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How Smart Revision Helped Me Improve Optional Score in UPSC CSE Mains: IAS

IAS Akshita Gupta

A doctor by profession, IAS officer Akshita Gupta cleared UPSC CSE in her first attempt. She shares some crucial revision tips for the mains that helped her ace the exam.

Back in 2018, Akshita Gupta had no knowledge of the civil services examination. Nearly three years later, Akshita cleared the Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Exam (UPSC CSE), considered one of the toughest examinations in the country, in her very first attempt! She secured an All India Rank of 69.

“I scored well in my optional because I used to revise daily. Smart revision is the ultimate key,” says the 24-year-old IAS officer who scored 299 out of 500 in her optional.

Akshita attempted the UPSC CSE exam in 2020 with an optional subject of medical science.

Hailing from Panchkula, Haryana, she was studying MBBS at Government Medical College & Hospital, Chandigarh. “It was in the third year of college that I realised I wanted to look at things from a wider perspective. So, I started preparing for the UPSC CSE examination also; I prepared for my optional all by myself,” she says.

A doctor by profession, Akshita is currently undergoing training in Patiala as assistant commissioner. The IAS officer shares a few tips from her experience.

Akshita is currently undergoing training in Patiala as assistant commissioner.
Akshita is currently undergoing training in Patiala as assistant commissioner.

Tips to revise the UPSC syllabus efficiently

“Even if there is a book, booklet or current affairs magazine, I used to have a three-way strategy to finish learning it. In your first reading, underline the important points. In the second reading, use a highlighter to highlight important facts. In the third reading, just read the highlighted parts,” advises Akshita.

She continues, “This way, you will have a visual image of the booklet and you will remember the details. Constant revision helps ease the burden as well. If you take four hours to complete a booklet, by the third reading you will just take 15-20 minutes to revise the content.”

The revision gap causes a loss of memory. Since the syllabus is vast, one should revise topics frequently so as not to get overwhelmed, she adds.

While preparing for the mains, Akshita suggests jotting down important facts about every topic in a clean thin register. This helps to revise a day before the exam and retain facts about almost every topic.

“When you start your day, revise what you learnt the previous day. It is not time-consuming and also helps you retain knowledge. Keep your syllabus as per the basic requirements, but revise it multiple times. A student studying five subjects but not revising even once has fewer chances to remember what they learnt. Keep your syllabus minimum, but revision maximum,” says the IAS officer.

“Interest and revision are key. Don’t feel that the syllabus is a burden; be a part of it. UPSC judges your stress management, innovation (in terms of strategies) and decision-making. You develop these three throughout the journey,” she continues.

Juggling a job and studies

One mistake that aspirants make, as per Akshita, is that they start preparing for the examination during their job and attempt the exam in the immediate year. She suggests getting thorough with the syllabus first — even if it takes two to three years — before appearing for the exam. She says that even those with permanent jobs can clear UPSC if they invest four to five hours a day in preparation.

Although Akshita cleared the examination on her first attempt, the journey was not a cakewalk.

The IAS officer used to study amid a 15-minute break in a 14-hour job at the hospital.
The IAS officer used to study amid a 15-minute break in a 14-hour job at the hospital.

Along with a hectic internship, Akshita had to prepare for the mains. “Those two months were very hectic for me. I used to go to the hospital and then study. My optional was pending. I qualified for the prelims, but I felt mains was not my thing. Everything was falling apart,” recalls Akshita.

The IAS officer used to study amid a 15-minute break in a 14-hour job at the hospital. Her focus was to prepare and revise topics where she did not score well. For her optional examination in the mains, she prepared subjects which needed more effort such as surgery and anatomy.

“I took all my medicine books and tore off pages related to the UPSC syllabus. It was painful to tear off my books, but it was for the good. I took all the pages, stapled them and made chapters so that I didn’t have to make notes for everything. In this way, I prepared for the medical science optional,” she says.

“For the rest of the subjects, I followed a test series approach — wherein you prepare one subject and give a test of that subject. This helped me finish the syllabus in three months,” adds Akshita.

“Another challenge was to improve my writing; doctors are known for bad handwriting,” exclaims Akshita. However, she concludes by saying that interaction with aspirants, topic discussion with friends, smart revision, and dividing the work and study hours finally helped her achieve the feat.

Edited by Pranita Bhat; All images: IAS Akshita Gupta.