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L.Srikumar Pai
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IAS Guidance | IAS Toppers | Over view of Exam | How to Prepare  

Ms. Manju Rajpal, IAS Topper Among Women 2000


Planned Studies, Hard Work And Inner Motivation Are The Keys To Success -

Sorabh Babu Maheshwari, IAS Topper 2000.


The path to the coveted Civil Services is full of ups and downs and is a highly uneven track to traverse. Before taking a decision about Civil Services as your career, it is expedient to check up oneself and remain determined after wards.

The first and foremost thing to decide while aspiring for Civil Services is the judicious choice subjects for the Prelims and the Mains. This is the most important and first step of your journey and should be accomplished most carefully as coming things hinge on it and a wrong decision may prove to be disastrous. Careful analysis of syllabus, previous years' papers, your calibre, requirement of subject (Visionary, Numerical, Theoretical), comfort level with the subject and past trends should be done. Advice from seniors and fellow candidates should also be sought. To avoid dithering in choice at later stage, initial deep thinking and consultations are a must. Having decided the subject, it is advisable to stick to your choice even if the perception of others about it is not favourable.

Preparation for General Studies can be done hand in hand while preparing for Optional papers. Good mix of study hours for General Studies and Optionals makes study enjoyable and it becomes easy to sustain for long hours without losing interest and enthusiasm. Before Prelims result, one Optional can be exhaustively prepared so as to have an edge during study for the Mains and also to ease out burden during these busy days. General Studies, though does not have any limits, yet syllabus as outlined by UPSC gives quite good understanding of the question paper. General tendency about General Studies paper is to devote much more time on unproductive readings which, in reality yields little returns. Concentrate on what is more probable, followed by probable, then less probable if time permits. Even if you do not cover less probable ones, you are not at much o floss. So, be secure and study systematically. Being a regular reader of newspapers n magazines gives good command and writing skill, hence, this should be made a habit. Trend now-a-days has shifted more towards current issues, hence a thorough awareness of recent happenings is mandatory. one you achieve the threshold in General Studies, more efforts should be put on Optionals (Especially in Prelims) as it is more scoring and is the hub of success.

For Mains, syllabus is quite beautifully elaborated and we know beforehand the study topics. Ready reference material as published in some magazines is of great help. I believe that the preamble of UPSC Question Paper are the instructions on the front page of the paper. Give some time in reading the instructions and follow them. By doing this, you are averting a possible source of error which could creep in if you do not read them.

Follow the world-limit as prescribed at the end of the question to the extent possible. Try to confine your answer within that limit, never exceed it. The art to express many contrasting views in a confined word space comes through practice, so practise some previous years' question papers. Be your own while writing, never try to imitate anybody. Your expression needs try to be limited yet comprehensive while writing General Studies paper. In Essay paper, your imagination can reach zenith but with a purpose, never divert from the main topic. To ensure, work out the sub-titles, rearrange them if necessary and once you are satisfied with the rough work, elaborate are satisfied with the rough work, elaborate on this outline after wards.

There is no standard word-limit yet. What one can effectively write in 3-hour duration is good enough length. My essay consisted of approx 2500 words. Conclusion should be drawn only at the end, take a balanced approach and write whatever good comes to your mind at the end, take a balanced approach and write what ever good comes to your mind at the moment. Devote initial 40-46 minutes on preparing rough outline. Next 2 hours for writing inflow and last 15-20 minuets for review and corrections.

In addition to Competition Success Review and standard books, I studied History Polity of Spectrum Series books, Economics, Science & Technology and Geography through MnM Series books which I found quite useful.

Approach to Optional paper is not universal and is individual specific, adopt such strategy which you are comfortable with and which fits into your constraints. Since, I am working with maruti Udyog, I did not have plenty of time as against my fellow candidates. I had to evolve and finetune my strategy to cover up such a huge Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics syllabi apart from General Studies & essay.

"How to write an answer" is equally vital for Mechanical Engineering/Mathematics paper as it is for General Studies & Essay. Students sometimes ignore basics and it costs much. Before proceeding, state all the assumptions involve and try to give minutes plausible details, adopt step0by-step approach, see that no vital step is left in between, as these steps are the links and missing or weak links can never ensure good strength of the answer, so be careful about it. All this sequential and systematic answering comes through a lot of practice and analysis of standard answers. Simulate the actual examination hours at home to judge your performance and to plug any loopholes.

For the Personality Test one should better form a group of 3-4 people as the preparation for Interview cannot be done in isolation. All would agree that personality is a life-time asset and expecting miraculous alterations in personality in a span of a few days or weeks is not possible. Yet, efforts can be made to overcome major deficiency and polish p views and opinions. Remember, no one is omniscient and non-awareness of something should be admitted with politeness. Only those people learn who have urge to change are willing to accept new ideologies. If at any point of time, you could show that your approach is flexible an amenable the world is yours. It is better to say 'No' than to bluff around. Those interviewing are highly experienced persons and know much better than us, therefore one should be expressed only if asked so, never start giving history of an issue, unless asked to do so. Of the question put is not clear t you, politely ask for more information. It is not the factual knowledge but your views which are on test. Always observe interview etiquette and be honest, polite, convincing an modest. Arrogance, rigidity, flicking round the issue should be avoided.

A lot depends upon the Almighty, so pray often. Be self confident but not complacent, honest, motivated, have patience and be optimistic. Work hard as there is no short-cut to success and hard work never goes unrewarded. I would like to quote Swami Vivekanand (often my eldest brother reminds me of it): Arise awake and rest not till the goal is achieved. There are many ups and downs during the course. It is the 'downs' which need to be tackled more vigorously and skillfully, it is when a person's qualities are on test and they emerge as winners who have these qualities. To cite my example, I was often told that it is just impossible to think for IAS while working. I was advised sometimes even to quit the job. Yet, I managed to come out with flying colours despite all these hiccups' kudos to good planning, my faith in Almighty, parents' blessing, hard work and God's grace. I have read somewhere that winners are those who manage their hardships effectively and do learn from our mistakes makes us successful. Never feel depressed, self confidence and inner strength are the two basic requirements for anybody to appear in this examination. Believe in yourself. You are your own best judge and you know which areas are weak and nee reinforcement. General perception around the Civil Services aspirants regarding Mechanical Engineering is highly discourage yet I took it and got success. So never get carried away by others.

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Profound Faith In God, Strong Will Power and Dogged Pursuit Do Bear Fruit -Ms. Manju Rajpal, IAS Topper Among Women 2000

"Winners don't do different things, but they do the things differently" - these lines appearing in the Preface of Shiv Khera's Book "You Can With" touch the very fathom of success or failure in life. There are no roses always strewn on the path of those moving towards their goal in life; instead the thorns in the way is the biggest truth of life. I never agree with those who think failure s synonymous with lick. Every sweat of your brow through hard work bears the splendour of your bright career and this ensures your Golden Tomorrow. Those who keep faith in their capabilities, shape their future with their own deeds. We have t take exam/test at every step f life. Therefore, whether it is a competitive exam or a sundry struggle in day-to-day life, till you have the high aim of standing first or coming out victorious therein, the pinnacle of success remains a distance dream.

The first step towards success is to choose your goal honestly and thereafter to make dedicated efforts backed by strong determination t achieve it. By honesty, I mean that incases you are selecting Civil Services s your career, the first quest ion that you should put to yourself is: Whether you want to become the same of which you are making efforts. It is very easy to inherit a dream, an aspiration or a goal but to muster courage to convert it into reality is surely a difficult task. Therefore, if father desires, mother has a dream or it is a pressure from your social circle or family that you have to be a shining star in the firmament of civil Services but you are planning, for your job satisfaction, quite a different a career for you, my advice to you would be to reconsider your decision for making Civil Services as your goal. If the decision to join Civil Services is your own, then assess your suitability in the context of your capabilities to see whether you passes the requisite self-confidence, dedicated efforts, strong determination and commitment; the reason being that the lack of constant and hardwork leading to initial setback or failure to achieve the desired success engulfs the whole personality into darkness. If your decision is backed by an honest assessment of positive aspect of your capacity or capability, then proceed towards your goal in right direction and, believe me no obstacle on the way can ever waver you from your path. By right direction; I mean that if you want to ensure your success in Civil Services, then it is desirable to make a right selection of study material. I have seen many candidates studying a lot which is hardly necessary. Therefore, don't waste your energy. Take a decision on the basis of the nature of your Optionals whether extensive or intensive study is required. Always use authentic and dependable study material brought out by standard publishers.

You must be quite serious in the selection of your subjects. Some subjects are considered scoring and that the chances of success therein are rated quite high. This is a wrong method of subject-selection. Subject-selection should be always based on your interest in the subject, availability of study material and your ability to understand the nature of the subject as a first reaction, better evaluate your deficiencies in the subject and try to remove them. In my opinion, keeping in view the moral disequilibrium and fall in performance level as a result of such frequent change of subjects, it is better to stick to your original after rectifying your drawbacks. Preparation for civil Services demands right time-management. If there is something more valuables than time, it is 'Time' only. Therefore, instead of wasting the interlude between completion of prelims exam and its results, prepare at least one Optional, assuming that you would be successful in the exam. Then at the time for General Studies and the other Optional. At the same time, one of the criteria for selection for Civil Service is that how for a candidate succeeds in expressing himself through originality of thoughts; excellence and analytical presentation via effective writing. An indepth study of the subject is desirable but there is a world of difference between "knowing all" and "effective presentation of requisite knowledge". Therefore, make constant efforts to develop your expressive power.

Keep your self-confidence intact while appearing for the Prelims and the Mains, then only you can attempt the Question Paper in a reasonably logical way. Select Questions after utmost thought and instead of making hurry in answering the questions, it is better to understand their true content.

In prelims, while it may be alright to answer objective questions on the basis of intelligent guesswork but in the Mains, logical and fact-based and to the point answer are desirable. In General Studies, if you do not know the answer to a particular question, it is risky to attempt it with guess work or on the basis of wrong information. While selection topics in the Essay Paper, always be careful that it should contain not only factual or informative data but there should also be analytical presentation. During interview, keep in view that no Training institute can improve your personality completely although some of these Institutes provide an avenue to be helpful through well-planned preparation and Group Discussions. During Interview, keep in mind that the members of the Board are more experienced than you; therefore, an attempt of focus your personality is to invite risk.

Whatever you are, keeping faith in yourself, have a balanced view of the questions put to you. Have faith in life and have positive outlook towards various developments; thereby you acquire the moral prop to face difficulties To sum up:- (No mater whether you take only a few steps, Go on your chosen pathwith positive state of mind, Your destination will reach you automatically: O grumbler with your forethought and planning, You can even change your destiny) you will find that a stone" thrown up with right intent could make a hole in the sky".


Hard Work, Focussed Approach And Faith In God Are Instrumental In Achieving Your Goal - Santosh Kumar Misra, IAS Topper 2000 (2nd Rank)

1. Focus on Mains : Always target the Mains Exam and make passing the Prelims a critical but incidental objective. If you always focus on Prelims result and don't think of Mains till the Prelims result are out, you will end up as a loser because there is hardly any time left for a thorough preparation. So always aim at the Mains.

2. Revision is a must : Always remember "anything you could not revise prior to the examination is as good as not having prepared at all" So always make sure that you're able to revise whatever you've prepared just prior to the examination.

3. Practice, Practice and Practice (Especially for maths) : Go through the unsolved papers of the previous years and solve them. Try to monitor you speed. Speed is of utmost importance in this examination

4. Have a Small Group : Preparing alone is extremely boring and at times frustrating. So form a small group with your friends, and have regular discussions, e.g. in History, Polity, etc. it helps to keep your tempo up.

5. 'Dare-to-Bare' Attitude for your Personality Test : Given the extremely short time (25-30 minutes) in which your personality is assessed, it is your responsibility to bring out your very best in front of the board. This should be done in a very modest way and it should not appear as if you are boasting. The risk in baring yourself in front of the board is that you will also be exhibiting your weakness. So do it in a pre-planned and well-planned way.

6. General Do's & Don'ts for the Interview: (i) Be utmost respectful to the board. They are usually very senior and learned people. (ii) Have no biases for any Board . Don't go by any stories doing rounds in your campus corridors. (iii) Never make any sweeping statement (iv) Accept your mistakes boldly.

7. Overall : Be patient and maintain your pace. This examination is all about tenacity and perseverance. Don't lose heart and work hard. Your efforts are bound to succeed.

8. Suggested study Time-Table: Say you are appearing in Civil Services Examination, 2001. Here is how I recommend going about it:

(i) Start in December 2000
(ii) December 200-February 2001: Finish your Optional (i.e., the Optional other than the one you're taking in the Prelims.
(iii) March & April 2001) : Devote fully to the Preparation of Optional 1 (i.e., the subject you'll opt in the prelims) thoroughly.
(iv) May 2001 should be spent exclusively for Prelims. A selective and precise coverage of syllabus is required.
(v) For General Studies in Prelims, all you need is a collection of Competition Success Review issues from December to May. Just go through them and try to pick as many facts as you can. Also solve the previous years' General Studies Prelims and Model Papers published in competition Success Review.
(vi) Take a break after the Prelims for 10-15 days. Relax and re-energise yourself for the last four months of the year-long battle.
(vii) Complete the Optional-1 where you left it at the time of Prelims. This should be done by the middle of July.
(viii)Give second half of July and August to your Optional -2, once again.
(ix) Prepare all your General Studies including current events in September and leave October for Revision.
Time Table For The Preparation Of Civil Services Examination :
2001-2002 December- 2000 January - 2001 Optional February- 2001 March - 2001 Optional 0 1 from April - 2001 Mains point of view May 2001 Optional - 1 and General Studies from June- 20001 Prelims point of view July- 2001 Optional - 2 August- 2001 & September - 2001 General Studies October- 2001 Revisions During revision or otherwise in nay spare time you should go through al the issue of magazines like Competition Success Review (of that particular year) and it will be extremely rewarding, I can guarantee that.
(x) After your Mains are over, take a break for say a month or so. Just keep reading Newspaper/Magazines (Hindu & Frontline's international events are a good combination). You should be in touch with magazine like Competition Success Review.
(xi) From January 2002 you should start preparing for your round two. Prepare the topics you could not do in your lst attempt and try to cover any, new areas where you feel you were weak. By March 2002, you should be fully prepare to tackle the Mains once again (hopefully you won't need it, still it pays to be prepared).
(xii) In March the results come out and immediately afterwards you should start your interview preparation. Interview : Interview preparation does not require one to stuff oneself with facts, ability to analyse and to critically examine an issue is what actually counts. Facts you may not know and there is no harm in saying so to the Board but you must be able to think laterally and analyse all dimensions of the topic under consideration. Speak honestly, truthfully and with modesty. Understand the questions before answering them and clarify the points if you did not understand them. Many a time what happens is that your answer is misinterpreted, so do not hesitate in clarifying it. Framing your own questions and answering them (especially recording them on to a tape and listening them) is a very useful technique, if you don't feel confident. Otherwise also it is extremely helpful in making a correct choice of words while answering a question.

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