COMMERCE and ACCOUNTANCY STRATEGY: Shivani Goyal, Rank – 15 UPSC CSE-2017, Optional Marks 320

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Shivani Goyal, Rank – 15 UPSC CSE-2017

Optional Marks 320



I am Shivani Goyal and I have got Rank 15 in Civil Services exams in 2017. My optional subject was commerce and accountancy and I would like to share my strategy for it through this article. My marks obtained are 154 and 166 in Paper 1 and 2 respectively.

shivani goyal IAS
Paper  1

Paper 1 is a mix of practical and theory questions. First, your best friends for Paper 1 preparation are the UPSC syllabus and the previous year questions (PYQs). Please look at the syllabus and stick to the topics mentioned there. Then move on to analysing the PYQs as there is huge repetition in the theory questions and it would also enable you to understand the trend/ type of the practical questions asked.

For practical, the books done during graduation or IPCC will suffice. For example- I did not go beyond Rustagi sir’s book and Ashish Kalra for financial management and costing respectively. Apart from that, I referred to Rankers classes notes for small topics such as accounting standards, financial institutions and mergers and acquisitions for which I was not able to find content in the standard books.
Please try to do intensive practice for the practical questions (after studying the type of questions asked from PYQs) and leverage the scoring potential. I made a chart and wrote all the important chapters from where the questions are expected in practical. Then every day I used to spend an hour on practice and this chart (where I used to mark on which date I did practice of that specific chapter) helped me ensure that my practise remains well distributed across all subjects. This is one of the techniques which you may use if you find it convenient. Keep practising till the final exams approach so that you do not lose your cutting edge. You can also make a formula sheet for quick revision.

Then for the theory questions of Paper 1, start the preparation by analysing the PYQs. This would help you recognise the topics which you have to complete. You can create short notes for those topics and keep revising them. Please do not ignore putting adequate time on theory portion as around half of the paper will be from this portion.

Paper 2

Paper 2 is an entire theory paper with four major topics- OT, OB, HRM and IR. I would divide the preparation of Paper 2 into two parts- content and presentation. For the content, though standard books such as Singh and Chabbra are available in the market, I would recommend that you can go for more consolidated notes which are provided by the coaching institutes. I personally relied on Rankers classes material. Later if you get time, then you can skim through the standard books or other coaching institutes’ notes to pick diagrams or any relevant topic missed in the previous notes. However, please restrict the number of books you go through as management related topics are endless and you might never finish your preparation if you think about covering everything under the sun. Hence stick to few books, keep revising and consolidating your notes. During the exam, there would be 10 marker questions for which you will have no idea, so please do not worry about them and try to attempt them with whatever knowledge you have. Also, I had put a lot of emphasis on consolidating my notes with successive revisions so that I could revise maximum in the last few hours before the exam. I reduced my notes to 50 to 60 pages in the end from initial 500- 600 pages in paper 2 which helped me immensely in the break between paper 1 and 2.

Next comes the presentation- which is the most important thing in paper 2. You might have written the best possible content but if your presentation is sub-optimal, you might not score well. Your agenda should be to tell the examiner that you know about the question, give him/ her something extra and differentiate your answer from other candidates.

Few general things to keep in mind while attempting the questions in paper 2:

  • First understand the question properly. Answer according to what is being asked and not as per what information you have.
  • Divide your answer into various parts you would like to address and give subheadings. Try to make your answer comprehensive.
  • Include recommendations in the end if any problem is discussed in the question.
  • Always substantiate your answer with prominent thinkers’ names/ theories to ensure that your answer does not look generic.
  • Give real-life examples/ case studies to make your answer different.
  • Draw plenty of diagrams, flowcharts and tables to give it a visual appeal.
  • Try to avoid leaving questions. Do not fool the examiner but try to attempt the ten marker questions (which are sometimes new and unseen) with whatever relevant knowledge you have in the best possible way. As an example- let us say the question is-

    Informal organisation is a necessary evil and detrimental to the interests of the organisation. Hence it needs to be nipped at bud. Comment.

    Now the various parts which can be addressed are:

    What is an informal organisation (draw a diagram)
    How is it detrimental to interests of the organisation. Discuss the cons
    The positive aspects of informal organisation. (Be comprehensive, look at the other     side, also give examples)
    How can the manager leverage the positives and supress the negatives (Be futuristic).

    Now along with this include plenty of diagrams, tables, sub headings and examples. Visibility in an answer is of utmost importance.

Finally do attempt few mock tests as speed factor is crucial in both the papers. Through mocks, make mistakes early and learn to attempt and choose options wisely. Avoid the tendency to keep rereading the paper before starting and move strategically. 

I have also attached few of my mock tests’ answer sheets on for reference.

I hope the above article could be of some help to the aspirants opting commerce and accountancy as their optional subject.
All the very best and keep moving forward!