Venkatraman Kavadikeri: From an Engineer to a Civil Servant (All India Rank 363, CSE-2019-UPSC Topper's Strategy)-APTI PLUS
Rank in CSE 2019
- E in Electronics and Communication from B. M. S. College of Engineering, Bangalore (Visvesvaraya Technological University)
I come from a remote village in Western Ghats region - Karwar district of Karnataka. I did my school education till 12th standard in my home district, mostly from government schools in Kannada medium. I worked as IC Design Engineer in US based company after my B. E. for a brief period. Also, I worked as Officer in State Bank of India.
I cleared Civil Services Examination in my 5th attempt. I had appeared for mains in all attempts and also, I have appeared for interview in all attempts except the first one. My optional subject is Literature of Kannada Language.
Inspiration – How did the journey start?
First of all, my father wanted to become civil servant. But he could not as he did not get the support which was needed. He wanted his son to become a civil servant. I had constant support of my parents throughout my preparation stage.
Secondly, I had opportunity to interact with many civil servants who are my college seniors during my college days. Their selection, their work experience and the way they were contributing to the society which I was able to view closely were inspirational. Finding this inspirational aspect (finding proper answer to “Why civil service?”) is quintessential to keep yourself motivated despite multiple failures throughout this long journey which may last even 6-7 years.
My dream of becoming civil servant is decade old now. As Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam sir said dream is something that which doesn’t let you sleep. So, need to keep working amidst odds, chaos which you may face in your journey.
Book List for the preparation
Prelims and Mains (Integrated approach) (Buy latest editions of books as far as possible)
- New NCERTs for History, Polity, Society, Geography, Economics, Science, Biology (all 6th to 12th)
- Old NCERTs for Ancient and Medieval History, World History – Arjun Dev
- Modern History – India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra, Spectrum
- Art and Culture –Nitin Singhania book
- Geography – Goh Cheng Leong for Physical Geography of the World, PT and Mains 365 (of VisionIAS)
- Society – Vision Notes (VAM – Value Addition Material)
- Polity – Laxmikant, PT and Mains 365
- Governance, Social Justice – Vision VAM, Mains 365
- International Relations – PT and Mains 365
- Economy and Agriculture –Vision VAM, PT and Mains 365
- Science and Technology – PT and Mains 365
- Environment – ShankarIAS Environment, PT and Mains 365
- Disaster Management – Vision VAM, Mains 365
- Security – Vajiram Yellow Book, Mains 365
- Ethics – G. Subbarao book, Lukmaan Notes, Solve old papers as many questions are repeated including case study themes
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How Important was Newspaper Reading?
I had habit of newspaper reading since my childhood. But I was reading The Hindu mildly since 2011 and in-depth study of The Hindu started from 2014. Since then it has been integral part of my preparation. I suggest you to subscribe to hardcopy as it helps in better retention if you underline in original newspaper.
Internet Sources Vs Hard Copy Materials
Question in prelims and mains are made very dynamic nowadays. Hence reading multiple sources has become essential. Internet plays huge role here. Some articles you can easily bookmark and also print them in PDF format to keep them in folders for future reference. If you are tech savvy you can make online notes using evernote or onenote.
However, internet cannot replace hardcopy materials. Many books, coaching notes you need to read in hardcopy. I use to take hard copy of even PT 365 and Mains 365 so that I can refer them during last minute study. Ultimately making notes in hardcopy also helps in writing practice.
I suggest during preparation integration of both is required. You should not rely completely on one aspect. Always, prepare keeping syllabus and Previous Year papers in front of you.
Strategy for Prelims
General Studies – Don’t run behind too many test series. Read basic texts and revise them multiple times.
CSAT – Didn’t prepare specifically here as I had already prepared for SBI PO exam. So, can’t suggest any. Ensure you get 66.67 marks in this paper.
Scoring above the cut-off marks in prelims
Take calculated risk and use elimination method extensively with common sense and logics. But these are no shortcuts for study and revision. Prelims is knowledge intensive test. Hence this aspect can’t be ignored by having some shortcut tricks.
Strategy for Mains
GS-I – Do not ignore society and geography. Go through previous year questions and prepare accordingly.
GS-II- Integrate current affairs examples with Laxmikant knowledge in polity and constitution. Use newspaper and internet sources extensively here.
GS-III – 50% paper is Economy and Agriculture. Rest form 50%. Distribute time accordingly. Use newspaper and internet sources extensively in this paper. Do not ignore static parts.
GS-IV – Make own notes for definitions, examples. Use them in answers if relevant. Solve as many case studies as possible and get them evaluated.
Essay – Collect quotes, stats, reports etc. for keywords like poverty, education, women empowerment – repetitive themes, so that you can use them in essays.
Optional Subject – Literature
Use theories, thinkers of Paper I in critical, analytical answers of text-based Paper II. Paper I needs multiple revisions and own short notes. Paper II needs literary criticism approach to get good marks. Avoid writing stories in your answers. In paper II quote from original texts extensively to show the examiner that you have read them.
Compulsory Language Papers – Just ensure you practice old papers if you are not comfortable to get 75/ 300 marks. I did not prepare for these papers exclusively.
Mains Answer Writing Strategy
- Point format works better
- Justify with examples, stats, reports etc.
- Use diagrams, maps, flow charts
- Have proper intro and conclusion for some repetitive keywords like inclusive growth, poverty, globalisation, PRIs etc.
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Main benefit of test series for mains is you will understand whether you will be able to complete the paper or not. You need to make micro level strategies accordingly. Distribute time to each question, and write using timers. Completing paper is sine quo non nowadays to get an interview call.
Hard Work Vs Smart Work
Doing hard work smartly is the key to clear this exam nowadays. There are thousands of candidates toiling hard. But where (material, spending time etc.) you are putting your hard work matters a lot to get edge over others.
Questions asked in the UPSC interview
Almost 80% questions for me were profile based – related to work experience (banking), hobbies, technology etc. 20% questions were related to IR and Ethics related questions. UPSC boards have very experienced people, they know how to assess you. Do not worry about it. Prepare and give your answers ‘honestly’. If you are hiding or giving false answers, you may be entering big trap.
Challenges faced during the preparation process
Nowadays lack of materials and guidance are not the major problems. But overflow of them is. You need to chose right things at right time. Do not chase materials. Keep them limited.
This process is also test of your patience and mental calibre. So keep your mental state healthy by practicing meditation and body by exercising or through Yoga.
If you have financial problems, do not hesitate to work and prepare. Financial security is important to bring mental peace. Otherwise it can spoil whole preparation which you have done for years.
Find at least 3-4 hours a day even if you are working and need to slog in these hours even if your body is not so cooperative. And need to slog for 12-14 hours on weekends as they are power play overs.
Finding right motivation (Why Civil Service) is important to sustain and be consistent throughout preparation.
It’s a Long Journey. What kept you motivated?
Finding right answer to Why Civil Service kept me motivated throughout this long journey. This clarity was important to have peace with what I was doing.
How does it feel after landing in your dream job?
It’s really exciting. I would say it’s not an achievement. Through this, if I am able to contribute to the nation, our society, that would be an achievement. This is just a first step in right direction.
I am really fortunate to get such loving and caring parents who constantly supported me despite many odds. Also, I give credit to my sister who use to take dig at me whenever I tell her I did this and that and keeping me to the reality during preparation and helping in self-criticism for improvement. I am fortunate to get friends, seniors who guided me, kept me motivated saying I will clear this exam one day even when I was failing multiple times in previous attempts. I do pranaam (Salute) to my teachers who guided me in this journey.
How did the IASGYAN materials help you?
I had gone through IASGYAN current affairs materials before my interview to get overview of topics which may be asked in the interview. Also, many questions were directly asked in interview from DAF Questionnaire sent to me by APTI PLUS due to which I could answer well. I wish APTIPLUS ACADEMY keeps guiding future aspirants and contribute to nation building in this way.
Thank you and regards,
Venkatraman Kavadikeri, AIR 363