IAS Success Stories of winning candidates D Divya

Question: To whom and to what do you credit your success?

Answer: To my father, who instilled the joy of serving others and nurtured the aspiration for joining the Civil Services in me. To my mother, who is a role model to me, being a successful woman both in the professional and personal front in spite of tremendous hardships she faced. To my husband, who inspired me by his sensitivity to the oppressed and made me stronger to face the challenges that life has to offer. To my teachers, who made this learning process enjoyable and to my friends who stood by me during the difficult times.

Question: Why did you choose Civil Services as a career?

Answer: I choose it for three reasons: To bring the change I want to see in the world; the job offers possibility of immense satisfaction and the diversity in job assignments.

Question: How should one assess oneself before deciding to opt for Civil Services as a career?

Answer: If you have a deep yearning to serve and you derive satisfaction from non-monetary incentives, this is the right path for you.

Question: When did you consciously start your preparation for this examination?

Answer: In my final year of college.

Question: When should one ideally start the preparation process?

Answer: At least one year before the exam.

Question: It is said that the Civil Services examination requires constant and sustained hard work. How did you keep yourself constantly motivated? What was your source of inspiration?

Answer: Learning is fun and if one imbibes the joy of learning new things, it can make the exam preparation a fulfilling exercise irrespective of results. For instance, when I learnt how and why the winds blow, earthquakes and volcanoes occur, why was the 3rd battle of Panipat fought, how the poverty line is computed etc, it gave me tremendous joy. Secondly, this exam is a means to a larger end. When one envisions the joy of living the dream of becoming a civil servant, the sustained hard work one has to put in becomes endurable.

Question: In your opinion, how crucial is the selection of Optional subject for success in the examination?

Answer: It is quite crucial. Unless one has the aptitude for the subject it is very difficult to excel in it.

Question: What should be the criteria for selecting them and how should one go about it? Should one opt for the subjects studied at college or go for new ones?

Answer: The criteria should be based on the following: Interest, aptitude, availability of reading material and guidance.

The factors for one choosing optional other than her/his graduation subjects are vastness of CSE syllabus, uncertain scoring pattern and lack of aptitude in the subject. If this is not the case, then one should definitely opt for graduation subjects and cash in on the familiarity and experience.

Question: How should one prepare for Prelims, Mains and Interview?

Answer: Prelim: Basically in Prelim, it's the problem of plenty and one should develop the skill to eliminate. A thorough analysis of previous years'papers and syllabus and then selecting the material to study is mandatory. Conceptual understanding is becoming more and more important in the recent times.

Main: UPSC is increasingly moving into the domain of testing the analytical power of the aspirant and her/his ability to offer progressive suggestions. It is no longer just “define” questions, but more of questions which require the aspirant to think on the spot, adapt and form inter-linkages across topics. Factory made answers are out. It is also breaking the myths of “safe topics” and going into hitherto untouched areas. So as the exam evolves, we need to evolve too. This can be easily handled by preparation without prejudices, and open mind, geared up to adapt etc. Of course simple questions will also feature in the question paper, which have to be fully capitalized.

Interview: Preparation for interview is re-discovering oneself. One needs to have good knowledge of whatever she/he has mentioned in the interview form. Forming opinions on various issue of current national/international importance is also essential. This can be developed by reading different perspectives from news magazines, watching discussions in news channels etc.

Question: What are the areas in GS Paper I and II in the Main examination in which the candidate can score marks easily?

Answer: With the changing pattern of exams, it is really difficult to delineate the scoring areas.

Question: Did you commit any mistake during your preparations?

Answer: In the quest for perfection, I wasted a lot of time. I didn't take the 2008 attempt as I was not immediately ready to go through this exam process all over again.

Question: How many hours should one devote for the preparations regularly?

Answer: According to me, there is no standard formula. The only thing that should be kept in mind is productive study and smart work.

Question: Could you please give the aspirants a list of reference for essay/GS/Optional I/Optional II and Interview?

Answer: Apart from coaching institute reading material, magazines and internet, I referred the following books:

For General Studies:

History: Old NCERTs especially 11th and 12th std, Spectrum's Modern India.

Polity: NCERT, Wizard Indian Polity and Constitution, Laxmikanth's Indian Polity, DD Basu, PM Bakshi for articles.

Geography: NCERTs, Wizard's Geography for GS

Science and Technology: NCERT and Wizard Science and Technology spectrum S&T

Statistics: NCERT and Spectrum

question bank at doorsteptutor represents you will find in actual exam.

For Public Administration:

Laxmikanth's Public Administration, New Horizons of Public Administration by Mohit Bhattacharya, Nicholas Henry, Organisational Behaviour by Stephen Robbins, Arora & Goel, IGNOU notes, relevant IJPA journals, and Fadia and Fadia.

For Geography:

NCERTs of 11th and 12th std, Geography Made Simple by Rupa Publications, G. C. Leong, Majid Hussain's Evolution of Geographical Thought and Geography of India (TMH), Selected chapters from Savindra Singh, D. S. Lal, Ramachandran, Dutta and Sundaram.

Question: Besides text books what newspapers, magazines, novels and books of general interest should one read?

Answer: Since newspapers and magazines have a tendency to lean towards certain ideology, it will be better to read different perspectives and understand for oneself which is the acceptable and rational analysis. In the era of telecommunication, I enjoyed watching discussions on news channels and listening to All India Radio news analysis at 9 pm. BBC and Al-Jazeera have a wealth of documentaries. Internet can also be used extensively for preparation. Everybody Loves A Good Drought by P Sainath, The Red Sun by Sudeep Chakravarti, Inspite of the Gods by Edward Luce, India Since Independence by Bipin Chandra were some of the non-syllabus books I read during the course of my preparation.

Question: How one should read newspaper?

Answer: Newspapers should not be read only to collect facts. The op-ed page which gives the analysis is the most important page.

Question: What is more important for this exam, intelligence or hard work?

Answer: Intelligence + hard work i.e.smart work.

Question: Do candidates with a technical background have an advantage over general students?

Answer: According to me, an intelligent, aware and inquisitive person from any field should stand a good chance.

Question: Where did you prepare for the examination (at what place)? Does the place of preparation matter?

Answer: I did most of my preparation from Delhi. The place of preparation matters to the extent that quality guidance and access to civil service related books is available.

Question: In the course of preparation one is faced with many problems, queries and difficulties. Where should one go for help, especially the students staying in remote areas?

Answer: The UPSC website and employment news are the authentic source of basic information about this exam. Topper's blogs and interviews are useful in planning strategies. Many e-forums are operational in social networking sites like Orkut to know the views of thousands of fellow aspirants. But these forums have to be accessed with caution as public forum will have genuine and bogus information.

Question: Do coaching institutes help? If yes, how should one select, when there are so many of them?

Answer: Yes. Experienced faculty help understanding concepts in shorter span of time which otherwise would have taken longer with just books. This is especially true for those choosing optional subjects other that their graduation subject. It helped a person like me, who loves to learn by listening and clearing the doubts through discussions and debates. But, it is extremely crucial to choose the good faculty, Feedback from those who have attended these institutes help. It is better to attend open seminars and attend one or two classes before plunging in. It is extremely important not to be carried away by fancy advertisements.

Question: In which stage should one ideally opt for coaching?

Answer: If one chooses optional subjects other than graduation subject, it is better to start the classes one year in advance.

Question: Why did you choose ALS in the first place?

Answer: Feedback from college seniors who had taken geography classes from ALS.

Question: What is so special about ALS?

Answer: I had an enjoyable learning experience in ALS due to the faculty. Shashank Sir's pedagogical style was to help us experience Geography and not just learn it. His way of inspiring us to be extraordinary human beings fascinated me a lot. Jojo Sir simply made learning fun and brought humour in even the most mundane topics. Panda Sir was helpful by being accessible to aspirants and his meticulous training in map pointing reaped huge benefit.

Question: Do you think that with increasing levels of competition, the preparation for Civil Services is getting too expensive?

Answer: I feel immense pain that these facilities are available to only a select few like me, who could afford the coaching fee that is unthinkable for the disadvantaged sections. But I believe UPSC is trying to dissolve such relative advantages.

Introducing systemic changes and breaking this vicious cycle of only people belonging to certain section/region/class/gender getting through should be seriously considered by the stake holders.

Question: Could you suggest some ways of cutting down on expenses?

Answer: The major cause of inflated expenses is accumulation of unnecessary reading material and enrolling hastily in bogus coaching institutes in the zeal to succeed. One should be extremely choosy in both. Forming study groups of serious aspirants and sharing resources can help a great deal.

Question: Seeing the stiffness of the competition, is this exam meant for everyone who takes it?

Answer: It is for each aspirant to assess his/her strengths and weaknesses before delving deep into the cycle of exams.

Question: Is UPSC really unpredictable?

Answer: Well, UPSC will want to keep the aspirants guessing. But it has one huge constraint, the syllabus. Hence a thorough preparation of topics mentioned in the syllabus will minimize the unpredictability to a large extent especially in the optional subjects.

Question: What all do you think is needed to make it to the top?

Answer: Intelligence, hard work, confidence, a clear understanding of the requirements of this exam and a bit of favourable circumstances, these are the ingredients of success in this exam.

Question: How would you rate luck as far as success in Civil Services is concerned?

Answer: Well, the subjective nature of the exam, non-uniform platform with multiple optional subjects and scaling, 25-minute interview does make success in this exam dicey.

Question: How was the atmosphere during your Interview?

Answer: Quite lively I would say. Not a dull moment. One member of the board plunged in to make me feel comfortable whenever the situation got too hot to handle.

Question: What do you think is the right way to face Interview Board confidently?

Answer: Confidence arises from the strong foundation of knowledge. Aspirants should take care to do thorough ground work on their bio-data, and form opinions on the issues of current national and international issues. Slackening after Main is a usual phenomenon which needs to be avoided.

Having a positive attitude during stress tests definitely help. Polite yet firm replies will help in driving home our point without causing unpleasantness.

Question: What types of questions did the Board ask?

Answer: The questions covered a wide range of topics from international affairs, science and technology, women issues, hobbies, optional subjects and current job.

Question: What is the most important thing one should keep in mind while facing the Interview Board?

Answer: The board is probably looking for a confident, intelligent, aware, sensitive and honest individual. Make sure that you let the board know that you are all of that thorough your answers.

Question: During the Interview, did the board member (s) ask you any tricky question (s)?

Answer: Yes, I was asked about Iran's nuclear aspirations, to tell whether Bush or Obama administration is better for India, Reservation policy of the Government and to take a stand on women's reservation etc.

Question: How do you foresee your future as an administrator?

Answer: I would like to be an administrator who is able to deliver effective solutions to the people, a change agent and a facilitator for the oppressed to get their rights.

Courtesy: Competition Wizard