My Preparation Strategy
Nitish K, Rank – 8, CSE – 2014
I was a student of Insights Offline Class and knew Vinay bro (Whom I call as ‘Anna’ i.e. elder brother) from my school (JNV) days. I readily agreed to his suggestion to write an article for the benefit of aspirants. But owing to hectic training at National Audit & Accounts Academy, I am coming up with this article after many days.
I did my schooling at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya,Chitradurga during which I made up my mind to become an IAS officer. Later I did engineering from a college in Bangalore. I started my preparation from mid 2010, i.e. during my final year in engineering.
Like everyone, I decided to take Public administration as my optional and started reading it. After few days I realized that Public administration was not my cup of tea. Fortunately at that time results of CSE-2009 was declared and Prakash Rajpurohit had got Rank 2, with Mathematics as one of his optional. His success inspired me to take Mathematics. He also wrote a blog, which I consider as bible for Mathematics optional. I bought all the books which he had mentioned in his blog and finished one time reading by the time I completed my graduation in mid 2011.
Then I left to Delhi from Bangalore and reached Old Rajinder Nagar in June, 2011. I had made up my mind to take Psychology as second optional and join Mukul Pathak’s coaching. But I changed my mind at last moment and joined Neetu Singh for Geography optional.
While going for Geography coaching, I also joined Maths test series at IMS (Venkanna). I left Delhi after 4 months due to adverse conditions like climate, food, high rent etc and went to my native place near Udupi.
Till prelims i.e May 2012, I finished General Studies myself and revised Maths and Geography. After prelims, I again went to Delhi to appear for Maths and GS test series. I made the mistake of appearing for Mains at Delhi Centre. I got high fever on the day of Essay, General Studies and Geography exams and finally recovered before Mathematics exam.
After Mains, I returned to my native place and started preparing for Interview as well as for next Mains. Then fortunately I cleared Mains and appeared for interview in my first attempt. However I could not make it to the final list. Later I found out that I had missed rank by 10 marks and had got low marks in Interview and Geography. Despite working hard for nearly 3 years and leaving job at campus placement, at the end I was left with nothing.
Many people (particularly relatives) mocked at me telling that even two years after engineering I was sitting at home and gave examples of students getting placements with high packages. This was like adding salt to wound. But somehow all these things eventually made me more determined to clear this exam, at any cost.
Fortunately for me, pattern was changed in 2013 and only one optional was required to be taken. I gladly dropped geography and appeared in Prelims again. As the GS syllabus for mains was changed drastically, I felt it was better to prepare in a group. So I went to Delhi again after Prelims and rented a room with two good friends, who were very hardworking and dedicated. I also joined test series for GS and Maths. This time I wrote mains at Bangalore in December.
After Mains, I relaxed for around 20 days and then contacted Vinay bro. He was my senior in school and I got to know that he had got very good marks in UPSC interview. As I had got very low marks in interview in the previous attempt, I was quite afraid about interview. He was kind enough to take many mock interviews freely in his room and helped me to overcome my fear of interview.
His mantra for interview was being honest, humble and confident. I just followed his advice and got 196/275. This was a huge jump for mere 50% in first attempt to 71% in second attempt.
Owing to high Interview marks, I got 547th rank and with just 10 marks more than General cutoff. After declaration of marks, I found that I had low scores in Essay and General Studies Paper 2 and 3. Getting a rank was a great relief to me and my family. But the desire for IAS was still strong.
As I wanted my 3rd attempt to be my last attempt, I decided to give my best shot this time. I did not want to study in isolation but was reluctant to go to Delhi again. Vinay bro told he would be conducting offline test series for GS & Essay in Bangalore for limited students who are very serious. I readily joined it.
He went out of his way to arrange good accommodation in Bangalore. Here I met a group of highly dedicated aspirants which included Neha, Balaji, Kiran, Akhilesh etc. The competition within the group was so high that for three and half months everyone was compelled to work very hard.
The rigorous schedule of Insights for test series enabled us to complete syllabus in time and also strengthen our answer writing skills. Whenever I used to get frustrated about huge syllabus or insufficiency of time and my confidence dipped, I used to talk to Vinay bro. He always used to tell you would get in top 50 this time and not to worry. Finally his words became true.
During this mock test series programme, I wrote nearly 15 three hour essays (with 2 essays for 125 marks each – Later same pattern was there in Mains which helped me a lot). This led to drastic improvement in my essay score from 84 in previous attempt to 142 this year.
Again, this year I frequently spoke over phone from Academy regarding interview with him. As I was undergoing training, this year’s interview needed different approach. We discussed probable questions and refined our answers. He motivated me before the interview to give my best. This year, I scored206/275.
I am deeply grateful to Insights and Vinay bro for guiding me and for creating a highly competitive atmosphere at Bangalore, due to which I was able to put much more effort in a focused manner.
Based on my experience, a few suggestions to all the aspirants:
- With right approach, it is possible to clear this exam in first attempt But don’t get disheartened if you fail. Don’t give up. Introspect and rectify your mistakes. Hit back with greater effort. When I missed getting a rank by 10 marks in first attempt, I was very disappointed. But I read that year toppers’ interviews. I told myself if they can do it why can’t I do. I was very angry on myself for not clearing and this made me more determined to clear this exam.
- Try to prepare with a group of serious There is no point is befriending non-serious aspirants. They will lead to your failure. Be very careful in choosing your friends.
- Consistency and discipline are key to success. I have seen lots of people who work very hard for first 1-2 months and later their preparation decays exponentially. Have a timetable and follow it religiously. My daily study routine for past four years is like this – 8 to 9:30, 10 to 1:30, 4 to 8:30 and 9:30 to 12:30. Make your own timetable and give some time in between (say ½ hour) for relaxing. The idea is you should be comfortable with your timetable and not get frustrated.
- Clear prelims by a comfortable margin. This is very important so that you start preparing for mains seriously without waiting for prelims results.
- Practice answer writing for GS, essay and optional regularly. Insights website is helpful in this regard.
- For GS make notes, preferably on Evernote as it consumes less time and easy to edit and revise.
- Don’t spend too much time on Internet searching for materials, news etc. Many aspirants spend hours on internet and think they are preparing. But actually they would be aimlessly jumping from website to another without any value addition. It is better to follow few sources that are qualitative.
- Also many have this habit of filling their rooms with all kinds of books, material, photocopies etc., which they won’t study even one page. Buy a maximum of 2 books per subject and read them repeatedly. You need not do research on each and every topic. You should just understand them and be able to give simple and clear answers in exam.
- Try to finish Mains syllabus before Prelims. Because after prelims you will be having time only for revision and answer writing.
- Join coaching only by consulting many seniors. Don’t be fooled by huge photographs of toppers in advertisements. Many would have appeared only for Test Series or Mock Interviews and coaching centers would claim that they were part of classroom coaching.
- Finally don’t get your confidence lowered by all the negative comments made by your friends and relatives. Have faith in your hard work. Promise yourself to work harder and prove all your critics wrong. If you work hard, then luck (God) will help you.
I would like to end with two of my favorite quotes, which helped me immensely during my preparation:
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” Muhammad Ali
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” Jim Rohn
All the best for your exams and future. Thank you.
STRATEGY FOR MATHEMATICS OPTIONAL (UPSC CSE MAINS)
Nitish K, IAS (Rank – 8, CSE – 2014)
Who can take Mathematics as an optional?
A large number of aspirants called or messaged me saying that they have decided to or wanted to take Maths and asked me to share my strategy. When I asked them why they wanted to choose Maths, most of them told that it was because of good performance of Maths in recent years.
Is Mathematics really performing well in recent years?
On the surface it might look that Maths is doing well. This time around 25-30 candidates have got in the range 290-310. But the problem with Maths optional is scaling. Due to scaling (I don’t know how UPSC does it), a very few number of candidates get high and remaining ones get very low. The ones who get high would have obviously done better than the rest. But due to scaling, difference in marks between the highest and the lowest increases drastically. If the difference in correct attempts is say 60-70, then after scaling the difference becomes 110-120. Thus in Maths, marks are binary. Either you get high or you get low. There are no average marks in Maths, unlike humanities optional. Therefore one should not get attracted to Maths by marks obtained by a few successful candidates. A huge majority would have got very low marks in Maths. Thus Maths is performing well for say around 10% and poor for 90%.
Who are the ones who usually take Maths as an optional?
A large number of those who take Maths as optional come from reputed institutions like IITs, BITS and NITs etc. Due to this the competition is very high.
So back to first question, who can take Maths as an optional?
I feel only those who are very strong in Maths and have genuine interest should take Maths. Unlike humanities optional which can be taken by anybody, Mathematics requires aptitude. As there is huge competition, unless one is at the topmost part of the pyramid, Maths would result in low marks. I have seen many people who take Maths in haste, waste attempts and later change optional.
I was not from any IIT, BITS or NIT. I still went for Maths because I felt I am good in Maths. Mine previous performance in Maths boosted my confidence. I had got 99/100 in 10th (CBSE), 100/100 in both 11th and 12th, 10/10 grade in all four semesters in Engineering Maths. This is not to boast about myself, but to press the point that Maths should be taken only if you have good track record in Maths.
Also given the complexity of topics and huge syllabus, I don’t think any coaching institute will be able to fully cover all the topics. I feel coaching has a limited role and own effort matters more.
Booklist and Strategy
- Linear Algebra :
- Schaum’s outline on Linear Algebra: this book has explained linear algebra in a far better and simpler manner than Krishna Series. Due to its clarity, it can be read quickly also.
- Krishna Series on Matrices
- Calculus :
- Krishna Series on Differential calculus
- Krishna Series on Integral calculus
- Mathematical Analysis by Malik and Arora : a must read book for both Paper I and II
- Analytical Geometry :
- Krishna Series on Analytical Geometry : this book is better than Shantinarayan and has many solved examples
- Krishna Series on Analytical Solid Geometry : for Conicoids, Generating Lines
- Ordinary Differential Equations:
- Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations by MD Raisinghania
- Advanced Differential Equations by MD Raisinghania : required for Laplace Transforms (Paper-I) and Boundary value problems (Paper-II)
- Dynamics and Statics
- Krishna Series on Statics
- Krishna Series on Dynamics
- Vector Analysis
- Krishna Series on Vector Calculus (~ 330 pages)
- Schaum’s outline on Vector Analysis
Strategy for Paper I:
- Paper I being easier compared to Paper II, all the topics have to be covered in detail.
- For Analytical Geometry, read all the solved examples given in above mentioned books. Regularly revise particularly skew lines, sphere, cone and conicoids. In many problems you would have to remember how to start the problem i.e. you would have to mug the approach to solve specific problems.
- For Calculus, focus more on Calculus of many variables. This is well covered in Malik and Arora. Also many topics of Paper I and Paper II overlap, which can be prepared simultaneously from the above mentioned book.
- In Statics & Dynamics, try to solve all the problems. You can leave very complex problems which are usually given at the end of every chapter.
- Make formula sheet for every chapter and revise it regularly. Otherwise you might forget many formulas in exam.
- Practice makes perfect. Try solving problems with pen and paper with book closed, instead of just reading.
Paper II :
Booklist and Strategy
- Abstract Algebra: This being my favourite topic, I had referred many books. But as many candidates find this topic tough, I would suggest referring to following books.
- Abstract Algebra, Group Theory by R Kumar (Vardhaman Publications)
- Abstract Algebra, Ring Theory by R Kumar (Vardhaman Publications)
- Abstract Algebra by Joseph Gallian (optional)
- Real Analysis:
- Mathematical Analysis by Malik and Arora
- Real Analysis by MD Raisinghania
- Complex Analysis:
- Krishna Series
- Linear Programming:
- Operations Research by JK Sharma or Kanti Swarup or Krishna Series
- Partial Differential Equations:
- ODE and PDE by MD Raisinghania
- Engineering Maths by Grewal : for boundary value problems
- Advanced Differential Equations by M.D Raisinghania (for boundary value problems)
- Numerical Analysis and Computer programming:
- Numerical Methods by Jain and Iyengar (but questions are not coming from this book from past few years)
- Numerical Analysis chapter from Grewal, Engineering Mathematics
- For Algorithms and flowcharts, I am having soft copy of a book which I will share.
- Mechanics and Fluid Dynamics:
- Fluid Dynamics by MD Raisinghania
- Krishna Series, Dynamics for Moment of Inertia and D Alembert’s Principle
- Krishna Series, Rigid Dynamics for Lagrangian and Hamiltonian. (Unfortunately this is a poorly written book with lot of mistakes. Will try to upload material for these topics)
Strategy for Paper – 2:
- Usually Paper II is tough for many. Hence if you are able to master it, then you will able to score very high compared to others
- Abstract Algebra is a unique topic. Either you like the topic or you don’t. In first case it will be easy otherwise very tough. I loved the topic and did not read it from exam point of view. If you are finding it tough, I would suggest you to do it from 10 markers point of view. There is no point in spending a lot of time on Abstract Algebra as you won’t be rewarded proportionately. The same time could be used for studying other topics of Maths or GS, which would fetch much more marks. For 10 markers point of view, read books (a) and (b) mentioned above. Memorize all the theorems. Skip proofs of theorems which are big, particularly in Permutation groups, Cayley’s theorem, PID, Euclidean Domain and UFDs. On the other hand, if you are comfortable with Abstract algebra and want to do it in a detailed manner, I will shortly share various e-books, pdfs etc.
- For Real Analysis, Malik and Arora is the best. You can supplement it by MD Raisinghania. I felt it is better to leave the proofs. Focus more on Riemann Integral, Improper Integrals and Series and Sequences of functions.
- Linear Programming: I feel books for MBA like JK Sharma are written more clearly that Krishna Series.
- PDE: Even though not mentioned in syllabus, Charpit’s method has to be covered as questions are regularly asked. For Boundary Value problems (heat equation etc.) first read from Grewal. For more types of problems you should refer to book (c) mentioned above in the booklist.
- Mechanics and Fluid Dynamics: From last year UPSC has started mixing questions from PDE, Numerical Analysis and Fluid & Rigid Dynamics. Therefore to score high it has become imperative to cover this topic. But the problem is the syllabus has been vaguely defined and there is confusion about which topics are there in syllabus. By analyzing past years question papers. I covered only the following topics. In Fluid dynamics cover Kinematics of Fluids in Motion, Equations of Motions of Inviscid Fluids, Sources and Sinks, Vortex Motion. No need to see proof of any theorems. From Navier Stokes equations, just try to see only solved examples. For Rigid Dynamics, cover those topics mentioned in booklist above.
- The fixed space for each question in Mathematics causes lot of disadvantage vis-à-vis other optional, particularly humanities. If you made a mistake while solving a problem and have consumed most of the available space, then despite knowing the correct method you would not have space to rectify your mistake. To tackle this, practice solving problems and write many mock tests. By greater practice you will be able to reduce unforced errors. Also if the problem is new or unfamiliar, I used to briefly solve it in the last page with pencil, later transferring it to main page.
- A lot of aspirants face the dilemma of how much time to give for Maths compared to GS. There is no hard and fast rule. I used to give 50% of my time (say around 5 hrs per day) for Maths and 50% for GS. Owing to huge syllabus of Maths, candidates generally tend to neglect GS and Essay. This has to be avoided.
- It is very important to complete at least 80% of syllabus before prelims. Also between prelims and mains, try to do both Maths and GS everyday. Don’t lose touch of Maths. The last one month before Mains is very important. During this period keep on revising formulas and practicing problems.
- Join Test Series programme between Prelims and Mains. This helps you to complete the syllabus in time, gives you practice, improve your speed and accuracy etc. I had joined Venkanna’s (IMS) test series 4 times (2011,12,13,14) and found them very helpful. I did not attend their classroom coaching and went only for test series programme.
My Sample Answer-scripts:
Scan 07-Nov-26014 9.19 pm
Scan 11-Nov-2014 9.26 pm
Scan 20-Oct-2014 9.20 pm
Scan 25-Oct-2014 9.54 pm
Scan 31-Oct-2014 10.22 am
Scan 28-Oct-2014 9.23 pm
I wrote above tests during last year online test series at IMS.
My Overall Strategy for Essay, GS, Interview
PS: Mathematics Marks in CSE Mains 2014: Paper – 1 – 173; Paper – 2 – 173
Note from Insights:
Please visit His Blog (CLICK HERE) for any queries. and ask him there your doubts. Thank you.