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Toppers Talk

Toppers Talk – Ashish Kumar | AIR- 53, CSE 2019

UPSC 2019 Topper Interview – How to do smart study for IAS preparation – Ashish Kumar AIR 53

  • Interviewer: Tell us something about your family background and education.

Ashish: I secured an all-India rank of 53 in my second attempt in the UPSC Civil Services Examination 2019.

My father manages the tea garden in Darjeeling, West Bengal, whereas my mother is a housewife.

I  did my schooling in  Kurseong, West Bengal itself.

I completed my graduation in Economics from Shahid Bhagat Singh College (Delhi University), in May 2016.

I took my first attempt at UPSC Civil Services Examination in 2018.

  • Interviewer: Were you in Delhi all the time during your preparation period.

Ashish: In my first attempt, I  could not clear my prelims. During my first attempt, I prepared from Delhi. However, in my second attempt, I came back home for the last 8-9 months of my preparation.

  • Interviewer: What mistakes did you do while preparing for civil services?

Ashish: My strategy of trying to cover as many sources as I could find and I also had not analyzed the UPSC previous year’s question papers. I used to prepare according to test series.

  • Interviewer: How you approached for civil services exam in your second attempt?

Ashish: In my second attempt, I refined my strategy. I chose a single book for each subject. Looking through previous years’ question papers, I realized UPSC asks questions based on basic concepts.

  • Interviewer: What was your score in prelims?

Ashish: I cleared my prelims with a 112-116 score.

  • Interviewer: What all sources did you follow?

Ashish: I followed the integrated preparation strategy for both prelims and mains.

  • I recommend Spectrum as a source for History, along with NCERT Books.
  • Similarly, for Geography I referred to the class 11 and 12 NCERT books.
  • For Art and Culture, I referred to Nitin Singhania’s Book and revised it multiple times.
  • Society is the last section in GS-I and I followed the Society NCERT books and acquired some information from the internet to complete my notes digitally.
  • For Polity in GS-II, I referred Laxmikanth.
  • Another aspect of GS-II is Governance, and I picked up notes on it from the market.
  • For International Relations, I looked at all major countries with relations to India and made my study notes. I relied completely on the internet for this section of the GS-II paper.
  • For GS-III, the first topic is Since my graduation was in Economics, I already had notes and background knowledge.
  • For the Agriculture portion, I made notes from the internet and kept examples for each.
  • For internal security and disaster management, I picked up popular notes from the market.
  • For GS-IV Ethics, I wrote notes on each topic, by looking up definitions on the internet.
  • For case studies, I used to write practical points from the administrator’s point of view.

Interviewer: What was your optional?

Ashish:  Despite being from an Economics background, my optional for UPSC mains was History.

This allowed me to cover a large portion of General Studies Paper-I during my optional preparation itself.

I referred to IGNOU notes, along with the standard books.

  • Interviewer: How did your interview go?

Ashish: Given my background in Economics, most questions asked to me were from that background.

I had mentioned Football as a hobby in my DAF and had to tackle quite a few questions related to it, like why is the game more popular in North East and West Bengal and not in other states of India, and as an administrator, how would I want to promote the game.

These were questions that I  had already given a few thoughts about before my interview.

I advise aspirants to prepare for personality-based questions as well.

I was asked to share a few of the values I had inculcated into my daily lives, and then in detail about how and when I picked them up, and how they’ll help me as an administrator.

I was also asked about tea production given my father manages a tea garden.

I was also asked a few stress questions, and I calmly tackled them.

For the whole 40 minutes, I remained calm and tried to showcase my analytical skills.

  • Interviewer: What was your reaction after seeing the result?

Ashish: I didn’t check my result, one of my friend called me and told me that I secured rank 53 all over India, I did not believe him in the first place, I crosschecked my result and I was very happy and relieved.

But this is not the end but the beginning of many things.

  • Interviewer: Would you like to work in any specific field?

Ashish: I  hope to work in the field of education and improve primary education. I am hoping to get posted to my home state, but even if I am not, I  will find the best way to help those in my district one way or another.