Strategy:Aishwarya Sheoran, AIR 93 (CSE 2019)
Over the past few days, a lot has been written and said about my UPSC journey. I know how it feels to be on the other side when you are preparing or deciding to start.
So, for all those inspired by my success, here’s a heartfelt and honest description of exactly what I did and feel in the past two years-
BASICS- LIMITED SOURCES+MULTIPLE REVISIONS+MAINTAIN PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH
· May 1-15: Just spent time understanding the exam pattern, watching Mrunal videos on how to read newspaper. Also read geography NCERT for an entire day to figure out how much time can I actually study without getting zoned out.
· Came out with the 10+8+6 formula i.e 10 hrs study, 8 hrs sleep, 6 hrs everything else
· May 15-June 30:Finished relevant NCERTs (did them only once),Laxmikanth first reading and history first reading
By this time , I started to get some hold on newspaper note making but still couldn’t answer any questions from the books I had completed.
PHASE 2-REVISION PLAN BEGINS
· Started reading new subjects like geo, society etc. during first half of the day and second half devoted completely to revision(atleast 3 for earlier phase books and two for current affairs)
· Changed the way I made current affairs notes-now I first made them from Insight current affairs, then go on Indian express app to see any essay punchlines from editorials and finally go through The Hindu to see if there’s anything left(all in 40 mins)
At the end of July , I started gaining some confidence in Polity ,government schemes , history and culture but geo was still pretty bad.
PHASE 3-OPTINAL IN(ECONOMICS)
· Aug-sep-oct: my main focus shifted to optinal and did no new GS topics. Only revised the ones already done along with current affairs.
· Started doing one chapter each of polity,history,geo etc. along with government schemes
PHASE 4- BACK TO GS
· In Nov-Dec: My focus was back on GS as optinal first reading and concept clarity was over.
· Revision went on as usual but with greater focus on current affairs-revised them on that day itself and then again every Saturday.
The new year was bringing new hopes and I finally felt ready for answer writing
PHASE 5-ANSWER WRITING IN FULL SWING
· I joined the vision ias test series for GS and found that my papers were getting completed in 4 hrs 10 mins!
· Along with these, I would also practice one/two questions from Insights secure and scribble the rest to check the answers.
· Despite best efforts, I could reduce my time beyond 3hr40 mins till March.
PHASE 6-PRELIMS IS HERE
· April was all about prelims -learning specific facts, map exercises for geo and compilations of Vision ias
· However, I was still in touch with my optional(half an hr each day just doing an overview of one chapter from each book)
The prelims happened on June 2 and I had practiced about 25 vision ias test papers available free online by then (each within 1 hr 30 mins). My plan was simple-practice test in morning,revise the answers in the evening and again on Saturday (along with current affairs). No new current affairs were added in April.
PHASE 7-THE PRELIMS-MAINS INTERFACE
· After the prelims was over, I took a break of 3 days to recoup and was back in the game again. Answer writing, time management, key words and presentation is of paramount importance here.
· I joined the Bliss point test series(14 tests) for economics along with my Vision Ias Essay and GS onlike mocks
· For essay and ethics, I took out half an hour to practice rough outline and brainstorming. This, and a 20 min audio recording of quotations on various topics in my own voice (played every morning during workout) made it fun and easy to tackle them.
· I filtered out all the trivial prelims current affairs( like butterflies discovered in Kerala !) and made a handy list of facts on education, health etc. that could be used in answers.
All said and done, my slow handwriting was the elephant in the room. About 15 days before my mains , I realized that I would have to find another way to finish my papers. This realization took me to the world of flowcharts, diagrams, arrows, points and one- line intro and conclusions.
For different topics, my answer writing differed. Science was just facts in points, ethics was little paras, security was map diagrams and so on. 7 mins for 10 marker and about 10 mins for 15 marker was the ideal goal for me.
PHASE 8-POST MAINS
· Just like prelims, I was back after a 3 day break. Optimism brimming in my blood, I started devoting an hour to interview prep even before the results came out.
· When the list came in Jan and DAF was filled up, I made a register for the interview writing every word on a separate page and the endless research began.
· Attended one mock in Feb in Shah IAS institute(closest to my house) to get a brief idea about the whimsical UPSC interview
The feedback got was to stay the way I am and not look rehearsed, and so I was back to preparing on my own. Every evening , I pestered everyone in the family to sit as panel members for an “in house” mock. Turns out, this was more nerve wrecking that the official interview in UPSC!
Going to Delhi alone was a conscious decision to avoid extra pressure and also not to make my parents wait outside for so long. I knew this was a test I had to face alone no matter how nervous I was.
I was the second to go inside in Vyas sir’s chamber. Cheeks turning red and voice softening as I walked in, I couldn’t help but notice all staring at me . I sat down and the 30 min interview began. Once inside, a sense of comfort and familiarity bestowed upon me and I eased.
Questions on US-India trade deal, education policy, infrastructure were mostly due to my eco background. The chairman noticed my birth state Haryana and threw in a khap panchayat question .
The only peculiar question was about the saree a lady member was wearing which I obviously couldn’t identify but nevertheless praised her as it was indeed a beautiful pink saree.
When I came out, relief and smile were the two expressions on my face along with the inner satisfaction of giving it all.
PHASE 10 -WAITING FOR THE RESULTS
The pandemic trapped me inside and my already going hibernation just got extended! But thanks to my brother, I haven’t missed out on a single worth watching movie or web series. Right from Breaking bad to Better call Saul to Sherlock to Prison break, I have seen it all.
Studies went on as usual following the 10+8+6 approach but the stress was a lot lesser
When the result finally came , I received it in the most non glamorous style-while sweeping the floor ! A little bit of luck and two years of leaving no stone unturned final paid off😊