Vaishali Singh, NLUD alumnus on securing All India Rank 8 at UPSC

Three of National Law University graduates (all of Batch of 2016) performed exceptionally well in Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Examination 2018. Vaishali Singh has secured All India Rank 8, Rangashree T.K.  has secured Rank 50 and Saloni Sharma has secured Rank 531 in the Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Examinations. To understand what has motivated and encouraged National Law Delhi graduates to pursue the Civil Service route, a conversation with Vaishali Singh. The interview has been conducted by Shruti Srivastava who is also a student ambassador at SCC Online.

  1. How would you introduce yourself? What are your interests? Why did you pursue law?

I come from a family of lawyers and was born and brought up in Faridabad. I did my schooling at DPS Faridabad and thereafter I did my graduation in law at National Law University Delhi, where I bagged 6 gold medals. I then worked at S&R Associates as an Associate and it was after this that I started my preparation for the civil services examination.

I enjoy watching sports, especially football and tennis and play volleyball. I also love to travel, read and watch movies.

Like I mentioned before, I come from a family of lawyers so my interest towards law built over a period of time because I grew up in that environment. My parents were my inspiration and constant interaction with them made me realize that law appealed to me more than any other area of study at that time. Legal education seemed like a course that empowers us as we gain knowledge and understanding of the working of the very rules that regulate us and the fabric of the society in which we live. So I decided to study law.

  1. You were pursuing a professional degree, which gives liberty of choosing multiple career options. Civil Services is a choice not exclusive to law graduates, as against competitive examinations related careers such as Judicial Services. How does a law degree help/influence the preparation for Civil Services?   

I think that a law degree influences the preparation for civil services in a big way as the civil services are a lot about administration and administration’s essence is law. So it is this overlap and intersection that makes us law graduates see civil services as a career option where our knowledge of law can be put to use.

And if I talk specifically about the preparation per se, then a law degree helps us with our optional subject, some General Science subjects such as Polity, Social Justice, Governance and Ethics and even the interview.

  1. Do you think being an NLU Delhi graduate has helped you in your preparation?

Yes absolutely. I got inspired to go for civil services in the first place because of certain experiences that I had while I was at NLU Delhi such as my work with IDIA.

And even during my preparation, my law school education was of immense help. The high academic standards of the university, mooting, research and field projects not only ensured that my fundamentals of law were strong but also ensured that I develop certain key attributes that are essential for the preparation for such highly competitive exams –  dedication, the ability to understand nuances of a given issue and to critically analyze the same and answer writing skills. So being an NLU Delhi graduate helped me in my preparation for all the three stages of the civil services examination.

  1. How did you prepare? What was your schedule? What were your motivations?

So for my preparation I worked on 2 aspects: knowledge and strategy

Knowledge:

  1. For the GS static portion, I read the basic books such as the NCERTs and limited my sources to one or maximum two books per subject as I wanted to focus more on multiple revisions.
  2. For current affairs, I read 2 newspapers regularly (Hindu and Livemint) and made my own detailed notes. I combined this with the study of year end compilations of current affairs.
  3. For some dynamic topics under the syllabus, I made my own notes from online sources.
  4. For law optional, again I read very basic books (such as Pillai for IPC and AK Jain for most of the other subjects) and made notes. After reading the past year papers I realized that these basic books work best for the exam.
  5. For interview, I focus on 3 things – DAF (detailed application form), law subjects and current affairs.

Strategy:

I combined my knowledge (hardwork) with a good strategy (smartwork) – something that I learnt from my mistakes during my half-baked first attempt.

  1. I read the syllabus and the past year papers thoroughly to understand the demands of the examination
  2. I practiced a number of mock tests for both prelims and mains
  3. I did a combined study for prelims and mains
  4. I worked on my weak points and was in a constant self-correction mode.
  5. I should have completed my optional subject before prelims which I could not – so I would advise everyone to finish their optional subject before prelims.

I did not have a fixed schedule and my schedule varied depending on what I was studying. But broadly I tried to study for 9-12 hours with a stop watch and I used to take regular travel breaks to keep my mind fresh.

Firstly the syllabus for this examination is so dynamic and interesting that I enjoyed the preparation process. However for days when I used to feel low, my reasons behind deciding to go for civil services acted as my motivation along with my family and friends.

  1. What were the activities you were actively involved with in college and school? What advice would you like to give to students who are struggling with balancing academics and extra-curricular?

I was involved with a number of activities in college and school which helped me immensely. I took part in moot court competitions such as the Philip C Jessup moot. I used to play volleyball and was also involved with IDIA, some field research projects and committees such as the RCC.

It is often not easy to balance everything at the same time such as academics and extra-curricular and initially I faced difficulties as well. However, I realized that it is important to identify ourselves and identify what our interests are. We don’t need to take part in everything that is happening on campus. The important thing is to identify what we like to do and then that extra-curricular activity won’t feel like a burden.

I once read a paragraph and once in a while we should remind ourselves of this 🙂  – “A friendly reminder that “your best” doesn’t pushing yourself to your breaking point. “Your best” means the best you can do while being your best you. Get enough sleep, give yourself breaks, listen to your limits. “Your best” is better when you are happy and healthy”

  1. What do you plan to do in your near future?

Now that I have been selected in the services, I wish to make the most of this opportunity and contribute to the society in a meaningful way. As of now I am looking forward to the training at LBSNAA and until then I plan to take a short break and travel.

  1. Any advice for individuals who are preparing for civil services examinations or for students who are indecisive of their career choices.

To the students who are indecisive of their career choices, I would just like to say that it is okay for you to be in this position, it is okay if you wish to take some more time to find out what works best for you. We all go through a similar phase at some point or the other. However what is important is to make the most of the law school education or for that matter any education that you are pursuing. It is only through those experiences that we are able to find ourselves, our passion and our true motivation behind choosing a career path. For us to make an informed choice it is essential that we experience diverse areas and activities and this is exactly what our time at law school can be used best for.

And to the individuals who are preparing for the civil services examination, I would like to say that both knowledge and strategy is important for this exam.  Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and work on them. Try and understand the demands of this examination by looking at the past year papers – that’s half the battle. Just work hard, be true to yourself during the preparation and take breaks as you need to be your best you!

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