"गृह मंत्रालय से UPSC अवसर तक का सफर।"
My name is Kanika. I scored all India rank-64 in UPSC civil services exam 2021. I am from Haryana born and brought up there. I Did my schooling in Haryana itself. And thereafter did my graduation in mathematics (hon.) from Delhi University. Post that, I started preparing for civil services. After that I did a young India fellowship from Ashoka University and after that, I did a government job in the ministry of home affairs for two and half years. For two consecutive attempts, I couldn't clear the preliminary stage. This was my fourth attempt.
How did your work experience shape your entire personality and helped you in your journey as a civil aspirant?
See, Initially when I started preparing for this exam, I felt like I was very naive. I came out of that college scenario where you read books and you just write the exam and score very well. I was academically very good so I think I was a little overconfident with respect to this exam. And therefore, initially, I did not understand the integrity and demand of the exam.
So, then I decided to take a break. That break which I took for like say 2-3 years helped me gain a lot of maturity. I went to Ashoka University and did a post-graduate diploma in liberal studies. So, with that, I got exposure to a lot of many subjects and a lot many people from so many diverse backgrounds then I did the government job for two years. In that job, I realized how necessarily I wanted to pursue my civil services and not the job. so, that was my trigger point. At that point, I gained that kind of maturity and that kind of diversity of thoughts through the break which I took. This exam is all about a diverse range of subjects you need to study so you should expose yourself to different ideas, thought processes and academic disciplines.
What major challenges did you face in your journey?
With respect to the exam, in particular, prelims were my weakest area. I couldn't clear three attempts in the beginning. And to make it more clear that way, I tell you, in my third prelims I was nowhere even close to the cut-off. I scored around 67 marks in prelims when the cut-off was around 92 marks. So, yeah from there to this attempt, I went on clearing all the three stages.
With respect to the exam, prelims were my weak area, and my writing skills were good so I don’t very often tell my strategies on the public platforms because people might idealize them. But I tell you again my writing skills were good so that helped me score good marks in essays. So, now, I can say that mains was a cakewalk for me because I scored very good in written total.
When you are in so many years of preparation. It is not just the exam that we can stifle, it becomes your personal life. We start comparing ourselves with friends and others. All my friends excelled in their careers and are doing fine jobs but I got isolated from all of them. But then if you have set your priorities. See, when your priorities are set, you get isolated from your social circle, friends, and even your own family. These things keep on happening and then you keep on studying.
Any message for aspirants preparing for this exam and feeling demotivated?
I want to convey a message to all aspirants that whatever strategies you have, keep following the same as what I am saying might not work for you, and whatever others are saying might not work for you. Keep on practicing previous year's questions and then make a unique strategy for yourself. This was also one of my problems because initially like I told you, I didn't have that kind of maturity. My friends used to tell me some strategies of their own and I used to copy them in fact I couldn't actually copy them. I got stuck partially because it didn't work for me.
You shared how your previous attempts were unsuccessful. So, how did you change your approach to gain success?
In my fourth attempt, I scored much more than the cut-off. And in my third attempt, I have already told you about my marks. So, if you ask me a kind one thing I will tell you that I started with more than 10,000 questions. I solved the previous year’s questions which you can learn like a bible so that If you get a question in front of you, you should know that this question came in that year. And I did that.
In my earlier attempts I used to do previous year’s questions but I used to do like I just completed that’s all. I did them twice and thrice. But, in my fourth attempt, I did them wholeheartedly and analyzed what are the important topics.
I gathered test series from two and more coaching institutes and I did all the questions. So, my strategies and my way of doing the questions and the mocks were different. I am saying it is different because if I have done 10000 questions so I didn't write those 100 tests.
Weekly or twice a week, I used to write proper mocks otherwise I used to keep on doing the questions. See 10,000 questions is a lot, you cannot revise those questions so my strategy was that these 10,000 questions should go into my notes so that I can read them again. Thus, I didn't do any mocks. I did a mock only once and after that mock, I compiled my notes. So, that was the thing about prelims. If you also want to do questions then you can do 1000 or 4000 instead of 10000 questions.
What is the contribution of KSG in your UPSC journey?
I came in contact with this institute during my mock interviews. Here, Khan sir guided me tremendously. He is a very simple man. He will talk to you and will tell you on your face that there is a problem so in the mock interview that I gave and the DAF analysis session that I had with him, he was very true. In fact, he is very realistic. He won’t tell you superficial things. And he very particularly told me that one-two- and three things, you are doing wrong with the mock interview and advised about inculcating it in personality, etc. So, I am very grateful that Khan sir guided me and the entire group of KSG. It was a very good and enriching experience. See, During preparation, this is what you need.
There should be a person who can tell you on your face that what you are doing is wrong. He particularly told me that there are certain topics which are very touchy to the people. It is fine if you don’t pick them up in the actual interview. It is fine if you don’t go near religion and caste. It is fine to know that. KSG’s guidance was very helpful to me and I am very grateful for that.