IAS Exam Strategy: Garima Lekhwani AIR136 ; 1st Attempt, CSE 2016. 

Optional Subject: Sociology; Medium: English

1) Before starting the preparation, you must analyze why you want to prepare for civil services in the first place ?

Considering the level of the competition and the investment (especially in terms of the time devoted) that this exam entails, you must assess beforehand whether the end goal could be achieved through another career path. This is my true belief that the spirit of public service and that alone should bring one here; reasons like respect, etc. are only secondary and could be earned elsewhere too. 

2) Hard work and intellect alone do not guarantee success here; 

What is more important is absolute relentlessness when it comes to facing this exam. Why I say this is because, every aspirant has to face many problems during this preparation; some of them will make you question your decision again and again. The catch here is to keep yourself together at such times and remind yourself everyday that you must keep fighting. 

3) Consistency is the key to success in this exam. 

I have seen many brilliant candidates who are unable to clear this exam. This is because they are not able to sustain their preparation levels over a long period of time. And this again is linked to the previous point- developing a frame of mind that doesn’t let you become complacent.

4) If there is one single tip that I had to give aspirants, it would be;

To not consider this exam as the end of life. I made this mistake and had to face grave consequences in terms of health issues and other problems. Stress management is highly essential- for this I would recommend finding time for meditation, physical exercise or any other recreational activities on a daily basis. 

5) Developing a strategy is very important and let me tell you this- 

You may listen to everyone else’s but develop your own! Every person has a different style of approaching this exam- do not try to follow something just because your peers are doing it, try to approach this exam logically and keeping your own competencies in mind, prepare a plan that can help you slay this exam.

6) Keeping a back up plan will always help. 

Although this was my first attempt, yet I had a back up ready. Why i say this because this exam is highly unpredictable and to ensure that your career is not stalled because of one exam. This is especially important for those who may be easily affected by societal/peer pressures and want a safety net to be able to study well. 

7) Another aspect that helps is staying away from social media and other such distractions during the course of this preparation. This would help you save a lot of time and help you focus more. 

8) Lastly, please remember that YOU ARE ABOVE THIS EXAM. 

Success here doesn’t determine your capability or talent. There are many factors that must fall into place to be able to clear this exam. If not here, there are various streams in life that you may find success and joy in. 

My best wishes are with everyone who is reading this. Many thanks! 
Garima Lekhwani

Article Published by Sumit Manglani empoweredindia.wordpress.com


Importance of Prelims by Amit Tolani: IAS Rank 151 in his 6th attempt with Sindhi as Optional Subject

Name Amit Suresh Tolani
Rank in CSE 2015 151
Total Attempts in CSE 6
Optional Subject Sindhi Literature
Medium English


Class 10 percentage of marks 78%
Class 12Percentage of marks 77%
Graduation: College and marks 62%
Post-graduation: College and marks
Any other course CA

IAS Score: What were the basic mantras of your success?

Amit Suresh Tolani: To reach a destination, step1 is to start-ACT upon it. There is NO substitute to Hard work

IAS Score: What were your strategies for the lengthy syllabus of General Studies for both Prelims and Mains?

Amit Suresh Tolani: Divide the whole syllabus in smaller milestones in the form of different subjects and complete one subject at a time; solve questions of past exams (I did for past 15 years) and then get to next subject.

IAS Score: Did you integrate your Prelims or Mains preparation or was it separate in the changing scenario?

Amit Suresh Tolani: My strategy was to secure prelims first and then initiate to focus on Mains. However, I started the preparation of my Optional along with my preparation of Prelims.

For prelims, I completed the basic books and solved more of objective type questions (from both past years papers and insights on India Test papers)

For Mains, I focused more on Newspapers and solved Vision IAS and Synergy test papers.

GS Preparation for Prelims (Summary)

Study material / Guidance Polity : Laxmikant (special focus on Tables & boxes)

Modern History: Spectrum (special focus on chapters summary &

Economics: Shankar Ganesh

Geography: NCERT (6-12)

Mapping: World Map K. Sidhartha (Focus on Asia & Physical Map), Prem Patel-Indian Map

Environment: NCERT Biology-12thStd (Ecology section-special focus on tables & summaries) + Shankar IAS. (priority to NCERT because it will develop basic concepts)

Basic Books
Current Affairs The Hindu Newspaper + Vision IAS Current affairs

GS Mains Preparation (Summary)

Paper Study Material/Guidance Current Issues Source Answer Writing Practice
GS Paper 1 World History-Old NCERT;

Geo/Indian History/Culture-source is same as prelims

Vision test series (2 years)
GS Paper 2 News Paper-special focus on International relations Secure Mains-InsightsonIndia.com
GS Paper 3 News Paper-special focus on International Economics & security

Economic Survey

CBSE booklet on Disaster Management

Secure Mains-InsightsonIndia.com
GS Paper 4 S. K. Mishra Sir Class at GS Score, Jawahar Book depot – MNM series book on Ethics 2 case studies every day

Optional Subject Preparation  (Summary) – ‘Sindhi Literature’

Study material / Guidance Paper 1:

Grammar book –An intensive course in Sindhi

‘Sindhi Itihas’ by BherumalMihirchandAdvani

‘Sindhi Sahitya and adabjitarikh’ by DrLekhwani

‘Sindhi Sahitya jo Itihas’ by DrJetley

Paper 2:

1st hand reading of all books mentioned in UPSC syllabus (Will be issued for free by ‘National Council under Ministry of HRD for Promotion of Sindhi language; contact details available on its website)

Basic Books
Current Affairs
Answer Writing Min 2 Pages of Answer writing everyday

Test series guidance under DrBhojrajLekhwani, Pune

Any other

IAS Score: How did your prepare for essay.

Amit Suresh Tolani: At least 1 Essay each Sunday for the practice; Compare with others in order to improve. *Do NOT neglect essay at any cost because if the student is well prepared in essay, he/she will get high marks but if not prepared, marks will be substantially low. Eg: Marks may range from 90(low)-140(high)

IAS Score: Did you adopt any specific strategy for GS Paper 4?

Amit Suresh Tolani: My strategy was to focus mainly on the case studies. I used to solve 2 case studies each day from insightsonindia.com and compare my answers with others and jot down the good points or examples from other’s answers.

Students should collect the examples of important personalities. This they can use them in the answers.

For eg: Integrity & Courage – Ex CAG Vinod Rai

For Efficiency & Professionalism – Mr ShriDharan (MetroMan)

For Probity & Uprightness – Ex IPS Officer Dr Kiran Bedi

For Knowledge without Values – Mr RamalingaRaju-Satyam Scam

For Knowledge with Values – Mahatma Gandhi

IAS Score: What were the sources of information for general reading? How did you come to know that which sources of reading materials are standard?

Amit Suresh Tolani: ToppersBlog: Superman returns; Gaurav Agarwal, RachitRaj, Mrunal.org

IAS Score:  What is your advice on notes-making for other aspirants?

Amit Suresh Tolani: Always make short summary notes as they helps to- Register the information mentally (as we put in proactive efforts to prpare the same) Quick reference

IAS Score: How did you manage your time during the preparation?

Amit Suresh Tolani: I used to study in 2-2.5 hour slabs and small tea breaks. When bored, I used to solve objective type questions or watch something entertaining to refresh myself.

IAS Score: What was your style (paragraph or point format) of writing in the exam? How was it distinct from the general writing style? How did you develop this writing style?

Amit Suresh Tolani: My answer writing style was Point form.

I used to break the question into 2-4 headings to be able to write answers accordingly.

For Eg: In 2015, Que in Geo (paper 1) -‘Explain the factors responsible for the origin of ocean currents. How do they influence regional climates, fishing and navigation?’

Break of the ans for this ques will be in 5 parts-

  1. What are Ocean Currents?
  2. Factors responsible?
  3. Influence on Climate?
  4. Influence on Fishing?
  5. Influence on Navigation?

IAS Score: So much focus is being given to Test Series, both for Prelims and Mains, in your opinion how useful are they, in the course of a preparation process? Which Test Series did you join and how useful did you find it to be?

Amit Suresh Tolani: VERY important part of preparation for both Prelims & Mains because it shows us the mirror of our preparation level. It happens many times with students that they complete the book but still do not score in exam. Here the test series are of special relevance because these help students to assess how well he/she has understood and learnt the subject not just completed the books. It helps us to NOT be over confident.

For Prelims, I suggest previous years questions and Insights on India test papers

For Mains, Vision IAS Test papers.

IAS Score: Civil Services Exam process is quite strenuous. It requires long hours of constant study. How did you maintain your tempo and what did you do to break the monotony of preparation?

Amit Suresh Tolani: My friends were sincere upsc aspirants who helped me in my highs and lows.

Break the syllabus in short milestones.

Keep yourself entertained to avoid monotony and breakdown.

IAS Score: The trend suggests that professionals or working people are more successful in this exam. Does this exam prove difficult for Humanities and Social Science background candidates?

Amit Suresh Tolani: Absolutely NO; your sincere efforts are required irrespective of your background/caste/creed/academics/skills etc. One has to slog in some or the other way.

IAS Score: Which sources you referred to prepare for Contemporary Issues.

Amit Suresh Tolani: The Hindu, insightsonindia.com & mrunal.org

IAS Score: Given the recent boom in online initiatives to support an aspirant, which were the platforms that you find useful enough during your course of preparation. Please list the sites.

Amit Suresh Tolani:



IAS Score: What is your advice to the candidates who is still in the process of preparing for this examination?

Amit Suresh Tolani: Work Hard & Give more and more tests.

IAS Score: Your word for future aspirants

Amit Suresh Tolani: Have faith in yourself!

Amit Suresh Tolani Mark sheet

Paper Marks
Prelims GS-132


Essay (Paper 1) 118
GS 1 (Paper 2) 99
GS 2 (Paper 3) 87
GS 3 (Paper 4) 102
GS 4 (Paper 5) 95
Optional 1 (Paper 6) 131
Optional 2 (Paper 7) 137
Written Total 769
Personality Test 149
Total Score 918