My name is Lavanya Gupta. I have secured AIR 298 in Civil Services 2017.
This was my last attempt (6th) and hence all the more nerve wrecking. I managed to write Mains for the first time only in my 3rd attempt, which again was very disappointing as I could not finish my papers. In 2015, I reached the interview stage, but I missed the final list by 12-15 marks (fault in my own preparation strategy of course). In 2016, I skipped an attempt as I was not in the right mind to take the final attempt. I used that year to identify my mistakes and carve out a strategy that could help me in my last attempt. Here I would like to point out that the most important thing needed to become successful is to accept one’s own mistakes. I was reluctant to do it when in my 2015 attempt I scored poorly in interview, constantly blaming the interview panel for their “poor” judgement. But in my 6th attempt, I realised I cannot blame others for my own follies and therefore I decided to keep my prejudice aside and started opening up to more criticisms (from friends, family, teachers….. although it was difficult still… But I tried to do better).
I was born and brought up in West Bengal. I did most of my schooling in Kolkata and then moved to Bengaluru to pursue B.E. in Biotechnology. My father (my primary motivation) is also a civil servant (which is also why I decided to pursue civil services). I managed to clear my state civil service in 2015 and am currently posted as Deputy Magistrate & Deputy Collector (on probation) in West Bengal.
Since I have qualified mains and faced interview stage twice, it will be more appropriate to give out my strategy in a comparative format.
|S No.||Parameter focused on||2015||2017|
|1.||Conventional subjects (history, geography, polity etc)||Revised once||Revised thrice|
|2.||Test papers||Limited; solved previous years’ papers||Twice as many; served past years’ papers (it is a must do as UPSC seems to increasingly moved towards the previous pattern of fact based questions)|
|3.||Test paper analysis||No; solved previous years’ papers.||Yes. For every paper; solved previous years’ papers|
|4.||Current Affairs||Followed only newspapers. No current affairs material.||Followed current affairs material (follow only one);|
|5.||Notes making||For conventional subjects- ancient history, polity, science & technology|
For current affairs- No
|Yes, for current affairs made small note books and added information relevant from prelims perspective, including those found in different test papers i solved. (by the end of may I had two notebooks with current affairs compilation. Kindly make note of dates, years, location etc of famous conventions, summits etc held as UPSC is becoming more factual)|
|6.||India Year Book, Budget, Economic Survey||Yes||Yes (from any reliable material in the market)|
|S No.||Focused on||2015||2017|
|1.||Syllabus||Didn’t read thoroughly||Memorised it well.|
|2.||Static part of GS (2+3)||Didn’t prepare. Depended on prelims preparation.||Prepared almost every topic from any reliable source available in the market.|
|Depended on my notes from newspapers||Depended both on newspapers, current affairs material, memorised even articles and sections of IPC, CrPC etc, cited a lot of relevant examples in answers like use of sedition law, failure and success of NHRC etc|
|4.||GS 4||Focused only on theory, less on writing case studies||Practised a lot of case studies; picked theoretical questions from previous years’ papers; prepared examples by picking topics from the syllabus itself, used words directly from the syllabus in my answers;used tables in case studies to address merits and demerits.|
|5.||GS 1||Only NCERTs class 11 and 12||NCERTs + history notes from the market + test papers from market and their answers; noted down important statistics in a separate notebook. Tried using diagrams wherever possible.|
|6.||Essay||Practised writing less||Wrote many essays; tried different approaches for introduction like quotation, anecdote, statistics etc; tried to mention the given topic in between the essay every now and then.|
|7.||Answer writing||1.Practised less|
2. Structure not focused. More emphasis on content
|Solved many papers with friends including previous years’ papers; group study was important here |
(we were a group of 2 people only, but helped me tremendously); made possible corrections wherever needed; got my answers corrected from multiple people to get different opinion.
Focused on structure of the answer as well as the content.
|8.||Sociology||Test series; class notes.||Same (Although scored less relative to highest score while in 2015 scored one of the highest. Hence please give equal attention to optional)|
In my final attempt I gave 60 percent focus on my bio-data (DAF) and 40 percent on current affairs which was just the opposite in 2015. And fortunately my strategy worked and I managed to score quite a high score in interview this time (marks obtained have been mentioned below). Also, I got nearly two and half month gap after mains to prepare for the interview and I made sure I used most of this time to prepare my bio-data and current affairs. I also made a small notebook of relevant issues in news and wrote down my personal opinion for each (trust me you will be glad you wrote it down as in two months’ period you tend to forget many points)
Here I would like to make a special mention to the efforts of ForumIAS and its faculty for the guidance they gave me for my mains preparation which finally culminated to my success in civil services examination. To be more specific, I benefited immensely from the structure writing guidance given by the Institute.
Friends, I hope the strategy I have shared can help you in anyway. All the best and have confidence in yourself.