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#UPSCSimplified: IAS Topper Rahul Pandve Shares How to Crack Prelims & Handle Failure

“It is extremely important for aspirants to be prepared for the failures and the learnings that come with it. One would rather do something and regret the failure, rather than not doing it and regretting that.”


With over 10 lakh applicants each year, and only 1000 selections – the UPSC exams can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. But it can be crossed! In ‘UPSC Simplified’, The Better India catches up with toppers to uncover the do’s and don’t for India’s toughest exam. Follow the series for all the tips you need!


“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”

These were words by American basketball player Michael Jordan.

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UPSC 2015 AIR 200 Rahul Pandve proves this true by achieving success at the examination in his fifth attempt.

In an exclusive interview with The Better India, Rahul shares tips, strategies, anecdotes and more, about the time he spent preparing for the examination.

Dealing with failure

A large part of appearing for the examination also has to do with dealing with failure.

In 2018, about 8 lakh candidates had applied for the examination and 10,500 candidates qualified for the mains examination.

Rahul Pandve

Hesays, “It is extremely important for aspirants to be prepared for the failures and the learnings that come with it. One would rather do something and regret the failure, rather than not doing it and regretting that.”

Three tips for all aspirants

1. Go by the syllabus

It is extremely important for aspirants to stick to the syllabus and go through old question papers thoroughly. Since the syllabus is so vast, it is important that you make a boundary for yourself and stick to it.

Solving old question papers will not only help you understand the exam pattern but will also give you the confidence to crack it.

Remember that current affairs is a pillar on which many of the questions in the prelims paper is based. Whatever you are studying, do it with the perspective of gathering as much knowledge as possible.

2. Be consistent

Whatever you do or do not, be consistent with your preparation. If, in your schedule, you have devoted three hours to study each day, then stick to that and complete the hours. Consistent performance will always yield good results, sometimes delayed, but you will achieve what you want, nonetheless.

The UPSC prelims is a multiple-choice paper, and one of the ways of cracking it is by persistent practice. By doing this, you will also be able to create a strategy for yourself.

3. Shut out criticism

Insulate yourself for the talk that will negatively impact you. Studying and preparing for the examination can be a very solitary act and often one gets to hear criticism during this period as well. It is advisable to pay no heed to it and continue studying.

Aspirants must be mentally tough to accept what is coming and learn to accept that criticism will come their way until they clear the examination. The best way to deal with it is by not reacting.

How to approach the paper

Rahul answers, “When it comes to solving the paper, it is a very individualistic approach. For some candidates, starting with question one and going on until the 100th question works, while some ensure that they first attempt all the questions they are certain about and then come back to the tougher ones.”

You need to find what works best for you in such a situation.

Rahul Pandve
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From experience, Rahul says, “Every candidate who approaches the paper is doing so with a great deal of conviction and belief. Sometimes the two critical hours the examination takes up go awry, and the candidate ends up making mistakes.”

Three things to remember as you attempt the paper

1. Be confident

Do not be worried about what the others are doing just before the examination begins. Be confident, but also remember not to be overconfident. Concentrate on what you have studied and refrain from joining last-minute discussions.

2. Enter details correctly

When you get the sheet to answer the paper, you will have to enter your roll number and other such credentials. Do not be in a hurry to do this. Ensure that you put down the correct details. This is critical.

Take a moment to check the circle you are ticking, so that it is not the wrong one.

3. Do not get scared

If there are questions early on in the paper that you do not have the answers to, do not get worried. Go on to the ones that you are confident about and come back to look at the ones you felt were not known to you. Very often, you will find that you know the answers.

With these pointers, we wish you all the best for the examinations!

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)


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