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#UPSCSimplified: IAS Topper Shares the Resource Material He Used to Ace the Exams!

He says that utilising weekends and all other incidental holidays will be helpful. He adds, “These are the golden hours for preparation and aspirants must utilise these days fully to cover the entire week’s syllabus.”

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With over 10 lakh applicants each year, and only 1,000 selections – the UPSC exams can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. But it can be crossed!

In ‘UPSC Simplified’, The Better India catches up with toppers to uncover the dos and don’ts for India’s toughest exam. Follow the series for all the tips you need!


Ketan Garg, a resident of Rajasthan, scored 93 in the Civil Services Examination 2017. Having started preparing in 2015, he cleared both his attempts in three years.

In this exclusive interview, he shares the strategies he adopted, the resource materials he used, and how he managed his time in preparation while also simultaneously working.

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“The examination definitively tests your knowledge but along it also a test of your competence, confidence, and perseverance,” Ketan begins.

Ketan Garg

How does a working professional manage time?

Speaking from experience, Ketan answers, “Working professionals need efficiency and commitment to suit the demands of the UPSC exam. For them, the efficient management of time is most important.”

He goes on to say that utilising weekends and all other incidental holidays will be helpful. He adds, “These are the golden hours for preparation and aspirants must utilise these days fully to cover the entire week’s syllabus.”

Utilisation of time

Ketan was preparing for the UPSC examination while he was working full time. He says, “On a working day, I would spend at least 4-5 hours studying–upwards of two hours in the morning before I went to work and an hour each evening once I had completed work.”

On weekends and other holidays, he would study for at least ten hours!

Materials used for the preparation

a) History (Ancient and Medieval)

b) History (Freedom Struggle)

  • Spectrum by Rajiv Ahir
  • NCERT grade 11-12 books

c) Art and Culture

  • AIR 28 Nitin Sangwan’s notes
  • Books from the Center for Cultural Resources and Training
  • Vajiram (yellow booklet)

d) Polity (Theory and Current)

  • For Theory – M Laxmikanth’s book on Polity
    NCERT’s Indian Constitution at Work
  • For Current – Vision IAS monthly compilation

e) Economy (Theory and Current)

  • Mrunal.org video lectures (2015-2017)
  • Economic survey
  • Vision IAS compilations

f) Science (Theory and Current)

  • NCERT books of grades 9-10
  • Vision IAS compilations

g) Environment (Theory and Current)

  • NCERT geography books of grades 9-12
  • Books by Shankar IAS
  • Vision IAS compilation
  • Internet research

h) Geography (Physical)

  • NCERT books of grades 11-12
  • G C Leong’s book
  • Rajtanil Ma’am’s lectures available on YouTube

i) Geography (India)

  • NCERT books of grades 11-12
  • Rajtanil’s lectures on YouTube

j) Geography (World)

  • NCERT books of grades 11-12
  • K Siddhartha’s book on mapping
  • Rajtanil’s lectures on YouTube

How to tackle the essay?

Ketan suggests, “It is best to refer to old essays written by various toppers. I would also recommend attempting at least two essays a week.”

You could also refer to various series online like the one by Alok Ranjan. He also advises aspirants to be ready with quotes, data, and diagrams to enhance their essays and make them much more substantial.


Also Read: #UPSCSimplified: IAS Topper Ankur Garg on Tackling Self-Doubt During the Interview


With these pointers, we wish you all the best for the examinations!

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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