IAS TOPPER’S STRATEGY
First attempt, Electrical Engineer from IIT DELHI
This is Shashank. Firstly, I feel honoured to be able to share my wisdom of the preparation for this prestigious examination i.e. Civil Services, and thank you Insights for this opportunity. Before I share my strategy I would like to tell you about my journey and performance so that you can better relate it to the subsequent strategy.
This was my first attempt. I completed my engineering from IIT Delhi 2014 in Electrical Engineering discipline, after that I went for job in teaching field as Mathematics Faculty. The pay was hefty and life was great, however after some time I realised that there is much more to life than just money. Then I started to think about civil services in a serious tone. I started my preparation in May, 2015 after quitting my job. Fortunately I am a resident of Delhi and thus had the luxury of staying at home while being close to the holy places like “Rajinder Nagar”. I want to clarify that when I started my preparation I was clueless about the entire process i.e. started from ground zero. So all those aspirants who think that it is impossible to start from scratch and crack CSE in first attempt, kindly relinquish such feelings. After two tiring years, following is my CSE mark sheet:
Let us talk about some important aspects in order of worthiness:
- Reason, Motivation, Inspiration, etc – Why Civil Services?
I believe that it is a cardinal requirement during your entire preparation, though overlooked many times. Before going for this exam one has to ask – “Why Civil Services?” because the answer to this question will keep you going. Think about a day when you do not feel like studying or a winter morning when you do not want to get out of the bed or an occasion when your friends are calling you for a party, the answer to the above question will steer your body and mind towards your study table in such circumstances. It will be the hand that will pull you out of the regular mood swings and phases of depression. I suggest that you write down your own reasons on a chart and put it up in your study area.
- Planning and Proactiveness
This exam is not like CAT or IIT JEE(with all due respect to these examinations) where the entire exam is conducted in a single day and questions are of objective type. This exam is year long process with different phases which require different specific technique. One of the major reasons behind failure of many aspirants despite doing hard work is that they keep studying in a constant mode irrespective of prelims, mains or interview. For instance, it is not much fruitful to read from a plethora of sources just before mains instead of revising what you have learnt during your yearlong preparation and trying to reproduce the knowledge on paper through answer writing practice.
It is very important to plan your preparation right from the start, you should be certain about when you are going to complete your syllabus and how many times you intend to revise it before appearing in prelims and mains. In my case I was able to read all the basic books covering all parts of the mains syllabus by April, 2016, after that it was only revision and value addition to the knowledge that I gained so far. If you are in the initial phase of your preparation please cover all topics and do not leave anything for the end, make sure that you have read some material on each and every word written in the syllabus. Keep a diary to plan at least 2 months schedule beforehand. It might seem a little trivial but believe me it can work wonders.
- Choosing an Optional
All those aspirants who are yet to choose the optional or those who have decided to change their optional time please give minimum a month’s time to pick your optional because the entire matter of being into the final list or not will depend on this decision of yours. I am able to get 300+ marks in mathematics because I loved the subject. Many people advised me not to go for it because reasons like- large syllabus, scaling, irrelevance in GS preparation, etc but I chose it because I knew I could study it every day for 6+ hours without being getting bored or feeling burdened. So don’t go for geography, pub ad, sociology etc because some coachingwallas or seniors are saying, take them if you have an intrinsic interest in them.
For mathematics I followed the strategy of sir Nitish K, if you have further doubts feel free to contact me.
- Phases of Examination
I am not giving a list of books here because you can follow book list of any topper as long as you study them religiously. Here I am providing general guidelines which I followed during my preparation.
Prelims– Focus on current affairs and try to memorise factual information by revising it fortnightly. Two months before the prelims start solving 100 questions on daily basis so that by the time you give prelims you have at least gone through 6000 questions. After this, prelims would be a piece of cake.
Mains– There is no secret here. Make sure you have good practice and focus both on quality and quantity. A good rank is certain only when you attempt maximum number of questions in mains. Writing answers every day without fail especially after prelims is indispensible. Follow 2-3 sources to get good quality questions and answer them in specified time frame. Insight’s various initiatives are very useful here.
Interview– Be natural, take some mock interviews and you are good to go.
I would like to mention some sources which give relevant and authentic knowledge required to clear this examination. These include various articles by Insight on diverse topics, RSTV articles, IDSA(security and IR), PIB and PRS. Gather and compile information from these sources over and above the knowledge you have gained from base material. Also it is very essential to make your own notes and condense them regularly. In this manner you can easily revise and retain the information.
In the end, it is a game of being positive and believing in yourself. If you put in your best, success will be yours. Just remember that-
“You need to live few years of your life like most people will not, so that you can live the rest of your life like most people cannot”.