[Topper’s Interview] C M Saikanth Varma (AIR-18/CSE-2014) First Attempt, Mathematics, IIT-Madras, Software Engineer

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  1. CANDIDATE PROFILE
  2. EDUCATION
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. ELECTRONIC VS PAPER MATERIAL
  5. TEMPO AND STYLE
  6. PRELIMS (CSAT) GENERAL STUDIES
  7. PRELIMS (CSAT) APTITUDE
  8. PRELIM ACCURACY
  9. MAINS: COMPULSORY LANGUAGE PAPER
  10. MAINS: ESSAY
  11. MAINS GENERAL STUDIES PAPER 1 TO 4
  12. GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 1
  13. GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 2
  14. GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 3
  15. GENERAL STUDIES 4: ETHICS, INTEGRITY, APTITUDE
  16. GS4 ETHICS CASE STUDY ANSWERS IN MAINS 2014
  17. MAINS ANSWER-WRITING?
  18. MAINS OPTIONAL SUBJECT
  19. BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
  20. DURING THE INTERVIEW
  21. CSE-2014 MARKSHEET
  22. CAREER BACKUP
  23. VIEWS ON UPSC REFORMS
  24. INSECURITY ABOUT PROFILE
  25. WISDOM
  26. CREDIT: FRIENDS/FAMILY
  27. BOGUS MARKETING PROPAGANDA

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Saikanth Verma

Q.Details
NameC M Saikanth Varma
Rank in CSE-201418
Roll No.063885
Age26
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)1
Optional SubjectMathematics
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityKurnool, Andhra Pradesh
Work-experience if any2 years as a Software Engineer – 1 year @Amazon and 1 year @Google
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)RC Reddy Study Circle for GS(Only History and Geography were useful), Analog IAS for Mathematics, Sri Chaitanya Narayana Test Series, Took the test series and material of “the-most-famous-test-series-of-Delhi” from one of my friends.
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS>IPS>IRS(IT)>IFS>IRS(Customs)
state cadre preference (Top-5)AP>TS>TN>Karnataka>Kerala

EDUCATION

fill the details here
% in class 1091.5
% in class 1293.5
Graduation course and %Dual Degree (BTech and MTech) in Computer Science and Engineering, 8.5/10
Name of college, city, passing out yearIIT Madras, Chennai, 2011
Post-graduationMTech (part of dual degree)
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsBlogging (click here), Watching movies (a movie buff)

INTRODUCTION

Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?

I got inclined towards civil services after attending a talk by a bureaucrat, Mr. Srivatsa Krishna, while I was in my college. I understood what difference a civil servant can make to the society and that really motivated me towards civil services. I also found its career prospects to be very promising. But nevertheless I took up a job as a Software Engineer soon after graduation because the pay was quite good. But it was during the 2 years of me working as a Software Engineer that I realised that money cannot take precedence over job satisfaction. I finally decided to quit my job and try for civil services in June 2013.

ELECTRONIC VS PAPER MATERIAL

Q. In recent times, there is spur in electronic material- blogs, sites, pdfs, RSS-feeds. Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. So, how much do you rely on electronic material and how much on the paper material (Books, newspapers)? If possible narrate a typical day in your studylife. What is your style of preparation (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I’m reading, I just read multiple times but don’t maintain notes, I make mindmaps on computer …or xyz style)

I would say that the Internet has become indispensable if one wants to adopt a ‘smart’ preparation strategy. It would be very difficult to look up for something in books when compared to Internet. And the UPSC has made the CSE pattern so dynamic that there is not much stress on the conventional books. If one knows how to use the Internet, it can save a lot of time during the preparation stage. I was also preparing notes on my laptop as it would be very easy to maintain. One can also find the test series of all top institutes in the soft copy formats.

I used to start my day with reading 2 newspapers – The Hindu (hard copy) and Indian Express (online). Then I would devote about 3 hours to my optional and then I would spend the rest of the day on GS. During the weekends I would revise and also read the magazines – frontline (online), downtoearth (online) and selected articles from the idsa website.

TEMPO AND STYLE

Q. People know what books and syllabus points are to be prepared. But most of them lack consistency in their preparation. So, how do you keep study momentum going on? How do you fight against the mood swings and distractions?

I think this is quite normal for everyone and I feel that relaxing is as important as studying itself. However, I would not take a break for the day until and unless I finished studying the newspapers.

There were many times when I doubted myself and felt that I would never be able to beat the competition. At these low points I used to read the toppers interviews on Mrunal site and that instilled a lot of faith in me. I learnt not just from my own mistakes, but also from the mistakes of others. For example, it was only after reading the Toppers interviews, I realised the importance of answer writing and test series (especially the Gaurav Agarwal’s blog). Irrespective of whether I’d make it to the final list or not, I wanted to be happy that I gave my 100% and that kept me going. After I started preparing for this exam, I used to feel that all the other problems are so inconsequential and so tiny that I never let them bother me. The support of my parents, brother and friends were also instrumental in keeping up the momentum.

PRELIMS (CSAT) GENERAL STUDIES

Topicstrategy/booklist/comment
History AncientKarim Sir’s Notes (RC Reddy Study Circle)
History MedievalKarim Sir’s Notes
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Karim Sir’s Notes + India’s Struggle for Independence
Culture and societyKarim Sir’s Notes + Wikipedia(for Architecture) + GKToday notes for music, dance forms and paintings + NCERTs for Society (read only the socio-economic conditions)
Polity (theory + current)Lakshmikanth + newspapers
Economy (theory + current)NCERT (Macroeconomics) + Newspapers
Science (theory + current)Didn’t prepare
Environment (theory + current)Shankar IAS, Erach Barucha (didn’t benefit much though)
geography physicalNCERTs + Gurajala Srinivas Sir’s Notes + Goh Cheng Leong
geography IndiaNCERTs + Gurajala Srinivas Sir’s Notes
geography worldAtlas + Notes of Krishna Teja (AIR 66, he used to teach at RC Reddy Study Circle)
other national/international current affairsNewspapers
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffCovered only those that came in newspapers (not covered India Year Book)

Q. in GS-Prelims 2014, there was unusual questions from environment and agriculture portion. If you were to give the attempt again in 2015, what new strategy / books / sources would you focus?

I would focus on NCERTs first, especially the Biology part.

Q. Now that Aptitude paper has become qualifying, obvious more attention needs to be paid on the GS paper so apart from the books that you already have gone through, what else would you have tried for CSE-2015 (if you were going to appear)?

I would have tried to cover all the topics in Paper I and solved more test papers.

PRELIMS (CSAT) APTITUDE

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsPractice tests
reasoningPractice tests
comprehensionPractice tests
Decision MakingPractice tests

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2014 paper.

Make sure you are healthy on the day of the exam. Paper 2 was my biggest strength and I fell sick on the day of the prelims. Because of a bad headache, I gave my worst possible performance in paper 2 and I thought I’d not clear the prelims itself. If it wasn’t for Paper I, I wouldn’t have cleared the Prelims (you can see that in my prelims score).

PRELIM ACCURACY

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?

I did attend CL test series. Paper 2 was very good and I used to score very high marks consistently towards the last few tests. I feel that mock tests are important.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2014

attempted Q.Official UPSC marksheet
GSNo idea – didn’t have the heart to analyse after Prelims110
aptitudeNo idea – didn’t have the heart to analyse after Prelims119.18
total229.18

MAINS: COMPULSORY LANGUAGE PAPER

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperWent through the previous year question papers to not get surprised in the exam.
your regional languageWent through previous year question papers and that freaked me out a bit. I used to read one or two editorials in a Telugu newspaper everyday and practise writing a few essays.

Q2.other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2014

I found both of them to be quite comfortable. Don’t neglect them.

MAINS: ESSAY

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Largely through test series and wrote a few essays outside the exam. In total wrote about 8 essays before the exam.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?

  1. With greater power comes greater responsibility
  • Started with Gandhi (responsible leader) and Hitler (irresponsible leader) example
  • Took it from individual, family, society levels to national and international levels
  • Covered the areas – polity, economy, environment, social, technology, ethics etc.
  1. Tourism: Can this be the next big thing for India?
  • Started with the example of India and Switzerland and that Tourism is indeed the next big thing
  • India is a cultural super power
  • Large untapped potential
  • Its impact on economy, polity, society, culture, environment, technology etc.

But I scored a modest 125 (which isn’t a very high score as per this year’s standards).

MAINS GENERAL STUDIES PAPER 1 TO 4

I’ve created a table, so you can quickly point out what you referred. Alternatively you can write a separate standalone “Strategy” article in a wordfile.

Like Dr. Roman Saini, I too believe that in this exam range is more important than depth (Coincidentally, I too got the same rank :P). As per marginal utility, scoring the first few marks in a question is a lot easier than scoring the next few marks. So, for every topic I made sure that I knew about 10 pros and 10 cons. I focused more on covering more areas than gaining in-depth knowledge (ie., more than 10-15 points).

GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
cultureKarim Sir’s notes + Wikipedia (for Architecture) + GKToday notes for Dances, Music and Paintings
Indian historyKarim Sir’s notes + Triggers from Newspapers (like Deen Dayal Upadhyay etc.) + India’s Struggle for Independence (I believe that this book is an overkill as I feel the cost to benefit ratio is high)
world historyNCERTs + Norman Lowe (selected topics) + Internet (about Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew etc.)
post-independence IndiaBipan Chandra + Internet research on certain other topics not covered in the book (like different social movements, 1991 BoP crisis etc.)
Indian societyNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
role of women, poverty etc.No special preparation apart from Newspapers
globalization on Indian societyNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
communalism, regionalism, secularismNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
world geo physicalNCERTs + Gurajala Sir’s Notes + GC Leong + Internet + IMD Website + downtoearth
resource distributionPrepared for selected list of resources from Internet+ Test series
factors for industrial locationPrepared for selected list of industries from Internet + Test series
earthquake tsunami etcInternet + downtoearth
impact on flora-faunaInternet + downtoearth

GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.Lakshmikanth
comparing Constitution with worldCovered for nations – USA, UK, Japan from Internet + Lakshmikanth (about borrowed features)
parliament, state LegislaturesLakshmikanth
executive-judiciaryLakshmikanth
ministries departmentsNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
pressure group, informal asso.Read ARC Report + Internet (Google search)
Representation of people’s actOnly the current developments from Newspapers
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..Lakshmikanth + Internet + Punchhi Commission Report(Centre-State Relations)
NGO, SHG etcRead ARC Report + Internet (Google search)
welfare schemes, bodiesNewspapers
social sector, health, edu, HRDNewspapers
governance, transparency, accountabilityARC Report
e-governanceARC Report
role of civil serviceARC Report
India & neighborsNewspapers + frontline + idsa(selected articles)
bilateral/global groupingNewspapers + Wikipedia
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestNewspapers + frontline + idsa(selected articles)
diasporaNewspapers + World Focus (edition on Diaspora)
international bodies- structure mandateInternet – largely Wikipedia

GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
inclusive growthNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
budgetingCovered the definitions of various terms in Economic Survey and Budget
major crops, irrigationNCERT
agro produce – storage, marketingMaterial of “the-most-famous-test-series-of-Delhi”
e-technology for famersNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
farm subsidies, MSPNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
PDS, buffer, food securityYojana
technology missionNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
animal rearing economicsCovered basics from Agriculture Annual Report
food processingKurukshetra edition on Agri-Industries
land reformsStudied in History part + Newspapers (LARR Act)
liberalizationNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
infraNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
investment modelsMaterial of “the-most-famous-test-series-of-Delhi”
science-tech day to day lifeNewspapers – special focus on diseases, drugs etc.
Indian achievements in sci-techNewspapers
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRIPR – Recent developments and contentious provisions of Patents Act
environmental impact assessmentShankar IAS Book
Disaster ManagementIGNOU Material + World Focus (edition on DM)
non state actors, internal securityNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
internal security – role of media, social networking siteNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
cyber securityNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
money launderingNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
border  ManagementNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
organized crime, terrorismNo special preparation apart from Newspapers
security agencies- structure mandateBriefly covered from Wikipedia

GENERAL STUDIES 4: ETHICS, INTEGRITY, APTITUDE

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsLexicon by Chronicle
attitude, moral influence etc.Lexicon by Chronicle
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcLexicon by Chronicle
emotional intelligence, its use in governanceLexicon by Chronicle
moral thinkers of India and worldI prepared only Indian thinkers and that too Buddha, Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda (this was a mistake)
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.Lexicon by Chronicle
corporate governanceLexicon by Chronicle

Gathered examples from Internet

probity in governance, work cultureLexicon by Chronicle
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Lexicon by Chronicle
challenges of corruptionLexicon by Chronicle
case studies on above topicsTest Series – Sri Chaitanya Narayana and “the-most-famous-test-series-of-Delhi” which I took from one of my friends.

GS4 ETHICS CASE STUDY ANSWERS IN MAINS 2014

Q. in GS4 ethics papers, please give a sketchy overview of your case study answers:

I don’t remember, but tried to adopt a “bring it on” approach and gave multiple solutions that should be implemented together.

caseyour approach/ keypoints
case1: your friend preparing UPSC
case2: Rameshwar the uptight UPSC topper.
case3: no bribe no contract.
case4: corrupt subordinates file bogus rape complaint against you.
in  the remaining bol-bachchan type questions (e.g. why ethics important, why probity difficult etc).

MAINS ANSWER-WRITING?

Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:

Sorry, I don’t remember. But I attempted all questions in all the 4 GS papers.

PaperBest attemptedAverage qualitynamesake answerTotal attempt
GS1250
GS2250
GS3250
GS4250
Opt-P1210210
Opt-P224010 (made a mistake)240

Q. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]

I’ve attempted all 1000 marks. Last year, the questions asked were so general that I knew something about every question and of course at some places I did try to make intelligent guesses. Like I said, this is an exam which is about range than depth. So I wrote whatever I can remember and that is relevant to the question that was asked. I wanted to attempt all the questions because I feel scoring the first few marks in a question is lot more easier than the next few marks.

Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?

Not a problem at all in GS. It is a bit of a problem for Mathematics optional. So space management in Mathematics is very important, especially not to make any calculation mistakes as there would be no space available to re-do a problem.

Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players (who cleared mains and got interview call letter) were claiming that they wrote entire paper in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter….whether examiner is asking ‘examine, comment, discuss or xyz’….simply write in bullets and points.

I did a combination of both depending on the type of question. Generally, if I have many points for a question I wrote in bullet points form other wise in paragraph form. But I deviated from this depending on the type of the question asked.

Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.

I did not maintain any definite structure. I gave introduction and conclusion only at places where I found it was necessary (ie., where it was part of the question asked). I simply wanted to answer exactly what was asked.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?

No. But I did try to underline with the same pen that I was using for writing.

Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)

Yes. I did draw maps in Geography. I practised drawing maps quickly.

Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?

Pen.

Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?

I did not draw any lines in the maps.

Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?

Blue pen.

(Mrunal – since readers keep mailing such queries, therefore I’m asking the topper to clear all the air haha.)

MAINS OPTIONAL SUBJECT

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?

Mathematics. I chose it because of my interest and among the list of optional subjects, it suited my background the most.

Q. If a new player wants to pick this subject, would you advice for it or against it? (e.g. every senior player in Public Administration seems to be advising against pub.ad)

Choose based on your interest alone. Don’t take an optional because its scoring or less syllabus etc., because they are not true. There is no such thing as a free lunch in CSE 😛

Q. First the essential book/resource list. (Also mention which one is the “Base book” for covering the theory? + Whatever comments you’ve for a particular book e.g. “my seniors said read xyz book but I found that ABC book was better”.  “xyz topic not given properly in this book, so prepare from xyz website or book…” OR and so on.)

It was all mentioned quite well in Prakash Rajpurohit’s blog, which can be found here.

Q. How much of internet-research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?

None.

Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?

6 months (along with some GS basics)

Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?

I wrote test series for my optional at Analog IAS, before Prelims itself.

Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?

Yes. I maintained a hard copy with important formulae, methods and techniques so that I can revise quickly.

Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2014 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

Usually Paper I used to be lot more easier than Paper II. Because of this I focused more on Paper II and it backfired on me this time. This time it was Paper I which was very difficult compared to Paper II, because of which I couldn’t attempt the whole of Paper I. Lesson learnt – Give equal importance to both the papers.

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?

Interview is a very crucial and probably the easiest part of the exam, if prepared well.

Did a thorough research on each and every word mentioned in the DAF. Also prepared on what subsequent questions can be asked and prepared for them as well. Also tried to form opinions and 3-4 substantiating arguments on each and every topic. I’ve covered how to prepare for interviews in great detail in my blog – here.

Q2. Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar / different than official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?

Yes, I did and I feel that they are extremely important. I could see a huge difference in myself between the first and the last mocks. During one of the mocks, I met an IPS officer and I was so impressed with his personality that I tried to emulate him during my interview.

Q3. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.

Light cream colored full sleeves shirt, cross striped blue colored tie, black trousers, brown belt and black shoes.

Q4. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?

I stayed with one of my friends who is undergoing training in ITS. I revised my own notes that I prepared exclusively for Interview.

DURING THE INTERVIEW

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Dr. Kilemsungla

Q2. How long was the interview?

25-30 mins (as the Chairman was late by 40 mins on that day).

Q3. Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too.  [Since I don’t know whether they ask you this question or not. But if they had asked- what will be your reply?]

It is because of the nature of the job in Civil services which is very diverse and challenging and the difference which a civil servant can make to the society excited me the most. I also find the career prospects in Civil Services to be quite promising.

Q4. Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview. (Earlier some toppers only tell me their question but not their answer. I would appreciate if you give both Question + your original answers)

My interview transcript can be found here on my blog.

Q5. Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions?  Was it a stress interview, did they ask any uncomfortable questions? If yes, how did you handle it?

It wasn’t a stress interview. Most of the questions were expected and were related to my background.

Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?

Bring all the documents as mentioned by the UPSC.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?

Its going to be a long day, but you’ll also make good friends 🙂

CSE-2014 MARKSHEET

SUBJECTSMARKS
ESSAY (PAPER-I)125
GENRAL STUDIES -I (PAPER-II)091
GENRAL STUDIES -II (PAPER-III)088
GENRAL STUDIES -III (PAPER-IV)082
GENRAL STUDIES -IV (PAPER-V)095
OPTIONAL-I (MATHEMATICS) (PAPER-VI)151
OPTIONAL-II (MATHEMATICS) (PAPER-VII)152
WRITTEN TOTAL784
PERSONALITY TEST208
FINAL TOTAL992

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?

  • I would try and work on how to score more in Essay and Ethics (GS Paper IV).
  • More tests for my optional so that I can attempt the whole paper.

CAREER BACKUP

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?

I would have taken up a job as Software Engineer.

Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)

Soon after the mains of my second attempt.

VIEWS ON UPSC REFORMS

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.

Sorry, I do not agree. I feel that optional should be there to ensure a level playing field between the candidates coming in from different backgrounds.

Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?

I do not like this change. Atleast some other paper should have been introduced to be considered for merit.

Q. Despite what UPSC has done in recent years, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories. In fact it’s increased under the new syllabus in 2014. Let’s face it, most candidates who gave Mains-2014 have relied on (authentic OR Xeroxed) coaching notes because there was hardly any time left to prepare so many topics in such short time. This system work against an individual preparing from far-away area, without any financial resources, high-speed internet or contacts in Delhi.

If we look at the days when there were two optionals, the menace of coaching institutes was lot more. Now atleast, the exam became more dynamic and since the UPSC had mentioned the syllabus clearly, the aspirants themselves can prepare on these topics. Earlier, only the coaching institutes knew what to study and what not to study. Thus, although I do agree that the coaching institutes continue to play a dominant force, I believe that their importance had certainly gone down. I don’t think I need to mention the names of any previous rankers who topped this exam without any coaching 😉

Q. Half-merger of IFoS with CSE is a bad move because it has raised the cutoffs for players who’re solely dedicated to IFoS only (and not to IAS/IPS). Adding salt to the wounds, many who had applied for both jobs, cleared the prelims- they did not even bother to appear in all the papers of Mains-IFoS. (atleast that was the scene in 2013).

I do agree, there should be a separate prelims for IFoS so that all the frivolous candidates are prevented from competing for IFoS at the Prelims stage.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.

Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.

Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?

INSECURITY ABOUT PROFILE

Q. Many candidates prepare sincerely but constantly live under fear about ‘profile insecurity’. I’m not from a big college, I’m not from English medium, and I don’t have work-experience. What if they ask some stressful questions in the interview about this? Did you suffer from such insecurities? What is your message to these candidates?

My first question in the interview was – “What were you doing in the last 2 years?” and when I said “Madam, I was preparing for the Civil Services Examination” with a smile, one of the members murmured “That’s too bad, you could have done so much in the last 2 years”. I continued to smile with confidence, because I genuinely feel that it is no mistake to prepare for this exam. I would have explained if given a chance. Most people think that coming with big names would fetch higher marks. There is also another bunch of people who would counter argue that coming with big names would backfire on you because they set abnormally high expectations for you to meet. I personally feel that all those insecurities would only pull you down because they bring down the confidence levels. Whether you come from a strong background or not, always enter the interview room with confidence and be grounded. I have seen people with strong background score abysmally low marks and people with so called insecure profiles score exceedingly high marks.

WISDOM

Q. Through this struggle and success, what have your learned? What is the wisdom of life and competition? What is your message to the new aspirants?

Give your 100% and don’t worry too much about the result as it is not in our hands. Don’t just learn from your own mistakes, but also from others’ mistakes that can save you time and attempts.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2014. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

Please don’t let one single failure or one single success define who you are. Successes and failures are an integral part of life. Work towards success, but also have a heart to face the failure. Remember, Civil Services is not the end of life – Life is far more beautiful and valuable than Civil Services (or anything else for that matter 😉 ).

CREDIT: FRIENDS/FAMILY

Q. Behind every topper are many people who stood by during those uncertain times when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with the readers?

Certainly, I owe my success to my parents, brother, teachers, friends and above all the God.

BOGUS MARKETING PROPAGANDA

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule – the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you?  And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering.

Like I had already mentioned, the Articles/Toppers has been a continuous source of inspiration to me. It guided me throughout my journey and today I feel extremely proud that I’m able to contribute to it. But I must say I’m not a very big fan of your sarcastic style of writing articles as I have a bit of a hard time understanding those Hindi dialogues :P. On a serious note, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for helping out aspirants like me in an unselfish manner. Please keep up the good work 🙂

Mrunal recommends

  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books
  2. Environment by ShankarIAS
  3. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  4. Art & Culture by Nitin Singhania (Hindi | English)
  5. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  6. Bipin Chandra: Post Independence
  7. Fast-track to Arithmetic Rajesh Verma
  8. MK Pandey’s Analytical Reasoning
  9. Disha’s Topicwise Paperset (Hindi | English)
  10. School Atlas
  11. Mains: Language papers
  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books 4 History,Geo,Sci
  2. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  3. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  4. Maths: Quantam CAT Sarvesh Kumar
  5. Objective General English SP Bakshi
  6. Word Power made Easy -Norman Lowe
  7. Topic wise Solved Paperset by Disha


So far 17 Comments posted

  1. ankit chaudhary

    hey mrunal please provide the comprehensive strategy for political science optional, recommended books and anything else……

  2. ankit chaudhary

    also provide typical mrunal™© notes of pol science on the site

  3. Naveen

    @Saikanth Sir
    Congrats for your grand success.
    Kindly suggest books for topics of Paper 2 like boolean algebra,computer programming n algorithms.

  4. Abhishek Jha

    sir please upload the answers that u have written in mains exam atleast of a paper which fetched u maximum marks in GS .It will b great help !!

  5. M.patel

    sir please upload interview of gujrati leaterature optional sub. toppers ..like Air(23,70,310..)

  6. Jay

    is there anybody having optional public administration and selected in CSM 2014 ????

    1. mAx

      m also waiting for such interview… bt i guess thrgh pubad very less candidates hv cleared in merit list… i am shaky ryt nw regarding my choice of optionals by this 🙁

  7. Aspirant_2016

    Friends m confused between electrical engg or maths for optional…plzz suggest

  8. EconFreak

    Hello Guys. I am a 2016 UPSC aspirant. Chosen Economics as my optional. I am planning to start a group on FB for only dedicated aspirants who wish to take up Economics as optional. We can learn together given the spirit in us does not die.

    Senior players also please join as we will need your timely guidance and inputs.

    Those interested can send me their Email Ids on [email protected].

    Regards

  9. rajashekar

    frds i decided to take geography optional……please suggest which institute best in delhi??

  10. Vishal

    Mrunal sir please upload interview of zoology optional subject toppers

  11. srikanth

    Mrunal sir Good evening. I don’t know anything. Present I am in November 16. I would eligible to 2016 attempt or not. Please explain how I read and which books I want.

  12. avinash

    any 2016 aspirant with with chemistry optional

  13. VIDYASREE

    SAIKANTH SIR,
    IAM VIDYA OF INTER FIRST YEAR. I WAS VERY INSPIRED ON KNOWING ABOUT YOU. IAM ALSO INTERESTED IN UPSC. MY FAMILY CONDITION IS POOR. PLEASE GUIDE ME TO SECURE NICE RANK IN UPSC.

  14. VIDYASREE

    SAIKANTH SIR,
    WHAT ARE THE MAIN BOOKS WE HAVE TO READ? NOW IAM CONCENTRATING ON MY STUDIES. IAM SECURING NICE MARKS. I FIND TIME NOW TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE. I KNOW MY GOAL. IT’S ALWAYS APPEARING INFRONT OF ME.BUT I DON’T KNOW THE RIGHT PATH TO REACH IT

  15. vamshi

    HI SAIKANTH SIR CONGRATS FOR U I AM STUDYING 10TH CLASS I WANT SOME MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS FOR PRELIMS&MAINS ALL PAPERS & CURRENT AFFAIRS WITH CUT OUT MARKS ALSO PLEASE TELL CUT OUT RANK FOR GETTING IAS I WAS VERY MUCH INTERESTING IN UPSC SO KINDLY SUGGEST SOME BOOKS FOR ME

  16. Jagadeeswar

    hai, saikanth varma
    Thak’u’ for giving your valuable interview to the mrunals website.because,any aspirents who are preparing for civils gain somewhat about civils.it is helpful for appearing in civils.

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