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Ahead of the Curve: Navigating UPSC Preparation During Graduation by Ayush Mani AIR-723 UPSC CSE 2023

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Ayush, who secured a rank of 723 in the UPSC Civil Services Examination, shares his detailed strategy for preparing for Prelims, Mains, and the Interview. Here’s a summary of his approach:

Background and Preparation Timeline

  • Education: Graduated and post-graduated from IIT Bhubaneswar.
  • Preparation Start: Began in the third year of college, balancing it with academic commitments.
  • Initial Year: Focused on getting acclimatized to the humanities subjects.
  • Fourth Year: Started with optional subject (Geography) and completed a basic understanding in six months.
  • Systematic Approach: Divided GS papers and planned to complete the syllabus by 2022.

General Studies Paper 1 (GS1)

1. History (Ancient, Medieval, Modern):

  • Resources: NCERTs, Spectrum, Tamil Nadu textbooks, RS Sharma, Satish Chandra.
  • Focus: Understanding timelines, transitions, and cultural developments.
  • Art and Culture: Encompasses all historical periods. Important for both prelims and mains.

2. Geography:

  • Focus Areas: Physical features, geomorphological processes, earthquakes, and tectonic movements.
  • Resources: NCERTs, optional books like Savinder Singh or Majid Hussain for in-depth topics.
  • Map Making: Essential for visual representation in answers, used in various papers including GS3 for internal security challenges.

3. Sociology Aspects in GS1:

  • Contemporary Issues: Women, caste, urbanization.
  • Preparation: Use keywords from the syllabus and keep updated with current events.

General Studies Paper 2 (GS2)

1. Polity:

  • Primary Resource: Lakshmikant.
  • Strategy: Revise multiple times (20-25 revisions), integrate current affairs, understand constitutional bodies, and governance issues.

2. Governance:

  • Approach: Use any reliable material due to the lack of specific sources.

3. International Relations:

  • Focus: Stay updated with current international developments, study new organizations and agreements (e.g., I2U2).

General Studies Paper 3 (GS3)

1. Economics:

  • Focus: Monetary policy, banking systems.
  • Strategy: Continuously revise important topics; consider using materials available rather than sticking to standard books.

2. Other Topics:

  • Internal Security, Disaster Management: Focused on post-prelims preparation.

 General Studies Paper 4 (GS4) - Ethics

1. Ethics Theories and Keywords:

  • Preparation: List of 80-90 important keywords, understanding theories and philosophies of great thinkers.
  • Application: Use examples from civil servants’ work, Ramayana, Mahabharata.

2. Case Studies:

  • Practice: Develop scenarios and write extensively to prepare for case study questions.


  • Approach: Break down essay topics into multiple parts (economic, political, social aspects).
  • Preparation: Learn relevant quotes, practice writing to achieve a flow and structure.

Prelims Strategy

1. Attempting Questions:

  • Strategy: Aim to attempt around 90 questions with an accuracy of 66.6%.
  • Focus Areas: Polity and economics for high cost-benefit analysis.

2. Study Material:

  • Resources: NCERTs, standard reference books, and current affairs.
  • Practice: Regularly solve past year questions (PYQs).

3. CSAT:

  • Preparation: Focus on comprehension and logical reasoning, practice basic math questions like linear equations and probability.

Interview Preparation

  • Mock Interviews: Helpful but not reflective of the actual interview environment.
  • Focus: Understand personal background, current affairs, and prepare for expected questions.

General Advice

  • Customization: Tailor the strategy to individual needs and capabilities.
  • Support System: Acknowledge the importance of family and friends in providing motivation and support.

Ayush's methodical and detailed approach, combined with continuous practice and revision, played a crucial role in his success in the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

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