Harshivani Singh AIR 579

UPSC Preparation journey and strategy for Prelims/Mains.

Hi everyone!

I am Harshivani Singh from Orai, a small city in district Jalaun, U.P. I have secured 579 rank in Civil Services Examination 2021. This was my third attempt and first mains and first interview.

I have done my B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from HBTI Kanpur in 2018, and I began preparing for UPSC after graduation, so the journey has been a long and arduous one.

I did classroom coaching in Delhi from 2018-19 and came back in May 2019. Since then I have been preparing from home.


The first step for this exam would be to by-heart the UPSC syllabus. Until you don’t know what the exam demands, you are bound to fail. Also never run behind getting the perfect booklist. THERE IS NONE..Every year students clear reading the same books . So don’t keep buying new books, new material every now and then. It is better to read 1 book 10 times rather than reading 10 books 1 time. Prepare a booklist by referring to 2-3 topper’s booklist and stick to them. I strictly allocated one book for one subject.

After that one should begin by reading the NCERT’s followed by reference books . Note making is something very personal, I never made any notes of standard books..I only made notes for topics which didn’t have a single source or required google search.


Having failed two prelims, this was the most difficult stage for me to get through. So this year I planned meticulously, I would plan my targets a day before and make a time table . I allocated days for specific subjects and made it a point to revise everything at least 5 times before prelims.

Apart from revision, I focused a lot on giving mocks,  something  I did not do in previous attempts. This time I solved around 50-60 mocks. I sat and analysed  last 10 year prelims paper and solved them..This exercise is really helpful and 1-2 questions were infact repeated in the 2021 prelims paper.

Another change that I made was attempting the paper in three stages i.e, firstly I would attempt those in which I was 100% sure then in second stage in which I could eliminate 2 options and in last stage I would attempt the rest .

Another important thing for prelims is intelligent guesswork and that can only happen if one remains calm during exam. Try not to let the random nature of preliminary paper bog you down and calm your nerves  during the exam.


Here also analyzing previous year question papers is extremely important..If one sees carefully then there are certain themes from which every year questions are formulated. By analyzing the papers one can identify those themes and prepare accordingly..Being well prepared for at least some questions gives you an edge over others ..

I was least scared of the mains stage in the whole exam. Answer writing is again something aspirants are scared of..As per me one should not begin answer writing from day 1..wait till you complete a good chunk of your syllabus and then start practicing..

I took a test series at FORUM IAS(not a promotion, I just feel their evaluation is timely and decent enough) between prelims and mains in online mode and wrote around  10 tests.  Here the most important thing is to attempt ALL the questions.

For mains apart from basic material that we cover, its really important to use some data, facts, flowcharts, maps, reports etc to gain brownie points.

I made a small copy to note any such stuff that could garner me extra marks. You can find a lot of such things in daily newspapers, monthly compilations etc.

Apart from this quoting 2nd ARC recommendations, Supreme court judgements, Niti  Ayog, Economic survey ,or any reputed organization etc gives extra weight to your answers.


The unpredictability of this exam takes a mental toll on all of us. I went through more downs than ups during my preparation. I am the only child of my parents and the sole earner of family, my father retired in 2017.I couldn't clear two prelims of 2019 and 2020..

I was 25 and jobless while my friends were either buying homes or getting married.

Since 2019 my father had to be operated three times (he is a heart patient and has a pacemaker implanted) and he struggled with facial paralysis..

I myself went through severe anxiety. I would cry for no reason at all and lost the will to live.I could hardly sleep,concentrate and lost appetite, my palpitations were through the roof…I contacted a therapist  and had to gobble pills..

I was lucky that I had a supportive family and few close friends who helped me a lot to cope up during that time...

I read a lot of self help books last year, started meditating, taking care of myself... And that changed everything!!

I started preparing with new vigour in June 2021 and finally cleared SSC both Tier 1 and 2, EPFO written exam( not appearing for interview now),wrote UPPCS mains 2021 (awaiting results) apart from clearing UPSC

I mentioned the above just to emphasize on the importance of mental strength . I couldn't get a single job in 3 years and here I am today.

I just want to say that “Battles are first won in mind then in reality”.

Take charge of your life and  don’t be disheartened by failure..sometimes in life when we are disillusioned and ready to lose hope, the light is just around the corner.Take adequate breaks as well..In an exam of such long duration ,its normal to feel stressed out and demotivated. Take professional help if you need it and take good care of yourself.

I highly suggest having a plan B especially after 2-3 attempts.

Lastly, treat this exam like an exam..Dont treat it as the end  all of everything.


Lastly its really important to analyze your mistakes in preparation and adequately correct yourself..

To everyone who is preparing I would say ALL THE BEST and chart your own path to success because we’re all UNIQUE!!

To anyone facing hardships in life-"Hang in there...You are much more stronger than this".

Best Wishes,


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