Shubham Aggarwal
Civil Services Examination 2019, Rank–25


  • Hello Everyone, I have always read interview of toppers, and here I am, now with an opportunity to write one myself.
  • I am Shubham Aggarwal. I am 22 years old. I am from New Delhi itself. I have done my schooling from St Francis De Sales School in Janakpuri. Then I went on to study at Shri Ram College of Commerce.
  • This was my first attempt at Civil Services Examination. My optional was commerce and accountancy.
  • Becoming an IAS came to mind in the second year of graduation and hence my journey began from there. I gave my first and only attempt right after graduation i.e., without a gap year since I was already 21. Preparation included shifting to campus despite being a Delhiite to ensure complete focus on the exam and managing college studies, classes along with CSE preparation. It all culminated into me giving college final exams in May 2019 and prelims on 2nd June 2019.

Candidate Profile

  • Your Name: Shubham Aggarwal
  • Place of Birth: New Delhi
  • How old are you? : 22 years
  • Schooling done from Name and City and score?: St. Francis De Sales, Janakpuri , New Delhi – 97% in class 12
  • College from which City and Gpa: Shri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi – GPA – 8.9
  • PG (if Any): None
  • Your attempt at the exam( 1st, 2nd, 3rd) – 1st
  • Did you write any other exam? No
  • Who else is there in your family?: Father, Mother and an Elder Sister
  • Work-experience (if any): None
  • Optional: Commerce and Accountancy

Tell us about your Tryst with UPSC.

  • Becoming an IAS came to mind in the second year of graduation and hence my journey began from there. I gave my first and only attempt right after graduation i.e., without a gap year since I was already 21. Preparation included shifting to campus despite being a Delhiite to ensure complete focus on the exam and managing college studies, classes along with CSE preparation. It all culminated into me giving college final exams in May 2019 and prelims on 2nd June 2019.


Preliminary examination


PLEASE MENTION YOUR STRATEGY AND BOOKS/NOTES DID YOU REFERRED TO FOR GENERAL STUDIES AND CSAT?

  • For CSAT, I just gave 2018 CSE paper as a mock in 2 hours time and was scoring 140+ so I did not prepare for it. If someone faces difficulty in doing the same, then recommended books can be referred to.

GS (STRATEGY AND BOOKS)

BOOKLIST:

Topic
Resource
History Ancient R S Sharma old NCERT
History Medieval Satish Chandra Old NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum by Rajiv Ahir
Culture Fine Arts NCERT
Polity (static + current affairs) Laxmikanth
Economy (static + current affairs) none
Science (static + current affairs) Current Magazines
Environment (static + current affairs) Shankar IAS
Geography(Physical +Indian+World) 11th and 12th NCERT + GC Leong

HOW MANY QUESTIONS DID YOU ATTEMPT IN GS? HOW MANY DID YOU GET RIGHT?

  • I attempted 83 questions in my final exam – I believe I got 62 right


WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE OPTIMAL NUMBER OF QUESTIONS TO ATTEMPT IN PRELIMS? DO YOU ADVISE ACCURACY OR MAXIMUM ATTEMPTS?

  • It really depends what the candidate is more comfortable with. More often than not it is number of attempts due to low accuracy of the multiple correct options type questions.


IF YOU HAD TO PREPARE AGAIN WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY IN ANY WAY?

  • Focus more on art and culture


Mains Examination


HOW DID YOU PREPARE GS/GK?

  • Picking up the generic books which every toppers reads from and complimenting them with certain dedicated websites for topics which are not covered in such books. Having a 6 monthly, monthly, weekly and daily time table helped to keep my preparation on track and me being aware of the portions left to cover. It gives a sense of control over the prep and is hence, highly recommended to all candidates.


WHAT’S YOUR OPTIONAL SUBJECTS AND WHY?

  • Commerce and Accountancy because of my Commerce and Economics background in graduation


PLEASE SHARE YOUR STRATEGY AND BOOKLIST FOR EACH OF THE OPTIONAL?

  • Booklist for both the papers of Commerce and Accountancy were limited to the coaching material provided by Rankers Coaching Classes.

Optional 1

  • STRATEGY: Practicing practical questions in a timely fashion and making notes of the theory aspect. Taking a lot of tests along with the coaching classes is a key to get accustomed to finish the paper in the prescribed time.
  • BOOKLIST: Coaching Material of Rankers Classes

Optional 2

  • STRATEGY: Made comprehensive notes out of the coaching material so as to have my own concise material to revise from. Took as many tests as possible to write quality answers within the given time limit.
  • BOOKLIST: Coaching Material of Rankers Classes


HOW IMPORTANT IS ANSWER WRITING? WHAT WAS YOUR STYLE OF ANSWER WRITING?

  • Good answer writing is one of the key requirements for scoring high marks in Mains exam. Utilising the space to one’s advantage and writing crisp answers is key.
  • My strategy included using diagrams and schematics to write points. Every page had at least one flow chart/diagram/infographic


HOW MANY QUESTIONS DID YOU ATTEMPT? WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU FOLLOW FOR MAINS EXAMINATION IN THE EXAMINATION HALL?

  • All questions. I did not skip a single question in any of the 9 mains papers. Writing briskly while thinking continuously is important. Keeping an eye on the clock helps to allot equal time to each answer.


IF YOU HAD TO PREPARE AGAIN WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY IN ANY WAY?

  • Probably do more answer writing practice


ROLE OF FORUMIAS ACADEMY

  • Here, I would like to bring to note the role of forumias academy in my preparation. I had joined ForumIAS MGP with a test series of 11 tests – 8 for GS and 3 for Essay.
  • Their answer checking is genuine and gives one detailed analysis which helped me a lot in altering my writing style for the better. Keep doing the great work team!
  • Whatever GS Mains Answer Writing Practice I had was with ForumIAS only.


Interview


HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW? DID YOU ATTEND ANY MOCKS?

  • I did not give any mock interviews. I prepared for possible questions from my DAF and also my Optional Subject. Since I graduated last year i.e., 2019, I prepared for subjects studied in college too. Having knowledge of recent happenings is important. Overall, keeping a balanced view point but having a strong opinion on things is what is required. Indecisiveness is not a trait of an aspiring bureaucrat.


WHICH INTERVIEW BOARD DID YOU FACE?

  • Ms. Smita Nagaraj


PLEASE SHARE YOUR ENTIRE INTERVIEW LIKE WHAT WAS ASKED AND WHAT WAS YOUR REPLY? WERE YOU ABLE TO ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS?

  • My interview started with mocking me being 22 years old and in what rush was I in becoming a civil servant. The rest of the questions were from the sectors of micro-finance, rural banking, informal moneylending, farmer credit issues, NBFCs, demonetisation, etc. There were some questions on foreign policy. The interview ended with a personalised discussion on Dowry.


WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU THINK ARE BEING TESTED IN THE INTERVIEW? SOME STRICT DO’S AND DON’TS FOR THE INTERVIEW FOR ASPIRANTS AND INTERVIEW CANDIDATES?

  • In my opinion, qualities tested are commitment to rule of law, dedication towards the upliftment of the underprivileged sections of the society, ability to take bold decisions, stick to one’s own opinion and not being succumbed under pressure. Having belief in what one says is crucial.
  • Be yourself. Do not try to be someone you are not. Don’t for a second appear disinterested in the chairperson or the panellists. Stay attentive. Be upright about things you do not know. One bluff and game over.


DO YOU THING MARKS IN SCHOOL OR COLLEGE AND THE JOB EXPERIENCE CAN IMPACT ONE’S SCORE IN THE INTERVIEW?

  • A good score can positively impact the boards opinion about you but a low score will definitely not lower their opinion of you. I’m not sure if it translates into the actual score achieved.


HOW WAS THE INTERVIEW EXPERIENCE? WAS IT PREDICTABLE? HOW MUCH DID YOUR PREPARATION HELP?

  • It was more of a conversation with a lot of back and forth in the discussion. It wasn’t entirely predictable given very limited (almost none) questions were asked related to the DAF. Anyway, Preparation always helps as it puts you in the right frame of mind before the big day.


Miscellaneous Questions


HOW MUCH INTERNET DID YOU USE FOR YOUR PREPARATION? HOW MUCH VALUE DID IT ADD

  • Preparation in this day and age without internet is simply not doable nor it is recommended. Using and limiting oneself to the right sources is key. Otherwise, one can be lost in the ocean of information that is available out there.


HOW DID YOU BALANCE SO MUCH RESOURCES AND DATA? WHAT SMART TECHNIQUES DID YOU USE TO MANAGE YOUR PREPARATION IN A BETTER MANNER?

  • Making time-tables for different time durations, keeping a track of everything I was doing and everything that was left to be done. Limiting the resources and having trust on your own decision to chose the books you did is important. Having very few (0/1) co-aspirants helps to defend yourself from over-load of information.


WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST ESSENTIAL QUALITY/QUALITIES NEEDED TO CLEAR THIS EXAM?

  • Perseverance, inner motivation to serve the society, smart work


WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO THE YOUNG ASPIRANTS WHO LOOK UP TO YOU?

  • Hang in there. It is a roller coaster ride with a lot of mood swings. There will be days when you will think you will achieve rank 1 and days when you will question whether this profession is for you. Rudyard Kipling’s lines sum this up
  • If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
  • If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
  • If you can meet with Triumphs and Disasters
  • and treat those two imposters just the same;

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED?

  • Be truthful to yourself


WHAT DID ALL HURDLES YOU FACE WHILE PREPARING FOR IT? AND HOW DID YOU TACKLE THEM

  • I lost my aunt on the day of the first mains exam (essay) and the news came in while we were on our way to the centre. I told my mother that she was in my heart but not in my brain. I would not let if affect my exams.
  • I was tested positive with Covid-19 a mere 20 days before my Interview. Having read about how to respond to it, I self-isolated myself and recovered in the 15 day time period.

Divya Shakti
Civil Services Examination 2019, Rank–79


  • Hello everyone, I am Divya Shakti. I have secured Rank 79 in the Civil Services Examination 2019. I am from Muzaffarpur, Bihar. I have done my schooling from DAV Muzaffarpur till 10th and 12th from DPS Bokaro. I have done my engineering from BITS Pilani. I am B.E. in Computer Science.
  • My father is a doctor by profession, my mother is aa home maker and I have an elder brother and sister.
  • I am An engineer who loves travelling and long distance running. I was attracted to civil services because of the job profile and its ability to impact the lives of general public.
  • I was working before I left my job, and decided to prepare full time. I came to know about ForumIAS through one of my friends, who was appearing for the exam from sometime. At that time, I was in a dilemma wheather to join Forum or any other institute for my Mains Preparation. I am glad I chose ForumIAS for Mains & Interview Preparation.

Personality/Profile:

  • Your Name: Divya Shakti
  • Place of Birth: Muzaffarpur
  • How old are you? : 27 years
  • Schooling done from Name and City and score?: Till 10th from DAV Muzaffarpur, +2 from DPS Bokaro
  • College from which City and Gpa: BITS Pilani, Pilani, Rajasthan, 7.3
  • PG (if Any): I had a dual degree with Msc. in Economics align with B.E. in Computer Science
  • Did you write any other exam? I qualified Forest Pre and Mains to reach up to the interview level.
  • Who else is there in your family?: My father who is a doctor by profession, my mother a homemaker and elder brother and sister.
  • Work-experience (if any): Two years from 2016-2018 in an investment bank
  • Optional: Geography


Preliminary examination


PLEASE MENTION YOUR STRATEGY AND BOOKS/NOTES DID YOU REFERRED TO FOR GENERAL STUDIES AND CSAT?

STRATEGY:

  • I did entire GS preparation on my own through self study without any coaching. However wrote mains test at ForumIAS itself. Before starting one’s preparation for GS, one must by heart the syllabus. Then try reading each and every topic from the syllabus, follow and consolidate current affairs related to it and prepare short notes for mains.

BOOKLIST:

Topic Resource
History Ancient Old ncert
History Medieval TN board
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum
Culture . NCERT , Nitin Singhania book selected chapters on Buddhism and Jainism, intangible heritage and paintings
Polity (static + current affairs) Laxmikant and The Hindu, Googled important topics and read them to understand the background.
Economy (static + current affairs) Static: Mrunal and Curent affairs from The Hindu. Googled important topics and read them to understand the background.
Science (static + current affairs) The Hindu, pib, year review of Ministry of Science and Technology
Environment (static + current affairs) Read Shankar IAS once for static portion. Current affairs from The Hindu, pib, year review of Ministry of Environment. Also referred to the websites of major Conventions.
Geography(Physical +Indian+World) I had geography optional so didn’t study specifically for GS
Current affairs The Hindu was my main and most important source Up to prelims. Post prelims I followed The Indian Express. I prepared pre and mains related handwritten notes for current affarirs. Followed it up by daily current affairs of one coaching site. Didn’t refer to any monthly compilation or PT 365s.

I also googled any topic in news from PIB. This helped me get relevant news from government’s authentic sources.

HOW MANY QUESTIONS DID YOU ATTEMPT IN GS? HOW MANY DID YOU GET RIGHT?

  • In mains I attempted all questions in GS, in pre my attempts were somewhere around 78-80. However I scored 116 and managed to get through IFoS cutoff as well.


WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE OPTIMAL NUMBER OF QUESTIONS TO ATTEMPT IN PRELIMS? DO YOU ADVISE ACCURACY OR MAXIMUM ATTEMPTS?

  • I believe the optimal number of attempts should be around 80. But this is not a hard and fast rule. One must analyse her accuracy through mocks to reach upon individual optimal number of attempts.


IF YOU HAD TO PREPARE AGAIN WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY IN ANY WAY?

  • For prelims, no. For mains GS, no. But I would improve my optional. I couldn’t give much time to optional between pre and mains and I think it would have definitely impacted my score.


Mains Examination


HOW DID YOU PREPARE GS/GK?

  • By heart the syllabus.
  • Prepare static portion from basic books.
  • Prepare one A4 sheet note on related current affairs, mostly in answer format I.e. relevant stats, committees, articles, reports and also positives and negatives along with a way forward. I revised these sheets multiple times to by heart it before mains exam.


HOW DID YOU PREPARE ENGLISH?

  • No dedicated preparation.


HOW DID YOU COVER CURRENT AFFAIRS FOR MAINS?

  • Followed the Indian express to identify syllabus related current affairs. Watched Rajya Sabha tv’s The Big Picture regularly. It is really helpful as it gives both sides of a story along with a way forward.


WHAT’S YOUR OPTIONAL SUBJECTS AND WHY?

  • Geography because I had an interest in the subject also because of its overlap with the GS papers.


PLEASE SHARE YOUR STRATEGY AND BOOKLIST FOR EACH OF THE OPTIONAL?

Optional Paper 1:

STRATEGY:

  • I referred to my coaching notes to prepare basic foundation for both paper 1 and paper 2.
  • Then I picked up syllabus and took up each topic one by one.
  • Used internet extensively to prepare A4 sheet for each topic.
  • I made sure I knew theories, geographers’ names and diagrams related to each topic.
  • Also focussed on contemporary examples for each topic. For example let’s say, urban conurbation, I gathered examples related to India, world, recent conventions etc and used them appropriately in paper 1 and 2.
  • Also made sure each page had both maps and diagrams while writing answers. I could not give tests for my optional but tried practising previous year question papers from each unit.

BOOKLIST:

  • Basic material:
  • Shabbir sir notes

NCERT

  • Reference material:
  • Rupa Physical Geography
  • Rupa Economic and Social Geography
  • Geomorphology by Savindra Singh
  • R D Dixit

Optional 2

  • Basic material, Shabbir sir notes
  • DR Khullar, For paper 2, I used a lot of current affairs from GS paper 3. And completed topics like Culture etc from current affairs plus extensive use of internet and prepared one-pagers for even those fringe topics.


HOW IMPORTANT IS ANSWER WRITING? WHAT WAS YOUR STYLE OF ANSWER WRITING?

  • Answer writing is of course critical for mains as no matter how much you know you must be able to present relevant content in your answer in limited time.
  • My answer had introduction, body, conclusion format. I mostly wrote in pointwise format and used maps(since I had geography optional, I used them extensively in IR, geography etc related answers).


HOW MANY QUESTIONS DID YOU ATTEMPT? WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU FOLLOW FOR MAINS EXAMINATION IN THE EXAMINATION HALL?

  • I attempted all questions. I attempted the 15 markers first in around 1hr 45 mins to come back to 10 markers.
  • I didn’t use blog and community as such but I DID regularly read Neyawn’s article. They are really motivating as they present a bigger picture of life beyond UPSC and are beautifully written. You can get strategy in many places, you can get technical stuff at other places, but the right mindset that is needed for the exam, I think the articles very well do that.


Interview


HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW? DID YOU ATTEND ANY MOCKS?

  • I focused on building my understanding and opinion on ongoing issues. The next focus was on expressing my views in an organized and precise manner. I was a part of the online Group Mocks at Forum, and I remember online sessions taken by Forum very well. This was critical given that after lockdown mock sessions were not easily available.
  • In the group sessions that we had, we were asked for forming groups among ourselves, and I religiously followed that.
  • I formed a group with two other people. We used to discuss daily and held mock interviews on every alternate day. This really helped me a lot. I think candidates must develop the quality of forbearance before their personality tests.


WHICH INTERVIEW BOARD DID YOU FACE?

  • Smita Nagaraj Mam
  • I will share the detailed transcript on my website. But almost all the questions were on expected lines that is based on my DAF. There were questions from my state, my name,my hobbies and geography, which was my optional.


WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU THINK ARE BEING TESTED IN THE INTERVIEW? SOME STRICT DO’S AND DON’TS FOR THE INTERVIEW FOR ASPIRANTS AND INTERVIEW CANDIDATES?

  • Read through the syllabus of personality test thoroughly, it mentions all the qualities that the board intends to test. I think forbearance is an important quality too. Be respectful, even if you disagree, disagree respectfully. Don’t bluff. Don’t hesitate to say I don’t know. And most importantly listen before speaking.


DO YOU THING MARKS IN SCHOOL OR COLLEGE AND THE JOB EXPERIENCE CAN IMPACT ONE’S SCORE IN THE INTERVIEW?

  • Ummm .. I really don’t think so.


HOW WAS THE INTERVIEW EXPERIENCE? WAS IT PREDICTABLE? HOW MUCH DID YOUR PREPARATION HELP?

  • The board was extremely cordial. Almost all the questions were on expected lines. My preparation definitely helped a lot.


Miscellaneous


HOW MUCH INTERNET DID YOU USE FOR YOUR PREPARATION? HOW MUCH VALUE DID IT ADD?

  • Since I didn’t take any coaching for my GS, I relied heavily on internet for my preparation. It was my main source for GS prep apart from the basic books.


HOW DID YOU BALANCE SO MUCH RESOURCES AND DATA? WHAT SMART TECHNIQUES DID YOU USE TO MANAGE YOUR PREPARATION IN A BETTER MANNER?

  • As far as my possible I tried to keep my resources limited. I referred only to basic books. Even while referring to the internet for any topic, I used to consolidate all the material gathered on a single A4 sheet and revise that sheet only.


WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST ESSENTIAL QUALITY/QUALITIES NEEDED TO CLEAR THIS EXAM?

  1. Clarity of purpose. I think this is the most important thing. It should not be due to peer or parental pressure. If one is not clear with purpose , she might give up at the very first hint of difficulty in the preparation journey.
  2. Do not carry any baggage from past. Make a routine, try you 100% to adhere to it, but in case you can’t, don’t fret over it for too long. This is the most common tendency among aspirants. Improvise, pivot and restart.


WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO THE YOUNG ASPIRANTS WHO LOOK UP TO YOU?

  • Please refer to the qualities I mentioned above. Apart from them staying focussed and NOT participating in random chai stall type gossip. Keep your circle limited and if possible, stay away from social media.


WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED?

  • You cannot ensure that you will get through the exam but you can ensure that you put your 200% in it. Just do that.


WHAT DID ALL HURDLES YOU FACE WHILE PREPARING FOR IT? AND HOW DID YOU TACKLE THEM?

  • I underwent many emotional ups and downs , like other participants. But my mother stood beside me as my most important pillar of support. My two friends Naincy and Nikky were extremely supportive and ALWAYS available to listen to me and boost me up.


WHAT ROLE DID FORUMIAS PLAY IN YOUR PREPARATION? DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR US?

  • It played a very important role in mains preparation as I wrote all my mains tests here. For interview prep, I found a group of two other people through a forum IAS group discussion only.

Ayushi Jain
Civil Services Examination 2019, Rank–41


My name is Ayushi Jain. I am from a very small town named Sironj in Vidisha dist of MP.I have done my schooling from Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School Sironj.

  • I have a nuclear family consisting of my mother, father, younger brother, and a younger sister. My father is a Kirana shopkeeper and my mother a homemaker.
  • I had scored 91.2 % marks in 10th std and 90.4 % marks in 12th std. I have done engineering in Computer Science from Lakshmi Narain College of Technology Bhopal, with 8.68 CGPA.
  • I have work-ex of around 2 years as a Data Centre administrator in Trident Ltd. I had my 1st attempt in 2017 and this was my 3rd attempt. In the 1st attempt, I couldn’t clear prelims, in the 2nd attempt, I couldn’t clear mains.
  • In the 3rd attempt I had changed my optional from Mathematics to Anthropology, which I had prepared in 2 months period (Jan, Feb 2020) after the results of mains came out.
  • I didn’t write any other exam apart from UPSC. But was thinking to write state PSC exam as a backup option after this attempt.
  • To become a civil servant was not my childhood dream. I realized this during my job period while participating in various CSR activities. Then I left my job in 2016 and started dedicated preparation of the exam since then.

Preliminary examination

PLEASE MENTION YOUR STRATEGY AND BOOKS/NOTES DID YOU REFERRED TO FOR GENERAL STUDIES AND CSAT?

  • STRATEGY: Limited sources + note-making + practice mock tests. Newspaper reading was very important for me, I read Indian express and a friend of mine read The Hindu and we used to share notes through a Google doc file.


BOOKLIST:

Topic Resource
History Ancient Class notes + Tamil Nadu NCERT
History Medieval Class notes + Lucent
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Class notes + Spectrum
Culture Class notes + Nitin Singhania
Polity (static + current affairs) LakshmiKant + Current affairs magazine
Economy (static + current affairs) Class notes + current affairs magazine + budget + Eco Survey
Science (static + current affairs) Class notes + Current affairs magazine
Environment (static + current affairs) Shankar + Current affairs magazine
Geography(Physical +Indian+World) Class notes + NCERT + Mapping
Current affairs Newspaper (very religiously) + Current affairs magazine

WHAT WAS YOUR STRATEGY FOR PRELIMS EXAMINATION?

  • I had solved around 50 test papers in both my attempts in which I cleared prelims. Solving test papers helps in understanding the elimination strategy for options, and finding out which strategy works for us on the basis of our accuracy.

HOW MANY QUESTIONS DID YOU ATTEMPT IN GS? HOW MANY DID YOU GET RIGHT?

  • In this attempt, I attempted 93
  • On the basis of different answer keys, I was getting around 110-112 marks.


WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE OPTIMAL NUMBER OF QUESTIONS TO ATTEMPT IN PRELIMS? DO YOU ADVISE ACCURACY OR MAXIMUM ATTEMPTS?

  • There are 2 strategies for prelims – attempt around 70 questions, which one is very sure to be correct. And second is to attempt more than 90 questions when the accuracy is not that good. I fell in the later category, thus in both my last 2 attempts, I attempted more than 90 questions.


IF YOU HAD TO PREPARE AGAIN WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY IN ANY WAY?

  • I wouldn’t change my strategy in any way. I will just read a few books more and check new editions of some books to find out if there is anything extra.


IF THIS WASN’T YOUR FIRST ATTEMPT WHAT MISTAKES YOU THINK YOU MADE IN THE PREVIOUS ATTEMPT IN PRELIMS?

  • 1st attempt – I read contents from so many sources, couldn’t revise properly before the exam. I also solved less number of test papers therefore couldn’t develop a strategy for prelims.
  • 2nd and 3rd attempt – I limited my sources, focused more upon revision, solved more number of test papers. Therefore, could qualify prelims in these 2 attempts.


Mains


HOW DID YOU PREPARE GS/GK?

  • I covered every term in the syllabus through static sources and tried to connect them to current affairs topics through newspapers and magazines.
  • Newspaper reading – one of the foundational pillars of my UPSC Through newspaper reading I collected examples, case studies, imp data etc
  • Going through answer copies of toppers available on internet .
  • Practicing mains answer writing through full length tests in proper exam type environment. I had joined Forum MGP 2018 and
  • Notes making is very important – helps in quick recall of points as it gets saved in our pictographic


HOW DID YOU COVER CURRENT AFFAIRS FOR MAINS?

  • Through 2 sources – 1st is Newspaper which was one of the foundational pillars of my UPSC preparation and 2nd is current affairs magazine.


WHAT’S YOUR OPTIONAL SUBJECTS AND WHY?

  • My optional is Anthropology. I changed my optional from Mathematics to Anthropology in my 3rd attempt.
  • I chose it because it was one of the few optionals which I could do on my own in the 2 months time period after the results of mains of my 2nd attempt came out.
  • This subject has a good blend of both science and humanities.


PLEAS SHARE YOUR STRATEGY AND BOOKLIST FOR EACH OF THE OPTIONAL?

  • I had just 2 month period to prepare for a new optional after the results of the mains (2nd attempt) came out on 20th Dec 2018 .
  • I had to decide a new optional, I tried reading basic class notes of 3 optionals in the 10 days after the results. I decided to take Anthropology as my optional.
  • I am very much thankful to Anudeep Durishetty sir for his blog on “How to Ace Anthropology Optional”. I followed each and every word in the blog while preparing for my optional.


Optional 1

STRATEGY:

  • Note making for every
  • Updating current affairs from newspapers and current affairs
  • Daily answer writing practice for optional after
  • Tried to incorporate diagrams, examples, case studies etc wherever

BOOKLIST: Anudeep Durushetty sir book list + Examples from newspaper

Optional 2

STRATEGY:

  • Read XAXA report and made notes .
  • Watched Mai Bhi Bharat Documentaries (in my free time) and collected case studies.
  • Note making for every
  • Updating current affairs from newspapers and current affairs
  • Daily answer writing practice for optional after
  • Tried to incorporate diagrams, examples, case studies etc wherever

BOOKLIST: Anudeep Durushetty sir book list + XAXA + Mai bhi bharat case studies + examples from Newspapers.


DID YOU JOIN ANY CLASSES FOR YOUR MAINS PREPARATION .IF YES THEN HOW USEFUL DID YOU FIND THEM?

  • No, I didn’t join any classes for mains preparation. I joined test-series for the same.


HOW IMPORTANT IS ANSWER WRITING? WHAT WAS YOUR STYLE OF ANSWER WRITING?

  • Answer writing practice is very important because attaining knowledge is different while reproducing it on paper is different .
  • Answer writing is an art which consists of some basic rules which can be brought into practice only through regular answer writing.
  • I didn’t practice answer writing daily but used to writing at least 1 full-length test every 3-4 days.


HOW MANY QUESTIONS DID YOU ATTEMPT? WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU FOLLOW FOR MAINS EXAMINATION IN THE EXAMINATION HALL?

  • I attempted all the questions in all the papers of mains examination. I did 15 marker questions first and then the 10 marker questions.
  • I turned my watch 5 mins ahead, it had a psychological impact on me that I could complete my papers 1 min before time, which was not the case otherwise.


IF YOU HAD TO PREPARE AGAIN WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY IN ANY WAY?

  • Revise my optional better as in this attempt I had a paucity of time to do that.


IF THIS WASN’T YOUR FIRST ATTEMPT WHAT MISTAKES YOU THINK YOU MADE IN THE PREVIOUS ATTEMPT IN MAINS?

  • My optional which I had changed in this attempt.
  • I added more value to my answers through case studies, examples, diagrams, maps, data etc.


WERE YOU PART OF FORUMIAS CGP / PTS / MGP / IGP / CURRENT AFFAIRS? HOW DID THEY HELP YOU IN YOUR PREPARATION? HOW WAS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PROGRAMS?

  • I joined MGP 2018 and MGP 2019 for mains test series and IGP 2019 for interview preparation. At a time during the lockdown, not many options were available, I was lucky to get ForumIAS support for online mocks.
  • MGP had helped me in practicing answer writing in proper exam type environment. Copy checking was on time, grievance readdress was seamless.
  • IGP helped me in forming crisp and effective answers.
  • I had also taken up ForumIAS Anthropology ATS ( Augmented Test Series ) for Mains 2019


Interview


HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW? DID YOU ATTEND ANY MOCKS?

  • I am from a very small town and my schooling was such that I was very hesitant in delivering my answers well. I looked very under-confident. So, for me working on the presentation part was as important as the knowledge gathering and DAF preparation. To address this situation, I did daily mock interview sessions with different groups of people, it also gave me diverse view-points.
  • I prepared my DAF thoroughly. As my interview was after the lockdown so a detailed study of current affairs related to corona pandemic had to be done, I also tried to connect it with things in my DAF.
  • I saw a lot many toppers’ mock interviews.


WHICH INTERVIEW BOARD DID YOU FACE?

  • Bharat Bhushan Vyas


PLEASE SHARE YOUR ENTIRE INTERVIEW LIKE WHAT WAS ASKED AND WHAT WAS YOUR REPLY? WERE YOU ABLE TO ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS?

I couldn’t answer 2 questions – those were very objective questions. I simply replied them like “I am unable to recall/ I am not aware but I’ll read about it”.

My interview transcript

M1:

  • Why Anthro after engg
  • Did u enjoy reading anthro
  • Which is ur fav part in anthro (I said Tribal anthro)
  • Why do u like tribal anthro (I mentioned Gadiya lohar tribe in my area)
  • More questions on gadiya lohar
  • Issues with nomadic tribes
  • How will make provision for education of nomadic tribes
  • Questions on Budapest Convention. Why did India not join it?
  • Any positive learning from covid

M2:

  • What is Anti ragging committee
  • How it came into being (Raghavan committee more questions on that)
  • Do you know about place named Patalkot (Bharia tribe – more questions on that)

M3 :

  • How do u see the recent Indo-China conflict – is it just the border tension
  • Covid and these tensions
  • Implications of Brexit for India ? What are the opportunities for us ?

M4:

  • About the company that I worked in
  • As a Data Centre administrator what should be ur response to any mistake committed by ur subordinate?

M5 :

  • What documentaries did u see last?
  • Is there any uncontacted tribe in India? (I said Sentinalese)
  • Any documentary on Sentinelese tribe?
  • What is reflective diary writing (my hobby)


WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU THINK ARE BEING TESTED IN THE INTERVIEW?

  • Honesty, Integrity, and objectiveness.


DO YOU THINK MARKS IN SCHOOL OR COLLEGE AND THE JOB EXPERIENCE CAN IMPACT ONE’S SCORE IN THE INTERVIEW?

  • UPSC gives a level playing field for all aspirants irrespective of the background they have.
  • The better the academics record and other positive things in the DAF about a candidate the higher are the expectations of the panel. If one is able to meet those expectations get good marks I think.


HOW WAS THE INTERVIEW EXPERIENCE? WAS IT PREDICTABLE? HOW MUCH DID YOUR PREPARATION HELP?

  • It was very nice, the board was very cordial.
  • Much of my interview was related to my optional, hobbies, work experience, IR and current affairs, so I had some knowledge of the things asked.
  • While some questions came as a surprise for me so my daily mock practice helped in that.


IF THIS WASN’T YOUR FIRST ATTEMPT WHAT MISTAKES YOU THINK YOU MADE IN THE PREVIOUS INTERVIEWS?

  • It was my first interview.


Miscellaneous


HOW MUCH INTERNET DID YOU USE FOR YOUR PREPARATION? HOW MUCH VALUE DID IT ADD?

  • Very less. Preparation was very old school.


HOW DID YOU BALANCE SO MUCH RESOURCES AND DATA? WHAT SMART TECHNIQUES DID YOU USE TO MANAGE YOUR PREPARATION IN A BETTER MANNER?

  • I limited my preparation to a few sources and tried to revise them well.
  • If I follow multiple sources then I made notes combining the required data. It made easy to revise just before the exam.
  • I did goal wise studies, a bigger goal may be of a month, I divided it into many smaller goals. It helped me in better utilization of my time.


DID YOU MAKE NOTES? WHY YES OR NO? DID YOU FIND THEM ANY USEFUL?

  • I believe note-making was one of the foundational pillars of my entire preparation. I made notes for prelims, mains as well as interview.
  • For prelims, all my notes were offline except my newspaper notes which I was a google doc file which I shared with one of my friends who used to read The Hindu while I read Indian Express.
  • For mains – offline notes
  • For interview – Online notes on OneNote.

Himanshu Gupta
Civil Services Examination 2019, Rank–27


  • Name : Himanshu Gupta
  • ForumIAS Community Username ? nightHAWK
  • Place of Birth : Delhi
  • How old are you : 25
  • Schooling done from Name and City and score : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi – 94% class 12.
  • College from which City and GPA: Delhi Technological University (Formerly DCE), percentage (SPI) : 77.5
  • PG if Any : NIL
  • Your attempt at the exam : 3rd
  • Other Exams : Gave Interview for UP-PCS 2018 on 28th Result awaited
  • Family Members : Father, Mother and Elder Brother
  • Work-experience : Chip-Design Engineer for 1year and 7 months at Qualcomm India, Bangalore.
  • Optional : Philosophy
  • Contact details : @nightHAWK23 ( FourmIAS Profile )

Hello, World!

  • Hello Everyone, I am Himanshu Gupta. I have secured Rank 27 in CSE 2019. Pata nahi kaise.
  • I have flunked 2 times in Prelims (2016, 2018). But cleared all stages Pre, Mains and Interview in 2019 attempt.


Its been a long journey.

  • I started preparing for the exam in 2015 (4th year of college). Gave the 1st attempt in 2016, graduated fresh just out of college and few days after I had relocated myself to Bangalore for a job at Qualcomm.
  • I failed in prelims miserably. Got around 80 Marks.
  • I realized that preparing along with a hectic job would require a lot of efforts. So I skipped my attempt in 2017 and prepared for the Mains exam and optional subject keeping a long-term perspective.
  • In the mean-time, I shifted my job location from Bangalore to Noida (I thought I could study more being at home). But after a few months, I thought of going full-throttle and took a calculated risk of resigning from the job in March 2018.
  • That year I joined the 1st ever batch of SFG program and the Current Affairs classes of FORUMIAS. I toiled, toiled hard to remain in SFG and not slip back to RLG (reserve list). We used to attempt papers in the open-park, the under-construction building, at 7AM in the chilling winters!
  • I remember @Neyawn saying, “you need to reach your peak on the day of exam, not before, not further.” In 2018 prelims, my peak probably came too early. I was burnt up. At the time of exam, I was so exhausted that I took a lot of time on every question.
  • I had too many questions to solve for the 2nd iteration with less than 20 minutes left. In panic, I attempted 97 questions out of 100, without thinking too much and literally making wild guesses. I scored 90.
  • This 2018 attempt was an eye-opener. I realized I needed a comprehensive strategy – not only for Pre, but also for the Mains exam. I needed to study in an integrated manner, not in silos. Inspite of the prelims result, I continued with Dipin Sir’s CA classes. I joined MGP and Essay programme for 2018 Mains. Next year when the time of actually giving the Mains came up, I had a lot of things ready at hand for me to just revise/update myself.
  • For the next prelims of 2019, I was able to clear the cutoff for both CSE and IFoS. This time, I tried to rectify a few mistakes of 2018 attempt:


1 REACH THE PEAK OF PREPARATION AT THE RIGHT TIME.

  • This time the intensiveness of my preparation increased gradually, till it reached the peak on 2nd June.


2. DISTRIBUTE PRELIMS PREPARATION OVER THE COURSE OF ENTIRE YEAR.

  • In my previous attempts, I used to directly study just the yearly compilations for prelims. But this time I made up mind to at least read and revise prelims specific news DAILY as well. Monthlies also came up for the first time. And when the time was up for pre-only mode (mid-March), I also picked up yearly compilations.
  • In fact this year I had download Epic monthly, and was studying it for this years attempt, before results came,
  • {Tip: I made a whatsapp group of which I was the sole-member :p (you may google it). I used to keep all screenshots/stuff you require and TAG them for future revision purpose. Ensure regular revisions.}


3 DON’T WRITE TOO MANY TEST-PAPERS

  • Don’t write too many test-papers at the cost of actually studying. In 2018, I had written around 80 test-papers. But this time, I wrote very few tests. It was because I realised tests should be written to get the knack of eliminating options, to get one’s heuristics right, and to revise stuff.
  • I had done this already in 2018 (special thanks to Forum’s SFG and simulators). Tests are useful only when you are not compromising with studying and revising. My toils for 2018 prelims bore fruits for the 2019 attempt. I just needed to revise more, without bothering about giving so many mock tests.

4 MOCK TEST ANALYSIS

  • Thanks to a friend who taught me how to analyse prelims test-papers. I had made a custom excel file solely for this purpose.
  • I used to categorise my MCQ attempts into 4 categories
    • 4: completely sure,
    • 3: almost sure but still confused in two options,
    • 2: only 1 eliminated, and
    • 1: no idea at all).
  • I had set a target of accuracy for each of these categories. (for eg. Category 4: 100% accuracy, Category 3: 75% accuracy, etc.).
  • This helped me track and shape my risk-taking appetite. Attaching a small example snippet here:

My Booklist for Prelims

Topic Resource
History Ancient RS Sharma + TN board book + new NCERT + AL Basham (for Buddhism and Jainism) + wikipedia
History Medieval TN Board book + new NCERT + compiled keywords and their meanings through internet
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum + a few chapters from Bipin Chandra (which were missing in Spectrum) + New NCERT class 12 + Forum’s static revision classes + Internet
Culture Class XI NCERT + Nitin-Singhania notes (not book) + a visit to the National Museum, Delhi + Internet + Baliyan Class-notes from Market
Polity (static + current affairs) Laxmikanth (static) + Prelims compilations (CA)
Economy (static + current affairs) Class 12 Macro NCERT + Shankar-Ganesh book + Mrunal Lectures
Science (static + current affairs) Class 12 Biology last 3-4 chapters + Pre compilations
Environment (static + current affairs) ShankarIAS + 2-3 Chapters from Savindra Singh Physical Geography + Pre compilations for CA
Geography(Physical +Indian+World) Class XI and XII NCERT + PMF IAS notes
Current affairs CA Class-notes, compilations – monthly and yearly
  • I did not join any Test Series for prelims. Gave many open-tests (vision, forum, etc.). Bought test-papers from the Market and solved them at home. I had already solved SFG Test papers and was thorough with the basic book reading.
  • I attempted 92 question in Prelims. Around 70 were right. I think the optimal number of questions to attempt in prelims should be above 85 seeing the present trend of prelims exam.


My Booklist for Mains

  • Dipin Sir’s CA Class-notes and some other class-notes were my base-material. I revised them multiple times.
  • In the last few days before mains, I made the notes of these notes (again @Neyawn’s suggestion). Tried to brainstorm over every value-added content that where all it could be utilized in exam.
  • This “notes-of-notes” register was my carry-along for all the GS papers outside the exam-centre. I even tried a technique of recording my audio of reading aloud these “notes-of-notes register”.
  • I’ve listened to my recordings more than 10 times now. I’m glad I was able to utilize a lot of this content in the mains exam.
  • For example, the UNESCO question – I quoted the preamble of UNESCO in conclusion and related it well to the theme of the question.
  • Eg. Hunger-Poverty divergence question – Quoted Utsa Patnaik (republic of Hunger) and Angus Daeton’s “nutri-puzzles” and again related all of them to the context of question.
  • Comment from Neyawn : Yeah, I am telling you this will be a permanent point all poverty questions from now onwards.

Optional Preparation

My Optional Subject was Philosophy.

  • Primary reason was interest. I tried to read a few books, watch crash-course philosophy playlist, other youtube videos, etc. to see whether I like it or not.
  • Later, I researched about the PYQs, the strategies of toppers, guidance-availability, etc to make sure that it is a viable optional.


STRATEGY for Philosophy Paper 1

(This is for those who do not have background in philosophy. Moreover, all this worked for me in my circumstances.)

  1. Be intense. Leave no stone unturned to gain as much marks as possible in optional. Do not come into the trap that the syllabus is very small and static. Every optional can be studied in as much depth as the others.
  2. In philosophy, many concepts are interlinked. For conceptual clarity, do not hesitate to go a bit beyond syllabus. Though questions are asked from within the syllabus, but you may answer it by going even beyond it (but not too much and without digressing from what is asked).
  3. For Indian philosophy, try to use Sanskrit word in phonetic language. Use Sutra’s (given in CD sharma book footnotes) for value-addition.
  4. Quote thinkers, books, etc for substantiation of arguments.
  5. Try not to make arguments by yourselves in the exam until and unless you have actually studied about it somewhere. Sometimes people tend to think themselves as philosophers.
  6. Since you have to write lesser number of words in 3 hours as compared to GS, try to answer in a more neatly. You may use pencil for diagrams (if at all required), black-pen for underlining, etc.


BOOKLIST for Philosophy

  1. Western philosophy : VVR-IAS material (Class-notes, pre-class, post-class) + MitrasIAS + Patanjali IAS + Stanford website + IGNOU + NPTEL videos + research papers (academia, jstor, shodhganga)
  2. Indian Philosophy: VVR-IAS material (class-notes, pre-class, post-class) + MitrasIAS + CD Sharma book + Shodhganga + NPTEL
  3. Socio-political philosophy: VVR-IAS material (class-notes, pre-class, post-class) + Shubhra-Ranjan PSIR Notes (Political theory part) + Ambarish Vemuri’s notes + IGNOU material + internet
  4. Philosophy of Religion : VVR-IAS material (class-notes, pre-class, post-class) + IGNOU material + Stanford website + shodhganga

Classes I took at ForumIAS

  • At ForumIAS, I took Dipin Sir’s Current Affairs Classes, ForumIAS’s Ethics+, Essay and MGP, Static Revision Classes ( conducted in 2018 ) , Prelims Simulator Tests and Interview Guidance Program.
  • Usefulness? I think I used them quite well. I had internalized them a lot. Though I felt everytime that I’m missing a lot of things, but then I realized there would be no end to it. Stick to whatever you have and revise them multiple times. Try making maximum use of the resources and material you already have.


Answer Writing

  • Answer Writing is the Core of Mains. My style of Answer writing has been contextual. I try to change it with the demand of the question. An objective style question which can have several dimensions/arguments needs Point-format or diagrams.
  • But a narrow-subjective question requires paragraph format. I’ve also used formats like inline-numbering within the paragraphs (again @Neyawn’s suggestion).
  • I’ve focused a lot on value-addition and differentiated content. Introductions and conclusions are the places where they can be utilized to the maximum.
  • Case studies, data, facts, figures, pie-charts, graphs, diagrams, were used extensively. But I try to refrain from mindless making of diagrams. Use diagrams only when it helps you express it in lesser words/ lesser time/lesser space.

How many Questions I attempted in GS ?

  • I attempted all questions in all GS Papers and optional.
  • For 3 GS Papers,I came up with this highly effective strategy for time-management after much thought:


Q1-Q2> Q11-20(all 15 markers)> Q3-Q9 (all 10 markers)

This worked well.

  • For GS-4 as well, it was similar – Section A Q1 and Q2 > Sec B > Section A rest of the questions.
  • If you had to prepare again would you change your strategy in any way?
  • I learnt a lot more about STRUCTURING of answers, particular to the CONTEXT and the KEYWORD of the question that is asked.
  • Structuring is not only about Intro, Body and Conclusion. But it is much more detailed. We need to understand that multiple points in the Body part can be clubbed together to make a single dimension (a Bucket as I always say).
  • This way, one should write about multiple Buckets in the Body part, along with the sub-points within every bucket.
  • If this wasn’t your first attempt what mistakes you think you made in the previous attempt in mains? It was my first Mains.


Interview Preparation

  • My Interview was on 17th Feb, the 1st day of the start of the interview itself. Since this time the results were also declared too late, I had very less time to prepare for my DAF.
  • I attended Mock interviews at ForumIAS, as well as other coachings. With every mock, I learnt something or the other.
  • My final performance was much better than whatever I did in the mock interviews. However, there were many good and bad things. There were some questions where I thought I answered well. At the same time, there were some where I thought I could’ve answered differently.
  • So, its quite subjective in the end about how your interview would be. The only thing you could do is enhance whatever is in your hands and “control the controllables.” I think I tried my best to do that.


Using Internet and Digital Resources

  • I’ve used internet and digital resources extensively. I did not read any offline newspaper consistently. But I kept track of various news and editorials through digital content – news websites/apps, youtube videos on news analysis, RSTV, ORF, IDSA, etc.


Some Techniques I used for resource Management

In order to balance with a plethora of data and resources available, 3 skills are required:

  • #1 Viveka: The ability to differentiate between what is useful and reproducible for the exam and what is not. This comes with analysis of the trends of the exam – previous year questions and syllabus memorization helps.
  • #2 Suniyojan: The ability to effectively organize whatever content you collect – either offline or online. If I have studied some topic somewhere I should be quickly abe to locate where it is stored so that I can update my notes as quickly as possible. I made subjectwise offline folders where I kept all my notes/resources.
  • #3 AtmaSanyam: Or Self-restraint,i.e. the ability to know when to stop collecting material/resources and start studying them. Revision of whatever you have collected is more crucial than collecting more and more data. Otherwise, everything will just go in vain.

Yes, notes were mostly offline. Most of my notes were not consolidated into single-pages notes. I tried to consolidate a few themes which I thought were most relevant and were fragmented here and there. For eg. Electoral reforms, Globalisation and its impacts, Climate change, etc.

Last Lines

  • I think that to clear this exam, there are a few things that are necessary. One is the ability to absorb things one reads, listens etc. Second is the ability to express. And third is patience and dedication, as it may take more time than you may think at first.

Thanking you,


Sanjitha Mohapatra
Civil Services Examination 2019, Rank–10


#AboutMe

  • Hello Everyone, My name is SANJITA MOHAPATRA. I am an old ForumIAS Community Member with the username “BeTheChange”. I was born in Rourkela. I have done my schooling from Chinmaya Vidyalaya (E.M), Rourkela, ICSE Board.
  • After that I had done my college from my graduation from College of Engineering and Technology, Bhubaneswar, 2012 batch passout. This was my 5th attempt at Civil Services, but my second serious attempt.
  • Before this, I had secured 2nd Rank at OPSC (Odisha Public Services Commission) and had got State Rank 2. I am from a middle class family with my father who is not working anymore, mother who is a housewife. My elder sister Sarita Mohapatra is presently Manager in BHEL, Bangalore.
  • I myself have been working as an Assistant Manager in Rourkela Steel Plant ( SAIL ) from 2013-2018.
  • I took Sociology as an Optional.
  • The Civil Services Examination was a Childhood dream for me. Started preparation while in college with baby steps. Reading newspapers. After joining job started with basic NCERT books, polity, geography. Gave 2 attempts while in college with no preparation. 3rd attempt did not revise.
  • First 3 attempts could not clear prelims . 4th attempt failed in mains . 5th attempt I have been successful. However, I would not advice this long path to anyone. It is better to have your first or at least second attempt as a prepared attempt. My fifth attempt was my second prepared attempt.


My Prelims Strategy

  • I have been focussing on building up the foundation by repeated revisions, covering basics from NCERT . Also what is important that 2 months before Prelims no answer writing practice should be there. I did solve numerous test series for Prelims
  • Weekly twice I used to solve the daily quizzes on various online platforms

My Prelims Booklist

Topic Resource
History Ancient NCERT
History Medieval NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) NCERT + SPECTRUM
Culture NCERT + NITIN SINGHANIA
Polity (static + current affairs) LAXMIKANT + THE HINDU + INDIAN EXPRESS
Economy (static + current affairs) NCERT(basics) + Ramesh Chandra + HINDU
Environment (static + current affairs) SHANKAR IAS + WIKI
Geography(Physical +Indian+World) NCERT + PMFIAS NOTES
Current affairs The HINDU + INDIAN EXPRESS + ONLINE CA FROM VARIOUS SOURCES

The Mistakes I made in previous attempts

  • This was my 5th attempt and 2nd serious attempt . I did not qualify Prelims in 3 attempts, 4th attempt failed in mains.
  • The first 2 attempts I gave while I was still in college, so I had basically zero idea about the UPSC examinations. In my 3rd attempt I did not revise well for Prelims. Fourth attempt could not complete the mains paper. This year I was able to manage things better.
  • In my earlier attempts , the notes I made from editorial were too huge and I couldn’t revise them completely before mains. Also I had numerous sources and did not stick to the syllabus. There was also lack of revision. This time I tried to fix all these issues.


My General Studies ( Mains ) Approach

  • For GS. my constant companion was newspaper. I religiously read The Hindu and Indian Express certain editorials and Explained page
  • I had 4 copies (GS 1,2,3,4). I arranged all editorials most relevant under those copies. Wrote the editorials in very crisp, revisable manner, which can be read for mains revision. This note-making was the key of my preparation. Whenever new value addition would come, you can always staple a page to add up the content.
  • I was not very regular with Monthly current affairs.
  • I made notes for every topic mentioned in the syllabus. The notes could be handwritten, digital, bookmarked sites, but my aim was that when I sit for revision I don’t struggle for sources. I should have everything at one place. And then value addition as and when new topics or CA arises
  • I had joined ForumIAS Current affairs class for Mains 2019. I personally found it very helpful because of the teaching way of Sir. I think that for the first time I realised how to prepare a topic and summarily and make it concise. If I had known about it three years back, I would have been in a much better situation.
  • The Concise notes of the class helped in quick last minute revision. That was the icing in the cake.


Answer Writing is Important

  • Answer writing is irreplaceable and of utmost importance
  • I started writing answers from December 2018 for mains 2019. People can start even earlier.
  • I wrote answers in bullet forms.
  • I used two inks for heading and main content. I have this habit since childhood from school so it has stayed.


My exam hall strategy for GS Mains

  • Out of 80 questions of all GS, I attended nearly 78. Some question I dint know, so wrote half a page kind of thing. For optional this time I completed the paper . Strategy was to complete the paper anyhow.
  • I start writing answers from Q1. In first one-hour finish 8 questions (10 marks)
  • In 2nd hour 7 questions (from Q11 – 20 markers), 3rd hour rest. Focus was to follow this as much as possible.


My Interview Preparation

  • I studied Economic times for a while to gain a different perspective. I gave in total 5 mocks before interview. I had gotten Sujata Mehta ma’am Board.
  • My interview was on July 23rd. So it was very different with mask, shield and all that. It was alarming at first.
  • I belong to Odisha so many questions were focused on the same like issue of migration in Odisha and how to tackle it like
    • Olive ridley turtle
    • How to make Puri a global tourist destination
    • Questions on child labour and its reason for persistence
    • Women issues in Odisha
  • I couldn’t answer maybe 20% of the questions.
  • They were mostly factual details about Odisha and politely replied I’m unaware


Qualities that are being tested in Interview

  • I am not an expert on it so I can’t say it exactly. But my focus was to be “ME” not fake myself, staying composed, saying NO politely to something you don’t know .
  • They actually try and test you in-depth knowledge about an issue. The questions except for the factual ones are always answerable. They want to understand your mindset.


Do you thing marks in school or college and the job experience can impact one’s score in the Interview?

  • No I don’t think so.


How was the interview experience? Was it predictable? How much did your preparation help?

  • It was unique and different. I had not predicted anything. I went to the interview with an open mind. It was cordial and a great discussion
  • My preparation helped in correcting many of my mistakes. I used to talk very fast, I did not think before responding, I was too lengthy in answering. These are things that I had fixed.


How much internet did you use for your preparation? How much value did it add

  • I completely relied on internet as I did self study.
  • Starting from collecting sources my own notes, to solving online quizzes, CA I was completely dependent on it.


Did you make notes? Why yes or no? Did you find them any useful (if you made them).

  • Yes I made self notes. I completely relied on them for my whole preparation.
  • My revision was based on the notes which acted like my one-stop destination


What do you think is the most essential quality/qualities needed to clear this exam?

  • Patience, Perseverance, Consistency and above all Hard work ( it should be smart as well )
  • Couldn’t think of one… they form an inseparable group.


Did you join any offline and/or online coaching? What relevance do you find of coaching in preparation of this exam?

  • I joined Upendra Gaurs’s 3 months course for Sociology which made my foundation very strong.
  • I joined ForumIAS Current affairs class post prelims which helped in quick wholesome revision of CA


What is your advice to the young aspirants who look up to you?

  • Hardwork has no substitute and Consistency is the key.
  • Stay focused


What is the best advice that you have received?

  • Don’t think if you would crack it or not, just give your best shot


What did all hurdles you face while preparing for it? And how did you tackle them

  • Depression and helplessness. Feeling that I am not good enough. Self-doubts. But I think that this is something that we face in every walk of life when we are not able to get what we want.
  • Self-reflection on what motivated me in the first place to choose this career path, self-motivation, talking to friends was how I tackled it.

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