How do I crack UPSC CSE in the first attempt while being under any circumstances?

Dear Aspirants,

The following answer is based on the research I carried out for one year (which was incidental with my preparation) which included interaction with :

  • Aspirants who qualified in their first attempt
  • Aspirants who could qualify in more than one attempt
  • Aspirants who could not qualify
  • Aspirants who qualified other exams like SSB, State PCS, CDS, RBI Grade B, GATE, IES etc. but not UPSC CSE
  • Aspirants who have now become teachers, mentors etc.

I have also referred to numerous interviews, Magazines, TV Shows, Webinars/Seminars, Interaction sessions at coaching institute, Mrunal, Unacademy etc.

I have followed an issue based approach to answer this question wherein I shall be addressing each issue/myth/misnomer pertaining to the question.

Issue # 1 : IAS – Initial Attempt Syndrome

Many aspirants in my coaching Vajiram & Ravi (company) ,on Quora or otherwise are often found to be suffering from the syndrome I mentioned above. They have an instant urge to be an officer; all they want is probably in a day or two UPSC should appoint them as IAS officers on priority basis because the country needs their services desperately and their desire to get into services is immense and they would overhaul the entire administrative mechanism of India the moment they are hired. They know everything about IAS and the perks associated but what they don’t know about is what it requires to be one.

If your only reason to join civil service is

  • You are from poor family and have seen hardships, struggle or
  • You have been victim of some injustice or
  • You have been denied opportunities in the past or
  • You wish to make your parents/ girl friend/ boyfriend / any one proud or
  • Someone treated you badly in the past or
  • You could not clear entrance exams of IIT/ IIM /AIIMS /NITs /IISC /GATE /NDA /PCS or get into top universities or top companies

Then you need to ponder again, you need to do little bit of brain storming as Union Public Service Commission does not conduct Civil Services Exam ONLY to

  • Remove your poverty by providing you an employment (you can work in MGNREGA, or apply for jobs at, shine, or LinkedIn. The current government also runs various poverty alleviation program and social sector schemes which can help you.)
  • Provide you justice (Courts do that. You can approach District Court, High court and Supreme Court)
  • Provide an opportunity to prove your worth (Opportunities are there in every field, the problem comes in your inability to discover them and in case they are not available create one for yourself. Fortune favors the brave)
  • Help in making your kith and kin proud (If your parents/gf/ bf love you truly, trust me, you don’t even have to make them proud because true love is unconditional)
  • Satisfy you ego (Why is your ego so fragile that anyone walks over you?)
  • Provide you a certificate of your merit (You could not qualify those exams or got into your ideal firms because you were not competent enough while those who got were. PERIOD)

People often get messages or message on Quora or comment in response to others answer or discuss with peers, wherein the person would state

  • I have failed in academics while I was in college/school or
  • I have passed out of college recently or
  • I have done some XYZ degree or
  • I work in ABC Firm or
  • I live in North East /South/Central/ Andaman Nicobar Islands or
  • I have started my preparation in Dec/Jan/Feb/March , and tell me

Will I become IAS if I am appearing for the exam in June 2017? How? Tell me the easiest strategy or topper’s strategy. And I am preparing from scratch.

The response to such question is NEVER (You may have a different opinion). Please think for a while and ponder over the following before judging me as arrogant and cynical. The “I” of IAS stands for INDIAN, which in English means ‘related to India’. How can you even think of being an officer if you don’t even know trivial facts associated with India. For example :

  1. You have no idea about the history of this great nation. If you do not know the past from where we have come from, how will you appreciate the future where we are heading towards? You do not know about Indus Valley civilization, The different Vedas, Empires like The Gupta’s, Chola’s, The Mughals, The Marathas and their contribution to the nation.
  2. You have no understanding of the great art and culture, heritage spread across the country in its entire length and breadth. Taj Mahal is not the only monument and Bhangra is not the only dance. Nor is Qutub Minar only meant for selfies to be put on Facebook. They convey the entire legacy of their time through them.
  3. You don’t know how the country got its independence. Movements like Champaran, Kheda, Satyagraha, Khilafat, Non co-operation, Civil Disobedience, Quit India , Swadeshi, Jalliawala Bagh Massacre, Chauri Chaura, Dandi Salt March appear unknown to you. Mr. Gandhi, Nehru & Patel were not the only freedom fighters.
  4. You don’t know the problems which the country had faced in the past or is currently facing.
    • Social problems like discrimination towards depressed classes; atrocities on women and vulnerable; demand for reservation by Jats in Haryana, Patidars in Gujarat, Gujjars in Rajasthan, Lingayats in Karnataka; Triple Talak issue; Water sharing of Kavery between TN and Karnataka
    • Political Problems like integration of princely states in Union of India, Simon Commission, Rowlatt Act, Vernacular Press Act, Issue of Defection, Lokapal, Right To Information, Uniform Civil code, National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC), Aadhar and the right to privacy, Jammu & Kashmir issue with respect to Article 370, National Emergency, Jaiprakash Movement
    • Economic Problems like Food Crisis in India after independence where we were literally begging world for feeding our hungry population to Green Revolution, Planning Commission and Five Year Plans, NITI Aayog, LPG Reform, 1991 Reforms, Fiscal Deficit, Public Subsidy Issue, PDS, GST, Black Money, hawala etc.
    • Security Problems like Terrorism, Left Wing Extremism/ Naxalism, Maoism, Communalism, Casteism, Regionalism, 1993 Mumbai Bomb blast, Ayodhya Temple Issue, Nagaland Issue, Gorkhaland issue, Assam Illegal migrant issue, Hindu Muslim riots, Sikh Riots
  5. You have no idea about Constitution. What is Preamble, your fundamental rights and duties, DPSP. The difference between schedule and parts to the constitution. Different type of courts in India, the politico – legal structure of Indian legislature and judiciary. The journey from Panchayat to Parliament is relatively unknown.
  6. India and its relations with immediate neighbors like Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. India’s affair vis-à-vis other countries and global organisations like UN, NATO, ASEAN, SCO, SAARC, EU, AU, WB, IMF etc.
  7. You don’t know how global events like World Wars, Issue in Middle East, ISIS, BREXIT, Trump coming to power impacts India. The geo political and economic ramification of China’s OROB, South China Sea
  8. You don’t know about the rivers, soil, mountains of India. You have no understanding of El Nino, Monsoons, La Nina, Famines, Floods, droughts.
  9. You can’t appreciate the diversity of India leading to thousands of welfare programs for the citizens. You don’t know what is STRIVE, SWAYAM, NAVIC, JAM, DBT, PMJY, PMFBY, PMGSY, PMJJY, PMUY, DDUGVY etc.

What I have mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg. In such a scenario how on earth can you even expect to clear this exam?

Or even if you qualify how will you address these problems when you would be an administrator. Trust me you can never know, forget about learning all these issues in small period of time.

Then how can any coaching institute or Roman Saini on Unacademy or can help you in just a 20 minute video or 3 month crash course?

Therefore, have some patience. Since you are starting from scratch, therefore it is imperative you will take time.

Issue # 2 : What is “First Attempt”?

The definition of first attempt is disputed. I have asked many people what exactly do they mean by first attempt? The response more or less has been the first time you take an exam.

There’s a catch in this definition. What it says is the first time you take the exam, but what it doesn’t mention is the number of years/period of time you spend in preparation before taking the exam.

Suppose an aspirant starts preparing in 2011 and appears for the exam first time in 2015 and by god’s grace is able to clear the exam. Everybody celebrates and the great Indian media comes up with amazing headline that the aspirant could clear the exam in his/her very first attempt. The assertion is wrong here as what people are not aware about are those 4 years of hard work which has gone into preparation.

Case in point being is Tina Dabi. I will not discuss about the reservation controversy here because she only used her constitutional right. The truth is no matter how much you crib, cry, howl, shout or protest, she is an IAS officer(credit to her hard work) now and it can’t be challenged in any court of law. PERIOD.

A coaching institute, Rau’s IAS Study Circle claims she joined their institute back in 2011, whereas she appeared for the exam or “first attempt” in 2015 and the rest is history.

I support the above statement by the following image whose source is mentioned below it. Certain sections have been cropped out because of privacy issues.

Issue # 3 : Motivation for the exam

This is the most crucial aspect – How to remain motivated in the long run. Understand that we as student have been programmed for short term challenges like sprint. Right from our board exam to college exam we have trained ourselves for Outcome Oriented Exam i.e. we would either study for one month/one week/ and some great souls one night or even one hour before the exam and would pass or top the exam. There we would beat the system by predicting the question to be asked in exam, solving sample papers, vomiting everything on the answer sheet and writing every single letter you know related to that question and that’s how we succeed.

But UPSC is a different game altogether. Here you don’t beat the system, instead the system breaks you down, rips you apart. More than the test of your intelligence, it tests your patience and resilience. The very nature of this exam exhausts you. First you have to study for a long period while preparing for the exam, then the exam itself is conducted in 3 stages spread across a year.

And during this time we face emotional issues, breakdown like gf/bf leaving you, friends betraying you, pressure of earning livelihood, marriage building upon you, financial crunch, career related issue and to sum it all THE FEAR OF FAILURE, which haunts you day in and out.

Hence, it becomes important to keep yourself calm, composure and not to lose your sanity. Before you start your preparation ask yourself why you even wish to become an officer. If finding a secure career is your goal or just helping people is your aim then you better join an NGO sooner or later, because in the due course of preparation you would require a bigger motivation which would help you in long run to prepare.

Understand your poverty shall not be the only reason why UPSC should hire you. Many of us are not from fortunate background, but for every single poor aspirant there are over 100 more poorer aspirant sitting for this exam who are equally competent and deserving.

Toppers, teachers and mentors suggest that you should not be running behind first attempt and instead focus on learning. Also understand that IAS is not the end but simply a means to a greater cause. Do not study just to clear the exam but study for improving yourself and becoming a better citizen.

You can follow the following on Quora who can help you in UPSC preparation or otherwise in general

  • Rajneesh Dube
  • Rahul Shrivastava
  • Roman Saini
  • Pulkit Garg
  • Trilok Kumar Singh
  • Atul Kulkarni
  • Preeti Maithil
  • Nishant Yadav
  • Vikram R K
  • Keerthi Kiran H Pujar
  • Gopalkrishna Vishwanath
  • Anshul Sharma
  • Uday Chaudhari
  • Sahil Garg
  • Anurag Kumar
  • Rohit Kapoor
  • Akanksha Bhaskar
  • Aditya Bajpai
  • Chandra Mohan Garg
  • Sandip Desai
  • Balaji Viswanathan
  • Bhavesh Mishra
  • And my favorites Atul Roy, Agam Jain & Akand Sitra

And many others whom I have missed.

Take advice from someone who has cleared the exam or at least have appeared for it in the past. Many of us here are just aspirants, at the maximum we can tell you about the books to buy and coaching to join but the real guidance will come from the one’s I have mentioned above.

I hope I have helped you. If there is anything in the above answer which you found inappropriate, please accept my apologies in advance. Shall you require an apology in person or any other issue , please drop me a mail at I shall be more than happy to reach out to you.

I am an aspirant myself enrolled at Vajiram & Ravi’s July 2016 – April 2017 GS Batch. I write about Vajiram & Ravi, coaching institute in Delhi and motivation for aspirants.


Sunny Pandey.

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