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How ChatGPT Helped Monika Srivastava Ace the UPSC Exam

Monika Srivastava
Indian Masterminds Stories

In a tech-driven era, Monika Srivastava found a surprising ally in ChatGPT, an AI model, for her UPSC exam preparation. “ChatGPT has a very balanced approach,” Monika shares. “If you ask any question, then both sides will tell you all the points with a multidimensional approach.” She found it particularly useful for opinion-based and DAF-based questions during her interview preparation, allowing her to gain a comprehensive understanding of complex issues. However, she warns, “For facts and figures, ChatGPT is a big no. Because their data is very old.”

Speaking with Indian Masterminds, Monika shares about her journey and societal pressure for marriage.

Early Life and Background

Monika Srivastava’s journey began in the small town of Balia, Uttar Pradesh. Though born there, she was raised in Aurangabad, Bihar, where her father worked as an engineer in the Bihar government’s rural works department and her mother served as a principal in a primary school. Growing up in a family that valued education highly, Monika always excelled in her studies, particularly in mathematics.

Academic Achievements

Monika’s academic prowess led her to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, where she graduated in 2016 with a degree in Computer Science and Engineering. She then joined PayPal in Chennai as a senior software engineer. Despite her successful career, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic reignited her childhood aspiration to join the civil services.

Monika Srivastava with her parents

The Decision to Pursue Civil Services

The pandemic was a turning point for Monika. Watching her siblings, who are doctors, serve as frontline workers made her feel that despite her potential, she wasn’t contributing as significantly. “I wanted to be part of the mainstream frontline workers,” Monika reflects. This realization motivated her to start preparing for the UPSC exams, alongside her job. She cleared UPSC CSE 2023 with AIR 455. 

While preparing for the UPSC, Monika also filled out the form for the Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC). She successfully qualified and was appointed as an Assistant Commissioner of State Taxes in 2022. Reflecting on this accomplishment, she notes, “It was a significant milestone that gave me confidence in my abilities. But I took an extension of one year, and started preparing for UPSC.” 

Overcoming Social Pressures

Being a 27-year-old female aspirant, Monika faced additional pressures regarding marriage. “Even on birthdays, people used to give blessings, that I hope you get married soon,” she says. This societal expectation was a constant challenge, but she remained focused on her goal, determined not to let it affect her preparation.

The Challenges of Balancing Work and Preparation

Balancing a demanding job and rigorous UPSC preparation was no easy feat. Monika’s strategy involved meticulous time management. “I used to take out 3-4 hours in the morning and read newspapers during lunch breaks,” she recalls. Despite the increased responsibilities as a senior software engineer, she utilized her weekends and took leave without pay between the prelims and mains.

Reflecting on her journey, Monika believes that quitting her job for full-time preparation would have been beneficial. “If you can avail your sabbatical or if you can take leave without pay, then go for it. The best is to quit your job and then prepare,” she advises. She acknowledges the fear of a gap in the resume but asserts that the dedicated preparation is worth it.

Digital Resources

Monika extensively used YouTube for conceptual clarity and deactivated her social media profiles to avoid distractions. She highlights the value of using the internet wisely for preparation and leverages ChatGPT for structuring her answers and gaining diverse perspectives on various topics.

Monika Srivastava’s journey from a software engineer to a civil servant showcases her dedication and hard work. Her strategic use of digital tools, focus, and ability to overcome societal pressures make her story inspiring for many UPSC aspirants.


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