“Limited My Sources, Focussed More on Revision, Solved Test Papers” – Ayushi Jain, IAS Rank 41 – Vidisha, MP Girl , Changed Optional

My name is Ayushi Jain. I am from a very small town named Sironj in Vidisha dist of MP.I have done my schooling from Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School Sironj.

I have a nuclear family consisting of my mother, father, younger brother, and a younger sister. My father is a Kirana shopkeeper and my mother a homemaker.

I had scored 91.2 % marks in 10th std and 90.4 % marks in 12th std. I have done engineering in Computer Science from Lakshmi Narain College of Technology Bhopal, with 8.68 CGPA.

I have work-ex of around 2 years as a Data Centre administrator in Trident Ltd. I had my 1st attempt in 2017 and this was my 3rd attempt. In the 1st attempt, I couldn’t clear prelims, in the 2nd attempt, I couldn’t clear mains.

In the 3rd attempt I had changed my optional from Mathematics to Anthropology, which I had prepared in 2 months period (Jan, Feb 2020) after the results of mains came out.

I didn’t write any other exam apart from UPSC. But was thinking to write state PSC exam as a backup option after this attempt.

To become a civil servant was not my childhood dream. I realized this during my job period while participating in various CSR activities. Then I left my job in 2016 and started dedicated preparation of the exam since then.

Preliminary examination

Please mention your strategy and books/notes did you referred to for General Studies and CSAT?

STRATEGY: Limited sources + note-making + practice mock tests. Newspaper reading was very important for me, I read Indian express and a friend of mine read The Hindu and we used to share notes through a Google doc file.


Topic Resource
History Ancient Class notes + Tamil Nadu NCERT
History Medieval Class notes + Lucent
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Class notes + Spectrum
Culture Class notes + Nitin Singhania
Polity (static + current affairs) LakshmiKant + Current affairs magazine
Economy (static + current affairs) Class notes + current affairs magazine + budget + Eco Survey
Science (static + current affairs) Class notes + Current affairs magazine
Environment (static + current affairs) Shankar + Current affairs magazine
Geography(Physical +Indian+World) Class notes + NCERT + Mapping
Current affairs Newspaper (very religiously) + Current affairs magazine

What was your strategy for prelims examination?

I had solved around 50 test papers in both my attempts in which I cleared prelims. Solving test papers helps in understanding the elimination strategy for options, and finding out which strategy works for us on the basis of our accuracy.

How Many questions did you attempt in GS? How many did you get right?

In this attempt, I attempted 93

On the basis of different answer keys, I was getting around 110-112 marks.

What do you think is the optimal number of questions to attempt in prelims? Do you advise accuracy or maximum attempts?

There are 2 strategies for prelims – attempt around 70 questions, which one is very sure to be correct. And second is to attempt more than 90 questions when the accuracy is not that good. I fell in the later category, thus in both my last 2 attempts, I attempted more than 90 questions.

If you had to prepare again would you change your strategy in any way?

I wouldn’t change my strategy in any way. I will just read a few books more and check new editions of some books to find out if there is anything extra.

If this wasn’t your first attempt what mistakes you think you made in the previous attempt in prelims?

1st attempt – I read contents from so many sources, couldn’t revise properly before the exam. I also solved less number of test papers therefore couldn’t develop a strategy for prelims.

2nd and 3rd attempt – I limited my sources, focused more upon revision, solved more number of test papers. Therefore, could qualify prelims in these 2 attempts.


How did you prepare GS/GK?

I covered every term in the syllabus through static sources and tried to connect them to current affairs topics through newspapers and magazines.

  • Newspaper reading – one of the foundational pillars of my UPSC Through newspaper reading I collected examples, case studies, imp data etc
  • Going through answer copies of toppers available on internet .
  • Practicing mains answer writing through full length tests in proper exam type environment. I had joined Forum MGP 2018 and
  • Notes making is very important – helps in quick recall of points as it gets saved in our pictographic

How did you cover Current Affairs for Mains?

Through 2 sources – 1st is Newspaper which was one of the foundational pillars of my UPSC preparation and 2nd is current affairs magazine.

What’s your optional subjects and why?

My optional is Anthropology. I changed my optional from Mathematics to Anthropology in my 3rd attempt.

I chose it because it was one of the few optionals which I could do on my own in the 2 months time period after the results of mains of my 2nd attempt came out.

This subject has a good blend of both science and humanities.

Pleas share your strategy and booklist for each of the optional?

I had just 2 month period to prepare for a new optional after the results of the mains (2nd attempt) came out on 20th Dec 2018 .

I had to decide a new optional, I tried reading basic class notes of 3 optionals in the 10 days after the results. I decided to take Anthropology as my optional.

I am very much thankful to Anudeep Durishetty sir for his blog on “How to Ace Anthropology Optional”. I followed each and every word in the blog while preparing for my optional.

Optional 1


  • Note making for every
  • Updating current affairs from newspapers and current affairs
  • Daily answer writing practice for optional after
  • Tried to incorporate diagrams, examples, case studies etc wherever

BOOKLIST: Anudeep Durushetty sir book list + Examples from newspaper

Optional 2


  • Read XAXA report and made notes .
  • Watched Mai Bhi Bharat Documentaries (in my free time) and collected case studies.
  • Note making for every
  • Updating current affairs from newspapers and current affairs
  • Daily answer writing practice for optional after
  • Tried to incorporate diagrams, examples, case studies etc wherever

BOOKLIST: Anudeep Durushetty sir book list + XAXA + Mai bhi bharat case studies + examples from Newspapers.

Did you join any classes for your mains preparation .If yes then how useful did you find them?

No, I didn’t join any classes for mains preparation. I joined test-series for the same.

How important is answer writing? What was your style of answer writing?

Answer writing practice is very important because attaining knowledge is different while reproducing it on paper is different .

Answer writing is an art which consists of some basic rules which can be brought into practice only through regular answer writing.

I didn’t practice answer writing daily but used to writing at least 1 full-length test every 3-4 days.

How many questions did you attempt? What strategy did you follow for mains examination in the examination hall?

I attempted all the questions in all the papers of mains examination. I did 15 marker questions first and then the 10 marker questions.

I turned my watch 5 mins ahead, it had a psychological impact on me that I could complete my papers 1 min before time, which was not the case otherwise.

If you had to prepare again would you change your strategy in any way?

Revise my optional better as in this attempt I had a paucity of time to do that.

If this wasn’t your first attempt what mistakes you think you made in the previous attempt in mains?

My optional which I had changed in this attempt.

I added more value to my answers through case studies, examples, diagrams, maps, data etc.

Were you part of ForumIAS CGP / PTS / MGP / IGP / Current Affairs? How did they help you in your preparation? How was it different from other programs?

I joined MGP 2018 and MGP 2019 for mains test series and IGP 2019 for interview preparation. At a time during the lockdown, not many options were available, I was lucky to get ForumIAS support for online mocks.

MGP had helped me in practicing answer writing in proper exam type environment. Copy checking was on time, grievance readdress was seamless.

IGP helped me in forming crisp and effective answers.

I had also taken up ForumIAS Anthropology ATS ( Augmented Test Series ) for Mains 2019


How did you prepare for the interview? Did you attend any mocks?

I am from a very small town and my schooling was such that I was very hesitant in delivering my answers well. I looked very under-confident. So, for me working on the presentation part was as important as the knowledge gathering and DAF preparation. To address this situation, I did daily mock interview sessions with different groups of people, it also gave me diverse view-points.

I prepared my DAF thoroughly. As my interview was after the lockdown so a detailed study of current affairs related to corona pandemic had to be done, I also tried to connect it with things in my DAF.

I saw a lot many toppers’ mock interviews.

Which Interview Board did you face?

Bharat Bhushan Vyas

Please share your entire interview like what was asked and what was your reply? Were you able to answer all the questions?

I couldn’t answer 2 questions – those were very objective questions. I simply replied them like “I am unable to recall/ I am not aware but I’ll read about it”.

My interview transcript


  • Why Anthro after engg
  • Did u enjoy reading anthro
  • Which is ur fav part in anthro (I said Tribal anthro)
  • Why do u like tribal anthro (I mentioned Gadiya lohar tribe in my area)
  • More questions on gadiya lohar
  • Issues with nomadic tribes
  • How will make provision for education of nomadic tribes
  • Questions on Budapest Convention. Why did India not join it?
  • Any positive learning from covid


  • What is Anti ragging committee
  • How it came into being (Raghavan committee more questions on that)
  • Do you know about place named Patalkot (Bharia tribe – more questions on that)

M3 :

  • How do u see the recent Indo-China conflict – is it just the border tension
  • Covid and these tensions
  • Implications of Brexit for India ? What are the opportunities for us ?


  • About the company that I worked in
  • As a Data Centre administrator what should be ur response to any mistake committed by ur subordinate?

M5 :

  • What documentaries did u see last?
  • Is there any uncontacted tribe in India? (I said Sentinalese)
  • Any documentary on Sentinelese tribe?
  • What is reflective diary writing (my hobby)

What qualities do you think are being tested in the Interview?

Honesty, Integrity, and objectiveness.

Do you think marks in school or college and the job experience can impact one’s score in the Interview?

UPSC gives a level playing field for all aspirants irrespective of the background they have.

The better the academics record and other positive things in the DAF about a candidate the higher are the expectations of the panel. If one is able to meet those expectations get good marks I think.

How was the interview experience? Was it predictable? How much did your preparation help?

It was very nice, the board was very cordial.

Much of my interview was related to my optional, hobbies, work experience, IR and current affairs, so I had some knowledge of the things asked.

While some questions came as a surprise for me so my daily mock practice helped in that.

If this wasn’t your first attempt what mistakes you think you made in the previous interviews?

It was my first interview.


How much internet did you use for your preparation? How much value did it add?

Very less. Preparation was very old school.

How did you balance so much resources and data? What Smart techniques did you use to manage your preparation in a better manner?

I limited my preparation to a few sources and tried to revise them well.

If I follow multiple sources then I made notes combining the required data. It made easy to revise just before the exam.

I did goal wise studies, a bigger goal may be of a month, I divided it into many smaller goals. It helped me in better utilization of my time.

Did you make notes? Why yes or no? Did you find them any useful?

I believe note-making was one of the foundational pillars of my entire preparation. I made notes for prelims, mains as well as interview.

For prelims, all my notes were offline except my newspaper notes which I was a google doc file which I shared with one of my friends who used to read The Hindu while I read Indian Express.

For mains – offline notes

For interview – Online notes on OneNote.

Click here to download the MGP copies of Ayushi Jain


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