When it comes to the Civil Services Exam conducted by UPSC every year, aspirants have a lot of questions and doubts. Starting from the preparation phase to clearing/not clearing the exam, it’s an experience that stays with the UPSC aspirants. With the interview (personality test) and prelims approaching this year, we found this old AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit by someone who cleared the exam in 2018.
From which books to read for the prelims to how to keep yourself motivated throughout, you will find answers to a lot of questions here.
1. I gave mains this time (first attempt) but couldn’t make it. How confident were you after mains that you’d make it because unlike prelims I have no way of gauging whether my essay (as an example) is of the sort that would fetch me marks or not? – EmptyFollowing8
“Even I had no way to tell whether what I had written will help me sail through. Or how I spoke during the interview was perceived by the board. Test series definitely aren’t close to the real scoring pattern. However, the aim should be to be in at least the top 10-20% of the test-taking group. I followed Rank 1 (2017) answer writing strategy before I began writing mocks and somehow it worked for me.”
2. What job were you doing before preparing for UPSC? Was there any safety net you could latch onto in case you didn’t succeed? – azemda
“A popular one people get into after MBA. I had saved a decent amount during my job with which I could sustain myself for few years with all the comforts. I also come from a family which could support me with my basic needs forever.”
3. How did you endure long and boring study hours? – indi_n0rd
“Know what you’re getting into. The day you decide you’re going to take the exam, embrace the monotony. Find a few things to do for a couple of hours every day that can break the routine.”
4. How were you able to distance yourself from distractions such as social media, gaming, etc., and focus on studying? What is your advice for someone who is a little addicted to gaming & Reddit? – k3times
“Good on you for realizing you’re a little addicted. That’s the first step. Ease yourself out rather than going for a total shutdown. Time yourself, don’t spend more than that. Slowly you’ll get to a point where you don’t realize you are missing it. I didn’t touch my PS4 except to play a bit of FIFA once a month, and 3-4 games max.”
5. Apart from reading The Hindu, I follow The Big Picture on RSTV and Insights Daily Current Affairs. Is that enough? Or do I need something else? – Stendhal08
“Nope, I did less. But I am a big champion for making my own notes. I found it is easier and faster to revise with my own notes.”
6. Is this exam all about rote learning? – Ash_Sss
“You’ll need to read and remember a lot. But you won’t clear the exam by reproducing it verbatim. The exam has become very dynamic and UPSC has become hard to predict when it comes to line of questioning.”
7. At what point did you realise that UPSC is your goal?
“Two years into my job. I wanted my work to stand for something more than it did.”
8. How can we remember the current affairs read a fortnight back, and what is the best source for current affairs?
“Best source is the newspaper. Reading newspapers daily on a long-term basis makes you remember a lot of things: news is often quoted and analysed, again and again. If you’re asking for a website, googling “UPSC current affairs” will give you great and comparable options. Choose one and stick with it. For remembering: I preferred making my own notes. I used to read the newspaper and make notes out of daily current affairs from a website. The process is pure grunt work but the notes you build make multiple revisions easy.”
9. Could you tell us your order of preference for the remaining services? I am trying to get an idea of the non-IAS/IFS/IPS/IRS services and how good they are.
“I remember putting IRTS, IAAS, ICAS, the defence services ones immediately after top 5. The middle ones were IPoS, ITS, ICLS et al. Rounding off the list were AFHQ, DANICS, DANIPS.”
10. Any common mistakes first-timers do during prelims preparation? Would you suggest doing anything else other than revision + tests + current affairs? – arcygenzy
“Prelims is going to be a lot different than your average mock. Use mocks to build consistency of accuracy. Work on your number of attempts to cross a threshold. I used to aim to cross 110+ irrespective of difficulty level with the number of questions attempted being 85-90.”
11. Is GC Leong necessary from prelims point of view? – across_universe01
“I bought it, didn’t go beyond page 2. All geography NCERTs + googling what you do not understand will do the job. Keep your resources few and revisions many.”
12. How did you remember small/little details that the exam asks sometimes? – impish_kid
“It’s impossible to remember every single detail. Do not be very hard on yourself if you can’t remember every poet and astrologer from Ancient India. Revise as many times as possible to increase the chances of remembering. Have some mnemonics for important things such as national parks and tiger reserves. Even with all the revision, you’d be forced to take reasonable guesses because that’s how this exam is.”
We hope you’ve found answers to some of your questions.