[Topper’s Strategy] Laxman Tiwari, Rank 176 CSE- 2018.
Hello Everyone, I’m Laxman Tiwari, Rank 176 CSE- 2018. Now Prelims is over and the season of prediction of cut off marks is going on in the environment of hope and despair. Amidst this, I’d like to share what worked for me while preparing for this examination.
I’d like you all guys to know that I have been an average student throughout my life, never topped any exam. I graduated in Political Science, with average marks, in 2018. And PSIR was my optional subject. I took Prelims, Wrote mains, appeared for Personality Test just at the age of 21. I was a kid among veteran aspirants who never entertained me seriously before the result was out! So the first thing, Never take anyone for granted in the battlefield. During my preparation, I learned that the Civil Services Exam transmogrifies one’s personality in every aspect. We get to know a lot of things which have been around us and we never knew about them. It teaches the type of environment we live in and also broadens our opinions, beliefs. In the very beginning, I told myself that I may not be a Civil Servant but I’d definitely be a responsible citizen of this country.
I will break the entire exam in Prelims, Mains and Interview and then elaborate on each of them. There is plethora of booklists on internet as we all know, so I’d focus on the implementation part.
Prelims is the very dynamic and very fluid part of all three stages. Unlike mains, we don’t have any defined syllabus here. Success rate at this stage is below 1% making it a Cut-throat competition. We can find that many aspirants who have appeared for Personality Test previously and even Selected, for that matter, often fail to clear prelims. This can be attributed to the nature of the exam. So what makes you stand out here? I found following points that were indispensable for my success:
- Previous years’ question papers to analyse the pattern of the exam and to understand the nature of questions asked.
- Reading and revising basic books (like NCERTS). Many a times we mark the answer wrong due to lack of understanding. This can be avoided by giving due consideration to basic books.
- Keep standard books minimum and read them at least thrice before the exam. Try to have conceptual understanding of what you are reading as questions are generally application-based.
- Current affairs is instrumental for success in prelims. Have insight about major happening around you. You can refer monthly magazine of any institute or you can make notes from Newspaper (I didn’t do it but you can if it is working for you)
- Revision is the most important part of the preparation. Reading 10 books for one time, one should try to read 1 book for ten times. Keep study material limited and revise right thing at the right time before the exam. InsightsIAS timetable can be useful here.
- Solving Test papers is crucial to break the inertia and to make your fear go away. Solve at least 40-45 test papers of reputed institutes so that the REAL exam should appear just like another test.
- Take CSAT seriously. I know many aspirants who scored decently in GS but failed to make through CSAT. And this year’s CSAT paper speaks for itself. It says loud and clear, Don’t take me lightly.
- Don’t jump directly to solving test papers just because others are doing so. You may get less marks and feel disappointed. Have some basic knowledge beforehand and then start the test process.
- Take tests to rectify your mistakes and to know your weaknesses and not to judge yourself with the marks you’re getting.
- Use common sense in the examination hall. There’ll be around 20 questions which can be solved just by applying common sense.
- Your time devoted to a particular subject should be based on Input-Output approach. For instance, you can devote more time to Polity, Economy, Environment etc because questions asked from these section are tend to be more unlike Art n culture, SnT. Prelims of CSE and Forest services is same, so questions from environment section would, naturally, tend to be more in number. Prepare it thoroughly.
- Give at least 3 months to the prelims seriously. Leave mains alone as you need to clear prelims in order to write mains.
This is the “Main” exam in true sense which ultimately will decide Rank, Service and Cadre you get. Here, success rate is very high in comparison to prelims but you have to compete with the candidates having almost same knowledge base. Small differences create a big gap. Hence, try to fetch 1 extra mark in each question and that is going to create a very huge gap between you and the crowd.
GS-1, GS-2 & GS-3
- Read basic books and supplement it with some standard books. The knowledge you have gathered during prelims preparation is going to help you in these papers.
- Try to make short notes on each single topic mentioned in the syllabus. This will help you revising the static part in very smooth manner.
- Have conceptual understanding of each topic so that you can write answers within the prescribed word limit and time limit.
- Current affairs will enrich your knowledge. Try to link the dots of Current affairs and the static portion to see the broader picture.
- Use facts invariably throughout the papers. You can make diagrams, Flowcharts, Graphs, Maps etc to make sure that your structure appears well.
- Gather some knowledge before answer writing practice.
- Practice answer writing to ensure that you complete the paper within prescribed time. It will also help know one’s weaknesses and strengths. Answer writing helps in articulating our views properly and good articulation is always rewarding.
- Revision through answer writing can be a good approach if it works for someone as it’s like one arrow and two shots.
- Focus less on reading and more on writing because at the end of the day you have to do a hell of writing during mains. So writing will help preparing not only at the level of intellect but also at the level of psychology.
- Have a look at the previous years’ question papers to know the type and nature of questions that UPSC asks.
- Don’t leave any page of your answer sheet blank. Attempt all questions. Even if you have slight knowledge about the question, attempt it.
- UPSC intends to evaluate our ethics and morality, therefore our answers must reflect originality and should appear natural.
- You can pick any book and read the topics provided by UPSC in the syllabus. Try to have conceptual understanding of the topics so that you can write them in your own words at anytime.
- Prepare definition of all keywords and key phrases of the syllabus in your own simple words and try to write them in the exam.
- Collect some important terms related to ethics to use them across answers to make your answer look more authentic.
- You can use examples of bona fide personalities in your answers. Examples from our daily life can add originality to answers.
- Try to incorporate different philosophies like Utilitarianism, Teleology, Deontology, etc while writing answers and always support the ideology which respects human dignity.
- While writing cases, you can adopt Introduction-Body-Conclusion method. Try to evolve different possible options and support the option which is most appropriate and ethical.
- In this paper, articulation is rewarded immensely. If you write simple, coherent and lucid answers, you definitely will get good marks. And articulation can be achieved only through incessant writing.
- Choose optional very carefully as you may need to spend 2-3 years in this field with the optional subject. Choice should totally be based on one’s interest. One can know ones interest by reading NCERTs.
- Prepare the optional paper thoroughly so that you are assured of getting good marks.
- Try to finish it at least once before the prelims so that you become aware of the topics and the content of the paper.
- Consult PYQs to understand the demand and the pattern. In optional more often than not, questions are repeated so look at PYQs of at least 5 years.
- Answer writing practice is also needed here in order to increase the writing speed and retention.
- One must strive to enter into the “ELITE GROUP OF 300 MARKS” to get desired service and cadre.
- Like GS4, this paper also intends to check the values of a candidate. It provides an opportunity to express ourselves and our values clearly and to have a sway over the examiner.
- Write at least 8-10 essays before going to the examination hall and get it checked by teachers or peers.
- Always choose the topic which you are strong at. Write simple language, keep examiner interested in the essay and always go for smooth transition from one paragraph to another. Try to include various dimensions like social, economic, political, etc.
- One can prepare notes on evergreen topics like Climate Change, Terrorism, Women empowerment, etc. Otherwise, the fodder of GS would be more than sufficient to write a good essay.
- It’s a test of the personality and not of knowledge which have already been tested in previous examinations.
- Since personality cannot be changed in few days so present before the board what you are.
- Be Confident, Cool, Calm, Composed and have a positive attitude. And marks in personality test totally depend on how you portray yourself in the interview hall. You have to sell yourself by proving that you are the best candidate.
- Prepare your DAF thoroughly as most of the questions would originate from there. Apart from this, you can revise your graduation subject matter, optional subject.
- Be aware of current happenings in India and around the world and try to build opinion on these issues.
- Have a balanced approach with an optimistic posture.
- Optional, GS4 and Essay play a very crucial role in selection. Try to have grip over these papers.
- Take the language papers very seriously. Almost 10% candidates fail to clear the language papers itself. Once you fail in these papers, none of your other papers would be checked. And entire hard work will go in vain.
- Take UPSC as a means and not as an end. It shouldn’t be anyone’s life but a part of it. Enjoy the process, learn new things and live it out.
- You must have a reason for getting into the Civil services. It could be anything- social service, prestige, social status, relationship, etc. Ups and Downs are the part and parcel of this process and you should be ready to cope with it with help of your reason. It will help you getting internal motivation which is a thousand times stronger than the external motivations.
- Be consistent, don’t be relentless. Your persistent carelessness may lead to consistent failure.
- Beware of self proclaimed UPSC “Experts” who keep on unfurling the so called perfect strategies. These experts have been misguiding candidates in the disguise of helping them. They are usually found at tea stalls in ORN, on youtube, in libraries etc.
- Strategies are very personal thing. What worked for me may or may not work for you. Every person has his own unique way of doing things.
- Keep moving, don’t pay heed to who is saying what. Don’t waste time on things which are not in your control.
- Always remember that If you don’t do it, someone else will. It’s a competition and you need to get comparative advantage over others in order to see your name in the “sacred list”.
“A journey of a thousand miles always begins with a small step”.
All the best. JAI HIND.