IAS 2009 Topper Interview
Saswati Dey (All India Rank 7)
“Once decided, do not stop and look back”
Civil service has been the only goal so far in her life. It has been her dream to become a civil servant and be a part of the governance of India. Meet the promising Saswati Dey in a heart-to-heart talk with Competition Wizard.
Q. To whom and to what do you credit your success?
A. To the Almighty first of all. To my mother, Uncle, sister, grandmother, rest of my family for being the pillars of support for me; my best friend for boosting my morale and instilling confidence; my friends at BITS; my teachers at school, ALS, Kerala State Civil Service Academy, Pala Civil Service Institute and Prof. Rajashekaran for their timely guidance.
Q. Why did you choose Civil Services as a career?
A. Civil service is a not a career option for me. It has been the only goal so far in my life. It has been my dream to become a civil servant and be a part of the governance of India?
Q. How should one assess oneself before deciding to opt for Civil Services as a career?
A. One should evaluate the reasons for joining civil services. What is he/she looking for from the job and also how much is the willingness to contribute to the service.
Q. When did you consciously start your preparation for this examination?
A. In 2006, after completion of Post Graduation.
Q. When should one ideally start the preparation process?
A. It is a very individual choice. However good reading habits; a sound understanding of concepts of one’s academic subjects can be a good beginning to the process, Attempts should be taken as early as possible in terms of age.
Q. It is said that the Civil Services examination is one of the toughest nuts to crack. It requires constant and sustained hard work. How did you keep yourself constantly motivated? What was your source of inspiration?
A. My only motivation was my ardent desire to qualify and reach my goal. Also, my friends and parents always kept me motivated during the lows and helped me pull myself up.
Q. In your opinion, how crucial is the selection of Optionals for success in the examination?
A. It is the most important factor as they are the medium through which candidates are evaluated. Starting from the Prelim which checks the knowledge in the Optional, It moves on to check one understands and expression of the same.
Q. What should be the criteria for selecting them and how should one go about it? Should one opt for the subjects studied at college or go for new ones?
A. Comfort level, understanding and availability of study matter should determine the choice of Optionals. Subjects studied sincerely at the college level can be a very good choice as it already provides a premise of pre-existing knowledge.
Q. How should one prepare for Prelim, Main and Interview?
A. For Prelim: Repetitive coverage and understanding of fundamental concepts, and practicing previous years’ question papers.
For Main: Consolidation of knowledge of optionals, improved expressions and language and working on weak areas to bring them to competitive levels.
For Interview: Confidence on what has already been learnt theoretically, work on gathering information on hobbies, and overall a positive, balanced and holistic understanding of issues at large.
Q. How can one score well in Essay, GS and Interview?
A. Essay: Pin point areas of interest, issues which one feels strongly about, plus improved expression.
General Studies: Covering as much as one can in width as well as depth.
Interview: Confidence, composure, and humility.
Q. What are the areas in GS Paper I and II in the Main examination in which the candidate can score marks easily?
A. It depends on one’s area of interest. In Paper I, Geography and in Paper II, Statistics and International issues are the areas in which a candidate can score marks easily.
Q. Did you commit any mistake during your preparations?
A. I didn’t practice much the map work for Geography.
Q. How many hours should one devote for the preparations regularly?
A. Again a very personal decision. It can range anywhere from 8 hours to 14 hours according to the need and stamina of candidates.
Q. Could you please give the aspirants a list of reference for essay/GS/Optional I/Optional II and Interview?
A. Essay: Newspapers and Internet.
General Studies: NCERT books, practice of previous years’ question papers for statistics.
Optionals Geography: NCERT books, Goh Cheng Leong, Savindra Singh, Atlas (Orient Longman, TTK and Oxford).
Public Administration: Prasad, Fadia and Nicholas Henry
Interview: Newspapers and a special focus on hobbies.
Q. Besides text books what newspapers, magazines, novels and books of general interest should one read?
A. It is important to have good reading habits; it can be fiction or non-fiction depending on one’s choice.
Q. How one should read newspaper?
A. One should read newspaper selectively and judiciously, making notes whenever required.
Q. How did the Competition Wizard helps you in the preparation of the Civil Services examination?
A. It’s informative, has wide coverage and has an easy to read format.
Q. What is more important for this exam, intelligence or hard work?
A. A balance of both, i.e. smart hard work.
Q. Do candidates with a technical background have an advantage over general students?
A. This exam is a holistic test. A lot of learning and unlearning is needed and this applies to both technical as well as non-technical students. One group has to tackle History and Geography while the other has to take on Statistics. It’s an even game.
Q. Where did you prepare for the examination (at what place)? Does the place of preparation matter?
A. I prepared at Delhi. Yes, place of preparation matters. The availability of study matter on time, the perception of the competition levels in the peer group gives a sense of realism to the preparation process.
Q. In the course of preparation one is faced with many problems, queries and difficulties. Where should one go for help, especially the students staying in remote areas?
A. The students from remote areas can take the aid of web based information as well as correspond with the coaching institutes for material as well as advice.
Q. Do coaching institutes help? If yes, how should one select, when there are so many of them?
A. Coaching institutes help to the extent that they give a sense of direction to the wide ocean of information and help to streamline the preparation process. Moreover, they also bring an element of evaluation at different stages.
Q. In which stage should one ideally opt for coaching?
A. It is a need based decision. Ideally a cursory knowledge of the optional is good before joining a coaching institute as it gives better understanding and clears doubts.
Q. Why did you choose ALS in the first place?
A. The reputation of ALS in teaching Geography had taken me to there. As a member there, I felt professional approach to coaching along with a personal touch to the guidance process.
Q. What is so special about ALS?
A. ALS has an organized approach to teaching, a professional approach, wonderful faculties as well as support staff.
Q. Do you think that with increasing levels of competition, the preparation for Civil Services is getting too expensive?
A. As compared to other competitions, it is equally or less expensive.
Q. Could you suggest some ways of cutting down on expenses?
A. Self preparation and sharing of study materials by forming study groups among friends.
Q. Seeing the stiffness of the competition, is this exam meant for everyone who takes it?
A. Only those who are sure of what they expect of this service should come.
Q. Is UPSC really unpredictable?
A. It is really an unpredictable exam in terms of content of questions but is really predictable in terms of its persistent insistence on selecting the best in the country. The exams are a reflection of this criterion.
Q. What all do you think is needed to make it to the top?
A. Dedication, determination, sincerity, support of parents and friends and God’s will.
Q. How would you rate luck as far as success in Civil Services is concerned?
A. Fortune favors the brave. It will follow only after the requisite efforts have been made.
Q. How was the atmosphere during your Interview?
A. It was a real personality test. The board was cordial and it supported me to bring out my real self.
Q. What do you think is the right way to face Interview Board confidently?
A. Self confidence with humility in behaviour, a strong base of knowledge of Optionals and a balanced take on issues at large gives the confidence for the interview.
Q. What types of questions did the Board ask?
A. It was a comprehensive experience and touched all aspects.
Q. What is the most important thing one should keep in mind while facing the Interview Board?
A. The Interview Board comprises of highly experienced members. The candidates should not try to show their knowledge; rather their willingness to learn should be palpable. The Board is open to all that we have to say. It should be reciprocated and defensive answers should be avoided. Mistakes, if made, should be owned up. One should be extremely attentive during the entire interview process. It is the most important half an hour in a candidate’s life.
Q. During the Interview, did the board member(s) ask you any tricky question(s)?
A. Questions on international affairs are always tricky to answer. I also had one or two such questions.
Q. How do you foresee your future as an administrator?
A. My dream has been to be a part of the esteemed Indian Foreign Service. I see myself as representing India in the international forum and making a meaningful difference to our bilateral and international relations.
Q. Would you have a final word for the student community?
A. A clear vision can show you the path you want to traverse. Take time to decide where you want to go. Once decided, do not stop and never look back.
Name : Saswati Dey
Sex : Female
Date of Birth : 15 May 1984
Father’s Name :Suhas Dey
Father’s Occupation : Government Service
Medium of Exam : English
Optionals : Geography & Public Administration
Rank : 7th
Exam Institution Year %
Xth St Josephs’s High School 1999 80
XIIth BJB College, Bhubaneswar 2001 70
Graduation BJB College, Bhubaneswar 2004 85
Post Graduation DSE, Delhi University 2006 70
Number of Attempts : Three
Service Preferences : IFS, IAS, IPS
Earlier Selections in Competitive examination (including Civil Services exam) : IRS (C&CE) Rank 426 in CSE 2008
Prizes, Medals, Scholarships: Gold Medal in MA (2006), UGC (JRF) 2007 and All India Post Graduate Scholarship (2004-06)
Hobbies/Interests : Nature and Landscape Photography, Travelling & Cooking
Marks obtained, will be published in the next issue.
My interview was on the first day itself i.e. on 22nd April in the afternoon session. I had put on a pink and cream color Sambalpuri silk saree for the occasion. I reached the UPSC on time. After the initial formalities of checking documents, I came to know that it was Mr. P.K. Mishra’s Board.
When my turn came I was called in. There were two lady members. I greeted all the members and was asked to take a seat. The questions were initiated by the chairman on my hobby of cooking. Moving on, he asked me about my college, after whom it was named and so on. Then the next member asked me on my choice of service. He also asked me about the relevance and importance of different important agreements in the world today. He also asked questions on the Copenhagen Summit, environment and climate.
Next, the lady member asked me questions on social networking sites, their pros and cons and a few other questions from Geography as it was my core subject.
The next set of questions was taken on by the other lady member who asked me questions on women and children, how atrocities against them can be tackled at the most fundamental levels etc. Questions were also asked on my other hobby, i.e. traveling.
Another member asked me about the ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’ concept and which book talks about it. I only had a vague idea about it, So I expressed my inability to answer it. After that they asked me on Headley issue – as to how India should respond to 26/11 and its after effects.
I was thinking my interview was almost at its end after such a lot of questions. However to my surprise, the chairman again picked a fresh set of questions on International affairs – Starting from India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The scope of the question kept on increasing and questions related to USA and Russia were also asked. It was here that I was most apprehensive about committing an error at the fag end of my interview because the scope of discussion had increased enormously. But fortunately the answers I gave were accepted by the Board.
With that my interview came to an end. I greeted the Board again and left. I was feeling good at the end as I felt that I had done reasonably well in dealing with the questions.
Courtesy: Competition Wizard, July 2010
***** IAS 2009 Topper Interview
Saswati Dey (All India Rank 7)
“Once decided, do not stop and look ba
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