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IAS TOPPER’S STRATEGY: Tejasvi Rana – Rank 12 (CSE 2016), IIT Kanpur, ECONOMICS Optional (325 Marks), Second Attempt, Insights Follower


Tejasvi Rana

 RANK 12

(CSE 2016), IIT Kanpur, ECONOMICS Optional, Second Attempt


Hello everyone. This is Tejasvi Rana. I have secured AIR 12 in CSE 2016. I am a 2015 graduate in Economics from IIT Kanpur. I gave my first attempt in 2015 but I could not clear Mains. This was my second attempt. I did not join any coaching but I attached immense importance to test series. Moreover I gave this attempt from my home in Kurukshetra. I depended upon Insightsonindia for my preparation. Not only did I regularly wrote answers and took the test series, but I also benefitted from toppers’ articles as well as motivational write ups. If I could maintain consistency in my preparation, it was mainly because of Insightsonindia initiatives.
I thought it will be useful to share a few pointers regarding the preparation which I consider as most important. I will be sharing these with respect to three stages of the exam, followed by some general suggestions.
Tejasvi Rana Rank 12 Marks CSE 2016 IAS
I will not go into book list as I myself have referred to the one that insightsonindia suggests. For current affairs, I referred to Vision current affairs booklets. Insights booklets are also equally good. One can refer any. 
For prelims I follow a very simple strategy which I think works most effectively. Two points I would like to highlight
  • Attempt at least two test series (mainly Insights prelims test series for its NCERT coverage and other basics) especially if it is your first attempt. Solve them in a simulated environment, calculate marks and then revise each question. It is also important to incorporate test series solutions in notes or highlight the ones you forget for quick revision. 
  • Never attempt less than 90 questions. This i say with surety because if you attempt those questions also in which you have been able to cross one or two options out of 4, then definitely you will be able to attempt more than 90. And if you mathematically calculate the expected score on the basis of the probability of getting it right, it is higher than the case if you dont attempt those.  (For non mathematics background students, you can check this with your mathematics optional friends or try it in a few mock tests. You will definitely score more if you attempt more)
GS papers
I will have to repeat the obvious. Practice answer writing. I used to write Daily Current Affairs Questions on insightsonindia. You cannot write at all without sufficient practice in the final paper. Practice allows you to finish the paper in time. Moreover after writing answers on almost each topic of the syllabus, you are able to generate your own unique answer structures and diagrams and tables. These can be reproduced in the exam at once. This will make your answers unique.
Notes making is crucial. I made notes on Evernote. There are two types of questions in the exam. One is very specific, e.g., questions about specific legislation or scheme etc. These are easy to answer properly if one has read and understood them. The other type is of broad questions which are in majority i think, e.g., Q9 GS2 (CSE 2016)- improvements in primary healthcare and education. For these questions, notes get build up daily as there is an article on such issues every other day. Having diverse points at one place for these broad questions helps in reproducing them in paper in a structured way. 
Examples and case studies should be used liberally. As per my assessment, I might have got extra marks because I did this. A lot of issues that I read for Prelims I used as case studies in Mains. I will give you a few examples.
  • There was a news on detection of potassium bromate by CSE in breads. FSSAI was quick to respond. I used in a question on role of NGOs in democracy
  • There was a scheme Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat for inter state cultural exchanges. I used it for writing conclusion in a question on regionalism in GS-1.
For GS-4, solving previous 3-4 year papers is sufficient. For the public administration portion, its better to refer to some notes or source given at insights. I also made a table in my notes where against each value/ trait (e.g honesty, courage etc.), I wrote relevant quotes and examples.
There are two sources I would like to suggest to be read leisurely for getting right orientation and jargon. One is ARC report- Ethics in governance. Second is a book by Gurucharan Das- The Difficulty of being good.
Essay paper
  • Write at least 10-12 essays i.e. 5-6 papers. I used to attempt 1 essay every weekend after prelims
  • Make a repository of quotes and relevant data and facts and keep revising it. It will implicitly improve your expression.
Optional paper 
My optional was economics. I have scored 325 in CSE 2016. Though there are a few things which I feel are true for every social sciences optional. Make notes for each and every word written in syllabus. Practice previous year papers in a simulated environment and prepare answers for as many questions as you can.  Many questions will get repeated.
I liberally added names of papers and economists in my answers. I also made a table in which for every sub topic of Paper II, I had written economists’ names to memorise. I also made pie charts and diagrams. Even if a diagram is not conveying much, its better to draw it as it fetches extra marks.
In Paper 1, since it is a technical paper, clarity of theories matters. Moreover in Paper 1 also, I tried to memorise economists’ names who have given different theories. 
Later, I can separately share somewhere my economics preparation in detail and share some notes which I think I have made through google searches and not from conventional sources.
The key is to give mock interviews. It helps in preparing a repository of questions on your DAF. Moreover, you can see your body language in videos and try to improve that. Since the question is to be answered in a crisp and clear manner, practice helps in structuring the answer and articulating it as soon as the question is bombarded at you.
When I began preparing, I was of the view that this is an uncrackable exam. But I got to know over time that here one does not need to be excellent in everything. One just needs to be average in all papers. If we write average answers to almost all questions in all papers, one will get a good result. For this, one needs to devote a minimum number of hours to familiarise with the relevant issues, and remain calm and confident on the exam days. 
At the end I would like to share with you one thought that kept me going. I had heard from many civil servants that the service is full of challenges that one will have to deal with. And the challenges that we face in the preparation are perhaps not even close to those. So we must tackle these and keep on going  to convince ourselves of our eligibility to become a future civil servant. So never give up on your dream. The exam is testing your perseverance. So failing in CSE is fine. But failing in this test of perseverance is not. All the best.