10 Tips To Crack UPSC From Toppers

Pratiksha Dixit
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UPSC is one of the toughest competitive exams in India. Every year, lakhs of aspirants write the prelims, and just a few hundred are appointed as civil servants. Although there is no sure-shot formula to crack the exam, one can definitely learn a lot from following the footprints of IAS toppers. This article gives you 10 tips to clear the UPSC exam from UPSC Toppers. 


Read on and get inspired!

  • Hard work and dedication

First of all, remember that there is no substitute for hard work and dedication.  IAS toppers around the country have stressed the fact that they achieved success because of their relentless hard work and dedication along with the help and support from family, friends, and mentors who guided them.

Nandini KR, 2017 batch topper, tells all the aspirants to trust themselves. She says that it is important to work very hard to clear CSE and grow by learning from past mistakes.

  • Start early

Give yourself at least a year to prepare for the exam. Most toppers start really early as there is a lot of syllabus to be covered and it requires time to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the topics involved. 


Tina Dabi (2015-16 Topper) mentioned that she used to study for 8 to 14 hours. This she did for five continuous years. This means that she must have dedicated 12,000-15,000 hours in that five-year time period to studies only.

  • Selecting optional subject

UPSC Toppers suggest that it is important for you to choose subjects that you are genuinely interested in. Before selecting your optionals, go through the syllabi of those shortlisted subjects, and evaluate your own academic background and knowledge levels.

Abhishek Saraf (All India Rank 8 in UPSC Civil Services 2019) shared that he chose his optionals based on how interested he was in the subject and the study material available to him.

  • Guidance and support

UPSC preparation requires aspirants to seek proper guidance and support to prepare for their exams. One of the most crucial aspects of the exam is the UPSC Personality test. 


Most of the UPSC toppers were able to write their success stories with the help of experts and mentors for their interview preparation. Your mentors could be the people who have passed the exam previously. They can guide you on how to prepare and which topics are important for your preparation.

Saraf, the 8th rank holder in UPSC 2019,  also got help from his peers who had already cleared the UPSC Civil Services and analysed previous years’ question papers and the answer sheets of toppers to boost his preparation.

  • Make notes

Make your own notes rather than referring to other study material. This makes recollection a lot easier as writing reinforces what you have studied. 

Dipankar Choudhary (IAS Topper, All-India rank-42) shares, “I prepared notes for optional, ethics and modern history. For current affairs and everything else, I relied on the books and magazines but I used to scribble at the margins, cross-reference everything, and highlight using a marker. They served as my notes and I revised them over and over again for, maybe, I guess 7-8 times. I also prepared diagrams and flowcharts for many topics in my notes.”

  • Practice writing

To write good quality answers in the Mains exam, you ought to do a significant amount of writing practice before appearing for the exam. So, practice writing consistently since the start of your preparation, or all your knowledge and hard work will go in vain. 

Priyank Kishore, AIR 274, is one of those who managed to clear the CSE in his first attempt in 2018. He shares that practicing writing clear, concise essays and answers with substance helped him in improving his rank.

  • NCERT books 

There are many sources of UPSC study material but your basic reading should ideally start with NCERT textbooks. The concepts are explained in simple language and the language is familiar as you have been studying the same material from class VI to class XII for all the relevant subjects.

Anu Kumari (batch of 2018) who scored rank 2 mentions that one’s basics from class 10, 12th, and graduation subjects should be strong. She also said that coaching isn’t very important as everything is available online these days.

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  • Newspapers

All aspiring civil servants are recommended to stay up to date on current affairs. Newspapers are the most crucial part of your civil services exam preparation. Toppers recommend reading The Hindu and The Indian Express to be incorporated into your daily routine.

Sanjita Mohapatra (All India Rank 10 in UPSC 2019) shares that She began preparing for the test during her graduation days by regularly reading the newspaper and keeping track of current affairs.

  • Mock tests

Mock tests are considered practice exams before you appear for the final one. Attempting mock tests of the prelims and mains will help boost your confidence and overcome mistakes. Here you are not only made aware of the test pattern but are also made to experience the strategies for tackling the actual test. These tests also help you time your writing.

“The mock interviews helped me gain many new perspectives. This helped me work on my areas of weaknesses across many dimensions of the personality test,” said Pratibha, Third rank holder in UPSC Civil Services 2019 in a media interview.

  • Proper revision

Lastly, revision is very important for UPSC test preparation. Almost all IAS toppers advise fellow aspirants to revise the course material at least thrice before appearing for the exam. 

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