A postgraduate in Commerce from Delhi University, Gandharva Rathore secured an All India Rank 93 in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Service Examination (CSE) in 2015.

Having attempted the CSE earlier and being unable to clear the prelims, she says the goal was to reach the interview stage on her second attempt.

“I worked backwards – prepared for the interview in my head while working on the mains and optional paper and then the prelims,” she says.

Here are the tips she recommends:

The syllabus can be large and daunting on the first go, but once broken down into smaller parts, it becomes easier to tackle.

Stick to using basic NCERT and one other extra standard textbook for each subject.

Practise answer writing as early as five months before the UPSC CSE, even before completing the entire syllabus.

Divide answers in such a way that they cover all aspects – economic, political, legal, socio-cultural, etc.

Pick up a hobby that preferably takes you out of your home and stick to it to give yourself a break.

Try and ace your optional paper given that it is a subject that you choose and can fetch you high scores.