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In her first attempt, this 24-year old law graduate from the School of Excellence in Law, Chennai couldn't clear the UPSC Civil Services Preliminary but in her second attempt, she emerged the first ranker! Daughter of V Shanmugam, a customs consultant and homemaker S. Padmavathy, Divyadharshini was working at SBI for the past six months. She shares her journey.

Q.How did you hear the good news? A.I was in office when the results were declared, and a friend informed me of the results. It came as a shock! At first I did not believe but it but confirmed it through my brother. It took a while to realise that it was not a dream.

Q.Who is the inspiration behind your success? A. My mentor Prabhakaran sir (Director of Prabhas IAS Academy) and my parents. All have given me ample confidence, motivation and have placed belief in me.

Q.How different was it in the second attempt? What made you crack it? A.I think one year’s consistent preparation made the difference between the two attempts.

Q.What were your optional subjects and why did you choose them? A.Prelims – I chose Public Administration due to easy availability of books and study materials, availability of guidance and above all my interest. Mains - I chose Public Administration and law, as law was my graduation subject and I felt comfortable with the syllabus.

Q.How was the interview? Can you recall any questions from the board members? A.The interview board was cordial. I answered to my satisfaction. There were one or two questions for which I didn’t know the answer but I was frank with the board and told them the truth that I did not know. The questions were based on my profile and were based on the RTI Act, Lokpal Bill etc.

Q.How good are coaching institutes and what to be cautious of if you choose one? A.Coaching centres are a guiding light but it all ultimately comes down to your individual effort. Attending mock tests would help a lot to ascertain where we stand. Choosing the right centre would have to be made cautiously. There are many money sucking institutes and we need to be careful not to get into their hands and waste our money and time.

Q.Do you have any priority areas where you would like to see you making a difference in the administrative services? A.IAS gives a wider scope to serve the society and make a difference. I think bridging the rural – urban developmental divide would help in the longer run.

Q.Your message to future CSE aspirants… A.I would like to wish them all the very best for the exam. It’s a way to go forward with confidence and belief in yourself. It’s not too easy but neither too hard. Right amount of effort would pay good results.

Q.What was your strategy for optionals, GS and Essay? A.Optional - I covered the entire syllabus and prepared concrete points for each topic and always revised before exams. Notes are really helpful especially during exam times.

GS - In addition to prelims preparation, adding personal view and analysis of the questions Essay - I think there is no need to special preparation for essay. Preparation for general studies help in writing the essay paper. Newspaper reading builds ideas which helps in essay.

by Vachaspati Upadhyaya
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