[Topper’s Interview] Umesh N.S.K (CSE-2014/AIR-77): Political Science Optional, Electrical Engineer from Madurai who left coaching

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  1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Struggle of a Senior player
  7. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  9. Prelim accuracy
  10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  11. Mains: Essay
  12. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4
  13. GS Mains Paper-1
  14. GS Mains Paper-2
  15. GS Mains Paper-3
  16. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  17. Case Studies in GS4
  18. Mains answer-writing?
  19. Mains Optional Subject
  20. Before the interview
  21. During the interview
  22. CSE-2014 Marksheet
  23. Career Backup
  24. Views on UPSC reforms
  25. Insecurity about profile
  26. Wisdom
  27. Credit: Friends/family
  28. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile


NameUmesh N.S.K
Rank in CSE-201477
Roll No.140181
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)3
Optional SubjectPolitical Science and International Relations
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityMadurai
Work-experience if anyNil
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
  1. TNPSC Group II A ,2014, Success
  2. IBPS PO 2014, Success
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)I attended two coaching centres but dropped out midway from both. Not because of any fault on the part of the institutions. I just felt I could study on my own.
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS,IFS,IRS-IT,IRS-Customs,IPS
state cadre preference (Top-5)TN,Karnataka,Kerala,Telangana,Andhra Pradesh


% in class 1089.5
% in class 1295
Graduation course and %B.E ECE,84.5%
Name of college, city, passing out yearPSG Tech, Coimbatore,2011
Any other professional coursesNil
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements
  • Reading books ,especially non-fiction
  • Following Cricket
  • Blogging (www.theumeshblog.blogspot.com)
  • Chairman,Students Union,2010-11,PSG Tech
  • Best outgoing student, Dept of ECE 2010-11,PSG Tech


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

  • Myself Umesh N.S.K, did my schooling in Salem, college UG in PSG College of Technology (2007-11),Coimbatore and my age is 24 now. My father ,N.K.S.Kesavan,retired recently from Indian Bank as Senior Manager. My mother,R.B.Banumathi,is working as a clerk in Syndicate Bank. My brother,N.S.K.Omkar, is working as a software engineer in Cognizant,Coimbatore.
  • I started preparing for Civil Service Exams in 2010 because i)I wanted to become a part of the system and do minor tinkerings within it ii)I found the exam process to be of my liking and later, iii) I got inspired by my seniors and friends to march ahead inspite of failures.

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)

My style of preparation was a bit haphazard. I didn’t make notes but read a book multiple times and made notes in the book itself.

A typical day started late morning after eleven or so and preparation acquired momentum only in the evenings which went on till 3-4 in the night. I was more of a night bird which is not healthy. Even if I was not studying Laxmikanth,I will be reading a book by Amartya Sen or Ashutosh Varshney. Thus , almost my entire day was spent in reading something indirectly related to exams. 8-10 hours of reading , 6-8 hours of sleep was how a typical day went for me in the past 4 years.

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?

Mood swings can be fought by indulging in your favorite hobby –say sport or sudoku etc. I lived in Chennai with my friends for one and a half years and so we fought mood swings collectively by frequenting nearby multiplexes for atrocious movies, ordering sumptuous lunches from nearby hotels and taking long walks to have a cup of lemon tea.

I also fought mood swings by reading good short stories or novels . I remember alternating between a subject book and short stories of Ashokamitran many a times. One important solution to mood swings is good music. In that way,A.R.Rahman was a big guru to me. If you are feeling low while preparing, kindly do listen to “Yeh Jo Des Hai” from “Swades”. Once you finish listening to it,your preparation will be back on track again.

Struggle of a Senior player

After 1-2 failures in any competitive exam, a phase of mental saturation comes. The person knows the booklist, he knows what is necessary to succeed. But it doesn’t yield result. The armchair ‘experts’ would point out UPSC is ‘testing’ emotional intelligence of the candidate or UPSC wants to break the backs of senior players, daily conspiracy theories on orkut forumIAS….…Not to mention all the emotional struggle-against those irritating neighbors and relatives.

MY question are two:

Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.

Support from parents , brother,relatives and friends kept me going . And more importantly, the joy of reading helped me stay sane. We must not think of marks,question papers and cutoffs while reading. We must understand that at the end of one year of preparation, even if we do not clear , we will be better-informed and more responsible citizens of the country than others. Of course, this is a tough exam to crack and a diverse nation like ours will have more than thousands of very capable IAS candidates. So,it is important to stay strong and enjoy reading Article 352 ,El Nino ,Repo rate and Iran deal. You will definitely clear it this time and if you do not clear,say to yourself ,” Oh ! This government of India is unlucky to miss me ! I will prepare again to make govt of India feel better”. If we keep enjoying the journey, the distance away from destination will not bother us at all.

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?

2012 – Failed in Mains because of atrociously poor preparation for History paper one (History and PSIR were my optionals)

2013 – Failed in prelims as I attended less than 60 questions in Paper one. This can be attributed to colossal misjudgement inside the exam hall that this is a tough question paper. And this in turn can be attributed to underpreparedness in Geography and Environment.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History AncientOld NCERT
History MedievalOld NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Bipan Chandra, Spectrum’s book
Culture and societyCcrtindia , NCERT , selective reading of Gktoday PDFs, reading about Indian UNESCO heritage sites in official website
Polity (theory + current)Laxmikanth, The Hindu
Economy (theory + current)Mrunal articles (Lots of google searches like “Mrunal CAD,Mrunal DTC,Mrunal GAAR),Ramesh Singh, Shankar Ganesh, Economic Survey ,The Hindu
Science (theory + current)NCERT Chapters as suggested in Mrunal.org, The Hindu
Environment (theory + current)Online reading on official websites,govt reports ,Wikipedia, list of topics taken from Shankar Academy’s book on Environment
geography physicalNCERT,Gohcheng Leong,Wizard book on Geography
geography IndiaNCERT,Wizard book on Geography
geography worldWizard book on Geography
other national/international current affairsIndian Express and Business Standard editorials, columns of C.Rajamohan,Brahma Challaney, Mihir Sharma, T.A.Ninan, Ashutosh Varshney, Shashi Tharoor, Srinath Raghavan,P.Sainath,Suhasini Haidar
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffOfficial websites, Mrunal.org

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2014 paper?

I found paper one to be tough, so I attended just 55 questions. Got 88 point something in paper one. I relied on paper two to clear prelims and I got 140 in it. So, my observation is that we must be very strong in all basic books because this will help us to judge whether the question paper is tough or not inside the exam hall based on which we can attend more questions or less.

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?

Annual reports from these two departments, The Hindu Survey of Agriculture , more online studies especially from official websites and lots of prayers.

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)?

  1. Spectrum guide on geography
  2. Khullar’s Indian Geography
  3. A more detailed reading of Indian Culture in ccrtindia
  4. More focus on Science and Technology but am not sure how. Would have relied on insightsonindia and Mrunal strategies.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
Decision MakingNil

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

I enjoyed Paper two in all the three attempts I have made. There is no need for special tips because it is now a qualifying paper.

Prelim accuracy

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

No. Now that paper two is qualifying,there is no need for aspirants to attend mock tests for paper one. In the time spent in attending mock tests,we can study more.

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

attempted Q.Marks
aptitude66 -68140.83

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperNil
your regional languageNil

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

It is better for aspirants to keep in touch with writing in regional language because I was writing Tamil after so many years in this paper and I found it very tough in the first one hour to even write proper sentences. Keep in touch with regional newspapers.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

No Essay-specific preparation. I knew that my general reading and optional preparation will hold me in good stead. One particular idea I follow while writing any essay is to introduce an character/idea in the first paragraph and then keep mum about it in the following paragraphs. Then,in the final line of the essay, I will bring up the character/idea again so that the essay has a sense of closure to it.

For eg. In the essay, “With great power comes great responsibility”, I talked about Gandhiji in the first paragraph , then did not mention abt him at all throughout before ending the last line as “And India must remember that somewhere around the corner,Gandhiji is standing with his stick in his hand goading us to wield our power always with responsibility”.

In the essay on sting operations, I mentioned about Arnab Goswami In the first paragraph (for some reason I don’t remember now 😛 ) and then in the conclusion , I wrote something like “Sting operations must be allowed because of the paramount national interest involved . Or as Arnab Goswami would say, “The Nation wants to know” )

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

With great power comes great responsibility :

My approach was to introduce the statement with reference to Gandhi’s ideas and then give examples of both wrong and right application of power from world as well as Indian history : World wars to AFSPA .Eg. USA’s bombing of Japan was power without responsibility whereas US role in reconstruction of Japan was a more responsible application of power. In the last two pages,my essay turned into an India specific one – India’s role at mutilateral fora like WTO and UNFCCC and I concluded that India has arrived at the world stage and it needs to responsibly wield it’s power.

Thus,my essay was more of a case study of applications of power in contemporary polity and it lacked philosophical/Foucaultish underpinnings.

Sting operation :

This essay was a short one and I took the stand that sting operations must be allowed in the larger cause of national interest. I gave examples of some wonderful sting operations like Aniruddha Bahal’s sting on Bangaru Laxman and Co way back in 2000. Since I follow print journals like Tehelka and Outlook regularly,this essay was an easy one for me.

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.

GS Mains Paper-1

TopicHow did you prepare?
cultureCcrtindia , gktoday pdfs
Indian historyNCERT old books , Bipan Chandra
world historyNorman Lowe, Complete Idiot’s Guide to world history and European History
post-independence IndiaRam Guha, Paul Brass, Ashutosh Varshney .It is a pity that not much was asked in this domain as it is my most favorite section in the paper.
Indian societyNCERT and newspaper
role of women, poverty etc.Newspaper
globalization on Indian societyNewspaper , PSIR optional books
communalism, regionalism, secularismNewspaper
world geo physicalGohcheng Leong, NCERT
resource distributionOnline reading, Wikipedia
factors for industrial locationMrunal.org
earthquake tsunami etcNCERT
impact on flora-fauna

GS Mains Paper-2

  • Since this paper is similar to my optional , did not do any specific preparation at all.
  • A basic understanding of Indian constitution and foreign policy is must for this paper. So,books by Granville Austin,Ashutosh Varshney,Ramachandra Guha and David Malone can be read which will add conceptual clarity to many of our answers.

GS Mains Paper-3

This paper requires a basic understanding of Indian economy and hence books by Amartya Sen, Gurcharan Das and Arvind Panagiriya on Indian economy can be read to lay a strong platform with respect to fundamentals.

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationRamesh Singh , newspaper,Economic Survey
inclusive growthnewspaper
major crops, irrigationOnline ,Govt annual report on agriculture
agro produce – storage, marketingInsightsonindia.com articles
e-technology for famersOnline reading, the hindu
farm subsidies, MSPOnline reading , the hindu
PDS, buffer, food securityOnline reading , the hindu
technology mission
animal rearing economicsDid not study this
food processingMrunal
land reformsBipan Chandra
liberalizationThe Hindu
investment models
science-tech day to day lifeThe Hindu plus PDFs of VisionIAS
Indian achievements in sci-tech
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRVisionIAS PDFs,The Hindu
environmental impact assessment
Disaster ManagementYojana Special issue on Disaster Management,The Hindu
non state actors, internal securityIDSA special monograph, The Hindu, online reading
internal security – role of media, social networking site
cyber securityNational Cyber Policy, The Hindu
money launderingInsightsonindia article on Black Money
border Management
organized crime, terrorism
security agencies- structure mandateWikipedia

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

I did not prepare for this paper as I felt I had a decent knowledge of Gandhi, Thirukural,Plato,Aristotle (through optional) et al. This paper was more of a honest expression of my attitude and personality with references to thinkers at various points.

Case Studies in GS4

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

Really sorry that am unable to recollect the exact approach I took in each of these questions but they were all over-idealistic and legally sound approaches. And almost all answers (including one on migration and environmental degradation) had Gandhi’s name at some point. My answer paper could easily be renamed as “Gandhian Ethics”.

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:

PaperBest attemptedAverage qualitynamesake answerTotal attempt

I write with a very good speed. So , I attended all questions in all the four GS papers but of course , all answers written after 150 minutes into the exam were of terrible quality with no worthy content at all. But I had entered the exam hall with a mission to complete the paper and so ,I ensured mission was accomplished for all the four papers. With good speed , we can attend all questions with decent answers for seventy percent of the questions.

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

It is really a godsend because otherwise I will keep writing more than what is needed which will lead to skipping some questions in the end. Fixed Space answer sheet is a good move.

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.

Paragraphs. We can write in paragraphs or bullet points , but we must write in a readable way that engages the examiner.

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.

Yes, I always introduced the statement in the question . All worthy answers I wrote had a closure to it. I did not write like a student appearing in an exam. I wrote like am a bureaucrat submitting a report to a higher official.

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


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

I tried diagrams in questions for which I had no clue on what to write.

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


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

By hand.

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

Blue pen only but I remember using black pen for some side topics in Essay.

(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?

Political Science and International Relations. Right from school time, I used to read books on Indian politics,elections and foreign policy. So,I had no other choice but to choose PSIR.

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).

The advantages in taking this optional are

  1. It’s utility in GS paper 2,paper 4 and Essay.
  2. It’s contemporary nature (For a question on India-Russia relations,I wrote answer based on Srinath Raghavan’s column in The Hindu published on 9.12.2014. Now in which other optional can we write answers based on the morning’s newspaper ? J )
  3. Contemporary Indian and World history (Say post 1900) becomes much more easier to grasp for a PSIR student so has utility in GS Paper 1 too.

So , if a student has the interest to read a wide range of books/periodicals and has good writing skills (which can be acquired with practice) , PSIR is a godsend to strike gold.

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.)

  1. Political Theory : Andrew Heywood
  2. Political Ideologies : Andrew Heywood
  3. Indian Political Thought : Indian political thought by V.R.Mehta
  4. Modern Indian PT by Bidyut Chakrabarty
  5. I read Ambedkar’s “Annihilation of caste”,Gandhi’s “Hind Swaraj” as well to quote directly from them.
  6. Western Political Thought : Brian Nelson .
  7. Indian govt and politics : Oxford companion to Indian politics, B.L.Fadia,Paul Brass,Ashutosh Varshney, Ramachandra Guha, Laxmikanth
  8. Comparative Politics : IGNOU
  9. International relations : Selective reading from Andrew Heywood’s Global Politics and Globalisation of world politics by John Baylis, International re lations by V.K.Malhotra
  10. Foreign policy : David Malone,Shashi Tharoor,Non alignment 2.0, columns by Rajamohan, Srinath Raghavan and Suhasini Haidar
  11. In addition to the above, Oxford dictionary of politics and IGNOU materials will be good supplements.
  12. further strategy is given on my blog http://theumeshblog.blogspot.in
  13. still if any doubts, you may contact me at umesh(dot)psg(at)gmail(dot)com

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?

Indian foreign policy and Indian politics can be studied even without touching books if one follows newspapers and does online research based on newspapers religiously. And even for questions on static topics in international relations, I gave examples from contemporary happenings like Ukraine,Iran et al. Current affairs is as important as standard books in this optional.

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

I finished all topics except Comparative Politics in four-five months.

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

No answer practice

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

No notes. All notes were taken in the books itself.

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?

2014 paper two was easier compared to 2012 or 2013. Whatever may be the strategy one follows in PSIR, it is important to have a basic idea of every word in the syllabus and current affairs related to every concept/topic. Kindly do read a diverse range of columns and books so that your answers/viewpoints stand out from others.

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?

  1. College grad – late night phone calls with toppers of my UG class.
  2. Hobbies – They are my hobbies so I did not prepare for them separately.
  3. Place of origin – Google based study on Madurai
  4. Current affairs – The Hindu,Business Standard online. For international affairs, I googled “Syria crisis BBC, Hongkong protests BBC” to get a wonderful overview on BBC’s website.

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?

No mock interviews. And I got 176. I still feel there is no need to attend mock interviews. But it is upto to the reader to judge based on my marks.

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

Light blue full hand shirt, black pant, dark blue tie, black shoes and a smile.

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

  1. Hotel Hari Piarko near Delhi Railway station. Four kms from UPSC office.
  2. I brought my laptop and used internet to revise before interview. Also,brought some handwritten notes made for interview.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?


Q2. How long was the interview?

25 minutes

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?]

Gandhi said : “I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?

Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.” It is in Civil services more than any other profession that I can make the face of the poorest and the weakest smile.

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)

  1. The interviewers were very pleasant but the questions were largely factual : What is solar eclipse ?, where does Ganges originate ? What are the different disarmament treaties ? Chemical weapons , biological weapons convention ? What is reverse engineering ? What is a smart home ? Tell me the history of Madurai Meenakshi Temple ? What is the dispute between Apple And Samsung ? How is possible to hack a flight’s information system without using internet ? What are the security implications of Wifi in public places ? I said Sorry sir , I do not know sir , I am unable to recollect sir for 80 percent of these questions.
  2. Opinion based question was on net neutrality for which I gave a standard Hindu editorial type answer.
  3. Since my hobby is following cricket, I was asked to narrate about some interesting match in IPL. The only question I was very comfortable answering
  4. Since my hobby is reading books on India , a question was asked on my favorite book . I said “India after Gandhi” . I was asked why that book and before I could give a good answer, David sir said “Next” leading to questions on hacking and wifi to which I had to resort to “Sorry sir”
  5. There was one question on Srilankan Tamils for which I gave a standard answer on the process of rehabilitation.
  6. Overall, I did not know answers to so many questions but I tried to remain cool and kept smiling . The final score I got is 176 which is a very good score considering how the interview went. Thank you David sir

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?

I had prepared for my optional, current affairs and hobbies. But the interview was more of a technology and geography oriented one . I said so many “I don’t know sir” and not knowing too many questions can naturally stress us. But I was feeling blessed enough for having come thus far to the interview stage and the small matter of not knowing hacking or Samsung-Apple fight didn’t unsettle me.

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

No problems at all . Just follow the instructions. Please do not go early as we have to stand outside the gate in the sun.

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

BMI above 30 calls for temporary disqualification. So , please do take care of it.

CSE-2014 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet. (when it comes)

Subjects Marks
Essay (Paper-I)150
Genral Studies -I (Paper-Ii)093
Genral Studies -Ii (Paper-Iii)088
Genral Studies -Iii (Paper-Iv)074
Genral Studies -Iv (Paper-V)101
Optional-I (Pol. Sc. & Int.Rel.) (Paper-Vi)138
Optional-Ii (Pol. Sc. & Int.Rel.) (Paper-Vii)140
Written Total784
Personality Test176
Final Total960

Prelims score: Paper one 88.66 + Paper two 140.83 = Total : 229
Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?

Mains : I will read better for GS paper three and concentrate more on geography for paper one.

Prelims : Mile to go before I sleep in Geography, Environment and Culture.

Career Backup

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

I had offer from IBPS – PO,Syndicate Bank . They had even given a joining date in July. So,my plan was to join bank and prepare for prelims again.

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.)

I had studied for four years now so I did not feel I have to go on without getting employed somewhere else. It is always good to have a good backup plan after two attempts and backup options are so many – state services, bank,insurance, defence,IB,CAPF etc

Views on UPSC reforms

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

Optionals can be removed to provide a level playing field to all. Six GS papers ,one of which specifically focuses on numerical and language comprehension skills , must be the way forward.

  1. GS paper one : Ethics and Attitude
  2. GS paper two : Numerical and language comprehension skills
  3. GS paper three : History,Geography ,Culture and Society
  4. Gs paper four : Public Administration and Governance
  5. GS paper five : Agriculture, Economy , Science and Technology , Disaster Management and Internal Security
  6. GS Paper six : Indian politics,constitution, foreign policy and international relations

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

  1. CSAT can be scrapped altogether from prelims and something related to maths/english can be made a paper for merit in mains. This way,only the serious aspirants get to write the aptitude paper. What was happening now is that non-serious players who read only Bipan Chandra and Laxmikanth go through to Mains based on 170 to 180 marks in paper two.
  2. Numerical and Language comprehension abilities are a must for any civil servant but move these tests to mains,please. If this cannot be done, second best solution is to retain 2014 pattern but increase the qualifying marks in paper one to 80 or so.
  3. This 33% CSAT solution is a stop-gap one serving no purpose other than having to wait for two hours in the sun to appear for the afternoon paper.

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.

I did not rely on materials of any coaching institute for GS except Vision IAS’s PDFs for Science and Technology (that too as a last minute Gap-filler). And I never relied on any coaching materials for my optional PSIR.Coaching notes give points and facts but good answer writing ultimately comes from reading direct sources like newspapers and books. But I do agree that the system is against the individual with no internet or financial clout. A strong welfare state like ours should never allow this situation to continue. State governments should actively involve in providing free coaching to deserving candidates so that this gap vanishes. The state government of Tamilnadu is doing a great job in this respect.

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).

Yes, IfoS aspirants deserve a separate paper which tests them much more on soils,forests and geography.

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

Sorry, I am fine with anything . Cutoffs of 2014 do not matter for 2015’s attempt. And now that paper two is merely qualifying, the answerkey of paper one alone is needed and except for 2-3 questions,an authentic answerkey can be prepared by Mrunal himself.

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

I do not see how mains can be conducted online but there is scope for converting prelims to an online exam. But the logistics involved is humongous and the costs involved should not be passed on to the candidates. UPSC subsidies,please.

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

I do not understand how the interview scoring works exactly but I know a dear friend who deserved much more than what he got because he has such a pleasing and confident personality. So,to remove such regrets from the minds of lakhs of aspirants, I would consider having two interviews for a person and taking average of the two scores. It is a laborious process but it is worth doing.

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?

I did not feel insecure because of my lack of work experience . In the interview , David sir asked me, “ For four years you have not worked. Have you become unemployable?”. I confidently said “No sir, I am getting ready for being employed” There is no need to feel insecure. Some of those who studied in English Medium may not have a good memory. Some of those who are not from a “big” college will have extraordinary analytical and writing skills. We all have our share of weaknesses. It is how we master those weaknesses that determines our place in the hallowed UPSC final result PDF.


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?

There was a moment in November,2014 when I was reading Brian Nelson’s “Western Political Thought”. Just 30 days to go for Mains and so much left untouched. As I was reading the chapters on Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau, I slowly forgot that I was preparing for a torturous exam around the corner and was thrilled to get to know how did Rousseau solve the shortcomings in theories of Hobbe and Locke. At that moment , I forgot GS paper one, cutoffs, strategy , science and tech materials, how to improve writing , number of lines in a page , blue pen or black pen and my mind was full of Rousseau and Rousseau alone. It is moments like these that I will savour forever and my message to new aspirants also would be to discover the joy of learning new things and widen the vistas of knowledge. In the process of it,you will be in the top hundred list . Just like me.

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?

A chota boy who failed prelims (2013) in what was the easiest of all prelims papers right since 2011 has got AIR 77 this year. You will do better than me.

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?

  1. My brother N.S.K.Omkar
  2. My parents N.K.S.Kesavan and R.B.Banumathi
  3. My maternal uncle R.B.Ravindran
  4. My friends from school,college,neighborhood (Too many to name) and my relatives (Too many,again)
  5. My guru Arun Kumar
  6. My teachers from School , especially Mrs. Durgabhavani and Mrs.Vatsala whose belief in me has brought me thus far.
  7. My fellow comrades in exam preparation especially Babu Abdul Khadeer,Goutham Sankara Krishnan ,Jaikumar and Vanaraja.
  8. Tamil writer Sujatha who wrote long back that he sees the bright future of India in young IAS officers.
  9. Historian Ramachandra Guha whose books made me take PSIR as an optional.
  10. A.R.Rahman without whose background score, the movie of my exam success wouldn’t have been released now.

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.

Oh yes , I started preparing Economy from your site only. For all the free coaching you provide, you deserve some great self marketing. Thanks for doing this wonderful service to all of us. Your sense of humor is something I enjoy even when am reading topics like GAAR. Even in this questionnaire, see the range of questions you ask right down to the color of the pen toppers use. It shows you really care.There are thousands like me who clear the exam every year but there is only one Mrunal. Thanks and Thanks and Thanks.

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 61 Comments posted



  2. Kathiravan

    Interesting and eager to explore that mystery of ias

  3. Kathiravan

    eager to explore that mystery of ias

  4. Arjun singh

    Sir can defence personnel apply for ssc cgl exams after 20 years of service in armed forces…. If yes then how to approach for cracking the exam.

  5. tahir akhtar

    What is your Message? Search before asking questions & confine discussions to exams related matt

    er only.

    congratulations Sir
    Sir I tahir akhtar from kashmir,want to become an I A S officer.
    which subject i choose in b a or b a (hons) is best ?
    I study in 12th class.

  6. Karunakar

    Thanks…. It’s very helpful.

  7. greeshma haasini

    crazy abt civil service drms frm my skl days…..this is inspiring nd helpful…thank u sir

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