Dr. Pooja Gupta Topper – Civil Services Examination, 2018 (147th Rank)

Absolute belief in my goal, clear vision and focused efforts are the secrets of my success.

“Pratiyogita Darpan” arranged an exclusive interview with Dr. Pooja Gupta who has been selected in Civil Services Examination, 2018, conducted by UPSC. She deserves high admiration and our heartiest congratulations on her glorious achievement. This important, thought-provoking and highly inspiring interview is being presented here in its original form.

        PD—Achieving top slot in the coveted Civil ServiceExamination is no small feat; accept our heartiest congratulations on your splendid success.

        Dr. Pooja—Thank you Pratiyogita Darpan team.

        PD—In how many attempts have you achieved this success ?

        Dr. Pooja—1st attempt.

        PD—You achieved the desired success in this attempt; how do you visualize your previous attempts ?

        Dr. Pooja—Not applicable, as this was my 1st attempt.

        PD—What was your optional subject ?

        Dr. Pooja—Anthropology

        PD—While making final choice for optional subject, what’s important and what’s not ?

        Dr. Pooja—I believe interest in the subject is the foremost criterion on that candidates should consider while choosing an optional.

        PD—Give the basis of selecting the optional subject ?

        Dr. Pooja—1. Interest in subject

  1. Availability of content
  2. Guidance in subject.

        PD—‘Success is sweet’–Were you confident of your success with top ranks and how did you react to this news ?

        Dr. Pooja—It was my first attempt at UPSC CSE, so I was very anxious about the result. I have always heard that it takes multiple attempts to clear the most coveted exam. Hence, I was just praying for my name in the coveted PDF list. Finding my name among top ranks was nothing less than a dream that came true for me.

        PD—Today, IAS Toppers are icons and lots of media coverage makes them popular. Before your success, what was your opinion about these toppers ?

        Dr. Pooja—I always thought that the toppers were different from us. But today, this myth of mine has been busted. My inspiration in UPSC CSE was not any specific topper but a Hungarian pistol shooter KAROLY TAKACS who was the first shooter to win two Olympic gold medals. He won these medals after his right hand was severely injured when a faulty grenade exploded in his hand during his time in military. The determination to win an Olympic medal led him to switch shooting with his left hand. He has been hailed as an Olympic hero by the International Olympic Committee. For me he is an epitome of perseverance and determination.

        PD—Can you recall the exact moment when you realized the importance of Civil Services ?

        Dr. Pooja—After my extremely good result in 10th grade exam of the Board, I was felicitated by the DCP of DELHI. It was at this stage, I decided to get into the topnotch service.

        PD—Finally, at what point of time did you make up your mind to make career in ‘Civil Services’ ?

        Dr. Pooja—When I started my graduation in 2012, I was not sure on what to do next. But as the years passed, I started to ponder upon my desire for making a career in civil services. A dream I had seen years ago. It was here I made up my mind to revive the dream and pursue it.

        PD—Was CSE your planned decision or your parents’ wish ?

        Dr. Pooja—It was a well-planned decision and my parents fully supported me.

        PD—Did you keep in mind some time-frame for the examination preparation and number of attempts ?

        Dr. Pooja—I didn’t think much on this. I finalized the goal and the only thing that I thought about was to move forward in execution.

        PD—‘Time Management’—is a key factor. How did you manage things ?

        Dr. Pooja—I made a mental note of all the areas I had to cover with each stage of UPSC CSE. Utilizing even 15-20 minutes slots, during my internship in hospital and even while daily commute, helped me a lot.

        PD—The first step is the most difficult; From where did you get the right advice ?

Dr. Pooja—Toppers talking on YouTube were my saviours on this.

        PD—What was your approach towards Paper I (General Studies) and Paper II (Aptitude Test) during Preliminary Examination preparation ?

        Dr. Pooja—For GS Paper I (General Studies)

I focused on clearing my basics. NCERT, PIB and PRS website, religiously following The Hindu newspaper, insights daily current affairs etc. were most important in my preparation of paper-1. I gave more time to this paper as I felt I could do fairly well in paper-2.

For GS Paper II (Aptitude Test) : I mostly focused on solving last few years’ UPSC CSE question papers to understand the demand of paper.

        PD—How did you manage to tackle the ‘Negative Marking’ in Prelims?

        Dr. Pooja—Practice and practice and practice.

        PD—Was there any special effort for effective preparation for Essay Paper ? Which topic did you pick up this time and why did you choose this particular topic ?

        Dr. Pooja—Essay was my strong area. So I never gave special attention to it. For section-1, I chose the topic “poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.” Poverty is one issue which has always been close to my heart. So I chose this.

For section 2, I chose “customary morality cannot be a guide to modern life”. Amongst all the others I could connect most with this topic.

PD—How did you prepare your-self for Interview (Personality Test) ? When and which Board did you face ? How did your interview go on, how long did it last and what were the questions asked during the Interview ?

        Dr. Pooja—I focused on mock interviews and panel discussions.

I faced Vyas sir’s Board. My experience was good as the Board was very cordial. Most of the ques-tions were around my optional and my graduation.

Questions were on dentistry, oral health care condition in India, Ayush-man Bharat scheme, tribes of India, their issues and conditions etc. Some questions were HR based, remaining ones from economics. Overall the interview experience was good. My interview lasted for 30 minutes and I was the first candidate on the day to face the Board.

        PD—Were you preparing for other career opportunities as well while preparing for your ultimate goal i.e., Career in Civil Services ?

        Dr. Pooja—I am a registered dentist. So my only aim was civil services and I was not preparing for any other exam.

PD—While the changing economic environment offers immense lucrative career opportunities in various sectors, still what kept you motivated towards Civil Services ?

        Dr. Pooja—I was asked this ques-tion in almost every mock and even in final interview. Dentistry gives a very lucrative career not only in India but also abroad. But the job satisfaction and opportunity to serve the nation that civil service provides is unparalleled

        PD—In your opinion at which Educational Level should one start preparing for Civil Services and what should be the minimum period of time required to prepare for Civil Services Examinations ?

Dr. Pooja—The earlier the better. I feel at least 1-1·5 years of dedicated preparation is a must.

        PD—What is your opinion regarding the general view that Science subjects have better chance to score than Humanities ?

        Dr. Pooja—I believe, it is simply a myth. Each subject gives fair chance to score if studied properly.

        PD—What is the importance of medium of examination for exams like CSE ?

        Dr. Pooja—Medium is simply a way to convey one’s thoughts to the examiner.

        PD—Does the educational, financial and demographic status of the family of an aspirant have any impact on the preparation ?

        Dr. Pooja—It may or may not impact the preparation because it depends on the candidate, as to how he deals with them. Mental strength becomes extremely relevant here.

        PD—In your opinion what role do the Competition Magazines play when you are preparing for an examination like Civil Services ?

Dr. Pooja—They play a pivotal role by keeping us updated with the relevant topics which one might have missed. Further, the success stories and interviews published in them keep the candidates motivated. They are helpful in streamlining the preparation.

        PD—How do you find Prati-yogita Darpan ? Do you find it close to your expectations ?

        Dr. Pooja—I found it of immense help. I used to read the current affairs and practice MCQs regularly. Further, the success stories helped me to counter my anxiety whenever I felt low during my preparation days.

        PD—What is the secret of your success ?

        Dr. Pooja—Impeccable commitment to my goal and putting right efforts at the right time, I think, worked for me. Instead of appearing for multiple exams I focused my attention entirely on UPSC CSE and streamlined my efforts. This saved my time and efforts and helped in yielding result within 1 year. Firm belief in the Almighty and support of my family and friends were also very helpful.

        PD—To whom would you like to give the credit for your success ?

        Dr. Pooja—Firstly, to my parents and my sister who supported me immensely throughout this period. They believed in me and my dream which was a major morale booster for me. Next I would extend my sincere thanks to my mentors and all other friends (seniors) who were my constant support throughout my journey.

        PD—Any suggestion/advice you would like to give to the future aspirants.

        Dr. Pooja—Before starting your journey in civil services first identify your WHY. Once this WHY is clear then direct your entire energy and resources to only one goal i.e., Civil Services. To keep distractions and fears at bay, be always in touch with your family and friends. Believe in yourself each day and motivate yourself constantly. At last remember that “Civil services is a means to an end and not an end in itself.“

PD—Thank you very much and wishing you all the best for your future endeavours.

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