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

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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


  • Durgarao..

    Thanks Artika and Insight

  • anand kumar

    Good enough to crack.Keep motivating us.

  • santhi sweety

    this is really a motivating thing…..thank u insights n congratulations arthika ji..

  • Ruchi

    Thank you.. It’s motivating 🙂

  • Niranjan Prasad

    Congrats artika .
    Thanks for the guidance

  • vasavi

    Congratulations Artika for getting what you really wanted..

  • Saint Shambhujs

    UPSC is most strange game .
    Some people play it in ‘ test mode ‘ spend more than half of a decade and some like you play it like 20-20, start and wind up even within less than 20 months. Congratulations mam ?.

    • Akshera Siddi

      I think if one is spending half a decade on one exam. That could be a lot of years of your precious youth. I would rather say, there is so much more work to be done. Go explore life!

      Artika, congratulations! Thanks for the inputs.

    • Saswat S Nayak

      No bro , public administration is taken by people who want an easy course to fetch marks, easy because the course is small and there are fab coaching classes for it, such people will not read it passionately. And those medical docs are from AIIMS usually .You have to compete with everyone for only 37 seats for getting into AIIMS NEW Delhi and even for normal govt colleges some people drop for upto 5 years and that should give you an idea about how they would be perusing their medical syllabus.

    • Raveesh

      It is the result of sincerity and dedication, faith in herself. That is it. Her strategy is not objective but subjective. So, Guys, first look at her first paragraph.She had left out from her MD course to become an IAS officer. It says everything. Her aptitude was so strong for civill services. she didnt come here to take it as career option without any zeal and enthusiasm. So, come if you have CIVIL SERVICES APTITUDE and TEMPER, otherwise, Akshera Siddi said the right thing, “There is so much more work to be done, Go explore life!”.

    • well said bro…..

    • Atul Sharma

      Nothing is 20-20 game in life bro… most such first attempt toppers already have required right guidance and motivation apart from proper preparation since their early years of school and graduation before attempting the exam. It is as simple as that. This exam requires a certain level of competence which takes long time to develop. Let’s not fool ourselves by thinking that some people do it like 20-20.

      • XerxesYO

        you said the most practical thing

  • blufl0

    Congratulations mam, please tell me if one starts mains secure after preliminary exam, will it be able to score good. Actually I haven’t made notes since January that’s why I am asking.
    Plz reply.

  • WhatGoesAround


  • Lakshmi Priya

    Mam many congratulations on your success….please pen down medical science strategy as well….it will be really helpful ?

  • Dr_Strange

    If you could share your strategy towards Medical Science. That would be really helpful.

  • Vali

    Congratulations Artika,,,

  • hubaib hassan


  • hubaib hassan


  • Atom

    Thanks a ton and Congratulations 🙂

  • Challenge

    Thank you..and congratulations.

  • Ash

    Thanks for the strategy..Congrats Artika ji..!

  • Jasmeet 2017

    Heartiest Congratulations Ma’am !!
    Great Luck ahead (y)

  • VK

    Congrats Ma’m……..

  • phoenix


  • Rangrezz

    Artika shukhla Rank four Vision IAS claming !

    • Artika Shukla

      Yes. I have mentioned in the first paragraph itself I have done Vision Ias mains test series. I have an open session with them on 5th.
      No classroom coaching.
      Thanks for your concern. 🙂

      • raghavendra jr

        Congrats Artika ji.., Thanks for the inputs

      • P.s

        Congratulations mam. You have started preparation just 10 months before the prelims. ……. and emerged successful with rank 4………. no words….

  • Striving

    inspiring, crisp, to the point and covered all aspects!
    Thank u mam, congratulations and best wishes..

  • Sourabh

    Thank you for that wonderful last paragraph.somewhere…something has to become a driver..pasting it on my wall.Thank you and many congratulations !!

  • babu rao

    congrats artika and thanks for sharing your strategy. it would be immense help for me if u share ur medical science optional preparation strategy. my email id is [email protected]

  • Mamatha

    Thank you arthika shukla for your great motivated words.. thank you very much..

  • moraya

    congrats……!!! artika.. best luck for u r future

  • KAutilYA

    Again lot of thanks mam for this valuable words…keep it up onwards…best shot in first attempt….sharing your experience with all us is much helpful for self study and achieve our AIM…grand salute mam…Again Congratulations…and wish u all d best for future administrative carrier FROM ALL INSIGHTIANS…please keep motivating us on INSIGHTS…thanks mam..??

    Thank you INSIGHTS TEAM…???

  • Ambarish

    A perfect 1000 and great scores in almost all heads of the examination! Thanks for the motivating words 🙂 Will try to be even more diligent on the SECURE initiative going forward.

  • Thanks Artika ma’am for sharing your strategy 🙂

    A kind request to INSIGHTS TEAM to please post more mindmaps. 🙂
    They help the most, both for current and static portion. PLEASE 🙂

  • Hindustani

    The most apt message is to have strong conviction to succeed, no matter what the destiny deserves. Give your best and one day for sure , even more best is on your plate. Thanks for sharing your views on a short note. Wish you good luck 🙂

  • Rimi cse

    Pata nehi kab hoga Ias but one thing we can do is keep moving on



  • Lubna Sehar


  • rajashree

    Congrats mam….im also from medical baground but i feel littl hard in csat like mental ability etc….i kw its qualifyng says every one to get just 66marks bt i evn knew few ppl ths time their score ws as high as above cut off in gs 124-127 bt didnt qualifynd cz of casat thy said…..ur score ws too gud so im askng u tip for tht, i kw its unexpected questn u never thgt tht ppl ask but if u can gv some tips on csat its helpfull for me….thank you…….

  • Mayuresh Pawar

    Congrats!!!Artika..nice writeup…short and to the point….thanks…

  • Roman Reigns

    Congratulations mam. One request to insights— pls ask toppers along with strategy to share no. Of questions attempted in prelims and expected correct one’s, how they managed time, and their age and attempt . As mrunal does .this will be very helpful for fresh aspirants.thank you

  • Niklaus

    congrts mam…thank u 4 dis
    but y is pdf icon not working????

  • raghavendra jr

    Congrats Artika! Thanks for the inputs

  • Fighter

    Congratulations ma’am for your success and thanks for writing this article.The best part was motivational section !!

  • IamAB05

    Congratulations mam 🙂 You are an Inspiration. All the best .

  • Abi :)

    First of all, congratulations Artika. That was really a motivating article. You have provided all the beginners with a clear cut strategy to follow. And your journey to the top of civil services exam is truly an inspiring one (especially for me) for those who think this journey to be a long one and full of hurdles.

  • Saicharan

    Thank you Artika Mam and Insights Team!

  • Ravindra Chavan

    It seem to really short n gives a confidence to crack without any coaching and just following Insight..
    Congratulations mam..and many many thanks to Insight for starting new initiatives…

  • Sneh

    right article at right time… 🙂 thank you and congratulations 🙂

  • babu rao

    Congrats artika and thanks for sharing your strategy.It would be immense help for me if u share your medical science option strategy .waiting for your reply. My email ID is [email protected]

  • G.

    I can see from lot of observation that medical science always scored high among the toppers.

    Most of the toppers from medical science have their scores around and above 250 in medical science optional.

    Papers like public administration and some others are under fire . Even the topper of toppers can’t score very high. That is causing grave discrimination in upsc.

    I think upsc should seriously consider this discrimination and find a solution.

    • Ya your right but who opted medical science as an optional they are very much familiar with that subject and reading them for past 3-5 years and very strong in basics as well as very much deep understanding the subject so they can write easily , i would say one ironical fact as compared to medical science syllabus to other optional syllabus, ms opt is huge so i think almost all optional subject are playing equal role who studying well and present well in the exam, here i can tell you 2 examples of my friends 1. one girl she did MBBS from reputed university she opted medical science subject in 2014 upsc exam she got 182 only and other 2015 2 of my friend are took political science and pub add they got descent enough marks to clear the exam 244 and 218 in 2015 attempt . finally what i conclude its all depends on our aptitude matters !! if your familiar with one subject then go for that optional you will get good marks defiantly if not just make them interest to read more hours like 4-8 hours spending time any one can get good marks … upsc tested at least one subject one can should master on it i guess like presenting the answer should be above graduate level merely post graduate level…

      • G.

        There is a difference between toppers scoring decent marks in optional to clear and get a rank. Look at public ad … It has been screwed for years now… Even if you score huge in GS your optional degrades your rank outside 100. While optional like medical science one scores less in GS and huge in optional. There lies thedicrimination.
        Exceptions are always there if someone scores 240 in pub ad …. But you will not find anyone scoring 280 in pub ad or say name any 5-10 people who scored 270-280 in sociology.

        Optional should be outrightly eliminated to created a level playing field. It is such an important exam… No one wants to eliminated due to wrong choices in the past or of luck. Luck should be minimised .

        • Yeah I agree but iam clueless why upsc doing so like this and i was scaring about this discrimination too and my optional was psychology, last year i got 226 in opt didn’t clear mains but i scored very bad in GS like devastate my result but my essay score OK that gives me total 630 marks ..

        • perseverence


      • @bhishek

        huge so what… have spent well more than 5 years on that…..and this is the only grad. subject where students really study in college.

      • is the process of normalization is still in existence ?

    • yeah good point !!

  • your amazing congratulation!! and brilliant tips for aspirants Thank you so much ………………………………….

  • Allitrochades

    Roll number 123 and Rank 4.

    • Niranjan Kumar

      total marks 1000

  • rajjoo!!

    can anyone tell me how to prepare for culture from the CCRT ebsite…. like there is a section named “resources” …that is too be religiously followed? ….if artika shukla can also reply….or anyone of you 🙂

  • Rahul Sharma

    on one side, i see the people spending 1/10th of their life in the streets of Mukherjee nagar.. And on the other side, the people like u..

  • abhijeet beniwal

    medical science strategy plz

  • Harinder Kaur

    congratulationa mam..thanx for sharing ur strategy…:)

  • MaverickNaga

    Watched your VisionIAS talk…You are adorable, beautiful and brutally honest…I trust you on what you have shared as some of the things I felt about the process have been spilled out here very well…Thank you for sharing and best wishes.

  • shariq irshad

    Which compilations are you talking about ? That come in end in , GS -2 preparation strategy … Please clear this doubt ?

  • Premjeet

    pdf or print links are not working

  • aspirant2015

    insights wale muft me credit lete hai…she got rank bcz of her optional i.e medical science…insights ..did u teach her medical sicence..morons..u need to be slapped hard…frauds.

  • Mission_17

    Thanks mam for great Initiatives !…

  • Rajeshwaran Muthuramalingam

    Hello mam , I saw your video in vision and article in insights , I must say that you did a fantastic job in motivating aspirants. i request you to start a blog for the same .this is because many a times we feel very motivated to crack this exam but sometimes it becomes really hard to maintain the enthusiasm . Please mam do this it is my kind request 🙂 🙂

  • Saswat S Nayak

    Thanks a lot sis 🙂 the motivational part did wonders to me !

  • Basavaraj Shedbal

    Impressive article I ever red before, thank for sharing such a mind blowing article really very helpful for people who are fresher to this arena…

  • Jarvis

    Congrats sister …this is your victory , you made this on your own hardwork..i am aspirant of cse ,your motivation words makes me strong …thanks for the words…and insights too…

  • ranjot

    how will i start i completed my graduation in science ? pls tell anyone

  • Imran

    All the best for ur future as Ias officer arthika mam

  • Badre Munir

    wonderful Ma’am .you have made upsc easy. cracking upsc in first attempt with high rank encrouged i think if u can , why can’t i. thanks


    heartiest congratulations mam
    i am tarkeshwar shukla

  • BKK

    Ma’am as you wrote that you spent days before prelims solving insights paper. You attempted papers and evaluated them or went through insights solution PDFs? Asking only because the latter can be very time consuming.

  • Sudrashan Kudache

    Upsc is alway rocks n hv been… bt people’s like u.. made it very simple and easy…by doing the preparation in few months or in less time..upsc is unpredictable. .. in this year prelium 2016 it throws googly fr students…
    So we reqrd guidance like u people..mam…salute u mam…n congrays fr ur grt sucs…

  • Rockstar

    ur journey is inspiring!..hats off..ur motivation paragraph -d best!!!!!

  • Shivangi Jain

    Hi everyone…I m unable to get stick with my studies day is like I am too much enthusiastic ,next day I m all lost ,hopeless!
    M not scared with the preparation ,but is joining civil service really worthy?
    Still in vain ,help me


    thanx mam for ur guidances.