MOTIVATION and TOPPER’S STRATEGY
Dhyanachandra H M
AIR Rank 47, CSE-2016
Finally, my journey with the UPSC has ended on a good note. I have secured Rank 47 in CSE 2016 in my second attempt.
I hail from a small village in district named Shimoga (Karnataka) and I prepared completely at Insights offline for one full year during CSE 2016.
This success would not have been possible without the blessings and full support of my family. I must thank my parents for their unconditional support which they have lent during my entire journey of life (not just UPSC). Both my parents are state government employees. They struggled in life to reach where they are today – from humble background to proud parents of an IAS officer. My father Haleshappa S L is an Engineer in Karnataka Housing Board and my mother Mamatha K works as a teacher in a primary school. Thus, the feel of government service was not new to me. They will always remain as my strength and motivation.
Additionally, I should thank Vinay sir and my dear friends who helped and guided me equally. They too share my success today in equal measure. It’s my duty to remember all of them, always.
Why DC (IAS) ?
My father being a civil servant himself used to talk about commissioners in his department. This arouse in me the idea – when I was in 5th standard – of becoming a commissioner myself and I was told becoming an IAS was the only way out for this to happen.
In addition to the fuel given by my father, my nick name “DC” for (DhyanaChandra) called by my friends and teachers added oxygen to my IAS aspiration on a daily basis. I used to feel so good to be called DC on daily basis by my friends and teachers, and it indirectly it kept up my motivation and my dream alive.
“Doing right things at right time ” – School and college days preparation:
I did not exclusively prepare for CSE during my school or college days. I believe in doing complete justice to whatever I pursue. So I focused on school studies and sports being provided at each level of school education. I did well in both academics and sports during school and college days.
I got a free seat in Manipal Institute of Technology in Civil Engineering. I am happy that I was awarded gold medal for doing well in academics. Here I focussed on Engineering and did not divert my attention.
However I always dreamt to become an IAS officer (thanks to DC)
The effort in engineering paid me well. Because of good result in BE(Civil), I got directly recruited as Assistant Engineer in Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department (Karnataka). This post provided me immense confidence to pursue my IAS dream as I did not have to worry about backup job.
CSE journey started : officially!
Right after Engineering in 2014 I went to Delhi for coaching. Classroom coaching did not satisfy me much and felt too much time was being invested in listening rather than doing self study.
Also, I had invested too much time on notes making from newspapers and NCERT’s (I regret it badly ) . This drained my time and energy (I must confess that I had prepared separate NCERT books altogether through notes making – whole point of revision got lost as kept making note till the end)
So , I came back to Bangalore and with just 1 months left for prelims, I started ardently following “Insights Revision Plan “ for CSE 2015 . However, I had subscribed Insights Online Test series back when I was in Delhi itself. But had not given any tests thanks to hectic life in Delhi.
Insights is not new to me. I had been a follower of Insights Blog since 2011 thanks to a meeting with Vinay sir when I was in college (then insights was not officially an IAS website). But, similar to other IAS aspirants who did not know anything in the beginning , I too followed the mob for Delhi coaching and didn’t find time to follow insights until I came back to Bangalore.
I was surprised to see “Insights Revision Plan “ because I realised even after many months of Delhi preparation, there was lot of vacuum in my basics. So, I did my best to study according to insights plan. I started giving all Insights tests and revising the test series solutions with full rigour (In Delhi I could not take up even 1 test because of my love towards notes making). Within 1 month my understanding skyrocketed but unfortunately I couldn’t clear Prelims. Reason being lack of revision. Though I solved all tests, I could not revise them even one more time.
PRELIMS LOST : lack of revision.
Honestly , 1 month at insights was very less to tackle prelims objectively. I failed to give and revise all Insights test series pdfs. Finally, the cost I paid was that I lost prelims by 3 or 4 marks ( by CSE standards this is in fact huge ).
I accepted the result calmly as I realised my mistakes even before prelims, and even my friends were not ready to believe my failure because of me being very casual, calm and confident after pre results. I was happy that I had realised secret to success – revision. I realised that I should have started giving tests from day one so that I would get time for revision before prelims.
I have always believed in this line ” Efforts are in my control and not the result “. Naturally , I was convinced of lack of “actual” efforts i.e objective hard work ( like last 1 months effort at Insights ) rather than the “psuedo” hard work I had done ( unusual notes making , depending only on classroom notes and neglecting NCERT’s ). So with crystal clear aim , I started my preparation for next attempt without feeling sad. I told to myself that being sad would be waste of time but working upfront in right way would fetch me those 2 to 3 marks to clear Prelims in 2016. “Do what it takes” mentality ushered in.
CSE 2016 : Insights Prelims Test series
To start with, I made up my mind ” Do not repeat the mistakes done “ and ” Focus on efficiency in preparation “. Based on my previous confidence in Insights Prelims test series , once again I started following it .
After subscribing the Test Series, I religiously followed the timetable given by Insights .
Since I was working in Bangalore ( as Assistant Engineer in Rural development and Panchayat Raj) , I opted for online Test series (which I usually gave during holidays). Even then I made sure that I visited Insights study centre at least 2-3 times in a week to get motivation and guidance. Sometimes I wrote prelims tests at offline centre as well.
Insights tests are very well designed w.r.t it’s content and approach. Every test exposed the reality in me i.e the extent to which preparation has be done and the gaps that needed to be filled. The detailed explanations given after tests helped me realise my strengths and weakness.
Revision at Insights for Prelims 2016 – Masterstroke
I went to Vinay sir two months before Prelims and asked about further preparations to be done . He insisted me to forget everything and allocate remaining 2 months completely for Prelims revision. Upfront, I took all remaining insights prelims tests and got ready to revise.
I spent time on following :
- For a month I revised NCERT’s again .
- Last month , I revised all 32 tests (3 times) .
Finally after all the effort put on revision , I felt very confident to go for exam .
PRELIMS : EXAM DAY
Just a day before Prelims exam , I had a very sound sleep ( surprisingly 13 hours ) . This kept me calm and confident.
Paper 1 –
Thanks to Insights tests, I could attend almost 60 questions with confidence within 45 minutes. In the second round, I attended other questions which I found tricky and confusing. Finally I attended 96 questions of which 73 questions were right and 23 questions went wrong. I got a score of 128 and finally cleared Prelims (I scored well above cut off – didn’t want to take risk). Right after exams, answer keys predicted my score at around 132 and hence confirmed positive result in prelims. Scoring very good marks is important to focus on mains from very next day.
Paper 2 –
I handled maths questions first. But was left with more than 20 questions (comprehension) during last 15 minutes. Initially lost hopes but I handled the pressure calmly (I thank sound sleep I had)
Even though I had not written mains in previous attempt, looking at geography trend in general, I thought of changing my optional. I changed it to Kannada Literature at the suggestion of Insights and other mentors. I prepared this completely new subject with the assistance of friends at Insights without going for coaching. I started writing answers on all topics instead of making notes. This approach helped me in scoring good marks in optional paper.
Secure Compilations: –
Right after prelims I started my mains preparation without waiting for the result.
I started with revising “ Secure Compilations ” of last one year. This secure revision was ingrained in insights mains timetable too, which helped further revision of secure compilations.
This helped me in two ways –
- Revise all the relevant issues happened last year in a single document.
- Secure answers developed my perspective in handling different questions.
Through secure compilations I also got a fair idea about usage of keywords like critically analyse, comment etc etc. Mains answer writing is all about understanding the keywords and writing relevant answer.
Insights offline Mains Test Series:
I was part of “offline” mains test series. I wrote each and every test without fail. The test series helped me in following ways: –
- It improved my speed of writing. The concept of gradually increasing the number of questions to be answered is a good strategy. Test series was designed in such a way that we had to answer 10 questions in one hour in the initial tests. Later 15 questions in 2 hours. We also practised 25 questions in 3 hours. Finally, in the last round, we could easily answer 20 questions in less than 3 hours. This helped me in comfortably answering all questions in all papers ten minutes before the final bell.
- It exposed my lack of clarity in some concepts. Reading a concept is quite easy but writing it clearly is altogether another challenging task. While writing, I got to know how difficult it is to write relevantly. Hence I kept revising concepts again and again from NCERT’s and books to get better clarity. Feedback by Vinay sir helped in understanding my weaknesses and strengths.
The solutions for each Insights mains papers also provided the right approach that could be followed. Two weeks before mains, I revised all the solutions thoroughly. Luckily some questions got repeated in the main exam.
Best thing about moving to Bangalore from Delhi was that my preparation streamlined and there were less distractions. I got good environment to study along with good friends who always had positive attitude towards preparation.
Essay and Ethics:
The master stroke in my entire preparation was guidance for essay and ethics papers. The inputs given by Vinay sir improved my approach and quality of my writing especially case studies in ethics paper. I wrote many essays (around 12-15) before mains as part of Insights test series. I could score 148 in essay and 109 in ethics paper in CSE-2016.
Mains Exam Days:
Revision of NCERTs, offline mains test series solutions and Secure compilations helped me immensely to write mains exam calmly. In total, I left only 3 questions in all GS papers. In the end when I received my marks, all the revisions played key role in getting 448 marks from four GS papers.
I was happy when I cleared mains very first time I wrote it. Interview preparations at Insights started with writing questions on each and every keyword in our DAF (Detailed Application Form). Groups were formed (based on common optionals and common hobbies/interests) and made to exchange questions on each other’s DAFs. Group discussions helped immensely in fine-tuning my opinions on many current issues. I could clearly form opinion on all relevant issues. Inputs by friends at Insights (most of them got selected too) helped eliminate most of my mistakes.
After framing questions on each and every aspect of DAF, logically next step was to develop answers to each of those questions. The whole point here is to be better prepared on all the details given by us in DAF before giving actual interview.
After this rigorous preparation, I was very confident of scoring 190+ in my very first interview. However, I ended up scoring 171 (decent marks this year)
One on one interview at Insights (Vinay sir) was the first interview. It was more of a stress interview but I handled it well. Videos provided after each interview improved my presentation. I always went well dressed to all the mocks so that seriousness was maintained. I wore suit to actual interview.
I also gave mocks at Shankar IAS (Chennai and Bangalore). In total I took around 5 mocks in Bangalore itself.
My interview was scheduled in the afternoon session on 15th May 2017. I was the last person my group of 5 to get interviewed. I entered the panel at 4.45 PM and came out at 5.15 PM. There were 5 members (4 males and 1 female members) in the panel under chairmanship of Mr. David (Chairman of UPSC).
Overall the interview was very cordial. There were few open ended questions and few factual questions. I handled all questions calmly with a smile. Never felt tensed thanks to all the preparation. Also thanks to support of my parents who were there to be with me in Delhi during this final leg of preparation.
Inputs to Aspirants:
Let me say it, Yes ” If I can do it then even you all can “. One must work consistently without giving up. Plan your daily activities and priorities. Take sufficient breaks to re energise yourself (I watched movie every week even one a day before interview) Believe in a good strategy that works for you and discard immediately that won’t work for you. You should take risks at right times in your best interest. Never hesitate to take quick decision if it’s going to help you.
No doubt each one will face unique challenges during their preparation time. But get over them, work hard and give your best effort.
As said “Effort is more important and not the results “. Do not ever become desperate to clear the exam because then one starts focusing on future rather than preparing well in the present. One has to dream but importantly must work today to make the dream true.
Have the right guide, trust them, follow them and finally come out with good result. Again be ready to perspire again to get what you need if you are not satisfied. Today I am happy that I trusted and followed one strategy that worked for me.
I once again thank my parents, my friends (so many of them) and insights for all the support rendered to me.
I couldn’t clear Prelims in my first attempt because of some mistakes as already mentioned in the beginning of this article. Do not repeat your mistakes. Seek guidance to see what mistakes you are committing. You can clear exam in you first attempt itself if you don’t repeat your mistakes. Repeating the mistakes done by others would just drag years in preparation (may be this is what I think is “smart study”)
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Strengthen your strength and eliminate your weakness and that is the key. You can do it, have faith in what you are doing and always stay focused.
Wish you very all the very best.