IAS Topper who Cleared IAS while Working: Bandana Pokhriyal ' s IAS Story

Bandana Pokhriyal cleared the UPSC civil services exam in 2015 with an all India rank of 83. What is inspiring about her success is that she was working full time when she cleared this tough exam. Pokhriyal was working as a Central Excise Inspector for 4.5 years prior to clearing the IAS exam. In this article, you can read all about her IAS success story and tips from her to clear the IAS exam while working.

Pokhriyal had started her IAS preparation 2.5 years before taking the UPSC exam. She managed her job and preparation side-by-side by having a good strategy. Her tips will prove helpful for working professionals who are preparing for the UPSC exam to become IAS toppers.

  • Draft a steady study plan and a timetable on a daily basis.
  • Adhere to your study plan and timetable.
  • Set realistic and achievable targets as a typical working professional works for at least 8 hours a day. Setting unrealistic targets will only lead to frustration and demotivation.
  • For professionals keeping small notes and study materials on their phone would be more helpful as this will help them have a quick revision or reading time whenever they do get a few minutes of break from work. This will help them even while travelling to and from work. [BYJU’S has revolutionised the IAS preparation domain with their IAS preparation tablets which are ideal for working professionals. Check the linked article for more.]
  • During weekends, you can revise and cover the remaining topics and should make sure that you utilize your week offs to the fullest.
  • Avoid taking unnecessary leaves at the office.
  • Do not let many people know at your office that you are preparing for the Civil Services Exam as they might bother you from time to time asking about your preparation.

How to choose optional subject for UPSC

Pokhriyal had opted for public administration as her optional in her attempt in 2014. But in 2015, when she found success at the IAS exam, she had changed her optional to anthropology.

The below table gives details about and strategy for both optionals for your reference:

Public Administration Anthropology

According to UPSC topper Bandana Pokhriyal, one must choose an optional in which one has an interest and a subject which one would be able to sustain interest for a long time.

How to prepare for Optional Subject?

  • Start preparation a year ahead (around April)
  • Utilize the first two months of the year to go through the syllabus and for basic reading.
  • Besides, start making notes for every topic by referring to the relevant source books and the internet. Read more on UPSC Books.
  • Try to incorporate flow charts, diagrams, tables in your notes.
  • Refer to case studies and examples relevant to the topics as it will enhance the quality of your answers in the exam.
  • Make notes on topics as much as possible and make sure you cover most of the topics by five months from the start of your preparation, say, if you started your preparation in April then by August you should be able to cover most of the topics.
  • Once you have enough notes, start reading every day and practice answer writing on previous year question papers as well. Get NCERT UPSC notes here.
  • Answer writing practice is one of the major parts in the preparation process for the exam, in the beginning, you may end up writing answers for 2 or 3 questions but with everyday practice, you will progress to answer 5-6 questions a month.

How to prepare for GS Papers?

In this section, Pokhriyal shares her strategy for the General Studies Papers of the IAS Mains.


  • Develop the skills to attempt every paper completely and spend 4-5 minutes to make diagrams, flow charts or tables and highlight with an underline too.
  • Try including lots of diagrams, charts and tables in your answers as it will fetch you marks.
  • While answering a question, try to make reference to the current news and relate it to the topic of the syllabus. You can get all your daily current affairs here.
  • Here’s an example on how you can relate the current news to a particular topic: if the question is on food processing, you can relate it to current affairs by including the innovation of the National Agriculture Market.
  • To write realistically good answers in General Studies Papers one should read the question properly as this will help in structuring one’s answer with a well-introduction content, with pros and cons and finally the interpretation. Finally, you can supplement you answer by relating it to the relevant current news.

GS IV – Ethics

  • Read all the topics of the General Studies Paper-IV from a standard book and then start to practice answer writing. Get a list of the best books on ethics here.
  • Pay attention to every topic.
  • Once you are satisfied with your answer writing practice and you think you have done justice in the answering part, then nothing will stop you from scoring good marks that will make your set sail further.

Kickstart your UPSC 2021 preparation now!

Related Links:

UPSC Mains Syllabus UPSC 2021 Calendar
IAS Coaching IAS Salary
PSC Exams UPSC Exam Pattern
UPSC Prelims IAS Toppers Marks Subject-wise


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