The Civil Services Examination is a nationwide competitive examination in India conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. The exam is conducted for recruitment to diverse Civil Services of the Government of India, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Forest Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS) amid others.
With a meticulous examination process which goes on for almost a year, this exam is believed to be one of the toughest examinations in India with a success rate of around 0.1% to 0.3%.
On 27th April 2018 evening, Union Public Service Commission declared the final result of Civil Services Exam 2017.
Bhopal’s Anupama Anjali has cleared the exam with appreciable scores. She is a mechanical engineering graduate and has clarified the exam in her second attempt. Her father is an IPS officer and is posted in Bhopal. She is also a social worker. In an interview with UPSC Pathshala, Anupama shared her success mantra.
Q. What made you pursue a career in UPSC?
I have grown up interacting with my father and grandfather who were both civil servants. I was deeply inspired by them. Living with them I realized how they could help people around them and how they could take very significant decisions. It became a motivation for me to pursue a career in UPSC.
I have also worked as a social worker and have established my own NGO. I worked in the educational sector and have always felt that structural transformation can be brought about only by people who are within the government.
Q. What kept you motivated while preparing for this exam?
This exam is tough, long and consuming. Qualifying the Prelims in the first attempt persuaded me to try and do better the next time. You should surround yourself with people who believe in you and keep your friend circle small. I only interacted with people who knew me very well and who encouraged me. I was lucky that I had a supporting family and relatives. I also practiced meditation.
Q. In terms of prelims, what was your strategy? Did you attempt any mock tests and how important do you think is giving tests in prelims?
I started giving absolute attention to prelims 3 months before the exam. During that time I did not study anything related to optional subjects. I took about 40-50 tests during the preparation. I also spent some time on analyzing the tests that I had given. I revised the tests regularly and learnt a lot from it.
I feel giving tests is very important because it helps you to come at a safe estimate of the number of questions you have to attempt so that your score can improve. I suggest everybody should give as many tests as possible. I was very regular in studying current affairs. The key is keeping your material limited and revising it again and again.
Q. What was your strategy for an essay?
I used to write one essay per month. I submitted these essays to my teachers and my study group and took feedback from them. I also made a specific notebook and took notes from the government publications, Yojana and Kurukshetra.
If there was any topic in these books that was big enough for an essay, I jotted it down and went through the notebook one day before the essay exam. Many essay topics in the question paper were in my notebook. So revising it recently helped me a lot.
Q. Which Two essays did you attempt?
I attempted one on ‘Non-Alignment movement has lost its relevance’ and other on ‘social media’.
Q. What according to you is better, writing in paragraphs or writing in bullet points?
I prefer writing in bullets because it gives more clarity. However, if I don’t have much content for an answer I prefer to write in paragraphs because there are not many points to mention. Ninety percent of my answers still are in bullets. I also underline the important points so that it is easier for the examiner to understand.
Q. What was your optional subject and why did you choose it?
My optional was Anthropology. I found it very interesting. It is very concise and there are a lot of diverse areas which you can study. It is also easy to understand and is scoring.
I believe having a theory subject is better than having an engineering subject because you have better chances to perform. Even if you know something slightly, you are likely to answer it. Also, people who I knew, who have made it to the list, guided me to take the subject.
Q. So if someone new is taking Anthropology, what would you advise them?
I would advise them to go through the syllabus and go through the reference materials of various coaching institutes so that you can understand what is exactly there in each part.The syllabus of Anthropology can be divided into 6 broad parts.
Once you get comfortable with all the aspects of the subject, then you should definitely take it. You should be clear with Biology of 11th and 12th standard. You should refer to the NCERT books specifically the Genetics part so that you understand it better.
Q. How much time did you take to complete the syllabus of Anthropology?
I prepared for Anthropology for the complete one year. I focused very much on it. I made notes on each and every topic reading multiple books. Most of the note-making was done before the mains actually began and this was an advantage. I would not suggest people reading the subject just before mains exam because it would make it tough.
Q. Did you have any specific strategy to prepare for the Interview?
After clearing mains, I started interacting with many bureaucrats that I knew. I observed how they would give answers. They were always very calm and composed, they would think before answering and answer in a very crisp manner. I tried to implicate all these factors in my own self.
After that, I gave as many mock tests as I could. Taking tests makes you confident and significantly reduces the nervousness. I suggest students should focus on the current events that are taking place and should be thorough with their graduation subjects too.
Q. Which Board did you have and how long did they interview you? Can you tell us a few questions that they asked?
I got the Arvind Saxena board and they interviewed me for about 35-40 minutes.They asked me about the problems that are still prevalent in primary education and what issues did I face when I started my NGO. They asked me if I ever tried to teach meditation to the children in the NGO and for how long I have been practicing it.
They also asked me some interesting questions which were a little off beat like ‘Should we be hosting the national flag in Kashmir’? Regarding Foreign affairs, he asked about the current Russia-Thai issue and Indo Pakistan relations.
About Anthropology he asked me about Bhimbetka and sites in Madhya Pradesh. He also asked me if I thought that the election commission was bias.
Q. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I had applied for GRE exam which is for applying for masters in various foreign universities. I got a very good score there. I got 325/340. I was simultaneously working on my GRE profile and was doing some or the other training course so that if I didn’t get into UPSC, I would apply for my masters and perhaps come back later and give the exam again.
Q. Recently, there has been a lot of spur in online education in terms of UPSC preparation. What are your views on it? Do you think online education is adding to the entire process of preparation or is it damaging it?
I think it’s a great advantage because not everybody can afford to stay and take offline courses in Delhi. If you have everything available online and there are really good quality courses available then that is definitely an added advantage. I think everybody in India can prepare from their own now.
Q.What about you? Did you refer to any online courses?
I referred to the summaries they have provided for current affairs but mostly I took offline preparation. I gave online tests and got them corrected online.
Q. Do you have any words of wisdom for the candidates who are preparing for this exam?
I would just say that believe in your dreams. If you dream of becoming a civil servant then you should always try for it, protect it and nurture it till the very end. You should keep your focus on making yourself better and not get distracted by other people.Focus on improvement.Take every failure as a learning experience.
Q. Recently, Baswan Committee has recommended that optional subjects should be completely scrapped. What are your views on it?
I believe it is a good decision because a lot of people are at a disadvantage for some optionals being more scoring then theirs. It’s highly important that the level is same for everybody and everybody gives the same paper so that we will be able to select better candidates.
If we focus on things which are more closely related to Administration, it will significantly cut down rote learning. I think more analytical and logical subjects should be brought into the exams.
Q. For the past few years, the CSAT paper has been made qualifying in nature. What do you think? Should it be a qualifying paper or should the marks be counted in total in overall Prelims?
I believe that the marks should be counted in total because prelims have become increasingly tougher. We are basing the future of every candidate only on one paper where very good candidates are missing the cutoff by just 0.33 marks. Prelims is becoming more stressful because one silly mistake and you are out for the year.
There will be a perfect balance if CSAT is there as the second paper.First paper can focus on your knowledge and second can focus on your analytical abilities. So there could be a complete judgment of your intelligence.
Author: Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.