In the fourth interview from the series, Anshuman Dutta speaks to Bandeep Rabha, ranked No 10 in the Assam Civil Service Exam.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I graduated as an Electronics and Electrical Engineer from IIT-Guwahati in 2015. After that, I worked as an entrepreneur in an education and management start-up. My father is a government employee, my mother is a homemaker, and my sister is a student of law.
I always dreamt of doing something for the people of my State and, thus, I decided to do so through the path of start-ups. But, I and my three friends faced many problems such as a lack of funding, difficulty in acquiring loans, delay in getting requisite licenses due to red tapism, etc. All this affected us, and then, Jintu Sarma and I thought we could still achieve our dreams and address these problems through another path. Our family and a very special friend, Mousum Pratim Nath, who got into ACS last year, inspired us to join the Civil Service. We worked hard, and I and Jintu secured the 10th and second rank, respectively. We have changed our paths, but our dream of serving our people still remains.
Q: In recent times, there has been a spur in electronic material – blogs, sites, PDFs, RSS-feeds.
A: Initially, I felt bogged down by lots of information from different sites. Later, I realised that I needed to stick to limited resources. For static information, I considered one or two books as the main source per subject with occasional references from Google. For a better understanding of current affairs, I read The Assam Tribune daily and followed Vision and Insights’ current affairs modules.
Q: What was your approach in the exam?
A: To test my knowledge and to improve the quality of my answers, and to manage time, I took the Mains mock series. My strategy was simple: practise and more practise. I believe in completing the whole paper as attempting more questions increases the chances of getting more marks even if the quality gets compromised in some answers.
Q: What was your optional subject and why did you choose it? If a new aspirant wants to pick your subject, what would you advise?
A: Since I coached Medical and Engineering entrance aspirants in Physics, I chose Physics. I also chose Education as my optional subject as it was very concise. It allowed me to invest more time in Physics. In deciding an optional, aspirants should consider their strengths and interest in a particular subject rather than following the trend. (Education has been removed as an optional subject now). If a fresh aspirant wants to choose Physics, I would advise him/her to go through both UPSC and APSC’s previous years’ question papers. If they are confident of navigating the course, then they can consider Physics.
Q: What are the books you referred to doing your preparations and your list of recommended books?
A: • History – NCERT and Spectrum
• Polity – Laxmikanth
• Geography – NCERT (XI and XII) and YouTube
• Environment – Shankar IAS and YouTube
• Economics – Mrunal videos and the business section of newspapers
Q: How many months did it take to finish the optional syllabus?
A: It took me four months to finish both the optional syllabi.
Q: Did you attend any mock tests?
A: Yes, I attended two mock test series. They helped me in analysing my answers and made me more time-efficient. I recommend starting the mock series just after the prelims results are announced.
Q: How did you prepare for the interview?
A: I wrote down everything related to me. For example, details of my college graduation, meaning of my name, place of origin, my tribe, etc. Then, I tried to justify every decision of my life – why didn’t I go for technical jobs, why ACS and not allied services, etc. I also studied the major regional, national and international current affairs, about my two optionals, and whatever I found important.
I attended many mocks and also prepared with my study group. We used to record voice messages on WhatsApp and share it in the groups. We gave reviews to one another.
Q: Who was the chairperson of your interview board? How long was the interview?
A: Sanjib Gohain was the chairperson of my panel. The interview was for about 20-25 minutes.
Q: If you were not selected, what was your backup plan?
A: I didn’t consider any backup plan. I had to clear the exam.
Q: How can one keep the study momentum going?
A: Initially, keep a day every week for relaxation. Watch a movie or go out. Most importantly, look within yourself for the reason you want to be an ACS officer. You will be driven.
Q: What have you learnt throughout the entire process?
A: I have learnt to be disciplined and patient. Discipline, sincerity, and honesty towards your goal are necessary.
Also, I feel those who couldn’t clear the mains or the interview at the first go are equally qualified and as deserving. I wish them all the best for the next attempt.
(To be continued)