1. Success in UPSC is a Bell Shaped Curve
  2. Revision: Environment and Agriculture
  3. Revision: Economy
  4. Revision: IR, Defense [and Current Affairs]
  5. Why read India (Yearbook) 2017’s Diary of events?
  6. Revision: History and Culture
  7. Revision: Science and Technology
  8. Revision: Geography and Polity
  9. Priority order for Revision
  10. Current Affairs ki Haay Haay
  11. Culture ki Haay Haay
  12. Paper-II Aptitude:
  13. Avoid five things

Success in UPSC is a Bell Shaped Curve

From the 65th annual report of UPSC, we find following data about the success rate of aspirants in civil services exam:

15% Of the toppers have cleared in their first attempt.
26% In second attempt
26% In third attempt. So cumulatively 67% OR 2/3rd of the toppers have cleared within first three attempts.
18% In fourth attempt. So, cumulatively 85% of the toppers have cleared within first four attempts.
15% In fifth or above attempt.

UPSC success rate

  • If we plot this thing on a graph, it’ll appear as a bell shape curve, where from first to third attempt, your chances of success increase- because you would have learned from the past mistakes, and gained incremental knowledgebase of current and contemporary issues and will be in peak physical and mental shape.
  • After third attempt, your chances start to decline because 1) resistance to change the preparation strategy, as per the changing trends 2) job, family, financial responsibilities and therefore, 3) inability to devote more time to preparation compared to younger aspirants.
  • If after third attempt, you decide to appear for any non-UPSC exam, they’ll have their own senior players and separate syllabus, so there again you’re ‘first attempter’, hence lower chances. By the time you become expert there, your age-attempt will be over. In recent years, Bank and SSC exams have revamped their syllabus and structure in such manner that being a senior player of UPSC doesn’t give your automatic FDI approval to succeed in those non-UPSC exams.
  • My point being: You should not give appear in competitive exams, to fondle your heart. Lovers have no place in in this field, it’s a land of killers (and thugs).
  • Two months are left before the prelims-2017, as i write this. This article is meant only for the hardcore players, who’ve been preparing diligently for minimum last 6-8 months, and at present, feeling a bit stressed about their revision plan. I don’t have any secret formulas for success wherein a person with absolute zero preparation, can clear within two months. Such magical power is only in the hands of quacks and coaching mafias.

Revision: Environment and Agriculture

First and foremost priority should be given here, because ever since UPSC merged Forest service prelims with civil services, atleast 20 questions (1/5th of the GS paper) are coming from this subject only.

  • Since UPSC is also testing the forest service aspirants, it’s natural they’ll ask a few technical questions related to hardcore agriculture, botany, zoology and biotechnology. But ordinary civil service aspirants feel stressed with this, and begin to devote more and more energy towards these areas [whereas civil services prelim cut off was ~107/200 in 2015].
  • So, first you’ve to defend the ‘base’, before launching surgical strike on Pakistan (random tough MCQs).
Subject First defend the base Then launch surgical strike on Pakistan, ONLY IF Time Permits
  1. Theory from NIOS, NCERT
  2. Summit, Schemes, notifications [like Western Ghat Eco sensitive zone]
  1. Low profile bodies and funds like GIAHS
  2. 100+ flora fauna  mentioned in theHindu. Otherwise, every fortnight they’re discovering new dinosaurs species.
  1. Similar as above
  1. B.Sc Agriculture, Biotechnology (Beyond the layman knowledge about Bt cotton, Brinjal, mustard)
  2. 50 dozen hybrids given in theHindu.
  3. Low profile schemes like Millet program, PIB updates such as what’s the scientific principle behind neem coated urea.

So with that in mind, let’s prepare minimum revision list:


  1. NIOS is must. (free download). Minimum 3 questions could be solved directly from it, in recent prelims. Focus more on the chapters related to pollution, energy, biodiversity and food chain. [No need to put much effort in the initial part dealing with origin of earth, dinosaurs and cavemen].
  2. NCERT: Atleast Class11 Chemistry’s environmental chemistry chapter.
  3. India (Yearbook) 2017: Chapter 12 on Environment. Minimum one question comes each year.
  4. Mrunal Environment Playlist: Where I’ve covered major developments up to Paris Summit, Kigali Summit and GM Mustard.
  5. ShankarIAS environment book.
  6. Current Affairs: Extract the content related to summit, clean energy , legal and regulatory orders, but no need to memorize each small mosquito that is critically endangered, except if related to India and having great role in food chain. Span: Minimum from last calendar year i.e. starting from Jan.2016 till April 2016.


  1. Theory portion: NCERT – Agriculture Chapters and Rajtanil’s lecture series
  2. Government scheme portion: my last year’s survey’s 3 part videos. After that what’s in new budget, we’ll be seeing in BES174.

Revision: Economy

  • I’ve created a new playlist: “Economy: Past videos that are relevant for Prelims 2017” Go through that in “REVERSE ORDER”. It covers the contemporary issues from last year, which are still important for prelims such has budget making reforms- merger of plan-non-plan, rail-general, 7th Pay commission, how is HDI and CENSUS calculated etc.
  • Above playlist also contains Micro-economics. You should do it , because there is still time. No need to refer NCERT after those videos.
  • Remaining things I’ll be covering under the BES17 series. Yes, the recording and editing work is getting delayed because of workload. But I aim to pick up the pace soon.
  • No need to see India Yearbook here, since the important things will be absorbed within BES17.

Revision: IR, Defense [and Current Affairs]

I give this topic immediate-priority after environment and economy. Reason- while it looks large but with concentrated efforts, it’s relatively easier to get answers correct in IR/Defense compared to Culture.

  1. Summits: location, themes, participants. [Span: Since Jan-2016]
  2. IR-organizations and Grouping: Macgrawill General Studies Manual has a ready revision table for this, in its “GK” section, including stuff such as GCC, Doctors without frontiers (asked last year). No need to buy, just from library you see those 4-5 pages.
  3. Defense: joint exercises, launch of new missile, vessel or technology [Span: since Jan 2016.]
  4. India (Yearbook) 2017: Last chapter on diary of events. [Last year, INS Astradharini question asked from here.]
  5. If time permits, you may also cover important book awards, nation- international movie awards, sports [at least Olympics]. Because last year, by asking about the movieman who knew infinity“, UPSC examiner is hinting a move towards those ‘old days’ when they used to ask such “Person in news” type things.
  6. Source for above current affairs: Self-made notes, VisionIAS, Insights, Drishti, GkToday, IASBABA, xyz magazine, …whatever you’ve done so far just stick to it. Unnecessarily, aspirants are spending more time in ‘acquiring new and new material’, rather than processing the things they already have in hand.

Why read India (Yearbook) 2017’s Diary of events?

India Yearbook 2017

  • In the sarkaari India yearbook, last segment covers “Diary of events”. Last year, UPSC asked about “Swayam” online portal’s purpose. In this new diary- you’ll find similar coverage e.g. POCSO e-box against child sex abuse and it’s run not by home ministry but by ministry of women and child development.
  • IYB directly mentions about awards won by Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu. For non-UPSC exams, that much content is sufficient, but in UPSC, examiner will make it complicated e.g. what was Sakshi’s weight group, or name of the Spanish girl who defeated PV Sindhu in finals of Olympics? Hence from other current affairs sources, you’ve to update and consolidate.
  • Sarathi is a coast guard ship, SCATSAT-1 is a weather satellite etc. etc. So, read this diary, and explore background facts and note them either on the margin of yearbook, or in whatever PDF/Evernote you’re using.

Revision: History – Culture

(UPSC Prelim 2014) Chaitra month of Saka Era corresponds to which date of the Gregorian calendar in a normal year of 365 days?

  1. 22 March (or 21st March)
  2. 15th May (or 16th May)
  3. 31st March (or  30th March)
  4. 21st April (or 20th April

This is given verbatim in India Yearbook (IYB), chapter 2. National symbols. So for culture, the minimum reading list is

  1. IYB: Ch.2 National Symbols
  2. Ancient, Medieval: Tamilnadu Class 11 Textbook. (Free Download) [or LucentGK or Old NCERT or any GS-Manual… Any one of the four. Two months not enough to cover all four.]
  3. Culture: Nitin Singhania and NEW NCERTs.  [last year, Banjara occupation and other Qs came from here, so do read new NCERT history books]
  4. Freedom Struggle: Pratik Nayak’s lecture series combined with Spectrum’s Rajiv Ahir.[ although 1-2 questions are such that they require extra preparation from Bipan Chandra, Sumit Sarkar, Plessey to Partition. But, do only if time permits. Otherwise mugging up 300 pages with hope of 1 MCQ, is a bad business.]

Revision: Science and Technology

  • Science pendulum is swinging unpredictably. Post-CSAT syllabus (2011), few rounds went by when examiner would ask very simple questions from NCERTs, but then complexity started to increase, until reaching the same old ‘regressive’ type factual current affairs wherein trivial GK things asked such as weight of satellite, distance from earth, some random experiment etc.
  • Current affairs focus areas: 1) ICT 2) public health 3) Space tech (within that, ISRO>NASA>EU). And source material- same as IR-Defense current.
  • If time permits, then theory from NCERT AND [LucentGK OR any General studies manual].
  • If time permits, psychological disorders from NCERT psychology book [free download].

Revision: Geography and Polity

Last year was drought period for both subject, hardly  4 MCQs from Geography and 6 questions Polity. [however, in mains both subjects are very important for GSM-1 and GSM-2 respectively.]

Geography for prelim’17 Polity for prelim’17
  • IYB: ch1 (Land and People), Ch.19 (subtopic- Minerals), Ch.30 States & UT
  • Theory: Rajtanil’s lecture series, and NCERTs, And within that, class 11 Indian physical geography book MUST, because Min. 1 question always comes.
  • World Geography: focus Asia, Africa. Because in mains also, the questions centered around these regions only.
  • Current: universe related discoveries and disasters.
  • IYB: Ch3 (Polity), 20 (Law), 28 (welfare)
  • Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity
  • If time, Laxmikanth’s Governance in India: do only the chapters related to “bodies”, “rights issues”, “union and state administration” [last year chief Secretary question]. Leave- public policy and foreign Constitutions for mains.
  • Current Affairs: whatever material you’re using + prsIndia.org last one year i.e. from Jan 2016.
  • If time, NCERT: Social Science, Political Science class11, 12. [free download]

Priority order for Revision

  1. Given UPSC’s backbreaking movesTM and Double-bluffsTM i.e. the tendency to do opposite and unpredictable than what candidates and coaching-walla are expecting…therefore, you should prepare all subjects diligently.
  2. However, should a point come wherein you’re hard-pressed for allotting time and energy, the priority order can be like following [presuming that UPSC maintains the same ‘trend’ as 2016]:

Envi & Agri. > Economy >IR & Defense > History & Culture >Science > Geography [because synergy with Agri and Environment] > Polity > Paper-II

You’ve to do current affairs ’embedded’ within above subjects. Loose current affairs like Sports, books, awards, come at last.

Current Affairs ki haay haay

UPSC difficulty level

  • 2016’s paper: ~40% current, ~60% theory. Because, to provide equal footing to candidates from far away backward areas, UPSC asks good number of questions from the theory portion and that too from the traditional sources such as NCERT and IYB.
  • As prelim comes near, there is flood of current affairs material- both in physical and electronic format. As I said earlier, whatever you’ve, finish that thing first, rather than spending time in fetching more and more new material.
  • UPSC exam doesn’t require 24×7 latest minute by minute news coverage, like compare what happened in 5th meeting of GST council vs 6th meeting of GST council. So focus on the major ‘highlights’ rather than internal nitty-gritties.
  • In recent years, while MCQs look tough prima facie, you can arrive at correct answer by eliminating the most implausible statements (if you know the major highlights of a topic).

Culture ki Haay Haay

  • 2016’s paper: difficulty wise ~50% easy, 18% medium and 33% questions were tough. But to cover those 1/3rd tough questions (mainly from culture), aspirants spend so much time doing Ph.D there, thus neglecting the remaining 2/3rd portion of easy to medium questions.
  • 2015 Prelim: general category cutoff was 107 / 200 marks. Meaning, you don’t have to score 100%, not even 80%. So allot time to all areas appropriately. This is not a video game where you’ve to defeat the toughest boss to score maximum points.
  • If you look at past papers, always there are some questions from culture, science technology, biotechnology that you’d have never come across in your preparation. Don’t lose sleep over it, you’re not supposed to get 100% score in prelims. Perfectionism is the enemy of professional success; Amir Khan pays 15 crores in advance tax, while Akshay Kumar pays 30 crores [and wins a national award as well].

Paper-II Aptitude:

Many of the sincere candidates (who had cleared the past prelims), failed in 2016 prelims- due to overconfidence about scoring 66 marks, viz a viz tough and lengthy nature of the paper. So don’t take it casually.


MK Pandey (first section of his book), and read this technique about assumption and inference, Mock papers, keep habit of reading English papers.


  • In non-UPSC exams, the arrangement sets are usually two parameters e.g. “person’s shirt vs occupation”.
  • In UPSC, they’d ask super-complex arrangement sets like “ball’s color vs label vs box vs game“. For such complex arrangement, if you draw first table, you may not solve answer, so you again prepare new table…and so 15-20 minutes are spent in solving just one MCQ only. Ultimately, paper is not finished in time limit. Therefore, keep habit of solving arrangement questions, blood relation etc. from MK Pandey’s book [Second section of his book].
  • For remaining topics, such as direction sense test, coding-decoding, etc. Use either BS Sijwali or RS Aggarwal. [whichever available cheap in second hand] Solve minimum 10 MCQS from each topic.
  • Only IF time permits, do PCP- permutation, combination, probability. Many techniques available in http://Mrunal.org/aptitude


  • Priority areas: Basic Algebra, LCM-GCF, Percentages, averages, Arithmetic progression, ratios, speed-time-distance work.
  • if time then Geometry including class10 trigonometry [or my articles on the same]. For UPSC, no need to prepare sin-cos-tan but just the Pythagorean system of finding angles, and lengths. [because UPSC asked such question in 2016].
  • Detailed Source and strategy for Maths, I’ve outlined in detail in these articles.

Avoid five things

UPSC toppers

  1. Superman “Topper”:I skipped Freedom-struggle and science for prelim, yet I cleared prelim!”. “For Mains, I did not study anything for GS. I only practiced mains-answer writing! And yet I cleared”. “For Polity, I did not touch any book, I only saw Rajya Sabha TV“…. While it’s possible, because cut-off is 107 / 200, and may be because he has given 2-3 attempts, so even without reading he could recall many theoretical points for GS-mains. But the first attempt-walla youngsters in the impressionable age group, tend to take everything literally without understanding the nuances of this exam.  In statistics, we focus on the aggregates rather than outliers. Therefore, what constitutes the ‘standard strategy’ [derived from the statistical interpretation of the number of questions vs. sources of questions in previous 5 years exams] should be followed at minimum. One should not burn his zhonpdaa (hut) by looking at Topper’s Palace. One swallow doesn’t make a summer. One Cinderella doesn’t mean all will get ruby slippers.
  2. Whatsapp & FaceBook “UPDATES”: because of the Dopamine neurotransmitter, a human brain feels compulsion to seek new information. This is important for survival of a caveman, because he must always search new sources for food, foraging and water. But the same chemical, makes you restless to seek new updates on whatsapp / FB- how many people liked my post and profile picture? who said what against my prediction of cut-off and result date etc. A Microsoft study said, Human brain’s span of attention has become less than a gold fish. For example, you’re reading a history book and highlighting lines with orange color. Suddenly, you get impulsive thought “will it’ll be better to use any different color highlighter!?” Then, you spend half hour just browsing e-commerce sites for reviews of Luxor vs Faber Castle markers! At this stage, no point in trying to find ‘better tools and techniques of preparation’. Whatever you’ve, use it and prepare.
  3. Telegram “SCAVANGERS”: Constantly 500 different channels uploading 5000 types of current affairs material. You’ve sufficient material already. If, even at this stage (when 2 months left), if you’re still doing ‘haay-haay mere pass material nahi hai‘, [as if UPSC is as semester exam!], Then perhaps you’re not cut out for this year’s attempt.
  4. “SCAREMONGERS”: As I had pointed in last mains’ last video– there some ‘chanchal-tatva‘ (restless elements) who release list of 500 “Most IMP.” topics, containing terms, which even our forefathers have not heard in their lifetime. And that too, just two weeks before the exam! If at last minute you start digging net for such new things, you’ll even forget the things you’ve prepared already. Mock tests: should be given to maintain regularity in the pace of preparation. But, there is no direct correlation, that a person getting less marks in mocks, will definitely fail in prelims. So don’t get scared and don’t scare others. You’ll also gain more from solving the recent CDS and CAPF papers [conducted by UPSC itself] than from mock test from random institute.
  5. “ROTU-RAM” (Crybabies):It’s better to secure job first through clerical exam, only then give UPSC”,  “I’ve not prepared this time, so I’ll skip this attempt and give statePSC first.” ,”this year, as such vacancies are less, so competition will be higher, better we give attempt next year!“….all these are example of crybaby talk, you keep company of such defeatist people, they’ll drag you to their own level. For the whole year, they spend more time in “day-dreaming” [about what they’ll do after becoming IAS/IPS] rather than doing actual study. And at last-phase before Prelims, they start all the negative and pessimistic talk. So must avoid their company. If you skip one year, you’ll get rusted. Then it becomes even more difficult to get back into that ‘fitness-zone’, and UPSC is “no country for old men.” [Ref: bell shape curve at the beginning].