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Prelims Capsule

Toppers Talk

Toppers Talk – Gunjan Dwivedi | AIR-9 , CSE 2018

SA: We have with us one of the winners of UPSC, pride of Lucknow, Ms. Gunjan Dwivedi, who has secured 9th rank in UPSC 2018. Today, we’ll understand her journey through UPSC preparation.

First question is how you felt when you learnt that you have secured 9th rank?

GD: I couldn’t believe at first that I had secured a single digit rank. It took around 20-30 minutes for the fact to sink in.

SA: Tell us about yourself, your educational background, your career. At what point did you decide that you’ll set for UPSC preparation?

GD: My father being an IPS Officer and seeing the scale and massive impact of the services on lives of the people, I was naturally predisposed to the Civil Services as a prospective career.

  • My subjects in 11-12th were Commerce & Maths, but decided to choose graduation subjects aligned with my future career. At this point, I firmly decided that I’ll pursue Civil Services preparation.
  • I graduated with Political Science Honours from Delhi University’s Daulat Ram College, and started sort of mini-preparation right from college level, like reading newspapers.
  • I graduated in 2014 and right away started preparing for UPSC rather than going for post graduation, for I could give my first attempt only in 2016.
  • I took General Studies coaching from Vajiram in 2015, and stayed for 7-8 months in Delhi. But upon realizing that I wasn’t able to study effectively in Delhi, I returned to Lucknow.
  • I couldn’t clear even Prelims in the first two attempts, so in my third attempt, my primary focus of preparation was Preliminary stage itself.

SA: What were your strategies for various stages of the examination? And what was your strategy for optional papers?

GD: My mentor had suggested that I should align my Preliminary preparation with my preparation for Mains. I’ll share my resources/booklist to give an idea how I prepared for different stages.

  • My approach has been to start with basics. First reading from cover to cover. And every subject around 4-5 times. First reading takes around 20-25 days for the entire book. Next rounds take lesser and lesser time.



  • History: 6-12th NCERTs and Tamil Nadu 11th standard text book
  • Geography: 6-12th NCERTs + Periyar publications
  • Polity: M Laxmikant + Vajiram Class Notes
  • Environment: Shankar IAS
  • Culture: 11th NCERT Fine Arts + Nitin Singhania + Vajiram Class Notes
  • Economy: Basics of Indian Economy (Vajiram) + Economic Survey
  • Current Affairs: Annual Compilations of Coaching Institutes

Test Series play a significant role in particular for Prelims. It helps you in developing the tactics for eliminating wrong options to arrive at the correct answer. Moreover, it also helps you with time management.



  • I couldn’t find the time to practice even a single essay.

GS 1

  • Culture: 11th NCERT Fine Arts + Nitin Singhania + Vajiram Class Notes
  • Modern History: Spectrum + NCERTs
  • World History: NCERTs
  • Post-Independence: NCERT
  • Social Issues: 11-12th NCERTs + Mains Coaching Compilations
  • Geography: 11-12th NCERTs

GS 2

  • Polity & Governance: M Laxmikant + 2nd ARC Report + Current Affairs
  • International Relations: Current Affairs

GS 3

  • Economy: Economic Survey + NITI Aayog 3 Year Agenda
  • Security: Vajiram Yellow Book
  • Environment: Shankar IAS + Current Affairs
  • Disaster Management: Vision IAS pdf

GS 4

  • Ethics: Class Notes + Quotes (Anudeep Durishetty notes)

Apart from this, I had joined Vision IAS Mains Test Series.


  • For the interview, I read newspapers – The Hindu, Indian Express and Times of India.
  • Further, I referred Rajya Sabha TV and StudyIQ for brushing up the current issues.
    • In fact, StudyIQ played a tremendous role in for my interview preparation.

SA: What was your father’s role in your UPSC journey?

GD: He has constantly guided me and kept me motivated throughout this journey.

SA: How did you balance yourself during your low points in this journey?

GD: My mentor here played a great role, and told me not to allow negativity to creep in.

SA: How can aspirants, who lack the resources to afford expensive coaching in Delhi, crack UPSC?

GD: One does not need to come to Delhi for coaching. Nowadays, most of the resources needed for UPSC preparation are available online and that too for free. So once one has collected the resources, it is immaterial where one is preparing from.

  • I had watched StudyIQ videos for my interview preparation on my phone. Thus it is 100% possible to crack UPSC without coaching.

SA: Your last words of wisdom for UPSC aspirants.

GD: Never give up hope. Believe in yourself. Be honest to yourself. Go through previous year papers and get an idea what the exam expects from you. Once you’ve understood the demand of this exam, then definitely you’ll succeed.