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UPSC IAS RANK – 4 ARTIKA SHUKLA: Preparation Strategy – First Attempt, Self Study, Followed Insights from Prelims to Interview

It is a proud moment for Insights and Insightians. Artika Shukla, who has secured All India Rank – 4 in her first attempt, in her own words, followed Insights with ‘operatic regularity‘ since December 2014 to till the day she reached her goal. This gives hope to both us and our followers. Yes, we know hundreds of followers of Insights have secured ranks this year, but it is very special when a successful follower genuinely acknowledges the fact that Insights was useful in his/her preparation.  This is one of the reasons why we work hard every day. A small acknowledgement from you inspires us to do more. We congratulate Artika on her grand success on behalf of our team and all Insightians. 


Artika Shukla

Rank – 4, CSE – 2015

Hello everyone!

I am Artika, a doctor my profession. I first thought of appearing in the civil services in November 2014. I resigned from the course I was pursuing (MD paeds) a week later. And began serious preparation from dec,2014.

At that time I was as clueless as a newborn. All I knew was that the only thing I could now try my hand at was civil services 2015 and that I had to give it all I got.

I did not join any classroom coaching. I did join vision ias mains test series. And followed Insights with operatic regularity throughout the year. This was my first attempt. And my optional was medical science.

I am here to share my strategy with you . I hope you go through this with a little trust in me,pick and choose whatever suits you the best. And if this benefits even one of you,I would consider myself fortunate. ☺


Essential book list :
1. Spectrum modern india

  1. Class 11 and 12 geo ncert
  2. Economics class 11th and 12th ncert
  3. Economic survey
  4. key features of budget
  5. Laxmikant
  1. Daily newspaper reading – I used to read The hindu.
  2. Art and culture- multiple resources – CCRT, Class 11th NCERT on art, any reputed coaching material, themes in Indian history etc
  3. Shankar Ias book for environment

I might miss some books completely. Do cross check with the booklist given on Insights or any other place.

No need to read special science and tech booklets or attend mock classes for current affairs. The above book list is sufficient if coupled with daily newspaper reading + Solving Insights test series paper.(EXTREMELY USEFUL)


What I Did:

Bought all the prelims test series papers of Insights and Vision about a month before the exam. Spent days and nights on end solving them. In my experience,this was more beneficial than any book or notes I might have read earlier.

A number of questions were repeated directly from insights test series!

Here I want to state that The questions in the tests are tough. They are meant to take you a notch higher than the rest,I believe. therefore,don’t be disheartened if you can’t score a lot on them. I could never score a 100 on any of them!  But continue solving them with utmost sincerity and diligence. And the final exam paper will seem like a piece of cake. ☺



I didn’t write a single essay before the exam. I would suggest you not to follow in my footsteps. Write a few essays before the exam. If nothing,you’ll atleast be more confident in the examination hall.

Some important points regarding essays:

1. Learn a few quotes by important political personalities a day before the exam.. like Mahatma Gandhi,Lincoln.Nelson Mandela,Martin Luther King..even Fredrick Neitschze or Max Weber – on common topics like education, democracy, social empowerment.
Use them to start or end the essay. I did this and I think it might have increased my score.
2. Make headings.
3.Have a central theme in the essay and keep reiterating it every few paragraphs or so.
4. Cover as many dimensions as you can.
5. Try having an optimistic conclusion.
We all know there is no ideal essay on a topic. I would suggest Try bringing something of your own into the essay. Your own perspective will make it unique. And fetch you marks !!


Essential book list :

Bipan Chandra India Since Independence (selected chapters)
Bipan Chandra India’S Struggle for Independence
Class 11 and 12 NCERT geography + GC Leong
Art and culture- multiple resources – CCRT, class 11th NCERT on art,any reputed coaching material, Themes in indian history etc
Society and other miscellaneous topics can be dealt with by reading the newspaper daily and thoroughly. No special preparation is needed.


This is where INSIGHTS SECURE really saved my neck!

I could not have even attempted all the questions in the final exam had I not followed the secure initiative so thoroughly.
My advice to you is – try going through all the secure questions daily. Try answering them. If not possible, at least read the article and jot down the main points included in it in a notebook. If even this is not possible, at least go through the compilations which come out in the end.

This is an exercise whose importance I cannot emphasize enough. Reading 10 articles everyday on topics of relevance helps you gain perspective, increase your knowledge as well as teaches how to write answers comprehensively.

If there’s one thing in this entire write up that you wish to follow, let it be this. Trust me, you will not realize how much it helps you until the day of your result. ☺

Other resources for paper 2:
Various sites of the ministry
Vision current affair notes

What I did:

At the end of October, I made a notebook for paper 2. And I used to write one topic on one page – really concise and to the point. For ex- the juvenile justice bill. Make arrows and write about what it was, what it is now, main points about the bill, the pros, the cons, what prompted an amendment and the Way forward. Insights initiative called MINDMAPS helped me in this a lot!!

This is how you should tackle a topic – inside out. So that once you’re done with it, you are able to answer almost anything related to it.

Make such a notebook at the end of the Oct/Nov and fill it up with 40-50 topics that were relevant the entire year and revise it in the week before the exam.

Will do wonders!!


Similar strategy as above. Follow Insights Secure!!

2 new additions : Economic Survey : EXTREMELY IMPORTANT
key features of budget.
ARC for disaster.


I would specifically say that this paper requires no preparation. It is a test of your analytical and decision making abilities as well as common sense. The best you can do is get 2 or 3 papers of a decent test series. Read and understand how to approach case studies and give one or two tests of ethics so as to understand the kind of questions asked.

Try not going for the extremes in the answers that demand a stand.

Express yourself well and try to finish the paper on time.

That’s all!

Personality Test :

The interview guidance write up on Insights was extremely useful to me. It gave me a direction at a point where I was clueless. I also gave 2 mocks each at Vaji and Samkalp.

The only useful piece of advice I can give you about PT is that more than the content of your answers, your conviction and your confidence matters.

Try building them up.

General tips :

1. Do not spend more than 2 months exclusively in the preparation of prelims. It is a qualifying exam. Instead use the time to increase your grip over your optional/GS mains.

2. Choose an optional you’re comfortable with. Something you enjoy reading and writing about. Optional marks can make or break your result. IT is the most crucial part of the preparation.

3. Answer writing practice has two parts to it :

One is the ability to finish a paper within 30 mins, to improve your speed and  to have a good handwriting.

The other is to build your content from diverse sources, collect and present the information in an organized manner.

Both are required. Keep practicing until you’re good at both.

4. In the final exam, always write an introduction.. the content if possible in points followed by an optimistic conclusion. Train yourself to write answers in this manner quickly.

5.  Personality Test is the most whimsical part of the entire process. Try not to depend on it at all. The Mains Exam is what gets you in the final list. Give it your best shot!!


This is an exam not only of knowledge but also of strength,patience and focus. Work hard. Be ambitious and do not be afraid to start. Start where you are. Start with fear, with doubt, with pain. Start with voice shaking and hands trembling. Start where you are, with what you have. You can.  You should. And if you’re brave enough to start, you will succeed one day.

Best wishes,
Artika Shukla

Rank 4 (CSE 2015)


My Marks

artika shukla IAS marks

artika shukla IAS marks