My Tryst With UPSC
Parikshit Zade, Rank 280, CSE-2016
“Success is just delayed, not denied. My sun has set to rise again.” These quotes used to be my WhatsApp status after last 2 years of UPSC CSE results. My closed friends from non UPSC background before calling me used to check that status before asking me about the results. This year on May 31st after the results were announced I was so busy in attending congratulations calls that I forgot to update that status. My friends thought this year also I missed the final list, but later that night to their sweet surprise I changed my status as “ My Sun has risen with a BANG” and my friends breathed a sigh of relief and congratulation messages again started pouring on me.
The point I want to make is that, UPSC exam is such an unpredictable, tiring exam that tests not only the hard work and perseverance of the candidate but also the moral support of friends and family. After getting out of this vicious cycle in my 4th (3rd Serious) attempt, with rank that will get me into IAS, the satisfaction and proud feeling that I see in my parent’s, brother’s and every well wisher’s eyes, I can definitely say that this arduous, tiring journey was worth it. Like many of you who are reading this article, few days back I was also in similar position and dreamed like many of you to be in position to write such success story, today, I really feel privileged to pen down and share my tryst with UPSC.
To tell in brief about me, myself Dr. PARIKSHIT SANJARAO ZADE belongs to small town name Pusad of Yavatmal District, Maharashtra. I come from humble background with my father working as Bus Conductor in Maharashtra state road transport corporation. My mother whom we brothers sometime used to tease as Home Minister is housewife cum entrepreneur cum teacher cum small businesswoman who supplemented the meagre income of my father by stitching clothes, selling ladies articles from small home based shop, taking tuitions of children from neighbourhoods and also running a small self help group for women in locality. Though both of my parents are not that educated with father 10th passed and mother 12th passed, they knew right from start the importance of power of education that can help to change the situation and thus while facing lots of hardships and sacrificing various things of comfort, they never compromised on our education.
Today the result of that sacrifice is in the proud feeling in their eyes with my elder brother working as engineer in US and me a MBBS doctor and now a civil servant successfully cracking the UPSC exam. I am telling this because many among us complain about our poor, rural background, lack of awareness and so on and always feel that we are lacking in something. To all those feeling the same, I would say that make these your strength and not weakness. We are aware of such things because of our upbringing that an individual from privileged background might not know, we have deep desire to change that things. Make that your motivation and not impediment.
To continue about me, I did my initial schooling from my hometown and as my mother helped to set the foundation for study from childhood, I didn’t feel study as burden and stood merit in Std 10th and 12th. Later on, to fulfil my mother’s wish, I entered Government Medical College, Nagpur to complete my MBBS. Though becoming an IAS officer like many childhood dreams was in back of my mind, I never took it seriously. But during MBBS days especially during my internship and during my job as Medical officer at Rural Hospital, I was exposed to various factors and difficulties faced by common public which I thought cannot be addressed by being a doctor. The close association with college administration exposed me to effects of administration on common lives. Additionally, there was inspiration from work of Dr. Srikar Pardesi Sir (IAS), who has worked efficiently for the wellbeing of common people and is revered name among public of Maharashtra. To get a wider platform which will help me to work holistically for common public, me along with my friend entered the less travelled world of UPSC.
Initially, after completing my Internship, I went to Pune for preparation. Preliminary exam 2013 was just 2 months away. Under the guidance of my senior friends like Ashish Patil (Assistant Commandant ITBP) I read only basic books and gave that attempt. I missed the cutoff by just 2 marks and thus got to know that I was on right track of preparation. Thanks to this initial guidance and technique of studies, which proved very useful as foundation for my later attempts especially for prelimins preparation. Later, to take some coaching from Delhi and to be self reliant, I did job for few months as medical officer at rural hospital which further exposed me to ground realities and strengthened my desire to become an IAS officer. I went to Delhi in 2014, joined selective coaching classes of subject which I found difficult, like Aspire IAS for newspaper analysis, M Puri Sir’s for GS II and Mohanty Sir’s ethics class. These classes helped me to gauge my level of preparation and also helped me to draw plan for study. But I will advise that joining classes is not compulsory and self study is what is needed to adapt to changing pattern of UPSC. Classes only can complement your preparation.
During 2014 and 2015 attempt I reached till Interview level, but missed final list by few marks (2015 attempt just by 5 marks). Back to back failures with so much hard work, sometimes leads to doubt your own capabilities. You compare yourself with others, with your batchmates who are doing well in their life. Period of frustration follows, you curse that day when you chose the path of UPSC over a fulfilling career, your co aspirants leave the preparation, you feel alone in this world. Same happened with me after these failures. But during these low times, it is your internal motivation that is the reason you enter this field will help you to tide over these failures. That’s why that motivation, aim must be noble and must come from within. It gives you much needed energy to rise up against failure, making failure as “first attempt in learning”. Some external motivation we can get from watching inspirational videos on youtube and movies like The Beautiful Mind, Rocky, October sky etc and some from stories of previous years toppers, but it will not last long as long as it is supplemented with internal one.
Whatever might be your way to come out of that frustration, it is important that you must learn from your mistakes. UPSC is such an exam where there is no perfect strategy, no defined way to success. Every successful and unsuccessful candidates have their own story. It is up to you, to which side you want to go. In my previous attempts, I was getting consistently low marks in mains especially in general studies and essay. I didn’t complete single GS paper in my last 2 attempts and used to leave 4-5 questions unattempted because of paucity of time. To rectify this, I decided to go to Bengaluru at Insights about which I came to know through internet. It was life changing decision for me.
As opposed to Delhi, the atmosphere in Bengaluru is pleasant and help to improve the efficiency of human at work. Further, unlike Delhi classes, Insights was different where there was no spoon feeding. Here emphasis was on self preparation, group study, peer to peer review and judging yourself on your own. Insights provided us a good environment for study, a group of friends to discuss GS and Optional (Mine was Medical Sciences). Vinay Sir provided a valuable input in GS especially ethics and Essay. He used to sit with us for hours to clear our doubts about answer writing techniques, and helped to rectify our mistakes which really benefitted me to improve my GS and Essay score this year. Nevertheless, Insights conducted regular tests of GS (approx. 35) which we used to attempt religiously and the result of which is that this year I didn’t leave any question unattempted in GS. These tests helped me to improve both writing and thinking speed which is compulsory to complete the paper. For this I am indebted to Insights, which played an important part in my success.
Many toppers before me have given you the booklist and their own techniques of studies. But for fellow aspirants I would like to give some advice which come from 3 years of experience in this field.
- UPSC exam syllabus is not just for exam, take it as tool to enrich your own knowledge and understanding of world around you. It will help you to ne knowledgeable, socially aware person, no matter in which field you are working.
- Enjoy the process, never be bogged down by UPSC. Its just an exam and just a part of your life and not life itself. Do your part that is hard work, smart work, seriously and be honest to yourself. UPSC ke ghar der hai magar andher nahi hai.
For preliminary exam
- Apart from basic books and NCERT which are must, read The Hindu religiously. You can supplement it with The Indian Express and other magazines like YOJANA.
- 4-5 months before prelims in addition to read Hindu from mains perspective, analyzing important issues, start reading it from MCQ point of view (as we do during entrance exams after 12th)
- You can make separate notes for such points which will help to revise it quickly at time of exam
- Increase your horizon of reading and understanding. From prelim 2017 experience it is clear that UPSC is constantly evolving and we must evolve with that. It is futile to keep complaining about UPSC.
- Keep your basic subjects strong like polity, history, geography, economics, environment etc so that no question from these parts will go wrong.
- For geography, I referred to notes by PMF IAS along with NCERT which is by our fellow aspirant and helped in mapping as well as in mains.
- For Mapping you can adapt technique which I used to do that is to read atlas for 10-15 minutes daily before going to sleep, marking only important features like physiography, capitals, landmarks, famous places etc.
- For polity, Laxmikanth is sufficient, you can mark important mcqs in book itself for quick revision
- For economics, concept understanding is must which can be done through Mrunal
- Don’t ignore New NCERTS of history as from past few years mcqs and mains questions are directly coming from that.
- For revision and also for senior players who feel bore sometimes to read basic books, can do retrospective study from test series like INSIGHTS and VISIONIAS
- Solve test series in Realtime (like sitting in some school or class) so that you will adapt to such environment and will help you to avoid silly mistakes
- I solved all Insights prelims tests in classroom and they helped me score very good marks in paper -1.
For Mains exam, my advice would be to focus more on scoring subject like Essay, GS 1 and 4 and your optionals as level of preparation and knowledge of GS 2 and 3 is about same for all aspirants.
- You can supplement your notes of mains topic with current affairs and can also refer to YOJANA and KURUKSHETRA for topics like E governance, inclusive growth, SHG,NGO,Food security, Food processing, Agriculture related topics etc
For Ethics (Score 123)
Practice Practice is only word of advice. You can refer to any basic textbook (Lexicon, Mohanty sir’s notes or sources suggested by Insights) Make one-page notes of each and every term mentioned in the syllabus like definition in your own words, examples and one or two paragraphs with some good quotes and important sentences, trying to incorporate current examples in those notes. Revise this notes over and over again and this will help you to attempt each and every question in Ethics paper. Writing practice is must for this paper as in exam hall we know something about every question and we can’t attempt it because of paucity of time which will cost a lot. For case studies try to give intro and conclusion in two lines. Various approaches like stakeholders involved, values, duties, moral principles involved in given case study can be used to do it.
Mostly while writing essay, we have doubt about how to introduce, conclude and so on. Here YOJANA especially the editor’s page of past 2-3 years edition helped me a lot. Also, you can study style of introduction and conclusion of various famous editorial writers from newspaper you read, need is to change the outlook of how we read the newspaper. We friend had prepared one group and prepared 15-20 topics of essay, including the facts like how we will introduce, what we will write in body, and how we will conclude along with important quotes and statistics. We had prepared a separate diary for such quotes, important sentences from newspaper articles and basic statistics and used to revise it every now and then. This helped us a lot not only in essay but also in GS answer writing.
For Personality test- (Service decider)
This was my 3rd interview with score 149,171, and 180 respectively. A word of advice is as follow
- Fill your DAF carefully taking into account the type of questions that can be asked
- Preparation of personality test must start from the day you enter into UPSC preparation. Talk, try to express yourself, discuss, debate with your friends. Analyse the current affair topics from various perspective, develop opinion.
- Think like a bureaucrat, ask yourself basic questions like what, why, when, where etc related to given topic.
- Improve communication skills. It will not improve in 2 months after mains, you have to start early especially its important for candidates from Maharashtra as well as those from rural background and find it difficult to express themselves. Remember, it is futile to have knowledge in interview hall, if you can’t express it.
- Finally, personality test is about self evaluation, exploring various angles of your own personality, concentrate on it.
- Prepare basics of your graduation subject especially linking it with current issues.
- Give mocks which will help to evaluate your true personality and not your knowledge of current affairs.
For my Optional Medical Science-
I would say that it is the best optional for doctors because
- You don’t have to start from A,B,C of the syllabus as opposed to other optionals
- You can attempt any question, even if it come from any unknown source
- Level of preparation is up to graduation level, unlike other humanity related optional which covers up to master’s level. And also, difficulty level of questions is like our university exams.
- It is scoring as you can see the consistency in marks allotted.
- And finally, it’s a good backup if unfortunately, you quit the UPSC preparation and reverts back to medical profession.
Though syllabus is lengthy and volatile, but you don’t need to go beyond it. Read any standard books you read during your UG days, make notes and revise and revise. You can form a group for discussion especially for paper 2. Also, for senior players to brush up the concepts you can watch USMLE KAPLAN Videos and other videos related to syllabus on Youtube. Further, as no test series are available for Medical Sciences, we friend used to frame the papers and used to write it down in specified time at Insights and used to discuss it later on. This helped us a lot in mains exam. You can practice on similar lines so that you can have writing practice for at least 2 hours twice a week after prelims.
With this article, I am sharing link to my Medical Sciences notes which I prepared during my 3 years of preparation from standard textbooks, PG entrance books. These are handwritten notes with handwriting that is legible but not that great. It covers 90% of syllabus and I guarantee to best of my knowledge that you will not need to refer books once you go through these notes. But do give it a try, its really worth it and result of lot of hard work. You can copy it in your own handwriting with addition from your side. Further along with it I have compiled Medical Science questions of last 10-12 years topic wise and sharing it with you. It will be very much helpful during preparation. Also, one file include syllabus classified according to system (CNS, CVS,RS etc) which can be helpful for correlated topics.
Finally, I would say UPSC is rightly called Unpredictable Service Commission as no strategy is perfect, no level of preparation is enough, and we always remain unsatisfied with our level of preparation until we get the desired rank. But, UPSC is also called as great leveler as it brings all to same level. Don’t complain about its unpredictable nature, it is futile. Rather evolve your preparation to such level that no matter what type if paper comes, you must sail through it. The journey is full of ups and downs, is long and arduous, has periods of frustration, self doubts and so on. But what is important is that you must believe in yourself, your capabilities, your strengths. You must improve upon your weaknesses, mistakes. I believe that if your intention to enter this service are noble, pure and if you are willing to do hard work, smart work consistently then nobody will stop you from realizing your dreams.
For further queries, you can contact me on email@example.com and on Facebook. Thanks to bear this long article and wish you all best luck for your future endeavors.