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Pratham Kaushik, attained 5th Rank in 2nd attempt Civil Services Examination, 2017

“Consistent  hard work in the right direction and ability to learn from failure are the secrets of my success.”

                                                                                                                        -Pratham Kaushik

‘Pratiyogita Darpan’ arranged an exclusive interview with Shri Pratham Kaushik who has been selected in Civil Services Examination 2017. He deserves high admiration and our heartiest congratulations on his outstanding 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 Pratham—Thank you so much.

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

Shri Pratham—2.

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

Shri Pratham—I could not clear prelims in my first attempt. It gave me enough time to prepare again with a better strategy. Learning from the failure in previous attempt and moving forward with same confidence and enthusiasm helped me secure a good rank in this attempt.

PD—What was your optional subject ?

Shri PrathamOptional Subject : Geography.

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

Shri Pratham—At least some interest in the subject so that you can study it for long hours at a stretch, availability of resources and guidance should be the major factors. Marking pattern of UPSC, optional subject of toppers etc should not be the criteria for choosing the optional.

PD—Give the basis of selecting the optional subject.

Shri Pratham—I had an interest in geography and used to read basic geography books in my college time. Opting for it was a confident decision which I made undeterred from the general perception against geography.

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

Shri Pratham—IAS was my first preference as it provides ample opportunity and diversity of work while staying connected to the people.

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

Shri Pratham—I was hoping to make it this time but the rank came as a pleasant surprise. I felt extremely happy and satisfied.

PD—Today, IAS Toppers are icons and lots of media coverage makes them popular. Any particular success story which influenced your journey to this result ?

Shri Pratham—I thought that toppers were people from another planet!! But now I feel that they are normal people who keep on working hard and moving forward without giving up. I was inspired by the success and down to earth nature of Shah Faesal Sir and Gaurav Agarwal Sir.

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

Shri Pratham—A Deputy Commissioner of my district changed the face of the town in his short tenure while. I was in school at that time. Constantly hearing positive things about him made me realize the importance of civil services.

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

Shri Pratham—I made the decision during my college years.

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

Shri Pratham—It was a well thought of decision which had the support and motivation from my parents.

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

Shri Pratham—I wanted to make it as early as I could, but I was also mentally prepared not to give up.

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

Shri Pratham—I devoted adequate time to my optional subject, and tried to manage the time devoted to all the other papers based on their importance and my preparation levels. I managed to study for long hours and reduced wasting time by staying away from family functions, social media, and had only a few friends who kept on motivating me. I made a lot of time tables and tried to follow them as much as I could. If I was unable to do that, I would make another plan, but kept on studying.

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

Shri Pratham—The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The first step was to be well aware of what I was getting into. For this, I read about strategies of various toppers, analysed them and made my own strategy. I also looked for essential books and relevant study material and then shortlisted the sources which I had to cover. I divided the syllabus into small sections and prepared the syllabus sectionwise so as not to be burdened by its enormity. Advice from teachers and seniors also helped me streamline my preparation.

Name—Pratham Kaushik

Father’s Name—Shri Narendra Kaushik

Mother’s Name—Mrs. Raj Bala

Date of Birth—28 September, 1993

Educational Qualifications

10th—2008, CBSE, Yaduvanshi Shiksha Niketan, Mahendragarh                    (94·33%)

12th—2010, CBSE, Yaduvanshi Shiksha Niketan, Mahendragarh                      (87·50%)

B.E.—2011-15 Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh (7·42/10)

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 divid for each ?

Shri Pratham—For GS Paper I (General Studies). I read the basic books for every subject, focused on the current affairs and solved a lot of test papers. I analysed my performance in the tests and tried to find my weak areas. I also made crisp short notes for often repeated topics in the papers.

For GS Paper II (Aptitude Test). I have an engineering background and I was good in both Mathematics and English. Thus I did not require specific preparation for CSAT.

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

Shri Pratham—I focused more on GS paper 1 as merit was decided by score in this paper only.

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

Shri Pratham—I adopted intelligent guessing approach for the questions which I did not know and attempted the questions in which I could eliminate at least one option.

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

Shri Pratham—After being exhausted by prelims preparation, I took a week’s break after the prelims and then started mains preparation with full energy. I focused on content building for the topics in which I was not strong. For other topics I tried to enrich my answers by practice. I tried to frame answers for previous year’s questions. After 3 months of preparation after prelims, I focused only on revision and revised the syllabus multiple times.

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

Shri Pratham—I framed the essays from previous year’s question papers, and tried brainstorming relevant points for many topics which were in news.

Topic I. Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms.

Topic II. Fulfillment of New Woman in India is a Myth.

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

Shri Pratham—I prepared my Detailed Application Form in great depth. I made notes for topics relevant to my birth place, home state, and subject of graduation and hobbies and interests. I also attended a few mock interviews. I also referred to multiple newspapers for covering current affairs.

My interview was on the first day of interviews (19 February, 2018) and the board was chaired by Sujata Mehta Ma’am. It went fairly well and lasted for half an hour. I was asked questions on my optional subject geography and its linkages with culture, industrial scenario in India, agricultural income and Minimum Support Price for farmers, nano-technology and how can we make India a developed country.

Personal Qualities
Favourite person—Roger Federer

Strong Point—Never give up attitude

Weak Point—Getting overanxious

Hobbies—Hindi poetry, playing badminton

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

Shri Pratham—I was wholly focused on civil services exam preparation.

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

Shri Pratham—Civil services exclusively provide the combination of opportunity, responsibility and authority to work in diverse spheres of public importance.

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 Pratham—It is never too late if you want to enter the civil services, although if you begin early, you’ll be more energetic. Last year of college or right after the college is a good time to start. It requires a preparation of nearly 1.5 years for the full coverage of syllabus.

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

Shri Pratham—The general notions are merely based on perception and not data driven. The candidates recommended by the UPSC come from all backgrounds. Also, the highest scores in almost all subjects are comparable barring a few exceptions.

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

Shri Pratham—One should answer in a medium which is best suited to express oneself. Earlier there was a resource crunch for Hindi medium students, but this is not the case presently.

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

Shri Pratham—Family is a big support in this long preparation, but there are many successful candidates who have overcome the challenges faced by them and their families. Students from uneducated families can look for guidance on the internet and support from friends. Financial challenges can be met by joining a job. The status of one’s family can sometimes put additional pressure on the candidates but that cannot stop one from achieving one’s targets.

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

Shri Pratham—The competition magazines provide the content in an ordered and concise manner. They cover both the static and current subject matter in a way that is relevant for the competitive exams. They also motivate you by their editorials and success stories.

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

Shri Pratham—I read the success stories in Pratiyogita Darpan in my school days when it was published in Hindi medium only. Later, I referred to the English version of PD in my initial days of preparation. It comprehensively covers the issues in news and keeps one updated on current affairs.

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

Shri Pratham—The extra issues will help in covering the specific topics of syllabus for GS as well as optional. The optional issue can be used as a good quick revision source.

PD—Have you seen our new product Upkar’s India 2018 ? If yes; your views about it.

Shri Pratham—India 2018 gives a complete picture of various issues and events related to India. It also covers the trivial details related to India.

PD—What is the secret of your success ?

Shri Pratham—The never give up attitude, the ability to learn from failure and consistent hard work in the right direction has helped me achieve this success.

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

Shri Pratham—I was lucky to have supporting parents, my younger sister, my friends and companions in preparation who constantly guided and motivated me, and all the well wishers.

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

Shri Pratham—Stay motivated from within, never give up and fight like a warrior. The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.

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

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