Kerala native Fabi Rasheed secured AIR 71 in her first attempt in the UPSC CSE 2023 results announced on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

A graduate of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Thiruvananthapuram with a BS-MS dual degree, Fabi is not only elated but also excited about the results and her dream of becoming a civil servant.(Handout)

A graduate from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Thiruvananthapuram with a BS-MS dual degree, Fabi is not only elated but also excited about the results and the fulfilment of her dream of becoming a civil servant.

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In a telephonic conversation with HT Digital, Fabi Rasheed talks about her strategies, mental health during her preparation duration, inspiration and more.

Congratulations on your success in securing AIR 71 in UPSC CSE 2023. How do you feel about this feat?

I am very excited and happy, I feel blessed at the same time. It is a mix of emotions. Initially, it was a surprise and took some time to settle in. My parents have seen me go through an emotional roller coaster for a year and they are extremely happy about the results.

Could you take us through your preparation strategy for the examination?

For prelims, the main thing was to have a factual understanding so that we can eliminate the options. Whenever I read, I try to make questions on my own. So that in whatever way it was asked I would be able to understand the nuances of the question.

For the Mains exam preparation, I mainly focussed on writing. I am a person who studies by writing. Even for prelims preparation, I studied by writing. So that gave me an edge for mains as completing a paper was not an issue and it is I believe the way I had written and studied. After the Mains examination, I was feeling very happy about myself. After every exam, I felt satisfied as I had done well. I had made notes for a few questions for the Mains exam, and I was lucky enough to get the same questions in the exam.

For the Personal Interview test, I had very little time to prepare as my test date was on January 9, 2024, and I had also appeared for the Indian Forest Services Examination (Mains) which ended in December. That was a very close call. I referred to my notes and newspaper.

What would your preference be with respect to the posts?

My first preference would be my home state, Kerala cadre. My first choice would be IAS, then IRS-customs and then IRS-IT.

Did you go through any mental breakdowns during your preparation duration?

I used to have constant panic attacks. I started preparation in June 2022 and by September I had panic attacks as I used to take very little breaks. I wanted to finish the syllabus very fast and I pushed myself to the brink. I had to lose at least one and a half months due to the constant panic attacks.

My sleep schedule was also ruined but then I understood that I cannot continue like this. Then I made it a point to sleep for at least 6 hours no matter what. I ensured that I tried to study at least 10 hours a day.

I had a tear film instability in my eye due to constantly looking at the laptop and reading. This condition was also a reason for the panic attacks. My family stood by me through these tough times.

Could you tell us about your educational background? Did you take coaching for your CSE preparation? What was your optional subject?

I completed my schooling from Thiruvananthapuram and graduated from IISER Thiruvananthapuram with a BS-MS dual degree in Biology. I took coaching from Fortune IAS Academy for my preparation to crack CSE and for my optional I took sociology as my subject.

Can you share with us some striking questions from your Personal Interview Test?

I was asked questions about India’s defence expenditure, India’s rural and urban health divide and what will I do about it.

The Chairman had asked me Why India is lagging in AI front and whether AI was a game changer. He asked me who is the most intelligent scientist in the world and also asked me the IQ of Einstein. Later I was asked to compare it with the IQ of ChatGPT.

Did you follow any routine?

I used to sleep by around 10:30 pm and tried to control the weight that I gained due to stress eating during my prelims and mains preparation. I wanted to maintain a healthy BMI for the medical tests.

Tell us about your support system who helped you get through the exam. Did you draw inspiration from anyone to help you motivate in the preparation journey?

My father who is an Ayurveda specialist and my mother a former state director of Insurance Medical Services supported me throughout the journey.

A relative of mine reminded me during my preparation that ‘Once you become a civil servant the only task that you have in hand is to help the maximum number of people in the maximum time that you have’

I believe that civil services is a very fulfilling profession and I have drawn inspiration from a lot of civil servants. I believe that If I am also given the right training I will also be able to follow their path and make a difference however small it may be. One such person I draw inspiration from is Guruprasad Mohapatra who was involved in the COVID crisis and helped people during that crisis time even when he was sick.

Also Read: UPSC CSE 2023 Results: 22-year-old Telangana girl Donuru Ananya Reddy clinches AIR 3 in first attempt

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