My name is Sanskriti Jain . I have secured Rank 11 in the Civil Services Examination 2014. I would like to share my journey of the Civil Services Examination with readers of ForumIAS.
During my college I never thought of civil services. I was not interested to write this exam which has so much ‘hullabaloo’ in India. I just wanted to explore diverse options. Luckily I got a fellowship and I got a chance to work as legislative assistant to a Member of Parliament. During this work experience I got insights into what exactly is happening in the government , how policies are made , and associated problems, etc.
I found policy making quite interesting. It was then when I realised that the best way to contribute to policy making in India was to become civil servant. Hence , a dream took birth!
When did you start your preparation?
At the end of my fellowship in 2012, I finally decided to prepare, that is, in March and the prelims Exam was in May. Indeed very late ! At that time even my optional were not decided. Logically at that of time I had to concentrate on Prelims only.
Overall strategy for the Prelim exam :
This is obviously the first hurdle. One has take due care in preparing for the prelims because if one is not able to clear it , all efforts become futile. In my opinion, for the Prelims Examination:
- This stage of exam requires diversity of knowledge.
- Just knowing facts will not help .Conceptual clarity is very important because even if you do not know answers , intuitively one can grasp the right answer. It is not exactly a process of elimination. Of course that is another strategy.
- The More and diverse you read, the easier it become to crack Prelims.
- One should be thorough with Basic/standard books e.g. NCERTs , Economic Survey , Bipin Chandra , DD Basu etc.
- Solve as many questions as possible. Actually revisions should be done through questions . By seeing many questions one gets very good insights about trend , how questions are formed , exposure to diverse areas ,etc.
- Solving a question paper may take 1 hour but analysing and brainstorming other options and knowing about them may consume lot of time. But this should be done after solving every paper. This strategy is worth the time you spend.
Overall Strategy for the Mains exam :
- This stage of exam sees your depth of knowledge , analytical skills , ability to combine facts with your opinion, logical development of answers & interlinkages with different areas.
- Broad perspective on every issue is required . One should take into account diverse dimensions , such as ,social, economic, political ,common man’s perspective ,parliamentarians , difficulties in implementation of policies, etc.
- Thorough reading of newspaper should be there – cover to cover.
- Though paper 1 is fact based but still one needs to understand linkages to present age e.g.
How to attempt questions creatively?
- There was one question in this main exam on “urbanisation of Indus Valley Civilisation”. Now this question is not just talking about town planning ,drainage system , broad roads of Indus Valley which everybody knows very well. One could connect with smart cities , planned development ,associating with the policies our country is taking up.
- Criteria for selecting optional subjects should be – a) Syllabus , b) quality of resources available, c) analysis of previous years’ questions and d) interest. Moreover, one should be convinced with what he/she is taking up.
- As I said earlier before prelims my optional subjects were not decided as I started quite late. After Prelims I decided for Pub Ad and philosophy. Pub Ad because it was in trend and philosophy because of its precise syllabus. Though it was very hectic to manage coaching of both the subjects but somehow it was managed.
My Experience of Coaching : Mitra’s IAS & Synergy
- I remember I had 8-10am classes at Mitras IAS . I had leave class 10 min earlier because my next class was 10-12 at Synergy !! ( different but enjoyable experience).
- For GS I didn’t take coaching but for optional subject I took . Pub Ad from Synergy and philosophy from Mitras IAS.
- In my second attempt ( in first attempt I got 611 rank) I left Pub Ad and continued with philosophy. Though Pub Ad was good subject but I didn’t enjoy. Moreover , in spite of working so hard I could not get good marks in Pub Ad and my rank was pushed back to 611. In philosophy I could get good marks that too in very short span of time. Moreover, philosophy immediately captured my attention and interest.
- Taking philosophy was easy decision for me because I found it very interesting , analytical & logical. It is conceptual paper and mugging was not required. Moreover , the way in which Mitra sir taught gave me very good conceptual clarity. His teaching had laid down strong foundation on which I could develop my own style. It was not just set of facts.
- In the philosophy classes we discussed through flow charts , how logically topics were correlated with each other, how metaphysics was connected to epistemology ,interlinkages between paper 1 & 2. This helped me really build a strong foundation and helped me crack IRS and IAS later.
- Apart from exam oriented benefits like precise syllabus,help in essay & ethics paper, etc. I also found it to be very useful in life as whole.
Is Coaching Essential?
- I took most of coaching in my first attempt after prelims. I took it only for optional subjects but for GS i did not go for coaching but I took test series.
- Coachings are not substitutes for hard work but they are definitely add-on. It saves your lot of time and gives a good direction.
My Sample Notes & Model Answers
- Secularism Notes [PDF] [Handwritten]
- Model Answer Sanskriti Jain – 1
- Model Answers Sanskriti Jain 2
- Model Answer Sanskriti Jain – 3
- Model Answers Sanskriti Jain 4
My Overall Strategy for Preparation
Criteria for choosing optional subject