These days it is said that Internet is gonna be the biggest equalizer for it is largely open, accessible and contemporary. There is number of ways in which it proved to be true. Honestly speaking if one is sincere and motivated enough to keep up the momentum, Internet has got it all to take us ‘there’ where we all dream and aspire about. I am sharing my story of in what ways did I use it for good or bad while preparing for UPSC CSE 2016.
Assistance #1 : Getting to know of the basic structure of the whole examination i.e. formats of Prelims, Mains and Personality test. I would say that in this examination the second lap of race matters the most (and perhaps requires maximum amount of dedication). In this regard, I followed a couple of blogs, Quora answers and toppers interviews on Insights and Mrunal (links followed). It was based upon these sources I could decide upon my optional subject and also the fact that whether I would want to join any coaching for GS or not.
Based upon all collected information, I broadly divided the whole syllabus in two ways
Prelims: Polity Geography Economy Environment History Current affairs
GS1 ( History Geography Socio)
GS2 (Polity Governance IR)
GS3 (Economy Environment Security)
Assistance #2 : Providing various sources to prepare from. I began one by one with each topic as follows:
Polity: I started watching Pradhanmantri and Samvidhan series on YouTube while I was in the job. Later, Lakshmikant and NCERT (our constitution at work) were sufficient to develop an understanding of basic political structure of the country.
Economy: I really had a tough time at the start with this subject. In initial 3 weeks of preparation I could make very little sense of economy sections in TheHindu. But then I came across the Mrunal’s videos on economy and they were wonderful. After doing them once for ever, I never felt any less confident in this particular topic. In fact a couple of my friends who otherwise had attended ‘prestigious’ classroom classes after paying good amount of money themselves started following Mrunal.
Geography: Another nightmare for me. I had never been that sound at this subject. And to aggravate, XI NCERT is of little help to begin with. But once again Mrunal came to rescue for Ratanjali’s lectures were put which were very good and appropriate. I made my own hand notes while following all these lectures and gave a couple of readings to NCERT afterwards to find things had begun to come in control.
History and Environment: As they are quite static in nature. Thus, I followed the standard books (NCERTs + Spectrum + ShankarIAS) to cover it all. Except I downloaded all the relevant lists from Wikipedia related to environment like – Ramsar sites, National parks, state animals etc
Ethics: I had read about Michael Sandel lectures on justice, being recommended by one of the toppers in past and to my pleasure they were far above than expectations. Perhaps among all the video lectures I enjoyed them the most. They forced me to think and argue. They stirred the rational thinking, reason and logic to arrive to an answer by ourselves. Also, DK Balaji’s note on InsightsonIndia to how to prepare for ethics was a real guidance. I had downloaded it as Pdf and must have read for multiple times. Along with it lexicon and pdf links given on InsightsonIndia were also of good help.
Current Affairs: I used to read TheHindu to get to know daily affairs. Besides it I also followed VisionIAS monthly current affairs and Insights Daily Current affairs quiz and daily current affairs.
Besides it all I religiously followed the Spotlight, Moneytalk and Countrywide on AIR 106.4 FM. I used to take notes in bullets while listening to these talk shows. I found them to be of high quality for they often used to contain the perspectives which otherwise were missing in newspaper articles. Also, it used to be refreshing to take a break on my eyes and let the ears do some work instead.
Assistance #3 : Some online initiatives taken by various websites which were of immense help. Some of them have been briefed up as follows:
Insight’s Daily debates: In this Insights used to pose a question for instance (should women be given 33% reservation in legislatures) and I used to debate it in both for and against the motion. But as instructed by Insights I used to do it impromptu and without any background reading. That is I straight used to write pros and cons in my relevant note (here in women issues) in just 3-4 minutes. This exercise helped me developing a temperament and confidence where I became ready to talk about anything in both + and – ways (which is desired in our mains answer writing and essays).
Insight’s Mindmaps : A wonderful approach to fit it all in our heads. I used to download all the mindmaps in JPEG and later convert them in Pdf format. With the help of NitroPDF I used to convert these Pdfs editable by using OCR function in it. This helped me in highlighting and commenting on the pdfs itself. Result? I had one mindmap for each topic/issue with all the highlights and comments. Thus at the end it was very organic and productive to revise and have all the connections in my head. An example is followed.
Insights Secure : Though I followed it for very short period of time but I can say it was very helpful. In initial days I used to fill in pages taking 15 minutes to write single answer which was still felt to be inadequate and lacking the poignant points in first place. But as suggested, I started following a couple of students on Disqus (why_so_serious, nightfury and knowledgebuff) and with time, I could develop a sense to how to approach a question, to understand the basic demands of the same.
Insights weekly Essay challenges: Though I have scored less in essay but still I must admit that I started following this initiative well in advance of 6 months of Prelims. As expected at first I had no clue to how to write an essay for CSE but after following the same users on Disqus I could get hold of knack of what UPSC essay is all about.
Insights Motivational Posts: Among all the posts that I used to receive in my inbox the most awaited ones used to be the motivational ones (those in which no author was being mentioned) for they usually come randomly and perhaps at the most suited times. I still remember one post which was send prior to Prelims 2016 which is pure beauty and class.
I am a big fan of Insights and Mrunal and it is really overwhelming to click this blue colored word reading ‘Unsubscribe’. I thank you Insights and Mrunal and team for their great efforts and vision which is giving wings to the available technology to realize its real intended purpose.
Gaurav Agrawal AIR 1 CSE 2013 blog entries:
GS Preparation Strategy https://thesupermanreturns.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/upsc-gs-preparation-strategy/
His take on coaching https://thesupermanreturns.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/coachings-the-good-and-the-bad/
His views on how to choose an optional https://thesupermanreturns.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/eco_optional/
Ethics preparation strategy
DK Balaji AIR 36 CSE 2014 article on Insights http://www.insightsonindia.com/2013/09/30/how-to-prepare-upsc-civil-services-mains-paper-v-gs-4-ethics-aptitude-integrity/
Insights article to how to prepare GS IV http://www.insightsonindia.com/2013/09/30/how-to-prepare-upsc-civil-services-mains-paper-v-gs-4-ethics-aptitude-integrity/
Michael Sandel Lectures on Justice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBdfcR-8hEY&list=PL30C13C91CFFEFEA6
Mrunal’s lectures on Economy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUGXdvm7Wa8&list=PLAMBum9_RkuPPGvD7HI9wfsDSxWwJYz94
Mrunal’s lectures on Geography https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMPO60DOTKQ&list=PLAMBum9_RkuNDtzpNQlCRcaOrNqrD4Gf7