Priyank Kishore, who holds BCom honours from Ramjas College, Delhi, cleared the Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) Civil Services Exam (CSE) on his first attempt in 2018, without any formal coaching classes.

“I drew inspiration from my father who is Deputy Superintendent Police, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand,” he says.

Priyank shares some tips and tricks on how to crack India’s most difficult paper.

He shares, “One of the mistakes I made was in essay preparation. While I did attempt essays before the examination, I did not join any test series for it specifically.”

Even though he took help from his friends and peers for evaluation and feedback on his essays, he recommends aspirants get professional advice.

He asks students to be mindful of the space while writing in the question-cum-answer booklet, as those who write in bigger fonts may not be able to fit 150 words into it without prior practice.

While writing answers, Priyank shares that he used paragraphs only for the introduction and conclusion, and used bullet points in the body to make it easier for the examiner to read.

Further, he says, “If General Studies are holding you back, seek professional guidance. You may also need to update your notes.”

“If optionals are holding you back despite you putting in your best, consider a change of optional subject. A new optional can be studied like a novice, and a novice always reads better than a seasoned player,” he adds.

He suggests students who failed more than three attempts take a break. “Work on your career…take the exam later with greater determination and renewed energy. Take a step back and analyse where you have been going wrong.”

And finally, Priyank recommends aspirants prioritise working on their emotional quotient. “This exam is a matter of bouncing back when you are at your lowest,” he says.