It is ‘Willingness’ to Learn that creates the difference; says Karnati Varunreddy (AIR 7; CSE 2018)

It is ‘Willingness’ to Learn that creates the difference; says Karnati Varunreddy (AIR 7; CSE 2018)

admin Last Update on: 06 Aug 2021

Like success, failure has several effects and such occurrences have diverse impact on individuals. Here we are talking about Karnati Varunreddy a youngster from Nalgonda, Telangana for whom failure became a plateau at which he got his thoughts in order and put things in perspective to try again. 

His campaign continued till he reached his destination in fifth attempt. Though, he succeeded in his third attempt when he changed his optional subject from Geography to Mathematics; but, with 166th Rank he got IRS (IT). In 4th attempt again he made it but, 225th Rank in CSE 2017 proved to be a rung on the ladder.

Here, Karnati Varunreddy shares his preparation-Plan for Civil services Examination and experiences he gained and how his positive mental attitude helped him stay in the race.

Karnati Varunreddy

(AIR 7; CSE 2018)


Medium (Language)
Language for Writing Examination: English
Language for Interview: English

Nature of Examination
It is very difficult to completely overcome the unpredictable nature of the examination due to various ways in which UPSC can surprise the Aspirants from examination pattern, to syllabus, to nature of questions asked in the exam, to interview stage random allocation of Board.

However what one can do is to prepare better to face the examination and improve one's prospects to clear this exam.

For all stages and subjects I followed the following Mantra; that is –

  • Read limited sources, revise again and again,
  • Practice - MCQs for Prelims and
  • Answer writing for Mains.

I paid more emphasis on revision and practice.

I believe if you are thorough in your basic concepts through repeated reading of reference books and regularly read your current affairs; be it MCQs or answer writing, more and more questions you practice, you are able to identify your mistakes.Karnati Varunreddy-AIR 7-CSE 2018

Thus you identify weak areas and further work to reduce your mistakes. This exercise improves your understanding over various subjects. Gradually you can work on presentation aspects for Mains irrespective of how dynamic papers get, you will still stand among the top relatively.

Similarly for interview if you mould your personality to one who is honest, polite, warm, confident and well aware of themselves and their surroundings nothing can stop you from scoring an above average score.

Views about Preliminary Examination
Sometimes luck does play a role at Prelims stage. There might be instances where someone gets extremely lucky when most of the questions they guess turns out correct and thus clear Preliminary Examination and on the contrary a hardworking and talented Aspirant can miss out due to sheer bad luck.

However I believe luck doesn’t overshadow a more crucial and important factor that is one's own hard work and diligent preparation.

In the examination around 65-75 questions come from static portion itself and through thorough preparation one can comfortably attempt over 50 questions and rest 10-15 questions can be managed from dynamic questions thus increasing one's score over 110 marks which is a safe score for Preliminary Examination.

Also, what few people discount as luck when guesses becomes correct, tells an important attribute of a person that is one's intelligent guessing using logic and reasoning and second the risk taking ability of a person; so, indirectly it tests an aspect of personality of a person.

So, focus more on doing your best before the examination by preparing thoroughly entire syllabus so that one doesn’t have to rely on luck factor to bail them out on the D day.

Role of Optional Subject
Optional plays a critical role in one's selection, which service or cadre one might get.

To stress its importance - In percentage terms while General Studies maximum marks to total score hovers around 45%, in optional it can go up to 70% or more (e.g. 350 out of 500).

And usually General Studies scores of rankers hover in the narrow range of 400-450 with good lot averaging in 420s. In optional it hovers from 250-360 thus bringing more criticality in determining selection, rank.

So, choose it wisely in accordance with your interest, whether you have aptitude required to score well in that optional and scoring pattern over the recent years.

Targeting General Studies
General Studies has been introduced purposely by the UPSC as the administrators on the field should be knowledgeable about various aspects like history, society, polity etc to function effectively.

Therefore it is important aspirants also read these subjects from that perspective by linking the topics one reads to real life incidents and developments and understanding their real life relevance instead of mugging up.

Over all my strategy for GS has been read limited sources - one book per topic, revise them again and again and practice as much as possible.

This I followed for all the 4 GS papers. This year I focussed more extensively on answer writing by writing regularly questions posted on online resource.

My approach towards each paper:

General Studies 1 - Mostly static. More or less all of us read similar books. Challenge is how one can enrich ones answer in the exam through certain diagrams or flowcharts or examples, data, some specific content like names of personalities or events or places etc.

After doing basic reading of reference books I focussed more on answer writing, and tried to remember through practicing more questions specific content or value addition which I should write if such a question comes in the exam.

General Studies 2, 3 - Content reading for Mains is relatively less and demands more answer writing practice.
Questions come majorly from current affairs issues. However, it is recommended to revise static portion read for Preliminary Exam like from Laxmikanth to tackle questions from static portion.

Writing any Answer requires two things; one is content and the other is presentation.

Content I tackle by reading any compilation like Mains 365 or Forum IAS, Dipin sir class notes, fodder from my Daily answer writing, fodder from test series model answers, Economic Survey for important economic issues and solutions.

And rest score depends entirely on presentation which I worked through daily answer writing. I have mentioned below book list I followed for each topic.

General Studies 4 - It tests one's ethical understanding and ability to look issues from ethical point of view. It’s one thing to read the booklist suggested for ethics and more difficult part is to analyse issues which you come across in real life, in newspapers from ethical practice.

It develops with conscious practice.

My approach for this paper is firstly I made my own notes on each word in the syllabus including some examples, diagrams, quotes, thinkers or philosophers related to that syllabus word.

For notes, I used Coaching Class notes got from book store as reference book along with using internet for some nice examples etc. And then I tried to apply Ethical concepts and terms I learnt on issues I come across in day to day real life, consciously while reading the newspaper.

And then, extensive practice of answer writing. Because as a subject Ethics seems quite easy to understand; however, it is challenging to score good.

It requires lot of answer writing practice to be able to write Ethics answers which are very simple, easy to read, ethical arguments are clear, able to use ethical terms, values and philosophies in answers and illustrative with examples.

Essay Paper
Essay preparation - the content needed to write a good essay will be developed as we prepare for General studies from reference books and newspaper. What is needed is developing a multi-dimensional way of looking at an issue inter linking various aspects like social, political, economic, cultural etc.

And then able to articulate that thought process in a smooth flowing, well structured write up which is easy to read, illustrative with examples and solution oriented. This articulation skill comes with practice.

Regularly writing on online platforms and going through good essay copies of peers will help in improving one's articulation skills. Topper essay copies act as good reference source to improve - try to brainstorm the essay first or better write that essay first before going through toppers copies. Lastly join a good Essay test series where the instructor personally goes through each paper and available for one to one discussion on your paper to help you understand your mistakes.

Topics I picked in CSE 18:

  1. Alternative technologies on Climate change resilient India topic in section A as I have good fodder on that topic.
  2. In Section B, people that values its privileges over its principles loses both, as I think of some real life examples across various dimensions to be able to substantiate this topic.

Interview (Personality Test)
My Interview Board this year was B.S. Bassi sir’s Board. I was interview on 12th March 2019 in the forenoon session.
Some of the questions asked were relating to the patent I have on cloud computing. What is it about and its applications etc., contribution of IITians to India, contribution of Make in India campaign and its success, MSMEs - what India is doing and how they are performing.

Couple of questions on the current affairs of the day and some questions on my Travelling hobby were asked.

Overall it was a stress interview where members intentionally tried to put pressure on me through their manner of questioning, countering my answers.

In such interviews it is important to maintain your confidence and composure.Karnati Varunreddy-AIR 7-CSE 2018

Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC
Essay has been insurmountable challenge for me. Last year in CSE 17 Essay has acted like a spoiler - got just 105 and I ended up securing 225 rank. Even in CSE 18 its only 113, an average score by this year marking standards. In terms of expectations I was hoping for better scores in both the years based on my performances in the test series.

Interview I got 184, decently good score aiding in getting good rank. Score is as per my expectation - interviews I usually play safe targeting 180-190 and try to come across as a confident and warm personality with diversity of interests and hobbies.

Book List
For General Studies

  1. Current Affairs - Newspaper (Indian Express), Vision IAS monthly
  2. Polity - Laxmikanth, Lukmann IAS Ansari sir class notes (available in book stores) for Governance part of the syllabus
  3. Economy - Ramesh Singh (Read selectively), Economic Survey (for Mains)
  4. Geography - 11th, 12th NCERT, Goh Cheng Leong - Climate and Weather chapters
  5. Environment - Shankar IAS book
  6. History - Ancient & Medieval - Old NCERTs, R.S Sharma & Satish Chandra, Modern - Spectrum Publications book
  7. Culture – Nitin Singhania book (Read selectively)
  8. Society - 12th NCERTs, Vision Mains 365 material
  9. International Relations - Current Affairs
  10. Internal Security - TMH publications book by Ashok Kumar, IPS to understand internal security issues and then Vision Mains 365 material for Mains.
  11. Disaster Management - Yojana on Disaster Management, NDMA guidelines on each disaster available in the National Disaster Management Plan document released by Government.
  12. Ethics - watched Justice Lectures of Harvard Prof. Michael Sandel to start developing ethical thinking, read Lexicon for the first time to familiarize with terms of the syllabus.

Later I majorly relied on Lukmann IAS Ansari Sir class notes available in the market coupled with answer writing, writing tests and learning from them for my Mains.

Once you develop Ethical reasoning, to score in this paper I believe it is the skill of articulation which fetches marks and it develops with intense practice.


Also Read: Success Story Karnati Varunreddy (AIR 7; CSE 2018)


Quick Tags

IAS Exam
Budding Civil Servants Zone
UPSC Results
IAS Toppers Strategy/Tips
Hindi & Vernacular Languages Candidates
IAS, Nothing out there compares!
IAS Champions: Influential voice to be heard
Toppers - PCS (UP, MP, Rajsthan, Bihar, Jharkhand)
RAS Toppers - Rajasthan PCS Exam
Judicial Services Toppers
Myths & Wrong Notions
Toppers Calling
News related to CSE
Beginners' Mindset
Current Affairs & Contemporary Issues - Hot Topics

Most Viewed Artciles

Hope is the biggest motivator; Be honest with yourself and Work Hard for Success; says Ankita Choudhary (AIR 14; CSE 2018)
Civil Services Examination 2011 Final Result (Merit-List)
Civil Services Examination 2013 RESULT : List of Successful Candidates
There are a lot of personal factors that always motivates everyone; says Hitesh Kumar Meena (AIR 417; CSE 2018)
Civil Services Examination 2009 Final Result
Marks secured by Top 25 in Civil Services Examination 2021
Philosophy v/s Sociology; which one is better, more scoring?
Interview Transcript - Hasan Safin Mustufaali (AIR 570; CSE 2017)
My father has been my idol and source of inspiration, says Anshul Kumar (AIR 293; CSE 2015)
Hope for Success and Perseverance helped in fulfilling my desire in 6th attempt; says Priyanka Niranjan (AIR 20; CSE 2012 Hindi Medium)