Success Story of IAS Kanishak Kataria- AIR-1 UPSC CSE 2018

IAS Kanishak Kataria – AIR-1 UPSC CSE 2018

Table of Contents

Stay optimistic throughout your journey and believe in yourself. My pillars of success are ‘optimism, hard work, and self-confidence’.

His Journey

  • Most of my schooling was done in Kota, Rajasthan, a city well known for its IIT and NEET (then PMT) coaching’s. Being good in Mathematics and having an aptitude for Science, I naturally got attracted to engineering (and IITs) for graduation.
  • I appeared for the IIT-JEE examination in 2010 and secured AIR 44. I opted for IIT Bombay for its all-round career options and Computer Science as my branch because of my interest in the subject plus the opportunities which were present in the sector.
  • My father had recommended UPSC as a career option to me right since my childhood. After my graduation in 2014, he again asked me to appear in the UPSC examination. However, I always wanted to explore multiple options before making such a pivotal decision in my life. I had secured a job offer from Samsung Electronics, South Korea. It was an amazing opportunity for me to get exposure outside India and also explore the private sector – an offer which I accepted.
  • I moved back to India in 2016 and started working in a private firm in Bengaluru. Although UPSC was an option always lingering in the back of my mind, I never gave a serious thought into it during this period (September 2014 – April 2016).
  • It was only after I had spent 7-8 months in Bengaluru that I started contemplating more seriously about my career. Comparing my life outside India and then in India, I felt there is much work that needs to be done in India and as an individual, I can also contribute towards it.
  • Having seen my father work, I was aware that if I join administration, I could create a more meaningful impact. Civil Services provides one with an opportunity to work in a diverse set of fields and be more satisfied with the work that one does.
  • I discussed with a few officers with similar background about their experiences in administration and asked them if it would be a better career choice for me. I also got an opportunity to work in the US for a couple of months and later got a Masters admit from a US university (in April 2017). But my experiences abroad made it clear to me that I want to stay and work in India. Instead of preparing half-hearted heartedly, I preferred to first make it clear in my mind as to why I wanted to prepare for UPSC and after nearly 5-6 months of deliberation, I finally decided to prepare for UPSC.
  • I had heard about the uncertainty and difficulty of UPSC. Moreover being away from studies, especially humanities subjects, I was aware of the challenge I was throwing myself into. However, I had clarity as to why I want to appear in UPSC and this challenge didn’t feel that big. In fact, I was excited to learn more about subjects like History and Polity. Also, I decided to give only 2 attempts. If it was meant to be, I would clear the exam in 2 attempts and if not, I would move on from it.
  • In May 2017, I quit my job to fully focus on UPSC examination attempt. I moved to Jaipur and started researching what and how I needed to prepare. I read a few blogs of toppers to see what needs to be done and then fixed the target for appearing in Prelims 2018.
  • One of the 1st tasks I did was to finalise my optional as many toppers had focused a lot on its importance. I went with my strength, chose Mathematics as my optional and decided to make it my main-pillar (or X-Factor) in my preparation. After researching a little, I set a target of scoring above 350 in Mathematics. I knew if I score 350+ in optional, I would easily get into the IAS.
  • In the meantime, I got in touch with a couple of my batch-mates from IITB (Bombay), who were also starting their preparation for UPSC. At the start, I was apprehensive about moving to New Delhi for preparation (as I liked to study alone in the comfort of my home). But in the company of my friends, I decided to move to New Delhi and join coaching so that my preparation could be streamlined. Given I had only 2 attempts in mind, I tried to find ways to maximise my returns in the 1st attempt itself.
  • In June 2017, I shifted to New Delhi and joined Vajiram and Ravi for year long GS coaching for Prelims-cum-Mains and IMS for Mathematics coaching.
  • In the initial 4 months, my full focus was on finishing the optional syllabus and have a basic minimum coverage of GS along with daily current affairs from newspapers. By October 2017, I finished 90% of my optional and then shifted fully on GS preparation.
  • My GS preparation was always Mains oriented. I read the syllabus, saw previous years’ UPSC questions and prepared for each subject accordingly, using a minimal resource list comprising of NCERTs, a single standard book, and coaching notes. For 2.5 months, my full focus was on GS and current affairs.
  • In January and February 2018, I decided to revise my optional one last time before focusing fully on Prelims preparation, which I started in March 2018.
  • In April 2018, I shifted back to Jaipur after the classes got over and started self studies. During March-May 2018, I prepared solely for Prelims (to be held on 3 June, 2018).
  • After the prelims, I took a week’s rest and then started my main preparation. For 1 month until the result of prelims was out, I focused on revising my optional and refining my answer-writing skills. I knew whether I clear the prelims or not, this phase was very important for overall preparation and focused on maximising my efforts.
  • After the prelims result were out, I started revising my GS subjects and appeared in a test series (8 full-length tests). I focused more on revision instead of picking up new sources to read.
  • The Mains finished on 7 October, 2018 and I decided to take a month’s rest. I stayed in touch with the current affairs through daily newspaper reading. Post my GS papers, I wasn’t confident about my performance and result. But I knew the optional was my X-factor and I was a little upbeat after a good optional paper in Mains. So my overall feeling was quite positive about the Mains’ result.
  • After the results for Mains were out (on 20 December, 2018), I started my Personality Test preparation. I appeared in a few mocks and prepared my DAF thoroughly.
  • The Personality Test was scheduled for 6th March, 2019. After the PT, even though I tried to focus on Prelims 2019, I couldn’t do so because of anxiety and curiosity about the result. There were mixed feelings – I had a hunch that if everything works as per my plan, I would clear the examination but at the same time, I wasn’t sure about my GS marks. Having appeared in Mains for the 1st time, there wasn’t any surety of the marks given, the paper is subjective.
  • It was 5th April, 2019 when the final results came out and I was shocked and a little relieved to have cleared the examination in my 1st attempt and get into IAS. AIR (All India Ranking) 1 was just a cherry on top of the cake for me. To be honest, I still haven’t processed or realised the magnitude of that achievement yet. I am just happy to see the positive returns of my 1.5 years of hard work and having realised my dream in the very first attempt.
  • The final result showed me that if the desire is real, motivation strong, accompanied by consistent hard-work, then everything falls into place. The examination might be considered one of the toughest to crack, especially in the 1st attempt but impossible is nothing. And it’s just not me, there are multiple first attempters to have cleared this examination.
  • Hopefully, in years to come more and more people would be able to realise their dream of clearing this examination with the minimal number of attempts.
  • The last few months have been quite relaxing – I fulfilled the promise I made to myself at the start of my preparation and went on a month’s travel. After that, I have been just relaxing at home and awaiting the start of training at LBSNAA (Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration). To be honest I haven’t seen many pics of the academy or training process which many previous toppers have shared. I wanted to keep my LBSNAA experience completely new and that’s what excites me a lot about it!
  • In the future lies the start of something new and challenging. I hope to undergo a wonderful training process and then get on with the work. Hopefully, I will pass the test and meet the expectations of everyone – me, my parents, my family and the people of this country – as an administrator.

Mains Marks and Personality Test

Essay (Paper I):133
General Studies- I (Paper II):98
General Studies- II (Paper III)117
General Studies- III (Paper IV):117
General Studies- IV (Paper V):116
Optional – I (Mathematics) (Paper VI):170
Optional – II (Mathematics) (Paper VII):191
Written Total:942
Personality Test:179
Final Total:1121

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