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CSC: Please accept our heartiest congratulation on your brilliant success.
Swati: Thank a lot.

CSC: What were the basic mantras of your success?
Swati: Consistent, dedicated and intelligent hard work were the key to my success. Once I decided to prepare for civil services, I never looked back.

CSC: When did you start the preparation for the IAS Examination? When should one ideally begin thinking about preparing for this exam?
Swati: I started just after the graduation. Keeping in mind that it is one of the toughest competitions in India, I think one should start the serious preparation at least one year prior to the Prelims examination.

CSC: Which is the most difficult part of this examination and why? What was your strategy to tackle this difficult part?
Swati: Mains examination is the most difficult part of this competition.  It requires large number of topics to be prepared for General Studies and the optional subject simultaneously. Proper time management is essential to tackle this challenge. I made detailed schedule for different subjects and followed it rigidly.

CSC: Did you integrate your Prelims and Mains or was it separate?
Swati: It followed an integrated approach for General Studies’ preparation. For Optional it has to be different. I had decided to finish my complete preparation, including the coaching classes, before the Prelims Examination. This approach helped me a lot ultimately.

CSC: What was your optional subject? What was the basis of selecting this optional?
Swati: I selected HISTORY as my optional subject for Mains Examination because it is a very interesting subject. In the new syllabus of General Studies a major portion is related to History. Now a days, other optional subjects are too dynamic and the questions are becoming very difficult. When I started my preparations I found that only History optional is scoring consistently good marks. All these factors had convinced me that it is the best optional subject in new pattern of IAS examination.

CSC: Tell us something about preparation of essay paper.
Swati: Essay Paper is very important now-a-days. Therefor, it has to be prepared effectively like other papers. I made a list of about 25 important topics related to different areas and then collected important points about them. I wrote few essays that were asked during previous years.

CSC: What is the role of writing practice in getting good marks in Main examination?
Swati: The writing practice plays a very important role in the optionals as well as General Studies. Every serious aspirant must practice extensively otherwise it becomes very difficult to write good answers within time limit in examination hall. During my coaching classes I wrote all the tests seriously to keep myself on track.

CSC: Did you prepare notes? How helpful are the notes? What is your advice on notes-making?
Swati: Yes, I prepared short synoptic notes for Prelims, Mains as well as for interview. Such brief notes make revision very easy during the days of exam otherwise the stuff becomes quite a lot and it becomes very difficult to revise whole syllabus at the last moment.

CSC: What are your suggestions for freshers who want to join coaching institutes for preparation?
Swati: I think the civil services examination is too tough to be prepared by oneself alone. Good guidance plays an important role in overall success. Therefore, joining coaching classes is almost a must. But one should be careful to join only that institute where personal attention is possible. It is not worth to sit in a crowd of 300-400 students. While selecting an institute, don’t rely on past records, see how is the institute performing in recent years because lot of changes have taken place over the last few years in Civil Services Examination.

CSC: What was your style of writing in the exam? How was it different from the general writing style? How did you develop this writing style?
Swati: I tried to write in simple & lucid way in my own language. I focused upon connecting various parts of an answer to make it coherent. There is a need to maintain linkages between two paragraphs. A good answer must have three parts- introduction, main body and conclusion. I kept these things in my mind while writing answers in examination hall.

CSC: How helpful is ones background in his/her success?
Swati: Selection of best performing and relevant optional is very important. Academic background does not play much significant role in in Civil Services Examination as it provides a level playing field to all.

CSC: Does this exam provide a level playing field for the rural or poor economic background candidates?
Swati: This exam requires patience and continuous effort, for that financial back up must be there. But, with determination, we can get rid of this hurdle. The selected candidates belong to all the different backgrounds.

CSC: How did you prepare for interview?
Swati: Interview preparation cannot start and does not start after the Mains result, it has to be integrated with the Prelims and Mains preparation, one should realise that it is not a mere interview but a personality test. Mock interviews helped me lot in finding the grey areas and in rectifying the mistakes. Apart from that, I collected information about my bio-data (the information which I have filled in the mains form) and prepared it very well.

CSC: Which types of questions were asked in interview? Did you answer all?
Swati: The interview Board was very cordial. They asked questions based on Current Affairs like Syrian crisis and India’s Nuclear Energy Policy. The questions were mostly opinion based, but few of them were fact based as well. I tried to give my answers in the best possible way for all the questions. Apart from 2 or 3 questions, I could answer all satisfactorily.

CSC: Was there any specific area they emphasized upon?
Swati: The board members focussed more on the opinion based questions. They tried to correlate my bio data with current issues for asking questions. The theme of interview was more of ‘why’ rather than what.

CSC: What is your advice to the freshers who are going to appear in this exam?
Swati: Do intelligent hard work with patience & determination, you will surely be successful. Make the aim and work towards it consistently. It takes a long time to complete the preparation and many ups-downs do come during the course of the preparation. One must be mentally ready for them.

CSC: What is your advice to the candidates who have failed in this exam?
Swati: We must learn from failures, as that helps in making the path for success smoother. Apart from that we must have firm belief that hard work pays in the end.

CSC: Are you satisfied with the current pattern of exam? If not, what are your suggestions?
Swati: Criticizing the pattern of exam is not a solution, adapting to it will surely lead to success, as change is the most stable thing in life. I think the current pattern of exam is all right.

CSC: Do you think Civil Services exam is a true test of a candidates merit?
Swati: Yes, this exam is a true test of candidate merit. Prelims is the test of aptitude, Mains is the test of your knowledge as well as writing ability, while interview is the test of your overall personality.

CSC: All the best for you carrier in civil services.
Swati: Thank you very much.

 Toppers Talk
SAHIL GUPTA, RANK - 19, CSE - 2016
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