B. Fouzia Taranum, Rank – 31, CSE – 2014
Disclaimer : I do not know how helpful this brief write up is going to be, but since many had asked, and I have benefitted from similar write ups of seniors, here goes. (This compilation is derived from her blog) .
Work + Study :
It was very important for me that I do not compromise on my present work, while I gave this attempt. I had to be more than justifying the salary that I was taking home.
At office, I would concentrate on work, and at home on preparation efforts and personal obligations. While it was difficult and often tiring, I hope I did justice to both, my aspiration to be in IAS through my preparation efforts, along with the requirements of my job as an Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax.
The balance came from management of time. There will never be enough time, rather we have to make time for everything.
Use of Time :
There is a dire need for short, productive periods of reading through the day. For instance, reading up the news feeds after returning from lunch at office, listening to the news/saved videos while travelling to and from office, etc. Such reading of 15 minutes in short bursts 4-5 times a day really adds up and contributes immensely to our efforts.
Also, I used to take up a subject I like and enjoy when I felt like I have a lost cause in my hands and was feeling depressed. This really helps make our efforts more productive. However, we need to be cautious that we do not let other subjects suffer from neglect. Be judicious in the time you allot to various “sub-subjects”.
General Strategy :
- No leave before prelims (no proper study before prelims either, thanks to strength in CSAT)
- Focussed preparation after getting a fair idea that I will clear the prelims (having checked with various answer keys available online)
- 30 days leave before mains
- 5 days leave for interview
- Studying atleast 2 hours a day (working days) – depending on my work day either early morning or late night – August to December 2014. Also managed to take a few Fridays off after the prelims results, so as to get 3 days of continuous reading done, or to compensate for the days when I had not prepared due to obligations at work.
- Finishing weekly newspapers (piled up) and studying for about 4 hours a day (during weekends/holidays)
- A general study, unlike the crazy detailed study of 2011-12
- Focussed on revising my strong areas (economy, geography, etc) and re-preparing for my weak areas (history, culture, sociology, etc) along with preparing for the newly introduced topics.
- Focussed on current events and ensured that connected GS related gyan was revised (e.g: LS elections were on – read up all election related polity).
- Chose Sociology as optional because pub ad wasn’t performing too well, socio takes lesser time to prepare in comparison and enjoyed reading this subject more, even though I have never studied this subject academically.
- Didn’t read too many books, so as to not feel lost at the end of it all – stuck to the books (or the particular sections in the books) that I really enjoyed reading.
- Ethics – GS Paper 4 – Just read up a few solved papers on the Vision website and realised that our “UPSC orientation” is sufficient – Looked up definitions on all the terms used in the syllabus and made short notes. Didn’t read anything beyond that. Scored 113/250, and was largely just giving “true” answers to most situational questions/case studies.
- Couldn’t practise writing due to lack of time – I know that if I had, I could have really upped my game.
- Gave many examples in my answers, and tried to keep them interesting to whoever was to read them.
Writing style :
- Short, to the point, bullet points, covering as many dimensions and aspects as possible
- Didn’t focus on word limits too much – some answers I looked for more space and for some I just jotted down half a page
- Didn’t really fill pages, wrote as much as I knew
- Interlinking of topics
- Use of diagrams/charts
- Underlining of important points as I write
- Points in the margin (like a summary box, to help me and the evaluator)
- History – Bipin Chandra, Spectrum
- World History – Norman Lowe, YouTube Videos, Online resources
- Geography – NCERT (11th and 12th), G C Leong, Atlas
- Art and Culture – Insights on India questions and answers, NCERT History pdfs online
- Polity – Lakshmikanth, Online resources
- Economy – Newspapers, Frank ISC Economics (11th and 12th), Economic Survey
- Environment – Newspapers, ICSE Text book, Online/Wiki for all the various protocols, committees, etc.
- Newspapers – The Hindu, Times of India, Editorials from Economic Times
- Magazines – None this year due to paucity of time (used to read Frontline and Wizard in 2011-12)
- C N Shankar Rao – Intro to socio
- Crack IAS notes – ppr 1
- Haralambos – very important book according to me (understood Mead thanks to this book!)
- IGNOU BA Notes – selectively. (Did all units on thinkers thoroughly)
- Ritzer for Thinkers
- Upendra Notes – for thinkers and introduction only
- Collins Dictionary for Sociology – for concept clarity
- C N Shankar Rao – Indian socio
- Crack IAS notes – ppr 2
- IGNOU BA Notes – selectively
- Nagla for Indian Thinkers
- Upendra Notes – for movements only
- Nadeem Hasnain – Tribal India selectively
- Ram Ahuja – very few topics
- Year Book for programmes/schemes
- Spectrum History – for national movement
- Online resources for few topics
- Newspaper articles/editorials on social issues
A lot of resources available online, have a look and settle for what works best for you.
Never lose focus, never lose faith. Stay consistent in your efforts. Believe in yourself! Don’t forget to keep learning and to keep improving!
Though a certain amount of luck is required, hard work does pay! I have not studied in big “Ivy League” institutions, nor do I have any civil servants in my family. I come from a very simple, ordinary, loving household, where education has never been very important. Still thanks to my parents’ support and my efforts, I could make it. So can anyone who sets her mind to it.