[Strategy & determination] Safi got Rank 55 without coaching or leaving the job on his first trial

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IAS Mock Interviews
  1. Myth#1- you can’t get selected on your first trial
  2. Myth#2- you can’t get selected without going to some big coaching classes @ Delhi
  3. Myth#3- you must quit your job to concentrate for this exam
  4. Myth#4- Management is an unpopular and non-scoring optional subject

And finally we have the man who broke all these myths.
I had the opportunity to get in touch with topper Mr. Safi (he got 55th rank in 2009’s CSE in his 1st attempt without leaving his job). I had emailed him some question and here are the replies.
Here I’m quoting his reply. (take note friends, this is no “usual topper interview that we read in magazines every month’ because  he is talking about the ‘real business- to the point’)


I am Mohammed Y Safirulla (Roll No: 080934) and I have got Rank 55 in Civil Services Exam-2009. I am writing this on the request of Mrunal to describe my preparation strategy. I would be happy if this is of some help to Civil Service aspirants.

About me: I completed my Engineering from ‘PSG College of Technology’ in 2003. I then worked in TCS for 2 years. After writing CAT in 2005 I secured admission in T.A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI) for PGDM. I completed PGDM in 2007. Since then, I am working with IBM as SAP Consultant.

General Studies

1. How did you deal with general studies + Essay in mains ?

News Paper: I referred ‘The Hindu’ News paper during the last 2 years. I used to take notes for any analysis in this paper. Any center page article which appears to be important I used to cut that and document in a file.
Magazine: Competition Chronicle.
TV: DD News and Lok Sabha Channel (‘Public Form’ – The New Analysis show from 11 to 12 PM every night)
Constitution and Freedom Movement: Referred Prelims Xerox of Brilliant Tutorials
Aptitude: R.S Agarwal

I tried to focus less on data intensive areas and focused on my strengths i.e. Economics, Aptitude and Current affairs. I relied more on Internet to collect data for GS.

Preparation for Options


Ans: My Optional for Prelims was Sociology. For Mains it was Sociology and Management. For Sociology I got guidance from Mrs. Ananya Sharma, who had written the Mains earlier. My Friend and I took guidance from her. Further, I analyzed previous 15 years QPs for Prelims and Mains. I made notes after analyzing them. Source was mainly Internet and the book by C/N Shankar Rao.


For Management I referred my Books (from PGDM days). Here too, I prepared notes.

For 2010 Exam (which I did not take) General Studies preparation, I attended the free GS test series conducted by Namma IAS in Bangalore. I wanted to attend the test series so that I could meet other aspirants and to identify the benchmarks.

For both GS and Optionals I prepared lot of notes from Internet. I believe this gave maximum returns. It is possible to revise notes in short duration (Eg: 2 hours gap between Paper 1 and Paper 2 for Optional in Mains). We can also keep adding points to the topics subsequently.


3. How did you deal with the essay?

No special preparation for essay.

Working professional and time  Management

4. How did you manage it despite being a working professional? The whole time Management aspect? Because everyone doing some job is confused about this.

Few things that I did,
–  Motto of studying for at least 4 hours every working day. Sleep only after study of 4 hours is complete. Absolutely no compromise on this.
–  The study time does not include the time spent for watching News or Browsing on Internet (for whatever).
–  During weekends, study for at least 7 hours each day
–  Alternate days in weekdays for Optional and GS. Both Optional and GS during Weekends.
–  Maintain a chart which indicates the effort in Hours for Optional/GS. In my calendar I have entries which indicate how many hours I spent each day from Jan 2009 to October 22nd  2009 for Optional and GS
–  As far as possible I avoided Social gatherings like Friends get together, Attending Marriages etc…  In short, save every possible minute that you can.
–  I kept the only few close friends and relatives updated about my Civil Service aspiration and progress in the exam.

Motivation -maintaining the rhythm

5.How did you maintain the motivation, rhythm and pace in studies, because most of us go through mood swings like for 10 days “high motivation and working hard” then for next 10 days “no motivation or mood to study anything” and finally month before the exam  doing the fire-fighting, trying to cover everything up in short time.

I also experienced this problem. There were days when there was intense self doubt! During those days I tried not to push myself too much. I focused on reading News Papers and economics during those days.


6. Your interview.

The following are the questions asked in my Interview. The order and words in questions are not the same. I tried to recollect as far as I could.


  1. You are Mohammed Y Safirulla…. How can I call you. ?
  2. You are working in SAP. Is it not something that integrates Human resources, Finance etc… Can you explain what the work you do?
  3. You are already in IT sector which is challenging. Why do you want to get into Civil services?

Member 1:

  1. You have done a lot of work in corporate sector. There is lot of hierarchy in Public services. You will not get the kind of freedom that you used to get in Private sector. Do you think you will fit in the Government setting?
  2. There might be no rewards even when you perform well. What is reward for you? Is it Power, Authority, Public Service or Money?
  3. About the Shoaib and Sania Marriage in Hyderabad, What is Nikkahnama? Can marriages in Islam happen over phone?
  4. If you were in the position of Police Commissioner of Hyderabad would you take the Passport of Shoaib? Do you think it was correct?
  5. What is the difference between Administration and Management?
  6. Have you ever got into a fight with your Boss? Explain what happened?
  7. If your peon takes money (corruption) of Rs. 5 (say), What action would you take against him?
  8. What were the options available to you after you completed your MBA in Finance? Why you got into IT then?

Member 2:

  1. Is PDGM and MBA the same?
  2. Why do you want to get into Civil services from Corporate Sector?
  3. Based on the explanation of the difference between Administration and Management (which I answered to Member 1) what is the role of a District Collector? Does he perform ‘Administration’ or ‘Management’ role?
  4. How will your knowledge of Engineering and Management be useful for you in Civil Services?
  5. Are the same principles of success valid in corporate sector relevant in Government Services as well?
  6. You have spent a long time in Corporate sector (I have spent 5 years). I think you will not fit in Government Services.
  7. What are the fundamentals of India’s Foreign Policy?
  8. But Panchsheel is also present in UN Charter right? Where is it present? (I explained about Panchsheel in the earlier question).

Member 3:

  1. What is the famous PSU in Salem?
  2. What is Namakkal famous for ? (It is a district near Salem, TN)
  3. Religious places in Namakkal.
  4. About Coimbatore. What is it called as? What is it famous for?
  5. What are the reasons for development of Software sector in India?
  6. Reasons for Financial Crisis in 2008-09. What are your views on it?
  7. Is Ethics taught in Management Schools? The excess greed of Management graduates is also a reason for Financial Crisis. Your views.
  8. What is the reason for Cost and Time Overrun in ‘Mega Projects’? How can those be addressed?

Member 4:

  1. You mentioned about ‘Profit Maximization’ objective of corporate sector? Talking about Derivatives, do you think they should be banned?
  2. You did your engineering then worked for 2 years. Again you did PGDM and then again into IT sector. Now you want to get into Civil Services. I think you are a confused person.
  3. You have studied ‘Electronics’ in Engineering. What do you know about ‘Electronics’ Industry in India?
  4. You talked about SAP (ERP). Can such models be used to determine unforeseen situations? Eg: Monsoon failures etc… What is the relevance of such models then?


  1. Assume you are in a foreign country. Now give me a plan to promote tourism in Tamilnadu. (my home state).
  2. Have you filled for any other service apart from IAS? If selected will you join other services?

Ok. Thank you. Your interview is over.

I would like to convey to aspirants that is it possible to clear Civil Services exam without attending big coaching institutes and while working. Many have cleared in the past and many will continue to do. Please have confidence in your efforts.

In case there are queries, I will respond in IO from my ID (indianofficer link no longer working.) . Please do let me know if I can offer assistance in any other aspect.

Wish you all the best.

Safi (Mohammed Y Safirulla)

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49 Comments on “[Strategy & determination] Safi got Rank 55 without coaching or leaving the job on his first trial”

  1. Sir,I wanted to know that which way of studying is better ?
    Completing the mains syllabus first and then go for CSAT
    studying everything together ???

    1. dear sir
      my medium is hindi and I want to know how I start me study,I mean what should be first step for base

  2. Hello sir…Great to ear about you. I am now pursuing my Engineering studies, BE 3rd year Electronics and communications. My destination is to be an IAS.

    I am planning to join IAS coaching centers of Delhi after my final year directly.

    Or,, I had another option to get selected in TCS in our campus recruitments and then after two years of job, I have to join IAS institutes.

    Which one do u suggest for me.??

    1. hi sunny , i too completed my BE in ECE and got placed in MINDTREE Ltd bangalore , i worked there for 1 year and now m in Delhi for coaching…. i personally feel that if u are very much clear about your career in civils then don’t waste time in working in an IT company …. juz start yo preparation …

  3. the above elaborate description about the interview process is really helpful in forecasting the methods of questions arise in 3rd stage.

  4. Sir,
    I am doing III year engineering in N.E.C.,,TAMIL NADU. I am
    very eager in studying IAS and with a excellent output.what type of books I
    can refer for general studies especially the national,inernational movement
    and mainly the history.so, Iam in a troubling condition for to select the best book.what can I do sir ? please coucile me……

  5. Hats off to u brother and thank u very much… Ur journey to ias was really inspirable….

  6. Sir,i want certain reference books names(EXCLUSIVELY FOR NEW PATTERN 2012,2013)
    For Preliminary
    1.Paper 1& Paper2

  7. Hi Safi,

    At last, I found a great deal of inspiration from you! Infact my career graph is pretty similar to yours – A B.Sc Biotech Graduate with an MBA in International Business and Mkting, campus placed in one of the top 3 Indian IT companies and working as an IT Consultant for the past 6yrs… Whoever heard [not more than 4 ppl other than my parents know that am preparing for civil services] either called me crazy or passed a sardonic smile. Your success has encouraged me a lot to dive in full gear!

  8. Hi sir iam finesh my b.com now .i very confuse about sub.and how to prepra for exam

    1. hello sir i have completed my master degree with english literature in 2007 and from that time i am very much keen to appear in civil service exam……….pls advise me as i am 32 and from now candidates belong to obc quota can apply till 35……… time is less for me to prepare…..time is running………pls give me right guidance from start to end regards

  9. hello sir i have completed my degree second year. i was interested in ias. but i am in confusion because will i go for coaching right now or after completion of degree . ple suggest me sir

  10. Hello sir , great heard about you , I want to prepare for civil service exam I have some doubt about selecting language means hindi or english , want to prapare in hindi medium , so should be 1st step for base and please give me guidance n books for hindi medium…..

  11. Thank you very very much sir……….it’s so helpful i can’t tell iin words……………these experiences enlighten the way of future aspirants like me

  12. Sir i have completed my btech this year and i am very much passionate about govt job. but i am an average student. kindly suggest me whether its good to directly go vo upsc preparation or i should first prepare for ssc then go for upsc

  13. Hello Sir,

    Its very good to know about your journey of success. i want to know that what are your answers in interviews?

  14. What is your Message? Search before asking questions & confine discussions to exams related matter only.
    iam sathis from tamilnadu erode district
    now iam studying BE electrical final year
    i have 3 arrears after i am my course. iam like to try to get central goverment jobs, which is suitable exam for me

  15. Sir Iam pursuing electronics 1st year and much interested in civil services. How can l start my preparation now onwards. Please reply me sir

  16. sir,please tell me which writer book to read for mains exam and English,Hindi

  17. Dear Safi,

    Your article is very enlightening.
    I am little scared after reading one of the question interviewer asked about you being confused in your carrier choices.
    My journey is like this: Completed B.Tech (CS) in 2006. 2 years break because of family reason. Joined MBA in 2008 in Marketing and completed in 2010. Worked for few months and left the job. Came to Bangalore and joined IT company. Worked there for 2 years as BA in CRM. For approx a year I worked as an individual. Got married in 2012.
    From Oct 2014, I want to be an IAS. I reached 30yrs on this August 2014. And I am quite determined for this.

    I will really appreciate if you can help me in understanding my probability of selection till final.


  18. sir I have given cs 2 times bt still cannt get cleared for mains…plz guide me for preparation way..

  19. Sir You are really awesome… you are my Roll model sir… I am doing my Engineering GCT…. And also I got placed in TCS…. I want to become a civil servant… Many of my friends and family members discouraging me not to join the job…. But I got you as an example sir….. really you are awesome…… thanks for your tips

  20. Sir,

    I have completed by engineering in computer science and engineering in 2014. And I am very confused whether to go for IAS or first MBA.
    Then I am not getting how to prepare IAS without coaching.
    It will be great if you help me.

  21. Sir please don’t ignore this message please Sir……. Sir i have complete my graduation and i want to be a ias officer. Please Sir suggest me about the this usefull for pre-exam of ias please sir

  22. Hai Sir,

    Good Morning my name is ghouse azam, you are the first inspiration to the professional job holders to get into the civils, am also the same but not have not completed any professional course like MBA and PGDA like you, just completed Graduation and i am working for police department since last 3 years, before i worked for BPOs, KPOs and for the few multi national companies having some what better good english skills.

  23. sir,I completed my graduation with p,c,m…sir now I want to join myself in preparation for ias…but I have a little bit confusion that what should I do 1st..prepare myself for upsc or mba

  24. Hello sir,
    Now I’m studying electronics and communication engineering (second year) I would like to ask you that for prelims paper2 preparation what should I choose the optional subject and please give me suggestions regarding this.

  25. Hello sir
    firstly i thank to you
    i see your all detail that you given above //
    sir still in this time i am 2year student i want to prepare ias, but i did not satisfy in which coaching i join, & I belong to Ambedkarnager (UP) i have no any gueiding person in my home so please suggest how i perform this

  26. Sir,
    What did you mean by less data driven driven study? I understood the latter part but not the former part .

  27. Sir i am pursuing msc in Mathematics and i am an average students and want to crack ias exam give me some guidence

  28. i was very much benefited by above suggestion…..

  29. I would like to know the kind of material (includes books,news papers any imp sites) to refer.

    For Preliminary
    1.Paper 1& Paper2


    and I would like to ask you some more few questions on how to face an interview.(probably not here)

    I would be very great full if you assist me on this.

  30. hi sir,
    what books i can prefered for prelimnary exams

  31. sir now iam pharm.D. third year.now i want to prepare for civil service.preperation without coaching. my degree certificate come 2018.so taking long time for preparation.i have just fear sir.my goal is ias in my life.so give me suggestion about this preparation.

  32. sir,i am in 11th now and i want to be topper in puc .and my main aim is ias ,i saw in many blogs that the academic records and achievements wont matter or wont make any difference during selections for ias? is it true or atleast is there an added advantage in ias by having a good academic record because such queries and blogs demotivate me . pls help me in clarifying this

  33. Sir,

    I have finished my B.COM & now pursing M.com in correspondence , Planning for Management option , Please guide me with book source for Management

  34. Sir,
    I want to write IAS EXAM in TELUGU,shall i write exam with telugu with mix english coz

  35. What is your Message? Search before asking questions & confine discussions to exams. Sir I am going to join B.tech programme from a private collage of Chennai . I want to became an IAS officer Can I prepare for it in first year or drop the collage and prepare for exam through coachi.ng

  36. Sir! Give me some tips for IAS preparation.how can I try for this..??
    Its my 2nd year for under graduation.give me some tips so I prepare for IAS in my graduation years..??
    Thanking you!

  37. I passed bsc phy ( H ) .I want to be ias . how to start prepare .

  38. Hi ,as you wrote you will reply all the questionsMay be I will
    Get reply from your side..i am simple graduate having only passing marks in graduation.I need guidence how should I start preparation I have 3 more years only for trying in upsc exam..

  39. I passed my graduation only with 45%.but I cleared 12th ,graduation and post graduation after marriage.with this percentage it is possible to crack upsc?

  40. Thank you very much sir for being a great inspiration for us… i was in a dilemma as per as my ambition is concerned. ., now all my doubts got cleared..Thanks for being a way for many aspirants…

  41. I wish to know that how to start the preparation and how much time i have to give for preparation or is it necessary like laptop . making notes etc..

  42. Hello sir , I am tamil medium student and am struggling what to study first I want to learn everything in polity first ..my question is do I prefer multitasking like studying polity and history ? Or complete any one first?

  43. sir i completed degree plzz help me sir how prepare civils which books is best murali

  44. Sir,presently my degree2nd year completed.my aim is to become an IAS officer but I don’t have clear sources nd guidance . background was very poor.sir but I have a firm belief on me .sir plz give me suggestion how could I move further.

  45. hello sir very appy to hear this from you.without coching everything is possible,sir i have some doubts can you please refer the books it will be very helpfull for all the civil aspirants.Thanking you sir waiting for your motivational reply

  46. Is it necessary to become an IAS Officer to live the life? Hh all are dieing to become ias officer. There are so many problems in our society. plenty of problems and mal practices. Let it correct first. We can work anywhere to serve the country.

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