‘Mistakes Helped Me’, Says IRS Officer Who Failed 40 Exams Before Cracking UPSC

“I was on a night shift when I saw an interview of a rickshaw puller’s son clearing the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams with very few resources at his disposal. I felt so inspired and motivated that I decided to quit my job and pursue my dream of joining the civil services,” says Avadh Kishor Pawar, an Indian Revenue Service officer, and Assistant Commissioner, Income Tax Department in Bhopal. 

Leaving his well-paying job in Godrej in Mumbai and shifting to Delhi to focus on one of the toughest competitive examinations was not easy. He had to get by on his savings, and it was very challenging for him to find study material, as he came from a Hindi-medium background.

Avadh was very well aware of these challenges and at no point did he doubt the fact that he may have to reappear multiple times before cracking it. So, he made back-up plans and decided to apply for other competitive examinations. 

“The UPSC criteria allows the candidates to appear for the exams only once a year so if one does not clear, the entire year is wasted. Appearing for other exams also strengthened my writing practice and improved my overall knowledge,” says Avadh.

He not only failed nearly 40 examinations including banking and state administration services, but also didn’t clear UPSC in the first four attempts.

IRS Avadh Kishor

Despite all the hardships and failures, Avadh did not quit and continued working hard.  

“I come from a rural area in Madhya’s Pradesh’s Chhindwara district where going outside the village for a job is considered to be far fetched,  so joining the civil services was a huge deal. Culture shock aside, had I not done my engineering from Bhopal I would have never realised the huge educational gap between rural and urban areas. So, from the very beginning, I had to work harder. Hence, failing so many examinations did not demotivate me,” he says. 

Eventually, the hard work paid off, and he cleared the UPSC exam in 2015 (his fifth attempt) securing an All India Rank of 657.

So, What Helped Avadh Crack The UPSC exam?

One of the most crucial aspects of UPSC is to have enough savings or backup jobs, to do away with the worry of earning money while attempting the exams. This helps the candidate focus better, says Avadh. Another important step that any civil aspirant can take as per Avadh is to have a set of friends who motivate you, help in structuring answers, take mock interviews and share insights in different styles of preparations. 

“Avadh was always ready to help during preparations and we would often assist each other to prepare answers. It was from him I learnt how to be patient and control my anger while facing hurdles. He is an inspiration to many of us and even today he does not hesitate to guide Hindi medium aspirants,” says IPS Pramod Kumar Yadav, ASP Purnea and Avadh’s batchmate. 

Though there was focus and hard work, Avadh did commit a few mistakes in the first few attempts. 

“I took public administration as my optional subject instead of a subject that I had mastery over. Choosing a subject that you have already studied or like can reduce your study pressure. I finally switched to Hindi literature and managed to get all India rank 2 in my fifth attempt,” says Avadh. 

Another mistake was not joining any coaching centres for general studies until his fourth attempt, “I relied on self-studied instead of trusting someone who has decades of teaching experience. Having an experienced person guide you can make a lot of difference.”  

Reading multiple newspapers (national and regional) daily can be very helpful during interview rounds and articles can also help in formulating notes, he says. 

For all the aspirants who wish to write the exam in Hindi, Avadh strongly recommends writing practice, “It takes more time to write in Hindi than English. With cursive writing the speed increases even more.” 

Comparing answers with an aspirant from English medium can make a difference as according to him a student from English will be exposed to more content and study materials. Avadh would also often compare his answers with toppers of the previous batch and make his notes accordingly. 

Avadh, along with some of his batchmates and juniors, runs a Facebook page of civil aspirants who need guidance in any manner. “The UPSC examinations can be demoralising for many, especially when hard work does not pay off immediately. It can be very frustrating to see your peers excel in life when you are stuck in one place. So, through our social media page, we give advice on notes, study materials and preparation strategies to aspirants from across India.”

Edited by Gayatri Mishra

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