IAS Officer Anisha Shrivastav secured an All India Rank (AIR) of 66 in her second attempt at UPSC CSE. She shares tips to use previous years’ papers to cover the syllabus.

Anisha believes in the saying “practice makes perfect”. “When I was preparing for the second attempt I made sure I got in a lot of practice work. I would finish one part of the syllabus, and then attempt questions based on that part.”

She advises studying past papers and believes that they could help bring a clear perspective on the particular part of the topic being read.

While preparing, she says, you must analyse past papers. “There are certain topics from which questions are asked year after year. This is a useful hack for both the prelims and the mains paper.”

Anisha says that while solving the papers, she would not solve each and every question, instead, she would glance through them while making mental notes. She only solved the ones she felt a need to which saved her time.

She also advises keeping an eye on the time while solving previous years’ papers. “Give yourself seven minutes to complete a 10-marker question and 11 minutes if it is a 15-marker,” she says.

Given the sheer volume of topics to be covered, Anisha says that speaking out loud helps retain the content. “Often after studying a topic, I would discuss it with my parents over dinner. This would help reiterate the points and remember them,” she says.

“Aspirants must have an understanding of topics. Do not try to learn from notes made by others… Customise it to suit your own needs,” the IAS advises.

Lastly, she advises all the aspirants to enjoy the process and soak it in.  She says, “No matter what, all your learnings will always hold you in good stead.”