UPSC IAS Topper Rank 6 Shubham Gupta’s Success Story

In this article we have shared the success story and preparation strategy of IAS 2018 Topper Shubham Gupta, All India Rank 6, for IAS Prelims, IAS Mains and Interview round. IAS aspirants are advised to read this story to know the inspiring journey of Shubham Gupta involving hard work and perseverance.

Archana Shandilya
May 15, 2019, 16:05 IST

‘Dedication, Commitment, Perseverance, Hard Work, Focus, Balance, Belief, Failure and Learning’ are the 9 elements that add to the success story of Shubham Gupta, IAS 2018 Topper - All India Rank 6.  Shubham Gupta cleared IAS Exam in his 4th attempt and got the 6th Rank (AIR). He gave his first attempt in 2015 but wasn’t able to clear the IAS Prelims Exam. In 2016, he gave his 2nd attempt and cleared all the phases – Prelims, Mains & Interview and achieved 366th rank which helped him in getting placed under Indian Audit and Accounts Service. In 2017, he couldn’t clear the IAS Prelims Exam which was his 3rd attempt.

Shubham’s schooling was completed in different parts of India. He completed his elementary education till 7th standard from Jaipur, Rajasthan. Then due to financial crunch his family shifted to Dahanu Road, a small village in Maharashtra.  So he completed his schooling from 8th till 12th standard in a school located near Vapi, Gujarat.  Shubham likes to collect and read books of non-fiction, biographies and autobiography genre. He is also fond of watching and playing sports like cricket and tennis. He also shared that driving acts like a stress buster for him in his difficult times.

So let’s go through some important insights given by Shubham to the Jagran Josh team which will be quite helpful and motivational for 2019 IAS Aspirants:

Q1: Did you get any benefit of being the youngest in your family?

Ans: Yes, I had less family responsibilities.

Q2: Tell us about your tough times where you have struggled?

Ans: My family and I struggled for a short span of time due to economic bankruptcy. To help my family I used to work at the family shop located at Dahanu Road after completing my school hours in Vapi every day. But during my struggling days also, I have never compromised on my studies and neither my family advised me to do so. So, to utilize my time optimally both at school and shop, I used to take my books to the shop and used to study while working. That’s how I scored good marks in my school exams.

Q3: Did you ever think of becoming an IAS Officer?

Ans: Yes, I did when I was in 5th Standard. My father came to me and said that he wants me to become collector one day. So, I asked him ‘Who is a Collector?’. That incident made an impression in my mind and when I was in 11th standard then I realized that this aspiration of becoming IAS Officer would help me in achieving my goals.

Q4: Whom do you consider as a Role Model in your life?

Ans: My Role model is my Father because he has struggled a lot in his life. Many a times he has faced financial crunch and hit the rock bottom but still he managed to recover and bring balance in our life. His ‘Never Say Die Spirit’ really inspires me a lot.

Q5? From where did you get the motivation of becoming an IAS Officer and when did you decide to prepare for IAS Exams?

Ans: During my school days I realized that I can do so much for the betterment of the society after becoming an IAS Officer. That notion drove me to prepare for IAS Exam.

Click here to know IAS Toppers Interview and Strategy

Q6? What is the most important thing while preparing for IAS Exams?

Ans: The most important thing is to ‘Believe in yourself’. Both Success and failure are part of life and one should not feel down during the times of failure. The second most important thing is to give your 100% in your preparation. Try to find and prepare in an environment that would help you to bring best of your abilities.

Q7? How did you prepare for IAS Prelims Exam?

Ans: I began my IAS preparation in 2015 and I started reading the newspaper first. It helped me in gaining knowledge of what is happening around me like environment, National & International Affairs or Indian Economy. Then I started doing subject specific preparation. I chose one subject and then read the NCERT Book related to that subject. I divided the syllabus and completed the subjects one by one. I practiced Mock Tests to assess my strength and weakness. My Modus Operandi involved making notes while reading newspaper and later revising those notes

Q8: What strategy would you suggest to clear IAS Prelims Exams?

Ans: Read the newspaper daily as it will help in improving your current affairs section. Your primary source of information should be the newspaper & the notes created after the research work done by you and should not  be the books that compiles the current affairs questions on annual or monthly basis. Make sure to practice regularly by giving Mock Tests. This helps in improving your time management skills and understanding your weak areas where you need to work harder. By doing this you would be able to evolve a strategy of how to attempt the whole paper and score well in the exam.

Most Important Topics for IAS Prelims Exam 2019

Q9: What was your strategy for clearing IAS Mains Exam and what was your medium of language for the Exam?

Ans:  My medium for attempting mains Exam was ‘English’. I started preparing for the Mains Exam alongwith Prelims Exam preparation. So you have to follow an integrated approach to prepare for IAS Prelims, Mains and Interview round instead of separately preparing for each phase. The only differentiating factor would be the depth of preparation level for each phase of the exam. For prelims exam you can cover the topics by studying facts without doing deep studies. For mains exam you need to gain in-depth knowledge of the subjects to express yourself nicely in the exam. I started creating notes for my optional subject since the beginning of my IAS Exam preparation. I focused mainly on Answer writing practice. I used to give at least 2 mock tests of GS 1, 2 3, 4 papers, Optional 1 & 2 subject paper and Essay writing paper. Your focus should be to complete the paper even if you don’t know the answers in descriptive paper.

You should attempt the questions whose answers you don’t know in the end only. Don’t leave the question unanswered and write something with whatever little knowledge you have about that topic. If your answer is not upto the mark you might get a zero or might also get some marks, may be 2 to 5, which will help in increasing your overall score of mains exam and later All India Rank also.

Q10: How to prepare for IAS Mains Answer Writing Section?

Ans: Try to be honest while writing for IAS Mains Descriptive Paper. Practice in the same format used by UPSC for IAS Mains Exam consisting of 20 Questions. Questions can be from any genre that you might not even familiar with. But your strategy should be to deal with every question with certain format and structure. So you should try to put in efforts to create a realistic exam type environment where you have to attempt 20 Questions in 3 hours in the UPSC format only. Keep your cell phones and other gadgets away from you while attempting the test. Try to express your views and facts with quality content within the time limit.

Click here to know the Eligibility for UPSC IAS 2019 Exam

Q11: What are the Dos and Don’ts for IAS Mains Exam?

Ans: Dos:

1. Focus on Revision: Try to revise the study material and notes twice before the IAS Prelims and Mains Exam. It will help you in retaining and expressing the important information.

2. Focus on Quality rather than Quantity: Read the NCERT Book of the subjects first. Follow at most one reference book related to that subject and not more than that. It will restrict you from wasting your time in reading the same concept from different books.

3. Analyse your answers: After giving mock tests, try to analyse your weak areas and work harder to convert your weaknesses into strengths.

4. Develop your own strategy: It is beneficial to go through the preparation strategy of toppers, but it is more beneficial to develop your own preparation strategy and implementing that efficiently.


1. Do not think that UPSC Civil Service Exam is the last opportunity in your life and nothing else is out there in the world. So consider UPSC Civil Services exam only as one of the means to achieve your life goals. So remember, if you fail then there are other means available to achieve your life goals.

2. Don’t seclude yourself from the outer world. Make yourself busy in extracurricular activities like sports and social activities, while preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Exam.

Q12: What was your optional subject for mains exam and why did you choose that as your optional subject?

Ans: My optional subject was ‘Law’. My Educational Background is from Economics. I did BA Economic (Hons.) from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce and then I did a program in Masters in Economics from Delhi School of Economics during 2015-17. Still I chose ‘Law’ as my optional subject due to circumstances and peer pressure at first. Also, I did less research for choosing my optional subject and followed the crowd. But after 2 to 3 months of preparation I gained interest in this subject and I started enjoying studying Law.

Q13. How did you prepare for the Optional Subject? Which books did you refer to prepare for your optional subject?

Ans: General source of information was the notes or study material provided by the coaching institute (Nirvana). These notes are also easily available in the market for both Paper-I and II. Other than that I used to study the original Bare Acts (Example, IPC Acts, Constitutional Acts, Partnership Acts, etc.). Third source of reference was RK Bangia, mainly used to read topics related to Contract Acts and Tort Acts. I also used to solve previous year paper of my optional subject.

Best Books for IAS Preparation by IAS Toppers

Q14: What was your strategy to prepare for your essay writing section?

Ans: As I am from Humanities Background, so it was not tough for me to write big length essays. Before 2 to 3 days of the exam, I used write 1 or 2 essays on my own to make myself comfortable for writing an essay of 10-12 pages. It helped me in constructing the structure of the essay and revising quotations & examples which can be used in essay writing. If you have been given 180 minutes to write 2 essays, then divide the time for two essays. Finish your first essay in 100 minutes as you will be little slow in the beginning of essay writing and finish your second essay in 80 minutes. So when I start writing my first essay, the first thing I used to do is to divide the 100 minutes into two equal segments. Give first 50 minutes in forming the structure of the essay and next 50 minutes in writing the whole essay. So when you are creating the structure of the essay, jot down the important points that you have to cover in the essay and make a logical flow of those points along with some quotations and examples. Give the last 10 minutes to write a good introduction and conclusion of the essay as the examiner will definitely read these two portions of your essay. This should be the format for your second essay also.

Q15: Is revision an important task for IAS Exam Preparation and what was your method of doing revision?

Ans: Revision is very important for IAS Prelims and Mains exam preparation. It helps in making you remember important points and facts. Try to revise your notes minimum two times before the exam. My method of revision was to first study the subject, then give a mock test on that subject, then analyse the test by identifying your weak points and then revise those points. Before a month of IAS Prelims Exam, I used to revise my study material and notes multiple times. I used to divide the time for preparation like 2 days for Geography, 2 days for History, 2 days for Polity and so on.

Click here to know the Journey of an IAS Aspirant from filling IAS Form to becoming an IAS Officer

Q16: How did you prepare for the IAS Interview?

Ans: In my second attempt I didn’t prepare well for the IAS Interview round and hence I scored 124 marks. This time I prepared thoroughly for Interview phase and I scored 184 marks. So it’s very important to fill the Detailed Application Form (DAF) after Mains examination carefully and strategically. Most of the questions asked in the exam are based on your DAF. After clearing the mains exam, identify some keywords related to you like your optional subject, educational background, state, city, hobbies and academic qualification. Do detailed research on these keywords and make notes on that.

The most important thing during interview is to maintain your self-confidence and patience level. Try to manage your stress level before the interview when you are supposed to wait for your turn. I used to eat chocolate to make myself calm and stress free. Then when you enter the Interview Board Room try to make yourself calm in the beginning of 2 minutes. If you are able to greet the interviewers nicely and take your seat in good manner in the first few minutes of the interview then it will help you in building your self confidence which will further help you in answering knowledge based questions. During the interview, try to bring the attention of the interviewer to the topics which you are aware of. This does not mean that you can lead the interviewer. But whenever you get the chance of the leading the interview, take that and make the maximum out of it.

 Q17: Which questions were asked from you in your IAS Interview Round?

Ans: The first thing I focused on to showcase my basic etiquettes in right manner like greeting the interviewer and taking my seat nicely. Then Interviewer started asking me question related to my academic qualifications. When I used to work in IBA I created some reports. So they asked me whether you have published any reports and I answered them back that I did not published them as it was mainly for academic work only. So my interview was mainly based on the subject ‘Economics’ and out of 5 interviewers 4 of them asked Economics and Banking based questions only. They asked me basic concepts like Bail in and Bail out concept, Banking structure, Unemployment, Audit of Public Sector Banks and more questions related to Banking sector.

The fifth female panel member asked me about my hobbies. My hobbies are to read nonfiction books and basis on that she asked me about some books. I have heard the name of the first three books which the interviewer asked but never read them.  Fortunately I had read the fourth book mentioned by the interviewer. So then she asked me to tell something about that book and I think I gave a good answer for that question. Then they asked me questions on my Optional subject – ‘Law’. And then in the end, an interviewer picked up my picture and asked ‘is this you?’ and I answered him back ‘yes, it is me’. After then they asked me one more question and then my interview got over. I got up and said thank you to the interview panel. 

Since I chose English as the medium of Language for my interview round, so Interviewer were asking me questions in English and I also gave answers in English only. But if you want to choose Hindi as your medium of language during interview round then it is possible. Then panel members ask you questions in Hindi and you are expected to give them answers in Hindi only. UPSC has started giving you option to choose different medium of language for IAS Prelims, Mains and Interview Rounds. Which means you can choose different language for GS paper, different language for your optional paper and different language for Interview round. It can be same or different for all the three phases.

Q18: Which books did you refer for the IAS Exam Preparation?

Ans: As I have told earlier also that I used to study NCERT Books of the subject and at most one reference book related to that subject. I studied ‘Spectrum’ for Modern History, ‘India at Work’ for Polity, ‘VN Khanna’ for Foreign Policy and ‘Bare Acts’ for Law.

Q19: How did you use Internet for your preparation?

Ans: I used Internet by two methods. First method was using organic source of information available on sites like Wikipedia, PRS or Social Media in a constructive manner. For example, when I used to read newspaper and if I come across a keyword which needs further explanation then I used to do online research to gain more knowledge on that keyword. I used to gather information mainly through the authentic and trusted websites first. Consider Wikipedia as your last resort for the information.

For social media, I use Facebook and Instagram to gain knowledge of what is happening around the world. For example, a question came on the movie ‘The Man who knew Infinity’ and if you don’t follow what’s happening around you in the world, then you won’t be able to answer such questions. And UPSC is also searching candidates who are cognizant and upto date. Try to use social media in a constructive manner by following news and motivational websites.

Q20: Is coaching necessary for IAS Exam preparation?

Ans: Joining a coaching institute is not necessary but it’s not bad either. If you are not able to afford joining a Coaching Institute, then you can always study from materials available on internet and in the market. But in that situation also you need a guide or a coach who will help you in showing you the right path throughout your preparation journey like which subjects to read, how much to read and when to stop studying for that subject to make time for revision also. So self-study is possible and coaching will only act as a guide in your exam preparation.

UPSC IAS Syllabus for 2019

Q21: What advise will you give to IAS Aspirants?

Ans: I always use three words for achieving success which are ‘Dedication, Commitment and Perseverance’. Have faith in your hard work and give commitment to achieve your goals. Never give up on yourself, be patient and you will get the fruits of your hard work in future.

Q22: What will be your priorities after becoming an IAS Officer?

Ans: My priority would be to focus on issues related to Education in India, especially promoting Girl Child Education by using any means. Other issues are like how to bring children to the school; how to retain them; how to provide them quality learning; how to remove the absenteeism of teachers; how to ensure further education of the children and how to establish good infrastructure in the school. My other priority would be to remain accessible to people who want to approach me for solving their issues and problems.

Q23: What would you like say about our website ‘Jagran Josh’?

Ans: Jagran josh publishes good motivational videos for IAS aspirants which will be helpful in their exam preparation. Aspirants can get the guidance through the IAS Toppers videos and can remove all the fears and indecisiveness while preparing for IAS Exams.

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