Renu Raj (CSE 2014 Rank 2) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 1

Till a few years ago, most of the candidates who top UPSC Civil Services Exam had one thing in common – they depended on the expensive coaching institutes in Delhi. Aspirants associated with metros have many natural advantages like good communication skills, quality education, easy access to study materials, peer-learning, expert faculties, coaching institutes and lot more. But the trend is rapidly changing – thanks to the internet revolution and facilitators in small towns and villages. Renu Raj – UPSC CSE 2nd rank – is undoubtedly a product of the changing civil services scene across the country.

Renu Raj is a married 27 year old doctor from a small town in Kerala who made it to IAS in her first chance. What makes her achievement special is her consistent high marks through out all mains papers (essay, general studies and optional) and interview. Renu has been busy ever since the results are out -she had to attend many media interviews, felicitations, and student interactions. In-spite of the busy schedule, she continued practicing as a doctor too. She had time constraints to fill Clear IAS UPSC Toppers Interview in detail, but answered most of the typical questions in a crisp manner. We are sure that this interview will surely inspire a lot of aspirants – particularly married women – who need a role model. Let’s welcome Renu Raj IAS to the “UPSC Toppers Interview” at

Renu Raj IAS with Shashi Tharoor MP

Brief Bio- data:

  • Name: DR. Renu Raj
  • Age: 28
  • Name of the Exam and Year: Civil Sevices Examination 2014
  • Rank: 2
  • Roll number: 30694
  • Category (General/OBC/SC/ST): General
  • Graduation Background and College: MBBS, Govt. Medical College, Kottayam
  • UPSC Optional Subject: Malayalam
  • UPSC Mains Medium: English
  • UPSC Interview Medium: English
  • State and Place of Residence (Permanent): Kerala, Kottayam
  • Percentage of Marks in 10th and Board: 96.3
  • Percentage of Marks in 12th and Board: 95
  • Percentage of Marks in Graduation and Board/University: 69.3
  • Service Preference (Top 5): IAS, IFS, IRS IT, IRS CC, IPS
  • Cadre Preference (Top 5): Kerala, TN, Karnataka, Gujarat

Background + Inspirational Journey So Far: Hearty congratulations from for this exceptional achievement!  We are happy that your efforts are finally rewarded, that too in grand style! Let’s start from the beginning. How did you come across the idea of writing UPSC Civil Services Examination? Was it your childhood dream?

ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series

Yes, Of-course How did you feel when you came to know that your name is in the toppers list? Can you share the moments of happiness with our readers?

Initial feeling…disbelief. Can you share a little bit about your background? (Family, School, College, Work etc.)

I come from a village in Kerala. My father is a retired govt employee. Mother is a housewife. My sister is studying MBBS. I’m married…my husband is a doctor…Doing his post graduation in orthopaedics. Studied in st. Teresas HSS Changanacherry and government medical college Kottayam, Kerala. How can you correlate you graduation background, work experience (if any) and entry into civil services? Can you brief us your thoughts, views and ambitions when you climbed each position in the ladder of your life?

Though it was my childhood dream, the ambition became stronger as I completed my graduation. Working as a house surgeon I could meet people from all strata of society. I was exposed to the ground realities of life of people. Do you feel that the competition level of UPSC Civil Services Exam is on a rise? It seems that there is an increasing trend of candidates from IITs, IIMs and AIIMS attempting and clearing this exam. Is Civil Service the final destination /ambition of Indian youth, in this age of lucrative private sector jobs?

Really…The youth are brighter than older times. But there are umpteen number of opportunities today…still civil service remains one of the top destinations.

Study Plan What is the secret of your success J? How did you approach this exam? What was your strategy in general (Prelims, Mains, and Interview)? 

I had a combined prelims+ mains approach. Depended mainly on mock tests and mock interviews.The best approach is to try to cover almost every topic in the syllabus than spending days and weeks on the same topic. Just remain focused. Try to analyse and correlate. How long (Years/Months) have you been preparing before you gave this attempt? Also, on an average how many hours did you put on a daily basis? How did you manage time?

From December 2013 3-6 hrs per day…But not always strict. Minimum 7 hours sleep and food at the right time. Were you a person who studied alone? Or a person who favored the combined study approach?

I have difficulty in combined study. Studied alone mostly. Did you attend any coaching institute or subscribe to mock tests for prelims or mains? If yes, can you provide the details for each stage (Prelims/Mains/Interview)? How helpful were the coaching institutes?

Kerala State Civil Service Academy (KSCSA) for prelims…it is best for interview preparation. Pala Institute and NSS academy Trivandrum for optional and few topics. What websites (online preparation websites or government websites) will you recommend for future aspirants for UPSC preparation?

Insightsonindia, mrunal, clearias etc. What is your opinion/feedback about the Clear IAS website ( ), Clear IAS mobile app, and our newly launched online mock test series platform for UPSC Prelims ( Did you come across the 50-day free mains mock answer writing series by Clear IAS for UPSC-2014 for aspirants depending on self-study to clear this exam?

A good initiative…I haven’t seen the answer writing challenge yet. Did you use Social Media like Facebook, Twitter or other forums for UPSC Preparation? Or did you say good-bye to the social media during preparation days? Any technology-tips (Eg: Mobile apps, Note making software etc.)?

FB, Whatsapp. What were the Newspapers and Magazines (Eg: Yojana, Kurukshetra etc.) you followed? How many hours did you devote for newspapers? Any tips on newspaper-reading?

Hindu, few regional newspapers, Yojana, kurukshetra, CS chronicle – Daily 1-2 hrs What was your preference: Reading online (Laptop/Tablet/Mobile) or reading the traditional way (Books)? Or a mix of both?


Read: Renu Raj (CSE 2014 Rank 2) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 2

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