Hi, my name’s Junaid Ahmed, and I scored an All India Rank 03 in the UPSC SC civil services exam back in 2018. Being able to stand in the third position in an exam that is taken by a great number of students every year and is considered one of the toughest not just in the country but the entire world, I think I should be the right person to tell you not to compare anyone’s success story with yours. You’ll come across many such speeches and addresses from rank holders from various competitive exams, but my journey will tell you how and why not everyone’s journey looks similar, and you have to carve your journey on your own.
I come from the humble town of Nagina in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh. My father is a lawyer by profession, and my mother is a housewife. I completed my primary education at Aligarh Muslim University and then shifted to Noida to pursue an undergraduate course in electronics and communication.
Contrary to what you would expect from an India 3rd ranker in UPSC civil services examination, I had never been a good scorer all my life before cracking the UPSC examination. My 10th and 12th class percentages revolve around the 60s, and I could not procure a seat in the Aligarh Muslim University despite 50% of the seats being reserved for students who’ve completed their primary education from the university itself, which was my case. So I decided to sit for the U. P. state engineering exam, which I failed and ended up taking admitted to Sharda University, Noida. After graduation, when I could not see myself landing any jobs, I decided to go for a master’s and took up subjects like the GRE, IELTS, etc., all of which I failed at cracking too. I am specifically mentioning the lows of my journey because it is not mostly talked about and ends up giving a flawed picture to the aspirants that only toppers can crack this exam.
After failing almost every exam, I decided to try civil services and began my preparation journey in 2014. In 2017, I cleared the exam with an All India Rank 352 and got selected for Indian Revenue Services. I was under training in Faridabad when finally in the year 2018, I cleared the exam with an All India Rank 03, and I am an IAS officer today. As to my preparation strategy and the number of hours I devote every day, as this is the most frequently asked question, I would like to note that my number of hours should not be taken as some magical number that would guarantee your selection and should only be seen as a basic outline. Since I was not an academically strong student since the very beginning of my education and my foundational basics were not that strong, I had to devote much more time than someone who would’ve had consistently good grades in their academic life. So, in the beginning, I would devote 8-10 hours of study purely for my civil services preparation, but as time went by and I got a hold on the process, the number of hours started getting reduced, and I was able to bring more productive outcomes from a limited amount of hours to study.
Certain tips and tricks that I think would come in handy for aspirants who are beginning to start their journey are, firstly, knowing your syllabus thoroughly and devoting time to figuring out what from the syllabus is most important from the examination’s point of view. For example, imagine yourself on a battlefield with no knowledge of what your opponent looks like and their strengths and weaknesses. In such a case, you’re destined to lose. Similarly, while preparing for competitive exams like the civil services examinations, spend time knowing your syllabus deeply and skimming through the previous year’s question papers to highlight what has been asked over the last many years, as competitive exams like these tend to follow repetitive questions each year. Secondly, even though you would’ve heard it from many places to read newspapers daily, I would suggest otherwise if you’re just starting with your preparations. Because you don’t know what you should read and what you shouldn’t, and newspapers have a bunch of information, you end up wasting a lot of time if you sit to read all of it. Instead, go through the previous year’s question papers and try to pattern the particular niches from where the general knowledge questions and current affairs are being asked and plan your preparation accordingly. Lastly, in today’s age, we are fortunate to have a huge variety of coaching centers with experienced faculty to help us prepare. Since most of us have a very rudimentary knowledge of civil services examinations when we begin, we must study under expert guidance and join a reputed coaching institute to ensure our selection.
In the end, there are a few things I would like to add for all the civil services aspirants out there. After clearing the civil service examination, when I reflected on my journey, I realized that the reason why I couldn’t score well in other easier examinations in my life and was able to crack the civil services examinations instead was that I had not found my ‘why’ before. So ask yourself why you want to crack the exam and work on that ‘why’ every day. Since I loved reading and loved the idea of giving back to society, I could crack the exam with flying colors. Similarly, you can, too, if you just know its main motive. Furthermore, do not get disheartened by the several failures you’ll encounter in your journey, possibly every day. I am a living example that each failure if reflected on and introspected on, can lead to a success story in the future. Hence, know your motive and learn from your mistakes to ace this exam and many more challenges that life has to offer. If I can do it, so can you!
Also Read: Success Story of Laghima Tiwari