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Critical thinking and Analytical Abilities: 2 Master keys to success by Kashish Bakshi, AIR-54, UPSC CSE-2023

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Kashish Bakshi, who secured All India Rank 54 in the UPSC Civil Services Examination 2023, shares her comprehensive strategy and insights from her journey over three attempts, culminating in her success. With an optional in Philosophy and a background in law from NLIU Bhopal, Kashish brings a unique perspective to her preparation approach, which she divides into strategies for Prelims and Mains.

Prelims Strategy:

Kashish outlines a focused approach to Prelims, emphasizing the importance of covering both large and small subjects efficiently. She identifies Economics, Politics, History, and Geography as the four major areas due to their extensive syllabi and significance in the Mains as well. For history, she relied heavily on old NCERT books by R.S. Sharma and Satish Chandra, revisiting them multiple times to solidify her understanding. To complement her reading, she also engaged in subject-specific mock exams to ensure a practical application of her knowledge.

For Geography, she used the new NCERTs for classes 11 and 12 and supplemented her learning with additional resources for physical geography. However, she found that beyond certain basics, in-depth texts like G.C. Leong were not as beneficial for her. She also emphasized the importance of mapping exercises, which helped in both Prelims and Mains.

In her study of Polity, Kashish used 'Laxmikant' extensively, although she notes its limitations for Mains preparation. She supplemented her reading with targeted mock exams for each subject, which helped refine her focus and better understand the type of questions asked.

For the smaller subjects, such as Science and Tech, and Environment, she followed yearly compilation magazines from reliable coaching centers and enriched her learning with additional online resources and notes. This strategy helped her stay updated with current developments which are often tested in the exams.

Mains Strategy:

Transitioning to Mains, Kashish leveraged her solid foundation from Prelims preparation. She continued her focus on major subjects like History and Geography using the same resources, ensuring continuity and depth in her studies. For Indian Society and Governance topics, she relied on compilations and current affairs to cover recent developments and broader issues.

Her approach to essay writing and Ethics (GS4) was methodical, where she practiced extensively to improve her expression and integrate diverse examples and theoretical concepts into her answers. This practice not only improved her writing skills but also her ability to think critically and apply knowledge effectively under exam conditions.

Philosophy and Interview Preparation:

As a Philosophy major, Kashish found that while her optional provided a strong theoretical base, success in essays required a distinct approach, emphasizing clarity and coherence. She practiced essays intensively, receiving feedback from trusted sources to enhance her performance.

For the interview stage, Kashish stressed the importance of being original and authentic. Her diverse educational and professional experiences enriched her perspectives, which she effectively communicated during her interview. Maintaining a consistent reading of newspapers during this phase also ensured she was well-prepared for current issues discussed during the interview.

Reflections and Advice:

Kashish’s journey is marked by persistent improvement and strategic adjustments based on self-assessment and feedback. She encourages future aspirants to remain adaptable, continuously evaluate their preparation strategies, and focus on understanding rather than just memorization. Her narrative underscores the importance of integrating knowledge across different stages of the exam and maintaining a balanced preparation that aligns with one's strengths and background.

KASHISH BAKSHI Rank: 54 (2023) - Test Copies :
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