Akshay Sunil Agrawal shares his preparation strategy that helped him crack Civil Services Examination in his first attempt.
He has chosen Economics as optional subject.
Akshay Sunil Agrawal
(AIR 43; CSE 2018)
Language for Writing Examination: English
Language for Interview: English
Nature of Examination
This is a very important question. In fact, when I graduated from my engineering in 2014, I did not immediately decide to start preparation for this exam because of the huge uncertainty involved.
So, yes, this exam is very unpredictable in the sense that you never know what will happen at the end of the examination cycle. Keeping this in mind, one must work very meticulously.
Target based studies, making small-small plans but keeping up with your targets, and intense hard work is what works at the end of the day!
Views about Preliminary Examination
Passing preliminary exam is a major challenge for two reasons.
One, over half a million people are running after it. So, the competition is, what I always call, a ‘Brobdingnagian Monster’.
Two, syllabus for Preliminary Examination is very vaguely slated.
Hence, there seems to be no limit to what to expect in this exam.
This makes the Preliminary Examination a real challenge. But, I beg to differ from the prevailing view that it is pure luck. No amount of misfortune can shut out hard work and practice.
Only mantra for succeeding in Preliminary Examination is – PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and PRACTICE.
Targeting General Studies
Every General Studies paper has a well-defined syllabus which is available on the UPSC website. One must stick to the syllabus and make sure that one has prepared each and every topic in it.
Current Affairs make a big part of the preparation and these must be prepared keeping in mind to which topic in the syllabus can you map any happening in the world.
Making notes is crucial for multiple revisions which are necessary to keep the content in mind.
Role of Optional Subject
Very crucial. Optional has a huge sway in deciding your rank as well as whether or not you will be in the final list.
In fact, this year, almost everyone in the top 100 have 300+ in their optional subjects. Those who couldn’t make it to the final list, whom I know, fell a little short on their optional subject.
Essay is the reflection of your personality on paper.
For beginners, I would recommend to start reading good books because books mould one’s mind and perspective, which is very essential for getting good scores in Essay.
For people who plan to take the exam in the coming year or so, they can pick up the pen and start writing essays on topics previously asked by the UPSC, and get them evaluated by friends or teachers.
One can also read essays written by toppers which are available online. I would strongly recommend reading essays by Gaurav Agrawal, Tina Dabi, and Saumya Sharma.
Also Read: Akshay Sunil Agrawal (AIR 43; CSE 2018) Blog
Interview (Personality Test)
I faced Bharat Bhushan Vyas Board and my interview was on 11th February 2019.
It lasted for 30 minutes. My interview was very cordial and I was asked very simple questions related to my life and the Indian economy (probably since Economics was my optional).
Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC
I got 142 in Essay paper; which, to my belief, is one of the highest scores. My marks in Essay played a great role in bringing me to the top 50 since this is one paper where there can be very large variance in marks distribution (I have seen marks as low as 84 in essay!).
About the Interview marks, I got 176, which is above average; but, below my expectations.
Here again, the variance can be huge – some of the people I know have been given as high as 206 while some have been given as low as 134 in interview.
This has a huge sway in the making of the final list. I think interview is the most subjective evaluation and it heavily depends on the mood of the panel.