The UPSC civil services exam is one of the most competitive exams conducted in India. It is attempted by lakhs of candidates every year. However, only a fraction of those come out with flying colours in the end. Clearing this exam gives an entry into the prestigious civil services of the country. As soon as the IAS results are announced, the UPSC toppers gain limelight in the country.The IAS toppers serve as an inspiration to thousands of young people who aspire to clear the Civil Services Exam.



Budding of IAS dream

I hail from nondescript village Kembodi in Kolar district of Karnataka. In the formative years of my personality, my father used to take me to literacy awareness generation camps. Where in I got an   opportunity to stay and work as volunteer in the remotest villages across the district. During this time, observed the potential of district administration to solve grass root level challenges and bring about improvement in standard of living of masses. This was when seeds of civil service were sown.

Fruition of IAS dream

During my engineering studies I used to commute by bus from Kolar to Bangalore. This was the age of germination of lot of ideas in me. During five hours of daily travel, my thoughts, perspectives and orientation towards society crystallized. Being an extrovert, interactions with fellow commuters helped me visualize different faces of society we live in and the challenges various sections of society face. Thanks to society for being my inspiration.

Wandering bark in search of lighthouse (First Attempt-2013)

Beginning of my preparation was akin to searching for a hidden treasure without any map or compass. Without proper guidance and preparation I took exam in 2013. I missed prelims cutoff by near margin. I was not disheartened but realized that if I prepared well with proper guidance, my dream would be easily realizable.

When every penny counts (Second Attempt-2014)

Every aspirant reaches a stage of life where his/her peers start earning. It is the age when one feels shy to continue to seek parents’ support. I also underwent all these. Hence, though financial constraints were not very acute I decided to join as assistant engineer (AE) in Karnataka public works department (PWD) provide stability and financial support. Incidentally, it also helped me in understanding administration challenges at work. (I think financial hardships should not lead to compromise in goal setting, rather should make us more firm, hardworking and goal oriented)

I started my second attempt preparation with the reading of basic books, NCERTS, newspaper. With respect to my Optional Subject (Kannada Literature) preparation, I understood the needs of CSE; tuned my strategies accordingly. Thanks to my passion for Kannada Literature, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. This helped me develop strong command over my optional subject.

Choosing right optional subject

Optional subject, in my experience should be selected based on interest, passion and aptitude one has towards a subject. In my case reading Kannada literature was akin to relaxation amidst vast general studies syllabus. It has been even my hobby since childhood. Further, it has played an important role in shaping my personality.

Hence, I strongly recommend you to choose the optional which gives you happiness. At this juncture, it is apt to recall the statement of Confucius: Choose the job you love and you need not have to work for even a single day.

Mistakes in second attempt

Despite hard work, even the second attempt slipped away from me. This was because of the following mistakes committed by me:

Compromise in preparation plans: Due to paucity of time and other challenges at work I could not execute my preparation plans to the fullest extent. Adding to that revision of topics could not be done in the manner I had planned.

No writing practice – I had not practiced full length test papers. This cost me heavily in the exam. Even though I had covered syllabus, worked hard, knew answers to questions, I had to come out of exam hall without answering many questions due to mismanagement of time. I had not practiced essay writing also.

When things doesn’t fall in line (Third Attempt-2015)

I started working on my writing skills, correcting my past mistakes, learning to write within time limits. However, I couldn’t write mains as I got unwell because of dengue and also due to some extraneous reasons.  All my initiatives in every sphere had to face lot of road blocks and obstacles during this time. The Almighty tested my patience and perseverance to the core. But this attempt gifted me beautiful life lessons in the form of principle of EQUANIMITY- taking success and failure equally. It made me realize that FAILURE is nothing but a First Attempt in Learning.

Working for one’s own satisfaction and giving ones 100% (Fourth Attempt 2016)

As I had submitted technical resignation to my previous job I joined IRS (customs and central excise) training in December 2015 with a thought of giving an attempt during training. For first two months I did prepare for exam after packed schedule of physical training and classes. But I was enjoying neither training nor preparation. I firmly believe that it is imperative to love whatever we do.

This is when I thought that I should once again give my best efforts to realize my aim mainly because I should not suffer from pain of regret. At this juncture my friends at academy nudged me towards taking EOL (extraordinary leave). However I took some time to weigh the pros and cons of the decision. Just before taking decision I called my parents. They said “we will be with you in all your decisions and endeavors but be happy and enjoy whatever you do and don’t bother about results, just work for your satisfaction”. These words reverberated throughout my preparation.

I decided the following,

  • My entire preparation will be based on self-study.
  • I will study at home
  • I will focus on writing practice by taking tests and personal feedback

I followed offline prelims test series of online classes and also, prelims cum mains integrated study plan that was given to core batch students. I scheduled my day in accordance with the test series timetable. (please make your own timetable which suits you the best. In my timetable I ensured 8 hours of sleep one hour of sports and 5 minutes break in between. Make a realistic timetable which is practically possible to implement, set achievable targets and be honest to yourself in following it).

I had promised myself that I shall finish the syllabus of each prelims and mains test, revise it and write tests without fail.

Though the schedule was slightly hectic (by the time I joined prelims test series already half of the prelims tests were finished, so I had to catch up that as well), I enjoyed the process of learning not just from the books but the lessons that journey had to offer.

The responsibility of writing tests made me more efficient in time management. I improved my speed of writing. This was one of the reasons why I had lost marks in my previous attempt. I focused on improving both quality and speed. At classes we had to answer ten questions in one hour. Initially, I struggled to answer 5-6 answers. But, I was pushed to answer more and more at classes. In the end I could easily answer all 20 questions in 3hours without diluting quality of answers. Writing so many GS tests also improved my speed in optional subject.

After every test I used to check answers and read answer key in detail. Solutions given by mentors were detailed and helped me understand a topic in –depth. More importantly, research on the allied topics (through links provided in test solutions) helped me a lot (being inquisitive in learning pays one day). For instance, question on sea-level change had link to a website which had many interesting articles on current environmental issues, I read them out of interest though they were not important for prelims. These articles helped in answering many questions asked in GS-1 (environmental issues, allied topics of geography) GS-3 (disaster management). So, please make an integrated study (keeping all three stages of exam) and utilize the knowledge of one subject in other.

I had finished all the static part of mains before prelims itself thanks to prelims timetable. So I mainly focused on current issues after prelims. I used to pick and choose general studies questions from onlune source and answer them selectively.

Correlation among topics of various subjects helped in answer writing. For instance, for a question about Krishnadevaraya as a patron of literature (GS 1), I utilized the knowledge of culture, medieval Indian history, and my optional (kannada literature) though all three are from different sources.

I improved in essay and GS answers by getting personal feedback from mentors. I practiced many essay and re-wrote many essays based on feedback given by them.

Source - Various Internet Sources