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MOTIVATION: MITTALI SETHI – AIR 56, The Journey of a Married, Working Woman into Civil Services – Truly Inspiring!


The Journey of a Married, Working Woman into Civil Services 


AIR 56, CSE 2016

Hello everyone!

My story of Civil services starts neither from childhood, nor from college. My life as a doctor and teacher was pretty much settled and I had a good paying job when I decided to take this exam. In fact, if you are someone who thinks you don’t know enough to write this exam, let me tell you a little story.

Until 2014, I did not know the full form of either UPSC or IAS. I was blissfully unaware of the world apart from my dental (I am an orthodontist) books and my students. I walked in a room one day, when someone was preparing for the exam and asked him what he was studying for. When he said IAS, I asked him the full form of it! Over the next few days, when I finally decided that I wanted to write this exam, my husband laughed at me saying that my current affairs knowledge was not zero, but in negative. I hadn’t read a single newspaper in the past 6 years. He asked me if I was really serious about it.

When I turn back today, it seems like I really was serious. I failed two prelims consecutively, maybe because I started at a different zero point from others. In my third attempt this year, I got the 56th rank. I worked in a hospital for nearly 9 hours along with my preparation. To top it off, I did not have my graduation subject as my optional and had to start from scratch to study Psychology. To really top it off, I was married. 🙂

Before I go any further about the strategy for exam, let me answer a few common questions/topics here:

  1. Can I clear this exam? Do I have it in me?

After my journey, I truly believe that no matter what level you are on now, you can reach there if you have the one quality you need in abundance – in both this exam and life – GRIT. Do not stop believing in yourself, even in the times you fail. If you think you can do it, you can do it, do not allow anyone to tell you otherwise.

  1. Do I need coaching? Do I need to go to Delhi or any other place with good coaching?

No you don’t. The times have changed and now you have sites like Insights on India, Mrunal etc on the web to guide you in all the preparation. I have been an ardent follower of Insights. I joined their Prelims test series in 2016 and 2017, and also the Mains test series in 2016. The Insights Prelims test series is actually all you need to revise everything you have read. I could not read the India Year Book, Economic Survey last year before prelims but their test series covered these resources so thoroughly! Not only that, their questions cover extensively the Ministry websites, the global organisations and contemporary environment. This kind of curating is not possible for one to do by oneself. For me, this was especially useful – being a working candidate. I got such amazing quality of questions at the ease of my computer along with the flexibility of timings. I could score 144 in CSE Prelims 2016. 

  1. Which optional is scoring?

I believe this topic has been discussed multiple times, and I want to reiterate here that there is no such thing. I can show you people this year who have got better marks than me in the same optional paper and those who could not do as well. Your best bet is to take up a subject you like – and study it well, be well versed in it. Don’t try to lower the level of fight, be well prepared for it, that ways you will have more chances of winning!


The role of Insights:

I have mentioned about the Prelims and Mains test series earlier already. But apart from that, for me, Insight has always stood out for the way it has chosen to do things. And in many ways, they have led by example. I remember the article titled “In this life full of endless struggles, tomorrow is just another day.” – it helped me immensely to regain my confidence a day before Prelims.  Their Rajya Sabha TV summaries as well as Secure initiative were of a lot of help for the Mains exam.


 Preparing for Prelims:

Since Prelims is just round the corner, a suggestive book list, in my opinion is neither required nor appropriate at this moment. Plus, it has been extensively mentioned and discussed before.

In these last days, however, make sure you revise (and re-revise) your tests(Insights Prelims Tests), and keep a diary with you. Note down things that you should read if you think of anything. I am providing a small example of my list here:

  1. Reports or indices and who publishes them.
  2. National waterways – number and where to where.
  3. National highways – how is the numbering done, longest highway etc.
  4. Any famous/new/controversial GI tags in the last year
  5. River tributaries, major hydroelectric projects
  6. Biosphere reserves – read about all of them briefly.
  7. Differences between National park, wildlife sanctuary and biosphere reserve
  8. Important military exercises of India with other countries.
  9. Major bodies of UN – what they do. How are members appointed.
  10. Air quality indices, INDPs, Solar program, International Solar Alliance.

Keep adding smaller topics like these, and read a bit about whatever comes to your mind. If you haven’t given any tests, make sure you read the solutions of the tests nevertheless. That ways you can at least finish the syllabus.

My mark sheet:

Mains Marks

Mittali seth marks upsc, upsc topper mittali seth IAS, ias topper mittali seth marks


Prelims Marks

Mittalis Seth Prelims Rank 56

For all the aspirants:

I will be posting the Mains strategy, as well as Essay and Psychology strategy very soon here on Insights.

Since I am receiving a lot of queries, I have decided to answer these in two ways:

  1. Please email me on, and I will get back to you at the earliest. And I definitely will.
  2. I have decided to write in a consolidated list of articles – addressing multiple dimensions of the exam here – Please tell me in comments what issues/queries you would like me to address, and I will answer those.


Before Prelims:

I can understand that many of you must be feeling anxious at this point of time. Do not let anxiety and nervousness get to you. Remember that your mind is everything. Do not allow a negative thought to enter into it especially at this time. Stay calm, and no matter how much you have read or not read, go out there with an open, positive thought. Enjoy the journey!

I leave you for now with these beautiful lines that have sustained me in so many difficult times.

mittali seth ias