Shubham Gupta, attained 6th Rank in his 4th attempt in Civil Services Examination-2018

“The trinity of dedication, commitment and perseverance is the formula of my success.”

-Shubham Gupta

        “Pratiyogita Darpan” arranged an exclusive interview with Shri Shubham Gupta who has been selected in Civil Services Examination, 2018, conducted by UPSC. He deserves high appreciation and  our heartiest congratulations on his glorious success. This important, thought-provoking and highly inspiring interview is being presented here in its original form.


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

Shri Shubham—Thank you very much. It really has been a whirlwind journey for me over the years. I have become able to achieve what I had embarked upon.

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

Shri Shubham—This was my 4th attempt. Earlier, in my 2nd attempt, I had secured AIR 366 in CSE 2016.

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

Shri Shubham—I was not able to clear the preliminary examination in the 1st and the 3rd attempt. In the 2nd attempt, I secured AIR 366 in CSE 2016. This was my 4th attempt. Even when I secured AIR 366 in the second attempt, my mains examination score was decent but my inter-view (personality test) marks were very low i.e., 124. This year my interview score is 184.

PD—What was your optional subject ?

Shri ShubhamOptional Subject : Law.

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

Shri Shubham—In my opinion, there should be two factors which one should keep in mind while making the final choice for the optional paper.

       One, the interest of the candidate. It is imperative that the candidate should have some interest in that particular subject.

        Two, the general pattern of scoring in UPSC pertaining to that paper. Ultimately, it’s important that the candidate does his research on the scoring pattern and finds a subject where both interest and score are achievable. This will maximize the success potential of a candidate in the optional paper.

PD—What preference in services have you opted for and any particular reason for that priority ?

Shri Shubham—IAS, IFS, IPS. I have always dreamt of becoming an IAS Officer and it also allows me to carry out the welfare activities that I wish to in the most direct manner. Hence, it is my first preference.

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

Shri Shubham—I don’t think anybody can be assured of the top rank in this exam, due to the nature of this examination. Same was the case with me. I knew that I had written well and I might be in the final list. But I surely didn’t expect to secure AIR 6. This came as a total surprise.

        When the results came, I called up my parents. Suddenly, I was flooded with calls and messages. It took me sometime togather the thought and let the feeling sink in. Ultimately, I was very happy that I was able to make my parents proud and I was one step closer to what I want to achieve in my life.

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

Shri Shubham—IAS Toppers are considered as role models by the aspirants and future civil servants. Hence, the toppers have an additional responsibility of guiding the people who look up to them in the right direction with absolute integrity. I do feel that somehow the mistakes made by the toppers don’t get that much coverage as much as they should. They should be highlighted enough so that the aspirants may be prevented from repeating the same.

        One particular story that inspired me a lot was that of Ms. Ira Singhal, CSE 2014 AIR 1, not only because of the struggles she faced in her personal life but also the difficulties she encountered in her professional life. Despite all odds being against her, she kept her motivation strong and after multiple attempts she was able to attain the top rank in the exam. Her success motivated me a lot just when I was about to begin my journey and also kept me on my toes over the years.

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

Shri Shubham—Since I belong to a purely business family, there were multiple instances when my father had to communicate and interact with civil servants with regard to his business activities. Ultimately, it was the result day for my 5th standard exams when my father sat me down and explained to me all this while expressing his desire for me to become an IAS Officer. This was that particular moment when in my life I first encountered nuances related to the civil services.

Name—Shubham Gupta

Father’s Name—Shri Anil Gupta

Mother’s Name—Mrs. Anupama Gupta

Educational Qualifications

10th—2010, Shri Swaminarayan Gurukul, Vapi, CBSE Board (10·0 CGPA)

12th—2012, Shri Swaminarayan Gurukul, Vapi, CBSE Board (94·6%)

B.A. (Hons.-Eco.)—2012-13, Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, Univer-sity of Delhi (89·32%)

Previous Selections :

UPSC, CSE 2016/AIR 366/ Service : Indian Audit and Accounts Service.


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

Shri Shubham—When my father expressed his desire for me to become a civil servant in 5th standard, it stuck in my mind somewhere. Ultimately it was after my 12th standard exams that I finally decided to give it a try by attempting the civil service examination.

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

Shri Shubham—Both. As It was only when I myself figured out that this was indeed the way for me that I began to think about making my career in the civil services.

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

Shri Shubham—Yes I did. Of course, I also wanted to clear the exam in my very first attempt. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I had told myself that I can give maximum four attempts.

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

Shri Shubham—Time manage-ment is a big issue for the aspirants.

        In this scenario, my notes came to my rescue. I had prepared notes for most of my subjects which meant that I could avoid reading the complete books this time. This was immense help especially in my optional paper and helped me complete my syllabus in a much limited time in this attempt.

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

Shri Shubham—It is quite natural for anyone to ask all these questions at the stage of beginning the preparation for UPSC CSE.

        I talked to one of my seniors who was also preparing at that time (He happens to be an IAS himself now). I also talked to some of my brother’s friends who were also preparing for the exam. Further, I also went around and talked to some of the institutes and tried togather as much information as possible.

PD—What was your approach towards Paper I (General Studies) and Paper II (Aptitude Test) during Preliminary Examination preparation ? How long time and how much effort did you divide for each ?

Shri ShubhamFor GS Paper I (General Studies) : Most of my preparatory time was spent on studying aspects related to Paper I. My approach was to try and complement the study of static part of a subject with the current events and developments related to that subject through a comprehensive reading of the newspaper.

        I had also taken a decision for myself that apart from NCERT books and the newspaper for current events, if needed, I would refer to at the most one reference book for a particular subject rather than multiple books.

        In addition, I always made sure to attempt a certain number of practice tests (especially for Paper I) so that I am able to manage my time better.

        For GS Paper II (Aptitude Test) : By the time I started my preparation for UPSC CSE, Paper II had become only a qualifying paper for the preliminary exam requiring only 33% marks for getting through. Having studied mathematics in some form until the graduation level, I devoted very less time for the preparation of Paper II.

Personal Qualities
Favourite Person— My father is my all-time favourite person. This is because he is the one who taught me how to stand up in times of adversity.

Strong Point—I am a good liste-ner.

Weak Point—I tend to be impatient at times.

Hobbies—Collecting and reading books, watching and playing sports.


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

Shri Shubham—Everyone has a different way of handling the negative marking in prelims examination. In my case. I was able to reasonably guess the answers for certain questions that I wasn’t completely aware of, based on the technique of elimination. I generally used to attempt 90+ questions.

PD—What shift did you adopt in your strategy for Main Examination (Written) ?

Shri Shubham—Although the preparation strategy for UPSC CSE is an integrated one for all three stages of the examination, there are some shifts which one has to make, especially at a time when exam date is approaching.

        At this stage, the editorials and opinion articles from the newspapers would come in handy so as togather good content about the nuances of a particular subject. It, thus, becomes a good exercise to keep oneself updated with the newspaper articles and making notes out of the same.

        Further, for the Mains, my focus was especially on answer writing. My strategy was to write at least two tests per paper before the final examination.

PD—Was there any special effort for effective preparation for Essay Paper ?

Shri Shubham—My strategy in the essay paper would be to divide my 180 minutes in intervals of 100 and 80 minutes for the two essays respectively.

        The topics that I chose for my essays this time are :

        Topic I. Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.

        Topic II. A people that values its privileges above its principles loses                both.

PD—How did you prepare yourself for Interview (Personality Test) ?

Shri Shubham—This year my personality test was on the 14th of March, 2019 in the afternoon session. The board was chaired by Dr. B.S. Bassi and the duration was about 25 minutes. The interview was overall pretty smooth with only limited cross questioning. The chairman as well as members were very nice to me and encouraged my thoughts and answers to the questions. Overall, about 30-35 questions were asked to me during the interview.

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

Shri Shubham—I believe that it is very important for a person to identify his/her ‘antardhwani’ or the inner drumbeat that showcases the purpose of his/her life. It also has to be understood that there are always multiple ways of attaining that inner drumbeat, UPSC being one of them. It will be wrong to consider UPSC CSE as the end, for it is only a means to an end.

        Hence, I always wanted to keep a backup career option in my hand throughout my preparation journey such as having a good college degree in hand. Further, even before I qualified for the first time, I had two job offers from two very good MNCs in my hand. This is just to highlight the fact that I never considered UPSC as an end in itself in my life, but only as a means of doing what I wanted to do.

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

Shri Shubham—Two and most importantly, I have always felt that being in the civil services helps me to attain that inner drumbeat of mine where I get to work for the betterment of the people around me and I get a chance to make a direct positive impact in the lives of the people while working for the prosperity of the nation.

        Both these factors combined always kept me motivated towards civil services, even while I was exposed to some really lucrative career opportunities in the private sector in the form of campus placements.

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 ?

Shri Shubham—A candidate may dedicatedly start preparing for civil services from the third year onwards, one year prior to his becoming eligible to write the exam for the first time.

        From my experience, I have observed that one year is generally a good and sufficient time period for covering the extensive syllabus for this examination before finally attempting it.

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

Shri Shubham—Over the years I have noticed that certain science oriented subjects tend to fare better in terms of scoring in the exam. For instance, Mathematics and Anthropology have been high scoring subjects over the past few years. However, this also increases the responsibility of these candidates to write to-the-point answers as opposed to other humanities related subjects where there is relatively greater scope for opinion based answers.

        There are multiple cases every year where people belonging to subjects such as Political Science, Law, etc. end up getting the top ranks while also scoring reasonably high marks in their optional paper.

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

Shri Shubham—To some extent, yes. It is only an enabling factor for candidates having parents from the civil service background and where they are able to afford the best of the institutes for their children.

        It can’t be overemphasized that it is only hard word and commitment to this paper that can ensure success in this paper no matter however favorable the educational, financial and demographic status of the candidate and his/her family is.

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

Shri Shubham—I have observed that if a candidate has time in his/her hands, certain good quality magazines can be of help them form perspectives on certain key issues and events which can be useful for them during the exam.

PD—What is the secret of your success ?

Shri Shubham—Dedication, Commitment and Perseverance. The trinity of these three words is the formula for my success. The process of constant learning is highly significant and increases your chances of clearing this exam manifold.

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

Shri Shubham—I would like to thank my parents, my brother and my sister and friends for always being there during good as well as bad times. I would also like to express my gratitude towards the teachers that have taught me and kept me motivated over the years.

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

Shri Shubham—For the aspirants, I would suggest them to treat UPSC as just one of the stages of life and don’t allow it to dominate all spheres of your life. UPSC is only a means to an end, and not the end in itself.

        As far as preparation is considered, I would like to advise the aspirants to stay organic in their preparation. Try to avoid referring to multiple sources for one single subject and focus more on qualitative learning. Have faith in yourself and you will definitely ace the examination.

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

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