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Interview with Anandhi (CSE - 06 All India 57 th Rank )
Schooling up to 12th The Lawrence School, Lovedale, Ooty, Nilgiris
1999-2002 B.A(Hons) Sociology, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi
2002-2005 LL.B Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, New Delhi
Optional Prelims : Sociology; Mains: Sociology and Public Administration. Marks are yet to come
My Civil Services journey has been a bit complicated. When I finished school, I thought of pursuing Civil Services after graduation. However at that time I wasn't completely aware of the terrain I was hoping to enter. Nevertheless, under my father's guidance, in 1999 I visited a number of coaching institutes for advice on choice of subject and method of preparation. After a lot of deliberation we agreed upon sociology to be my subject for graduation so that it can help in Civils prep as well later.
However, within a year of college, I completely lost interest in the civil services. This was mainly because I had been told by many people that it requires 12 hours of daily studying and that was something I loathed. So when I finished graduation I decided to switch tracks to Law.
Law school matured me a lot and gave me a lot of self-confidence. Towards the end of law school, I realized that the Civils dream hadn't completely died in me. I also felt much more equipped - intellectually and emotionally to take on the great big exam. So it was in mid 2005 that I decided to take this exam.
I have given this background because I think it points out the ground work required even before one plunges into this competition:
1. It is extremely important for all aspirants to know exactly the rigour this exam needs. Many people start without understanding its true scope and drop out half through feeling demoralized. So please do visit IAS officers, coaching institutes, etc. to understand the demands this exam will make on you intellectually, on your personal life. This will make you mentally prepared for the arduous journey.
2. One does NOT have to study 12 hours a day for this exam. It is not about the number of hours you sit to study, but the discipline and concentration with which you study over a long stretch of time - about 1and ½ to 2 years - even if it is only 6-8 hours a day.
3. Confidence in one's ability to tackle this exam is very important. Personally I feel having some other career option to fall back on does help.
Sociology was a natural first option for me. Despite having studied it in college, I took up coaching for it because the UPSC syllabus is very vast. I joined Upendra's IAS Coaching Centre. In Upendra sir I found a sociology teacher par excellence and a mentor who guided me through each and every stage and problem in the last two years.
I chose Public Administration because it has a little bit of law - which I am familiar with - and because it complements sociology - being less conceptual and more practical compared to sociology. I took no coaching for it. I relied completely on the help and advice of two friends who are well versed with the subject.
I also took no coaching for the various subjects in GS. But I did join Vajiram & Ravi's Mains current affairs course which they conduct just one month before the Mains exam. It was tremendously useful and I strongly recommend it.
My basic Mains strategy was a risky one. So I don't really recommend it to others. What I did was focus extra-ordinarily on sociology and very little on GS and Public Administration. Actually this is a very dangerous strategy. Preferably one should give equal focus to all 3 subjects, even if it isn't extra-ordinary. I did it nevertheless primarily because of my sociology background and because of the excellent guidance of Upendra Sir.
The books to be read for Sociology Mains are many. But the most basic and fundamental book one must cover for Paper I is "Sociology" by Haralambos. This book and my coaching notes were my two crutches for Mains. Everything else I read was mainly supplementary. Studying sociology is straight forward. In my opinion the class notes and Haralambos give sufficient sociological knowledge. It is a must to be thorough with the concepts. Once that is achieved, sociology becomes very easy. Also, reading newspapers regularly gives a lot of supplementary information - particularly to use as examples. This gives one an edge over run-of-the-mill answers. I would also like to mention that I did not use any guide book for either Prelims or Mains in Sociology.
In Public Administration, my 2 crutches were Laxmikanth's big, thick book for Prelims and the IPJA articles published by Indian institute of Public Administration. Yes, though Laxmikanth is essentially for Prelims, I found the book equally important for Mains and I relied on it heavily even though I did not have pub ad for Prelims. After reading Laxmikanth, it would be helpful to read Mohit Bhattacharya's "New Horizons of Public Administration" for Paper I and Arora &Goyal for Paper II. Personally, I feel this is all the study material that is required. Pub ad, is not as straight forward as sociology. One can never find a book which will give all the answers for the questions asked in UPSC. What I did was to first read Laxmikanth to understand the concepts. Gave a second reading during which I learnt all the points in every chapter. Then I read the other books and journals to supplement knowledge. Thereafter, I basically spent time on "thinking" about the topics and previous years questions, as Ashish, my Pub Ad guide had told me. This is the crux of Public Administration. More than bookish material, one has to use information from newspapers and common sense a real lot.
For GS mains, I studied History from the little Spectrum guide - very concise and informative. Bipin Chandra's "India's Struggle for Independence" would also help a lot. Geography I didn't study but I recommend TMH's Prelims guide's geography section to those who are interested. Polity I studied well from Vajiram& Ravi notes as well as Laxmikanth's book called "Indian Polity". Economics I relied solely on Vajiram & Ravi notes. Statistics I studied on my own from Chronicle's book on Statistics. I think that is more than sufficient. Science again was from Vajiram & Ravi notes. Since the questions are becoming very contemporary it is absolutely imperative to read newspapers daily and at least one Magazine. I read The Hindu and Frontline. While not always agreeing with their conclusions, their research is excellent.
For Prelims, sociology again I relied basically on Upendra sir's class notes which were excellent. I addition there are a number of books that have to be read. The most important being Haralambos, MacIver &Page, Horton &Hunt, Social Change in India by M.N. Srinivas and IGNOU notes. Here too conceptual clarity is the key. Please do not avoid it. As for GS, I am ill-equipped to advise because I did not have the negative marking system. So my strategy was to focus 90% on Sociology and 10% on GS. Nevertheless, I read modern India from Spectrum, Geography theory from TMH and maps from Oxford Atlas and Siddhartha's Book of Maps (actually for Geography Mains but very helpful for Prelims), Polity from Laxmikanth's "Indian Polity". I also learned all the Articles of the Constitution from the Bare Act. I made it a habit to jot down any tidbits from the newspaper which looked important. I subscribed to Civil Services Chronicle and basically read the News Notes , States Watch, Economy Watch and news oriented sections.
SOME MUST Dos
UPSC Board Questions
1. What is the meaning of your name and in which language?
2. You have said that reading is a hobby, so what kind of books do you read?
3. What is your opinion on today's Anglo-Indian writers? Why are they so popular despite the fact that English is not even their mother-toungue?
4. What are the Anglo-Indian authors and Classics you have read?
5. What is your opinion of Charles Dickens writings?
6. What is the difference between the IPC provisions for corruption and the provisions of The Prevention of Corruption Act? (they asked this because I have also completed by LL.B)
7. What are the problems in the legal system in prosecuting people accused of corruption? Why is the conviction rate of corruption cases so dismal?
8. Are bio-fuels good alternative sources of energy?
9. What are the problems of using bio-fuels as fuel?
in the bureaucracy to get isolated from the people very quickly. What will you do to prevent this?
10. Where all have you travelled? (travelling - a hobby)
11. Is there any difference between the Nilgiris and the Hills of North-East India?
12. Tell us about the status of women in India. Are there sufficient laws to protect their interests?
13. What is women's empowerment? What will you do if you are posted to a district to empower the women there?
14.Tell us something about your school (its history, etc). What makes a great schoolThen it ended.
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