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!
Ashutosh Dwivedi, until last year, was a UPSC aspirant who wanted to clear the examination with a good score so as to secure an IAS posting.
A rank holder from the 2017 batch, Ashutosh is a driven and determined individual.
Ashutosh spoke to us, at The Better India, and shared his strategy for appearing for the examination.
‘UPSC examination is as good as doing tapasya’
Speaking from his own experience, Ashutosh says, “I have understood that this exam transforms a person inside out. By studying about the conditions in the society and country, one becomes a better and sensitive citizen. I think that that is a great thing to gain, whether one gets selected or not.”
Ashutosh equates the act of tapasya (meditation) to preparing for the examination because he says that it helps one in gaining siddhi (skill). He may or may not get the vardaan (desired outcome) but gaining siddhi is definite.
Similarly, in this exam, one may or may not get selected (vardaan) but will definitely get desired qualities (siddhi).
Re-attempts and motivation
Ashutosh was certain that he wanted to be selected for the Indian Administrative Services. Through all his attempts, he kept getting through one or the other service, but it was only in 2017 that he managed to get into the IAS.
“What also helped was that I was very clear about my end-goal. While I wanted to clear the examination for myself, it was also my brother’s dream that I was fulfilling,” he shares.
Two other aspects that kept him going were his encounter with poverty while working at GAIL and the support that his family, especially his wife, Pragya gave him during his preparation days.
The need for a solid support system
Recounting an incident a few days before the 2017 examination, Ashutosh says, “I was severely ill about 15 days before the mains and was bedridden for about ten days. That was a very crucial time and I could not afford to waste it. All those days, I was lying in bed and Pragya used to read all the notes to me so that I did not miss out on the time. A large portion of current affairs was prepared like that–me lying in bed and she sitting beside me, making me remember things and explaining various aspects to me.”
3 books for all aspirants to use during preparation
‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ by Bipin Chandra is one of the most exhaustive and precise account of the struggle of Indian Independence ever written in the literary world. Written and edited by five expert authors, it presents a detailed outlook on one of the most important periods of Indian history.
‘My Experiments with Truth’ by Mahatma Gandhi is a great book to use while studying for the ethics paper. It provides aspirants with great context and content.
3. Light reading
‘Raag Darbari’ is a satirical Hindi novel written by Sri Lal Sukla, highlighting the failing values in post-Independence Indian society. Ashutosh says this book helped him de-stress after long hours spent in preparation.
5 tips to prepare for the interview
1. Put your best foot forward
The interview is ultimately a test of your personality and not your knowledge. So, don’t spend your time learning new things, suggests Ashutosh. Focus on polishing the brightest aspect of your personality.
2. Detailed Application Form
Filling out the Detailed Application Form (DAF) is something you must do diligently. Ensure that you go through your DAF properly before your interview and make a list of probable questions from your background.
Given that it contains questions based on you, remember that you cannot fumble while answering them.
3. Mock interviews
These really help in not just preparing you for the real thing, but also boost your confidence. You could sit with some of your friends appearing for the interview and conduct mock interviews for each other and discuss some issues of current relevance.
Ashutosh says that the mock interviews were way more helpful for him than any classes.
4. Do not get cold feet
The interview is not an exam; so do not get stressed about it. It is an opportunity to interact with five highly learned and experienced persons. This perspective will help you interact freely and confidently without any feeling of “me v/s them”.
To all the questions you know the answer to, reply with a smile, but remember that the questions to which you have no answer, say ‘I am sorry’ with a wider smile.
With these pointers, we wish you all the best for the examinations!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)