Enamoured by the Indian Foreign Service, for me it was just bridging the gap between the vision and actually accomplishing it; says Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad (AIR-131; CSE 2017)

Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad from Maharashtra has achieved 131st Rank in Civil Services Examination 2017.

It was her third attempt.

She has done BSL LLB from ILS Law College, Pune and LLM (Constitutional Law) from Department of Law, Pune University and for her, picking Law as optional subject was an obvious choice.


After pursuing post graduation in law, Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad had a short stint at litigation in Supreme Court, and while it was a good experience, she wasn’t entirely satisfied and wanted to do something that will offer her more diversity and challenge.

I was reminded of what Confucius had said “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!”

Articulating her perspective Vallari said, “Civil Services fit my requirement perfectly. The opportunity to work at the highest level in government, the diversity of work, the real life impact our services can have directly over people’s lives and an overall platform that the civil services provides, and more importantly at a younger age is I think unparalleled with any other, and hence the desire to join this esteemed services.”Vallari-Mahendra-Gaikwad-ias-topper-131st-Rank-cse-2017

To be specific, I was enamoured by the Foreign Service as I think a lot can be achieved via wise diplomacy, not to mention the chance to travel the whole world and experience different cultures. That was the driving factor, and I’m glad that I’ll get to join that service.

She was so much focused on Civil Services Examination that despite clearing Maharashtra PSC Mains she did not appear for its interview as achieving those posts was never her goal! She said, I was happy with back-up of litigation in Supreme Court, had it not been for UPSC CSE.

Briefing about her family and their contribution she said, “Both my parents are Government servants. Mother is secretary to Hon’ble Justice in the High Court of Aurangabad and my father works in Irrigation Department. Their contribution probably cannot be expressed in words. In the countless phases of ups and downs during the preparation, it was my parents’ unflinching support that acted as a mental cushion and I’ll be ever so thankful for that.”

A Little about her preparation plan

“My preparation plan was a aggregation of the best points that I gathered from previous years toppers, along with dialogues with a variety of people like retired bureaucrats, teachers at different coaching (used to seek their appointment and meet them once in a while to know if I’m on the right track), my parents, fellow aspirants and friends.”

“Internet had a huge role to play, as today; almost everything is available at one click. Online videos regarding the dos and don’ts are aplenty and I did refer to them to steer clear of the mistakes that former toppers had made”, she added.

Strategy for Prelims & Mains

Explicitly pinpointing her moves, Vallari said, “I had chalked out a very strong strategy that focussed on gaining conceptual clarity and on analysis of every issue, which was the most important part of self-study. I always used to try and feel the pulse of UPSC to determine what it is that it wants from a candidate.”

This coupled with very detailed analysis of previous years questions gave me an idea of what kind of questions may be asked from a given piece of information. So, for Prelims I used to take out questions that may be asked from everything I read along with of course, solving hundreds of mocks.

For Mains, I did theme wise study and focussed on doing 360 degree study of all current events while keeping the syllabus as the compass. One year long extensive note making habit from newspaper also helped immensely.

I also did selective reading of magazines like Yojana, EPW, Pratiyogita Darpan (especially for economy part), India Legal (for Law optional) etc.

The Journey

While pursuing post-graduation I availed my first attempt without preparation just to see what this examination is all about. As usual, I also followed what beginners commonly do.

For my second attempt, I prepared seriously and was quite confident; but, as the luck would have been, I failed to clear Prelims by a small margin.

This time, I was careful and corrected all my mistakes I committed in my previous attempts particularly caring for Prelims. After cracking Prelims, the confidence soared and finally accomplished the task in style.

A message for future aspirants

For novice aspirants, try to understand the what-why-when-how of any issue as this will help in clearing the concepts. Skipping newspaper reading may prove fatal!

It is said that the first attempt is usually the nest attempt. So, effort must be made to clear this exam in one go, as it’s better to get out of this chakravyuh (चक्रव्युह) as soon as possible.

At the same time, having a rough back-up is always wise, especially when one is preparing for competitive examinations.

For repeaters, it’s important to learn from mistakes. For example, when I couldn’t get through my first prelims, I remember I did thorough analysis on why I’d marked the wrong questions so. I learnt that I was poor in art and culture area and that I had taken unnecessary risks in some factual questions which was entirely avoidable and which cost me one whole year! So for next prelims, I worked on my weak areas more, revised more, took intelligent educated guesses only where relevant and solved ten times more mocks. That did help me get through, and with a comfortable margin at that.

Main Examination tests the depth of knowledge, so one should focus on understanding any issue in toto and this should be coupled with adequate speedy answer writing. Addressing the demand of the question is of utmost importance as beating around the bush is not appreciated and pithiness is what is rewarded. It’s important to attempt the complete paper as even half a mark is precious in this exam. Give equal importance to essay and ethics papers as both are scoring.

Know Vallari's Preparation-Plan: “Luck favours the prepared mind!” says Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad (AIR-131; CSE 2017)

Last Update Tuesday 16th July 2019     

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