After a successful stint with UPSC CSE preparation, almost all toppers are happy to share their strategy. There are a few reasons for this:
- A lot of friends and relatives are asking them.
- They want to give back to the UPSC prep community.
- They can now simply re-route all “guidance” requests to these writings, because if you’re unwilling to put in the effort to even read this, you might not be making it through the exam.
Over the years, I’ve read a lot of their blogs in order to figure out what worked for these toppers and find out where my own shortcomings lay. On that journey, I’ve found some blogs that were more helpful than others.
This is not to say that all others aren’t useful, just that they did not resonate with me. Find a topper who thinks like you do and figure out their systems.
How do you do this? Read their writing, a lot of it.
Why not watch the interviews?
A fair ask. Youtube has a ton of interviews by previous year topper’s who share their process and journey. Why not watch those instead of so much reading?
Somehow, I’ve always felt that it’s easier to share the core ideas of your preparation process by writing about it.
An interview is a two way discussion. You have to cater to the questions asked and share your understanding in bite sized format because attentions spans aren’t going to hold indefinitely. Other than that, you may have to simplify, sometimes gloss over important details because you’re speaking to a wide audience ranging from beginners to veterans and everyone should be able to get something out of it.
But when you’re writing, you are freed from all those expectations. You can write in as much detail as you want and are not limited by questions because you set the question for yourself.
So then how to find the best blog? For that we need to understand what makes a topper’s blog great.
What makes a topper’s writing great?
The parameters are simple:
- Actionable ideas. Good principles.
- Focus on practicing. Ideas are worthless if you don’t act on them.
- Ideas that resonate with you. Find people with similar habits, it becomes easier to understand what they are saying.
Blogs/sites that I found useful
Gaurav Agrawal’s blog. (Rank 1 CSE2013)
Anudeep Durishetty’s website. (Rank 1 CSE2017)
Neha Bhosle’s blog. (Rank 15 CSE2019)
Neha Banerjee’s blog. (Rank 20 CSE2019)
Pratyush Pandey’s website. (Rank 21 CSE2019)
What did I find useful here?
Gaurav Agrawal’s blog was the beginning of it all. The clarity of his arguments and writing is extra ordinary. He gives you simple ideas about what works, and how to think about the various phases of this exam. This blog will teach you how to think from first principles about UPSC.
Anudeep’s answers really helped me think about presenting my content better and making my answers more concise. He had been going through the same issues as me before he aced the exam and 2017, so it was a natural spot for me to go and learn new things.
Neha Banerjee and Neha Bhosle’s blogs were relevant to understand the current demands of the exam because they seemed to have understood something fundamental about this exam (having cleared it with double digit ranks in their first attempts) that I had missed.
Of particular note are the writings of Pratyush Pandey. Rarely do you come across writing so clear and incisive. He cuts through the bullshit like butter and gets to the core ideas from the start. Highly recommended.
A question to ask yourself
Instead of running after coachings and paying a hefty fee, why not get your ideas from the people who made it work? The blogs above contain all the information you'll ever need to make your own strategy.
If you still want a mentor, why not check out our courses where past rankers will guide you to success.