By Sri Anurag Mishra, AIR 6, Indian Forest Service 2019
Toppers are people like you and me. They are not celebrities. Coaching institutes hype the names for their benefit and business. Gullible students fall for it. These are the seeds of the babu culture. Wherever any topper is today, with enough dedication and hard/smart work, you can be there the next year!
Coaching institutes don’t contribute to your success. 99% of the effort is you. So many aspirants join a coaching institute thinking, it is only a matter of time between joining a coaching and getting a rank.
Most of the coaching material is rubbish and meant for advertisement. Waste of money AND time.
I prepared for the IFS, and most of the audience would be CSE aspirants.. but if I may.. it is entirely possible to prepare and get a rank without shifting your life to Delhi. Just about everything is available online now. Having said that, if I had to be serious for CSE, I would have joined a mains test series in Delhi to build up stamina to write 6 hours a day. I don’t have the discipline to sit by myself and write 20 questions in 3 hours. Point of saying this is… figure out your weaknesses and see where you can seek help and services. Otherwise, waste of time and money.
The exam is more about grit and determination than intelligence. Doesn’t matter how smart you are, you still gotta learn the articles, and which war happened when and whatnot. So why do people only from ‘good colleges’ crack it is a common follow up question? Maybe because they have been to good colleges because of hard work in the first place? Toppers are not necessarily geniuses. Smart work is more important than hard work. It is better if your goal is to clear the exam than ‘learn’ things. There are so many things, and it is up to you to figure a method to the madness. Find the least effort way to cover all bases. This doesn’t mean slacking off. At all phases of the journey, striking that delicate balance is of utmost importance. Effort-Output ratio in mind at all times.
No two people with a rank would have had identical strategies. There is such a vast syllabus, and everyone has their strengths and weaknesses across such a large range. Don’t try to copy things from others. Figure things out on your own. This phase of setting up your strategy based on assessment of your own strengths/weaknesses is uncomfortable, but essential.
Toppers don’t really have some secret code that they are hiding at all costs. There is no substitute for hard work and consistency. Many times, toppers themselves are not sure what exactly worked. In most cases, in spite of best efforts, results won’t be commensurate. Be mentally prepared for this. You can blame luck and whatever, but it doesn’t change. Working hard is all you can do. Just hope your hard work puts you in a place good luck can find you 🙂
Most aspirants focus a lot of mental energy on unnecessary things.
Political parties and politics? your political leaning and how you defend it is of absolutely no consequence for the exam.
The number of questions I get on if prelims 2020 will be suspended because of COVID is mind-boggling. I don’t know about if prelims will be postponed, but pretty sure most of the students who will get ranks in CSE 2020 are not thinking about that right now.
Many aspirants overcomplicate things by combining everything that toppers across ranks and years say. Keep it simple. It gets sad, lonely and depressing at (most) times. You will get nostalgic about the life you left behind to enter the preparation. Or you will feel bad seeing friends enjoying their weekends while you study. If your motivation isn’t strong enough, you will be caught in the middle. You are neither enjoying life, nor are you putting in solid efforts towards the exam. This is the worst place to be. Be honest to yourself. Get going or get out. It isn’t possible to keep in touch with all the friends the way you once used to. Some friendships/relationships would be lost/changed during this course. Your best bet is to come out of this in as few attempts as possible, and find those relations still possible to repair.
Relatives and random uncles/aunties are a protagonist in any upsc story. Ignore them.
Mains marking is subjective and very rarely would you get what you expect. A chunk of luck comes in here. The only way I think this is fair is because it is equally unfair for everyone. You might end up being the unlucky one, but anyone could have been. The best way again is to cover your bases so luck plays a lesser role. You can study everything well, but prelims anxiety can get the better of you. You might know a lot, but if you don’t present it well in the answer sheet for those 20 questions in those 3 hours, it is of no use. It would be a bit of a stretch to say the exam is not testing knowledge…
But focus on preparation and execution both.
While I worked as a scientist, this is something my boss told me: Most science research projects develop over a period of at least 3 years. When you are applying for a job (PhD, post-doc, faculty, tenure, grant), you have to put 3 years of work across to people who don’t know about it at all, using 10 odd slides in 10 minutes. Don’t lose track of how to get things done. Know how to get things done. Smart work must complement smart work. This is for life in general, not just UPSC. The finances part involved is rarely addressed. Don’t quit a job and dive into preparation if your family isn’t financially secure. Weigh options, pros and cons and your own ability to persevere in the preparation phase.
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