DCAT: What attracted you to Civil Services?
Basically there was a sense of dissatisfaction in my private job, and a sense of monotony -doing the same analytical work everyday. It was pretty meaningless and hollow. Initially, there was a sense of learning, but with time, even that learning had subsided. I was not content, doing all this. With only two attempts left, I decided to take the plunge. I couldn’t afford to postpone it any longer, I was short of time due to my age.
DCAT : When did you start your preparation?
I left my job in June 2016, and the exam was in August. So, for 15 days, I was searching the right books, trying to grasp where to study from.
DCAT : This was not your first attempt, so what changes did you make in your strategy for this attempt?
My first attempt was after only 45 days of preparation; so, I knew that I won’t be able to clear it. Still, I was short of only one mark. So I started to prepare for the next year’s exam again, properly.
DCAT : Were you satisfied with your level of preparation before the exam and were you hopeful of being successful?
I was confident with my preparation, because if we talk about my Optional paper, I had written four or five tests for it, and my answers were being appreciated. So I knew that perhaps I was on the right track. I used to get my answers evaluated for GS, and I got some really good reviews. I remember I could not attempt a ten mark question in the sociology section, and one in GS 4. This did cause a bit of dissatisfaction, but I was sure that I would be able to clear the Mains.
DCAT : What do you consider as your formula of success?
Consistency, optimism and time management.
DCAT : Considering the extensive syllabus of general studies in preliminary examination and main examination, what strategy did you adopt in preparing for it?
It is important that we follow the syllabus strictly, and keep our resources limited. I did not follow some of the books that everyone did. I tried to get clarity on the concepts, revised the same thing multiple times, and focussed on current affairs.
DCAT : In your opinion, can certain sections be skipped by assuming them to be not so important?
I did leave some topics completely. I left world distribution of resources, in Geography. Except for World War I and World War II, I had skipped World History as well. Except for this, I studied everything else again and again, including essay.
DCAT : How important do you think is the preparation of notes with studies? Please enlighten on the basis of your experience.
I think it is better to revise the entire topic, I never made notes from NCERT, or even for my Optional – sociology. I always kept it comprehensive. But I did realise that studying the entire Current Affairs would be difficult during the time between Prelims and Mains, so I studied from notes, but not before the Prelims. I did this only for the Mains because of the vast course and limited time, that too, only for the Current Affairs.
DCAT : Did you rely on electronic material and other social networking sites for your preparation? If yes, did you find them useful? Please share some websites you frequented.
Sometimes, these websites tend to confuse you, given their huge number and the varied material found in these. So it is better to follow only one specific website.
Also, it is important to follow these websites judiciously. I followed Insight on India; they put various topics in different columns, and that is helpful. I also solved MCQs given on the website.
DCAT : In your opinion, how useful is participating in mock test series at different stages of this examination? Please share on the basis of your experience.
Mock test series helped me a lot with my preparation for the Interviews, because everyone was telling me to prepare for DAF. I went to Sankalp Classes. They charged a very nominal fee and helped me with a thorough preparation. They helped me with my state specific preparation. The mock interviews also helped me gain insight on the variety of questions, and I prepared the answers for over a thousand questions.
DCAT : How did you tackle the challenge of time management whether it be on a daily basis, monthly or annual?
My strategy was to have long term targets and then to break them into daily, achievable goals. Prelims and Mains were done simultaneously and it takes one complete year to properly cover the vast syllabus. I used to make sure that I revise the topics everyday. I planned the time I would devote to each subject; and I used to calculate the time required to cover all the topics, and made sure I have a specific plan of covering all the topics.
DCAT : How did you maintain consistency in preparation despite the de-motivating and often frustrating nature of this exam?
I used to talk to my father and my brother; they used to boost my morale. Also, talk to your true friends. There are a lot of people who will put you down and take advantage of your vulnerability. I used to read motivational and spiritual thoughts, often quotes from Swami Vivekananda. I used to analyse where my demotivation is coming from; and I worked on that. Solving the problem which is the reason behind the lack of motivation is very important. I used to think about my past achievements, and that helped me regain my self confidence.
DCAT : What activities did you indulge in when not studying?
I am an avid painter and dancer. Though I couldn’t dance much,I used to paint sometimes. I used to scribble in the margins of my notebooks, while studying and revising as well.
DCAT : What was your Optional subject? Did you study it during your Graduation or at any level after that? If not, on what basis did you choose it?
My Optional was Sociology. I had never studied it at any level. My brother had filled my form for my first attempt. He had opted for Sociology and I later found the subject very interesting and decided to stick to it. I started to study Sociology after the Prelims of my first attempt. The syllabus was concise and overlapped with a lot of social topics.
DCAT : In your opinion, to what extent is success in Main examination is dependent on answer writing style? What approach did you follow in developing the right style of answer writing?
Practising answer writing is very important for the preparation, and so is appearing for the mock test series. It is not important to follow one particular strategy, whether one will focus on statics or current; you have to be balanced.
Also, I used to refer Secure Initiative on InsightsonIndia; to prepare for the Mains. I used to read the Current Affairs part and make notes on the same. I did this, repeatedly on every single day, for four or five months. This helped me in time management and to present the concepts while writing the answers.
Also, when you write the conclusion, end it on a positive note; you can talk about the problems in the entire answer, but give the solutions to them. And certain things enrich your answer, like data. Use statistics in your answer… that really helps, and so does the recommendation of the expert committee and diagrams.
DCAT : What strategy did you adopt with respect to writing the essay- introduction and conclusion or the standard way?
It is important to focus on all the aspects, social, political, technical and the economic, of the topic. It is also necessary to have a continuity in the paragraphs; for example, if you are discussing the social issues in one paragraph, start the next with the impacts of the same, etc.
DCAT : Given the increasing scope of questions being asked in the Ethics paper, for example John Rawl’s theory, Gandhi’s Seven Sins, Public Service Code, et., What strategy should one adopt for preparing for GS Paper 4? Please share your personal experience.
The questions hardly comes from out of course. If you talk about the John Rawl’s theory, most of the Ethics books had mentioned it. I made sure that I studied about all these thinkers, case studies, etc. Given the dynamics, one can never be sure of what will be asked and what not.
DCAT : What strategy did you follow in the Mains answer writing- attempt more questions with standard answers or giving exceptional/ above average answers and compromising on the number of questions?
I think one should answer all the questions, even if the quality is a bit compromised. It is always better to emphasise on completing the paper. This happened with me too, in the Ethics paper.
DCAT : How should one attempt questions about which one has no inkling or knows very less? For example- questions on Mcbride Commission, allelopathy or other world history questions?
I think we should write something, but not anything that insults the examiner. We can write something about the topic, anything vague that we know; but not more than that.
DCAT : Does the board that you get for interview make a difference in the result?
I do not think so. An interview board known to give high marks has also given lowest of marks.It depends on a lot of factors, how was your day, the type of questions asked, and so on. Also, there are five people who determine the marks, not one.
DCAT : We wish you all the best for your future.
Thanks a lot.