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CLASS 10 93.5%
CLASS-12 87.6%


Gunjan has been an intelligent student since beginning. She scored 93.5% marks in class 10 and 87.6% in class 12. She did her schooling from ICSE board. Later Gunjan graduated with 71.5% marks from Daulat Ram College, Delhi University. Her subject in college was Political Science which was also her Optional Paper in UPSC CSE.


Gunjan’s father was also a Civil Servant, a retired IPS officer. According to her statement“My father is a retired IPS officer; he was my childhood role model. My mother and brother made sure I stayed happy no matter what. My sister is placed as a Commercial Tax Officer in Saharanpur, UP.”


Gunjan was able to clear the Civil Services Exam in her 3rd attempt. In last two attempts she was not able to clear even preliminary exam. But it did not stop her to continue her preparation. She learnt from her mistakes and cleared the exam in 3rd attempt.

What she learned from her earlier 2 attempts was that she was not doing her preparation in an organised manner. As Gunjan says earlier she did not have any plans and also, she was not preparing notes and hence, was not able to revise the whole syllabus before Prelim’s exam. In her 3rd attempt she worked on her mistakes that helped her to clear the exam. She prepared daily, weekly and monthly targets and kept her schedule very realistic so that she can adhere to it.


She studied GS and Optional Papers mainly up to December. From Feb onwards she shifted her focus on prelims. Her target was to do at least five revisions of the whole subject before prelims for both static and current affairs. And by doing that she assured she was ready with both facts and analysis. Facts she could cover due to multiple revision and analysis got better with the process.



  • Go through the previous years’ papers diligently. It helps one understand the exam better.
  • One should not take it lightly as it has the highest level of competition. It took her 3 attempts to finally qualify it.One needs to have a strong foundational knowledge.
  • She made a clear cut plan. It had monthly, weekly and daily targets. She ensured it is realistic and achievable. Having a plan helped her in tracking her progress and staying focussed.
  • She limited her resources to certain basic books so she could revise them frequently.
  • She read all the required NCERTs once to get a thorough understanding and conceptual clarity. After this she stuck to the 11th and 12th ones. For example she read class 6-10th NCERTs of geography and jotted down the important facts. It was only these points that she revised later. (Another thing she mentions is that 9th and 10th NCERTs get repeated in the 11 & 12th so she did not make any notes for that.)
  • She made notes as and when required. For example, she wrote down certain important facts and points (especially the ones she forgot) of Shankar IAS book in 30-40 pages. Nonetheless she did read the book thoroughly one to two times.
  • She used the internet intensively (especially for current affairs). Few examples are gravitational waves, block chain technology, mapping videos for geography, important national parks compilations etc.
  • Revision is extremely important. So 3 months before prelims she made a list of her sources for both static and current affairs. As and when she revised a subject, she used to put a tick beside it. Her goal was to have 5 ticks before taking the exam (She did manage to achieve it somehow).
  • She solved around 30 mock tests. This helped her acquire the skill of making calculated guess. Her target was always to solve more than 90 questions. One hardly knows more than 40-50 questions in the paper. Hence it is very important to solve the papers to be able to identify the right answers.


Ancient and Medieval History Tamil Nadu class 11th history book ( she made notes and revised only them) Lucent (selected topics like IVC, Vedic period, Jainism and Buddhism)
Modern History A Brief history of modern India , Spectrum publication Class notes for period before 1857 My notes ( a few pointers of ncerts)
Culture An Introduction to Indian Art- class 11th ncert Nitin Singhania’s book Chapters related to culture in ancient and medieval history sources Coachingclass notes (selected topics like stone age, IVC )
Geography Class 11th and 12th ncerts Geography of India, Periyar publication (selected topics like agriculture and minerals) Atlas (very important)
Polity Laxmikanth Coaching class notes (selected topics)
Economy Coaching notes, Economic Survey, Internet
Environment Shankar IAS book ( She made notes of this)
General science+Government schemes& others Coaching compilation ,online video
Current Affairs Coaching compilation, The Hindu ( She did not make notes),Yojna magazine(selective)


  • Ideally one year’s current affairs is enough to cover this portion. Though many times questions from two- to three-year-old topics are asked but they are inspired from any ongoing issue only.
  • She says syllabus and previous year question papers are the best guide for you to choose what you need to read from newspaper and what you need to leave.
  • She started to appear for mock tests around one and half months before Prelims exam. She used to give at least one mock test daily and find out her weak areas, and then she worked on them.

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  • Do not waste time after prelims. Join a good test series for GS and optional as soon as possible.
  • The few months after prelims are very crucial. It tests your patience, determination and endurance. These months are just enough to prepare you to write amazing answers if you have been a serious candidate for the past one year.
  • Know the syllabus very well. This will help one in identifying what is important and what is not in the newspaper and plethora of material available.
  • GS questions test the general awareness along with analytical skill of a candidate. Thus one need not go too much in depth but focus on getting minimum sufficient knowledge over a diverse set of subjects rather than obsessively focussing on one topic
  • Mains syllabus is huge. There will always be something that you will feel you have not studied well (especially in current affairs). Here is the time when you have to have faith in your preparation. If there is a question, you do not know well/not know at all, try to read it again, break it down. Try to understand its context. And then answer in generic points. She often used PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal) analysis for her answers.
  • Go through the past 4-5 years’ papers. She went through them and analysed the trend. This helped tremendously in developing a smart approach for mains. For example she realised that there is no point in spending a lot of time in World History or Post Independence etc. Further, after completing any topic, she referred to the past papers just to see whether she is fulfilling the exam’s expectations.
  • Do not proliferate your study material. Focus on revisions.
  • Completing the entire paper is extremely crucial to getting a good score in GS. Unless your answers are perfect (to be honest, there is no such thing), you are already out of the race if you end up leaving a few answers. This is the skill that needs to be worked upon while taking mock tests.


GS-1 Culture- (Same as prelims) An Introduction to Indian Art- class 11th ncert Nitin Singhania’s book Chapters related to culture in ancient and medieval history sources Coachingclass notes (selected topics like stone age, IVC )
Modern Indian History(Same as prelims) A Brief history of modern India , Spectrum publication Class notes for period before 1857 My notes ( a few pointers of ncerts)
Post-Independence Coaching material ( It is a summary of the NCERT on the same topic )
World History Theory of Civilisation – Arjun Dev Crash Course Videos on YouTube ( Revolutions , World Wars, Colonisation etc)
Indian Society Newspaper (The Hindu) Coaching material
Geography- (same as prelims) Class 11th and 12th ncerts Geography of India, Periyar publication (selected topics like minerals) Mrunal Videos ( to understand certain concepts like jet streams, monsoon, natural resources etc)
GS-2 Polity, Constitution (static) Laxmikanth 2nd ARC Report (I jotted down the important points)
Governance 2nd ARC Report and Niti Aayog reports,current affairs
International Relations Covered with PSIR(optional),current affairs(coaching compilation)
GS-3 Economy Coaching notes, Economic Survey and Monthly Compilation for Economy
Environment and Ecology(same as prelims) Shankar IAS book ( I made notes of this) coaching compilation on environment current
Disaster Management Internet and Compilation available on internet
National Security Coaching current affairs
GS-4 Theory Coaching class notes
Moral Thinkers internet + optional knowledge
Case studies Online videos, topper’s copy


  • She followed what she have been taught since school ie. Every answer has to have an introduction and conclusion.
  • Her introduction consisted of a basic definition/a fact/some reference to a report/SDGs/Articles/DPSPs etc.
  • Conclusion was always optimistic. She often cited some government scheme or best practices (Niti Aayog’s report) or suggestions by a committee.
  • For this she made a list of such facts and data (she had printed out previous year’s topper Anudeep sir’s notes and made her additions there) and kept revising it till the last day.
  • She made sure to cover every aspect of the question. Each part was given the due importance.
  • She generally wrote in points. This is something she developed while practicing mock papers. She realised that writing in points helped her save time while simultaneously covering different aspects and perspectives.
  • She underlined the important points.
  • She drew diagrams, maps, illustrations, tables, flow charts etc wherever possible. This did not come naturally to her. She practised while writing mock tests.
  • She referred to the copies of previous years’ toppers a lot. These are available on different coaching institutes’ websites for free. This not only helped her gauge her performance but also make improvements in her answers.
  • Her language was very simple. She avoided jargons and long sentences. The idea was to come to the point straight. However, she made a list of certain keywords that helped my answers not look repetitive. For example-community participation social energy zero tolerance people/citizen centric inclusive growth etc.
  • She quoted facts, data, committees, reports etc to substantiate a point. For example, on a question on water crisis, she introduced her answer with Niti Aayog’s recent report on it with facts.
  • Her approach was to write the tests even though she had not completed the syllabus properly. The idea was to practice articulating answers despite having core information/knowledge on the topic. This is because there are a lot of questions in the final exam where one would not know the answer or have a faint idea on it. Here comes the skill of answer writing. Anyone who is able to express the vague information in well-articulated and coherent answers manages to score well in GS. It is very important to complete the paper. She made sure to attempt all the questions.


Gunjan could not get enough time to practice essays. So, she only read topper’s mock test copies to get idea of essay writing skills. She read some 15 to 20 essays from topper’s copies to get an idea and to collect quotes.


STRATEGY in her words-

  • Paper 1- 153
  • Paper 2- 152

She has done B.A. Honours in Political Science from Daulat Ram College, Delhi University. She was in absolute love with the discipline. Hence, she had a basic understanding of the subject. She completed the first reading of the entire syllabus by December 2017. This time from (July- Dec) is more than enough to get an overview/understanding of the entire syllabus for even a first timer. In this phase she consolidated her material. She made notes for certain topics while highlighted the important points in others. She even made additions in Shubhra Ranjan’s notes (to differentiate her answers from other candidates, as almost everyone is using her notes). Thus, she ensured she had notes/material for each and every topic mentioned in the syllabus by December.

She picked up political science post prelims. This is the perfect time to prepare for your optional. She dedicated the entire month of June to PSIR. She revised the entire syllabus. She did not take any coaching. She had joined Shubhra Ranjan’s test series/crash course after clearing prelims in July, 2018. Here, she got certain supplementary notes that she found extremely helpful. She planned her studies according to the test schedule. This helped her have a proper schedule/time table.

Importance of test series-

Answer writing is the single most factor that contributes to success in CSE. She took her tests with utmost seriousness. Following are the benefits of a good test series:

  • -helped her have a proper schedule
  • -pointed out my weakness/flaws
  • -taught her the art of answer writing
  • -brought about a competitive spirit
  • – provided valuable additional notes + model answers
  • – crash course/online classes to amplify my knowledge


  • Shubhra Ranjan’s notes
  • Rajeev Bhargava(some sections)
  • IPT Themes and Thinkers ( Pearson Publication)
  • Own College notes
  • Andrew Heywood (Political Ideologies)
  • Andrew Heywood (Global Politics)
  • Laxhmikanth(polity)
  • Current affairs(IR )


DAF contained mainly your basic information hence interviewer can initiate a conversation with you. In achievement section you should mention only if you have any achievements otherwise you can leave it. Again, for hobby you can mention if you have any hobby.

Her Interview was mostly dominated by questions on IR, Ponzi scheme, Indian Economy, women Empowerment and Situational question and some Sanskrit words were also asked to explain. First 5 minutes she felt a little bit nervous but after that she became comfortable with members of interview panel. In this regard mock interview may be helpful for you to boost your confidence and experience the real time situations.

The main purpose of interview is to bring out your true personality.


There is no template for success, you need to learn from your mistakes, make your own path and keep trying until you succeed.


Don’t give up. Be honest with your preparation, have faith in yourself Follow your strategy, put in your hard work with 100% efforts,

Keep moving with full force and determination.