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

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


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

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

General Studies

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

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

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

Preparation for Options


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


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

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

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


3. How did you deal with the essay?

No special preparation for essay.

Working professional and time  Management

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

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

Motivation -maintaining the rhythm

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

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


6. Your interview.

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


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

Member 1:

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

Member 2:

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

Member 3:

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

Member 4:

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


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

Ok. Thank you. Your interview is over.

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

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

Wish you all the best.

Safi (Mohammed Y Safirulla)