In the second interview from the series, Anshuman Dutta speaks to Parineeta Chakraborty, ranked No 4 in the Assam Civil Services Exam.
Q. Tell us something about yourself; when and why did you enter the field of competitive exams?
A: I’ve been born and brought up in Guwahati where I live with my parents and my younger brother. The desire to become a civil servant shaped up during my high school days because this field provides an individual ample opportunities to work for the public, and address and resolve various issues pertaining to the society.
Q. In recent times, there has been a surge in electronic platforms – blogs, sites, PDFs, RSS feeds, etc. Do aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload?
A: The main essence of preparation is to keep one’s sources to a minimum and do multiple revisions of the topics. As I did not take any coaching, so I did a thorough analysis of the sources before my preparation and studied accordingly. I did use the internet but e-sources cannot be the sole source. One needs to read and revise the topics from standard subject-related books.
Q. What was your approach in the exam?
A: Except for leaving a four-mark question in my Chemistry Paper 1 Optional, I attempted every question in all the other papers. Regarding the quality of the answers, I maintained uniformity throughout the papers. My answers were in line with the question and within the given word limit.
Q. What were your optional subjects and why did you choose them?
A: My optionals were Chemistry and Education. I chose Chemistry because I did my post-graduation in Chemistry, and Education because the subject is interesting, practical, and the syllabus is quite concise. But, the new syllabus of APSC CCE has excluded Education as an optional paper. Regarding Chemistry as an optional, any Chemistry graduate or post-graduate who is very thorough with their Bachelor’s and Master’s topics can definitely opt for it as their Optional.
Q. What are the books you referred to during your preparation?
A: The book sources for Chemistry are the same as the ones that are usually read in BSc and MSc honours courses. Current affairs related to Chemistry are not generally asked in the Optional paper but such questions might be posed in the GS paper under Science and Technology.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the optional syllabus?
A: It took me a month to finish Chemistry, and around two months for Education.
Q. Did you attend any mock tests? Do you think they’re necessary? How many days/weeks before the exam did you take up answer writing practice papers?
A: No, I did not attend any mock test for Mains. I cannot say that they are indispensable but as we know “practice makes perfect”, so attending mock tests can surely improve one’s answer writing skills. As far as answer writing is concerned, I did not do much of it. I did not do practice papers before the exam as well. By saying so, I do not encourage upcoming aspirants to do the same. I’ve had the habit of creative writing since school which, I think, has helped me in framing answers directly in the exam.
Q. How did you prepare for the interview? How did you prepare for the interview?
A: The interview is the most unpredictable stage in the whole exam. We all know that it is primarily a test of one’s personality, so we need to answer with honesty. It’s always better to say “Sorry, I do not know the answer” than to just beat around the bush if we are unsure of anything that the interviewer asks. All I did before the interview was to go through facts related to my hometown, hobbies, educational background, and optionals.
Q. Did you attend any mock interviews? How were they similar/different from the official interview?
A: I did attend a mock interview; the environment in the mock interview was almost like the official interview, though the questions were different. It’s upto one’s own discretion whether he/she wants to attend a mock interview.
Q. Please narrate your entire interview.
A: My interview started with questions relating to the organisation that I am a part of (Ujjeevit Foundation) after which they asked me questions relating to Assamese literature, Fokora-Jujona, etc. I was also asked a few questions on Chemistry (eg: what is cascading effect in water treatment process? pH scale, etc.,) as well as on a few educational policies (as my second optional was Education). There were also a few situational and miscellaneous questions.
Q. Many candidates prepare sincerely but constantly live under fear of ‘profile insecurity’ (I’m not from a big college, I’m not from English medium, and I don’t have work-experience. What if they ask some stressful questions in the interview about this?) What is your message to these candidates?
A: These aren’t even issues to be bothered about while preparing for this examination. It hardly matters which school or college an aspirant is from. All that matters is how sincere, hardworking, and passionate an individual is towards fulfilling his/her vision. So, I would like to request all the upcoming aspirants to keep all their insecurities at bay and continue preparing with a positive mindset.
Q. Through this struggle and success, what have your learned? What is your message to the new aspirants?
A: Our life is all about facing the struggles that are posed upon us at different stages in life. In the end, this is just an exam and it can never be larger than life. Failures do bring in disappointment but certain things are beyond our control, e.g., our destiny. So, we should focus on what lies in our hands; if a candidate has failed to get through this time, he/she should analyse the respective loopholes, start rectifying them, and start afresh on an optimistic note.