IAS Success Stories of winning candidates Bhawna Garg

Ms. Bhawna Garg, IAS Topper 1999

It is indeed a pleasure to write this column which I remember to have been very particular in reading, once I decided to go for this Exam. By this column, Competition Success Review is indeed providing an appropriate guidance to student aspiring for the civil Services. I must candidly admit that this column has been greatly helpful in ensuring my success in this premiere exam.

For the Civil Services Exam, a very different kind of approach is required. There are three stages in this Exam Preparation-Though, work, then deed, and not anyone of them being less important than other.

With the number of vacancies dwindling each year an the competition getting tougher and at the same time, the number of aspirant increasing-this year around three lakh students has appeared, one must consider all the pros and cons of the situation, before jumping into th fray.

You have to be self-motivated. I would like to remind the aspirants the words of Swamy Vivekananda. “Stand up, be bold and take the whole responsibility on your shoulders and know that you are creator of your own density. All the strength and success that you want are within yourself.” Once having decided about going in for the exam, it must be atleast a year before you ought to be appearing for the Prelims.

I decided sometimes in January 97 during my sixth Semester at IIT Kanpur. Then comes the stage as to what is required to be done. Start the practise of regular reading of a newspaper. I was regular with The Hindu and I found it fairly useful. Also the choice of the optional is very crucial. You can decide about it based on your own interests, aptitude, graduation study, consulting the previous years'question papers, etc. It need not necessarily be the popular choice. I had Maths and Chemistry as my optionals. The criteria to choose Chemistry as against Physics was entirely based on my self-analysis because I have more liking for the subject plus by better scoring abilities in it. So despite the fact that there was hardly any guidance available for chemistry as against Physics, I decided about it. Also because I was getting more number of days in between G S-Maths and then Math-Chemistry papers (atleast 10 days break in between), this also was favourable and encouraging which did later prove beneficial-for I got sufficient time for last-minute revision.

After the self-convincing choice of optional, the collection of the reading material becomes crucial. The study of the previous years Test Papers together with solution is very useful to understand the trend and type of questions set and how to answer them. Here again Competition Success Review, by publishing answer to the latest such test papers in various Competitive exams including civil Services as a regular Feature, is way ahead of many such contemporary periodicals.

Apart from this, the university level books are consulted for they match the style of the Paper. By September 1998, I started on with some optional subject study-taking one topic at a time but main emphasis was on General Studies especially Polity and Modern History. Due to the demanding B. Tech study, I was not able to give a lot of time exclusively for this Exam. But still, I was single-mindedly concentrating on my goal. At times I had to compromise with my B. Tech studies. I used to make a time schedule and a work schedule for the next day and also note down my time analysis and work progress if that particular day and introspect my shortcomings and possible improvements. This went on till April 1998 When I gave my Final Semester exams. In between, I managed to devote the Whole one month just to study Indian Polity-the subject I feared the most in GS and its in-depth study instilled self-confidence in me for an otherwise tough subject for me. I started on for Prelims from mid-March. I just studied the Brilliant Notes on Maths and read the NCERT books on History. Geography and Spectrum Guide for Current Affairs. I got the previous years solved Test of Mathematics to develop a good speed and maintain it as well.

Generally, my tendency during the Practise Test was to complete the paper 10 minutes earlier than the scheduled time (Duration: 2 hours) for in the Exam Hall, in the Hot Summers, one can never be sure of the comfortable conditions. Also signing the Attendance sheets and certain few announcements being made by the invigilators at intervals may be distracting and time-consuming. Prelim is just a qualifying Exam, so my eyes were always directed on the Mains. Still I devoted one full month of May exclusively for it to avoid any risk so that later I can prepare comfortably for the Mains without having any apprehensions about my clearing the first stage. The generally accepted strategy for this Exam is that one must have studied the whole syllabus for the Mains before the Prelims or at least before its result is out, i.e.. By July end. But I must admit that it wasn't the case with me.

After my Prelims-taking a 3.4 days rest break, I prepared a work plan for the next 5 months. I knew that revision is very important, still it was only by August end that I could finish off my syllabus once. With just two months before the Exam, This was a bit demoralising and at times. I felt that I was out of the race. But keeping my expectations low, still I was determined not to let my spirits go down (Swami Vivekananda quotations and anecdotes never let me down), and sustained my consistency and without letting any negative thoughts overpower my mind, I worked mechanically till the last.

The next two months, I divided into three slots of 20days, each for the three subjects. At first, I revised Maths wholly followed by Chemistry and then GS till the General Studies paper on 30th October. I couldn't do any special study for the Essay paper. However, the high caliber essays for Civil Services published by CSR proved immensely useful in giving me an insight of the methodology to attempt the next 15 days for Math Paper exclusively and then the next 10 days for the Chemistry Paper. So a sufficient gap in between the Exam proved really beneficial to me.

During the crucial six months duration after the Prelims, I feel that you must have a very systematic approach, be disciplines and sincere, be consistent and work zealously (Each day I would aim at attainable limits of 10 − 12 hours of study time, maintain a diary, go for some physical work-out for 30 − 40 minutes in the evening to refreshing myself.). be calm and positive. You should be so dedicated that no external coaxing should be needed to sit and study for long hours have faith in yourself and the Almighty and your concentrated sincere effort will never betray you.

The execution step is the last but the most cautious one. You must take light diet during the Exam days. Have good sleep. The night before the Exam for two papers during a day can be very exhausting and during the second exam, there may be a tendency of lethargy creeping in quite unwittingly. Be calm and positive. Dress comfortably. Reach the Exam centre well in time, so some deep breathing to maintain your cool and be charming during the interview. The work limit prescribes for the GS paper should be largely conformed with, for it helps in good time management as well. Work out the time plan for the Exam beforehand for the Exam pattern is very well known.

For the Essay paper about 45 minutes can be given for planning out, then two hours of writing (on 200 words) and later 15 minutes of overhauling. Interview preparation is not just a matter of a few days-your whole personality counts. Still you must acquaint yourself with your home State, district your college, your hobbies, general concepts of Public Administration, etc. Also you can brush up the Mains GS material like Polity, Economy, History, etc.

Interview is more of a psychological test than just content based. But along with good communication skills and self-confidence, good knowledge base gives you an upper hand. Here again, reading certain articles like, “Facing the Interview Board” published by the Competition Success Review helps prepare oneself accordingly. I solely relied on this important feature in Competition Success Review. Group Discussions and Mock

Interviews are equally important. However, I myself could not make a group and go for any mock interview but I think this may prove helpful especially to those who feel less self-confident and have some difficulty in communication. I did not join any Academy either. On the whole, I feel that the first attempt should not be taken lightly for the enthusiasm and the dedication for the first time may be difficult t sustain on for the next time. Also one must keep his options open while going in for this exam-for with the decreasing number of the seats each year and increasing competition, an alternative job security can give one more self-confidence and thus a wholehearted effort is possible.

With good wishes and good luck to all future aspirants of this coveted service. Self-Confident, Planning And Systematic Study: Stepping Stones To Success-Amit Negi, IAS Topper 1999 (2nd Rank)

To achieve glorious success in the Civil Services Examination, proper approach and excellent guidelines are indispensable. Your Optionals are the things which can make all the difference. This single decision has the potential to alter your life. Choose your Optionals carefully and with due care. Try to choose subjects in which you have some background knowledge. Only choose those subjects which are scoring and also with which you are comfortable

. Remember you'll have to do both intensive and extensive study of Optionals. So it is imperative that you must have interest also in your Optionals. Always keep an open-mind. Information from any source relevant to your goal is always welcome. Discuss with your friends, talk to them and listen to their views. This will expand your knowledge base and also expose you to different views. This is important as this will enable you to view things in a balanced perspective and avoid taking extremes. Make it a habit to go through magazines (especially competition Success Review and General Knowledge Today) and newspapers regularly and read as many as possible.

The syllabus in the Civil Services is very hazy and vast with no clearly-defined boundaries. So, it might happen that you end up reading things which are connected with the syllabus but are practically irrelevant from your preparation point of view. So it is necessary that you get a feel of what the examiner expects from you. For this keep a copy of syllabus and side by side keep the previous year papers. Compare them and see what types of questions are repeated every year. Try to have a feel as to what constitutes important portions of the syllabus and what is irrelevant. Try to from boundaries of the syllabus. This analysis will give you an in-depth insight into the paper and the examiner's mind. This will make you understand which topics need intensive study. This will also enable you to identify unnecessary portions, which are not important from the point of view of examination, so that you may avoid them and save your precious time and energy.

It is always useful to maintain a note-book to jot down all important developments happening in the National and the International scene. Also if possible one should make short notes for Optional Paper as well as General Studies. For example, in Mathematics and Physics one can make a formula note-book in which one should write all the important formulae and their derivations. Besides making it easier to remember, such notes are also very useful and handy during revision stages and save a lot of time.

Always do a planned and systematic study. Work out your study schedules in a planned and orderly manner. Maintain a daily routine of studying in a manner suited to you and stick to it; no matter what happens. Plan your whole preparation well. I think this whole preparation should last about 12 − 15 months. So plan your preparation in such a manner that before the prelims you should have completed your both Optionals and General Studies right up to the Mains level. This will ensure that you have sufficient time to revise. So planning at every stage of the examinations important. Also do a very systematic study.

Work out your syllabus and finish it in an ordered manner. Some time when you are free, try to write an essay on post topics covered in the Civil Services. This will expose you to your lacunae as well as make you understand the things involved: Writing a good essay. Not only the easy you should also attempt previous years Optionals Papers and General Studies Papers. This will expose your weaknesses and give you an idea about the extent of your preparation, your knowledge base, your speed and accuracy. Thus you can develop your writing skills and make sure that you can cover lengthy papers, especially GS Paper-1, in time.

Remember in the Civil Services, writing skills matter a lot. Most of the people appearing for Mains Examinations have a lot of knowledge, some of them have been preparing for the last three or four years, even then such candidates are not selected sometimes. One of the reasons for their failure is their writing skills. They are not able to present all the information present in their mind in a coherent and logical manner as expected by the examiner. So, you should develop your writing skills. The attitude that I will write directly in the Examination should be done away with

Remembers hours do not count. Don't go by the claims of other persons who say that they study more than 18 hours a day. Do not get depressed if you are unable to achieve their targets. Remember, it is your preparation, you are the one who will appear in the examination, you know yourself better, so do your study according to your needs. Quality of hours put in is more important than quantity. You should use your energy an time in an efficient and effective manner.

Take due care of your health. You might go in for a walk in the evenings. Also maintain a hobby which relaxes you during your preparation like listening to music etc. Take sleep as required by your body and mind. It is always better to do study when one's mind and body are fresh, this helps in easy grasping of things a swell as in retaining them. Remember that without a good health, you will not be able to concentrate on your studies and your whole idea of the Civil services will go haywire.

It is always better to peak at the time of Examination. So channelise your preparation in such a manner that you don't burn yourself out before the Examination. Build up reserves of energy in yourself. You will need this energy at the time of your Examination. Do not worry much about the compulsory Hindi and English language papers. You will coolly pass them, and you don't need to waste your time preparing for them.

For Interview, from a group of friends who have offered the same Optionals. Remember, Interview is of a personality test. The Board will check certain traits in your personality such as your honesty and integrity, your mental alertness, your acumen, your response to some situations, your views on varied topics and also your knowledge base. So, for Interview read as many newspapers and as many magazine as possible. Discuss with your friends. Take mock-interviews. Try to find loop-holes in your arguments and plug them. Form your views on various subjects in a very logical and rational manner supported by data whenever necessary. Do not get nervous whenever necessary. Do not get nervous before the Interviews. Improve your communications skills by giving mock-interviews.

These will also open you up. Ask your friends to grill you, so that you can face pressure from the Board easily. Always pause a bit before answering even if you know the answer. Do not give a hasty reply. Answer in an orderly and logical fashion an always look into the eyes of the interviewer while answering. Be polite and courteous. Don't be too much argumentative. Be consistent in your views, i.e.. Just don't change your views because of the fact that the Board is differing with you. Remember that they are only testing you and often even try to provoke you. Give balanced answers and avoid taking extremes.

Alongwith your preparation for the Civil services Examination, the following four elements are the pre-requisites for success in the examination:

  1. Hard Work-Remember that there is no substitute for hard work. No genie is coming to help you. You have to finish the whole course by yourself.

  2. Dedication-Dedication towards your duty always pays in life. Be totally dedicated towards your study. You will have to sacrifice something like movies, parties, etc. At this stage of your life to achieve bigger things. Just work day and night and go on and on:

  3. Patience-As the civil Services Emanation spans a whole one year right from Preliminary stage to the Interview stage, it requires a lot of patience to maintain your tempo. At times you may feel tired and sick of further studying during the course of your preparation, but don't throw the towel as yet. Maintain your cool and patience and go on. To take out your anger and frustration, talk to friends and parents. They will provide you with the much-neede emotional support.

  4. Self-confidence-your self-confidence can make the whole difference. If you don't believe in yourself and your capacity to achieve then no matter how hard you try. You will end up in failure. So your self-confidence should be at a very high level. I don't intend to say that you should become over-confident, but a good self-esteem matters. So to pep up your confidence level say t yourself everyday in front of the mirror that you can do it and you will do it. You should be in the surroundings of the people who could constantly motivate you and inspire you. Keep a group of close friends with you who are as determined t make it to the Civil Services as you are. This will make sure that if you are facing some problems in any subject then you can approach some one. Also while talking and discussing with them you'll be exposed to different views. This will also ensure that you can vent out your frustration by talking to some one. Besides, good friends are always a source of inspiration and motivation.

Courtesy: Geocities