DTU Times had a short têtê-á-têtê with Ms. Punya Salila Srivastava, IAS, Education Secretary, Govt. of Delhi, at the Inaugural Ceremony of DTU’s East Campus in Vivek Vihar. Here are some excerpts.
DTU Times interviewed Mr. Manoj Kumar, IAS and Director, Directorate of Training and Technical Education, NCT of Delhi on the future of Technical Education in the state, on the occasion of the inaugural ceremony of the DTU East Delhi Campus.
DTU Times interviewed Shri Ram Niwas Goel, Speaker, Delhi Legislative Assembly on the significance of education and the steps being taken towards its improvement.
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DTU Times interviewed Arun Sehrawat, AIR 320, UPSC Civil Services Examination, 2016 and an alumnus of DTU.
DT: How was your journey after you graduated from college in 2014? What made you appear for civil services examination?
AS: The challenges, the opportunities and the work diversity that a civil servant gets to experience was enough to make me want to clear the Civil Services exam. College taught me many lessons about life, and I started my preparation as soon as I finished my graduation in Electrical Engineering. Two attempts, and great post-college learning experiences later, here I am, at the peak of my journey.
DT: Ideally, how much time is required for preparation for the Civil Services Examination? What role does coaching play in preparation ?
AS: Quantitatively speaking, one year is the average amount of time most students require to meet the requirements. Qualitatively, one should always factor in things like a person’s background, their academics, their interests, their options, their current employment status, and most importantly, the intensity of their study sessions.
Finally irrespective of time, aspirants should work with sincerity, have faith in themselves and believe that all their hard work will be worthwhile in the end.
When it comes to coaching, it acted only as a facilitator for my preparation. Much of my time was devoted to self study. So it’s important to understand that one can’t depend solely on coaching. For beginners who don’t have background and those who figure out that they have to prepare for civil services after college (like me), they can take some coaching classes or guidance from seniors for basic understanding and clarity on a range of issues.
UPSC exam consists of three rounds. What is the difference in preparation styles for each of these rounds?
AS: It is my personal opinion that one should always start the preparation by first giving adequate time to start for UPSC CSE analysis by going through the syllabus and previous year questions.
Prelims, being objective in nature, tests more of our conceptual knowledge including lot of facts. It requires information on traditional subjects and current affairs and rigorous practice of questions.
Mains, being subjective, is of analytical nature and revolves around current issues. Answer writing practice is a key enabler for fetching good marks. I wrote a lot of papers from different test series. Though pre and mains are separate papers but still there is considerable overlap between the two. So it’s better we adopt a pre cum mains integrated approach from the beginning. More time may be devoted for prelim-specific studies 1-2 months prior to the prelims.
The interview is an overall assessment of personality of a candidate and is a deciding factor in determining the final outcome – whether your name will be in the list or not. The knowledge you have gained so far is only a means of testing your personality. Mock interviews and Peer Discussions helped me groom myself for the interview.
DT: We have to choose a particular subject for the mains examination. Which subjects do you think should Engineers opt for in order to obtain appreciable scores in the mains examination?
AS: Since one has to go into the depth of the subject chosen, the choice should always be made based on one’s strength. Carefully analyse your strengths and weakness and accordingly put your mind into the optional subject. I chose my optional as Geography as there was a good overlap with the GS subjects. Being scientific in nature, Geography was also comparatively easier to understand.
I did not opt for Electrical Engineering, as the subject is incredibly vast and required much more effort to handle. Ultimately, people qualify from all the given optionals, hence it should be your decision at the end of the day.
DT: Which service are you opting for ?
AS: My first preference is IAS, followed by IPS, and then lastly, IRS.
DTU Times interviewed Ashutosh Aggarwal, who cleared the Common Aptitude Test (CAT) with a percentile of 99.92 and converted the call for Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
DT: In which exams did you appear for MBA Admissions?
AA: Well, I had my goals set so I only focussed on my CAT and skipped the rest of exams like GMAT, XAT, and NMAT.
DT: What was the process of preparation for the written exam?
AA: For the written half, I decided to seek external guidance and hence joined Career Launcher for a 1-year weekend course. I devoted all my time solving the questions given in the class and gave as many mock test papers as I could.
DT: What role does coaching play in MBA exam preparations?
AA: I believe that to truly ace a subject, one always needs a guide or a helping hand even if it’s just to point you in the right direction. Now, it isn’t compulsory to join coaching, however, doing so has many advantages like regular class tests, All India Mock Tests wherein you compete with thousands of people to know where you stand, quality peers to provide motivation, and most importantly knowledgeable teachers who will solve your queries hand to hand.
The most important thing any coaching institute does is to familiarize you with the exam pattern not to mention that their study material will be more than enough to study and practice for CAT.
DT: What is the importance of academic achievements and extracurricular activities in getting admission to a good B-School?
AA: Academics always bag the front row seats when it comes down to getting admission into a good business school, without doubt. Extracurricular activities help but are not necessary when it comes to the selection into IIMs. Performing well in academics right from Class 10th to graduation is extremely important. When it comes to extracurriculars, people who have excelled outstandingly are obviously given an upper hand.
DT: Which extracurricular activities were you a part of in your time at the University?
AA: Again, I was very driven by aim to succeed in the CAT examination, so I did not indulge in any extracurricular activities.
DT: How many GD and PI rounds did you participate in, and where?
AA: I got calls from 5 IIMs- Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore and Calcutta. All of them had a Written Ability Test (WAT), which consists of writing an essay followed by a Personal Interview of around 15-20 minutes except for IIM Shillong, which conducts a GD in place of WAT. The admission process of IIM A takes place at Hotel Vivanta by Taj, Dwarka. IIM C conducts PI at Indian Habitat Centre; IIM L uses their Noida campus. I however only attended the ones for IIM Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Indore.
DT: Please share your experiences and takeaways from the GD and PI rounds.
AA: If there is anything I have learnt from my PI experiences it is that it is extremely important to have a good grasp on current affairs. Knowing what is happening around you especially in your country is the most necessary thing after the course subjects because maximum questions are based on those. And always remember, where on hand confidence is key, cliche is definitely not. So always try to avoid answers like ‘better salary’ when asked questions like ‘why do you want to do an MBA?’
DT: Which were the toughest/trickiest questions you were asked during the PI rounds?
AA: It is no surprise that IIM interviewers tend to throw the interviewees off balance into a state of mute bewilderment. During my IIM Ahmedabad interview, I was asked why was Rohini called Rohini and the number of districts in Delhi. Similarly, during my IIM C interview, the panelists asked me to interview them. Then they asked me detailed questions regarding economics and finance like the difference between them, of which I obviously I had no idea and in the end one of the panelists told me that I could ask him any question related to economics – one which I thought he couldn’t answer – and that then only would they accept me. Later of course I found out, he himself was an economist.
DT: What advice would you give students who aspire to crack CAT and get admission in elite institutions?
- Keep yourself updated with the latest current affairs from the beginning, as you may not get enough time to grasp the entire year’s news just before the PI.
- Do not try to be over smart during the interview. As the panelists are experienced people and will definitely be smarter than you.
- Think before you speak. After all, anything as anything you say can be used by the panelists to ask further questions based on that.
- As for CAT, having a good speed and accuracy is important than having a good memory. So try to do calculations mentally.
- For the English section, start practicing the unseen comprehensions as they usually are the most boring and sadly the largest part of the English section.
- Make sure you do as many mock tests as possible and then try to analyse and rectify the mistakes you made in that test.
Having completed his graduation and post-graduation at DTU and currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering here, Shashank Shekhar Singh cleared the UPSC Civil Services Examination in his first attempt, achieving an AIR of 306. DTU Times had an opportunity to interact with him.
DT: What’s the mind frame that guided you through these years while preparing for UPSC and how has your journey been?
SSS: I came to DTU as an M.Tech. student and worked my way to a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering specialising in arsenic ground water mitigation. Though I had always wanted to become a civil servant, I wanted to finish my post graduation first. It was only after working on my doctorate for one and a half years that I decided to pursue civil services. I studied rigorously for a month and a half before the prelims and for about two months before the mains and then for the interview I brushed up on my general knowledge and current affairs. Thus undoubtedly, my journey has been an academically enriching one.
DT: Ideally how much time is required for civil services preparation.
SSS: For those who read the newspaper daily and are up to date with their surroundings, devoting five to six months religiously is enough to hone their skills. For others, a period of one year is optimal for scoring well. Since I, was aware of at least 45 percent of the syllabus, my preparation phase went more smoothly as compared to my peers.
DT: What role does coaching play for the same?
SSS: No coaching can guarantee that you come through with flying colours. Any serious aspirant just needs to be proficient with the basic framework of the examination. In my case, coaching did not play any role as I opted for self-study. It is my belief that 5-7 months of complete devotion will take you through easily, rather than being dependent on any institution.
DT: What is the difference in 3 stages of the exam?
SSS: Well I would like to say that Prelims is an exam of rejections, where 15000 people are selected from a bunch of 5-7 lakh people. To make your chances better, religious practicing of tests would do. I practiced question papers daily.
If one has practiced some 10000 odd questions, then Prelims is a cake-walk. In mains you need to be selective in your approach. If something is asked in a political perspective, you must integrate the historical aspects, current scenario and the speculated future.
One thing to be kept in mind while answering questions in mains is that you have to practically positive. For example I got the all India highest marks in the Ethics exam in the Mains 2 paper, only because I suggested innovative solutions at the end of my answers.
Interviews are very unpredictable. One thing you can do is that you should study your Detailed Application Form, which you submitted to UPSC thoroughly. If you have written something about your hobbies for example cricket, then you should have in depth knowledge about cricket. Also you should stay calm and positive during the interview. Since there are 7-8 different boards and each board will have different types of people, you really can’t predict anything. They will judge your personality and not merely your knowledge. Special emphasis should be placed on your outlook and perspective and not only your content as they have already tested your content in mains.
DT: What subjects did you choose for mains and why?
SSS:: I chose sociology because it has a concise syllabus. I never deviated from academics and my Ph.D. so I needed a subject which had a clear learning path. I browsed the UPSC website and went through the previous year questions of quite a few subjects before coming to the conclusion that even without any prior knowledge I was able to answer a lot of questions of Sociology. Sociology is relevant subject and takes into account what is going in your society and being in India, one has knowledge of the same.
DT: Which subject, in your opinion, should engineers opt for in order to obtain appreciable scores in the Mains Examination?
SSS: There is no such thing as an easy or difficult subject. For example, a civil engineer should be an expert in his/her field.
DT: Is it better to opt for graduate subjects, or is it easier to go for social sciences?
SSS: It depends on the person. Engineering subjects are really vast and preparing 4 years’ worth of engineering subjects is quite difficult. Thus, it is easier to study subjects like Political Science, Geology, Sociology and Anthropology, and the various literature subjects to an extent.
DT: In what portions would you attribute your success to your hardwork and your own aptitude?
SSS: I think 50-50 to both, although I believe that aptitude would have a greater share. I didn’t spend a lot of time studying. On the day of the declaration of Prelim results, I forgot my roll number, tried checked the result after one hour of declaration and when I remembered the roll number, the network gave up on me. When I finally saw my prelims result, I decided to collect the study material for the MAINS examination according to the syllabus. The closest library to my home was in IIT Delhi, so I went there daily for the next 2.5 months, and was subsequently able to clear MAINS. I would hence attribute my success to my aptitude, and to those 2.5 months of intense hardwork.
DT: Who are your role models, and who do you look upto for inspiration?
SSS: I look upto myself for inspiration – I want to improve every day. Being a poet, I also refer to my poems for inspiration. Above all, I am inspired by my grandfather, by the hard work he put in in life, and my parents, who continue to do so.
DT: Can you please share more details about your preparation phase? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
SSS: The vast syllabus and the time crunch were the major challenges. Before starting preparation, I decided precisely what I wanted to study. I did not go forth and study all topics – in fact, I prepared only 70-80% of the syllabus for the exam. There were certain topics that I left altogether, since I was sure I could answer those from experience and previous knowledge. The most important place in your preparation is occupied by the newspaper. If you are socially aware, your preparation requirement comes down considerably.
DT: Your success must have inspired many aspirants back in your home town, can we expect more selections in the future?
SSS: Ever since the results have come out, I’ve been receiving more than 50 calls a day from Balia alone, with aspirants wanting to interact with me. I will soon be organizing a session back at home, in order to guide prospective Civil Services aspirants. I feel extremely proud to have come from Balia to Delhi and tasted success. I hope many more do the same – this is one of the many ways that national integration takes place, and the rural-urban divide is bridged.
DT: What made you choose the Civil services? Which service are you opting for?
SSS: I would like to opt for the Indian Police Services. I want to improve the situation of law and order in the country. I feel the job will be more satisfying and challenging, and I love facing challenges.
A large part of the credit goes to my family, especially my grandparents, parents and sisters. I further owe my success to my Ph.D. guide, Dr. S.K. Singh. All the best to the future aspirants!