Mohd Nooh Siddiqui AIR 326, UPSC CSE 2017, part of IASbaba’s Team shares his Preparation Strategy – His mistakes and learnings in the UPSC journey!

  • IASbaba
  • June 19, 2018
  • 9
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An amazing story of Mohd Nooh Siddiqui could not clear in 4 attempts but in his 5th attempt secures AIR 326, CSE 2017. He has been working with IASbaba since 2 Years, part of Core TLP Mains Answer Reviewing team.


Sitaron Se AageJahaanAurBhiHain
Other worlds lie beyond the stars

Still more test of passion, love is remaining


All the success stories hold some values underlined which helped them achieve their goals,for me it was my determination and unyielding faith in hardwork that finally paid the dividend.


Hello friends,

I am Mohd Nooh Siddiqui, secured AIR 326 in CSE 2017 in my 5th Attempt and 3rd Mains. I belong to a humble background from the city of Aurangabad,Maharashtra. I did my schooling from Burhani National Urdu School and Higher secondary from Maulana Azad college,both in Aurangabad. I have completed B Tech. in Food technology in year 2011 from Marathwada Agriculture University,Parbhani Maharashtra. For nearly 1 year I was involved in my family business of bakery and after my completion of B Tech. I did not pursue and further degree or any formal job which was a big risk.

Since 2012 October I started preparing for civil services with a clear objective of appearing in UPSC CSE Exam only, not for state PSC,SSC or any other examination. So I did not appear in any other examination till date. I have been working with IAS baba as part of their evaluation team in Think Learn Perform (TLP initiativethat helped me a lot in my Mains Answer writing). Due to my Urdu schooling background I opted for Urdu Literature as an Optional subject in all the attempts.

My reason for changing track and appearing in UPSC Examination is bit different from the general observations. Generally it is the Student who admire, aspire or dream of becoming an IAS officer for me before 2012 this term was unknown.I personally planned to go abroad for further studies which was supported by my family initially but later on they did not allow me to go due to some reasons. It was my father in 2012 who advised me to go for UPSC CSE.

The reasons why I obliged to my father’s advice and stayed for so long in preparation mode are

-I realized UPSC provide best opportunity for personal growth and community welfare both simultaneously which is absent in any other job or service

-It provides better opportunity to know the country,to know the systems and to realize how a country functions

-It put very large resources at a person’s disposal which can be utilized to achieve greater good for the greater numbers in very short time.

As this was my 5thattempt, third mains and first interview I would like to provide brief history of my failures(Building blocks) till the achievement of AIR 326 this year.


First attempt 2013- Failed to Qualify Prelims

Second Attempt 2014 – Appeared in mains and scored 50 marks less than cutoff, Scored 273 in Urdu Literature Optionalwhich was highest that year at All India level in this subject.

Third Attempt 2015 – Failed to Qualify Prelims again

Fourth Attempt 2016 – Appeared in mains and was 20 marks short of Interview call cutoff, Scored 292 in Optional again highest that year in that subject.

Fifth Attempt 2017 – Secured AIR 326 in CSE 2017


As you can see,I could not go through Prelims twice due to lack of test writing practice and low level of confidence.I personally feel Prelims is 50% Knowledge and 50% Confidence I failed to work on the later part during these two attempts which I realized and worked upon to ensure free sail through prelims in later attempts.For this I started solving as many as tests usually 70 tests in last 30 days to get enough confidence,while eliminating the chances of minute errors in solving objective questions. Candidates usually read Prelims material till  the end without doing enough test practice which results in failure despite having solid knowledge base.

For Mains, I realized that one size fit for all approach will not work in general studies papers as it was fetching me poor marks in my first and second mains appearances.For essay as well I needed to rework on my strategy as I scored poorly only 70 marks in 2014 and respectable 133 in 2016 mains examination. As I was getting very handsome marks in optional subject (273 and 292) I needed to work on my general studies and essay to balance the marksheet and to appear as a victor.With improvised strategy, rigorous answer writing and smart work this year I managed to increase my GS by 80 marks and scored 143 in Essay which were enough to secure place in the final pdf.


So how was I able to increase my marks?

First, we need to have clear picture of whole syllabus in our mind, it should be imprinted so that we are able to connect one part of syllabus with other for integrated preparation of General Studies papers. For example while reading world history in paper 1 of GS you should be able to take examples from history and use them in ethics paper for leadership,emotional intelligence etc

Second, have clear idea of What UPSC is asking and what is the trend. For this go through last 5 years GS papers and find the link between the question or try to understand the shift from Conceptual/static part to more informative and current affairs oriented questions.

Third,Try to prepare your own notes for every topic in the syllabus of mains examination and do not rely on single printed material resource.You need to appear different and write few extra points which will be possible only from your personal notes.Also this helps in revision and last time recollection of information.

Fourth,For Individual papers chalk out a different strategy and collect data and information accordingly.


Paper 1– This paper requires recollection of information,cover every bit of provided syllabus though very briefly to gain confidence and have some idea about each of the topics.You can refer to diverse source of material from books to notes of coaching institutions as per your liking.

Paper 2– Focus more on current affairs and try to link static part with current affairs for better formation of answer. Compile Second ARC recommendations, Law commission report pointers,Important judgements and cases, Article numbers and constitutional provisions at one place and try to put them in every answer.For International relations refer to any video lecture series on IR for updated info on the events and focus more on future course of action.

Paper 3– Here again cover each topic from varied sources and prepare your own notes.Focus more on economic survey, budget speech, government schemes, and committee recommendations and most importantly statistics or current data.This paper will be more current oriented for this take  out important issues and try to cover all related aspects of it for example GST or Artificial intelligence.

Paper 4– Have clear understanding of each topic provided in the syllabus especially the terms Aptitude,attitude and emotional intelligence etc. Try to have your own definition of them. Read any one good source either Lexicon or Subbarao for better understanding of concepts and prepare your own notes of it.Try to collect more and more examples from various sources(newspaper, Personallife, Historical figures, sports, movies etc ) for better elaboration of your answers. Refer to IASbaba TLP compilation of previous years for Paper 4 to get fair idea of how to approach the questions.

Essay– Find your comfortable areas,for me I was never good in writing essays on Economy,Polity,Environment etc.So I focused more on Social issues,Women,Education,sports, Cybersecurity, Social Media etc .Collect every possible data,facts,quote or even paragraphs to garnish your essays and to serve them better.Write as many as 15 essays before going to final examination.


Fifth, Write as much as possible.The reason for increase in my marks from previous attempts was more rigorous writing practice. Start by reading best answers online on IASbaba TLP to get the fair idea of how to approach the question.Try writing 2 answers daily on your own and compare it with the best answers.Try to remove fear of writing from the mind.Join any good test series for mains (preferably IASbaba) to check your progress and to have better idea of national competition.

Sixth, Prepare diaries containing data,facts,schemes,diagrams,examples,quotes,SDGs,reports,rankings and any other important information which you can carry anywhere and can be revised in very short time.Prepare separate diaries for paper2, paper3, Diagrams, general data  etc.  Use this information wherever and whenever possible in each paper.

Seven,Take benefit of group prepartion, share information,notes and strategies.This will eventually benefit all the stakeholders involved in the group.For us me and my roommate both got selected this year due to the positive competition we had and ours ranks also came very close to each other 326 and 339.



Regarding Optional subject preparation,I will be sharing specific details separately through video series in coming days. But for general understanding few most important points in optional preparations are,

-Opt for optional in which you can write well or which suits to your temperament. Your interest playes a vital role in optional selection.

-Read thoroughly all the topics and subtopics given in the syllabus,focus on previous year papers and prepare your own notes of every bit of syllabus

-Take out the topics from last 5 year question papers and write answers of them; interestingly this will cover 80% of the upcoming paper in next examination of UPSC


To last longer focused on the same objective for years and years require very strong emotional and personal management. Few habits that differentiate the successful candidates from striving candidates that I have observed and followed during my preparation are,

  • Habit of sitting for long duration -10-12 hrs daily that too on fixed time table
  • Group work and healthy competition
  • Writing more tests and working on mistakes rather than increasing information
  • Use of internet,video/Audio resources,Websites,Youtube channels etc
  • Ability to overcome failure through extracurricular activities,prayers,talking to friends and family and through strong inner motivation.The failure in UPSC is temporary and the success last very long.
  • Positive attitude- maintaining distance from negative people


During the last two attempts of UPSC exam IASbaba played very important role in my preparation.I have been following IASbaba 60 days plan before prelims very ardently in last 3 attempts. In 2016 I followed IAS baba monthly magazine during mains preparation.This year I relied heavily on IASbaba TLP 2017 Mains program for my mains preparation. As I worked for IASbaba being part of review team provided me the opportunity to get into the mind of examiner and realize what examiner wants from the answer.This helped me to score very good marks especially in Paper 2 and Paper 3 of general studies.

Support of whole IASbaba team during my course of preparation and especially of Mohan Sir and Atyabbhai worked as a catalyst for me. For this I am thankful to them and to whole IASbaba team!


Last but not the least,This examination has become more dynamic due to more focus on Current affairs.These days this exam is more about Information management than information gathering. It requires clear focus and extra push to get through good ranks. As those not getting into list are scoring 19/20 and those in the list 20/20,so the difference is very thin.I wish you all the very best for your endeavor and wish you succeed in very least attempt in this examination. Here is a couplet for you


HarEkMaqam Se AgayMaqamHaiTera
Your destination is ahead of all the destinations

Hayat Zauq-e-Safar KeSiwaKuchAurNahin
Life is nothing but the joy of journey, travel


Thank You

Nooh Siddiqui

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