Dr. Sumit Seth (RxPG Nick:
SUMITSETH), an alumnus
of Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, scored a high rank in highly
competitive Indian civil services examination 2005 and joined IFS. He has been
passionate about career as a diplomat since the early years of his MBBS. This
passion kept him motivated on a long and arduous way to success. Apart from
that, he is a senior and helpful member in RxPG forums. He has also authored a
best-selling book "Review of Forensic Medicine" after his post graduation in
Forensic Medicine from Lady Harding Medical College, New Delhi. Like everyone
else, we were also curious to know about the secrets of his success in this
challenging exam so we sent Archana, one of our staff members, who tracked him
down in Foreign Services Institute, Akbar Bhavan in New Delhi. Having already
cracked one of the most difficult interviews in India, in this interview he came
across as a calm, pleasant person with clear and rational aims in life. Read on
to know how he planned and finally succeeded in making his long time ambition
come true. It is a real inspiring account for anyone who is struggling on the
way to his/her dream career.
RxPG: You scored 42nd rank in Indian Civil
Services Examination 2005. It is an incredible rank for a medico and we would
like to congratulate you on this feat. Our readers would like to know the secret
of your success in this exam?
Dr. Seth: My initial response to the news that I got 42nd Rank in Civil Services
2004-05 was that of satisfaction and a sense of calmness as finally I had
succeeded in my mission which started way back in the last millennium i.e.
1999!! I did not quit till the very end and had a firm belief in my ability, and
faith in god. Hard work does pay in one form or another. In final analysis I
feel I was “Lucky” to make it.
RXPG: After spending 5 and half years in doing MBBS and doing a post
graduation in Forensic Medicine, what prompted you to choose Civil Services as
your final career?
Dr. Seth: I always had a fascination for IFS so during my 2nd MBBS I decided to
appear in civil services. I gave my first attempt in 1999 while doing internship
but I could not make it so my seniors advised me to join a MD which is
relatively light, no emergencies, and no night duties. So I Chose Forensic
Medicine, that too from LHMC (Lady Harding Medical College, New Delhi, India)
where total number of cases/autopsies is very less (1/day). This gave me ample
time to do coaching and study. So I continued my MD, gave my 2nd and 3rd
Attempts, but I was not successful. Finally I decided to finish my MD first, and
by Gods Grace I became the youngest forensic pathologist in India at the age of
26. I also authored a book after my MD “Review of Forensic Medicine”. All this
gave me sufficient confidence to go for my final shot at civil services. As I
had nothing to lose I regrouped my self for this exam again after a 2 year gap.
I would advice all my junior medico friends to not to sacrifice their medical
career for civil services exam. Somehow they should try to even out the risk.
They should always have an answer to what they will do if they fail completely
in this highly unpredictable UPSC “casino type” Civil services exam.
RXPG: As we see on RxPG website, most of the doctors and medical students are
somewhat disillusioned by medicine as a career and some are seriously thinking
about a career change. Was that the case with you?
Dr. Seth: For me it was more of an attraction for career as a diplomat rather
than push from medical profession. I was reasonably satisfied with my career
graph as a Forensic Pathologist that’s why I chose Foreign Service as the only
service preference in my final attempt, and I was able to convince the interview
board for the same.
My advice is that please don’t get disillusioned by medicine profession because
every profession has its pluses and negatives. You should know what you want
rather than what society wants you to be! Disillusionment with Medicine as a
career per se should not be the reason for giving Civil Services Exam. In-fact
if you don’t have any convincing reason to give this exam then please do not
give this exam. You then will be doubly disillusioned by the red tape all around
Some of the wrong reasons for appearing in civil services are:
o Earning quick bucks – but are you strong enough to be corrupt?
o Power - trust me this Power is a misnomer, the responsibilities outweigh
o Fame – civil servants have to work in anonymity.
Unless and until you are not intrinsically motivated you will not relish civil
Dr Sumit Seth
RXPG: We appreciate the fact that preparing for an extremely competitive exam
like civil services after spending more than seven years in medicine must be
really challenging. During your preparation for the civil services exam, did you
ever doubt your ability to succeed in it?
Dr. Seth: Every failure does two things to you it shatters your confidence but
at the same time it provides the opportunity to strike back with vengeance, to
redeem your self. The real success is rising up again after you have been
knocked down. Never recognize failure, you cannot fail unless and until you
RXPG: How much time do you think one requires for serious preparation for
Dr. Seth: One year of serious preparation is required after that you can make it
in first attempt if you are lucky and if you are not so lucky it might take you
a bit longer, but constant efforts are needed and you will be successful for
RXPG: Which books did you read for the prelims?
Dr. Seth: The real game is to find out what not to study! Study material should
be minimal. It is better to select your study material carefully. I used the
K Siddhartha’s books volume 1 and 2 were helpful. Ten year papers, a good
coaching centre can be of immense help. I would recommend Interactions by
Shashank Atom and Directions by Neetu Singh
For General Studies:
I took help of Unique’s Guide.
I followed a technique of studying in prelims which I call “Retro Study”. Which
means studying text using MCQs (Multiple Choice Question) as a yard stick, each
MCQ needs to be studied backwards searching the correct answer as well as
finding out why the other 3 choices are not the correct answers. It proved very
useful to me in understanding the concepts better.
RXPG: Which journals and newspapers have you been reading for the General
Knowledge and other papers?
Dr. Seth: Read one current affairs magazine regularly, Civil Services times,
civil services chronicle etc. The Hindu (Newspaper) is good but you have to be
selective. Vaji Ram & Ravi Classes can help you a lot in preparation of current
RXPG: You chose Geography and Psychology as optional subjects for the mains.
What were your reasons for choosing these subjects?
Dr. Seth: I’m from Science Background so I am more comfortable with subjects
which require a conceptual understanding. Requirement to mug up the facts and
the role of weaving castle in air through language is less in these subjects.
RXPG: On hindsight do you think you made a right choice for your optional
Dr. Seth: Well I think so!!
RXPG: Would you advise other medicos to choose the same subjects for IAS? If
not, why? If yes, why?
Dr. Seth: Choosing a right optional is the most critical step in preparation, a
mistake done at this juncture could end ones race before it begins. I personally
feel that following things need to be taken into consideration before choosing
1. It should suit one’s temperament. If one is not very good in expression then
one should go for subjects like Geography, Psychology, Zoology and Anthropology.
Subjects who require exact expression and proficiency in language are Sociology,
Public Administration, Political Science and History.
2. Availability of study material, scoring potential, and guidance from experts
is also an important factor.
3. I feel every subject has the potential to get you around 380-400 marks with
your best effort but there are only few subjects which can give you 310-320
marks in case of worst possible scenario, and I feel geography is one of them.
RXPG: Would you advise choosing medical sciences as an optional subject?
Dr. Seth: One should as far as possible one should try to take those optional in
which one has done graduation in and decides not to take them only if there are
strong reasons to do so. Medical Science is a very safe optional if prepared
systemically, I did not take it because in mains date sheet Geography and
Medical Sciences fall back to back.
RXPG: How did you prepare for your Compulsory papers?
Dr. Seth: For compulsory paper I feel no preparation is needed as there
marks not counted only qualifying in nature.
RXPG: Which books did you read for the mains?
Dr. Seth: Mains exam is all together a different game! Here strategy is a must.
My optional subjects were Geography and Psychology.
For Geography I feel Mr. Shashank Atom (Interactions) and Madam Neetu Singh
(Directions) are very good teachers. Their guidance can prove very valuable.
For Psychology there is one name which is synonymous with this subject and that
is Mr. Mukul Pathak. I will go on to the extent that without his guidance
directly or indirectly it is very difficult to prepare for this subject.
For GS Mr. Ravindran and his team at Vaji Ram and Ravi are very helpful.
For Essay one needs to have writing practice under strict exam conditions
As far as strategy is concerned one should intelligently and intuitively guess
around 20 long questions and around 40 short notes in each optional paper 1 and
2 and then prepare them thoroughly. Few of these questions are bound to come and
one can score heavily in them.
Apart from that one should develop in-depth understanding of the subject so that
one can write a decent answer when faced with unprepared questions in
examination hall off hand smoothly.
Try to use knowledge of Paper 1 of optional in Paper 2 and be innovative in your
examples. Day to day contemporary examples show that candidate is able to apply
his knowledge in day to day affairs.
Don’t hesitate to use flow charts, diagrams, graphs in order to enhance the
quality of answers.
The order of answering Question should be in descending order of your level of
confidence in them, give a little more time in first question and display your
in-depth knowledge in the subject.
Don’t worry about the length of answer worry about the time you devote on it.
RXPG: What was your strategy for Interview?
Dr. Seth: Put forward a strong and interesting case in front of the board like a
good lawyer, fill you mains form very care fully keep a photo copy of same.
RXPG: What is your impression of the Interview Board?
Dr. Seth: My Interview was in fore-noon in Mrs. Chokilla Aiyars Board. I was
quite confident about my preparation. I had filled only one service that was
Foreign Service so my interview was very much on predicted lines. I was able to
convince them about my arguments about choosing only Foreign Service. The board
was very cordial and co-operative.
RXPG: What prompted you to choose only IFS?
Dr. Seth: I feel I have a temperament and interest to be a diplomat, the
opportunity to represent our country, the opportunity to travel all over the
world, the opportunity meeting the most intellectual brains ,the most creative
individuals from all over the globe. All this prompted me to choose IFS.
RXPG: How did you feel after the interview?
Dr. Seth: You can never be sure what perceptions the board gets of you, but I
was satisfied with my answers and was least worried what interviewers thought
about it, I spoke my mind and perhaps that is all required in interview.
RXPG: What is your overall impression of the IAS exam?
Dr. Seth: In one like it is a Casino in which you can win if you play your cards
correctly. Strategy is required and every individual has to device his/her own
RXPG: What is your advice to the future aspirants?
Dr. Seth: I can only tell you that this exam requires lot of luck and my
definition of luck is preparation plus opportunity. Be prepared to catch the
opportunity and never lose faith in god and your ability.
RXPG: How important you think is internet in preparation for IAS?
Dr. Seth: Well intelligent use of internet can be of immense help.
RXPG: Is the pattern of the examination appropriate? Would you recommend any
Dr. Seth: The Present selection procedure has stood the test of time but I feel
with changing times the duration of exam cycle should be reduced.
RXPG: What contributions do you think doctors can make as civil servants?
Dr. Seth: Doctors can make a positive contribution through civil services as
majority of doctors have the ability to put in hard work, can plan their work
according to priority; they know time management, have excellent communication
skill. They learn to work very close to people. All these qualities are required
to be a good administrator.
RXPG: RxPG is the largest and most active community website for medical
students. How do you visualize the role of RxPG in shaping the careers of the
Dr. Seth: RxPG is an innovative cyber learning tool. I am really impressed with
its professional approach towards helping medical students in shaping their
RXPG: When did you join RxPG and how did you come to know about it?
Dr. Seth: I joined RxPG to help my students of Forensic Medicine in their
queries and the positive response from the students encouraged me to author a
book entitled “Review of Forensic Medicine”.
RxPG: Whom do you attribute your success to?
Dr. Seth: To my father LATE SH. SATISH KUMAR SETH whose blessings are always
with me, I dedicate my success to him, to my mother SMT. URMIL SETH who worked
very hard and sacrificed a lot to make sure that I complete my MBBS. To my
brother AMIT SETH who encouraged me always.
Apart from my family members there is long list of people who supported me, my
colleges, my friends, my teachers, my students ,I cannot thank them in words
only. I also wish to thank few of my critics who indirectly stimulated me to
achieve my goal. I wish to specially thank my guide Dr G.K SHARMA, Principal
Lady Harding Medical College with whom I got an opportunity to work and this
gave me a chance to learn a lot about some of the nuances of life and imbibe
some of his personality traits. Above all it’s the God almighty without his
green signal my success journey would have halted
RXPG: How would you visualize your success?
Dr. Seth: It’s a beginning of a new phase of my life; I feel the real success is
yet to come
RxPG Interviewer: Archana
Note: Dr Sumit Seth's guestbook is located at
RxPG Civil Services Section is at
In his free time, when he is not playing
chess or enjoying a swim, Dr. Seth helps medicos aspiring for Indian civil
services in RxPG Civil Services