Surabhi Gautam secured an All India Rank of 50 in the UPSC examinations of 2016, and currently serves as the Assistant Collector at Vadodara, Gujarat.
In an interview with The Better India, Surabhi has revealed some of the best practices that she used to ace the test.
“Be extremely precise and specific about your optional subject. Remember that the difference between aspirant ‘A’ and aspirant ‘B’ actually lies in which optional subject they choose.” – Surabhi Gautam
- Choosing the elective
According to Surabhi, the selection of the optional subject is a key factor in any candidate’s success. She suggests that candidate make this choice on the basis of their graduation or post-graduation subjects. Alternatively, students should go for any popular optional subject such as sociology, history or geography. Recalling her own choice, Surabhi says, “I chose electrical engineering as my optional subject after taking into consideration a whole host of things. If I had more time on hand to prepare, I might have considered something else. However, it was wise to have chosen a subject I had studied earlier.”
2. Managing time for preparation
Surabhi goes on to say that it is a better practice to study qualitatively, rather than spending all your ‘awake’ hours studying the entirety of the syllabus. This counts as an intelligent allocation of time towards sensitive subjects. In Surabhi’s words, “After spending the entire day studying for the general category paper, sitting with the optional paper might be difficult. Even after charting it all out and making a good schedule, sometimes when you start studying, it could all go haywire. Don’t let that bother you–just try and get back on track as soon as you can.”
3. Staying focused
Surabhi recounts that it was important to stay focused on her preparation strategy, as it is easy to get distracted amidst a plethora of information that is available online. “During my time, I saw many of my friends who had chosen a technical subject get through their first attempt. Having said this, you must be sure of wanting it and having a good grip on it beforehand”, says the UPSC rank-holder.
4. Smart revision
Surabhi explains that roughly 80% of the preparation happens while studying for the prelims, and only when the prelims are over, is when students prep for the mains. Surabhi stresses on the importance of revising the entirety of the syllabus during this process, as it is an easy mistake to discount ‘strengths’ when prepping for the mains.
In her own words – “I was used to writing, and therefore, it would take me less time. But it is a task for someone from an IT background who spends all their time programming on the computer. So one should be aware of these things as well.”
Surabhi also revealed that she stopped studying actively almost a week before the exam. Instead, she spent her time in randomly picking a topic and writing an essay on it. She did not consume any new content for 7 days leading up to the test.
“So I would suggest spending the time revising all your quotes or statistics. These data points will help when you have to write those essays.” – Surabhi Gautam
Note: The source of information for this piece is an edited interview between Surabhi Gautam and The Better India.