Patience and perseverance are qualities that will hold you in good stead. And Rallapalli Jagat Sai, who secured an All India Rank (AIR) of 32 in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Service Examination (CSE) 2020, is an example of that.
Having cleared the exam in his fifth attempt, in this conversation with The Better India, he explains how he made a few changes in the way he attempted the paper to boost his score by almost 80 marks.
One of the reasons he kept going was his wish to fulfil his mother’s dream.
“My mother had expressed her desire to see me become an administrative officer. That was the driving force. I am glad I have been able to achieve this,” he says.
Having grown up in Andhra Pradesh, Sai moved to Vellore where he was enrolled at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) in Tamil Nadu. Here, he pursued his engineering degree and subsequently worked in Pune and Bengaluru before he resigned and started preparing for the UPSC CSE.
While Sai did not refer to any new material for his subsequent methods, he learnt how to study better and also how to approach the examination.
Here’s what he did differently the fifth time around.
1. Focus On Execution
There are times when aspirants are well versed with the topics in the exam but are unable to put forth their points well. This leads to scoring fewer marks. Sai says, “I used to write only limited points in each answer. Those would be the ones that I felt were most important. However, this time I made sure to focus on the quality of content I was putting out and not just quantity.”
Every half mark or one mark earned additionally in a question will add up and in the end, be almost 180 marks. “This was one way by which I increased my overall score by almost 90 marks,” he adds.
2. Every Topic; Small or Big is Important
Aspirants sometimes tend to neglect certain topics in their general studies (GS) paper. For example, while preparing for GS2, aspirants might not give enough importance to governance. “In the GS 3, most aspirants tend to focus on economics and place less emphasis on science and technology and internal security. While in my first few attempts I also made that mistake, I rectified it by giving these topics equal time and weightage while preparing,” he says.
In doing this, Sai feels that he was able to attempt more questions with confidence and that also helped boost his overall score.
3. Divide Your Time Equally
“At the time of attempting the paper, aspirants end up spending more time on questions they are sure about while giving less time to the ones they are unsure of. Irrespective of the knowledge I had about a particular topic, I ensured that I gave equal time to all the questions this time,” he says. He urges aspirants to look at the paper with clinical eyes and not get carried away with emotions on seeing topics they know very well.
“The marginal utility in spending more time on topics you know well is very low. So, refrain from it,” he adds.
4. Seek Help When Needed
Preparing for UPSC CSE can be a long and taxing process. There are many instances when aspirants might feel like giving up and to that, Sai says, “Be clear about why you have chosen to write the exam. As and when the need arises please seek help from other officers or seniors who can offer help and assistance. Do not at any point hold yourself back when it comes to seeking help.”
Speaking from experience, he says, “Initially, I had to rely on my self-correcting methods. It was only later that I reached out to seniors who had cracked the UPSC CSE.”
5. Analyse Every Small Mistake
With every failed attempt Sai urges aspirants to spend time analysing the mistakes. “There is no better way to learn. This also ensures that the same mistakes are not repeated. Work on strengthening your plusses and work harder on your flaws. Even when you attempt mocks, spend time on analysing the mistakes,” he says.
6. Do Not Undermine Competition
“In my first attempt, I felt that I undermined the competition that this examination attracts. While it is important to assess your strengths and weaknesses before you attempt this examination, one must also understand that your performance will be seen in comparison to others,” he says. Therefore, being aware is extremely critical to succeed in this exam.
7. Practice For The Interview
This was the third time that Sai was appearing for the interview and he says that the difference this time was in the practice he put in. “My brother was also preparing for the UPSC CSE along with me. This helped since we spent time quizzing each other and discussing topics. It is beneficial to find someone whom you can discuss topics with while preparing for the interview,” he says.
Appearing for mock interviews is also another way to help you prepare. Aspirants must ensure that they are constantly trying to better their understanding of current affairs.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)
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