How did an Odisha girl secure IAS Rank – 42 with the ForumIAS GS Foundation Program?

ForumIAS announcing GS Foundation Program for UPSC CSE 2025-26 from 26th June. Click Here for more information.

 

Pranita Dash,IAS Rank 42, CSE 2022 Transcript

Odisha Topper

Hello, everybody! This is Pranita Dash, and I have secured Rank 42 in CSE 2022. I must admit that after failing in the first two prelims, I was quite disheartened and contemplated giving up every alternate day. However, the GS foundation course at ForumIAS truly helped me improve my conceptual understanding of the subjects.

Previously, I was studying without any clear direction. We often talk about the integrated nature of preparing for prelims and mains, but nobody exactly tells you how to do it. Joining the GS Foundation course provided me with the guidance I needed. I realized that it’s essential to first prepare for mains. During your classes, I encourage you to follow the notes diligently and incorporate all the examples, quotes, keywords, and ethical insights into your answers.

For prelims, I highly recommend considering joining the SFG (Select Focus Group). It greatly assisted me in maintaining consistency and discipline in my preparation for the prelims. It’s important to understand that this exam is doable, and with consistency, you will be able to excel.

Now, let me share my journey with you. I began my preparation in early 2020. One thing that constantly fueled my motivation was the intrinsic desire to clear this examination for a meaningful cause. Everyone will have different reasons, but it’s important to stick to yours and always keep it at the back of your mind. Remember that by entering the services, you will have the opportunity to make a positive impact and uplift the vulnerable sections of society. Hold onto that motivation tightly.

After experiencing initial setbacks with two failures, I had started doubting my suitability for this examination. However, a conversation with Ayush Sir changed my perspective. He assured me that I would definitely clear the prelims, and that uplifted my spirits. I joined the SFG Program, and by the time I was taking the final SFG test, I had a strong feeling that this time I might clear the prelims. At that point, clearing the prelims itself was a significant challenge for me.

To all the GS Foundation students, I urge you to diligently follow the instructions given by your teachers. Trust in their guidance and expertise. Personally, I religiously followed the GS Foundation course, wrote MGP (Mains Guidance Program) answers, and incorporated the keywords from MGP solutions. I relied on ForumIAS extensively, from the faculty’s teachings to the increasing scores in my tests. I suggest fully focusing during classes, revising the handout PDFs afterward, and adding your own examples. Remember the keywords taught in class. For instance, if there is a question on the reasons for the low rate of women’s labor force participation, the teachers mention various important keywords like “second shift” and data from the budget and economic survey. Incorporate these keywords in your answers.

ForumIAS has an excellent faculty for ethics.

They provide you with everything you need to score well in ethics, such as starting answers with a nice quote or an excellent definition and concluding answers with impactful examples. They offer a diverse range of examples that greatly aid in scoring well. I am immensely grateful to Ayush Sir because, when I was at my lowest, he assured me that I would definitely clear the exam, and that kept me going. Remember, everyone around you has similar abilities.

I wasn’t a top-performing student, but I compensated for my lesser talent with hard work. This approach particularly helped me in GS Mains, as I invested extra time in adding value to my answers. I included quotes and examples from the model answers provided in the MGP.

 

Q: How did you manage the newspaper on a daily basis?

A: I never made notes from the newspaper, but I used to read it daily. You can add things from the newspaper to your class notes; there’s no need to make notes from the entire newspaper. I only made newspaper notes specifically for the interview.

Q: How did you manage your optional with the GS Foundation class?

A: I covered 50% of my optional subject with the GS Foundation classes. After attending the classes, I would spend 2 to 3 hours consolidating my notes from the foundation class. Whatever time was left after that, I dedicated to studying my optional subject. It is important to be thorough with your optional syllabus, and at the same time, don’t neglect solving past-year questions. You will notice that 60 to 70% of the questions are repeated from previous years, so make sure to solve all the past-year questions for your optional. In my case, my optional subject was Economics.

Q: How should we manage revision on a daily basis?

A: You don’t have to revise daily, but it is important to have completed at least 8 to 9 revisions of each subject before the prelims. For the prelims, it is recommended to limit your study resources but revise them extensively to ensure the concepts are deeply ingrained in your mind. If you have a strong foundation in the static part of the syllabus, you will be able to solve most of the questions effectively.

Q: How to maintain consistency in your preparation?

A: Consistency is the key. Even on days when you don’t feel like studying or feel tired, it’s okay to take a short nap or break, but then get back to studying with renewed enthusiasm. Instead of focusing on how much the exam is demanding from you, remind yourself that you are here to clear the exam and approach it with the mindset of an exam-taker. Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself as it can hamper your consistency. It is normal to have occasional off days, but always maintain the mindset that you are doing everything it takes to clear the examination – studying your courses diligently, taking tests, analyzing the results, and remaining consistent in your efforts.

Q: What difference did you feel after joining the GS Foundation program compared to self-study?

A: When I was studying on my own, I would read books, but there were gaps in my knowledge. For example, if I was reading about the Parliament in polity and didn’t know the difference between special majority and simple majority, or that there are two types of special majority, it made the journey towards the prelims very challenging. However, joining the GS Foundation classes helped me bridge those knowledge gaps. The program provided a holistic and comprehensive coverage of the subjects, enabling me to connect concepts better. For example, when studying history, it always started with a timeline, and once the timeline was

clear, I just needed to remember the events, making it more manageable. The GS Foundation program equipped me with conceptual and fundamental understanding. The strong foundation I built through the program not only helped me in the mains but also in the prelims. The conceptual and fundamental understanding I gained was instrumental in my success.

Q: What was your approach to the essay paper?

A: I approached the essay paper after the prelims. Once I had a good understanding of all the subjects – GS 1, GS 2, GS 3, and GS 4 – I used the combined knowledge from these papers to write the essay. If the essay topic was philosophical, it would be difficult to write 15-16 pages if you have no idea about the GS papers. For example, in the essay test series, there was a question, “Conversation enriches understanding, but solitude is the ultimate genius.” It is not possible to write much on this topic by yourself. So, what I did was take a GS-wise approach. I started with history and picked an example from there. For instance, I wrote about Emperor Akbar and his religious discussions to illustrate how conversation enriches understanding, mentioning his promotion of a secular religion. If I was thinking about the economy, I would mention the Bretton Woods Conference. It’s important to maintain a balance in your essay and not just focus on why conversation enriches understanding, but also explore why solitude is the ultimate genius.

Q: How to manage time effectively?

A: Time management can be challenging, so it’s important not to try and do everything in just 1 or 2 days. Set realistic and achievable targets for yourself. When planning your time, allocate a specific number of hours to study a chapter, but ensure that you cover all aspects of that chapter without leaving any gaps. For example, if you’re studying about the President, make sure you understand how the President is elected, their term duration, and related topics. Dedicate around 15 days to each subject, and if you start feeling bored, you can switch to another subject. The key is to set targets that you can realistically achieve. Often, we struggle with time management when we try to think about too many things at once. If you’re studying GS, it may be difficult to focus on your optional subject or current affairs simultaneously. Allocate a specific time slot for current affairs, and after classes, revise your notes and solve daily current affairs quizzes. If you answer a question incorrectly, don’t take it to heart. Instead, try to understand where you went wrong and learn from it.

Q: How to manage dynamic subjects like Polity and Economics?

A: For dynamic subjects like Polity and Economics, it’s advisable to read their respective books to gain a strong foundation of static knowledge. However, for the latest updates and dynamic aspects, you can rely on your classes. During economics classes, you will come across various data points, reports, and committees. To enhance your understanding, complement this knowledge with current affairs and newspapers. For example, if you’re studying inflation, stay informed about the current inflation rate in India. If you’re studying monetary policy, understand key concepts like the repo rate, who decides it, and what the monetary policy committee is. Be curious and delve into the topics covered in newspapers, covering them comprehensively. This approach will help you cover the dynamic aspects effectively. Although you may have a strong grasp of static knowledge, it’s important to remember that the prelims also test your current affairs knowledge. Often, 2-3 statements in a question will have a mix of static and current affairs information. To stay updated, read newspapers and current affairs materials thoroughly. If possible, consider joining a current affairs class to gain a better understanding of the economic concepts covered in current

affairs. Remember, what you have is enough. Just give it your best effort, and this examination will become something achievable for you.

Q: How will the GS Foundation program help you in the Mains examination?

A: Since I hadn’t cleared the prelims in my first two attempts and the 2022 prelims were scheduled for June, I knew I had to start my mains preparation by mid-January. As I was initially focused on prelims, I only had 2-3 months left to prepare for the mains. In this limited time, I religiously followed the GS Foundation course and implemented everything taught in the classes. The content taught in the GS Foundation classes played a crucial role in shaping my mains answers.

For instance, let’s consider the topic of the environment. We receive PDFs on environmental issues, so I revised the keywords from these PDFs and incorporated them into my mains answers. Using these keywords helped me fetch good marks as they directly addressed the demands of the question. Additionally, it’s essential to add supporting pointers along with explanations. In the GS Foundation, you’ll encounter bits on topics like the positives and negatives of something. When explaining the positives, avoid summarizing it in a single sentence. Instead, validate the statement by providing evidence. For example, if the question asks about the importance of electoral reforms and you mention that state funding of elections will bring all political parties to the same platform, validate this point by mentioning the Indrajit Gupta Committee’s recommendation for state funding. This approach adds depth to your answer and demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the concepts.

In Ethics, when using examples, it’s crucial to use a diverse range of examples. For instance, if the question is about integrity, draw examples from sports, the corporate world, civil services, and the medical field. While practicing the MGP (Main Guidance Program), you’ll realize that even though the question may specifically ask you to address a certain aspect, it’s important to balance your answer. If you discuss the positives, also include 2-3 points on the negatives. For example, while highlighting the importance of integrity, mention instances where integrity may not be effective. Additionally, provide suggestions and a way forward. This approach leaves a positive impression on the examiner, showcasing your overall understanding of the concepts. You can also come up with your own examples, such as highlighting good initiatives taken by the District Magistrate in your own district. Such examples can further enhance your answers and demonstrate your knowledge of local context and initiatives.

Q: How to take proper feedback from a test that a student gives?

A: Feedback is extremely important when evaluating your performance in a test. In my first test, I realized that I took around 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the paper because of my small handwriting, which required additional time to fill the pages. It’s important to be honest when assessing the time taken for each section. Seeking guidance from a mentor, I inquired about why I couldn’t complete the paper within the allotted time. After reviewing my test, the mentor pointed out that my small handwriting was causing me to write more than necessary. They advised me that if a question is worth 10 marks, it’s not essential to write 8 points. Instead, focusing on writing about 6 points in a detailed manner is sufficient. This feedback helped me understand the importance of addressing the question’s demands within the given time frame.

It’s crucial to be open to receiving feedback. The feedback you receive from your tests helps you identify your strengths and areas for improvement. As you internalize this feedback, it

becomes ingrained in your mind, allowing you to make necessary adjustments. In the Main Guidance Program (MGP), you receive question-wise feedback, which highlights the specific pointers you should include in your answers. This feedback helps you remember to incorporate these points in subsequent tests. If you make mistakes in your tests, don’t worry. Take the feedback constructively and work on correcting those mistakes in your next test. Always approach your mentors when you have doubts or concerns. They will sit with you, discuss your papers, and provide guidance on areas where you went wrong or help you develop strategies for managing time or addressing the question’s demands. So, embrace feedback constructively and seek guidance whenever needed.

Q: Please give some tips for the interview.

A: When preparing for the interview, it’s important to approach it with excitement rather than nervousness. Consider it as an opportunity to face a distinguished panel. This mindset will help you stay positive and confident. Start by thoroughly reading your Detailed Application Form (DAF). Understand what information you should include and what you should omit. If you have pursued a hobby or played a sport for only a brief period of 2-3 months, avoid mentioning it just for the sake of it. Remember that interesting extracurricular activities are not the sole criteria for scoring well in the interview. Marks are also awarded based on your intellect and presence of mind during the interview.

During the interview, it’s important to express your opinions but avoid arguing with the panel. Instead, provide a balanced perspective. For example, if asked whether you see India becoming a developed country by 2047, you can utilize your knowledge of economics to answer the question. Acknowledge the challenges, such as the ongoing crisis in Russia and Ukraine or inflationary pressures, which may hinder rapid growth. However, highlight the government’s efforts in industrialization, social sector reform, and skilling the labor force, which can put India on the path to becoming a developed country and achieving a $5 trillion economy. If the target isn’t attainable within the stipulated timeframe, mention the possibility of achieving it in the future. During the interview, display confidence and assurance that you will make an effort to answer the questions. If there is something you genuinely don’t know, be honest and humble in admitting it and express your willingness to learn. Don’t feel compelled to answer every question immediately. Take your time, carefully consider the question, and then provide a thoughtful response.

Thank you

ForumIAS is thankful to Pranita Dash, IAS Rank 42, for such a fruitful session with our GS Foundation Students.

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By Neyawn

Neyawn is an anonymous member the founder of ForumIAS. He is a coder Mentor & Teacher by profession, and often writes for ForumIAS. You can buy him coffee , if you really really like his work. He has built ForumIAS - the community - twice. You can say Hi to him or ask him a question on ForumIAS, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn . You can also write to him at RxAxVxI@FOxRUMxIAS.COM ( remove the small "x" from the email ).

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