I aim to use this channel to share with you my strategies, notes, answer sheets etc. to help you climb up the ladder easily.
This was my 2nd attempt. My first attempt was CSE 2020. I reached till the interview stage but couldn’t find my name on the final list. The reason being my poor optional marks (Mathematics, 186).
That’s a total of 127 marks increase in 7 months. This was one of the shortest period between two successive CSEs.
Out of 127 marks,
I improved 54 marks in GS and Essay, 57 marks in Optional and 16 marks in interview
Table of Contents
- 1 Ravi Kumar UPSC Booklist
- 2 RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper Biography
- 3 UPSC Journey of RAVI KUMAR AIR 38
- 4 Extra tips by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 5 Booklist of RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 6 Coaching institute joined by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 7 Interview Guidance Programme/Mock Interviews joined by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 8 Essay Strategy by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper-by Ravi Kumar (CSE ’21 AIR 38)
- 9 Extra tips on essay preparation by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 10 One Year Strategy (For 2023 aspirants) by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 11 Revision Strategy by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 12 For repeat aspirants (2023 attempt) – One Year Strategy (For 2023 aspirants) by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 13 Motivation by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 14 Mains 90 days preparation strategy by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
- 15 To join a Coaching or not – tips by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper?
- 16 Words from one of the rankers this year!
- 17 Mains EExam Preparation strategy by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
Ravi Kumar UPSC Booklist
RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper Biography
A brief history about me:
Born and brought up in Giridih, Jharkhand, I am the younger of the two siblings. My Didi works in a bank. Father is a businessman and my mother is a homemaker.
Coming from a business family background, science or civil services was not a natural choice for me.
I did my schooling from Pre school to 12th from CCL DAV PS, Giridih. Where I generally got good grades, spent my time studying, playing basketball, participating in quizzes, debate competitions etc. Co-curricular activities were an important part of my life at school. I completed my 12th with a healthy 97% marks and PCM background, JEE became a natural choice. Till this point I was totally into Science but Engineering was a different game.
I qualified JEE Advance, 2014 to join Mechanical Engg course at IIT (ISM), Dhanbad. My grades at college were mediocre (8.18 OG) but there I participated in society activities wholeheartedly.
I was a part of Robotics Club, learning programming and also organising competitions.
A major time at college was devoted to Literary & Debating Society. It helped me build confidence, personality and public speaking capabilities. I co-organised a literary fest, participated in various Parliamentary Debate Competitions (PDCs) and also represented IIT Dhanbad at two Inter-IIT Cultural Meets in the PDCs. In college I first thought of pursuing UPSC CSE but I wasn’t sure of myself. I even attended a few classes, but my call and motivation wasn’t enough to learn anything. I felt like IAS was not a thing for me. Yet.
Later I got placed at Tata Motors, Jamshedpur in the year 2018.
I joined Tata Motors, Jamshedpur as GET in the Defence Manufacturing Division.
I got to learn a lot about Commercial vehicle productions, Defence vehicles manufacturing, and personnel management. The industry best practices like 6Sigma, Kaizen, 5S, OHSAS etc helped me during UPSC interview in my first attempt as well.
UPSC Journey of RAVI KUMAR AIR 38
I resigned from my job in mid 2019 and came to Delhi. Here I joined Vajiram & Ravi classroom program in June (I’ll share about my Coaching experience in a dedicated post). The course at Vajiram ran for 9 months.
While it helped me navigate smoothly through the syllabus and give a kickstart, it ran into a wall during the pandemic with prelims just 2 months away.
My friend circle at Delhi initially was mostly restricted to my college friend Sunny Godhani with whom I discussed issues, contents of syllabus and preparation at length. Later I made many friends who made my life at ORN easier.
As I posted earlier, I reached till the interview stage in the 1st attempt (CSE 2020), gave 7 -8 mock interviews.
In my 2nd attempt, I did not join any coaching for Pre, wrote Mains Test at Next IAS & Vision IAS. Post that I gave 5 mock interviews which helped me brush up my concepts and DAF related details. I also applied for Indian Forest Services this time.
I’ll take up the detailed discussion on each section in separate posts.
Extra tips by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
People clearing Prelims with a margin and people at the borderline should not wait for the results. Curb your anxieties, trust the process and start preparing for Mains asap.
Candidates who are writing their 2nd/3rd mains know the importance of this period very well. While major candidates waste 20/100 days in speculation, repeaters cover their optional subjects revisions and fringe subjects notes to the tune of 40-80% of their syllabus. That put them on a huge advantage compared to others. This give them enough time to practice answer writing towards the end and give 2-3 full sets of simulation tests.
It is understandable for the candidates appearing in UPPSC or MPPSC, others, tighten you seatbelts as things are going to get nasty soon.
Booklist of RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
Booklist that I followed:
- Modern History: Spectrum+ Vajiram Yellow Book (YB)
- Medieval: Vajiram YB
- Ancient: RS Sharma NCERT
- Art & Culture: NCERT+Notes+ Nitin Singhania (very selective)
- Post Independence History: Vision IAS Booklet + Internet
- Geography (NCERT 11th, 12th All 4 books)
- Polity (Bare Act (app)+ Laxmikant)
- International Relations (Newspaper+ Magazine)
- Economy (Vajiram Notes, Investopedia, (Articles), Newspaper) + Economic Survey +Budget
- Environment (Shankar IAS (selective), PMF IAS Maps, CA Booklets for CA)
- Websites of Int’l bodies in free time.
- Science & Tech: Ncert last chapters of Biology and Env.+
Vajiram Notes+ Newspaper
Also, in almost all the subjects vajiram notes played a crucial role.
Coaching institute joined by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
A lot of confusion and misinformation prevail in the market about Coaching Institutes taking credits for producing toppers, through ads and posts. This post is to clarify about the coaching institutions I have taken help of in any way:
1. Vajiram & Ravi: 9-10 months classroom program (19-20)
2. IMS: Maths Optional & Test Series
3. Vision IAS: Mains Test Series
Interview Guidance Programme/Mock Interviews joined by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
Vajirao & Reddy
Insights (Vinay Sir 1 on 1)
Ravindran Sir (1 on 1 Vajiram)
Open Tests (Mains):
Essay Strategy by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
-by Ravi Kumar (CSE ’21 AIR 38)
Let’s understand first why do UPSC or other prominent universities/colleges want us to write essays.
While technical things/answers can be taught and learnt, an essay conveys your thought process, your analytical capabilities, your ideals, role models and values which you hold true in your life, they can’t be spoon fed to you unless you apply your own mind.
While shorter essays can be learnt/pre planned, two essays of ~1200 each cannot be just rote memorised.
It requires your philosophy, linkages with GS subjects, your ethical values, day to day life examples and their application in administration if any.
Even all these Masala aren’t enough. To top that, you need a decent vocabulary, a grammatically correct English, basic writing skills and coherence in your content.
With these things, one can cross 120- 130 marks in essay according to CSE 21 standards where 115 marks is considered a good score (Essays hasn’t performed well this time compared to last few years).
To take your score among the toppers, you need few extra things to make your essays more appealing:
1. Understand that the essay isn’t for any University or literature, it is for the selection of a civil servant. Appeal with logical arguments. Put administrative dimensions.
2. A good essay take assumptions, challenge them, break them and provides a better solution.
(Eg. Is multilateralism dead/deglobalisation happening? Let’s assume yes since during COVID times, borders were closed, flights were cancelled.
Then how did COVID vaccine Collab take place? why did Quad gain more prominence? why did FDI inflow in India boomed? (Science, Int’l relation, economy. You get the linkages, right?))
3. An essay is not a mechanical body of words taken from a source like in some GS papers. It take some degree of emotions to express your ideas in words.
Ex: In an essay on Tribal welfare, if you write names of committees, but don’t write on the state of their hunger and poverty, it highlights your lack of empathy for them. (Care for EI? Goleman would laugh)
4. In philosophical essays, anecdotes, real life stories, fresh ideas, own life experiences work. The more you complement your arguments with examples, the better the essay will become.
(I used Quora to collect unique stories of people, anecdotes, poems, suitable quotes. Opinions and experiences of experts. I am going to share my notes and some of those stories on the next attached files)
5. Ethics and Philosophy/Philosophers (basic level) can add huge value to your essays and give another dimension to your critical thinking.
(Eg. On an essay about education system/NEP, you can compare and contrast thoughts of Gandhiji and Guru Rabindranath Tagore to find a best possible system)
(Or in Economics, you can use ideas of Dr Amartya Sen/ Jean Dreze to add value. Use editorials fr newspapers to collect ideas)
6. Avoid cliches and redundant stories.
In my first attempt, I introduced my essay on Human being vs. being humane with the example of the Buddha leaving home. That was naive me. I knew it wasn’t impressive. It cannot be to a seasoned professor/bureaucrat.
This time I introduced my essay (Research is a blind date) with the story of accidental discovery of CRISPR Cas9 for Human Gene Editing though the knowledge for editing milk protein was available for a long time.
7. A good essay does not require very advance English. Follow the mantra:
Grammatically correct+ Small sentences+ Coherent paragraphs+ Connected and Organised ideas.
That’s all the ingredients for a good language. Rest depends upon your content.
8. Practice more and more essays. If you are new, start with a 500 word essay, get it evaluated. Then gradually increase to 700 then 900 then 1200. Work on content, implement suggestions and you’ll be good to go.
Other technical details about Intro, Body, Conclusion etc. and sample essay are being shared on the next file. You can try attempting those essays and then compare. Those are my practice essays and not the final ones but you’ll get an idea.
Extra tips on essay preparation by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
For starters, one can read the books on Essay writing by Anudeep Durishetty sir and Avdhesh Singh sir. They have compiled a diversity of topics.
Common values that can be highlighted in the essays and ideas:
Morality, Integrity, Honesty, compassion, leadership, innovation, patriotism (not necessarily nationalism), Empathy etc.
One Year Strategy (For 2023 aspirants) by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
*Note: This is only suggestive in nature since many of you have asked. Please tweak the plan according to your own needs.
For newer Aspirants: One Year Strategy (For 2023 aspirants) by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
– Try to Cover 70- 80% of your syllabus of static along with regular newspaper reading by December-January.
(History/Geo/Polity/IR/Eco/Enviro/Sci & Tech/ NCERTs)
-Also your Optional Prep should concide with this time period. (4-7 months). During and after optional preparation, try to write some tests (sectional/full).
-Make notes of the important topics from the newspaper and other CA sources, if any.
-If you are taking coaching, you are also expected to finish crucial Mains subjects like GS4 (Ethics), World History, Society, Social Justice, Governance, Internal Security etc.
-If you are not taking any coaching, you’re still expected to complete atleast few mains topics like Ethics (GS4), Internal Security, IR.
– By October – Nov, 2022, we can assume you would cover 60% of your Statics notes, read NCERTs with revision and can easily comprehend the contents of the newspaper.
– Start taking Basic level (NCERT/Reference Book) Prelims Mock test from November- December.
Level this up with Intermediate level mock test (Application of concepts) by Feb-March 2023.
-By Feb end/March mid, your coaching should be complete, or you should try to cover by yourself as much syllabus as possible.
– 3 complete months (March-Apr-May 2023) should be devoted to PRELIMS PREPARATION, thorough revision of each and every source (atleast thrice) followed by Full Length mock test of various institutes.
-These 3 months should be utilized for covering and revising the Current Affairs notes/magazines/PT365 compilation of your choice. All mapworks (India/world), places on news etc are needed to be covered here including Economic Survey and Budget (Summary can work just fine).
-Please don’t be completely dependent on one coaching institute’s Mock test. Your mind tricks you into mastering the art of correct guessing the particular coaching institute’s mock tests.
-One can utilize Open Tests of coachings online/offline to diversify your attempts and be ready for uncertainties.
-Every revision of a subject should be followed by Previous Year Questions (PYQ) solving. Few questions get directly repeated, others get their themes matched.
-Solving PYQs also conditions you with the language that UPSC uses in its question papers.
-In the months of Dec-Jan- Feb, basic level answer writing practice, in a time bound manner can be done. (Since your content will be >60% will be covered).
Where to find the questions?
1. Can attempt the PYQs.
2. Peer targets in the group with evaluation
3. Can buy a test series.
Revision Strategy by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
(I tried to do atleast thrice, 2 times can suffice if you have a paucity of time)
-1st reading: Take a quick overview, understand the basic takeaway from the source. Cover the contents quickly.
-2nd reading: (Best effort): Focus on keywords, jargons, themes, understand the differences from your 1st reading. This can also require memorising things. Most time taking part.
2nd reading of a source is expected within 10 days of first reading.
-3rd reading: Develop command, memorize things, strategize around book.
-4th reading: Do this after attempting mock tests. This iteration is fun. Finding your mistakes from your source material develops trust on your sources.
PS: If you are not good at CSAT, you better figure that out soon and start practicing. It has become the new choke point for the candidates.
If you are good at it, still attempt atleast 3-5 mock tests of CSAT as well.
For repeat aspirants (2023 attempt) – One Year Strategy (For 2023 aspirants) by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
(Hello friends, seniors and juniors. I hope you’d have figured out most of the things, anyway, here are my two cents on strategy)
-Take a quick break after pre (done by now), return back to studies, gain momentum through newspapers and basic activities.
-I assume and would be true for most, you’d want to clear both Pre + Mains in your next attempt. Please prepare for the Mains in this time thoroughly.
June 2022- Feb (mid) 2023 Timeline:
– Find out the missing contents/loopholes in your mains syllabus.
-Cover and make notes on all the extra subjects (from Pre). If you have already made in the past attempts, please update them to fetch higher marks.
-Buy a decent test series (after content completion) and scrutinize your evaluation and recommendations of the evaluator.
-Gain command over your Optional subject, Scoring 270+ in Optional is easier than scoring 400+ in GS. It can make or break your chances.
-If possible, try to have a contact based guidance for your optional subject (It can be a coaching institute/any mentor).
– Utilise your GS Main Test Series to reverse engineer various topics which were left during first iteration. You can copy there standard answers and revise them later.
-For GS4, collect real life/administrative examples from newspapers/compilation/Test series solution. Value add from 2nd ARC report, Govt websites. Also practice as many Case studies.
-Meanwhile keep attempting one Prelims mock test/PYQs set every week or so to be in touch with the pattern.
-In your free time, you can analyse your last Prelims performance and target the weak areas by venturing into your sources again.
-Treat your next attempt as your first one to come out of exhaustion. You may have failed the Prelims, it does not mean you can’t get ready for mains. For when the Main comes, it comes with a surprise of pressure.
-Get in touch with your friends in Delhi/other hubs who are willing to compete. Try to see their copies and show them your copies. Do not be afraid of their learnings, and shy of your learnings.
-By Jan-Feb 2023, you should have revised your Test series and notes thoroughly. Ready to take on Prelims again.
This Mains prep will make your Prelims prep a holistic one.
Now, Devote 3- 3.5 months, March-Apr-May to Prelims 2023. (Optional can be revisited once in a while). All the Best!
Motivation by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
Times can be harder for anybody and if it is for you this time, keep persevering. Prelims can give you surprises some times. They are the strong ones who rise against all odds.🙌
And congratulations to all those who have cleared the Prelims. You shouldn’t wait any longer and go full throttle for mains preparation. The exam has just started for you. Good Luck!👍
Rest all, brace yourselves for your upcoming attempts.😊
Also Read it
Mains 90 days preparation strategy by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
For people appearing in Mains 2022 this year, here’s my rough plan for the 90 days duration:
-Devote Saturdays/Sunday for Essay writing practice and value addition.
-Try to revise your Optional within 25–30 Days quickly so that you can write your Optional Tests (Once/ Twice a week)
-Post Optional, Complete your extra GS subjects like World History, Internal Security, Society, Governance etc. along with syllabus wise revision for the next 45 days.
Give full GS tests at the end of revision every week.
– You may allocate 7-10 days for each GS paper. (Total: 40 days+ Tests)
-Can update data (may maintain a data book) for various subjects from newspaper/ magazine/compilations.
-Use the last 15–20 days to simulate (simulation tests, 3 days for GS, 1 for Optional) atleast 2 sets of exact exams for both GS and optional. This should be followed by revision.
To join a Coaching or not – tips by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper?
I’ve been receiving numerous queries about Coaching Institutes and whether to join them. I’ll answer this from my personal experience. It may vary for people situated in different conditions.Analysis is based on the recent 3-4 years perception of institutes.
Pros of Coaching:
1. Quick completion of syllabus. (1 year timeline). My target of preparing both Optional & GS in 1 year wouldn’t have been possible without it.
2. Inculcates discipline through classes.
3. Expert teachers: I had a very good experience with many of them.
4. Guidance and reliance for resources and materials. (Eg Yellow Books, Vision Handouts)
5. Gives a headstart to your prep. You don’t have to worry about the timeline of prep and strategy. Which subjects to study and when.
6. Environment: Competing with 400-600 people in a batch and with others. I met some really good people with the spirit of service there.
7. Hand-made notes on almost every subject. This is very important for mains. I’ve got a lot of queries on where to prepare the notes from on mains topics.
1. Affordability: The fee is overpriced. It can cost between Rs 1.5- 2 lakh for a 9-10 months course.
2. Low Support: Almost no personal guidance. You’ll have to be smart yourself to figure out what’s good for you and what’s not.
3. Distraction: The majority crowd is busy making social circles and friends which sometimes hurt their prep. I’m not asking for isolation but you understand my point.
4. Staying in Delhi can cost you fortunes: (On avg > 15k /month cost)+ travel & stationery expenses. Also landlords harass students a lot.
5. Efficiency is low: They’ll complete only 65-75% of your syllabus. Rest you’ll have to figure out yourselves. There’ll be only 2.5-3 hrs class everyday.
6. Cost of Mains Test Series, Essay Writing, other Tests will be extra. And almost no contact after course (except for Interviews and credit).
I had joined Vajiram & Ravi foundation course (2019-20). The above points are noted in this context. They start from basics (even a 12th pass can understand) and take it to the grad level. But for people who learn fast, it might seem slow initially. You can select your classes carefully. I attended almost every class for 9 months, though in some classes I read my own notes or revised things. In March 2020, COVID -19 struck and classes were shut down. Most of the things were self covered post that.
Which coaching institutes are good In Delhi? (Own assessment)
1. Vajiram & Ravi: Flagship is their 40 weeks Foundation course. The result says it all. Some teachers have left but they have found good replacements. Very low personal guidance or support.
2. Vision IAS: Famous for Test series but in recent times producing toppers even from classroom program. Better mentor support on request. Good Manpower.
3. Next IAS: Emerging institute. Promoting their classroom program since 2021, when 5 prominent teachers from Vajiram left the institute and joined NEXT IAS. Since it is a part of Made Easy, they provide good support for Engineering Optionals. They were very supportive during Mains TS and Mock Interviews.
4. Forum IAS: Famous mostly for their Test Series and guidance. (SFG, MPG, AWFG etc). They have excellent mentor support. Teachers are also good.
5. Rau IAS: I’ve heard of good discipline there. Shubhankar (AIR-11) attended their foundation course. There mock tests (pre) are also good.
6. Drishti IAS: It held the monopoly for Hindi medium prep for a long time and now foraying in the ORN for English medium as well. It has been received well and is popular among parents and students through their YOUTUBE mock interviews.
7. Shunya and Only IAS: Good materials, Test series and online support. Newer institutes.
For rest of the coaching, I don’t have much concrete data. That’s all I have to say. Suit yourselves.
Can it be done by Self Preparation?
In short, yes, and can be done comprehensively.
When should you self prepare?
1. When you have a basic understanding of the nature of the exam. Or,
2. Have already prepared many things. Or,
3. Serious overlap with graduation subjects. Or,
4. If you hold expertise in subjects like Economics, Public Policy etc. Or,
5. Cannot afford any coaching. Or,
6. You’re a working aspirant. Or,
7. Have 2-3 year timeline of preparation. Or,
8. Have clarity about your goal early on, say in 1st year of Graduation.
-In many cases, self prep take time, since an expert and good teacher can make things simpler for you to digest. Lack of mentors is also a big challenge.
-Also in self prep, it is difficult to balance prelims and mains preparation and many topics like Ethics, Internal Security, social justice are left.
-It is also difficult to have self made notes on everything.
-People tend to lose track of their timeline for prep.
-Tend to get exhaustive with multiple attempts.
The Silver lining:
-Post COVID, most of the materials and even mentor support is available online. Test series, evaluation and feedback are available at your computer screen at your home.
– A hybrid model which includes support from coaching institutes for difficult topics, subjects & strategy and rest by self effort can also be devised.
Now, It is your call which method suits you the best!
Words from one of the rankers this year!
Story 1. In his own words. (Will not disclose name)
“Let me share my story. I hope if anyone is going through the same, I’d like to tell you that there are so many like you.
I’ve quit a corporate job that paid me 16 lakhs per annum for full time civils prep.
First attempt, reached the interview but couldn’t clear the final cut off by 10 marks. It shattered me. But it gave me hope that I can clear this exam if I put in more effort. During my second attempt, I had a series of personal losses, my dadaji, my pet, my mamaji, all passed away in a span of 2 months. It made me so sad and disillusioned, still I gave my all in second attempt, thought it was better than my first attempt- didn’t clear mains
Third attempt- cse 2020, gave my best, been also taking therapy sessions in the past one year to improve my mental health. Even 3 weeks before mains 2020 I had therapy sessions. Cleared the exam this time, but been terribly disappointed with the rank.
Now I feel is it even worth to leave a top corp job and to have inflicted upon myself all this.
But then I tell myself, I know a person who has given 6 interviews and still didn’t qualify. I know people who are a million times more intelligent than me and deserve to be in top 50 but they were never in the final list. Maybe all our pain is relative, not saying this to invalidate other’s pain. But maybe we don’t know but we’re in a better position than others.
Not saying people can go again with the same rigour, maybe some can, some cannot. There are no easy answers here, no simple decisions to make.
But I can say, there are so many people out there, who’ve gone through more than me and had bouts of panic attacks, depression and yet they’re strong and are battling it out. I personally know so many of them. They’re super heroes.
I’ve now reached a realisation that, upsc is now a casino, where your skill can only give you a “chance”, there is always luck which will give you the outcome.
Unfortunately this exam is all about jo jeeta wahin sikander.
Only the top ten rankers can be happy absolutely, because they’ll get the service and cadre they desire. For everyone else, there is disappointment regarding cadre or service or self doubts whether they can improve their rank again.”
Mains EExam Preparation strategy by RAVI KUMAR AIR 38 UPSC Topper
Since the Main Exam is less than a week away, I wish all those who are appearing all the very best.
Some last minute tips, if you relate to them:
- Leave the new contents completely and focus on revision.
- Mains is as much about mindset as about prep. So condition yourself with the exam and be confident on your preparation.
- Try to attempt as much questions as possible. Even a single mark counts.
- Don’t be very thoughtful and creative at the beginning and Doctor at the end. Devote your time proportionately and write with speed.
- Fix your sleep schedule and study in 3 hours slots atleast.
- You’ve got this.
May the force be with you!!