Born to railway employee BN Jha and school teacher Indu Jha, Ajay Prakash was just one among the millions of students until 11 May 2011 when the Union Public Service Commission announced the Civil Services result. The energetic and sharp minded kid has secured 9th position in India and is now all set to become an IAS officer, the most coveted profession in India.
Ajay believes that India has a lot of potential and can offer its citizens a life that anyone would dream of. But he also cautions that it can happen only when like-minded people come together to achieve this uphill task.
Ajay opines that most government schemes do not benefit the people they are meant for. He vows to work towards the development of India in his capacity as a civil servant and maintains that health and education are two sectors which need immediate attention.
“There’s a difference between intention and implementation. I will do whatever job is assigned to me by the Government and try to build a team of honest people around me so I could help in the development of the country,” says Ajay. He strongly supports the cause of Anna Hazare but does not believe in his methods as he is a strong supporter of Democratic processes. It is quite obvious as he pursues his MPhil in English Literature from the prestigious Jawahar Lal Nehru University which is known for inculcating a sense of leadership in its students.
> Ajay Prakash received his primary education in Samastipur of Bihar. He then completed his class 10 with 95.4% marks from Oak Grove School in Mussoorie. Ajay had deep interest in Literature but chose Science stream in class 12 as most of his friends did. It was only after he failed IIT-JEE and AIEEE and scored an average 78% mark in class 12 that he realized it was important to pursue what he loved and what he was passionate about. Later Ajay joined Hindu college in Delhi and then did his Masters’ in English Literature from JNU. It was first in JNU that the 25-year-old Ajay realized that he could actually become an IAS although his parents had always insisted that he at least thought about it once. Ajay believes in the significance of good quality institutions and credits his success to his alma mater and the JNU.
* Advice to IAS aspirants
> Ajay cleared the UPSC examination in his very first attempt and had hardly prepared for 9 months. His success mantra is that he doesn’t take too much pressure upon himself but lives a disciplined life.
He advises civil services aspirants, “Do not talk to too many people. Consult only those who have qualified this examination. Believe in yourself and study methodically.”
Q. It is very difficult to figure out the right strategy. What should be the first step once somebody decides to take Civil Services Exam?
A. Proper guidance is the key to success. The nature of exam is such that you cannot afford to waste time for unimportant topics. Talk to candidates who have cleared this exam. Taking help of coaching institiutes is also not a bad idea. The exam becomes very easy if you adopt the right strategy. Coaching institutes can help you choose the right study material and also bring discipline to your study schedule. But it is not essential to join a coaching institute if you know what to study and maintain a proper study schedule. I was lucky to be a part of JNU. The atmosphere here and the help of fellow students helped me crack these exams.
Also, it is important not to take too much pressure. Right frame of mind will help you crack the exam.
Take help of internet. You will get a lot of information. But it is important to rely only on standard websites.Read newspapers and current affairs magazines.
* What was your preparation strategy for Preliminary exam?
> I adopted an integrated approach as all stages of the civil services exam require both facts and opinions. From the very first day, look for facts, build your knowledge and form your opinion.
> GS is a very vast section. How did you prepare for it? Any books that you read?
> One source that I would like to strongly recommend is The Hindu newspaper. It is important to go behind the news items. Also read other newspapers which will help you prepare for General Studies. I would also listen to All India Radio’s FM Gold. They discuss issue of the day every weekday from 9 pm to 10 pm.
* What is your opinion on the changes made in the Prelims exam?
> I am very happy with the changes. Earlier knowledge was privileged. Now the emphasis is on decision making ability. Your honesty will be checked and capabilities tested. Your aptitude will be judged.
* When should a candidate start preparing for the Mains examination?
> One should start preparing for the Mains exam immediately after the Prelims. The two months between these two exams are very precious and should be utilized effectively, irrespective of your performance in the Prelims.
* What were your optional subjects for the Mains exam? What was the basis of choosing them? Which books did you refer to?
> English Literature had been my subject in Graduation, PG and now I am doing MPhil in English Literature. So it was the obvious choice. The other optional subject that I opted was Sociology. It is not a very difficult subject and a natural fit to English Literature as one has to study about the society, the period etc in English Literature as well as Sociology. Also, I prepared for Sociology in less than 3 months.
* How important is the role of current affairs in optional papers?
> Current affairs plays a significant role in most subjects. Except for papers like Literarture or the Sciences, use of current affairs in your answers will fetch you high marks.
* Tips for English Literature?
> Delhi University syllabus is very good and comprehensive. Also, the matter published by Delhi School of Open Learning is extremely helpful. A publication called Worldview will also help IAS aspirants prepare English Literature. Read specific texts instead of reading the history of English Literature, for instance. The candidate should focus on themes and analyse, for example feminism, post colonialism, etc. Answer to the point. Don’t prove yourself a pundit in the language.
* Tips for Sociology?
> Read NCERT books. Develop a perspective. Use common sense. Write analytically and be original.
* How should a candidate prepare for the Hindi Language paper?
> Remember not to commit grammatical mistakes. Handwriting should be legible. The idea of this paper is to check the basic understanding of the language. A good command over the language is always helpful.
* What was your strategy for the Essay paper?
> Improve your writing skills. It is important to be able to express oneself and the ideas. Strong general knowledge is required to be able to write good essays. Reserve the first half hour during the examination for thinking. Jot down all your ideas on a piece of paper and then write a structured answer.
* How did you prepare for the interview? How was your interview?
> Preparing for an interview is a lifelong process. A good personality is required to clear the UPSC interview. Develop hobbies you can talk about as questions are mostly based on your biodata. You cannot fake anything. Honesty is the best policy. The interview panel will cross question you. Confidence is the key to success.
The interview panel does not test your knowledge. They just check your reaction under pressure.
* What is your advice to civil services aspirants?
> Believe in yourself and don’t listen to too many people. Don’t take too much pressure upon yourself.