MSI (MOHD SAMEER ISLAM) Rank 564: Preparation Strategy

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UPSC Civil Services Preparation Strategy

Mohd Sameer Islam (MSI), Rank 564

If you have been following Insights for a while, you have definitely seen hundreds of answers written in the name of MSI on this forum.  We were wondering how can one be so consistent! Even in February 2015, MSI was writing answers – when many tend to take rest after giving their Mains! Today we are happy that all the hard work of Mohd Sameer Islam (MSI)  has finally paid off. He has written following piece to share and suggest his strategy. 


As the result is out, there is a mixed atmosphere, both of joy and sorrow. Joy for those who have achieved success in the mother of all the examinations, The UPSC Civil Services Examination-2014, but a bit disappointing for those who missed it. But one thing that is common among everyone who aspire to appear for Civil Services-2015, or in future, is searching for the secret mantra, a magic formula to crack the exam, a model that can assure them full proof success. For that we all look forward to our lucky friends who have made it. Believe me, if my wisdom allows me to give just one general statement about this exam it is, “There is no such magic wand, no formula not a single model that can assure success”.

Yet, I would like to share my experience of this examination in case it is of any help to few. The exam, we all know is divided into three separate phases: Preliminary, Mains and Interview. Each phase has its own importance and hence there should be a unique approach for each phase.

Preliminary Examination

The best part of this phase is that UPSC provides us the answer to each question, the worst part is the choices are so close that even the most crystal clear minds are caught up. To avoid confusions both extensive and multiple readings of basic books especially NCERT along with practicing the MCQs on daily basis will help a lot. Avoid multiple test series from multiple coaching as we never have the luxury of time. Just stick to one which you consider is based on NCERT. Also try solving at least last 5 years PT papers and don’t just restrict yourself with finding the right answers but also see the other three options provided as UPSC never puts anything without purpose. May be if we are lucky we find few close questions in this prelim either from what has been asked or even from the other three options that we just ignore in each question.


MAINS IS ALL ABOUT WRITING. How much knowledgeable you are it won’t count until and unless you deliver it on an A4 size paper. We must write answers on daily basis from the day we decide to appear in this exam as this is what the Mains ask from us. Writing answers helps to evaluate our thought process, our ability to articulate our knowledge, our writing speed etc etc. But writing alone without anybody evaluating it is a waste of effort. Evaluation by others not only exposes us but also encourages us to write better and to the point answers. I find InsightsOnIndia a wonderful platform for the purpose. Insightians are the cluster of likeminded aspirants with positive and constructive mindset who will not only correct you but will also provide additional information for value addition. Everyone of us however humble he/she is has an element of ego and it gets hurt if our answers are not evaluated or are criticised by others on social media platform. This pushes us to improve both the quality and the content of the answers. So utilise this ego of yours and tread towards the right path of answer improvement.

Mains is the base of our final selection. Optional subject, whatever you have chosen forms the backbone of mains preparation as GS papers generally don’t bring much margins in our final score.

Hence choose your optional wisely. Subject chosen should be able to attract your interest for a long period of time. Merely choosing you graduation subject or something about which there are rumours that it fetches good marks won’t help. Once you have chosen your optional the first task should be to study basic books taught at graduation level for that subject. Also please avoid the readymade coaching material that are not more than the copy paste of original without covering whole thing. Do peruse the last ten year papers to analyse what all, about a particular topic, UPSC is interested. It will help you to ascertain the depth of each topic that you may dwell into.

For GS Newspaper reading is essential. While reading try to put each news under a particular GS paper and also put the topic serial number on it. Newspaper cuttings collected this way will lead to accumulation of similar news and different view points over a period of time. I generally don’t prefer making newspaper notes as we generally write down what is already written in newspaper. Hence I used to collect newspaper cuttings and invest the time in writing answers.


Group discussion and personal viewpoint on each issue is must. By the time we reach this level we have already developed this. Hence we should speak more and also try to record it to later review it on our own.

To sum up the best thing I like about this examination is that It Makes us Realise who we are” . Hence be truthful to yourself, do you own introspection honestly and you will achieve your coveted dream. I would also like to congratulate to all those who wish to write this exam as whatever be your reason to qualify this exam, the one thing that is sure is you have taken a very noble step to serve your motherland. All the Best.

  • Abhi Ram

    Thnaku sir…….

  • M2k

    Great ..Thanks a lot for again motivating us.

    • raja

      Congrats MSI me too following ur answers. ….i got 348 rank ….

      • Albus BhojRaj

        Congrats Buddy 🙂

      • MSI

        Congrats Raja for your stupendous performance. All the best for your future endeavour.

        • Victor

          Congrats Sir, please share your geography answers for previous years questions, especially Human Geography, it will be very helpful. Please sir.

          • MSI

            Hi Victor
            Unfortunately i have written all geo answers on paper so no soft copy. All posted answers can be found on my blog
            If there is anything specific to human geography pls ask. i will try to answer. By the way Human geography sucks.

            • Victor

              Thanks for your humble reply sir, please remain in touch for this little worried soul.
              Good Luck for your future endeavours.

            • Victor

              Thanks for your humble reply sir, please remain in touch for this little worried soul.
              Please reply me from your email on [email protected] so we can be in touch, i assure wont bother you much. Good Luck for your future endeavours.

        • mihir

          please suggest: i have a full time job and sat half days. how do u think should i plan my studies

          • MSI

            Hi Mihir
            Try reading newspaper, do some objectives for prelims while you are in office. You can also write few answers on you computer if you have a desk job. While at home do the reading part and prepare your optional as it needs more focus.
            Best of luck

  • kavitha

    congrats and thank you sir

  • iasaim

    Congratulations sir great MSI what abt mad for ias

  • Tavitinaidu Kalla

    Congratulations sir. .Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

  • ashwin kumar p

    After reading this articl i think i have to start writing again which i postponed after completion of prelims.MSI making me realise my mistake.
    ur consistency made you reach this rank.i salute of luck.

  • Sneha Goley

    congratulations and thanks for the motivation and tips 🙂

  • MIP

    Congratulations and thank you so much Sir!!!

    • Abhishek V

      I got confused MSI and MIP 😀
      so all the while I was thinking its you

      • MIP

        Abhishek,.I m taking yr this confusion very positively n seriously..? I want my name in next that time u ll b right?

  • mns

    Congratulations sir:)

  • Koushik

    Congratulations and thank you for guidance.

  • Subhash Tadala

    I used to see his answers last year, they used to be easily understandable. Thank you MSI sir for your feedback, the one which you gave on EGO is truly right. Conclusion – that we realise ourselves- is awesome. I think I am in that phase right now.. Nevertheless thank you very much sir

  • Navya

    Congrats and All the very best Sir :)Thank You for the article.

  • Mayuresh Pawar

    Congrats…and All the Best for the future

  • A kind request to team Insights is that, if you can post daily one such article either on success story or general motivation, it would be great to start the day.

  • VR

    Congrats MSI. I loved your style of answer writing.

  • chandu

    congrats MSI. I used to read ur answers. They were very well written and u deserved.

  • Abhishekasymptote

    sir Ji ….mai aapke answers ko daily padhta tha….I have also copied many one…..eligible in 2016 ….wanna ur kind directives regarding preparation…. if possible then please reply…thanku…and congo

    • MSI

      Feel free to ask anything. All the best Brother

      • Abdullah

        Sir, First of all congratulations for the grand success. And thanks for the strategy to be followed.
        And we got to know that you were also lived at those magnificent Halls as your selection has been announced by the PRO and at the ALUMNI NETWORK by our senior of 2006 batch. I was resident of Viqarul Mulk Hall.

        The purpose of writing and introducing is just to establish communication for the mentorship and guidance. Can you please drop your contacts at my address [email protected]

        Again with thanks.

        • MSI

          Assalamalikum Abdullah
          My email address is [email protected].
          Feel free to ask anything. I will try to answer it to the best of my abilities.

      • Abhishekasymptote

        thanks sir…..
        sir mai aapke writing style ko adopt kar chuka hu
        still problem persists that my skills to say many things in few words is bad ….sir please tell something how to improve….
        I am following insights since last year and I have to give my first attempt in 2016… want to make it in first attempt…kindly tell something how to improve myself..I m doing m.a from Lucknow university via. public administration…

  • Sneh

    Thanks Sameer Sir, truly said that there is no magic wand… It is your own unique strategy, hard work, smart work and belief in yourself that will lead to success…

  • Intekhab Hassan


  • DPT

    Hi MSI
    I have always read your answers and have copied and saved also if i didn’t have time. Congratulations MSI ,your key to success surelt must have been your consistent hard work

  • Congrats MSI

    • Gaurav

      Congratulations MSI.

      • MSI


    • MSI

      Thanks Maddy. How is life going on?

      • resurrecting after the big shock 😛

        • MSI

          Don’t worry brother we will clear CSE-2015 together.

          • thanks MSI 🙂

          • ThirdEye

            Congrats @disqus_mZ93S7dhlK:disqus..All the very best for @madforias:disqus…your coordination while writing answers is the best thing..keep going..:)..!!..

            • MSI

              thanks a lot


          i hope,you would be in next year’s list bro..

          • Thanks yaar

            • Akash

              did you face interview this year?

  • Abhishek V

    all the best 🙂

    • MIP

      Thanks dear and wish u the same?

  • PranavSontakke

    Congratulations for your success..Thank you for the tips. Plz keep writing such articles on the INSIGHTS which helps to find proper track and motivates the aspirants. All d Best and Thank You

  • DG

    conratulations sammer…

  • Niranjan P

    congratz MSI..a big time fan of your style of answer writing

  • chandolu manikanta


  • Masoom

    Thank you to enlightening me sir..

  • PS

    congrats you reviewed my answer..and i am new..keep helping..thak you

  • PS

    i also lately realised notes for newspaper kills time..answer writing is best

  • DCP Aspirant

    Congratulations Sir. Thanks for this post.

  • Anwar

    Once again it’s proved that consistency is the key to success. Thanks alot MSI (Mohammed Sameer Islam), I’m one of your insightian fans. All the best for all your future endeavors. May ever so merciful Allah bless you with all you want in your life…..

    • MSI

      thanks brother. Ameen

      • PS

        sir are u preparing for this years mains?
        have u joined the service or extended your joining after mains?

        • MSI

          Hopefully i will be writing mains. I have taken extension till december.

  • Albus BhojRaj

    Many many Congratulations Brother 🙂
    and may i know your Optional Please !

    • MSI


      • Akash

        your score in GS please….

        • MSI


          • Akash

            excellent! may i know breakup bhai?

            • MSI

              100+ in GS1 and 4 and 80s in gs 2 and 3

  • naren

    than u sir 4 motivating us and congrats

  • Venkatesh Jinukala

    congratulation for your success and thank you for your valuable motivation. wish u all the best in all future endeavours

  • Puja

    Congratulations Sir for ur success. Your article has motivated us a lot. Specially 3folded strategy for this demon to crack. And thanks a lot insights for providing us such a nice platform .

  • sheeias

    congrats MSI.

  • Gauri Parashar

    Hello Sir, are you from AMU ?

    • MSI

      YES. +2, B.Tech and MBA from AMU

      • Gauri Parashar

        Okay, I read about you in a newspaper.
        Congratulation for the big win Sir. You make AMU proud. 🙂

  • megha_

    “Optional subject, whatever you have chosen forms the backbone of mains preparation as GS papers generally don’t bring much margins in our final score.”
    ^Above line is the most important thing anyone can ever tell you about making it to that elusive list.
    Thank you and CONGRATS! 🙂

    • MSI

      thanks megha

  • vinay kumar

    congrats bro for you feat .may you please guide me on geography optional. i have covered first five chapter( Geomorphology, climatology, oceanography, Bio-geography & Environmental) but i am finding very difficult to cover rest part in paper-1( optional). So, can i read rest part with major theories and leave remaining or should i try to read every part. i am preparing from home so please guide

    • MSI

      Try covering K Siddharth Model and theories, Majid Hussains book on thinkers and read economic geo chapter from any geography book. 1st paper is too important so try to cover it as much as you can. In 2nd paper you have to apply the models and theories read in 2nd part of first paper. so if 1st paper is done properly even doing Indian geography from NCERT will be enough.

      • vinay kumar

        thanks a ton. currently i am focusing on prelims with NCERTs as per insight schedules. i am working so do not have much time. i will disturb you again after prilims for your more guidance on my optional.

  • rashmi


    • MSI

      Hi Rashmi. How is life going on?

      • rashmi

        prelims again 🙂

        • MSI

          You will have my company

  • Kisalaya Pandey

    sir i am in btech 2nd year. mechanical.. how to start..??? will taking a non technical subject as optional be a better idea??? i seriously need some help !!!
    ( right now i m just reading ncert )

  • Kisalaya Pandey

    and yes congrats !!!!!!!!! happy for u !!!


    congrats MSI you deserve this for your consistent writing

  • Ajit

    Avoid multiple test series and last ten years paper, really I would do and writing practice is good advice . Thanks and Congrats. on your endeavor MS Islam ji.

  • Crazybird

    congrats sameer…

    • MSI

      thanks shifa

      • Shifa

        Sir your answers r very good.. I started following u.. I’m going to gv exm in 2016.. without any coaching.. I found what I wanted..INSIGHTS is better than any coachng..I hv read ur strategy n few others as well..could u plz gv me some additional tips 🙂

        • MSI

          hi shifa
          complete your Optional by march 2016 and make personal notes of each topic by referring to the last year question asked by UPSC. Meanwhile you can write an answer a day and an essay a week. This will improve you comfort level with pen. From April onwards GS and PRE preparation while revising optional should be the strategy.
          Its good that you have decided not to take any Coaching.
          My best wishes are with you and hope to see you In 2016 List

          • Shifa

            Thanks a lot Sir for replying..I’ll follow it and do my best inshaAllah..:-)
            I have one more question regarding notes making from The Hindu n other sites..plz tell me ur strategy abt this section.. 🙂

        • “RW”

          Whats ur optional??

          • Shifa

            Anthropology and urs ??

            • “RW”

              Ah! Pub admn-the victimised 1.
              Best wishes.

              • Shifa

                Thanks..I wish u the same 🙂

  • Sahil Kapoor

    Congratulations brother.
    I have a query. How did you approach answer writing on insights??

    For eg. If there is a question about iran india nuclear deal and assuming that u do not have full knowledge about it
    1. How much time did you spend on reading/understanding that topic.

    2. You framed the answers keeping the time limit in mind or without it.

    3. How did u manage to write 6-7 answers daily. It takes me 5 6 hours if i research about a topic for understanding it completely.

    Please suggest me how to tackle this difficulty.

    I will be thankful to you.

    • MSI

      Thanks Sahil
      I think that there is nothing wrong in exploring the issue before writing. This will improve your content and will save you in Final Exam. Don’t worry about the time spent in writing. Just try to write your best answer with good content. As the time passes your content will improve and so will your ease to handle any topic. Once the content is with you and your thought process is synchronized you writing speed will improve a lot.
      My writing time varies with the level of content i have about the topic. If i don’t know much i explore it, if i know then i start with writing.

      • Sahil Kapoor


  • satyajit swain

    many many congratulations sir…i am a 2016 CSE aspirant…sir presently i have not started writting answers because i think i lack the content knowledge on the questions posted in Insights Secure everyday…but these days i m getting a great help from you as reading your answers evryday on Insights Forum…it is really enriching my knowledge evryday..i m trying to write the answers soon sir..plz keep writting to enrich we freshers…thank u verymuch sir…

  • satyajit swain

    sir plz tell me what should be the appropriate time to start writting???


    congrats MSI , your answers are exceptionally good and I was following yours ,that gave me good rank

  • Jaipurite

    …It gave me immense pleasure to see your name in the final list. From very beginning i am consistently following the answers written by you, here on this platform.They were like a benchmark for me to rise upto and i learned a lot from the way you put your content within context. Also the whenever i mailed you about a particular problem/advise you readily, promptly and selflessly helped me. I am still following your way of arranging notes and “things to be mind while writing”. All these helped me a lot and i am now on the path of “paced improvement”. I appreciate and respect you as a person who helps who helps, guide and motivate. Further i wish you excel in your professional endevour. Keep inspiring. Thank you so much.


  • Bikashfree

    Hi MSI… i dont know wheather this is an appropriate forum to chat but i am in need of some help. U may not remember me but we used to write for 2014 secure initiative together. I appeared in my first attempt this year in prelim. The exam went well but i did something really stupid. My roll no starts from 0 (zero) but i thought this is not important and did not mention zero in my OMR sheet. I neither wrote nor darkened the circle below leaving the first digit space vacant.

    I dont know wheather u r the right person to ask or not but i just dont know anyone else. And you can easily imagine what i must be going through. So kindly reply me if you know something about this, i mean if such kind of papers are checked or rejected by UPSC.

    waiting for your reply…

    and congratulation for your success, and hoping a bigger success next year…. you deserve it….

  • Gowtham M D

    Hey please post failure stories as well so that we can look into the the mistakes and avoid them

  • VijaY

    The most comprehensive article!

  • Priyanka Purohit

    Regrdng ncert books,
    Pls Tel me if old or new buks makes any diffrenc..?