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TOPPER’S STRATEGY: Aishwarya Dongre, Rank 196, Age 22, First Attempt, Political Science Optional (327/500)


Embrace the Uncertainty

Aishwarya Dongre

AIR 196, CSE – 2016

Political Science Optional


        Alice fell into a deep, dark hole; before reaching wonderland !


Without pondering over the bygone prelims, without worrying about which answer key to look at, without worrying about the difficulty level of the exam or without worrying about which all books to accumulate and refer to: Take a deep breath and pause. You have lived a journey of hard work, perseverance and focus. You have grown so much more as an individual. Pat yourself for deciding to give the exam (or to giving this exam in the future) and embarking on the UPSC Journey. It was, is and will be a bumpy road. Embrace this uncertainty.

Before I proceed, I am humbled by the opportunity given by the Insights platform to its toppers to share their journey as I have realised that even one ounce of help and motivation to the aspirants is a stepping stone in this career of serving the public.

A brief Background about me

I started my full-fledged preparation for the UPSC when fresh out of my Bachelor of Arts graduation (Double majors in Economics and Political Science) from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai in the summer of 2015 at the age of 20. I did the initial course training at Delhi with the constant aid of two other sources: The Hindu Newspaper and InsightsonIndia forum. Two years hence, I stand before you for clearing the exam in my first attempt.


Basics of the Exam

  1. There is no Definite Booklist that can be strictly followed. Based on the conventional list of books followed, stick to the ones that suit your comfort level which includes even petty issues like the font size of the content. This is because you have to establish a very strong and long lasting relation with these books. So might as well have that comfort level with them.
  2. The exam is NOT about your knowledge but a test of several qualities that shall aid you in public administration. This includes time management, patience, perseverance, and commitment to your study goals and getting up each time you fall (when you do badly in a test, when you feel disconnected from social circles). Constant reminders of your end should motivate your means.
  3. The need for constant revision. The more said of it the better it is. Revision includes various stages from reading, understanding, and applying concepts to current affairs, writing tests.
  4. This is a test for you to know Something about Everything, and Everything about Hence be curious about everything and gain an insight about things. Remember, at the end you are going to be a knowledge enriched person, and well then who should be complaining?


Quick overview for the Political Science optional preparation (Scored 327/500)

  1. Connect your static matter of the portion with current affairs. This enables you to make your theoretical answers also relevant to current times (and significant current affairs revision takes place).

Disclaimer:  I assume this technique can be followed for the other optional subjects as well but do get definite knowledge on this part from the other optional experts.

  1. Preferably make your own hand written notes in a compact format so that revision becomes easier. It is also proved that matter written in your own handwriting can be remembered better.
  2. Practice mock tests and experiment with different answer writing techniques in these tests to know what suits your style (Paragraphs, Point wise, few diagrammatic representations etc).
  3. Get them evaluated by professionals but also do give some answers to family and well-wishers, to know if adequate interest is generated with your answer.
  4. Highlight important points is your answer.


Quick overview for GS Preparation

  1. Always keep your syllabi next to you while studying so you know you are NOT going off track.
  2. THE NEWSPAPER IS THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE EXAMINATION AND YOUR LIFE. Please lay adequate importance to the same. Make your own notes for the same, as just cutting pieces of important articles will not do much good as a heap of these articles in the future could be a disincentive to re-read.
  3. Focus on basics and build your understanding on the same. Eg: The newspaper may cover an article on Manual Scavenging. When you make notes, cover its Social (GS1); Polity, Governance and International Issue (GS2), Economic (GS3) and Ethical (GS4) angle. This makes the topic as wide as the entire portion.
  4. The bedrock for most of your answers should be writing with adequate connection rather than it being a mechanical process. This includes even for your preparation where Feeling an issue, topic can ensure adequate addressing of the same (in the form of reading, writing).
  5. The InsightsonIndia provides an excellent platform to ensure daily practice in the form of its Insights Secure thread, its current affairs portion and its regular quizzes. Consider the platform as the light to guide you through times of uncertainty pertaining to your preparation, portion coverage.
  6. I religiously followed Insights Test Series papers and the prelims test series timetable. This helped a lot in scoring good marks in prelims.


Mindset for the UPSC Journey = Mindset needed for a sustainable life

I closely equate the two, as I reiterate that the journey and the process moulds you into a beautiful human.

  1. Self belief and faith are your only two companions. Hardwork is definitely an eligibility criteria, but believing in your abilities is the key that turns the Civil Service Examination lock.
  2. It is an Individual Journey. You shall have the support of your parents and close friends, but everytime you fall you cannot rely on them. Consider this exam as a boxing ring where the opponent (the pressure) pushes you to the ground. It is only YOU who can get yourself up at the nth minute, bleeding and sweating, but definitely more strong and victorious.
  3. Pursue your interest, hobby or some varied activity other than studying. It aids you to open your mind and be more holistic. For me Dancing (Bharatanatyam) and Meditation proved to be very useful in not just adding their qualities of discipline, calm into my daily schedule but made me feel more like a human and not a robot.
  4. Association with positivity and motivation, has to first begin at an internal level within your mind. Guide yourself to be positive and constantly remind yourself why you are giving this exam. Aid it with external sources like The Motivational articles of toppers on the InsightsonIndia platform, Youtube Videos like TedTalks, Self-help books.
  5. Be Happy. The dearth of this quality and feeling makes us weary. Express a sense of gratitude to anything good that happens to you each day, even if on one day your ability to breathe has been the only good thing that has happened. Recognise it and give it its importance. Inhale your blessings and exhale your gratitude. It works wonders !


Remember, this is your journey.  You get to carve the path to your destiny. The UPSC Civil Service Examination is just a means to the larger end. You always will have other options to reach your end, but you are the brave one who has given this rocky route a try. Bravo !