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!
Gritty and motivated – these are the two adjectives that one would use to describe Dr Renu Raj.
Having studied medicine, she was practicing it until she decided that she would attempt the UPSC examination. She appeared for it in 2014 and went on to bag the second rank!
It was during her time as a house surgeon that she decided to become an IAS officer so she could contribute and help in bettering society on a larger scale.
In this exclusive interview with The Better India, Dr Renu speaks to us about the importance of ‘English’ in the examination, juggling time between a profession and preparation, and tips for aspirants who are preparing for the interview round.
Importance of English
Dr Renu says, “A strong base in the English language is definitely a plus for UPSC. It helps the easy flow of ideas while writing answers and makes them crisp and appealing, which saves time too.”
She goes on to say, “In the interview, it makes your communication hassle-free, and you will be able to convey your thoughts to the board in the right words.”
Having said this, she also mentions that candidates have also cracked the exam and given the interview in their regional languages.
“Lack of fluency in English is not a barrier to succeed in the examination. Also, there is no requirement for a complicated vocabulary or poetic language in the written paper. If you can communicate your ideas in minimum and appropriate words, you can go ahead with confidence,” she says.
Juggling between a profession and preparation
Speaking about how she managed to keep practicing medicine and devote time to preparation, Dr Renu says, “I had started learning some basics for UPSC during my internship. I started reading newspapers and journals seriously at that stage. But a proper syllabus-based study is something I did after that and I devoted six to seven months totally for it.”
She continues, “After my mains exam, I started working part-time as a doctor, since I was able to manage interview preparation along with the work. I used to read while I was travelling to and from work.”
During full-time preparation, she would study six to seven hours each day. And after the mains exam, she cut it short to three to fours hours. She shares, “I feel it is not the duration, but the quality of time that is more important. To improve the quality of the time spent for studies, it is important to give breaks in between and keep your mind motivated.”
Through attempting the prelims and the mains, your knowledge is tested, while the interview is all about testing your personality. The intent is to find out who you really are, she points out.
Dr Renu says, “You must be well-read and have an understanding of all recent news. Be well-versed with yourself, where you are from, the language there, the culture, the people, and anything else that is unique.”
Besides, she also suggests that aspirants brush up lessons from their graduation.
“Learn to build an opinion about everything and convey it politely. The art of building a conversation is very important and for this, attending mock interviews always helps. It is also useful to be as honest as possible while answering the questions put to you,” she says.
Five things to remember while preparing
1. Don’t panic
It takes a while to fall into a rhythm that works. In case you find yourself stuck on a concept or find yourself unable to move forward, do not panic. Give yourself time, and you will find that you get clarity, eventually.
2. Plan meticulously
Always have a schedule that you follow while preparing and stick to it as much as possible. Ensure it is realistic and achievable. Ticking it off each day will also motivate you to go on.
3. Understand yourself
It is essential that you identify your strengths and weaknesses. This understanding will help you immensely during various stages of your preparation.
4. Practice, practice, and practice
Just as there can never be any substitute for hard work, there is nothing that can replace practice. Attempt papers from previous years diligently along with mock interviews. This will not only boost your confidence but also give you a sense of how the papers are framed.
5. Stay focused
Preparing for the UPSC examinations can be extremely challenging, so do keep yourself motivated and stay positive. Always look at the bright side of things and be confident about yourself.
With these pointers, we wish you all the best for the examinations!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
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