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TOPPER’S STRATEGY: Swarn Prabhat, AIR – 105 in CSE 2016, 2nd Attempt




Name : Swarn Prabhat (AIR – 105 in CSE 2016 )

Education: B Tech(H) in Computer Science from IIT Kharagpur (2013 Batch)

Work Experience: 1.5 years in Microsoft

State: Bihar

Attempt: 2nd

 Marks sheet

swarn prabhat rank 105 marks1


References and Booklists :

Ancient India: Old NCERT (R.S. Sharma)

Medieval India: Old NCERT (Satish Chandra)

Modern India : Spectrum (Rajiv Ahir), Bipan Chandra (for mains )

Art and Culture : Introduction to Fine Arts (NCERT), Nitin Sangwan (AIR-28 CSE 2015) notes

Post Independence : Vision booklet

World History : Vision booklet

Science and Technology : NCERTs(6th to 10th ), Current affairs

Geography : Oxford Atlas , NCERTs(11th , 12th), G C Leong, My optional

Environment : Shankar IAS

Polity : M Laxmikanth

Economics : Sriram economics booklets, Economic survey summary (must)

Internal Security : Vision booklet, relevant articles from IDSA

Ethics : Lexicon, Subba Rao (selectively), 2nd ARC (must)

Current affairs : Vision booklets, Insights into editorial and their RSTV summaries


Prelims Strategy :

Firstly, make sure you are absolutely good with basic books before jumping into mastering current affairs.

Don’t just cram facts, try to understand and link things. It’s not necessary to find logic in everything but do that wherever you can.

Revise, Revise and Revise . Solve Test Papers (Insights/Vision etc.).


Using Option elimination technique and making Intelligent Guesses are necessary as you will not be sure about around 30-40 questions.

For ex, options with words like ‘only’ , ‘any’, ‘ enormously’ , ‘ drastically’ are likely to be eliminated.


GS Mains Strategy :

 I believe writing tests is very crucial and important for SCORING good marks in Mains.

Essay (1st attempt : 90, 2nd attempt : 148)

I joined Vikash Ranjan sir’s classes after prelims last year. I wrote all the tests and got them evaluated.


I wrote essay in chronological order. See this link to understand this approach. Link :  IAS Topper 2016 Siddharth Jain Rank 13 gave deep insight on IAS Essay writing

Content for essay : Pick from your GS knowledge and try to make the essay as contemporary as possible. Substantiation of your arguments is important and this can be done through examples. Quote events, facts, schemes etc from newspapers. Underline important keywords.


GS : (1st attempt : 365, 2nd attempt : 418)

Joined Vision test series after prelims in first attempt. Vajiram for 2nd attempt. Both are good.

I scheduled my preparation (studying and revision) according to my test schedule so that I could read and revise before appearing in tests.

Wrote tests on time and within time limit (no compromise on this please) since first test itself.

Discussion after test with friends and post evaluation is important. Try to avoid previous mistakes and keep monitoring your performance.

Conclusion in GS answers is important and do underline important keywords. Prefer writing in bullet points or small paragraphs . Practice underlining important keywords.

Try to join test series with friends and write together. It helps in maintaining discipline and you can feel a bit competitive, can use the group to gauge relative performance etc. It is important  to understand where we stand and gain confidence from these mock tests.

Writing tests is very draining and can make you exhausted. Make sure you sleep and eat well and treat yourself to well deserved breaks after the tests or whenever you genuinely feel necessary. Out mind is very good conscience keeper 🙂


Current Affairs :

Vision Current affair booklets are a must.

Insights into editorial and Insights RSTV summary articles (presented in lucid manner) – and this is something which should not be avoided.

I followed Insights secure to ensure nothing important is getting missed out.

I believe reading Hindu daily for 1-2 hours is not required given the low cost-benefit ratio. Instead you can go and read articles from ForumIAS/Insights must read articles where articles from multiple newspapers are given. At end of the day you should be aware of important issues/articles.

I kept all important articles and summaries (Insights editorial/RSTV) in Onenote (Microsoft software similar to Evernote).


Don’t burden too much with current news. Keep them manageable as multiple revisions are required and you will write only those things is exam which are at your fingertips. Try to link current affairs news.

Optional (Geography) :


I got 170 in first attempt and 302 this year.

Optional is your choice , try to make it your strength.

Joined Neetu singh classes for first attempt (honestly I don’t recommend this).

 2nd attempt:

Read Shabbir Sir notes many times and Alok ranjan’s to supplement it (very selectively)

Read recommended books (listed below) religiously.

Joined Majid Hussain and ALS test series. Wrote all tests and got them evaluated.

Geography syllabus is big and it will take time to master it. 3-4 months is needed to do it well.


References :

Notes : Shabbir Sir’s notes , Selectively Alok Ranjan Sir’s

Physical geography : Savinder Singh (highly recommended)

Models  : Majid Hussain

Thoughts : Majid Hussain

Human geography : Majid hussain selectively though Shabbir Sir’s notes are enough

Indian Geography : Khullar (highly recommended)

Atlas : Oxford (for Indian), Orient (world)



Thoughts and Models in Paper I is getting important every year and I believe attempting Thoughts questions well in the exam can fetch good marks. Read Shabbir Sir notes many many times to understand it. Read Majid sir books to get clarity. Try to get hold on Thoughts and models.

Writing tests helped me a lot. I drew a lot of RELEVANT diagrams/maps  in both papers (around 18 in first paper 30 in second paper). Try to draw at least one RELEVANT diagram/map per question.

Take diagrams and maps from standard textbooks mentioned above. Practice them at home in free time.

Read your notes and books many times. Revision is the key to success in this exam.


My Interview was on 5th April (Saxena Board). I got 168 marks.

Joined mocks(Samkalp and Vajiram) and did group mocks with friends.

Calm , Composure and Confidence  are what that matters apart from your BALANCED  reply.


Post Script:

Last but not the least, group study is important. Try to make a group of serious candidates and try not to study in isolation for academic and moral support.

Few prerequisites needed for this MAHASANGRAM:

Self-belief (you know why)

Patience and Perseverance ( because of the unpredictability of UPSC, peer pressure, financial problems and lot of random health problems you get esp. in Delhi) ; Don’t lose tempo and keep your aggression above average.

Hard work (Do revise and write with full vigor)

Smart work (you MUST know what not to read)

Consistency : Be consistent at least 6 months (2month before pre till mains) . This phase is crucial and this is the time when life might throw you lot of challenges apart from UPSC. But, Never Retreat.


All the Best !

Thank you!

Swarn Prabhat