UPSC IAS CIvil Services PRELIMS STRATEGY: Kumar Ashirwad, Rank 35, Prelims GS-1 Marks 140 (2015)

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Kumar Ashirwad, Rank 35,

Prelims GS-1 Marks 140 (2015)

Hello friends,

This is my second article (Click HERE to read first article) on Civil Services Preparation strategy. In this article we’ll focus on WHAT TO DO AND HOW DO GO ABOUT IT IN PRELIMS. I will share some suggestions that I feel could really help you. Not all of these suggestions will be exactly suitable to you. You can modify some suggestions to suit your own style/approach. I will attempt at giving a broad framework or strategy rather than the specifics. Feel free to tweak the framework if you deem it rational.


This is the only part of my preparation where I did not make any mistake. I have cleared all 4 of Prelims comfortably. I think certain steps if followed will be very useful:-

a). Reserve 2-3 months (as per your situation) exclusively for prelims. Apart from 1-2 hours for optional every day, the rest of these 2-3 months should be devoted entirely for prelims. All your late nights with Optional subject, Ethics etc depends on the easily believable but very treacherous assumption that you will clear prelims. The success rate is nearly 1 in 40. Your prelims preparation should be such that you are never be in doubt that you will clear prelims. Else this nagging doubt will lower your tempo whenever you are studying for mains.


i)Polity- Laxmikanth ONLY

ii). HistoryBipin Chandra  is the best. But if it feels too long, then go for Spectrum. However read Bipin Chandra Pal at least once. It is also very helpful for mains. For Ancient and Medieval India, I feel the old NCERT books are best. But here, a word of caution. Do not memorize dates, minor historical figures etc. UPSC does not ask these. It asks major ISSUES or CONCEPTS. For instance “who brought gunpowder, land surveying etc in india – prelims 2014, I think). So study ancient and medieval history BROADLY, NOT IN MINOR DETAIL.

iii). Economy – I read Sriram’s printed notes along with using the net and found it sufficient. I have heard Vajiram and NCERT Class xi and xii are also good. BUT DO NOT TRY TO READ ALL THREE. REMEMBER, LESS IS MORE IN UPSC PREPARATION.

iv). Geography – NCERT Class 9 to 12(new ones). Concentrate on the boxed articles. This should be enough. Utilize the net for areas you feel are important.

v). Environment – Shankar’s IAS. A very good book. But this is not enough for Environment considering the fact that around 13-14 questions are asked from this topic. So while reading Shankar ias, if you feel that a mentioned term or concept could be important, look it up the net. Here too go about it smartly. Read the first two paragraphs of wiki on that topic. Do NOT try to read the whole wiki page. . Bookmark it for revision. Follow this approach for all such terms, concepts etc that you come across in current affairs etc even for topics other than Environment.

vi). Art and Culture – Perhaps the worst part. I found Nitin Singhania’s handwritten notes quite useful. But also focus on those chapters of old NCERT Ancient and Medieval India history books that contain art and culture topics.

vii). Current affairs – Revise from Vision Ias(primarily) and insightsonindia compilations of monthly news from March to July. Do not try to read The Hindu etc for same reason as mentioned earlier (scattered knowledge, time taking etc).

                                                              It is highly likely that the Prelims this year onwards will be highly competitive and dicey with CSAT no longer in the picture( I sympathize with my brother engineers in their hour of grief). Selection will be a matter of 2-3 questions. Hence it is essential that you extract as much as you can from your preparation.  I feel that 3 startegies will come in quite handy. Feel free to tweak them to suit your approach.

i). As mentioned earlier, simply joining a test series will do nothing other than giving a false sense of satisfaction. UTILIZE EACH TEST. Join a test series. I would personally recommend insightsonindia Prelims test series because of the superior quality of the questions. Next comes the important part. After giving a test, GO THROUGH THE SOLUTIONS IN DETAIL. Even if you have answered a question correctly go through all the options, because you may have answered that question by eliminating options, rather than knowing all the options completely. The questions in the test series and in UPSC Prelims will be RELATED, NOT IDENTICAL.  I personally gave five to six hours for analysis of solutions per test paper (Insights). If you feel that something mentioned in an option deserves to be studied more deeply, then look it up the net. But again, not in detail. First two paragraphs on wiki should suffice. The major advantage of this strategy is that you will end up with good enough knowledge over a huge range of topics. This will be of immense importance in INTELLIGENT GUESSING. Even in this Prelims(scored 140 in GS), I was absolutely sure of only around fifty questions. The rest (around 40) were intelligent/hopefully intelligent guessing. And INTELLIGENT GUESSING is a must in Prelims.

ii). KNOW YOUR OPTIMUM – As mentioned earlier, this time Prelims will be a matter of 2-3 questions. Thus it becomes vital that you know very closely HOW MANY ATTEMPTS WILL SECURE YOU THE MAXIMUM MARKS. The number will vary from individual to individual and you need to find yours. The way to do this is simple. Pick up a test. First attempt around sixty questions. Calculate your marks. Attempt five more(in the same test). Now calculate your marks.  Keep increasing by five questions and record your marks till you have attempted all 100 questions. Remember do all this for the same test. Now compare your marks. Do this for five to six tests but of slightly different difficulty levels. You will arrive at a range of questions attempted that fetch you the highest marks for different difficulty levels of test papers.  In UPSC Prelims try to stick to your optimum range as per difficulty level of the paper. This will eliminate the risk of attempting too few or too many questions in UPSC Prelims. And do not get influenced by how much others attempt. Remember you, your style and approach are unique. You know yourself better than anyone else.

iii). As mentioned earlier, it is important to have a broad understanding of a wide variety of issues. For this follow the approach given in point i) above. Read from the net( first 2 paras of wiki) for various topics to enable you to do intelligent guessing.

                                                                                                                                 I genuinely feel that following the above strategy for Prelims will go go a long way in ensuring success in Prelims. However as mentioned earlier modify any of the above points to suit yourself. In the next article we’ll elaborate on how to go about the MAINS examination, with special emphasis on Answer writing.

So long folks. Cheers!

  • Witty S

    Thanks Sir

  • fife

    Equally amazing and lucidly explained article
    Thanx a ton

  • Bhavika

    Thank you very much.

  • JD95

    When you say
    Bipin Chandra for history..
    Which one is it?
    Struggle for independence or the old ncert modern India ?

    • Albus BhojRaj

      Struggle for Independence.

  • Dr.Santosh K

    Nice suggestions

  • shobha ranganathan

    Sir plz post ur strategy for anthropology..

  • Ashish Agrawal

    “easily believable but very treacherous assumption”.. absolutely correct.. 😛

  • rajesh

    Thank you sir ….please post your Anthropology strategy

  • Ash

    Thank u sir..

  • Narendra Modi

    Current affairs only from March to July ? Will that be sufficient ? Even INSIGHTS have recommended from Jan. to July.
    INSIGHTS please clarify my dilemma CA from August to July or January to July.
    Please help as revising current affairs is also a very big task.

    • Saint Shambhujs

      Absolutely not. But to honor the big brother’s advice we need to focus more on that.

      • Narendra Modi

        Can you please tell from which month we need to study/revise current affairs ?

        • Saint Shambhujs

          non recurring topics from september 2015
          recurring topics from january 2016

          • Narendra Modi

            thanks brother 🙂

  • Gabbar is back…

    Sir it will be of great help if you can share your anthropology notes in PDF format…
    Thanks and regards…

  • Sunshine

    What about science and tech part in prelims?????

  • Rajupadal. G

    Sir anthropology strategy plz

  • Dushyanth

    thank u plz share anthropology strategy

  • SKB

    thanks dost…wiki 1st two para part is really good and would save me from disaster

  • Atul Das

    Thanks Kumar….. will try to increase attempt from 75 to 85 or 90 to check the positive part… hope it works..

  • Doc Vyas

    Thanku sir… Please share your Anthro strategy…

  • Fast Track

    Thank You sir.

    I have some questions with respect to CSE preparation.

    1.Now that i have started my prep by reading ncert and making notes,when should I go for answer writing practice.

    2. When should I start with Essay and Ethics paper I.e simultaneously with reading ncert ? Or latter.

  • Sanjay Gupta

    Thanks sir , Got attested my plan as you told same strategy that I am following.

  • P.s

    Sir please clarify do current affairs from March to July sufficient. Isn’t Insights (current events & quiz ) better than vision?

  • BlueMormon

    Coming across interviews of many toppers, I have realized the smartness in their preparation is a big difference which works in their favor. And that said, as many trigonometric identities equate to 1, in the same way there is no one fixed formula for success.
    And, congrats Ashirwad for your stupendous success.

    • vd

      True..after reading this it is quite evident one size doesn’t fits all..

  • Brijesh Mishra

    thanks sir ji for posting such a valuable article.



    • Swaraj Sindhu

      yes i am! Lit people are so hard to find!


        hey swaraj, we could prepare together and fill each other’s training gap. have you completed your syllabus??

        • Swaraj Sindhu

          sure! i haven’t started with optional yet. i will begin after prelims. do you have lit background? i did my PG in it.

          • DARK KNIGHT

            yeah I completed my graduation in english literature

          • Tempest Part 2

            Hi there! I have also chosen English lit and doing PG in it. Let us come together after prelims.


        hey swaraj how was your prelims??

  • channe v

    thankyou sir..

  • Anand

    congrats sir.

  • चौधरी कुंवरसेन कुन्तल

    Mera to aap sabhi se ek hi nivedan h ki aap apna study material pdf formate me available kra de . Thanx

  • Not many give the suggestion to straight away avoid “The Bible” , The Hindu 😛
    Thanks once again! 🙂

  • krishna manohar

    Thanq sir

  • Mountain

    Is that Laxmikant on Governance as well as Laxmikant on Polity?

    • Collector_9

      This is limit…seriously

  • rajashree

    Thank you sir…

  • Blazing_Sparkfly

    Thanx sir…spend time with newspaper,if possible read two…is what i hve heard all d time…what they forgot to clarify ws how am I gonna manage other subjects…if I religiously do newspaper..tht too TWO…i faced d same issue of painstaking effort to compile it at one place for revision…
    Thanx a lot sir for tht input..

  • harshad

    thx for giving the best strategy…

  • p_300

    sir anthropology strategy and notes….many of us have requested sir..plz

  • Demon

    Is it possible to crack CSE without Hindu &any other newspapers???need answer

  • Target2017

    First of all congrats sir for ur success sir I am giving this attempt for the sake of giving it ,as I have not studied at all this year due to many factors and wasted my whole year But I do want to give my next attempt seriously but don’t have any guidance neither teachers nor friends. Do I need to join any coaching. If yes,please suggest.
    Nd one more query do I need to study all ncerts or the one u mentioned is enough???

    • shiven

      u need to study alot dear. leave all others ..jus keep selective study only

      • Target2017

        😊😊thanks fòr the words

  • sk

    can i get your email i wanted to know about your past mains marks. PLEASE.

  • Akhil Jain

    What about science and technology?

  • 2017_it_is

    I am really new to UPSC preparation. 🙁 A beautifully penned down article by a veteran but I got confused when he emphasized on the fact that CSAT would be a matter of 2-3 question. What shall we understand by that ?? Kindly explain guys 🙂 Thanks!