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5 UPSC Toppers & Their Preparation Strategies: What They Did to Crack the CSE Exam

Pradeep Singh (AIR 1), Pratibha Verma (AIR 3), Ganesh Kumar (AIR 7), Abhishek Saraf (AIR 8 ) and Sanjita Mohapatra (AIR 10) share how mock interviews, essay writing, and more worked in their favour to crack CSE

5 UPSC Toppers & Their Preparation Strategies: What They Did to Crack the CSE Exam

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has released the much-awaited Civil Services exam (2019) results. A total of 829 candidates have been selected for various IAS, IPS, IRS, and IFS (and more) posts. The UPSC toppers list can be checked by all candidates on the official site of UPSC at

Every year thousands of civil service aspirants appear for the competitive examinations with an aim to work as bureaucrats in various fields. But only a selected few are able to clear all three rounds (preliminary, mains and interview). So what sets these UPSC toppers apart from the rest? Do they have a special strategy?

Here’s a look at five of this year’s UPSC toppers and the methods they adopted during preparations: 

Pradeep Singh

Pradeep Singh from Haryana’s Sonipat district has secured the first rank in the UPSC results in his fourth attempt. Pradeep had cleared UPSC last year and is presently undergoing training as an Indian Revenue Service Officer Faridabad.

Pradeep’s family has a history of serving people. His father, Sukhbir Singh was sarpanch of Tewri village in Sonipat’s Ganaur block. His grandfather has served the same post. 

Though preparing for the examinations while juggling probation was challenging but the 29-year-old kept himself motivated. “Self-motivation is the best key to achieve any goal. Do not listen to what others are saying, only an individual knows his/her potential,” he told Hindustan Times. 

The report further mentions how he did not compromise on his daily targets to ensure that syllabus was covered effectively.  “It is important to focus on writing skills to pass the main exam while interpersonal skills are essential for clearing the interview stage,” Pradeep told NDTV

Pratibha Verma 

Pratibha Verma

Pratibha Verma from Uttar Pradesh has secured an All India Rank (AIR) 3. After graduating from IIT-Delhi in 2014, she worked in a private company for two years before starting her preparations for UPSC. 

Last year, she got 489th rank and joined the Indian Revenue Service (IRS). Inspired by women IAS toppers like Tina Dabi, Pratiba decided to appear for the exam again.

Sharing her strategy with The Better India, she says, “The first and most important thing that aspirants must remember is that the optional subject that you choose must be something you have a good command over. My subject was Physics because that was my area of interest and something that I excelled in.

For preliminary examinations, Pratibha divided her syllabus into 5-6 main areas which include Indian Polity, Geography, History, Indian Economy, Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology, International Relations and Current Affairs.

“Besides these areas, I focussed on logical reasoning and comprehension which are important aspects when it comes to the aptitude test,” she explains.

“I would say that continuous practice is a must when it comes to prelims preparation. I’ve done at least 30-40 mock practice tests before attempting the prelims. Understanding the kind of questions is crucial and mock tests are the easiest way to get a hold of that,” she adds.

For Mains, she practised writing essays and was up to date with current affairs of the past two years. For the personality test, she attended mock interviews by coaching centres and improved her confidence. 

Some of the books that Pratibha used for her preparations were Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth for politics, A Brief History of Modern India – Rajiv Ahir (Spectrum Publications) for history, Environment By Shankar IAS Academy for environmental studies and the NCERT 11th and 12th textbooks for geography, economy and culture.

Ganesh Kumar Baskar


Ganesh, who hails from Madurai, has secured the seventh rank. After passing out of IIT-Kanpur, he enrolled in IIM-Ahmedabad in 2015, and began preparing for the UPSC exam in his second year. 

After failing to clear the preliminary exam in 2017, he joined a tech firm in Bengaluru and continued his studies for the second attempt. Unlike the first time, he enrolled for a few online classes but soon realised that they consumed a lot of his time, so he went back to self-coaching and focussed on mastering his optional subject, Mathematics. 

He purchased a set of 16 books and took up several online test series. 

According to him, the aspirants should first understand the examination process and scoring patterns. “First-time aspirants should look at the syllabus and question paper, understand what the exam wants, scoring patterns and then start preparing,” he told Times of India

Ganesh studied for 8 hours a day and increased it to 12 hours as the exam dates neared. 

Abhishek Saraf


Abhishek Saraf, who is currently serving as the Assistant Commissioner, Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in Faridabad, got an AIR of 8 in his fourth attempt. In 2018, his rank was 248.

A native of Bhopal, Abhishek completed civil engineering from IIT-Kanpur. As per Dainik Bhaskar, Abhishek prepared for the exam by himself, and only went for mock interviews to improve his communication skills and get more confidence. 

Sharing his strategy, he said, “I banked on a lot of data for all my answers. Data can always back up your statements and act as a fact-checker too. Number game will surely impress the examiner.”

Like other UPSC toppers, Abhishek also believed in the importance of making one topic strong instead of studying new ones, “Structure your answer in a way that strikes a balance between two viewpoints. Practice on your writing and presentation as well,” he told Patrika

He studied for nearly 12 hours every day but also took breaks and watched television.

Sanjita Mohapatra 


Sanjita, a mechanical engineer, secured an AIR of 10. However, this is not the first time she has topped a civil exam. Last year she secured the second position in the Odisha Civil Services Examination. 

“To translate the UPSC dream into reality is tough. It requires loads of patience. There would be times when you might feel you cannot make it. But you have to stay determined and focused,” said Sanjita in a video to Odisha Bytes.

In the same video, the UPSC topper emphasised on putting quality over quantity and added that studying for hours together is not mandatory as long as one covers all the subjects as per schedule. 

Sanjita did not form a daily timetable, she had a weekly one. Before sleeping, she would evaluate the syllabus covered. She gained command over her optional subject, Sociology by enrolling for a 3-month crash course. 

Featured image credit: Suresh Antil/Facebook

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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