Although she did appear for the UPSC CSE in 2020, Gamini Singla could barely go past the prelims. But she did not give up on her dream of becoming an IAS officer and sat for the exam once again in 2021. The 23-year-old secured All India Rank 3 in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) CSE 2021. This year, the first three toppers are women.
Despite having a job offer from coveted JP Morgan during her college placement, Gamini turned down the offer for the love of UPSC civil services. A native of Sunam in Sangrur district of Punjab, her family later shifted to Anandpur Sahib. She is an alumnus of Punjab Engineering College (PEC) Chandigarh from where she where she studied BTech in Computer Science Engineering (CSE). After completing her graduation, she was selected for a 5-month internship by JP Morgan via campus placement.
The internship was part of her college curriculum, and JP Morgan had offered her a job post completion of the internship, but Gamini chose to turn it down for her dream was to become an IAS officer. “I felt that satisfaction is very important when choosing a career. I have always felt satisfied when I work among people and do something for them. In civil services one can work in diverse areas. I felt that it would help me bring out full potential and always help other people,” explains she.
She started preparing for the UPSC CSE since 2019 after completing her BTech. For the prelims, there are two portions — static and current affairs. For the static portion, she studied from Indian Polity by M Laxmikant, 10th to 12th NCERT books for geography, classes 6 to 12 NCERT books for ancient and medieval history, and Spectrum for modern history.
“I made a choice to revise these same books over and over again rather than opting for new resources. Revision is a very important part of the preparations. The questions in static section are direct and hence anyone who studies thoroughly from these books, will get marks easily,” explained Gamini.
“When it comes to current affairs, reading the newspapers on a daily basis cover that part of the exam. I also appeared for several mock interviews as it helps me to figure out my weakness and strengths. It is a good strategy for UPSC,” said she. She also took coaching from Unacademy.
One should be thorough with the syllabus of UPSC for both mains and prelims. Further, Gamini claims she used to go a nearby govt school and give her mock tests sometimes without any electricity so that her body get accustomed to the environment and “I do not feel that it is a new atmosphere I’m entering into,” said she.
For mains too, she took several mock tests. She also adds that self-evaluation of these mock exams is very important as it helps one know their loopholes. “Every weekend, I used to go the school and took the three-hour mock tests from there for both mains and prelims,” she added.
Between her first and second attempt, she explains that she lacked strategy. Although she was studying hard during her first attempt, it her proper strategy that helped her with the second one. “I studied the previous year questions papers and took more mock tests. In the first attempt, I did not have enough time to take mock exams and could not get through the prelims. I did not do enough answer writing in the first attempt,” Gamini told News18.com.
In the personality test, it is one’s knowledge that is reflected in the personality which helps one crack the interview round, says Gamini. “Just a few days before the exam, I had went through my Detailed Application Form (DAF) to be through with what I have written, and for the current affairs, the newspapers were enough,” she said.
With her father’s help, who helped her highlight the current news and event, it saved her a lot of time. Both her father and mother are medical officers with the Himachal Pradesh government and her brother has completed her graduation from IIT Kharagpur.
The interview questions were multi-dimensional, explains Gamini. “I was asked about the relevance of the United Nations in the current scenario as I was the director-general of the PEC Model UN in my college days wherein I participated in a few community-building process and was the leading the team when it hosted in our college ,” says Gamini.