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Shri Kumar Harsh, attained 43rd Rank in his 1st attempt in Civil Services Examination, 2015

“A great part of courage is the courage of

having done the thing before”


Shri Kumar Harsh, who attained 43rd Rank in his 1st attempt in Civil Services Examination, 2015; in an important, exclusive, thought-provoking and highly inspiring interview; attributes determination and immersing himself in preparation to the secrets of his success. Extracts of the interview:

On preference in services opted for and reasons for the priority:

IAS, IPS, IFS. Although, all the services affect the development of the country equally, yet some services like IAS and IPS have a direct impact on improving the quality of life of the people. These services have an everyday interface with the common man.

On ‘Success is Sweet” & reacting to the news of the Top Rank:

I was not at all confident about my success. My first reaction was being numb. I couldn’t realise what had happened suddenly.

On IAS toppers being icons, media coverage to toppers, your opinion about those toppers before your success and any particular success story which influenced journey to this result:

There were many toppers like Gaurav Aggarwal, O. P. Chaudhry, Anunya Jha, Nitin Singhnia whose blogs and videos were a constant help and inspiration to me. In the absence of coaching, the path shown by these toppers helped me immensely.

On exact moment of realizing importance of ‘Civil Services’:

It is difficult to point out one such moment. Rather I’d say that it was a development of my thoughts and mental personality which made me realise its importance.

On the point of time of making up mind to make career in ‘Civil Services’:

When I entered the final year of the B.Tech Degree programme, I decided not to go for placements and pursue Civil Services on a full time basis.

On CSE being a planned decision or parents’ wish: 

It was a planned decision and my parents were very supportive of it.

On time-frame for the examination preparations and number of attempts:

I thought 1 year is enough for preparation and I’d have given at least 4 attempts.

On ‘Time Management’ being a key factor in preparations & writing Prelims or the Mains:

For Prelims, time management while writing the paper is not much of an issue. For Mains, it matters a lot. For each question, one gets approximately 9 minutes. So, each day I practiced 6-7 questions and set a time frame of 8 minutes for completing it. If in the actual exam, the time for a question exceeded from 10-11 minutes, I left that question then and there. The preparation phase requires time management for studying all subjects properly. One should know one’s strong points and focus on them more.

On choice of Optional Subjects:

Only one thing is important and that’s interest. What’s not important is all the myth around the market about such and such optional doing well or not well.

On choice & basis of selecting optional subject:

Optional Subject: Philosophy.

I have always been reading literature. So in the sojourn, I came across what’s called philosophical fiction. So, I always wanted to read philosophy as a separate discipline and CSE provided the opportunity.

On the first step being the most difficult to prepare & getting the right advice:

I referred to websites for a lot of IAS toppers’ interviews. I read virtually all of them to zero in on the correct sources and the correct methodology.

On approach towards Paper I (General Studies) during Preliminary Examination preparation:

My approach was that I had to attempt 75-80 questions because 10-12 always turn out to be wrong and I had a target of at least 110+. I completely left some topics like SCi Tech and focussed intensively on Art and Culture and Environment.


Name: Kumar Harsh

Father’s Name: Shri Sanjay Kumar Jha

Mother’s Name: Smt. Poonam Jha

Date of Birth: August 3, 1993

Educational Qualifications:

10th: 2009, CBSE, St. George’s School, Alaknanda (92%)

12th: 2011, CBSE, St. George’s School, Alaknanda (93·8%)

B. Tech (Mechanical): 2011-15, Delhi Technological University (Formerly Delhi College of Engineering) (75·56%).

On any change in plan for General Studies & Paper II (Aptitude Test) being qualifying in Prelims:

Didn’t prepare much for it

On tackling ‘Negative Marking’ in Prelims:

I tried to make only intelligent guesses where I was 70-80% sure. Elimination helped a lot.

On adopting a shift in strategy for Main Examination (Written):

I read less material and wrote more and more. It doesn’t matter how much we read for Mains. The paper is designed in such a manner that if one is not in the practices of writing fast and with brevity, one will always miss some questions. I had made 8-10 general points for each broad topic which are of great help in starting an answer.

On special effort for effective preparation for ESSAY Paper & on pick up of topics:

No particular preparation. I wrote 4 essays before the exam. In essay there is no design. One can start from anywhere but it is important to cover all the dimensions. I chose the charcater of an institution is reflected in its leader and can capitalism lead to inclusive growth.

On preparation for Interview, the Personality Test:

I prepared my profile and did the current affairs exhaustively. I had my interview on 18th March and my Board was of Prof. David Syiemlieh. The interview was largely smooth and the atmosphere was cordial. The interview lasted for 20-15 minutes. Questions ranged from SAARC, Indian Diaspora, labour laws, small hydel projects, MFN status not being given to India by Pakistan. Few questions were also asked from Philosophy and mechanical engineering.

Personal Qualities

Favourite Person: Mahatma Buddha and Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa

Hobbies: Reading, Writing Poetry, Quizzing.

On preparing for other career opportunities as well while preparing for ultimate goal i.e. Career in Civil Services:

No, nothing else as of now

On motivation towards Civil Services despite other lucrative opportunities in changing economic environment:

They might be lucrative but after a while, the motivation is no longer there. In Civil Services, the motivation to work for the betterment of the society and to see the effect of your work is a lifelong motivation.

On Educational Level to start & minimum time-frame for preparation for Civil Services Examinations:

It depends on the individual when she/he wants to start. Ideally, minimum time required is 8 months -1 year.

On general   view that Science subjects have better chance to score than Humanities:

I don’t find any empirical proof regarding it. My opinion is if you are good at any optional, you can score high marks.

On importance of medium of examination for exams like CSE:

I think the exam has been made on equal ground regardless of what is the medium. What matters are the content and not the medium?

On impact of educational, financial and demographic status of the family of an aspirant on preparation:

If one goes for coaching, it does become unaffordable for many aspirants alike. However, the internet has been a great equalizer and almost everything regarding preparation is available on it.

On role the Competition Magazines play in preparing for an examination like Civil Services:

They do add an extra edge to the preparation but they can’t replace the newspapers and basic textbooks.

On the “Pratiyogita Darpan” Extra Issues Series on ‘General Studies’ particularly ‘Indian   Economy’ & Optional:

Economy Issue was quite helpful.

On the Secret of & Credit for success:

There is no such secret. Determination and immersing yourself in the process of examination is what can be very detrimental; & almighty, parents and teachers

On suggestions/advice to future aspirants:

Don’t give half hearted attempts.

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