Motivation and Strategy: IAS Rank 81 Rajarshi Shah, Jaipur boy, Why he chose IAS?

Four years ago on 30th may, 2013, I ended up on the streets of ORN, DELHI with my friends with the dream and enthusiasm of becoming IAS. I had just graduated from IIT Kanpur in civil engineering and also appeared in 2013 prelims with the hope that I could sail through with the help of CSAT to mains. But then my GS basics were so weak that I could not clear despite my high score in csat. I regretted wasting that attempt but now, four years down the line I have achieved my dream and sharing here the most enriching experience of my life.

Hello friends. I am Rajarshi Shah, AIR 81 in CSE’16. I belong to Jaipur, Rajasthan. My optional is public administration. This was my fourth attempt. I had made into Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) in my third attempt. My inspiration towards civil services came from various civil servants who are IITK alumnus, specifically a retired IAS officer whose career growth led him to head one of the most prestigious institutions of our country. Such kind of diverse work profile, enormous challenges and job satisfaction resulting from positive contribution to the people’s development is present only in civil services which provided me a thrust to write the civil services examination.

During my preparation I took the help of ForumIAS Initiatives like 9pm brief, mock test papers, motivational articles of toppers and above all enjoyed the heated discussions and insider information provided by jonsnow, maxweber etc. I also congratulate my fellow users of forumias who have made into the final list this year.


Before outlining the sources for GS and essay, I would like to tell some specific points which I followed for preparation:-

  1. Syllabus- Study the entire syllabus carefully and try to cover each and every topic. I took out hard copies of entire syllabus and went through it multiple times.
  2. Time Management- for Gs and optional, I tried to devote almost equal time throughout my preparation. Regarding Newspapers, I didn’t spend more than two hours daily and followed Indian express religiously plus the editorial section of the Hindu.
  3. Note making- I made notes of those topics which I had to study from multiple sources for gs and optional. I didn’t make notes for static portions from laxmikanth, sriram economics or spectrum etc. Similarly for newspapers, I collected case studies, facts along with the name of experts to be used in answers.
  4. Group Study- Kautilya had said “A single wheel cannot move a chariot”. The underlying principle is the division of work and increase in efficiency through group effort. This thing helped me a lot for learning a lot of information through discussions and improving my speed and quality of answer writing.
  5. Practice- During my first mains, I didn’t practice answer writing and my mains score were too low. I rectified my mistake by writing answers, joining test series for essay, gs and optional and practicing previous year papers. Mock tests help a lot in improving score in both prelims and mains.
  6. Structure and Presentation of answer- I wrote in a combination of paragraph and points. I followed the usual structure- introduction, body and conclusion. Whether the question asks discuss, examine or critically analyze, my strategy was to always try to show both aspects of the answer and simultaneously cover various dimensions. Thinking and writing in broad and holistic manner helps in improving scores. I also focused on interlinking theory and current issues by substantiating points with current facts, examples along with proper references like constitution articles in paper 2, economic survey in paper 3 etc. Also, some innovation through quotes, diagrams in the essay, gs as well as optional papers will enhance the presentation of answer. I tried to incorporate this strategy by looking at toppers answer scripts and practicing a lot.

Book List/Sources

Prelims- NCERTs(11th & 12th stdd), Laxmikanth Polity, Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania, Spectrum for modern history, Environment book by Shankar IAS

GS1- NCERTs(11th &12th stdd), Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania, Spectrum for modern history, G.C.Leongg, Bipan Chandra-struggle for Indian independence(selected chapters)

GS2- 2nd ARC summary of recommendations, IR articles from The Hindu and Indian Express, Yojana

GS3- Economic Survey, Challenges to Internal Security of India by IPS Ashok Kumar, Economy articles from Indian Express, 12th FYP document (selected chapters), Yojana

GS4- Ethics book by Subbarao and Choudhary only for quotes and glossary given, at last, Pawan sir notes, 2nd ARC Ethics in Governance, Current examples and quotes from Indian express- worldly wise

Essay- Yojana editorials (first-page introduction), Newspaper editorials.

These are the resources I found sufficient for my preparation. Reading from these standard resources, government reports and revising them multiple times ensured that I have 10-12 points for most of the topics to be reproduced while writing answers.


The changing pattern of prelims every year has become a concern for many aspirants. The 2017 paper is testimony to that. In such scenario, scoring high marks in prelims has become quite challenging. I had focused equally on the fundamentals of static portions (polity, economics, geo & envt etc) along with current issues. This year UPSC tested the knowledge depth and as a result preparation should be molded accordingly. Also greater practice of mock tests and previous year papers will perfect the art of elimination leading to good accuracy and higher scores.


Essay, Ethics and optional are game-changers for mains as per my analysis. My ethics score during 2nd and 3rd attempt were in 70s only. As a result, I changed my strategy which led to increase of around 50 marks to 123 this year. I have already listed the sources above which were helpful in both part A (theory portion) and part B (case studies) of ethics paper.

PART-A preparation:-

  1. Learn Definition of every topic listed in the syllabus- It should be simple two line definition.
  2. Gather quotes to be used for substantiating the answer.
  3. Current Example relevant to the topic. Try working on those lines to collect examples from newspapers.
  4. Personal Example/ Example from the lives of administrators, philosophers, religious personalities etc.
  5. Sanskrit shloka/ lines like Vasudhaiva kutambakam for ethics in International Relations.
  6. Solutions- Use UN conventions, Government laws and schemes, Case studies, and 2nd ARC recommendations.

PART- B preparation:-

  1. A structured case study fetches higher marks. I incorporated it from going through toppers answer scripts.
  2. An ideal structure should comprise quotes followed by ethical issues, stakeholders involved, analysis of options/course of action/ answering the various parts of question accordingly and ending with solutions.
  3. The quote should address the main ethical issue of the case study. Example- if there is a case study related to empathy, one must quote Mahatma Gandhiji – I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.
  4. For ethical issue- I highlighted 6 to 7 dimensions:-Constitutional dimensions- like relevant fundamental articles, fundamental duty can be quoted,Legal dimension- Important laws and there provisions like domestic violence act, important sections of ipc etc., Philosophical dimension- Use Gandhiji 7 sins, Thomas Hobbes leviathan state and views of other philosophers. Ethical dilemma if clearly identified in case study, Values like Transparency, Integrity etc. (Nolan Committee public service values), Civil Service conduct rules can be quoted related to above public service values, Case study related ethical issues like corporate governance, Ethical journalism etc.
  5. Analysis of options- Highlight pros and cons. If the question specifically asks merits/demerits or pros/cons, provide relevant headings while analyzing the options else, it can be done without headings in a small paragraph. More analysis should be done for the option which is your final solution so that examiner gets a clear idea about your stand.
  6. For the options or course of action, I focused on certain common strategies like:-Approaching media/whistle blow, Going to higher authority, Taking help of NGOs, Registering complaint with relevant authorities like state police or independent bodies like NHRC, NGT etc, suggesting Government schemes or laws as solutions.

The above list is not exhaustive and one can incorporate innovative strategies as per the demand of case study.


The case studies are the most scoring in ethics paper. As a result, one should not leave them for the end. I attempted the case studies in between after writing 2 or 3 questions of part A and spent around 1:30 hours to 1:45 hours. In fact the same goes for other GS papers as well. The last sections of geography, internal security and international relations are high scoring according to me and should be attempted in between and not left for the end during three hours. Hope this helps in fetching high scores in GS papers.


These four years of my journey have been arduous at times but overall I enjoyed it. Even if I failed in first two attempts, I didn’t lose hope, had belief in myself and kept myself motivated through the successes of my seniors and friends. I think that all the aspirants should remain focused to their goal of becoming a civil servant and enjoy the journey during all the stages of the exam because ultimately the JOURNEY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE DESTINATION. “SUCCESS IS NOT FINAL, FAILURE IS NOT FATAL: IT IS THE COURAGE TO CONTINUE THAT COUNTS”.


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