In her last year of college at IIT Kanpur, the economics graduate Tejasvi Rana decided to appear for the UPSC CSE.

In 2015, she appeared for the examination for the first time. While she cleared the prelims, she was unable to clear the mains.

In her second attempt in 2016, she secured an All India Rank (AIR) of 12. Tejasvi shares the changes she implemented for this to happen.

Start with the basics “NCERT textbooks must be used as your go-to resource book. Start with Class 9 books and make your way up to Class 12. While using these books, ensure that you have the syllabus in front of you, and keep ticking the portions you complete,” she says.

Do not be afraid of failure Based on the learnings from her first attempt, she says, “Use the attempt to understand what is expected of you. It is important to give it your best. Do not treat the examination just as a way to gauge your strengths and weaknesses,” she adds.

Understand the nuances of topics Tejasvi shares, “In General Studies, Paper 1 consists of topics like history and geography, which remain static. The resource material needed to prepare for these is also readily available and is standard.”

“However, Paper 2 consists of dynamic portions, for which one should refer to the newspaper and be updated with the current affairs as well,” she adds.

Make your presentation unique “Aspirants can use various diagrams, unique structures, and even flow charts to pen down their answers. This is sure to give your answers an edge. Embellish your answers with examples and case studies as and where applicable,” she suggests.

Practise your skills Tejavsi believes that the art of writing good answers must be worked upon consistently. “To be able to write good answers, aspirants must ensure they practise answer writing regularly before the examination,” she adds.

Choose optional wisely “Pick a subject you have a basic working knowledge of and interest in. It is not only the interest but also the ability to put in hard work in the subject that matters,” she says.

Consider time as money Considering that the syllabus is vast, Tejasvi advises aspirants to be very good at time management to cover all topics. “Break down the syllabus into smaller portions and set achievable targets for yourself,” she adds.

Watch talks by toppers Another thing that helped Tejasvi was watching other batch toppers share their strategies and tips on preparing well.

“While the strategy one picks has to be most conducive for the individual aspirant, these videos and talks help find new ways of preparing. Also, find seniors from different batches to discuss topics and bounce off ideas,” she says.