UPSC & Memory Tricks

UPSC preparation has been more about how well we can manage the information in a coherent and organised fashion, so that relevant facts can be easily recalled during exam. In recent, I have got a couple of mails in this regard and hence today I intend to share three broad strategies that I used to follow:.

Mind maps. 

Mind maps proved to be a very valuable tool in remembering and revising the various points of syllabus. Usually, I will put a single word in middle of a blank white board/sheet and keep on scribbling on it – making branches and putting the relevant knowledge points in bubbles. I used to do it spontaneously, without reference to any reading material. Thus, this act used to be no less than vomitting my brains in most logical fashion. The output used to be a short summary of whatever I knew then about that topic written in middle.

Following mind maps were made for organising the syllabus of GS papers and Physics:


Electrodynamics Mindma

Try it once. At any odd hour of the day, take a break from your routine and jot down your memory in this way. In fact, you can plan to revise whole of your syllabus in this way – starting from one node and branching out till the very last link of knowledge that you have.

Memory Curve:

Once, I came across the concept of Forgetting Curve or Memory Curve on Quora. It impressed me a lot. If you will follow this curve, you will find that our memory works exactly the same way. After remembering for the first time, we forget it very early; and it is only with repeated revisions at proper intervals that we are able to retain it as whole.

Maybe it is the reason that it is said for this exam that – don’t read 10 books 1 time, but 1 book 10 times. Whatever new we are going to read, we are definitely going to forget unless it is revised periodically.

 Image result for memory curve

Therefore, have an adequate mix of revision and reading in your preparation. Say after first 2 readings of basic texts, 3 hours can be given on each day for 3 days in a week for revision of whatever had been learnt before.

Using MNEMONICS and Desi Jugaad

Who can forget the best mnemonic – VIBGYOR to remember all the colours of rainbow in order of their frequency (or wavelength). It’s an effective tool to remember large pool of information in a very short, simple and orderly manner.

Similarly some desi jugaads can be also devised (especially in Physics) to remember trickier facts. To mention one, I used to find it difficult to how to recall that which one of Wien’s law and Rayleigh Jean’s Law was derived by assuming that lambda is smaller. I often used to get confused between these two. So I remembered it with jugged : ‘ chota naam means choti lambda’– meaning since Wien’s law is shorter in name thus always assume smaller lambda in its derivation.

I have jot down what all I used. Even though I couldn’t give more of examples of these techniques and how exactly I used. Nevertheless, I hope even this much would help.

Good Luck to all of you! Cheers!


Those days, better nights

Today my mind trips back to previous year, when the surroundings were intense and the mood was ever fluctuating. Today my mind is tripping into good old days when the short term goals meant remaining of mock tests and sporadic turning-on of internet connection was just to check upon whether the checked answer sheet has been yet uploaded or not. Tonight, I am remindful of the nights that were spent in revising, practicing, planning and endless worrying.

Now it’s a matter of another couple of weeks for the mains examinations and I myself can still feel the butterflies in my stomach. I can go on for ever talking about these two weeks but given the restricted time that we have on both of the sides, I intend to share just a couple of lines which might help in keep going.

वृक्ष हों भले खड़े,
हों घने, हों बड़े,
एक पत्र छाँह भी
मांग मत! मांग मत! मांग मत!
अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ!

तू न थकेगा कभी,
तू न थमेगा कभी,
तू न मुड़ेगा कभी,
कर शपथ! कर शपथ! कर शपथ!
अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ!

यह महान दृश्य है,
चल रहा मनुष्य है,
अश्रु, स्वेद, रक्त से
लथ-पथ, लथ-पथ, लथ-पथ,
अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ!

Many of you might have already read this before, but I ask of you to sing it out loud and bold, the voice must come from within while, each of word being felt and spelt from the core of your self and highest of spirit.

I wish and hope you all do well and achieve what is being deserved and is aspired for. Good Luck!

Reign Well

Exam is round the corner. But you once again re-scheduled the mock test for tomorrow as you thought that still you hadn’t prepared enough to take the test. Yesterday coaching sir didn’t say any encouraging words. Roommate has been able to attempt all 20 questions in GS papers. Last year topper asked for writing ‘exclusive’ answers but you are nowhere near in understanding the premises of word ‘exclusive’.

There must be already many of similar woes and worries running in your head. There must have come moments when you have felt that ‘you can’t take it anymore. Enough is enough’. Or, ‘what have I done to myself’.

If anyone of you is having any of it all or something similar, then I would say you are there where I had been once. No matter how are we doing, these negative thoughts sneak in through one of our thickest blankets of optimism, to ruffle up things here and there. It becomes natural of us to wonder endlessly to spot that one single thing which was missing in our answers last time, and if present then would have done all the wonders. I was there too. I myself used to scratch my head to seek that style of narrating my answer that would make it stand out. I used to practice the derivations for many a times to cut on my time of answering. I used to whine in front of my peers (whom I trusted and still do) that how awful I was doing in my GS2 or why I wasn’t able to make it a 100 percent attempt like them. Or at times, I would gather their answer sheets in the night and compare them with mine.

Those were the times when milkless-black coffee at night was a treat to oneself. And TheHindu used to be the first thing to wake up with. Those were the times and It was one hell of journey which I know I will never be making again. It was the sheer joy of learning and meeting wonderful people during it, that kept the spirits high and persistent.

Today when I have already changed the position, all I intend to share and ask from you is one simple thing; to smile through it all. To smile at every stage of this journey. Be it prelims, mains, mock tests or the final interview. Everyday, look yourself in the mirror and gaze deep into your own eyes and repeat with a broad smile, that you will do it. What may come, you will see it to the end. You will give your best in those each of 3 hours of examination. You might not know all the questions but still you will try to maximize your attempt with patience and grit.

Promise that you will fear the least and take the mains as an opportunity to express deepest of your thoughts and convictions with most beautiful arguments and facts.

Thus, just go out there and shine bright and high with utmost of confidence and self belief. Pour your heart out in that one week with finest of your words. You all are here for a reason, realize it – achieve it. Good Luck!

Physics Downloads

Here are some of the resources that I gathered online and henceforth, sharing over here.

Physics e-Books

Abhijeet Agarwal Notes

I consulted these notes at very later stage, primarily to prepare some of the fringe topics like magnetic shell in Electro, NMR, applications of H ion in astronomy etc.. I also solved the given numerical in the notes.

Rishav Gupta Notes

IoFS Previous Year Physics Papers

Physics Flash Notes

Physics Test Series Answer Booklets


PS: For now I have uploaded only Optics notes. I would also upload the other topics for reference.

Good Luck!

Mains Answer Writing

There is already enough number of tips and fundaes being discussed on various forums to how to write better answers in Mains. Well, I would spare these repetitions and wish to share just one perspective which I got hold of during my own preparations.

Take every question being asked in the paper as a question posed to you by a media person or as simple as a child while you are interacting with an open assembly in a school. So get under the skin of a bureaucrat and try to simulate how would you have answered in the given situation with right tenor and overall temperament. For ex:

GS Paper 2 Q.No. 10 ‘In the Indian governance system, the role of non-state actors has been only marginal.’ Critically examine this statement. In the given case, imagine if same would have been asked by a reporter to you (Law enforcing officer) How would you have defended or supported the given statement with relevant examples, precedents or antagonistic cases.


GS Paper 2 Q.No. 8 ‘ What is a quasi judicial body? Explain with the help of concrete examples’ If a senior secondary child asks this question, I would focus on what exact powers are attributed to it in relation to a common legal authority. For ex summoning, issuing orders, investigation, seizures, statements etc. And I would try to highlight each of these powers by taking relevant examples of existing quasi judicial bodies like FC, EC, CAG, CVC etc.

GS Paper 3 Q.No. 7 ‘ What is water use efficiency? Describe the role of micro irrigation in increasing the water use efficiency’ In this case I would first define the term water use efficiency. Then would emphasize upon current statistics of same within the country (and if possible of other countries like Israel in this case). Then would just mention various reasons of such low efficiency in the country. And in last part how micro irrigation techniques can help (again relevant examples of other geographical locations or within the country statistics). More importantly it can also be discussed why high water use efficiency has become the need of hour in the country given the inter-state water disputes, hygiene quotients, agriculture productivity etc

This approach might actually not help in building your content(matter) but can at-least enrich your experience( i.e manner of answer writing) to how to take a bow and deliver a most relevant, succinct and compact answer to your audience.

Also, in coming years it won’t be necessary that as an officer you would always be asked only from a prescribed list of readings or would always get a time to rehearse and practice beforehand. Some statements, some answers would be given spontaneously with adequate use of common sense and already accumulated knowledge of the issue at hand. Similar is the case in UPSC mains too, where there will always be few questions which we might not know accurately but with legitimate assumptions and balanced use of language we can write about them too.

And in those cases where we might not have faintest of idea, we can leave it as we would have done in front of real audience instead of saying something really stupid.

Test Series Answer Booklets

I am uploading my checked answer copies of VisionIAS.

General Studies 1 (unchecked) Vision GS1 Test 1 (760) Answer Booklet

General Studies 2 Vision GS4 Test 1 (762) Answer Booklet

General Studies 3 Vision GS3 Test 1 (759) Answer Booklet

General Studies 4 Vision GS4 Test 1 (760) Answer Booklet



For now I have uploaded Optics answer booklet only in the Google drive folder, soon enough I would also upload others too.

PS: Post discussion of Optics test I felt that I had written a lot and had thus compromised on attempt and accuracy in couple of questions in this test, which I later tried to rectify.

Sir, has always insisted that 10 marker questions should be answered in 1 page and 15-20 markers in not more than 2 pages with all relevant diagrams, formulas and answers.

Google Drive link:

General gyaan

While preparing, I came across various tips and fundaes that somehow helped me in keeping track of things. Many of them may seem like bol bachhan, but the reason they worked might help in digesting them 😛 . Here they are:

Disclaimer: Many of these are not mine. I have come across them from various sources, but I would want to sum them up with my own take on them.

  • Don’t read 10 books 1 time, but read 1 book 10 times. Almost every topper would say so. I always picked any new reference book if I felt confident enough that I would be able to revise it during the last one week of exam. Because, revision is a key in this exam. There is already a lot to remember and retain. Thus, if we can’t revise in last days, there is very little chance that we will actually use the new information in our final answers.


  • This exam is about going beyond the books. ~ Vajpeyi Sir. I would say go beyond every written or read word. Invest your own energy in what you are going to study. Engage yourself. Participate in your readings/lectures. How? start making connections in your 3rd or 4th reading. Or ask questions before accepting what is written or suggested. For ex: an editorial might recommend full farm loan waiver – but ask rationally, can it be really done? or SHOULD it be done at all?


  • Always keep a balanced approach. Neither of extremes are desirable. For example India can neither stop investing in space programs for we have large number of poor people but simultaneously we also cannot ignore the misery of such people. We got to balance our resources so that none is sacrificed at the cost of others. So better be balanced. An administrator usually has good amount of discretion at his/her disposal so extreme viewpoints might reflect despotic personality and thus, would be eliminated in the exam process – if not in prelims and mains, but definitely in interview.


  • This Exam is all about the basics with a lot of clarity. The exam can be written well when the preparation is simple and the aspirant is very strong in basics with clarity. An officer would get to deal with various kind of issues in his/her tenure. Thus, knack of basic understanding of things might help in coming to the roots of problem and thus, solving it in a more efficient manner. So no need of complexity at any stage. Keep it well and simple and just understand the basics of things. For instance if an editorial is talking about Naxalism, try to understand what is naxalism basically, what do they want, why do they still exist after near 70 years of independence, why only in specific region of the country, international parallels of such a movement etc.


  • One can’t know everything. No one can. So manage it according to oneself. Also, everyone would have their own weak and strong points. Identify them, prioritize them and play around them. Build upon your strengths and improve upon weaknesses. Strengths can be essay or GS1 paper or optional or interview or economy and so on. But never foresake any topic completely, for we never know what might come. Thus, ensure atleast minimum in your weak points as well.


  • Sometimes our mind get’s choked and we feel saturated, if we keep on reading same subject, say Geography for too long. So in that case, leave it in middle and start something else, say maybe economy or polity. Thus, one can have a mix of topics in a day or two to break the monotony.


  • There will be own set of highs and lows in given 2 years of preparation; there will be usual frustration over any and many of things, say for as simple as ‘Why should I know how earthquakes are caused’ or ‘which soil is found in which part of the country’ and so on. In such moments of despair and anger, keep calm and just believe that whatever is there in syllabus it’s there for a reason. Try to imagine and wonder the cases in which you might actually apply this knowledge as an administrator… a DM in North East must know how earthquakes are caused or a secretary of agriculture would be required to know which soil is present in which part of the country. If this perspective would do no help in remembering but least it would alleviate mood and state of frustration for a bit. 😀


From InsightsOnIndia

First thing you should be doing is removing all pressures from your head. Become independent completely, from thoughts of making parents happy, revenging the ex girlfriend/boyfriend, becoming a local celebrity, saving India from the corrupt, and importantly from the thoughts of gaining huge prestige in the society.

Prepare for this exam keeping your focus on Today. List the things you want to do today and finish those things. If you are preparing for Prelims, let the focus be on it. Not on the day of final result where you are giving TV interviews.

Second, find a purpose. Yes, you want to be an IAS officer, but to prepare well today, this is not the purpose. If you are preparing for Main exam, then your purpose will be to make notes, or to solve previous question papers.Every day, find a purpose. And fulfill it.

Third, love what you do. Love reading newspaper, love writing something on what you read; love it because every day you are evolving into a knowledgeable and stable person.

I would also add the word Enjoy to it. I consider this years of preparation as a journey, and thus ask you to enjoy it. Enjoy the highs and lows. Enjoy the frustration and whining. For they will not be there for ever. So love and enjoy this process.


  • Save yourself from dark thoughts. Defeat the defeatist thoughts. Keep an upright and positive attitude. If want to hold on, read this: Desiderata
  • If even after this advice, if one begins to dwindle or thinking to give upon  or starting to re-evaluate the whole decision of preparing for services, I have one last thing to ask, just remember the start. Once recall the day or fine moment when you set your sails for this path. I had my own times of second thoughts but every-time I read the following quote, I was back on my plan.

” I can write more than ten pages describing various powers of IAS. But, Gaurav Dwivedi Sir, IAS Chattisgarh Cadre who brought about PDS reform in the state, nicely summed up all in one line –

” An IAS officer has the ability, opportunity and freedom to innovate and improve the life of a poor man. ” ”     ~ Varun Ranjan IAS

Do pardon me if gyaan seemed overstretched, but I had to convey it all.

Note making and my Evernote notes of GS


As promised earlier, I am sharing my online notes of General studies. My main purpose behind this is to just share the idea that how exactly I  managed ‘all’ the relevant information and the subtopics in GS for the final output in the mains examination. I had prepared 2 set of notes: one set was handwritten – prepared from the standard textbooks. This was largely to remember things in my own way( for ex converting Ethics lexicon in 10 A4s). Second set of notes were online – prepared to manage the dynamic portion of exam. For ex day-to-day events, readings from Internet etc.

For the latter I preferred online version as I found them more handy, as in it was easier to add or take out any part from the online notes as compared to handwritten ones. (given the fact that we need them for good amount of 2 years in which various things keep on changing). Also, it is little bit easier to search and organize dynamic notes online.

How I organized Evernote Notes:

I had divided whole notes in the following format; where I divided and stacked the subtopics paperwise, like Geography, History, Sociology in GS1 and so on forth. The numerals beside each subtopic indicates the number of individual notes (for ex: in given image Agriculture sub topic of GS3 has 6 main topics to cover which are covered separately in 6 different notes.)


General Note Making:

While notes making I used to ensure the holistic viewpoint i.e. trying to prepare any topic comprehensively. That is besides knowing the factual details of anything I used to also summarize the overall +ve and -ve of anything and everything. For ex: Talking of MGNREGA, it is necessary to analyze and evaluate the scheme for both its pro and cons and also with a way ahead so as to how the cons can be managed and can be tuned down.



GS 1: 



Social Issues

GS 2: 


International Relations

Policies & Governance


GS 3:






Science and Tech


GS 4:






Committees and Models

Coaching Institutes

General Studies:

I didn’t join any classroom classes for General studies(GS). I was of the opinion that since it is called ‘General’ by UPSC itself thus, it must be prepared at very general level and none of expertise is required in the given field. Thus, I talked to my brother and parents and convinced them that I wouldn’t be joining any classes for the same and rather prepare it on my own through standard textbooks, newspapers and maybe online sources.

But I did join test series for both Prelims (VisionIAS) and Mains (Insights and VisionIAS). And I found both of them to be highly beneficial. They helped me to simulate the exam like conditions and experiment a bit on various trivialities (like choice of right pen) before the final exam. It was during these mock tests only that I learned actual time management. I would say don’t rely on the final outcomes of these mock tests i.e. don’t take the score/marks in these tests to your heart rather analyze them to very best. For instance, your attempt in different GS papers, writing speed, your peers approach etc.

Optional – Physics:

I joined DIAS for both classroom and test series.

Personality Test:

I joined Samkalp interview guidance program and it was really helpful (especially the mock tests organized by it)

Also, I gave one mock test at Byju’s

PS: Follow Online world and my journey with UPSC  to know about GS preparation strategy

Online world and my journey with UPSC

These days it is said that Internet is gonna be the biggest equalizer for it is largely open, accessible and contemporary. There is number of ways in which it proved to be true. Honestly speaking if one is sincere and motivated enough to keep up the momentum, Internet has got it all to take us ‘there’ where we all dream and aspire about. I am sharing my story of in what ways did I use it for good or bad while preparing for UPSC CSE 2016.

Assistance #1 : Getting to know of the basic structure of the whole examination i.e. formats of Prelims, Mains and Personality test. I would say that in this examination the second lap of race matters the most (and perhaps requires maximum amount of dedication). In this regard, I followed a couple of blogs, Quora answers and toppers interviews on Insights and Mrunal (links followed). It was based upon these sources I could decide upon my optional subject and also the fact that whether I would want to join any coaching for GS or not.

Based upon all collected information, I broadly divided the whole syllabus in two ways

Prelims: Polity  Geography  Economy  Environment  History  Current affairs


GS1 ( History Geography Socio)

GS2 (Polity Governance IR)

GS3 (Economy Environment Security)

GS4 (Ethics)

Assistance #2 : Providing various sources to prepare from. I began one by one with each topic as follows:

Polity: I started watching Pradhanmantri and Samvidhan series on YouTube while I was in the job. Later, Lakshmikant and NCERT (our constitution at work) were sufficient to develop an understanding of basic political structure of the country.

Economy: I really had a tough time at the start with this subject. In initial 3 weeks of preparation I could make very little sense of economy sections in TheHindu. But then I came across the Mrunal’s videos on economy and they were wonderful. After doing them once for ever, I never felt any less confident in this particular topic. In fact a couple of my friends who otherwise had attended ‘prestigious’ classroom classes after paying good amount of money themselves started following Mrunal.

GeographyAnother nightmare for me. I had never been that sound at this subject. And to aggravate, XI NCERT is of little help to begin with. But once again Mrunal came to rescue for Ratanjali’s lectures were put which were very good and appropriate. I made my own hand notes while following all these lectures and gave a couple of readings to NCERT afterwards to find things had begun to come in control.

History and Environment: As they are quite static in nature. Thus, I followed the standard books (NCERTs + Spectrum + ShankarIAS) to cover it all. Except I downloaded all the relevant lists from Wikipedia related to environment like – Ramsar sites, National parks, state animals etc

Ethics: I had read about Michael Sandel lectures on justice, being recommended by one of the toppers in past and to my pleasure they were far above than expectations. Perhaps among all the video lectures I enjoyed them the most. They forced me to think and argue. They stirred the rational thinking, reason and logic to arrive to an answer by ourselves. Also, DK Balaji’s note on InsightsonIndia to how to prepare for ethics was a real guidance. I had downloaded it as Pdf and must have read for multiple times. Along with it lexicon and pdf links given on InsightsonIndia were also of good help.

Current Affairs: I used to read TheHindu to get to know daily affairs. Besides it I also followed VisionIAS monthly current affairs and Insights Daily Current affairs quiz and daily current affairs.

Besides it all I religiously followed the Spotlight, Moneytalk and Countrywide on AIR 106.4 FM. I used to take notes in bullets while listening to these talk shows. I found them to be of high quality for they often used to contain the perspectives which otherwise were missing in newspaper articles. Also, it used to be refreshing to take a break on my eyes and let the ears do some work instead.

Assistance #3 : Some online initiatives taken by various websites which were of immense help. Some of them have been briefed up as follows:

Insight’s Daily debates: In this Insights used to pose a question for instance (should women be given 33% reservation in legislatures) and I used to debate it in both for and against the motion. But as instructed by Insights I used to do it impromptu and without any background reading. That is I straight used to write pros and cons in my relevant note (here in women issues) in just 3-4 minutes. This exercise helped me developing a temperament and confidence where I became ready to talk about anything in both + and – ways (which is desired in our mains answer writing and essays).

Insight’s Mindmaps : A wonderful approach to fit it all in our heads. I used to download all the mindmaps in JPEG and later convert them in Pdf format. With the help of NitroPDF I used to convert these Pdfs editable by using OCR function in it. This helped me in highlighting and commenting on the pdfs itself. Result? I had one mindmap for each topic/issue with all the highlights and comments. Thus at the end it was very organic and productive to revise and have all the connections in my head. An example is followed.


Insights Secure : Though I followed it for very short period of time but I can say it was very helpful. In initial days I used to fill in pages taking 15 minutes to write single answer which was still felt to be inadequate and lacking the poignant points in first place. But as suggested, I started following a couple of students on Disqus (why_so_serious, nightfury and knowledgebuff) and with time, I could develop a sense to how to approach a question, to understand the basic demands of the same.

Insights weekly Essay challenges: Though I have scored less in essay but still I must admit that I started following this initiative well in advance of 6 months of Prelims. As expected at first I had no clue to how to write an essay for CSE but after following the same users on Disqus I could get hold of knack of what UPSC essay is all about.

Insights Motivational Posts: Among all the posts that I used to receive in my inbox the most awaited ones used to be the motivational ones (those in which no author was being mentioned) for they usually come randomly and perhaps at the most suited times. I still remember one post which was send prior to Prelims 2016 which is pure beauty and class.

I am a big fan of Insights and Mrunal and it is really overwhelming to click this blue colored word reading ‘Unsubscribe’. I thank you Insights and Mrunal and team for their great efforts and vision which is giving wings to the available technology to realize its real intended purpose.

Thank You!


Useful Links:

Gaurav Agrawal AIR 1 CSE 2013 blog entries: 

GS Preparation Strategy

His take on coaching

His views on how to choose an optional

Ethics preparation strategy

DK Balaji AIR 36 CSE 2014 article on Insights

Insights article to how to prepare GS IV


Michael Sandel Lectures on Justice



Mrunal’s lectures on Economy

Mrunal’s lectures on Geography