Sakshi Sawhney cracked UPSC Civil Services 2013 with All India Rank 6 in her second attempt to the most coveted competitive exam in India. A BA-LLB from NALSAR University of Law, Sakshi, says that regaining self-confidence after her failure in the first attempt was the biggest challenge before her.
In this interview with Careers360, Sakshi talks on success strategies from her UPSC Civil Services Exam preparation journey. She also shares UPSC Civil Services Exam Tips to aspirants and advises them to be clear about why they wish to join civil services.Click Here to Enroll UPSC Paper – 2(CSAT) Test Package.
Revealing her UPSC Civil Services Preparation Strategy, she says that multiple revisions in last few days helped her in big way towards cracking UPSC civil services exam.
Read the Interview below for more insights and tips:
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Careers360: Congratulations for your outstanding performance in Civil Services Examination! How did you celebrate your success?
Sakshi Sawhney: With a huge sigh of relief and prayers to God! That’s all I did.
Careers360: What were the key factors behind your brilliant performance in Civil Services Exams? Please share separately for all three stages.
Sakshi Sawhney: Persistence, determination, revision and a positive attitude played a key role all through my preparation. For prelims, taking tests regularly helped me in improving my confidence, so I could tackle the negative marking component. For mains, constant revision in place of last minute revision, daily answer writing practice and critical analysis of current events really helped. For interviews, being true to myself, introspection and discussions with my peers and parents helped a lot.
Careers360: Tell us something about your area of studies, qualifications, degrees, and Job Experience?
Sakshi Sawhney: I completed my BA LLB (Hons.) from NALSAR Hyderabad and was amongst the toppers of my batch with 8 gold medals.
Careers360: What were the key career ambitions that kept you motivated towards IAS? Where did you get inspiration for IAS?
Sakshi Sawhney: I wanted to use my education not just for myself but in order to make a difference in the society. A career in the civil services provides the platform to leave a large imprint on society. During my internships and while studying law, I found myself more satisfied while working on legal aid and NGO projects rather than in corporate firms. That is why I decided to consider civil services as a career.
Careers360: What was your preparation strategy?
Sakshi Sawhney: I started my preparation by focusing on building a base and strengthening my existing level of knowledge by going through the NCERT books thoroughly. Thereafter, I studied comprehensively, targeting both prelims and mains. Newspapers formed a key part of my preparation. I also used to revise whatever I had studied on weekly basis.
Careers360: What was your subject at mains level? How did you divide your preparation schedule among the different subjects?
Sakshi Sawhney: My optional subject for the Mains was Law. I kept weekly targets and tried to cover chunks from each subject every week along with revision of the stuff I had learnt in previous week.
Careers360: Which were the easiest and the toughest part of your journey?
Sakshi Sawhney: It’s a long journey and has ups and downs. The easiest part was probably my decision to write the exam. I just decided it and didn’t think back at all. The toughest part was overcoming my low confidence after my failure in the first attempt.
Careers360: Please share a few questions asked to you by the interview board?
Sakshi Sawhney: I was asked more than 20 questions at my interview round. Most of the questions were from my area of study – Law. Few questions were asked about my hobbies, interests and general knowledge. I was asked to name members of the cat family, what books I read, how I saw the justice system operating with respect to women and what articles I had published recently as an editor of a magazine. They also asked me about Patent and how many years it is given for, also about special status of J&K and Women’s Representation Bill, among other questions.
Careers360: How was your interview board (numbers)? Did you also find any uneasy moment during your interview? How did you tackle that?
Sakshi Sawhney: There were five members in the interview board. In the beginning, I was a bit nervous and I did not understand one of the questions. I fumbled a bit while answering. But I took a deep breath and told myself not to treat this like an interrogation. Rather I thought that I was getting to learn from such experiences and enlightened persons. Thereafter, I fumbled a lot less and was much calmer.
Careers360: How important is coaching for preparations for top jobs exams like Civil Services? If an aspirant can’t afford coaching, how should he/she prepare for the exam?
Sakshi Sawhney: Coaching is not that important. In fact, coaching is not even required. I took coaching but continued my self study. There were many classes that I skipped if I found that I didn’t need them. Coaching did have some advantages; however, they can be gained from elsewhere as well. Coaching is basically a platform where you can meet people with whom you can discuss your answers and you have access to teachers. And also study material, in which you may have spent many hours researching, is given to you thereby saving your time.
Careers360: Besides studies, what do you do? Which sport do you like most? Why?
Sakshi Sawhney: I love reading and I am also a fitness enthusiast. I love swimming as I find it very calming and almost meditative.
Careers360: Which are your favourite movies and books? Which movie did you watch and book you read last time?
Sakshi Sawhney: Some of my favourite books are The Count of Monte Cristo, A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Dalai Lama’s Cat. The last book I read was The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
Some of my favourite movies are Queen, The Mummy and DDLJ. The last movie I watched was Grand Budapest Hotel.
Careers360: Do you advocate spending time on social media like facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc, especially for those students who prepare for competitive exams?
Sakshi Sawhney: I do surf the internet as social media can be quite useful for students preparing for competitive exams when used in the right direction. Students can find and share ample resources, do peer to peer analysis and discussions there. However, some disadvantages include the great deal of speculation that occurs during exam result time on social media, which can lead to a lot of distraction. Also, constant surfing of the internet aimlessly leads to precious time being wasted. Hence, a balance is a must.
Careers360: Please share your valuable tips and message for future Civil Services aspirants.
Sakshi Sawhney: First of all, be clear in your mind as to the reason for your wanting to join civil services. This will help you through days when you are low and keep you motivated through this long journey. Secondly, try not to focus on the outcome as much as on your work – ‘Nishkam Karma’ – and equanimity will help you to be positive. Thirdly, constant revision rather than last minute revision will be more beneficial.
Careers360: What are the top three agendas that you believe, should guide a bureaucrat?
Sakshi Sawhney: My three agendas as a civil servant will be public trust, fairness & justice and political neutrality.
Careers360: How big is corruption a problem? What is your model for solving this evil from our system?
Sakshi Sawhney: The problem of corruption is very dangerous for any nation. The best way to solve this problem will be to introduce more transparency in all processes. For example, by making most government processes e-based, public participation and feedback can be increased. There is also the need of zero tolerance among people.
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