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[TOPPER’S STRATEGY] Nidhin K Biju, Rank-89 CSE-2019: Insights Core Batch Student, Public Administration Optional

Hi everyone, I am Nidhin K Biju. I have secured an All India Rank of 89 in the civil service examination 2019. I am a graduate in Electronics and Communication Engineering. I’m writing this article to briefly explain my journey in the civil services,the challenges I faced and the strategy I used to overcome the challenges.

The beginning

I decided to pursue civil services during the third year of my graduation. Like many of the aspirants, I just had the dream. I knew nothing about the examination. Neither the syllabus nor a way to crack it. But I had this intense belief that I will be able to crack it. I started to read a lot of articles written by the successful aspirants. With time, my belief that I can clear the exam strengthened. I was filled with the energy, passion and the motivation to venture into my dream. I joined weekend classes in Rau’s IAS study circle during the third year of my graduation. I found it difficult to balance Engineering and Civil service preparation. Meanwhile I cleared GATE and got placed in three companies. Now came the time to decide. Job, MTech or Civil services? I convinced my parents and decided to devote full time to civil services.

First attempt

Somebody once told me that the first attempt is the best attempt. I feel it to be true. Not because I cleared in that attempt. I didn’t. However, it gave me the experience and confidence that one day I will be able to clear it. I started to read the basic ncerts, standard textbooks and newspapers. I joined the Insights prelims test series. In the first test I got 40 marks. Over time my marks improved and I was able to reach 100 plus marks before the actual prelims. I was pretty confident that I will clear prelims which I did. I was able to score 119 in the prelims. I took a break for a week after prelims and started preparing for the mains. The first means is the area where I made a lot of mistakes. I was not prepared with the syllabus and didn’t give regular tests. This cost me a lot. I missed the mains by 2 marks. I scored 807 marks where the cutoff was 809. The failure struck hard on me. I was never used to failure back then.

Second Attempt

My second attempt was a disaster. After the failure in the first attempt, I started to do part time work as a teacher. I taught different batches till 2 months before the next prelims. I flunked the prelims stage itself. I missed it by 4 marks. Now I started making friends with failure. I started attempting other exams, only to have a series of failures. SSC CGL mains, SBI PO, clerk, IBPS PO, clerk and so on. I registered my failure wherever I could. Life was getting difficult. I started analysing the reason for my failure. It was simple and obvious. I was not giving enough time to prepare for the exams. I decided to give one proper planned attempt now. I was able to join Insights as an evaluator. It stabilised me financially. Now I could properly focus on the exam part for my third attempt.

Third Attempt

My third attempt was full of suspenses. I wanted predictability and perfection but I got surprises. Irrespective of whatever happened around me, I concentrated on the exam. I badly wanted to clear it this time. I started again with the ncerts, standard textbooks and newspapers. Mains was my major area of focus. I joined the core batch of Insights IAS. It helped me to improve my answer writing. I was mains ready before prelims itself. I studied well this time. I met with two accidents before the prelims. But I ensured it didn’t affect my prelims. I was able to clear both the civil service and forest service cutoff. My score was 115. And I started the mains preparation. This time I decided to devote myself completely to the test series and was particular that I won’t repeat the same mistake as in the first attempt. I joined the Insights mains test series and started giving regular tests. But things were not as smooth. I started getting health issues due to the weather. Wheezing bothered me a lot. There were nights when I had to rush to Sharavathi hospital due to wheezing. I became a regular customer of that hospital in this period. I am very thankful to my friends who supported me at this point of time. I still had the confidence that I can clear the exam if I revise what I have already prepared. 

nidhin k biju upsc topper

The mains exam started with the essay paper. The topics were comfortable and I started writing. While writing the paper I felt dizzy. I had to lie down on the bench for some time. I completed the essay paper somehow and reached back the hospital again. I was having low BP as well as low sugar. I felt really sad as I have never suffered from these two before. The exam stress might have caused it. But I couldn’t afford to give up. I had to give GS 1,2,3 and 4 in the next two days. My head wasn’t working properly. It was the toughest two days in my life. 6 hours of writing per day without being able to stand steadily. It required mustering up a lot of courage and motivation. I am thankful I was able to do it. By the time my health was proper, 5 important papers got over. There was a week gap for optionals. Wrote them well. Overall, I was satisfied with my performance in those tough times. The result of the mains exam came pretty late due to the court case involved. I was happy that I could clear both civil service and forest service mains. I attended the Forest service interview but could not clear it. But it gave a clear picture of how the Upsc interview works. I could score only 152 marks in the forest service interview. It was an eye opener. I started preparing well for the civil service interview. Then came COVID. My interview was postponed indefinitely. After three months of waiting, the interview was conducted. We had to wear mask and face-shield in front of the interview board, they couldn’t see our faces. The board was very serious which was in contrast to my cordial forest service interview. But I was able to score 195 marks which played a major role in getting me 89th rank.

Now when I write this article, sitting in LBSNAA, I feel content and relieved. The phase of struggles ended in a positive note. I am thankful to the universe for the conspiracy. I will share with you some learnings from my experience before concluding:

  1.     This exam is a mind game. Have optimism and confidence throughout the preparation, you will be able to clear it.
  2.     Having a mentor is very important. I am thankful to get guidance from Vinay sir in my successful attempt.
  3.     Analysis of the failure is very important. Small mistakes lead to big failures. Identify those small mistakes and rectify them.
  4.     Don’t panic. Maintain your calm throughout. This is especially important on the day of the exam.

Role of INSIGHTSIAS in my preparation

INSIGHTSIAS has provided me with the biggest support in my CSE preparation. My mains preparation was entirely dependent on Insights. I used to regularly write the mains test series of Insights which had prepared me well. The personal guidance of Vinay Sir helped me identify my mistakes in answer writing. I religiously followed his advice in answers and it helped me a lot in clearing the exam. I was not used to the approach of writing philosophical essays. Vinay Sir’s advice helped me a lot here too  and I was able to score 140 marks in the essay paper. The library of insights provided me the much necessary environment to prepare without distractions. For interview preparation, my first mock interview was with Vinay sir. It was without any preparation. It is fascinating that he was able to predict the potential marks which I will be able to get with good preparation aligning it with the feedback given by him. I got 195 marks which he had predicted. The subsequent mocks helped me in framing my answers properly for my interview. The most important factor which any aspirant wants during the preparation in stability – in every sense. I am very thankful that Insights was able to provide that to me.

Booklist and sources:

Static portion

  1.     Indian Polity: Laxmikant
  2.     Modern history: Ncerts and Bipan Chandra
  3.     Economy: NCERTs
  4.     Geography: NCERTs
  5.     Social issues: Insights website
  6.     World history: Old NCERTs
  7.     Governance, disaster management, International Relations, Internal security: Internet
  8.     Art and culture, ancient India,Medieval India: NCERTs
  9.     Environment: NCERTS and Shankar IAS textbook
  10.     Ethics: DK Balaji’s book on ethics

Current Affairs:


  1.     The Hindu Newspaper
  2.     Monthly Current affairs magazine.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” –  Nelson Mandela

Thank you.