IAS Target

Ashish Kumar

Year : 2014

Rank : 9th

Topper Story - ASHISH KUMAR Background
I am Ashish Kumar, IAS-2014 RANK 9. I got inclined towards Civil Services just because it is different from all the other jobs in hand. This difference was what attracted me.
But after a few initial months of my preparation, this attraction turned into a conviction. The breadth of opportunities in this service, the diversity of work, and most importantly, the quantum of change that you can bring about by putting in an earnest effort kept me motivated. I started studying for GS somewhere around May 2013. It was all self-study till the Prelims in August 2014. I studied the standard reference books, used the internet, and went through some relevant notes uploaded by the previous years' toppers and some coaching notes available in the market. And of course, newspaper reading was an integral part of my GS preparation.
I decided to take Electrical Engineering as my optional somewhere around August 2013. I was a bit skeptical about EE as the choice considering the huge syllabus, and vacillated a lot, but took the plunge nevertheless (and now Iím glad that I did).

Writing Tests

I joined Test Series for GS Mains and Essay in September 2014. For GS, I took Synergy Test Series in Delhi. Since this was my first sincere writing practice for the exam I learned a lot of things. For the Essay, I took Test Series from Ramaswamy in Delhi. The feedback was poor and the only plus was that I got something to write on for three hours.

Books/notes for General Studies Prelims

Modern History Spectrum
Culture Old NCERT, GK Today notes
Geography NCERT class X, XI, XII and NIOS intermediate level notes
Polity Laxmikanth and Sriram IAS printed material
Economy Ramesh Singh (TMH) book and Sriram IAS printed material
Environment Shankar IAS book
Science and technology TMH manual, Divya Mittal Maíamís notes
Social sector, policies mrunal.org, pib, GK today and internet search

Strategies for time management

In the GS paper, I think there is enough time to go through the entire paper. In the CSAT paper, speed definitely helps. Going through numerous passages can be a pain given the time restriction. So developing a good reading speed along with comprehension would definitely help. Since the numerical and the logical questions are relatively easy, I attempted the first and thereafter moved on to the comprehension part.

Donít Make the mistakes that I made

One serious (and stupid) mistake that I committed was that I left the bubbles to be filled later. This wastes the time since at the time of darkening, you again tend to think about the question and whether what you did was correct. Although one should try to maximize the attempt that should not be at the cost of wild guesses. One needs to be extremely judicious in this aspect. For questions that I was not at all sure about, I did not bother to attempt them. I took a guess only when I was able to narrow down my choices to two otherwise I left the question.
I started preparing for Mains Examination (for this attempt) around May 2013, doing both Prelims and Mains simultaneously. I began my GS preparation with some of the basic books like NCERT polity, NCERT Macroeconomics, NCERT books on political science and international relations, NCERT books on sociology. NCERTs are a wonderful starter and help you get into the groove and to move towards the next step of moving on to the standard reference books.

Tackling GS


Culture Old NCERT, Tamil Nadu Class XI and XII history book, GK today notes
Modern History Spectrum, Old NCERT (Bipin Chandra)
Geography NCERT X, XI, XII. NIOS class XI and XII
World History Arjun Devís NCERT class X and XII. Synergy class notes + internet
Post Independence India Bipin Chandraís India after Independence + Internet
Sociology NCERT class XI and XII, VisionIAS booklets, newspaper


Polity Laxmikanth, Sriam IAS polity notes (printed ones), Vision IAS topic wise printed booklets (available in the market), Gaurav Agarwal Sirís notes available on his blog, The Hindu
Social justice The Hindu, VisionIAS booklets
International Affairs The Hindu (newspapers are the only source for this part)


Economy Vision IAS booklets, Gaurav Agarwal Sirís notes, The Hindu
Science and Technology The Hindu, nothing specific otherwise
Environment The Hindu
Disaster Management VisionIAS booklet, Gaurav Agarwal Sirís notes, The Hindu
Internal Security TMH book on security, Gaurav Agarwal sirís notes, The Hindu


I referred to a number of notes available in the market: SK Mishra sirís class notes, Mohantyís class notes, Vision IAS booklets, printed case studies by Lukmaan.
Newspaper reading is a must for the preparation. Much of Paper-II and Paper-III is largely sourced from the newspapers. I kept my sources limited and focused on revision. Writing practice is essential. I joined a test series for that and it did teach me certain things like the usefulness of writing an answer in points, managing time, etc.

Tackling Electrical Engineering

Sources of Current Affairs

I followed The Hindu daily for Current Affairs. This I must have done regularly without fail since October 2014. The usual day was used, to begin with, the Hindu and making notes from it. I found making notes from the newspapers to be of great value. It helped me in consolidating the various information related to a particular topic of GS in one place. Thus, it helped in a quick revision in the end.

About Coaching

I joined the coaching for GS Mains in September 2014 in Synergy, New Delhi. It was supposed to be a short course of around 2.5 months where they would deal with certain pre-decided topics. I went for this since I had not covered many of the GS topics and thought that a short course could help in that regard alongside optimizing on time.
Whether coaching is necessary for the preparation going in for coaching is an individual choice and it all depends on the individual. The absence of coaching should not be considered a disadvantage. One can do it all without coaching and there are umpteen examples. My little experience with coaching has taught me that if you have a certain base of your own, then coaching will be useless since they drag on the things you already know and which you can study in a lot lesser time.

About the Interview (The interview experience)

Board: Sh. Manbir Singh

Around half of my questions were in my workplace i.e. Indian Railways and my department. They asked me about the reforms needed, about the commercialisation of Railways, about the merger of departments, about safety measures, about Sagar Mala and its impact on Railways. Then there were some questions on foreign affairs like measures to prevent nuclear arsenal from non-state actors and the impact of US forces' presence in Pakistan on India.
Then there were questions on the backwardness of UP, a research scenario in India and in IIT Kanpur. Overall the board was cordial. The duration was around 25 minutes. Questions were largely from my DAF. All eyes were at all times on me and it seemed as if I was under intense observation.

Some Doís and Doníts:

  • Dissect your DAF and prepare it thoroughly.
  • Be in touch with the current issues.
  • Give mocks. That can be mocks at coachings or with your friends/peers.
  • Do not try to bluff. Be honest and admit if you do not know something. You dig your own grave if you try to bluff.
  • Do not be arrogant.
  • Be your natural self.
  • Do not give a hasty reply to any question. Take a short pause after the question is asked and use this tiny pause to think and frame a reply.
  • Remember all eyes are on you while you answer. Your eyes and your body should be in sync with what you say.

Impact of the Internet

An Internet is indispensable for doing the preparation. I used it intensively during my preparation. Be it for searching for sources to read, to download material, to look up for an explanation, to fill gaps in the preparation, gathering more information about a particular issue, and likewise. However, an internet search should not become an endless activity and an end in itself.
Any other websites visited
  • mrunal.org
  • insightsonindia.com
  • pib and prs sites
  • blogs of previous years toppers

Message for IAS aspirants who look up to you

Persevere. Be confident. Have faith in your abilities and keep your motivation high throughout. Have a good support system in your family and friends to help you when you are down. This was my third attempt, and my first two attempts were a waste since I had not studied for either of them. So if I have to talk about mistakes, the biggest mistake was giving those two attempts and wasting them. Never be reckless with your attempts.