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RANK IN CSE-2017 02
AGE 31


Anu belongs to Sonipat, Haryana. Her father worked in HR department in Jaipur Golden Hospital, Rohini and her mother is a Housewife. Anu’s family was the strongest support for her during her preparation. Anu has been an intelligent student since her childhood.
Anu completed her schooling at Shiva Siksha Sadan in Sonipat, Haryana. Anu did graduation from Delhi University with B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics. She has done MBA in Finance and Marketing from IMT Nagpur. Being an MBA helped her in covering the Economy portion of GS 3 very easily as she had a fair idea about the subject.


As Anu says there was always a sense of dissatisfaction in her private job and it had also become monotonous after a certain period of time. Over time her job started feeling hollow and meaningless to her. Initially, when she started the job, there was excitement for learning, but there was nothing to learn new with time. She was not content doing all this. With only two attempts left for UPSC CSE, she decided to take the plunge. She couldn’t afford to postpone it any longer as she was also short of time due to her age.


This was Anu’s second attempt in which Anu was able to secure All India Rank (AIR) 02 in UPSC CSE 2017. Before this Anu had appeared for CSE 2016 with preparation of just 40 days for the exam. In this exam, she missed prelims cut off by just one mark. But with her hard work and determination, she was finally able to achieve her goal in the very next attempt.


Anu has always been a disciplined person and a sincere student in her life. So, figuring out a routine that suits the demands of UPSC CSE was not a very tough deal for her. Anu has a habit of early rising so she designed her routine accordingly. She used to sleep from 10 pm to 4 am. For the rest of the time, she dedicated 10-12 hours to studies daily. She used to listen to All India Radio during the morning walk to save her time. Even during her meals, she used to watch Rajya Sabha TV. So, she utilized her time very carefully without wasting a single minute.



  • Anu's preparation for the mains and prelims exam was mostly integrated. It was only 2 months before the 2017 prelims she shifted her focus completely towards the prelim exam.
  • Anu started her preparation with NCERT books and reading current affairs daily.
  • She did Current affairs from insightsonindia.com daily and did not make any notes from that rather revised from their monthly current affairs compilations.
  • She solved MCQs from the above-mentioned site daily which helped her cross-check her current affairs awareness.
  • She prepared her notes online which was easy to edit and update any time when there was any change or any progress in any topic.
  • She had prepared an excel wherein she had made separate sheets for various reports (like Ease of Doing Business Report), another sheet for various world/regional bodies like UN, ASEAN, etc, another sheet for tribes in India, another sheet for important statistics (e.g., our expenditure on education, health, etc).
  • For GS PAPER II (Aptitude Test) she did not do any separate preparation, her English was also good, her hold in Maths was also good as she had cleared CGL (SSC) exam wherein she had revised different Maths’ formulae.
  • She started doing the test series in the last 2 months before prelims. She practiced mock tests from InsightsonIndia test series. She revised the questions that she got wrong 3 to 4 times.


Ancient and Medieval History Tamil Nadu Board Class XI book Our Past NCERT book Part 1,2 and 3
Modern History Spectrum, Politics in India since Independence Class XII NCERT
Art and Culture Nitin Singhania, Fine Arts book NCERT
Geography NCERT Class XI and XII (2 books from each class)
Polity Polity by Laxmikant, Indian Constitution at Work Class XI NCERT
Economy Sri Ram IAS book, Economic Survey and Budget summery by GS Score
Environment Shankar IAS
General science Mostly relied on Current Affairs, Class VI to X NCERT Science book (Single reading) Class XI Biology book NCERT
Current Affairs Government schemes & others Daily and Monthly current affairs compilations from insightsonindia.com

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  • She put the syllabus in front of her and ensured that she has understood and covered each and every topic, especially the definition of each and every word written there.
  • After prelims, she started preparing notes from current affairs (very short notes for quick revision)
  • She prepared her notes in soft copy format paper-wise (like GS-1,2,3 and 4 separately).
  • She revised all standard books multiple times again what she had done during the preliminary exam.
  • She advises all aspirants that they should first cover all basic books and then start practicing answer writing.
  • She had attempted the Secure initiative on insightsonindia.com for 4-5 months at a stretch (from Aug 16 to Jan 17). Here she wrote 7-8 answers daily on the register and then compared them with other answers written on insightsonindia.com. She sometimes asked her friends to evaluate her copies. This, she did before the preliminary exam itself during the course of integrated preparation for Mains and pre.
  • For GS 4 i.e., Ethics, she collected good quotes by Swami Vivekanand, Gandhi, Einstein, Mandela, etc, made them her laptop wallpaper. This helped her memorize those quotes effortlessly.
  • For the Ethics paper, she reflected back on her entire life and made notes of the good things and the bad things that she had done in life, and tried to use real-life examples in her answers. This exercise was a good self-reflection exercise too that helped her understand herself better and also in scoring good marks.
  • She advises aspirants not to ignore this paper. With less preparation, this paper can give you an edge over others. Prepare examples of various situations in advance like a conflict of interest, moral dilemma, etc so that you can quote them in the exam. Learn names of important people with integrity like S Manjunath etc to give real-life examples.


GS-1 Art and Culture (Same as prelims) Nitin Singhania, Fine Arts book NCERT
  Modern Indian History (same as prelims) Spectrum, Politics in India since Independence Class XII NCERT
  Post-Independence Politics in India since Independence Class XII NCERT
  World History Social Science Book Class IX NCERT, Contemporary World Politics Class XII NCERT
  Indian Society Current Affairs
  Geography (same as prelims) NCERT Class XI and XII (2 books from each class)
GS-2 Polity, Constitution Polity by Laxmikant, Indian Constitution at Work Class XI NCERT
  Governance Current Affairs
  International Relations  Current Affairs
GS-3 Economy Sri Ram IAS book, Economic Survey and Budget summery by GS Score
  Environment and Ecology (same as prelims) Shankar IAS and Current Affairs
  Science and Technology Class XI Biology book NCERT, Current Affairs
  Disaster Management Some part from NCERT and rest from Current Affairs
  National Security Current Affairs
GS-4 Theory, Moral Thinkers and Case studies G Subbarao


  • It is very much important for any aspirant to cover the whole syllabus once before starting answer writing. Anu followed exactly the same strategy. She covered all the basic NCERT and advance book once before starting answer writing.
  • This helps you in not only answering a question well but also helps you add different dimensions to your answer and makes it a holistic answer.
  • Test series again plays a very vital role in improving your answer writing skills. She practiced answer writing for all the GS papers by writing 7-8 tests. She wrote all these tests at home only and then she herself compared them with model answers as given in various test series.
  • Sometimes she took help of her friends and asked them to evaluate her answers. For her, this was enough to help her develop the right way of answer writing.
  • Being a science student, she had the habit of writing answers in bullet points. In the mains exam also, she wrote most of the answers in bullet form.
  • Some tips to enrich your answers in mains is to substantiate with statistics and current affairs, use names of expert committees to suggest solutions, use diagrams to the extent possible, answer on multiple dimensions of a topic (social, political, economic, cultural, etc), use quotes (to the extent possible, even in GS 1,2,3 papers), do underline to highlight the important stuff.


  • She started preparing for essay papers by writing essays. She wrote 12-15 essays easily, learned a lot of quotes, and tried building essays on a temporal scale (ancient, medieval, modern, etc) and/or covering multiple dimensions like social, political, economic, etc.
  • She linked the topics with current affairs. She did not use headings in her essays instead she always tried that the person reading the essay should find it like reading a story.
  • She used very simple language.
  • She tried to ensure linkage/continuity between successive paragraphs (ex- If she was discussing the social aspect of some issue after its economic aspect, she would write “Not only does ABC issue has economic implications but it also has social implications”). This helped her add diverse dimension to her answer.
  • She has collected many quotes that helped her in both GS 4 and essay papers. She used so many quotes in her essay but only when they seemed relevant.
  • Sometimes instead of using a heading to start a new topic, she used questions, and then she used to answer them. e.g., She chose the essay “Realisation of Modern woman is a myth”. Here She kept asking questions and then wrote answers to these questions to build on her essay and to convey what she wanted to express through her essay.
  • In her essay on women, she asked questions like “Who is a modern woman?” “What is it that she wants?” “Why is it difficult to realize her?”



  • Anu Kumari choose Sociology as her optional subject for UPSC CSE. She joined a test series for her optional subject Sociology at Nice IAS (Praveen Kishore sir) after the preliminary exam. This helped her a lot in structuring her answers and understanding the concepts lucidly.
  • Coming from a science background and taking up a humanities subject, she found it difficult to prepare it on her own.
  • Test series helped her in clearing the doubts. She advises aspirants also to seek guidance from friends, coaching institute, or online for this subject if they do not have a sociology background.
  • For Paper 2, the test series helped her a lot as Praveen sir explained several important concepts which she had missed reading them from the sources that she had followed e.g., waves of women movements, social movements topic, etc.


The basic material that she referred

  • Upendra Sir’s classroom notes available in the market (she covered both Paper 1 and Paper 2 from end to end from these except the thinkers of Paper 2).
  • Mahapatra Sir Classroom notes – she covered Paper 2 Thinkers from this book, which has been covered all the topics of the syllabus in minute detail.
  • Harlambos Blue Book (the bigger one not the orange one) - She did some selected topics from this book e.g., chapters 1, 14.
  • Yogendra singh Book-Modernisation of Indian tradition (1st to 7th chapter)


For interview preparation, she had some background. Because she has worked in the corporate sector for 9 years so, there was no hesitation and she was confident enough to face the board. But, in order to have an idea of the UPSC CSE interview structure she attended many mock interviews. That helped her boost her confidence and to assess herself on how she performs under pressure. There were a few questions that she could not answer so while giving mock tests she learned how to calmly handle the situation and smilingly say “No, I don’t know the answer”.
She was asked questions on PPP, standards of education in our country, narcotics problems in the country, why there is corruption in schools in India. There were quite a few questions on her career in the insurance sector and health sector. Certain questions were asked on the latest budget, the kind of schemes launched, were they good or not. Then there was a set of pretty interesting questions, for example, one of the questions asked by one of the honourable members was- “There are pink pajamas flying over the Red Fort today. What do you understand by that?” Because her hobby is drawing and painting, the other question was- “It is hugely said that artists have a third eye. What do you mean by that and do you have a third eye?” So, it was a mix of some interesting questions, current affairs, her background, and issues from day-to-day life.


As Anu says when she started preparing for UPSC CSE, she had no plans, she was full of doubts and fear, she was already 30 and left with only two attempts. But with time she started understanding the demands of the exam and modified her preparation and herself accordingly. Finally, she was able to top the most competitive exam in the country and was able to make her parents proud.


There will be times when you might feel that you can’t do it, that you are not the topper material etc. In such circumstances she advises aspirants to cry if they feel like crying to vent out their negative feelings. You can also talk to your well-wishers to get motivation, think of the sense of achievement that you had after achieving something in your life earlier. Finally, get over such phases and think that the only way to improve the situation is by realizing your weaknesses and then correcting them one at a time. Be determined to try your best and then leave it to God, this will help you come out of regret of not doing enough because you will know that you have tried your best.