The Phoenix Shall Rise From The Ashes
Raju Mishra, AIR 65, CSE-2014
It was almost been a year and a half since I took up the broken pieces to begin afresh to follow the dream and passion I had en-kindled and kept ablaze for a long time: IAS.
This article as a follow up to my last year’s article – ‘Failure: Rock Solid and Icy Cold’. The following article is just to enunciate for others the changes I made ( for as the saying goes : “today you cannot do more of yesterday and expect the future to change”, and to highlight the importance of friends/family and motivated individuals around you.
Two telephonic conversations with Ketan and Anand (college friends) helped me rediscover my fire for the examination.
9.5 lakh candidates filling form, 4-5 lakh appearing for Prelims, 15-16000 getting selected for mains and in the end just 100 seats for the IAS. The number did seem daunting and the task insurmountable.
Call in Ketan: ” Yaar every year 100 people get selected for the IAS right ? They why not us? Why not you and me? This examination needs focus, dedication and hard work. Toh karenge naa yaar whatever it takes.”
So what did it take?
Answer writing/Revision: ( importance already highlighted in previous article)
Since April every week a friend of mine and I used to write answers for the Mains examination. We started off with 8 questions in an hour rounding up at 25 questions in 3 hours by mid May. The questions were mostly from Insights (https://www.insightsonindia.com) and a few test series of the previous years. Typically we followed Insights Secure Mains, got questions and created a bank.
It came down to roughly 70 questions a month directly from the Insights website. Everyday a couple questions jotted down, well read, selected, modified at times and finally written.
Answer writing as enunciated had a tremendous effect on my preparation. Discussing answers with my friends besides exposing the flaws provided me with additional points and inputs for better restructuring.
Few days ago, the 2013 AIR 1 – Gaurav Agarwal said somewhere that the thing to be learnt was that it is not just enough to write answers and think that you did a great job. Rather get it checked by your peers, teachers online or offline but scrutiny is important.
Besides, Vaibhav and I also wrote answers from previous years papers (mostly for our optional Geography), which was of tremendous help at the time of mocks for revision and final exams as well.
I implore you all to kindly form groups. Let it be of 2-3 like-minded people who can work together, answer questions and help each other improve.
These were really experimental labs for me! 😀 What I mean by that is I tried different pens (blue black … I know kiddish but UPSC does make u crazy) , I tried different ways of answering questions , for instance in one ethics paper I began with case studies and found myself wanting for time in the end and reversed the strategy . In GS 1 for instance in an exam I missed out on writing geography answers due to lack of time and I knew all of them. In my quest to write all answers I missed out on the ones I knew best!!
Final learnings :
- Always begin with the part you know the best for you can score the best here.
- Highlight the relevant parts to draw attention. Draw map/diagram then and there or leave space in between and draw later instead of cramping all diagrams at the end.
- Bullet/paragraph as per the question and your personal preference (Really there is no standard thumb rule!)
- Keep it time bound and try and answer all questions. To get an increment from 3/10 to 4/10 is much easier than 5/10 to 6/10. Aim for two 4’s than one 6
Reduce the number of ‘!’ (Seriously! 😀 all my teachers pointed this out ) . Imagine the disastrous consequence if I had not corrected it.
Secondly please have trust in your teachers and the test series you join. They have experience of decades with them. Quite often I found my friends saying things like ” kaisa test banaya hai . UPSC aisa thorai poochegi “(UPSC 2013 and 2014 ke pre and mains ke papers compare kar lo 😀 and see the drastic changes made).
No doubt that there are certain issues at all coaching and test series, but kindly treat them as negatives inherent in all individuals and systems. Respect the experience of these teachers many of whom were aspirants themselves. Learn what you can from their painful failures and scholarly knowledge instead of deriding them at every given chance.
Family and friends
Well the two pillars of success for me. Family members steadfastly supported me throughout the process and kept me motivated by constant calls and guidance.
However it was the friends I met more regularly during this ashramic type phase of my life who really re-energized me after I burnt out in weeks/months.
- One’s preparing with me with whom I discussed issues, wrote answers and had rapid fire rounds before prelims (trust me some very unconventional questions that actually came in Pre-2014 were asked in these rounds 😀 )
The one’s who call you at times and say ” tera toh ho hi jayega “, ” abbe pre toh phod dega mains ka dekh ” etc . Trust me at times these words are honey to the scorched body and souls in Delhi.
Call in Anand : “Abbe aaj tak u have written so many articles , job interview questionnaires etc for others . Ab apne liye bhi likh le aur padh le . Mishra bhai tu machine bann jaa ! phir dekh kaun rokta hai tujhe”.
Alternatively I had a CAT topper friend at IIMB. Now this person was a necessary evil 😀 every time I secured good marks / rank in any test series I would give her a call and trust me my over confident wings were brutally cut to the ground .
She : ” Raju , beta synergy test series main kitne aadmi hain ”
Me : ” 2000″
She : “Aur mains kitne denge ?”
Me : 16000
She : ” haan to jaake padhai kar le. Ek paper main top karne se kuch nahi hota ” .
This cycle was repeated again and again urging me to work harder and God has gifted her with a very successful PPO at a leading consultancy. So yeah Karma does work J
The one’s who fly in, or take a metro every now and then to be at your side at times of both joy and pain.
In my personal experience the UPSC prep was a sine wave and these friends just expedited the process of rising up after each low J Thank you for each one of you contributed to this dream.
Strategy and precautions :
Let me disclose that I enjoyed the Part B in both my optional papers much more than the part A (Geomorphology, climatology etc). As a result I concentrated more on issues like HDI, population, sustainable development , hunger and likes . For this I created a special geography notebook with all these issues listed.
This not only helped me in optional (always answered 3/5 questions from part B) but also in GS papers and essay (for instance I had decent data and facts for my essay on tourism from a World economic forum article ).
My point is – frame your own strategy. Do what u like best. Choose an optional you are interested in and will work hard with. It is indeed painful if you r stuck with the wrong optional! 2 saal baad you won’t be able to give it up because of the lingering feeling ki bus thori aur mehnat and I will ace it. Rather just make rational choices instead of based on the perception of scaling, butchering and what not other spirits that roam in ORN ( Old Rajinder Nagar ).
However do not get disproportionate time to the subject you enjoy. On the same lines please write a few essays and read GS IV as religiously as your other mains papers. These papers can easily make or break your dream.
I used a chart paper for monthly schedule preparation and at the bottom corner has separate rows for all mains paper. At time of scheduling I made sure that all d papers got equal attention in terms of study days. This helped me in being thorough with GS IV theories (I do not know how much I scored but enjoyed writing the answers ) and also helped in more efficient time utilization .
The UPSC CIVIL SERVICES is considered the mother of all examinations and rightly so. It needs a special type of focus, analysis and hard work I had personally never done before. It is very easy to lose your track in this long process. I at times got confused, demotivated and lost.
These were times where Vinay Sir (www.insightsonindia.com) stepped in. I used to mail him regarding various issues and each time there was a prompt reply to quash all my misgivings and confusions. Thank you sir. The website has been beacon light for my preparation and I urge all of you to try and sync your preparation by taking into account the splendid initiatives launched by them.
Finally they say a measure of your success is by the amount of things you have lost. On a personal note I indeed have lost a lot in this hermitic phase of my life but finally THE PHOENIX RISES FROM THE ASHES J
All the best guys! Hardwork is never glamorous and failure is never final.
P.S.: Kindly contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries. Would be happy to help, but bear with me on speed of replies.
Test series: 2013: Neetu Singh (geography)
2014: ALS (Geography), Synergy(GS)