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Meet the IRS Toppers (Part-I) : A few tips for the Civil Services aspirants.

As per the recent trends, about 10 lakh people apply to write for the Civil Services Examination conducted by the UPSC each year. Almost half of them fail to write the preliminary examination, after receiving the admit cards, mostly due to lack of preparation. Out of about 5 lakh people who write the examination, around 15000 persons clear the preliminary examination. After the main examinations, around 3000 people make it to the personality test cum interview. Only less than half of them get listed in the final rank sheet.  

There are many successful candidates who prefer to join the IRS (if they miss the IAS for a few marks or if they don't get the preferred state in IAS) ) instead of joining the IPS and other services. I could devote some time at the National Academy of Direct Taxes, Nagpur, India  a few days back. IRS officers undergo their training in this world class training center for the tax administrators. I was invited as a panelist for their annual literary festival to speak about my books to the trainees. I utilized my spare time to interact with the young officers. 

IRS Trainees with the President of India

Let me introduce to you three successful persons from the recent batch and who are undergoing training: Mr Satish Reddy, Mr Rakesh Chintagumpula and  Ms Pryati  Sharma. 

In this blogpost, let us hear from  Mr Satish Reddy, who secured 97th Rank in the Civil Services examination. In the next blog post (Part-II), we will know about Mr Rakesh and Ms Pryati. 

Conversation with Satish Reddy IRS

Satish Reddy wanted to go to the United States after his engineering from NIT, Warangal. All his cousins worked there and led a vey comfortable life. He also dreamt a cosy life in that land of opportunities. But a few weeks of stay in the remote villages in India as a volunteer of National Innovation Foundation changed his perspective and vision about career and life. He walked through the villages in the weekends. When he taught students in the night at a school with the help of kerosine lamp in a naxal affected area, he realized the need to lift the new generation who have aspirations to excel. 

He decided: Either get into politics or be in the civil services. He pondered over his goals to select the right career path. He discussed his interest to work in India and for India with his lawyer father and the mother who is a home maker. They blessed him as he told that by being a civil servant, he can do much more for the country than being an employee in a multinational company. Politics can be an option at a later stage, he thought. 

He prepared hard for the Civil Services Examination. In the second chance, he got 97th rank and chose IRS. (He lost IAS by one rank!). 

I invited Satish to the room allotted to me in the Academy for a chat (The facilities in the guest room are much better than a top rated hotel! Additional facility is a latest model PC). 

Me: How can you pursue your mission, by being in IRS?

How much ever you talk about development or poverty alleviation, nothing can work, without resources. So, the first step and the most important step is to gather resources effectively and efficiently. The second step is the efficient application of the resources. The most difficult task is to generate resources from the right sources intelligently, fairly and transparently. One of the largest sources of revenue is from direct taxation. In a country where only microscopic minority pay taxes, we need intelligent tax administrators who can formulate new rules, simplify procedures, successfully investigate and lead a large team. IRS, thus offers a very challenging career in the civil services, that can radically transform the nation. I find that IRS officers excel in all their roles within the department and outside viz. senior election functionaries, Special secretaries and Joint secretaries in various departments, chief vigilance officers, director generals and advisors in statutory authorities, and senior officers in the ministries and in various regulatory organizations in India and abroad. 

How did you prepare for your Civil Services Examination? 

First I will tell you, how I prepared for my first attempt and NOT cleared.

-I studied for about 14 hours a day
-Read 3 Newspapers
-No other activity other than studies. No games. No exercise
-I gathered too many study materials from all available sources and studied 
-I thought the focus is on current affairs in the examinations and spent more time for that.
-Didn’t practice writing the answers
-Prepared by staying at Delhi in a very tense environment where thousands studied hard
-I got good marks in current affairs. But less marks for other areas.

Now, I will tell you, how I prepared and got selected. 

These are my tips for the Civil Services aspirants:

1. Read, Write, Revise and Write

Instead of gathering and reading too many study materials on the same topic, I focussed on topics as per the syllabus and the old question papers. I made my own short notes for all topics in the syllabus and for all the questions in the past papers. I read them again and again, wrote them, revised the notes by adding new points and practiced writing again. So, when similar questions came in the examination, the answers were flowing to the paper without any delay. 

2. Coaching

I decided not to go to Delhi this time. Every resource is available across india through online sources. Why to waste money by being in Delhi in a highly competitive, tense environment? one has to relax to  grasp the subject and to learn quickly. For that, one needs to be in an environment where one is most comfortable. 

www.insightsonindia. com helped me a lot in my preparation. They run offline tests in cities like Bangalore. I stayed in Vijayanagar in Bangalore for five months attempting the tests. Every three days I did one test along with a group of aspirants. 

3. Be relaxed, when you learn

I did my mediation every morning. Played badminton everyday. Chatted with sincere and committed aspirants. All these helped me in my preparation. 

4. The tricks and strategies one should know

Be positive in your answers. Don’t go on a critical mode to lash out at the the system and the government. Your criticism should be constructive. When you write about an issue or problem, give both positive and negative dimensions. Then give your creative suggestion. 

Substantiate your arguments with facts, figures and references to articles. Give illustrations of what happened recently. All these require regular reading of newspapers and periodicals. Even when you write answers to purely theoretical questions, make it a point to give real life examples. 

Come to the point directly rather than bluffing with a long introduction. This is very much  necessary in the interview. 

Various subjects

All subjects are actually interconnected. Paper-I is about past India. Paper-II  touches present India. Paper-III is mostly about future India. Paper-IV is on ethics of past and present action. There are other papers as well.


  • Interview is not to measure your knowledge; but your comprehension, attitude and response
  • Confidence level should not go down after you answered a few questions wrongly. This will be rated adversely. 
  • Give decisive, clear answers. Don’t sit on the fence.
  • Take just three-four seconds to understand the question before answering. 
  • First give the answer and then give reasoning. If you start giving the background first, there is a chance that they will quickly move to another question before you give the answer. 
  • Be frank and honest. Please speak from the heart. Don't ever be artificial. They will catch you. 
  • Don’t try to get into complexities. Don't be theoretical. Don't use jargons. Don’t argue.
  • You should be thorough about your background and what you wrote in your CV. 
  • There will be questions on International relations and recent social issues, irrespective of your optional. Members are specialists in various subjects. 

Advice to school students 

Those school students who aspire for a career in civil services should make it a habit to read newspapers everyday. They should participate in debates and quiz programs. They should also visit government offices and understand the functioning. This can help them to make a better career choice. 

What are your views on the corruption in the civil services?

As a young professional I feel that the civil servants should be adequately compensated, much more than the pay package in the private sector. The civil servants take very crucial decisions. When they are compensated well for the challenging decisions they take, they will not get corrupted and they will not bother much about a career threat because of bold decisions. Many times, bureaucrats are worried about the future and they become reluctant to disobey the bosses who want them to deviate from rules. Corrupt officials should be severely punished. 

IRS Trainees with Prime Minister of India

P T Usha giving medals on Sports Day

In the current batch of IRS trainees, around 62% are engineers. The batch also includes 25 doctors. 30% of trainees are post graduates.  

Read Part-II of the article: Click here: Meet the IRS Toppers (Part-II) 

(c) Sibichen K Mathew     Views are personal

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