My Preparation Strategy
I was a student of Insights Offline Class and knew Vinay bro (Whom I call as ‘Anna’ i.e. elder brother) from my school (JNV) days. I readily agreed to his suggestion to write an article for the benefit of aspirants. But owing to hectic training at National Audit & Accounts Academy, I am coming up with this article after many days.
I did my schooling at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Chitradurga during which I made up my mind to become an IAS officer. Later I did engineering from a college in Bangalore. I started my preparation from mid 2010, i.e. during my final year in engineering.
Like everyone, I decided to take Public administration as my optional and started reading it. After few days I realized that Public administration was not my cup of tea. Fortunately at that time results of CSE-2009 was declared and Prakash Rajpurohit had got Rank 2, with Mathematics as one of his optional. His success inspired me to take Mathematics. He also wrote a blog, which I consider as bible for Mathematics optional. I bought all the books which he had mentioned in his blog and finished one time reading by the time I completed my graduation in mid 2011.
Then I left to Delhi from Bangalore and reached Old Rajinder Nagar in June, 2011. I had made up my mind to take Psychology as second optional and join Mukul Pathak’s coaching. But I changed my mind at last moment and joined Neetu Singh for Geography optional.
While going for Geography coaching, I also joined Maths test series at IMS (Venkanna). I left Delhi after 4 months due to adverse conditions like climate, food, high rent etc and went to my native place near Udupi.
Till prelims i.e May 2012, I finished General Studies myself and revised Maths and Geography. After prelims, I again went to Delhi to appear for Maths and GS test series. I made the mistake of appearing for Mains at Delhi Centre. I got high fever on the day of Essay, General Studies and Geography exams and finally recovered before Mathematics exam.
After Mains, I returned to my native place and started preparing for Interview as well as for next Mains. Then fortunately I cleared Mains and appeared for interview in my first attempt. However I could not make it to the final list. Later I found out that I had missed rank by 10 marks and had got low marks in Interview and Geography. Despite working hard for nearly 3 years and leaving job at campus placement, at the end I was left with nothing.
Many people (particularly relatives) mocked at me telling that even two years after engineering I was sitting at home and gave examples of students getting placements with high packages. This was like adding salt to wound. But somehow all these things eventually made me more determined to clear this exam, at any cost.
Fortunately for me, pattern was changed in 2013 and only one optional was required to be taken. I gladly dropped geography and appeared in Prelims again. As the GS syllabus for mains was changed drastically, I felt it was better to prepare in a group. So I went to Delhi again after Prelims and rented a room with two good friends, who were very hardworking and dedicated. I also joined test series for GS and Maths. This time I wrote mains at Bangalore in December.
After Mains, I relaxed for around 20 days and then contacted Vinay bro. He was my senior in school and I got to know that he had got very good marks in UPSC interview. As I had got very low marks in interview in the previous attempt, I was quite afraid about interview. He was kind enough to take many mock interviews freely in his room and helped me to overcome my fear of interview.
His mantra for interview was being honest, humble and confident. I just followed his advice and got 196/275. This was a huge jump for mere 50% in first attempt to 71% in second attempt.
Owing to high Interview marks, I got 547th rank and with just 10 marks more than General cutoff. After declaration of marks, I found that I had low scores in Essay and General Studies Paper 2 and 3. Getting a rank was a great relief to me and my family. But the desire for IAS was still strong.
As I wanted my 3rd attempt to be my last attempt, I decided to give my best shot this time. I did not want to study in isolation but was reluctant to go to Delhi again. Vinay bro told he would be conducting offline test series for GS & Essay in Bangalore for limited students who are very serious. I readily joined it.
He went out of his way to arrange good accommodation in Bangalore. Here I met a group of highly dedicated aspirants which included Neha, Balaji, Kiran, Akhilesh etc. The competition within the group was so high that for three and half months everyone was compelled to work very hard.
The rigorous schedule of Insights for test series enabled us to complete syllabus in time and also strengthen our answer writing skills. Whenever I used to get frustrated about huge syllabus or insufficiency of time and my confidence dipped, I used to talk to Vinay bro. He always used to tell you would get in top 50 this time and not to worry. Finally his words became true.
During this mock test series programme, I wrote nearly 15 three hour essays (with 2 essays for 125 marks each – Later same pattern was there in Mains which helped me a lot). This led to drastic improvement in my essay score from 84 in previous attempt to 142 this year.
Again, this year I frequently spoke over phone from Academy regarding interview with him. As I was undergoing training, this year’s interview needed different approach. We discussed probable questions and refined our answers. He motivated me before the interview to give my best. This year, I scored 206/275.
I am deeply grateful to Insights and Vinay bro for guiding me and for creating a highly competitive atmosphere at Bangalore, due to which I was able to put much more effort in a focused manner.
Based on my experience, a few suggestions to all the aspirants:
- With right approach, it is possible to clear this exam in first attempt But don’t get disheartened if you fail. Don’t give up. Introspect and rectify your mistakes. Hit back with greater effort. When I missed getting a rank by 10 marks in first attempt, I was very disappointed. But I read that year toppers’ interviews. I told myself if they can do it why can’t I do. I was very angry on myself for not clearing and this made me more determined to clear this exam.
- Try to prepare with a group of serious There is no point is befriending non-serious aspirants. They will lead to your failure. Be very careful in choosing your friends.
- Consistency and discipline are key to success. I have seen lots of people who work very hard for first 1-2 months and later their preparation decays exponentially. Have a timetable and follow it religiously. My daily study routine for past four years is like this – 8 to 9:30, 10 to 1:30, 4 to 8:30 and 9:30 to 12:30. Make your own timetable and give some time in between (say ½ hour) for relaxing. The idea is you should be comfortable with your timetable and not get frustrated.
- Clear prelims by a comfortable margin. This is very important so that you start preparing for mains seriously without waiting for prelims results.
- Practice answer writing for GS, essay and optional regularly. Insights website is helpful in this regard.
- For GS make notes, preferably on Evernote as it consumes less time and easy to edit and revise.
- Don’t spend too much time on Internet searching for materials, news etc. Many aspirants spend hours on internet and think they are preparing. But actually they would be aimlessly jumping from website to another without any value addition. It is better to follow few sources that are qualitative.
- Also many have this habit of filling their rooms with all kinds of books, material, photocopies etc., which they won’t study even one page. Buy a maximum of 2 books per subject and read them repeatedly. You need not do research on each and every topic. You should just understand them and be able to give simple and clear answers in exam.
- Try to finish Mains syllabus before Prelims. Because after prelims you will be having time only for revision and answer writing.
- Join coaching only by consulting many seniors. Don’t be fooled by huge photographs of toppers in advertisements. Many would have appeared only for Test Series or Mock Interviews and coaching centers would claim that they were part of classroom coaching.
- Finally don’t get your confidence lowered by all the negative comments made by your friends and relatives. Have faith in your hard work. Promise yourself to work harder and prove all your critics wrong. If you work hard, then luck (God) will help you.
I would like to end with two of my favorite quotes, which helped me immensely during my preparation:
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” Muhammad Ali
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” Jim Rohn
All the best for your exams and future. Thank you.