Please find the Preparation Strategy of our ILP Student Apurva Pandey, Rank 39 and General Studies and Essay Answer Copies
She was also a regular follower of TLP Answer writing initiative of IASbaba. Apurva Pandey is/was better known as ‘Veracity’ and here she also discusses the importance of strong peer group in the likes of @TheCredibleHulk, @Abhijit(ABG), @Heidi and @Toadsage
My name is Apurva Pandey and I have secured AIR 39 in UPSC Civil Service Examination 2017.
I live in Haldwani, the gateway to the hills of Kumaon, far away from the bustling lanes of ORN and Mukharjee Nagar, both literally and figuratively. I would have never thought of staying here and preparing for the civil services examination but for the great online revolution in this field spearheaded by the likes of IASBaba. Needless to say that today, I stand grateful and indebted to IASbaba for my success in UPSC CSE 2017.
From excitedly reading and commenting on topper strategies on the internet to writing one myself, it has indeed been a transformative couple of years for me. But today, as I sit down to write my strategy I realise how daunting a task this can be. I remember being naive and taking every word a topper said very seriously, comparing myself to them, then getting upset over it and finally spending the rest of the day wondering if I will ever make it. It was only after sometime that I realised that each one of us is unique and will thus experience a unique journey. So if you are reading this and feel that your journey is not quite the same as mine, then do not get flustered. Have faith in yourself, pick up parts that you think might work for you and forget about the rest as you get back to studying. 🙂
Association with IASBaba:
When I first decided to prepare for the civil services examination, I was a third year B. Tech student, 100% sure of a bleak future in engineering. I first came across IASbaba sometime in 2015 when they were also beginning, just like I was. I was quick to start following their initiatives, especially TLP. The first answer I ever wrote was on TLP, and surprisingly enough, the review that I got from Baba was not half as bad as I had expected. That was when I decided to stop wondering whether I have it in me or not, and just get to business.
Even though I couldn’t take much time out for studying while in college, I tried to write on TLP at every possible opportunity. I would eagerly await reviews and was lucky enough to find a community of fellow aspirants from whom I learned a whole lot. Special mentions would be @TheCredibleHulk, @Abhijit(ABG), @Heidi and @Toadsage. In fact @TheCredibleHulk pretty much became a mentor to me and I will never be able to thank him enough for his kindness and wisdom that completely turned the course of my life.
I still remember the first time my answer was chosen best answer on TLP. I was crazy happy, it was a great boost to my confidence and I have no qualms in saying that the kind of response I got on TLP helped me become more sure about myself, my strategy and my decision to prepare from my hometown. Other initiatives of IASBaba that I participated in were the 60 day plan, ILP-2016 & PIB summaries, and each helped me inch closer towards my dream in some way or the other. But what I am most grateful to IASBaba for, is for holding my hand and showing me the way when I was absolutely clueless, for being my mentor at the very start of my journey, for every pat on the back and every honest correction. Thank you for everything IASBaba. I would credit you completely for my transformation from a clueless girl who could never write an answer in 250 words to a more confident one who managed to complete all GS papers well within the time in Mains 2017!
I did my bachelors in mechanical engineering from Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture & Technology and graduated in 2016. Since I was determined about not giving more than 3 serious attempts in this exam, I decided to appear in 2016 itself for getting to know the exam better, since I was anyway going to waste 3 attempts. It was of course a disaster given my level of preparation but gave me a scare that kept pushing me everytime I got complacent.
So I got back home from college and spent the next one year preparing religiously for CSE 2017, and fortunately got through this time. 🙂
Since marks are not out yet, I am not sure of what worked exactly. Nevertheless, here is my strategy and I hope it can be of help.
I hope I am not alone in thinking that prelims is the most difficult stage in CSE. I am not even exaggerating when I say that ,for me, the best part about making it to the list is not having to sit for prelims again.
I am sure I scored only enough to get me past the cutoff, yet my two cents on preparation for prelims is as follows.
- Be thourogh with the basic books. Everybody knows the important NCERTs, everybody knows about Lakshmikant and spectrum. Point is doing these books again and again till you gain an absolute mastery on the static part.
- Mock tests. The importance of mock tests has been highlighted time and again by many. Solve as many mock tests as possible, and revise till you feel confident. While solving mocks, also develop your personal strategy for dealing with prelims. Try and infer what kind of question paper makes you feel confident enough to go 80+ in attempts or what kind of question paper demands you to be conservative. Identify your strong areas and weaknesses and schedule your study for the last two months accordingly.
- Pick up trends. I cannot highlight enough the importance of picking up trends. Go through previous year papers to gauge what areas are trending and require special attention. For instance, questions from Buddhism & Jainism figure in the paper almost every year, questions on national parks/wildlife sanctuaries, maps etc are common. So pick up these trends and work accordingly. This exercise is especially helpful during the last two months. While the rest of the year can be devoted to holistic coverage, in the last two months before prelims, you have to be selective and strategise your study smartly.
- Current affairs. You can prepare you own notes out of newspapers or go through compilations made available by different institutes. Whatever you do, trust you source and revise as much as possible. I personally found compilations very helpful in this regard.
Finally, do not let your test marks affect you any more than pushing you to work harder. Stress takes away confidence, and confidence is key to doing well in prelims. So learn from tests and move on. Trust me, most people who make it to the list have their bad days where they don’t score well in mocks. Let mistakes be learnings and not distractions.
Art and culture: I read this part from NCERT Fine arts, Ancient history and selective reading of Nitin Singhania’s book on Art and culture.
Science and Technology: Relied mostly on Current affairs compilations from IASbaba. Being a PCMB student in plus two, I did not find it necessary to check out the few prelims-relevant chapters in NCERTs of Biology and Chemistry.
Environment: Selective reading of Shankar IAS book, since there’s a lot there that is not quite necessary in my opinion. To figure out how to read selectively, one must go through previous year question papers, detect the pattern and use it to extract prelims-relevant information from these bulky books. I also relied on current affairs compilations for this part.
I feel more confident sharing my strategy for mains as I completely loved this stage. However, in my opinion, one has to strike a careful balance of several factors to score well in mains. Since marks are not out, I think it’s only fair to give a general strategy for GS than elaborating on each paper separately.
1. Content: Your years of hardwork is pointless unless you can show it to the examiner on paper. Therefore, I think our content should be such so that the examiner is convinced that we have studied hard and know stuff. For this we must quote reports and committees, put in data, cite examples, refer to current developments etc.
Of course one cannot read all reports and learn all kinds of data. Here again lies the importance of picking up trends. For instance, cyber security, subsidies, mob violence, river interlinking, privacy etc were really trending before mains. I was expecting questions on these and so had certain facts from reports/ committee recommendations jotted on a piece of paper. I did not read entire reports, simply googled and found facts & recommendations that were simple enough for me to remember.
Then apart from current hot-topics, one must also keep an eye for all-time hot topics. These include topics like climate change, inclusive growth, Indo-China relations, Panchayati Raj, agriculture etc. You can ready some data, recommendations, committees, and innovations in these too.
In fact, if time permits, it is best to go through all topics in the syllabus and jot down data on each one of them in not more than half a sheet. Revise it before the exam, and impress the examiner with the apparent wide range of your knowledge.
However, all this only after you have covered your basic books and are doing your newspapers properly. Quoting data & committee recommendations cannot compensate for lack of analysis. There is no shortcut or trick to bettering your analytical skills and the only way is hard work and sincere study.The aforementioned is only to make more attractive what you have, the foundation lies in focused study and not in quick google searches.
2. Presentation: The examiner checks several copies a day and we must try our best to ensure that our answer script stands out. If our content is great then there is no way it will not stand out, but good presentation makes this content more readable, catchy and emphatic, thus directly impacting the examiner’s impression of us.
A few things that can be done to better presentation are:
a) Introduction and Conclusion
b) Break down the answer in parts if the question is in parts.
c) Use of heading/subheading for better organisation and visibility of content
d) Use of flow charts, diagrams, maps for greater clarity. It also helps break monotony and makes the copy interesting to the examiner.
e) Underlining important points, for eg any committee or report name that you may have mentioned
f) Simplicity in answering. Language should be simple, not very flowery or complicated. If the examiner has to put in extra effort to understand your answer, it does not bode well for your marks.
g) Concluding answer on a positive note, maybe with some kind of solution. For instance, I ended many of my answers with ‘Way forward’, listing few good solutions or recommendations.
h) You must also try to begin your Essay on an interesting note, with some quote or story or poetry so as to capture the interest of the examiner at the very outset.
i) Practise. All the points mentioned above cannot be implemented in the actual exam without prior practice. Remember, the more we sweat in practice, the less we bleed in war.
2. Time management: I, for one, struggled a lot with time management. When I first started writing full length tests post-prelims, I could only do around 14-15 questions in 3 hours. Then I starting solving questions on hour-basis, setting my target to 6 per hour. I practised this way one hour every day, while solving full lengths weekly. I also used flowcharts and wrote point wise to better the situation. My speed improved considerably by the time mains arrived, although I still ended up leaving 35 marks worth in Optional paper 1 due to speed issues.
3. Optional: It is important to devote to your optional as much time as possible. Choice of optional must be based on how much the syllabus interests you. If you are sure that you enjoy your optional enough to spend lots of time on it, then nothing else should matter. I found PSIR interesting, and I really felt that I could manage it on my own so I chose it without any second thoughts.
Here again, answer writing is important. I joined Shubhra Ranjan mam’s online test series for the same. I also purchased her notes since many toppers had recommended that, but for me reading directly from notes did not help gain the kind of insight and confidence that I thought I needed. So I purchased all the recommended texts for various parts of the syllabus and read them religiously. Reading these texts not only gave me a better understanding of the subject, but also helped me understand how exactly should a student of political science write.
For PSIR, I read an excellent strategy article by Ananya Das ma’am that really helped me a lot. I would advise all those who have this optional to go through it at least once.
Whatever you do, never lose hope. Because no matter how well prepared they are, nobody is absolutely sure of their selection. Not one time during the course of my preparation, did I think I would get a rank as good as 39. I was alsways full of self doubt and fear, but yes, I never stopped studying. I just thought that study never really goes waste and if not here then somewhere else, my learning will help me make a mark.So if you feel low, or if you feel that you are falling behind, then remember that those who get selected also face similar fears. More often than not, this fear pushes us to work hard and so your fear is not entirely a bad thing.
Of course, luck does have a major role to play. But for your luck to work, you need to be well past a certain threshold. We must focus our energies on working hard and reaching that threshold, so that luck, if any, can get to play its role.
This exam is a year long process in itself, and so please don’t overwhelm yourself with its preparation. Take breaks, watch movies, talk to people who make you feel better, just don’t stop living your life. It is after all just another exam in the great series of exams that life is.
I wish all of you good luck and a very happy, fulfilling journey.
Download – Essay_Apurva_Pandey_39
Esssay Topic: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”
Download – GS Answers_Apurva_Pandey_39
Apurva Pandey (Veracity)
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