in the maintenance of law and order and articles published on these topics should be given top preference.
  • Welfare Administration: This is an emerging area and there is no particular reading material available for this topic. Students must need to go through annual report of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • Writing: Application is the key while writing this paper. Ignore jargon and abbreviation, be precise. Premium is on accuracy, insightfulness and application.