Topper's Strategy by Dr. Basant Garg

Without Hard Work Strategy Won’t Take You anywhere

Dr. Basant Garg
All India Rank - 2 C.S. Exam. 2004

Dr. Basant Garg was in his best spirit when Team Chronicle visited him. He opened his heart on Strategy, Optionals, coaching, writing style, background and a number of other factors deciding one’s fate in this endurance test, i.e. C.S. Exam. Read on...

Q. Tell us about your academic background?
A. I am a medical graduate from Punjab University, Chandigarh. I joined in 1999 and just completed in December 2004.

Q. When did you first dream about the I.A.S. Examination?
A. Infact, right from the childhood I had dream to become an I.A.S. Officer. When cousin Dr. Amarjeet Garg cleared this exam in 1998, I started drawing roadmap for this examination. And finally sure to prefer this career.

Q. When did you start your preparation? This exam is supposed to be very tough in nature?
A. I started my preparation three years back when I was doing MBBS. When I spoke to my cousin and other people, I got the idea that the nature of exam demands extensive as well as intensive preparations. It required focused attention. Three years back I started preparation and adopted scientific method. I was utilising two hours a day at the institute and 2-3 hours in self-study. This was my routine since I planned to take up the exam, and selected Medical Science as my first Optionals.

Q. What should be the criteria to choose optional papers?
A. I think, interest, background, materials available and your ability to handle the vastness of the course are the criteria to opt the optional subjects.

Q. Can you explain how did you prepare your Prelims?
A. I got about 4 months to prepare, out of which I utilised 31/2 months for Medical Science because I subscribe the view that optional is more marks-fetching and crucial. For general studies, I was very selective in Polity and History. Economics, I studied extensively. Notes of an institute were quite helpful. For the current affairs. The Hindu and Frontline was sufficient. I did not study Geography. My performance in Geography was very poor. I did 5 out of 30 questions. I was confident of Science and Mental Ability. My target was to get 85-90, correct out of 150. For Prelims, I too help of an institute. For some section I relied solely on the notes of the institute. Apart from that I took help of the Abhimanyu I.A.S. Study group. One book that helped me a lot was Hind Year Book 2004. It was very helpful for Current Affairs. I spare more time for the optional.

Q. Did you prepare any notes?
A. I got notes of Sri Ram IAS. I am not in the habit of preparing notes.

Q. What was your second optional and why did you opt that?
A. My second optional was Zoology. It was very much related to my field. My mother is a lecturer of Zoology, she helped me a lot One of my cousins had appeared in Civil Services with Zoology as an optional, so I utilised his notes also.

Q. Is strategy more important than hard work?
A. Without hard-work, strategy won’t take you any way. But I can say that everyone puts their hard work, those who have strategy also are successful. Hard work builds the base and strategy builds the building over it.

Q. What is your advice to the fresher about opting Optionals.
A. Plan in advance. Try to get as much information about your optional as you can.

Q. To what extent writing style matters in the main exam?
A. Try to give the crux and convey what you want to convey in the answers. Strict to word limits. But I was always short of the word limits.

Q. How did you prepare for Essay paper?
A. It gets prepare by itself. You should have moderate control over language and grammar. When you prepare for GS mains, you automatically et prepared for essay as well. I attempted ‘Globalisation and its impact on India’, which I wrote in approximately 1400 words. I covered historical, social and economic aspects of this topic.

Q. Do urban background students have an advantage?
A. Yes, I do agree. English educated students have an advantage.

Q. How was your Interview?
A. It was Mr. Nawada Wala’s Board. It was stress free. The Board was very cordial. My interview lasted for 30 minutes. The chairman started the questions from the medical field like human cloning. Other members asked me about FDI, Indo-Nepal relation, human right in Punjab, electricity reform policy etc. It ended on a hilarious note and at no point of time they made me feel nervous. It went in smiling and I came out smiling. At one point while answering on post-terrorism Punjab I felt my answer was not adequate.

Q. What was your greatest mistake?
A. Everything went so well that I am not able to think of any mistake now, may be when I think about later I can find the mistake. Not to study Geography for General Studies was one mistake.

Q. When did you plan to take up civil services exam? How did you proceed?
A. When I was about to complete my MBBS. Initially started by own, then I joined an institute in Chandigarh and Delhi. Last year I was in Job. Whatever time I got free, devoted to the exam. I was an extensive exercise.

Q. What were your Optionals? Why did you opt the same?
A. Medical Science and Psychology. Medical Science as natural optional and Psychology was interesting, and was scoring too.

Q. What was your strategy to crack the exam?
A. In prelims focus was on optional rather than general studies and got command over large section of the syllabus. I studied fine study material. I tried to cover maximum issues and topics from standard text books. For general studies I consulted standard and conventional books and did practice last ten years questions. Time management was very crucial for me since I was in job. For prelims my prime target was to cover maximum topics of optional because it is more scoring. During preparation for main examination I tried maintain equilibrium between Optionals and general studies. It was very difficult to manage time during main exam. For Essay, I did little preparation. I prepared few topics and was lucky to get those very topics in the exam.

Q. How did you plan for General Studies?
A. I consulted standard books and practiced questions asked in previous years. I tried to improve upon areas I was not well in previous exams like Statistics, Economics and History. I studied very standard books lime D.D. Basu for Polity, Bipin Chandra for Modern History. For Geography I read conventional stranded textbooks.

Q. Your approach was of extensive study or followed intensive study method?
A. It was combination of both. Certain topics require extensive study, while others require intensive study.

Q. What was your strategy for main examination?
A. I started preparing general studies immediately taking prelims. My Psychology was already prepared. I has scored 355 marks in previous attempt. So, main stress was on Medical Science and a little bit on essay.

Q. How did you plan for essay?
A. For Essay, I did little effort. But I focused on only few themes. Like Indian democracy, Judicial activism etc. For essay my luck favoured.

Q. Tell us about your interview session?
A. An interview is the final stage of the show. For interview, I joined certain coaching institutes in Delhi and locally also. I seriously interpreted the feedback given to me during mock interview sessions and I tried to overcome by shortfall in very next mock interview. I was the last candidate to be interviewed and It was in the board of Madam Parveen Talha. It lasted for twenty minute. The board was very cordial. They asked various questions like on my job, about Mughal garden, Mughal architecture and other architectures. I was asked to compare different architecture. I had very little knowledge. I was answering in like ‘I don’t know’ because I was unable to answer. Other questions related to my field of medical profession and certain situational questions were asked. I handled intelligently those questions.

Q. Did you feel nervous at any point of time during interview?
A. No, the prepared in such a manner that nervousness was not part of my personality. I handled all the questions confidently and nervousness was nowhere. When I was waiting for my interview, I thought that board members have to select me and I have to just support them.

Q. What should coaching classes you attended?
A. The coaching institutes provide basic framework on which a person has to go. They give the basic idea and they also help you to decide which areas are to be focused, and which section has to show less interest. Then, it depends on your personal efforts and approach.
When asked about choosing right coaching institute one should decide on the credibility of an institute. Mr. Ravindran helped me to a great extent.

Q. What was your biggest mistake?
A. I should have taken it more seriously earlier also.

Q. What is your suggestion for fresher regarding selection of optional subjects?
A. In choosing optional subject one should keep in mind his background and interest. In addition, one should also concentrate on the availability of materials, coaching, notes, guidance etc. If a person has real interest he can crack the exam even if the optional chosen does not showing good trend.

Q. This was your fourth attempt. Tell us about previous attempts?
A. I was not very serious during first attempt, I appeared just to see the pattern of the examination. During the second attempt I planned in skillful manner. I faced the interview. Similarly in the third attempt faced the board but the rank I got was not satisfactory. So, I made up my mind again. I knew my weaknesses and planned accordingly. I was expecting a good rank in the final attempt and the result is before you. (Reproduced from Chronicle magazine)

[IAS prelims notes and study material for freshers. Career Quest Education provides quality material. You can get the notes and kit at or send sms to 09811 29 9811]


abby said...

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Thank You
All the Best

rehya sharma said...

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tarini Sharma said...

very nice tips... its always great to see such people succeed. I wish i ll be there somewhere.
Abby n rehya thanks for d post i really liked the site you have mentioned but i got enrolled in this ias general studies course

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Soniya Sharma said...

sir you r the role model for us . i will try my best to became as an ias officer then after i will come to you for the meet anr pay of lots of gratitude

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