Strategy:Muskan Jindal, AIR 87 (CSE 2019)

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Hey Everyone!

Before starting, I'd like to say one thing to all the aspirants out there - In the course of your preparation, you will find endless resources and strategies by various toppers . My advice - DO NOT get swayed by all these resources . Refer to strategies by toppers but don't go for it blindly. See what works for you and make your own strategy (Listen to everyone, but do only those things that suit you !) I strongly believe that spoon feeding doesn't work in UPSC and what may work for me may never be good enough for you . That being said , I will be sharing my some of the things that may assist you in your preparation. Let's get started !


I was born and brought up in Baddi ,Himachal Pradesh. I completed my schooling from Baddi itself and completed my graduation in from GGDSD College, Panjab University ( Chandigarh). I am 22 years old and this was my first attempt in UPSC CSE. My optional was Commerce and Accountancy. Clearing CSE was a childhood dream and thus I started preparing early in the final year of graduation itself . Completed my graduation in 2018 , but couldn't appear for the examination that year due to being underage.Became eligible in 2019 and I was lucky enough ( obviously not ignoring the hard work wala part :P) to secure AIR87 in my first attempt itself .

Continuing further , I am going to start by sharing a few pointers ( MY SUCCESS MANTRAS) which I think worked for me during the preparation-

  1. Have a clear goal in your mind and focus all your efforts towards it - Believe in the Law of Attraction , it can do wonders!
  2. Never compare yourself with others- What I mean to say here is that while preparing , you will come across many aspirants and each one will have a different way of studying .You have to keep faith in your strategy and have competition with just yourself . Know your Strengths and Weaknesses and work accordingly .
  3. Keep your Resources limited - Don't make it complicated . Focus on Revision and solving mock tests ! Solve tests , analyse them , identify your mistakes , Revise and Repeat .
  4. Maintain Consistency in your preparation - For achieving this, strike a balance between your studies and social life . Plan your schedule realistically , take out time for yourself! For me , I used to take breaks on Sundays , so that I could start over with 100% dedication on Monday with a refreshed mind . Also as they say , All work and no play makes Jack a dull Boy ;) , and we certainly don't want that to happen.

These are some of the things I followed during my preparation and really believe that these have helped me to an extent . Hope it can guide some of you as well:)


Again I am saying that I kept my resources really limited , my main focus was on revision .



  • Ancient and Medieval History - Old NCERTs for class 11th and 12th
  • Modern History - Old NCERTs for Class 11th and 12th , Spectrum


  • NCERTs from Class 9th to 12th
  • Atlas - Orient Black Swan
  • G.C. Leong ( specifically Chapter -15-25)
  • Mrunal videos on Youtube


  • Fine Arts NCERT Class 11th
  • OnlyIAS youtube videos for Art and culture
  • Read Nitin Singhania Book very selectively


  • Class 11th and 12th books for Macro and Mucro Economics by T.R. Jain ( V.K. Publications)
  • Sriram IAS notes


  • NCERTs class 9th to 12th
  • M.Laxmikanth
  • Sleepy Classes Vidoes of Polity on YouTube ( Prelims Oriented ) - for some of the selected topics.


• NCERTs - 8th to 12th


• Shankar IAS notes


  • Class 12th NCERT
  • Government Schemes compilation by VisionIAS


  • The Hindu
  • Explained Page of the Indian Express
  • PT 365 material for all subjects by VisionIAS
  • Sleepy Classes Pre-mix , 2-minute series on YouTube
  • 1 month before Prelims , had stopped reading newspapers, referred to DNS by Rau’s IAS on YouTube .


• Solved Previous Year Question Papers 2013 on wards .


GS1 -

  • Spectrum
  • Old NCERTs - 11th and 12th
  • World History - Old NCERT , VisionIAS notes
  • Class 12th NCERT
  • Editorials
  • RSTV Big Picture
  • VisionIAS class notes
  • NCERTs - 9th to 12th
  • G.C.Leong
  • Mrunal Geography Vidoes


  • M.Laxmikanth
  • VisionIAS notes
  • Newspaper Editorials
  • RSTV Big Pictures And other Debates such as India’s World

GS3 -

  • Economics Survey Summary - Yojana Special Edition or by VisionIAS
  • VisionIAS notes for Economics
  • Internal Security - ALS booklet
  • International Relations - Newspaper Editorials


  • Lexicon book
  • ARC Reports - Relevant Parts according to the syllabus


  • Newspapers
  • Mains a Day Section by Sleepy Classes on YouTube
  • RSTV Big Picture Debates
  • Mains 365 Material by VisionIAS for all subjects

These were the books and resources that I referred for my Preparation . Here I am also enclosing a LIST OF NCERTs to be read for CSE .



I started preparing for CSE in final year of my graduation and joined a coaching for GS(Pre cum Mains) in Chandigarh itself . That year I didn't overburden myself with CSE and focused equally on college . I just used to read the newspaper daily and revise what was being taught in the coaching . After that I had one more year in which I actually started my CSE preparation and relied completely on self study . Being a beginner myself , I kept my strategy simple. I have simplified it down in form of following steps for the ease of readers .

  1. Start with one subject at a time ( I didn't take up multiple subjects together to avoid chaos) . Start by referring to the UPSC Syllabus of that Subject .
  2. Begin with NCERTs of that particular subject (preferably from Class 6th to 12th)
  3. After the first reading of NCERTs , refer to the Previous Year Question Papers ( for Prelims) of that subject. NOTE- It's very important to refer to the PYQs in order to understand the demand of the examination and to identify the important topics of the UPSC Syllabus.
  4. Go for a second reading of NCERTs ( Can go for Class 9th to 12th in the second reading)
  5. Now jump to the standard books of the subject , but only after you are through with the basics . If need be , read the NCERTs one more time .
  6. Again refer to the Previous Year Questions , this time for mains as well (2013 on wards ). NOTE-This is the stage where you can start Answer-writing .
  7. Go for a second reading of Standard Books . NOTE- Do not make notes until this stage .I don't feel it's necessary to make notes from NCERTs (It's totally your call ) . Make notes that are crisp and which can be referred for quick revision . This can only be done if you have read the standard books at least twice or even thrice.
  8. After you have completed the standard books, you can move on to the next subject .To check your progress in the completed subject , you can solve the Sectional tests (Pre-type) of each subject(I referred the one by Vision IAS ) Solving these tests help in revision as well .
  9. Repeat the same for other subjects and move forward . That's how you can start your preparation as beginners .

This was just to give some direction and idea about starting the preparation . You can totally plan you preparation in whatever way you like .


Once done with all the subjects in my integrated preparation for GS and prelims , I switched to Prelims-only Preparation around 2 months before the exam. UPSC is really unpredictable so I kept equal focus both on static and current affairs for prelims. I relied extensively on PYQs for prelims and used to refer them quite a lot . IN 2019 , Prelims exam was scheduled on 2nd June and I remember till April end also , I was not scoring above 90 in mock tests . It was only in May , a month before prelims that I started scoring comfortably above 100. One thing that kept me going was that I didn't get demotivated by scores in the tests . I used to analyse all my tests, identify my weak areas and revise them thoroughly to avoid mistakes in the future .


  • Stop reading any new source in the last days . Focus your efforts towards solving tests .
  • After solving the tests , analyse them . For the answers which you marked wrong , think why you chose that particular option .
  • Calculate your hit rate/ accuracy ratio and attempt accordingly . For example,my wrong answers used to be in the ratio of 20-25 ,based on this I used to attempt around 80-85 questions so as to score well above 100.
  • Before appearing in the exam , revise your static as well as current affairs at least thrice .
  • While solving tests/ during the examination , start by marking the questions in which you are completely sure of the answer . After the first round,identify the questions in which you can eliminate at least two of the options . Then , mark your answers by guessing intelligently . Then count the number of attempted questions. If you feel that you have attempted enough , then it's good , but if you feel like attempting more , go for questions where you can eliminate one of the options(however , you will need to take a guess very smartly) . Lastly , don't attempt the questions where you don't have a clue at all . Most importantly , stay calm during the examination .
  • If possible , stop studying a day or two before the exam , give your exam with a fresh mind.


In the booklist section , I have already mentioned my sources for Current Affairs . I used to start my day by reading newspaper ( THE HINDU or THE INDIAN EXPRESS, both are equally good ) . I did not make any notes from newspapers , also I did not read the monthly compilations. I just read the newspapers extensively and referred to yearly Compilations (PT365 and Mains365) before the exam . For Prelims , I revised PT365 quite religiously , at least thrice and I was able to solve questions based on current affairs .


In the beginning , start by solving Previous year Questions of related topics . There are may good books available for solved mains PYQs. I used the one by Arihant Publications. While preparing , I always faced a certain inertia towards Answer-writing and always had this question in mind that what time is a good time to write answers! I realized that until we start writing , we will face this certain reluctance towards it . To overcome this, I began by taking up one question daily , used to read about it in detail before writing , then framed a rough answer and then finally used to make it a fair one . Did this for a month or two until I was confident enough to write answers directly without prior reading .


  • Read the Question carefully . Do not miss any of the sub parts while writing answers.
  • Write structured answers . Try to give a proper Introduction and Conclusion in your answers. For introductions, you can start by some definition , data , news etc. and in conclusions , you can finish by giving suggestions, including government schemes etc. Also , try finishing your answer on a positive note .
  • Be mindful of the word limit , try not to exceed the word limits. It costs you time not necessarily mean more marks in that particular answer . Completing all the questions is more important.
  • Presentations of your answers matter.Write your answers in a legible handwriting. Make flow charts, diagrams wherever possible and always underline the important data , definitions in your answers .
  • Before writing in the exam , read the common mistakes to be avoided during mains examination so that you don't lose out due to penalty marks .
  • During the examination, plan your three hours such that you finish 7-8 questions(10 markers) in first hour itself . If you start with this mindset you will be able to finish your paper on time .
  • For questions where you have absolutely no clue about the answer , My advice is skip such questions. You don't want to irk the examiner unnecessarily .


Good essay writing comes only with Practice . You will need to write at least some 8-10 essays before the exam. In essay writing , It is very important that we chose the topic wisely .

For choosing the topic , while writing tests or during the examination,take around 10-15 minutes in each section before starting your essay . Brainstorm , jot down points roughly on a particular topic .IF you are able to come up with around 15-20 such points which you can structure and elaborate , then only chose that topic otherwise go for some another topic . 

Secondly , Make your essays impactful by using quotes , anecdotes , you can even start your essay with some short poem . Including relevant data and findings of prominent reports also helps . Lastly for essay writing , Identify major topics which you feel can be put up in essays ( based on current affairs , etc. ) such as women , health , education , technology etc . Prepare your own data bank related to these topics, include data indices , Rankings of India in various Reports/Index, Important definitions and quotes related to such topics and memorize them. So that when any of the related topic comes in essay , you have good amount of material with you .


I chose Commerce and Accountancy as my optional subject because I had commerce as my Graduation subject . For Commerce and Accountancy , not much material is available . Start by referring to the UPSC Syllabus . Download the Past Year Question Papers for the same . FUN FACT - While analyzing the PYQs , you will realize that some of the topics are being asked repeatedly each year in the examination . For example- Questions on Amalgamation are asked each year in Paper 1 , mostly at Q.2A :P Yes! That's the beauty of this optional , some topics are sure shot .

After Identifying the important topics from the syllabus and previous year papers , you can refer to RANKERS NOTES for Paper 1 . These can be assisted by YouTube videos on some topics such as taxation , Financial Accounting etc. Since Paper 1 is mostly practical , you can also practice the numericals in PYQs .

For Paper 2 , most subjects are of Post Graduation level . I had not read them in my graduation .In order to become familiar with the topics , I referred to the following booklist -

  • Industrial Relations - TN Chabbra and RK Suri
  • Organisation Theory and Organisation Behavior - BP Singh and Chabbra
  • Human Resource Management - CB Gupta

After a general reading of these books , I relied completely On RANKERS NOTES for Paper 2 as well . PS : I did not take any coaching for Optional subject , It is pretty much doable on your own if you have done graduation in commerce itself . I completed my optional syllabus once before the prelims and then revised it thoroughly before mains.

So this was my gyaan for all the beginners. I truly hope this can provide some direction to all those who struggle with starting their UPSC preparation . This is my attempt to show a path to all those who are clueless in the beginning and have absolutely no guidance .Being from a business family , I initially struggled a lot in understanding the nitty-gritties of this examination . But at the same time , now when i look back , I can proudly say that had not it been for my parents and family , It wouldn't have been possible for me to clear this examination . Support from your family helps a long way and the look on their face when I cleared the exam made it all worth . It is often said that UPSC is not life , but I would say that it comes very close to it . There's no doubt that it takes a lot but the fruits of this hard work are totally worth and the immense satisfaction that you get once you are through is unmatched . Ending my write up here , All the very Best to all the aspirants . Don't think about the results , give your 100% and i am sure you will achieve the heights of success .