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RxPG Interview With Dr Sumit Seth - Civil Services 2005 Top Ranker

Author: RxPG, Posted on Wednesday, December 14 @ 07:02:12 IST by RxPG  

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IAS and Civil Services

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 you.

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 power.
o Fame – civil servants have to work in anonymity.
Unless and until you are not intrinsically motivated you will not relish civil services


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 quit!

RXPG: How much time do you think one requires for serious preparation for this examination?

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 sure.

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 following books:

For Geography:
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 affairs.

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 subjects?

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 ones optional:

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 strategy.

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 improvement?

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 medicos?

Dr. Seth: RxPG is an innovative cyber learning tool. I am really impressed with its professional approach towards helping medical students in shaping their careers

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 http://www.rxpgonline.com/guestbook8716.html
RxPG Civil Services Section is at http://www.rxpgonline.com/iascivilservices.html
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 forums.



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