Lessons Learnt from Previous Attempts by IAS Topper Nandini K R

“Failure is success if we learn from it.” – Malcolm Forbes

K R Nandini is the UPSC civil services exam rank 1 holder for 2016. Nandini, who was undergoing her IRS training in Faridabad when the UPSC CSE results were declared, achieved this stupendous success in her fourth attempt. Read on to know what mistakes Nandini made in her first three attempts and how she overcame them in the final one.


First attempt

Nandini gave her first attempt in 2013 but without a proper guidance and preparation. She couldn’t clear the prelims exam. But she wasn’t disheartened and decided that a proper guidance and strategy would help her clear the IAS exam.


Second attempt

During her preparation for the second UPSC civil services exam attempt in 2014, Nandini started working as an Assistant Engineer with the Karnataka Public Works Department. This time, she started with basic books like NCERTs and the newspapers. Her optional subject was Kannada Literature. According to Nandini, she enjoyed the process of preparing for the optional subject because reading Kannada literature was a hobby she had nurtured since her childhood and she simply loved it. Even though she worked hard and crossed the mains barrier, her marks were not good enough to secure an IAS. She got selected for the IRS (Customs and Excise).

She had to leave unanswered 6 questions in GS Paper I, 8 questions in GS Paper II, 6 questions in GS Paper III, 2 case studies in the Ethics paper and 1 question each in the two optional papers.

As per Nandini, her mistakes in the second attempt were:

  • No proper execution of the preparation plan.
  • No proper revision.
  • No writing practice.

When the results were announced, Nandini, instead of grieving, understood that her efforts were to be taken a notch up.


Third attempt

Nandini was intent on upgrading her IRS to an IAS. So, the third time around in 2015, Nandini started practicing answer writing as well. But she suffered a terrible blow when she got afflicted with dengue and had to miss the mains exam.

A true champion treats both success and failure with equanimity and this is what Nandini did. She then braced herself for one more attempt.


Fourth attempt

Nandini made a daily timetable which included 8 hours of sleep and one hour of sports. She advices aspirants to make realistic timetables so that targets set are actually achieved. She also practiced mock tests for prelims and mains and made sure she improved her speed of writing. She also learnt how to manage time more effectively during the test series.

This time, Nandini prepared with an intense focus and continued practice, and the rest is history!


Nandini KR’s lessons learnt from four years of IAS preparation:

  • One should not possess an inferiority complex.
  • Language is not a barrier to anything. What is important is clarity in understanding issues.
  • One should choose books and sources according to one’s level of comprehension.
  • Gender is not a barrier to success.
  • One has to overcome fear and self-doubt to achieve success.


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