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From Doubting Herself to Becoming a Conqueror

Palak Goyal's UPSC journey from doubt to success, navigating a rigorous interview, and overcoming setbacks with resilience, culminates in achieving AIR 479.
Indian Masterminds Stories

The greatest challenge lies in persevering after losing something and then regaining it. When you realize that success isn’t guaranteed but you must still strive for it, the journey becomes more daunting. In the UPSC journey, passing the prelims once and then facing failure again can be deeply disheartening and demotivating. This mirrors the journey of Palak Goyal, who cracked UPSC CSE-2023 with AIR 479 on her fourth attempt. 

At one point, she even doubted herself, questioning if this path was truly meant for her. Despite being aware of her capabilities, facing repeated setbacks could sow seeds of self-doubt. However, Palak is characterized by her indomitable spirit and lifelong enthusiasm for learning. These traits proved instrumental in her UPSC journey as well. Gradually, she overcame all obstacles and emerged victorious.

Speaking exclusively with Indian Masterminds, she recounted her journey. 

FROM SELF-DOUBTING TO CONQUEROR

Palak began her preparation in 2019 after completing her graduation and has since made a total of four attempts.

In her first attempt in 2020, she cleared the prelims but did not succeed in the mains. In her second attempt in 2021, she did not even clear the prelims. In her third attempt in CSE-2022, she reached the interview round but did not make it to the final list. Finally, in her fourth attempt in 2023, she cracked the exam with an All India Rank (AIR) of 479.

Reflecting on her journey, she said, “The path was filled with ups and downs, yet incredibly insightful. With each setback, I gradually learned from my mistakes. Despite experiencing demotivation numerous times, I persevered and grew stronger.”

SELF-BELIEF

It can be frustrating to perform well but struggling to replicate that success consistently. This uncertainty affects every aspect, from planning to strategy. However, patience, self-belief, and consistency are key factors that can eventually bring stability and success in navigating the UPSC journey.

She confessed, “There were times when I questioned my capabilities and wondered if this path was truly meant for me. Each setback felt like a personal defeat, but I knew deep down that giving up was not an option.”

BACKGROUND

She hails from Narmadapuram (formerly Hoshangabad), MP. Her father is a businessman in the real estate sector, and her mother is also engaged in the family business.

She completed her basic education up to 12th grade in her hometown. Subsequently, she relocated to Delhi for higher studies and earned her B.A. (Honours) in Political Science from Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Delhi University in 2018.

UPSC PREPARATION 

Palak’s CIVIL SERVICES journey spanned five years, beginning with her enrollment in coaching in Delhi in 2019. Despite receiving numerous suggestions for preparation, she listened to everyone but selectively incorporated beneficial strategies into her original approach and plans. She maintained unwavering faith in herself and her chosen strategy.

Initially, Palak started her preparation with limited resources, relying solely on NCERT notes and coaching materials. She acknowledges that her preparation lacked extensive coverage initially. Her greatest challenge lay in answer writing, an area where she initially struggled. To improve, she meticulously studied answer writing practices, reviewed copies of toppers, and dedicated considerable time to mastering the art. She emphasizes that refining these skills was a gradual process that took years.

In her preparation, she focused intensely on PYQs, mock tests, solving papers, and practicing answer writing. Her optional subject was Political Science. 

She also invested significant effort in preparing for the interview stage. Initially lacking clarity in her answers and thoughts, she enhanced her skills through group discussions and continuous improvement.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Her interview proceeded smoothly, with a significant focus on current affairs, comprising more than 50 percent of the questions. 

The panel covered a wide range of topics, from her hobby of dancing to the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings and her optional subject, Political Science.

Palak faced several questions regarding the Supreme Court’s verdict on electoral bonds. Board members explored various aspects of electoral bonds, discussing their pros and cons and the long-term implications of the verdict. One member queried the importance of opposition in a democracy, leading to further probing questions on her responses. 

Another member asked her opinion on whether the opposition in India is currently weak and the reasons behind it. Additionally, there was a discussion on the historical prevalence and current implications of one-party dominance in Indian democracy.

An interesting question posed by a panel member was about the distinctions between classical and modern dance and whether modern dances pose a threat to classical forms.

She was also presented with a situational question where she had to imagine herself as an Indian secretary visiting a WTO meeting, prompting her to articulate her focus and priorities in that scenario.

GREAT LEARNER

Offering advice to aspirants, she remarked, “Never fear failure; persistence is key. Remember to be a dedicated learner throughout this journey. The more you learn, the closer you’ll get to your goals. For prelims, don’t limit yourself to books alone; observe your surroundings, stay informed, and analyze everything.”

She emphasized, “Continuously identify your mistakes and brainstorm solutions. This requires consistent practice.”

FUTURE AIMS

She still has two attempts left, and in the future, she may consider utilizing those attempts to aim for the IAS cadre. However, at present, she is content with her rank and is focusing on the upcoming training and responsibilities that lie ahead.


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