[Strategy] The Post Mains Agenda – Preparation for Interview & Ahead

There are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what you want.

The other is – getting it.

In a few weeks from now, it is expected that the Civil Services Mains 2018 results will be declared. And the outcomes, unlike most things in life – are going to be in binary.

You will either make it, or won’t.

This is the plan for planning for the second kind of tragedy – getting what you want, and you are probably not ready to receive.

In either case, fortune favours the bravest those who are prepared for her. Times like these – of wastefulness and the changing weather and wavy emotions – like those of a sine curve – are times of opportunities.

But of course, when opportunities give us a knock, ( like this article would do ) , a lot of people will complain of the noise.

But then – that shouldn’t stop the Watchmen from shouting Jagte Raho, isn’t it?

So here we go.

#1 You have to be extremely motivated / guided to study at this hour

Truth be told, the only people who are studying right now, and who I know of are either the very motivated ones ( like Deepanshu , who was slogging last year , who has still not submitted a success article to this blog after getting Indian Foreign Service ), or has siblings, parents , or someone in the services who tells them that this is the time when most people study and make progress.

Because if anyone else told you, chances are, you wouldn’t listen. Of all major people whom I have worked with, I invariably saw them work when no one else was. Mittali  was writing a Mains Test Series immediately after her Mains. Harsh Kumar was taking Optional Classes for Philosophy after his Mains 2 years back.

Do you see an attempt at continuous improvement?

Vaibhav and Abhishek , Ranks 1 and 2 of Indian Forest Services in different years and Rank 99 and Rank 10 of IAS in the same year – that is last year were preparing for the Interview at this time last year.

And tons of bureaucrat kids or kids with elder siblings in bureaucracy study hard in these months .

A majority of the crowd doesn’t even know these are the months to be utilised!

Some people actually think this as a Christmas Break!

But then,  a small minority benefits only because the majority is blissfully unaware. Or de-motivated.

So if you are waiting for the right day and time to kick starts your studies, the time is now.

Suit up! And get started.

#2 Don’t quit the newspaper.

A few years back, Two young IAS officers from Haryana came to see me. They chuckled to themselves saying that a lot of people dont even read the newspaper and yet they call themselves IAS aspirants. While times have changed – and there are tons of people who dont read the newspaper these days for Mains –  in my opinion, catching hold of the newspaper in these days is extremely important, nay, its suicidal to quit on the newspaper.

“Have you heard of the bladerunner?”

“Yes Ma’am”, I said after a brief pause.

“Who is he? What is his real name?”

“Ma’am his name is Oscar Pistorius. He is a double amputee sprint runner”

And why was he in news recently?

“Ma’am he is accused of shooting his girlfriend”, I said.

The above is the transcript of my own Interview.

Now things like these , I just happened to know,  by reading the newspaper. No compilation of coaching notes could help me cover such questions – and they should not. I mean if coaching notes have these in them , probably they are not doing their job right.

And yet Oscar Pistorius was so famous back then, that when this incident happened, it was on the front pager – of all newspapers – wait for it – across the globe, not just India.

So not knowing it sounds dumb even if this was a frivolous piece of news.

Things like these may have a nuisance value, but what the heck, if you dont know it – it looks bad in the Interview.

Just do one newspaper. Thats it.

So that when you have your interview call, you dont feel like an uneducated person fallen from the heights of knowledge accumulated during Mains.

#3 Start Preparing. For the Interview – even if you are not getting one.

I have spent three decades on this planet. And there is one thing that I have learned is that there are no guarantees here- you only have probabilities. Those probabilities could be as high as 99.99% – but there is no guarantee of 100%.

If you don’t like this arrangement, I suggest you seek some other planet. Because things don’t look likely to change in the coming years.

But this planet has also taught me that if you sow, you shall reap. If you put in hard work , you will get rewards – in some form.

There are no guarantees in life. You do your best, no matter how you feel. So do not look for guarantees. Not on this planet.

You just put in some hard work preparing for the Interview, and just be a well prepared man. Or woman. And when opportunity knocks, you open the door, wearing a suit. All prepared.

Thats all I am asking.

So here are the five things you can get started with from Day 0.

  1. a) Get a printed copy of your DAF in your hands
  2. b) Make a journal , and start writing questions that you expect from the DAF
  3. c) Make a small group and start collecting facts and questions related to your Home State, Optional Subject, Graduation Subject etc.
  4. d) Appear for your first mock as early as possible and see what it feels like
  5. e) Write 2-3 lines answers on each question that you can frame and begin with the first iteration of the Interview questions.

Trust me, the future belongs to those who are prepared for it.

But why write down answers? It kills my creativity!

I had a brilliant candidate last year. She was all the good things in the world ( and did get IFS which was her second choice, and thus is out of the exam cycle now. )

I met her once or twice before the Mains for her Philo and for GS Papers ( she was an outstation candidate  ) and again for the Interview.

And while she was all brilliant, I knew she wouldn’t prepare for the Interview, because she was a natural speaker.

And I have lost tons of such people who score not so good marks in the interview because, no-one including myself usually has the guts to tell them to prepare.

But you may want to see things from my point of view. When I ask brilliant candidates – by which I mean natural speakers – Why IAS?

Unless they have a written down answer, they almost always answers different things depending on the time, the day, the mood, or the last movie they’ve watched or the last article they have read. And the answer could be anything  – and different things – all put up in one answer sometimes – ranging from job satisfaction, to serving the poor, to fulfilling a childhood dream.

And none of these answers are a serious improvement upon the first one. Why? Just because the candidate did not write it down, and hence there is no measurable parameter.

When we write down things, chances are , when we write a second version of it, the second and subsequent version would be an improvement upon the first one.

Written down words are powerful. Like these. This one. They have archival value.

If you write down stuff, chances are you can keep track of progress too.

So start writing answers.Just 2-3 lines answers.

But why appear for the first mock as early as possible?

Because most people come to know what is to be done only after they have appeared for the first mock. And a large segment of these “most people” appear for a mock ten days before the actual Interview , and then go jittery thinking – ye pehle kyun nahi kiya.

Be the first mover.  Or the early adopter. Or the best . Since you cant be the best always, try being the first two. [1]

Secondly, after your first mock, you will have some first hand idea as to whether mocks work for you or not.

Empirical evidence .

So your  “how-to-proceed” subsequently will better than mere guesswork or speculation.

Do these five things. All at once.

Firstly, irrespective of this being your first Mains or second or the last one, at least make a register for the Interview. Give the Interview Prep solid 3-4 hours a day.

Secondly, get hold of the newspaper and actually start reading  it. The front page news too.

Third, if you are not satisfied with  your GS Mains, join a a Mains Test Series. That is a no- brainer and does not require making big decisions. So do not be stuck with that decision. Get going.

Fourth, if you are unable to stay productive, join some class. Join any class – Current Affairs Class if you can find one. If you find nothing, join Zumba classes. The point is – Get in a schedule. Have a time table for sleeping and waking up – and put in few productive activities in between.

Fifth, train for the Interview. Eat right, get fit to fit in the clothes made for your size if you have to appear for the Interview.

Sixth, keep an eye open for the Prelims too. Do not be the smartass who reaches till the Interview –  even makes it to the list but not top 100 and therefore needs to write the exam again , and flunks in next prelims. Then you are no more smart. You are only

And thats not good.

Lastly, Rome was not  built in day.

I meet lot of people from different walks of life.

All trying to join the Civil Services.

Some of those people also clear the exam, look good, get a Rank 1 , and fulfil their dreams career dreams too.

And while almost everyone I meet, nearly always overestimate what they can accomplish  in a day, they also always underestimate what they can achieve in a few months. [2]

If you play your cards right, and make good use of the time[3] in your hands, chances are you wont be reading my articles  next year at this time. [4].

Until next time,


Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author are strictly personal in nature and do not reflect the views of ForumIAS.

[1] I did’t say that. Jack Ma did. The guy failed to get a job at McDonalds in China and is a billionaire

[2] Almost everyone does that.  Usually when we begin something afresh.

[3] Time is egalitarian. Everyone has an equal amount of it. So you cant complain about the world not being fair – even if you are called for the interview within a week of the results.

[4] Thats a lie. You will still read me even if you join the academy. Or get married and have kids. Once in a while.  I hope so. ( fingers crossed ) I still get books, Thank you’s and gifts from people from the Academy. Here is one by Mittali – who won the best IAS Officer Trainee at LBSNAA that year 🙂

P.S. I got introduced to Murakami this late in life, yes. 🙁

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By Neyawn

Neyawn is an anonymous member the founder of ForumIAS. He is a coder Mentor & Teacher by profession, and often writes for ForumIAS. You can buy him coffee , if you really really like his work. He has built ForumIAS - the community - twice. You can say Hi to him or ask him a question on ForumIAS, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn . You can also write to him at RxAxVxI@FOxRUMxIAS.COM ( remove the small "x" from the email ).