When did you decide to appear for the IAS Exam?
I decided during my graduation days. But I gave a serious thought to it by the end of the second year of my engineering, and embarked upon my preparations.
How did you prepare for this Mother of all Examinations?
I did not consider any job from the campus placement, and came to Delhi to prepare for this Exam. I studied the syllabus deeply to choose my optionals, and consulted my seniors for preparation. I devoted 3 months exclusively for the PT, made self notes for the optionals and GS, and indulged in group discussions and brainstorming sessions. I undertook test series for the GS and optionals to assess my preparation, and trace my lacunae.
Does IIT graduation help in IAS preparation?
My study at IIT (Kanpur) oriented me in clarity of thoughts and planning my tasks well. It has given me the ability to work enthusiastically and over come obstacles with my abilities. The environment there was very conducive to prepare for such exams. Further, as both of my optionals were from science stream, I got the best of minds to teach me during my graduation, and they were always at bay to help me even after I graduated.
The scores you have got in optionals are whopping. Please share the secrets of your preparation.
My idea of preparation was simple: Covering the entire syllabus, consulting many authentic books for a wider coverage and crystal clear understanding, self assessment by test series and practicing previous year's questions in exam like conditions. I made self notes & synopsis and kept improving upon them to keep my answers innovative and impactful. I also took help of internet.
Describe your General Studies preparation.
For the PT, I focussed on certain key areas of GS like Geography, Modern History, GK, Current Affairs and Maths & mental ability. For the Mains Exam, I studied extensively for all the sections. I formed a study group with some friends, where we discussed issues of national and international importance. We had divided certain sections to save time, and to gather deeper understanding of the topic. I made synoptic notes of the sections, and kept upgrading them. I took extensive help of the Internet for anything I had difficulty with.
How important is writing practice in General Studies?
I would like to quote "That which is not re-written, is not well written". Writing practice-not only in GS but in every paper, is one of the best tools by which one can self assess his/ her preparation. Knowing the answers is different from putting it on paper in the exam's time frame - that too with an impact to lead in score. It also allows us to improve upon our answers by getting them assessed from experts. I think it should be the prime strategy for any serious aspirant.
What do you feel about change in pattern in the Preliminaries- introduction of CSAT?
I think it is a very welcome change. It will ease the aspirants from mad cramming of facts and information. The questions will be more of application of understanding rather than mere testing of memory. It should not be feared at all.
What are some of the mistakes that an average aspirant can avoid for better time management?
Chalking out a clear road map and study calender and sticking to it is the first step to use time wisely. I would advise aspirants to read GS on a regular basis. One should avoid studying both the optionals together, as it could be difficult to contain. Further, one should be on toes after PT, and get serious with the preparations.