“The importance of Patience, an Attitude of not giving up and Consistent Hard Work help in Accomplishing the Goal”, says Abhijeet Sinha (AIR 19; CSE 2017)

For Abhijeet Sinha, an Electrical Engineer from IIT Kanpur, first attempt in CSE 2016 had not gone well. Still, he wished and hoped to see at least his name in the merit-list. Not to find his name was a heart- wrenching experience, perhaps because it was the 1st major failure of his life.

But, he did not drown himself in the misery; rather, picked up and set to discover the weaknesses and tackle them head on. Equally importantly, he realised that there is no substitute to Hard Work, a factor that was missing in first attempt.

This way his failure became the foundation of success in his second attempt as he secured 19th Rank in Civil Services Examination 2017.

Abhijeet has chosen Economics as his Optional Subject.


Medium (Language)

Language for Writing Examination: English

Language for Interview: English

Nature of Examination

Even amongst the unpredictability, there is some predictability in this exam, and one needs to focus on them more.

For instance, syllabus remains constant and questions in mains always revolve around it.

Similarly, good writing style helps in General Studies, optional subject as well as Essays and can be prepared. 

Likewise for Prelims, acing the art of elimination is permanent regardless of the nature of the questions

Also, one needs to tackle unpredictability with a right attitude, like mental preparedness, patience and confidence.

Lastly, UPSC CSE , at the end of the day, is just an exam ( although a very important one ! ), and  given its insane competition, it is also true that failures are very common. Therefore, it is wise to have some backups.

Views about Preliminary Examination

It is indeed a challenge, given the unpredictability of the paper and the insanity of the competition. But, nonetheless, I would hesitate to call it pure luck. 

According to me, Prelims is about deducing and eliminating in the right way. This can be and must be used even for questions that one is not completely sure about, using various common sensical approaches.

The strategy helped to score above 150 marks in both my prelims attempts.

Moreover, even if there is an element of luck, it would not be wise to think too much about it. You have to succeed and win irrespective of external situation. Relying on luck alone should not be a choice

Role of Optional Subject

It is pretty important. It is crucial that students pick up an optional after considering numerous factors like Interest, Academic Background, Support available etc before choosing an optional.

Optional can make or break the game, and is probably the single most important paper. Last year ( 1st attempt), the only reason why I could not find my name in the final rank list was an extremely poor performance in Economics. It may have been in part because Economics as a subject was completely new to me. But, it was more so because I had given to the rumours that optional is being removed and did not study hard. This year, Economics became my central focus and it helped me attain a good rank

Targeting General Studies

In general, General Studies is all about 3 factors:

1. Syllabus Orientation - Most questions in GS are asked from syllabus and one needs to prepare on every word of the syllabus

2. Note Making - This needs to be done by integrating the static and the current portions. Ideally there should be one single digital notes with special emphasis on details like examples, data, etc.

3. Answer Writing - Having knowledge is an important thing, but it comes to nothing, if knowledge can't be expressed succinctly for what is asked. This requires some practise in the art of answer writing

My approach towards each paper:

More specifically

GS 1- Focus on years and keywords in History, names in culture, diagrams in Geography

GS 2- Focus on articles, judgements, committees recommendations and preferably use an academic language

GS 3 - Focus on data in economics, 2nd ARC for disaster management, and concepts for environment and science

GS 4- Focus on examples to explain using simple English. Case studies should be pragmatic and should preferably a step by step approach

Essay Paper

My essay preparation solely revolved around practising 5-6 essays. Perhaps this is not the best way to go about, as it can be seen through the low marks in the essay of both the years.

The topics I picked up for Essay are:

Topic I - Has the Non- Alignment Movement (NAM) lost its relevance in a multipolar world.

Topic II - Social media is inherently a selfish medium.

Interview (Personality Test)

My interview was carried by Air Marshal Bhonsle Sir's Board.

The interview lasted for about 25 minutes.

The questions were centered around my DAF and questions on IITs, Kanpur city, football, etc were present. On top of this, I was asked about case studies.

Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC

Essay did not go very well. One, I was not very well prepared, Two, I messed up the Time Management. Unsurprisingly, I got a Below Average Marks in the Essay.

My, interview went pretty well. The nature of the questions was analytical and application oriented.

That truly helped me to be myself. Since, almost all my mock interviews had predicted marks of about 200; it was not really beyond expectations.

But, nonetheless, to actually see a 200 + was a humbling experience, in spite of the prophecies.



Book List

General Studies 1


      • Modern History  
        • Spectrum was the Primary Source
        • Read Bipan Chandra India Before Independence like a novel
      • Post Independence 
        • Made notes out of Bipan Chandra ( Selectively)
      • World History 
        • Norman Lowe primarily
        • Vision World History Material for Pre WW 1
      • Ancient History 
        • NCERT History 12th Book 1
        • Tamil Nadu History overview


      • Nitin Singhania


      • NCERT 11th and 12th
      • Mrunal Videos


      • Instead of going book by book, I went syllabus wise and googled every term of the syllabus and made notes on it  ( eg from sites like gktoday)
      • Vision Monthly affairs Sociology section

General Studies 2


      • Laxmikanth
      • Vision Mains 365 ( preferable of 2 years)
    • Governance 
      • Googling every term of syllabus
      • 2nd ARC reports – Citizen Centric Administration, e-Governance, Panchayat, Social Capital
    • Welfare Schemes 
      • Vision Mains 365 ( preferable of 2 yeas )
    • International Relations 
      • Vision Mains 365 ( preferable of 2 years)
    • Google every term of the syllabus for rest

General Studies 3

Economics + Agriculture

      • I did not read it explicitly, since I had Economics optional. But, I googled every term of syllabus and made notes out of it
      • Vision Mains 365 ( preferable of 2 years)
    • Disaster Management 
      • 2nd ARC report on Disaster Management
      • Vision Mains Geography section
      • given the trend, it would also be wise to read NDMA guidelines on key disasters
    • Science Technology 
      • There are 3-4 key terms in syllabus. eg Nano Tech, Space Tech, Bio Tech Google them and make notes of them
      • Tejasvi’s notes
      • Vision – just the overview, and not in greatest detail
    • Security
      • Vision Mains 365 ( preferable of 2 yeas )
      • Googling terms of syllabus
    • Environment
      • Shankar IAS
      • Vision 365

General Studies 4

    • Googling every term
    • McGraw Hill ( TMH) publication book
    • See GS Score workbook on ethics for practise
Last Update Sunday 30th December 2018     

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