Ira Singhal (IAS Rank #1) on Optional Subject Selection, De-motivation during UPSC prep., Interview Panels, Hobbies & Pre cum Mains Prep.

motivation105 Comments

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  1. Video#1: Pre cum Mains preparation?
  2. Optional subject selection
  3. Geography optional preparation
  4. Video#2: Interview & Hobbies
  5. Hobbies for interview?
  6. Video#3: Demotivation during preparation

Pre cum Mains preparation?

Q. Many toppers say they prepared for the mains first and then moved to Prelims. What is your approach?

Ans. In 2010, I prepared for GS prelims, because in that time we had to face one GS and one optional paper at MCQ level. I didn’t GS prelim for 2014. I was lazy and Aptitude paper helped me get through. And I’ve cleared because of that only. Otherwise I got just 76 marks in GS Prelims.

There are people who get 134 in GS prelims alone. If those are the people clearing, then you too have to prepare hard. Although in Prelims they ask factual GS while in Mains they doesn’t ask factual GS, so effort goes into vain. still, you’ll have to prepare for both.

Optional subject selection

Q. What are your tips on selection of optional subject?

Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/XrPgBcs2jz0

  • Pick an optional in which you can hope to clear the exam.
  • It’s wrong to say, this optional is good than that optional is bad.
  • You have to ask- can I study this thing subject again and again? I chose Geography which is the worst optional in practical sense because takes minimum six months to complete, still I picked because I loved it.
  • Geography / public administration is not a really good idea, unless you can love it. Because there are thousands of people appearing with them, so difficult to outshine against them in answers.
  • But if you take commerce where hardly 500 candidates would be answering, so there is scope to write differently,  and there are factual / calculation type question wherein no debate over ‘what constitutes a good answers’.
  • If you are uncertain about two-three equally good looking optionals, then pick an optional which is less popular, because then it is less difficult to outshine against other people’s answers.
  • Although, I myself didn’t pick Management despite having done MBA, because each year hardly 10 people take it and there is no material or guidance available on how to go about this subject?And back in 2010 then even internet groups / blogs were not active for UPSC group.
  • So, largely when picking optional keep two things in mind: (1) subject you love (2) subject that is less popular.

Q. Do you think Engineering optional subjects are bad scaling and we should pick humanities subjects?

Ans. But I think technical subjects have better success ratio on better than Humanities. In top one to hundred ranks, you’ll find good number of toppers with technical subjects. For example this, Third rank: physics,  Renu Raj took Malyalam. Aman Mittal with Electricial engineering.

Geography optional preparation

  • For Geography optional strategy- I’m going to post a blog article.
  • Overall, I’ve studied ~35-40 books for Geography optional. Every single topic I’ve done 10-12 times. There are people who just read 4-5 books multiple times and clear but I can’t.
  • I’m terrible at map. But since they’re asking so many unknown places, they are not even available on google maps, I tried many times. So cost benefit not that good. Although my fundamentals about geography are very strong, I can teach it to you within three hours- enough for the prelims.
  • Not all Geography optional questions are such that you can draw diagrams but as and where you find opportunity, you should do it.
  • In map questions, the marks are divided on basis of map location and information about the location. But don’t lie. Example, you can’t write “it falls in the region of heavy rainfall!”. Better discuss soil and agriculture.

Video#2: Interview & Hobbies

Ira Singhal Interview

Left: Mr. Mihir Patel (Rank-27), Right Ms. Ira Singhal (Rank-1)

Q.You’ve given interview four times, how was your experience?

Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/hLhy1wB_EN4
Ans. Female panelist focus on “personality”, “about you”, “situational reaction test”. I get 190+ in my previous two attempts.

Male chairman focus on “factual” questions where I perform not so good, and hence get lower marks- 151(2013) and  162(2014). I go at interviews assuming I’m going for a chat. If they want factual and structured answers, then I don’t perform well but I’m not scared of interview. Panelist have more experience than you but let’s not give them too much credit. They’re not sent on earth to judge you.
You should give straight forward answers without being rude. Don’t try to show fake personality. Be polity and be honest.

Hobbies for interview?

I’ve many hobbies- reading, dance, theatre, astrology, travel, cooking, creative writing, football, music and so on. Why shouldn’t you have hobbies? Please don’t create hobbies, genuinely create hobbies. If you’re doing something naturally, you’ll have some knowledge.  Don’t make your life that boring. You got only one life, do all type of things. Thankfully I had great parents. Although my dad torn away lot of my novels but he promoted me to do many other things.

Kids of my neighbors would stay in front of books for 12-15 hours but day dream, while I read only few days before the exam, and yet got better marks in my school exams.

Video#3: Demotivation during preparation

Q.How did you handle demotivation during preparation times?

Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/UHNyNcF1ONg

Ans. Don’t take UPSC so seriously.

How can you be depressed about an exam, if can’t get this job, you’ll find some other jobs, India is full of opportunities. You can be a contributing part of the society in many ways. So, let’s not take this exam or yourself too seriously. It’s nice to get this job, but it can’t be the only thing in the life. Who you are, can’t end in an answer of “IAS” behind your name. You’ve ‘traits’ that’ll define you.

I was very clear, why I was coming here. I loved my job in Cadburry. I had quit that cool job and nice salary. I didn’t take that decision casually. But in my first three attempts, I got same rank and service, I felt may be god wants me to be in this IRS service only. But then my friends were really nice, who forced me to give this fourth attempt. So, I wasn’t very keen on this attempt, hardly prepared for 15 days before the exam. But the good thing was this year’s mains was not about mugging up. This time, it was just about connecting the dots. So people like me, could clear this.

Yes demotivation happens to everyone, but it wasn’t about system is wrong aur ‘nahi hogaa’..my demotivation was mostly from that fact that I was lazy so opening books itself or hunting material online – that too truly boring. You get demotivated when you start listening to world around you. Don’t make this exam about your ego. You see this as a life you want to have. Most people that I speak to – their only aim is “I want to become IAS”….but what after that? That’s just 25-30 years of your life. Why do you want to become IAS? I get 2000 messages per day “Ma’am I want to be an IAS like you!”. But I have not become an IAS yet. I’ve not done anything as IAS yet. So, why do you want to become like me?

Think beyond this. Your motivation will come, only when you find true aim in your life. If you think your identity will be defined only by you clearing this exam, then you’ll be pressurized. This exam is no parameter. You’ve admit this UPSC has element of luck, you can’t blame yourself for vagaries of luck. There are many other opportunities. If you think it carefully, you are preparing hard for this exam so that you can work even harder for the rest of your life (as a bureaucrat!)

You’ve to bring rationality in your thought pattern, else ethics paper won’t be cleared. If you becoming officer just to satisfy your “ego”, then you’ll only ruin the country.

Mrunal recommends

  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books
  2. Environment by ShankarIAS
  3. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  4. Art & Culture by Nitin Singhania (Hindi | English)
  5. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  6. Bipin Chandra: Post Independence
  7. Fast-track to Arithmetic Rajesh Verma
  8. MK Pandey’s Analytical Reasoning
  9. Disha’s Topicwise Paperset (Hindi | English)
  10. School Atlas
  11. Mains: Language papers
  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books 4 History,Geo,Sci
  2. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  3. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  4. Maths: Quantam CAT Sarvesh Kumar
  5. Objective General English SP Bakshi
  6. Word Power made Easy -Norman Lowe
  7. Topic wise Solved Paperset by Disha


So far 105 Comments posted

  1. lrahul

    congratulations for ur grand success

  2. harish kumar

    great personality… great inspiration…

  3. shubham

    Sir,please avail geography OLD NCERT BOOKS

  4. Divya srivastava

    hello sir; sir mera naam divya srivastava he main abhi b.sc ki student hu mujhe I.A.S. banna h uske liye kis tarah se preparetion karna chahiye or kon sa subject lena accha hoga.

    1. vineet

      Mem aap abhi sirf or sirf NCERT Books pr focus kre aur hr events ko apne khule mind se +ve nd -ve point ko analysis kre
      Dhanyabad

    2. SUBODH CHAUHAN

      divya u can read ncerts only 6 to 12 very carefully ncerts complete ur basic….then u read at lest one newspaper Editorial ……

  5. Rishabh

    IAS topper you said that “it isn’t a success for me i made some parameters about myself and cross out these parameters will beे a big success for myself” that’s persanality u became a unique topper.

  6. Tarun Singh

    IAS is nt a big deal…. recently in the sense u will b able to crack this in first attempt like me if u take it casually….

    1. shankari

      i am really confused with the optionals…i am a BE graduate so i dont have any idea about the optionals.
      what optional did you take and suggest me aswell.

  7. rajni jaltare

    I preparing ias exam. Please peovide me mains notes on hindi

  8. Fareha

    I didn’t get mails from mrunal blog from last one month what is happening to this site or there is something wrong there in my mail adress

  9. Mahesh

    Nice thoughts and profound understanding . Great one. Congratulations for success

  10. KIRAN PATHARE

    Hie..
    I have Completed My post graduation in MBA(HR,MARKETING)…
    and i want to preparing Upsc exam ..
    My question is that, can i answering main exams all subject in Marathi language????

    And Give me advice about the selection of optional subjectsubject which is useful..

    Thank you
    KIRAN PATHARE

  11. KIRAN

    Plzzzz mind your language friends.. this is social networking site. Not your personal wall…

  12. P.SULOCHANA

    Congratulations for your grand success .your are my inspiration ,I also want to become an civilservicer

  13. K.TEJASWARI

    What is your Message? Search before asking questions & confine discussions to exams related matter only.

  14. shyam kishor

    Sir me ias ki preparation me hu . Pls send your notes on my e mail

  15. VANKAM

    CONGRATS PLEASE PROVIDE NOTES IN ENGLISH

  16. VIDYASREE

    CONGRATS PLEASE PROVIDE NOTES IN ENGLISH

  17. VIDYASREE

    who inspired u a lot

  18. Aakash Deep

    Really,IAS is a great job who do something,for our family and do something for our Nation.i Will also make my self IAS.

  19. vighanharta

    upsc is nothing to worry about focus on your own skills don’t ask for a help ….If you have decided to make it keep moving on,your subconsciousness will do the rest

  20. ABHISHEK

    Ma’am as you said to choose an optional subject, in which you are having intrest and less popular among contestant. I am a B.Sc student with physics honours. So, my point is, can i choose PHYSICS. But my problem is i dont know about it’s popularity.

  21. Sumit Lohchab

    7827271678…..prepare with me …….create a group…..join

  22. shiva kumar

    hi am Shiva Kumar .sir plzzz give some tips for make a IAS officer.

  23. rajesh

    i want make ias
    so i am hard work
    i did not English
    because i weak English

  24. rajesh

    sir,
    mera naam RAJESH KUMAR hai. main math strim se inter qualified hoo . mai IAS join karna chahata hoo.but mera ek problem hai
    mai samajh nahi pata hoo ki aage kis subject se padhai karoo ki mujhe apne goal tak pahuchane me aashani ho . so please help me

  25. SK WASIM AKTER

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR VALUABLE SPEECH.

  26. DURGESH KUMAR

    Congrats for your excellent success.

  27. sunny

    sir main me kitne subject liye jate h

  28. sabeeha

    Mam I m a btech graduate and I m very much confused in selection of optional subject…pls guide me

  29. Noman alam

    mam i m B.s.c (zbc) graduate i m cofused selection of optional subject please help me

  30. shweta

    Hie , i m student of b.s.c 3 year and mujhe I A S ki prepration krna h plz help me kase r konse subject optional k liye best honge i m very confused plz guide me

  31. Damini

    I m a PG in Biotechnology & currently preparing for upsc & m stuck with the optionals… plzz help me for choosing one

  32. ANJUM

    Hai…
    my self Anjum ….
    i am also ias aspirant..
    if u really want to look urself as an ias officer and u want some status in ur life first of all mentally and physically ready for ias
    here are some initial points one must do before start preparing for upsc
    1)Ask urself that y u want to become ias officer?
    2)be femilier with syllabus of the upsc..
    3)decide the year when you can able to give exam….. my suggestion to all of u that give exam after u completely prepared for the exam…
    4)make a book list that what to read,what not to read…
    5)select a optional subject which u can understand easily and u must love it because this helps to score in exam mt suggestion is that choose optional which u are already study in ur accademics ….
    6)strictly make an time table and stick on it without fail atleast 6-8 hours reading is essential…
    7)guys well good luck stop not till the goal u reach …
    THANK U

  33. ANJUM

    U can Contact me through whatsapp 9742670420

  34. sk

    ihave studied hindi medium till12th but i am studying in English at current time please tell me which language i should choose

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