Abhishek Kumar Agrawal (RANK-230)
CSC: When did you start preparation for the IAS Examination? When should one ideally begin thinking about preparing for this exam?
Abhishek: I started my preparation from January 2016 to appear for UPSC CSE 2016 held in August 2016. Ideal time as such depends upon candidates. However, I think one year is sufficient for it.
CSC: How did you start preparation for the IAS Examination?
Abhishek: I started with basic NCERT books and then switched on to advanced sources. I also started with reading “The Hindu” newspaper and then after couple of months, I read Indian Express also.
CSC: What were your strategies for the lengthy syllabus of General Studies for both Prelims and Main Examinations?
Abhishek: For Prelim Examination, I solved a lot of test series. Prelims is more about elimination of options. Hence, solve questions of previous year papers. For Main Examination, it is very important to have a good writing speed to cover 250 marks paper in 3 hours.
CSC: Did you follow the myth that only so called popular optionals should be opted?
Abhishek: Yes, optionals like ‘HISTORY’ definitely gives an edge to candidates as they help in General Studies preparation. ‘HISTORY’ Optional saves a lot of time. It is very safe and scoring also.
CSC: How did you come to know that which sources of reading materials are standard? Please give a list of books, magazines and Newspapers.
Abhishek: I got to know about standard study material during my coaching classes. Interviews of previous years’ toppers also helped a lot.
Books – Standard NCERTs
Magazine – Monthly Yojana, Civil Services Chronicle
Newspaper – The Hindu
CSC: Tell us something about preparation of ‘Essay’ paper.
Abhishek: ‘Essay’ paper is not about lengthy, tough and flowery language. Cover as many dimensions as you can – social, economic, political, religious etc.
CSC: Which is the most difficult part of this examination and why? What was your strategy to tackle this difficult part?
Abhishek: Clearing Prelims is the most difficult part of Civil Services Examination because if a candidate does not clear Prelims, he/she cannot get chance to write Mains even if he/she is well prepared for it. I solved a lot of mock tests and previous year papers to overcome it.
CSC: Did you attend any coaching institute? How helpful are the coaching institutes? What is your overall opinion about the coaching institutes?
Abhishek: Yes, I attended INSIGHT IAS ACADEMY of S. Baliyan Sir at Delhi. Coaching classes provided me a first-hand guidance regarding what to read and what not to. For me, coaching played a very important role in guiding me in right direction.
CSC: What are your suggestions for freshers who want to join coaching institutes for preparation?
Abhishek: Join the best coaching institute as guidance plays a crucial role in success in civil services examination. I was lucky to get personal guidance and support of S. Baliyan Sir.
CSC: What was your style of writing in Main examination? How was it distinct from the general writing style? How did you develop this writing style?
Abhishek: I developed my writing style through regular practice and through the feedback of my teachers. Following steps can help anyone in writing good answers:
(1) Make habit of writing with headings and subheadings.
(2) Underline important words and facts.
(3) Handwriting should be clean.
(4) Quote a lot of examples from day to day life to fetch more marks.
CSC: What should be the best strategy to tackle negative marking in Prelims examination?
Abhishek: Practice a lot of test papers of coaching and previous year papers. By this negative marking will be avoided greatly.
CSC: How did you prepare for interview?
Abhishek: I think interview is not the test of your knowledge. It’s the test of your personality, I attended few mock interviews.
CSC: Which types of questions were asked in interview? Did you answer all?
Abhishek: Questions were mainly from my home state and my academic background. Many questions were also from international relations and core facts of polity were also asked. I did not answer 5 questions.
CSC: Was there any specific area they emphasized upon?
Abhishek: They continuously grilled me on giving my first preference as IAS rather IRS (IT). Being a CA/CS, they wanted me to give 1st preference as IRS (IT) than IAS.
CSC: Before getting down to actual preparation, what kind of reading should one do to improve one’s suitability for this exam? What is the outside reading one should do?
Abhishek: Read daily newspaper and basic NCERTs. Outside reading of books such as Amartya Sen’s “The Uncertain Glory” should also be carried out.
CSC: Whom would you give credit of your success?
Abhishek: My parents, my coaching institution for providing right direction and the Almighty God.
CSC: What is your advice to the freshers who are going to appear in this exam?
Abhishek: (1) Be focused; attend coaching classes daily in case you join it.
(2) Prepare Notes of every material you read.
(3) Use internet for judicious use of time.
(4) Start answer writing practise from day one of your preparation.
CSC: What is your advice to the candidates who have failed in this exam?
Abhishek: Learn from your mistakes, analyse your mistakes and start again till you succeed.
CSC: Since when have you begun reading Civil Service Chronicle magazine? What are your suggestions to make it more useful for civil service aspirants?
Abhishek: I started reading it after my Main examination i.e. after August 2016. It is very good magazine but it is quite lengthy. Please make it very precise and to the point. A short publication before exam can be more useful to candidates.