Navdeep Aggarwal cleared the Indian Forest Service (IFS) exam in 2016 with an All India Rank (AIR) 21.

After working in Pathankot as Deputy DFO for a year and a half, he was posted as regional manager at Punjab State Forest Development Corporation.

“But after having seen the work done by the administration and police closely, I wanted to take the exam again to serve society more holistically,” he says.

Now married with a two-year-old daughter, Navdeep says he decided to change his strategy while reapplying for the exams.

Instead of Maths, he decided to go with Sociology as his optional and scored 286 using limited but content-rich resources.

The IPS officer, who scored AIR 150, after a gap of five years, shares some UPSC CSE preparation tips that helped him:

1) For working aspirants who cannot take out the time, take leave for at least one to two months, both before prelims and the mains.

2) Control emotions and be optimistic when things go out of your hands. Rework your strategy as situations change.

3) Avoid social media and minimise participating in office parties and friendly get-togethers.

4) Before starting any topic, refer to the previous year’s questions and prepare notes as per the trends of questions asked so far.

5) Revise at least two to three times and jot down keywords and stats. Create mnemonics or stories out of it to memorise them easily.

6) Practice writing tests in time; it helps to think of many angles on the spot and is a skill that needs to be nurtured.

7) Take part in mock interviews of respectable panel members. One cannot ‘fake it’ during interviews and that confidence comes only after intense preparation.