A story of improving the score from a paltry 90 to a game changing 158!
Rank 53, CSE – 2016
Hello everyone! My name is Manuj Jindal and I have secured AIR 53 in CSE 2016. The Achilles’ heel in my success to CSE 2015 was the essay component. Despite having been writing for almost a decade on a daily basis (I write my diary), I made some critical mistakes that cost me a spot higher up in the ranks in 2015. Perhaps, it was a blessing in disguise, but it was quite a painful blessing! The real question most of you must be thinking about is, how did I recognize this problem and tackle it? How did I improve my score so drastically? Well, here are my two cents on it.
The initial step was to recognize that I failed to get good marks because of my own follies. First, I realized that I did not practice enough for the essay component. I barely wrote 3-4 essays during the 2015 attempt. I ignored this critical part of the exam and took it for granted. I imagined, to my own peril, that since I had been writing for so long, I would be able to handle the essays well. For many of us it works, however there are also many (trust me, MANY), who fall because of this complacency, just like I did.
Also, please realise the fact that essay can fetch up to 160 out of 250 marks, which is 64% marks! I got 1053/2075 as my final score, which is 50.75%. The topper got 1120/2075 which is 54%. Clearly, essay has a central place in our preparation for UPSC as it can literally make or break your rank.
Second, I simply did not write a good enough essay in 2015. Initially I did not believe so. After the mark sheet of main exam was out, I spent countless nights thinking what had I done wrong to get a score of 90?! Was it a mistake at UPSC’s end? My father even told me to file an RTI and all that.
In a matter of a few days I recollected about 20-30% of my essay, or at least how I had gone about it. I also re-read my older essays (although I had written only two or three of them). It was clear to me by this time that the marks I got were not random. They were based in some sort of reality, some basic mistakes I made and also due to lack of good guidance and practice.
Immediately after the marks were out I started looking for Essay test series available in the market. This was the first important step – make a mindset to write a lot of essays and get all of them evaluated by the right people. These people can be your friends, siblings, parents, teachers and successful candidates from past years as well. I wrote a total of 46 essays in the course of my journey for CSE 2016, and it definitely paid off.
So how to write UPSC essays?
Follow the pattern [this is an argumentation technique that is well accepted for conventional academic writing across various universities]:
- Thesis statement [the main argument of your essay]
- Mini-thesis statements to support the main argument
- Antithesis, if needed
Example: Topic: “Impacts of Globalisation on Indian Culture” – see my analysis Attached in PDF
This above formulation helped me to get my structure and line of thinking intact. I was not someone who had command over language. I also understood that UPSC does not focus on language/vocab skills when awarding marks in these essays. They are looking for clarity, structure and diversity of thought process. A conventional essay would, on average, fetch you more marks than an unconventional/creative one for sure.
Heading/Subheadings –> for me, these worked as they provided a well-defined structure to my essay. Use them as you wish but do not think that essay means no headings. UPSC wants you to write like a bureaucrat, not an academic. Also, feel free to use extremely relevant diagrams/flowcharts. I did not do so, but they are acceptable in UPSC. If you want to play on the safe side, just go with the headings and not diagrams.
I also followed a video lecture offered free on courser on writing academic papers and essays, which basically talks in detail about the above structure I have provided you.
The link is here [not sure if it’s still offered but providing the link nonetheless]: https://www.coursera.org/learn/getting-started-with-essay-writing/home
Test Series I took:
- PunditView – now UPSCMENTORS
- GS Score
- +wrote some Insights essays which helped and other old papers of UPSC also
I will also make videos on essay writing soon for a more in-depth analysis of my technique and how you can score well in essay.
Apart from this guidance by mentors, I attribute a large part of my success to my dear brother Anuj Jindal, who has selflessly guided me in essays and other subjects. Also, my dear friend Vipul Khanna, who is one of the most gregarious, creative and objective persons I have ever met. In addition, Rahul Dhote sir (rank 209, CSE 2016), who is an inspiration in himself and kind of my Hindi medium copy J. My teachers and parents obviously are the ones to whom any words of gratitude cannot suffice. Also thanks to Insights for their constant guiding which .has been one of the key reasons behind this.
DOWNLAOD Sample Essay of Manuj JindalHERE
Management Optional Video Link
Rank 85, UPSC Civil Services Exam – 2015
Thank you for providing me this opportunity of sharing my experience of preparation. I have myself learnt a lot, have been inspired from previous year articles of toppers. If my forthcoming article is able to inspire and project even one mind towards the goal, I would assume that my efforts have fructified.
Writing this article is not an easy task because I virtually have to revisit those tough days and struggles once again.
In January 2014, I decided to start the preparation. But in mid 2014, I had to go through a personal crisis. It brought me to the level of using anti-depressants, anger management sessions and counseling by friends and family.
I had planned to write prelims in January 2014 and started reading some basic books but due to the aggravated situation, I could not even write the exam. These circumstances went on till October and finally I had it under control. By this time, I had decided to focus only on my career and plans for the next year and make my dream come true. This crisis gave me a clear sense of purpose.
The life changing moment was not 10th May 2016 for me, when the results came out, but it was the day when I had stuck a paper on a wall in my room saying- “I want a 2-digit AIR in CSE-2015.”
It has been said that – all things in this universe are created twice, once in your mind and then in the physical world. The first time was that day. Then began the hard work of day in-day out studies. I planned my preparation first at macro level and then at micro level eg completing full mains syllabus by May 15, then reducing it to topic wise scheduling and then hour wise everyday.
There used to be moments of doubt, depression and stress quite often for me. To tackle it, I used to run in the mornings, meditate and exercise. Sometimes, I would lose patience to go on. Then, I used to write on a paper as to why I started all this and this would provide me the motivation to move forward with more enthusiasm. Whenever I used to feel lethargic, I would see the newspaper and problems faced by various sections of society and think as to how could I help.
This always used to give me a sense of urgency to get into that position. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my parents, family, teachers(Prof BRA Rao and institute) and my friends (Lokesh, Deepankar, Odyssey, my college gang and seniors) for supporting me throughout. Talking to my father always used to be such an encouraging experience. He used to make me believe that it is going to happen for sure, the belief and faith that he showed always kept me positive. Rao sir too had believed in me right from the first day and never refused any kind of help despite his old age and other difficulties. It was not a coaching institute for me but an extended family. I would not have been able to achieve this without the support of these people.
With these experiences, I kept going and cleared this examination in my first attempt.
Newspaper played the most important role in my preparation. One must not ignore it at any cost. Apart from this, 50-60% of my preparation was from internet and Insights was definitely one of the most important source.
I followed secure mains initiative, answer writing based on current events, peer evaluation process, mind maps during revision, strategy articles of toppers the most. These initiatives are immensely relevant and helpful in current pattern of examination.
One more thing that I think I did differently was studying very selectively but making it strong. I read a single book 4-5 times rather than reading 4-5 books for one subject. As we know, the process of this examination itself is a year long. One must study something keeping it in mind that it might be asked a year later in their interview. One should be able to retain the points in long term memory and that can only be done once you have understood and analyzed the issues properly.
I would try to share my detailed strategy for different papers later.
Lastly, I just want to end with one line that has been my motto in last few years- ‘Your thoughts become things. Make them good.’ The power of positive thinking cannot be emphasized enough. I think it was my most important asset throughout the preparation. I always saw a silver lining in every challenging situation from the unfavorable start to my preparation or managing financial difficulties.
And always remember, attitude is more important than aptitude. All the best to future aspirants. Give it your best shot and fight it all to be where you want to be.