In 2021, Taruni Pandey cleared UPSC CSE in her first attempt with just six months of preparation. What makes her victory even more special is that she did not attend any coaching classes.

“Since childhood, I have never attended coaching classes, even for my board exams. I’ve always believed in self-study,” she says.

Taruni prepared notes herself and watched YouTube videos for the same. “I didn’t read from the standard books as I simply didn’t have time,” adds Taruni.

She says she worked on a strategy to eliminate the wrong answers. “The important thing is to mark the right answers and I studied accordingly.”

“I kept on revising the notes that I had prepared. I would keep a target of finishing X number of chapters per day, and I finished it, whether it took two or ten hours.”

Taruni shares some tips for UPSC aspirants.

Be honest: “I found many people who qualified in the exams but didn’t clear the interview. Their motivating factors for joining included money, power, etc. Please join only if you want to do good for society.”

Don’t lose hope: “I have experienced a lot of challenges in life. The one thing that helped me is being perseverant. Even if you don’t clear on the first attempt, don’t lose hope. Keep going.”

Look forward: “People tend to keep hanging on to the past. Even if you have committed mistakes, don’t keep stressing about them. Don’t look in the rearview mirror of life and drive.”

Coaching is not needed for everyone: “There is a myth that coaching is compulsory for preparation. We live in the digital age, with so many free resources at our disposal. Use them.”

English is not a barrier: “You can attempt the UPSC exam in 22 languages. English is not a marker of status or education. People need to get out of that mindset.”