[Toppers Interview] Harshika Singh (AIR 8 /CSE 2011) Without Coaching, shares her journey and strategy with us

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Went to London School of Economics

Prepared for Civil Service Exam without Coaching
Gave Jharkhand and Bihar as her cadre preference to serve the society
Got 8th Rank in CSE 2011
Yes I’m talking about 2011’s topper Harshika Singh.

  1. Introduction
  2.  Your Study plan
  3. CSAT (Paper I) General studies
  4. CSAT (Paper II) Aptitude
  5. Mains Examination
  6. Compulsory Language papers
  7. General Studies paper I
  8. General Studies paper 2
  9. Optional Subject #1 and #2
  10. Economics
  11. Anthropology
  12. Interview
  13. Marksheet
  14. Message To Aspirants


NameHarshika Singh
Roll number006368
Rank (CSE 2011)8
Optional Subjects
  • Economics
  • Anthropology
Medium for Mains ExamEnglish
Mains Examination CentreDelhi
Number of Attempts2
Details of Graduation and Post-Grad.
  • B.A Economics(hons)-St.Xavier’s College,Ranchi
  • MSc.Economic History(London School Of Economics and Political Science,London,UK)
Schooling (Medium)English
Extracurricular activities,
hobbies, achievements etc.
  • Classical Dancing(bharatnatyam and Kathak),
  • Debating,
  • Gold medalist in graduation,
  • School head girl,
  • Class representative throughout my college days
Are you a working professional?No
Did you take Coaching?Prelims: No
Mains: No
Interview: No
Did you buy any postal courses?Yes
Did you join any Mock test series?No
Did you appear in any other competitive exams?No
If yes, provide the details:NA


Q. When and how did the inspiration and idea of joining civil service come in your mind?

To be a Civil Servant was a childhood dream for me and especially when I realized and understood the intricacy of the service it became a passion for me.

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?

In my case as I have a background in Economics so that was a natural choice and for my second optional my keen interest in Anthropology was the sole reason for selecting it as my second optional


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. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year?

I prepared a balanced strategy at the very beginning of preparation. I roughly made a mental preparation plan and ensured on a daily basis that I am following it thoroughly.
Any person who is preparing for CSE faces the frequent bouts of enthusiasm and boredom. Even I faced it especially in the evening hours.

When I was bored or lacked enthusiasm ,I took a break..saw TV ,went on Facebook etc-did anything that diverted my mind but only for max 10 mins.
After that I reminded myself of my dreams and was back on my study table.


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?

I studied till the time I was able to concentrate..roughly 8-10 hrs daily and I was preparing for CSE since 2009 December for my first attempt in 2010(AIR Rank-640).
However I feel 1 year of intensive study is sufficient.


How did you use computer and internet for your exam-preparation?

Since I did my preparation from home (ranchi) Internet was the only source of information and guidance for me. I used internet for keeping myself updated on the front of the news and world affairs,for updating myself on recent developments in the field of economics and anthropology and also for Science and Tech portion.


  • How did you prepare yourself for the essay?
  • Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?
  • What were your keypoints in that essay?
  • How many marks did you get in that essay?

I did not do anything special for Essay.I used to read the editorials of newspapers seriously and in case I found some interesting quote etc I noted them down. I also made a tentative list of essay topics and practiced writing on one of it.
I attempted the essay on the topic “creation of small states and its implications”.
I tried to keep my language very simple. I also ensured that my essay is very comprehensive. I got 100 marks in 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?

Yes, I did went in depression after my first attempt’s result in 2010(though I got AIR 640 then) .Maybe I had more expectations. But thanks to my parents who helped me to regain back my senses .In my first attempt paucity of time and associated superficiality in my preparation was a major problem.In this attempt ,I tried to rectify this.


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?

I believe CSE interview is solely “PERSONALITY TEST” and as it is CSE is a great leveler where a post doctoral is competing with a simple bachelor’s degree holder.So one’s profile doesn’t play a much important.In stead its You and your dedication that matters. As far as I am concerned ,I would accept that I had a “so called relatively better profile” but with my two years of CSE interview experience .i can say that at the end of the day ..its your personality test..that’s it.Varied medium people should never feel that they are at any disadvantage.If you are confident about what you are and can be original in the interview room …you are bound to succeed.


Q. In case you had not cleared the UPSC exam, what was your career/future backup plan?

I would definitely be disheartened. However, in case if things would have gone in different direction than I had expected, I would have moved towards a career in academics.

Family and Friends

Q. Behind one topper are many people who stood by her during those uncertain times when 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?

Definitely ,in my case there were many people behind the scenes who helped me to achieve my dream. My parents who stood by me through thick and thin.Their one statement after my first result in 2010 attempt that “You can do it and you will do it,give it a second try” helped me to regain back my senses and I decided to give my 100% for that one dream.

My elder brother and sis –in-law were always there for that much needed “confidence boost” ,my friends who were there as my “vent for frustration” and most importantly some of my professors /teachers who were my true friend,philosopher and guide.

One instance , I would like to share….usually by the night , I was so drained out that I did not had the strength to read out loud (and I would admit I am in the habit of reading out loud)my GS and Anthropology materials. At that point in time , my mom would just read them for me and I used to hear them while laying down.At the end of a chapter, I used to summarize it and that was how I covered some portions!!!!In the evenings , when any aspirant is facing that bout of frustration, my dad would take me to a close-by ice-cream shop for that much needed “Ice-cream dose”…these are small instances but would like to say these instances mattered a lot !

 Your Study plan

CSAT (Paper I) General studies

TopicSource of your preparationremark, if any
Current AffairsThorough and intensive reading of newspapers like TOI,The hindu,IE(only for editorials),ET,magazines like frontline ,CSR,Chronicle,Yojana and the Economist.Always keep yourself updated with issues happening around you.I am a news maniac ..won’t ask you to become one but start loving and following news..i am sure you will start enjoying it as well.
History Ancient/Medieval/ModernSpectrum and Vajiram Yellow book +some NCERTS
Physical GeographyAll the four NCERTS of 11th and 12thBe very thorough with them
Geography of India
Geography of World
Polity and GovernanceDD Basu/Laxmikant/Vajiram yellow book
Public PolicyInternet and self made notes
Rights issueSame as above
Environment and BiodiversityInternet, IGNOU materials
Economic and social DevelopmentEconomic Survey/PD special issue on Economy/Internet
ScienceSriram notes+internet+chronicle special issue
EconomyEconomic survey/India year book

CSAT (Paper II) Aptitude

Syllabus TopicSource of your preparationRemarks, if Any
Quantitative AptitudeR.S agarwal+Manuals like that of Unique,arihant,intenet sources and even some basic practice papers for CAT
Data interpretationSame as above
Logical reasoning
Reading comprehension
Decision Making and Problem solvingI tried to practice some questions which were available on netDuring exams just read these questions very nicely and calmly .

Mains Examination

Compulsory Language papers

Source of your preparation
EnglishWent through the previous years question papers
Indian language paperWent through previous years question papers and practiced writing essay in Hindi almost like a month before the exam

General Studies paper I

Syllabus TopicSource of your preparation
HistorySpectrum/Vajiram yellow book
Geography of IndiaFour NCERTS of 11th and 12th Std.
PolityDD basu/Laxmikant/Vajiram yellow book
Issues of social relevanceInternet +magazines like chronicle
Indian economy and planningEconomic Survey
Public health
Law and order
Good governance

General Studies paper 2

Syllabus TopicSource of your preparation
India and the WorldPrepared self notes while reading newspapers
Indian diasporainternet
India’s Economic interaction with worldExtensive reading of Business newspapers
International affairs and institutionsNewspapers
StatisticsPracticed from Spectrum esp the graphs etc(but since I have economics background,did not need much preparation for this)
Science & Tech.Sriram study materials+internet

Optional Subject #1 and #2

For both my optional I emphasized on making my concepts very clear and re-read the textbooks. I read all of these books, different books cater to different portions of the syllabus so i have just enumerated them


 For Paper 1

MicroeconomicsAhuja and Koutsyansis
International EconomicsSalvatore basically
and for some random parts
M.C Vaish
Public financeLekhi
H.L Bhatia
Money and banking-S.B Gupta
RBI website

For growth and development i followed Mishra and Puri/there is another book by lekhi on it(it covers the syllabus so its bit handy)/ debraj Ray-development economics an extensive use of internet for some new developments in same


Indian Economy part fromDutt & Sundaram
Mishra & Puri
Uma kapila
Economic surveyhttp://indiabudget.nic.in/index.asp
Economy and Political Weeklyhttp://epw.in/epw/user/userindex.jsp
any one business newspaper like ET/FE etchttp://economictimes.indiatimes.com/


  • The comprehensive list of Anthropology books i followed was
Physical AnthropologyB M das/P Nath
Social Anthropology
Indian Anthropology
Anthropological ThoughtUpadhyay/ Gaya Pandey

Extensive use of internet for keeping myself updated about any new anthropological development.


How did you prepare for the interview? What questions were asked?

For my interview ,I brushed up every small aspect of my background,my home state,my optional etc(all the information furnished by me in DAF).
I was in Vijay Singh Sir’s Board.Interview board was very cordial and cooperative. Questions were mixture of World economics+my hobbies+world affairs+some decision making questions and some questions on my home state ,Jharkhand


ROLL NO:006368


Remarks: Recommended.


Q. What is your message to the aspirants?

Dream a dream and make a determined effort for that….you will surely succeed. Never get disheartened. CSE preparation is a beautiful and life changing experience. Live it and you will enjoy and relish it forever. All the very best for all your endeavors.

Finally the most important question!

Magazines related to competitive exams, have established the most sacred unwritten rule of conducting Topper’s interview: the last question has to be a loaded question :
“how did our XYZ magazine help you in preparation?
In the era of blatant marketing propaganda, I also have two similar but unloaded questions.

  1. Did you use indianofficer.com  for your preparation? If yes, How did it help you?
  2. Did you use mrunal.org  for your preparation? If yes, how did it help you?

And You can reply “No”, yet it’ll be published without distortion.

Ans. I was an IO member and the forum helped me a lot from compiling the book list for my optional to serving as a platform visiting which helped me to stay connected to the world of CSE aspirants from across the country.Thank you IO for that.
I never visited mrunal.org though.

End of interview.

If you wish to congratulate, compliment, or ask any follow up questions to Harshika Singh, visit the discussion thread on indianofficer.com (Click Me)

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Mrunal recommends

  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books 4 History,Geo,Sci
  2. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  3. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  4. Maths: Quantam CAT Sarvesh Kumar
  5. Objective General English SP Bakshi
  6. Word Power made Easy -Norman Lowe
  7. Topic wise Solved Paperset by Disha

9 Comments on “[Toppers Interview] Harshika Singh (AIR 8 /CSE 2011) Without Coaching, shares her journey and strategy with us”

  1. Pingback: [Toppers Interview] Kshitij Tyagi (AIR 148/ CSE 2011) Working Professional cracks UPSC without leaving Job « Mrunal

  2. Dear Sir
    i didnt get what exactly is the spectrum book ,pls tell whether it is a publication book ,if it so please mention the author name sir.

  3. Dear Sir
    i wanted to know the spectrum mentioned in general studies paper1 section ,it is about the book from spectrum publication if so please provide the author name,or the spectrum guide.

  4. THank you for uploading this interview. Sir, I would be grateful if you can upload on preparation strategy for subject of PHILOSOPHY

  5. Can you please upload the previous year question papers of Anthropology ie mainly 2001-2007 ..I am not able to download that from any online sites..Mrunal sir kindly help me out ..thanks in advance

  6. Hi,
    Can anyone please tell me which chapters from H.L. Bhatia need to be done?

  7. Heartiest congrates
    I m really inspired post read interview

  8. gd ofternoon medum iam prepairing ugc/net exam . my name is ramu . economics in 1st year in vv college arts/science jambagh in hyd.

    medum nanu net exam ki a books study cheyalo chebutara

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