Strategy:ANIKET SACHAN, AIR 285 (CSE 2019)
Expectations have a strange way to bind you. If they are fulfilled they bind you with their inevitability. If they are not fulfilled they do the same with remorse and guilt for having them. Fortunately, I fell for the first one. My reaction when I first saw my name on the pdf was of smugness. I felt like, I always knew that this was bound to happen. Yet, deep inside I know the reality. No one can be sure of anything in this journey. There are countless cliffs where you can fall, countless sea where you can drown. If you manage to get past, well it’s good for you. My name is Aniket Sachan and I have been fortunate enough to get AIR-285 in CSE-19. This was my first attempt at this exam. In this article I intend to enlist my learnings and my failings for all who have patience to read my musings.
People often ask me if I started my preparation from first year of my college. Well, let’s start with what one means by preparation. From what I understand, preparation is the work one does with the intent of cracking a competitive exam. Going by it, my preparation started in 4th year of my college(june 2018). I read a few ncert books in even semester of my 3rd year to decide if I really enjoy studying all this. The time that I spent at my intern was the deciding one. Working their I realised what I had to do(this time in a determined way). Even before, I started doing casual reading of the newspaper in my 2nd year. Hindustan times used to come at my hostel gate and it became my staple. Additionally in my second year, I developed a love for books. My reading list included Why growth matters, India after gandhi, the old man and the sea, An uncertain glory, A feast of vultures, patriots and partisans and so on(It’s a long one extending to about 30 books). As you can see these books are mostly on social issues. It was not a conscious decision aimed at upsc but one intended to satiate my curiousity. It also helps in developing love for “the idea of india”. So no, I didn’t started preparing from my first year.
From here on I would like to discuss my understanding of this exam. It is for sure incomplete but it has served me well till now. First I would illustrate the philosophy, and then use it to decide the course of action. Also, remember that every action suggested below is just an opinion. You are the best judge of your course of action.
It is an objective exam. Rote learning is more abundant here than in other parts. However this doesn’t rules out intelligent guessing from the scene. Here, you need to learn how to rule out impossibility. For that you need to know your content and ability to make approximations. To gain these two skills one needs to do two things: note making and paper solving. Let me elaborate my logic. Before doing test series practise, a few words from your friend
1.Join a test series exactly 1 year before you intend to give prelims. In case you are early, complete standard sources before you start. In case you are late, join without any further delay. Now, why I say so? For two reasons. Firstly, It would introduce you to a rigourous regimen while limiting scope for procrastination. Secondly, It would ensure that you do course correction in your preparation by exposing flaws that you don’t otherwise see.
2.Don’t fret about marks. Use papers as a learning material.
3.Add everything you learnt from the paper to your notes.
4.Give test papers in exam setting.
5.Use papers to find your golden number. Actually it is less of a number and more of a methodology. I used to follow 1-2-3-4 strategy(google it). Who knows you might evolve your own strategy.
6.solve atleast 40 papers in last 3 months. It shouldn’t be done because you need to practise how to fill an OMR. Doing these papers would cover any current affairs that you might have missed during your preparation. Now, refer to point 2.
7.Check the strategy given in IASbaba 60 day plan. The exercise suggested there can be helpful in identifying your weaknesses.
Yeah!This one is a bit tricky. Here your sources are ambiguous, path uncertain. Here you need an idea about every major current of thought(obviously those in syllabus). You must have an understanding of it’s stakeholders,problems,solutions and it’s interconnection with other domains of social and physical sciences. Now, how to achieve this? You need 3 tools: content, ability to connect domains and ability to understand demand of the question.
1.Regularly read newspapers(op-ed specifically) and develop curiosity for any topic that is foolish enough to cross your way. For example, If you come across a new article stating “farmers demand implementation of swaminathan recommendations”, you must immediately google ”swaminathan committee”. If you read somewhere that Indo-US relations started changing after civil nuclear deal, you must google it. Overtime you will develop the ability to connect things.
2.Build up a collection of anecdotes, quotes, models, statistics, SC judgements, committee recommendations and anything else you deem useful. This is similar to your pizza toppings. You have the base, but your pizza tastes better if it has onion,capsicum,panner(for vegetarians out there)etc. These add-ons will enable you to fetch those extra 1-2 marks/question you need for selection if you use them skilfully. Diagrams can be added as well but they must come naturally.
3.The best way to learn a craft is simply doing it. One needs to do answer writing practise. However, just writing a answer and comparing it with model answer won’t help you that much. You need to brainstorm on it’s structure. Ask questions like, How can I improve this structure? How can I make this point more impactful? Should I rearrange the order of the arguments? Can I add this statistic here? Soon you will find that you have internalised the conclusions you drew from this exercise. Also, a word of caution. Don’t start answer writing till you have completed atleast 60% of the syllabus. Without content a fear would develop inside you and you will write just for the sake of writing. Those who just want to improve their English or have a deep fear of writing may do otherwise. It’s perfectly fine. Obviously all this is for beginners.
I won’t venture into my interview strategy for one simple reason. I don’t think I have been able to decode this part till now. Additionally, interview is a really personal thing. Still it is advisable that one prepares his/her DAF and formulates a balanced opinion on major happenings of India and world.
My view on few other miscellaneous things
Again a part in which nobody knows anything. Best you can do is to refine the way you think on ethical issues. Here I used to follow the strategy of “complexify the simple and simplify the complex”. Same strategy is applicable to essays as well. Ethics paper usually have two types of questions(excluding the case studies). The first variety is more theoretical in nature. These questions might deal with some term related to ethics. For example, emotional intelligence. Try to introduce a bit of creativity here. You can link emotional intelligence with leadership, generosity, empathy and so on. You can mention concept of fiduciary duty in questions related to corporate governance. The second variety is more subjective in nature. There may be some quote of some famous personality or there may be simple philosophical statement. Try to introduce the jargon of ethics in these answers to give it a more objective touch. You may mention echo chamber effect in questions related to ethical psychology. Even if you don’t get whatever I said above, just think about it a bit. In due course of time, you might get the same conclusion during your answer writing practise.
Here you need to do two-dimensional study. One from prelims perspective and other mains/interview perspective. In my opinion, most institutes cover prelims oriented information in a decent manner. You can just refer to any daily news analysis and make notes out of it. Alternatively you can also go for monthly compilation, it’s your choice. For mains perspective however, you need to study the opinion-editorials.(indian express) If possible one must read two newspapers. It would be beneficial if one of them is a business newspaper(livemint in my case). Always remember that newspaper reading and answer writing are two interlinked beings. Take your step accordingly.
My book list
Indian polity- laxmikanth
Economics- sriramIAS notes
Geography- 11th and 12th class ncert
Environment-ShankarIAS notes(selective reading)
History- old ncerts, selective reading of spectrum for some fact intensive areas
Selective reading of nitin singhania’s book for Art and culture. (check out roman saini’s video regarding same)
Rest everything is just current affairs based and doesn’t requires any book. Value addition for all subjects was also done from IASbaba notes.
Referred to visionIAS notes for governance, Indian society,internal security,agriculture and some other less known topics.
Internal security, world geography,ethics completed from IASbaba’s notes. Supplemented a few things from sources mentioned in mudit jain’s blog Followed some suggestions from strategies of anudeep durishetty, D K balaji for ethics.(check them out) Explored some other online sources(reports of institutions like NITI aayog,ORF,GKtoday,insightsonindia etc.) for topics I was not sure about.
Read summary of 2nd ARC reports,economic survey, budget and other reports from GSscore website.
My association with different institutes across my preparation
1)IASbaba ILP(Integrated learning programme) in online mode.
2) VisionIAS mains test series
3)Shubhraranjan’s test series for PSIR(Optional)
4)Baliyan’s essay test series
5)mock Interviews from samkalp,ALS,nextIAS,KSG,ICSA,shubhraranjan
Special thanks to all those websites that provide free quality content to aspirant fraternity. To name a few: IASbaba,insightsonindia,GSscore, vikaspedia,arthpedia,Wikipedia,GKtoday and many others.
Please note that writing name of a test series here doesn't means I am recommending it. It's just that I picked it up based on my limited research on internet.While selecting an institute to have test series from ,just seek timely assessment and quality checking. Rest any would do just as fine. In my opinion this exam doesn't needs classroom lecture based coaching. Just having support in form of test series and study materials would serve you well. Rest it remains your choice.
You are the sole arbiter of your destiny. Don’t view this as some ultimate exam or a shuttle to your dream job. You all guys are awesome and you will be successful in your life irrespective of this exam. This is just one of the many oppurtunities. Give it your 100% and have a definite back up plan at the same time. Rest will be taken care of.
Here I am attaching link to my notes. Please note that these are not exhaustive and are intended only for sample purpose.
DEFENCE,ENVIRONMENT NOTES : https://www.evernote.com/pub/sachan186/defenceandscienceandenvironment
ECONOMICS : https://www.evernote.com/pub/sachan186/economics
ETHICS : https://www.evernote.com/pub/sachan186/ethics