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MOTIVATION & STRATEGY[Essay 148]: Nivedita S Balaraddiyavar, Rank 303, Psychology Optional, InsightsIAS Core Batch Student



Nivedita S Balaraddiyavar, Rank 303, Psychology Optional

InsightsIAS Core Batch Student


Nivedita S balaraddiyavar rank 303 IAS topper UPSC


“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing

and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about.”

― Jalal Ad-Din Rumi


This was how the essay on Customary Morality was begun. Into that, later. But please give it a moment , if you can, to dwell upon these words. 

What I say may be right or wrong, but this is how it has been to me. Take whatever you think may help you and I hope it does. 

So, Preparing for Civil services examination has been a journey with varied experiences where I had to ask myself a lot of questions. It’s been annoying, depressing at times, and stressful most of the times. So, I won’t possibly fall into the category of folks who might say it’s been an ‘amazing journey’ (not that they are wrong).

About me: I am from Dharwad. Joined RV College of Engineering, Bangalore in 2011, and worked for a year with Visa Technology Centre after graduation in 2015. I resigned in mid-2016 after convincing my parents so that I can prepare for this exam. They were not very okay with it, but I guess they couldn’t do much about it since I was always in a dilemma and this was the time to figure it out myself. I was inspired by the then Deputy Commissioner of Dharwad Mr.Darpan Jain, when I was in high school. But, it was mostly during the work time that I thought more and more about this career (Mostly when I involved myself in CSR work).


In case you are interested: About Mr. Jain (


After resigning, I thought I MUST go to Delhi, despite my father advising me not to. Mostly because I felt the need for some guidance after trying to explore the online world for almost two months (before I quit that is) and not figuring out much. Also, two of my friends from RV were already in Delhi and this decision felt right from the beginning. But, my experience in Delhi was awful, and this must be an understatement.  

I joined a reputed institution in Delhi but found it not very useful. But, optional was different. I found a good professor there who taught Psychology, Mr. Mukul Pathak. I couldn’t make much use of these classes because I fell sick most of the time and happened to fly back to Bangalore twice in the four and half months that I stayed there. I am extremely glad that I returned and chose to prepare from home.

I along with another friend met Vinay sir at this old Insights building at RPC Layout. That’s when I felt I didn’t explore enough in Bangalore before I left to Delhi the first time. 

When I returned, the actual preparation began around January 2017 after many distractions at home. I met Vinay sir again who guided me as to how I could proceed given that there were 4 months left for prelims. I did everything I could so as to clear it, got decent scores in mock tests, but not consistent enough I guess. I went from 50ish score to 140s in 3 months. But, for some reason, I never felt confident about prelims. Even today for that matter ? 

After the 2017 prelims exam, I felt extremely anxious thinking I wouldn’t clear but looking at the answer keys had made me feel better. I was expecting around 110 ( but ended up getting 102.66, I still haven’t figured out what went wrong as the keys were out but the score wouldn’t tally). Before results were out, I had enrolled for Mains test series at Insights which is where I met Swetha (Rank 119, 2017) and Kishore (Rank 153, 2018). I also happened to talk to Ankit Pathak (the well known Enserio in the Telegram platform ) through a group of aspirants with Psychology optional. Although he didn’t feature on the list in 2017, he happened to get the highest score in Psychology that year. Meanwhile, I wrote to Mittali Sethi (Rank 56, 2016) who wrote an article on Insights about her preparation. Throughout this preparation until now, these friends have been around helping me whenever I needed anything. I have troubled them enough and I am very grateful. 

I failed Prelims 2017 by 2.66 marks, and was clueless because, you know, this was unexpected. (So stupid)

I remember how Vinay sir mentioned once that he sensed I wasn’t serious enough about the exam the first time I met him but looking at me devastated after prelims results, he told me that I must put in all again given how far I had come. I wrote the test for Core Batch in December 2017 at Insights and joined it. I wasn’t sure how much this helped at the time. Now that I look back at it, I am not sure if I would have prepared enough for GS during the time between prelims and mains but for the work gone into it then.  

I started preparing for Prelims-2018 and I had great company here wherein my school friends were preparing with me. Kruti, Madhur and Maitri have been an awesome group whose company I have immensely enjoyed. I regret not joining them immediately after prelims results. We would discuss prelims tests at Insights after we attempted them every Sunday and observe our line of thought and where we usually go wrong. Come June 3rd, Prelims 2018 was not at all what was expected. I thought I had decent scores in tests, this time more consistent and higher, and also felt confident compared to the earlier attempt. In the exam hall, I remember everyone taking deep breaths to calm themselves down and that made me laugh. So, mentally I think I was taking it easy but it wasn’t helping given how the questions were. After I saw the keys, I thought I’d fail again. So, things were bad and I joined the library at Attiguppe centre although I am not at all a library person. I needed to focus if at all prelims went right so that I’d be prepared for mains. I didn’t study much, and I also picked up viral conjunctivitis, which happened to become keratoconjunctivitis giving me blurred vision during mains and destroying the entire study schedule. 

Results came in July, one week into conjunctivitis that was, and I struggled here. I had enrolled for vision mains test series even before prelims, which I wrote from home during this time. I had enrolled for Insights Mains Tests series Offline, which I started giving later. The time between prelims and mains has been the most challenging during this preparation. The eye infection kept recurring and I had to wash my eyes every half hour to keep them useful. My eyes were red and this was possibly the only time my sister felt any kind of sympathy for me. ? 

So, given the limited time, I chose to not spend much time on Essay and Ethics which I thought I could handle and worked on some notes (Current Affairs) and Secure compilations for GS-2 and GS-3.  I got my answers reviewed from Vinay sir as well (In addition to Ethics and Essays on regular basis). Even before, I had done this exercise when I was a part of Core batch. So, I think the loss of time was in a way compensated for.

For optional, there aren’t much options for Online test series but I must have been very lucky because my friend Ankit here started online tests for psychology (EnserioEducation). Although I wrote only 4 out of 8 tests, I learnt a lot in that process and could give the optional with some hope. I felt very under-prepared which I was, but Ankit kept reassuring me saying I had a natural flow when it came to answer writing. Even during that 5-day break before the optional paper, when I thought I wouldn’t clear given how I had messed up GS-3 and mostly 4 as well, he kept telling me that it’s still not over. It’s important that we don’t give up easily. I couldn’t finish the syllabus properly at all, mostly paper-2, and getting 284 gives me immense relief. 

Coming to the interview phase, I feel it was this part of the examination which I thoroughly enjoyed. We had discussion sessions at Insights which were decent. I also had very good company. My best friend, who I prepared with, didn’t clear mains and that’s when I was taken aback. Despite putting enough efforts, sometimes we don’t end up with the results we expect and that’s not fair. I agree. But, that’s how this exam has been. 

After the interview schedule was up, I had a lot of time since mine was in the last week. So, I took it very easy barely reading newspapers. Added a couple more to The Hindu, that is, Mint and The New Indian Express. I took mock interviews in multiple places but found very few to be useful or necessary maybe. The most useful would be the one on one sessions with Vinay sir, one at KSG, Navodaya Foundation and Kerala Samajam. Choose your mocks wisely would be the good lesson that I learnt here. I have had bad experiences not because the interview went bad but the feedback would be irrelevant and even stereotypical. Or the better way is to only pick what suits you and ignore the rest although it’s difficult. 

Another lesson is about expectations. Despite having fears to an extent, I was mostly confident in general and thought I could handle it. Also, in most places, I was told that I would get very high score which made me expect a lot. I was awarded 179 marks by Mr. Manoj Soni board , which is still decent but I keep thinking about how a few more marks would have just allowed me to end this preparation here. 

During this period, I tried to reach Mr. Darpan Jain who has been an inspiration to me, and he allowed me for a meeting. I spent a good 3 hours at his office and the need to make it to the service was never so much felt before. He has been that personality which anyone would want to emulate. 

The best part about interview is the very experience of it. I made very good friends here, among whom some got ranks and some didn’t. But, there can be no doubt about the efforts each one of them have put into it. I wish them all the best for their future endeavour and hope they find happiness wherever they go.

As far as preparation for the exam is concerned, I think you are in good hands. If you are still clueless, there are strategies on this very website which will help you. And elsewhere if you want to look. I will list a few things that I learnt though. 

  1. Consistency is extremely important. Be it with respect to giving mock tests, or putting in efforts everyday.
  2. There is bound be a lot of stress , so take frequent breaks , pursue your hobbies, go for a walk or watch a movie. Do whatever makes you happy and come back.
  3. Personally, isolating myself hasn’t fully helped. By all means, avoid social media , but keep friends and family close. They happen to be the best support system that one can find. I have been fortunate here thanks to my family as well as the friends. My mother has been my backbone throughout the preparation, and ALWAYS. There is nothing beyond human will, she says.
  4. There are people who may want to pull you down, at times, intentionally. Avoid pessimism when you notice it.
  5. Things don’t go as planned all the time. So, trying to control everything won’t work. Embrace uncertainties especially now. I think we need to come prepared and that readiness will help us bounce back.
  6. “Aage aautte hogi” (It will happen, don’t worry) is what Vinay Sir would tell me during the interview phase. He was more sure of me than myself. So, having friends or a mentor who has faith in you will give more confidence in what you do.
  7. Having said that, you can’t rely on anyone to do the work for you. You must give all of your best into this taking whatever help comes your way. Be kind and humble and make the best of what resources you have got.
  8. When you expect help, be sure to be grateful. And if you don’t find what you need, keep looking.
  9. Prelims has been the most difficult phase for me. For some, its mains or interview. To each her own. Find your weaknesses and work on them. Also, play out your strengths.
  10. It is possible that the efforts you put may not materialise into outcomes. As I said, it happens and be prepared for possible outcomes. Easier said than done. So, think of alternatives and plan accordingly. Having a job is easier for keeping ourselves less stressed if it takes too long as most of my friends here tell me. And I think they are right.
  11. I kept telling myself that this would be the last attempt I’d give, so that I would not give any excuses and prepare just this once. It has been exhausting but I think it helped in one way or the other to keep me focused. It may not work for everyone (may lead to pressurising oneself) but it is important to put your best once rather than trying again and again repeatedly thinking that there are more attempts left.

I had to prepare myself for possible outcomes before final results. It was difficult for me to prepare myself for failure OR for a rank beyond 100-ish as well because that would mean giving this exam again. But, being on the list is any day better than not being on it. So, I know I have been ungrateful in the beginning. I am not sure when I will get a better outcome so as to get the preferred service, but I am now at peace. I thank each and every one who has been with me in this journey as we call it and I am forever grateful. I entered this preparation phase thinking that I will clear this exam in one go. So stupid, again, if we are ignorant but not really if we give it all and confidently face it. There were good lessons learnt and good experiences that I cherish. I hope you find them, too. And success as well. 

I will try to pen down what I did for optional and how I wrote the essay, as requested, sometime later. Until then. 

I have attached the scorecard and interview transcript below. 

Nivedita S balaraddiyavar rank 303 IAS topper

Chairman : Mr. Manoj Soni

Background: ECE

State: Karnataka


  1. Your name reminds me of Sister Nivedita. What do you know about her?
  2. You seem prepared on that. Tell me about the purpose of your life.
  3. It went over my head. (Me: Shall I rephrase, sir?). No need, philosophical questions are like that.
  4. The way you speak about purpose and life, you seem like a serious person. Are you one?
  5. What gives you utmost happiness in life ?
  6. Why psychology as optional after electronics? And another different question related to why this choice of career. I asked if I should answer why psychology first. Asked me not to answer.



  1. Good academic background, good job, why civil service?
  2. How did you decide within only one year? You could have continued in the job?
  3. You spoke of inspiration from Dharwad administrator, what would be the 3 things that you would focus on, if you were an administrator ?
  4. Dont you think CSR is seen as additional tax anyway? Shouldn’t govt take extra tax and use this money better? Instead of asking firms to spend , which is not at all organised?



  1. (? Dont remember 1st Q.)
  2. Opinion on metoo movement .
  3. Dont you think women are wrong in choosing to come out 20-30 years later? Do they have an agenda ?
  4. Another follow up question I think
  5. Implications of AI. And solutions.



  1. I’m curious, What is this zentangling?
  2. RBI-govt tussle. What is your take?
  3. What will you do as RBI Governor ? Focus only on inflation, or think about the issue of liquidity ?
  4. You say purpose as utility (talking about being useful to others) and also you talk about satisfaction (where you derive it from people, although I never used the word ’satisfaction’), don’t you think the two are contradicting ?

M4 intervened : are you in this for the pursuit of power alone instead? Aren’t you attracted to power that this job gives?

M3 continued: 

  1. do you think administrators work more with their heads and less with their hearts?
  2. You have studied psychology. So you understand unconscious, subconscious and conscious. Now tell me how you’ll use this understanding in administration.


M4: (Ratnaprabha ma’am)

  1. Questions on women related discrimination , couldn’t fully grasp the core of it.
  2. So, she asked about my experience as a woman in IT industry.
  3. What would I do to solve those issues, (in the capacity of an administrator , in your team maybe) ?
  4. Bagalkot being your native, what is your understanding of the issues it faces? It is a backward district , so, if posted there, how would you approach ?
  5. Social evils are difficult to tackle. How will you solve it? (Context of Devadasi system)
  6. Among the CSR activities, which one affected you the most personally? What touched you the most ?




Have a nice day, have a safe journey back home, Nivedita. .. and so on.