I was good at medicine (and had an offer from Harvard Medical School to do my Master’s) but I decided to go for the Indian Administrative Service. It was a different ball game altogether.
I didn’t have a flair for writing, so, I had to work hard on that skill. You should also have a very clear thinking process, which helps a great deal in writing concise and good answers.
For the prelims, irrespective of your background, you must focus on all the topics of general studies. Science graduates tend to focus more on general science, and those from humanities try to score the maximum in history and geography. Try to score 50 per cent in all the subjects rather than 80 in one subject and zero in the other.
Recently, the UPSC has shifted some of its focus to general knowledge. So, pay attention to news.
Don’t ignore the prelims at any cost. One mistake students make is that they don’t prepare well for this exam if they have cracked it in their previous attempt. They study only for the interview. But I have seen people who get an interview call after one attempt sometimes not even qualifying for the prelims in the next.
See that your optional subject in the prelims has substantial similarities with the syllabi for the mains papers, like it is in public administration, psychology, geography, zoology and botany. In these subjects, if you prepare for the prelims, you won’t need to re-work for the mains.
You must know that this is not a test of your intelligence but of your ability to work hard persistently.
I believe 95 per cent of students who work hard qualify. If you can’t, don’t lose hope as the mere preparation can open new vistas, leading you to a career you had not considered before.
As told to Vimal Chander Joshi