[Toppers Interview] Abhishek Kumar Tiwari (AIR 69 / CSE 2011) gives History & Political science strategy

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First attempt, no coaching and Abhishek Tiwary walks away with 69th Rank. And today he shares his journey and preparation tips for both History and Political Science, for the benefit future UPSC aspirants.

  1. Introduction
  2. Essay
  3. Your Study plan
  4. CSAT (Paper I) General studies
  5. CSAT Paper II (Aptitude)
  6. Mains Examination
  7. Compulsory Language papers
  8. General Studies paper I
  9. General Studies paper 2
  10. Optional Subject #1 and #2
  11. History
  12. Political Science and International Affairs
  13. Interview
  14. Marksheet


Roll number 009754
Rank (CSE 2011) 69
Optional Subjects
  1. History
  2. Political Science
Medium for Mains Exam English
Mains Examination Centre Delhi
Number of Attempts 1
Details of Graduation and Post-Grad. B.Tech (2006), Electrical Engineering, IIT Kanpur
Schooling (Medium) English
Extracurricular activities,
hobbies, achievements etc.
Reading books and playing outdoor games.
Are you a working professional? Yes
If yes, then did you leave your job
or prepared while on the job?
Yes I left job in March 2011 and was not working till November 2011
Did you take Coaching? Prelims: No
Mains: No
Interview: No
Did you buy any postal courses? No
Did you join any Mock test series? Yes, attended mock test series for preliminary exam.
Did you appear in any other competitive exams? No
If yes, provide the details:


Q. When and how did the inspiration and idea of joining civil service come in your mind?

I was working as a software engineer in EDA (Electronic Design Automation) sector since August 2006. Professionally I had a very satisfying career and was able to publish/file three patents.  However there remained a feeling that whatever I am doing will impact only lives of people like me or better off than me. I am from Bihar and did my most of schooling from Varanasi. Whenever I used to go back to my place, nobody really bothered to understand what my job is. It was reasonable as it would have impacted their life in very minimal way. That was my basic inspiration for pursuing civil services as career.

The Choice of Optional Subjects

Q. After a person decides to appear in civil service exam, the first big obstacle is “Choice of optional subjects”. What factors did you consider before selecting your optional?

My interest in subjects and material availability were main factors behind selecting my optional. History had been my favorite subject since my school days and I never lost any touch with it. Books which I read as hobby mainly comprised of some historical writings. So it was a natural choice for me.

In selecting second optional I took some time. Factors that I considered in selecting political science were usefulness in GS, some alignment with first optional.


Q. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year?

There is no problem in taking some break from one’s continuous study schedule. For me it helped in rejuvenating my interest. However one should be cautious against making breaks a habit.  Fixing short term goals can help in sustaining study momentum. One should keep on evolving his/her goals so that boredom does not creep in. It did help me.


On an average, How many hours did you study per day? How many months did it take you to complete the core syllabus of GS and optional subjects?

I started my preparation in August 2010 when I was still in job. I resigned from my job in March 2011. Till then I had completed one reading of both optional and core syllabus of GS. In job I somehow managed to study for 3-4 hours on average. I tried completing reading of newspaper in office itself and used to compile important news daily after coming back from office. After March 2011, I used to study 7-8 hours daily which sometimes used to go upto 9-10 hours.


How did you use computer and internet for your exam-preparation?

Internet was important part of my preparations. Google news was important in knowing different perspectives. Government websites like “pib.nic.in” proved useful in understanding process of government policy making. I started visiting these sites very late in my preparation. Given my not so good score in GS I feel that following these websites from early part of my preparation could have proved useful. Beside I looked out at internet for understanding topics which I could not understand from materials available with me.


  1. How did you prepare yourself for the essay?
  2. Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?
  3. What were your keypoints in that essay?
  4. How many marks did you get in that essay?

No special preparations. Topic for essay was “Creation of smaller states and its administrative, economic and developmental implications”. I started my essay with idea of Indian federalism and democratic system of country. Then I related these to demands of smaller state. Following this I listed out various movements since independence related to demands of smaller states, their reasons. Following this I went on to describe administrative, economic and developmental implications. Marks that I obtained for my effort – 118.


Many aspirants fear the interview, thinking that “my profile is not good because

  • I’ve low marks in SSC/HSC/College,
  • I don’t have any extra-curricular certificates,
  • I don’t have work experience,
  • I graduated from some unknown college,
  • I’m from non-English medium and so on…”

So, How important or relevant is the profile of a candidate during interview?
How do you rate your own profile?
How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?
Did they ask any uncomfortable questions from your profile?
If yes, how did you reply to those questions?

Profile is relevant to a certain extent.  If one’s profile contain some unique attributes then his/her preparation of interview can become simple. However success in interview can be achieved despite of any uniqueness in profile. From my profile I was expecting question on IP rights as I had mentioned about filing of few patents. Hence my preparation for interview was centered on my profile.  No uncomfortable question was asked from my profile.


Q. In case you had not cleared the UPSC exam, what was your career/future backup plan?

I would have joined back some engineering job.

Working professional

What is your advice and tips to working professionals – particularly on time Management?

I may not be right person to give any advice or tips to working professionals. I left my job as I felt my preparations will remain inadequate if I don’t leave it.

Family and Friends

Q. Behind one topper are many people who stood by him/her during those uncertain times when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were those people in your case?

I am thankful to my parents, my friends who always believed in me.

Your Study plan

CSAT (Paper I) General studies

Topic Source of your preparation
Current Affairs Hindu, Internet
History Ancient/Medieval/Modern History was my optional
Physical Geography NCERT 11th/12th
Geography of India NCERT 11th/12th
Geography of World NCERT 11th/12th
Polity and Governance Political Science was my optional
Public Policy Followed few websites of government like pib.nic.in, website of planning commission.
Rights issue
Environment and Biodiversity Chronicle Magazine
Economic and social Development
Economy Mostly from newspapers, NCERT 11th/12th, Coaching notes available in market.

CSAT Paper II (Aptitude)

Joined test series of Vajiram as it was my first attempt and wasn’t very much sure of my preparation at that time. I didn’t found it very useful.

Mains Examination

Compulsory Language papers

Source of your preparation
English Last year paper
Indian language paper Last year paper

General Studies paper I

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation
History My optional , so no special preparation.
Culture Spectrum
Geography of India NCERT 11th/12th
Polity My optional, so no special preparation.
Issues of social relevance
Indian economy and planning NCERT 11th/12th, coaching institutes material available in market. Government websites.
Public health Newspaper.
Law and order Newspaper.
Good governance
Environment Same as preliminary exam.

General Studies paper 2

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation
India and the World My optional, so no special preparation.
Indian diaspora Newspaper.
India’s Economic interaction with world Internet mainly.
International affairs and institutions World Focus Magazine, Internet.
Science & Tech.

Optional Subject #1 and #2


Copying from my post at IO.
Regarding History, my basis of preparation was IGNOU notes. I covered IGNOU notes (both B.A and M.A) and made notes of them. This part was mainly done after preliminary exam. Beside IGNOU notes i had made few readings of different books in history. Books referred beside IGNOU notes were:

  1. Wonder that was India – A.L.Bashm
  2. Ancient India – Romila Thapar
  1. Medieval History by Satish Chandra
  1. Modern History by Bipin Chandra
  2. India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra
  3. India After Independence by Bipin Chandra.

World History

Two books I studied, one was by Jains and other was by some foreign author (whose name i dont remember). But IGNOU notes only improved my understanding of world history. It contained some theoretical perspective of events during Enlightenment, Revolutionary period. I would like to add here that theoretical perspective became easy to follow as i have my Pol Science as other optional.

Map practice
Mainly from Ensemble and that too only in last days before Mains examination.

I would like to add here one more thing. I had hobby of reading books on history before i decided to attempt Union Public Service Commission. I had read books about British Period written by William Dalrymple, Autobiography of Babar translated in English, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India by Lawrence James and few others. So may be my book lists are not as exhaustive as other who prepared or i was able to prepare History in short time.

Political Science and International Affairs

Copying from my post at IO

Paper 1

Political Theory – O.P.Gauba
(2-3 times). I went through last few years questions and found that some of them were not covered in edition of O.P.Gauba , i had with myself. Like there was one question on Foucault theory of justice asked in 2010. I covered about them from IGNOU notes. (Do keep it on ur side to see for some extra material in different sections of political theory while studying it).

Political Thinkers – I read about them mainly from George. H. Sabine. It covered however only western thinkers. Also it was difficult to follow it at first. For making my life easy i again went through IGNOU notes to have some better understanding. And then again read the whole book. For Indian thinkers i mainly referred from IGNOU and read about some from here and there.

India Political System – From number of sources. Vajiram notes on polity (2-3 times), Fadia (Once) , IGNOU notes (2-3 times), D.D.Basu (Once). In the end i had rough idea about how constitution is organised. Beside IGNOU had number of examples to explain different parts of Indian Political System.


Paper II

Comparative Politics – Only IGNOU notes (twice). Only part in which my experience will be hardly useful.

Theory in International Politics – Mahendra Singh (Twice). IGNOU notes (2-3 times). There is one part in IGNOU notes which cover only about South Asia. I fortunately read it once, was interesting read. Luckily got one question about India’s relation with its south Asian neighbor.

India and world – Initially i read from Bookhives publications but was never satisfied with it. Then according to syllabus i read from various sources like internet, newspapers, magazines (World Focus, Frontline).

Started making notes (after mains) when i was clear about my understanding of most topics in syllabus. Tried to stick to syllabus and didn’t deviated too much unless i had interest in a topic.


How did you prepare for the interview?
How was your interview?

I primarily worked on my profile. That included schools where I studied (my senior secondary education took place at a school founded by Annie Besant), different places of my schooling, my hobbies, my achievements, two states in which I have mainly lived. I compiled all possible information I can think about my profile. Beside I compiled different perspectives on important items in current affair.  I didn’t take any mock interview. I was confident of giving a decent interview if I had worked on my profile well. My board was I.M.G Khan. My interview was on expected line and there were no uncomfortable questions.


essay (paper-iii) – 118
genral studies (paper-iv) – 099
genral studies (paper-v) – 111
optional-i(history) (paper-vi) – 164
optional-i(history) (paper-vii) – 197
optional-ii(pol. Sc. & int.rel.) (paper-viii) – 170
optional-ii(pol. Sc. & int.rel.) (paper-ix) – 151
written total 1010
personality test 190
final total 1200


Q. What is your message to the aspirants?

Most important thing with this exam is patience. There comes a time when you feel burdened by weight of preparation required. You start doubting your mode of preparation. During initial stages of my preparation I was not very sure of my strategy of not taking any coaching. And everyone around me talked in dictionary of their own coaching institutes.  However I maintained my belief that I can crack this exam on my own. Fortunately I was able to do so. All along my preparation I wanted to say to all for once that “this exam is a monster but not that big monster that can’t be defeated on your own.”

Finally two questions

When you’ll give interview in the famous competitive magazines, the last question is generally “did you use our xyz magazine and how did it help you?” So here goes mine:

  1. Did you use indianofficer.com  for your preparation? If yes, How did it help you?
  2. Did you use mrunal.org  for your preparation? If yes, how did it help you?

Even if you answer “No”, there is no problem; I’ll publish your answer as it is.

I will like to thank IO as here I found few people who didn’t talked language of coaching institutes. Probably IO was best confidence booster for me in times of desperation. Thanks !!

Mrunal recommends

51 Comments on “[Toppers Interview] Abhishek Kumar Tiwari (AIR 69 / CSE 2011) gives History & Political science strategy”

  1. Thank you dear Mrunal ji..

  2. thanks mrunal………. i found this information very helpful

  3. DEAR SIR, You helped us alot in many ways. Thanks a Lot SIR. Will you give some notes regarding how to present History Mains effectively Sir…//

  4. thanks mrunal……its really a very informative site

  5. thanks for the information and plz add relevant information’s.

  6. DEAR SIR, You helped us alot in many ways. Thanks a Lot SIR. Will you give some notes regarding how to get start for CS Pre2013…………..

  7. than q sir,sir me yah janana chahta hu ki class apne exam prepration me koi badha dalti hai exmpl.apni prepration ki gati dhimi karna ya apne ideas ko hum unki ideo ki vajhse sashank najre se dekhne lagte he.

  8. Dear Sir, can u plz tell me that whether writing answers point wise wherever possible is acceptable in UPSC or not? It does save time and words.

  9. hi i m new user….please tell me how can i get ignou nots for ias preparation ?? and from where ?? i am from ahmedabad, gujarat

    1. Nisha for IGNOU notes all u need to do is to go to egyankosh and create ur own login and then u can access all the study material that is available there else u can also buy the hard copies from book shop in mukherjee nagar.

      1. thanks a lot dear…

    2. You can got it from IGNOU just near to Gujarat university, Ahmedabad. You contact there and will you get it from there.


      With Regadrs,

      CA Ravindra Singh

    3. u can download from eGyankosh of ignou after registration.

  10. hi, ur site is very helpful in preparing for cs prelims & mains exam with great details, whether it is a matter of selecting right books or way of preparing for exam, ur website is awesome . please arrange mains paper. of history for some 30 yrs , which not available to ur website .

  11. help me to crack ias exam

  12. sir
    pub ad keliye marathi me konsi book achi hai
    plz reply me

    1. hello sir
      sir i am looking for history notes of ignou in hindi but could’nt find.can u help me for the same.please.

  13. Thanks for taking great pain and publishing all these contents here…

  14. Mrunal sorry if it sounds offensive but I have seen you using “didn’t with verb’s second form” always which is gramatically incorrect. we always use “didn’t with first form of verb” only.
    Anyway you are doing a wonderful work in making the nation. All the best

  15. bro thanks for your great help

  16. Hi Mrunal Sir. I am reading V.D Mahajan for ancient India. Is it right book to study or i should refer to some other source??

    1. if you’re asking about the Ancient history for General Studies (Preliminary / CSAT) then NCERT+ GS manual is sufficient for Ancient India.

      1. No Sir, i am asking about Optional subject.

  17. Sir reply plz!!!

    1. Hi Gagan,

      For Ancient India, Kindly refer to A.L. Basham’s “The wonder that was India”. It is a very good book. V.D.mahajan has excellent quotes which will remind you of many informations when you have finished reading the book. Another source (optional) would be of Romila Thapar’s The penguin history of early India. If you could read trhis book, it not only improvises your History but also your english to a very large extent.. Thanks..

  18. Thanks alot Naresh Sir. You really get me out of confused state. Thanks to Mrunal sir also.

    1. Hello,
      Are you preparing with history optional?
      i have also taken history.
      Can we interact more for history?
      if yes, then please reply on [email protected]

  19. sir where can i get history b.a and m.a ignou books. am from hyderabad.

  20. sir
    u r showing here India’s struggle For Independence by BIPIN CHANDRA
    but it is available on Flipkart by the name of BIPAN CHANDRA.nd ur link is showing the book of BIPAN CHANDRA.
    which one is correct BIPIN CHANDRA or BIPAN CHANDRA.

    1. it is India’s struggle for independence by Bipan chandra

  21. which one to buy…A History of India / Early India…by Romila Thapar…please help

    1. India’s Ancient Past by RS sharma is very good.
      you can buy this one

  22. Hello All,
    If any of you are preparing with history optional then we can interact more and study together.
    if yes, then please reply on [email protected]

  23. Sir. is it make any difference if we give exam in Gujarati rather than English.please Reply…..

  24. Can anybody tell where I can buy ignou material for history, I am in chennai

  25. Sir,Please give detail booklists and preparation statrargy for history optionals.How to read?What to read and every minute detail.

  26. Sir,Please give detail booklists and preparation statrargy for history optionals.How to read?

    1. ancient- romila thapar, IGNOU
      medieval- satish chandra, IGNOU
      modern- bipan chandra, IGNOU
      world- jain and mathur , IGNOU

  27. Thanking you from the deepest depth of my heart for all the REALLY USEFUL stuffs being provided by you, I kindly request you to provide us previous 20-30 years’ question papers and if possible PLEASE provide PSIR’s notes too.

  28. sir,
    please tell me how to prepare map question in history optional

  29. there are various books by satish chanda .which is the exact one.Either the one given as link in your site or the one with two parts.Please help

  30. can u provide notes of him of history and poli sci…….
    i m going with same subject………confused !!!!1 how to makes notes….

    it will help me and my friends to makes our own notes……


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