UPSC (CSE) Result 2019: Ankush Kothari (AIR 429 ) Shares His Success Mantra of Preparing Without Any Help from Coaching Institutes

Ankush Kothari (AIR 429) is no stranger to qualify the toughest exams of the country without any help from coaching. An IIT Kanpur graduate, Ankush scored 99.84 percentile in the CAT’19 entrance examination. He always dreamt of becoming a Civil Servant and gives the entire credit of his success to his loving mother, Dr. Praskash Lata Kothari, a private college principal. 

Ankush belongs to the GEN-EWS (Economically Weaker Section) category and hails from Udaipur Rajasthan and has completed his school education from the city itself. In an exclusive interview with Jagran Josh, Ankush shares his success mantra and food for thought that can help aspirants clear the exam without any help from coaching institutes. 

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Jagran Josh: Tell us about your educational qualifications

Ankush: I was born and brought up in Udaipur Rajasthan. I have completed my school education from St. Paul’s School, Udaipur. After that, I cracked the IIT-JEE exam from Udaipur itself, without going to Kota for professional coaching. I completed my B.Tech. degree from IIT Kanpur in 2016 after which I immediately started preparing for the Civil Services Exam.

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Jagran Josh: Was appearing for Civil Services Exam a planned decision or a sudden career transition?

Ankush: It was a planned decision. I got campus placement in an MNC at a package of 19 lacs p.a. (C.T.C, in hand 15 LPA) after completing my graduation from IIT-Kanpur. However, I had the dream of becoming a Civil Servant at the back of my head all through my graduation hence, I chose to prepare for UPSC Civil Services instead of taking up a well-paid corporate job.

Jagran Josh: From where did you get the motivation of becoming a Civil Servant?

Ankush: During the final year of graduation I enrolled as an intern with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Govt. of India. During the internship, I had to report to a Joint secretary-level IAS officer who also assigned us work. I was fascinated with the idea of how an IAS officer carries the authority to bring a change in society with his actions and responsibilities. It motivated me to be a Civil Servant and work for the nation and its development. 

Jagran Josh: You also qualified for the CAT exam with 99.84 percentile. Tell us about that and why did you choose to appear for the CAT exam.

Ankush: I appeared for the CAT exam in November 2019 which was due a month after the completion of the Civil Services Mains Exam 2019. I had not prepared for the CAT exam prior to my mains exam but I was always comfortable with the quantitative aptitude and logical reasoning as I had cleared olympiads like KVPY, IMO etc during my school days. Being an engineer helped a lot in the LR part but I had to prepare Quantitative Aptitude which I prepared from a CAT book (Arun Sharma) in the next 15 days. As they say, Hard work pays off and I secured 99.84 percentile in the exam in my first attempt itself.

After two failed attempts in the UPSC exam, I did feel disappointed about my performance and UPSC is a tricky exam with no sure shot of success. So appearing in the CAT exam was to save a spot in case I got unlucky in UPSC yet again. I had converted IIM Bangalore and Calcutta for the admissions. Fortunately, I made it to the UPSC-CSE final list this time and hence, didn’t join the IIM(s).

Jagran Josh: How did you prepare for the UPSC Exam without coachings?

Ankush: Since Class 10th we had no TV at our home. My mother believed that it creates a distraction in studies. Also, she used to stress the importance of playing sports (physical activities), and hence, I have been to the regional level in Basketball. I also got to work upon my hobbies like playing guitar and developed the habit of reading newspapers, books during my leisure time. This habit has helped me in the long run as I always keep myself updated with the latest news and current events happening around the world. During the preparation of the Civil Services exam, at the preliminary stage, I gave more importance to the current affairs and maintained a diary of all important events and questions I encountered during the preparation. I solved several mock tests available online and offline for the Prelims exam. The result was that I was able to get through the Prelims exam comfortably in all my 3 attempts (2017, 2018 & 2019) 

I believe that coaching institutes just play a guiding part and the key to success is the right strategy and self-study. It is necessary that aspirants create their own strategy and goals rather than blindly following any topper or coaching institute. 

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Jagran Josh: How did you prepare for the Mains exam?

Ankush: My UPSC journey was a roller coaster because of the Mains exam. In the first attempt, I was prepared to write the mains exam but my optional subject (Anthropology) was not well prepared before prelims. Hence, I could not make it to the Interview list though I scored fine marks in optional. In 2018, I focused more on GS as last time, I got decent marks in optional without much preparation. This helped me secure good marks in Essay, GS this time but I could not make it to the final list as I got only 246 in optional that year. I missed the final cut-off by 16 marks which was an eye-opener that I need to balance my preparation with equal focus on GS and optional. 

Introspection helped me determine the mistakes I was making while writing my answers. 

I realized that more than GS papers, essay, and Optional papers determine your over-all marks. Hence, it is necessary to prepare these papers well. Also, a well-structured answer with Introduction, body with subheadings and some figures if possible, and Conclusion derives more marks than an answer with content and spattered thoughts. I wrote my mains with a better strategy in 2019 and secured an AIR 429 in the merit list. 

Jagran Josh: Whom do you consider as a Role Model in your life?

Ankush: My Role model is my mother because she has struggled a lot in her life. Many times she faced the difficulty of being a single mother and financial crunch but still, she managed to recover and bring balance in our life. Her ‘Never Say Die Spirit’ really inspires me a lot. At times when I used to feel demotivated, She used to ask me,’ Have I come this far, only to come this far?’ She always accompanied me to my mains and interview center and would wait outside for the entire duration of the paper to encourage me and provide the needed emotional support.

Jagran Josh: What is the most important thing while preparing for IAS Exams?

Ankush: The most important part is to ‘Believe in oneself. Both Success and failure are part of life and one should not feel demotivated during the times of failure. The next important thing is to give your 100% in your preparation. Try to find and prepare in an environment that would help you to bring the best of your abilities. Learn from your mistakes and improve each day. Be with positive people and avoid any negative thoughts.


Jagran Josh: What strategy would you suggest to clear UPSC Prelims Exams?

Ankush: Keep yourself abreast with the current affairs section. Your primary source of information should be the newspaper & the notes created after the research, not the books that compile the current affairs questions on an annual or monthly basis. Make sure to practice regularly by giving Mock Tests (and do revise them frequently). This helps in improving your time management skills and understanding your weak areas where you need to work harder. By doing this you would be able to evolve a strategy of how to attempt the paper and score well in the exam.

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Jagran Josh: What strategy would you suggest to clear UPSC Mains Exams?

Ankush: For Mains, it is very important to prepare your Optional paper well. Choose an optional subject that you are interested in and confident about. The essay, ethics, and optional papers define your place in the cut off list. GS papers are answered in a standard way. However, it is necessary that you include your knowledge of and learnings in the optional paper. Write mock tests as many as possible in an environment similar to the examination hall. Attempt the mock test within the time frame. Follow a structure while writing your answers. The idea should be to make it easier for the examiner to check your copies. Legible handwriting and structured answers (with proper content) are bound to fetch good marks.

 Jagran Josh: Is revision an important task for IAS Exam Preparation and what was your method of revision?

Ankush: Revision is very important for IAS Prelims and Mains exam preparation. It helps to memorize important facts. Revise your notes multiple times before the exam. My method of revision was to study the subject, then solving a mock test on that subject, then analyze the results by identifying my weak sections and revising them again. A month before the UPSC Prelims Exam, I revised my study material and notes multiple times.

Jagran Josh: How did you prepare for the IAS Interview?

Ankush: In my second attempt I couldn’t prepare well for the IAS Interview round and hence I scored fewer marks. This time I prepared thoroughly for the Interview phase and got through it. So it’s very important to fill the Detailed Application Form (DAF) after Mains examination carefully and strategically. Most of the questions asked in the interview are based on your DAF. After clearing the mains exam, identify some keywords related to the information filled in DAF like your optional subject, educational background, state, city, hobbies, and academic qualification. Do detailed research on these keywords and make notes on that.

 The most important part of the interview is to maintain self-confidence and tame stress levels. 

Jagran Josh: Is coaching necessary for IAS Exam preparation?

Ankush: Joining a coaching institute is not necessary but it’s not bad either. If you cannot afford to join a Coaching Institute, you can always study from materials available on the internet and in the market. But in that situation also you need a guide or a coach who will help you in showing you the right path throughout your preparation journey like which subjects to read, how much to read and when to stop studying for that subject to make time for revision also. For that one can go through various articles available online by many toppers. So self-study is the key and coaching will only act as a guide in your exam preparation. In the end, it’s the self-confidence, smart work, and perseverance that seal the deal.

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