Charkesh Mishra, an IITian, writes on political issues, goes by the username “chakreshm” on Indianofficer.com forum and has cracked civil service exam 2011.
He agreed for an interview and has provided strategy for GS (Both prelims + Mains), Sociology and Public Administration.
Note: Even if you’re not a UPSC aspirant, but preparing for any other competitive exam, I still suggest you scroll down below and read his Message to the Aspirants for any competitive exam
- Your Study plan
- CSAT (Paper I) General studies
- CSAT (Paper II) Aptitude
- Mains Examination
- Compulsory Language papers
- General Studies paper I
- General Studies paper 2
- Optional Subject #1 and #2
- Public Administration (Mains)
- Sociology (Mains)
- Message to the Aspirants for any competitive exam
|Rank (CSE 2011)||412|
|Medium for Mains Exam||English|
|Mains Examination Centre||Delhi|
|Number of Attempts||2|
|Details of Graduation and Post-Grad.||B.Tech. (Mechanical Engg. IIT Kanpur);|
M.Tech. (Instrumentation Engg. IIT Delhi)
hobbies, achievements etc.
|Are you a working professional?||No|
|Did you take Coaching?|
|Did you buy any postal courses?||Crack IAS for Pub-Ad and Sociology|
|Did you join any Mock test series?||No|
|Did you appear in any other competitive exams?||Yes|
|If yes, provide the details:|
Q. When and how did the inspiration and idea of joining civil service come in your mind?
Ans: Being from UP, the idea of preparing for the toughest exam in nation was always somewhere in my mind. During my 3rd year in B.Tech. I got the chance to work with an international engineering firm. The narrowness of canvas and supposed indifference of people in corporate sector towards general public got me thinking.
It was the time when I seriously started to consider civil services as a career. I talked to some of my seniors and made up my mind for this exam. I did not appear for campus placement at IIT as I had decided to make IAS my aim. But there was a twist in the tail. As I was only 19.5 years at the time of completion of my B.Tech., I wasn’t eligible for civil services exam. So I took admission in M.Tech. IITD and started my preparation.
Q. After a person decides to appear in civil service exam, the first big obstacle is “Choice of optional subjects”. What factors did you consider before selecting your optional?
Ans. As I considered myself pretty good in physics, I started preparing with physics and geography at first. But then my seniors suggested that I should not take physics as it was not doing very well at that time (2009-10). So I shortlisted few other optionals and read a few basic books in each of them. I found geography a bit boring (personal opinion), So finally I decided in favor of pub-ad and sociology. The main criteria were interest in subject, availability of good coaching in Delhi.
Q. People initially prepare with much enthusiasm but then a boredom phase comes – they don’t even find the motivation to read the daily newspapers, let alone studying the books. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year,
Ans: Finding constant motivation is a bit difficult. So I followed Gandhian strategy of taking small breaks between high intensity phases. I took a little break after prelims (2 weeks), a big break after mains (2 months) and visited my family/relatives/friends, did something that I enjoyed (blogging, learning driving, travelling, writing and reading short stories etc). After such breaks, when I returned to my desk, there was a sense of urgency and motivation of deadline coming up.
On an average, How many hours did you study per day? How many months did it take you to complete the core syllabus of GS and optional subjects?
Ans: I am not a very regular and sincere student as some of my friends are. I generally study 3-4 hours per day. But there used to be few high output days & few weeks before exams, when the clock worked 6-7 hours with me. I must admit that I am a very fast reader.
I would not suggest anyone to be so erratic in his/her studies, because it affects our performance negatively. I am appearing for civil services exam this year also and I am planning to devote at-least 6-7 hours regularly. More than that I could not and would not read as quality of study goes down drastically after 6-7 hours per day. Quality is more important than quantity. Lets see how this plan works. I completed GS in 200 hours and each optional in around 150 hours time.
How did you use computer and internet for your exam-preparation?
Ans: Computer has been a constant source of entertainment and socialization for me. As this long phase of life can make you feel very disconnected. So interacting with friends/fellow aspirants and finding semblance is very important.
I also used Internet to supplement my notes, whenever I felt that I do not have sufficient material on any particular topic. In GS, few areas such as international affairs, science and technology developments etc are better prepared from internet. Then there are grand daddies of knowledge, Wikipedia & Google, which can answer your every question.
I discontinued reading newspaper during my second attempt and relied heavily on internet for news. I subscribed to feed of all the major newspaper articles, PIB and few good blogs. This provided me a wider range of opinion than following a single newspaper.
- How did you prepare yourself for the essay?
- Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?
- What were your keypoints in that essay?
- How many marks did you get in that essay?
Ans: I was very casual in my preparation of essay in my 1st attempt. I was convinced that having pub-ad and socio will automatically cover my essay preparation. In exam I misinterpreted the essay topic and wrote a very artistic essay. This proved disastrous as I got only 73 marks. I missed final selection by only 12 marks in my 1st attempt (2010) due to low marks in essay.
So, I gave more attention to essay this time. I shortlisted 20-22 topics of current importance and collected material/quotes/anecdotes on them from net and books. Then I practiced writing few essay and got it checked by one of my teacher. Also, I decided to choose the most common topic and targeted average marks in essay. The strategy paid off and I got 110 in my 2nd attempt (2011). I wrote on the smaller state topic in 2011 exam.
There are two ways of attempting essay paper. First with a lot of flamboyance, but that is a high risk/ high gain business. Second is keeping it absolutely mediocre and removing element of risk from essay marks. Choice is yours.
Q. Serious players get mentally shattered and depressed after failure in competitive exams. How did you cope up with failures and rose from the ashes again?
What had gone wrong in your previous attempts?
How did you fix those issues in your 2011’s attempt?
Ans: I was not very well prepared in my first attempt (2010), so the failure to make the final cut was disappointing but not depressing. It was a wake up call. After seeing my marks, I was convinced that I am just on the threshold and need a little more push. (cut-off 1134, my marks: 1121)
So, this time around, I completed whole syllabus and did not leave anything to chances. I focused on mains preparation and tried to complete optionals before pre result was announced. I revised my notes few times, this factor was missing in first attempt. I also gave more attention to essay and optionals.
Many aspirants fear the interview, thinking that “my profile is not good because
- I’ve low marks in SSC/HSC/College,
- I don’t have any extra-curricular certificates,
- I don’t have work experience,
- I graduated from some unknown college,
- I’m from non-English medium and so on…”
So, How important or relevant is the profile of a candidate during interview?
Ans: I don’t think that profile matters that much. The performance at the time of interview counts more than anything else. I would go further and say that candidates with a moderate profile benefit more in interview. Interviewers expect a basic level of smartness from candidates of strong profile (good college/good job). And if a candidate with good profile fail to live up to the expectation of interviewers, he gets low marks. Opposite is true for candidates with moderate profile. One can positively surprise the interview panel with his/her personality.
How do you rate your own profile?
Ans: I think I have decent profile. Positive: good college, young age;
Negative: no job experience
How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?
Ans: Almost all the questions originated from the information I provided in my profile, then they ventured into related topics.
Did they ask any uncomfortable questions from your profile?
Ans: No, I was waiting for some tough questions so that I could use that opportunity to raise the level of my interview. But I was not asked anything like that.
Q. In case you had not cleared the UPSC exam, what was your career/future backup plan?
Ans: I would have looked for a job in engineering and research sector.
Q. Behind one topper are many people who stood by him during those uncertain times when he was merely an ‘aspirant’. Who were those people in your case?
Ans: I relied on my parents for financial & emotional support and they didn’t let me down any time. Some of my seniors helped me during optional selection and preparing strategy.
|Topic||Source of your preparation||remark, if any|
|Current Affairs||Wizard current affairs special||Few chapters from vajiram material|
|History Ancient/Medieval/Modern||12th NCERT||I skipped ancient/medieval history.|
|Physical Geography||11th NCERT||Few concept clarification from net|
|Geography of India||12th NCERT, Oxford atlas|
|Geography of World||Oxford atlas|
|Polity and Governance||Indian polity- Laxmikanth||When in doubt, referred to D D Basu|
|Public Policy||Wizard current affairs special|
|Rights issue||Vajiram material|
|Environment and Biodiversity||Wizard current affairs special||International treaties from wikipedia|
|Economic and social Development||11th NCERT, Economic survey summary, Sriram’s economics|
|Science||TMH guide||Skipped most of it|
|Economy||11th NCERT, Economic survey summary, Sriram’s economics|
I had good command over English and Mathematics, So didn’t need any special preparation.
|Source of your preparation|
|English||Revised few grammar rules from wren-martin|
|Indian language paper||Started reading hindi newspaper for 15 minutes daily from one week before exam|
|Syllabus Topic||Source of your preparation|
|Culture||Wizard special issue|
|Geography of India||12th NCERT|
|Polity||Indian polity- Laxmikanth|
|Issues of social relevance||Wizard special issue|
|Indian economy and planning||11th NCERT, Economic survey summary, Sriram’s economics|
|Public health||Wizard current affairs special|
|Law and order||Wizard current affairs special|
|Good governance||Wizard current affairs special|
|Environment||Wizard current affairs special|
|Syllabus Topic||Source of your preparation|
|India and the World||MoEA website|
|Indian diaspora||MoEA website|
|India’s Economic interaction with world||11th NCERT, Economic survey summary, Sriram’s economics|
|International affairs and institutions||Wizard current affairs special & wikipedia|
|Statistics||Practiced last few years question papers|
|Science & Tech.||Hindu Thursday & wikipedia|
Ans: For optionals my approach was of “less number of sources and more number of revisions”. I made coaching notes as my base and added information on that from few books and current affairs updates.
1. Prasad & Prasad – must be read 3-4 times to get a solid hold on thinkers.
2. Mohit Bhattacharya – must be read after you have completed whole syllabus once. It does not provide much new information but gives you excellent perspective and overview of subject.
3. Nicholus Henry – for budget and history of pub-ad
4. Fadia & Fadia – for rest of the topics
5. Indian Polity by M.Laxmikanth
6. ARC reports – I did not read it. That’s why I had lower marks in 2nd paper but many of my selected friends suggest it. [Mrunal edit: Click on the link to download those reports, available in PDF format, in both English + Hindi]
1. Sociological Theory by Ritzer :must be read 3-4 times to get a solid hold on thinkers.
2. IGNOU BA: for first 3 chapters in paper one.
3. Collins Sociology Theme & Perspective by Harlambos & Holborne – for rest of the topics in paper one.
4. IGNOU BA & MA: for most topics in paper two.
5. Modernization of indian tradition by Yogendra Singh – one cursory read is enough.
6. Handbook of sociology by Veena Das – few selected topics.
How did you prepare for the interview?
Ans: I revised current affairs and prepared extensively on my profile. I appeared for few mock interview tests also.
My first interview (165 marks, Shashi Uben Tripathi Board)
My second interview (171 marks, PK Mishra Board)
|Mains cut-off||905 (+51)||846 (+97)|
|Final cut-off||1134 (-13)||1089 (+25)|
Q. What is your message to the aspirants?
Ans: It’s funny, but after Duryodhana is killed, Krishna turns to the Pandavas and says, “We’ve been lucky to win.” This is God speaking. And so I realized that no matter how sincere or motivated the effort, the result was eventually a matter of luck. Somebody has to check the copies, somebody else has to judge my personality, and I can do nothing more than read the books and write the answers and try to appear confident during the interview.
This spirit of detachment is what we should aim for. We should not develop an emotional attachment to the final result and must focus on particular stage of exam. Even though he’s God and already knows the outcome of the war in a sense, he plans meticulously, tries his best to avert an inevitable war and does not even back down from adopting less than fair means. But he also simultaneously tells us that we may or may not achieve what we try to and must be prepared for both outcomes.
Taken together, what he’s trying to say is, if you’re motivated enough you will very likely succeed. But the future is still uncertain, and here’s what you can do about it: nothing at all. (Courtesy: My friend Mr. Avichal Chaturvedi, AIR37, 2011 )
In the era of blatant marketing propaganda, I too have two similar but unloaded questions.
- Did you use indianofficer.com for your preparation? If yes, How did it help you?
- Did you use mrunal.org for your preparation? If yes, how did it help you?
And You can reply “No”, yet it’ll be published without any distortion.
Ans. I have been a very regular visitor to indian-officers forum and have benefitted a lot from the interaction with fellow students. I have found many tips about exam on IO. It was also a source of genuine information and have a character of its own, compare to other online forums.
Mrunal’s blog is a good source for question paper analysis, potential sources/booklists, useful compilations of news items etc. I generally redirect people, who ask me about preparation to Mrunal’s blog ;-)