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Zaffar Iqbal, attained 39th Rank in 4th attempt Civil Services Examination, 2016

“Dedication, hard work and time management are the secrets are my success”

                                                                                                                                -Zaffar Iqbal

‘Pratiyogita Darpan’ arranged an exclusive interview with Shri Zaffar Iqbal who has been selected in Civil Services Examination 2016, conducted by Union Public Service Commission. He deserves high admiration and our heartiest congratulations on his splendid success. This important, thought-provoking and highly inspiring interview is being presented here in its original form.

PD—Achieving top slot in the coveted Civil Service Examination is no small feat; accept our heartiest congratulations on your splendid success.

Shri Zaffar—Thank you very much.

PD—In how many attempts have you achieved this success ?

Shri Zaffar—It was my 4th attempt.

PD—You achieved the desired success in this attempt; how do you visualize your previous attempts ?

Shri Zaffar—In my previous attempts I was not clear about the strategy required for different stages of this examination.

        This time I focused on proper revision of conventional as well as current affairs during preliminary and mains. Before personality test, I attended mock interviews and did discussion on various issues with my friends. That helped me to present myself better and improved my confidence. So working on your weaknesses is the key and be confident about your strengths.

PD—What was your optional subject ?

Shri Zaffar—Anthropology.

PD—While making final choice for optional subject, what’s important and what’s not ?

Shri Zaffar—An optional subject has to be very interesting to candidate.

PD—Give the basis of selecting the optional subject ?

Shri Zaffar—Your interest in the subject and availability of guidance related to that subject.

PD—What preference in services have you opted for and any particular reason for that priority ?

Shri Zaffar—IAS, IFS, IPS. It was based on my liking and passion towards these services. All civil services are crucial in their own ways for successful administration of our country. But IAS provides the widest scope of work and make direct impact in socio economic tranformation of the society. Hence my first choice.

PD—‘Success is sweet’—were you confident of your success with top ranks and how did you react to this news ?

Shri Zaffar—I was more confident in this attempt. But frankly speaking I was not remotely sure of this rank. On result I was very happy and pleasantly surprised by my rank. I thank God that I finally made it to the list with such a rank.

PD—Today, IAS Toppers are icons and lots of media coverage makes them popular. Before your success, what was your opinion about these toppers ?

Any particular success story which influenced your journey to this result ?

Shri Zaffar—Yes, toppers of previous years have been a source of motivation for me. I read about their strategy and reflected upon my preparation.In particular Dr. Shah Faesal and Dr. Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, both toppers from J&K have been a source of inspiration for me.

PD—Can you recall the exact moment when you realized the importance of Civil Services ?

Shri Zaffar—I don’t recall the exact moment, but I realised the importance of civil services during my school time.

PD—Finally, at what point of time did you make up your mind to make career in ‘Civil Services’ ?

Shri Zaffar—During school time I had a liking to become a civil servant. But at that time, I didn’t have awareness about this examination. It was only during third year in college when I made my mind to prepare seriously for civil services examination.

PD—Was CSE your planned decision or your parents’ wish ?

Shri Zaffar—It was a planned decision. First I made up my mind. Then my parents gave me full support, both financial and moral.

PD—Did you keep in mind some time-frame for the examination preparation and number of attempts ?

Shri Zaffar—Basically every attempt is considered as the last attempt. But I committed some mistakes in previous attempts so it took time to correct that and implement next time. Once you are in this process you have to think that next attempt has to be your best and hence the final attempt.

Name—Zaffar Iqbal

Father’s Name—Shri Mohd. Iqbal

Mother’s Name—Smt. Zatoon Begum

10th—2006, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Surankote, Poonch (89·2%)

12th—2008, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Surankote, Poonch (87·4%)

B.Tech—2008-12, NIT Hamirpur, H.P. (85·5%)

PD—‘Time Management’ is a key factor while making preparations as well as in writing examination papers, be it Prelims or Main Examination. How did you manage things?

Shri Zaffar—During preparation, I made a time table to cover syllabus in time alongwith revision and mock tests. During examinations I used stopwatch to ensure to complete the paper in time. Divide available time per question and stick to allocated time while attempting questions. If not possible for every question, compensate for a group of 3-4 questions. Leaving a known question unattempted in exam is a disaster and a source of guilt. So time management is very important.

PD—The first step is the most difficult; how to prepare ? Which optional subjects to pickup ? What to read ? How much to read ? Many such questions come to your mind when you really get serious about Civil Services Examination ? From where did you get the right advice ?

Shri Zaffar—I got the advice from teachers at coaching institutes I joined and also from my seniors and already selected candidates through online blogs. I discussed the required strategy with my friends also. So overall there were multiple sources.

PD—What was your approach towards Paper I (General Studies) and Paper II (Aptitude Test) during Preliminary Examination preparation ? How long time and how much effort did you divide for each ?

Shri Zaffar—For GS Paper I (General Studies) my approach was to cover basic books regarding polity, geography, history, environment, culture, science and technology and current affairs through newspapers starting from month of last year preliminary examination. In addition, I gave mock tests for practice and checking the level of my preparation and areas for improvements. While solving paper, my strategy was to attempt maximum No. of questions even by using intelligent guess. We should not attempt a question about which we have no idea. But we should not spare a question which we can attempt by using intelligent guessing. This paper requires a dedicated preparation of atleast two months just before the preliminary examination.

        For GS Paper II (Aptitude Test). Solve previous years’ question papers . Identify the types of questions asked and practice them. Don’t take qualifying papers lightly, they can spoil your one whole year.

PD—Was there any change in plan for General Studies Paper II (Aptitude Test) being qualifying in Preliminary Examination ?

        It has become qualifying so no need to practice for a long time. Yet it can’t be taken lightly. Strategy was to practice few previous year questions.

Personal Qualities
Favourite PersonDr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Hobbies—Watching movies, Foot-ball, Jogging, Reading.

PD—How did you manage to tackle the ‘Negative Marking’ in Prelims ?

Shri Zaffar—Only those questions which we know and which we can intelligently guess should be attempted. We can leave those questions about which we have no idea. But we need not be afraid of negative marking so much that we attempt less number of questions and be already out of race.

PD—What technique did you adopt in your strategy for Main Examination (Written) ?

Shri Zaffar—Complete the paper in time, leave only at most one or two questions about which you have no idea,focus on content, write legibly, answer must have an interesting introduction, content filled body and futuristic and optimistic conclusion. Always read question carefully, write answer precisely to satisfy demand of question. Sometimes question demands balanced opinion, justification and illustration. Pay heed to these demands. Give examples and data to substantiate your arguments. It fetches more marks.

PD—Was there any special effort for effective preparation for Essay Paper ? Which topic did you pick up this time and why did you choose this particular topic ?

Shri Zaffar—Yes, I practiced essay writing. The more you write, the more refined become your essay writing skills.You can choose a random topic and write an essay about it. Get your essay checked by a teacher or a learned friend or even yourself after three four days. Point out mistakes and improve upon them. Hall mark of a good essay is clarity of expression, good flow, easy language, interestingly narrative, attractive introduction, content filled body, balanced view, futuristic and balanced conclusion including meaningful suggestions if required. Essay is the reflection of your personality, so give a personal touch. It has to be your original thinking. You should choose those topics which are familiar and you have already reflected upon them and have very meaningful arguments. It is necessary that we understand the topic clearly and address the demand of the essay topic.

I chose—

Topic I : If development is not engendered, it is endangered.

Topic II : Cyberspace and Internet : Blessing or curse to the human civilization in the long run ?

PD—How did you prepare yourself for Interview (Personality Test) ? When and which Board did you face? How did your interview go on, how long did it last and what were the questions asked during the Interview ?

Shri Zaffar—Interview preparation revolves around your Detailed Application Form (DAF) which is filled before mains exam. You have to prepare about your biodata and all possible questions linked to it especially if something is in news at that time. I took up mock interviews, discussed with my friends about possible improvements. I practiced fluency in language through participation in group discussions. We need to work on feed back from mock interview Boards, teachers and friends. My interview Board was that of Smt. Sujata Mehta. It was very cordial. It lasted for about 30 minutes. Questions were mostly opinion based. These were related to my optional subject, application of some concepts of anthropology, use of anthropology in administration, development and tribal rights, tribal issues and their solution, questions related to civil engineering (my background) about famous hockey players, Zaffar Iqbal (my name), reasons for decline of Indian hockey, how to improve, need to change the curriculum of civil engineering, about football (my hobby), rise of Donald Trump and changing world order, protectionism, automation and loss of jobs, protectionism and make in India. etc.

PD—Were you preparing for other career opportunities as well while preparing for your ultimate goal i.e., Career in Civil Services ?

Shri Zaffar—Yes, I prepared for engineering based examinations. I had already joined as Assistant Engineer in state PWD.

PD—While the changing economic environment offers immense lucrative career opportunities in various sectors, still what kept you motivated towards Civil Services ?

Shri Zaffar—I agree that now there are many career opportunities available. Work done honestly and profesionally in any field contributes to nation building. But the scope of work, prestige, respect and blessings from society which a civil servant gets are unmatchable. Civil services provide a large platform to contribute directly to the welfare and progress of your country. This public service orientation kept me motivated towards civil services.

PD—In your opinion at which educational level should one start preparing for Civil Services and what should be the minimum period of time required to prepare for Civil Services Examinations ?

Shri Zaffar—I think if you have civil service as your target right from school days it helps. But mostly people decide at college level. Civil service exams is cleared by many candidates in first attempt also. It requires a dedicated preparation of atleast one year.

PD—What is your opinion regarding the general view that Science subjects have better chance to score than Humanities ?

Shri Zaffar—I think a subject well prepared, practiced and deeply analysed becomes automatically scoring, be it a humanities or a science subject.

Shri Zaffar—What is the importance of medium of examination for exams like CSE ?

Shri Zaffar—You can give this exam in the medium you are comfortable with. The only and big challenge during preparation is the quality of subject material available in various media. But finally what matters the most is the content and the way you present your arguments rather than your medium of examination. So take the comfortable medium and prepare well and perform well.

PD—Does the educational, financial and demographic status of the family of an aspirant have any impact on the preparation?

Shri Zaffar—In the final list people from all backgrounds are there. But there is no denying the fact that people from relatively poor educational or financial backgrounds have to struggle more and take higher risks for attempting this examination.

PD—In your opinion what role do the Competition Magazines play when you are preparing for an examination like Civil Services ?

Shri Zaffar—These magazines carry the stories of successful candidates and their strategies regarding this exam. It helps to motivate you and guide you.

PD—How do you find Pratiyogita Darpan? Do you find it close to your expectations ?

Shri Zaffar—Yes, I used to read stories of successful candidates in this magazine from my school days. It helped me in motivation and guidance towards civil services.

PD—Please give your comments on the PD Extra Issues Series on ‘General Studies’ and a few Optional Subjects ?

Shri Zaffar—Extra issue on Economics is brilliant.

PD—What is the secret of your success ?

Shri Zaffar—Knowing the syllabus and demands of examination well, support from my parents, teachers and friends. (they kept me motivated during difficult times.), dedication, hardwork and time management are few key ingredients.

PD—To whom would you like to give the credit for your success ?

Shri Zaffar—To the Almighty, my parents, teachers and friends.

PD—Any suggestion/advice you would like to give to the future aspirants.

Shri Zaffar—When you have decided to prepare for civil services exam, you have to be dedicated, focussed and give undivided attention to this exam. It is necessary but not sufficient to dream big to achieve great goals. It is the hardwork done to realise your dream that matters the most. Always remember this is a big goal, so it can take time. But never lose hope and confidence in your abilities. Improve upon your mistakes and don’t commit new ones. Have a fair assessment of your preparation. Be honest with yourselves. Most important requirement after all this, is perseverance.

PD—Thank You very much and wishing you all the best for your future endeavours.

Shri Zaffar—Thank you.

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