To get a rank in UPSC, you need to work hard.
To get All-India Rank 1, you need to be clever.
Every serious candidate who enters UPSC battlefield, dreams of securing All-India Rank-1. And, although all UPSC toppers claim that they had no idea they will secure Rank-1, the reality is they leave no stone unturned in their preparation.
Apart from maintaining discipline, working smart and hard, relentless practice, a well-thought out strategy and time management, you need to be filled with a burning desire, hunger and restlessness.
One must know his strengths and weaknesses accurately to get a top rank or any rank for that matter. Patience and an undaunted self-belief are a must have.
Although each one of us thinks that it was his first attempt, he had already appeared in UPSC CSE examination in 2014 and could not qualify. So, technically this was his second attempt.
Earlier (2014), his dad had filled up his form without telling him and he had little motivation and no vision for CSE. This time (2017) he himself decided to clear this exam or in other words he had enough motivation.
Secondly, before commencing his UPSC preparation he had identified his strengths and weaknesses beforehand so as to devise a strategy that would work for him.
He also talks about filtering out the relevant information from the ocean of data available in the market and internet. Afterall, to get a top rank one must know what not to study.
If one could observe, Kanishak has scored a remarkable 360+ marks out of 500 in his Mathematics optional alone. He chose Mathematics as his optional because it was logical, scientific, static (with no current affairs involved) and lastly, he knew he could never get bored of Math. One can gauge that he could secure All-India Rank 1 because he chose the right optional.
Anudeep Durishetty failed UPSC CSE 2016.
He was absolutely shattered by his marks and blamed almost everyone except himself for his defeat. He became lethargic, timid, underconfident and even dumped his books in a corner.
Who could knew, that his marks would become his only motivation that drove him to rank 1?
His marks in 2016 are as follows:
If one observes deeply, one could understand that Anudeep was nowhere near the cut off (565 marks only).
After he bounced back (after 9 months) he observed that he was not able to complete the paper in time. So, his focus was just on completing the paper in those 3 hours and not All-India rank 1. He practiced and practiced hard. Slowly and gradually, he started completing the paper on time.
And in 2017, the result came out and all the hard work paid its due.
The ability to be clear about your goal in your initial years and getting ready for it in advance gives you an upper hand.
Tina Dabi AIR-1 has a very interesting story to tell. Honestly speaking, when news of her cracking the UPSC Civil Services Examination at the age of 22 in the very first attempt, broke out, many were dumb-founded and others were jealous.
So, what it took for a 22-year old young lady to crack the mother of all examinations?
The answer is 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in improving each and every aspect of the UPSC CSE exam including one’s strengths and weaknesses.
After she passed and probably topped her class 10th Board exam, she opted for Science initially and possibly out of peer pressure.
But she always wanted to sit for Civil Services Exam and later after her parents counselled her, she made a very conscious decision of choosing Humanities over Science. Her mother even resigned from her highly prestigious Indian Engineering Service. Thus, began a journey which was no ordinary one.
Tina has mentioned that she used to study for 8 to 14 hours. This she did for five continuous years. This means that she must have dedicated 12,000-15,000 hours in that five-year time period to studies only. After knowing this, one can easily gauge that her becoming an IAS topper in her very first attempt was no accident!
She used to read newspaper purposively and there were days when she could complete newspaper in half an hour only instead of the regular two hours. This is because she would only hunt for topics which were in the UPSC CSE syllabus.
She also chose an optional (Political Science and International Relations) she knew she was very comfortable with.
In PSIR, she secured full marks in class 12th Board and also bagged Delhi university Gold medal.
She joined GS foundation courses in class 11th itself and devoted most of her time in reading IAS related material.
But this is also true that many aspirants devote more than 8,000 hours to studies and still can’t get through UPSC. The reason is they don’t devote the entire time in deliberately practicing for UPSC. We can open the book in front of us for 18 hours but how many hours do we genuinely study?!
The key lies in being conscious of one’s goal and continuously working on it.
One should focus on studying more honestly and to a certain extent more cunningly and be alert and aware of one’s weaknesses to clear the UPSC CSE Exam.
This was true for Tina Dabi and is true for every other IAS aspirant.
In the end, getting All-India rank 1 is a cumulative outcome of many checks and balances. You need to make sure that you’re on the right track and you need to do that often.