We all love to find excuses. Age, gender, marital status, financial background, lack of facilities, work-pressure – these are only some of the excuses one can make. But not Poonam Dalal. Her story is a story of hard work and willpower. It’s a story which can inspire not only thousands of women but also men.
She has her ancestral roots at Chhara village in Jhajjar District, Haryana. But she was born and brought up in Delhi. Poonam started her career as a primary teacher in a government school at Delhi. Along with the job she did her graduation as an external student from Delhi University. After completing her graduation she appeared for different Bank PO Exams and SSC Graduate Level Exam and cleared all of them. She finally chose SBI PO.
After 3 years in SBI, she joined the Income Tax Department securing a very decent rank (7) at all India level in SSC graduate level Examination 2006 which gave her the confidence of writing UPSC.
She gave her first attempt at UPSC CSE in 2009 at the age of 28 and got Railways (RPF). She didn’t join that service and sat for CSE 2010. She again got Railways, but a different service (IRPS). Meanwhile, she had cleared Haryana PSC and joined as Dy.SP in Haryana Police in 2011.
In 2011, she couldn’t qualify Prelims. She thought her tryst with UPSC was over due to the age-limit. Hold on! ‘Fortune favors the brave.’ In 2015, because of agitations and petitions from candidates who were affected by pattern change in 2011, the government gave an extra attempt to all those who wrote for Civil Services Exam in 2011. Thus, Poonam got an opportunity to appear again for UPSC.
This attempt came as a great challenge as Poonam was out of touch with preparation, being working 24*7 in police force. Also she was 9 months pregnant at the time of prelims.
She cleared UPSC prelims in flying colors by self-study. While preparing for mains she had also to take care of her son who was just 3 months old. It was never easy. But she got her best rank in her most challenging circumstances – all India rank 308!
Sociology- because of the familiarity and interest in the subject.
Tips for candidates
In her final attempt she focused exclusively on self-study and online material.
Owing to her special circumstances she could study only for 2-3 months for Prelims and she could hardly get a month before mains. Her study was concentrated on focusing on the traditional areas like Polity, History, Geography and optional Sociology. She relied on notes of certain key areas in every paper for quick reference and revision.
This exam actually requires consistent efforts. There should be more regularity in the preparation. It is more beneficial to study for 6 hours each rather than studying one day for 18 hours and not studying another day at all. Also, study schedule should be properly planned and should be followed religiously. Prepare a monthly planner, weekly planner and daily planner based on the syllabus and time at one’s disposal. Every morning plan your day (what is your target today) and every night audit your output.
Never let stress take over you. All of us have the same anxiety and pressure of this exam but handle this nervousness effectively otherwise it will result in more problems. Be an optimist always.