Pragya Jat, AIR 91, CSE 2021, is an epitome of motivation for many civil service aspirants who dream of becoming an IAS officer despite the hurdles. Presenting to you here is an interview with Mr. Ayush Sinha, founder and director of Forum IAS and Pragya.
Ayush - Pragya, a very warm welcome to you and congratulations for securing Rank 91 in CSE 2021. Can you please introduce yourself?
Pragya - I am Pragya. I am 24 years old. I graduated in B.A. Honors (Economics) from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University in 2018. My family hails from Rajasthan. My father worked for Indian Railways. I currently reside in Gurgaon.
Ayush - Pragya, what motivated you to take the most prestigious exam of the country?
Pragya –My father suggested me to go for Civil Services and gradually, the idea sinked in and I went for it after graduation.
Ayush - How did you come to know about Forum IAS?
Pragya - After graduation in 2018, I came across Anudeep sir’s blogs who secured Rank 1 the same year. He had been a part of Forum’s Test series. It was then I heard about Forum IAS and later, joined for Mains Guidance Program (MGP).
Ayush - What is your take on the choice of Newspaper for the preparation of Civil Services?
Pragya - Keeping a tab on the news on a daily basis has been an eternal struggle for me and reading every piece of micro-news is overwhelming for me. So, for this attempt, I decided to quit reading the newspaper. I will not advocate for this kind of move to my fellow students; everyone should do what works best for them.
Ayush - How did you manage with the Current Affairs given the fact that you quit reading Newspaper?
Pragya - As far as working on the Current Affairs (CA) was concerned, I relied on the yearly compilations for Prelims and joined Forum’s CA classes for the Mains. Also, Dipin sir’s classes were really good and his notes helped me a lot in working on the Current affairs.
Ayush - Though at Forum we suggest giving 4-5 months for prelims especially when you have not been able to clear the same a couple of times, how much time did you devote for the prelims?
Pragya - 2-3 months. I have barely given much thought how much time others devote in the preparation; I simply, went with the flow.
Ayush - What was your strategy for the preparation of Prelims?
Pragya - This was my third attempt at the prelims. I did not adopt any particular strategy for the preparation. I just kept working hard.I kept solving mocks.
Ayush – Most of the students struggle with this question that at what stage the toppers bubble the circle in Prelims. What was your strategy?
Pragya – I used to bubble the circle immediately after reading the question because the probability of making a mistake at the end becomes higher.
Ayush – How did your day look like during the preparation of prelims?
Pragya – I studied for almost 8-10 hours daily with intermittent breaks. I used to watch videos right before sleeping just to absorb the content during sleep as well.
Ayush - What was your approach to GS paper 1?
Pragya - I did not give much time to History as I had this subject during 11th and 12th. As we neared the exam, I simply read through the notes of previous years toppers. Also, while solving the tests under MGP, I would note down a topic/question that was unknown to me and later, learned the answers to the same. For Geography, I made diagrammatic notes.
Ayush - What was your approach to GS paper 2?
Pragya - I read Laxmikant and would look at only those topics that I meant to remember. Dipin sir’s classes also covered a lot of topics.
Ayush - What was your approach to GS paper 3?
Pragya – Topics like Disaster Management, Geography, and Environment are a part of Paper 1; so the preparation overlapped for GS paper1 and 3. For Security, I prepared at the time of prelims. For Economy, I just went through the basics as it was my subject during graduation.
Ayush - What was your approach to GS paper 4?
Pragya - In my opinion, paper 4 is a bit tricky as everyone can write the answers, but a good one, only a few can. I worked on writing answers of Ethics and later sought help from answers of other toppers. Also, I worked on quotes and captured a lot of examples to enhance my answers. The Red Book by Forum on Ethics helped in this.
Ayush - How did you tackle Essay writing?
Pragya – As I used to participate in debates when in school, my brain was programmed for breaking the topic in parts that would bring out the best motion and analytics. I wrote total 4 essays at Forum. I also went through essays of toppers. I would write the essay with a timer and prepared a rough draft before attempting an essay. The quotes and examples were an added advantage.
Ayush - Why did you choose Sociology as your Optional subject?
Pragya - I did not do well in Economics in college. So, I decided to go for an altogether different subject. Also, reading about Sociology here and there, developed my interest towards the subject.
Ayush – You were a part of Augmented Test Series (ATS) - Sociology here at Forum. How did you benefit from the same?
Pragya – I wrote 3 tests and later, went through the answers. Any point that was not covered in my notes or sources of study, I would include that. The Value addition Classes at Forum were also an added advantage in enhancing my answers.
Ayush – How much did you score in the Personality test? Who were the board members in your Interview? How was your experience?
Pragya – My score in Personality test was 193. I faced T. C. Anand Sir’s board. It was extremely cordial. I was nervous before the interview but all went well. Though I could not answer all the questions, I went with a simple ‘no’ in all honesty.
Ayush – How many mock Interviews did you take?
Pragya - I gave one online and one in-person mock. That’s it!
Ayush – Did you digitalize the notes or had hard copies for them?
Pragya - I preferred paper notes.
Ayush - Which pen did you use for the exam?
Pragya – Initially, I started with Black ball point pen, but later, switched to Pilot V5 till the end.
Ayush - Why did you opt for Indian Foreign Service instead of Administrative Service?
Pragya - As a child, I was fascinated with the officials of Indian Foreign Service and after clearing the exam, I felt Diplomacy is that one aspect I would be inclined towards.
Ayush - If you were to recommend a course of Forum to fellow aspirants, which one would that be?
Pragya - I would recommend Current Affairs Classes and MGP at Forum.
Ayush - Any suggestions to the readers?
Pragya - Just give your best and do whatever it takes to crack the exam. Have a positive mind-set and keep pushing yourself till the end. This exam not only tests your knowledge, but also your personality.
Readers can find the interview on Youtube at our official website- ForumIAS Official