MOTIVATION and TOPPER’S STRATEGY: Pawan K Pal, Rank 505, CSE-2016, First Attempt, Full Time Working Professional, 121 Marks in ETHICS, 156 Marks in ESSAY-PSIR Optional, IASbaba’s ILP Student

  • IASbaba
  • July 4, 2017
  • 15
IASbaba's Toppers
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Hello Friends,

Every success story is unique and different in approach and manner in which it is achieved. But what is more cherishing than achieving the same in the very first attempt with full time job. Pawan’s success makes it much more inspiring because of many reasons.

  • This was his first attempt.
  • He was working full time with Maruti Suzuki
  • He prepared for Political Science and International Relations in less than 4-5 months
  • He scored 121 Marks in Ethics and 156 Marks in Essay
  • He was part of IASbaba’s Integrated Learning Programme ILP-2016


We are really proud of him because he has given strength to our motto and vision of imparting guidance to aspirants preparing from Home specially freshers and working professionals. We wish you a great future ahead!

Name – Pawan K Pal
Residence – Panipat
Education Background – Btech ( Mechanical) from D.C.R.U.S.T Murthal
Company employed –Production Dept ,Maruti Suzuki India Limited, Manesar [ From 2012 to 2017] UPSC Roll no. – 0007348
Optional – Political Science & International Relations
Attempt – 1st
Rank – 505

With Summer Solstice raising the temperature of the Northern plains, there was a gamut of CSE aspirants waiting to witness their hard earned rank in the sacred Pdf. For some the list although came as a spring in this hot weather but for some it was a clarion call to buck-up and prepare for the pre-2017.

With the information depicted above some questions are quite obvious, like:

  • Why you thought of giving CSE so late – After 4 yrs of experience in MSIL
  • Why you choose Political Science and International Relations
  • How you managed time while working that too in Production Department
  • Source of motivation

To clear the clouds hovering around your heads let me give you a brief of my preparation.
It is often said that after being frustrated of a 9 hr job, a person often tries Civils, CAT or Start-up.

I choose the 1st one.

The monotonous job of production never intersected with my ambitions and one day the longing to do something that suits my physical & biological capabilities got so empowered that I landed at Karol Bagh to search for a weekend course.

It was Sept-2015. I never had any plan to sit for Civils nor I had any cravings for this most coveted job. But it was the option that seemed possible during that time (the Bandwagon effect with which most young population in India suffers for). I subscribed The Hindu as its printed copy was not available in Manesar.  After attending my office I had to rush to my class (from Manesar to Karol Bagh, Delhi) at 5 pm to 8 pm on Saturday and 7am to 6pm on Sunday. The schedule was hectic as 6 day working coupled with bulky books was very gruesome and I was in state of never ending confusion. Time passed and I was a part of hoi polloi that ate, drank, walked what they were taught in the classroom.

But one training of Cost Benefit analysis in Maruti Changed my perception and I bought a Laptop to start a journey with my own Map. It was Dec-2015. From this onwards I never followed the coaching wallas and subscribed to IASBABA and joined ILP.

With so many online initiatives and programmes it was really confusing to make a choice. Here the confusion ended and I relied totally on IASBABA whatever may be the consequences.

The logic was simple – What you are doing that will make you stand out from a group of 13-15 Lakh applicants.

The IASBABA programme was a boon for me as it gives you a time bound target with list of books to read. After that it tests you and you will feel the heat, the competition which is very much required in Civils.

I never skipped any mail from IASBABA. The daily questions they ask were always a challenge for me. I tried hard to get all correct but never achieved that feat.

Now, you will ask that how I managed to cover the vast syllabus.

The answer is simple – I just followed the study plan of IASBABA and gave my tests regularly. I can recall that in first test I got 56 marks but in last test I got 152 marks. For the syllabus my plan was to read at least 200 pages daily. I competed Laxmikath in 5 days and completed my syllabus in multiple readings. NCERTs were treated like comics and Bipin Chandra was like a Shaktimaan story.

I had read one interview of Mr Shashi Tharoor, where he told that he was able to read a complete book within his travel time from the Library to his Home. I was nowhere less than him ( you can feel the arrogance here). 😛 

Plan was made and the calendar was scrambled. The plan was to complete the whole syllabus plus 5 times revision. May-2016 was the deadline and June & July was the revision months.

But here again that question cropped up in my mind – What you are doing that makes you stand out from the Rajinder Nagar wala group.

Here again brainstorming started and I took Prelims test series of Vision IAS and Vajiram too. Here I joined Vision IAS Mains test series also (June-2016). Here I was mocked by my friends as I just started my preparation from the scratch and this decision of joining Mains test series before giving prelims was stupid for them. But I knew my Strengths and Weaknesses. Even if you clear prelims with good marks and you fail in mains it is again a zero sum game. My aim was to crack this examination in single attempt and for this it should be attacked from all sides.  I accomplished my plan which was to complete whole syllabus + 5 time revision. Meanwhile I gave 2 Mains tests of Vision IAS before prelims.

After the above plan and solving over 100 mocks that means around 10000 questions I sat for Prelims on 7 Aug 2016.


For Prelims the key is Revision + Mocks. All NCERTs are must and Google should be preached like god for prelims. Quora is good for clearing the concept but never stop yourself from applying some common sense and logics. Never skip any content or questionnaire of IASBABA. The ILP here played crucial part for its effective planning, high quality VAN and tests and I give all credit for the result to IASBABA.

After coming home I checked all my answers with the answer keys and I found that I am through.

From the very next day I started writing daily. The Best part was when you complete your Newspaper by stealing some time in office and a mails comes from IASBABA with list of possible questions for Mains. TLP was a boon in this regard for its quality questions.

I wrote daily and followed this simple strategy and avoided any confusion. But the dark clouds of Optional subject still surrounded me. One day I saw a motivational video of Varun Kumar (IAS) where he emphasized on how he randomly picked Political Science as optional and prepared it. This instilled in me a confidence that it is achievable. After being bored of reading Mechanical subject till February 2016 I switched my subject to Political Science & International Relation and after that I never looked back.

Again same strategy was followed – Syllabus + 5 times revision

Now the Mocks. I took some time when I started giving my pending mocks of Vision IAS mains because the format of your answer should be different and it should be attractive. Meanwhile I got test series of Sriram IAS and GS Score. Here I relied totally on Textual material because you can write a nice answer only after diverse and rigorous reading. Watching Videos may clear your concept but it will not be beneficial for getting crux of answer writing.

I stretched myself with 3 newspapers – Hindu , Indian Express and Livemint + EPW(Subscibed)

To Metamorphise myself I wrote my last 6 mains test in 2 days at VisionIAS test center, Karol Bagh. Never skipped any Mains question of IASBABA.


Books followed:

  • History – NCERT Old (Ancient and Modern history), Spectrum(Modern), Nitin Singhania (Culture), Tamil Nadu (Ancient).
  • Economics – 11th& 12th NCERT + Diverse Online Sources, IASBABA notes
  • Environment – Shankar IAS, IASBABA notes, Moef annual report + Online Sources
  • Geography – All NCERTs + Online Sources
  • Polity – Laxmikanth + B L Fadia + Legalserviceindia website(this is boon for Pol. Science optional)
  • Science & Tech – IASBABA notes
  • Current Affairs – VisionIAS + IASBABA


For Political Science and International Relations


When I started with my preparation for CSE in Nov-2015, my plan was to write this examination with Mechanical Engineering as Optional. As my background was technical and I had interest in mechanical so this decision was easy to make. But when I solved the mocks of mechanical engineering in Feb-2016 after studying for 3 months for this optional my all beliefs eroded. Meanwhile I saw a motivational video of Varun Kumar (IAS) where he emphasized that how he completed his optional (PSIR) in just 3 months.

I decided that Political Science will be the one I will go forwards. I researched on internet and found Shubra Ranjan Mam. But I was late and coaching was not possible. So I took ND Arora – a book of Political Science where syllabus wise content is given. I took help from it but never relied on its content. It can guide you about where to go and what to study but only reading this book is a sin. I purchased Notes of Shubra Ranjan mam and all standard books for the optional. Andrew Heywood as a name looks scary but this book is easier than any other Indian author.

Books referred:

  • Political Theory – Andrew Heywood + O P Gauba + Wiki
  • Western Political Thoughts – Nelson + Wiki + Scholarly articles
  • Indian Political Thinkers – Pearson + Internet
  • Paper 1 , Part B – BL Fadia + EPW Magazine + Indian Express + Legalservicesindia + Internet
  • Comparative politics – Ignou Notes(MPS series) + Internet + ND Arora
  • World Focus
  • MEA Websites + ASEAN Website + IDSA
  • India’s World on RS TV+ BIG Picture
  • PAX Indica by Shashi Tharoor
  • Global Politics – Andrew Heywood
  • Oxford Handbook on Indian Foreign Policy
  • Shubra Ranjan Mam Notes – Very Important
  • The Wire – Editorial
  • EPW

The above books are just a glimpse of what you should read but the actual concepts grasped can be from different sources like I regularly watched and read Ramchandra Guha, Yogendra Yadav, CP Bhambri, Hamza Alawi, Zia Mody etc.

Political Science imparted me philosophical mindset which I used in essay writing and got mammoth 156 marks. It also helped in Ethics paper and in paper 2 also.

Speed Reading and using the core terms in practical ways can take you distances and you will never forget the things that you will read. Argue with the author while reading his/her article, this will not only give you critical thinking but will also make your decisions bold and mature. Write small cheat notes so that you can revise them before the examination. Every optional for CSE should be covered till the level of masters programme so respect the optional and do appreciate the authors.

Plan your strategy and devise your own path. The beauty lies in the mystery and risk. Don’t rely on Coaching centers as they will homogenize you and UPSC wants a unique one from bunch of 15 lakh people, so stop preaching false GOD. Steal every style and methodoly from the toppers and make alloy of it and apply it with full confidence and skills.

This examination is all about patience, perseverance and hard work and remember the concept of ESCAPE VELOCITY. You have to attain that escape velocity to crack this examination. Some people attain it in 5yrs  some in 6 months, it totally depends how much pain and brain you are using to bundle up this exam.

I got 505 rank with above paraphernalia and things got aligned just because of one thing – Confidence.

I was never confused after I went into hardcore mode of reading in Dec-2015. I choose my optional and never regretted, took impossible targets to achieve and tried to achieve by hook or by crook. I punished myself for not achieving the target but at the same time I also appreciated myself on completed the target. I gave 6 hrs daily while attending my job and Avoided sleep by drinking gallons of Coffee, stole time in office to read. I was sure that I will make it out, and only because of this I acted accordingly.

There is a social construct that prevails among innocent Civils aspirants that you cannot crack this exam in 1st attempt while in job and that too in just 1 yr of preparation from the scratch. But it is possible, Humans are beyond any measurement and limitation. I Prepared my Optional Without Coaching and in a time frame of 4 months. Which construes that we cannot gauge our capabilities without giving our best. For those who are trying to crack this mighty exam, I exhort you all to not just try – Give all you have to it just for once. It’s better to be in isolation for one year than to swivel as pendulum in dichotomy of Fun & Study for many years. Isolation is a gift which tests you endurance. You are beyond any calculation and can do and witness miracle. All you have to do is to just crack the essence of this exam, only then you can crack this exam.

Respect your age, its magnificent and Don’t just slog this precious period with Youngster angst into UPSC Civils. This glorious period will never come again and even if you crack this exam after 4-5 attempts  you will feel after some time that the splendid hormonal outburst of you stifled under the burden of Books of Civil Services. So give an honest attempt with all the force you have in you. Achieve the impossible and don’t beat your chest because you are surrounded by Naysayers. Show them your breed.

You can do it because Asaan Hai.

Thank You

Pawan K Pal

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