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LAW OPTIONAL STRATEGY : Pratik Tayal , AIR 92 CSE 2016 /2017/08/07/law-optional-strategy-pratik-tayal-air-92-cse-2016/

InsightsIAS 8/7/2017


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


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

Paper 1 Paper 2

Constitutional law Criminal law

1. VN Shukla 1. Pillai.

2. A K Jain (Dukki) 2. Dukki

3. Nirvana notes.

International law

1. SK Kapoor (in a nutshell) Torts

2. Singhals (Dukki) 1. Dukki

3. Ambition printed notes 2. Bangia

4. College notes 3. Nirvana Notes

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

abovementioned sources.

1. Dukki
Admin law

1. Dukki
Other Mercantile laws:

1. NI – Rahul’s IAS

– Dukki

2. Partnership –

– 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
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

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
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.

2. 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.

3. 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

4. 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.

5. 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

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

Internet. Sites like legalservicesindia and different blogs.

7. 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

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

Best wishes,

Pratik Tayal

AIR 92 CSE 2016