Decoding Success: How Indians Triumph in One of the World's Toughest Exams

Decoding Success: How Indians Triumph in One of the World's Toughest Exams


In the grand tapestry of human achievement, there are tales that resonate with unwavering dedication, unyielding resolve, and boundless sacrifice. One such narrative unfolds in the realm of India's civil service examinations – a grueling test of knowledge and endurance that paves the way for the nation's brightest minds to shape its future.

The Pursuit of Excellence

For nearly three years, Gamini Singla's life bore witness to an extraordinary transformation. She embarked on a solitary journey, distancing herself from the ordinary joys of life to embrace an extraordinary ambition. Gone were the days of leisure, social outings, and digital distractions. Instead, she greeted each dawn with unwavering determination, dedicating up to ten hours daily to her pursuit.

Gamini Singla, an engineering graduate and former intern at JP Morgan Chase, set her sights on the coveted Indian Administrative Service (IAS). This path demanded more than intellect; it demanded relentless commitment. Her story, like that of countless aspirants, provides a glimpse into the arduous Indian civil service examination system.

The Crucible of Success

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams, likened only to China's gaokao in terms of competitiveness, challenge over a million aspirants annually. These exams consist of three rigorous stages, with less than 1% advancing to the written test. In 2021, when Gamini Singla undertook the journey, the success rate reached its lowest point in eight years. Only 685 candidates emerged victorious after interviews, and Gamini Singla claimed the third position, marking a historic achievement alongside two other women.

These triumphant candidates gain entry into the elite IAS – the Indian Administrative Service. They become the stewards of India, overseeing the administration of 766 districts, managing state-owned companies, and guiding the nation's destiny.

The Allure of Civil Service

In a nation where private sector opportunities are limited, government employment holds a unique allure. Civil servants enjoy a host of privileges, from loans and rental subsidies to subsidized travel and holidays. For those from smaller towns, entering the civil service is a dream that carries cultural significance.

Unlike many, Gamini Singla, with an engineering background, found her calling in the civil service. Her journey began with a chance encounter at the local government transport office. Seeing a bureaucrat there, she sought guidance, setting her on the path to civil service. It's a path fraught with challenges, demanding perseverance and unwavering determination.

The Marathon of Preparation

Gamini Singla's journey required relentless preparation. She adopted a disciplined lifestyle, embracing a diet of fruits, salads, dry fruits, and porridge to maintain her health during long study hours. Every break from the study table saw her perform "200-300" jumps within her room, a unique strategy to stay active.

To maximize efficiency, she read self-help books and practiced extensively with online mock tests. A revelation from listening to previous toppers was that many knew answers to only a fraction of the questions, relying on calculated guesswork for the rest.

Endurance Beyond Comfort

Facing an exam held in winter, Gamini Singla ventured outside her comfort zone. She selected the coldest, dimmest room for her mock tests, determined to acclimate herself to adverse conditions. Even the choice of a jacket became a meticulous process, ensuring it didn't hinder her writing speed during exams.

Her family became integral to her journey. Her parents, both government doctors, immersed themselves in current affairs to assist her studies. Her brother aided her with mock tests, while her grandparents offered prayers for her success. They transformed their home to provide a peaceful haven, even demolishing a room to create an ideal study environment.

Bridging Boundaries of Opportunity

Gamini Singla's story exemplifies the aspirational journey of India's middle class, a segment that often faces fewer hurdles in pursuing a career in the bureaucracy. However, the civil service examinations have also opened pathways for students from underprivileged backgrounds. Families from modest means invest in their children's future, sending them to coaching schools in urban centers.

For these aspirants, the pursuit of a civil service career is marked by unyielding determination. Some endure years of attempts, with the age limit of 32 allowing multiple tries. Gamini Singla herself recognizes the transformative power of the civil service, a platform to make a meaningful difference in the complex tapestry of India.

The Art of Sacrifice

Ms. Singla's journey has led her to author a book, delving into the essence of "cracking the world's toughest exam." Her book explores the art of sacrifice, dealing with adversity beyond one's control, and navigating the pressures of family expectations.
Even as she embarks on her civil service career, Gamini Singla reflects on her transformation, realizing that relaxation might feel like a distant memory. Yet, the challenges ahead are embraced with enthusiasm, for the opportunity to serve her nation and shape its future is a privilege she values above all.


In conclusion, the Indian civil service examinations are a crucible of ambition and endurance. Gamini Singla's remarkable journey serves as an inspiration to aspirants nationwide. Her story underscores the power of dedication, the importance of family support, and the transformative potential of the civil service. It is a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who aspire to make a difference.

copyright 2022 Ojaank Foundation.