Suharsha Bhagat , Rank 5, CSE 2014
Suharsha Bhagat finally secured the coveted Indian Administrative Service in his fifth attempt .His story is as unique as it is an inspiring story. Suharsha has been securing a name in the final list almost every single year – he quit Indian Audit Accounts service and left the comfort of the Training Institute to get back to Rajinder Nagar, join a Library and fight for IAS one more time. (This whole compilation is derived from his blog .)
Strategy for Preparation :
Keep It Simple. Understand yourself to understand the Exam
I would say that there is NO ONE BEST WAY APPROACH. Sync between your attitude and what UPSC wants from you is utmost necessary for this exam. In the course of time preparation becomes a Major Part of your life and It is important that you enjoy it.
Understanding yourself in necessary as that will maximise your strength and help you work on your weaknesses. Keeping it simple is the Key. Complication creates pressure during exam cycle but Simplicity will eventually Pay Off .
Role of NCERT :
NCERTs are necessary but not sufficient. It is an Efficient kick-start in the initial preparation stage which in the course of time requires a lot of value addition.
Is making Notes essential?
That depends on what and from where you are studying and also how you want to study. For e.g the Infrastructure chapter might require notes from 12th five year plan or economic survey in that case you can always go for note making. I personally prefer to mark the important things in the book itself.
Ethics – How did you prepare?
It comprises Philosophy related, Psychology related, Public administration related topics and Case studies.
The questions are theoretical and practical where real life examples and articulation skills play an important role.
The approach needs to be dynamic and vocabulary based.
The case studies should be answered using approaches like rights based, justice based, virtue based etc. You can follow the below strategy for Case studies like questions.
- Identify Stakeholders
- Highlight the dilemmas
- Create responses and alternatives
- Analyse how the response will affect the stakeholders mentioned
- Conclude by mentioning how the case has been a learning experience
The Ritual of reading Government Reports
Your aim while reading the government reports should be to fulfil the below points
- How will it help you in the exam?
- Is it a necessary value addition?
- How much can you retain and how fast you can recall it?
Basically I stuck to the summary of the reports rather than wasting time in reading voluminous pages. I believe that whatever you do ,you have to assimilate it, retain it and recollect it when needed and finally practice the same religiously.
Geography as an Optional :
Geography has very wide syllabus and huge load of information. It involves a lot of memorising and answer writing. Paper 2 is comparatively easier than Paper 1.
Prepare Map Questions well as they are very scoring. Human Geography is also another such Chapter.
The chapter of Geographical thinkers plays a key role in the preparation as it is an exclusive forte of this optional.
When an answer in this chapter is well written the examiner gets a good impression about you.I prefer diagrams in every page of Geography paper and prefer writing in points whenever possible
Majid Hussain, Savindra Singh and Coaching Material for Soil Chapter are some good sources for this optional.
How to approach Essay :
In all my five attempts there is an element of randomness in my essay score. So don’t be over confident when you score well and don’t question your ability when you score less. This applies to those of you who have written a few attempts before.
Keeping it simple and refraining you from Hi-Fi jargons and squeezing quotes unnecessarily is considered better.
Newspapers often provide good source and inspiration for essays. Good Planning, Natural flow and Coherence make the difference.
Give equal time to all essays. The beauty with interview and essays is that you prepare without knowing that you are preparing. Same Read, Think and Write mantra helps here to avoid mental blockage.
At the Exam Hall: Prelims :
This is a test of your knowledge. It is usually a mix of easy, difficult and teaser questions. Teaser questions are those that appear to be easy but gets difficult when you solve them.
You need to attempt at least 60 and above questions right to be on the safer side .My technique is to mark all the questions that I know surely in the first glance. Then I cross that questions that I do not know so that I avoid attempting the questions and wasting time.
This whole process gets over in about 1 to 1 and half hour. In the remaining time I attempt the teaser questions using intelligent guesses and elimination of options strategy so that I am reaching the safe 60 + questions limit.
At Exam Hall: Mains
Previous pattern of UPSC had little to do with time management as most of the questions were 30 and 20 marks. Now the pattern tests your clarity of thought, ability to express and the quickness in response time thus the Mains in itself is a Personality Test.
So you are basically selling yourself by what you write in those three hours.This was essentially a strategy of UPSC to discourage Coaching institutions. This constraint in time reflects your spontaneity and originality in answering because limited response time makes your answer flow from your subconscious.
Thus mugging up coaching ready-made answers and reproducing them in paper will not work.
As I said earlier focus on maximising the marks in entire paper. For eg the highest mark a candidate can get for an answer is 5 to 5.5 marks. A score of 100 is considered to be a Good score.
If you are giving too much importance to say 15 questions and then end up rushing the remaining questions you’ll end up scoring 75- 80 marks provided you got the maximum score for all 15 questions that you attempted which in turn is not likely to happen.
In case you do not know some questions then how you can follow this approach which I tried this year and it proved useful. Give the first two hours for all the questions that you knew very well. Say you give those extra one to two minutes each question maximum. Rest of the questions you can grade the time limit according to your comfortability in answering.
Like sometimes you might not have any clue about questions in Science and technology or art and culture. So in those cases you can write what you know and leave those questions.
Also paper checking is a tiresome process so you have to make answer reading effortless which will come only if you have clarity in what you know.
Presentation also plays a role. Underlining, diagrammatic and schematic representations add value to your answers. Using flow charts and infographics as and when needed is a good approach.
There is no hard and fast rule to answer only in points also it’s not feasible. Innovate in your own way, do what the answer requires as there is no best way. Basically how you attempt your question reflects your value system so evolve a unique approach.
My Approach for the Interview :
Interview is a very random process. Your frame of mind and confidencewill decide your fate. The newspaper of that day and Current affairs awareness play a crucial role. Above all your DAF (Detailed application Form) is of utmost importance.
The DAF is filled after your prelims qualification before appearing for mains and it cannot be changed later. It plays the role of resume during interview and contains other details like cadre and service preference. It is required that you consult seniors and mentors before filling in the details.
The Hobby and Extra-Curricular Activities mentioned in your DAF needs thorough preparation as they are self-declared.