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LAW OPTIONAL STRATEGY : Pratik Tayal , AIR 92 CSE 2016



Pratik Tayal , AIR 92 CSE 2016


Dear All,


Before I begin with my approach to the preparation, a brief introduction about me: I am Pratik Tayal and I secured Rank 92 in CSE 2016. I had completed my graduation from National Law University, Delhi in the year 2016 and was fortunate enough to get through in my first attempt. Despite it being my first attempt, my preparation has been a bit long drawn with some of my registers going as long back as 2012. However, my intensive preparation began in the January of 2015.


I had taken law as my optional and have scored 271 marks in it. The following article is exclusively on my law preparation strategy.


At the very outset, I’ll clarify that the suggestions and points written below should merely have a persuasive value. I firmly believe that there is no formula or one particular way of preparing a subject. The suggestions given are out of my own experience and I would request you to formulate your own strategy keeping in mind your strengths and weaknesses.



Apart from the bare act in each of these subjects, I referred to the following sources:


Paper 1 Paper 2

Constitutional law 

1.      VN Shukla

2.      A K Jain (Dukki)


International law 

1.      SK Kapoor  (in a nutshell)

2.      Singhals (Dukki)

3.      Ambition printed notes 

4.      College notes

5.      Selected chapters from Malcolm Shaw, which aren’t available in the abovementioned sources.


Admin law 

1.      Dukki




Criminal law 

1.      Pillai.

2.      Dukki 

3.      Nirvana notes. 



1.      Dukki

2.      Bangia

3.      Nirvana Notes



1.      Dukki 


Other Mercantile laws:

1.      NI – Rahul’s IAS

–         Dukki

2.      Partnership – Ambition

–         Dukki

3.      SoGA –  Ambition

–         Dukki




Since I had the luxury of time, I referred to a number of different sources. However, the ones that I found to be really good are marked in bold.




For preparing a subject (and especially in CSE, considering the vastness of syllabus), I think it is, first, important to understand the kind of questions that are asked in the paper. Once that ORIENTATION is built, the preparation can be geared in that direction.


For that, I would recommend that a book containing the previous years’ papers be bought, preferably the one that categorizes the questions under the head of topics in the syllabus. You should try to read the questions repeatedly and try to internalize them. This would hardly take ten minutes per sitting but would be one of the best investments you make. At the same time, should know what you are looking for in these questions and try to develop the following things: 

  1. Relative importance of different topics so that you can prioritize them and allocate time accordingly. For example, in my opinion, one should not spend as much time on article 23-24 as much they do on Article 14 or 32.
  2. The nature of questions that are asked from each topic. One can see that the kind of questions asked under Article 14 are more often than not of the same type i.e. theoretical or you can say, mostly on the test of arbitrariness. There are very few questions which are based on particular situations or facts (such as on special courts or on the case regarding air hostesses). So, while studying or revising, you can choose lay extra emphasis on these aspects.
  3. At times, the questions are also repeated in the optional papers in which case you will stand to gain, having thought over a question before the exam.


Having built an orientation, the second thing is to build your CONTENT. It is better to categorize your books into primary and secondary. There should be one book that is your primary source and the others that should merely be used to add to the content and language. It is also fine if you’re referring to only one book and have read it thoroughly. In the booklist given above, point one can be the primary book for each subject. Few tips on content development:

  1. Focus on conceptual understanding of topics more, rather than rote learning of cases. While the second can be taken care of through examples, the first is non-negotiable. When you have a good command over your concepts, you can make up examples on the spot and they are also rewarded comparably, if not equally.
  2. Remember to think about the rationale and significance of a topic. For eg, in reading Article 12, you should know the significance of an entity being declared a state (i.e. what consequences ensue) and the rationale behind the tests of instrumentality of state and as to why it underwent a change from Rajasthan SEB to Ajay Hasia (in light of changing role of state). It often happens that we tend to neglect/or take for granted the rationale part of a concept or its introductory para while reading, which for the purposes of UPSC is also of importance.
  3. Role of Current Affairs –

Current Affairs plays an extremely important part throughout this exam and increasingly, the Law optional papers are becoming dynamic in nature. My take on the role of current affairs in the paper is:

  • Paper 1 does feature 2-3 questions directly from current affairs, which can be predicted. For instance, in 2015, there was a question on international nuclear law when Marshal Islands filed a case against India. Similarly, in 2016, there was a 20 marks question on Paris treaty. Therefore, all such news that come on the first page of the newspaper and pertain to the syllabus of constitutional and international law can be selected and made notes on. E.g. Topics like consular access, extradition, refugee law, interstate water disputes, etc.
  • Paper 2 has a component of contemporary legal developments and UPSC more or less sticks to them while asking on current affairs.


Now that you have read through the entire thing and internalized it, the herculean task is to MEMORIZE it. The way in which one should do that is anybody’s ballgame. But the way I did it was by making notes, continuous revision and most importantly, discussion with a peer group. It is easier said than done and you, like me, might not remember a lot of the cases on the day of the exam, but then it is fine because most others would also float in the same boat.


Last and the most important of all is ANSWER WRITING. It is important to practice writing answers. Despite content, one may not score as well in law optional and CSE in general and therefore, devoting time on this aspect is as important as all others combined.

  • Paper 1 is slightly more theoretical and philosophical as compared to paper 2 which is usually more factual. Therefore the answer writing has also to be moulded accordingly. In paper 1, I think there is a need for use of keywords and related doctrines. For instance in a question on Article 14, the principle of rule of law can be mentioned. Secondly, you should try mentioning the rationale of things in a line or two in the answer. These are just few ideas on the add-ons that you can make to your answers and in any way cannot replace your content, which has to be present nevertheless.
  • Paper 2 is simpler in my opinion. It is fairly direct and straight forward. My structure for a usual question would be – Section à Ingredients à Issue à Case/Theoryà Application à The conclusion would comprise of related sections that are attracted in the question, or any other relevant information.

Note: These are ofcourse generalized statements. If the question in Paper 2 seems to be less on facts/application and more on analysis and vice versa, the answer writing would be moulded accordingly.


Some Specific Questions that have been asked to me:


  1. What is the reasonable duration in which one should complete the syllabus?

While it depends on the sources that you refer and your speed of reading, understanding and retention, in my experience, it takes four months to do the entire thing from the abovementioned sources, with notes.


  1. Are Dukkis sufficient?

Dukkis are one of the best sources for understanding law. Therefore, if you have less time, you can choose to only do Dukkis. But the downside of this is that you might not develop the language or the perspective as effectively. This can be offset by practicing answering writing and just pondering over the concepts. So dukkis may be sufficient, but it is a gamble.


  1. Whether law as an optional should be chosen?

Considering the dismal performance this year, with only 6 persons from this optional getting selected in the entire list, I have often been asked this question. In my opinion, law is definitely one of the best optional present. Every year one optional gets targeted randomly and therefore, each of the others that you have in mind have the same probability of scoring less. Secondly, the fact that it performed low this year gives a higher chance for it to not perform the same next year. Lastly, this optional has an overlap with ethics, paper 2 and essay. The reason that I scored 135 in ethics is significantly because of my optional.

The only negatives of this optional that I have felt are the lack of good coaching and lack of sufficient advice on the internet.  


  1. Importance of coaching for law optional?

I did not take coaching for law optional because of two reasons: first, I am not a big fan of coaching and therefore did not take any formal coaching for GS either, apart from being taught by my father. Second, paucity of good coaching institutes. Therefore, I don’t think coaching is necessary. It can be managed on your own, provided you have the orientation right. 


  1. Where to do answer writing from?

Since there is no test series (that I am aware of), I used to practice 5 previous years’ questions every day from Prelims to Mains. Additionally, I prepared pointers on few questions while doing the syllabus. Once you write an answer, you yourself will realize the follies in it. There is always a gap between what we know and what we are able to write in those limited words. So that can be improved. Other points on which you can work include:

  • Effective communication
  • Lucidity
  • Structure
  • Keywords
  • Aesthetics


  1. How to prepare miscellaneous topics under CLD of paper 2?

Internet. Sites like legalservicesindia and different blogs.


  1. When is the right time to begin preparation?

In my experience, preparing for UPSC requires a person to adapt to a way of thinking and is therefore a holistic process. You can begin working on this even from your first year by reading the newspapers and generally having a bent of mind towards general studies. You can even manage in 10 months (taking from the personal experiences of other selected candidates) if you hit the right nail. My journey was of 18 months intensive preparation before my Prelims.


Apologies for a long article. Hoping that my experience helps. Best of luck for your preparation!


Best wishes,

Pratik Tayal

AIR 92 CSE 2016