Topper’s Preparation Strategy – UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination
SACHIN GUPTA Rank – 3 UPSC CSE-2017
I am Sachin Gupta from Sirsa, Haryana , who secured Rank 3 in UPSC Civil Services Examination 2017 in my Third attempt. I had secured Rank 575 in Civil Services Examination 2016 and had got Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS). I have done my schooling in DAV Centenary Public School Sirsa & graduation in B.E. Mechanical from Thapar University, Patiala.
I will be dividing my article into 4 parts dealing with my journey & Prelims, Strategy for GS-Mains , Strategy for Optional and Preparation for Personality Test.
Key Ingredients for success:
You might have been going through interviews and articles of various toppers about their strategies but always try to build your own strategy. This is the first key ingredient of success, take the best out of everything available around you. In the course of preparation, I approached different places/institutes for just getting what I feel best in them. So from now on , whatever I will be writing try to see from your own perspective , whether you feel it is right or not for yourself and build your own strategy.
Second most important thing I feel is evaluating oneself in course of preparation, understand your strengths and weakness, & work over it. For instance , after my first attempt I faced difficulty in getting good marks in my optional and decided to change it. After my second attempt I felt that I seriously need to work hard on GS part as well, thereby I joined Insights offline test series for Answer Writing practice, which I found to be a game changer in this journey from Rank 575 to Rank 3. I had joined IAS Baba as well, particularly for Optional Answer Writing Practice & also, I found it good especially in understanding how to approach a particular topic. That I will cover in my next article on General Studies Preparation Strategy. But just try to find your own strengths and weakness & work over it.
Further I believe that hard work is the ultimate key for success. Trust me, this was the only thing we can bank upon throughout the journey. I have lived this journey through sheer hard work in different phases, even at the times when I was feeling whether , I will ever be able to clear this examination or not, when I will be out of the cycle of preparation & actually be a Change Agent. But here I would say, keep calm, be persistent in your goal and always believe why you want to be a Civil Servant, keep remembering that in your tough phases, believe me you will not only cross it but you will with flying colors.
And last but not the least is Self-Belief, whenever you feel low, talk to your parents, mentors and well-wishers, try to get positive vibes from them. In the course of preparation we many times have self-doubt but that is normal & try to get motivation from wherever you can. I understand our core aim remains is to clear the examination and it should be that way. But live this journey from the perspective of becoming a better human being and transforming oneself how to be a change agent. Have the self-belief you will not only crack this examination and will be the change that we all aspire in the society!
Strategy for Prelims
I hope that your preparation for prelims will be going on in full swing and you might be going through the feeling of fear and lack of confidence. So before writing the strategy that I followed for Prelims , I would like to talk about some Do’s & Don’t for those who are giving prelims within a month on 3rd of June, this year.
- Don’t change your own strategy: As result is declared recently , many of us successful candidates would be writing their own strategies, don’t get swayed in last one month, this is not the time to change anything that you followed till now. For last 1 month try to restrict yourself to the resources and follow the simple mantra ” Revise Revise and Revise”
- Previous year UPSC Papers: This is the only thing that i would suggest if any of the aspirants haven’t solved them yet, do it . It will not only help you in understanding areas on which one needs to focus more in last one month but also it will improve elimination as well as help you in time management in the examination hall.
- Time Management in last one month: About 4 weeks are left in prelims examination on 3rd of June. Just try to make a weekly schedule for next 3 weeks and divide them into daily targets. It will help you in two ways, firstly you will remain calm and confident that everything will be covered by the end of 3 weeks and secondly it increases your efficiency on daily basis. This is something that I realized, after doing mistakes in last 3 prelims but follow it only if you feel its right for you based upon your own strength and weakness.
- Health : Just take care of your health in last one month as it’s the most crucial time and you may save 10-20 mins or an hour at max by neglecting diet or exercise but if God forbid one gets sick, it can take away 3-4 days straight.
- During Examination: When you enter the examination hall, just say yourself you are the best, I will definitely clear this. Believe me it works, it gives a sense of confidence and reduce performance pressure. Further , fill all your particulars with extra caution . It might happen you might mark one or two questions wrong mistakenly even after knowing it ( It happened with me twice). Don’t panic and just try to focus on rest of the questions. Don’t let one mistake spoil your entire paper.
Rest I believe, everyone is working hard to crack this examination, might have planned out how to go about prelims this year.
Now i would like to discuss Strategy for those of you who will be writing Prelims next year or thereafter:
First of all, the resources that I have referred during my preparation:
Ancient History: Old NCERT by RS Sharma
Medieval History: Old NCERT by Satish Chandra
Modern History: Old NCERT by Bipan Chandra and Spectrum
Art and Culture: NCERT 11th class book on Art & Nitin Singhania’s notes
Polity: Indian Constitution at Work, Laxmikant,
Economy: Mrunal’s videos, NCERTs of Economics of Class 12th, Indian Economy Key Concepts by Sankarganesh
Geography: NCERTs, Rajtanil Ma’am lectures of Geography on Mrunal’s Youtube Channel
Mapping: Orient Blackswan Atlas
Environment: Shankar’s and GkToday Environment Module
Science: 11th and 12th NCERTs
Current Affairs: Vision and Insights Prelims Exclusive Magazines/Modules
These are the extensive resources that I followed in last 3 years and was able to crack it every time. But I would again like to red flag – try to restrict resources you will be referring for examination and focus more on revision. Ultimately one needs to remember important facts or clear understanding of basic concepts in the examination to mark right option.
Making best out of Various Resources: Again , I would like to highlight just try to find out best from different resources and stick to it. For instance for understanding I referred Mrunal’s lecture , I found it extremely good but I took help of Sankarganesh for revising and wrote the gist of my understanding with sticky notes above each page. Similarly for Geography I understood important concepts from Rajtanil Ma’am lecture but took help of NCERT for revision sticky notes on important pages.
Sticking to the resources: While one is preparing for prelims, try to study in a holistic manner along with Mains preparation at least till before 4 months of actual prelims examination. Try to go through all the Ncerts once for each subject along with one Standard book whichever you feel comfortable. Moreover, don’t get distracted with the amount of resources you will be flooded on internet and market. One may feel, that he/she will get extra things or can learn more by reading more, but at the end you have to remember it in paper that one can only do if you had at least 2-3 revision. Try to have concise notes on each topic even if you read from different resources by compiling best out of different resources at one place, so that you can revise twice or thrice before examination.
Short Notes: Try to make Short Notes and Mnemonics on different topics, it would really help you in revising at last moment in a swift manner. I am sharing some of pics that could help you if you find it good. Just try to build concise things so that you can revise in a swift manner.
Importance of Test Series and Peer group: Further, try to build a good peer group , which can motivate you all throughout preparation. Peer group helps not only in making one efficient with competitive feeling but one can also get benefitted in understanding areas he/she is not comfortable. My peer group has helped a lot and at many instances when I was not good at certain topics, like Art& Culture initially, then Environment etc. There will be many ups and downs, it’s important to maintain continuity. For this, one can follow any one good test series. It can help in two ways , firstly scheduling as well as maintaining tempo of preparation all throughout. When you feel comfortable overall across the subjects, do solve previous 10 years prelims papers.
Time Management: This is one of the key area I feel in although out the preparation , here I would say try to have a target plan for next 3-4 months and then divide it into monthly and weekly plans. Further based upon your schedule divide it into daily target. Let’s say one is working, he/she can put more things on weekends or on holidays and light on working days.
I have already written about last month which I feel is one of the most crucial phases in prelims examination. I will be writing separate articles for GS Mains, Optional and Personality Test , till then Good Bye. I wish you all the best for all your endeavors!