Monday, May 16, 2011

Hi friends, recently the UPSC CS(M) final results were declared and as a person who did not even expect an interview call , I was pleasantly surprised(shocked rather :P ) to see that I had secured the 334th rank. Since then I have been getting messages regarding the way to prep and the number of hours I studied.. etc. Well , I really didn't know what to tell whom initially. But considering that I did crack the exam even after all the drawbacks in my prep, I will let you know my preparatory method. I will also focus on my mistakes more as I don't want you all to commit them during your own prep. As I said before , ' take inspiration from my success but learn from my mistakes' .

Having no one to guide me in the right direction, the earlier attempts were wasted with no proper prep or even an earnest effort to do well. But during November 2009 my brother who had given his main 2009 laid out a time table for me. It was strenuous but required. There was a mix and match of various subjects in a day. Then, we had optionals in our PT so the whole morning was for Sociology, this I managed to do (with regular breaks in between) because I find socio interesting. After lunch half an hour was allotted to rattafy (memorize) the articles in Indian constitution. This I didn't do. then another half an hour for map work, which is another interesting thing so I did to some extent. Then a chapter of geography for an hour or two , followed by the India Year Book...etc. The time after dinner was for the newspaper. I would make notes of the news,so this would take a minimum of 1.30 hours. And finally revision of the previous days news. Once these were completed fully they would be substituted with other subject. 

So, this was a hectic schedule with deadline for every subject and consistent revision (every day the previous days study was to be looked through). A month and half before pt every subject was to be covered and at least half of them revised. As usual I did not follow the time table. But some how I completed most books , esp NCERT geo, History , India year book and my current affairs was alright too. The time table wished me to study for nearly 12-13 hours, but my proper concentrated prep in a day was around 6-7 hours. The rest were done in a relaxed manner, with music and breaks..etc

PT came and everyone fared pathetically in pt in 2009. Except may be for eco students and those aspirants who had prepared really well. Not expecting a call for mains , I spent the two months after pt on (for the first time) and facebook. Some new found friends , esp Sahni sir and James007 thought I have a good chance and must study for the main. But I waited till the result to get my lazy bones up. Result came on Aug 22 and I panicked. Forget books I had not even read the newspaper properly all these days. I had to decide whether I wanted to go for mains coaching and test series etc... I decided that it would be a waste of time to shift base to Del. So, I shifted to Bangalore where my brother would guide me. August 24 I went to Bengaluru and next day my mains prep started. I saw my 2nd optional Political Science syllabus and almost fainted. Having done MA in Pl Sci, I thought it will be a piece of cake, but MA through distance education had given me only superficial knowledge and covered a minute part of the mains syllabus. Tension began.

I didn't have a good way to punish myself for having wasted the earlier two months. So the 2 months before mains were the two most hectic months of my life,even took toll on my weight, :P . The target was to complete syllabus at least a week before exam and also do answer writing. Unfortunately I fell short of both the targets. I read eco , history , geo , issues in chronicle..etc. Socio being my 1st opt, I was not too afraid and I also had 11 days gap for it. But GS and Pol Sci were two thorns in my back. Finally I understood it is impossible to complete them both 100% in two months. And the syllabus is so vast you cannot say which is imp and which ain't. So I gave importance to those which are common to all subjects, eg. IR in both GS paper 2 and Pol Sci , Indian constitution , Freedom movement..etc and current affairs. I made a list of burning topics and tried to gather info on them. I must say The Hindu was the best thing during those 2 months. My friend who had attempted mains in 2009 stressed upon flow charts and diagrams. So I tried to make flow chart for every topic and in fact tried to fill in the whole topic in one diagram with short sentences and phrases. I made short notes and revised from them. I did write a few answers too. But it is not the same as writing in the exam hall. To get that exam hall feel , I suggest you go for test series. Also my advice is that you finish both the optionals before you start prep for your pt , so that the time after pt can be devoted only for revision and answer writing.

On October 29 written mains started. GS paper 1 was disastrous. Being my first written paper I failed to stick to word limit. I exceeded the word limit which automatically leads to insufficient time to complete the paper. the afternoon Gs paper 2 was okay. I did watch the time and tried to stick to word limit though I did not succeed. Of the total 600 marks I had written for 350-360 marks. I had decided that this mains will only be for experience and not for success. Essay paper was good. I devoted the first hour for a pencil draft at the back, and the next two hours on the final draft with 15 minutes to spare.So I did a diagram at the end..

GS paper had taught me well. I calculated the words & minutes equation and tried to rattafy that too...!! However the mistakes were different. Having kept in mind the pattern of the previous years I failed to see that the 20 markers of the first main had four compulsory questions. I answered only three in both the sections. and due to time constraint I left few other questions too. Also many a times it has happened that questions have had two parts, but while writing the answer, I have forgotten about the second part and answered only the 1st part of it. I think the only way to address these mistakes are through answer writing, and if possible go for test series too...

Even with all these mistakes , fact remains that I enjoyed writing my main exam. The questions were brilliant and makes you think a lot. Working out an answer on spot and the effort to complete all questions gives you a kick.. lol ... And it was very thrilling at the end of every exam. Trying to write an answer in full speed... I did use flow charts in my answers but make sure that you practice them too.My paper was also neat. Especially my essay paper..

Once the main was over it was bliss.. I decided to take a break. By March I had to start my prep for 2011 Pt, CSAT. But I kept postponing and finally main result came. It was a shocker for me. But then the general talk is that cut off itself is low, thanks to GS. You all know about my interview prep. the mocks on IOD (IAS OUR DREAM) and also at Vaji made me confident that I can answer any question. But the real time is really real.. All that research on home state and name and what not.. But it was completely different. No big questions were asked. But the whole atmosphere is so tense. Somehow I survived through it, but again I could have done much better.

My Interview -

I do not remember the exact answers I gave in my interview so I will only give you the gist of my interview. On April 21, I reached UPSC quite early. But gate opens at 9 AM sharp. Once inside, we are made to sit on tables allotted for us with two UPSC staff. They take our certificates and documents and get it verified at the main table. Then once person came and told me I was the first candidate. At this point I felt lucky coz I wanted to be the first. After knowing that my board is Rajni Razdan madam's I just waited.

Before interview I was quite cool. I cracked jokes with other aspirants and exchanged info and read a little bit of the Hindu. Finally one person came to me and told me to follow him. Then little bit nervousness crept it. Finally I was called. In my josh I did not see the time,but a friend who had kept a watch on me told me I went in at 10.35 and came out at 11.

I entered and the first mistake was committed in first 5 seconds. The set up of the table and chairs was such that I saw the sirs first. So automatically I wished the sirs first. I had ignored the lady in the room who was also the chairman of the board...!!!!!, Rajni ma'am...!!! But immediately I wished her. May be this was why she was pissed off with me and told harshly you don't look like you do in your photograph. I smiled. and said, but ma'am it was only taken a month back. She showed the pic to me and said do you feel you look like this now. Immediately after your interview go and get new photos and give to my assistant. I said ok ma'am I will do the needful. All this time I kept my smile. Finally she asked me my name , roll number which I answered. I took a few seconds to tell my roll no, I had almost forgotten it due to the hungama my pic had caused. And by this time my nervousness had increased though I maintained my smile.She read out some info like my qualification and hobby. Finally it started -

RR - What do you cook?
Me - Ma'am depends on what I feel at that moment.......

RR - Don't tell me that , tell me what you prepare.
Me - Yes ma'am , rice is our staple food so I prepare rice items more, like veg pulav , fried rice , biriyani and some regionally specific dishes like bisi bele baat , vaangi baat.....

RR - Tell me the recipe of that.
Me - Ma'am it is a brinjal based dish with spices...... (I was trying to give an introduction of the recipe before giving the details,like as if this was a written exam.. :P ).

RR - when you see a recipe book is that how you find the recipe, won't there be ingredients and measurements? Now tell us how you will prepare for the five of us (members).
Me - I started ma'am I will require 3 cups of rice............................. somewhere at the end she cut in and said ok, ( may be she din't find it that tasty..!! :P )

RR - You have done MA in Pol Sci & IR, tell me about the situation in Libiya right now.
Me - Presently the NATO forces are implementing the UNSC Resolution 1973. But the leader Muammar Gaddafi is not ready to let go of his power and is retaliating to these NATO forces. There is a lot of chaos going on. ( This was the weakest point of my interview. I could have given a much better answer.)

Then she gestured the next sir to ask. I was passed on...

Sir1 - Have you heard of Self Help Groups ?
Me - yes sir I have.

S1 - What do they do?
Me - Sir , they are a way of generating a regular income among women , esp in the rural areas. Women come together and form various enterprises through which they can gain some profit. Many small and cottage industries are based on this. Crafts and edible items..etc are marketed by them.

S1 - Do they have savings?
Me - Yes sir, they are encouraged to go for savings and they also give out loans to the newcomers to establish their own groups and enterprise. Now a days some banks like SBI (not sure if this is right) also give out loans to these groups.

S1 - You are from Karnataka , Recently the arecanut farmers from there visited the PM for some reason. What are their problems?
Me - (I forgot the more important reason and gave the general one first). Off late the arecanut yield is suffering due to insufficient irrigation and power cuts..etc. And recently the Kar. gov. has banned gutka and supari due to which the arecanut prices have taken a steep dip. Their demand is to bring some stability to the prices of arecanut.

S1 - Don't you think it is good that such a thing which causes oral cancer and all has been banned?
Me - Definitely it is a good thing sir. But arecanut itself is not the biggest cause of oral cancer. Tobacco is more hazardous ot heath but it has not been banned. and many people are dependent upon arecanut for their livelihood, so the issue has to be thought about.

S1 - Can't we encourage the arecanut farmers to go for alternative crops?
Me - We can do that sir, But we must keep in mind that arecanut is an intensive investment sector. A lot of investment goes into buying the plants and fertilizers. It also requires heavy irrigation facilities like drip irrigation which is quite expensive. So it will be difficult to convince them to go for a change now. And even if they do , they must be given adequate returns for their investment. also the soil suitability has to be researched for alternative crops. So this will need more time and research.

S1 - Have you seen any arecanut farms?
Me - Yes sir my father comes from an agricultural family . So I have seen arecanut farms.

He nodded and said okay. then Sir 2. A really very old and sweet uncle.

S2 - You mentioned supari in you answer. Do you know the other meaning of supari? they say supari de dunga no....
Me - Yes sir (big smile). It means something like hired assasins.

S2 - said yes you are right, with a smile. And asked you have done your schooling in coorg and then you did it in Mysore. Why?
Me - Yes sir , my father was in govt service and we had changed a few schools during my early years in school. To bring some stability my parents thought it would be better to put us in a hostel.

S2 - why Coorg?
Me - When I was studying in Udipi , we (automatically I included my bro also but luckily he din't realize) were under the guidance of a particular principle who was very good.When he went to coorg to head another school we also shifted there as we wanted to continue to be under his guidance.

S2 - Then why Mysore?
Me - Sir after staying for so long in hostel , I wanted to be at home so decided to continue my studies in Mysore itself.

S2 - Smiled and said that explains everything. Looked at my application and asked , Why did you go for distance education for you degree?
Me - Sir I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis during the final months of my plus two. And I had some difficulty with walking in the early mornings, but I wanted to continue my studies so decided to go for distance education.

S2 - Oh, that's very sad, are you still under medication?
Me - No sir, I was for one year but I am better now.

He said that's good. And Sir 3, sitting on my left started.

S3 - What you know about regional planning?
Me - Sir we are already having problems of regionalism in India. This is because of development disparities among regions. So to help in development of a particular region a particular plan is laid out keeping in mind the advantages and disadvantages of the region. India is a vast country with each region having different resources and different needs, so we cannot have a single plan for the whole country. That is why we have regional planning.

S3 - What are the benefits?
Me - By having regional planning we can give focus to every region and help in faster development of India itself. More importantly the local people will be involved in it. I think that just like grass root democracy even administration must go to the grass root and regional planning helps in doing this.

S3 - People will take part more..?
Me - Yes sir. ( he was kind of acknowledging my answer so I did not elaborate).

S3 - What is diff between rural planning and urban planning?
Me - Sir , through rural planning we are still trying to give our rural areas some of the basic amenities such as electricity , water and schools. Some of our villages do not even have schools yet , so we are focusing on providing them these kind of development through the plans where as in urban area we are focusing on improving the infrastructure , increasing economic output and attracting more FDI..etc . this is the basic difference.

He said okay and passed me on to the nest Sir.

S4 - We have launched the PSLV recently (it was done just the previous day). Why do we need it , what is the use?
Me - Sir we have launched 3 sats through this launch. One is the resourcesat , the other two with foreign collaboration, one with Indonesia ( It was actually Russia.. :P ) and the other with Singapore. Firstly this will help us gain access to foreign technology which is superior to ours and also we can go for agreements and joint researches in the field of space and science..etc. There will be technology transfer which will have positive effects from India's point of view. And then satellites like resourcesat help us know about our resources which is helpful in many ways.

S4 - How knowing resources will be helpful?
Me - Sir India has great resource potential , but we are not bale to capitalize on these resources. By knowing which region has what resources, our planning will be better and when our planning is better, our rate of development will pick up. For example we have floods in one region but droughts in another. Knowing this we can build dams in the most suitable region so that the floods can be diverted and the water used to irrigate lands which face drought. Also knowing about rivers and their flow we can plan our hydel projects..etc. Knowing about our forests we can go for development in a sustainable manner such that forests are used for economic purposes but also conserved at the same time..etc

S4 - Are you aware of the National Knowledge Network ?
Me - Yes sir , it is an initiatative to connect the various universities all over the country. to make a network of it......

S4 - What is the use of this Network?
Me - Sir this will help in over all development of higher education in the country. the top universities that have good infrastructure can help other universities to improve their infrastructure. Libraries and information can be shared, so there will be a flow of ideas between the universites. And ideas will lead to innovation and development. Most importantly it will bring together the youth of the nation. Being a big country , it is physically impossible to meet, but through such a cyber network we can get in touch with our peers in various parts of our country.

S4 - How many times have you been to Delhi?
Me - Sir this is my second visit. I was here in 2007 for my coaching.

S4 - Do you see any change?
Me - (Was little confused with this q as I din't know what he expected) Not particularly sir.

S4 - They say they are using CNG and so pollution has come down..etc . Don't you feel that?
Me - Sir I come from Mysore which has recently beed judged as the 2nd cleanest city in India. when I come from there to here I see a huge difference. I have not felt any significant change.

S4 - What is CNG?
Me - It is Compressed Natural Gas. It is a renewable sorce of energy ( made this mistake in my josh). I am sorry sir not renewable but a clean source of energy that is being used now a days.

S4 - why is it compressed?
Me - I was so comfortable that I blurted compressed because its compressed sir with a big smile on my face.....!!!!! Then I actually laughed (suddenly I realized that it is upsc interview and tried to remember why gas is compressed, but it came to me only later on when I was leaving the room) and said I am sorry sir I don't really know why.

S4 - What is your dream?
Me - I smiled and said my dream sir? (he nodded) I know that India will be one of the most developed society in a matter of few years. My dream is to be a part of India's development process. To make a contribution in such a success.

S4 - Why civil services?
Me - I would like to quote Socrates here sir. ( he nodded ) . ' An unexamined life is not worth living'. And when I examine my life in the end , it will not be in terms of how much property , wealth and status I have made but it will be in terms of how worth while I have been to the society. This I can do as an NGO or social worker (S3 was kind of repeating my answer when I was at it.), but the confidence I require will be given to me only by civil services.

At this point RR said a stern THANK YOU (guess she was still angry that I din't wish her first).... I kind of jerked out of my comfort zone after hearing her Thank you, I said thank you ma'am , thank you sirs with a smile and walked out confidently.


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