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IN her first attempt, this 24-year old law graduate from the School of Excellence in Law, Chennai couldn't clear the UPSC Civil Services Preliminary but in her second attempt, she emerged the first ranker! Daughter of V Shanmugam, a customs consultant and homemaker S. Padmavathy, Divyadharshini was working at SBI for the past six months. She shares her journey. Name: Divyadharshini Shanmugam Rank: 1 Exam: Civil Service Exam 2010 Q.How did you hear the good news? A.I was in office when the results were declared, and a friend informed me of the results. It came as a shock! At first I did not believe but it but confirmed it through my brother. It took a while to realise that it was not a dream. Q.Who is the inspiration behind your success? A. My mentor Prabhakaran sir (Director of Prabhas IAS Academy) and my parents. All have given me ample confidence, motivation and have placed belief in me. Q.How different was it in the second attempt? What made you crack it? A.I think one years consistent preparation made the difference between the two attempts. Q.What were your optional subjects and why did you choose them? A.Prelims I chose Public Administration due to easy availability of books and study materials, availability of guidance and above all my interest. Mains - I chose Public Administration and law, as law was my graduation subject and I felt comfortable with the syllabus. Q.How was the interview? Can you recall any questions from the board members? A.The interview board was cordial. I answered to my satisfaction. There were one or two questions for which I didnt know the answer but I was frank with the board and told them the truth that I did not know. The questions were based on my profile and were based on the RTI Act, Lokpal Bill etc. Q.How good are coaching institutes and what to be cautious of if you choose one? A.Coaching centres are a guiding light but it all ultimately comes down to your individual effort. Attending mock tests would help a lot to ascertain where we stand. Choosing the right centre would have to be made cautiously. There are many money sucking institutes and we need to be careful not to get into their hands and waste our money and time Q.Do you have any priority areas where you would like to see you making a difference in the administrative services? A.IAS gives a wider scope to serve the society and make a difference. I think bridging the rural urban developmental divide would help in the longer run.

Q.Your message to future CSE aspirants A.I would like to wish them all the very best for the exam. Its a way to go forward with confidence and belief in yourself. Its not too easy but neither too hard. Right amount of effort would pay good results. Study Materials Public administration Books by Lakshmikanth and Maheshwari Solved previous years question papers Journals by Indian Institute of Public Administration on current topics like RTI and Civil Society Law Constitution by Jai Narayan Pandey and M P Jain Contracts by Avatar Singh Torts by Atchudhan Pillai International Law by Kapoor and Agarwal Indian Economy Dutt & Sundaram, Economic & Politically Weekly, Yojna Indian Polity DDBasu, NCERT Science & Technology Spectrum, NCERT Indian History NCERT, Bipan Chandra Geography NCERT, Atlas Current Affairs The Hindu, Frontline, India Year Book Q.What was your strategy for optionals, GS and Essay? A.Optional - I covered the entire syllabus and prepared concrete points for each topic and always revised before exams. Notes are really helpful especially during exam times. GS - In addition to prelims preparation, adding personal view and analysis of the questions Essay - I think there is no need to special preparation for essay. Preparation for general studies help in writing the essay paper. Newspaper reading builds ideas which helps in essay.

Marks obtained by 2011 Toppers

Subject Essay General Studies Paper I General Studies Paper II Optional I - Paper I Optional I - Paper II Optional II - Paper I Optional II - Paper II Interview Total marks Maximum Marks 200 1stRank1 125 3rdRank2 132 6thRank3 119 7thRank4 108

300 300 300 300 300 300 300 2300

192 147 173 180 190 157 230 1394

197 164 173 171 166 191 180 1374

179 180 165 180 181 200 174 1338

154 127 174 183 205 185 201 1337


He could not have asked for a better birthday gift. Just 10 days before he turns 27. Shah Faesal became the first Kashmiri and only the fourth Muslim (after Independence) to top the civil services. And this in his first attempt. Excerpts from a chat with the topper from Saugam (Kupwara) Kashmir:

Your thoughts at this moment I was expecting a poor rank, but didnt see this coming. I am overwhelmed and miss my father the most. What significance does this achievement hold for you? My success has broken a stereotype about my community. I hope I have set a precedent far the people of my State and helped inspire more Kashmiris to appear for civils. How do you plan to use this opportunity? I would like to serve my state by reducing the gap between the people and administration. My first preference will be IAS, then IPS and lFS. I have been a victim of insurgency and understand Kashmirs problems. My father (Gulam Rasool Shah), a schoot teacher, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in 2002, just three days before my pre-medical exam. Who would you give credit for your success? I havent had any formal training. No coaching institute can use my picture or take credit for my success. My father, my biggest role model, and my mother, who was my rock after my father passed away, deserve all the credit. You are a doctor. How and when did you decide to pursue civil services? I pursued medicine as thats the trend in Kashmir. I even topped my university (Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences). But I wanted something more challenging. I appeared for the prelims soon after finishing my MBBS. I moved to Delhi and prepared for the exam. How will you celebrate? I return to my family in Srinagar tomorrow. The first thing Ill do is hug my mother.


R.V. Varun Kumar, who considers Sachin Tendulkar his icon for his hunger for excellence, speaks out on what made him succeed in the most prestigious exam of India. He secured 3rd rank in the UPSC civil services exam 2010.

Q. Please tell us about your childhood, family background, schooling and higher education. A. I studied at Campion Higher Secondary School, Trichy, Tamil Nadu. It is the best institution I have ever come across. What I am today, I owe it to my school and parents. My dad is a professor (economics) and my mother is a housewife. My brother works for Ericsson, USA. I completed BDS at Ragas Dental College, Chennai. The discipline and the learning style which I applied in CSE 2010 were taught to me at my school. I extend my special thanks to the institution.

Q. When and why did you choose to become a civil servant? A. I am not ashamed to confess that a movie inspired me to think about Civil Services Examination. In 2003, I watched a Tamil movie by the name Kakha Kakha and it initiated my thought process. Anything can initiate a person; ultimately it is the performance in the job that matters. The desire to join the IPS was always lying deep within and this movie definitely initiated me to chase my dream. Q. Was CSE a planned decision? How did your parents support you? A. It is not possible for anybody to clear this examination unless it is a thoroughly planned decision. I decided to take up civil services in 2007 and it took four years to reach the pinnacle. My parents were never doubtful about my decisions and they stood by my side. Q. It is very difficult to figure out where to start and how to start. What was your strategy when you first decided to prepare for CSE? A. The first thing a marathon runner plans is the start. Many candidates fall prey to the thought of becoming a topper and giving interviews to the media. CSE is a long process and one needs to sustain the energy. So I realized that it is not a world full of rainbows and sunshine, hence I decided to take it step-by-step. My primary target was to clear the preliminary exam. I advice candidates to stop worrying about getting the preferred service, preferred state cadre, etc. Instead one can face the examination step-by-step. It will relieve the candidate from the immense

pressure created by this exam. Pressure hampers preparation. So to start with, one has to focus on preliminary exam and I suggest one full year of preparation before taking the preliminary exam. First attempt should be the best attempt in my opinion. Q. Please tell about your icon, hobbies and interests. A. My icon is Sachin Tendulkar. I am not a great fan of the cricketer in him but I admire him as a person in general. He has immense energy and shows a lot of conviction towards his work. The work we do should never be a burden to us; this is what I learnt from him. I try to emulate him and everyone should develop a child-like desire to win, irrespective of whichever field we work in. I love watching world cinema and documentaries. I worked hard to receive an award in relation to my hobby. I succeeded too. I received the Film Buff Award at the 8th Chennai International Film Festival for my movie reviews. By winning this award after mains examination I obviously had a better chance to score high in interview than any other candidate. Q. How many attempts did it take for you to taste success? A. CSE 2010 was my third attempt. I read for 2 months before my first attempt. I faced an unprecedented defeat. That motivated me to do well in CSE 2009. I cleared the preliminary exam but skipped the mains exam because I chose to prepare properly for CPF (AC) exam. Also I did not want to score a rank in 100s or 200s. So after securing rank 67 in CPF Exam, I took leave from training and gave my heart and soul to CSE 2010. Q. How confident were you about succeeding in the CSE? A. 100%. I never expected a rank other than Rank 1. I am still thinking about how I missed it. Q. What was your first reaction when you heard that you have cleared the exam with flying colors? A. Disappointment. I checked the results and did not hear it from anyone. It was a happy result but not the best result. Rank 1 could have been the best result. There is a thin line between arrogance and confidence. Candidates can be very confident of getting rank 1 too. It all depends on the amount of work we have put in. Q. How helpful are coaching institutes? A. There is very high chance of getting fleeced. Do not get carried away by the number of candidates enrolled, difficulty in getting admission, colorful websites, tall claims by way of advertisements etc. Instead speak to candidates and find out about the teachers. Coaching institutes are helpful but one should always view them with suspicion as they might kill our creativity and push us into a style we may not be comfortable with. There is no assurance that what they say or teach might be true. It is better to trust good authors. Coaching institutes are helpful when you learn how to use them. Q. Did you use internet? How helpful was it? A. I used Wikipedia umpteenth times. Press Information Bureau will be of particular help when you need government related data. Google books is another source to have a brief look at various books.


Tells how to crack Mains Written stage of Civil Services Examination
Ajay Prakash of Samastipur, Bihar, secured 9th rank in the UPSC exam 2010. He talks to Gulshan Sharma of and tips IAS aspirants on how to clear the Mains Written stage of the IAS exam

Q. When should a candidate start preparing for the Mains examination? One should start preparing for the Mains exam immediately after the Prelims. The two months between these two exams are very precious and should be utilized effectively, irrespective of your performance in the Prelims. Q. What were your optional subjects for the Mains exam? What was the basis of choosing them? Which books did you refer to? English Literature had been my subject in Graduation, PG and now I am doing MPhil in English Literature. So it was the obvious choice. The other optional subject that I opted was Sociology. It is not a very difficult subject and a natural fit to English Literature as one has to study about the society, the period etc in English Literature as well as Sociology. Also, I prepared for Sociology in less than 3 months. Q. How important is the role of current affairs in optional papers? Current affairs plays a significant role in most subjects. Except for papers like Literarture or the Sciences, use of current affairs in your answers will fetch you high marks. Q. Tips for English Literature? Delhi University syllabus is very good and comprehensive. Also, the matter published by Delhi School of Open Learning is extremely helpful. A publication called Worldview will also help IAS aspirants prepare English Literature. Read specific texts instead of reading the history of English Literature, for instance. The candidate should focus on themes and analyse, for example feminism, post colonialism, etc. Answer to the point. Dont prove yourself a pundit in the language.

Q. Tips for Sociology? Read NCERT books. Develop a perspective. Use common sense. Write analytically and be original. Q. How should a candidate prepare for the Hindi Language paper? Remember not to commit grammatical mistakes. Handwriting should be legible. The idea of this paper is to check the basic understanding of the language. A good command over the language is always helpful. Q. What was your strategy for the Essay paper? Improve your writing skills. It is important to be able to express oneself and the ideas. Strong general knowledge is required to be able to write good essays. Reserve the first half hour during the examination for thinking. Jot down all your ideas on a piece of paper and then write a structured answer.


A doctor by profession, Karthik Adapa gave up scholarships to Harvard and Cambridge to join the Indian Administrative Services. Thinking beyond marks, appreciating the value of each subject and teaching these very subjects to students during his preparation helped him ace the exam.Now stationed at Ranikhet, a small town in Uttarakhand , Karthik (who was ranked first in the IAS exam of 2008) aspires to make a difference by working at the grassroots... Why did you opt for the IAS? It offers a tremendous opportunity for leadership and to work at the grassroots level. For example, I now work in a small town with a population of around 20,000. It is such a backward region that even a little work we do has a tremendous impact on the people here. You also get a chance to impact people's lives across a variety of domains such as health, education, water, sanitation, roads and electricity. In fact, as a topper, I was given the option to go to my hometown in Khammam, Andhra Pradesh but I chose Ranikhet as it's a much more backward place and that's the kind of place I wanted to contribute to. Medicine is considered a noble profession. What prompted you to move out of it? I enjoyed being a doctor and in fact, continue to be a doctor even now. In my capacity as an administrator, I organise health camps, where I also serve as a doctor. But what I realised is that as a doctor, the canvas you get to paint on is very small. Health is the only field you can work in as a doctor. Tell us about life as a student... I was always a good student, which helped me secure admission to a national medical college. I got a scholarship for a postgraduation at both Harvard and Cambridge. I also got a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation scholarship for a PhD in Molecular Medicine at Harvard and the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Trust Commonwealth Shared Scholarship for my PhD in Cambridge. But I opted for the IAS. In two earlier attempts, I also got through the Indian Police Services, but I let it pass, too. Three attempts? It sounds taxing! How did you prepare? I enjoyed the process. I wish I had to give ten attempts so I could study for ten years! You actually grow a lot in the process; the reading is voracious. I look upon it as a way of life and not much has changed since those times for me. I still read a lot, keep abreast of what's happening in the world, in the country, in my state. Which subjects did you chose during the mains and why? Zoology and Psychology. Having done medicine, which is Advanced Biology, I wanted to go back to my basics and study Zoology, which is Basic Biology. I also wanted to study one subject that was different and would tell me something I enjoy in life and Psychology fitted the bill well. I worked really hard in Psychology. Though I didn't score too well, it gave me new perspectives

to see my life events. It brings about a holistic change in your personality, which happens as long as you don't study merely for marks but internalise the subject. You must appreciate the basics of the subject and study its varied topics. How did you prepare for the exam? I referred to basic textbooks like Morgan & King and Barrons. Then you have advanced textbooks for each subject; Coleman for Abnormal Psychology, Pearson's for Education Psychology. I would devote six to eight hours a day, but more than the number of hours, it is the quality and consistency of your studies that matter. I used to be very consistent with my reading. What did you do differently in Attempt 3, which enabled you to crack it? I feel I was much more focused and also put in more effort than in my first two attempts; however, some things you learn only with experience. Lesson 1, I learned how to manage my time better after going through the entire process twice. Lesson 2, never to ignore Prelims even after your Mains or your interview because when the results are out, you don't have any time left for the next year's Prelims. Any interview tips for IAS aspirants... Just be yourself! The more artificial you are, the more you will struggle. While preparing, 'studying' newspapers is the ultimate thing. I read The Hindu, which is by far the best newspaper when preparing for the Civil Services Exam. While preparing, don't merely 'read' the newspaper, 'study' the newspaper, just like you would a textbook. Underline, make notes, analyse, draw some conclusions, discuss. Who was the inspiration behind your success? My teachers and my students. Your students? I taught Zoology and General Studies at Evolution, a coaching institute, during my preparation while simultaneously preparing for General Studies with study material from Rajaram & Ravi, another coaching institute. If I didn't teach a topic well, my students' faces said it all. This would encourage me to study and understand better, work hard and ultimately teach better. So I thank my teachers for teaching me and my students for bearing with me and tolerating me. How has your administrative experience been so far? We have a period of independent charge as part of my training. Hence I am at Ranikhet as the Joint Magistrate, for the last one-and-a-half months. I am the youngest but still the leader of the entire team. Hence I need to be the energy and motivator of the team. Ranikhet is located in the hills where everything usually closes by 6 pm. But our office remains open till 8 or 9 pm, sometimes longer. We are trying to make the administration friendlier and improve health, education, etc. In fact, I have lodged the first FIR against illegal mining in Uttarakhand, probably a first in all of North India.