Competition Success Review Can Be Considered To Be A One-Stop-Shop Giving An All-Round Coverage Of Various Topics

—Rahul Gupta, IAS Topper 2016-17 (20th Rank)
Mr. Rahul Gupta has secured the 20th Rank in the 2016-17 Civil Services Examination (CSE).
He made it into the prestigious IAS in his fourth attempt. Mr. Gupta is a B.Tech. (Electrical Engineering) from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar, Punjab. He did his schooling from Ryan International School, Rohini, Delhi.  Mr. Gupta is of the strong belief that the secret to his success lay in his “persistence”, this being his fourth attempt. He credits hard as well as smart work behind making it to the 20th Rank in the CSE 2016-17. He said that Competition Success Review was invaluable while preparing for the interview. It helped provide an overall coverage of important topics that helped him prepare for the interview. His advice to future aspirants is that they should never lose hope since  nobody ever knows what lies in the future and what destiny has in store.

Here, we publish an exclusive interview which he gave to Competition Success Review.

CSR : What is the secret of your success in the Civil Services Examination?

Mr. Rahul Gupta : I believe that the secret to my success lies in the persistence that I showed, this being my fourth attempt. Again hard and a smart work has paid off. Also, an indirect support by the family and my friends just removed all the indirect barriers that could have been there if they did not lend their helping hand.

Q. How much time do you think one requires for serious preparations for this examination?

A. There is no specific time that can be fixed for the preparation of Civil Services Examination. It totally depends on the capability of the individual and the time management one can do. My only mantra is that how an effective study can be done i.e. whenever you study, you do it with full concentration.

Q. Which journals have you been reading for the General Studies and other papers?

A. Apart from Competition Success Review, General Knowledge Today and CSR Year Book,I mainly referred to government sources. The magazines like Yojana etc., were my prime source for General Studies syllabus. I also referred to newspapers like
The Hindu
. I even referred to online resources like Economics and Political Weekly, Down to Earth magazines etc.

Q. Do you remember any remarkable incident in your life that motivated or prompted you to go for a career in the Civil Services?

A. There was no sporadic incident in my life that motivated me to go for Civil Services. There was a persistent motivation by my parents to pursue this career. Therefore, it was not a one-off incident but a constant motivation.

Q. Competition Success Review, the largest selling youth magazine in English for 35 years, has been extremely helpful because

A. The Preliminary paper has been changing in character since the new pattern of examination has set in. With a greater focus on facts and concept-based questions together, the Competition Success Review magazine has become all the more relevant.

Q. How did your parents, family and friends contribute to your success?

A. Parents, family and friends are the intangible support that can only be felt but might not be directly seen through the naked eye. They are the power engines that act as a constant motivator to any candidate who prepares for the Civil Services Examination. Therefore success is the combined result of the individual efforts and the close acquaintances’ support.

Q. Had you not been selected in the Civil Services Examination, what would have been your reaction? Which other service/career would you have gone in/opted for?

A. There was no back up option as such for me other than clearing the Civil Services Examination.  But if I was not so blessed and would have not cleared the Civil Services Examination, then I would have reverted back to my strengths and would have become an engineer and tried to serve the country in some way.

Q. How do you visualise your success?

A. I am the only person in the Top 20 with Delhi as my home town. My success has come after a long time interval. I have waited for this day for quite some time. I believe that my success is a result of hard work and some smart moves that I adopted in the last attempt. Therefore, although it came after a long period, but my success has made me forget all the woes that I encountered during the preparation.

Q. What were your strong points which enabled you to achieve spectacular success in  the Civil Services Examination?

A. My strong points I believe were my never losing patience, attitude and my focus on doing work and not caring about the result. Civil Services Examination is not an examination but a process of personality development. Therefore you should not focus on the result but should focus on how to develop and change your personality in course of time of the Civil Services Examination.

Q. What was your optional at the Civil Services Examination?

A. I chose Electrical Engineering as my optional which was also the subject of my graduation.

Q. How many attempts had you made earlier before you got selected?

A. I made three attempts before I got selected in my fourth attempt.

Q. What was your criterion for the selection of the optional subject?

A. The determining parameter that I thought of, to select my optional was that I should have an interest towards this subject. Apart from this, a greater familiarity with the Electrical Engineering optional (that being my graduation subject) led me to pursue this optional for Civil Services Examination.

Q. How did you prepare for your compulsory papers?

A. The strategy for preparation for compulsory papers was simple—I focussed more on current affairs and correlated the current affairs with the syllabus of the compulsory papers. This gave me the overall perspective of the examination.  Apart from this, I also covered the static part of the compulsory papers from the relevant NCERTs and also some coaching material that was readily available in the market.

Q. What is your impression about the Interview Board?

A. I was given the Interview Board of Air Marshal Ajit Shankarrao Bhonsle. It is mostly perceived that the UPSC Interview Board is very hostile and is ready to pounce upon any candidate viciously as soon as any candidate enters. But generally the Board members as a whole are very cordial. My Board members too had a very calm demeanour and asked the relevant questions according to my Detailed Application Form. Also some questions pertained to my work experience and some current affairs of that day.

Q. Competition Success Review has been the largest selling ABC-certified magazine in English since 1981. How do you visualise the role of this magazine in moulding the careers of the youth.

A. Competition Success Review has been a guiding light to many aspirants from time immemorial. Initially it was the only magazine which gave aspirants a complete guide book for the preparation for Civil Services. In changing times, it has also modified itself and has proportionately changed according to the needs of the examination and the aspirants. CSR is not only helpful for Civil Services Examination, but for other competitive examinations as well like Staff Selection Commission, Banking, State Civil Services etc.

Q. How did Competition Success Review help you in your preparation for the interview?

A. Competition Success Review apprised me of the facts and figures that are sometimes relevant to the interview. It gave an overall coverage of important topics that were relevant from the debate point of view and which were also a part of the interview. Apart from that, the experience of the past candidates enriched my attitude towards the interview and prepared me beforehand.

Q. How do you look upon the publication of CSR magazine in Hindi? Do you think that the mindset and basic approach of English medium students are fundamentally different from those of the Hindi medium students ?

A. CSR publication in Hindi is a great initiative as it creates a level playing field between the candidates writing the
exams in English and the Hindi medium. It is a myth that Hindi medium is difficult to crack this exam. I believe that mindset and the basic approach of the candidates is similar irrespective of the medium of answering the paper. This exam is only about expressing your ideas and those do not fundamentally change if you express them in Hindi or English or even in any other regional language.

Q. What is your opinion about Competition Success Review?

A. Competition Success Review is a great magazine that helps to cover the length, breadth and depth of the general knowledge occurring in the day-to-day life. It is a great monthly magazine to cover the gist of issues and remove the hassles of analysing the different aspects of current affairs in different books. Also it covers various issues related to strategies of the past toppers and their experience that helps a candidate to attune himself in that manner only.

Q. Since when have you been reading Competition Success Review ?

A. Competition Success Review was my first GK magazine and was given to me by my mother during my school stages when I decided to become a civil servant.

Q. Did your father and/or mother also read Competition Success Review when they were of your age ? If so, who read and when ?

A. My mother had appeared for UPSC exam at her age and Competition Success Review was the magazine which became her source of knowledge for the same.

Q. What is your opinion about General Knowledge Today ?

A. General Knowledge Today is also a compact and portable guide to issues of current affairs. It provides remarkable and absolute coverage of issues combined with the Competition Success Review.

Q. To prepare for this Civil Services Examination, did you join any Coaching Institute(s)? If so, name them.

A. For the preparation of Civil Services General Studies, I joined a coaching institute called Vajiram and Ravi in my first attempt. In the later attempts I did not feel the need to join any coaching institute and prepared on my own. I did not join any coaching institute for my optional Electrical Engineering.

Q. What do you think is a better way of preparation between selective intensive study and wide extensive study?

A. I believe that the examination has transformed itself in such a way that you need to create a balance between the two—doing a wide and extensive study for your optional and having a selective intensive study for the general knowledge issues.

Q. Have you been studying alone or in a group ? If you were studying in a group, have your other friends also succeeded ? If so, name them.

A. I usually studied alone. But in case of issues which needed to be debated and the issues which needed other’s opinion as well, I studied in groups too.

Q. Is this pattern of the exam appropriate for selection? Would you recommend any other improvement?

A. I believe that the current pattern of examination is both appropriate and also in a need for a change. If we talk of Prelims, then it has become the most uncertain part of the exam where about 15,000 candidates are selected on the basis of only 100 questions. In my opinion this pattern should be changed by introducing alternatives like having two General Studies papers. Apart from that I believe that other parts of the examination are fairly appropriate and in my opinion do not require any change.

Q. Do you feel that there should be no restriction on the number of attempts ?

A. I believe that the current practice of restrictions on the number of attempts is appropriate. I believe that UPSC gives enough chances to the candidates to prove themselves.

Q. We have been awarding CSR Gold Medal to top 50 Rank Holders of CSE who have been our readers. Do you think that our gesture has been a source of inspiration for the Civil Services aspirants?

A. I believe that CSR Gold Medal initiative can be a source of incentive for an individual. An aspirant is motivated by it by the fact that he/she might be felicitated one day when he tastes success.

Q. We have been publishing essays every month under Current Issues and CSR Essay Contests and CSR Super Brain Youth Contest by adding eight more pages to encourage our readers not only to write better, but also to know what the top competitors could be writing. Besides, we offer CSR Gold Medal & Trophy to the winners of the CSR Super Brain Youth Contest. Is this focus-oriented approach helpful for the IAS aspirants?

A. Civil Services aspirants today need greater exposure and practice towards their preparation. Therefore the focus-oriented approach of the CSR is a good initiative in this regard.

Q. We have been publishing Mock Tests in every issue prepared by India’s Top IAS Coaching Institutes as IAS Special Supplements in Competition Success Review to help aspirants in CSE preparation. Were these helpful to you ?

A. Mock tests give a practice before actually giving the exams. Therefore they give a great exposure to the aspirants and in that way I believe these also helped me to get ready towards the final examination.

Q. How do you think Competition  Success  Review  could be more useful to the candidates appearing in the Civil Services and various other competitive examinations ?

A. CSR is a very useful magazine. The only thing I believe that can make it more useful is that this magazines can be published in various regional languages so that each and every aspirant belonging to various backgrounds can be equated on a level playing field.

Q. Do you think that the UPSC needs to be more transparent in its examination and evaluation ?

A. UPSC Civil Services Examination and evaluation have also been perceived to be clouded in secrecy. But I believe that the reason for this is also because of the level of the examination and also its subjectiveness in terms of various General Studies papers. UPSC also gives relevant information towards evaluation that is fair in character.

Q. What is your advice to the future aspirants?

A. My advice to the future aspirants is that they should never lose hope because one never knows what lies in the future and what destiny awaits.

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