Dr Apala Mishra, a dentist from Hyderabad, secured AIR 9 in her third attempt at the UPSC CSE.

The journey from not clearing the prelims in her first two attempts, to securing an outstanding AIR is an impressive one.

She shares tips on how she did it:


1. Not just a show of personality

“One of the biggest myths,” she says, “is that you don’t need to prepare for the interview round as it will only test your personality.” “It requires equal amounts of work that one puts in at the prelims and mains stage.”

2. Know your Detailed Application Form (DAF)

“Do not put down any achievements or hobbies that you cannot explain in your DAF. The interviewers are likely to see through it.”

3. Refrain from bluffing

“Always stay calm through your interview. If there is a question to which you do not know the answer, it is perfectly alright to mention that you do not know anything about the topic.”

4. Be ready to face 'googlies'

During her interview round, Apala was wearing a saree, the border of which had warli painting. She was asked which region the art belongs to, details about the tribe, and how much the art costs. “Have a good understanding of yourself,” she adds.

5. Know yourself

“Be aware of the meaning your name signifies. Have details about the city and state you were born in or belong to. If there are some unique festivals or cultural events that your city/state celebrates, be aware of them.”

6. Prepare for the interview 

While some aspirants prefer standing before a mirror and answering for practice, Dr Apala says that recording herself and playing it back helped.

7. Set aside time for preparation

Dr Apala set aside close to three months for the interview preparation. “..There is so much to go through that there will never be a moment where you feel the learning is repetitive or boring.”