IAS Gyan

Toppers Strategy

What differentiates toppers from others?

2nd January, 2023

Every year about a million aspirants register themselves for the most prestigious exam of the country but only 1000 or so ( only 0.001% ) make it to the final list. BUT there are some who make it to this 0.001% not once but thrice and even more. Ever wondered why these aspirants crack the exam so many times while a few struggle to clear the prelims after so many years??? 

Here are TOP 20 reasons which make them stand apart from the rest….

#1- They do not believe in rumours: The world of CSE preparation is replete with rumour mongers over change in pattern, cut off marks, age limit etc.  They do not allow these things to demotivate and distract them.  They focus solely on preparation and nothing else. 

#2– They read from limited sources and do not make a Library of Alexanderia at home:  The syllabus of UPSC is already huge. Preparation needs smart work with specific inputs.  Smart work requires a specific set of books or other resources and revising them multiple times. They make DILIGENT NOTES revise the limited set of books, notes that they have prepared at least 3-5 times. They know what has to be read and what has to be avoided. They keep things very simple.

#3– They do not waste time (Time Management): Many aspirants come for preparation to places like Delhi and are away from their homes for the first time. There is lot of distraction, doing things which shouldn’t be done, wasting time with friends etc. 80-90 % of them are not able to handle all this. Successful aspirants realize the importance of time and do not get swayed away by all these things. THEY DO NOT ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE LOST IN ONLINE OCEANS…there are 5 million pages on Wikipedia alone..human life is 30000 days…out of 20000 remaining even if 200 articles daily won’t be able to be completed!!!

#4- Fear: The exam, known for its vast syllabus, its diversity, combined with the competition, makes aspirants chicken out. Their fear clouds their focus and makes it hard to concentrate. Fear of failure stifles them into inaction.  Successful candidates do not allow fear to hamper their preparation. THEY ARE NOT INSECURE ABOUT THEIR EDUCATION AND BACKGROUND.

#5- Attitude: Successful candidates give it all. Cracking the UPSC civil services require dedicated preparation throughout. This is not for the faint-hearted or languid ones. Successful candidates have tremendous self-belief. Self-doubt creeps into the minds of aspirants and disturbs the routines, creates anxiety, leads to backlog of topics to study etc. But the successful candidates stay motivated and stay hungry. Success doesn’t make them arrogant and overconfident. They remember that knowledge has to be constantly revised. They NEVER GIVE UP…THEY LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES AND TRY TO  CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE THEMSELVES…COOL CALMNESS PERSEVERANCE SMART WORK AND DEDICATION ARE THEIR TRAITS….They are prepared to work really hard for 1.5 to 4 years. ..2/3rd of their life is now in a  committed relationship (‘x’ hours of study, ‘y’ hours of sleep)..they avoid giving any mind share to a new activity…THEY ALWAYS KEEP THE SAME INTENSITY…

They know competence is the key and not confidence…


#6- Planning and Strategy:  They jump onto the IAS bandwagon with a proper strategy for the subjects. Clearing the exams require a proper plan. A lack of direction in the approach would mean not being able to complete the syllabus on time. 

#7- They do not panic during the exams:  Exam fear is a genuine problem as even the most prepared candidates falter because of the perceived enormity of the situation. Panic fogs mind and aspirants end up not being able to think

and recall; thus fare badly in the exams. But this isn’t the case with them.

#8- They answer the question asked not the topic:  A common mistake made by the aspirants is to not read the question properly and end up answering unnecessary things and ignoring what is really asked. 

#9- They continuously write practice/mock tests.

#10– They do not procrastinate:  Many aspirants plan thoroughly and set monthly, weekly and daily goals. But, due

to procrastination are unable to complete them. It leads to piling up of topics to be covered. It leads to stress and skipping of topics. In the end, they will go to the exam ill-prepared and ultimately fail. But this isn’t the case with successful candidates.

#11– They do not divide the Preparation Process: The most costly mistake aspirants make is dividing the preparation process between prelims and mains. The CSE preparation is a simultaneous process.  Successful candidates follow this religiously. THEY COVER THE BASICS FIRST, THEN GO TO INTERMEDIATE LEVEL, AND ONLY ONCE THEIR INTERMEDIATE IS CEMENTED IN THEIR GREY MATTER, THEY GO TO ADVANCE STUFF…They try to reach a level beyond the toughest level expected in the exam.

#12- SWOT: They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Moreover they focus on both (most aspirants just focus on their strengths). They do a meticulous analysis of test series results and work on their weaknesses (till they don’t have any).

#13- Optional Paradox:  They do not switch. They do not choose an optional according to popularity, overlapping syllabus, toppers, marks trend but after careful SWOT analysis and because they like it and enjoy learning. They know every individual is unique and they pick and choose things which work out for them and drop which doesn’t…no matter what coaching people or toppers say!!!

#14- They continuously focus on Current Affairs:  It is very easy to get out of reading the Hindu, Yojana etc. ONCE NOT DONE FOR 1-2 DAYS IT QUICKLY BECOMES DAYS, MONTHS AND EVEN YEARS…

#15- They do not lose the ‘BALANCE’:  They remain consistent. It is not like they do hard work for 6 months and then nothing. They maintain a balance in almost all spheres of life-neither eat too much nor exercise too much. They maintain balance between static and dynamic portions of the syllabus. They just take a break of few days and start preparing for mains/interview again.

#16-They do not ignore their body:  They continuously do exercise, maintain themselves physically emotionally and mentally, pursue their hobbies/passion.

#17- They know the need to develop a predator mindset: Just like any cricket match, it is not necessarily the team which is good on paper wins, but the team which is good on ground wins. Ricky Ponting, played 3 World Cup finals back to back said- PLAY ON YOUR SKILLS AND NEVER EMOTIONS…

#18- They know harder they work, the luckier they get.


#20- Other important things they follow:

THEY ALWAYS BELIEVE THAT,  “COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, WE WILL WIN”….Every aspirant should learn from the above mentioned points and try to inculcate these in their exam preparation. This will help them recognize the mistakes they are committing early and avoid such mistakes altogether before it’s too late.