Mayank Mishra UPSC 2019, Rank 172 Secret strategy



About Me

  • Graduate in B.E (Hons.) Civil Engineering from BITS Pilani, Pilani Campus (2012-2016)
  • Worked at TCG Digital, in the role of Data Analyst and Consultant (July 2016 – May 2018)
  • Left job, joined Vajiram and Ravi (New Delhi) Foundation Course in May 2018 and continued daily classes for 2.5 hours at Old Rajinder Nagar centre till February 2019
  • CSE 2019 was my first attempt | Optional – Sociology

Broad Timeline

  • June, 2018 to August, 2018 – NCERTs Complete (Round 1) along with some basic GS
  • September, 2018 to October, 2018 – Sociology (Optional)
  • November 2018 – Ethics and other backlogs of GS | Answer writing Began
  • December 2018 – Revision of all the GS Subjects (Round 1) | Daily one answer, question from Insights on India or IAS Baba website
  • January and February – Answer writing increased with Round 2 revision of GS and Round 1 revision of optional
  • March, April and May 2019 – Full preparation for Prelims
  • June, July, August, September – Full Preparation for Mains


  • Newspapers
    • The Hindu (Core)
    • The Indian Express (Important Columns)
  • Polity
    • Indian Polity by Laxmikanth
    • Indian Constitution at Work – 11th NCERT
    • Current Affairs Compilations – PT365, Prelims Compass
  • Economy
    • articles
    • Vajiram Yellow Book (Provided by Institute) | Substitute – Sriram IAS Economy Notes
    • Macroeconomics – NCERT Class XII
    • Indian Economic Development – NCERT Class XI
    • Economic Survey
    • Internet for understanding concepts (Arthapedia, Google, Youtube)
  • History
    • Ancient History of India
      • Old NCERT by RS Sharma
      • New NCERTs (Selective Reading of Important Chapters)
    • Medieval History of India
      • Tamil Nadu History Book
      • New NCERTs
    • Modern History
      • A Brief history of Modern India- Spectrum Publications
      • India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (Selective Reading)
    • Indian Art and Culture
      • Nitin Singhania Book
      • An Introduction to Indian Art – Class XI NCERT
  • Environment and Biodiversity
    • Shankar IAS Book
    • Vajiram Book
    • Current Affairs Compilation – PT365, Prelims Compass
  • Science and Technology
    • General Science books – IX and X standard
    • The Hindu (Note down and read about the latest scientific terms, discoveries and inventions frequently mentioned in news)
    • Google and YouTube
    • Current Affairs Compilations
  • Geography
    • Fundamentals of Physical Geography XI NCERT
    • India: Physical Environment XI NCERT
    • India: People and Economy XII NCERT
    • Certificate Physical and Human Geography: GC Leong
    • PMFIAS (Excellent resource for understanding complex topics) Google and YouTube
  • Govt Schemes
    • Govt schemes compilations – PT365, Prelims Compass
  • Ethics
    • Vajiram Class Notes
    • GS Score Compilation of Basic Terminologies
    • G Subbarao Book – For missing topics and solution to Previous Year Questions
  • World History
    • Ojha Sir Notes
    • New NCERT of History
  • Sociology
    • Nitin Sangwan
    • Harlambos (Blue Book)
    • Ritzer – For Thinkers
    • NCERT – XI and XII
    • Sleepy Classes YouTube Videos
    • Vikash Ranjan Sir’s Test Series Discussion and Solution Booklet

Tryst with Coaching

After quitting a full time job, I decided to attend a classroom coaching programme in order to get familiar with the concepts and also to bring a level of discipline and rigour in my preparation for my preparation.

I have utilised the services of the following institutes at different stages of the examination. This is not a promotional or a review post of these institutes.
Stage of Exam Coaching Institutes Remarks
Prelims Stage Vajiram and Ravi Foundation Course and Prelims Test Series
Mains Stage Vision IAS (GS Test Series)

Vajiram and Ravi (GS Test Series)

Triumph IAS (Sociology Test Series)

12 Tests at Vision for 4 GS Papers

4 Complimentary Test at Vajiram for Ex-Students

10 Tests with Vikash Ranjan Sir (Triumph IAS) – Great Value Add

Interview Stage KSG

Vision IAS

Vajiram and Ravi

Triumph IAS (Collaboration with GS Mentors)


Attended Mock Interviews at KSG, Vision IAS (Faculty Round), Vajiram and GS Mentors. Had one to one interaction with Vinay Sir (InsightsonIndia) and Ranganathan Sir (Officers IAS).

Paper Wise Strategy


  • Go through past year paper’s question bank ( I followed Disha Publication one ). Don’t be surprised if by chance you find 1/2 direct questions in the exam
  • Know even about the incorrect options. Sometimes next year questions are made from previous years options
  • Practice subject wise test series from any one coaching institute and full length tests from multiple institutes. Around a total of 12-15 Full Tests are more than enough.
  • Analyse your tests – Attempt 3 rounds at least and for each round check your accuracy, what kind of question do you tend to make mistake, what are your strong areas, etc
  • Polity, Economy, History, Geography and Environment form the core of Prelims – To be done well
  • Try to find your optimum attempts for maximum score. Usually people attempt around 85 questions to get a score around 110 with a good preparation
  • Read the original sources published by the government well – Economic Survey (Selective reading), India Year Book, PIB Compilations, etc. UPSC will not prepare questions from coaching notes.
  • If you have a choice between NCERT and any other book, always prefer NCERT – Begin with Class 11th and 12th and go backward till 6th.
  • Science & Technology is very application based so read current affairs well along with basic NCERTs and Std 12th Bio book (last few chapter)
  • Read 1 source 5 times rather than 5 sources 1 time.


Having taken classroom coaching, my strategy heavily relied on class notes. There are so many strategy videos on YouTube of toppers who have done it with self study, sometimes even with a job. CSEWiki is your platform to explore and learn.
Paper Strategy
Essay It can be started only after completion of the whole syllabus at least twice. Many people start it after Prelims also. Writing at least 5 essay is sufficient for some while for others its more. What matters is who is evaluating it. It can be a teacher or friend but needs to give critical feedback. Please refer to topper’s essay uploaded by the coaching institutes to understand better. Make a diary where you collect good lines from the newspaper, quotations, some examples, data, etc which can be used in the essay. Essay is a structured writing which flows from the same knowledge base gathered for GS (mostly).

Detailed strategy will be uploaded separately.

General Studies 1 Art and Culture & Modern History – Static, similar content as prelims. Only difference is answers will require a detailed analysis. Usually less scope for diagrams

Post Independence History – Important from mains point of view. Bipan Chandra Book is recommended but too bulky. Anudeep Durishetty Sir (Rank 1, 2017) has made his notes available on his blog, please check

World History – From the past few years, not given enough importance by UPSC. I prepared from Ojha Sir’s (Vajiram Faculty) notes.

Geography – Preparation source same as Prelims. NCERT 11th and 12th are sufficient.

Society – Very dynamic. Requires real life application and observation. Sociology NCERT for 11th and 12th forms a good base.

Refer to UPSC question papers to understand the type of questions asked

General Studies 2 Polity – Questions are usually asked from events that have current linkage. Book – Laxmikanth. Focus on Newspaper editorials for the examination year, especially 6 months prior to it. Even most recent editorial can feature in as question

Governance – Questions require a bit of holistic knowledge of nuances of Governance. I covered it through Vajiram Class Notes (Atish Mathur Sir). There is a book by Laxmikanth as well. However, Second ARC reports (summarised by coachings) are a must do.

Social Justice – Generic topic. No special preparation apart from Current Affairs.

International Relations – Purely current affairs based. If want to know the background story, the book by Pavneet Sir can be read selectively

General Studies 3 Economy – Questions are mostly focused on basics of economy and development, economic survey idea, etc. Preparation sources remain same, answer writing and current affairs need to be made solid

Agriculture – Very important for mains. Source is very scattered so make your own notes. I used class notes of Shiv Arpit Sir (Vajiram) along with Economic Survey chapter on Agriculture

Environment – Shankar IAS. Questions are easy, hence writing 200 words plus becomes difficult

Security Issues – I followed Pavneet Sir’s (Vajiram) Class Notes. Check for good resources on it. Ministry of Home Affairs website should be studied for Left Wing Extremism

Disaster Management – Self preparation from various sources

Science and Technology – Issues are mostly around current affairs but sometimes contributions of eminent scientists are asked.

Science Reporter Magazine is very useful.

General Studies 4 (Ethics) I followed the following sources – Vajiram Class Notes, GS Score Terminologies Handout, G Subbarao Book (Selective). The subject involves understanding each and every word of the syllabus carefully and deriving examples from your own life as well of those of great leaders. Please refer to notes of topper’s like Chirag Surana to understand how to make notes. G. Subbarao is a bulky book but very good coverage if you have time.
English (Qualifying) Nothing to prepare at all for English medium students. See last year paper to believe it.
Regional Language (Qualifying) I somewhat prepared Hindi for around a total of 30 hours as I was not very confident due to a long gap. But you should see past year paper yourself to understand the preparation required.
Optional Varies according to optional. Sociology booklist already shared. Will share the detailed strategy soon.