First Attempt : IAS Rank 43: 413 Marks in General Studies, Harsh shares his GS Strategy

When I first called Harsh for the ForumIAS Community meet, two days before the meet sometime in the last week of April, 2106, he was in Darbhanga – his paternal town.

He carried no smart phone and was not on Whatsapp and Forum was the quickest way to reach him, he said.

Harsh had scored 43rd rank in Civil Services with 413 marks in GS and 145 in the Essay. But that’s not all. He did it in his first attempt at a time, when he had just walked out of college. Among the first things he asked me was – I haven’t yet got my graduation degree, is that a problem ? 🙂

I asked Harsh to come over and share his strategy of 400+ marks and 145 in Essay at the Community Meet. He obliged and took a rather expensive flight to Delhi. Last minute flights are expensive, you know.

However, as things turned out on the Community Meet Day, people wanted to hear the tallest man in the room ( I am not talking height ) – Gaurav Agrawal. Besides Abhishek Pandey & Siddhartha Jain ( 13th rank in IFS and IAS ) and a lot of other people were there, so not everyone could speak.

So Harsh could not share his thought on getting a 400 + score in GS and the Essay ( Arushi has a great post on Essay here and you can follow it ) This is important because for all the serious aspirants, scoring well in GS is the most strategic thing to achieve  – if one wants to get a good rank and final selection.

I have asked him to share his detailed preparation strategy in ORN, New Delhi around 17th-18th August so those of you who are in Rajinder Nagar, can see him around that time. Details for the same will be announced later.

Here is Harsh’s article , sharing what he did


In the present pattern of Civil Services examination, the 4 GS papers and essay paper have a very pivotal role to play. I scored 413 marks in GS Paper ( 105+91+107+110 ) and 145 in Essay and got through in my first attempt.

Its almost a necessity to score big in these papers if one wants a top 100 rank.

Its true that the optional can pull you up but frankly it can’t pull you up enough.

And it is these papers which really test us on what we are going to encounter in the services.

GS is different from Optionals

There is a very fundamental difference between these papers and the optionals. While the optional have a more or less set pattern, GS and essay can be highly unpredictable in terms of the things asked.

There is no fixed portion which can be done. Topics are given in a broad based and diffused manner.This requires an in depth understanding of the syllabus. The method of studying should be highly analytical and one should try to see everything  from a frame of reason, problems and solutions. One should try to connect the everyday events with the syllabus and get in the habit of asking questions.

For example, if the Parliament is in logjam, then pertinent questions like why the logjam,was it always like it, how are other countries faring in this, have they found a solution should automatically arise. Also, developing an attitude of looking at different dimensions of any issue is very important.

Normally, our perceptions are very much shaped by what we see, what we hear or what we read. All that is very good but after some time, one should open up to new dimensions. And, it does happen, you will be able to think along such lines once you are set in the habit of analyzing.

Also, much lies in how can each topic be done in a wholesome and comprehensive manner without compromising on time management. For each broad topic, I prepared 8-10 generic points which would be applicable to any question that comes related to it. This helps in having a general understanding and then the intricacies can be taken care of by the more you read and revise.

Read less, Revise More, Write Most

In any of the GS papers, one should cut down to bare minimum material. One should not be cluttered by too much study material. After deciding this, it should be revised again and again. And what’s more important is that one must write more and read in a limited manner.

Ultimately, what we write in those 3 hours matters and if one goes on reading and doesn’t write, it’d be difficult to complete the paper. Answer writing should be started as soon as possible, maybe as soon as after prelims.

One must have a target of writing 6-7 answers daily. In actual exam, we have 9 minutes for each question so the practice should be conducted in an environment of 8 minutes.

When we start writing the answer, we have  a tendency of elaborating on each point because maybe we know those points in a better manner. But this eats up  both time and writing space. Ultimately only 3-4 points are covered. According to me, we should just write 1 or 2 lines about each point and write more number of points overall. This kind of strategy makes our answers more rich, multi dimensional and objective.

The time taken is also less.It’s also better for the examiner to read it. But to do this, try to develop a trans-disciplinary approach like if the question is in GS paper 2 don’t hesitate to touch on ethical, historical or philosophical angle.

You can’t know everything

In any of the Gs papers, there would be at most 10 questions which you can write with satisfaction. 5 would be those about which you have heard partly and  4-5 about which you don’t have an inkling. So, to score big, its important to attempt the last set of 5 questions and not leave them.

Ultimately, while practicing answers or writing test series, it comes down to writing those answers about which we haven’t heard. That’s why its very important that answer writing be started immediately after prelims so that one develops a knack of writing such questions.

Paperwise Preparation

Coming to the specifics, GS 1 is pretty much static and I need not say much about it. GS 2 and GS 3 need some rigorous preparation. One should read the newspaper regularly.

Watching Rajya Sabha programmes like The Big Picture, Desh Deshantar, India’s World and making very concise notes ( about 7-8 lines) about each episode can be very beneficial for these 2 papers.

In GS 4, again, limited reading is required. Only  knowledge of terms like attitude, aptitude and emotional intelligence is required. It is a paper of what you feel and believe and what you’d do, so if any work is required, it is to be done on the expression part. And to improve expression, again writing more and more is the key.

Follow ForumIAS for tips and Material

I started following ForumIAS in October 2014 when I began my preparation. I studied hard two three months before the Prelims. After the Prelims, I used to follow the forum regularly and few things that I did was

  1. There were several good materials for World History and others posted in the Forum. I referred to a lot of such material , since it was my first attempt, and I had not taken any coaching or even a Test Series, and I did not have the time to make notes
  2. I had Philosophy optional and had very little preparation for it, because of lack of time. I was the only one active on ForumIAS Philosophy Preparation thread and used to practise questions written there on a regular basis. Even if you don’t answer them then and there – try to write down the questions and try to answer them
  3. There was a Q & A Mains Initiative on forumIAS befor Mains by some members. I used to visit the thread daily and note down questions from there and write answers in my notebook. I did not refer to any other website for Answer Writing Practise
  4. I used to follow the answers of Yo_Yo, @sleeplessnights and @IWRA on various threads and a few more people, which helped in framing my own answers.  I used to pick up my answer fodder points quite a few times from the answers posted there.

ForumIAS was the only website I referred to during my preparation time. I wanted to follow others too, but never got the time.

I also used to follow @neyawn’s articles very eagerly and religiously. He had written a post 7 days before Prelims, and for the Mains he had given a 100 day roadmap. Then again, once again the article just before the Mains examination as very morale boosting.

( This Article is submitted by Kumar Harsh, ForumIAS Handle @proust, who has secured Rank 43 in the CSE 2015. He is a mechanical Engineer from Delhi College of Engineering. He just turned 23 yesterday, and you can wish him belated Happy Birthday on his Facebook Page or  ForumIAS Wall      🙂  )

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By Neyawn

Neyawn is an anonymous member the founder of ForumIAS. He is a coder Mentor & Teacher by profession, and often writes for ForumIAS. You can buy him coffee , if you really really like his work. He has built ForumIAS - the community - twice. You can say Hi to him or ask him a question on ForumIAS, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn . You can also write to him at RxAxVxI@FOxRUMxIAS.COM ( remove the small "x" from the email ).