Shubham Chaudhary, who cracked UPSC Civil Services 2013 with All India Rank 11 in her third attempt, decided to make a contribution to India’s development during her school days while studying Development Economics in 11th standard. Later, she started to see her future goal in a more meaningful context and decided to join civil services.

Shubham got placed in Citibank when she was pursuing her MA in Economics from Delhi School of Economics. However, after a year of experience in corporate sector, she realized that the path she had obtained was not really benefitting her social objective and inspiration. She left the corporate job and joined Delhi University as Assistant Professor, and also started preparing for UPSC Civil Services.


Shubham, who feels IPS training at National Police Academy (NPA) was a vivid experience of her life, suggests future aspirants to study their optional paper thoroughly and be updated on the core topics in order to crack the coveted exam.


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Interview Excerpts:


Careers360: Congratulations for your outstanding performance in Civil Services Examination! How did you celebrate your success?

Shubham Chaudhary: Thank you very much! I was under IPS training when the result came out. I first spoke to my parents, brother and a few school/college friends who were absolutely elated. I also celebrated with my friends at National Police Academy.


Careers360: What were the key factors behind your brilliant performance in Civil Services Exams? Please share separately for all three stages.

Shubham Chaudhary: For Preliminary exam, I focused on the core areas – History, Geography and Polity. I read the Wizard series for all three subjects, and also NCERT books. I did not focus much on Economics as it was my optional subject and I was more comfortable with it. For current affairs, I read The Hindu, the editorial of Economic Times and magazines like Frontline and Wizard. As for CSAT, I was comfortable with both Mathematics and English, so did not feel the need to focus too much on it. However, past years’ questions papers and test series available in the market helped a lot in practicing CSAT-related questions.


For, Mains exam, I preferred to revise core subjects from the same books as for the Preliminary exam. I felt it was better to read and re-read the same books rather than get engaged with multiple sources. For Economics, I read the standard Honors level textbooks, and updated myself using Economic Survey and Economic Times. I feel that updating oneself must not be ignored at any cost. 


For Interview, I did not get much time to prepare as I was at NPA in those days. There were days when I could barely glance at the newspaper, or not get the chance at all. However, I installed some news application (APPs) on my phone, whereby I got intermittent updates, and I also read some online portals, especially for current affairs related to Economics. Thankfully, it was enough and my interview went quite well.


Careers360: Tell us something about your area of studies, academic background and job experience?

Shubham Chaudhary: I studied at DPS Vasant Kunj till 10th grade, and completed my International Baccalaureate (11th, 12th grade) from the American School of Warsaw, Poland as my father was on deputation there. Thereafter, I went to St. Stephen’s college to do my BA (Hons) in Economics. I completed MA Economics from Delhi School of Economics.


While in MA, I got a Pre placement offer from Citibank. I worked there for a year, and then joined Delhi University as an Assistant Professor. I started preparing for UPSC while teaching. I made it only through the reserve list in my first attempt. In my second attempt, I got IPS, and joined NPA in December 2013. In my third attempt, I got IAS which was my first service preference.


Careers360: What were the key career ambitions that kept you motivated towards IAS? Where did you get inspiration for IAS?

Shubham Chaudhary: It was while studying Development Economics in 11th grade that I decided I would make my own contribution to the development story of India, though I was not sure what precise path I would take. I wanted to work for multilateral organizations financing development. However, when I got the offer from Citibank, I took it up and thought of getting some corporate experience. There were definitely important experiences which I gained at Citi, but I realized it was not very meaningful in the context of what I had planned for myself. Therefore, I joined Delhi University as an Assistant Professor, and started preparing for Civil services simultaneously.


Careers360: What was your preparation strategy for this exam?

Shubham Chaudhary: I tried to revise GS 3-4 times before Prelims. I was extremely thorough with the optional, and updated the core topics in that. Some answer writing practice or taking mock tests also helped.


Careers360: What was your subject at mains level? How did you divide your preparation schedule among the different subjects?

Shubham Chaudhary: I took up Economics as my optional (in last attempt, I had Economics and Public Administration). I spent around 2-3 months before the Preliminary exam, revising GS, including current affairs. There is a book on current affairs by Wizard series, which is published around a month before Prelims, I recommend that. I was confident about CSAT, so did not spend too much time on that. But one may practice past year CSAT question papers and any test series papers available in the market.


After the Preliminary exam, I focused on updating current affairs, and revising the optional. I read the newspaper and a couple of magazines regularly. For core areas of GS, I used the same books I had for the Prelims.


Careers360: Which were the easiest and the toughest part of your journey?

Shubham Chaudhary: These are relative terms. What is ‘difficult’, for instance, may also be more interesting (like History for me). But in terms of how much effort I put in, the ‘easiest’ was CSAT, Economics and Essay writing. In GS, I particularly liked International Relations. World Geography and World History were probably the toughest, due to the sheer volume of facts one tries to remember!


Careers360: Please share a few questions asked to you by the interview board? Which was the toughest question for you to answer?

Shubham Chaudhary: I was given Mr. AP Singh’s board. He asked me about the difference of opinions between Prof Amartya Sen and Prof Jagadish Bhagwati in a lot of detail. I was also asked questions on demographic transition, the lack of faith and confidence a common man displays in the police, entry of foreign universities in India. I was also asked some bio-data based questions on my profession, including how I found teaching to be different from policing, my hobbies and the history of Poland (where I spent two years).


Careers360: Did you also find any uneasy moment during your interview?

Shubham Chaudhary: There was no uneasy moment for me as the board was very cordial. I remember us all laughing a couple of times. I did well in the interview round. I was awarded 198 marks on 275 by Mr. AP Singh’s board.


Careers360: How important is coaching for preparations for top jobs exams like Civil Services? If an aspirant can’t afford coaching, how should he prepare for the exam?

Shubham Chaudhary: Coaching can help in two ways. Firstly, there is someone to guide you through challenges you face at multiple stages, and to answer myriad questions you necessarily have about the exam, like which books to read etc. Secondly, a good coach keeps you on your toes by testing you regularly.


However, I would not say coaching is necessary to pass the exam. It, most definitely, is not. I sincerely believe that if one reads a good series of books for core areas (especially NCERT study material) and a couple of good newspapers/magazines for GS, and is thorough with the optional, one will clear the exam. Internet is another resource with low marginal cost and huge benefits.


Careers360: Besides studies, what do you do? Which sport do you like most? Why?

Shubham Chaudhary: I like reading fiction. I was not much of an outdoor person. It was at NPA, where I was exposed to activities like horse-riding, swimming and firing, etc. I am glad that I got the opportunity to undergo IPS training before I got into IAS. It was a thoroughly enriching experience.


Careers360: Which are your favourite books? Which movie did you watch last time?

Shubham Chaudhary: My favorite books are Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel García Márquez), Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Gabriel García Márquez), The Palace of Illusions (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni), Swift as Desire (Laura Esquivel), Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) and The Last Man in Tower (Aravind Adiga). I think Animal Farm by George Orwell is absolutely brilliant too. I also like Robert Frost’s and Pablo Neruda’s poetry. ‘Tonight I Can Write’ and ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ would have to be my favorite poems. Right now, I am reading Ash in the Belly: India's Unfinished Battle Against Hunger by Harsh Mander. The last movies I watched were Mardaani and Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania with a couple of friends at NPA.


Careers360: Do you advocate spending time on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc, especially for those students who prepare for competitive exams?

Shubham Chaudhary: I did follow some friends on Facebook who keep posting interesting articles on their profile pages. I think one can spend some time on social media, but should keep a check on whether the gains are worth the time spent.


Careers360:Please share your tips and message for future Civil Services aspirants.

Shubham Chaudhary: Try to revise GS 3-4 times from the same books if possible. Be extremely thorough with the optional subject, and update the important topics, if not all topics in the optional using newspapers/magazines/surveys/internet. Some answer writing practice also helps.


Careers360: What are the top three agenda that you believe, should guide a bureaucrat?

Shubham Chaudhary: My first agenda will be food security. The figures for malnourished, underweight and anemic children are shocking, and behind each figure lie millions of faces. I think hunger is the most demeaning, inhuman experience. It is only when we get rid of this problem that we can think of investment in human capital in any meaningful way. You cannot educate a child who is hungry.


My second agenda will be health, which includes public health facilities, sanitation as well as drinking water. It is inextricably linked to education too. And third agenda will be education (both in terms of quantity and quality), particularly at primary and secondary level. Thereby, we can build a healthy, trained, educated labor force, and make use of the window of opportunity accorded to us by demographic transition.


Careers360: What will be your model to answer these complicated issues?


Shubham Chaudhary: I am aware that there are complicated issues of political economy in the context of which each of these agenda needs to be seen. Nevertheless, each of these issues needs to be tackled with a sense of urgency for the sake of our shared dream of a developed India.


Careers360: How big is corruption a problem?

Shubham Chaudhary: Corruption is a problem at multiple levels. Intrinsically, and morally, of course, but also because it is actively depriving a common man of exercising some rights which form basic tenets of our constitution, like right to equality, or equal opportunity. The problem is, what Kaushik Basu refers to as ‘Sanskritization of Corruption’, we know it is there, and yet we try to learn to live with it. Fortunately, though, this has been changing over the last few years. There is detestation towards the corrupt, important laws have been passed in this regard and the citizen is up in arms against the evil.


Careers360: What is your model for solving this evil from our system?

Shubham Chaudhary: I think reducing human interface on one hand, by bringing in ICT (Information Communication Technology) and streamlining of common processes in Government offices, and increasing it on the other, by creating opportunities for a common man to vent his grievances, is where we can start. There is also a need for innovative schemes and ideas, be it incentivization of whistle blowing, or perhaps using street theater to spread awareness on what one should do if faced with a corrupt official asking for a bribe for something you are in urgent need of. Also, I think we need to catch our children young, and educate them in a more progressive way, where morals are considered no less important than success.


For instance, I have spoken to several 10th and 12th graders who admit to copying down the science experiments and ‘their’ findings from some Science Practical book available in the market. Why is blatant plagiarism of this sort accepted at all? Why are they being told it is all right to do this? Ultimately, how we write the future of India boils down to how we educate our children, how we bring them up.


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