A Mona Sreenivas

Challenges and opportunities as a Civil Servant

A Mona Sreenivas, who is currently working as a director with Election Commission of India, topped the Civil Services exam in 2005.  In an exclusive interview, she shares her winning strategy to excel in UPSC exam which includes time management and choosing your Mains subjects wisely.

Edited excerpts: 

WHRD: You bagged the top rank in the 2005 exam. What strategy did you adopt for the Mains and Prelims?

A Mona Sreenivas: Start reading newspapers and magazines along with your NCERT textbooks and brush up your basic History, Civics and Geography: subjects that are part of the Civil Services Examination. The more focused preparation should begin at least a year before you actually write the exam. Begin with trying to understand the concepts. So it is better to go to Mains first and then go to Prelims and then get back to Mains again.

Over a period of time you learn to differentiate between what is important and what isn’t. This is important, because there is so much reading material to study.  

WHRD: Your optional subjects were English Literature and Sociology. How important is choice of subjects and time management to ace the exam?

A Mona Sreenivas: Time management is very important because the material is massive and you can’t spend years and years preparing. Regarding the choice of subjects, strike a balance between what is scoring and what one knows best. For the second subject, pick a subject that you like to read. 

If you pick a subject you don’t want to read, it becomes very difficult to carry on with it. I picked up Sociology since I knew my writing skills were good. Sociology again is related to how you express your understanding of society. And it has elements of current affairs. So, I could mix my understanding of society and relate it to what was happening in contemporary times. If you can mix the two, it makes for a very good answer in the Civil Services exam.               

WHRD: What are the challenges and opportunities of being a civil servant?

A Mona Sreenivas: I think that whatever job profile you have in the Civil Services, it impacts people’s lives in a very good way. In the government sector whatever one does is a big responsibility. Government services give you a lot of scope to innovate and make things better. 

WHRD: Please share with us some of your school-time memories.

A Mona Sreenivas: I did my schooling at Apeejay School in Faridabad. I have such nice memories of being in class 5 and being the head girl of school. Then I went to the senior school and studied in the senior school building in Sector 15. So, I have lovely memories of the huge playground and singing the theme song: Soaring High Is My Nature.

WHRD: What kind of mental strength is required for IAS aspirants?

A Mona Sreenivas: There are times when people take four to five years to prepare and this can tire them out. It is better to be focused, sharp and incisive and try and score in the first three attempts. You have to be mentally very strong.

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