In 2018, Ishu Agrawal cleared the Chartered Accountancy (CA) examination in his first attempt.

But even while he began practising as an accountant, he’d always had a desire to appear for the UPSC CSE.

In 2019, he appeared for the exam but missed clearing the Mains by a few marks.

Determined to do better the next time, he attempted the CSE once again and cleared it in 2021 with an AIR (All India Rank) of 81, while practising as a CA.

He shares a few tips:


Figure out your efficiency meter: “Figuring out which part of the day I was most and least efficient at helped me plan my study much better. I would finish new portions of the syllabus during my high-efficiency periods.”

Make every second count: Ishu devised what he describes as the “Tracking Formula”. “I made an excel sheet in which I would key in whatever syllabus I covered in an hour. This helped me understand how well I was progressing.”

Take on only as much as you can handle: “I prioritised my preparation over the accountancy work I was doing.”

Do not make unnecessary compromises: “I never compromised on my sleep. I would ensure that I got between seven to eight hours of sleep every night,” he says.

Preparation is location agnostic: “Do not harbour any thoughts of competing with aspirants from bigger cities. Once the question paper is before you all that matters is your preparation.”

Cut the guilt out: “I would constantly battle with thoughts of guilt when I was not studying. Ensure that you schedule a time to be with your family and friends alongside the time you spend preparing.”