Year : 2017
Rank : 55
Topper Story - AKSHAT KAUSHAL Background
Hi, My name is Akshat Kausal and I got selected in UPSC CSE-2017.I belong to a middle-class family and did post-graduation in English Journalism.
As a journalist, after having seen the function of the government at a level from the ground to the top, I began to wonder that essentially being a journalist, I was doing three things.
- Either I was reporting on what is being done,
- Reporting on what is not being done or
- What you know as editorial writing, your advice that this can be done.
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Being in the administrative force if I see something is not right and it can be set right. I meant that with some intervention, it can be corrected. So, being in the service, I will be able to this. So this was the primary motive to start preparing for these examinations.
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It is essential, to inform people, to educate people with the ultimate goal of becoming better citizens and country going forward. My journey has been long. A joke can be cracked that it coincided with the twelfth 5th-year plan. It started in 2012 and ended in the year 2017. At every stage, I was able to notice that this is my weak area and I had ignored it perhaps earlier in my school or college life and now I read to correct it. Essentially correcting my weaknesses by first identifying them is how I cleared it.
The reason I had gotten a low score in an Essay in my previous attempt was, that I had gone with a view that since I was already writing, I would be good in the Essay. But UPSC has a tendency to tell you that actually, it is a wrong perception. I have a friend who gave me brilliant advice; he said that you have written something which they havenít appreciated. So, you have to relook at your whole strategy of writing an essay. And then I completely changed my outlook on how to approach an essay. This is one way of illustrating that you have to identify your weakness and improve it, not attach motive you know that I didn't get this because of x reason or y reason because this will again make you unsuccessful.
I had consistently maintained sociology as my optional. From the day I begin preparing, I am with sociology. I chose sociology because I like this subject. Writing and talking about society have always interested me, so, that's why I picked sociology. This is my 5th attempt. So, sustaining for this long on my own was not possible. You need this institutional support in the form of friends, family, and teachers. So, all of them had played a very important role in my success. Like, sir, when I approached him for guidance in sociology, I had a liking for this subject, I knew I can do this subject very well but there was some X factor that was missing in my preparation. So, when I came to sir, he gave me something which was fulfilled the void in my preparation, and then I was able to become much more comfortable with my optional.
I had a slightly different kind of day. What I usually do is, let say if I wake up at 7 O clock, I have a tendency to immediately sit on my table and I start studying and I will tend to study in the slot for about 4 hours. I will read the newspaper and I will keep reading it till I am exhausted in that one slot. So, usually, my first slot is my best slot, and at a minimum, I will be able to take out 3 to 4 hours there. And after that, I will have my lunch and then again, I will study for 2 to 3 hours and at night I would again study for about 2 to 3 hours. So, usually, I would be studying for about 8 to 10 hours.
My answer to writing practice was a continuous process. What I used to do was that I used to pick up previous year questions and would start writing them. Through the previous year's questions, I used to find my weak area. And if I have written an answer yet I know that it is not a very convincing answer, and then I will again go back and see the original text. So, I used to study like this. Practice the answer writing and also read sociology in a reverse order that you pick a test series or a previous year question paper. When you do this, what happens is your preparation is aligned to what they want rather than what you are comfortable with.
Before I approached Sir, what a general expression that I had was for an option you need to read your class notes, and you are done. If a question shifts even slightly, you will find that it was not in my notes. But if you will read the original text because the examiner will read the original text you will able to understand that actually what he is asking.
Praveen sir often used to say that- don't expect me to force-feed you. You have to go and fetch what you need yourself. I can only suggest to you that these are books. I must also say that I had given two serious attempts before I came and joined your test series, and I didn't know most of the books. But in your classes, I discovered that for sociology that these are some of the standard textbooks and once I started reading them then it becomes a very easy process.
This was none of the mistakes that I did correctly. When I begin preparing, I used to make notes. Let me explain this. The main objectives of note-making are two:
- One is you are able to collect information and
- Two is that you should be able to revise that information.
So, your notes should be structured in such a way that you should be able to revise them at a day's notice. If you are able to do this then your marks would improve substantially. And the objective of making notes was simply this, I will keep putting the information in this and I will keep removing information from this. So that the day before examination I don't panic and I am able to revise all broad things.
You wrote 7 words in your notes from that 800-word article and you read it a day before the exam. You put those 7 words in the form of a graph in the paper, the expression that the examiner gets is that this candidate has fairly well-read, he knows his subject. And you will also be able to come up with factual information in the paper, like ranking.
While taking optional, you have to remember that the nature of an examination is such that you might end up studying a subject for a prolonged period. Like in my case, it took me 5 attempts. So, I need a subject to which I can stick this long. So, I need to have an interest in that subject, I also need to ensure that sufficient guidance is available for this subject, it should not ideally be an isolated subject, because then a lot of energy will go into finding resources for this subject. So, interestingly, availability of material, sufficient guidance, also there is an element that what kind of evaluation UPSC is doing of that optional in recent years.
Sociology is essentially the study of society. When I began studying sociology, I had a particular view I chose sociology because I had an interest in this subject. When I went through the syllabus, I realized that this is the subject that I will be able to study even if I take more than one attempt. After picking the subject I found that the knowledge I was getting was not limited to the optional, I can use that knowledge in my GS paper-1, I can use that knowledge in my GS paper-4 in ethics paper, I can use my knowledge in Essay, also that knowledge helps in an interview because there you can give a more practical response. So, in that way sociology is not limited to the optional, but it helps you to lift your overall score.
When I had started preparing for this exam, these types of platforms didn't exist, so, many aspirants had to shift to places near coaching centres. But now I see that if such a platform had existed, there would not need to relocate. So, I think it's a great initiative that lot of people sitting at any corner of India can now prepare for the exam. Also, if you are working, then you don't need to leave your job and come to Delhi to prepare because lots of students used to do that and you can simultaneously work and prepare for the exam by taking online courses. So, I think it's a step in the right direction.
So, the message that I would give is that. First is, devise your strategy before you jump into it. What I mean by it is when you will start preparing for this exam, you would have heard all types of things, and a common thing is that you have to read many different books. So, what most students end up doing is, suppose their subject is the constitution, then they will read a book of 3 to 4 authors on the constitution and they will get a better understanding of the subject. This is the one thing that I would say to avoid. The Better way is to take one book, stick to it, and keep re-reading it. Second, I would like to say that donít isolate yourself during the preparation.
What would happen is if you make it in the first attempt then it is great, but sometimes you also need institutional support. My friends, my teachers, and my family had played a great role. There were many moments when I was about to give up, but because of certain friends, they didn't let me give up, even if they didn't get success but they went sure that I get success. I would say that may short crisp notes with only one objective in mind that we will be able to revise them at the moment's notice. If you are able to do this, definitely your score will improve.