Strategy for Public Administration

Public Administration is the management of men and material in the accomplishment of the purposes of the State. – Leonard White.

This definition of Public Administration [PA] gives an insight into the nature and scope of the subject. As a discipline, PA is an interesting amalgamation of Political Science and Management. It is the action part of governance, which utilises the knowledge base of these discipline to cater to public needs.


  • As a choice of optional by UPSC aspirants, Public Administration has occupied a primary position for a long time. It has been a popular subject due to following advantages

  • Short syllabus in comparison to other optional subjects

  • Conceptual orientation and application-based topics

  • Trend of obtaining good scores

  • Availability of reference material and classes

  • Easy to learn for students of non-Humanities and Social Science background.

PA is a comparatively new discipline and the length of the syllabus reflects this. The crux of the subject is conceptual clarity, therefore capacity to learn by rote becomes non-essential. There has been a trend of straight-forward questions, which helped the candidates in scoring well.

However, PA also comes with a set of challenges.

  • Increasing difficulty of paper

  • Emphasis on applicability of the concepts, specially in Paper 2

  • Discipline specific language and vocabulary, and quotation-based questions.

  • Understanding the subject and expressing the subject.

Over the last few years, the difficulty level of Public Administration has increased. UPSC has changed its strategy from direct questions, to include an increasing number of complex questions based on combination of different concepts and applicability. Take an example of the questions on Comparative Public Administration –

i) Comparative Public Administration both resembles and differs from modern organization theory. Elaborate (2013) – a direct question about nature of CPA

ii) Comparative Public Administration started with no paradigm of its own and developed none. Comment (2020) – an indirect question on nature of CPA

In its own way, Public Administration is a technical subject, albeit easy to comprehend. But there is a difference between understanding the subject and internalising this subject. You may be able to answer a direct question, but a twist in the same one might leave you confused. You need to understand PA intuitively and logically. This requires a thorough understanding of concepts and familiarity with the disciplinary language.


These challenges can be overcome with a sound study strategy

  • Conceptual Notes – Make brief notes of concepts including their definitions, interpretations by different scholars, context of evolutions, argument and counter arguments.

  • List Quotations – Make a list of important quotations by prominent thinkers. This will help you in identifying the context of the question score better.

  • Build Connections – Study the papers individually, and during second reading identify connections between topics in paper one to paper two. For example – financial administration can be connected to Budget process in India, or you may study the chapter on Civil Services in the light of Personnel Management.

  • Source India-centric examples – Make notes of India-specific examples associated with relevant topics. You may refer to editorials of the Hindu, the IE and blogs on NITI Aayog for the same.


Before discussion on answer writing strategy, it is essential to analyse the mark-based topic-wise trend of questions.


There is no separate strategy for both the papers. Your answers need to include following points

  • Backing your answers with theoretical foundations and perspectives of various thinkers.

  • Include India -centric examples. e.g Public Private Partnership model may be elaborated with an example of working of National Highways Authority of India with private contractors.

  • Include Contemporary Administrative Practices - this might include any changes in structure of department in terms of roles and responsibilities, transition of Planning Commission to Niti Aayog

  • Include comparative public administration perspective wherever necessary. e.g question on federalism might include comparison of federal functioning in the US and India during the Pandemic time.

  • Utilise the quotes and concepts from your notes.

  • Present administrative concepts in diagrammatic form as this subject provides ample scope for it.


You need to study from basic standard books and diverse resources for PA.

  • IGNOU BA and MA Notes

  • Administrative Thinkers - Prasad and Prasad

  • Public Administration - Sharma & Sadana

  • New Horizons of Public Administration - Mohit Bhattacharya

  • Social Theory Development Administration and Development Ethics - Mohit Bhattacharya.

  • Public Administration and Public Affairs - Nicholas Henry

  • Public Policy: Concept, Theory and Practice - Bidyut Chakrabarty and Prakash Chand

  • Public Administration - Laxmikant

  • ARC reports

  • Important reports from ministries

Public Administration is a subject designed for a civil servant. It will certainly take you a step closer to your goal. Prepare well. All the best!

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