This is the 24th Topper Journey & Strategy post from the Batch of 2023. Sakshi Mishra cleared CSE-22 with AIR-299 in her 2nd attempt and has detailed her Prelims, Mains and PSIR optional strategy in this post.
My name is Sakshi Mishra. I was born in a small town called Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh. I have done my schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya. After this, I did B.A. Prog (Political Science and History) from Lady Shri Ram College for Women (DU), which ended in 2020.
You can Contact Sakshi on her Instagram Profile
While in college, I was a part of a weekend batch in Raus IAS for GS. But due to various engagements in college, I couldn’t pay the required attention to the coaching.
My ‘serious’ preparation started around September 2020. I was uncertain about the 2021 attempt at this point. However, since the prelims got postponed to October due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, I decided to attempt that. At this point, my preparation was half-baked and I was still exploring the best strategy to cover the entire syllabus. Needless to say, this showed in my result and I missed the final cut-off by a close distance.
My second attempt was in 2022, where I was fully dedicated and had gained some amount of confidence in my preparation. My optional is PSIR. By the grace of God, I secured AIR 299 in UPSC CSE 2022. I have attached my marksheets here –
Sakshi Mishra UPSC Marksheet (Mains)
Sakshi Mishra UPSC Marksheet (Prelims)
- My core focus was on relatively static subjects like Polity, Modern Indian History, Economy etc. I made notes out of the basic books (Yes, I am a ‘notes person’ – made notes out of Lakshmikant as well!) and revised them multiple times. I made notes in a format which is easier to revise. Topics such as uprisings and reform movements in history were compiled in the form of a table. I marked most locations of Geography and Environment on maps.
- For more dynamic subjects like IR, Environment, S&T etc; while I covered the basics from standard sources, my focus was more on current affairs (I went through two different yearly CA Compilations for these).
- For CSAT, I went through PYQs since 2015 and since I was scoring around 100 in most of them, I didn’t feel the need to do anything extra here. However, the actual paper turned out to be a bit difficult. So, I attempted fewer questions but ensured accuracy in them. Moreover, in light of this year’s CSAT paper, I would advise everyone to do some more practice in addition to the PYQs
- I gave around 30-40 mocks for GS from institutes like Vision IAS, GS Score and Forum IAS.
- Finally, one thing which I have understood about prelims is that while knowledge is important, having a calm and confident mindset is equally important. One might not know all the answers, but by being cool – headed, we can make more calculated guesses. I had studied from the same notes in 2021 and 2022. So, what changed in those eight months – I was nervous and under-confident in 2021 as I knew that I was not fully prepared. In 2022, I went with a confident outlook. I was patient even when I did not know five questions in a row.
- Syllabus is the most important element here – I made sure to cover each and every word mentioned in the detailed GS syllabus.
- Revision of my notes was crucial here as well. I had made short notes of important topics which made it easier to revise them in the last few weeks. I had also compiled a basic list of statistics, important judgements etc. which became a point of value addition to my answers.
- I went through toppers’ copies to understand the basic structure of answers. Most of my answer writing was done after prelims. In the last few weeks, I also tried to write two full length tests in one day, just to get acquainted to the actual scenario. Most of my answers followed an intro-body-conclusion format. I tried to attempt all the questions in the papers and hence writing speed played an important role here.
- I had given a few tests of Vision IAS after the 2021 prelims. After 2022 prelims, I subscribed to the MGP of Forum IAS.
For PSIR –
- The basic source was here were the notes of Shubhra Ranjan madam, along with a couple of standard books.
- The key to writing decent answers in optional is to also understand the theoretical foundation of the topics.
- Most of my answers had some theory portion as well.
- I tried to present the criticism / counter viewpoint also.
- There is no need to stuff your answers with various scholars – but try to include one or two of them.
- For the 20 marks questions, I tried to make a quick structure before actually writing the answers.
- Time management is again a crucial skill here (I was a little slow in Paper 1 and could only finish one-third of my last 15 marker answer).
- Paper 2 Section B is the most dynamic of all. So, I tried to add some current affairs aspect to most of those answers.
MY SOURCES –
GS 1 –
- Modern India – Spectrum
- Art & Culture – Nitin Singhania sir’s book
- World History / Post Independence were roughly covered from my college notes.
- Geography – NCERTs
- Society – Googled stuff based on syllabus
GS II – (I had PSIR Optional as well)
- Polity – Lakshmikant
- Governance – Internet + Mains 365
- IR – Saw major CA themes from Rau’s Compass and Mains 365
- Social Justice – Googled stuff based on syllabus
GS – III
- Economy – Indian Economy by Vivek Singh sir
- Environment – Shankar IAS + Mains 365
- S&T – Mains 365
- Disaster Management – Googled stuff based on syllabus
- Decode Ethics by Mudit Jain sir
I also selectively referred to some past year topper’s notes
- Utkarsh Dwivedi sir’s blog (GS + PSIR both)
- Telegram channel of Jayant Rathore sir & Rishabh Rewar sir (esp for Governance and Social Justice)
- Telegram Channel of Shreya Shree ma’am for GS IV
Lastly, for both Prelims and Mains, I added a lot of stuff from mocks.
Lastly, all I want to say is that – in the beginning, this journey might look arduous, but if you keep going – patiently and consistently, one step at a time; it becomes doable. As Ginny Weasley said in Harry Potter & the Order of Phoenix, “Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve”.