Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from IIT Kanpur, Tejasvi Rana decided to appear for the UPSC CSE in her last year at college.
She appeared for the examination in 2015 for the first time, and while she cleared the prelims, she was unable to clear the mains. In conversation with The Better India, she says, “It would not be right to say that I made major changes to my strategy between the first and second attempt. What did change was my approach and understanding of the examination, as well as my presentation skills.”
In her second attempt in 2016, Tejasvi got an All India Rank (AIR) of 12. She shares the changes she implemented for this to happen.
1. Start with the basics:
“NCERT textbooks must be used as your go-to resource book. Start with Class 9 books and make your way up to Class 12. While using these books, ensure that you have the syllabus in front of you, and keep ticking the portions you complete,” she says. Aspirants must ensure that they go through the syllabus thoroughly before they start their preparation journey.
2. Do not be afraid of failure:
In 2015, when Tejasvi appeared for the examination for the first time, she was a novice. On the learnings that first attempt left her with, she says, “Use the attempt to understand what is expected of you. However, it is important to give it your best. Do not treat the examination just as a way to gauge your strengths and weaknesses.”
3. Understand the static and dynamic portions:
“In General Studies, Paper 1 consists of topics like history and geography, which remain static. The resource material needed to prepare for these is also readily available and is standard. However, Paper 2 consists of dynamic portions, for which one should refer to the newspaper and be updated with the current affairs as well,” she says. Furthermore, for aspirants from non-economics backgrounds, getting their basics cleared will be beneficial before they begin their preparation.
4. Make your presentation unique:
“One way to ensure that your answer sheet stands apart is by working on your presentation skills. Aspirants can use various diagrams, unique structure and even flow charts to pen down their answers. This is sure to give your answers an edge. Embellish your answers with examples and case studies as and where applicable,” she says.
5. Practise makes perfect:
The art of writing good answers must be worked upon consistently. She says, “This will only come with practice and once aspirants are clear on what their answer content will be like. To be able to write good answers, aspirants must ensure they practice answer writing on a regular basis before the examination,” she says.
5. Choose optional wisely:
“Pick a subject you have a basic working knowledge of and interest in. I chose Economics because I had a degree in it,” she adds. Aspirants must not look at trends and marks while picking their optional papers. What works for one aspirant might not for another. Tejasvi adds that it is not only the interest, but also the ability to put in hardwork in the subject that matters.
6. Consider time as money:
“It is important for aspirants to be very prudent with their time management. Considering that the syllabus is vast, one needs to be very good at time management to cover it all and do justice to it. Break down the syllabus into smaller portions and set achievable targets for yourself,” she says. While dividing your time in preparation, also ensure that you give yourself adequate breaks to rejuvenate and recharge.
7. Watch topper talks:
“Another thing that helped was watching other batch toppers share their strategies and tips on preparing well. While the strategy one picks has to be most conducive for the individual aspirant, these videos and talks help find new ways of preparing. Also, find seniors from different batches to discuss topics and bounce off ideas,” she adds.
“The experience you gain by attempting the examination outweighs what you get by preparing for a longer period of time. Go ahead and attempt the paper,” she says.
Click here to access Tejasvi’s notes on Economics for her optional paper.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)