Deepak Karwa AIR 48 UPSC Preparation Strategy


Strategy:Deepak Karwa, AIR 48 (CSE 2019)

One can only connect dots in hindsight, in real time one is forced to go forward based on calculated guesswork.

Brief Introduction

नमस्ते! This is Deepak Karwa and secured 48th rank in UPSC CSE-2019. I am a native of Khinwsar, Nagaur, Rajasthan with ancestral roots there. I have done my schooling from Mumbai, Maharashtra and B.Tech in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from IIT Madras. My UPSC journey would not have been possible without the immense support from family, friends and गुरु.

Brief about my UPSC journey
Year (Attempt) Result
2014 (1st) Could not clear Prelims (Given during job)
2015 (2nd) Could not clear Prelims (Just started preparing and prelims Paper-2 was made qualifying)
2016 (3rd) Could not clear Prelims (Missed the mark by few marks)
2017 (4th) Could not clear Mains (GS-457 and Physics-166)
2018 (5th) Could not clear Prelims (Given during CM Fellowship)
2019 (6th) 48 Rank


  • After almost a year in an education start-up after graduation, few instances of collaboration with government revealed the impact with resources available in Government. Hence, decided to explore the option of preparation for UPSC.
  • Cleared CAPF-AC, 2016 examination with 51strank and got BSF. It provided a good experience of UPSC interview.
  • Cleared prelims twice only i.e. in 2017 and in my last attempt in 2019
  • After my mains in 2017, I joined as a CM Fellow in Tribal Development Department, Maharashtra and worked for a year to gain an experience of working in Government
  • Worked as a Project engineer, CTARA in IIT Bombay after Mains in 2019 (Step towards Plan B)


  • It requires on an  average 3-4 years of commitment to become IAS/IFS/IPS (PhD in itself)
     o  Very high motivation and purpose to overcome the failures
     o  Should like reading daily current affairs
  • Need to go through the syllabus of GS and optional thoroughly from UPSC-CSE notification
  • Read previous year papers especially last 5 years to understand the trend of questions and to learn the length, breadth and width of topic to be read and understood
  • Is coaching class necessary? For GS not necessary as it requires thorough reading of NCERTs, self-study and rigorous answer/test writing practice
  •  For optional may be necessary if the subject chosen is not your graduation one
     o  Also it depends on demand of subject and students
  • Emotional support from friends and family is required to motivate and to refresh you

Lifestyle strategy

  • Everyday physical exercise during preparation helps in releasing endorphins which relaxes the mind, anxiety is shooed and keeps you positive resulting into increase in productive time and efficiency. Meditation also helps as health is wealth
  • Complete sleep of 7-8 hours
  • Motivational quotes and refreshing videos should be handy
  • Everyday newspaper (Indian Express-I preferred or The Hindu) reading practice should be followed to improve general articulation, better expression of thoughts and making topic specific notes
    o  Collection of real life examples and statistics from it
    o  Selective reading must be strictly followed as initially will take hours but with time it should be completed in 2 hours
  • Devote 1:1 time for GS and optional (out of 8-10 hrs everyday consistently)
    o  Hardwork-95% and आशीर्वाद & blessings-5%
  •  Concise notes of prelims and mains has to be created separately throughout the year as it is said, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”

    o  You could check with Vision monthly current affairs and follow one online website like Insights, Civilsdaily, IASbaba, etc. to cross-check whether all topics have been noted or not

  • Consistent practice and revision is a necessary evil as we tend to forget after every new layer of information is added in our brain
  • Studying style of prelims and mains is different as one is factual and other is analytical
  • Necessity of study partner/group because it immediately gets accountability for achieving any targets
    o  It acts as a support group on days you feel gloomy and unhappy
    o  Pushing each other to follow a strict timeline and motivate each other
    o  Regular feedback and discussion leads to improvement
    o  Brings discipline, good habits and positivity in life
    o  I stayed in Shri Jaichandlal Karwa Maheshwari Hostel, Delhi for my last attempt where conducive environment like study group, good food, etc. helped me in clearing the exam
  • Attempt tests on time (during weekend when newspapers are light as it is very tiring)
  • Prepare thoroughly for 1-2 years before taking tests because CSE exam’s demand and beauty cannot be appreciated without it
  • Making topic wise short notes is necessary
  • Qualities like Humility, discipline, perseverance, structured preparation, sustained hard-work, persistence, consistency, mentally and physically fit (UPSC demands it as they are key to good civil servant)
  • Guidance to be taken from people of similar background for frequency match
  • After you hit a threshold in CSE then you generally don’t get lower marks
  • Exam is for a mediocre one and not for super-intelligent so satisfy the demand of exam
  • Not necessary to read all the books, have limited sources but know in and out of it
  • Avoid social media as need of instantaneous gratification distract you
  • Have flexibility in time-table as some days are very productive and some are not

General Studies (GS) Strategy


  • GS 1-XI-XII NCERT (History, Geography, Sociology, Fine Arts), Tamil Nadu XI-Art and Culture, Spectrum, GC Leong, Atlas
  • GS 2-XI-XII NCERT (Polity), Laxmikanth, PIB, Puri sir notes, PRS, Vision notes-Current affairs, II ARC, Punchhi commission reports for centre-state relations
  • GS 3-XI-XII NCERT (Economics, Science), Sanjiv Verma+SriRam IAS (Economics), Shankar IAS (Environment), Puri sir notes, Economic Survey, Budget and link them directly with topics
  • GS 4-Lukmaan case studies, SK Mishra notes, Puri sir notes, Definition of every word in syllabus along with examples/personalities related to it


  • Involves solving at least 50 mock test papers to get an idea about how to eliminate options and practice the skill of intelligent guessing through intuition (Most ruthless part)
  • Building intuition and clearing prelims is the toughest job in the exam (2/6 times)
     §  11,845/4 lakhs so only 3% people clear this stage
     §  Capitalise on every attempts and give your full dedication
  • Written in my blog that balancing a demanding job with UPSC preparation didn’t work out for me
  • Current affairs online from one source
  • An optimum attempt could be 80-90 questions depending on the toughness of paper


  • Digital form of short notes would help in updating the notes dynamically. My study partner used to prefer evernote but I had a bias towards MS Word
  • Optional-ethics-essay strategy needs to be banked on
  • Puri sir (now Stellar IAS) also made us write an answer after every class and get it checked from him for feedback. So you should have a partner or mentor to do that.
  • The daily answer practice for 4 GS questions developed within no time from Insights on India secure initiative and we developed the habit of discussing with each-other for feedback in order to improve upon it, which helped me get 457 in 2017 attempt.
    §  With a one week lag so that content is revised and retained in mind
  • Along with writing answers, I used to update my notes after discussion and feedback from each other.
  • Here answer writing practice helped us in many ways like
    §  Developing area specific frameworks like supply chain analysis, for any service start-to-end problem analysis
§ Bank of jargons help in not searching for words at crucial moments during answer writing
§ Diversity in answer and various examples
§ Application based answers with inter-linking of topics
  • Answer-writing skill: Every answer should start with simple one line introduction
    §  Statistics/data/flow-chart/map
§ Body of answer addressing the question
§ Point format answer writing with underlining of key-words
§ End with a way forward, balanced opinion and quotes collected from newspaper, reports like ARC, Economic survey, etc., role models and Sanskrit shlokas
§ Presentation matters to fetch an extra half mark in every answer as it aids into ease of checking for the examiner and highlights that you know the content you have exhibited

Essay writing

  • Practice involved writing essay every Sunday after Prelims and getting it reviewed by study partner. The process of essay writing and review use to consume lot of time and energy on that day.
  • You should have model essays for broad themes like women, education, health, agriculture, environment, judiciary, etc.
  • Model could include anecdotes, quotes, multi-dimensional points covering whole GS syllabus, way forward
  • Writing an essay is an art so the demand of maintaining a lucid flow, writing in simple language, easy to understand and relevance to the topic without repeating the points needs to be ensured

Optional Strategy

  • How to choose one?
    o  Graduation topic/Basic background about it
o  See previous year UPSC question papers
o  Developing interest in that subject so that you can study for long hours
o  Helping in GS or you need break from GS
  • I had taken Physics optional coaching from Vajpayee sir, DIAS
    o  सर के बल खड़ा होना पड़ेगा as told by Vajpayee sir himself
o Initial revisions might make you doubt taking physics but it pays hefty dividends in Mains
o Average 15 side revision notes have to be made for all the 8 topics
o Tutorial sheet and previous year papers needs to be explicitly solved which could be revised anytime easily
o One reference book for every topic is a necessity for looking at solved examples and getting exposed to all the profile of questions
o Value addition for every topic as it would require some graph/figure during the start or end of the answer.
o A unique application/significance like a brownie point for the concept would add a novel value to the answer in the end.

  • Paper 1:
       §  Mechanics-DS Mathur
§ Optics-Ghatak
§ Electricity-Griffiths
§ Thermo-Garg Bansal Ghosh
  • Paper 2:
       §  Quantum-HC Verma
§ Atomic and Molecular-Raj Kumar
§ Nuclear-SB Patel
§ Solid state-Puri Babbar
  • Physics-Despite syllabus being vast it is static and objectivity in marking
  •  Sociology-Small syllabus, subjectivity and knack about the answer writing

Personality Test Strategy

  • 4C-Calm, composed, chill and confident
  • Bear in your mind that it is the test of your personality and not knowledge (as you have cleared its test i.e. mains).
   o  It is fine if you do not answer every question
o Also some answers may not satisfy all panelists then it is fine
  • Consistent on paper and as a person
  • Positive and optimist in a constructive suggestion


  • काक चेष्टा, बको ध्यानं, स्वान निद्रा तथैव च स्वल्पहारी, गृहत्यागी विद्यार्थी पंच लक्षणं
  • Fortune favours the brave
  • Don’t count the days, make the days count
  • उमर भर गालिब यही भूल करता रहा, धूल चेहरे पर थी और आइना साफ करता रहा
  • Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country
  • परमं ध्येय ज्ञानं
  • Be the change you want to see in the world
  • Energy and persistence conquer all things
  • श्रद्धावान लभते ज्ञानं
  • When you cheat a person she gives you a single lesson but when you cheat nature it gives a lifetime lesson
  • सिद्धिर्भवति कर्मजा
Source cse wiki