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UPSC Civil Services Prelims Strategy: by Jamir Shaikh, Rank 18 IFoS 2018, Prelims Marks 157 (CSP 2016), InsightsIAS Offline Student

UPSC Civil Services Prelims Strategy

by Jamir Shaikh, Rank 18 IFoS 2018,

Prelims Marks 157 (CSP 2016), InsightsIAS Offline Student


Jamir Shaikah Munir IFoS Rank 18 insightsIASHello friends,

This is Jamir Shaikh, AIR 18th in the Indian Forest Service Examination 2018 (IFoS).This was my second attempt but first serious attempt for IFoS. Earlier I had appeared for IFoS interview in 2016. I have attempted 6 UPSC Prelims and in that I could not qualify prelims twice. But, in 2016 I got one of the highest marks (157/200). Here, in this article my objective is to simplify the things for prelims which is backed by my 7 years of experience. This is my strategy for prelims and I have been getting positive results for last 3 years continuously. You may have your own strategy to prepare for prelims but this experience is just a guiding source for those who are in the confused state of preparation.

Book list which I followed- (Basics/ static)

  1. Polity- M.Laxmikant and The Constitution at Work NCERT (Class 11th)
  2. Geography- 6th to 12th NCERTs plus G.C.Leong (If time permits but not necessary)
  3. Economy- Mrunal videos and NCERTs
  4. History- Ancient and medieval from NCERTs and Lucent GK, Modern History from Spectrum
  5. Art and Culture- NCERT of Fine Arts (Class 11th)and selected topics from Nitin Singhania book
  6. Science and tech.- NCERTs till 10th class for basics along with Lucent and Internet
  7. Environment- Shankar IAS book.

For current Affairs- Insights Test papers (even one can see 2014 and 2015 insights test papers as they have covered NCERT related questions very well. I referred them in 2016 extensively and prepared notes for me), Insights Quiz, Insights subject Modules, and Insights Current Affairs material.

Considering the quality of questions in UPSC prelims, to get good marks in prelims for beginners, three months of dedicated preparation is must. And for those who want to qualify for forest Exam also, they need more rigorous practice and revision.

When I got the highest marks in prelims in 2016, that year I read all basic books as  mentioned in the list. Apart from that I solved all Insights test papers and Insights quiz. I also referred GK today quiz and Vision practice papers as supplementary material. I even went through CDS, NDA, CAPF exam papers of last 5 years and CSE exam papers since 1995 (New Vishal Publication book) and I did analysis of all important questions. I gave multiple revisions. I referred subject modules of Insights to update my current affairs. I used to learn from my previous mistakes and ensured not to repeat them.  

I had prepared India Year Book (IYB) notes in 2016. But now a days, IYB summary is easily available, so I would recommend you to refer any good summary. This year there is no Eco. Survey so just keep yourself updated with current affairs and interim budget related material of 2019.


  1. Keep practicing 50 to 100 questions daily so that you will be well trained in selection and elimination techniques.
  2. Learn from your mistakes in practice tests. Observe your mistakes and find out the reason for not scoring well in every test. Make a list of all tests and corresponding marks you are getting. This will help you to analyse your performance in each test.
  3. Keep asking questions to each other in your friends group while eating, having tea and even in leisure time.
  4. Analysis of every test paper is very important to get more knowledge regarding topics. I have observed that many candidates don’t even see question papers and solutions after test. They just check their marks and they either regret for not doing well or become happy and overconfident if they are getting good score in comparison to their friends. Both reactions are not good because test papers are meant to check your performance and improve your knowledge and for that, analysis of each paper and its revision is must no matter whether the candidate is fresher or senior. This is just to ensure guaranteed positive result in UPSC prelims. Those who take test papers very lightly they are just going to qualify prelims on the basis of luck. This is the major reason why even senior aspirants are not able to qualify prelims even though their knowledge is much more than fresh aspirants.
  5. I thoroughly analysed and remembered all important details from Insights test papers. Extensively revised them so as to be perfect in them. I also gave most of the tests in classroom as per the schedule. 
  6. Do not change your answers after you mark in initial reading, because in most of the cases when we overthink we might mark it wrong.
  7. Be cool and calm even in mock tests because this will make your performance stable on exam day. So, take sufficient time to solve test papers and don’t solve questions recklessly to save time. Take proper 2 hours to solve mock test. Even on OMR sheet, fill the roll number carefully. In my first attempt I did that mistake and many aspirant do such mistake every year. So, be careful even in such small-small things to avoid unnecessary stress during actual exam.
  8. Do not compare yourself with any other person. Comparison will hamper your confidence level and you will think too much even while marking answers of simple questions and as a result you may lose marks in that case.
  9. If you are seeing large fluctuations in your marks, it means you are not stable in preparations and performance so fix it by deliberate efforts.
  10. Keep all test papers always handy for revision so that it will reduce your stress level at last moment.

Other Important Tips: 

  • Give more revisions to notes and test papers. It will help in remembering things in a better way.
  • Avoid multiple guidance and books to avoid confusion. Fix one source and believe that it is the best source for you. It will help you to avoid lots of confusion.
  • Accept your lacunae and work on that. Learning attitude is immensely important.
  • UPSC prelims questions will mostly be simple and moderate. If any test series is giving too much difficult questions, I will not recommend you to follow. The reason is that you can lose your confidence for UPSC prelims and I believe that self-confidence matters a lot. Every year UPSC will ask sufficient number of simple and moderate questions (which may constitute 60 to 90 out of 100) so that any serious aspirant can qualify. But most of the aspirants cannot attempt them properly due to stress and anxiety after seeing those 10 to 40 difficult questions. If paper is difficult then it will be difficult for all and automatically cut-off will go down like what happened this year. There is no reason to panic. No one can predict UPSC cent percent. So, better stop predicting paper’s toughness level, be thorough with your basics, solve test papers and give multiple revisions.
  • Even in difficult questions there are certain tricks to attempt, so the probability of getting them right increases. For that you have to observe UPSC papers of past 7 to 8 years and their solutions very keenly. Please find some clues and apply them, you will be amazed by the result. Many of my friends have been getting above 140 marks every year just because of such tricks. It will come only with the practice.


Note of caution– UPSC prelims is very easy if you believe so. Some candidates are too scared about their results and they spread negativity among other aspirants. Every topper has been saying one very common thing that is ‘to have faith in you and keep studying as per the demand of examination’. Ignore any negative comments about this exam. Do not get bogged down by imaginary fear created by some people in the market. Every year large number of first and second time appearing candidates have been qualifying. It shows that there is something special required to pass this stage and that is a belief system that “I CAN DO IT”. So stay away from negative people and negative thoughts to get through this stage.


All the Best!