In 2018, Ishu Agrawal cleared the Chartered Accountancy (CA) examination in his first attempt and became a part of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He started practising immediately after that.
“I always wanted to appear for the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) CSE (Civil Service Examination). Completing the CA examination only strengthened that desire,” he tells The Better India.
Born and brought up in a place called Dhamtari in Chhattisgarh, he completed his education from there and then pursued his CA course in Nagpur.
In 2019, he appeared for the UPSC CSE. However, he missed clearing the main examination by a few marks. “I have always been a good student and until Class 12 I was always a class topper. Therefore, not being able to clear the UPSC mains in my first attempt came as a shock to me,” he says.
So much so that he started doubting his capabilities. He describes that period as a very “difficult one”. “I managed to get through that period because of the unflinching support that my family gave me. They were confident that I would clear the next time around,” he says.
He attempted the CSE once again and cleared it in 2021 with an AIR (All India Rank) of 81 while practising as a CA.
Since Ishu had already dedicated four years of his life to his CA study, he says that the thought of continuing to practise as a CA could be an option. “In hindsight, I am glad I decided to give UPSC one more try,” he says.
Here’s how he cleared while practising as a CA:
1. Figure out your efficiency meter:
The schedule followed by each aspirant will vary according to what works best for them. While some aspirants choose to use the early morning hours to get a majority of the new syllabus covered, some others might do so late at night. Ishu says, “Figuring out which part of the day I was most and least efficient at helped me plan my study much better. I would finish new portions of the syllabus during my high-efficiency periods and keep the revision for a time when I was not as proficient.”
2. Focus on solving previous years’ question papers:
“Even though this is a point that anyone who has cleared the UPSC CSE will reiterate, sometimes aspirants fail to comply. I cannot emphasise the importance of this. One can understand the question pattern, the importance of certain topics and even how much weightage to give a topic,” he says. In his first attempt, this is something that Ishu did not do very diligently and says that he rectified the same for the second attempt.
3. Make every second count:
While preparing for the examination it is easy to lose track of time and sometimes this causes more time wastage. Ishu says that keeping track of every second is important. To make this work, Ishu devised what he describes as the “Tracking Formula”. “I took the help of technology while studying. I made an excel sheet in which I would key in whatever syllabus I covered in an hour. This helped me understand how well I was progressing and also kept me away from wasting time,” he adds.
4. Take on only as much as you can handle:
Since Ishu was a practising CA while preparing for UPSC CSE, he says it was important to prioritise. “I would only take on assignments and projects that I knew I could easily complete. I prioritised my preparation over the work I was doing. Practising as a CA was also imperative to stay in touch with the market and stay updated about all the new developments,” he says.
5. Do not make unnecessary compromises:
Sleep is a very important aspect of the life of an aspirant. “I never compromised on my sleep. I would ensure that I got between seven to eight hours of sleep every night. I have seen how lack of sleep can impact one’s judgment and levels of concentration. A balanced schedule will help you prepare well without the need to make such compromises,” he adds.
6. Preparation is location agnostic:
An aspirant shouldn’t bother with where they are while preparing. There is easy access to various content and preparatory material online, which aspirants can make good use of. He says, “Do not let the place you are from restrict your dreams and aspirations. Do not harbour any thoughts of competing with aspirants from bigger cities. Once the question paper is before you all that matters is your preparation.”
7. Cut the guilt out:
“I would constantly battle with thoughts of guilt when I was not studying. However, when I was spending time with my family I was thinking about all the time I could have used up preparing. I worked hard on removing this feeling of guilt from my life and that helped. Also, quality of your preparation trumps the quantity you put in,” he says. Ensure that you schedule a time to be with your family and friends alongside the time you spend preparing.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)