Ms. Kanchan on securing All India Rank of 35 in UPSC, 2019

Ms. Kanchan is a 2018 graduate from National Law University Delhi. She has secured an All India Rank of 35 in Civil Services Examination 2019. She has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Nitya Bansal, who is currently pursuing law from NLUD. 

  1. Hello, Congratulations on securing 35 AIR rank in Civil Services Examination, 2019. Please tell us why did you choose to go for UPSC Examinations? Was this something you decided while you were in law school, or something you had already decided beforehand?

Thank you! Going for UPSC and becoming an IAS officer has been my childhood dream. I was sure of doing this even before I got into law school. While studying law, I did try my hand at a few other things, but ultimately, I knew that this is the right fit for me.

This was my second attempt. My first attempt was in 2018, when I had graduated from my University. At that time, I got into the All Indian Railway Services.

2. Did you take up that job in All Indian Railway Services, or you decided to start afresh for a higher rank?

Yes, I did take up the job. I got the appointment letter for All India Railway Services in December 2019. However, they offer a special leave for one year. I took this leave to prepare and give the examinations a second time.

3. When did you start your preparation? What do you think is the ideal time for preparation?

For my first attempt, I started preparing in my final year. I personally felt that I had started a bit late, and maybe I could have started preparing earlier. However, doing so was also a little difficult because one has to manage academics along as well. I feel that a person has to give at least one year for preparation, if not more.

4. Did you take any coaching for preparation?

I focussed on self-studying. Though I had joined a coaching once but at that time, I had not started preparing, and I was only able to attend it for 2-3 months as it clashed with my university schedule. So, in reality, when I actually started preparing, I was as clueless as other people! So, I mainly relied on self-studying, taking help of test series and mocks. I also took help of materials generally available online.

5. How did you prepare: your study pattern and general routine?

The first thing I did was to look at interviews of toppers from the previous years to learn from their experience. I did not go for a compartmentalised pattern of studying, rather I preferred an integrated one. I did not make a fixed time-table which only allowed me to take breaks at a certain time or study continuously for a certain number of hours. Instead, I made a broad timeline and decided that in how many days I want to finish a certain topic. I sort of went with the flow as well: a lot of time is spent in reading newspapers every day and practising mock tests. So, whenever I felt like doing a mock test, I would do that; whenever I felt like reading something, I would sit and finish a topic. I just aimed to be broadly on track.

I would also like to point out here to UPSC aspirants that it is okay if you fall behind on a few deadlines you have set for yourself. I myself did so quite a few times. Missing a deadline by a couple days does not mean that it is the end of the world, and it is important to remain kind to oneself while preparing for such an examination.

I am personally not someone who prepares a lot of notes and I prefer reading directly from the book. However, I would also like to add here that though it is a personal preference to make notes or not, my general advice would be to not make very extensive notes. Whatever notes you make, they should be manageable and readable enough for a last-minute preparation, and they should be made in a way to help you revise the syllabus.

6. Please guide our readers with the some of the useful resources for preparation?

Of course, gladly. So, for current affairs, I read newspapers daily- primarily Hindu, and if I got the time, the “Opinions” page of the Indian Express. Otherwise, for general preparations, I started with the NCERTs to prepare my base. For Economics especially, questions are generally related to current affairs, and NCERTs help you to understand the basic concepts. I supplemented this with the standard textbooks available for different subjects, such as Laxmikanth for Polity etc. As far as online resources are concerned, I used to refer to general current affairs websites, and to YouTube videos for clarification of certain concepts. Monthly magazines also proved to be helpful.

7. How did you prepare for your interview? Do you have any general tips for law students to approach their interview?

For my interview, I completed my DAF (Detailed Application Form), and it is very detailed- it asks about your educational background, your schooling, achievements etc., and my general advice for all aspirants would be that you should be thorough about whatever you have filled in the DAF. This is for the personal interview part. For the current affairs part, it is important to be aware of various current issues, and develop your balanced opinion on those issues from the perspective of someone who will be handling these issues in the future.

For law students, I would suggest that generally as law students, we tend to get tangled in the legal aspect and legalese of an issue. However, it is important to keep a general view on the issue, as to how it would affect the society at large, and its political and socio-economic terms. Therefore, it becomes important to look at the other aspects of an issue as well.

8. Do you think UPSC examinations are  favourable to the ruling Government? 

This is not exactly true, and if you need to criticize the government, you can. But the criticism has to be reasonable and constructive. You cannot criticize it in a way that we often tend to do while sitting with our family or friends, or the way it is presented in media articles. The criticism has to be presented as an issue that you a bureaucrat tomorrow have to solve. For example, the issue of under-nourishment of children still persists, and this has been the failure of the nation as a collective. You cannot deny this issue, and you cannot attribute it to a single party or a single government. So, it is your job to provide a balanced opinion on this issue. You can criticize a certain Bill or piece of legislation, maybe by relying on the recommendations of any particular committee set up for that purpose, and use those for giving substance to your opinion. But do not give unfounded and unreasonable criticism.

9. Giving UPSC examinations is a tough and gruelling process, spanning almost over an entire year. How did you keep yourself motivated during these two years?

It is definitely an extremely long process, but my childhood desire to be an IAS officer always motivated me. Of course, I had my low moments, but then I would imagine myself as an IAS officer, and how much joy and self-fulfilment that would bring me. Apart from that, my biggest motivation were definitely my parents. Whenever I used to feel low, I would look at them and think to myself that they are putting in so much hard work as well, the least I can do is give an extra push and achieve this dream. Talking to my friends was also always extremely helpful. My parents and friends were definitely my biggest motivators. It is important to remember your purpose, and why you chose to go down this path in the first place, to keep yourself motivated.

10. What would be your message for UPSC aspirants?

My message would be that do not feel that you are less than the other candidates. You should not feel that you are at a disadvantage only because you have taken a particular subject, or you would have been in a better position had you done something differently in the past. Irrespective of these factors, all candidates are at an equal footing. What matters is how much effort you put in. Hard work is supreme, and there is no substitute for it. You need to have a good strategy, and work towards implementing the same.

However, at the same time balance is required. This is a long journey which requires immense patience. You should not over-exert yourself at any stage. It is important to remain calm and persevere, and get your strength and motivation from your family and well-wishers. Hard-work does not mean studying for the entire day, it is equally important to take breaks and take care of yourself and your health.

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