My name is Anubhav Singh and I have secured All India Rank 8 in the Civil Services Examination 2017 conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. It was my second attempt in CSE. In my first attempt my rank was 683 and i was allocated Indian Revenue Service (IT) . I took the extra ordinary leave from training as I wanted to give full attention to my interview preparation. In this attempt I made some amendments and as a result I was able to secure a much better rank than the last time. Due to extraordinary support from my friends and family I have been able to take this journey to it’s logical conclusion.
I am a native of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. My primary and middle education was completed in my village itself and in class 9th I came to Allahabad city and completed my secondary education in Allahabad. I am a graduate in Civil Engineering from IIT Roorkee. I am a 2015 batch pass out. I started preparing from the third year of my graduation and simultaneously worked on my English as I was educated thoroughly in Hindi medium. I had joined ForumIAS discussion platform, but I was a silent observer.
I think this is the section where I have something unique to share. My UPSC journey was of three years. I prepared with my friend Karthik at his home in Gurgaon. We used to study together for every stage of the examination. We also had a close friend who was not preparing for CSE. We went out every alternate day to Cyber hub and Vasant Kunj malls and sat in coffee houses for hours discussing random things. Due to above stated reasons I hardly felt any pressure or small periods of depression which are common in Old Rajinder Nagar junta. I tried to strike a balance between enjoyment and preparation. I think it is very necessary to keep your mind off from preparation related things for some time. Spending quality time with close friends and family members is very important for reducing stress and anxiety.
Due to increasing competition, prelims has become very demanding and unpredictable. My score dropped from 146 in CSE 2016 to around 108 in this attempt. I would strongly recommend multiple readings of standard textbooks such as Bipan Chandra,Spectrum,Laxmikant, Ncerts etc.For geography class 11th and 12th Ncert books are enough. In polity , along with Laxmikanth, one should also read Ncert books related to the constitution to understand various concepts and issues.
Mrunal’s lectures can be selectively used for Economy and Geography. For environment, along with the Sankar’s book and NIOS I used internet to gather more information about environmental issues and related institutions.For culture Nitin Sangwan sir’s notes are very good, If prepared they will suffice both for prelims and mains. I read Forum’s articles, Vision’s current affairs magazines and PIB updates for current affairs. Science and technology is the most unpredictable part of question paper, In my view one should only focus on this topic with current affairs perspective.
For Economy 12th Ncert of Macroeconomics and Economic Survey published by the department of economic affairs would be sufficient. I would also suggest especially to new aspirants that they should thoroughly analyse past 3-4 years’ papers to understand the pattern and level of the question paper. Try to attempt at least 80 questions as there would be many questions in which you won’t be sure, hence to increase your chances, attempt more questions.Forum’s test series is one of the best for prelims so practice at least 10 papers before the examination. I would also recommend that one should not take too many tests as it consumes a good chunk of time without commensurate benefits, instead one should devote more time to revise the syllabus.
First thing about UPSC essay is that it is not a literary essay. To new aspirants ,I would suggest that they should take a look on some essays written by top scorers and try to analyse those essays with respect to content and structure.The essays in part A are generally concrete topics relating to economy, society, polity etc.For this part one should focus on reading magazines such as Yojana, EPW and Frontline etc. If the aspirant is regularly reading articles from these magazines, he will not face problems in gathering content for this part. Topics prepared for General Studies are also of great help in this part.
On the other hand topics in part B are generally vague and philosophical in nature. For this part I would suggest reading some classical literature to develop abstract and critical thinking, for example Dostoyevsky and Camus. Debating and discussing abstract issues with your friends could also be of great help. You can also acquaint yourself with thinkers like Kierkegaard, Kant, Aristotle and Freud by using YouTube videos.
Now as far as the structure is concerned,I started every essay with a catchy introduction (sometimes with a small incident or story) and then proceeded to analyse the topic in detail. I tried to analyse the topics with as many dimensions as possible by including views from multiple perspectives. In the conclusion summarise the dominant theme and end the essay with an optimistic and emotional note . I would also suggest quoting national policies, acts, schemes, historical events, quotes by eminent persons to make your points concrete and one can also use graphs and diagrams to substantiate the point. Underlining the important themes is also a good practice as it makes the examiner’s job easier.
GS MAINS STRATEGY
GS PAPER 1
I read NCERT Ancient and medieval history, Bipan Chandra and Sekhar Bandyopadhaya for modern India, Norman Lowe and wikipedia for world history, NCERT fine arts, Nitin Sangwan’s culture notes,NCERT geography and Sociology. I included introduction and conclusion in every answer and underlined the important themes and facts. One can take a look at optional papers of history and geography to prepare a range of questions which could be asked.One should also practice writing these questions to develop a format of answers.Forum’s topic wise mains test series is very good for practicing questions as their questions are of similar type.
GS PAPER 2
I read Laxmikanth and NCERT for basic constitutional concepts. I maintained a list of important national and international events relevant with respect to topics mentioned in syllabus in paper 2 and when those topics developed with time i used newspaper and magazine articles to write a complete analysis of that particular topic.I used the diplomat and ORF for International affairs and IDSA articles for internal security issues. I would suggest that one should write down each dimension of India’s relations with important countries.
One can also do the same with internal security topics such as Naxalism, Insurgency, Coastal security and border security. Analysis of important supreme court judgements should also be prepared.Important laws and government policies and schemes must be prepared in detail.ARC and Punchi commission’s report ’s summary should be prepared. Forum’s articles and test series can help greatly in preparing paper 2.
GS PAPER 3
Economic Survey is a must for economy section of the syllabus, so it should be thoroughly prepared. Niti Aayog’s website contains very good analysis of many topics relating to different sectors of the economy. Syllabus should be examined very carefully to decide important topics. Various sectors and sub-sectors of economy such as agriculture, Steel, Railways, Highways, Housing, IT etc must be prepared thoroughly. Forum’s articles can be downloaded and placed in a folder to organise them properly. I would also suggest to maintain a data sheet covering important data related to economy as this could be used in answers for substantiating your points.
Regarding S&T, one should make a list of keywords mentioned in syllabus such as nanotechnology, biotechnology etc and other important technological developments such as CRISPR , 3D printing etc and then by using internet write complete analysis of every topic with respect to it’s meaning, importance and possible applications.Important thing to note is that people generally tend to proliferate reading material which results into diminished focus on important issues, instead one should judiciously select relevant material and prepare that properly.
GS PAPER 4
I maintained a folder of important thinkers and terms and revised it frequently. I developed a standard model for case studies, which could be inferred from my MGP copies.I would suggest using definitions of terms mentioned in the questions as introduction. One should also memorise some diagrams and flowchart and use it wherever possible.Writing practice is very important for ethics and Forum’s MGP does a great job in this regard.
My experience is that one should attempt all the questions in GS papers even if you have only vague knowledge of some of the questions. Only if you don’t have even an iota of the question ,you should leave the question. Giving introduction and conclusion in each answer fetches better marks.Regarding paragraph vs bullet point debate,I would say that one should use them as per the question. Mentioning facts, data, government policy and act is important in every GS paper.Underlining is also important.Forum’s Mains Marathon is a very good initiative for regular practice. I usually wrote 4 or 5 questions everyday.
MATHEMATICS OPTIONAL STRATEGY
Mathematics was my favourite subject since my schooldays. But this was not the sole criteria on which i decided to take maths as optional in UPSC, I reckoned that this was the subject in which I could score maximum. Along with interest, pragmatism should also inform the choice of optional subject. Another thing to note is that graduate and post graduate maths is very different from higher secondary maths.
Regarding the book list,I would recommend that one should broadly follow blogs of Nitish K(AIR 8 in CSE 2014) and Prakash Rajpurohit (AIR 2 in CSE 2010) subject to one’s inclination and preferences.Syllabus is a bit bulky so the aspirant must stick to topics mentioned in UPSC syllabus.Last 15 years papers of CSE and IFoS must be prepared thoroughly. Accuracy is of central importance in mathematics. To improve accuracy, I would suggest that one should solve the questions completely in a step by step manner, as it reduces probability of mistakes.
While practicing questions ,do not leave questions half done(you might think that it is very easy and only so and so steps are involved) and write all the steps neatly to avoid confusion and mistakes. Some topics such as Mechanics,Fluid dynamics,Rigid dynamics are complicated and require constant revision.Make notes of past years questions of these topics and revise them frequently. Prepare abstract algebra only if you have time because for most of the students this topic does not provide proportional dividends.
I had taken IMS’s test series in 2016. It is helpful for ensuring time bound completion of the paper. Do not take any topic for granted. Practice a lot, even if you think that any particular topic is easier.Here I am mainly referring to ODE, PDE, LPP etc. Since last two three years, level of complication, specially in paper 2 is increasing very fast. So, obtaining conceptual clarity is very important. However, there is hardly any scaling in paper 2 as I attempted correctly 170 marks in 2016 and got 161. Similarly this year I attempted 205 marks correctly and most probably I have got around 185 marks.
At the end,I would say practice and revision is key to scoring high marks in mathematics.I have covered in this part only those dimensions which are not there in the blogs I have mentioned.One should study in detail the blogs to orient themselves properly in maths optional.
I had scored 140 in my first attempt and 165 in second attempt. I took the Interview Guidance Programme of ForumIAS and interacted with Asif sir on a regular basis for discussing my DAF and for addressing my deficiencies. Neyawn sir’s video on interview preparation is also very helpful for orienting the aspirant in the right direction. I also gave 7 mock interviews at various institutes and tried to address the issues in the successive interviews.My interview transcript can be found on Interview transcript 2018 telegram group.
FORUMIAS MGP AND INTERVIEW GUIDANCE PROGRAMME
I had joined the Forum at the start of my preparation. Many threads at forum are really helpful for aspirants. The community members at Forum help each other in sorting out preparation related issues. If anybody is observing the forum judiciously , there is very low probability that he will miss any topic/sub-topic relevant for the examination.
I had joined the MGP in 2017 to improve my GS score as I had obtained only 374 marks in CSE 2016.I wrote 8 full length tests and discussed the shortcomings with Asif sir regularly.He suggested me various measures to improve my content and structure. Question papers set by ForumIAS are very good in quality and are similar to the papers of the commission. Due to MGP and Asif sir’s continuous guidance I have scored around 420 marks in GS this time.
Similarly I have improved my interview score by 25 marks this time. I had taken a session with Asif sir and G Babu sir for the interview. They thoroughly analysed my DAF and mentioned my strong and weak points pretty clearly.This diagnosis helped me towards better identification and rectification of my shortcomings with respect to the interview. I would take this opportunity to congratulate and thanks Asif sir and Ayush sir for their commendable job in helping the aspirants in a fair and efficient manner.
In the end I would again thank everybody who has directly and indirectly helped me in this journey, which has not been without it’s fair share of problems.I would also like to wish good luck and a fulfilled life to the future aspirants.
With Deepest Regards,
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