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Anu Kumari, attained 2nd Rank in her 2nd attempt in Civil Services Examination, 2017

“Perseverance, multiple revisions, answer writing practice and support of my family are the secrets of my success.”

                                                                                                                                  -Anu Kumari

‘Pratiyogita Darpan’ arranged an exclusive interview with Ms. Anu Kumari who has been selected in Civil Services Examination 2017, conducted by Union Public Service Commission. She deserves high admiration and our heartiest congratulations on her 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.

Ms. Anu—Many thanks.

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

Ms. Anu—2 (But essentially one as I appeared for Pre 2016 with only one and a half month of prep and lost by one mark only)

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

Ms. Anu—I had no time for preparation in first attempt

PD—What was your optional subject ?

Ms. AnuOptional Subject : Sociology.

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

Ms. Anu—Availability of material and guidance, then interest and length of syllabus plus its applicability in GS papers.

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

Ms. Anu—IAS, IPS and IFS in that order (IAS gives maximum opportunities and scope).

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

Ms. Anu—I was not sure of top rank but optimistic that my name will be there on the list. But my family and few friends said that you would be in top 5.

PD—Today, IAS Toppers are icons and lots of media coverage makes them popular. The top rankers are admired by all for their accomplishment and are a source of inspiration and motivation for future aspirants. Before your success, what was your opinion about these toppers?

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

Ms. Anu—I used to think that when toppers say that they could never have imagined of topping (and that they used to have moments of depression and self-worth depreciation), I used to wonder if that’s true. I was earlier particularly impressed with success story of Artika Shukla who topped it in the first attempt.

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

Ms. Anu—Always knew it.

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

Ms. Anu—After 8-9 years of work experience in private sector, I felt a kind of meaninglessness and short of some higher purpose. So, gradually due to a desire to have a more meaningful life and after getting convinced by my brother and Mama ji, I finally decided to leave the job and prepare.

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

Ms. Anu—It was a wish of my brother and maternal uncle.

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

Ms. Anu—I had only two attempts left owing to age factor.

PD—’Time Management’ is a key factor. How did you manage things?

Ms. Anu—I completely cut off from social media, friends and relatives. I focused on studies only (and not daydreaming etc) while I was studying.

I used to have 6-7 hours of sleep and made good use of my meal timings and morning walk timings by watching RSTV programs and listening to AIR (All India Radio) news.

PD—The first step is the most difficult; how to prepare? From where did you get the right advice?

Ms. Anu—I was blank about the CSE, I used the internet a lot to find what books to study.

I was also guided by a friend of mine who is a civil servant from a few years back. I also used to study a lot of toppers’ strategies.

PD—What was your approach towards Preliminary Examination preparation?

Ms. Anu—For GS Paper-I (General Studies).

Extensive study, a static portion from NCERTs, revised them multiple times.

For current affairs, I did not read any newspaper but referred only to online sources and daily MCQ solving. From that, I attempted test series too and revised it multiple times.

For GS Paper II (Aptitude Test)—No preparation, my Maths, and English are good.

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

Ms. Anu—Made a calculated guess and only when I was down to choosing between 2 options and not when I simply did not know anything.

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

Ms. Anu—I had intensive preparation. This time, I prepared notes from current affairs (very short notes for quick revision) in soft copy paper-wise.

Revised multiple times what I had done for Preliminary Exam. Joined test series for optional; practiced writing answers for GS papers by writing 7-8 tests (at home only and then compared them with model answers).

Prepared separate excel for facts like names of committees on various topics, important statistics like fiscal deficit trend, spend on education/ health etc.; names and tasks of various organizations/bodies like OPEC, ASEAN, SAARC, UN etc.

For ethics, collected good quotes by Swami Vivekanand, Gandhi, Einstein etc, made them my laptop and phone wallpapers.

I put syllabus in front of me and ensured that I understood and covered each and every topic, especially the definition of each and every word written there.

For my Optional subject Sociology, I picked Upendra Sir handwritten notes available from the market for paper 1 and also paper 2; Mahapatra Sir handwritten notes available from market for paper 2; Harlambos (big book blue color) for selected topics.

Joined test series at Nice IAS which helped me polish my answers.

Bio-data
Name—Anu Kumari

Father’s Name—Shri Baljit Singh

Mother’s Name—Smt. Santro Devi

Date of Birth—18 November, 1986

Educational Qualifications

10th—2001, CBSE, Shiva Shiksha Sadan, Sonipat, Haryana (88·8%)

12th—2003, CBSE, Shiva Shiksha Sadan, Sonipat, Haryana (91·2%)

B.Sc. (Hons.)—2006, Hindu College, Delhi (77·9%)

M.B.A.—2008, Institute of Management Technology, Nagpur.

PD—Was there any special effort for effective preparation for ESSAY Paper ?

Ms. Anu—Yes, I practiced easily 12-15 essays, learnt a lot of quotes and built essay on temporal scale (ancient, medieval, modern etc.) and also covered multiple dimensions like social, political, economical etc.

While writing, I linked the topics with current affairs. Did not use headings; but, always ensured that the person reading the essay should find it like reading a story and used very simple language.

PD—How did you prepare yourself for Interview (Personality Test) ?

Ms. Anu—I had attempted several mocks at various institutes. I was very calm and smiling throughout the interview. I treated it as if I was talking to the elders in my family.

I think it went on for about 35-40 mins. I felt that my interview went well and I was satisfied with my performance.

  • Some of the questions asked during the interview were :
  •  Why UPSC 12 years after graduation ?
  •  You worked for 8 years in the financial services sector, what was the motivation? What kept you going?
  • About Recent NHPS health insurance scheme
  • Facebook data leak issue
  • Narcotic problem in India today
  • Today’s girls (bahus) don’t want to live in a joint family, do you agree?
  • Are joint families good for women empowerment?
  • You are a sportswoman, what do you think are the corruption related problems in sports bodies in India
  • What are the ground level differences that you have experienced traveling in the metro in Gurgaon and in Delhi—One is a PPP (Public Private Partnership), the other is Govt owned. What are the problems of PPP? Why is India not able to successfully execute them?
  • What is a colonial hangover?- Good or bad?

And many more such questions were asked. I could not answer 3 questions but I calmly managed, smilingly said sorry I do not know it.

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

Ms. Anu—I had already secured AIR 35 in CGL SSC exam.

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

Ms. Anu—The fact that I was living away from my son to achieve this aim only, the fact that I had chucked a lucrative job just to achieve this aim and the fact that I had only 2 attempts and hence could not afford to deviate from my aim. All these factors kept me motivated.

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

Ms. Anu—Well, earlier it could be true, but today with the advancements in technology, I believe people from humble backgrounds, remote locations, rural areas also stand a fair chance of selection. Coaching has been rendered less important due to online lessons available.

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

Ms. Anu—They help in multiple ways like current affairs preparation, essays preparation etc.

Personal Qualities
Favorite Person—Swami Vivekananda and my parents

Strong Point—I don’t cram anything but try to understand it lucidly plus I am an optimist and a focused person

Weak Point—I have a tendency to forget names.

Hobbies—Dancing, painting, and reading

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

Ms. Anu—I had referred to Pratiyogita Darpan for their schemes’ compilation, which helped me quickly revise all schemes in less time.

PD—Did you refer to Pratiyogita Darpan—Panorama Year Book? What is your opinion about the Current Affairs contents, size and the time of publishing ?

Ms. Anu—Yes, I referred to this magazine for their Current affairs compilation.

PD—What is the secret of your success ?

Ms. Anu—Perseverance, multiple revisions, answer writing practice and support of family and guidance by some coaching institutes for Personality Test preparation.

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

Ms. Anu—Family, Almighty and interview related guidance by some coaching institutes like Vaji Ram, Rau’s, Samkalp, KSG, Vajirao and Reddy etc.

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

Ms. Anu—Stay glued to your goal, devise your own strategy and enjoy the journey of preparation.

Please seek help from multiple corners—friends, family, online sources etc. to prevent burnout.

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

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