But Vivek Chauhan, who is now an IRS officer, cleared CSE-2015 with AIR-300 in his sixth attempt.
Despite failing to crack CSE five times, he didn't give up, proving that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
Chauhan thought of attempting CSE when he was 25
Chauhan wanted to become a doctor but due to the lack of means, he couldn't study medicine and became a teacher later.
He said, "I was almost 25 when the thought of attempting the CSE came to me. Being a general candidate, it was already quite late in the day," adding he had family responsibilities to fulfill before he could do something for himself.
He attempted CSE without much preparation in 2010
Chauhan first attempted CSE in 2010 without much preparation. "I felt bad that I had lost one precious attempt... At that time, we had only four attempts...," he told TBI.
He missed qualifying in CSE-Prelims by seven marks in 2011 and by three marks in 2012.
But he didn't give up and appeared for CSE-2013; however, he missed the Prelims cut-off by nine marks.
Turning point came when UPSC raised age-limit, number of attempts
After four attempts, Chauhan, at 30, returned to teaching as he couldn't retake CSE.
The turning point came just when he thought his CSE dream ended. UPSC announced candidates could attempt CSE six times before turning 32.
Despite clearing Prelims (2014), he couldn't qualify further, failing the fifth time.
But in 2015, with strong determination, he cleared CSE-2015 in his sixth and final attempt.
Proved that a simple middle-class boy could crack CSE: Chauhan
"The (CSE-2015) results were declared...I had secured an All India Rank of 300. My relief and joy were unparalleled. It proved that a simple middle-class family boy with no formal education (all correspondence) could crack the coveted UPSC Civil Services Examination," Chauhan said.
Learning from failures
Chauhan's journey shows why learning from failures is important
Despite failing for five times, Chauhan didn't lose hope; with each failure, he only got better.
He said that even as a child he would never give up on anything. After each failure, he analyzed his mistakes, ensuring not to repeat them.
On the other hand, failures also made him realize that while perseverance and consistency were crucial, the right material was equally essential.