Sarthak Agarwal has meticulously chased all of his goals, from being a CBSE topper to securing AIR 17 in the UPSC. It's no surprise that his achievements have earned him a lot of praise and viral memes.
In an interview, this 23-year-old with a stellar academic record discusses the parallels and contrasts between the CBSC and UPSC exams, among other topics.
In his opinion, CBSC exam has a precise syllabus, but UPSC is unpredictable, and the latter is thus distinguished since it tests the candidate's general awareness of the country and the globe.
Speaking of his reaction when he found out that he had achieved AIR 17, he claims it was surprising. He was just concerned with getting into the civil service, which was something he aspired to, and didn't worry much about what rank he gets.
When asked how things have changed since the results, he claims that he is still the same person and that nothing has changed. It has given him self-confidence, matured him, and has further humbled him. He also adds that people who congratulate him further expect him to deliver even better and that's the responsibility he bears.
He claims his motivation for quitting his job as a Research Economist in London and returning to compete for the UPSC exam, which has a low success rate, was to serve the country.
All my past achievements were a step toward reaching this goal. Owing to the skills and interest I have, they can be better employed in the Public Administration sector than as a Researcher.
He believes his approach to his optional subject Economics was different from those of others. He looked over undergraduate textbooks because he only had three months to study for the mains and a lot to cover. For his second Economics paper, he read academic literature on the economy and what is going on in various sectors.
Talking about breaking the myth of not being able to crack the exam in the first attempt he says that he believed time is precious and never intended to take 4-5 years to crack the exam.
Be as ambitious as you can. The only limits we set for ourselves are what we manufacture ourselves.
When it comes to mental health, he thinks that the most important lesson he has learned is to be patient as it gets exhausting at times. He never felt this was the end of the world, which helped him get through the time.
UPSC isn't the only way to serve the country. I knew if this doesn't work out I'm not going to waste 5 years doing the same. I will find other ways to be of value.