"I want to take a moment and mention the Mains Guidance Program(MGP). I can vouch for the quality of it since I wrote a lot of tests. The team of ForumIAS made sure that they were there for me at all times I wanted. I had a mentor who could be available at any moment I wanted, and they regularly called me. I once had a half hour discussion with a mentor only on how to manage the anxiety level, and he helped so much. I really don't think there is anything that is better structured and more interactive in regard to Mains than the MGP."
Two years back, if you would have asked me where is Egypt, I would have said Europe. Yes, I was that bad. And therefore, I want to tell everyone who is reading this - that if I can get through this exam with 56th rank, so can you. If you are in your own path, please move aside! Hello everyone. My name is Mittali Sethi. I belong to Punjab, got married to a Maharashtrian, studied in Chennai and live in Pondicherry. It is complicated, but it gave me a big opportunity to remove my prejudices and meet a lot of new and different people - something that helped me a lot with this exam. Why I started preparing for Civil Services is a long story that I will hugely condense here. I had some transformative experiences at an NGO in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra where I went for a residential youth camp called NIRMAN. Back home, I started teaching a girl who never went to school and that transformed into a small school in my house with a lot of people taking part. (That girl just finished her tenth exams, but that's a beautiful story for another day :-)) When I started, I was 29 years old. I was working a full time job, was married and had no inkling of how would this ever be done. I could not take a coaching due to my work hours. When Mains was near, I went into depression, and it took a lot of friends, family and a book by James Allen to bring me out of it. With all these weaknesses, however, I had many strengths. I had a wonderful family, an amazing friend support system (a big shoutout to Sandeep Verma here, who I admire from the deepest of my heart for always being there) and then I found the ForumIAS community. Forum IAS and me: I have participated very rarely in the discussions at Forum IAS, but I will sheepishly accept that I was always reading them and I want to mention a few names here who really helped - @mangodolly, @DrKingSchultz, @MD47, @yoga123 and so many more people. I had nobody around me who was even remotely associated with UPSC preparation, and Forum IAS community was such a godsend. Even when with all my work and study, I could not write here, it always felt that there are people out there who are going through similar emotional experiences as I was, and in many ways, that was comforting. Thank you to all of you. :) I was not regular with the 9pm Brief, but I did follow the Daily Editorials here and regardless of what I did or did not follow, the content was commendable. I want to take a moment here and mention the Mains Guidance Program(MGP). I can vouch for the quality of it since I wrote a lot of tests. The team of Forum IAS made sure that they were there for me at all times I wanted. I had a mentor who could be available at any moment I wanted, and they regularly called me. I once had a half hour discussion with a mentor (Shantanu) only on how to manage the anxiety level, and he helped so much. I really don't think there is anything that is better structured and more interactive in regard to Mains than the MGP. Last but not the least: @Neyawn. I read basically every motivational article he wrote, and also saw the interview initiative video made available to us. There wasn't even a single thing he said or wrote that did not help me. I still remember his article on “50 days to Mains - Do your best”. What a wonderfully written piece of advice! People think that strategy is something that needs to be decoded, I think its the mind. If somebody can write or say something that can make you truly believe in yourself, it is unmatchable. Thanks to @Neyawn for being that person. My mark sheet: Prelims preparation: I don't want to scare anyone by mentioning a huge booklist here. But since I have failed two prelims, I know a few things that you should or should not do. Of course, listen first to yourself and then to me! There are a few pointers that I would like to give: 1. Revise the mock tests - any mock tests that you have done all the year round. Nothing like doing questions and learning. 2. If you are writing mocks now - there is a general tendency for us to take mocks very lightly and answer much more than we would actually, if this was to be an exam. Starting tomorrow, when you write a mock, consider it to be your Prelims exam. Calculate in your head that you will lose marks if you mark a question wrong.Find your right balance. Nobody cares how many questions you did correct. What matters is your final score. Take each mock as a learning experience. Not only of knowledge but also of strategy. 3. If you have not done maps until now, keeping an Atlas with you will be pretty much redundant. I could not have an atlas in my department since I was working, so I did maps from Geography through Maps by K. Siddhartha. I used to do one continent each day - eg rivers and mountains of Africa in half an hour. Choose to do this if you are far behind. 4. Keep a notebook with you where you note down small things that come to your mind - things that you feel might come in exam. If you don't note it down, you tend to forget them. If they then come in exam, regret haunts you. Don't be lazy. Just go through them quickly, it doesn't take a lot of time. To end this write up: I have said this elsewhere - and I cannot stress this enough - In life as in this exam, your mind is your asset, your mind directs each and every effort that you make. So take care of it. Imagine standing in a ground where someone is throwing footballs at you. The ones you think you are capable of catching, catch them. The ones you think will hurt you, duck! It is the same with people around you. Don't allow negativity to cross the barrier of your mind. Stay strong and positive! Whether or not you are a civil servant, you are important, you matter and you are enough. Always, always, remember that. And don't allow anyone to tell you otherwise.