My Journey Towards Success Part – II
Satish Reddy, Rank – 97, CSE-2014
June 4th 2012 7.10 AM :
On this day, at Warangal Railway station I boarded Tamil Nadu Express to Delhi. I knew it was the most risky step I had ever taken in my life. I also knew it would be challenging and tough, but thanks to UPSC – it forces us to do things beyond imagination. From the day you start preparation till the day you get rank it keeps on giving new surprises.
On that day, many things were running in my mind while sitting in TN Express. Can I clear this? What if I won’t clear? I was dreaming of becoming an IAS officer even before starting serious preparation for civil services exam. I didn’t know what Optional subject to choose, or where to start.
June 5th 2012 6.00AM:
Next day I landed in Delhi. I went to a friend’s room, kept my luggage and straight I went to the class. AT first sight, my expression was: “What the hell is this?” The class had 600 people in it! I had to endure the upcoming challenge. After the class, I enrolled to the course and shifted to a small rented room.
June 2012 to September 2012:
This was the time when I took Public Administration coaching. Got some good friends there and happy that most of them got into services eventually. The feeling that one would have in first two months of preparation is very beautiful. You keep on learning some good things every day and always regret why you didn’t know this while studying engineering!
This is the time you choose some good friends – not more than 3 to 4 serious people – who are equally committed and have same maturity level as yours. This is very important, because if you get into fight with a troublesome friend at any point of your exam preparation, you will lose at least 1 week of your precious time.
I had some unpleasant experiences (Let me call them My Mistakes)
Things didn’t go well with one of my roommates.
This killed my time. Anyhow I corrected it very soon taking advice from an IAS officer who is in service. I shifted to another room without making things worse and told myself “Your goal is something else. Your life is at stake. Forget everything and study.” So moral is never pick up a fight with anyone even though mistake is from the other side.
While going for Public Administration coaching I started General studies preparation on my own. I bought all basic books. The day I brought those books, I fell in love with them. From that moment a sort of emotional attachment started with these brand new neat looking books.
I used to make newspaper notes every day but in an unorganized way. At the same time I used to cover Pub Ad from time to time. Meanwhile I decided to opt for Sociology as my second optional. I found out classes would start in November for Sociology. So I thought I would complete basic General Studies and one Optional by November. I planned well. Used to study all the time. Did not waste much time. But for some reasons, all this work was not useful when I wrote Mains exactly 1 year after.
Unorganized notes preparation.
It was like planning to be unorganized. I used to plan and study a topic from 5 different sources. It would make my life a mess. So choose a good book and read that book repeatedly. Don’t get tempted by loads of materials which coaching institutes produces and Xerox shops reproduces. I am not anti-coaching, but please choose judiciously the quality material.
October 2012 to March 2013:
This time I had a very good roommate. I joined sociology coaching. Sociology is one of the best things ever happened to me in life. I fell in love with the subject immediately. Thanks to Upender Sir for teaching with so much clarity.
In the month of December I thought I should start preparing for prelims and joined a test series in an institute in Delhi. That institute conducted tests for 2-3 weeks and then called off the test series as that institute was busy opening new branches. So now I had to search for a new test series. Meanwhile I used to solve tests of various institutes, which I would get in Xerox shops.
This was the first correct thing I did. I wrote maximum number of tests as I could. I did around 40 CSAT tests and good number of Paper 1 tests also. My score in 2013 prelims was more than 280.
March 3rd 2013 to July 1st 2013
One day while returning from Sociology classes I got a text message from a friend – “Pattern changed notification out”. After preparing so well for both the optional papers, I had to chose only one optional and read some extra completely new syllabus. I decided to sacrifice Public Administration because of its poor performance in 2012.
As I said before, giving surprises is UPSC’s birthright. Next day I got up in the morning and started preparing for the new pattern. I studied for couple of weeks for new pattern and then started serious preparation of prelims.
If I had used little brain and time management then I would have completed 40% of Mains syllabus during Prelims preparation itself. I just read only from prelims perspective. I should have integrated them both with little planning. Anyhow only one thing was running in my mind before prelims i.e. “first let me clear prelims then I will do something and manage Mains.”
On May 26th prelims got over and I wrote it very well. I was satisfied and confident that I would clear.
I went to my hometown and spent a week there and then came back. I started dreaming of IAS even before writing Mains. I thought that I would clear Mains also very easily. At last after passing time, I started my preparation on July 1st 2013.
Never ever take rest for more than 2-3 days after Prelims. Immediately start preparing for Mains, every single day is important. For my 2014 mains I started immediately after Prelims exam.
July 1st 2013 to October 2013:
I joined a coaching institute that took admission after keeping an entrance test for answer writing improvement courses. That course was also called with some fancy names. (I don’t like to name that coaching center. What I was promised was detailed framework of each and every topic in mains. Along with that they also promised weekly 2 tests, which would be corrected by a sir and our peers and then followed by discussion and doubts session.
By the end of October only 1 Paper out of 4 GS papers was completed. I had no idea what I was doing. By that time only 3 tests were conducted. Don’t ask me about Ethics and Essay! They were not even touched upon. I respect that Sir still but course was not handled properly. That cost me my 1 year.
Not asking for more tests
I am not at all blaming any institute. It was absolutely my mistake. I should have asked for more and more tests. I should have realized it before only because it was my life. So the moral is – choose properly your test series.
Keep asking them if they won’t stand up to your standards. If it’s not working out then don’t depend on that. Prepare on your own. As coaching institutes have minute role in your success, so is in your failures.
One good thing that I started during this time was making notes in an organized way. I took 4 spiral binding books. I divided topic wise for all GS papers. Left some 10-15 pages for each topic.
Whatever I read about that topic, I used to note down all important things there. This gave me very good command on Paper 3 and Paper 2 especially. This in turn gave me lots of confidence to crack the exam. But I realized I was again doing wrong thing.
Too much focus on Paper 2 and Paper 3!
Same will be done by 80% of serious aspirants. And after writing Paper 2 and Paper 3 very well (which you would obviously do after studying so much) you feel like you will get rank for sure. Story will be different once the results are released.
As I said before. I retained Sociology as my optional. I made consolidated short notes for sociology during coaching time itself. As I said before I joined somewhere for General studies answer writing improvement program. My total time was preoccupied there preparing for Paper 2 and Paper 3 and which made me commit another mistake.
I used to study thinking that sociology was very easy and everyone who attempts in general way would get marks. I used to think that only thing we need to be perfect was about thinkers. By the month of October, I finished Paper 1 reading for the first time. I never practiced a test. I was so foolish that I used to see a question and used to think in mind about the framework and used to think my answer writing was over. Unless we keep our pen on paper and write like hell, we should never imagine of getting good marks.
October 2013 to December 2013:
This was the time when I realized I should study on my own. I stopped going to all classes and started studying in own. First I completed my Paper 2 of Sociology taking notes from important sources such as IGNOU material. I made notes and revised from them only. I got some good marks in this Paper 2 but got less marks in Paper 1.
Don’t knowing what was my mistake.
I got 135 mark from both papers combined in Sociology in 2013.
In 2014 mains I have got 291. If you ask me why I got less marks then my answer is I don’t know exactly. But this year I was clearer in concepts, gave more examples, gave conclusions (which I didn’t give last year).
Month of November came and all I could do was revise and revise. I tried writing some tests but realized more than tests revision was important. That too revision of Paper 2 and Paper 3. I don’t need to explain why this is a mistake. By the end of November mentally I was prepared for mains. I was so confident.
December 4th 2013 my first Mains.
Essay paper was a disaster as I wrote something but somehow managed to cover different areas (I wrote on S&T). In Paper 1 I answered 15 out of 25 questions (Got 56). In Paper 2 I answered each and every question, I also thought my answers were world class (That’s why I love UPSC, I got 45). Performance in Paper 3 and Paper 4 were decent (Got 87 and 87). I missed interview call very narrowly.
December 2013 to April 2014.
This was the time when I was waiting for the result. I had false notion that Paper 2 and Paper 3 would help and I could somehow manage to get interview call and then get some rank. Because of this I never thought of any back-up plan. In the month of March 1st week there was tragic loss of my best friend in a road accident. Immediately in March 2nd week my Mains results were out. Well at that point of time was Mr. Nobody for everyone. I took couple of months for me to come out of depression.
I was waiting for some another chance to start a fresh life and change the environment.
The destination was Bangalore and InsightsOnIndia (after Prelims), where I finally corrected all my previous mistakes and wrote a proper Mains Test Series (I wrote each and every test).
Thanks to Aditya, Srikanth and Sanath Reddy my roommates in Bangalore. I owe them a lot for being very good friends and for supporting me in my journey.
NOTE: You can see my journey started happily and ended happily. In between I faced many challenges. There is still more to say. May be I will write a book some day! But friends kindly realize your mistakes soon and correct them as soon as possible. In my opinion (and from experience) that is the real secret of success.
Please read My First Article about the factors that helped me get 97th Rank in CSE – 2014. Thank you.