Praveen Kumar, All India Medical CBSE Topper, had a plump job in corporate sector, but wanted to serve the society. Today he shares his journey of struggle and success with us.
|Rank (CSE 2011)||708|
|Optional Subjects||Medical Science and Psychology|
|Medium for Mains Exam||English|
|Mains Examination Centre||Delhi|
|Number of Attempts||2|
|Details of Graduation and Post-Grad.||MBBS from UCMS and GTB Hospital, DU|
|Extracurricular activities,hobbies, achievements etc.|
|Are you a working professional?||No, worked after mains exam on ad hoc basis for 2 months only|
|Did you take Coaching?||Prelims: NoMains: Dr Usha Alim Psychology test series|
Interview: Samkalp only mocks
|Did you buy any postal courses?||No|
|Did you join any Mock test series?||Yes for Psychology only|
I was working in Business research and consulting in the healthcare domain after my graduation. The impersonal nature of work and the mad rush for bottomline oriented practices led me to believe that I am not a good fit for a self serving role which is mostly offered by private companies. I am an MBBS graduate..so in a sense I have made 2 career shifts, from clinics to business and then now to civil services..I guess the desire to impact a larger population made me strive for this. I started preparing in July 2009.
The Choice of Optional Subjects
Q7. After a person decides to appear in civil service exam, the first big obstacle is “Choice of optional subjects”. What factors did you consider before selecting your optional?
I selected psychology since I found it semi-scientific and having a huge implication on our daily lives. Medical science was my graduation subject and the one related to my corporate career as well. I did not take subjects like philosophy, geography because of their limited utility in real life.
Q. People initially prepare with much enthusiasm but then a boredom phase comes – they don’t even find the motivation to read the daily newspapers, let alone studying the books.
Sometimes they get diverted because of external factors e.g. heavy workload in office, family responsibilities and so on. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year,
How did you keep yourself busy with the books, continuously?
Within a month of my starting preparation, my father died due to a sudden heart attack while discharging his duties as a state level assistant engineer..I was later told that the nearby public health clinic might have been able to save my father’s life has it ensured that the oxygen cylinders there were in working condition..This sad incident is a typical example of the state of affairs in our country..whenever I felt low.i tried to remember the extreme hardships our countrymen are witnessing due to myriad such administrative failures..This kept me motivated..civil services was not a career for me..it was like a calling in life..I had chucked a decent paying job to sue this..so there was no way I could fail..(I talked myself out of demotivation..using these small self boosting things) ..otherwise I spent time by watching documentaries on youtube and reading papers from all over the world..so much is freely available on the internet you never feel bored..
On an average, How many hours did you study per day? How many months did it take you to complete the core syllabus of GS and optional subjects?
Min- 5 hours..maximum – 15..near exam days..This exam’s preparation needs the last month’s time more than anything else..if you have not revised in the last month..you are nowhere!!
How did you use computer and internet for your exam-preparation?
Sites I visited daily..Press Information bureau, MEA website, EPW and frontline on net ‘’all freely available..in retrospect I feel..i could have given less time to GS since the returns were not proportionate to efforts.
How did you prepare yourself for the essay?
No special preparation—nothing at all..
Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?
What were your keypoints in that essay?
covered Indian cinema in all its key metrices..regional, linguistic, socio-economic, industrial (gave example of films like Naya daur..where Dilip Kumar fights against the industrial elite, which showed the grievances of labour class..)
How many marks did you get in that essay?
Q. Serious players get mentally shattered and depressed after failure in competitive exams. How did you cope up with failures and rose from the ashes again? What had gone wrong in your previous attempts? How did you fix those issues in your 2011’s attempt?
Last year my psychology marks were below par..so I knew where I had to improve..was depressed for sometime..but UPSC needs failures before bestowing success..Shena , this year’s topper topped in her 3rd attempt..so on paper (theoretically) I can also top in my next (3rd attempt)..(I am not being boastful..please see the “can” is italicized ..he he)
Many aspirants fear the interview, thinking that “my profile is not good because
- I’ve low marks in SSC/HSC/College,
- I don’t have any extra-curricular certificates,
- I don’t have work experience,
- I graduated from some unknown college,
- I’m from non-English medium and so on…”
So, How important or relevant is the profile of a candidate during interview?
it is only as important as the bad profile of another candidate..if a candidate can convince the panel that he is not appearing at the interview by fluke..there is no reason to be worried..all the poets of meritocracy and genius might sing about genius and other things but I guess UPSC panel members know that in a highly competitive exam like this..luck more often than merit decides the winners..
How do you rate your own profile?
decent..All India Rank 63rd in Medical Entrance in 2000
3 years job experience..
How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?
about 5 minutes on what I did in my last corporate consulting job.
Did they ask any uncomfortable questions from your profile?
yes..they insisted that I left medicine and went to corporate consulting because the pay there is higher..I answered by saying that..sir pay in civil services would be half of what I got in my corporate job…”so salary is immaterial since I am a person of minimal materialistic ambitions”..these were my exact words..i resented saying this upfront..but that is what interview is all about..they scratch ur shell by some tough questions and answers like these help them decide the right person for the job..
Q. In case you had not cleared the UPSC exam, what was your career/future backup plan?
I would have worked in healthcare business consulting!
What is your advice and tips to working professionals – particularly on time Management?
3 hours per day is enough till august and in sept October..10-15 hours…so try to change jobs in these 2 months..its tough but some people do it.!
Family and Friends
Q. Behind one topper are many people who stood by him/her during those uncertain times when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with the readers?
I was helped by my family..financially, emotionally…my elder brothers and mother helped me inspite of the tough times that had befallen on our family because of the sudden death of my father. But in general I found the attitude of fellow aspirants very disheartening..one of the guys who was selected last year..told me that since I was of OBC category, I need not study that hard..so much for education and wisdom..(when I asked him about how to improve on psychology)..Do people think that a 20-30 marks difference..makes them a genius!!
Your Study plan
CSAT (Paper I) General studies
|Topic||Source of your preparation|
|Current Affairs||Net, chronicle|
|History Ancient/Medieval/Modern||India’s Struggle For Independence by Bipin Chandra+ ncert|
|Geography of India||Ncert+net|
|Geography of World||Ncert+net|
|Polity and Governance||Buy Introduction to the Constitution of India by DD Basu|
|Public Policy||None specific|
|Rights issue||None specific|
|Environment and Biodiversity||None specific|
|Economic and social Development||None specific|
Compulsory Language papers
|Source of your preparation|
|Indian language paper||Nothing specific|
Optional Subject #1 and #2
- I have scored poorly in psychology..only 91 in paper 2 and 156 in paper 1..so my prep method is probably flawed.
- In medical science I followed the standard books and each night slept reading some medical topic from my mobile’s Medscape Application for Android.
How did you prepare for the interview?
prepared questions based on my resume..and my career shifts..twice in 4 years!
Who was the chairman of you interview board?
K K Paul
Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or
Did they ask you totally unexpected questions?
asked totally unexpected questions about 80% of my 25 minutes time..e.g. – Psychological profile of Hitler.!
What was the toughest question you faced during the interview and how did you answer it?
The toughest question was about the history of China Taiwan relations..I started from 1890s and after fumbling a bit, stopped for a couple of seconds and described the history event by event..
Please copy paste your marksheet.
Essay – 110
GS – 124 and 100
Medical Science – 165 and 160
Psychology – 81 and 156
Interview- 174 –K K Paul Board
My total is 1070.. Rank 708.
Q. What is your message to the aspirants?
Wisdom of all competitive exams is simple..you have to conquer the syllabus..whatever it takes..though I have not really cracked this exam (708) is not a high flying rank..but having cracked All India medical (without category..AIR 63) and now UPSC..the best piece of wisdom is do not follow self made excuses to avoid doing some hard work!