The UPSC Odyssey: In Conversation With Anish Bagga, AIR 4, ESE 2020

The UPSC Odyssey: In Conversation With Anish Bagga, AIR 4, ESE 2020

Anish Bagga is a Civil Engineering graduate from BIT Mesra, who has achieved an amazing feat of All India Rank 4 in the prestigious Engineering Services Examination (UPSC) 2020. With this, he is poised to join the Indian Engineering Services (IES) and serve the nation with his unmatched technical competence. He shares a story common to all successful people in the world- consistency, hard work, and a strong belief that propels him to achieve his goals.

We at the News And Publication Society along with IEI, Civil, were privileged to have an exclusive interaction with Anish and discuss his story of procuring the paramount.

Q1. Before we start talking about exams, let’s go down the memory lane; how would you define yourself as a student, in school and college?

I completed my schooling at Delhi Public School in 2014. In class 11th, I was interested in Science and Mathematics. When I sat for competitive exams, the JEE, I got admission to BIT Mesra. My experience in BIT Mesra was very good. Most of the Professors were very motivating. Gradually, I developed more interest in Civil engineering. And in the 4th year of my graduation, I decided to prepare for Engineering Services Exam.

Q2. Can you name some of your favourite places in BIT Mesra?

I was not much into clubs and societies. One thing I explored in college was sports. Before college, I was complacent about it, but after coming to college I tried several sports like cricket, badminton, football, table tennis. Finally, I developed a liking for Badminton, and in the last two years of college, I also took part in various sports competitions. 

Also, the greenery of the campus is so enriching. When classes used to start late, around 10:00 AM, I often used to start my day, jogging in the sports complex. Also, I tried to do justice with the civil engineering subjects. I tried to read the basics, not the bigger parts, but I always tried to have conversed with the basics of all subjects.

Q3. If someone wants to crack this exam, what is the apt time to start the preparation?

I started a bit late during the 4th year. I advise all aspirants to start early and start preparing in the second year itself. In my opinion, the first year is all about exploring the college campus, getting to know people, and making friends. But from the second year onwards, you should be focused on your goals. If you start early, I am sure you can crack the exam in the first attempt itself.

Q4. You were preparing for the GATE exam in the fourth year. What made you decide to prepare for the ESE exam?

I was preparing for the GATE exam because all my fellow batch mates were preparing for it. But I also consulted Manas Dey, professor at NIT Jamshedpur, who also cracked the ESE exam (2017) with a rank of 43. He told me all the minute details of the exam. It was a very healthy conversation and that changed my path from GATE to engineering services. He also told me about the wider aspects of engineering services, where you deal with not just technical responsibilities as well as diversified managerial and administrative responsibilities.

Q5. What kept you motivated during those three years of preparation?

This is indeed a valid question. ESE might take some time if you start late, which I did. Hence, I had to bear the consequences. You get tired of going through the same topics again and again. Whilst, the diverse opportunities of IES kept me motivated, my main motivation and inspiration were my parents.

Q6. How did you prepare for the General Studies (GS) paper?

I joined a coaching institute and followed their study material. For beginners, I would tell that there are 10 subjects of GS paper, but I focused on Math, Material Science, Engineering aptitude, and Environment. These four subjects make up around 45% of the question paper and are scoring. Also one should follow notes provided by coaching institutes. Proper analysis of previous year papers and syllabus is also necessary and also one should observantly follow the test series, to learn the ‘Art of Elimination’.

Q7. What was your daily routine? And what materials did you refer to?

During my first attempt, I went to Delhi and joined coaching. There, my entire day was all about attending the coaching institute and coming back home to revise and making short notes. I used to follow test series, which took off the burden of planning. The rule is to keep things simple. After I was not successful in my first attempt I came back and prepared at my home for the second attempt. And, 7 hours per day is enough.

Going completely through books was a major blunder I made during my first attempt. Instead, use the reverse approach. Read something from coaching material, and if you face a problem then refer to the book.

Q8. Do you think coaching is necessary for cracking this exam?

It definitely helps, but if you start early to follow the strategies then you can manage without any coaching. I would also advise having formal guidance for technical subjects.

Q9. What was your strategy for revision?

I used to make small and concise notes of all the formulae that were difficult to remember. Also, you should not follow someone blindly. Find out what works for you. Listen to the toppers and use their strategies on a hit and trial basis.

Q10. Which test series are the best? And what if someone doesn’t perform in the test series?

I would suggest to go for the test series by ‘Made Easy’.

One should take a positive approach, and even if you get bad scores in some tests, don’t feel demotivated because it’s not the main exam. Most important thing is to learn from your mistakes and not repeating them. Try to test your strategies in the test series. 

Q11. How did you manage time? Can you name 4-5 important subjects?

I used to focus on test series. And initially, I used to focus on just 20% of the important topics from which 80% of the questions are asked. 

Some of the important subjects are Strength of Materials, Geotechnical, Soil Mechanics, Structural Engineering, and Environmental Engineering. After completing these you can complete the rest of the syllabus.

Q12. What should one do in the last 1-2 months of preparation?

The last 1-2 months should be utilized in giving test series. Also, the most important thing is to analyze the test series. The remaining time should be utilized in question-solving, revising notes. In my opinion, this is true for all the exams.

Q13. How did you manage between placements and preparations in the last year of your college? And if one gets placed, should they drop it for preparation?

The last year of graduation is very hectic. In my opinion, whether to sit in placements or not is completely their call. But I would suggest not to give up something completely for another. It is a one-time experience, which they won’t get in the future. I spent a lot of time in placements and got placed at the end. But I decided not to join and continued with my preparation because I was confident of it.  I would suggest starting early as they can give the exam alongside their job. 

Q14. Which department have you decided to join?

There are many good departments. Each has its own merits and demerits. I have decided to join the Central Public Works department.

Q15. Should aspirants worry about privatization?

They should not worry about the number of vacancies. Yes, we can’t deny that the government has decided to privatize each sector. But I believe if they have confidence in their preparation, they can crack the exam. If I can, why can’t they?

Q16. What were the differences between your first and the second attempt?

In the first attempt, I was fairly active on social media. But after my results in the first attempt, there were only 1-2 months left in prelims. So I decided to cut social media off due to unnecessary information over there. I became conscious in my second attempt and took the test series very seriously. And I spent the majority of my time in revision and analysis of test series.

Q17. How did COVID-19 affect your preparation?

Yes, the pandemic created new challenges. After my prelims, the pandemic broke out. I had calculated my marks and they were very decent. The major challenge was that I had no information on when our exam would be conducted. It was as late as July when I got to know the dates of the exam. During this entire period, my parents kept me motivated.

Q18. Can you share some of your memories at BIT Mesra?

I spent 4 long years at BIT Mesra and made lots of memories on the campus. Most of the professors were very motivating. I was in touch with Kirti Sir and Anand Sir even after my graduation, while I was in Delhi. I still remember studying the night before exams with my friends.

Q19. How does it feel like after cracking one of the most difficult competitive exams of India?

I feel very happy and much more relaxed. My parents are also very happy and proud. I received lots of messages from lots of friends right from my school to college. Many deans also congratulated me. Even Vice-Chancellor sir congratulated me. 

Q20. Any tips for the fellow aspirants of ESE?

I would suggest making a group of like-minded friends. I was fortunate enough to find such people in Delhi. And it took me two attempts to clear this exam. If you start early you can crack in the first attempt itself. Also, one should keep sharing their problems with their parents, because they do have solutions.

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