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TNPSC Group I Preparation Strategy by P.Maniraj Topper, TNPSC Group I 2017

The second rank holder in the Group I examination is 26-year-old P. Mani Raj, a former design engineer in the city who gave up his job to pursue his dream of becoming a civil servant. “It took me around two years to prepare. I did it all by myself, except for personal interviews where I got help from Manidha Naeyam IAS Academy,” he said.

My Desire for Group-1 services:

Unlike most of the aspirants do, I entered into the battle of competitive examinations setting my eyes exclusively on TNPSC Group-1 Exams. The Desire to get into civil services was a childhood dream which was given up when I got into CORE companies post my graduation. And this decision was also supported by the various allegations on the credibility of recruitment in state civil services. But then by 2014 a close friend of mine from college days cleared state services and that’s when I myself believed that it’s all about the effort and hard work you make that matters to get into civil services. I met the friend who was then District Employment Officer (ERODE District, Tamil Nadu), and his words “Don’t hesitate to pursue your dream. It’s all happening in a transparent manner. You can achieve it “gave the much needed courage to take daring decision. 2 hour talk with my friend that fine night, gave the much needed impetus to resign highly paid dream job in corporate and pursue preparation for civil services .I never looked back since then.

            Never be afraid to take risks to achieve your dream. My salary when I decided to resign was around 8Lakhs/annum, which was a good salary for a 23year old guy. Was it a risk ? yes…!! Is it worth? Absolutely worthy …!!!

Brief Bio-data 



DOB 12/10/1991

Age 28

Hometown Salem, Tamil Nadu


Electronics & Communication engineering, 2008 - 2012 BATCH


College of Engineering Guindy(CEG), Chennai (Anna university’s main campus)

Work experience

Design Engineer in ROTORK Innovation Design and Engineering Centre ( RIDEC)- R&D unit of ROTORK Controls Pvt Ltd (Aug 2012-July 2015)

No. of attempts in TNPSC GROUP-1 exam made previously: Zero '0'

General Approach:

Preparation has to be two pronged: one for preliminary examination and other one for Mains Examination.

It is wise and smart to approach the exam topic by topic rather than going book by book. Reading precise and staying up to the point is essential, and due to heavy syllabus you need clear understanding of each concept, and you will definitely be pushed to develop answer from few points that you have understood. At the same time, it is also required to get the conceptual clarity (if not in depth, at least a basic clarity) as some questions will test the concept clarity for sure. Books are so many in the market for every single subject. It is only by sticking to the syllabus that we can try conquering the subjects to the best of our satisfaction. It is better to start the preliminary preparation with main exam in mind and follow the same approach as main written examination. Take notes; keep developing it when you get better understanding and when you find new points.

Role of Training Institutes:

Yes, academies play very good role in helping the student to clear civil service exam. But don’t forget not all students who get into an academy clear the exam. Academies will guide you (maximum 20%), but 80% of the effort and uniqueness has to come from you. If you could develop Discipline and perseverance, I would suggest you to do it all on your own. 

Did I join Academy?

            No!! That was the first and bold decision which I was pushed to take, because I had only 3 months for preparation for preliminary exam (until then I was purely into electronics only) and I was completely new to all subjects after almost 8 years. So I sensed that going as per academy plan will not work for me, and so I decided to do it on own. I will share my work plan going below. 

REMEMBER Academy is not the Door step to succeed. Something more is required.

Preliminary Examination and Detailed analysis:

I would like to recall again, the syllabus for exam is very huge and you need to be smart to accomplish each subject and the syllabus. I’m not sure about the methodology adopted by various coaching centers, but I will share with you how I approached each subject and how I was successful in covering all subjects in a short span of 2.5 months good enough to secure State rank.

The basic work I did was to take previous year question paper from website and worked on the weightage given for each subject. Based on which I classified the subjects as scoring and non-scoring subjects. Scoring subject questions would relatively be easy when the syllabus is covered and the hit rate would be more than 80%. Non scoring subject would be relatively out of box, and your hit ratio reduces down to 40-50%.

The below table gives to detail of subjects, nature, no. of .questions (approx) and how much is expected to be answered correctly.

Books Recommended (for Prelims)

1. Aptitude and Information Technology

R.S.Agarwal,+1 CS book,10Th statistics

2. Modern History

10 and 12th History Book

3. Ancient History

11th History Book

4. Indian Polity

Indian Polity by Lakshmikanth

5. Physics

11 and 12th Physics book

6. Economics

Indian Economy by Shankar Ganesh,

7. Geography

6-10 std school books

Approximate cutoff required would be around 125-130 (questions correct for BC category). The remaining 25 questions would vary between the subjects. Since TNPSC don’t impose negative marking for wrong questions, you will have liberty to answer all the questions, and that would help you very well cross the cutoff mark.


What Not to Study:

Remember, the materials are enormous in the market and website, and one way or other some academy or some aspirant will suggest every material as most appropriate. Don’t get confused or carried away..!! Every material is appropriate and it’s all about the knowledge bank you develop. So “what not to study!” becomes more pertinent than “What to study”.

            Cover only topics given in the syllabus. This is most important. Even in the syllabus heading, covering entire content (like derivation, etc) doesn’t make sense. Before you start reading something, sit and think can the contents you read be put into a question? Develop a character and understanding by referring to previous year papers, on the approach followed by TNPSC in setting the questions.

Prelims Mock tests ?:

“An Apple a day keeps doctor away” – write tests every day (at least one). There is no limit on the tests that you can take. But create an environment similar to the actual exam. Fix a time clock and strictly adhere to it. Track your marks in an excel sheet. Study your progress (do this when are feeling bored or irritated). Take printout of OMR sheets, and even the practice tests do it in OMR.

            All question papers are best. Get question papers available every where. Model questions in any websites(TNPSCguru,TNPSCportal etc), SURA books,old question papers, school exam question papers ( need not answer problem type questions) etc

            Never let your mark go below 60% in any of the mock tests. Fix this as a TARGET. Don’t feel bored to take mock tests. You can initially take 25mark or 50 mark tests, and through the course of preparation you can shift gears to 100,150 and 200 questions paper.

How many hours per day?:

This is an arbitrary question from most of the aspirants, but I will still try to answer it in a best possible way.

            Hours per day depends on your talent/discipline level. There is no unique formula. What I can finish in 2 hours may be completed by you in 1 hour if you are smart enough and have previous experience in the subject. So many factors determines the effort you need to put in every day like

Ø Discipline to sit and read

Ø Previous experience in subject

Ø Quality friends to clarify doubts

Ø Efficiency in using internet

Ø Hunger to become an aspirant

Ø Ability to link and retain etc

But based on my experience, I have arrived at a formula to calculate the tentative hours needed to be put in everyday, comparing TNPSC group 1 with your efforts in 12th STD public examination. Prior to TNPSC, 12th STD was the biggest step in your life, and the importance was more or less the same.

Hours needed per day =   {8(effective hours for a good skilled guy) /    (percentage of 4  major subject marks of 12th STD) } *100 

Sample calculation for my marks:

Hours per day      = (8 /((199+200+200+194)/8))*100

= (8/ 99.125)*100

= 8.07 hours / day

This includes the time you spend on Mock tests, News papers and any constructive works.

Main Written Examination:

When to Start?

Finish the preliminary exam, wait for official answer key on TNPSC website, and check your score. If you have answered 125+ (this may vary based on difficulty), have a party and take a 10-15 day break and get back into study mode. You will write Mains examination for sure within 8months from date of prelims exam. Start your mains preparation, finish it and have sufficient time to revise things. If you go for a long break, the tempo and sync will be out, and you will eventually end up wasting few months after prelims, which is not healthy.

The Strategy : ( Old mains pattern)

The preparation made for preliminary exam would cover 60% of the main exam syllabus, but the trick here is, for main written exam you should be able to write everything in detail and, hence you need more aggressive preparation. The paper is lengthy compared to any other written examination, and you need to answer 56pages in 3 hours.  Hence the completion of paper remains a tricky one, and for this you have to make intense practice. I would suggest you write at least 30-40 tests for 300 marks across various subjects, and preferably in the paper with around 22-24lines per page (as this is what is being used in final exam). Try preparing question in parallel to the topics you study. Set yourself question paper in the below pattern and try answering as exam. I have question paper for almost every book I read, and I will try to search and share it in future. Kindly don’t study as for school exams. Remember all questions are important. So, any question paper you set yourself is good. Finally go into previous year papers ( around 5-7 years ) , and any model papers available in internet.

Note: ( Please update yourself mains pattern and syllabus based on this year 2019)

Book List:

Books studied for prelims will form the foundation/core of the preparation. Study those in detail and have a sound knowledge on that portion. Below are the additional books in every subject you need to cover to enhance your chances to write solid answers.

Additional Books for Mains

1 History

a) Spectrum’s Modern India

b)  Modern India by G.Venkatesh ( this book covers Tamilnadu role)

c)  Contemporary India by G.venkatesh

2 Science and tech

a) Science and Tech Tata Mcgrawhill

b) Recent sensations in news ( eg: Stem cell therapy, LiFi,LIGO etc)

3 Information Technology

a) 11th std computer science book

b) Wizard science and tech ( only IT portions)

4 English

Internet – study formats for precis writing,comprehension etc

5 State Administration

a) State administration by Lakshmikanth

b) Industrial bodies – TIIC,SIPCOT,ELCOT etc ( Wikipedia – also check at bottom of the wiki page for other bodies)

c) State schemes –

d) Central schemes- Wikipedia/visionias

e) Recruitement bodies and other special bodies like NSG,NCERT etc – Wikipedia

6 Economics

a) RajyaSabha document on 2008 crisis

b) Acts and economics welfare schemes – Wikipedia

7 Social Issues

a) Ram Aujha – social issues

b) Wizard- Social issues

8 Current Affairs

Cover for 10 months in detail. Try to predict 30 marks questions. Eg: LIGO,Paris agreement, SDG,SHDR,Aaadhar etc

Note: These are the books in addition to the books covered for prelims. Yes book list looks very big, but then stick to the syllabus. Focus more on wide coverage than looking for in-depth coverage..!!!!

Does Handwriting matters?

                You will find an exclusive statement in instruction to candidate as “NO marks reserved for handwriting”. And to best of my knowledge and experience I believe this holds true. It’s good enough if your handwriting is legible and clear.

                But however, there must be some feature that should make your answer outstanding. And that I strongly believe to be Presentation of answers. Writing in essay format, I personally don’t feel is the best choice, firstly because you cannot manage time and secondly paper looks too much loaded.

                I will give you an example of how I presented my answer.

Q: Write a short note on Regulation XVII ( 3marks)


a) When : Dec 4, 1829 in Bengal

b) By: Lord William Bentinck

c) Pioneer: Raja Rammohan Roy

d) Significance: Practice of Sati was banned and abolished

e) Sati: Burning of Widow women alive in her husband pyre

Ensure you have at least 3 heading per page for 8 marks and 15marks. Try adding quotes, diagrams etc for possible question. Quotes are must for social issues questions. For history try to add the statements made by popular leader (of that time) on every historical event. 15 marks should begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion.

If you need more sample answers, I can send you some photos on request( again don’t ask me to send photocopy of all the notes).

Connect me on facebook (profile name : Mani Raj)

Interview Preparation?

Subject knowledge has been enough tested in first two rounds of exam , and hence the interview focus only on testing your personality, how you react to social matters, what attention you have made to happenings around the globe etc. Hence basic subject knowledge will be helpful to make your answer look smart. But however prepare in detail about what you have done in your graduation and particularly the current affairs for past 10 months at least. Develop opinion for majority of the issues around the globe and also prepare the points to support it. Don’t worry if its correct or not, but take a stand and stay on it . Have clear understanding in each issues.

NEVER STOP reading papers after your mains. Develop a culture to follow NEWS everyday. Discuss with your friends on every popular issues. Try to explain your family about issues that are so much covered by the media. NEWSPAPERS are for life , not for exams alone. They will TRANSFORM you.

            Have some mocks, as many academies conduct free mock for selected candidates, which can be helpful to refine yourself. The Interview is for 120 marks, and if you perform well you be given a maximum of 90.

Alright interview can be handled later , as you will have sufficient time post mains exam to prepare for this.

My Scores:

Main written exam   (out of 900) -> 588.5


(out of 120) -> 81


(out of 1020) -> 669.5

State Rank -> 2

Community -> BC

Post Selected -> Deputy Collector


At the end of the day, even after so much preparation there would be questions that looks unanswerable. What we are doing here is to equip ourselves with all the weapons in our armoury to make sure we win the battle even if we lose some soldiers. Presence of mind on the exam day is going to be vital. Customise yourself by taking a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Adjust accordingly and launch your preparation. Discipline and perseverance would play the decisive role. All the Best!!!

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