1. Do not be afraid of failure The failure that IAS officer Tejasvi Rana experienced in her first attempt in 2015 taught her lessons that she applied when she reattempted the UPSC CSE in 2016.

This time she passed with an AIR 12. For those who are in the same situation, Tejasvi suggests viewing the attempts as ways to understand what is expected.

2. Pay attention to the static portion Shubham Kumar from Bihar realised the importance of the static portion of the syllabus in the UPSC CSE exam when he failed in his first round in 2018.

In his third attempt in 2020, he clinched AIR 1 and credits his learnings for this win. He notes that a minimum of 55–60 questions comes from this static portion.

3. Quality over quantity Andhra Pradesh’s Rallapalli Jagat Sai recalls the reason for his previous failures in the UPSC CSE as the limited points that he wrote for answers.

In 2020, when he secured an AIR of 32, he says it was because he made sure to focus on the quality of content and not just quantity.

4. Answer the extras “It is preferable to answer a few extra questions so that even if you get a few of them wrong, the average is high. I would attempt between 85–90 questions,” notes Devyani Yadav.

While it is important to balance the risks as the paper carries negative markings, Devyani says it is this strategy that helped her secure an AIR 11 in her fifth attempt.

5. Think on your feet Juggling a full-time corporate job while preparing for the UPSC taught IAS officer Sumit Kumar Rai many skills, which led him to secure AIR 54 on his fifth attempt.

“I would study whenever I had the chance. I never missed an opportunity to pick up the books and prepare,” he says.

6. Make notes that work for you IAS officer Ashish Kumar emphasises that notes act as “a ready reckoner one can keep going back to.”

This strategy helped the officer secure an AIR 53 on his second attempt, as he would only look at his notes during the revision stages instead of the source material.

7. If you are not passionate, don’t get into it “The exam requires immense patience and perseverance,” says IAS officer Rahul S Sankanur who secured AIR 17 after failing the UPSC CSE four times.

“In the absence of passion, finding success is difficult.”

8. Appear for a mock test IAS Officer Nidhi Siwach would solve one mock paper a day and devote close to 2.5 hours to it. She credits this for helping her bag AIR 83 in UPSC CSE after failing her first two attempts.