[Strategy] How to Crack IAS in First Attempt? Preparation Journey of UPSC IAS Topper Saurabh Dixit (AIR 162 / CSE 2016) First Attempt, No Coaching, Preparation Strategy [Part 1]


Saurabh Dixit

AIR 162, CSE 2016

First Attempt, No Coaching

This Article is a Part of Series of Articles written by Saurabh Dixit who has secured AIR 162, CSE 2016 with self study in the very First Attempt.

Those who think they can, and those who think they can’t are both usually right

I’ll come to the purpose of writing the above quote at the very starting of this post later. But first things first. This post is as close an account of my preparation for the CSE, as it could be. I’ve only one motive behind writing this piece – to help an aspirant clear the examination in one go.

I must also declare that I did not take any coaching for any subject whatsoever, and have achieved AIR 162 in my first attempt. Also, I hold the belief that coaching isn’t mandatory for a serious candidate. Period.

My optional was Sociology.


Here is my score card:


prelims scorecard Saurabh Dixit


mains Saurabh Dixit upsc

The details that don’t matter but need mention:

I have always been good at studies, and at examinations for that matter. I scored more than 90 per cent in both my board exams and achieved AIR 1675 in IIT JEE in 2010. I graduated from IIT Kanpur in June 2015 with a dual degree in Civil Engineering.  Thereafter, I joined Housing.com in Mumbai. I was planning to write the examination while on the job. Plans changed and I came to New Delhi (Old Rajinder Nagar) on December 1, 2015. I would have gone to my hometown instead but couldn’t really take that bold decision, then.

Anyways, I rented a good place in ORN and started my preparation on December 03, 2015 (co-incidentally, exactly one year before CSE 2016 written examination). I moved to Gorakhpur after having written the main (w) exam, and came to Delhi for a few mock interviews just before my PT.

Preparing for the CSE preparation:

While I was on campus, I had done as elaborate internet search on UPSC, CSE prep, qualified candidates, optional subjects, as possible. I even bought most NCERTs (ALL new ones) while on campus. Never read them though.

Before I finally came to ORN, I had most of the booklist (we will talk about it very soon in this post), I had joined an online test series, was firm with the decision of my optional.

The game had begun.

I sincerely believe that you must always do a thorough research on following things when it comes to choosing a career: your own capabilities, your aspirations, career options available, the rigor expected from you in a particular career and so on. I must also add that there were times when I was still in college and I felt I should not attempt the CSE. I had my reasons, but finally here I am, preparing to join the FC soon.

I did elaborate search on many portals regarding exam pattern, booklist, severity of effort required, fall back options etc. Only when you have done all of this, should you attempt the examinations, or else the following may (read will) happen.

Your juniors from college will clear this exam and that. They’ll apparently post things on FB, you’ll get jealous and helpless and what not. Let’s come the more relevant part – if you fail in successive attempts at CSE for lack of ‘preparation of preparation’ — you’ll join a coaching institute somewhere for a few lacs, only to realize later that it doesn’t guarantee your success.

You’ll be made to believe CSE is a lottery, luck and the like. (Conspiracy) Theories like only the brightest stand a chance, there’s some sort of ‘setting’ in the examination etc keep you engaged. Your precious youth is not being used to the extent it should be, so to say. You start to doubt your own capabilities.

You hunt for that ‘perfect’ approach and ‘perfect’ material for CSE. I must remind you outright, there is none! Everybody who has cleared the exam this time (and every time) knows there are few thousands more who deserve to be on the list.

Books keep on increasing, attempts keep on increasing and you gradually become less ruthless. Alas.

Students of mathematics can better relate my following analogy. See, there’s a domain of things that a serious candidate must do in order to be successful at CSE, and once that is done –wait for your chance!

This exam will test your patience and your perseverance. I know even under 10 rank holders in IITJEE who couldn’t clear the exam in one go. And in the same breadth I must also mention there’re some who clear it multiple times in a row! It all boils down to your own efforts. Period.

In a nutshell, be very clear as to why CSE? Why IAS? Why a government job? Only then will you be able to build the tempo required to enjoy the time spent studying.

When In ORN:

My online searches had told me that ‘answer writing’ and ‘test series’ hold the key in today’s era of CSE. I don’t dispute it, but I have my own reservations about these suggestions.

Anyways, I started writing answers daily (yes, from Day One as people will have you believe it). Only after 20 odd days did I realize that it isn’t helping. It won’t. If you’re going to attempt this exam for the very first time, be least worried about answer writing. I will tell why I think so when I discuss my main(w) exam approach.

Things that I won’t discuss/write about:

Importance of reading a national daily (I read and recommend The Hindu), importance of NCERTs, watching RSTV programs, solving a test series (once you’re done with prelims), attending a mock panel for interview guidance.

I have chosen to not write about them, ironically, to highlight their importance. The sheer advantage the above things give you can’t be put in words. I owe my success to the above sources (and some more).

Let’s quickly move to examination part:

CSE is an exam, just like any other. Only a bit more thorough and demands particular skill set. If you have that, you’ll have no problem clearing it.

The skill set here includes presentation, imaginative power, planning, problem solving, and analytical ability. People prepare a lot for the exam, but hardly focus on the exam duration. It’s very important. Your skills, knowledge, imagination and you yourself are put to test in a limited period of time. You need to be highly attentive when taking the CSE, in the exam hall.

(More on this later)

Until next time,

– Saurabh Dixit, AIR 162

(“ForumIAS is the best platform to help students in today’s era”, says the UPSC Topper)

Note: This is Part-1 of the series of write-up on UPSC CSE preparation by Saurabh Dixit.


Print Friendly and PDF