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IAS Toppers Interview: Sidharth B Rank 15 CSE 2016, Political Science Optional

Name Sidharth B
Rank in CSE 2016 15
Total Attempts in CSE 2
Optional Subject PSIR
Medium English


Class 10 percentage of marks 88.2
 Class 12 Percentage of marks 87.8
Graduation: College and marks Mar Athanasius College of Engg – 73.4
Post graduation: College and marks N/A
Any other course N/A

IAS Score: What were the basic mantras of your success?
Sidharth B: Keeping the GS preparation as simple as possible. Investing more time and effort in optional subject.

IAS Score: What were your strategies for the lengthy syllabus of General Studies for both Prelims and Mains?
Sidharth B:  Prelims: I tried to cover the topics as broadly as possible. Basic books are the bedrock – Laxmikant (Polity), NCERTs (history, geography, art and culture), Shankar’s Environment etc
Mains: I stuck to the syllabus. Used basic books for each topic – NCERTs, Laxmikant, Vision/GS Score notes, ARC 4th report (Click Here to Download Summary of ARC Reports). Key is to identify the correct basic book for the relevant topic. This can be obtained from previous toppers’ book lists.

IAS Score: Did you integrate your Prelims or Mains preparation or was it separate in the changing scenario?
Sidharth B: The integration largely happens in case of GS1 – because that’s where sources overlap considerably.

However we must note that the requirement in prelims is to increase the breadth of knowledge. There is a lot of information to cram. Especially in topics like environment, art and culture etc.

In mains on the other hand, some basic knowledge of all topics is required. However the questions in mains tests our analytical skills and our ability to connect they syllabus to what we read in newspapers. This requires a different approach.

GS Preparation for Prelims (Summary)

Study material / Guidance Shankar’s environment
Basic Books Laxmikant Indian Polity, NCERTS – history (6-12), Ancient India RS Sharma, Geography (11th, 12th), Fine Arts NCERT, NIOS
Current Affairs GS Score, Vision IAS
Test Series GS Score, Vision Ias, CL
Any other

Optional Subject Preparation  (Summary)

Study material / Guidance Piyush Choubey sir’s and Shubhra Ranjan ma’m’s notes
Basic Books Brian Nelson – Western pol thought, Andrew Heywood – pol ideoloigy & global politics, Baylis and Smith – Globalization of World Politics, Peu Ghosh – International Relations, OP Gauba – Pol theory IGNOU material for comparative politics
Current Affairs Think Tanks like  ORF, Carnegie ; The Hindu ;
Answer Writing Piyush Choubey sir test series, Shubhra ma’am test series
Any other

IAS Score: Did you adopt any specific strategy for GS Paper 4?
Sidharth B: I tried to make my own notes from ARC and other sources.
Wrote down definitions of words like neutrality, impartiality, objectivity – along with good examples so that if a question came, i had ready made answers
Answer writing practice is key. Also I read answers of candidates who scored well in test series (Click Here to download IAS Toppers Test Copy). Referring to model answers helped me get new ideas which i incorporated in my own answers. This helps especially in case studies.

IAS Score: What were the sources of information for general reading? How did you come to know that which sources of reading materials are standard?
Sidharth B: I used to read articles from the web sites of Think Tanks like ORF, Carnegie, IDSA. I also used to read books whenever i found time.
I used to watch Rajya Sabha TV, John Oliver’s show on YouTube and documentaries too. All this helped me in my exam.

IAS Score: What is your advice on notes-making for other aspirants
Sidharth B: Notes are only as good as u can revise them. I made copious notes for gs – especially current affairs and ended up not reading vast majority of it. I eventually relied on Vision CA summary.
So i ended up wasting a lot of time preparing notes.
My suggestion is to keep notes short, crisp & precise so that one can go back and revise them before mains.
In case of prelims note making has far more important. Here also, in case there are news items that catches one’s attention, it would be better to take it down in a short and precise form.

IAS Score: How did you manage your time during the preparation?
Sidharth B: I never managed time in a scientific manner. My preparation was unstructured. I did try to make a daily schedule. I followed it only for 1 month or so.
There were days when I prepared for more than 12 (or even 14 hours ) a day. However such days were few and far between them. I may have averaged less than 8 hours a day through the course of my preparation. I had a wide variety of sources of entertainment to keep me relaxed.

IAS Score: What was your style (paragraph or point format) of writing in the exam? How was it distinct from the general writing style? How did you develop this writing style?
Sidharth B: In PSIR – i used a paragraph format majorly and points only when necessary
In GS – point format was given precedence over paragraph.
It was evolved through trial and error, after I got feedback from test series.

IAS Score: So much focus is being given to Test Series, both for Prelims and Mains, in your opinion how useful are they, in the course of a preparation process? Which Test Series did you join and how useful did you find it to be?
Sidharth B: Test series is extremely vital in both cases.
In prelims, I took nearly 30 tests before the actual exam. I improved my speed, accuracy and way of attempting questoins by keeping a close track of my perforamance. I used to set parameters for performance and do an analysis in an excel sheet to track progress
In mains – for optional subject i took shubhra ma’ams and piyush sir’s tests. they helped in time management.
Getting feedback helped me improve my performance both in PSIR, GS

IAS Score: Civil Services Exam process is quite strenuous. It requires long hours of constant study. How did you maintain your tempo and what did you do to break the monotony of preparation?
Sidharth B: My preparation was unstructured. I kept myself entertained in a lot of ways. YouTube was the gateway to most of my entertainment – be it documentaries, sitcoms, music, tennis etc.
Hanging out with friends, long chats and phone calls also lifted my mood in case i felt low.
I did not end up spending long hours in most of the days, although I used to come back into that mode at least for about 7-10 days every month.

IAS Score: The trend suggests that professionals or working people are more successful in this exam. Does this exam prove difficult for Humanities and Social Science background candidates?
Sidharth B: Exam is fair to everyone as far I as know. Everyone is given the option to choose their optionals.
In fact, most of topics in GS is from humanities background.

IAS Score: Which sources you referred to prepare for Contemporary Issues.
Sidharth B: Read the Hindu . VisionIAS and GS Score Summary was very important. RSTV shows like BIg Picture, India’s world, State of the economy etc
Web sites of think tanks like – IDSA, ORF

IAS Score: Given the recent boom in online initiatives to support an aspirant, which were the platforms that you find useful enough during your course of preparation. Please list the sites.
Sidharth B: InsightsOnIndia,,,

IAS Score: What is your advice to the candidates who is still in the process of preparing for this examination?
Sidharth B: Keep your gs preparation simple. dedicate more time and energy for optionals.

IAS Score: Your experience in IAS preparation journey with GS Score.
Sidharth B: It was a wonderful interview session at GS Score, where I got important feedback. I tried to rectify the shortcomings to the best of my abilities. I did get 198 for interview, which is a good score
I had subscribed to Piyush sir’s test series and video lessons and subscribed Shubhra ma’ams to get the best of both world’s.
Piyush sir’s approach towards the subject gave me a new perspective on how to study this subject. It helped me immensely in scoring 164 marks in Paper 1. I also referred to his notes extensively. I extend a big thank you to him.

Sidharth B Mark sheet

Paper Marks
Prelims 147
Essay (Paper 1) 153
GS 1 (Paper 2) 104
GS 2 (Paper 3) 109
GS 3 (Paper 4) 102
GS 4 (Paper 5) 113
Optional 1 (Paper 6) 164
Optional 2 (Paper 7) 128
Written Total 873
Personality Test 198
Total Score 1071


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