The key to any success can be summarized in one term – Self-discipline; says Shreshth Tayal (AIR 73; CSE 2017)

A practicing Chartered Accountant Shreshth Tayal has secured 73rd Rank in Civil Services Examination 2017.

Here he talks about preparation strategies and suggests some ways out to handle Civil Services Examination preparation effectively.

Optional Subject: Commerce & Accountancy

Number of Attempts: 2 (Two)


Shreshth Tayal (AIR 73; CSE 2017) 


Medium (Language)

Language for Writing Examination: English

Language for Interview: English

Nature of Examination

I believe that it is necessary for an aspirant to accept the inherent unpredictability involved in this exam and therefore, one should not be afraid of failure.

Luck definitely plays a huge role in getting one's name in the merit list. There are a number of remarkable candidates who never find their names in the merit list every year.

Give your best to this exam but don't allow this exam to define your entire life.

Life goals need to be bigger and this exam should only be a means to that end.

Lessons Learnt from Previous Attempt

Reading blogs and articles of toppers helped me in knowing the books to read and other than that, it was more of a hit and trial strategy where I learned from my mistakes in the first attempt and corrected them in the second attempt.

Views about Preliminary Examination

It is definitely true that the Prelims do involve some amount of luck as the margin of error is very less; but, it is incorrect to say that clearing the Prelims is ‘pure luck’.

There is a need to focus on the Preliminary Examinations diligently for at least 2-3 months before the examination as a number of serious candidates do not even get to appear for the Mains because of taking Prelims lightly.

Role of Optional Subject

The optional subject definitely plays a huge role in one’s total marks. Being a CA, the choice for optional subject was obvious for me; but, others need to choose their optional wisely as it can decide your eventual selection in the civil services.

Targeting General Studies

Over the past two years, it seems that UPSC is trying to increase the weightage of GS papers by giving marks more liberally in GS.

With these changing dynamics, aspirants need to reevaluate their preparation strategy of Optional subject vis-à-vis the GS papers. There needs to be a balance between the static and dynamic part for each paper of GS.

Topic wise current affairs compilations prepared by a few coaching institutes are of a great help in this regard.

Also, attempting mock tests is a key to scoring well. One needs to experience that three hour period on a repeated basis to prepare oneself to think and write in the desired manner. 

Essay Paper

Essay is an important part of the exams as it can be a very scoring paper.

My General Studies preparation helped me a lot in writing essays. I practiced a lot and wrote many essays and got these evaluated.

The topics I picked this time were:

Topic I: Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India

Topic II: Fulfilment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth

Interview (Personality Test)

I believe there can be no particular preparation for the

Interview is a test of the personality which is something very natural about a person and no particular preparation can help. However, to get correct advice and the way I have to present myself before Interview Board, I appeared in certain Mock Interviews which were really helpful.

I was interviewed by Ms. Smita Nagaraj Ma’am Board.

Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC

I scored 144 in essay and 190 in Interview and I honestly believe that I made it to the top 100 only because of my score in the interview.

My final score did not meet my expectations at all as I score more than my expectations in a few papers (GS 1, 2, 3 & interview) and less than my expectations in others (Optional paper 1).

Therefore, I believe, one cannot go with a prescribed mindset of scoring a certain amount of marks in a particular paper and should focus on scoring high in all the papers.

Secret of Success

The key to any success can be summarized in one term – Self-discipline. This exam requires a CONSISTENT preparation for a long duration of time which cannot be done without self-discipline.


Know more about Shreshth Tayal: “Sometimes an offbeat choice delivers much more than what you expect"; says Shreshth Tayal (AIR 73; CSE 2017)
Last Update Monday 18th June 2018     

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