Rank 136, CSE-2016
My name is Garima Lekhwani. I’m 23 years old. I secured AIR 136 in UPSC CSE 2016 in my first attempt.
I completed my schooling from CJM, Agra. Thereafter, I pursued B.Com. (Hons.) from Shri Ram College of Commerce, DU and graduated in the year 2014. I worked in Axis Bank (Corporate Office, Mumbai) for a year and resigned in 2015. It was then that I started my preparation for CSE and managed to clear in my first attempt with Sociology optional.
First of all, I would like to thank Insights for the role it played in my preparation, particularly through its Prelims test series. I was also an infrequent follower of the news analysis, mind maps, and other elements for use of aspirants. The work being done here for the benefit of aspirants is highly commendable!
For the benefit of aspirants, I have tried to present my own insights into the CSE. I have refrained from providing book list, etc as these are available from various sources. I would also like to share some personal details about my struggle during the CSE preparation here. Around 20 days after the Prelims exam I started suffering from severe health issues which continued upto Mains and even during the Mains. I was on heavy medication throughout this period and was advised by doctors and my parents to skip the Mains and give the exam next year. I was highly depressed during this time as I knew answer writing was my forte but due to my condition I could barely even focus on studies let alone giving Mains tests or practicing answer writing. However, even during this time, I did not let my passion die, and somehow tried to find the strength inside me to continue studying with whatever efficiency I could and not give up. I still get goose bumps thinking about the mental and physical agony I had to go through during that time. Even during the mains, I was on the verge on giving up on every paper but somehow managed to write them and write them well as reflected by my marks sheet.
The message I want to convey here is that apart from hard work, what is required is a stubborn refusal to give up! If you find a way to stay motivated then trust me you will be able to overcome all odds and come out through this process with success. Hence, I would advise aspirants to not give in to adversities but face them head on and continue to believe in the cause that they’re investing so much in.
Please find below some other personal insights into the Civil Services Exam:
- Before starting the preparation, you must analyze why you want to prepare for civil services in the first place. Considering the level of the competition and the investment (especially in terms of the time devoted) that this exam entails, you must assess beforehand whether the end goal could be achieved through another career path. This is my true belief that the spirit of public service and that alone should bring one here; reasons like respect, etc are only secondary and could be earned elsewhere too.
- Hard work and intellect alone do not guarantee success here; what is more important is absolute relentless when it comes to facing this exam. Why I say this is because, every aspirant has to face many problems during this preparation, some of them will make you question your decision again and again. The catch here is to keep yourself together at such times and remind yourself everyday that you must keep fighting.
- Consistency is the key when it comes to this exam. I have seen many brilliant candidates who are unable to clear this exam. This is because they are not able to sustain their preparation levels over a long period of time. And this again is linked to the previous point- developing a frame of mind that doesn’t let you become complacent.
- If there is one single tip that I had to give aspirants, it would be, to not consider this exam as the end of life. I made this mistake and had to face severe consequences in terms of health issues and other problems. Stress management is highly essential- for this I would recommend finding time for meditation, physical exercise or any other recreational activities on a daily basis.
- Developing a strategy is very important and let me tell you this- you may listen to everyone else’s but develop your own! Every person has a different style of approaching this exam- do not try to follow something just because your peers are doing it, try to approach this exam logically and keeping your own competencies in mind, prepare a plan that can help you slay this exam.
- Keeping a back up plan will always help. Although this was my first attempt, yet I had a back up ready. Why is say this is because this exam is highly unpredictable and to ensure that your career is not stalled because of one exam. This is especially important for those who may be easily affected by societal/peer pressures and want a safety net to be able to study well.
- A very important yet often ignored aspect is to stay away from social media and other such distractions during the course of this preparation. This single action can save a lot of precious time and help you focus more.
- Lastly, please remember that YOU ARE ABOVE THIS EXAM. Success here doesn’t determine your capability or talent. There are many factors that must fall into place to be able to clear this exam.
My best wishes are with everyone who is reading this. Many thanks!