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Shri Shailesh Kumar, attained 41st Rank in his 3rd attempt in Civil Services Examination, 2015

“A positive thinker’s will is the wind’s will”


Shri Shailesh Kumar, who attained 41st Rank in his 3rd attempt in Civil Services Examination, 2015 conducted by Union Public Service Commission; in an important, exclusive, thought-provoking and highly inspiring interview; attributes perseverance, staying focussed, continuous hard work and his vision of future to the secrets of his success. Extracts of the Interview:


On preference in services opted for and priority:

I opted for IAS, IPS, IFS. IAS was naturally the first choice IAS provides the avenue to serve the people directly, has sheer diversity & challenges, work satisfaction and needless to say—the social prestige it offers. IPS was the second choice for the similar reasons. I put IFS third as my family position was not amenable to my stay abroad for better part of my career.

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

No, I wasn’t too confident about such a high success. After hearing the news it took a whole week for the feeling to really sink in.

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

Yes, that’s true. I read many toppers’ profiles where people talked about their study plans, struggles they faced and the right approach to the exam at each stage. Knowing a few toppers personally also helped to have self-confidence about cracking the exam.

To name a few of them- Swarochish Somvanshi, Akshay Tripathi, Anand Sharma, Neha Jain Gaurav Kumar Singh and Ashish Kumar.

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

No. Initially, it started as a wild goose chase. Plan was to write one attempt or two.

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

I prepared while working full time. I could only manage 4-5 hours a day and 6-8 hours on week-ends.

Managing lengthy paper is an art which every aspirant should master rather than regret or crib about it later. I practiced writing answers to manage this difficulty.

On choice & basis of selecting optional subject:

Interest in the subject should be the foremost criterion. It reduces the effort to nearly half. Length of the syllabus, lucid subject matter, past experience and availability of right guidance / study material are other main criteria.

Optional subject: Sociology.

I found the syllabus of Sociology to be small. Moreover, the subject matter was of interest and it would have certainly helped me in GS and essay papers’ preparation.

On the number of attempts, achieving success in the attempt and visualizing previous attempts:

Third attempt

I learnt from my previous mistakes such as incomplete paper attempts, mechanical writing style and poor planning and made efforts to rectify them.


Name: Shailesh Kumar

Father’s Name: Shri Shiv Kumar Rathore

Mother’s Name: Smt. Munni Devi

Date of Birth: January 5, 1988

Educational Qualifications :

10th: 2001-02, U.P. Board, PBR IC, Hardoi (71·20%)

12th: 2003-04, U.P. Board, PBR IC, Hardoi (82·40%)

B.Tech: 2005-09, UPTU, Lucknow, HBTI, Kanpur (77·30%)

Previous Selections :

2014: Rank-808 in CSE-2013, joined IRS (C&CE)

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

As goes the saying- work started is the work half done. I started with preparing GS which included regularly following newspapers and All India Radio for current happenings. I got in touch with other fellow aspirants who were veterans of a few attempts about what was needed to be done. Later on I got in touch with some successful candidates also. Once I covered basic GS topics, I took guidance on Sociology in a week-end course that lasted for about 10 weeks.

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

I focused on balancing the number of attempted questions and accuracy of them. Areas like polity, economy and geography where chance of accuracy was better were given more attention. I extensively covered short notes of conventional topics helped in revision in the crunch time.

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

Not much. Only thing that changed was – I stopped practicing for Paper-II as it required only 33% marks to meet qualification which could have been manageable for any serious candidate even without a maths background.

On tackling ‘Negative Marking’ in Prelims:

By balancing the number of attempted questions (75-85 in my case), improving accuracy through practicing test papers and only calculated guesswork.

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

Since I started writing Mains only in the era of current pattern, I didn’t have to change my strategy. Still I identified strong areas in each paper and started attempting the paper from questions relating to that.

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

Well, frankly I didn’t prepare any specific topics for essay.

Personal Qualities
Favourite Person:  Late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Strong Point: Self-motivation and optimism.

Weak Point: Paucity of time and general family issues.

Hobbies: Long-distance running, reading literature, watching movies, public speaking etc.


On preparation for Interview, the Personality Test:

I attended a few mock interviews. I kept the ‘personality test’ part in mind. So, all areas which had a bearing on my personality were prepared satisfactorily. It included information provided by me in my DAF, my training at IRS, current affairs and my own opinion on important issues etc.

My interview was in the first half of 13th April, 2016. I got assigned to Prof. HC Gupta’s Board. First 2-3 questions were regulation why IAS after IRS etc. Then he got into discussion mode and started asking my views on GST, its problem areas, concerns of various stakeholders. Other members sought to know my views on then current topics like alcohol ban in Bihar- its effectiveness and repercussions; Indo-Pak relations-past, present and future, my role if I were the foreign secretary; JNU issue- my role had I been the VC of JNU; NIT Srinagar issue; mandatory educational qualifications for people’s representatives; Gujaral’s doctrine of foreign policy—its present utility; role of China in South Asian politics; India’s interest in Maldives; Indo-US logistics sharing agreement (that day’s newspaper); NPA—problem and cure; DGCEI (related with my service-IRS) its working, locations etc. It took about 25-30 mins. in all for the interview to finish.

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

As described earlier, my family’s socio-economic position was a major contributor. Wealth cannot buy me what a career in civil service can, a socio-economic redemption of my own and a new hope for the scores if not millions of people from rural India like me.

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

One should start latest by second year of her/his graduation. I think one full round of preparation requires at least two years.

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

It could be true considering the optional scores of toppers from such subjects. One gets better marks to effort ratio vis-à-vis humanities subjects, in my view.

On importance of medium of examination for exams like CSE:

In the absolute terms English medium students get selected more over the years. With English medium, the advantage is with the availability of dynamic study material and established guidance which is very flexible even during these times of continuously changing examination pattern.

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

As the educational, financial and demographic status of the family of an aspirant have an important role to play in shaping his/ her personality, it makes things difficult for those coming from lower strata of the society. Such aspirants often require more attempts and consequently older age to achieve comparable success as their well-off counterparts do as a matter of routine. By the time it’s all over, it becomes experience of a life time irrespective of success or failure.

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

Competition magazines are good to the extent they bring awareness among the aspirants about the nature of Civil Services Exam, its challenges, opportunities it offers post-selection and above all the success stories of toppers which often inspire aspirants to do well in their own. For the non-English medium aspirants, they often play vital role. However, these magazines need to evolve themselves to cater to the ever-changing nature of the civil services exam.

On finding “Pratiyogita Darpan” close to expectations & comments on the Extra Issues

Pratiyogita Darpan is often considered amongst the best competition magazines which have continuously helped good aspirants in shaping their preparation on the right track. However, the magazine should keep itself abreast of new pattern of UPSC civil service exam with less emphasis on plain facts and more emphasis on analysis. Kudos to the team behind PD!

PD extra issues are considered good, particularly Indian Economy one. It’s out just in time for exam and known as one stop solution for useful information carefully extracted from economic survey, budget, government reports etc. and current state of economy in general. 

On the Secret of Success:

I must say my hard work and perseverance played the biggest role.

On giving Credit for success:

I give the credit of my success to my parents, teachers and friends.

On suggestions/advice to future aspirants:

One has to decide one’s priorities and wisely choose study material to reduce time and effort needed for preparation. Make small targets and try to achieve them every time. This will enhance confidence and reduce negativity. Believe in your methods as no strategy is perfect. Last but not least, there is life beyond this exam try and enjoy that as much as possible keeping consciousness of your goals.

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