In a freewheeling chat with ABP Education, Neha Banerjee tells us how to prepare for such a national-level competitive exam, her internally driven motivation towards UPSC and a lot more.
Neha Banerjee already had an illustrious resume before securing Rank 20 in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Service Exams 2019. On her way to the merit list, Neha graduated in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, explored her passion in music with her college band, expressed herself sufficiently through her writings and got a taste of corporate life in Noida.
Such an exhaustive list of achievements made ABP Education reach out to Neha, a passout of South Point School, Kolkata, to know about her inspiration behind pursuing UPSC, and of course, pick her brains on how to crack the most testing exam in the country.
Most IIT students dream of getting into MNCs. Why did you plan to leave the corporate sector job and pursue UPSC?
When I was doing the job in an MNC company, I found that something was missing from my life. I mean, the job is very fulfilling and I absolutely had no complaints regarding that. But I really felt that this kind of nine-to-five job will not be a very suitable venture for me. In the meantime, I came across UPSC where I found I have to study a wide range of subjects such as history, political science, current affairs. And that really interested me a lot. Then I started studying bit by bit and I gradually became interested wholeheartedly. I did not even think about the results, but I really enjoyed the entire procedure for preparing for the UPSC exams.
Who was the inspiration while taking up UPSC?
For taking up UPSC, the decision was completely mine. The entire decision was internally driven. That apart, my mother has always been a constant source of motivation throughout the journey. I lost my father a few years back but I am sure that if he would have known about my venture, he would have supported me wholeheartedly.
Hard work or smart work - what helps more while preparing for UPSC?
I think there is a very fine line of difference between hard work and smart work. So initially we have to start with hard work, there are no shortcuts. But gradually as you go through the journey, you have to sustain yourselves for at least two years. After a few months, you find out what is smart work like, what works for you, which area you are comfortable studying, which source you are comfortable with, how are you comfortable studying various things. These are all part of smart work. But that will come gradually, not at once.
What do you read on apart from stuff in the curriculum?
Newspapers are an integral part of my preparations right from the beginning and it is still going on now. For cracking UPSC, you have to know about every development around you and newspapers are the one-stop source for that. They also help develop a certain level of maturity. I also enjoy reading very diverse stuff as well. I recently read the book of Prof. Abhijit Banerjee on poor economics. I also like reading a lot of economic literature by Prof. Amartya Sen.
What if not UPSC?
Anyway, after giving my mains exam last year, I was thinking of leaving my job. If not UPSC, probably in the long term I would have settled down with a PhD in Electrical Engineering in one of the IITs. I had also applied for the Prime Minister Research Fellowship this year.
What’s your message to UPSC aspirants?
My suggestion would be to keep it simple. You can divide your preparations into three parts. For the first three to four months, you should concentrate only on understanding the pattern of the exam like the syllabus, trends of the questions etc. Then gradually follow the basic sources like NCERT question papers, try to get accustomed to newspaper reading. These are foundation elements to this exam which everyone has to cover. Then you can put together all your resources and revise them. And if you are not very comfortable in writing, then I would advise you to get accustomed with writing. Your patience, correct motivation and of course faith in yourself are the most important things for cracking such national level examinations. And yes, don’t think much about the results, just concentrate on your preparations.
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