Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Topper’s Strategy: Shivani Gupta UPSC CSE 2017 AIR 121 | First Attempt | Without Coaching | Commerce and Accountancy Optional (303)


Topper’s Strategy:

Shivani Gupta UPSC CSE 2017 AIR 121 

First Attempt | Without Coaching | Commerce and Accountancy Optional (303)


Hello Friends !

I will start with a brief background. I am Shivani Gupta, a Chartered Accountant by profession. I have cleared Civil Services Examination 2017 with Rank 121 in my first attempt without any dedicated coaching. I had only 8-9 months for my preparation as I was working in a company and was a late starter. Further, I was totally clueless as to how to go about my preparations. I chose Commerce and Accountancy as my optional subject.

I had so many myths and doubts about this examination . When I began, I was doubtful about whether  should take coaching or not but then I decided against it. So, I will try to share my strategy for all those who feel they don’t have any idea about preparations and are not willing/able to go for coaching.

Certain ideas to be kept in mind during preparations:

  1. This exam can definitely be cracked in first attempt itself, so those who feel that they need to go for rigourous preparation for at least 2-3 years should re-devise their strategy.
  2. Mock tests are very important, so please take them very seriously.
  3. Don’t be misguided by people who suggest numerous sources for a single topic/subject. Pick one source for one topic and stick to it.
  4. Be confident about your strategy. Plan in advance.
  5. Give regular mock tests and assess your performance. Try to give mocks in most disciplined environment.
  6. Make the maximum use of online resources like, mrunal videos etc.
  7. Revise, Revise and Revise !!



I dedicatedly prepared for prelims for 3 months (March-June 18). I did not make any notes from the standard books, rather underlined the important portions/areas.

I read The Hindu daily and tried to attempt maximum questions before the exam.

The major benefit of giving mock tests is to assess how many accurate answers/guesses you are making, which helps you during final examination. Revise the answer keys of the mocks. In my case, I used to make a notes on a word document after every mock test in bullet points. When I had given all the mocks, I had 10 pages notes with the summary of all the mock test of different institutes (Vision IAS, Insights etc) in it, which helped me a lot in the last week before the examination.

For CSAT paper, I did not prepare separately.I attempted past 2 year question paper and scored fine in them.

For certain topics, I referred google. Had made separate notes for these areas, among others.

  1. Mnemonics for constitutional articles (Important ones)
  2. Committees formed for different purpose by Government
  3. World Heritage Sites
  4. National Parks/ Wildlife Sanctuaries, rivers flowing through them
  5. Various reports released by domestic/international institutions (e.g. World Happiness Report)

Revision and diligently following the time table was the most important key, I stressed upon.


I had started preparation for Mains only after prelims as I did not have much clue regarding how to prepare for mains. I used to divide my whole day into three parts:

  1. Newspaper and Answer Writing Practice- 4-5 Hours- A senior suggested me to follow answer writing practice on , which I used to do regularly. Initially , I used to take 20-25 minutes to write a single answer which was gradually reduced to 6-7 minutes with daily practice. Speedy writing and fast thinking is the essence of this examination, so my personal suggestion is to focus on this aspect, the most.
  2. Optional Subject- 4-5 Hours – I used to devote 2-2.5 hours for each part
  3. GS Subjects- 6-7 Hours daily

I took one mock test series and was very disciplined about it. I gave around 17-18 mocks before sitting in examination. I used to write the tests in a closed room environment within the duration of 3 hours. This really helped me to tackle the final exams pressure as I never felt that I was sitting in examination for the first time.

Points regarding answer writing:

  1. Introduction-which should be of 30-40 words. It should explain the essence of questions asked. Statistics or recent happening can be included.e.g. A question asked on domestic violence may start with some statistic or some current legislation formed.
  2. Main Body- 130-150 words- Write in bullet points. Try to be as diverse as possible. Diversity in answer is appreciated. Make diagrams and factual information can be used.
  3. Include Examples,Facts,data, diagram, maps, wherever possible.
  4. Conclusion: Should be around 20-30 words. Should involve some innovative suggestion. Govt schemes can be mentioned. It must be positive and not critical


Optional-Commerce and Accountancy

Part I – Practical in nature. It has Accountancy, Cost Management, Financial Management, Taxation and Auditing. The syllabus is of CA-IPCC Level. So the key is practice as much as you can. The theory part in Paper 1 is generally repetitive in nature and one must go through the previous year exam papers to get an understanding on the types of questions asked.

I followed Rankers IAS notes and attempted mock tests. As I was devoting 2-2.5 hours everyday, I did fine in tests and final papers.

Part 2- Theoretical- The subjects are- Human Resource, Organisation Behaviour, Organisation Theory, Industrial Relations.

For these, I followed Ranker IAS notes and also followed the recent news article that were touching this subject. Some points to be considered for attempting theory papers are:

  1. Try to make you answers crisp and add as much content as you can precisely.
  2. Substantiate your answers with examples.
  3. Draw diagrams wherever possible.
  4. Give recent statistics or legislations related to questions asked.
  5. Underline the most important words in your answer.

I am herewith attaching my marksheet for your reference.

shivani singla IAS, shivani singla IFS

You can reach me out here: