UPSC IAS Prelims Strategy & Motivation : Gazal Bharadwaj, Rank – 40 CSE – 2015

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UPSC IAS Prelims Strategy: Gazal Bharadwaj, Rank – 40 CSE – 2015

There had been a number of queries regarding my prelims strategy, books referred to and number of questions to be attempted. So, I thought rather than answering individually, I would come up with a detailed article. The strategy may differ from person to person. I am only discussing what worked for me. I hope it helps.

I cleared prelims in all my four attempts. Marks(2015) : 133.34


  1. On how to prepare in long term
  2. On how to revise in the last crucial 2-3 months
  3. Sources
  4. On number of questions
  5. On elimination strategy
  6. On not getting demotivated




  • Integrate with mains and interview, by following a sequenced approach. Eg

Growth, inflation and employment topic of economy attracts questions in all three stages, but of different nature. Analyse past questions to understand this.

a.) Prelims– questions are asked linked to

Concept of GDP/GNP, IIP, ASI, alternative indices to measure development like HDI, MPI, GNH etc, who measures what (CSO, NSSO etc) types of unemployment(structural vs cyclical vs disguised etc), causes and effects of inflation on growth, debtors, bondholders etc, definitions like employment elasticity, employability, labour force, labourforce participation rate etc

b.) Mains– nature changes into analysis based questions like inflation targeting approach of rbi, reasons for declining employability and need for skilling, jobless growth (linked with employment elasticity concept of pre), CSO’s changed methodology of measuring growth critical analysis

c.) interview– will discuss with interview prep

  • Study past questions thoroughly to understand the mindset of examiner. Eg.

You will find different kinds of questions asked on similar themes every year. Do not neglect such themes.

  • Do not run blindly after too many pre test series. Follow one. I think insights test series is a decent one here as it integrates the ncerts along. It’s not about practising too many questions daily, but conceptual clarity.




  • Finish vast and integration based subjects first.  These are economy, environment and geography. They will take a lot of your time but attract maximum number of questions.
  • Here also link– eg Agriculture questions will be asked every year and are linked to all the three:

Economy: eg. CACP, MSP, FCI related



  • Do not neglect map based questions. Study the past ones and open atlas for half an hour daily. There are some very easy questions like-

Which one of the following pairs of islands is separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’? (2014)

Turkey is located between.. (2014)

The Narmada river flows to the west, while most other large peninsular rivers flow to the east. Why?(2013)

  • Study the static subjects like polity and history chapterwise daily (because if you pick them up thinking will finish pilty in 5 days, you know how crazy it gets and saturated too)
  • Do not skip revising NCERTs
  • Revise important concepts and definitions which are often repeated by checking the wikipedia page (UPSC often asks pre questions from the most common source than from high- fi books)




These are some of the sources I referred to-

  1. GEOGRAPHY- NCERTs (9-12), GC LEONG last chapters, Selective reading of Savinder Singh and Khullar which was also very helpful for mains, Oxford and Orient longman atlas
  2. ECONOMICS- Macroeconomics class 12 NCERT, Sriram notes, selective Ramesh singh, Mrunal videos, Economic survey (important boxes and definitions for pre and thorough survey for mains n interview), India year book chapters on finance, industry, planning, commerce, rural and urban development, and basic economic indicators.
  3. ENVIRONMENT- icsc class 9-12 books for basics, for current Took themes from shankar ias notes and googled
  4. HISTORY- was my optional so followed an integrated strategy with it, for non optional students would suggest NCERTs 6-12, ccrt website, spectrum and Bipin Chandra
  5. SCIENCE- 9-10 NCERTS and recent technology basics like GM, NEUTRINOS research, BT, DRUG RESISTANCE etc
  6. CURRENT AFFAIRS- only basics will be asked in pre. So read newspapers or follow current affairs from any website.




  • I attempted around 85 questions this year of which I was only sure on 55-58. Others were stuck on two options eliminated but two remaining. So here, some calculated risk was taken. I did not touch 15 questions of which I had absolutely no idea.
  • But then, it depends from person to person.
  • Do not attempt very less questions. 70 is a comfortable range.




I’ll explain with examples

WetlandsConfluence of rivers
1. Harike WetlandsBeas and Satluj/Sutlej
2. Keoladeo Ghana National ParkBanas and Chambal
3. Kolleru LakeConfluence of Musi and Krishna

Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched? (2014)

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

You could solve it even if you do not know about harike n keoladeo but only if you knew that kolleru lake is between krishna and godavari (ie if you are sure that 3 is definitely false, it eliminates last 3 options, leaving you with just option 1)




I was really touched by some mails and comments on my blog related to missing prelims every time repeatedly and the demotivation attached as it takes your full another year and social pressures are immense. I would say some things here:

  • I read that in her first attempt, the 2010 topper Divyadarshini couldn’t clear the UPSC Civil Services Preliminary but in her second attempt, she emerged the first ranker! Do not give up. Its there inside. You just need to explore urself and push yourself to the edges.
  • Sometimes it’s a matter of 1-2 questions and you can be in or out of the list. So, do not panic in the exam hall. Attempt with a cool mind. If things go wrong, forgive yourself and improve.
  • Yes, missing pre closely can take a toll on your confidence as the period between the next exam is very long. But, decide, just decide how you will go about what was going wrong and go for it.
  • Watch some motivational videos and songs or read, whatever suits you. I feel like sharing few links here which were my favourites whenever I would feel low:

Why do we fall? so that we can learn to pick ourselves up.



I share some posts

( Please drop your queries either here on insights, or on my blog rather than mailing individually. I’ll try to reply here as I get time and it will also benefit others.)



  • winner 2016

    Nice strategy…

  • Saint Shambhujs

    Very honest and useful disclosure. Thanks and congratulations.

  • saruto

    YNWA (:

  • Himaanshu

    Heartily congratulations to you Gazal ji. And, thanks for such detailed and useful articles, it really helps a lot. I wish you all the very best for your life and bright future. 🙂

  • Vinay

    Wonderful..So Useful..

  • KAutilYA

    Congratulations Mam…💐💐
    Very Nice Article…Thanks a lot for such useful and fantastic article specially for prelims..😄😄
    Keep it up onwards..

    Wish you all d best Mam…😄👍👍

    • Nirvedh Sutey

      Sir nahi Madam hai..

      • KAutilYA

        Barabar kiya bhai…Thanks..😄

  • lucky P

    Very Good Gazal Bharadwaj. Thank you very much to shared inspirational video & articles.

  • Narendra Modi

    Ma’am please kindly recommend from which month we need to read the current affairs for 2016 Prelims, from January 2016 or August 2015 ?

    • Malyaj Yadav


      • Narendra Modi

        It seems no one is going to answer this Malyaj. And this is the toughest part, I feel that the syllabus of current affairs is much wider than rest of the syllabus.


          Read it from sep 2015.

          • Narendra Modi

            thanks 🙂

    • december onwards is good. prelims, most questions are static. make that part very strong.

      • Narendra Modi

        Okay Ma’am. Thank you for replying 🙂

  • Rangrezz

    NCERT,GC LEONG last chapters,
    Selective reading of Savinder Singh and Khullar which was also very
    helpful for mains, Oxford and Orient longman this source for geography? isn’t too much mam… it good for 1 yr startegy….however thanks mam..for your valuable boost us

  • Atul Sharma

    Thanks a lot Gazal 🙂 all the best in services

  • Akansha

    Thanks very much ma’am for your immense help and a hearty congratulations to you 🙂

  • rajashree

    Congrats……..nd thank you for sharing ths artical

  • P.s

    Sir is history scoring optional or not?

    • will not say very scoring. but if decently prepared, you can score average to above average marks

  • satyendra singh

    Thanks for sharing . Thank u insights .

  • khayali pulao

    Thanks for sharing! It is really helpful.

  • Naveen Shekhar

    Super like…
    Really a fulfilling n worthy read.
    Hats off !

  • Anwar

    Thanks for wonderful motivational article. I also missed prelims in 2012 and 2013 by only 6 and 1 marks respectively but cleared both 2014 and 2015. Though couldnt clear mains till now….

  • Peaceful Warrior

    Ma’am I am a follower of your blog. your pen flow like a Ghazal. very peaceful.

  • Guest

    Hey guys,
    Need help.
    I have done Laxmi Polity(read 2-3 times), Bipan chandra(1-2 times). History NCERTs(Our pasts-1,2,3 and Themes in hist-1&2), Geography NCERT class 11 and 12.
    Will it be sufficient for prelims 2016 or should i skip and write next year ??
    Please give suggestions.Thanks

    • Solve past 2 years upsc papers n check how much you are scoring, and then decide if you can improve on that score in this last one month.

  • Sandeep Gabhale

    Very nice and useful articles.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • thank you all. glad if it helped. best wishes.

  • vd

    hello friends..
    how can i get secure compilations?
    plz help!