Strategy:Anupama singh, AIR 90 (CSE 2019)

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About me

My name is Dr. Anupama Singh. I have secured AIR 90 in UPSC CSE 2019 .This was my first attempt. I am from Patna ( Bihar). I am a gynecologists by profession. I am 32 years old and I am a married woman and a mother of 5 years old son.

My academic details:

10th-Lohianagar Mt. Carmel High School.(2002)

12 th- Science College (2004).

MBBS- Patna Medical College (2005-2011).

MS (Obs & Gynae) - IMS, Banaras Hindu University (2011-2014).

Senior Residency- AIIMS , Patna(2014-15)

-Nalanda Medical College Hospital(2016-18).

I resigned from NMCH in 2018, took coaching from Vajiram & Ravi ,Delhi (may 2018-19) .CSE 2019 was my first attempt.

Optional subject - Medical Science.

Decision of starting UPSC preparation-

There is no rule for when to start preparation. Some people start during graduation, some after graduation, some even make up their minds during school .Some like me have never thought about it before completing post graduation. Yes.. I started very late .. at age of 30.5 ,after 5 years of marriage and after becoming a mom of 2.5 yrs old son. I strongly believe that if anybody has this dream of becoming a civil servant or any other dream, then he should start preparation irrespective of age or attempts left ,given he has the commitment towards his goal and is ready to do all the hardwork required , sacrifices to be made and challenges to be faced. There is a saying ,"IF YOU HAVE A HEARTBEAT , THERE IS STILL TIME FOR YOUR DREAMS"

Myths to be busted

1) NCERTS are mandatory-In my opinion , NCERTS are neither essential nor sufficient for cracking this exam. If you enjoy reading them and have sufficient time (like you are in your graduation or even before), then you should read them. But if you are not comfortable in reading them or you feel them difficult or cumbersome , then there is no need to waste time on all of the NCERTS only for the sake of following the established trend that they are mandatory. I had purchased whole set of NCERTs (for all subjects & from class 6 to 12th) only to realize later that I was not able to grasp it comfortably or make notes out of it. I faced a lot of dilemma ,wasted my time in being confused but later I read NCERTS only for geography,(class XI and XII), ancient and medieval history(Old one by R.S. Sharma and Satish Chandra respectively) and economy class XI but I still cracked the pre, mains and interview in first attempt.

Some are advisable to read:

  • Geography -class XI and XII(four books)-no need to read from class 6th to 12th.
  • Ancient & Medieval history-Old NCERTS.
  • Economy class XI.

For modern history ,polity, art & culture -other standard books are there which are essential like Spectrum, Laxmikanth and Nitin Singhania respectively. So, instead of NCERTS ,read these books multiple times. Supplement them with vision notes.

For science & tech , for society etc. -mostly current affairs related questions are asked- can read NCERTS selectively for important topics in news.

2) Coaching is necessary and shifting to Delhi is mandatory-Coaching helps you definitely .It does lessens the 10 -12 % of the initial efforts required for any competitive exam but self study is the ultimate savior. Ultimately ,you have to slog and put the hard work to crack the exam. Also , quite often you end up wasting your time in attending all the classes .I joined coaching at Vajiram and it provided me initial handholding(myself being but after some time I attended few classes only (like geography and economy )and gradually I stopped completely. There are lots of online videos available on YouTube free of cost which you can refer for as per your specific needs(it saves time as well as money)..

3) Starting answer writing from day 1 of preparation-well you need at least 6 months to 1 year to be able to write a meaningful answer (need some mugging of facts and figures, basic understanding of concepts , memorizing some definitions at least).I started writing answers only after prelims was over. I joined Forum's test series after prelims .I will suggest you to start some answer writing from October or November(considering you have started preparing from may or June).

4)Reading only the HINDU for current affairs and making notes from it on daily basis is compulsory to crack this exam-- If you are reading daily newspaper ,you should supplement it with vision 's and insights monthly booklets, online reading from other newspapers also like The Live mint , The Indian Express for important topics ,RSTV debates. What I did was I first watched daily News analysis videos from OnlyIAS and BYJU's(afternoon) ,then I read The HINDU (evening), watched The Big Picture and IN Depth from RSTV(in night).In this way , I went through the same news thrice a day .. so kind of got a holistic picture and also I was able to remember it. I did not make notes from newspaper. At end of the month, I read both vision and insights booklets and made very short notes from them in a separate current affair register. Even if you are not reading newspaper daily, it is not a sin(in my personal opinion). After some months , I changed my strategy for current affairs and I was comfortable in that strategy(mentioned later) . I was anxious of not following the standard trend but there is no need to be.

5)Read all the ARC Reports--In my opinion . it is totally a waste of time. I got all the ARCs printed on someone's advice, wasted a lot of time but couldn't read them .They are very bulky. All you have to do is to buy a summary (I bought Vision's and inserted all the points in my respective notes for mains).This method worked well for me .I often quoted ARC reports in my answers even after not fully reading them. This is a shortcut which not everybody will tell you. You can take my experience.

Mistakes to avoid-

  1. Do not make library at your room- avoid buying multiple books and coaching materials.
  2. Not doing enough revisions and practice-don't keep on only reading, start revising at the earliest, and do practice some previous year questions, do some answer writing practice, do write some essays.
  3. Don't get bogged down after giving a mock test or compare yourself with others.
  4. Don't waste time and emotions on social media. Use internet very cautiously in constructive and positive way.
  5. Compartmentalizing prelims , mains and interview preparation-you should study keeping both pre & mains in your mind. Just before prelims(2 -3 months),focus exclusively on prelims.
  6. Completely ignoring CSAT-you must solve at least previous 5 years Q paper seen a time bound test format.
  7. Completely ignoring Essay & Ethics papers.
  8. Choosing optional by blindly following toppers -Chose your optional wisely. you should have interest in your optional subject.
  9. Not consolidating your notes-If you have systematically arranged your notes, you will thank yourself just before exam(be it pre or mains or interview).For prelims, I made one separate register for each subject like polity( static), history, art & culture, economy(static), geography, environment(static) S&T, security and IR , two for current affairs and one for all the charts, tables, indices ,reports, statistics .For mains also ,I made one register per subject from mains point of view , one for acts and bills, supreme court judgments ,controversial topics etc., one register for Essay , Ethics etc. They really helped me in revisions in last one month & between the exam days.
  10. If you are taking classes, do revise their notes on daily basis but at the same time try to focus more on self study & finish syllabus.

Ten General tips for preparation:

1) get a printout of syllabus and keep it with you always.

2)1 year is enough to cover the complete syllabus of GS and Optional. I did it in one year only .

3)Go through past 5 years PYQ for prelims and mains to understand the kind of questions UPSC usually asks. It will give you a good perspective of what is important and what is not.

4)For same topic ,do not refer to more than one material. Initially can search for some topic from different sources for understanding it and deciding which is the best source but finally select only one source and then stick to it(better if you can make your own notes out of it for further revisions).

5) Use Internet extensively.-skirt through Google for important topics, see explainer videos if you don't understand a concept, see images of plants and animals in news, see videos or dance forms ,paintings, puppetry etc. go through ministry websites time to time. Refer PRS for important bills ,can also refer to coaching notes online for some specific topics as per your need,.

6)For all topics -supplement it with current affairs,

7)Join at least one test series-must for prelims as well as mains.(no need to solve multiple test papers of multiple coaching institutes if you are running short of time. Do 1 or 2 subject wise test papers,, 2 or 3 current affairs based and 3 or 4 whole syllabus test papers.

8)For CSAT, Solve previous 5 years questions in a test format in 2 hours .Can refer to some coaching materials for specific areas where you face difficulty. Remember one thing -this is just qualifying. No need to worry if you are crossing the 80-90 marks in the tests.

9)Revision is a must-spare 1 -2 hours per day in revision.

10)Do try to make notes- do not try to make notes during 1st or 2nd reading. Make notes after 3 - 4 readings(it will help in making notes concise and relevant).

BOOKLIST and other sources(which I followed):


Modern history - Spectrum.

Ancient & medieval history - NCERTS(OLD).

Art & culture - Nitin Singhania.

Geography - NCERT(XI and XII), Mrunal videos (by Ms. Rajtanil)

Polity - M. laxmikanth.

Economy - Mrunal's videos, Economic Survey , Budget, NITI Aayog strategy for India @75(published in Dec 2019) , govt. schemes.

Environment- Shankar IAS .

S&T- vajiraam yellow book.

IR & Security - Vision' notes.

Current affairs - Vision's PT 365 and my self made notes in last moment & monthly vision's & Insight's magazines.

Booklist and other sources for MAINS.

Essay :

yojana ,Google, Vajiraam booklet, toppers' essays, self made notes.

GS 1;

Modern History, art and culture , medieval ,ancient history, geography--same as prelims

post independence India-Vision' notes.

World History-Mrunal 's videos(by Mr. Pratik Nayak),some topics from vajiraam yellow book.

Society - vision's notes.

GS 2:

Polity-Laxmikanth, vajiraam yellow book (part 1 & 2).

Governance - Vision notes ARC Summary,

social issues-Vision notes.

IR- Vision notes ,

CURRENT AFFAIRS- MAINS 365 OF VISION and my self made notes (from various sources mentioned elsewhere)for last moment revision, Vision's & Insight's monthly magazines .

GS 3;

Economy-same as prelims ,

agriculture & food security related topics(land reforms. PDS,MSP etc)-Vision notes.

S & T- same as pre.

Environment-same as prelims.

Security - same as prelims.

CURRENT AFFAIRS-MAINS 365 OF VISION and my self made notes (from various sources mentioned elsewhere)for last moment revision, Vision's & Insight's monthly magazines.

GS 4-Ethics

vision booklets (for governance, values ,ethics, morality etc.) ,ARC Summary(for transparency, RTI, corruption, public service etc.),, Google, Vision case studies booklet, Sleepy classes videos on YouTube).,Vajiraam booklet for thinkers and philosophers. NO BOOK FOR ETHICS.

MY strategy of preparation ;general

I started from scratch.

Idea of going into Civil -Feb. 2018

Preliminary mind makeup-march to April 2018

During this time, First saw previous year questions for both pre & mains. Then got a printout of syllabus. Started reading The HINDU (made a word meaning diary for it), read some of the NCERTS(like economy class XI , Indian constitution at work, geography ),saw YouTube videos for current topics to have an idea of what the preparation will look like.

Decision of starting full fledged preparation and took admission in Vajiraam-May 2018.

Then purchased standard books like Laxmikanth ,Spectrum, Nitin Singhania, Shankar IAS and started reading them.

I attended regular classes from June 2018 to Oct 2018, revised class notes on daily basis , read The Hindu daily ,did self study of 2 subjects per day(either one GS subject and one of optional or 2 GS subjects),in free time or when doing daily routine like during eating /brushing/freshening up , I use to watch/listen online YouTube videos like OnlyIAS prelims booster, Study IQ current affairs, Byju' news analysis. At night, during and after dinner, I watched RSTV debates and programmes.

Nov 2018 -Dec 2018- attended only selected classes (geography ,economy, ethics, IR), tests started at Vajiraam, gave tests (online as well as offline), focused more on self study , tried to finish as much of optional as I can, practiced essay writing on Sundays. Rest of my routine was same as before.( except newspaper reading .. I piled up papers of 3 days and read them on twice weekly basis)

Jan -Feb. 2019- almost left classes completely, did self study, practice Vision's test papers also(1 per week) along with Vajiraam's weekly tests(I could not do much of test papers-- so I would say that is not essential, you should do at least 2 papers per subject) focused more on GS(pre as well as mains), did not study optional much as my GS syllabus was pending. One confession is that I could not do answer writing practice before prelims exam...but my advice to aspirants would be that you should start writing answers at least one q per day or if possible weekly because it will help you a lot during mains preparation after prelims)My situation was like when i gave first mock test after pre, I had no idea of time management ( completed only 12 Q IN 3 hrs. though I knew answers to all the Q and knew very less on presentation of answers in concise & beautiful manner.(I wrote very lengthy answers ), So do some practice beforehand. For this year' candidates, I don't want to panic you if you are like me & you have also not done enough of practice , then also you don't worry. I did all mains answer writing between pre & mains only and it is doable also but you have to put extra efforts during that period and don't get bogged down if you face challenge of time crunch and less impactful answers in some of the tests. I got very frustrated after my first test , cried during and after tests initially but gradually I learnt all the time management , got one of the highest marks in some of the tests , attempts 18-19 Q in last few tests and ultimately in final UPSC exam , I attempted all the Q in all the papers(be it GS or optional).

March -may 2019- Focused only on pre, solved PYQ of UPSC, did test papers and made notes for prelims, read Vision's PT 365 ,kept revising everything weekly , Stopped taking newspapers (read every current affair online from various sources , sources were really many). I would like to clarify that this way of managing current affairs will not apply for everyone. If you are comfortable with your strategy, you follow it like reading newspaper daily or making notes from them or monthly magazines. But If someone is facing difficulty in following the well established slandered way like me , then you should not hesitate in chalking a strategy that is suiting you. Don't feel guilty and ashamed. Also . I would like to put a disclaimer here that though I didnot read The Hindu daily but I used to follow multiple sources for current affairs so that nothing is left .(like INsights on India daily current affairs, Only IAS prelims plus editorial discussion, Byju;s analysis, RSTV news and programmes, GK today online etc)

My strategy of preparation was based on two important principles;

  1. I have a holistic and integrated approach to preparation. Don't segregate the three stages of exam i.e. pre , mains and interview. I read for mains till Feb. 2019., focused only on prelims for last 3 months.
  2. The exam is more a test of your courage, patience and mental strength than of hard work or knowledge. for example when I used to read the vast ,difficult and least interesting topics of art & culture or some topics of ancient history, I faced so much problem in doing that I used to take them as a test of my patience and my ability to hold my strength

Hence, an aspirant should apart from studying and enhancing knowledge also work on his/her mind & emotions.

1) Emotional/mental/motivational part of preparation-

you should be able to cope up stress, frustrations and failures. Many people suggest meditation but in my view it is not easy for everyone especially if you have never done it before. I found it too difficult .Instead , I relied on doing self talk & tried to build a connection with my inner self. Everyday, in the morning , I used to remind myself of the reason why have I decided to go into civil, what sacrifices I have already made and gave myself some credit for taking this courageous decision. Don't feel guilty about what you are feeling. You will feel lonely, fearful, dejected & worthless sometimes but its okay, its very normal. Everyone faces this problem. Remember , courage is not absence of fear , courage is resistance to fear ,mastery over fear. If you have to shine like a Sun, first burn like a Sun. Remember friends, life was never meant to be a linear path, it is bound to have low moments also, it is full of challenges and difficulties. Difficult times are ways to know and understand yourself in a better way. Take these as opportunities to refine yourself & show your ability to handle problems efficiently. Have an optimistic attitude, Learn from your mistake and failures.

2)Study/Knowledge part-based on 4 pillars:

a) Static ,

b) Current affairs,

c) PYQ practice,

d) Test series.

Added upon above 4 , multiple revisions again and again.

My strategy was to first build concepts, make notes on them, ,keep adding stuffs on that notes ,add current affairs and revising them .

I used online sources extensively like important articles on topics in news, editorials from various newspapers, Wikipedia, online videos , RSTV debates, coaching materials like Byju`s , onlyias ,Insights daily current affairs,GK today etc.

Consolidated all my stuffs at one place in my register.

I did cost-benefit analysis in chalking out my strategy which suited me and I evolved my strategy over time.

Stick to syllabus.

Did practice PYQ of UPSC as well as test papers ,also revise them.

could not do mains answer writing because of time crunch and overwhelming syllabus till prelims, started after prelims through offline test series at forum IAS. In first test , I was able to do only 12 out of 20 Q in 3 hours. Time management is the key.

Some tips for Mains

  1. Give equal weightage to GS and optional. Divide your time for both on daily or monthly basis. I made one mistake that I gave more time & attention to GS till December only to realize that my half of optional syllabus was left till prelims. I had to do much efforts during pre -mains interval to finish my optional(medical science).So , was not able to give any tests for optional (though I enrolled in DAMS) and also I struggled a lot in GS tests because of pending optional. Please don't do this mistake. Try to finish or at least finish 80-90% of yours optional subject before Dec or Jan.
  2. Set daily , weekly and monthly targets and try to achieve them .Don't just keep reading without a routine .
  3. Revise something daily.
  4. Make notes for mains.
  5. Devote your Sundays or any other day to Essay.

Some tips for answer writing

  1. You must start answer practice early at least after 6 to 8 months of preparation.(not from first day itself).
  2. Try to attempt all 20 Qs no matter what.
  3. Focus on presentation of answers like intro ,body and conclusion.
  4. Add some facts , figures, stats, definitions, quotes, indices etc. for an extra edge.
  5. Give way forward and optimistic conclusion.
  6. Underline and box important sentences and headings.
  7. Fulfill the demand of Q i.e. answer what has been asked rather than writing whatever you know.
  8. Pick up a phrase from Q and make it as a subheading in your answer to answer a part of a Q.

Some tips for attempting prelims;

  1. Try to attempt at least 80 -85 Q.
  2. Attempt Q in 2-3 rounds. First mark those Q in which you are sure in first round(around 40-50 Q) , then mark those in which you can do elimination method(around 30-35 Q).At last can do intelligent guesses on 5- 10 Q if no. of Q attempted is below 80.
  3. Never make wild/intuitional guesses .
  4. Avoid checking answers of paper 1 in the recess period between paper 1 and 2.
  5. Don't wait for result of prelims. start preparing for mains after prelims.

Strategy for optional & personality test---coming soon