Snippets: Live Interaction with Mains-Cleared Candidate

I wanted to ‘escape’ to somewhere and the remedy I found was to sleep all day long. But now, I’m quite happy that I’m finally coming out of it. I could luckily figure out the root-cause of my depression before it was too late. 

These are snippets from live Telegram interaction. Please ignore typos and other mistakes!

This article has three parts:

  1. Detailed strategy shared by the candidate. It includes Academic and Non-Academic aspects.
  2. Snippets from the live Question-and-Answer session
  3. Answer copies of the candidate

1. Detailed strategy of the candidate

Disclaimer: I have cleared mains for the first time in my life, after having 4 failed prelims. I’m not sure if I’m the right person to guide you with my strategy, without either clearing the interview stage or knowing my marks. So kindly take your discretion while reading my strategy, and I would request you to try to make a unique strategy on your own

1.1. The non-academic dimensions: Motivation, Personal Issues, Family, Health

  • Strike a balance between your health and studies. Otherwise you might end up paying a heavy price at a crucial stage of this exam. I adopted a closed-room study approach for months which drained my energy as I ended up being anemic, low in calcium, vitamin-D and thyroid hormone issues. Along with that, I generated mechanical back pain which makes you impossible to sit on a chair. I was adamant that how much ever my back pains, I won’t get up from the chair without completing my target. When a made a habit for many months, it caused me lumbar spine issues. All these deficiencies in my blood, as I said earlier, triggerred depression for 2-3 months. I felt disinterested in everything around me and I looked back and wondered how did I ever use to sit for a long time in studying. I wanted to ‘escape’ to somewhere and the remedy I found was to sleep all day long. But now, I’m quite happy that I’m finally coming out of it. I could luckily figure out the root-cause of my depression before it was too late. 
  • I’m a married person with immense support from my husband and family to continuously pursue my dream. I feel blessed on that regard, especially my husband protects me from unnecessary questions from the society. Also, at times my husband studies portions for me (after his tough day at work) and teaches me to save my time.
  • For the past 2 years, I had only had online-friends. I have fed on self motivation. Watching topper videos and their strategies used to motivate me as I used to feel happy for them. But at the same time, I was in a completely helpless stage when I had a slight face of depression. 
  • Every single day, I look at the toppers and think how do they make it, whether I would  ever be able to be like them someday. I know, it’s very childish but some of you may be able to relate with me.
  • Having put all the efforts (like many of you have put), I had doubts whether I would clear prelims. I still doubt of clearing prelims if I have to give another attempt.

1.2. The academic dimensions: Study materials, Test series, Answer writing

It’s after failing in 2019 prelims that I realised the hollowness in my UPSC strategy. Hence, I decided to start from the scratch, accepting my failures and ignorance that I do not know anything. For the next two months, rather than studying something, I spent entire 2 months analysing UPSC. I learned the syllabus well, and spent a long time in analysing SocioPYQ + watching topper-videos. I also read topper answer copies of sociology which is limitedly available in the internet. After this I had a fair idea about what is UPSC expecting from me.

It’s at this point of time that I came across 2 interesting things. DNA sir’s website and the outlook about Sociology in it. Plus, 2018 Socio topper Vishal Sah sir’s strategy videos. (Kindly understand that I’m not doing any advertisement). The biggest takeaway that I gained from Vishal sir’s class is that, we can have a “functionalist/conflict approach” to answer any questn. These both were eye-openers to me like there is immense scope to incorporate my creativity in writing Sociology answers. Until then, the biggest struggle I faced with sociology was that, I could very much understand Sociology, but was very difficult to reproduce in my own words what I had just read. There were instances in which I had thought whether to change my optional too. Along with this, I read the Blue-Haralambos, which is written in a very simple language. Haralambos gave me in-depth understanding along with the knowledge given by my Sir in my hometown, where I took coaching for sociology from. These elements are the core of what I made my foundations of. Next I’ll discuss how did I make a house out of that foundation

After knowing that I have a lot of liberty in cooking my own answers in sociology, I wanted to experiment this and get feedback. There was a monthly answer-writing-programme by DNA sir, for which I joined. I got ‘Best answer’ reward and this boosted my confidence. It gave me much needed motivation that i kept on experimenting in my later answers. I continued with all the answer writing intiatives sir started

However, in my real UPSC hall, I could only bring 70% of my answer quality and potential. For that sole reason, I was really tensed of clearing mains. I felt that the questions were too generic and to be frank, they were not in a way I expected it to come. Somehow it worked so far, yet I’m waiting for interview.

Elements in my strategy are:

  • In the initial days, I spent a long time thinking over a single question. Thinking of how to bring creativity, and how to interlink with various topics. For some questions, I think I have written well, I used to show it to DNA sir and take feedback only to know that my answer lacks a lot of elements. I continued with it until I could write very well. Along with that, I was active in a peer group where I had opportunity to post answers daily and get peer-reviews
  • Along with that, I used to collect current affairs and tried to link in with the syllabus (like DNA sir shows in the website and step-up series articles). This way, I learned how to make any generic answer to look like sociological along with bringing sociological keywords.
  • Next is to collect interesting facts and learning to apply it in answers. This needs a lot of practice, otherwise it would look mechanical
  • It is my weakness that I don’t understand concepts unless it is written in a simple way. So, when I write answers, I’m very particular that my answer-evaluator shouldn’t struggle to understand what I have written. Hence I am obsessed with “Evaluator-friendly approach”
  • Before reading a single syllabus topic, I make sure that I read the PYQ for that portion. This gives me an idea of what to pick from that portion
  • Last but not the least, it is very necessary that you do hard smart-work. But it’s also very important to check whether you are treading the right path. Try to review other’s answers so that you’ll develop an evaluator-perspective while writing answers

I consider UPSC as a war that I’m fighting with myself. There are some quotes which I got inspired from Srushti Deshmukh ma’am’s strategy “Choose between the pain of discipline and the pain of regret”, having known that how much “regret” pains, I was automatically forced to be self-disciplined. And in Vishal Sah sir’s classes that he once said “What I human has done, a human can do”. And another quote which I strongly believe is that “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”. By sticking these on my wall, I have tried my best to live up to what I have written on it. If I’m to fail again in this Interview, I’m stubborn about striking back more hardwork. 

My request to you is, to accept your failures in a positive way. Analyse your strategy and find out the loopholes and then move forward

Having said all these, let’s have a look at something similar to what Merton has said in his concept of Deviance – Not everyone can reach the top as there are only limited seats, and this triggers anomie. The state of anomie that you’re going through is natural and inevitable. Hence, with this realisation, don’t spend a long time in worrying, but be ready to face the next challenge. Refinine the best version of yours to stand out in the crowd and reach the top

I feel, I have covered major portions of my strategy. In case I remember if I have missed something, I would be happy to share it after the interview

2. Snippets from Live Interaction

Query: Hi, congrats for clearing upsc mains

I had the question that, this was my first attempt at upsc and I could not clear mains. 

The next attempt is hardly 6 months away with limited time between prelims and mains. 

How do you (or anyone in the group) suggest that I tackle my flaws before I give another attempt in 2021 and not repeat the same blunders? 

Thank you πŸ™‚

Reply to the above question:

Thank you. 2020 prelims was indeed a tough exam. Congratulations to you for clearing that. You are the best person to sit and analyse your flaws. As I have mentioned in the beginning of my strategy, syllabus and PYQ matters a lot. I think, at present you should balance between prelims and optionals

Query: 2021 is my first attempt and i want to ask about current affairs preparation….i have chose insights magazine but as it is too bulky to read now getting less time to revise it

Still stuck in major static portion 

Plus will be facing college exams also in June

Reply to the above question:

Hi, In my opinion, Current affairs need to be balanced between newspaper and any single CA monthly magazine

Query: Hello.Many congratulations..Please share your prelims strategy.. How did you handle pressure and baggage of the previous failures . Also suggest time management during prelims as paper is becoming lengthy year by year.

Thank you. Prelims was the stage I put in major chunk of my efforts. I would say 70% which exhausted me right at the start of the marathon.

Reply to the above question:

For my prelims, I focused on

1. Static revision 

2. Current Affairs revision

3. Mock tests (full syllabus) of vision and forum

4. UPSC PYQ solving

5. Maps study for geography

6. Much focus was put on revising multiple times

Query: First of all, all the best for interview. Like a phoenix you have risen from ashes, and I wish you all the best for interview and I pray that you never have to write prelims again. It is becoming very difficult to stand apart from the crowd in mains. What value addition do you suggest to someone who is not able to clear mains. @rna1095 sir, you can please guide as well.

Reply to the above question:

Thank you. As value addition, answer presentation, inclusion of interesting facts, diagrams, interlinkages with syllabus and current affairs. Striking conclusions

what do you mean by striking conclusions..can you explain

For example, if there’s a question on globalisation, you bring the keyword “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” in the conclusion

Query: Hello, Congrats for clearing mains and All the very best for your interview. πŸ™‚ 

My query is how to go about for paper 2. As this paper is quite dynamic and paper on the face of it looks like GS, but quite tricky to get marks. 

Also, did you particularly focussed on sociological current affairs from any source or tried to incorporate news that came along your way?

Reply to the above question:

Thank you. Paper 2 is tough for me too. I have heard sociology teachers saying that we have to add Paper 2 thinkers for paper 2 rather than bringing from paper 1 thinkers. However, major answer writing strategy, presentation, etc would be similar to paper 1. Sociological current affairs is something what we collect from normal newspaper. We can add it sociological by adding sociology specific keywords

Query: mam how you get strong command over thinkers(both paper 1 and paper 2)…. did u refered multiple sources for thinkers?

Reply to the above question:

My strategy for thinkers is to NOT to study too many thinkers. We have major thinkers and minor thinkers. You should get command over major thinkers from Haralambos and Ritzer. I have noticed at least one question from Ritzer these days. But you should read it smartly in a limited way.

About minor thinkers, don’t study anything and everything . Study only popular thinkers among the minor ones. Leave the rest

It’s not just addition of thinkers which you make your answer standout

Query: mam why you were not able to draw diagrams in exam?

Reply to the above question:

As I had mentioned in my strategy, questions were not the way I expected them to come. And, I was in a hurry to attempt all the questions. Sometime, I even forgot that I had to draw diagrams too..

Query: Did you made notes? Or rereading same stuff is better strategy?

Reply to the above question:

I started making notes after prelims (my biggest mistake). I made 70% of notes before mains. Notes making is very important in my opinion

Query: Did you made notes? Or rereading same stuff is better strategy?

Reply to the above question:

Yes. Re-reading on and on is very important. But in exam hall, you do the application of what you have read

Query: Under the pressure of the exam, one forgets most of the preparation which only makes one panic. Is there a better way of revision or something else that needs to be done to avoid such a blank mind?

Reply to the above question:

You cannot reproduce something you learn as such in the exam. It’s the application of what you study. This has to be mastered by writing test series so that you develop a skill to write any random answer

Query: Can u tell us any mnemonics for easy remembering? How ur structure of answer writing was.

Also, how lengthy were ur notes, mine reached 200, 100 resp both papers

Reply to the above question:

I haven’t counted my pages. But I have tried to make a maximum 2-3 page note for a single syllabus heading

Query: Good evening madam, Hearty Congratulations, I’m sure it must be rally great to be on the other side of the aisle.

One quick query 

I found the following topper answer copies, 

1. Anu Kumari ma’am ( Nice IAS )

2. Srushti  ma’am ( Vision + Sleepy )

3. Neha Bhosle ( Nice IAS )

Would you recommend to look at more copies, if yes then, can you suggest some more name’s? 

Thank you so much for taking out time and my best wishes for the interview part

Thank you. 

Reply to the above question:

I’m not yet at the other end, but badly wish if I could. 

I have not read all the answers by these 3 ma’ams, but I can comment on a few answers I have seen.

I don’t remember Anu ma’ams answer. Srushti ma’am vision answer has much of conceptual clarity, don’t know about sleepy answers. Neha Bhosle ma’ams answer I have seen some very good application level answers (eg: Durkheim’s religion and it’s contemporary relevance)

Thank you for your interview wishes

Query: Ma’am how much remembering we have to do in prep and how did you do that ??

Reply to the above question:

We have to remember a lot. Remembering is done by proper understanding and having conceptual clarity. Plus many revisions

Query: for paper said you referred harlambos and ritzer..for paper 2..wat you have referred?

Reply to the above question:

That’s a good question. I read NCERT and later Nitin Sangwan sirs book. And realised that he has made the content in his book by referring to NCERT. Hence, since I had limited time to cover paper 2, I relied upon his book. Plus, some content I took from test series answers by DNA 

Query: In writing body we usually have the option of mostly theory writing vs using examples and explaining a phenomenon.

Like in pathological DOL Nithin Sangwan wrote 3: Anomic dol, poorly coordinated dol and forced dol. This is theory explanation.

Now alter is that I simply write it occurs when collective consciousness breaks down, society in zone of transition, morals don’t keep pace with material life. Then substantiate with contemporary Eg like Gig economy.

So basically, I’m asking how should I approach a question more theoretical or practical

Reply to the above question:

First of all, it depends on what is asked in the question. Secondly you don’t have to keep it either theory or practical. You can mix it up but making it precise. Then you can add more dimensions na

Query: Mam , can u plz suggest current affairs magzine for sociology ?..

Reply to the above question:

I have got one from the market. But I didn’t read it at the end, as I felt that CA in society portion + my newspaper collection is far better. I had newspaper cuttings daily, but at the end DNA sir gave us 100 current affairs PDF

Query: +1 mam is step up is good to take

Reply to the above question:

Step up was useful to me in understanding how to interlink a single topic with various other topics. I think, step up is a limited series

Query: Hello ma’am,  first of all congratulations on your success in clearing mains. I would like to know about your time efficiency with respect to the optional paper and how does you balanced it out with your GS preparations as the time gap between pre and mains, like this year, was quite narrow and I would be honoured if you could provide a small glance about your preparation style in between this gap. Thank you and may the  force be with you.

Reply to the above question:

Thanks a lot. I made confidence in answer writing before prelims. Content development was mostly done after prelims. Since I had made no notes, I had so much struggle with making 1-2-3 page note for each topic. But my notes were very beneficial to me to revise before the exam

Query: mam, should we prepare socio on daily basis or should we do it separately for like 3 month only for socio… +  how much time(months) it takes to holistically cover the socio syllabus

Reply to the above question:

Preparing on daily basis will help you in touch with the optional. Time taken to cover Socio syllabus depends on where your knowledge stands now

Query: How should one go through BK nagla for paper 2? Secondly how did u make use of blue harlambous for answer writing, I see it as just patches of information, unstructured form

Reply to the above question:

BK Nagla selected pages. Especially for 3-4 thinkers

Haralambos also selected pages, which is available in telegram. You need to make very crisp notes from Haralambos

Query: Hello mam, heartiest congratulations for clearing for mains. Will pray u get through the interview. I know it’s not easy to keep on going for so long without strong conviction and a anchor(family support). I am in the same boat as you. This is my last attempt. And I missed clearing pre by single digit mark. Can you please share in how many days did you complete the second paper? As you have mentioned you had limited time. Thank you in advance.

Reply to the above question:

Thank you so much for your kind wishes and prayers. Paper 2 was my weak area, in fact I studied after prelims. But I don’t recommend it took you as the gap between prelims and mains is too narrow this time

Query: mam after how many readings you made notes…..should we make notes after reading a subtopic/topic or should we read the whole syllabus 1st and then come to notemaking?

Reply to the above question:

My strategy was to take a syllabus topic, read many books only for that particular topic and select the content I liked and make very very crisp note from what I just read

Query: have you worried about choosing the questions in final mains exam..i mean the choice questions other than compulsory questions..did you waste any time in choosing them..what was the procedure you followed to choose..and did you regret after choosing ?

Reply to the above question:

Yes a lot. Still I worry that I made blunder in choosing a question. I think it’s quite natural. I didn’t waste time as I was very much cautious about it, because in my mocks, I used to spend 20 minutes only for choosing between questions. My strategy was to be very cautious and stick to the questions I have chosen

Query: How did u revise ur work once u were done with the content enrichment? I mean did u had that feeling of inadequacy? How did u fight the feeling of content inadequacy??

Reply to the above question:

I didn’t feel inadequate because I knew that I looked at maximum sources in making them and I was proud of my notes. Further content inadequacies in the exam hall have to be dealt with your answer writing skill

Query: How did you attempt the paper.

1. Hour wise

2. Time per 10 marker

3. Time per 20 marker

4. Order of questions

5. Time for selection

Reply to the above question:

1. Half an hour for each question. Spillage is managed with the remaining half an hour.

2. Depends on the question. If I know I might cross 7 mins. If I don’t, I finish it fast

4. From last to first

5. 5-7 mins

Query: How did you untilize your one week time before your sociology mains exam?

Reply to the above question:

I couldn’t utilise it well at all, as I was slowly starting with my depression. So I recommend you not even consider that last one week. Finish everything beforehand

I pray for your success πŸ˜ŠπŸ™, Thanks for creating this platforn , your experince give me hope πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ˜Š


Hope your interview will be awesome! ❀️❀️

Congratulations ma’am.  All the best for the interview.

3. Answer copies of the candidate

  1. This answer was rewarded the best answer of the test: Click here to view
  2. Good answer: Click here
  3. Another good answer: Click here

Our telegram channel:

Thank you for your precious time given that every single day is crucial for interview preparation!

Wishes and prayers for your interview! 😊

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