Strategy:Priyanka, AIR 68 (CSE 2019)

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I am S.Priyanka. I have secured AIR 68 in UPSC CSE 2019. This is my second attempt. In previous attempt, i missed to make into final list by 20 marks. But in that first attempt i scored 271(144+127) in my optional Political science and international relations.


Essay strategy

In first mains, I have scored 122 marks in essay which was good for that year marking scheme. In this, I wish to share my essay preparation and writing strategy so every aspirant will get benefit from it.

               Essay is one of the important determinant factors in clearing mains. It provides ample scope to show difference and get more marks than others. For example, within known persons for me essay scores ranged from 95 to 145 in UPSC CSE 2018. So it provides ground to get around 50 marks higher.

Breaking myths

               My aspirants are hesitant to write essay because of fear they have like I am not good in English, I didn’t prepare anything for essay, and what should I write for 1000 words. I will tell you the truth I am not very fluent or good at vocabulary.  So we can present essay with simple words which can be easily understand by examiner. What is very much needed is giving comprehensive essay covering as much dimensions as possible

What UPSC expects?

Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay, to arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion, and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression

               So UPSC wants to check whether we are able to understand topic properly,  able to give relevant content and that content has to be in organized manner, to the point and not beating around the bush.

How to prepare for essay?

               There is no need for separate preparation for essay as such. One can simultaneously do essay preparation along with GS, optional and newspaper. But one should have separate notes where one can collect quotes, facts, anecdotes which can be used in essays.

               Mains exam should not be test grounding for essay paper. Rather one must practice atleast 15 to 20 essay before real exam. This is necessary because:

·        Helps in thinking various dimensions related to a topic

·        Helps in complete within a time

·        Helps in analyzing type of essay/topic comfortable to oneself

·        Helps in developing various way /type of writing essay

·        Helps in structuring and having flow over the essay.

How to approach essay?

·        First one should understand the topic and try to give content related to that. For example, for the topic “Alternative technologies for a climate change resilient India (UPSC 2018)” one should focus more on technologies. Giving importance to causes and effect of climate change won’t give good marks

·        Second try to include many dimensions possible as given by Anudeep Durishetty Sir.

o  Temporal: Past, present and future

o  Sectoral: Media, Science & Tech, Business, Sports, Religion, Politics, Administration etc

o  Walks of Life: Individual, Family, Professional workplace, Society, Community, National, Global

o  Problem & Solution: Concept (historical evolution+status), benefits, problems, solutions

o  Standard: Social, Political, Economical, Administrative, International, Environmental, Historical, Scientific, Security/Defence, Legal

One can use this format in suitable essay. For example, for the topic “Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere (UPSC 2018)” one can use temporal aspect to show poverty level or standard aspect to show reasons for poverty

·        Third important thing is one must able to keep essay organized and continuous. It should be haphazard by inserting one’s thought here and there. For this one should do rough work before starting to write essay. In rough work, one should decide what should be included in essay, content arrangements, subtopics, quotes to be used.

·        If these are done, one’s essay will be good and able to get good marks.

Finally I recommend reading editorials of newspaper which will help in understanding how good essay should be like starting with basics of issue, causes and suggestions. Start to write essay, brainstorm related content to essay.

Here is the link of essay notes:

PSIR Optional strategy

Why I opted for PSIR?

1. My UG is B.E Biomedical, so I want to take any humanities subject

2. Habit of reading newspaper from childhood so I am fond of politics and international relations.

3. It is very helpful in covering GS syllabus and writing essay papers.

4. Political science has mix of static and dynamic syllabus. Once you complete static it can be correlated with current affairs which can help in scoring high marks.

5. Availability of guidance in Chennai. (I took complete guidance of PSIR from Kamaraj IAS academy Chennai)

When I started to prepare?

I joined class after basic understanding of syllabus. It lasts for five months from July to December 2017. During that time, I put efforts to understand the concepts and gave some tests. I spend no time in making notes for optional. This was the big mistake I have done.

Only after giving prelims 2018, in which I was sure of clearing, I started to devout my time for optional. From June to September, I spent almost 50% of my time in making notes for PSIR and not much for revising. Here I didn’t get chance to practice answer writing much apart from test series.

In that ill prepared attempt I was scared and I was not very confident about my PSIR score. In my mains I managed to complete all questions. But PSIR paper II, most answers looked like GS answers.

Changes made in second attempt:

1. Revising as much as possible with weekly and fortnight targets.

2. Writing test with strict time limit

3. Being prepared with intro and conclusion for possible parts of the syllabus.

Book list I followed:

Paper 1

Part A

1. Western political thoughts by O.P.Gauba

2. Introduction to political theory by O.P.Gauba

3. IGNOU notes for Indian political thoughts

In this part one has to make precise notes about thinkers and ideologies. Revision again and again of this section helps in remembering quotes and books of thinkers. This section needs more remembering than other section. There is very less scope for incorporating the current events so keep it static. But interlinking can be made between thinkers and ideologies. For example, Machiavelli and Kautilya

Part B

This part mainly deals with Indian politics and Indian government.

1. Indian government and politics by B.L. Fadia

2. Newspaper articles (MOSTLY EDITORIALS by Suhash Plashikar, Christophe Jafffrelot,Aushtosh Varhney, Surjit Bhalla, P.Chidambaram,  Meghnath Desai, Rajeshwari Deshpande,Bibek Debroy, Talveen Singh.Pratap Bhanu Mehta in Indian express and The Hindu)

This section is dynamic in nature and gives a scope for incorporating current affairs. This part also provide chance to show edge over others and score more. It can be done by using above scholars' quotations and views. Without that, answer will look like GS answers. In answers give one’s own analysis and supported by views of scholars. Use Supreme courts judgments, Committee recommendations, Articles whenever possible.

Paper 2

Part A

1. For comparative politics refer any coaching institute notes plus IGNOU material is enough.

2. The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations by Baylis and Smith

               This part has static topics related to IR, which has to supported by current happenings Ex: For increasing national interest – Brexit, trade wars. It is

Part B

It is completely dynamic part. But here one has scope to show their knowlege by interlinking with static concepts.

1. THE HINDU, Big Picture of Rajya Sabha TV,  INDIANEXPRESS, The Diplomat. Focus on Articles of Suhsini Haidar,  C.Raja Mohan, Rakesh Sood, S.D.Muni, Harsh.v.Pant, Brahma Chellaney, Meera Shankar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, MJ Akbar, Rajiv Sikri. From Big picture views of Harsh Pant, Kanwal Sibbal, Ahok Sajjanhar,Vivek Katju, s.Jaishankar, Dhruv Jaishankar

2.Rajiv Sikri’s book Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy

3.David Malone’s book Does Elephant Dance

4. Observer Research Foundation website for IR analysis.

Without quoting scholars opinion in this section, answers will look like GS2 IR answers.


1. Try to solve PYQs which help structuring answers and understand question paper dynamics which I failed to do in first attempt.

2. Limiting resources and revising again and again helps in remembering scholars and their quotes which can be used in answers to fetch more marks.

3. Having short notes or highlighted notes to revise before exam.

4. At least reading optional once before attempting prelims.


1. Keep on reading new materials

2. Sticking to only institute materials without reading newspaper or updating dynamic portions.

All the best.

My notes

Here is link for my notes and test paper: