Coming from Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), preparing there with a coaching institute (KSG) and her family to encourage; success of Srushti Jayant Deshmukh sends a clear message that you don’t need extra-ordinary background to succeed.
Here she candidly talks about her preparation strategies, challenges she faced and how she overcome those hurdles.
Srushti Jayant Deshmukh
(AIR 5; CSE 2018)
Language for Writing Examination: English
Language for Interview: English
Nature of Examination
Yes, there were lots of apprehensions, fears, doubts and I think all aspirants have such feelings initially when they commence preparation for Civil Services Examination.
But, once you start preparing, one develops interest and soon with inquisitiveness you start taking interest in what is happening in regional, national, international level and you start knowing things around and you realize only such knowledge and awareness matters and you start relating things and understand this is what you want to do.
At that point, I started inculcate that kind of determination that I can to of my own. While I was pursuing graduation, I could not afford to come to Delhi for preparation. So, I prepared from my hometown Bhopal and I trusted myself.
For me I felt Prelims has a particular syllabus and Main Exam has most of the things that are asked in Prelims and has something extra you need to care for. So, you cannot compartmentalize your preparation and there is a difference between approaches for each stage of examination.
When the exam is coming near, then accordingly you switch gears and focus on the approach you need to adopt. But, when it comes to preparation, then you can’t differentiate what to read for which stage of exam.
Mine was an integrated approach from beginning and three months before Preliminary Examination, I devoted all my time and energy on Prelims preparation only. I started attempting question papers, joined tests and this practice got me know how to attempt the MCQs questions.
For Main Examination, I had just around 3-4 months time and I focused more on answer writing and gave some tests. Purpose was to evaluate my preparedness.
Views about Preliminary Examination
Honestly, I don’t believe in Luck. I feel the harder you work, the luckier you get.
But, looking at unpredictability and as it covers entire length and breadth, I always remained concerned about Prelims. In my coaching, I never used to get good marks in Tests. I always got marks in 90-110 band in tests. I had my own fears that I would be able to qualify or not.
But, focusing on the static part, we have to perfect our basics first; and then connect current affairs to issues. I started a bit early so I was thorough with current affairs of more than three years.
And now-a-days the range of questions being asked is tweaked; it could be even more than one year back news or issue.
Your basic concepts should be strong then only you move to current affairs.
Besides, in Prelims the way one attempts the paper that also is very important. In two hours how you handle your question paper, the way you answer questions and how you manage time is really important.
Giving mock-tests and practice is what really matters when it comes to attempting question paper in examination hall. I gave ample amount of tests to know the risks. I can say that this is very personal thing that will come only with practice.
In Prelims my score was 104.
It has been a big issue for me. I did make lots of mistakes and suffered due to negative marking while practicing.
In the last phase, I just chopped out the questions that alien to me. I tried to analyse my mistakes that either it is a gap in knowledge or of application. I just analysed my mistakes and specifically worked on this area.
Role of Optional Subject
I have Chemical Engineering background and this is not in the list of optional subjects available. So, choice of picking my own subject was ruled out.
So, I just looked that in which subject I had interest the most. I was interested in Political Science and social issues. I bought books for both subjects, I read them for one week each and then I realized I was more interested in reading Social issues as part of Sociology syllabus. Thus, it became my choice and I opted for Sociology as optional subject.
I think interest in the subject should be the only criteria for choosing your optional subject as you have to spend lot of time reading it and its weithage in also a lot. Next, in case you need to look, you can also see if it helps in General Studies papers.
When I talk about guidance, there was none in Bhopal. It was left to self-help and from standard textbooks; I made my notes and wrote answers.
When I read sociology, I felt moved by it; it somehow touched my mind. The fact that you read about women, I was really intrigued by the subject
I had satisfaction people take a lot of time in analysing the marks but, I think if you write properly you can fetch marks with any subject.
Managing dynamism in Sociology
In Paper 1, we have a lot of sociological thinkers. So, I covered the sociological perceptive from books. When you understand the perceptive, you can understand the Indian Society and Paper 2 is all about Indian Society.
So, by studying well for Paper 1 helps you in Paper 2. I also tried to view news from sociological angle like there is journal like Economic and Political Weekly, in this you have articles with sociological perceptive. Likewise watching Rajya Sabha TV as well helped me in understanding things better.
Targeting General Studies
Talking about General Studies preparation, during my foundation course at Khan Study Group (KSG) faculty members used to say there is a very interdisciplinary nature of arguments like Economy can have a impact on polity; so, you have to find out the interlikage General Studies is the place where you have to put in
I have got the highest marks in GS this year which is 470 and that has only happened because of practice and answer writing practice. When you write an answer it helps you in comprehending something
You gave weightage to content or presentation?
Everybody who has qualified apart from me has the same amount of knowledge because we study the same books, study material, newspapers. I think what matters and makes the difference is how we present answers and how well we perform in those 3 hours.
I feel answer writing is the biggest differentiator.
I focused a lot on presentation as well because I always think that for an examiner who is checking your copy, they check about 15-20 copies a day and for them you are just a piece of paper; but, for us those 50 pages are our entire hard work.
For us, it is important to present answers in such a manner that he/she gives you one mark extra.
I worked extremely hard on presentation. I used diagrams, flow-charts, illustrations, maps and used some stats and facts. It was also about using some unique things in your answer like if you quote some data supporting your arguments, it will add value.
Answering some twisted questions
No matter how much we read there will be always something left.
The thing that this examination teaches you is that you will not know everything; still, you have to manage with the resources you have.
In Preliminary Examination, you still have options of leaving the question; but, in Main Examination, you cannot.
I feel completing the paper is important. Leaving question doesn’t leave a good impression on examiner. But, in Mains mostly you have read at least something about the topic then attempt should be made to write a little about that.
In all four papers, there were questions that troubled me, but, I tried to write something using keywords from question, idea about topic.
It is all about not losing your cool.
While preparing, I was juggling with my college exams, semester papers.
I would say that:
My approach towards each paper:
Polity is something which has a scope of multiple views and dimensions. Some questions are straightforward; but, some questions are totally twisted.
So, there is scope for diversity of opinion and dimension.
Examiners sometimes must notice that there points are not being covered; but, I would say on an average 110+ you can score in each paper
Like in Ethics, I was very fearful of Ethics and generally I felt I would score least and will not cross 99 marks in General Studies Paper 4; but, I scored maximum in General Studies Paper 4 – 120 marks.
What it means is if you study from right strategy then you will score, if you cover and connect it to present developments.
Essay presentation goes a long way with your preparation. I just wrote essay every Sunday. With practice I understood how to make structure of an Essay.
While attempting Main GS papers, you have approx. 10-11 minutes for a question; in Essay you have to elaborate and write in one and half hours. For this you need to practice and it reflects in your result. I practiced writing Essay and got these checked and evaluated by experts. I think nothing special is needed to be studied; we can just add some facts, data, any statistics for quoting.
Interview (Personality Test)
It was entirely new experience for me because I didn’t even sit for campus placement. So, first interview of my life was UPSC interview.
I was very fearful of it.
For it, I started by preparing my detailed application form, current affairs.
Yes, they are important and these help you in getting important feedback. Mock interview really helped me understand how to sit, stand, speak, about the body language and some issues covered in my mocks were asked in interview.
So, I really benefitted with these mocks.
My board was Sujata Madam’s Board.
It lasted for 25-30 minutes.
The first question they asked me was about my chemical engineering project which I had done in my college. Apart from that I was asked about big data and I was asked that you are young and a woman so what kind of governance problems you will face; and in India we have poverty and malnutrition so do you think we should invest in research and technology enhancement
Question was on education sector about the current level and how should it be improved and asked about depiction of violence in the films being okay.
My interview touched many diverse issues and I was also asked how sociology will help me in administration perception.
I was really fearful; but, madam made me comfortable she portrayed as if it is a normal conversation so that ease comes in and the board was very cordial. They don’t just grill you and in my case it was a healthy conversation and I was able to converse in a really easy manner.
Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC
Scoring the highest marks in General Studies, securing Rank 5 in first attempt what else one dreams. What all matters is that my efforts helped me accomplish the task in style.