IAS Target

Anu Kumari

Year : 2017

Rank : 2nd

Topper Story - ANU KUMARI Background
Anu failed in the first stage of UPSC Civil Services exam, when she attempted the first time (2016). But that was a close miss – she missed the cut-off score by merely one mark. Not one to give up easily, she decided to work harder and attempt the examination again in 2017. The Rest is history.
Anu Kumari
  • Second rank in the UPSC 2017 examination
  • BSc (Hons) in Physics from the Delhi University.
  • MBA (Finance and Marketing) from IMT, Nagpur.
  • The Brand Ambassador for the ‘Beti-Bachao-Beti Padhao’ Programme
There was no newspaper in the city where she was getting ready for exams. She turned to online content for preparation. Standalone preparation for 2 months prior to the preliminary exam. Earlier, preparation was integrated for pre and mains together. I did Current affairs from insightsonindia.com daily and did not make any notes from that rather revised from their monthly current affairs compilations.

Test Series

I did pre related test series from InsightsonIndia. I revised the questions that I got wrong 3- 4 times. I also diligently attempted the last prelims revision plan of Insights.


Please pick any one website, don’t get carried away by a multitude of information available on different websites. I made sure that I revised all standard books, including NCERTs and current affairs multiple times (4-5 times).

Mains strategy

To start mains answer writing, first, cover all basic books and then practice answer writing. I had attempted the secure initiative on insightsonindia.com for 4-5 months, wrote 7-8 answers daily on the register, and then compared them with other answers written on insightsonindia.com. After pre, I prepared notes from current affairs (very short notes for quick revision) in soft copy paper-wise (like GS-1,2,3 and 4 separately). Revised standard books multiple times again what I had done during preliminary.

Some tips to enrich your answers in mains–

  • Substantiate with statistics and current affairs
  • Use names of expert committees to suggest solutions
  • Use diagrams to the extent possible
  • Answer on multiple dimensions (social, political, economic, cultural etc)
  • Use quotes (to the extent possible, even in GS 1,2,3 papers)
  • Do underline to highlight the important stuff

For GS 4 (Ethics)

Collected good quotes by Swami Vivekanand, Gandhi, Einstein, Mandela, etc, made them my laptop wallpapers. I reflected back on my entire life and made notes of the good things and the bad things that I had done in life and tried to use real-life examples in my answers. This exercise was a good self-reflection exercise too, that helped me to understand myself better.


Please do not ignore this paper. With less preparation, it can give you an edge over others. Prepare examples of various situations in advance like a conflict of interest, moral dilemma, etc so that they can be quoted in the exam. Learn the names of important people with integrity like S Manjunath etc too.

Essay Strategy:

I practiced writing 12-15 essays easily, learned a lot of quotes, and tried building essays on a temporal scale (ancient, medieval, modern, etc) and/or covering multiple dimensions like social, political, economical, etc. Did not use headings, but always tried that the person reading the essay should find it like reading a story and used very simple language. I tried to ensure linkage/continuity between successive paragraphs.

Economic Survey and Budget

I did not read the original volume of these but read the summary of the GS Score. Initially, it took me 2-3 days to cover the ES but then I made short notes on every page of the summary of ES, and trust me when I say this, in the last stages, it took me only an hour to revise the whole ES booklet.

Optional Sociology

The basic material that I referred to was- Upendra Sir classroom Notes available in the market. Mahaptra Sir classroom notes – I did Paper 2 Thinkers from this, which has been covered in minute detail. Harlambos Blue Book- I did select topics from this book eg chapters 1, 14, etc. I joined a test series for my optional Sociology at Nice IAS (Praveen Kishore sir) after the preliminary exam, which helped me a lot in structuring my answers and understanding the concepts lucidly.

Personality Test

I took several mocks at various institutes. It helped me in collecting a variety of Qs and also helped me analyse my reactions to Qs that I did not know the answer to. One important thing that helped me greatly was that I along with a friend of mine (who is Rank 80 now), used to take each other’s mock interview on the phone, daily for 1-2 hours. I started reading the newspaper during this section of UPSC preparation.

My interview experience- I have got 187 marks.

I was very calm and smiling throughout the interview. I treated it as if I was talking to the elders in my family. I am not sure of the duration of an interview. But I think it went on for 35-40 mins, I felt that my interview went well. I could not answer 3 questions, but I calmly managed, smilingly said sorry I do not know it.

My Qs and answers

Ms. Smita Nagaraj Board:

Q. Why UPSC 12 years after graduation?

Lack of internal satisfaction in the private sector an abundance of opportunities offered by Civil services which can help me lead a fulfilling life. Earlier got busy with marriage and motherhood, now I had time, so started preparation and left the job

Q. There will be a change in orientation while you move from the Pvt sector to Public Sector how will you manage?

There will be a change in the following accounts- higher customer-centricity is there in the private sector, defined procedures, and turnaround times in the Pvt sector, performance appraisals are more pronounced here. I will try to focus on improving transparency and accountability in the public sector as well. Having said that, there will be several things that will be in continuation such as skills of time management, pressure management, stakeholder management, etc.

Q. How technology has impacted these service sectors?

Technology has brought about improvements in the way customers interact with the service providers, e.g. online sales, sale through apps, customer service through IVR/SMS/email/Apps, etc. It has brought in more transparency into the system, clarity to customers, and brought customers closer to the service provider firms.

Other members

Q. Facebook data leak issue- do you think these social media firms are taking users for a ride?

Yes, they deliberately try to keep T&C difficult to understand and the users are forced to tick on “I accept the T&C” or provide access to data in the phones before they can use any app. The Solution is that we need to have a comprehensive law on the protection of user privacy and stringent action should be taken against offender firms.

Q. Social media was created to unite (socialise) but it is dividing the society, your take?

It depends on the use that we put on social media too. If used for spreading fake rumours, to incite violence, etc then it will divide society, but if used rightly, it has immense potential to revolutionize our lives. So, we should make optimal and judicious use of social media

Q. You are from Hindu college, Which minister from Hindu college is there in the ministry today?

Sorry, Sir, I don't know

Q. Pink pyjamas are flying over Red Fort today, what do you understand by this?

(smilingly), it's a very interesting question, but sorry, I don't know the answer. Then, sir explained the concept to me, I nodded and said yes sir, I thought so

Q. Today’s girls (bahus) don’t want to live in a joint family, do you agree?

To an extent, yes, with the rise of individualism in society, egoism is rising. Another factor is the burden of excessive expectations from the bahu who is expected to do a double shift (in office as well as home)

Q. What are the ground-level differences that you have experienced traveling in the metro in Gurgaon and in Delhi- One is a PPP (public pvt partnership), the other is Govt owned.

(I said I have not traveled to Gurgaon metro) He asked others would have traveled and shared their experiences (I have been working in Gurgaon, commuting from Delhi) Sorry, I have not traveled in Gurgaon metro, so can’t compare. Sir persisted that some friends might have shared his/her experience. I replied sorry, sir, I don’t know that

Q. What is colonial hangover?

Good or bad? Give Egs… A colonial hangover means those things that are relic from colonial times even if not relevant to modern times. Egs is a culture of a red beacon, our obsession with fairness, education system, the judicial system, democracy, constitution, police system, etc some of these things are good and some are bad.