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Jump of 90 Marks in Mains: Step by Step Guide by Khushhali Solanki, AIR-61, UPSC CSE-2023

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Khushhali Solanki, who achieved an impressive All India Rank of 61 in the UPSC CSC 2023, shares her comprehensive strategy for  the General Studies (GS) . Having experienced setbacks in her initial attempts, including narrowly missing the prelims, Khushhali's insights are grounded in personal growth and refined study techniques that propelled her to success in her subsequent attempts.

Strategy for Prelims:

  • Khushhali emphasizes the importance of mock tests in her preparation. By completing around 100 mock tests, she was able to fine-tune her strategy, particularly learning to manage the number of questions she attempted to minimize negative marking. She found that restraining herself to attempting only those questions she felt confident about (about 88 in her final attempt) was key to improving her score.

Adjusting Techniques:

  • Understanding when to employ elimination techniques and recognizing the types of questions that typically arise in the exam were crucial. She adjusted her strategies based on the changing patterns of the exam, focusing on fine-tuning her elimination skills and decision-making on whether to attempt borderline questions.

Optimal Time for Mock Tests:

  • She conducted mock tests during the actual UPSC exam timing (9 to 11 AM) to condition her brain to be most active during those hours. This disciplined approach also included simulating the exam environment as closely as possible, including using OMR sheets for practice.

Strategy for Mains:

  • For the Mains, Khushhali's strategy involved a deep dive into the syllabus and previous years' questions (PYQs) to understand the patterns and distribution of questions across different subjects. This analysis informed her study priorities and revision schedules.

Innovative Practices for Mains:

Khushhali incorporated several innovative practices in her Mains preparation:

  • Village Visits: She gained first-hand experiences by visiting villages, which enriched her answers with practical insights and real-world examples, particularly useful in her GS papers and optional subject.
  • Focused Current Affairs: She meticulously linked current affairs with static portions of the syllabus, ensuring her answers were up-to-date and reflective of recent developments.
  • Ethical Framework and Examples: In GS-4 (Ethics), she focused on incorporating relevant keywords and real-life examples to substantiate ethical concepts, significantly enhancing the quality of her answers.

Continuous Improvement and Reflection:

  • Reflecting on her marks and performance continuously, Khushhali adapted and refined her strategies. For instance, her approach to answer writing evolved to become more analytical and substantiated with examples, rather than merely descriptive.

Subject-Specific Strategies:

  • Public Administration (Optional): Her background in Public Administration significantly helped in GS-2, where there is a considerable overlap with topics covered in her optional subject.
  • Interlinking and Diagrams for International Relations: She emphasized the importance of using diagrams and interlinkages in answers, especially for International Relations, to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Khushhali’s journey from not clearing prelims in her first attempt to securing a top rank in UPSC exemplifies the power of resilience, strategic planning, and the importance of adapting one's study methods to personal strengths and examination demands. Her detailed strategy offers valuable insights for UPSC aspirants aiming to improve their performance across both prelims and mains.

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