Interview of Shri Atul Kumar Singh (UPPCS 2021 Topper)

Interview of Shri Atul Kumar Singh: The Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission (UPPSC) declared the PCS (Provincial Civil Service) examination 2021 final results on 19th October 2022. Out of the 627 candidates who qualified the examination, Shri Atul Kumar Singh of Pratapgarh secured the highest rank. Let’s have a look at the interview, success story, preparation strategy of UPPCS 2021 Topper.

UPPCS 2021 Topper Interview

In a conversation with Employment News, Shri Atul Kumar Singh shared his journey, experiences and valuable tips on the essential aspects of serious preparations for competitive examinations. Excerpts from his interview:


Question: Please briefly explain your journey. How many years or preparations and how many attempts did it take for you to get your desired results?

Atul Kumar Singh: After completing B.Tech. from IIT – Kharagpur, I worked in the corporate sector for 4-5 years. Then I decided to appear for UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) Civil Services Examination (CSE). I missed IFS (Indian Foreign Service) final list by 2 marks in 2017. Then I decided to try my luck in the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission examination. In 2019 UPPSC exams, I managed to qualify for the post of BDO (Block Development Officer). In the same year, I secured 1st rank in the Uttar Pradesh (Assistant Conservator of Forest) examination. However, I kept aiming higher. In UPPSC 2021, I got 1st rank (Deputy Collector). This, I managed in three serious attempts

Question: In which paper did you score the most and how?

Atul Kumar Singh: Mark Sheets are not out yet. I think I must have done well in all the papers. Especially in Mathematics (optional), my accuracy must have been better this time. I am sure I have scored well in General Studies as well. My strategy mainly hinged on revising standard books multiple times and having short notes on all the subtopics given in four GS papers and attempting several mock test papers. For Mathematics, after completing standard books, solving past 15 years UPPSC question papers plus giving other mock test papers was the key.

Question: Do you think focusing more on your strengths bear better results or should you focus more on conquering your weaknesses?

Atul Kumar Singh: Strength must be emphasized to get good rank. At the same time weakness must be addressed too to ensure your score does not fall too low overall. I strongly believe that we should focus on weakness in the early phase of preparation and polish our strengths throughout the preparation. In the last few months of preparation, focus must entirely be on the strengths as weakness cannot be improved beyond a certain limit. Hence an optimum balance between the weakness and strength is required.

Question: Does having good command over the language give you an edge?

Atul Kumar Singh: It is enough if you use decent, simple language, though grammar should not be very deficient. The bottom line is, you don’t have to be Shakespeare or Prem Chand to clear competitive examinations in India. Good content with facts and figures, along with supporting diagrams, flowchart, and quotations to beautify our answer in a simple lucid manner is more than sufficient.

Question: How reliable is the Internet in sourcing study material? Can you suggest some credible platforms?

Atul Kumar Singh: The Internet is a must source, especially if you are doing self study. But we shall not be swayed too much by the oceans of information on the Internet. Credible sites such as websites belonging to government departments or reputed institutes like think tanks and academia are good source of credible information. Some coaching institutes also offer free repository of materials on their blogs/websites. Here, I would like to mention that Employment News/Rozgar Samachar also publish articles on important subjects that are objective, informative, and credible. The News Digest page of the weekly is a great source for current affairs briefs.

Question: Do candidates having greater access to technology benefit in any way?

Atul Kumar Singh: We do not have to be a hi-fi techie to master the art of preparation for competitive examination. However, having access to IoT (Internet of Things) makes digging information and sharing resources a bit easier. For example, if we have a smartphone, we can join Telegram and WhatsApp groups where likeminded people meet and share study materials. We can also have dialogues and productive discourse in such platforms at our will.

Question: What according to you are the best methods/ sources of practice?

Atul Kumar Singh: In my experience, in case of both the UPSC and UPPSC, the method of practice is solving previous year question papers (last 5 to 10 years). Mock test papers prepared by reputed coaching institutes are also good as they replicate exam conditions. Also we tend to increase our accuracy in prelims by giving mock tests. In optional subjects like Mathematics, practice is the only way to improve your accuracy. While preparing for 2021 UPPSC, I attempted close to 47+ tests (30 for Mathematics + 12 for GS + 5 for Essay).

Question: Did you take the help of coaching institutes? What other ways of guidance do you suggest for aspirants who cannot afford coaching?

Atul Kumar Singh: For me, self study worked the best. Efficient and sustained self study with standard books is a more productive approach. Make short notes on tough topics of GS and optional paper and revise them multiple times. Attempt a lot of mock tests both for the prelims and the mains. Special focus on previous year question paper is a must. Following are the list of books I studied religiously for the papers I had opted for

  • Modern Indian History: Rajiv Ahir Spectrum.
  • Ancient and Medieval History: Old NCERT 11th class or Tamilnadu board books.
  • Polity: Laxmikant
  • Science and Tech: Current Affairs + Ghatna Chakra Purvalokan.
  • World history : Old NCERT 9th / 10th
  • International Relations: Current Affairs+ NCERT+ Rajiv Sikari.
  • Current Affairs: Ghatna Sar for prelims and Ghatna Chakra for mains.
  • Purvalokan by Ghatna Chakra for prelims (especially for Geography, Modern Indian History, Polity, Environment, Biology).
  • For mains Ghatna Chakra gives current plus static portion in 5-6 volumes.  

Question: Did the pandemic affect your preparations and results? How do you suggest aspirants to deal with such unforeseen circumstances?

Atul Kumar Singh: It was an extremely tough time for most of us. I lost my mother during the pandemic. Despite the emotional turmoil, remaining calm and having perseverance was the only viable option for me. Remaining focused on our target gives us strength to overcome such challenges.

Question: In your opinion, is it possible for someone to have a job and yet effectively prepare for competitive examination? Does having work experience help the candidate in any way?

Atul Kumar Singh: For UPSC it will require highly efficient time managing skills for a working candidate. But UPPSC is still doable with a job in hand. Many have successfully done it. We need to minimize our sources and do multiple revisions to get best result if we are dealing with paucity of time. Having work experience may help in the interview etc but not too much. Early bird catches the fly. Hence if we can afford, we must start the preparations as early as possible.

Question: In your opinion, should a civil service aspirant, who is also pursuing a graduation degree, make preparing for the competitive exam a priority or should one keep career options open by choosing a professional course at graduation level?

Atul Kumar Singh: It is a very subjective question. It depends on your aptitude, and career aspirations. However no graduation degree is easy or difficult. Even B.A. in humanities is quite challenging, provided we study sincerely keeping civil services in mind. Though professional courses like Engineering and Management do have an edge as far as back up option is concerned. Humanities students can also go for teaching, PhD, etc as a backup. A sincere candidate with fire in the belly to achieve bigger dreams will always do well in life irrespective of his or her stream provided he works hard in the right direction.

Question: What were the major impediments you faced during the preparations and how did you overcome them?

Atul Kumar Singh: Social pressure was one of the impediments as I was married and have two kids. But the major one was the IIT tag as expectations was manifold. Failing is not an option here. If you succeed, people will take it as a given, since you are graduated from a reputed institute. Like everyone else, I struggled to sustain focus, and have perseverance. Yet, I stood firm in my approach of preparation based on syllabus and previous year question papers. Also support from your close ones like parents and spouse makes things relatively easier.