Topper’s Tips for UPSC Mains Answer Writing: Kirthi C, Rank – 14 – Third Attempt, General Studies Score – 417!

Kirthi has been Insights follower (since Day-2!) since we started answer UPSC Mains writing challenges (it was Insights which first started answer writing challenges online). You can check her first answer HERE. She encourage us by constantly interacting on our posts (HERE) and praising our efforts (HERE). We had posted here first interview (Marks 215) transcript when she got Rank 440 in her first attempt (HERE). Even after her selection she continued to follow our initiatives (mainly Secure) and benefited from them. 

In the following article she shares her experience which helped her get good scores in General Studies papers. 

Kirthi C

Rank – 14, CSE – 2015



My UPSC Journey

I’m Kirthi Chekuri. I am fortunate enough to have cleared UPSC with 14th rank in my third attempt (CSE-2015). My ranks in previous attempts were 440 in CSE-2013 and 512 in CSE-2014. I was preparing for the exam this time while undergoing the training in academy.

I would try to tell what worked and what didn’t work for me. I hope at least someone would benefit from lessons of mistakes that I’ve committed and how I rectified them. These inputs I’m putting across were the ones I gathered over the course of 4 years from many friends and seniors in services. Thanks to all of them 🙂


I am a consistently low performer in Essay. I got 100 marks in CSE-2013 and 86 marks in CSE-2014. I lost in my second attempt due to essay. The mistakes I committed in these attempts were not to practice essays, over looking the importance of essay, thinking content in essay would automatically give marks and ignorance of what to be and what not be included in essay.

This year I got 125 which is again not a great score but it didn’t pull my rank and my chances down drastically as it happened last year. I brainstormed on many essay topics(introductions/conclusions and flow of ideas)and discussed it with my friends and asked for criticisms.

  • We should clearly mention our stand in the essay initially after the introduction
  • The essay should cover as many dimensions as possible and should have one dominant idea per paragraph
  • The thought in the essay should be as simple as possible. Kids must be able to understand your essay. I used to make essays complicated which never gave good marks
  • Choose the essay topic you’re most comfortable with. Don’t select the essay based on the perception of most written or least written topic. All that matters is how well are you able to do justice to the topic you’ve chosen
  • Your essay should have justifications supporting your stand, also include some criticisms against your stand and end in a positive/hopeful way on how things can be bettered etc.


All of us tend to overestimate our potential and tend to neglect prelims thinking Prelims marks wouldn’t count for the exam. Neglecting prelims can prove to be a very costly mistake. Many toppers in the list cleared prelims with a margin of 1-3 marks. One can understand that 1-2 questions in Prelims can make or break your dreams.

I cleared the Prelims in CSE-2013 by 4 marks. It was a close margin. I got very lucky. In CSE-2014 I cleared prelims with a comfortable margin. My reason for low performance in Prelims 2013 was minimal practice in Quant and playing safe in Paper-1. I knew 45 questions comfortably in paper-1 and I just guessed 10 more there by attempting just 55 questions. Luckily I cleared Prelims that year but after speaking to many successful people in Prelims, I realized it was a very dangerous strategy. In prelims, one should mark the questions in which one is 100% percent sure in the first round. In the second round, one should also try to attempt those questions in which one can eliminate two options. With this strategy, I comfortably cleared prelims in CSE 2014, but in this CSE 2015, I cleared prelims only by 3 marks (110)


In my first two attempts, my mains marks were marginally above the cut-off(10 marks) I cleared both the attempts only because of my interview. However this attempt, there is a drastic improvement in my mains marks. Here are the few changes I made in my Mains answer writing approach and I think they helped me enormously.

  • Diagrams: I drew a lot of diagrams. India and World Maps for geography or International Relations. Also I prepared diagrams for Geo from NCERT books which I thought I would replicate in case Geo questions come in Paper-1.
  • Side headings: In my first two attempts, my answer was just a flow of paragraphs/points or a mix of both. I realized the importance of side headings for an answer in this attempt. I included side headings in almost all the answers for paper-1,2 and 3 of GS. In paper-2 and paper-3, I used Way Forward as the last side heading for some of the answers.
  • Flow Charts: I drew flow charts in Paper-3. I got 113 marks in Paper-3 and I think flow charts have a role to play along with side headings. People who got good marks in paper-1 drew flowcharts for society questions
  • Breadth instead of Depth: Cover as many dimensions as possible in an answer rather than covering the issue in depth with quality analysis. UPSC prefers the no. of dimensions in an answer and I guess it penalizes an in-depth scholarly answer
  • Introduction: Take the key words of the question and explain them. That becomes the introduction. Eg: An introduction for a question on Cooperative Federalism would mean explaining it

Though I gathered some of these points here and there in my previous attempts, I didn’t internalize them in my preparation. I didn’t integrate them while preparing for a particular topic. This time whenever I read a topic or whenever I read a question from InsightsonIndia (I have been following answer writing challenges regularly), I give more importance to the above mentioned points- what are the side-headings I can give, how can I draw flow chart for this question, maximizing the dimensions etc. This way, I internalized this way of answer writing during my preparation for GS or Current Affairs, so I didn’t have to think afresh on the day of exam. Due to training myself well before hand, I didn’t take much time on the day of exam to draw diagrams, flow charts, side-headings etc.

One should try to attempt as many questions as you can in the GS. Unless you are absolutely clueless and can’t make an intelligent guess about what’s asked, you should not leave questions.

Please go through the question paper in first 2-3 minutes and select the questions you are good at(around 10) and attempt them first. Only then go for the other questions on which you’ll have little idea where you have to guess. In the last attempt, I started attempting questions from the beginning without going through the whole question paper and I realized I was left with all the well-known International Relations Questions in the last minute to which I couldn’t do enough justice. Do some test exams and if you’re not able to finish paper in time, you’ll have to improve speed through giving more and more tests and practicing with time limits. Ethics paper was very lengthy and many were not able to finish the paper.

  • FinalAttempt


    can you please elaborate your GS4 and Essay strategy..

  • Harmeet kour

    Very informative and inspiring piece.

  • Manoj


    Please share the strategy for Anthropology

  • Abhisek Dash

    Thanks a lot for the tips. 🙂

  • Ankith

    congrats Keerthi…thank you for these valuable inputs

  • SKB

    congrts….suprb performance in GS

  • anand kumar


  • Rimi cse

    Plz suggest something for anthropology

  • esprit aficionado

    Please do share a detaile strategy and book list for anthropology. There is hardly much information related to Anthropology wrt CSM exam.

  • Piku

    Anthropology strategy, please? 🙂


    Congrats Kirthi and please share your anthropology strategy

  • Ashish Agrawal

    Side heading point is brilliant.. Will work hard to incorporate that.. Thanks a lot mam.. ?

    • The shy poet

      Hey Ashish. What exactly is side heading?

      • Ashish Agrawal

        Kind of subheading (2-3 words) whenever u change ur para.. Works as flow charts.. Can backfire if there is no conceptual flow in ur answer..

  • dada


    Can you please get Kirthi to share her strategy for Anthropology? It would be of great help. Kirthi’s 275 is the highest we have heard. Many people scored only in 230s this time.

    Thanks a lot.

  • arundhathi

    Congratulations. ….
    Can you give share the strategy for anthropology plz.

  • Anantha Krishnan


    First of all, congrats.

    By the way, you mentioned flowcharts. Did you mean draw a flowchart alone as an answer or draw one and THEN explain it?


  • Day is mine

    Thanks a lot! It’s a great help.
    Wish you the best!

  • N.KD


  • Kept6363

    Hey congrats for your feat
    Plz explain with example how u used diagram for IR and flowcharts for paper 111
    Also did u put side headings in the part where we put question and answer no (on the left hand side ) or used a different pen to demarcate these headings in the same portion in which we write our answer

  • channe v

    congrats n thanks for valuable such insights..

  • Tushar

    Ma’am please share your thoughts on anthropology paper 2015 . What was your key to such a stupendous score in anthropology?
    thank you.

  • Ace

    Congratulations Kirthi Mam… plz share ur Optional strtegy also…

  • Manish

    Congratulations Maam’..request you to please let us know your strategy for Anthropology paper. Thank you.

  • Narendra Modi

    Congratulations Ma’am for getting very high marks in GS and for getting the most esteemed job of the country.
    Ma’am if possible kindly share 2-3 of your answers so that we can understand properly whatever you have explained to us. I know we are over demanding from you but because many of us are preparing without any help from coaching institutes so we all are seeking help from those who made it big in the list.
    Thank you 🙂

  • shobha ranganathan

    Plz share anthropology strategy..

  • Bhavika

    can you please share ethics paper strategy

  • pinky sharma

    pls show sample of flow chart

  • minaxi

    Congratulation and Thank You Kirti Ma’am and Insight Team for sharing this wonderful strategy. It is very easy to adopt and practice.

  • Priyanka

    Hello Insights! Can you please arrange very detailed strategy for Anthropology by Kirti mam. Please include which topics to be covered from which books. Whether Kirti mam joined any coaching/test series for anthropology? If yes, which one?

  • TDP abhimani

    congratulations madam…………it’s glad to see you as one of the toppers…… a telugu man I am proud of you madam……..and in the next attempt I have to be one of the toppers like you…….

    • ESWAR

      All the best

      • TDP abhimani

        thank u anna………

        • ESWAR

          Brother, please call

    • Eswar Sai

      Nenu kuda bro kalisi kastapadadam ranks kodadam insights nunchi next year vache toppers list lo mana perlu kuda undela chuskundam. By the way congrats for CM Chandra babu naidu’s doctorate from Chicago Varsity.

  • silva

    side heading bole toh?

  • silva

    Pls clear my doubt and congrats 🙂

  • silva

    side heading = sub headings?

    • Eternal

      Yes, sub heading

  • MCA (K)

    Madam plz do share Anthropology strategy it’ll be very helpful.

  • MCA (K)

    Very big thanks to Insight team I’m always great full to ur support and help. Thank u so much.

  • Mission_17

    when should i start following Insight Main _Secure for UPSC CSE 2017 ?

  • Vijay Karthik

    Very well strategy and very good ideas & recommendations . Thanks kirthi for all your support. We definitely get benefit from your revised strategy . Also please provide the sample flowcharts .

  • WhatGoesAround

    congrats ..1!

  • Doc Vyas

    Congratulations…. Can you share the strategy for anthropology…. 275 anthropology is the highest score I hv heard this time…… Thanks a lot…..

  • Chanakya

    Thanks Insight for putting the strategy of the toppers at one place. Your this generous act helps many students who are deprived of coaching as well as “The Delhi”.

  • GoD

    I could realise that I am in right path and few correction wmi need to make to give a perfect clarity on preparation. After reading your Article I felt the same. Thank you for sharing and thank you insights team.
    * suggestion : if you can write 2 answers with one flowchart and geo map based answers like a model and post it here it will be helpful for me . thanks again Ms.Kirthi .

  • P.s

    Congratulations mam . Thank you insights.

  • Congratulations. Thank you for enlightening strategic tips.


    can u give/upload the model papers of
    gs which u had practised with hedings, flow chart etc…..

  • saran

    Very good tips for Mains answer writing. Thank you so much

  • Priyanka

    Is it possible to study Anthropology without joining any coaching? If Not, which is the good/best coaching? Test Series? Whether Postal is available? Cost of that…

  • Yogesh Gupta

    Pls share your strategy for anthropology ….you have scored amazing marks, especially in Paper-2 (anthro)

  • Juanna_nero

    Pls share ur sources for paper 3

  • Amit Singh

    Ma’am please share your Anthropology preparation strategy, it would be great help for us.
    Thank you.

  • Irshad Khoja

    Congratulations and thanks

  • lohi

    Your strategies are wonderful.
    Could you share your strategies for ethics too?

  • sameer singh

    can u please share you gs answer containing flow charts and side headings

  • aspirant 16

    congrats mam ….can u pls share your anthropology stratergy? n how to make flowcharts….can u pls explain it with an example….tq

  • Raghu

    Congratulations for Success and Thank you Kirthi for sharing your ideas. Very helpful.

  • Amandeep Saini

    Great effort from you while in service..Congratulations for your success..You have done a good self introspection and improvement everytime..Plz tell us why you got low marks in interview this time as compared to your first attempt..I think if you got the same marks in interview or near it this time,you might be in first three ranks..and plz suggest strategy for anthropology..Good wishes for you

  • Niranjan Kumar

    hearty congratulations…..could you please provide at least one flow chart for social issues questions…i just want to see what kind of structure to follow…did you supplement your flow chart with words also or the flow chart alone was suffice for your answer?

  • sunny patel

    Congratulations Kirthi!! Amazing marks and thanks for sharing the strategy. If u can spare some moments to upload the some of the maps that you prepared for the geography and/or some of the flow-charts for society questions, It will be really big help. Thank you!! 🙂

  • srilekha

    Anthropology strategy please? I think you scored highest marks in anthropology optional ever.

  • Michael

    hello ma’m can you please guide us on flow charts.. how to make flow charts with an example

  • Babs

    Valuable. Information

  • Arpan Sarkar

    many many congratulations but can you please share your detailed strategies for Anthropology, book list and etc. i was expecting that. thank you

  • Pruthvi Sangapur

    cong8s for ur selection .. please do share ur anthropology strategy



  • DB10

    Ans Writing

  • mohsin sd

    congratulations for your success……
    thanks for sharing your experience …..which v will utilise…in our prepration.



  • anu

    congrats …Ms.kirthi
    and indeed sharing of your journey is of great help.