The Indian Administrative Service Examination (IAS) examination has been one of the prestigous examination of India. The one who clears all the three stages of the IAS exam enter into the prestigious civil services of the country, and become officers in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and a host of other services. Team I AM AN NITIAN invited IAS Topper, Rank 155, Siddharth Palanichamy Sir for an interview and now lets go through the journey he experienced in his prepration.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Hi everyone. I am Siddharth Palanichamy, a student of NIT Trichy. Having completed my graduation in Mechanical Engineering in 2018, I have secured an All India Rank of 155 in the Civil Services Examination-2019.

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The college life in NIT Trichy was like the regular life of all the nitians around the country. Classes were meant to complete the 75 percent attendance barrier of the college. I was more of a sports enthusiast. I was a part of the college tennis and handball team. So, sports formed a major part of my college life. Apart from sports, I was also a part of the technical club, Bahasa India, which was a core mechanical engineering club.

However, when you decide to prepare for competitive exams like UPSC, you need to compromise on the hobbies and interests a little bit. It is also advisable to not completely give up your interests, as we need to have a healthy state of mind for preparation.

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So, I made sure that I did 15-20 minutes of exercise or workouts daily and during weekends I found sports centers or grounds nearby the place of preparation to play for a couple of hours. That is how I maintained my hobbies throughout the year.

I got introduced to UPSC as a career choice in the final year of my under graduation. It is important to know the happenings around oneself to prepare for UPSC. Therefore, I started reading basic newspapers and NCERTs. This is what I did in the final year of college to prepare for the exam.

Quite a few seniors of my college acted as an inspiration for me, who had cleared the exam before me. There was one senior who secured an All India Rank of 29 and was the biggest source of inspiration for me.

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In the college placements, I was placed in an oil company and the package was close to 9 LPA. But I chose not to join the job because I wanted to give time to pursue my preparation for the UPSC exam.

The challenges and uncertainties were high. The decision was a very difficult one, but it was fruitful. Securing a rank of 155 is a moment of pride for me and my family.

After completion of college, I joined coaching classes and directly went to Delhi to continue my preparation. I attended the coaching classes for general studies and my optional subjects. Along with this, I joined a test series. It is an exam of strategy rather than an exam of knowledge and joining a coaching class and test series helped me to get the correct strategy to clear the exam.

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During preparation, 5 hours of the day would go into classes and from my side, I put in around 6 hours per day. So, it was close to 10-11 hours of preparation per day.

The subjects which I found interesting were political science and international relations because this was something which was completely new for me and I had to study them more than my general studies subjects as that was my optional.

The western political philosophy and thoughts, the different dimensions that you get to know when you read those subjects are really interesting. Although I wasn’t very confident in a lot of subjects, I had to point out one subject I was confident in. For instance, in mains in the ethics paper, I was pretty confident.

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Mental health is the biggest part of UPSC preparation. To keep me in a positive mindset, I did practice meditation, which I will advise to everyone willing to prepare. Meditation helps in easing out the stress and maintaining a calm mind. Secondly, the strategy I followed was to take one step at a time, especially for prelims.

I was giving a test every weekend and my goal was to score well in that particular test. This how short term planning I made instead of going for long term goals. Upon continuously doing this, you complete the syllabus in time, have the practice of giving tests and also you don’t stress yourself too much, because all that you cared about was to perform well in that one week of the test.

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When you look back, you have done a lot of good work and have gained the much-required confidence in answering questions.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting such a good rank (155). I was expecting somewhere close to 300-400. Therefore, I am grateful for what I have achieved.

My short-term future goal is to go to the academy and learn and perform the best as I am not exposed to what the system is and getting to learn it is my first goal as of now. About long term goals, I believe as long as you perform your short-term goals effectively, the cumulative effect on the long-term goals is good.

My sincere advice for all the future aspirants would be that UPSC is becoming a very dynamic exam and what UPSC expects from us is changing day by day. So, your learning should be very holistic. You will be reading standard textbooks and class materials but that isn’t enough. Your paper has to be unique.

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To make your paper stand out you have to include various examples, a lot of references, a lot of codes. To develop this skill, you should take things from anything you see or do. For example, we all browse Instagram and Facebook, but we do find good things in them which can be very useful in our preparation.

I, as a practice, noted down a few of the quotes which I came across on Instagram or Facebook or twitter and later used them in my essay. You can also listen to songs or podcasts and learn from them. Learning should be taken up in a subconscious process.

I wish all the very best to the future aspirants.

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