“Master all the topics of the syllabus by in-depth understanding of the concepts involved” says Prateek Jain (AIR 86; CSE 2017)

Prateek Jain outlines his preparation strategy that helped him succeed in Civil Services Examination 2017. He also talks about the factors that helped him get in top 100.

Optional Subject: Mathematics

No. of Attempts: 2

Previous Selections: IFoS 2016 - AIR 3


Prateek Jain

(AIR 86; CSE 2017)


Medium (Language)

Language for Writing Examination: English

Language for Interview: English

Nature of Examination

Unpredictability associated with Civil Services Examination may harm those who are strong in some topics and weak in others.

My strategy was to master all the topics of the syllabus by in-depth understanding of the concepts involved. Just cover all the bases and you will feel secured.

At the same time, don't have a very scholarly approach while studying. You don't have to do thesis in any of these topics. UPSC looks for basic and clear understanding of concepts.

Views about Preliminary Examination

This is a highly competitive examination and every stage of this examination should be very challenging to test the true character and knowledge of all candidates.

I don't believe that Preliminary Examination is luck based in any manner. Qualifying it becomes easy if the candidate has developed good analytical skills while studying.

Most of the questions asked in Preliminary Examination in the recent times are conceptual in nature and most of these can be solved using analysis and elimination of options.

Candidates who have not covered the syllabus in depth may feel that Prelim is a matter of chance which in reality is not if you prepare well.

Role of Optional Subject

Only a subject that interests you deeply should be chosen as the optional subject.

Rather than looking at the competition between different optional subjects, one should see the competition within the subject. At the end, you must be among the Top 10-15 candidates of your optional to get a rank under 100.

Earlier it used to be a very big decisive factor for the final result; but, in the recent examinations, UPSC has increased the role of General Studies and Essay a lot.

Relative importance of the optional is decreased; but, still it should be wisely chosen to maximize your chances to perform better.

Targeting General Studies

The syllabus of General Studies is very wide and it requires extensive reading.

Every aspirant should cover each topic of General Studies thoroughly and must not have any sort of fear or hatred towards any topic. At the start, some subjects often trouble aspirants; but, once the base is developed, it becomes easier to build on that. So, approach every topic with high spirits.

Both for Preliminary and Main Examination, solving test papers is essential to understand the type of questions UPSC asks. For Mains, developing answer writing skills is the key to score good in GS.

My approach towards each paper:

Some best practices that I followed in GS:

- Every GS question should be answered according to its subject and answers should not be very general. For eg: Answers to History questions should have mentions about historic figures, leaders, events and dates or timelines to make the examiner feel that we have good knowledge about the theme of the question

- Do no write what you know, write only what is asked.

- Write as specific as possible. Do not deviate from the theme. At the start, it feels difficult to write many points related to the theme and to fill the pages, students often start writing general points or they get digressed. But with practice, writing more specific points becomes simple. For this, both static and current topics should be on tips.

- Write in point format. It becomes easier for the examiner to evaluate the answers. Paragraphs can be inserted for connecting different parts of the same question.

- Draw diagrams wherever possible but do not over-do. Keep it natural.

For Ethics: Always write examples to objectively justify the claims you are making. Justify your arguments both on moral and practical grounds.

Essay Paper

This paper requires no specific preparation. Do not study a lot for Essay; focus more on improving the impact of your essay.

- Prepare a list of quotations for major topics like Environment, Science and Technology, Economy and Development, Education, Women etc.

- Remember few data points, results of some surveys and reports. Some figures will help you in justifying some of your claims.

- I used to evaluate my essay by people from different backgrounds. This helped me in widening my perspective for an essay. Inputs from some close friends very valuable. So let your friends read your essays and take their feedback and suggestions.

- Build your essay on arguments, not on facts. Reader should feel that he has learnt something after reading your essay.

- Avoid extreme opinions. There are always two sides of a coin. Keep it balanced.

Topics that I chose:

- Destiny of a nation depends on its classrooms.

- The status of 'new woman' in India is a myth

Interview (Personality Test)

Ms. Sujata Mehta Board; March 23, 2018

Role of Essay & Interview marks in success

Final score in both essay and interview were less than what I expected. I was expecting 10-15 marks more in both these components.

Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC

My scores in both Essay and Interview were not so high. (138 in Essay, 162 in Personality Test)

I got a rank in Top 100 mainly because of GS, and I managed to score average in the other components.

Last Update Sunday 16th September 2018     

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