Devyani Yadav, who secured an All India Rank 11 in 2020, attempted the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Service Exam (CSE) four times before she was successful.

She shares her learnings with UPSC aspirants. Here are 10 tips:

1. Focus on your weakness Devyani advises that while focussing on your strengths is good, giving equal, if not more, attention to your weaker subjects is essential.

2. Quality trumps quantity She opines that spending productive and quality time in preparation is the key to cracking the exam. “Approach it with a concerted plan,” she says is what helped her secure a good rank on her fifth attempt.

3. Mock tests as self-evaluation tools Devyani advises using mock tests as a way of knowing how prepared you are for the exam. She recommends solving a minimum of 40 tests before attempting the exam.

4. Enhance your reading skills She advises practising reading with a critical eye. “A simple true or false question might be misread leading to loss of marks. While the question might ask aspirants to mark the ‘not true’ statements, not reading it correctly, might lead to the wrong answer in itself.”

5. Strike a good balance Since the paper carries negative marks for wrong answers, she advises, “It is preferable to answer a few extra questions so that even if you get a few wrongs, the average is high. I would attempt between 85 to 90 questions.”

6. Bring honesty to your preparation “Being 100% honest with yourself while preparing is very important. No matter how many attempts you have given, approach each exam with a clear mindset. Overconfidence and underconfidence should both be kept away,” says Devyani.

7. Devise your note-making strategy Devyani advises aspirants to develop their own strategy of making notes. “Notes should not be a reproduction of what you have read in the book. It must be put down in your own words. The notes should only have details that need to be revised at a later stage,” she says.

8. Find online content that works Devyani also advises judicial use of online content to ace the paper. “A lot of my answer writing skills were bettered by reading some of the answers that would be put out on several portals. It gave me a good understanding of how answers can be best structured,” she says.

9. Go through previous prelim papers Pick the last 10 years’ prelims paper and ensure that you go through them to understand the kind of questions that can be expected for the paper. “Not just the questions, but also spend time on looking at the options provided in the paper,” she says.

10. Focus on the presentation According to Devyani, the presentation is as important as knowing the content. “With the examiner having to mark several answer sheets a day, making your answers stand out will hold you in good stead,” she says.