Print Friendly, PDF & Email

UPSC CSE RANK-31 – ANKIT PANNU: Civil Services Examination Preparation Strategy


Civil Services Examination Preparation Strategy


Hello Everyone,

As it is said, ”Dreams Don’t Work Unless you do”. The dream of becoming an IAS, which many of us desire to be a reality requires Hard work, Consistency, Absolute Commitment from our side and a Positive Attitude. I am going to share my strategy with you guys, which i hope will be beneficial for you.

I started my preparation early in my 4th year of Engineering. Starting early has its advantages, so you all can also try to begin your journey towards your Dream at an early stage.

Starting with the basics i feel one must be consciously aware about the syllabus of the UPSC Civil Services Examination. By consciously i mean, one should be able to identify if a particular Topic/News is covered in our syllabus by just a Glance over the Topic/News. This will help you in Segregating the wheat from the Chaff and hence will save your valuable Time.

My First Attempt

I gave my First attempt in 2016, right after my college got over in May 2016. I got 2 whole straight months, without any college exam disruptions. In those 2 months i followed Insights 60 Day plan very religiously and completed their daily targets and day quizzes in a consistent manner. In my second month i also focused on Test Series of Insights and Vision IAS. I used to do 1 or 2 tests a day. I followed a simple approach in which i used to write down the topics where i got my answers wrong. In the beginning i found 40-45 topics. I studied them right after giving those tests along with other related topics, this helped me REVISE ONLY WHAT I HAD DIFFICULTY WITH. This approach saved my crucial time and also helped in my Revision. Gradually the topics got reduced to 20-25. This helped in analysing my progress, which was very important for gaining Self Confidence and also provided a good feeling that i am going in the right Direction.

For my mains i relied on Insights SECURE initiative and along with that i also used to write answers on IASbabas’ TLP Initiative. These helped me in improving my answer writing skills and also in gauging the quality of my answers with that of other candidates. I mostly focused my time here on my Optional (Political Science and International Relations) , whose strategy i will be sharing separately.

For the interview i took some mocks at various institutes. I would recommend Next IAS (Especially for Engineers) and KSG Mocks for you guys.

I secured an AIR 444 and was allotted IRS(C&CE).

Learnings from my 1st Attempt was that one should NEVER take the ESSAY Paper lightly. I got below average marks (112) in it due to lack of practice and guidance.

My Second Attempt

I got very few days for the prelims examination as the exam was held just 18 days after the Final results. (There comes no motivation to study when you know the result will be soon out, It’s Natural with some). The confidence that i gained from my first attempt helped me here. Here also in my last 15 days i only focused on Test series (Insights only this year) in the same manner as i did in my previous attempt (NEVER change the plan that worked for you once).  

For my mains, I again followed Insights’ SECURE Initiative and their Test Series along with IASbabas’ TLP Program. For my optional (Political Science and International Relations) this time i joined Shubra mam’s Test Series. This time i laid extra emphasis on my essay and wrote around 13-15 essays and also got my friends and mentors to read it, which really helped me improve the structure, flow and content of my essay. 

For the interview again, I took some mocks at various institutes. I would recommend Next IAS (Especially for Engineers) and KSG Mocks for you guys.

With the grace of God and consistent hard work, this time i was able to make my dream a reality by securing an AIR-31.

Which books to read :-

  1. Ancient History : Old and New NCERTs, Tamil Nadu Textbook class 11th.
  2. Medieval History : Old and New NCERTs and Tamil Nadu Text book class 11th.
  3. Culture : Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania, CCRT and Class 11th Fine Arts NCERT.
  4. Modern History : Old NCERT by Bipin Chandra and The brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir (Spectrum Publications).
  5. Geography : New NCERTs and G.C. Leong.
  6. Social Issues : Do a detailed analysis of topics in news.
  7. Polity : Only read Laxmikanth here, no need for other books.
  8. International Relations : Read newspaper daily and online sources (mentioned below).
  9. Economy : Indian Economy by ramesh singh and Daily Economy section in newspaper.
  10. Environment : Shankar IAS and ICSE Board (Class 9th to 12th).
  11. Science and Technology : For Engineering Background, no need to study any book specifically for it, just focus on current events. Non engineering students can refer Sc. and Tech. by Ashok Kumar Singh.
  12. Internal Security : Do a detailed analysis of topics in news and online sources(Mentioned below).
  13. Ethics (GS-4) : Lexicon is a good book; genuinity and natural instincts are valued here. 

Online Sources to refer :- 

  1. – For Current Affairs, SECURE, Editorial analysis and Test series.
  2. – For Current affairs, TLP, Yojana/Kurukshetra Gist, PIB news.
  3. – For indian polity. (Analysis of important bills and policies)
  4. – For Internal Security and International Relations.
  5. – For Indian Economy and its governance.
  6. – For Social Development.
  7. – For International Relations.
  8. – For International Relations.
  9. – For Indian Budget and Economic Survey.
  10. – Authentic Government news/facts.


Making Notes

I suggest you not to make notes of newspaper articles, rather do your own analysis of the topic as it would be more fruitful and help you in writing original mains answers.

Also try to keep your notes at minimum as the purpose of notes i think is for revision. Lesser and precise the notes the better they will be for your revision. So only make notes of things which you think that you might forget in the coming future. 

Choosing the Optional Subject

Choice of optional is always tricky, I would suggest you to decide it based on three Criteria.

  1. Based on Interest : I think this should be the most important criteria and prime decider for your optional subject. I had interest in International Relations part so i opted for PSIR Optional. You can read the Syllabus and Previous Year papers of the optional subject you wish to choose, it will provide you better insights on the subject.
  2. Based on your Proficiency : If someone is quite proficient in their Engineering/Medical or any other subject which they had in their college/university they should opt for the same.
  3. Based on overlap with GS Papers : This can be another criteria but do not make it a prime decider for your optional subject.

One thing that must not be done while considering the optional is choosing the optional based on Topper’s optional in the previous or that particular year.

How and which Newspaper to read

I read The Hindu Newspaper during my preparation and you can also choose either from The Hindu or The Indian Express. Knowing the syllabus (Read only what’s relevant to syllabus) helps a lot here as you don’t have to read irrelevant news which will waste your precious time. Another thing i did was that i noted down the Topic of the Editorial and did my own analysis on it (Originality of content and your own Analysis of any topic will help you to write better answers), because the newspapers can be biased into one particular aspect but UPSC demands multidimensional view of the subject which your own analysis can provide better.

I wish everyone luck and I would also like to thanks Insights and their whole team who had an invaluable contribution to my success, without them it would not have been possible. 

Contact me at for any other questions and doubts. Thank You.