Q : When and how did the inspiration and idea of joining civil service come in your mind?
Rakesh Balwal : I always had a childhood dream of becoming an civil servant. But somehow I did mechanical engg, but I didn’t found myself doing justice with mech. engg any time. The immediate trigger for preparations was my job in Railways as Sr. Section engineer. I was doing my job satisfactorily. But there was something i found missing in my life. Which I soon discovered was my passion to directly contribute to society which is possible through civil service. I Believe one should decide about career based on our Personality & our nature; be it civil services, Banking, working in MNC’s, Engg, Entrepreneurship etc . All these sectors require motivated youths for India’s growth. I decided to go full-on about civil services. I started in Jan 2009
Q : Tell something about yourself?
Rakesh Balwal : I am from a small town udhampur (J&K). I am the 1st and only one to make it to IAS/IPS from my district. But it is our dedication to the cause and goal that matters more than anything else. It was my dedication and continuous sincerity towards a dream which kept me moving in spite of my initial failures. Even though I failed many times but I always believed I would do it one day, something which ultimately happened
Q: What is your view about new prelims pattern esp CSAT?
Rakesh Balwal : I think it has brought all aspirants on equal footing. Now we have Two papers of 200 marks each. Paper 1(GS) has become much more current affairs oriented. Also Paper 2 (CSAT) is positive change and genuine aspirants will find it much relevant to aptitude needed in civil services. Decision making Section is very interesting and scoring part in CSAT. For G.S One should be aware of all happening in India & the world and basics must be clear.Also One should also solve lot of objective type problems especially in preceding 20-25 days of prelims exam
Q : What factors did you consider before selecting your optionals? What were they?
Rakesh Balwal : I had political science & Anthropology. Very rare combination in civils. For me the most important thing is your interest in subject rather than opting subjects which are common & perceived as scoring. Civil services preparation is a long struggle. It our interest in a subject which can sustain our preparation. Past results, graduation subjects, Availability of good study material are also deciding factors. But for all new aspirants, 2013 is perhaps last tym we will have optional in civils. So in 2013 choose optionals which remain relevant in new pattern without optional as well like Pub ad, sociology, pol.science, economics etc. I think one should go through syllabus of shortlisted optional before finalising them
Q : Being a engineer, u selected non science sub. So it was difficult for u to set ur hand in these subjects?
Rakesh Balwal : As said earlier it’s about interest thing. I felt comfortable with these optionals than I would have been with Mech engg. I had interest in Indian political scene and world politics, so Pol science was natural choice Plus pol science helps a lot in G.S & Essay as well. For 2nd optional I finalized sociology, anthropology and geography. I started with all three but in 2 weeks time came to conclusion that Anthropology is my subject. I was comfortable with these two all through these 3 years of my Ordeal.
Q : How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year?
Rakesh Balwal : Its all about your motivation & Focus. You should be strongly motivated towards your goal. There are times when you feel down. But only those who stand up & keep moving succeed in the End. Whenever i was down I would watch motivational videos of IAS/IPS toppers on YOU TUBE, I also used to read ‘You can win’ by Shiv khera it helped me a lot. A constant sustained motivation throughout one’s preparation is very very important.
Q : 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?
Rakesh Balwal : I was in full time job in a railway workshop with 9 AM to 5 PM timings. I used to study from 6 PM to 2 AM with an hour’s dinner break. So about 6- 7 hours of intensive study. A month before mains exam this increased to 10-12 hrs daily. I started in Jan 2009. By 6 months i was ready with basics of optionals and G.S conventional part. I think 7-8 months are enough to be ready for the kill.
Q: Did u used the internet is it was effective
Rakesh Balwal : Very effective i would say. I kept myself updated via internet. I use to visit sites of various govt ministries, Jagranjosh, Gktoday, Upscportal etc. Internet supplements our study. But this cannot be at the cost of study from books and newspapers etc as internet can be a distraction as well. Like most people will simultaneously log-in to their facebook accounts and waste precious time in chatting etc. Which happened with me too. But this is where self control and our Focus is tested, to resist the temptation of such deviations is most important
Q: Which newspapers & magazines you went through?
Rakesh Balwal : I regularly gave 2 hours to THE HINDU, making daily notes from HINDU was part of my routine, it is a must. In magazines Civil Services Chronicle/Wizard & FRONTLINE (for mains)
Q : How did you prepare yourself for the essay?
Rakesh Balwal : I didn’t prepared specially for essay. I have reading habit so it helped. Plus political science as an optional helped a lot. A few quotations i had memorized which enriched my essay. We must have enough knowledge reserves to write down an 1500-1700 word Essay. I had prepared a strategy forwriting essay which helped me.
Q : Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?
Rakesh Balwal : I wrote on ‘creation of small states and its consequent administrative, economic and developmental Implications’. It was a good one forme as it was connected with Indian polity. I got good marks in essay, 113 out of 200. Most people do not take essay seriously which is a wrong strategy. The range in essay marks is from 30 to 130. So it should be taken seriously.
Q : Do u took coaching?
Rakesh Balwal : As I was in a full time job. So did not go for coaching. But for those who are starters & have time coaching at times helps in giving right direction, But coaching is not something compulsory for success in civils. For personality test I gave a few mock interviews which helped me in final interview
Q : What is your advice to all aspirants,,,as ur success came with ur job nd also without coacHing….
What was ur success mantra?
Rakesh Balwal : I would say it is not our conditions in life that determine our success. But it’s our will power and strong motivation which matters. Half hearted efforts lead to nowhere really. Only when we are motivated strongly about our goal we succeed. One should Make a time table and stick to that no matter what happens & also a revision schedule should be made for retention of all that we read.
Q: What about Interview in civil services? Which Board you had got?
Rakesh Balwal : It is very rightly called as personality test. As our knowledge has been checked in prelims and mains. So we are judged on basis of our personality traits. We have 20-25 minutes to bring out best in us and project that too in front of the interview panel. These 300 marks determine which service we will get or whether we will be there in final list.
I got Alka sirohi mam’s panel for my interview. It went for about 30 minutes. Even though i was severely grilled about mechanical engineering about which i am poor & really could not answer much. But still my composure and coolness ensured me 168/300 marks & IPS as service. So more than our answers overall impact matters
Q : What message you want to give to all aspirants?
Rakesh Balwal : Being a real genuine aspirant is just the start. One should be dead serious about clearing civils and getting into IAS/IPS etc. Everything is possible in world if you have sincerity towards your purpose. I lived in a village, was an average student, got marks in 60’s & 70’s in school n college, Didn’t studied in top class institutes, Didn’t spoke convent-accent english, was working full tym in worst factory conditions. So If I could do it anyone else can also do the same.
The Civil Service Examination (CSE) is a test of our perseverance & hard work and not of intelligence, cramming ability,academic records etc. My message is simply to stand up and keeping moving positively till you succeed in your set-goal .