“Self Confidence, Perseverance, hard work and outstanding guidance are the secrets of my success”
‘Pratiyogita Darpan’ arranged an exclusive interview with Shri Akshay Gopal, who is selected in Civil Services Examination 2015, conducted by Union Public Service Commission. He deserves high appreciation and our heartiest congratula-tions 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 Services Examination is no small feat; accept our heartiest congratulations on your splendid success.
Shri Akshay—Thank you very much for the good wishes.
PD—What preference in services have you opted for and any particular reason for that priority ?
Shri Akshay—My preferences in decreasing order are as follows: IAS, IFS, IAAS, IRS (IT), IRS (CE), IRTS, etc. Apart from the general trend and attraction of the services such as IAS and IFS, the factors that influenced me in choosing my preferences were work profile, organisational structure and promotion opportunities.
PD—‘Success is sweet’ were you confident of your success with top ranks and how did you react to this news ?
Shri Akshay—Frankly, I had some doubts regarding the degree of success in the examination because I felt I had not performed upto my potential in a couple of papers. Hence the first emotion was definitely of immense relief. However, as the news sank in, I felt very happy and satisfied.
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 Akshay—I have always held them in high regard and have been inspired by their sincerity, commitment, and hard work. Having said that, I would also agree that I tried to learn from their experiences so that my preparations not only involved hard work, but smart work as well.
PD—Can you recall the exact moment when you realized the importance of Civil Services ?
Shri Akshay—I am not sure, but I think it was when I interacted with a senior civil servant during my job in an NGO, It made me realise the potential for impact that a civil servant had.
PD—Finally, at what point of time did you make up your mind to make career in ‘Civil Services’ ?
Shri Akshay—It was when a friend of mine suggested that we could seriously think about attempting the examination, I was already employed at that time in a multinational company.
PD—Was CSE a planned decision or your parents’ wish ?
Shri Akshay—A planned decision.
Father’s Name—Shri D.N. Gopal
Mother’s Name—Mrs. Kiran Gopal
Date of Birth—Sept. 9, 1984
10th—2000, CBSE, AFGJI (85·2%)
12th—2002, CBSE, AFGJI (81·2%)
B.Tech—2003-08, IIT Delhi, (7·87/10)
M. Tech—IIT Delhi, (8·4/10)
PD—Did you keep in mind some time-frame for the examination preparation and number of attempts ?
Shri Akshay—I started out with giving myself with only one attempt, There were many decisions that had to be made smartly. I realised that some of my decisions were not appropriate and hence I decided to give myself another chance.
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 Akshay—I tried to work as per a fixed time table that was made in consultation with my teachers. Of course, these plans needed frequent amendments, but the idea is to adhere to them as much as possible. It helps to not only cover the whole syllabus in time and with requisite number of revisions, but also helps to remain calm and in control of the situation by eliminating uncertainties to a large extent.
PD—While making final choice for optional subject, what’s important and what’s not ?
Shri Akshay—Important—a person’s ease with the subject, an able guide, easy availability of good quality and relevant material.
PD—What was your optional subject ?
Shri Akshay—Optional Subject : Law.
PD—Give the basis of selecting the optional subject ?
1. Most important was my confidence in my teacher Kumar Sir, his command over the subject, his methodology of teaching and his approach towards the students irrespective of the fact that they were from non-law background.
2. Being from engineering background, it helped that law as a field is very scientific and logical in approach.
3. The spread of the course is also less compared to many other optional subjects.
PD—In how many attempts have you achieved this success?
Shri Akshay—Three attempts.
PD—You achieved the desired success in this attempt; how do you visualize your previous attempts ?
Shri Akshay—As stepping stones to success. I consider each of them as very important because they contributed towards my understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. Finally, through the experience of previous attempts, I was able to rectify my mistakes and build upon my strengths.
PD—The first step is the most difficult. From where, did you get the right advice ?
Shri Akshay—The important advice was provided by my teacher Karamjeet Singh Gill from Nirvana IAS Academy.
PD—What was your approach towards Paper I (General Studies) during Preliminary Examination preparation ?
Shri Akshay—For most part, I did not specifically prepare for Prelims Paper I. I tried to cover it through my preparations for mains. For the final practice, I relied on mock test papers that were conducted by the coaching centre.
PD—Was there any change in plan for General Studies Paper II (Aptitude Test) being qualifying in Preliminary Examination ?
Shri Akshay—Thankfully, I am reasonably ok in the portions that are tested in Paper II. Hence, with the change, I was able to focus whole heartedly on the topics that are tested in Paper I.
PD—How did you manage to tackle the ‘Negative Marking’ in Prelims ?
Shri Akshay—Self-confidence is very important. Relying on my hard work during preparations, I tried to attempt as many questions as possible, knowing that there would be high probability of my smart guesses being correct. In the end I was able to attempt 97 questions out 100 in Paper I.
PD—What shift did you adopt in your strategy for Main Examination (Written) ?
Shri Akshay—Since, prelims preparation was also done in the mains mode, there wasn’t a marked shifted in preparations post-prelims. However, I spent more time on analysis of certain important topics, the optional subjects, essay, and finally on writing practice by attempting mock papers.
PD—Was there any special effort for effective preparation for Essay Paper ? Which topics did you pick up this time and why did you choose these particular topics ?
Shri Akshay—The only special effort that I made for essay was to devote time to it. This involved practicing by writing essays on diverse topics, getting them peer reviewed, and analysing the shortcomings so that they could be improved upon. I don’t remember exactly, but in the first section, I wrote on the topic related to leadership and its influence on the organization. In the second section, I wrote on the topic related to India’s dreams. The strategy that I followed in choosing the topics was quite simple. First, eliminate the topics that one thinks are controversial or vague, then from the remaining, choose the one that one thinks one can find enough arguments, dimensions, and facts to make the write up wholesome.
PD—How did you prepare yourself for Interview (Personality Test) ? When and which Board did you face ? How did your interview go on, how much time did it last and what were the questions asked during the Interview ?
Shri Akshay—Preparations were very simple. I revised my optional subjects, stayed adept with the current happenings, made model answers to questions that were expected from my DAF. Finally, practiced through some mock interviews under the guidance of my teachers.
|Favourite Person—Sachin Tendulkar
Strong Point—Adaptability, public relations, staying calm.
Weak Point—Public speaking, difficulty in saying no.
Hobbies—Reading non-fiction playing cricket, swimming, listening to contemporary music.
PD—Were you preparing for other career opportunities as well while preparing for your ultimate goal i.e., Career in Civil Services ?
PD—While the changing economic environment offers immense lucrative career opportunities in various sectors, still what kept you motivated towards Civil Services ?
Shri Akshay—I spent approximately 5 years in the private sector where I had the opportunity to enjoy and experience all the challenges, perks and flexibility. However, what motivated me the most for civil services was the potential for direct impact that my work could have in improving the lives of people as well as contributing towards the development of the country.
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 Akshay—The first and most important aspect of the examination preparation is mental commitment. This, I think can be achieved at any age but generally, students and applicants tend to get an understanding of their ambitions and goals during the final years of graduation. In my opinion, 16 months are enough to prepare for both prelims and mains.
PD—What is your opinion regarding the general view that Science subjects have better chance to score than Humanities ?
Shri Akshay—I don’t think it is true. History of the examination shows that it is more about one’s command over the subject rather than the type of subject which determines how much can be scored in that subject. The important factors that must influence one’s decision regarding optional subject are interest in the subject, an able guide/teacher, availability of good quality and relevant material.
PD—What is the importance of medium of examination for exams like CSE ?
Shri Akshay—Proficiency in the medium plays a very important role because it gives opportunity to express ourselves with clarity, precision, and accuracy in the minimum possible words and time.
PD—Does the educational, financial and demographic status of the family of an aspirant have any impact on the preparation ?
Shri Akshay—I think all three factors mentioned have an effect on the preparation. Having educationally qualified family members helps in making decisions as well as experience sharing. Financial stability helps in maintaining focused and sustained approach towards the preparation. However, these factors can never be considered as limitations to one’s attempt at succeeding in any endeavour of life including civil services examination.
PD—In your opinion what role do the Competition Magazines play when you are preparing for an examination like Civil Services ?
Shri Akshay—I think the aspirants must be very careful in choosing the materials that they refer to for preparations. It is true that the examination’s focus has shifted more towards contemporary developments and their analysis for which broad understanding is required on a number of topics and issues. Competition magazines can assist in covering these issues but the aspirants must guard themselves from information over-kill.
PD—What is the secret of your success ?
Shri Akshay—I don’t think there is any secret to it. Listening to the advice of your teachers, having self-confidence and perseverance did the trick for me.
PD—To whom would you like to give the credit for your success ?
Shri Akshay—The credit goes to Nirvana family, especially Karam sir. To my parents, who have always supported.
PD—Any suggestion/advice you would like to give to the future aspirants.
Shri Akshay—Have supreme confidence in yourself. Try to make learning as fun as much as possible and spend time in training yourself to be calm and composed during examination and in life.
PD—Thank You very much and wishing you all the best for your future endeavours.
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