IAS Success Stories of winning candidates Saswati Dey

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

Answer: To the Almighty first of all. To my mother, Uncle, sister, grandmother, rest of my family for being the pillars of support for me; my best friend for boosting my morale and instilling confidence; my friends at BITS; my teachers at school, ALS, Kerala State Civil Service Academy, Pala Civil Service Institute and Prof. Rajashekaran for their timely guidance.

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

Answer: Civil service is a not a career option for me. It has been the only goal so far in my life. It has been my dream to become a civil servant and be a part of the governance of India?

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

Answer: One should evaluate the reasons for joining civil services. What is he/she looking for from the job and also how much is the willingness to contribute to the service.

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

Answer: In 2006, after completion of Post Graduation.

Question: When should one ideally start the preparation process?

Answer: It is a very individual choice. However good reading habits; a sound understanding of concepts of one's academic subjects can be a good beginning to the process, Attempts should be taken as early as possible in terms of age.

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

Answer: My only motivation was my ardent desire to qualify and reach my goal. Also, my friends and parents always kept me motivated during the lows and helped me pull myself up:

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

Answer: It is the most important factor as they are the medium through which candidates are evaluated. Starting from the Prelim which checks the knowledge in the Optional, It moves on to check one understands and expression of the same.

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: Comfort level, understanding and availability of study matter should determine the choice of Optionals. Subjects studied sincerely at the college level can be a very good choice as it already provides a premise of pre-existing knowledge.

Question: How should one prepare for Prelim, Main and Interview?

Answer: For Prelim: Repetitive coverage and understanding of fundamental concepts, and practicing previous years'question papers.

For Main: Consolidation of knowledge of optionals, improved expressions and language and working on weak areas to bring them to competitive levels.

For Interview: Confidence on what has already been learnt theoretically, work on gathering information on hobbies, and overall a positive, balanced and holistic understanding of issues at large.

Question: How can one score well in Essay, GS and Interview?

Answer: Essay: Pin point areas of interest, issues which one feels strongly about, plus improved expression.

General Studies: Covering as much as one can in width as well as depth.

Interview: Confidence, composure, and humility.

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

Answer: It depends on one's area of interest. In Paper I, Geography and in Paper II, Statistics and International issues are the areas in which a candidate can score marks easily.

Question: Did you commit any mistake during your preparations?

Answer: I didn't practice much the map work for Geography.

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

Answer: Again a very personal decision. It can range anywhere from 8 hours to 14 hours according to the need and stamina of candidates.

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

Answer: Essay: Newspapers and Internet.

General Studies: NCERT books, practice of previous years'question papers for statistics.

Optionals Geography: NCERT books. Examrace Books, Goh Cheng Leong, Savindra Singh, Atlas (Orient Longman, TTK and Oxford).

Public Administration: Prasad, Fadia and Nicholas Henry

Interview: Newspapers and a special focus on hobbies.

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

Answer: It is important to have good reading habits; it can be fiction or non-fiction depending on one's choice.

Question: How one should read newspaper?

Answer: One should read newspaper selectively and judiciously, making notes whenever required.

Question: How did the Competition Wizard helps you in the preparation of the Civil Services examination?

Answer: It's informative, has wide coverage and has an easy to read format.

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

Answer: A balance of both, i.e.. Smart hard work.

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

Answer: This exam is a holistic test. A lot of learning and unlearning is needed and this applies to both technical as well as non-technical students. One group has to tackle History and Geography while the other has to take on Statistics. It's an even game.

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

Answer: I prepared at Delhi. Yes, place of preparation matters. The availability of study matter on time, the perception of the competition levels in the peer group gives a sense of realism to the preparation process.

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 students from remote areas can take the aid of web based information as well as correspond with the coaching institutes for material as well as advice.

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

Answer: Coaching institutes help to the extent that they give a sense of direction to the wide ocean of information and help to streamline the preparation process. Moreover, they also bring an element of evaluation at different stages.

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

Answer: It is a need based decision. Ideally a cursory knowledge of the optional is good before joining a coaching institute as it gives better understanding and clears doubts.

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

Answer: The reputation of ALS in teaching Geography had taken me to there. As a member there, I felt professional approach to coaching along with a personal touch to the guidance process.

Question: What is so special about ALS?

Answer: ALS has an organized approach to teaching, a professional approach, wonderful faculties as well as support staff.

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

Answer: As compared to other competitions, it is equally or less expensive.

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

Answer: Self preparation and sharing of study materials by forming study groups among friends.

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

Answer: Only those who are sure of what they expect of this service should come.

Question: Is UPSC really unpredictable?

Answer: It is really an unpredictable exam in terms of content of questions but is really predictable in terms of its persistent insistence on selecting the best in the country. The exams are a reflection of this criterion.

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

Answer: Dedication, determination, sincerity, support of parents and friends and God's will.

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

Answer: Fortune favors the brave. It will follow only after the requisite efforts have been made.

Question: How was the atmosphere during your Interview?

Answer: It was a real personality test. The board was cordial and it supported me to bring out my real self.

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

Answer: Self confidence with humility in behaviour, a strong base of knowledge of Optionals and a balanced take on issues at large gives the confidence for the interview.

Question: What types of questions did the Board ask?

Answer: It was a comprehensive experience and touched all aspects.

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

Answer: The Interview Board comprises of highly experienced members. The candidates should not try to show their knowledge; rather their willingness to learn should be palpable. The Board is open to all that we have to say. It should be reciprocated and defensive answers should be avoided. Mistakes, if made, should be owned up. One should be extremely attentive during the entire interview process. It is the most important half an hour in a candidate's life.

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

Answer: Questions on international affairs are always tricky to answer. I also had one or two such questions.

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

Answer: My dream has been to be a part of the esteemed Indian Foreign Service. I see myself as representing India in the international forum and making a meaningful difference to our bilateral and international relations.

Question: Would you have a final word for the student community?

Answer: A clear vision can show you the path you want to traverse. Take time to decide where you want to go. Once decided, do not stop and never look back.

Courtesy: Civil Services Chronicle

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