When you face failure in your first attempt, it shakes your confidence and while preparing for the next attempt, you have baggage of the previous attempt.
But, Ankita Choudhary made a promise with herself to be sincere and delve deep in to preparation that helps her reach destination.
Here, she candidly talks about her experience with Civil Services Examination and how she approached each stage of the examination and finally tasted the sweetness of success.
(AIR 14; CSE 2018)
Language for Writing Examination: English
Language for Interview: English
Nature of Examination
As this exam is unpredictable, I have come across two schools of thoughts : 1st, you just have to keep yourself confined to UPSC and 2nd, you should keep all your options open.
I think I belong to the 2nd school of thought that you should at least have a job before you jump in to something big like Civil Services Examination.
Job security gives you confidence if you are preparing for UPSC otherwise sometimes, it can be very depressing.
Initially, I was very clear that I’ll only stick to UPSC but during preparation I realised that it is unpredictable. You can’t be sure that you’ll get through it. So when I failed my 1st attempt, I thought of other options and I gave papers for other exams as well and at the time this result came out for UPSC(2018) I already had 2 jobs; but, I didn’t join any of those.
Views about Preliminary Examination
I think it’s the most challenging part because with knowledge, luck also matters that how you are performing on that day.
Since I failed in my 1st attempt, Prelims is not pure luck; it is result of sincere hard work.
From last two years UPSC has raised its standard for Prelims paper, this year also people told that paper was difficult.
In my first attempt I was at boundary. I was scoring around 102 or 103 and cut off was 104. When I failed in last attempt, I just promised myself that next year I’ll not be at border line.
My sincere approach towards Prelims made it sure that it wasn’t luck; I was confident and I scored 122 in GS Paper 1.
I made sure that I don’t repeat this; but, there are a lot of candidates who do not take Prelims that seriously.
My action plan
I started preparing for prelims initially; but, in July 2017 I started preparing for Mains.
I started writing my answers and then prepared simultaneously for my optional as well. Till December 2017, I was done with my GS for Mains and Optional and from January 2018, I was only confined to Prelims.
I didn’t prepare for interview that time.
Role of Optional Subject
Optional Subject selection is very important as it has a very important role to play.
For me, it was not an easy choice as I am from Pure Science background (M.Sc. (chemistry) from IIT Delhi). For Civil Services Examination, since I was to pick only one optional subject, I zeroed in on Public Administration as it renders valuable contribution in General studies particularly in Paper 2 and Paper 4.
Moreover, if you look through the syllabus of public administration (it is basically about what you’ll do when you become a civil servant) so it gives you clear cut definitions of your responsibilities and duties of when you become a civil servant.
So in that way it is very helpful.
Targeting General Studies
People have diverse views for preparing General Studies too. Some candidates talk of holistic approach; while some tell you to be selective.
Another view instructs you to crams your syllabus and you should know which topics are important to read in the newspaper.
Too much of Gyan is spread out there and that is enough to confuse you.
I didn’t go for this strategy, I read the syllabus and told myself that I have to cover these topics and I just left the distinction, for me I was preparing for GS as whole.
I just read, prepared my notes and read the topic from where I liked the content and made notes for important data separately that I’ll quote this if asked.
I have seen people asking that is Mains test series important or not. I took my test series from Forum IAS. I think it’s very important especially when you don’t know a way to write an answer because in UPSC you have limited time frame so you have to make sure you have to write precisely.
So, you have to minimize the content and write all the information, facts and figures available. Initially, when I started writing my answers I was just writing paragraphs, I wasn’t using diagrams, flowcharts, etc. At forum I was told that you are writing your answers as in a grad paper. Then they showed me some 4-5 lines that can be used as a flowchart. I learned all these during test series.
My approach towards each paper:
We have 2 essays to write, one of them is psychological and other is usually related to GS.
Nowadays, while writing psychological essays, problems are there which I have seen with my friends too.
I wrote my 1st essay directly in the paper; but, I had a particular strategy that I actually learned at Vajiram: when you get essay, break each word in topic and then use synonyms for those words. Then form 4-5 questions and make an effort to answer those questions while writing and with these strategy I was able to finish my essay within 2 hours.
Topic: climate change; how thought and actions affect your conscience
Interview (Personality Test)
I had my interview during the month of February.
This is the basic trend that if you have your interview early then it’s mostly depth based. I prepared my depth very thoroughly and luckily my interview was depth based only.
I think for interview you should have your presence of mind, you are relaxed or nervous, you are anxious in front of them or not. I gave around 6-7 mock interview, so I was confident.
I was asked direct questions. The board was really cordial and friendly and they were mostly concerned about whether I am able to answer everything or not and wanted to see how I react if asked any unpredictable questions.
Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC
Public Administration score is close to my expectations. In General Studies, I was little disappointed. Rest was very close.
In my second attempt I wasn’t expecting Rank 14. I was expecting something around 200 because it was my first Mains and Interview.
I wasn’t sure whether my strategy will work and see what has and hasn’t worked for me; but, I would say that I am very lucky to find my name sticking to Rank 14.
It is a result of dedicated hard work.