Interview with Sujith Shankar: UPSC Preparation Journey of the 122nd All India Rank Holder
Sujith Shankar, a candidate of 2019 UPSC exam’s dream came true when the result got released on 4th August 2020. He achieved something which is the dream of many. The 122nd all India rank in UPSC civil services exam was secured by him.
Read on to get a sneak peek into his UPSC preparation journey and prepare your own strategy for cracking the UPSC civil services exam.
Interview with Sujith Shankar
Can you tell us something about your academic background, Sujith?
Up to class seven, I did my schooling from my village Jujuar, Bihar, after that, I went to Muzaffarpur and completed my class 10th. I did my 12th class from Bokaro.
In 2016 I completed my B.Tech in IT from the Indian Institute of Engineering Science And Technology, Shibpur.
So, you don’t have a working background?
No. After my graduation got over I decided to prepare for competitive exams. So, I didn’t take up a job and chose civil service exam preparation.
Which attempt was it at the UPSC civil services exam, Sujith?
It was my third attempt. In my first attempt, I cleared the prelims exam and mains exam too but missed the interview round by 1 mark. In the next attempt, I cleared the prelims exam but was not sure due to wrong options marked by me so I put a hold on my preparation and hence could not prepare well for Mains.
So you have opted for IAS?
Yes. IAS in the first preference, second is the foreign service. As of now, I would be getting IPS with this rank being from the general category.
Can you share the UPSC preparation strategies for all the three stages?
For the prelims exam, it’s important that you have got a good clarity of the concept and should give a special focus on science and technology, environment, understanding the political aspect, Indian constitution. The basics of all the subjects should be clear, including geography and history. Especially for history, one has to remember all the facts.
One should also focus on giving the test series. I wrote around 50 test series in the preliminary examination. You should also have knowledge about the dynamic things like blockchain etc.
What about the mains exam?
For mains, I will say that there is a booklet for the syllabus and one has to prepare for each topic. I had notes for each topic mentioned in the syllabus. There must be one proper write-up that covers all the dimensions because no one knows what type of question will come. Like this year in the economic paper, there were lots of strategic events.
After notes, comes the practice. One has to do writing practice so one can write both good quality and quantity with a good understanding of the paper. As for different questions, there are different keywords that demand different answers.
What was your strategy for practicing answer writing for UPSC?
I focus more on understanding the question and then come to the answers. Answers have three parts like introduction, body, and conclusion.
In the introduction, I used to define the term that is in the question. It’s good to define the keyword and if possible add the aspects of current affairs.
Then the body, which I used to structure according to the keywords mentioned in the question.
In the last part, the conclusion should be based on the demand for the given question. An optimistic view should be there.
These are the things I followed and I used to give complete tests.
Can you also share your strategy for the personality test round?
In the personality test, there are few things that need to be done. One is the Detailed Analysis Form (DAF) we attach. Second is the aspect of the current affair and the third is the personal aspect like how one can communicate efficiently.
One should be able to express his/ her thoughts. The answer should be brief, concise, to the point, positive. One has to be confident and the answer should be based on the asked questions.
Different types of questions can be asked, for factual questions, answers should not be more than two to three lines and for analytical questions, the answers need to be a bit lengthy.
If someone doesn’t know a particular answer, he/ she should have the ability to say that he/ she doesn’t know it. You have to be honest.
What will be your suggestion for aspirants hailing from villages to succeed in the personality test round who doesn’t have a strong academic background?
The first thing I would say is that I myself did not have that great academic score.
You should be psychologically prepared. You should not be concerned about the things that you are from a village or your competitors have studied in top-notch schools. You must be confident.
Even if you can’t speak fluent English, you can still get good marks in the interview. You should have the proper knowledge and be confident.
What was your UPSC preparation for the current affairs part?
I did not have a uniform pattern. Sometimes I used to read the newspaper, sometimes I watched the news channel. For newspapers, I followed The Times of India, The Indian Express, and The Hindu.
The candidates should study smartly. They have to find out which topic is well covered in which paper and then follow that accordingly.
I would suggest all the candidates read the Hindu and The Indian Express.
Did you face any question which is not related to academics or a bit different than the rest of the question?
I faced one from my optional subject, mathematics.
I was asked to imagine that I was invited to a school to motivate the students about mathematics. So what would be my speech?
The main things are you should be confident and you should have a structure ready for questions that could be asked, like- why, how, what, etc.
What is your take on online portals for UPSC preparation?
It has a huge impact, as candidates from villages can also get access to proper preparation guides. There are many online practice tests, study materials available that guide candidates who are not sure about what to study.
It helps immensely for the current affairs section.
Any motivating message for the aspirants?
Stay positive and properly utilize your energy. Keep hope but sitting idle and hoping won’t help, so you have to work for it. Do something that you like and always think positive.
All India 122nd rank holder Sujith Shankar from Bihar has shared some very helpful tips from his UPSC preparation strategy. Hopefully, these will help and motivate the aspirants to prepare better and achieve a good rank in the UPSC civil services exam.