[Topper’s Interview] Sibi Adhithya Senthil Kumar (Rank-72/CSE-2015) Geography, First Attempt, BE from Chennai

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India Yearbook
  1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Working professional
  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. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  14. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  15. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  16. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  17. Mains answer-writing?
  18. Mains Optional Subject
  19. Before the interview
  20. During the interview
  21. CSE-2015 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

Q.Details
NameSibi Adhithya Senthil Kumar
Rank in CSE-201572
Roll No.0423425
Age23
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)1
Optional SubjectGeography
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/citySalem
Work-experience if anyNil
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresNil
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)Shankar IAS Academy, Chennai and Vision Test Series (Online)
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS, IFS, IRS (IT), IRS (C&CE), IPS
state cadre preference (Top-5)TN, Kar, AP, Ker, Tel

Education

% in class 1092%
% in class 1298.83%
Graduation course and %BE (EEE) 78%
Name of college, city, passing out yearCollege of Engineering Guindy, Chennai (2014)
Post-graduationNil
Any other professional coursesNil
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsPublic Speaking, Writing and analyzing on cricket, Reading books

Introduction

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

I hail from Salem in Tamil Nadu and I currently reside in Chennai. My father, Mr.A.Senthil Kumar, works in Indian Overseas Bank and my mother works in Apollo Hospitals. Due to the transferable nature of my father’s job, I studied in various cities (5 schools) such as Chennai, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Erode.
Studying in various places with contrasting cultures helped me to broaden my knowledge and perspective of various things. The experiences I gained in these places helped me to shape myself.
I entered into this field because I aspire to improve the “connect” between the government and the citizens and make the administration more citizen-friendly in nature. I started preparing for the examinations in 2014 once I had completed my graduation

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)
Nowadays, there is a huge volume of electronic material available for preparation in the internet. It is important that we use this medium in an effective and efficient manner.
Reading all the conventional and prescribed books is a must and it cannot be replaced by any electronic material (eg: Laxmikanth, Bipin Chandra). However, since the GS papers have become very dynamic in nature, electronic material has become a must.
Usually, whenever there is an important topic in news or conventional, I gather information about it from various newspaper/ magazine websites. This enables us to add different viewpoints to the topic that we have learned about and we will have a complete understanding about it in various dimensions.
While preparing for prelims, I took some key words from NCERT books (on which much information was not available in the book) and find about it on the Internet.
While preparing for the interview, I even got information for some questions from “Quora” which was extremely useful. Therefore, I relied on electronic material and the internet to a great extent and it can be a great boon if utilized properly.
When I read from the books, I just underline them and do not make any separate notes. I read them repeatedly. For the ones I study off the Internet, I maintained notes in “Evernote” and used to highlight the major points which helped me with revision.
I found it difficult to maintain hand-written notes because the volume of notes that we have to make is simply too large and I started to use Evernote even for the newspaper notes. It helps us to easily find what we have stored and revise quickly.

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?
The key is to understand that there will be ups and downs in this preparation and we need to work towards overcoming the “downs” that take place or minimize its frequency so that a level of consistency is maintained.
Studying for many hours continuously without a break can easily lead to a burnout. I usually took a “half-day break” every week so that I was able to maintain the tempo throughout the process. I tried to catch cricket matches on TV whenever I could which helped me to blow off some steam. Having a hobby could help us stay rejuvenated throughout the journey.
There will come times when we feel distracted and low on confidence. At such times, we need to remind ourselves of why we took up this exam in the first place. Studying favorite subjects at such times can be a morale booster and help us to get back on the right track. I used to read about foreign policy during such situations and it helped me gain my mojo back.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
Not Applicable

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topicstrategy/booklist/comment
History AncientNCERT (old- 11), NCERT (new 7-12), Vajiram Notes, Lucent GK
History MedievalNCERT (old- 11), NCERT (new 7-12), Lucent GK
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)NCERT (12- old), Bipin Chandra- Struggle for Independence, Spectrum, NCERT (7-12: new)
Culture and societyGK Today notes, CCRT, NCERT (new), Wikipedia
Polity (theory + current)Laxmikanth
Economy (theory + current)Mrunal, Internet, Ramesh Singh (for a few terminologies), Shankar Academy Book, Economic Survey
Science (theory + current)NCERT ( As per mrunal strategy), Shankar Academy Book, Mrunal
Environment (theory + current)Shankar Academy Book, Wikipedia, Mrunal
geography physicalOptional area- did not focus much.
geography IndiaNCERT, Internet
geography worldNCERT, Internet
other national/international current affairsThe Hindu, Websites of major international organizations
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffYear Book, The Hindu

For prelims, I looked at the past question papers (10 years) and tried to prepare questions similar to the pattern that was being asked.
It is necessary that we find information from the internet for topics (information for which is not available in the books).
Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
The GS paper was quite different as to what was expected when compared to the previous 2 years question papers. There were more factual questions and there was a lot of emphasis on current affairs. The questions were fairly distributed among all subjects and there was no skewed weightage towards a particular subject (as in Environment for GS 2014). So, the candidates need to have a good understanding of all the subjects.
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-2016 (if you were going to appear)?
With the Aptitude paper becoming qualifying in nature, the entire dynamics of the preparation has changed. Even during the initial stages of my preparation, I was giving more importance to GS because I was quite confident in CSAT. So, once the change occurred, I started focusing more on the GS. If I were to appear next year, I would follow the same strategy that I had followed this year.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsShankar Academy Test Series
reasoningShankar Academy Test Series
comprehensionShankar Academy Test Series
Decision MakingShankar Academy Test Series

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
It was quite easy especially when it is qualifying in nature. Candidates can devote less time for preparation for this paper from here on.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
I attended mock tests for prelims at Shankar Academy. They are essential for a number of reasons. It helps you to frame a virtual timetable for preparation and enables you to focus much better. I found that without tests, it is easy to lose the tempo of preparation.
The rankings help us to know where we stand in the classes and how well we fare among our peers. That will aid us in gauging how much more effort we need to put and reorient our preparation accordingly.
We also get an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. While writing the mock tests, I made a number of mistakes and I made sure that I did not repeat the same in the next one. When we take our tests seriously, we write in pressure situations and learn how to tackle it effectively.
It will also help us to manage time during the examination and learn how to formulate our strategy.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score
GS94Did not estimate134
aptitude76Did not estimate142.61

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperNo preparation
your regional languageTamil. I studied Tamil in school only till the 4th standard and hence, I put in extra preparation. I went through the last 5 years question papers and tried to solve them.  I prepared a long word list (600-700 words) that would be useful for writing the essay and translation. Then, I framed few sentences with these words.
Regarding the objective part that come in the examination (synonyms, antonyms etc), I studied the matriculation books from 6-10th standard and the corresponding guides for the books.
Reading a reputed newspaper in the regional language (for Tamil: The Tamil HINDU) is a good way to enhance your vocabulary.

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
The following sections- Essay, Translation and Précis Writing are the ones that will take a lot of time to complete. But overall, there will be sufficient time to complete the paper. The difficulty level is on par with 9th– 10th standard matriculation level (for Tamil).
For those who are not very comfortable with the language paper, it is advisable that you spend considerable time preparing for this paper. You do not want to be in a situation where you lost out clearing Mains just because you failed to qualify the language paper.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
The essay was one area where my preparation was considerably less. I read the “Yojana” magazines from January to November 2015. I also had a basic framework of how to write an essay. The idea was to innovate as much as possible within the overall framework. I started each essay with a small story and then wrote it in the conventional format.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man more clever devil.

  • Started with a story like comparison between Duryodhana and Arjuna- how they were trained by the same guru and how values made a difference between them.
  • Talked about education in ancient times (gurukulas) and how the education at that time was holistic in nature
  • Importance of education and how values add a new perspective to it
  • How the nature of education changed over the times- decreasing relevance of values
  • How the lack of values has changed education and the citizens
  • The possible consequences due to this change
  • The need for an urgent introduction of value education system and how it will help the country and its citizens

Technology cannot replace manpower.

  • I wrote this essay in a non-conventional manner adopting a narrative with a timeline.
  • I started the essay with a story describing that cavemen discovered fire and that it was the first rudimentary form of technology that man had discovered.
  • Then, I wrote about the discovery of agriculture, industrial revolution and digital revolution- describing each stage as to how technology had advanced a great deal changing the lives of mankind and how man had found a way to overcome it and stay relevant at each stage.
  • Then, I wrote about the future possibility of Artificial Intelligence and the need for man to stay on top of technology.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureNCERT (new), Spectrum. I made a list of all the topics in Culture starting from IVC to modern day (eg: Gupta Sculpture, Tanjore Paintings) etc and got points from the Internet for those topics.
Indian historySpectrum, Bipin Chandra- Struggle for Independence
world historyNorman Lowe, Vision IAS notes, Internet (for topics not in the other two)
post-independence IndiaBipin Chandra- India since Independence, Internet for the 1998-2004 period
Indian societyThe Hindu
role of women, poverty etc.The Hindu
globalization on Indian societyThe Hindu
communalism, regionalism, secularismThe Hindu
world geo physicalOptional subject- So did not prepare separately. For others, they can go through Savindra Singh’s Physical Geography
resource distributionMajid Hussain- Geography of India and Spectrum for Geography (just the related chapters)
factors for industrial locationMrunal (this section was a huge life-saver!)
earthquake tsunami etcOptional subject- can look into Savindra Singh
impact on flora-faunaDid not prepare separately

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.The Hindu
comparing Constitution with worldVision Notes, Shankar Academy book
parliament, state LegislaturesThe Hindu
executive-judiciaryThe Hindu
ministries departmentsThe Hindu
pressure group, informal asso.The Hindu, Vision Notes
Representation of people’s actThe Hindu, Vision Notes
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..The Hindu, Vision Notes
NGO, SHG etcThe Hindu, Vision Notes
welfare schemes, bodiesThe Hindu
social sector, health, edu, HRDThe Hindu (For the poverty line estimation- I went through a good article in Insights)
governance, transparency, accountabilityThe Hindu, Vision Notes
e-governanceThe Hindu
role of civil serviceThe Hindu, Vision Notes
India & neighborsThe Hindu, www.diplomat.com
bilateral/global groupingThe Hindu, www.diplomat.com
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestThe Hindu, www.diplomat.com
DiasporaThe Hindu, www.diplomat.com
international bodies- structure mandateThe Hindu

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationThe Hindu
inclusive growthThe Hindu
BudgetingThe Hindu
major crops, irrigationShankar Academy Book, The Hindu
agro produce – storage, marketingMrunal, Vision Notes, The Hindu
e-technology for famersShankar Academy Book, Vision Notes, The Hindu
farm subsidies, MSPMrunal, Shankar Academy Book, The Hindu
PDS, buffer, food securityShankar Academy Book, Mrunal, The Hindu
technology missionVision Notes, Shankar Academy Book, The Hindu
animal rearing economicsShankar Academy Book, The Hindu
food processingMrunal, Vision Notes, Shankar Academy Book, The Hindu
land reformsBipin Chandra- India since Independence
LiberalizationThe Hindu
InfraThe Hindu
investment modelsVision notes, The Hindu
science-tech day to day lifeThe Hindu
Indian achievements in sci-techThe Hindu
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRThe Hindu
environmental impact assessmentShankar Academy Book on Environment, The Hindu
Disaster ManagementYojana Issue on Disaster Management, Summary/ Recommendations of the ARC report on disaster Management
non state actors, internal securityShankar Academy Book, Suresh sir class notes, The Hindu, websites- idsa, ipcs
internal security – role of media, social networking siteShankar Academy Book, Suresh sir class notes, The Hindu, websites- idsa, ipcs
cyber securityShankar Academy Book, Suresh sir class notes, The Hindu, websites- idsa, ipcs
money launderingShankar Academy Book, Suresh sir class notes, The Hindu, websites- idsa, ipcs
border  ManagementShankar Academy Book, Suresh sir class notes, The Hindu, websites- idsa, ipcs
organized crime, terrorismShankar Academy Book, Suresh sir class notes, The Hindu, websites- idsa, ipcs
security agencies- structure mandateShankar Academy Book, Suresh sir class notes, The Hindu, websites- idsa, ipcs

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsLexicon,  Mrunal
attitude, moral influence etc.Lexicon,  Mrunal
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcLexicon, Vision Notes
emotional intelligence, its use in governanceLexicon, Vision notes
moral thinkers of India and worldHow many thinkers did you prepare?
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.Lexicon
corporate governanceLexicon
probity in governance, work cultureLexicon
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Lexicon, Vision notes
challenges of corruptionLexicon
case studies on above topicsVision Test Series

Q: How do you read a topic/subject for mains?
I have mentioned the books and notes that I referred for the subjects above. But, whenever there is a main topic (in news or conventional), I used to refer it up in the internet in various newspaper sites- The Hindu, Indian Express, Live Mint and for economics related issues, The Business Standard and Business Line. I also used to get the basic information from Wikipedia and other sites. For environment related issues, Down to Earth is a good magazine. Selected articles can be read from EPW, which are useful especially for GS 2.
I felt that studying what is given in the book is not enough and it needs to be supplemented by information gathered from the internet. It will help us add different perspectives to the answers that we write.
While preparing, it is important that we start predicting questions. I prepared a list of possible questions that could be asked in all the papers and tried to frame answers mentally. Adopting this approach will help us a great deal in answering questions in the examination in a quicker and effective way. For eg: While studying about Tanjore Paintings, I came across as statement that it was influenced by Mysore, Maratha, European and indigenous styles. So, I considered that as a question and prepared accordingly.

Q. Many candidates found Mains-2015 Ethics paper very peculiar and “out of the book”. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
The basic information and knowledge that we need for this paper is available in the Lexicon book. That will give us a basic understanding on the subject. We need to learn how to apply what we have learnt to the questions that are asked. Practicing case studies and writing answers before-hand will help a great deal. I also suggest you read the “Mahabharatha” to provide examples to the questions asked because the epic is a compendium of ethics.

Mains answer-writing?

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 followed the approach of writing answers to all the questions asked and not leaving even a single one blank. I believe that a related answer to a question will fetch us some marks which is better than not getting any marks at all. In GS 2, I wrote vaguely related answers for two questions though I did not have a complete knowledge of what was asked.
Also, when we write only the questions that we know perfectly, we put ourselves at a risk. One is that we lose out potential marks for the unanswered questions and two, we do not know whether the answers that we have written will be viewed as “perfect” by the examiner.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
The ‘fixed space’ answer sheet is a blessing in disguise because there is no need to write a lot and all candidates are required to write only in the given space (it would become difficult if each candidate can write as much ever as he wants for an answer).
For a 12.5 mark question, usually 2.5-3 pages are given. There is no need to fill up the entire space. As long as we maintain the word limit given, we are in the safe zone. And also, trying to fill up the entire space will lead to a huge loss of time.
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 wrote all the answers in bullet points only. The answers need to be relevant to the question asked. For eg: if they are asking us to examine, we need to do the same and so on. I wrote in a bulleted format for a better presentation and it helps the answer writing to be coherent in nature.
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.
An introduction and a conclusion is necessary for all answers. I always wrote a relevant introduction before starting the answer (the introduction would be relevant to the question and any key words it may contain) and after writing the body of the answer, I would write a conclusion summarizing what I have written.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
No. I just used a blue gel pen and underlined the key words. Underlining is extremely important because it highlights the key points that you have written in your answer. It is our duty to make it easier for the examiner to correct our papers.
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Yes. For GS 1 in Geography, I drew diagrams. Also wherever required/possible, I drew a map/graph/diagram.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
I drew diagrams with the same 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 gel pen.

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Geography. I chose the subject because I had a liking to geography from my school days. Since we have to study two full papers of the optional with a deep and through understanding, it is essential that we like the subject; otherwise, studying it will become very tedious.
Before selecting the optional, I went through the past question papers and syllabus of a few subjects I had shortlisted and found that Geography was the one I was comparatively familiar and comfortable with. Good coaching, availability of books and internet material and the tag of traditional subject were some of the other factors that I considered.
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)
If a new player wishes to pick Geography and he likes the subject and he is comfortable with it, then I would advise him to go for it.
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.)
PAPER 1
Geomorphology, Climatology and Oceanography- Savindra Singh
Oceanography- DS Lal (only those topics that are not present in Savindra Singh)
Biogeography- Spectrum, Strahler and Stralher’s Physical Geography
Environmental Geography- Spectrum + Internet
Perspectives in Human Geography- Majid Hussain’s Evolution of Geographical Thought
Economic Geography- Spectrum, GC Leong’s Human and Economic Geography
Population and Settlement Geography- Majid Hussain- Models and Theories, Human Geography
Regional Planning- Spectrum + Internet
Model’s Theories and Laws in Human Geography- Majid Hussain’s Models and Theories; Models and Theories by K Siddhartha and S Mukherjee
PAPER 2
Physical Setting- NCERT, Spectrum, Khuller’s India a Comprehensive Geography
Resources- Spectrum, Majid Hussain’s Geography of India
Agriculture- Spectrum, Majid Hussain, Internet (for topics like aquaculture, sericulture, floriculture..)
Industry- Khuller, Mrunal (Location of Industries), Majid Hussain
Transport- Khuller, Internet
Cultural Setting- Majid Hussain, Spectrum
Settlements- Majid Hussain’s Models and Theories
Regional Development and Planning- Spectrum, Internet
Political Aspects- Spectrum, Majid Hussain
Contemporary Issues- Majid Hussain, Spectrum, Internet

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?
Books form 85% of the preparation and they are very essential. For those topics that are not given in-depth in the book, internet can be very useful. In the first three chapters of Physical Geography, there will be certain key words in Savindra Singh book (eg: Ekman Spiral) about which there may not be enough detail. Look them up on the internet.
For the Human Geography, search for case studies on the internet regarding topics like urbanization, slums etc. Using such real-life examples will add greater depth to the answer and will show a variety. For the Regional development and Planning in paper 2, the relevant government websites will provide the needed information.

Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
6 months
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
I practiced answer writing during the initial stages of my preparation and during the later stages, I focused only on reading.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
I had self-prepared notes, though not separately for revision. Mostly I had them in a paper format though for a few topics, I used the electronic format
Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2015 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
The 2015 paper was very difficult and unexpected in nature. For future, a complete, thorough and in-depth understanding of all the chapters are required.

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?
To prepare the profile part, you need to write down every word that you have mentioned in your profile and write down the possible questions that may be asked regarding to that. For eg: if your district is Salem, then you need to know about its economy, history, geography, demographics, tourism etc.
Current affairs are important from the interview perspective and it is different to how we prepare for mains. There is no syllabus to confine what we prepare and we need to know even the small details. For eg: What is the conflict in Syria? Who is the president? Who are the players involved? Etc… We are also required to know about the history of the events that are in news. So, for eg: you need to have a complete knowledge about the Israel- Palestine issue.
For the college graduation, the basics of the subject must be studied up to the 3rd/4th semester (in case of engineering). Also, we need to study those areas that are relevant with the current affairs. For eg: My grad subject was EEE and I was asked about the UDAY Scheme and T&D losses.
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?
I attended 2 mock interviews in Shankar Academy at Chennai. Attending mock interviews is necessary because it helps us to estimate what sort of questions may be asked (though UPSC can be unpredictable). We also get an idea of how to present our answers, what our lacunae are and how to rectify them. We also learn how to handle the pressure environment by attending mocks.
However, it is not advisable to attend too many mock interviews because too many cooks spoil the broth. Attend a few so that you know what your strengths and weaknesses are and what you need to do in order to get a good score. Once we know what is needed to be done, there is no need to take any more.
Q3. 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 at a hotel and I had brought notes for revision. I brought the notes that I had made based on my profile and the current affairs notes in my laptop. I also had the Hindu newspapers of the last 1 week for a quick recap.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
You need to go on an empty stomach on the day of the examination. Your BMI has to be less than 30. Carry a lot of passport sized photographs with you. If you are wearing glasses, do carry a prescription by the concerned doctor.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Black two piece suit with pale blue shirt and a deep blue tie.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Mr. Joshi
Q2. How long was the interview?
30-35 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?]
This question was not asked.
Had it been asked, I would have said that I aspire to work in the civil services because the work that you do/ decisions that you take have a greater impact on the lives of large number of people. I will be able to bring about a positive change/impact in their lives in a more tangible way.
I also believe that the skillsets and abilities that I possess will have their maximum potential realized and expressed in a better way in civil services.
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)
Will upload the answers later
Chairman:
* Your name is Sibi Adhithya and you live in Chennai. How did you come to Delhi from Chennai? How long have you been staying here?
* What did you do after you completed your graduation?
* You studied EEE. Tell me the difference between Electrical and Electronics
* You have studied in Hong Kong for 10th and came to Erode for 12th. What was the difference that you found between the two?
* The USSR comprised of many countries. Do you think the breakup of USSR was a good thing?

M1:
* You have authored a book titled “CEG: A Journey Through Time”. Tell me more about it
*You said there were a bouquet of subjects that you studied in Hong Kong. Tell me about it.
* Tell me some of the unconventional subjects that you studied.
* What were the subjects that you took in your 10th standard? How did it help you?
* There are many languages in India. It makes administration difficult. How can we solve this?
* How to overcome the language barrier in inter-state administration?
* Do you think the 3 language formula has served a good purpose?
* Tell me some innovative solution for the above problem

M2 (Lady):
* There are many private consulting agencies who are working with government departments. However, after a report comes, it is found that the agency has done a sub-par job. Why is that so?
* If both private and government agencies are collaborating together on a project and yet the desired result is not achieved, what is the problem?
* If you are heading a government department, what will you do to ensure that things run smoothly between your department and the private agency?
* You must have heard that rules are proving to be a hindrance in governance. What do you think about that? Do you think we should remove these rules?
* Have you heard of Panama papers? What is the Liberalized Remittance Scheme?
* What are the different stands taken by the government and the private players? Why is there an ambiguity?

M3:

* What is lean manufacturing?
* What are the different technologies available to produce solar energy?
* What is Tamil Nadu’s wind generation capacity?
* Where are the windfarms located in Tamil Nadu?
* What does the Plant Load Factor in wind mills depend upon?
* What is UDAY scheme?
* How much T&D losses does India have?
* What are the components of the losses?
* What is a Tax Haven? Is Hong Kong a tax haven?
* What is the economy of a tax haven based upon?

M4:

* Do you follow foreign policy?
* Then, Can I take the interview in that direction?
* What are the topics that you are following with respect to foreign policy?
* What is the recent developments in India-Pakistan relations?
* What do you know about US- Cuba breakthrough? What caused the breakthrough in relations?
* Do you think such a breakthrough is possible in India-Pak relations?
* How important is personal relationships in diplomacy?
* Myanmar has had a change in government. How will this impact India?
* What is Ms. Suu Kyi’s connection to India?

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 was not a stress interview; in fact, it was the complete opposite of it. The chairman and the board members were extremely cordial and it was more like a discussion. Even when I did not know the answers to a couple of questions, a board member told “It is okay. I will ask something from a different topic”.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Nothing of the sort.
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Written above.

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet
CSE 2015 mark sheet-
Prelims mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1134
Paper 2142.61

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1112
General Studies – Paper 2109
General Studies – Paper 3095
General Studies – Paper 4121
General Studies – Paper 5113
Optional Paper – Paper-1073
Optional Paper – Paper-2111
Written total 734
Personality Test 202
Final Total936

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
I will focus more on “Geography” and “Essay”. These are the two areas where I feel I could have done better. I would have evolved a more detailed and comprehensive strategy for Essay and practiced by writing a few. For Geography, I would have looked into a few more sources to diversify the knowledge that I had gained and add new perspectives.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I did not have a back- up plan. As they show in the “Dark Knight Rises”, the Batman was able to make the jump only without the rope. A thought of a back-up can prove distracting to the goal in mind. I backed myself to clear the exam and was steadfast in it.

Views on UPSC reforms

What are your views on following issues
Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Optional subjects are always a matter of lively discussion. Every year, we see certain subjects performing well while others on the contrary. However, UPSC seeks to reduce the disparity and maintain a balance between all the subjects.
However, I feel that removing the optional subjects will make the examination much more neutral which is better in the long run. A common paper (on the same level as optional) that is useful for all the civil servants could be introduced.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
Logical reasoning and aptitude are essential qualities that are needed for a civil servant in his line of work. Rather than making it a qualifying paper, a certain amount of weightage could have been given to the CSAT paper ( say 25% of the whole marks) with the GS contributing the rest.
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 Mains-syllabus in 2015. Let’s face it, most candidates who gave Mains-2015 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.
Contrary to popular belief, the increased Mains syllabus has actually reduced the dominance of the coaching classes. Due to the vast syllabus and the dynamic nature of the papers, the coaching centres find it difficult. Constant reading of the newspapers and other magazines will help the candidate to keep abreast of the examinations. So, I feel that the changed Mains syllabus is a positive one for all candidates.

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).
The IFoS cut off is very high and still there are candidates who clear yet but do not appear for the Mains or are not serious players of IFoS. There are instances where the serious IFoS players fail to make the cut. Though the merger has been introduced to tap the best talent and a reduced work load, it has also led to a large number of drop-outs.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
I did not bother too much with cut-offs once I had written the prelim examinations. The time window between the prelims and mains is very less and the candidates should focus on preparing for mains immediately without worrying too much about the cut-offs.
And also, the candidates can easily gauge the marks they have obtained with the help of various keys available. However, the UPSC can work towards disclosing the answer key and cut-offs at a much earlier time.

Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Conducting such a huge exam online would need setting up of various question papers and there are huge logistical issues involved. I feel that the current method of conducting the exam is fine.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
Reduce the age limit to get more youngsters
Remove the optional subject in the long run and introduce a common “management/administration” paper
Re-introduce CSAT with a particular weightage

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?
You need not be from a big college or from English medium to crack the examination and that is the very beauty of it. It offers a fairly level playing field where everyone has a good chance of succeeding.  Every candidate has their own strengths and weakness and it is important that they enhance their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
Above all, hard work, smart preparation and self-confidence in one’s abilities are essential to clear the exam.

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?
I can safely say that I have learned a lot during the preparation process. You get to understand more about life and yourself while you prepare for the exams.
Through this struggle and success, I have learned that there is no greater virtue than hard work and persistence. The key to success is to ensure that you put the maximum effort possible from your side and not worry about the results.
Regarding competition, the only competition that you should have is with yourself. You need to see from time to time whether you are getting better than you were before and if not, you need to re-evaluate your strategy and rectify the mistakes. As long as you are constantly improving, you are on the right track.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2015. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
There are thousands of people who put in immense hard work yet fail to see their names in the final cut. To all of you, I just want to say that keep believing in yourself and put in more effort. It takes a lot to reach the mains/interview and you should be really proud of yourself. Find out where you went wrong, correct those mistakes and do not lose hope. Failure is not falling down, but in not getting up. Make sure you keep the fire burning in you and all the best for your next attempt.

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?
I prepared for my examinations from my home with my parents and they ensured that I had a conducive environment for studying. It was extremely important because I was able to focus only on studies and not worry about anything else. The minimal distractions helped me a great deal. My parents also made sure that I never got too tensed through the entire process. They also taught me the regional language paper in which I was not strong. They also assured me to not worry about the results and concentrate on putting my best effort.
My relatives also believed in my abilities right from the beginning and had their best wishes for me. I am highly thankful to them.
My friends, Akshy and Gautham, (who also prepared for civil services) cleared my doubts whenever I asked them and they were a constant source of support and inspiration.
My college friends- Sibi, Ashok Surya and Saravana kept me in the right spirits throughout.

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- 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.
Mrunal.org is one of the most effective websites on the internet for civil services preparation. Usually, when I start to study a topic, I first search it on mrunal’s to see if it is available. The simple and lucid explanation of various concepts helped me to understand the basics very well. The “location of industries” in geography and the economics concepts were very helpful.
I found the current affairs list and the question paper analysis sections very useful.
I would like to thank you for this wonderful service that you are doing for all the civil service aspirants and I hope that you would do an even better job in the days to come.

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 13 Comments posted

  1. Aditya S

    one of the best GS marks…….in short SALUTE sir

  2. Sayak

    Congrats once again Sibi! 🙂
    May you continue to inspire thousands of aspirants like us!

  3. Manish

    Happy to see Geo optional under 100 AIR this time
    Congrats
    all d best

  4. AnuShres

    I must say..yu have given 100% to UPSC. Done a great deal of research work. It is reflecting in this transcript. Congratulations.

  5. sharavanan

    congrats sibi !!!!!
    vazhthukkal 🙂

  6. K. Raja

    Congratulations! Sibi Adhitya. Awesome marks in all GS papers. Please share your strategy for scoring so high marks in GS 3 and 4. Thanks

  7. Prashant Jakhat

    Marvellously done having Geography in CSE 2015.. Congrats for this splendid success.. Best of luck

  8. Sushi

    Hello Sir,
    Congratulations !
    I wanted to ask you if Shankar IAS Geography Test series is good..I live in vellore and would have to come to chennai every weekend to attend it..

    Thank you

  9. SHARAVANAN

    Congrats sibi!!!!!
    Vaalthukkal 🙂

  10. chandu

    Congrats and wish you all the best

  11. Vinay

    Congrats sibi sir …. awesome achievement

  12. Tanmoy

    A truly inspiring story of a successful masterclass personality. Thank you sir for your briliant success story.

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