Surbhi Goyal UPSC IAS Marksheet, PDF Notes, Biography

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Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper
Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Table of Contents

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Marksheet

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Marksheet

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Marksheet

A brief history of modern India (Spectrum)Get Book
Indian Art and Culture by Nitin SinghaniaGet Book
Certificate Physical & Human Geography by GC LeongGet Book
AtlasGet Book
Indian Polity by LaxmikanthGet Book
Indian EconomyGet Book
Shankar IAS EnvironmentGet Book
Internal Security and Disaster Management by AshokGet Book

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Biography

Hello everyone, I’m Surbhi Goyal. I’ve achieved AIR 78 in UPSC CSE 2021. My optional was anthropology. I will be sharing my UPSC strategy, tips and notes through this channel. I will also try share other useful links that might help in your preparation.

Since prelims is only a few days away, I will be first sharing some important last minute tips by the end of the day. If you’ve any questions regarding the same, please feel free to ask here, so that I will be able to address them in the tips I post later today.

Please ask the doubts regarding the prelims on 5th June here. Please be specific to ask questions regarding this prelims. I will discuss the Mains and Optional topics in separate posts.

This was my 3rd attempt and I didn’t clear prelims the last two times. For anyone facing similar situation, I’d say continue believing in yourself and working hard. Forget about your past failures and give yourself a chance again.

Prelims Preparation Strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Some last minute advice for aspirants appearing on the 5th June for prelims:

1. Confidence is the key – This is the time when most aspirants doubt themselves and feel anxious if they’ve revised/covered enough. It is very natural and I also had similar thoughts, but don’t let it overwhelm you. I would advise you all to please believe in yourself during this time if you’ve studied diligently throughout the year. This is what helped me calm down. Also, talk to any person who supports you. My parents were very supportive of me and helped me in remaining calm before the exam. If you’re anxious, you won’t have the highest efficiency while eliminating or might mark incorrect answers. Confidence makes a huge difference in prelims. Everyone is nervous, I advise you to be a little less nervous than others.

2. Revise important subjects like Polity, History, Geography or Economics for the last few days. You can revise maps or other important facts that you often forget. Please don’t try to learn anything new right now, unless it is very essential.

3. Don’t give mocks now and don’t judge yourself based on mock marks. I’ve scored everything between 78- 120 in my mocks. Take them as a stepping stone.

4. You can look at PYQs if you haven’t, especially 2021 one, whose answer key has just been released by UPSC.

5. While giving the exam, don’t limit yourself to attend a fixed number of questions. Every exam is new and different. You know best which questions you will answer correctly. It isn’t important to answer every question correctly. In 2020 prelims, I attempted 91 questions and missed the cutoff by 1 mark. In 2021, I attempted 80 questions and secured 9 marks above the cutoff. I’m only sharing this so that you don’t force yourself to attempt and get extra negative marks. Most importantly, the ones you know should be attempted correctly.

6. Elimination must be by logic, and not by random ticking. If you’ve a logical intuition/hunch, you should go for it. If in the first round, you’ve come down to 2 options, you can mark them there itself to save time. Try to use knowledge holistically while eliminating and don’t assume the answers, especially in S&T, where many students mark ‘D’ without thinking. UPSC has changed this approach since 2020, so please give a thought before marking ‘D’ blindly. Also, if there’s any short form, eg: mSTRIPES, then you can guess it will be related to animals. Similarly, if there’s a question on women in Vijayanagara empire, since it was a very progressive empire, one can guess women will have all the capabilities mentioned (2021).

7. Attention during exam – Please keep an eye on time at regular intervals and mark the answers timely. I used to fill the OMR sheet page by page in question paper. It ensured that I don’t miss out on any questions and I didn’t have to fill all the answers at once (which can be confusing). That having been said, if you’ve a different approach, don’t change it now. Also, keep a count of how many questions you’ve attempted after a round. Another thing is don’t distract yourself by what other people might be doing, just think that you only have prelims question paper in front of you and nothing else.

8. Revise CSAT in the break between the two exams. Please don’t ignore it. I had made short 10 page notes of formulas that were very helpful for me. If you guys need CSAT last minute notes, I can share here. Don’t ignore verbal section in exam, some passages are very easy and scoring.

9. Please don’t hesitate in giving the exam. It is natural that one fears and feels they’ve not done enough, but if you’ve studied decently throughout the year, you CAN get through. Every year you’ll fear the exam and every year exam will have only ~40 questions that you know. So, go for it. Only prelims can lead to mains.

Last 1 day schedule for UPSC Civil Services Exam by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Schedule on the previous and exam day – Revise as much as you want on the last day and take a minimum 6 hour sleep, though 8 hours is best. I used to study a lot on last day so I slept around 6 hours, because its the last day we can give our studies the best effort. On the exam day, try to reach the centre at least 1.5 hours before and take some home packed food with you for break time. Carry a water bottle and don’t get anxious by seeing other aspirants studying.

Lastly, it’s not luck based. Every aspirant will get the same question paper, so it will be equally tough for everyone. You should try to do your best in the exam hall and do justice to your whole-year preparation. All the best to everyone! You can do this!

I’ve tried to answer all doubts (though it has become a little lengthy) and I hope it helps you all. Thank you for all the wishes 🙂

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Prelims Marksheet (3rd attempt)

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Marksheet
Prelims Marksheet of 3rd attempt

Surbhi Goyal UPSC IAS Prelims Marksheet (1st attempt)

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Marksheet
My first prelims marksheet. In this prelims, I was very under confident and marked answers wrongly because of nervousness. Please take a lesson and believe 100% in yourself tomorrow.

Surbhi Goyal UPSC IAS Prelims Marksheet (2nd attempt)

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Marksheet
My second prelims marksheet. This year, cut off was 92.51 and I didn’t make it by less than 1.5 marks. This shows that we shouldn’t over attempt if you don’t know the answers, as extra negatives can be harmful. (I attempted 92 questions)By sharing these marksheets, I hope that many aspirants who have had past failures will continue believing in themselves tomorrow so that you can give ultimate fruition to your year long hard work.

CSAT Preparation Strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

A lot of students here and on Insta have asked me about how to attempt CSAT paper. A few pointers for that:

  1. Please revise math formulas that you’ve have or the one I’ve shared. In my 2nd attempt, CSAT was the toughest, so please revise formulas in break time.
  2. I used to keep 20 questions for half hour and 10 questions for 15 minutes. I was very strict with time. Once I wasted 15 minutes by getting stuck on a question (in my 2nd attempt), please don’t do this mistake. Even though you’ve already given it time, still give it up after 5-6 minutes.
  3. I attempted questions sequentially as some passages are easy and scoring.
  4. As per my analysis of CSAT answers keys, Quant and Logical reasoning questions are more reliable. If you’ve solved them, you’ll get a mark. I mostly got incorrect from Verbal section, so I attended it in a limited quantity.
  5. I attempted 59 questions in CSAT last year and got around 43-44 correct. Don’t blind guess in Quant and Logical questions. They will get you through.

Best wishes to students by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

All the best for the prelims exam tomorrow. Believe in yourself 100% tomorrow. The paper will be equally tough for everyone. Recall the support given by your family and friends and give those 2 hours your best. May the force be with you! Fighting!

Tips and Preparation Strategy after UPSC Prelims exam by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Now that prelims is done and dusted, I would like to give some advice to aspirants who’ve given this prelim exam.

1. Please use this time to Enjoy. You have worked very hard since past months, and you deserve a break, regardless of the result. You must have slept less and studied a lot during this phase. Take a break of 4-5 days and do things you enjoy – Be it going out, Netflix or social media.

2. Please don’t check unlimited answer keys. I used to check only 3-4 answers keys and they will give you a rough idea of where you stand. I used to refer to IAS Baba, Drishti and Vision mainly as they release answer keys quickly. Don’t run after every other answer key discussion and cutoff speculation. UPSC has a unique answer key and no amount of discussion will help you.

For example, in my 2nd attempt, I was scoring way above (around 102) cutoff (92.5) as per every coaching answer keys, but I didn’t make it. And in my 3rd attempt, I had borderline marks (90), but in my final marksheet, I’ve scored way higher (96) compared to coaching answers keys.

3. If you’re getting anything above 70, make a plan for studying after a few days break. I took a 2 week break after prelims as I was anxious about results and spent a lot of time crying. Please don’t repeat my mistake and use this time fruitfully. Results usually come after 18-19 days. Make a plan and study so that if you clear it, you’ll be happy you used your time well.

4. If you’re getting lower marks, don’t extend your break indefinitely. You can still make it if you’re in border category. If otherwise, still you will have to find strength to study as you will be giving the exam next year. I know, it’s easier to say, but I have been there and I know exactly how it feels. But please don’t cry and get disheartened before results.

If anyone who has given prelims, has any doubts, you can ask and I’ll try to answer.

PS: I will soon be posting a detailed strategy on GS, Essay & Anthropology, along with notes and video. Please wait a little.

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Instagram I’d

If you guys are on Instagram, here’s my ID: surbhigoyal_96. I will try to take doubts of aspirants on here whenever I get time. Though my main channel of guidance will be Telegram and YouTube videos only.

P.S.: If you guys use Instagram or other social media apps, please use them in moderation. During my 3rd attempt, I used to follow a few toppers I felt connected to, to keep myself motivated.

Secret Preparation strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

In this post, I’ve tried to cover the following aspects. A lot of students have asked me doubts on these issues, so you can check this –
1. Preparing for Essay and GS4
2. Preparing CSAT
3. Emotional aspects like how to deal with distractions and the fear of missing out; how to stay motivated after repeated failures; how to remain consistent in studies and dealing with anxiety before exams.
4. How many hours I studied, how I studied and made a timetable (helpful for 2023 attempt).
5. When to give tests or write answers.
6. Importance of breaks and enjoyments while studying for mental health.
7. The struggles I faced during my journey and how I viewed them.
8. How to choose optional and why I took anthropology.
9. How to check if you’re going in the right direction while preparing.
10. How I used Only IAS platform for editorials and map (only genuine use; no ads)
11. Importance of maintaining confidence

If you want translation of any particular part in English, you can tell here. I will try to share the English transcript.

UPSC CSE Essay Preparation Strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Essay paper is a very important part of the UPSC examination and shouldn’t be ignored, even if you have good writing skills.

1. I have shared the basic outline of my essay strategy in my youtube videos at Only IAS & DKT. You can refer to them as per your need.
2. I referred to essay blog by Anudeep Durishetty sir. I also read essays by toppers like Vikram Grewal and Saumya Pandey.
3. Regarding how to write essays, I will be sharing my notes. They are very detailed and I had compiled ideas of some toppers for my use. They also contain some pointers on how to maintain flow and time division.
4. For time management, I used to allocate 10 minutes for choosing topic. 25 minutes for brainstorming each and 1 hour for writing each. As my speed was good, I sometimes reduced the writing time and increased the brainstorming time.
5. For introduction, I often began with story/ anecdote/ self written poem.
6. For conclusion, I used quotations/ poems by Tagore, Gandhiji, etc. or I used to refer to the story I mentioned in the beginning.
7. I also used quotations throughout the body of essay. Eg: This time I wrote on the topic of “your perception of me is a reflection of you…”. In this, I explained how patriarchal notions view women as weaker sex. For this, I used a quotation by GD Anderson, which said “Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong, it’s about changing the way the world perceives the strength”.
8. Philosophical essays – Please don’t ignore them as UPSC has shifted its focus entirely towards them. In 2021, most of the questions were philosophical. I enjoyed writing them and hence, I devoted most of my time for them.
9. Topical essaysYou shouldn’t ignore them completely and prepare few important topics that are oft repeated like IR, Women, health and education, environment, agriculture, etc.
10. Choosing essays – This should be based on what topic you like, or you’re comfortable with. Don’t choose topic based on what others will choose or if it’s a common topic or not.
11. Use simple english with flow. Don’t use ornamental words or really long sentences.

Suggestions for people giving mains this year:
1. If you have practised essays beforehand, you are already good at it and you can give 3-5 tests as per your convenience. I was in the same position.
2. If you haven’t practised till now, start immediately and don’t wait for results.

Suggestions for people giving prelims in 2023 or later:
1. Practise essays throughout the year if you’re aiming for next year or you are sure you will not be able to make it this time. I did the same, even though I believe I have decent writing skills.
2. Go for weekly/ biweekly essays till 3 months before prelims.
3. Don’t shy away or delay essay writing. It carries equal importance.

Coaching I took for essays: I only relied on coachings for checking my essay copies.
1. IAS Network for weekly/ biweekly essay writing throughout the year. I will suggest it for students giving exam next year in 2023 or later. 
2. Vision IAS test (had 3 tests) after clearing prelims exam. This can be chosen by students giving exam this year.
Both of them gave me good feedback and insights, with which I was able to improve my essays.

I will be sharing some of my essays, essay notes and quotations today itself. Please refer to them as per your need. Hope it helps 🙂

History Preparation strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

1. Ancient history – old NCERT by RS Sharma
2. Medieval history – old NCERT by Satish Chandra
3. Modern history – Spectrum


1. I didn’t make notes for ancient and medieval history as I found these books too bulky. I made notes for modern history, as it was difficult to revise from Spectrum every time. Note making helps to reduce revision time significantly.
2. These subjects are very important and should be given due importance. I didn’t add any new books, but focused on revising these as they give holistic coverage.


1. Though ancient and medieval aren’t mentioned in mains syllabus, some aspects are still important for the exam. Please make a list of such topics by analysing PYQs and make their notes for revision at mains’ time. These topics include –
1.1 Vijayanagar empire
1.2 Travellers in ancient and medieval history
1.3 Numismatics of Gupta times or Mughal times
1.4 Indus Valley civilisation
1.5 Buddhism and Jainism development

2. How to write answers
2.1 Use name of session’s place, year and President in modern history. Eg: 1907 Surat session under Rashbehari Ghosh can be used in answer introduction for explaining split between moderates and extremists.
2.2 Use name of viceroys like Hardinge or Irwin in introduction.
2.3 Refer to my DKT video for some good ideas. I’m not repeating those points here.
2.4 You can use fundamental duty 51A article in conclusion which mentions to cherish our history and freedom struggle
2.5 For topics like women/ Dalit reforms, prepare a list of bodies formed like Arya Mahila Samaj and their founders.
2.6 Make a map to show where 1857 revolt happened, where all Non Cooperation movement happened, etc.
2.7 Try to remember important years and mention in answer introduction.

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I will be posting some section of notes of these subjects later today.

Coaching institute joined by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Role of coaching in my journey

In short: I did self study throughout my journey and relied on coaching’s test series for all stages.

At length:


1. I had joined Vajiram and Ravi classes in 2018, but after attending their classes for a week, I realised it won’t help me much as these things can be studied on our own better. Their pace was slow and subject distribution random. I like studying one subject at a time, so I stopped attending them soon after. I did self study for my entire journey.

2. Vision IAS –
2.1 I joined Vision prelims test series for all my attempts. I found them helpful as compared to others in the market and comparatively closer to actual examination.
2.2 I also joined their mains test series (sectional + full length) for my 3rd attempt in October, after I didn’t clear prelims in 2nd attempt.
2.3 I joined their essay test series after I cleared prelims in 3rd attempt. It had 3 tests. I liked the questions and evaluation provided by the tests and questions were also helpful.

3. IAS Network – I joined them in my 3rd attempt for daily answer writing/ tests evaluation and essay checking. Their daily checking helped me in analysing my performance. I used pyqs for daily writing. Most of the evaluations were helpful.

4. Only IAS – I watched their daily editorial discussion to find out which editorials to select and read. Also, during prelims time, I watched their map series as it helped me in revision and was comprehensive.

5. Unacademy – I attended Mrunal sir’s videos on Economics for my first attempt and later revisions sir published for my later attempts. It was my only source of economics for prelims and it was very helpful in my opinion.


1. Joined Vajiram, but same; stopped attending after a week. The teacher wasn’t helpful in my opinion. I did self study for anthropology also.

2. L2A – I joined sectional test series in my 2nd attempt and 2 full length test series in 3rd attempt after prelims result. It was very helpful for me as sir gave useful remarks and scores given were motivating to me. Though sometimes it took time, sir helped me whenever I asked him any doubts.

– As I had interview on first day, I had time for giving only few mocks.
1. KSG – I gave my first mock here, and later had one on one session with Khan sir. The interview was helpful in highlighting my mistakes and motivating me. Khan sir is a very positive person and he motivated me a lot to perform better.

2. Vajirao & Reddy – Gave another mock here. My mock was the worst here because I was extremely nervous, but the mock helped me in correcting some fundamental issues.

3. Vision IAS – I gave the bureaucrat one mock here (not the faculty one). It was a very good experience; I tried to eliminate most of my earlier mistakes and the board was very encouraging to me.

4. Next IAS – I gave my last mock here. In this, I was most confident and it went very smoothly. The board was very helpful and encouraged me a lot again. I also joined them for the engineering material, which I found useful.

I hope this helps the students who had doubts about where I attended coaching or which test series I joined. If any institution shows my name, then also, you’ll know which ones actually helped me. A little piece of advice in the end: You can do this on your own, through self study, and refine your preparation by using tests series.

UPSC Geography Optional Booklist and Preparation strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper


Booklist –
1. NCERTs class XI & XII
2. Rajtanil mam lectures on Mrunal sir’s Youtube channel
3. For the mains topic of “Distribution of key natural resources around the world and factors affecting their location”, I used  Mrunal sir’s website.
4. Maps – Oxford Atlas
5. For some topics which I didn’t understand, I took help from these two sources:
A. PMF IAS website
B. Amit Sengupta youtube channel for understanding NCERT topics

Answer writing strategy –
1. You can begin your answers with a definition. Eg: If the question is on a landslide, you should define landslide.
2. Then, you can add facts and figures in the introduction itself. Eg: You can mention the % of the area affected by landslides. I will share a comprehensive facts pdf soon, which also has geography-related facts.
3. Draw maps always in geography answers. If the question is on world geography, draw a world map.
4. Draw diagrams where possible. You can draw diagrams in plate tectonics, soil mantle, etc. I will share my diagram pdf of geography, which I made for last-minute mains revision.
5. In conclusion, you can mention SDGs related to the topic. You can also mention the human geography aspect, to show its connection to physical geography.
6. Practise PYQs. Many questions will not be covered by your syllabus, and you can cover them by doing PYQs.
7. Add case studies for solutions Eg: if you’re discussing water stress, talk about Netherlands as best practise or Mission Kakatiya. If you’re talking about irrigation, give example from Israel. I will share a list of best practises I made as well for different subjects.

Geography has the highest weightage in GS1 mains examination so please don’t ignore it at any cost.

Map making – Please do this as much as possible. This will help you in prelims and mains both. I will share my maps with you here so that you can understand how to make them. I added a new river or pass to my map whenever I found a new one in the prelims test.

I will be sharing some of my geography notes as well as my maps and diagrams here for your help 🙂

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper giving speech

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper
Since many of you aren’t active on Instagram, I wanted to share this message with all of you here. Often, when we are preparing, we are doubtful of ourselves and wonder if we will ever crack the exam. I was often scared about “what will happen in the future”.
So, I just wanted to share with you all that please believe in yourselves, no matter where you are in your journey right now. Don’t compare yourself to fellow aspirants or to your friends working in private sector. Don’t doubt yourself, especially in times like these, when prelims result is very close. Keep on studying hard, and you will reach your destination, sooner or later.

Secret message for those who are Unable to clear Prelims

Since the prelims result has been declared, I wanted to say something to all of you. My this message is mainly for those who haven’t been able to clear the prelims.

The first thing I want to say is that please cry as much as you can. Failing in prelims stage is one of the worst feelings in the world and I will not sugarcoat it for you. If you’ve failed more than once, then it’s even worse. I understand how heartbroken you must be feeling right now. I used to cry a lot for a week when I didn’t get through. Crying will help you release your emotions.

The second thing is to share the result with your friends or family. Please don’t face this situation alone. Share it with someone who believes in you and wishes well for you.

Also, please take a few days break from the studies so that you can start afresh later. Please don’t spend your time thinking what your score or cutoff was. You will not know this for an entire year. In my second attempt, I thought I failed CSAT, but when results came, I came to know I failed by 1 mark in GS.

A golden advice: Prepare for the whole year for mains so well that next time you clear all the three stages in one go. So that you don’t have to get stuck in this vicious cycle. I did the same when I failed prelims twice.

Most importantly, don’t doubt yourself right now. You failed in one exam, you didn’t fail in your life or career. You’re not disappointing anybody. Even if you didn’t make it, it doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard. You worked very hard and you will get its fruits, sooner or later. You’re a capable person.

Please take care of yourself and we will begin again on this arduous journey. You’re a fighter and you don’t need my motivation to stand up again. Each one of you can do this, if not today, then next year for sure!

How to manage time for UPSC Mains after the prelims result?

For those who’ve cleared:
1. Don’t waste even a second of your time from now on. It is a huge opportunity and give it the respect it deserves. Every students who has cleared prelims must be working very hard right now, and you should too. Work for it like its the only chance you’ll ever get at mains.

2. Divide your time between revisions of GS & Optional. Either you can complete optional first and keep some time for its revision during GS. Or you can divide each day between GS & Optional. Try to do at least 2-3 revisions of the entire syllabus.

3. Don’t ignore subjects like security, world history, post-independence history, etc. which will carry weightage in the exams. I will be sharing my notes and strategy for them.

4. Complete your value addition content if you haven’t already. I will be sharing this very soon and you can take help from there.

5. Don’t hesitate in giving mocks now. Right after you complete revising GS1, give its mock. Also, practise in exam like situation in the last month and give two mocks on the same day. If you’re exceeding time, then practise daily answer writing. Keep daily ethics answer writing.

For those who’ve not cleared: Take a few days off and start again for mains. Don’t lose your motivation & consistency. You might be thinking it’s easy for me to say, but it’s not. I have been there. But, getting back up after failing and working even harder is the only thing that will help you in clearing the exam.

1. Prepare for mains in such a manner that next time, when you clear prelims, you don’t get stuck in the loop of failing at next stages. So that you get the service you want in a single try. Failing at later stages will hurt even more, trust me.

2. Start with optional, if you haven’t finished it. If you’ve, join its sectional test series.

3. Complete the entire GS syllabus along with weekly essay practise. Use your failure in prelims as an opportunity. This is what I did when I failed in prelims for the second time. Completing the syllabus and giving tests.

Maintain your consistency, and remember that it’s better to work hard today, rather than facing another failure in future. This is what motivated me the most. As I was devastated after not clearing prelims two times, I was set on not facing the same emotions again.

UPSC GS 2 MAINS Preparation Strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

My complete GS-2 Strategy

1. Polity – M. Laxmikant (For prelims also), 2nd ARC report number 6
2. Governance – 2nd ARC Reports (4, 9, 10, 11, 12) & Vision IAS value addition material
3. Social Justice – Vision IAS value addition material & NITI Aayog 3 year action agenda (selectively as per syllabus)
4. International Relations – Vision IAS mains 365
5. Shubra Ranjan Booklets for the entire GS-2 – This is an excellent source to develop analytical capacity and critical discussion in answers. &
6. Current affairs – Vision IAS monthly magazines & The Hindu editorials

How to write answers in GS-2?
1. Always begin your polity answers with Constitutional articles For example, if the question is on DPSPs, mention Article 38-51 in Part IV of the Constitution in introduction.

2. Whenever possible, add judgements to enrich your answers. Like in the question for police reforms, mention Prakash Singh judgement. Also, add committees in social justice and polity, like for election reforms, mention Dinesh Goswami committee.

3. Add facts and figures for entire GS-2. In polity, mention percentage figures for parliament productivity in graph form (compare productivity of 1990s and today). In IR, mention trade figures with US, China, etc. In Social justice, mention % of poverty, etc. You can show them more accurately using graphs or maps.

4. For conclusion, you can use suggestions by 2nd ARC, National Commission to Review the Working of Constitutiton, NITI Aayog 3 year action agenda and Strategy for new India @75. Don’t read these reports completely; refer to the suggestions part for relevant topics.

5. Try to maintain balanced answers in polity. For example, if the question is about parliament’s productivity, mention how more bills are passed (+ve) but lesser standing committees are being referred to (-ve).

6. In IR, try to give a historical context in answers. For example, in 2021 paper, there was a question on US-China axis replacing US-Russia threat. Here, I first explained how Russia was a big deal to US in the past, but what’s different today.

7. Again, in IR, try to cover relations from various dimensions like defence, technology, economic, political, strategic, etc. This is given nicely in Vision Mains 365.

8. I also tried to add quotes sometimes. I have shared the pdf already. To give an example, in question on women in judiciary, I wrote the quote by Justice Indu Malhotra -“Justice will be served if gender diversity is found on the bench” in conclusion.

9. In Governance, mention case studies and examples for e-governance, SHGs, etc. They are mentioned in ARC report.

10. Try to give analytical answers in GS-2, instead of bookish/ theoretical answers. For this, read The Hindu and Shubra Ranjan mam books. This is the key to gain good score in GS-2.

11. For Social justice, try to understand the problems plaguing different sections of our society like women and hunger. Learn some facts and try to show the issue in flowchart. Like, there’s a vicious cycle between poverty and hunger. Then, mention causes and suggestions from reports, as mentioned above.

12. In conclusion, you can also use SDGs. 

I will be adding some of my important notes and value addition material for your help.

Which ARC reports to read for UPSC CSE EXAM by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper?

There are total 15 reports, you don’t need to read all of them. Try to read only the suggestions, some definitions in the beginning or highlighted boxes and not the complete reports.

⁃  1st : RTI GS4
⁃ 3rd : Crisis management for Disaster management
⁃ 4th : Ethics in governance GS4 & 2
⁃ 6th : Local governance GS2
⁃ 9th : Social capital GS2
⁃ 10th : Refurbishing personnel administration GS2
⁃ 11th : e-governance GS2
⁃ 12th : Citizen centric administration GS 2 & 4

GS 4 Booklist and Preparation strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

GS 4 Strategy


1. Lexicon for basic understanding
2. Vision value addition material
3. R Rajagopalan book for case studies
4. Internet for searching quotes and examples.

I will share my entire GS4 notes soon; you can refer to them also.

Strategy and Answer writing

1. Prepare basic definition and examples of each topic given in the syllabus.
2. Your examples can be used across the paper, so don’t limit them to one topic.
3. Add quotations (Have shared already) wherever you can. You can also add thinker’s perspectives like Gandhiji, Kant, Plato, Vivekananda, etc.
4. In governance questions, you can mention suggestions from 2nd ARC Report.
5. You can mention Civil Services conduct Rules in case studies or governance questions. Similarly, you can mention important acts like Prevention of Corruption act or POSH Act as per the case study.
6. You can add Venn diagrams and flow charts as per the need in theory questions. Eg: A bigger circle showing ethics and smaller concentric circle showing laws. This shows that ethics has wider scope than laws.
7. In case studies, you should always begin by mentioning the current factual situation of the case, if you can. Like if the question is on women safety, then you can mention how many women crimes happen annually.
8. Next, you should mention stakeholders.
9. In Quotations based questions, try to answer with multiple dimensions. Eg: if quote is based on strong will power, then give examples from history (Bose), sports, Tenzing Norway, Hitler (in negative sense), etc.

Giving tests

1. First focus on building content in ethics answers and then, focus on time limit.
2. Practise PYQs a lot in daily answer writing, that will give you a very good understanding.
3. After completing ethics, try to write full length tests. Initially, it will exceed 3 hours but gradually you will be able to complete in 3 hours.
4. While attempting the paper, give equal importance to both sections. Some students give 2 hours to case studies and 1 hour to rest of the paper. Don’t do that. Give 1.5 hours to both sections. I attempted the paper line wise.

LBSNAA MAIL to Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

I wanted to share this email with all of you here. This is just a small proof that dreams do come true. Leave your self doubts and failures behind and work with greater force. I know and believe that each one of you is capable of cracking this exam. You have got this 💪❤️

GS 4 Booklist and Preparation strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

GS 1 Subjects that I’ve not covered previously

1. Society – NCERTs for Class XI & XII (selectively as per the syllabus) and Vision value addition material
2. Post independence history – NCERT Class XII
3. World History- Mrunal sir website & Wikipedia for understanding

Answer Writing strategy
1. Use maps whenever possible. Eg: Show where world wars occurred, show which states wanted separation in post independence times, show which countries are having Indian culture influence (GS1 society question in 2021)
2. Use facts and SDGs/DPSPs in Society answers. For Eg, how many languages and castes India has or Article 51 A asks us to build a harmonious society.
3. Use words like Vasudeva Kutumbakum, Athiti Devo Bhava or words from NITI Aayog’s introduction in Strategy for India @75 like Sankalp se siddhi.
4. You can also use quotes to conclude society answers. I have already shared quotes pdf, it has some quotes very relevant for society like for pluralism and Multiculturalism.
5. For world history and post independence history answers, try to begin by mentioning the introduction of that event and conclude by the future consequences. For eg, in World war 2 questions, you can begin by mentioning the failure of initial setup and conclude by telling how it gave birth to UN and new nation states. It depends on context, try to mention that. I have shared my answer copies, read them to get a general idea.

Don’t ignore these subjects please. Don’t give them more time than needed. Give them adequate time and prepare them so that if a question comes, you are able to answer.

Motivational Post by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Motivational Message
Something I shared yesterday on Instagram and felt like sharing here as well. If you have begun on this journey, it’s only a matter of time till you reach the destination. Don’t let any negativity affect you and keep on walking. ✨
Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Motivational Message
Don’t feel disheartened or anxious during your journey, rather try to stay as positive as you can. I know we can’t stay positive all the time because of the uncertainty and the failures we have had, but still we should make an effort. Trust me, being positive and caring for your mental health will improve your performance tremendously.

Everyone faces struggles that the world knows nothing about, and it may seem that life of others is perfect. But everyone has to overcome their share of struggles; don’t hesitate in stepping forward. You will emerge victorious.

On a side note, would you guys like to read my posts about some philosophical (lol) thoughts of mine/ poems or some books/ shows that I’ve enjoyed. I will only share if most of you’re comfortable with that, otherwise I will keep it strictly limited to study aspect.

GS 3 Booklist and Preparation strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

GS 3 Strategy

1. Economics
1A. Mrunal sir’s lectures on Unacademy for prelims and mains. I took the course once in my first attempt and afterwards, I took the free classes of current affairs updates posted by him on Unacademy. He also covers Economic Survey & Budget.
1B. For mains, I also referred to Vision value addition material.
1C. For current affairs aspect, I used Vision monthly magazines.
1D. Some topics or PYQs that weren’t covered through them, I googled those and found their answers on different websites platform.

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2. Environment
2A. Shankar book for prelims
2B. Vision monthly current affairs magazine

3. Security – Vision value addition material and Vision current affairs magazine

4. Science and Technology
4A. For space developments, I referred to ISRO website where it had posted all the achievements till now. I prepared these for both prelims and mains.
4B. For rest of the topics like nanotechnology and robotics, I referred to 1-2 page notes in Vision S&T Mains365.
4C. For current affairs, Vision current affairs magazine

5. Agriculture
5A. For Crop based questions like rice and pulses, I used Human geography Class XII NCERT
5B. For agriculture schemes, Mrunal sir economic notes
5C. Vision value addition material for topics not covered in these materials

6. Disaster management
6A. Geography NCERT Class XI covers basics of disasters
6B. For recommendations and facts, I referred selectively to NDMA website where it has given guidelines for every disaster.

I have already shared the value addition material. It has facts, committees and examples for all the above subjects. Also, I used PYQs extensively for GS3 because these sources may not cover them entirely with, so whatever is left can be analysed by PYQs and completed.

GS 3 Answer Writing approach

1. Use facts and figures wherever possible. Eg: You can mention India’s target $5 trillion GDP, what percentage of India is affected by naxalism, what percentage of different sources of air pollution, what percentage of India is affected by floods etc
2. Draw maps in internal security, disaster management, environment (wetlands, air pollution main cities etc), agriculture, etc.
3. Draw graphs, especially in economics. For Eg, a graph showing gdp pattern for 4-5 years or FDI Investments for 3-4 years. Try to use figures and graphs from latest economic survey.
4. Use suggestions for conclusion from Niti Aayog’s strategy for India @75. Again, don’t read it entirely. Read it selectively for economics and agriculture.
5. Use SDGs for conclusion.
6. Mention best practises. Eg: for water management, give Eg of Netherlands. For plastic waste, Kerala’s Suchitwa mission.
7. Use the name of committees for economic reforms, security reforms, etc.
8. For economics, try to use keywords from the latest surveys and budgets.
9. In economics answers, try to keep a balanced approach. For Eg, this year question was asked, has India’s GDP growth been V shaped? So I gave points in favour and against both along with graph of GDP.

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Notes

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Notes
This is my note for answer writing strategy. I looked at this before mains. This is applicable for all GS papers and you can use whatever value addition seems fit as per the situation. It also contains some of the best practises that I had prepared.

Favourite books of Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Booklist
Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

I wanted to share a book review of a novel I read recently. I think that while preparing for UPSC, reading can help us get destressed by transporting us to another world. Also, it provides us with wonderful insights on life, which helps us to keep moving. Hoping my review will encourage you guys to read the book if you already haven’t 🙂

P.S: I know many of you have messaged me on Insta and I daily try to answer a lot of doubts, but still it takes some time. I would ask you guys to not message me again & again, as I try to respond to the earliest messages first, so if you will message again, it will become a new message. 🙂

UPSC CSE Current Affairs Preparation Strategy by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

I used to read The Hindu newspaper daily. If you’re comfortable with Indian Express, you can read that; there’s no harm.

Should we read the newspaper daily?
The short answer, in my opinion, is yes. Reading daily newspaper will give a strong foundation and you will develop analytical skills over time. These qualities will help you answer unknown questions in prelims with background knowledge. It will also help you gain a deeper understanding for writing answers in the mains. However, on extremely few days, you can skip the newspapers like public holidays or when you don’t feel like reading at all.

How long to take in reading newspapers?
When I started reading newspapers, it took me 4-5 hours to complete one paper. But gradually, it was reduced to 1 hour – 45 minutes by the end of my journey. You should analayse what kind of news to read in a newspaper and what to avoid. Don’t be afraid of investing time in a newspaper. It will always give you good returns.

How to know what to read in the newspaper?
For this, your guide should be UPSC Syllabus and PYQs. Try to read while focusing on both prelims and mains (optional, gs, ethics). For eg, editorials will help you give knowledge about mains. At the same time, if a piece of news comes on a particular national park, it can be helpful for prelims. Avoid reading repetitive, political, or entertainment news. I used to see Only IAS editorial videos just to choose editorials; I didn’t listen to entire video.

Should we make notes from newspapers?
I tried honestly, but I failed. It is very difficult to make daily notes in such a way that they will be revision friendly, but if you can, then you should. Do whatever suits you the best. But, I always looked at newspapers to find quotes, facts, judgments, committees, examples, optional related news, etc., and took pictures of those things. Then, I added those content in my notes in the value addition one hour I had kept at night.

Then how to revise current affairs? 
I relied on Vision Current affairs magazine throughout my preparation, as I found it simple and comprehensive. You can use anyone, whichever feels best to you. Don’t rely on more than one, in my opinion, as the cost-benefit ratio is less.

How to revise current affairs magazine for prelims?
For prelims, I didn’t make any notes and revised from the magazine itself. I used to mark in the magazine with brackets or underlining that this is relevant for prelims. Throughout the year, I kept 1-2 hours daily for these magazines revision. I kept 5 days for one magazine. In this way, a lot of magazines can be revised again and again even before the time of prelims revision comes. As the magazines are very lengthy and detailed, you can’t learn them if you start just 3 months before prelims. During 3 months before prelims, I divided my 90 days into 11 magazines (June-April) with 2-3 revisions each. So, in this way, I kept roughly 2-3 days per magazine.

How to revise current affairs magazines for mains?

I made notes of mains relevant subjects like polity, economics, society, environment, science, and security. Be very very selective while making notes for mains current affairs, as not everything given in the vision will be asked. Your criteria should be UPSC syllabus & PYQs. Based on that, I made short notes in point format and revised them whenever I gave a sectional test on a particular subject. After prelims, I revised them GS-wise, before giving mock tests.

Are the magazines helpful? Do questions come from them in exams?
Yes, questions do come from magazines in prelims and mains. Not so many, but they are helpful. I have seen questions in GS2/ GS3 this time and prelims that I had revised from Vision.

How many months of magazines to cover? I think, try to cover at least 11-12 months before both prelims and mains. Don’t cover just one month before the exam, like if prelims is on 31st May, you don’t need to read May magazine. Try to focus on older magazines more, if you have less time. Like, give preference to magazines 6 months older instead of 2 months older. If you want to read magazines more than 1 year older, it is not a bad step. But, just remember that you shouldn’t sacrifice the rest of the syllabus to do this. Always keep the cost-benefit ratio in mind.

Should I be alone to Prepare for UPSC?

Many times students ask me that during my preparation journey, did I compare myself with others? I felt like sharing a message with all of you.

Preparing for UPSC can be a very lonely and difficult phase in our life. It is possible that we might compare ourselves to our friends/ cousins, who are working in private sector. We might compare ourselves with students who are also writing prelims or mains. We might check our ranks on portals of Vision or Insights. Some days, we might think that we don’t stand a chance since it is our first attempt whereas so many people are having their third – fourth attempt. It is very natural and nothing new. Most people have experienced such emotions, including me.

But I will tell you how you can change this mindset. This is something I learned in my journey. Try to be secure in your preparation I know it’s not easy to do, but the more secure and composed you are, the more positive energy you will gather within you. Try to learn good things from your peers, friends or toppers. Be happy for your friends who are getting good marks. Try to stay happy while you are studying, keep enjoyable breaks and most importantly, be confident. Also, just know that if you’re working hard, you will succeed. It’s a fact despite the uncertainty by UPSC. Fighting! 💪

Motivational Post by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Motivational Message
Somebody shared this quote on the discussion group and I wanted to share it with all of you here. Thank you to that person for sharing this quote. I had stuck it in my room and used to look at it whenever I was doubting myself if I will be able to perform well in the exam. I, then, tried to remember that if I’m studying daily with good efforts and if I do well in my mocks (not always), then I will do good in actual exams too. This quote really helped me in my mains 😀

Answer Writing Strategy

When to start answer writing? Start answer writing after finishing a topic of whatever subject you’re studying. Don’t start answer writing without studying, it is very discouraging. But, once you have studied, don’t hesitate to write. For eg, if you are reading about the judiciary in polity, then write an answer on it.

From where to find questions for daily answer writing? Use PYQs. This will mold you in the way UPSC demands unknowingly. I used PYQs from 2013. There are a lot of PYQs, so don’t worry if you can’t cover them all. Use mental answer writing for some of them.

How to write answers?
1. Don’t fear that you can’t write good answers. Don’t hesitate that you will not be able to write as good answers as UPSC demands. Once this fear goes out, your skills will start to develop.
2. You already must be knowing the intro-body-conclusion format and try to prefer the point format, whenever you can. It’s handy for both you and the examiner.
3. On how to write intros and conclusions, you can refer to my strategy for each subject as I’ve given or any other topper’s strategy, whatever you feel like.
4. Add facts, data, graphs, flowcharts, maps, articles, judgments, etc. when you start answer writing.
5. Try to learn whatever you are reading before beginning answer writing. For eg, if you were reading judiciary, don’t just read it, but read it actively so that you can recall on your own. This will develop your skill for mains to recall answers on the spot.
6. Focus more on quality initially, then try to focus on the time limit.

When to give mock tests? Once you complete an entire subject, you can give its 3-hour sectional test. After completing the entire GS 1/2/3/4 syllabus, give mocks accordingly.

How to give test series?
1. Your first focus should be on completing the paper in time. It will not be possible on the first try, but keep on trying. Anything you write beyond the time limit doesn’t count. But still, write it to get it evaluated.
2. Secondly, focus on completing the entire paper and not leaving any questions. Once you start completing the entire paper, you are already ahead in the race. Completing the entire paper doesn’t mean only finishing the paper in 3 hours, it also means writing answers to the questions you are not aware of.
3. I used to divide my time into two 1.5 hours. My focus was to complete five 10 and 15 markers each in the first 1.5 hours and the same for the next 1.5 hours. This made time management very very easy for me. I kept the first 35 minutes (5 questions X 7 minutes) for 10 markers, then the rest of 55 minutes (5 questions X 10.5 minutes) for 15 markers. I repeated the same for the next 1.5 hours but in the opposite order. So, my entire paper was solved in this manner -> five 10 marker questions — 15 mark questions (all) — five 10 marker questions.
4. Make a habit to inculcate graphs, figures, maps, data, flowcharts, articles, etc. as soon as you start giving tests. It will exceed your time a little initially, but gradually your speed will increase.

How to get them evaluated? I got my daily answer writing evaluated from the IAS network, as well as my Vision test series from there. I got evaluated my Vision test series from Vision also. I’d say that I was satisfied with both of their evaluations and you can rely on them if you are in doubt. I always used to write my time taken (within the time limit or extra time) on my answer sheets (daily/ full length), so that the evaluator can take that into account and give us a suggestion accordingly.

How to analyse our evaluated answer sheets?
1. Understand where you’re lacking and where you’re good. Improve on your weaknesses, are you lacking in the main points or just value addition? Also, focus on when you get good marks, what is that the evaluator liked? Try to remember it and add it whenever possible.
2. Another way is to incorporate their suggestions in your answers, but don’t lose your authenticity. You can take advice that you like and not every piece of advice; be selective.
3. I also used to check answers to these PYQs online or read Vision solutions for test series, if I wanted to check the content of the questions.

Should we give sectional mock tests or entire GS mock tests? Depends on the situation. If you’re preparing for 2023, then go for sectional tests now and the entire GS ones after the prelims. If you’re targeting this year’s mains, prefer entire GS tests and read the solutions of sectional ones.

If you’re exceeding the time limit in answer writing, what to do?
1. Understand why you are exceeding the time limit. If you are exceeding the word limit, count your words daily till you get a hold of them. I did that a lot. Prefer to write 10 words lesser than the word limit, instead of 20 words extra. It’s okay to exceed the word limit once in a while, but don’t do it so much that the examiner cuts your marks.
2. If you’re exceeding time because you can’t recall, revise more & more.
3. Try to put some restrictions on yourself. Like I had kept a limit of 7 minutes for 10 markers and 10.5 minutes for 15 markers. So, initially, I set a limit of writing 10 markers in 8 minutes, then I reduced it to 7.5 minutes, and so on…

What is mental answer writing? Since there are a lot of PYQs, you can’t possibly practice all of them. So, instead, you can mentally write answers to some of the questions. You can think about how you will write the intro, what will be your points in the body part and how you will conclude. This has the added benefit of making your mind quicker in recalling points, which will help you in mains.

How to write answers to questions we don’t know the answers to? The first fact is that nobody knows the answers to all the questions asked, but still you have to write. But, this doesn’t mean you have to lie or bluff the examiner.

It means that you have to use your supplementary and background knowledge to write in such situations. For eg, in this year’s GS3, a question was asked on WHO’s air quality guidelines. I didn’t know about them, but I began by writing about how India has x out of 10 world’s most polluted cities. Then, I mentioned Delhi’s pollution problem in the intro. In the body, I mentioned some steps India has taken like NAQI or GRAP.

I mentioned how they are in line with WHO’s demands, because they probably are. Then, I mentioned some general air pollution solutions, which WHO might have suggested, like stopping emissions from industries by using scrubbers. After that, I concluded with an SDG, so its a not a very good answer but at least it’s decent.

Which pen to use? It doesn’t matter, to be honest. You can use any pen in the world. The main thing is to use that pen in all your papers so that you develop a habit of writing with that pen. You should choose a pen based on your comfort and grip. I used Pilot V5. (It’s okay to use gel pens as well.)

How to add answer improvements/ suggestions in our notes for revision?
I used to do this in two ways, but only for PYQs.
1. If the answer is completely wrong or bad, then make note of it in your main register only.
2. If your answer is good but needs improvement, then add that content in the answer itself (write in borders etc) and put a tab that you will revise it in future. I used to put different coloured tabs for different GS papers.

Favourite books of Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Booklist
A book review for a book I read recently – The Color Purple by Alice Walker. If any of you have read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. 🙂
Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Notes

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Notes
Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Notes

These are some of my last minute notes to revise what to do for value addition. I looked at them just before exams to revise my key points. You can make similar notes in your last week before mains as it’s not possible to revise everything in the last week.

How to take care of your mental health by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Yesterday, I went through the comments in which some of you expressed your mental struggles while preparing for UPSC. I know that many of you, may not have been able to write what you’re going through. It was really
heartbreaking to read that some of you are facing this situation, as I have also been there.

So, I will try to share some insights and thoughts on how I handled this situation, as I also failed prelims twice.

1. Take care of your mental health – I cannot stress this point enough. I have been there, where I felt sad, depressed, and frustrated. I used to start crying at the smallest of things. If anyone is facing such a situation, please take care of yourself first. You will perform better in exam if you’re mentally calm and composed. UPSC is not just checking your knowledge but also your ability to handle stress.
2. An exam is not more important than you. I know you might think it is easy for me to say. But honestly, this mentality will help you crack this exam. If you believe you’re equally important and capable as UPSC, your performance in exam will imporve.
3. It is okay if you failed in prelims once/ twice/ thrice/ four times/ five times. I have met many people who passed in their sixth attempt. Are they any less happy? It doesn’t matter and failure at any of the stages doesn’t mean you are less capable. It just means that we need to work a little harder and our luck needs to shine a little brighter. Only a select few clear the exam in the firts attempt itself. Everybody has their own journey, so don’t compare yourself.
4. If you’ve left an already existing option in private sector and that stresses you – I understand how you must be feeling because I also left good opportunity in CAT and went for UPSC. Some people told me that I took a wrong step. I used to doubt myself whether I had taken a correct decision, especially when I couldn’t clear prelims twice.

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But aren’t these feelings natural? We are human, and if we face failure, it is natural to have these thoughts. But, what matters is we keep on trying for the things we really want to do. If your mind asks, “Is it really worth it?”, only you can tell that.

Do you really want o go for the job in civil services as a career opportunity, or are you going for it out of pressure or external factors? If the answer is former, then yes, it is worth it.

This brings me to how to take care of your mental health while preparing for UPSC.

I will share what I used to do, and you can customise it as per your needs and likings.

1. Surround yourself with people who believe in you 100%. The people who will believe in you, even when you don’t. Firstly, these people for me, were my parents and brother. Initially, I was very underconfident and didn’t share my UPSC struggles with everyone. But, as I opened up to some of my very very close relatives and cousins, they cheered me so much. So be selective and open up to people who love you genuinely. These people will fill you with positive vibes and confidence. If you don’t have any such person, it is okay still. You still have got three people – Yourself, God and me. I genuinely believe in all of your capacities, whatever you do in life.

2. Share your struggles & vent out. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, our parents or friends may not know what we are facing. They don’t know the complexities of the exam, but as they will know, they will become your supporters. So, make them familiar with the process and see how they react, whenever you’re feeling scared/ doubtful/ nervous. Secondly, when you vent, you let your inner doubts out, so that they don’t accumulate within you. You should accumulate positive and happy thoughts, and not negative energy.

3. Be selective in people you are close to while preparing for UPSC. Your first priority should be you, as UPSC demands a lot from us. And not, its not selfish. So, if you feel that a person isn’t contributing positively in your life, and rather making your journey more difficult, you can cut them off and it’s okay. You will find a lot of people, who will believe in you and be happy for you. I once said in a topper talk, that you need peers who are happy for your success, regardless of theirs. A lot of people were shocked at this and said I’m unrealistic. But, really is it? I have personally faced such situations, and without going into details, people can be happy for your success, regardless of their situation. So surround yourself with such people.

4. Take care of your physical health. Eat healthy food so that your weight doesn’t get too much by sitting all the time. Keep a weekly/ biweekly incentive for your favourite food. Take out some time for your daily exercises or walking. I used to keep half hour in morning for exercise and half hour in evening for walk on roof. Sleep properly, at least 7 hours thoughout the year. You can compromise this in months before pre/ mains but, overall, sleep properly. Try to sleep early, if its possible. Take out some time for your skincare. These little things will make a huge difference in your preparation, trust me. You will feel happy from inside. I also used to ignore all this, during my second attempt, and focusing on myself, changed me a lot.

5. Hobbies – I have said it ample number of times and I will say it again. Please don’t leave the things you enjoy entirely. I used to keep three 30-60 minutes breaks in my breakfast/lunch/dinner. Use them to enjoy and share your feelings. I used to read books or about skincare or watch Friends/ Kdramas during them. They used to leave me so happy and satisfied. Naturally, I felt I can’t even watch a signle episode in one go, but its okay right? As the exams are approaching, then you can cut short your breaks or use one of your breaks for studying also.

6. Don’t lose sight of why you started and how you started. Take a moment andd recall the young girl or boy, who decided they will prepare for UPSC and were so excited and confident. Believe in that person and start afresh today. Also, recall why you started, your aims and motivations. Imagine how happy you will be when you do this, when your parents see you happy. Life isn’t always easy for any of us, but if we are able to overcome the diffiulties, aren’t we becoming better ourselves?

7. It’s okay if you made some mistakes or failed at prelims. Don’t be harsh with yourself. Be gentle with yourself. will you be so harsh with a friend? So take care of yourself first. Talk to a therapist, if you need to.

I can say a lot more, but time is precious. I will end this message by saying that each one of you is precious. Even though the journey is difficult, the people who are walking this road, are stronger. So, keep on working hard and remember my words whenever you feel low. That’s the biggest gift I can get. Cheer up! Fighting!

PS: Those who are giving mains this year, whenever you’re messaging your doubts on Instagram to me, please begin your message by writing MAINS, so that I can respond to you early.

Service Allocation list of UPSC CIVIL SERVICES EXAM 2021-22

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Name in Service Allocation list

It is a magical feeling to get my dream service. Since I started preparing 4 years ago, I’ve waited for my name to be along with Indian Foreign Service and it still feels surreal. Felt like sharing this here with you all 😊🌸

Service Allocation letter to Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper LBSNAA Allocation letter
The much awaited letter is here. It gives a sense of peace and comfort that all those long endless years of struggle and stress can culminate into something so beautiful. I’ve become a different person in this journey, which has taught me the value of patience, perseverance and self preservation. As it is often said, we might find the journey difficult while we are walking, but we often look back at it with a smile.

Frequently asked questions regarding Note making Strategy to Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Is it compulsory to make notes?
No, not at all. Follow your strategy and comfort level. See what method is giving you the best results and decide. I was also initially hesitant in making notes, but I realised that note making has a lot of benefits.

Why make notes?
1. Note making can reduce your revision time significantly if the book you’re reading is heavy (Polity) or if you’re completing a topic from multiple sources (Geography). I realised this, when I had made notes for a section of Lamikant in my first attempt and I was able to revise them faster, compared tothe rest of the book.
2. With your notes, you can revise the entire content quickly before mains, instead of going through the entire book.
3. You can and must add diagrams, maps, article number, examples, facts, etc. to your notes, to create a comprehensive picture of that part. This will develop a habit within you to use these things whenever you are writing answers.

Do we need to make notes for each subject?
No. Again it depends on your comfort level and the cost-benefit ratio. For eg, I didn’t make notes for ancient and medieval history as they are very comprehensive books (old ncerts). Any note I made was practically re-writing of the same things. Same ges for the heavy handout of economics by Mrunal sir.

When to make notes?
This depends on the level of your understanding and importance of the subject. So, customise your notes as per your needs.
1. For difficult and more important subjects like polity, history, etc. – Try tomake notes after 2-3 readings. By then, you will have a good understanding of the subject and can make your notes in a crisp and succinct manner.
2. For comparatively easier subjects or subjects with lesser weightage like world history, security, etc – I made notes after one reading. As we can’t invest equal time in all subjects, one reading can lead to good notes for these subjects.

How to make notes?
1. Try to make notes as short as possible, just adding the useful things. Try to follow the 1/10th rule – Your notes should be 1/10th of the actual book/ content.
2. Make notes in point format. This will develop a habit of writing answers pointwise.
3. Add diagrams, maps, article number, examples, facts, committees, reports, etc. to your notes. I used to follow this and also made separate value addition notes for their specific revision at end moment.
4. Try to add flowcharts, tables or circular cycles in your notes. Be innovative and add them on your own. This will create a habit within you to make these things on the spot in exam.
5. Sometimes, when we are making notes, we zone out and tend to write almost everything. Try to avoid this by being conscious.

How to make value addition content notes?
I collected value addition data from the following sources –
1. Newspapers – I didn’t make notes out of it, but whenever any map/ fact/ judgement used to catch my eye, I took a photo of it for adding it to my notes.
2. Vision Current Affair booklets
3. Google search if you want to find a particular data
4. Latest economic survey and budget

I used to keep one hour at night for adding these things to my value addition tables (already shared) and revising the points that I have already added.

Addressing your doubts and queries

Please use this thread to post your doubts and questions. If you’re writing Mains, begin your question with MAINS.

Also, I’ve addressed a lot of doubts on Instagram but couldn’t reply lately because of busy schedule. I will try to answer more doubts there also in the upcoming two weeks. If you’re messaging there, please write a keyword first before writing your doubt. Eg: if your question is on note making, write NOTE MAKING and then begin.

PS: A lot of students are messaging me about how I missed IAS by one mark. I want to share two things about this –
1. This list is only the first iteration and there are 5-6 iterations in total. So most probably rank 79 and many others below that will also get IAS. That’s why I didn’t share right now till what rank you will get which service.
2. My first preference was IFS 🙂

Mains related doubts asked in thread

Revision strategy for the last 35 days
1. Try to revise your optional and entire GS once in the upcoming 25-28 days. You can give mocks after revising a particular paper if you feel you have given fewer mocks.

2. Make a cycle of revising by keeping 2-3 hours in a day for revising what you’ve already revised. Don’t revise everything in this time, but try to recall the main things and the things that you often forget.

3. How to make the cycle? For example, if you read society today, you can revise the same subject one week later in the hours fixed for re-revising. If you’re short on time, focus on revising everything once, instead of revising the same thing multiple times.

4. Keep the last 7-10 days for your most important revision. You should focus more on GS in these days as you will be getting 5 days for optional later as well. In these 7-10 days, try to revise the short notes you have made for important subjects, value addition content, and answers to oft-repeated questions.

5. During the initial 25 days, either keep giving mocks regularly or if you have given sufficient mocks, then keep at least 1 hour for daily answer writing. This will ensure your speed is maintained. You can skip answer writing and tests in the last week; your main focus should be revision by then.

6. Since the syllabus is so vast, you will not be able to revise some things more than 2-3 times, and it is okay. It feels like you will forget and not be able to recall, but trust me, you will be able to. I wasn’t able to read some of my important notes due to time shortage, and still, I was able to write. Because whatever notes we are making and revising, gets registered in our brains. Another thing is don’t fret if you are not able to revise everything.

How many mocks are sufficient?
I feel that 2-3 mocks for each paper are more than sufficient. If you have not given two mocks per paper, give them in the upcoming 25-28 days after revising it. You are not late, so keep on working hard.

Not able to finish the paper on time?
This can be because of some reasons –
1. Writing extra in answers. Take a word count of the answers you have written, and ensure you are within the word limit 95% of the time. Once or twice is okay, but we don’t want unnecessary negative marking.

2. Difficult to think intro/ conclusions on the spot. If you are facing this issue, make a small list for each subject. What all you can write in their introductions and conclusions? For example, if it’s geography, start with a definition. If it’s polity, start with constitutional articles. I have shared such a list already, take an idea from there.

3. If you’re taking 10-15 minutes extra, it’s okay. Just keep on pushing yourself and I’m confident you will be there. I also faced this issue a lot and try to reduce the time taken for answers where you are taking more time. You’re just taking 1 minute more for each answer, so just work on that.

4. You can use this strategy to divide your time. I used to divide my time into two 1.5 hours. My focus was to complete five 10 and 15 markers each in the first 1.5 hours and the same for the next 1.5 hours. This made time management very very easy for me. I kept the first 35 minutes (5 questions X 7 minutes) for 10 markers, then the rest of 55 minutes (5 questions X 10.5 minutes) for 15 markers. I repeated the same for the next 1.5 hours but in the opposite order. So, my entire paper was solved in this manner -> five 10 marker questions — 15 mark questions (all) — five 10 marker questions.

Not able to recall content in tests?
1. Revise, revise, revise.
2. When you are reading a particular topic, think about how you will write answers if a question is asked. Prepare a mental framework whenever you are reading a topic. This will help in recalling content in tests.
3. Refer to PYQs whenever you are reading a particular topic. It will help you in developing frameworks.

Mains related doubts thread continued

How to make use of model answers of test series?
1. If there are only 2-3 new points, add them in your notes themselves.
2. If there are a lot of new points, I used to take a printout of that answer and used to add that page to my notes.
3. Sometimes, I used to add the points from the model answer to my test copy and I used to revise the test copy itself.
4. If you are short on time, don’t read all the model answers, but focus on only the questions which are more probable or which you don’t know the answers to.

If some subjects are left, what to do?
1. Try to keep 1-2 days for small subjects like internal security, disaster management, etc, and prepare them. Study directly from any coaching material or topper notes.
2. Don’t delay writing tests for a few subjects. Give mocks regardless because you will still be prepared for 17-18 questions. In real exams also, you will not be knowing the answers to every question.

If your answer quality reduces in the last half hour
it is very normal because now your focus is one completing the paper. But still try and make a habit in these days to at least add 1 fact or article in the introduction or make a map in your answer in the end moment or add a SDG in conclusion in the last minute. Do it now, you will be able to repeat it in the exam.

I have answered all doubts related to mains as per my understanding. If you have any more mains specific doubts, you can post here

How to make a decision to choose IFS?

Since many students have requested me to discuss how I decided to opt for IFS as my first preference and many are confused as I used to be, I would like to share my thoughts on this matter.

I will begin my message by saying that all services are equally respectable and important for our country. All the services contribute meaningfully and in their own ways to the proper functioning of our country.

Still, everyone is a unique individual and has different personalities, interests and temperaments. IAS offers one of the biggest scope to deliver service diverse people in varied circumstances. So, choosing it as first prefernce is a good decision.

When it comes to choosing IFS, it gets a little tricky. You have to go against the grain, which is not wrong perse, but still a difficult decision to make. So, my first advice is, if you are facing difficulties in choosing your service (be it IFS or any other), its okay. You are making a huge life choice, so it is natural to face some difficulties.

Think of International Relations. Does it fill you with a sense of excitement when you imagine India discussing border relations with China or trade relations with USA? Do you feel interested in the multiple trade, investment and cultural negotiations India undertakes with different nations?

Does thinking about discussions on India’s stand on various issues at UN, make you feel like you want to be there too? Also, the lifestyle of an IFS officer, can be exciting and dreadful to two different people. Imagine yourself moving to a new nation every 3-4 years; does it fill you with a sense of thrill?

Are you interested in the intellectual conversations that go about in the making of our foreign policy? Lastly, go down 20-25 years down the line and imagine yourself as an Ambassador, who’s representing India, how does that make you feel? These are the questions only you know the answer to.

This answer by Suyash Chavan sir was very helpful to me when I was facing this dilemma –

A book you can read that has anecdotal accounts of IFS officers in a very light manner – The Ambassador’s Club by Krishna V Rajan  

I know this post caters to a select few people, but I hope it gives you a sense of direction, whatever you choose. At the end of the day, we all are working towards our India – be it any profession and any service.

Motivational Post by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper Motivational Message

A message I wanted to share with all of you. The journey of UPSC can often make us doubt or compare ourselves. We might think on some days, “Is it really worth it?” & some days we might question our capacities.

I can’t ask you all to avoid these things, because they are natural and normal. I think that everyone goes through these phases – be it UPSC or any other journey. So, whenever you feel low, take your time and just remember that you will get back up, because you’re amazing! Any exam or failure cannot define you. All the best and may the force be with you! 💛

Wishes to students by Surbhi Goyal UPSC Topper

All the best everyone for mains! Just believe in yourself while you’re sitting in front of the exam hall. Don’t be scared that syllabus is left incomplete and don’t doubt yourself for one second.

You’ve reached till here and this stage will take you out of this cycle of UPSC. Just remember that it’s easier to write average answers instead of preparing for prelims again. I believe in you 1000% and I know God is with you all. You’ve got this!💛🙌

You can use this thread to ask doubts if you’re giving this mains. I will answer it here only!