“Luck favours the prepared mind!” says Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad (AIR-131; CSE 2017)

Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad discuss preparation style at various stages of examination and how it can be managed effectively within limited time.

Educational Qualifications: BSL LLB from ILS Law College, Pune; LLM (Constituional Law) Department of Law, Pune University.

Optional subject: Law

Number of Attempts: 3 (Three)


Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad (AIR-131; CSE 2017)


Medium (Language)

Language for Writing Examination: English

Language for Interview: English

Nature of Examination

One of the reasons that make this exam the mother of all exams is the unpredictability associated with it. And this uncertainty happens because of the vast syllabus. But I feel that sincere and regular study can take care of that.

Focus should be to cover one thing/topic at a time, and to not move ahead until that topic isn’t imprinted on the mind.

The importance of newspaper cannot be overstated. Seeing the trend of the exams now, newspaper seems to be the sine-qua-non of UPSC. Therefore, a thorough reading and self note-making from newspaper is simply non-negotiable. 

Also, try and develop an inter-connection between all topics as this will help one study the topics in a holistic manner.

Views about Preliminary Examination

Prelims tests the width of knowledge in a way, and this can be tricky because the syllabus is abstract and literally anything can be asked.

This, coupled with the insane level of competition makes clearing Prelims difficult; but, entirely doable, provided a smart strategy is devised and then is religiously followed.

If one year of consistent study, perseverance, extensive reading, and internalising, consolidation and all hard work are put in, then it’s meant to pay off.

Care should be taken to not get carried away while reading, as today there’s overload of information, be it on the internet or in the market, which can prove overwhelming and is hence best avoided.

The time tested advice of reading a few things but revising them multiple times really works and must be followed.

So, to conclude, I wouldn’t agree that it’s pure luck. Hard work definitely has a part to play as does luck! But we should also remember what they say in a true saying “Luck favours the prepared mind!”

Role of Optional Subject

It’s very important as even one mark makes a difference in the final ranking and the difference in markings of different optional subject can be as high as 100 marks!

Also, the level of knowledge required in GS papers is that of a generalist; but, in optionals, graduate level knowledge is required. So, choosing the right optional which interests a candidate must be chosen as we have to devote greater amount of time to it.

Also, I feel that an effort must be made to choose the same optional as is the graduation subject. I chose law optional for the reason that I’d already read it during graduation and had a fair idea about it, therefore all efforts went into only polishing and revising what I’d already studied and adding current affairs to it.

This made sense rather than choosing an entirely different subject and starting from scratch! Therefore, the misconception that a particular optional is more scoring has no basis, because there are good scorers from almost all of the optional subjects.

Targeting General Studies

Basic NCERT’s are the foundations and I’d read them thoroughly.

Syllabus was strictly followed so as to not divert.

I had not joined any test series for Mains as I felt that my answer writing was already good.

But, I felt I should make the answer content stronger. So, I worked on reading about issues in details and making separate notes with added quotes, statistics, data, reports etc to give an edge to my answers. For example, for defence related topics, I specifically referred to the website of IDSA (Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses) where articles are mostly written by bureaucrats.

Although all GS papers are different, I always tried to interconnect different topics and this helped diversify an answer to enable me to cover all angles of an issue, be it geographical, historical, political, administrative etc.

Essay Paper

Essay is one of the most neglected papers even though it is very scoring.

I couldn’t devote as much time to this paper; but, since I’d actively worked on bettering my content, ergo the fodder material was ready, I only had to work on the presentation style and on giving it an innovative touch by adding anecdotes, quotes, case studies etc to keep it interesting.

For this purpose, I had maintained a diary specially for essay, where I used to write down stuff from newspaper, magazines, internet, movies etc that I thought would be useful in essay paper. And this exercise paid off in the real exam quite well.

Interview (Personality Test)

Interview marks are also important as they have the power to get you your desired service or even throw one off the list!

Having said that there’s no one way of preparing for interview; the panel has the liberty to ask anything under the sun. This makes the entire interview process dicey.

But, one can nevertheless work on DAF, and on polishing the graduation subject and current events.

What matters is how you perform in those 30 odd minutes. In my personal opinion, honesty, calmness, composure are the attributes that are rewarded the most.

Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC

Speculation regarding marks in UPSC can be a futile exercise as there’s a lot of subjectivity involved. My Essay and Personality Test marks are 159 and 171 respectively, and I’m quite satisfied with them, although, of course they could have been better!

Know more about Vallari Mahendra Gaikwad: 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)

Last Update Sunday 17th June 2018     

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