How to crack Civil Services: Inspiring Stories from Toppers

by Careerdost | 30th September 2017

Tina Dabi Success Mantra

On being asked about how many hours did she study, Dabi said, "If I have an exam tomorrow, I would end up studying for 14 hours. But regularly, I used to study 8 to 9 hours per day."

When asked about her success mantra, she candidly replied, "Hardwork is the key to success"

Tina completed her graduation from Lady Shri Ram College of Delhi University. On this, her father, who is a serving IES officer, told India Today, "I have always been proud of her. She has been student of the year during her graduation. And now the topper."

The political science student credited her success to hard work and dedication. Similarly, Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan, who hails from Jammu & Kashmir stood second, followed by Jasmeet Singh Sandhu.

UPSC IAS topper Tina Dabi cracking the list in the first go, the Delhi girl said, "I did believe that I would make it to the list but becoming rank one that was something beyond my dream."

One interesting thing about 2015’s UPSC result is that all Top three candidates belong to the difference religious background. Tina belongs to a Hindu family. The second rank holder Aamir Ul Shafi Khan is from a Muslim family and the third rank holder Jasmeet Singh Sandhu is from Punjab and belongs to a Sikh family.

Here's a list of top 5 rank holders:

  1. Tina Dabi
  2. Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan
  3. Jasmeet Singh Sandhu
  4. Artika Shukla
  5. Shashank Tripathi

Vivek Chauhan (AIR-300/CSE 2015) History optional - True Inspiration

Vivek Chauhan cleared the UPSC civil service exam in 2015 in his 6th attempt. He got a commendable rank of 300. His happiness knew no bounds because this was the result of a struggle lasting 6 - 7 years. At the young age of 19, Chauhan started working in an MCD school in Delhi after completing his teacher’s training course. He pursued and acquired his MA and B.Ed. through correspondence courses. He was also pursuing his law degree.

Vivek Chauhan started thinking about civil service only when he was 25, after he had married. At that time in 2008, there were only 4 attempts for a general category candidate and he also had familial responsibilities to take care of. He gave a half-hearted attempt in 2010 which resulted in the loss of a precious attempt. Meanwhile, he got his brother and sister married off. In 2011, he thought it was time to give wings to his own dreams and goals.

The Chauhan’s story is truly motivating since it proves that a middle class boy with no formal education (he only had correspondence courses) can clear the civil services exam with continued effort and relentless pursuit of his goal. He credits his never-say-die attitude and perseverance along with his parents’ blessings for his astounding success.


Poonam Dalal (AIR-308/CSE 2015)

Poonam Dalal says she is slightly different from many others yet at the same time very similar to a lot of us. She has her ancestral roots in Chhara village in Jhajjar District, Haryana. But she was born and brought up in Delhi.

Poonam started her career as a primary teacher in a government school in Delhi. Along with the job she did her graduation as an external student from Delhi University.

After completing her graduation, she appeared for different Bank PO Exams and SSC Graduate Level Exam and cleared all of them. SBI PO, SBI Associates PO, Union Bank Of India PO, SSC Graduate Level 2005 etc. are some of them.

She finally chose SBI PO. She regrets that there was nobody to guide me about UPSC Exam She recalls, had there been somebody at that time to guide her about UPSC Exam, you would have been reading this interview much earlier!

She also shares the fact that at that stage she used to be very under-confident about her chances at CS Examination. She says, “I am sharing these thoughts so that all of those who are somehow feeling the same as I had once been, can come out of it and not repeat the mistake which I did”.


Sakshi Sawhney (IAS-2013/ Rank-6): BA LLB, Second among girl toppers, Law optional - Interview

Interviewer: What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?

Sakshi: My essay marks in my first attempt were very low. Only 23/200. So despite getting decent marks in everything else (including interview) I could not make it to the final list. I had written on "PPP : Whether a Failure in India". Frankly, I am still not sure why I was marked so poorly.

In this attempt I wrote on Colonial Mentality and made my position on the topic very evident in the beginning itself so that there was no confusion regarding my stand. But even now I have scored just 80/250 - so I cannot really advise on essay writing.

Other changes made were answer writing; revision and re-revision. You will never really finish the syllabus so don’t wait till the end to start your revision. Do it every week. If you flip through your notes regularly they will get ingrained and your memory recall in a situation of 25 to 10 questions will be much greater.

Interviewer: UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of the exam. Your views.

Sakshi: This may not be a good option for students who are in remote areas, or where internet connection is poor. Several times CAT aspirants have faced difficulties with the test being conducted again in particular centers. The numbers UPSC is dealing with is much greater than CAT. These issues might in fact slow down the process,

However, maybe UPSC can begin experimentation on a pilot basis and then apply it to the exam.


UPSC IAS Interview Questions

Interviewer: There is one scooter It has 2 tyres and one stepni (spare tyre). Each tyre can run 5 km How long a scooter can run?
Candidate: 3 tyres, each can run 5 km = total 15 km. However, at any time, you need 2 tyres. Hence, the total maximum distance that can be covered = 15/2 = 7.5 km. To achieve the maximum distance. Let the 3 tyres be A, B and C.
Run on A and B for 2.5 km (remaining: A = 2.5, B = 2.5, C = 5)
Run on B and C for 2.5 km (remaining: A = 2.5, B = 0, C = 2.5)
Run on A and C for 2.5 km (remaining: A = 0, B = 0, C = 0)

Interviewer: Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Wednesday, Friday or Sunday?
Candidate: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Interviewer: Fill this cup with the water.
Candidate: Poured some water into a cup and it overflowed slightly.
Interviewer: “nervous”?
Candidate: “No sir, I always give my 110%”.

Interviewer: How is it easy to weigh a fish?
Candidate: Because it has its own scales.

Interviewer: You are driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night, it’s raining heavily, when suddenly you pass by a bus stop, and you see 3 people waiting for a bus:

  1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
  2. An old friend who once saved your life.
  3. The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.
Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing very well that there could only be one passenger in your car?

This was a hypothetical scenario created that was once actually used as part of a job application. You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first; or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect mate again. The candidate who was selected had no trouble coming up with his answer. Guess what his answer was?

Candidate: I would give the car keys to my old friend and let him take the lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the partner of my dreams.


Finally, few tips for aspirants appearing for UPSC Interview

  • Interview is unpredictable and clearly some luck is involved.
  • Your attire is irrelevant as long as you are neatly dressed.
  • They may be looking for some key words and specific points in your answers and they will reward you plentifully if they get it from your mouth.
  • Placate the Chairman. Only he has the pen and paper. Its 275 marks of pure whimsy. Make him happy. Don’t argue with him, but take his questions very seriously. Even if some members aren’t happy about you, still doesn’t matter.
  • Be confident. Take mock sessions. Dress neatly. Forget about how you did the exam and do your best!