Story III

In the third interview from the series, Anshuman Dutta speaks to Jintu Sarma, ranked No 2 in the Assam Civil Service Exam.

My message to aspirants is to work hard and be positive. Visualise yourself as a civil servant and work towards your goal. No one can stop you from being successful. The same message goes to those who didn’t qualify this year. Have patience and keep preparing. Don’t give up and give your 200 per cent.

Tell us something about yourself; why did you enter the field of com­petitive exams?

I was born and brought up in Guwa­hati. I joined the civil services to make a positive change in the working of the administration and promote the welfare of the downtrodden.

In recent times, there has been a spur in electronic material: blogs, sites, PDFs, RSS-feeds. Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. How did you prepare?

I used to take printouts of all the materials I used to study. Mostly, I used YouTube as my primary source of information. But books have always been my first choice of study material.

What was your approach in the exam?

My approach was to answer all the questions and, at the same time, I used bullet points to write my an­swers for every subject. It is not possible to prepare for every question that comes in the exam, so one has to make up answers at the moment. My summary notes helped me a lot as I could write according to the demand of the particular question.

What was your optional subject and why did you choose it? If a new aspirant wants to pick your subject, would you advise for it or against it?

I had chosen History and Education. I chose History because I loved learning about the past and had a deep interest in it since my school days. I also love writing analytical answers related to History. So, I knew I had to choose History. I adopted for Education as my second optional subject as the syllabus was concise and the second paper was common with the History paper.

My advice for new aspirants would be that they choose their optional subject as per their interests. If one doesn’t have an interest in the subject, it gets  very boring while studying for such long hours.

What are the books you referred to during your preparations and your list of recommended books?

For History, I followed quite a lot of books. But the most basic were: Modern India by Rajiv Ahir, Mediaeval India by Satish Chandra and Ancient India by RS Sharma. I also followed Indian History by Krishna Reddy and a lot of online platforms to enrich my notes. For world history, I followed BR Rao, Norman Lowe, and KL Khurana.

For Education, I, mostly, followed the online materials provided by KKHSOU. One can follow the given books but do enrich your answers with inputs from good sources online.

Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching institutes?

I did attend mock interviews but my interview was very different from any mock interview I gave. But one should give mock interviews to derive confidence.

Please tell us about your interview experience in detail.

My interview was scheduled in the afternoon and I was the first candidate of the evening session. They asked me questions mostly about my place of origin, my graduation subject, football, PWD , as well as my views on a few things.

A few questions I remember:

1. ULFA and its origin in Nalbari, as my parents are from Nalbari.

2. Problems in the PWD Department and how to improve those (Schedules, rate list, MB).

3. Football (Almost everything, we talked for about 6-8 mins only about football).

4. Graduation subject and why so many engi­neers are joining the civil services.

5. They also asked me why I chose human­ities subjects even though I am from a technical background.

6. Time travel question: one interesting question that I was asked was about time travel (if I time travelled back to Class XII, what subject would I select to do my graduation in and give reasons for the same. I answered Engineering and mentioned a few points to support it: a) engineering made my decision-making skills faster. b) I can now stay anywhere as I was in hostel for four years. c) En­gineers have the habit of managing things quickly at a short time, etc.

My interview was not a question-answer session. It was more of a conversation and the Board mostly asked for my views. So, there aren’t any perfect answers for my questions. One can answer in their own way but should have points to support and validate one’s stand on those views.

My advice to aspirants would be to be positive and honest. Answer everything politely with a smiling face (believe me, it leaves a very good impression) and never lie. And, most importantly, try to relax and be cool. They can see through you in two minutes. So, any fake approach will be visible to them within seconds. And, whatever your answer may be, speak confidently and never change your answer.

Through this struggle and ultimate suc­cess, what have your learned? What is your message to current aspirants?

The preparation phase has helped me become a better human being. It has made me more polite and humble. It has taught me about my priorities in life.

My message to aspirants is to work hard and be positive. Visualise yourself as a civil servant and work towards your goal. No one can stop you from being successful. The same message goes to those who didn’t qualify this year. Have patience and keep preparing. Don’t give up and give your 200 per cent.

Behind every topper are many people who have stood by her/him during those uncertain times when she/he was only an aspirant.

I would like to mention my mother Prativa Sarma who has been my guide and ardent sup­porter. I would also like to mention my elder brother Chintu Sarma who supported me all throughout, especially financially. Finally, I would like to mention my biggest supporter and believer, my girlfriend Bhaswati Mazumdar who has always believed in me. I would like to thank them from the core of my heart.

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