Interview with Rahul Rathod: UPSC Preparation Journey of the 745th All India Rank Holder
Dr Rahul Rathod, who appeared in the UPSC civil services exam 2019 has secured 745th all India rank. On 4th August 2020, the Union Public Service Commission released its result and that was the moment when Dr Rathod’s dream came true.
Dr Rahul has shared some of his experiences from the UPSC preparation journey which will help the aspirants of civil services exam to a great extent.
Let’s uncover the interview session now.
Interview with Dr Rahul Rathod
What is your background, Rahul?
I did my MBBS in 2012 which I joined in 2006. For UPSC, I was mostly doing self-preparation only and also used online resources. My friend, Mahesh and I were preparing for the UPSC civil services exam.
I found that every student who is into UPSC preparation, should study for a minimum of 8 hours every day without fail and I think that will be enough if you have the consistency. It is very important for UPSC preparation.
Why did you choose the civil services exam?
Civil services, in the name itself, is the service which will give you the opportunity to serve the people and also get paid for it. You can call it an occasion where you are doing service while doing your own job. So this is like a rare opportunity for anyone and it gives you a combination of financial security, name, home and societal standing.
Which attempt was it at the civil services exam, Rahul?
I got selected into my defence service in my second attempt after that this is my seventh attempt. After getting married and all, finally, in my seventh attempt, I could clear it by doing all the possible mistakes mentioned in the book.
How did you prepare for the prelims exam? Can you give an insight into that?
Yes, for prelims exam, I was mostly doing the test series on a regular basis. Having knowledge is one thing and being able to revise is another one. I think, for both the prelims and mains exam, revision is very important.
For the prelims exam especially, having a good hold over current affairs is very important. Along with that, having a standard theory on polity, history is also necessary. But, what is most important for UPSC preparation is revision.
So, I was practising question papers more and it helped me every time. I have given four prelim exams before, and each time I could clear mostly because of the revision. I think a revision of question papers and doing the test series is very very important.
So, how did you prepare for your mains exam? Is there any difference between UPSC prelims and mains exam preparation?
The difference is that in the prelims exam you are focussing on mostly the memory-based questions and for the mains exam it’s more about the conceptual clarity you have.
I think for the prelims exam you need to study more than the mains exam because, for the first one, you must have conceptual clarity along with good memory while for the mains exam, you should be able to answer if you have conceptual clarity.
For the mains exam, I think it’s a long term preparation as you need to start UPSC preparation at least one year before your attempt. You need to have notes for each topic from newspapers, current updates etc. For the prelims exam, you can brush it for 2 months but for mains, everything you have learnt since your 12th, helps.
Case studies are also very important as nowadays the game is changing. It’s not knowing the answer but quoting the case study is what fetching the marks. It is also necessary to be able to draw a map of India and the world within 10 seconds for a better representation. The key is to express your thoughts rather than just writing those down.
That’s great! Can we have a word about your personality test? You have attended four interviews, so, how was the journey?
For personality tests, it’s mostly like preparing for the mains exam but here the language and your expressing ability along with your honesty matter. It’s not like you should answer each and every question. You can find that every time whoever gets good interview scores has missed three or four questions but still got good marks.
It’s purely based on your honesty and the clarity of your thought as the interviewer checks your character and personality, whether you are able to express clearly or not.
Your language should be simple. By speaking simple English you can clear the personality test but your honesty and clarity of thought have important roles to play.
With loads of sources available, how did you manage the current affairs section?
What I learnt from the mistakes I made is that you should not keep reading more sources for gathering more and more data. It’s always better to stick on limited data. If you want to read a magazine, Yojana or Kurukshetra will be enough. For any more sources, you can always use the internet, find out the thing and write those in your notes. Mostly you should focus on complete revision and I think that is the key.
In each paper in GS, you have to prepare answers for 16 questions out of 20 to 25 questions. You should focus on your answer and prepare what to write if questions come from certain topics. You should focus on the notes in your book and prepare for the direct 16 questions.
You should focus on revising your current affairs notes for 3 to 4 times rather than looking for new sources of information. It’s better not to study if you are not able to revise.
May I ask how you practised? What is the best method to practice answer writing for UPSC?
For answer writing, creativity matters more than length. Whether you are drawing or making octagonal shapes, how well you express is what matters. The important points and the introduction should not be more than two to three lines. People have a tendency to use half of the page to introduce the answer while they ignore the asked points. Point answers are very important.
You need not quote if you’ve forgotten the data but you have to express your thoughts whether through a diagram or a chart or arrows or direct point.
You can write point-wise and not sentences sometimes because of less time. It’s better to express in points rather than making a sentence that will take a lot of your time.
As we are talking about answer writing for the mains exam, what’s your say about using multicolour pens/ underlining/ highlighting?
UPSC has given clear guidelines to not change your pens. They are also giving minus marks to candidates who are crossing the lines, using red pens or multiple pens. Multicoloured pens are not allowed and candidates can underline but need not highlight that. UPSC strictly prohibits that kind of behaviour.
As UPSC preparation has changed and now with so many online sources, do you think that these will help in the civil services exam preparation?
I myself prepared through online sources and it’s very very important and will help you. Now, the UPSC students are not only working hard but the online coaching centres too for providing the data and the structured answers for the preparation.
I personally feel that it’s better to follow one single source and ask them to upload something you need than deviating here and there for data gathering. Focus on revision and on understanding things rather than gathering the data.
Multiple sources are important but not necessary for everything, you need not study from three or four sources for each and everything. Stick to one source, mainly government sources and anyone good coaching institute, that will be sufficient.
That’s great Rahul and finally, what advice would you give to the future civil services exam aspirants?
You already know that through our life and our experiences, there is no shortcut in UPSC whether you realize it today or you realise it after 2 or 3 years. Each and every attempt is fresh, so if you’re giving an attempt don’t consider that you have studied 2 years back so you have some knowledge and you will relax this time, it won’t help.
You should prepare as a fresher and always be ready to accept your mistakes. Be ready to study minimum 6 to 8 hours every day, something that you cannot skip.
And, self-confidence is very very important and the belief that you can do is the only thing which will drive you.
UPSC is not only academic but also emotional. We enter the preparation after graduation, so everybody is an adult having many future plans, family pressure, societal pressure. So, to handle all these, emotional stability is also very very important for UPSC preparations.
This was the inspirational journey of Dr Rahul Rathod, who secured the all India 745th rank in the UPSC civil services exam 2019. Hopefully, this interview will guide and motivate you to stay focused throughout your UPSC preparation journey as you can see that this was Dr Rahul’s seventh attempt and now he has finally got what he wanted. So, never lose hope and keep preparing harder for the exam. Best of luck!