Janardhan Pagar has always wanted to serve the nation in uniform, initially hell-bent on joining the Indian army as a jawan. His mentors assessing his leadership abilities counselled him to give officer grade exams. He went on to give both the National Defence Academy and Combined Defence Services exams, clearing the latter. However, despite scoring considerably high in the written examination, he fell short during his Services Selection Board and was not recommended. Following a streak of soul-crushing failures at the SSB, he was advised by a candidate, selected to join the Central Armed Police Forces, to give the CAPF a shot. He considered the suggestion and split his energy, focusing on preparing for both the CDSE and the CAPF examination, clearing the Assistant Commandant exam, in his third attempt. He breezed past his interview, getting recommended to Join the Indo Tibetian Border Police.
Pagar, who is currently working as a security supervisor at Air India, is scheduled to go for his training in Mussorie. The future Himalayan Veer is ready to tackle the challenges of being an ITBP officer and wanted to do his part by sharing his experiences to candidates looking to serve in the CAPF.
Q: What was your motivation to join the Central Armed Police Forces? For most aspirants looking to serve in uniform, the Defence Services are their primary choice, was it the case for you?
Yes, you are right, I was a hardcore army aspirant and, had cleared the CDSE exam scoring far higher than the declared cutoff. However, I fell significantly short at the Service Selection Board. After being rejected, I went back to my preparation, and it was during this time a recommended CAPF candidate suggested that I simultaneously prepare for the Assistant Commandant exam for the CAPF. He went on to tell me that the CAPF lacks motivated officers to lead their troops and, that they too have been tirelessly serving the country at considerable risk to life and limb, yet they remain unsung. Moved by what he told me and realising the unpredictability of the SSB, with my age soon to exceed the CDS parametres, I decided that I would recalibrate my efforts to becoming an Assistant Commandant in the CAPF.
Q: How did you go about studying for the exam? Break down your preparation for the first paper for the benefit of our readers.
For the first paper, I relied extensively on NCERT and IAS books. For ancient history, I primarily referred to 12th standard RS Sharma NCERT and the Arihant Magbook. I went through the Arihant Magbook of modern India and the Spectrum brief history of India for preparing Modern history. For additional preparation, you should go through NCERT 6th to 12th standard. You must engrain the vital topics such as the revolt of 1857, significant movements, for instance, the Quit India Movement, Important acts during British rule in India. Questions from these topics come in every exam both CAPF and CDSE, including NDA. For these crucial topics, you should ideally refer to Bipin Chandra’s books.
For geography, I bifurcated my preparation between Physical geography and Indian geography. So for physical geography, I referred to ‘Physical Geography’ by Savinder Singh. Both the new and old 12 standard NCERT books are required reads. Mrunal’s geography videos and the Oxford Student Atlas for India are also helpful. For the segments focusing on Indian Geography, I studied 11th standard NCERT and the Periyar publication book on Indian Geography. For particular topics say for instance resources, agriculture, mines and minerals, you could refer to Khullar. K.S Siddharth is indispensable for answering Mapping questions. Laxmikant is the go-to book for polity! You must quite literally photographically remember every page! I heavily neglected Economics, and this cost me an entire attempt. So for this subject, I would recommend 11th and 12th NCERT and the last few chapters of Shankar’s IAS book. I did my Current Affairs preparation by going through the Hindu Newspaper, furthermore, I subscribed to GK Magazine, a lower-cost alternative is the News and Events magazine, it should not cost you more than fifteen rupees. For my science preparation, I referred to Magbook and CDS pathfinder.
Q: How did you prepare for the second paper?
My first barrier was the English language, being a future Himalayan veer, this was my first Himalaya! To overcome my significant lack of English communication skills, I devised a systematic exam-specific approach to improving my language. I voraciously read the Hindu newspaper, focusing on both current affairs and literature simultaneously. Furthermore, I practised English writing until my arms gave in and then some more! The descriptive essay is a significant portion of the Assistant Commandant exam, so for this segment, I focused on what type of vocabulary will be best suited for this leg of the paper.
Other than writing, I practised my oratory skills for hours in front of a mirror. It is essential to understand that the second paper is modelled along similar lines as the UPSC civil services exams. Given the nearly same exam pattern, I referred to the same online material studied by IAS and IPS aspirants. The website Insights on India became a staple part of my overall preparation. The IAS preparation site has a section called Mind Maps, where they publish potential essay topics. I would then spend the rest of the day extensively researching the given topics and write two essays by the end of the day. I would also develop easy to remember pointers for all current affairs and national interest topic, which I could further elaborate on if asked in the exam. I cannot stress the importance of reading the Hindu newspaper enough. It is simply the most important resource for any UPSC exam.
Q: Time is a crucial factor in the second paper, so how did you manage your time efficiently?
I faced no time-related issue. Time management is inherent to my nature. You will find it interesting to know that I gave all three of my attempts without wearing a watch in the exam hall. I knew exactly how much importance and time to give to each section and where to focus my attention. Firstly, in my opinion, it is never wise to start with the essay, you will exhaust you before attempting grammar so keep it for the end. For the essay which is usually 300-words, it is better to wrap up your piece within 250. Word economy is key! A candidate must complete the length and breadth of the entire paper, even missing 2 to 3 marks in a competitive exam will cost you a year! So, to summerise:
- Prepare pointers
- Speed and selection of what questions to answer first is crucial
- Focus on your strengths
- Word economy is key
- Analyse paper strengths
Do not be that guy who goes to give the paper without a plan!
Q: CAPF is seldom any candidates first choice! A bulk of the candidates who give the exam are civil service aspirants as the syllabus is roughly the same. So, given the reality that the CAPF is simply a civil aspirants backup, would you say that the exam process leads to the induction of poorly motivated officers?
Indeed, the motivation levels of most CAPF officers are notoriously low! A sizable number of officers do not even care much about the job! On the brighter side, this trend is slowly changing. There are more and more candidates joining with the sole purpose of serving in the CAPF. This eagerness to join is primarily due to increasing awareness about the roles and responsibilities of this incredible force. However, even now the bulk of the unformed force constitutes of IAS rejects who want a government job.
Q: How would you recommend dedicated CAPF aspirants to go about their preparation, given the fact that their competition will be from far more experienced Civil service aspirants?
Excellent question! Competing with hardcore civil service aspirants was my most significant worry during my preparation! They have far more experience in the exam format. According to me, a CAPF aspirant must prepare like an IAS aspirant! A prospective CAPF officer will have to refer to the same material as their civil counterparts. They must study with the mindset that they are preparing for the IPS or IAS because their competitors are. It is usually them who have higher chances of a clearing; however, with efficient planning and execution, one can always overcome the odds.
Q: With the benefit of hindsight, how could you have prepared more efficiently?
One can always do better; however, to my credit, I have performed exceptionally well in all three of my attempts. My advice would be to maintain consistency, understand the pulse of the examination and then prepare according to your unique strengths! Revise! Revise! Revise! That’s my preparation mantra. Lastly, delete all social media only reactivate it once you have a picture in uniform!
Q: In your experience which exam is more academically rigorous CDSE or CAPF?
Academically? CAPF any day! CDSE is challenging no doubt; however, for the defence services, it is primarily about meeting the cutoff is the priority. The SSB is the gamechanger! In the CAPF, the interview is relatively simple. The paper, on the other hand, is far more challenging; you cannot merely meet the cutoff, you have to ace it! At the least, you must get 15 marks above the cutoff. So simply put, CDSE is interview heavy, CAPF is written exam dominant.
Q: The ITBP is deployed in some of the most arduous terrains, so as a future HimVeer how have you been training physically?
I am mentally prepared. I know that I was destined to be a soldier. You will probably laugh, but I used to imagine myself as a special force commando taking part in solo surgical strikes behind enemy lines. Juvenile, I know! Hahaha! However, I genuinely believe in my ability, put me anywhere, and I shall thrive! As per physical fitness, I am an athletic guy. So coping up at the ITBP academy in Mussorie will not be too much of a challenge, indeed not pleasant, that I am sure of! At the end of the day, you are what you set your mind to. Even Usain Bolt gets tired and wants to puke his guts out. However, he has a clear vision of where he wants to be, and that is why he succeeds. Similarly, I know I am a Himalayan Veer, I may not be wearing the uniform right now, but I will soon earn it.
Q: What aspirations do you have as a future Himalayan Veer?
I am honoured, blessed to get an opportunity to train so that I am capable to lead ITBP troopers! I want to enjoy the training first and build myself as a leader, so that I may do justice to the men I will command. Beyond that, I look forward to a life rigour and adventure. I want to prove myself worthy of donning the uniform. A long term goal which I have is to get selected into the elite commando unit the National Security Guard on deputation from the ITBP. Service as a Himveer opens many other doors for me in the domain of national security, for instance through the CAPF there are several opportunities to work in intelligence such as going deputation to the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) and the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF). So as of now, these are my career aspirations.
Q: Would you like to give any other message to our readers?
Firstly I would like to say keep following SSBCrack! SSBCrack has helped me a ton in both my preparation for CDSE as well as CAPF! The preparation material, news, exam notifications and motivational stories you guys right truly helps aspirants who have been rejected and inspire them to go on and fight another day! You guys are doing a national service! As per my message, it is simple. Simultaneously prepare for both Defence Services and Central Armed Police Forces. The Indian Army, Navy and Air force are exceptional forces but so are the CAPF’s comprising of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Shastra Seema Bal (SSB), the Indo Tibetian Border Police (ITBP). So if unfortunately, you do not get an opportunity to serve in the tri-services there are many other uniformed forces through which you can fight for the country! So prepare for all possibilities, keep a backup, after all, no plan survives first contact with the enemy! So, work hard, chase your dreams, Jai hind!