IAS Topper's Strategy: Akriti Sagar (AIR 239)

Akriti Sagar, graduated from Shri Ram College of Commerce Delhi University in Economics honours. She cleared UPSC 2015 CSE exam and secured AIR 239.

In an interview with NeoStencil Akriti Sagar shared about her strategy, answer writing style and interview experiences for the benefit of the aspirants.

IAS Topper's Interview - Akriti Sagar (AIR 239, UPSC 2015)

1. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?

My father is a businessman, mother is a homemaker. We are 5 sisters and 1 brother. I am the youngest one and my two elder sisters are already in service. I graduated from Shri Ram College of Commerce Delhi University in Economics honours. I started my preparation right after graduating from college. I was very young probably in class 6, when I decided to appear for CSE. 

2. What inspired you to prepare for IAS examination?

My eldest sister wanted to be an IAS officer and she inspired me and second elder sister for the same. They inspired me and guided me throughout to prepare and appear for CSE as they themselves are in service.

3. What is a typical day in your study life? What is your style of preparation (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I m reading, I just read multiple times but don t maintain notes, I make mind maps on computer or xyz style)

I always kept a right balance of things. I never rely on any one source for preparation like written material or particular website. I always diversified my sources for studying. I always focused on completion of particular topic until I gained enough confidence. For me there were no dedicated particular number of hours for studying however I was always consistent with the preparation and revision, which is very important. I am an outgoing person and I take a lot of breaks as it keeps me refreshed.

4. How many days before the exam, you started answer writing practice?

Answer writing is a continuous process. You get bored studying the same stuff again and again and you don't even know if you are studying in the right direction or not. Therefore I joined the test series to check my preparation and wrote the test during the 3 months gap between Prelims and Mains.

5. How was your experience with the fixed space answer sheet?

The experience was enriching. According to me the answers should be relevant to the question asked. One should not show off their knowledge but should stick to answers in accordance to the question asked. This would help to complete the paper on time and score better.

6. How did you balance your preparation with Job or other exams, if any?

No, I never worked, this would be my first job.

7. What magazines /newspapers/standard books did you refer to for preparing Current Affairs?

I have been reading The Hindu newspaper regularly from past 3 years, it's an amazing newspaper and I would like to continue reading it throughout my life. Other than that I use to keep myself updated with the new things and events happening around. 
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8. How did you prepare your Optional subject?

My optional subject was Public Administration. I use to study Public Administration topic wise and get thorough with the topic. It can take sometimes multiple sources to cover one topic and sometimes even a single source was enough. Mains exam preparation is more about content therefore you should read a lot so that your content gets enriched.

9. Can you please share with us your interview experience (Interview board and Questions faced and how did you answer)?

The key is to be confident irrespective of the fact that you know or do not know the answer of the question asked. Interviewers do not check your knowledge but your personality that's why it is called a personality test. My interview board was Mr. D.K. Dewan, he was very friendly and was smiling throughout. The first question I was asked was my Roll No which I answered as I was sure about it. Then I was asked about the questions from my graduation stream which was economics. They asked me about China's economy,WTO and where was WTO summit last held and its date, they even asked me to point out that place (which was Nairobi) in the map which I couldn't. Who is the commerce minister who represented India, I couldn't answer that as well. So these were the few questions that I couldn't answer, rest most of the questions were opinion based. The rest of the questions were about subsidies and how they are given, questions about my native city bareilly were asked followed by questions related to my hobbies and last movie that I saw, newspaper headlines on that particular day and many more. Board was very friendly and cordial and made me feel very comfortable.

10. Which coaching institutes you attended?

Initially in 2013 I attended synergy (which I think has now changed to AAIE) for optional and GS. After that I didn't attend much coachings but just the test series followed by Pavan Kumar sir's Public administration Test Series which helped me throughout in GS, Public Administration as well as in Interview. Pavan sir guidance in answer writing helped me immensely in GS as well. I am thankful to him for being always approachable and available as a mentor during the exam and the tough phase I had to go through last year when I couldn't qualify hindi paper :(

11. Please share your mark sheet/marks.

Essay- 126
GS 1- 101
GS 2- 80
GS 3- 94
GS 4- 100
Pub ad paper 1- 100
Pub ad paper 2- 110
Interview- 193

12. NeoStencil s live online platform aims to solve a big problem of students who are working and who can t afford to come to delhi or other metros for civil services coaching from top teachers. Do you think that we have created value by connecting top teachers with students?

I am sure NeoStencil has added the value as everybody now wants to study online. Also the weather is so hot in Delhi that sitting studying in front of your laptop from such teachers is much more comfortable than stepping out of your home to attend the coaching classes.

13. If a platform like NeoStencil was there during the times when you prepared for UPSC. Have you preferred this platform for your preparation? If, yes then Why?

Since I had a luxury of staying in Delhi, I preferred studying by attending the classes directly at the institute however if I was compelled to stay in some other city due to my job or financial aspects then I would have preferred taking the classes online. I have friends who are taking up the online classes for so many reasons and they learn a lot.

14. Once again congratulation for making it. Is there any message you would like to give to IAS Aspirants who look up to you?

Firstly Never give up as this preparations tests you and may make you feel hopeless at times. One or the other year you will clear the exam. Secondly there is no fixed mantra to clear this exam. Something works for someone while something else works for another. Work on your strong point and see how it works for you. There are hundred of students who clear this exam every year and each one has a different story. So never give up and make your own success story.

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