Why right attitude is the single most important thing to clear the exam – by Minal Karanwal IAS

As a part of our training in Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration , we are taken for several treks.

I was very scared about trekking, given that I do not share a very good track record. Once in college, we went for a trek and all I could do was crib. I cribbed so much, that the hiking club of my college blacklisted me from further treks.

As a part of our training in Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration , we are taken for several treks. I was very scared about trekking, given that I do not share a very good track record. Once in college, we went for a trek and all I could do was crib. I cribbed so much, that the hiking club of my college blacklisted me from further treks.

With this past record, I thought I would be ashamed to a very huge extent if I cribbed again. So I focused a lot on my fitness between the time the results were declared and before entering the academy. Trust me, this was the ONLY reason I lost weight.

But there was another fundamental shift in my attitude that made me finish all my treks not just without cribbing but at the beginning of the pack! After striving for this exam, one thing I started practicing was to not to see any problem as larger than me. Mitali Sethi, IAS officer of the 2017 batch, once told me, ”UPSC ko hauua [big deal] mat banana”.

She very clearly told me that UPSC exam is not a huge mountain that cannot be climbed. If you lose at the base itself, the mountain will belittle you, make fun of you and ignore your fall. That less of an empathy.

Same is true about the treks. If you look upwards and get awed by the climb, no way you are finishing the trek. So if UPSC exam bogs you down in terms of its magnanimity, no way you can reach the top and click a selfie. No way at all.

Hence, I choose to write on “Why the right attitude is the single most important thing to clear the exam?”

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Excessive Evaluation Kills Your Mental Capacity To Think Productively

There is a quote that says, “Master your mind, don’t let the mind master you.” I have seen several aspirants ‘excessively evaluate.’ Will this work? Will this optional work well? Will this test series match 90% of the actual questions in the exam? [haha ? ]

Will I be able to read ten thousand zillion books for world history? Will I be able to write ten thousand questions before mains?

Why would you be so cruel to yourself? Why would you be so apathetic to the person inside you who deserves to clear the exam.

I feel ‘reason’ is central to human progress.

Sometimes, when you are caught between too much, all you need is to take a step back, breathe and evaluate where you are going, what needs to be done.

And I can guarantee that ALL of you possess the basic reasoning capacity to tell yourself what needs to be done and how. There are thousands of strategies online and tons of reading material in the market.

But you need to filter, with reason. And you can do that only if you like yourself, believe in yourself and want to see yourself succeed? And who doesn’t want that?

I remember 10 days before my mains, Sir directed me to write some mocks. He said I will experience the marathon of writing 2 exams in a single day, given I had no experience to write mains.

I wrote such terrible mocks, that had I written my actual exams the same way, I would have terribly faltered.

The reason? Excessive studying in the last 15 days. Most of the Mains 365 had come out in the 1st week of September and I was contributing nearly 15 hours daily to finish them on time.

So one day after those mocks, my tooth started paining terribly. My mother advised me to go visit a dentist and take a day’s break. It would undo my exhaustion.

I agreed. I visited a dentist who recommended me a root canal urgently. It was seriously a blessing in disguise. I relaxed a little, took a step back, revised slowly and here I am in LBSNAA giving gyan to you guys!

UPSC civil services exam is a marathon that is run slowest towards the end

Sounds odd?

Doesn’t it ?

But It really isn’t.

UPSC is a marathon, where every single day requires the same kind of contribution like the previous day. But the buildup for the battle is not 2 weeks before the exam.

Don’t expect to suddenly sprint and take over your competitors. It won’t work out for you my friend.

What will happen is you getting exhausted right before the finishing line. The ending would be more dramatic than a Bollywood movie.

What you need to do is to run slowly towards the end.

Do less things, but do them again and again.

That is 15 days to the exam, sit back, make a concrete plan of progress based solely on revisions and revisions alone.

Relax, consciously. Sounds odd again, but it is workable as I have done it. Make a mantra and tell your mind that you have read most of the things and whatever little you think is left can be covered slowly.

Eat properly and Sleep properly. Remind yourself daily of what a wonderful person you are.  DO NOT PANIC. I REPEAT. DO NOT PANIC.

Focus on being calm. Panic gives way to your lesser evolved self that is self-harming. And this exam is just a game of confidence. Nothing else.

EXCEPTION: I have met people here in the academy who have cleared the exam despite being having a job, a child and a spouse. [Do read about Saurabh Bhuwania]

They have actually had unconventional ways of planning and executing like running this marathon as a sprint, but obviously in a shorter period of time.

I was an all privileged aspirant, full time dedicated to preparation. So my perspective is rooted in there. So please filter these suggestions accordingly.

Do not lose the battle only because you see someone else winning it. It’s a mirage. Trust me 

This UPSC world is such a funny place. Especially Rajinder nagar and coaching institutes. Advices, GYAN, Falsity of progress reports, Lies, I don’t know where to stop.

Students will lie about how much they are reading and from where, in fact teachers will lie too. In fact toppers may lie too. But again, who do you trust? YOURSELF.

I repeat this again, you have to generate self-belief. Generate the reason that you yourself have the capacity to identify what is right thing to be done and then do the needful. YOU YOURSELF AND NOBODY ELSE.

At one point, I lost faith in myself too!

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There was a time I was so overwhelmed with the progress of people around me, in my library [which is one of the worst places to study in] that I lost faith in myself.

That student doesn’t get up after lunch. That student sleeps only for 6 hours. He is an IPS/IRS/has already cleared the exam, who am i? I had thousands of questions, result of all was my disbelief and under confidence. Such pattern of thinking won’t take you anywhere.

You may not be facing this as I have heard, due to the Corona Virus, Libraries are shut down.

So let’s believe again in the amazingly talented students that we are!

Be Emotionally Intelligent!

This is the most important advice. If you keep giving way to your fear, anger, love, etc. you will keep faltering. Indulging too much in emotions is a slippery slope.

They will make you feel weak then strong then weak again. Please balance your thoughts and emotions very well. And there are practical ways for that.

I am a Buddhist and I used to chant abundantly. I joined dance classes for some time also to feel good.

Have your own strategy but please don’t just sit alone in your room or talk to ‘friends’ around. Please don’t make friends during preparation. They are not friends.

Speculate Less. Act More!

 Paper kaisa hoga? Iss saal kaunse question aaenge? Ye news mai hai, zaroor aaega? [Random GYAN precisely].

Absolutely avoid this. ABSOLUTELY. In my attempt, GS paper 3 in mains had the most unconventional questions.

My advantage? I had read static and current equally well? My benefit? A score of 107, pretty good for my attempt.

So ACT. Do not avoid. Read, understand, make notes, revise. I have said this before and I say it again. There is no alternative to hard work. Know how your mind works, how your thoughts shape up.

Do not lie to yourself about your progress. Be honest to yourself and your preparation. If you plan to do something then stick to it?

Let’s win in the exam simply. Let’s not unnecessarily complicate because there is a world that exists that forces us to do so. Let’s change our attitude and let’s change ourselves.


Director of Veda IAS, Completed his Masters in Sociology, Having more than 6 years of UPSC Mentoring Experience.

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