Background: Chekuri Kirthi, a student of Metallurgy Engineering batch in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, emerged as the topper in the two Telugu states in the Civil Services exam. She picked up the idea of being an IAS officer in her third year at IIT inspired by a talk of serving officer. She says, “couldn’t imagine myself working in the four walls of a company… the vast scope of service civil services throw up actually drew me towards it.”
Her journey: She cleared UPSC with 14th rank in her third attempt (CSE-2015). Her ranks in previous attempts were 440 in CSE-2013 and 512 in CSE-2014. She prepared for the exam this time while undergoing the training in academy.
Suggestion for Prelims: We tend to overestimate our potential and neglect prelims thinking Prelims marks wouldn’t count for the exam. Neglecting prelims can prove to be a very costly mistake. Many toppers in the list cleared prelims with a margin of 1-3 marks. One can understand that 1-2 questions in Prelims can make or break your dreams.
In 2013, she cleared the Prelims by just 4 marks. She admits that her reason for low performance in Prelims 2013 was minimal practice in Quant and playing safe in Paper-1. She knew 45 questions comfortably in paper-1 and just guessed 10 more there by attempting just 55 questions. She realized it was a very dangerous strategy. In prelims, one should mark the questions in which one is 100% percent sure in the first round. In the second round, one should also try to attempt those questions in which one can eliminate two options. With this strategy, she comfortably cleared prelims in CSE 2014.
Mains strategy: In her first two attempts, her mains marks were marginally above the cut-off (10 marks). She admits that she cleared both the attempts only because of her interview. She made a few changes in her Mains answer writing approach which helped her enormously.
- Diagrams: She drew a lot of diagrams. She drew India and World Maps for Geography or International Relations.
- Side headings
- Flow Charts
- Breadth instead of Depth: Cover as many dimensions as possible in an answer rather than covering the issue in depth with quality analysis. UPSC prefers the no. of dimensions in an answer.
- Introduction: Take the key words of the question and explain them. That becomes the introduction.
Internalize the points you study in your preparation- what are the side-headings you can give, how to draw flow chart for the question, maximizing the dimensions etc.
Attempt as many questions as you can, unless you are absolutely clueless and can’t make an intelligent guess about what’s asked. Go through the question paper in first 2-3 minutes and select the questions you are good at(around 10) and attempt them first. Only then go for the other questions on which you’ll have little idea where you have to guess.