“Do not carry any baggage from past” – Rank 79 : Divya Shakti, IAS , from Muzaffarpur, Bihar

Hello everyone,  I am Divya Shakti. I have secured Rank 79 in the Civil Services Examination 2019. I am from Muzaffarpur, Bihar. I have done my schooling from DAV Muzaffarpur till 10th and 12th from DPS Bokaro. I have done my engineering from BITS Pilani. I am B.E. in Computer Science.

My father is a doctor by profession, my mother is aa home maker and I have an elder brother and sister. 

I am An engineer who loves travelling and long distance running. I was attracted to civil services because of the job profile and its ability to impact the lives of general public.

I was working before I left my job, and decided to prepare full time. I came to know about ForumIAS through one of my friends, who was appearing for the exam from sometime. At that time, I was in a dilemma wheather to join Forum or any other institute for my Mains Preparation. I am glad I chose ForumIAS for Mains & Interview Preparation.


  • Your Name:  Divya Shakti 
  • Place of Birth:  Muzaffarpur
  • How old are you? : 27 years
  • Schooling done from Name and City and score?: Till 10th from DAV Muzaffarpur, +2 from DPS Bokaro
  • College from which City and Gpa:  BITS Pilani, Pilani, Rajasthan, 7.3 
  • PG (if Any): I had a dual degree with Msc. in Economics align with B.E. in Computer Science
  • Did you write any other exam? I qualified Forest Pre and Mains to reach up to the interview level.
  • Who else is there in your family?:  My father who is a doctor by profession, my mother a homemaker and elder brother and sister.
  • Work-experience (if any): Two years from 2016-2018 in an investment bank
  • Optional: Geography

Let us first see what she has to say about ForumIAS 🙂




ForumIAS  ♥  Divyashakti



Preliminary examination

Please mention your strategy and books/notes did you referred to for General Studies and CSAT? 


I did entire GS preparation on my own through self study without any coaching. However wrote mains test at ForumIAS itself.  Before starting one’s preparation for GS, one must by heart the syllabus. Then try reading each and every topic from the syllabus, follow and consolidate current affairs related to it and prepare short notes for mains.


Topic Resource 
History Ancient  Old ncert
History Medieval  TN board
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum
Culture  NCERT , Nitin Singhania book selected chapters on Buddhism and Jainism, intangible heritage and paintings
Polity (static + current affairs) Laxmikant and The Hindu, Googled important topics and read them to understand the background.
Economy (static + current affairs) Static: Mrunal and Curent affairs from The Hindu. Googled important topics and read them to understand the background.
Science (static + current affairs)  The Hindu, pib, year review of Ministry of Science and Technology
Environment (static + current affairs) Read Shankar IAS once for static portion. Current affairs from The Hindu, pib, year review of Ministry of Environment. Also referred to the websites of major Conventions.
Geography(Physical +Indian+World) I had geography optional so didn’t study specifically for GS
Current affairs   The Hindu was my main and most important source Up to prelims. Post prelims I followed The Indian Express. I prepared pre and mains related handwritten notes for current affarirs. Followed it up by daily current affairs of one coaching site. Didn’t refer to any monthly compilation or PT 365s.

I also googled any topic in news from PIB. This helped me get relevant news from government’s authentic sources.


How Many questions did you attempt in GS? How many did you get right?

In mains I attempted all questions in GS, in pre my attempts were somewhere around 78-80. However I scored 116 and managed to get through IFoS cutoff as well.

What do you think is the optimal number of questions to attempt in prelims? Do you advise accuracy or maximum attempts? 

I believe the optimal number of attempts should be around 80. But this is not a hard and fast rule. One must analyse her accuracy through mocks to reach upon individual optimal number of attempts.

If you had to prepare again would you change your strategy in any way? 

For prelims, no. For mains GS, no. But I would improve my optional. I couldn’t give much time to optional between pre and mains and I think it would have definitely impacted my score.

Mains Examination

How did you prepare GS/GK?

By heart the syllabus.

Prepare static portion from basic books.

Prepare one A4 sheet note on related current affairs, mostly in answer format I.e.  relevant stats, committees, articles, reports and also positives and negatives along with a way forward. I revised these sheets multiple times to by heart it before mains exam. 

How did you prepare English?

 No dedicated preparation. 

How did you cover Current Affairs for Mains? 

Followed the Indian express to identify syllabus related current affairs.  Watched Rajya Sabha tv’s The Big Picture regularly. It is really helpful as it gives both sides of a story along with a way forward.

What’s your optional subjects and why?

Geography because I had an interest in the subject also because of its overlap with the GS papers.

Please share your strategy and booklist for each of the optional?  

Optional Paper 1:


I referred to my coaching notes to prepare basic foundation for both paper 1 and paper 2.

Then I picked up syllabus and took up each topic one by one.

Used internet extensively to prepare A4 sheet for each topic.

I made sure I knew theories, geographers’ names and diagrams related to each topic.

Also focussed on contemporary examples for each topic. For example let’s say, urban conurbation, I gathered examples related to India, world, recent conventions etc and used them appropriately in paper 1 and 2.

Also made sure each page had both maps and diagrams while writing answers. I could not give tests for my optional but tried practising previous year question papers from each unit. 


Basic material:

Shabbir sir notes


Reference material:

Rupa Physical Geography

Rupa Economic and Social Geography

Geomorphology by Savindra Singh

R D Dixit

Optional 2

Basic material, Shabbir sir notes

DR Khullar, For paper 2, I used a lot of current affairs from GS paper 3. And completed topics like Culture etc from current affairs plus extensive use of internet and prepared one-pagers for even those fringe topics.

How important is answer writing? What was your style of answer writing?

Answer writing is of course critical for mains as no matter how much you know you must be able to present relevant content in your answer in limited time.

My answer had introduction, body, conclusion format. I mostly wrote in pointwise format and used maps(since I had geography optional, I used them extensively in IR, geography etc related answers).

How many questions did you attempt? What strategy did you follow for mains examination in the examination hall? 

I attempted all questions. I attempted the 15 markers first in around 1hr 45 mins to come back to 10 markers.

I didn’t use blog and community as such but I DID regularly read Neyawn’s article. They are really motivating as they present a bigger picture of life beyond UPSC and are beautifully written. You can get strategy in many places, you can get technical stuff at other places, but the right mindset that is needed for the exam, I think the articles very well do that.


How did you prepare for the interview? Did you attend any mocks?

I focused on building my understanding and opinion on ongoing issues. The next focus was on expressing my views in an organized and precise manner.  I was a part of the online Group Mocks at Forum, and I remember online sessions taken by Forum very well.  This was critical given that after lockdown mock sessions were not easily available.

In the group sessions that we had, we were asked for forming groups among ourselves, and I religiously followed that.

I formed a group with two other people. We used to discuss daily and held mock interviews on every alternate day. This really helped me a lot. I think candidates must develop the quality of forbearance before their personality tests. 

Which Interview Board did you face?

 Smita Nagaraj Mam

I will share the detailed transcript on my website. But almost all the questions were on expected lines that is based on my DAF. There were questions from my state, my name,my hobbies and geography, which was my optional.

What qualities do you think are being tested in the Interview? Some strict Do’s and Don’ts for the Interview for aspirants and Interview candidates?

Read through the syllabus of personality test thoroughly, it mentions all the qualities that the board intends to test. I think forbearance is an important quality too. Be respectful, even if you disagree, disagree respectfully. Don’t bluff. Don’t hesitate to say I don’t know. And most importantly listen before speaking.

Do you thing marks in school or college and the job experience can impact one’s score in the Interview? 

Ummm .. I really don’t think so.

How was the interview experience? Was it predictable? How much did your preparation help? 

The board was extremely cordial. Almost all the questions were on expected lines. My preparation definitely helped a lot.


How much internet did you use for your preparation? How much value did it add? 

Since I didn’t take any coaching for my GS, I relied heavily on internet for my preparation. It was my main source for GS prep apart from the basic books.

How did you balance so much resources and data? What Smart techniques did you use to manage your preparation in a better manner? 

As far as my possible I tried to keep my resources limited.  I referred only to basic books. Even while referring to the internet for any topic, I used to consolidate all the material gathered on a single A4 sheet and revise that sheet only.

What do you think is the most essential quality/qualities needed to clear this exam?

1. Clarity of purpose. I think this is the most important thing. It should not be due to peer or parental pressure. If one is not clear with purpose , she might give up at the very first hint of difficulty in the preparation journey.

2. Do not carry any baggage from past. Make a routine, try you 100% to adhere to it, but in case you can’t, don’t fret over it for too long. This is the most common tendency among aspirants. Improvise, pivot and restart.

What is your advice to the young aspirants who look up to you? 

Please refer to the qualities I mentioned above. Apart from them staying focussed and NOT participating in random chai stall type gossip. Keep your circle limited and if possible, stay away from social media.

What is the best advice that you have received? 

You cannot ensure that you will get through the exam but you can ensure that you put your 200% in it. Just do that.

What did all hurdles you face while preparing for it? And how did you tackle them?

I underwent many emotional ups and downs , like other participants. But my mother stood beside me as my most important pillar of support. My two friends Naincy and Nikky were extremely supportive and ALWAYS available to listen to me and boost me up.

What role did Forumias play in your preparation? Do you have any suggestions for us?

It played a very important role in mains preparation as I wrote all my mains tests here. For interview prep, I found a group of two other people through a forum IAS group discussion only.

Click here to download MGP Copies of Divya Shakti 

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