This gentleman was once rejected for a call centre job, but then he went on to ace the Chartered Accountants’ exam, was selected for IIM Calcutta. And now he has cracked the mother of all Exams, and that too, without leaving the job and without coaching. His life and journey exemplifies that failure is at best temporary, and with hard work, a man can achieve what he aims to achieve.
It’s a pleasure and honor to have Mr. Om Prakash Kasera here with us, sharing his journey and IAS Exam preparation strategy for the benefit of future aspirants.
- The Choice of Optional Subjects
- Working professional
- Your Study plan
- CSAT (Paper I) General studies
- About the CSAT aptitude
- Mains Examination
- General Studies paper I
- General Studies paper 2
- Public Administration
|Name||OM PRAKASH KASERA|
|Rank (CSE 2011)||17|
|Optional Subjects||Commerce, Pub Admn.|
|Medium for Mains Exam||English|
|Mains Examination Centre||Jaipur|
|Number of Attempts||2|
|Details of Graduation and Post-Grad.||B.com, MBA(Finance), CA, CS, ICWA, CIMA(UK)|
|Extracurricular activities,hobbies, achievements etc.||
|Are you a working professional?||Yes. Currently working in ONGC Videsh Limited as Finance and Accounts officer since Feb, 2010. Earlier also worked for World bank as research associate.|
|If yes, then did you leave your jobor prepared while on the job?||Prepared while on job.Took only one month’s leaves for preparation.Still working.|
|Did you take Coaching?||Prelims: NoMains: NoInterview:No|
|Did you buy any postal courses?||No|
|Did you join any Mock test series?||No|
|Did you appear in any other competitive exams?||Way back in PO and SSC,Selected but did not join|
Q. When and how did the inspiration and idea of joining civil service come in your mind?
It’s all written in Destiny. Like in “Alchemist”, Paulo Coelho says that if you really want something in life from your heart, then the whole world conspires against you to achieve that.To to understand this, Please allow me to share my life story. I know it’s lengthy but it’s worthy to be read because if a person like me who never got any guidance, was from Hindi medium till 12th, was from rural and humble financial background, did not have access to good schooling, books, friends, mentors etc.., can do this, then anybody in this world can do this. Even now I did not take any coaching, did not join any Mock interview or test series at any stage of CSE.Everybody sees lots of dreams in his childhood. IAS since my childhood was one of those dreams. Since I belong to a very small town in Rajasthan and my parents are not that much educated, I never find any kind of guidance from anyone. So much so that till the time I came to Jaipur for B.com, I have not even heard of term CA and MBA. B.com also was some kind of higher study for me and my parents. So I just enrolled for B.com and did nothing else in those 3 years except enjoying my life the most. In last year of B.com, there was this MBA wave and many of my friends were taking coaching for CAT and RMAT and one of those friends filled my form as well.
Subsequently, I appeared for RMAT and fortunate enough to get 4th rank and enter into the best B-school of Rajasthan and that too at a very low cost(very crucial for me at that time.) After completing MBA I started looking for the jobs but could not succeed, even I was rejected for a 8000 Rs. Per month call center job. That was the lowest point of my life. At that time, my mentor, my guru, Dr. Harsh Dwivedi who was professor in my MBA college and currently is the director of the RAPIM, came to my rescue. He advised me to start teaching and even arranged some guest classes for me. Later on while appearing for CA, CS and CWA, this proved a great asset to me. Then I completed all these degrees, simultaneously taking guest classes and undergoing CA articleship. Meanwhile I was selected for banks, SSC but did not join any of them. When I was in 3rd year of my CA articleship, I got selected for world bank but due to some technical problem with CA institute, I had to leave world bank after working for 2 months. Then I joined ONGC in Feb 2010. I don’t remember why and how but I applied for CSE-2010 in Dec 2010-Jan 2011 before going for training in ONGC Academy Dehradun and forgot about that.
While in ONGC Academy, there is an annual event called inter academy debate consisting of ONGC, IFoS and IAS probationers. I represented ONGC in that debate and there only I saw the charm and aura that an IAS officer carry along with him. When I saw those two IAS officers in making, something happened inside me and then I decided to go for it. My training in ONGC completed on 17th may. I got engaged on 20th may and I appeared for prelims on 23rd may, 2010.
At the time of appearing in prelims-2010, I was not even aware of syllabus of pre. I did not even had the pen/pencil to appear in the exam on the day of exam. I was not taking it seriously since I thought that I could not make it without any preparation but miracles do happen. Since I have very strong academic background in Commerce, I knew that I will handle it well. I attempted 117 out of 120 questions in Commerce, out of those 110 must be correct. Then came the GS paper. Since UPSC was changing pattern from next year, 25-30 questions were there of Maths/LR/DI In place of regular 12-13. I attempted all those rightly and some 10-20 questions more related to economics, finance and commerce. So my net score was around 45-50 right questions. I lost all hopes and thought that I am gone. Then I did some surfing on the net and found that it was the toughest paper in the history of IAs exam till date. Anybody doing 30-35 right alongwith 90 in the subject had a fair chance. But I took it in jest and did not prepare anything for mains till the result in august when I was declared successful. Then I started thinking about it seriously and asked for leaves in my org. I was not given leaves immediately but when I told that I would resign if not granted leaves then I was granted the leaves. The time was very less with me. I started my preparations from 15th Sep 2010 and first paper was on 29th Oct 2010 and till that time I was zero. So I planned a strategy. I did not even touch commerce since I was confident that I would handle it in 15 days of gap between pub ad and commerce paper. During that one and a half month I only studied GS and Pub Ad. My accumulated knowledge (derived from my hobby of reading books since my childhood) alongwith my writing skills proved very useful in the exam. In my second attempt also, I followed the same pattern.
Q7. After a person decides to appear in civil service exam, the first big obstacle is “Choice of optional subjects”. What factors did you consider before selecting your optional?
Since I was a commerce student from the beginning, it was a natural choice for me to opt Commerce as one of my subjects. This decision proved right when I scored All India highest marks in CSE-2010 and second highest in CSE-2011 in Commerce.
Since I studied MBA as well, pub admn became my second choice because I was familiar with almost half of the syllabus. Moreover availability of material and direct relation to the role that I was aspiring were also deciding factor that I factored in.
Here I would advise that one should choose at least one optional that he/she has studied at his graduation or post-graduation level. Because if your aiming for top 100, at least in one optional you have to score more than 350. I would share an incident here. One of my hostel junior also appeared for CSE-2011. He is a commerce grad with good grades and an MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management, Mumbai. He failed miserably this time with geography and sociology optionals. His main problem was the misconception that commerce is not a good optional and one can never get selected with this optional. I gave him my own example. I scored 372 and 378 in commerce both times. My other friend scored 350+ and 385 both times he appeared. And in CSE-2011, there are very few persons who have scored more than 300 in Pub ad which is considered a good subject. So, all subjects are equally good or bad.
Q. People initially prepare with much enthusiasm but then a boredom phase comes – they don’t even find the motivation to read the daily newspapers, let alone studying the books.
Sometimes they get diverted because of external factors e.g. heavy workload in office, family responsibilities and so on. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the journey?
Yes, I do agree with that. Even I also faced this problem of lack of motivation during my second attempt. But somehow I managed that. In my case, it was not a big problem since I prepared for only one and a half months for mains and it surfaced during last 15 days just before the mains. I lost some marks in commerce because of that. But I believe, if you are really passionate about the idea of being an IAS, it is itself a great motivation. Whenever you start feeling low on motivation, just start daydreaming about the things that you would do on becoming an IAS and I am sure it will be a great morale booster.
On an average, How many hours did you study per day? How many months did it take you to complete the core syllabus of GS and optional subjects?
In a normal working day when I was in office (apart from one months leaves), I surfed the net only and did not study anything apart from that. Surfing time also used to vary depending upon workload in the office. During my leaves, it was around 5-6 hours a day.
How did you use computer and internet for your exam-preparation?
Computer and internet: if I can give credit of my success to anyone, it is computer and internet only. I am sharing some wonderful websites down below which I visited almost on daily basis. And as I said, if internet was not there, I could not get succeeded.
How did you prepare yourself for the essay?
Not any specific preparation.
Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?
What were your keypoints in that essay?
I’ll be sharing full script whenever I get time to write as far as I can reproduce.
How many marks did you get in that essay?
108 (74 in CSE-2010)
My Experience and my advice:
- Please don’t make essay very lengthy. I did this mistake in my first attempt and even took a supplementary copy. This resulted in diversion of essay from main theme.
- 2.Prepare a rough sketch of essay and try to include all possible angles related to the topic. Mainly Social, Economical, Technological, political, legal, moral, historical, constitutional, environmental, international relation, cultural and many more.
- Just let ideas freely flow in your mind during that phase. Jot down all ideas on paper and the rearrange them in logical order.
- This process can take upto one hour. Remaining two hours are more than enough to write your ideas in form of an essay.
- Try to stick to the theme of the essay. Don’t wander here and there.
- Practice at home. Just take any topic out of the blue and start writing on it.
- Discuss and debate among your friends about pros and cons of any topic.
- Most importantly, Watch any news channel debate daily. It helps in developing ideas. I used to watch newshour on times now.
Q. Serious players get mentally shattered and depressed after failure in competitive exams. How did you cope up with failures and rose from the ashes again? What had gone wrong in your previous attempts? How did you fix those issues in your 2011’s attempt?
Please see my comparative mark sheets down below. It was a disaster for me in essay, interview and paper-1 of pub ad. When I analyzed my performance, I found that, in essay my strategy was wrong and I corrected it second time as explained above. For Pub ad and interview, I am sharing my strategy down below. Please remember one thing here, nobody is perfect. You never know, how close you are to the target when you give up. One famous saying sums it all: If you think you can or you think you can’t, both ways you are right.
Many aspirants fear the interview, thinking that “my profile is not good because
- I’ve low marks in SSC/HSC/College,
- I don’t have any extra-curricular certificates,
- I don’t have work experience,
- I graduated from some unknown college,
- I’m from non-English medium and so on…”
So, How important or relevant is the profile of a candidate during interview?
A good profile is always an added advantage but ultimately its your performance in the interview that matters. Also your luck and who is the chairman of your interview board play critical role in deciding your fate. I with the same profile got only 126 marks in the interview in my first attempt which I could improve to 210 in my next one.
How do you rate your own profile?
I think my profile is good.[Mrunal comments: your profile is not good, it is totally awesome.]
How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?
Not much. Questions were mainly opinion based.
Did they ask any uncomfortable questions from your profile?
Yes. One member kept on repeating that you are just a book worm and you wont be able to survive in the system.
If yes, how did you reply to those questions?
I kept my calm throughout the interview and did not fall for the trap like I did last time. Always replied with a smile.
Q. In case you had not cleared the UPSC exam, what was your career/future backup plan?
With 3-4 professional degrees and already a PSU job, I didn’t have to think about that.
What is your advice and tips to working professionals – particularly on time Management?
Ans.Take out time at your workplace for CSE. Be regular. Harness the power of internet. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Watch a news debate programme daily. Read newspapers from the point of view of CSE. Leave out the headlines, sports and cinema for your later years. Focus on editorials, govt programmes, policies, social-political-economic issues, World happenings etc..
Try to grab the news which you can utilize in your CSE answers like news related to women empowerment, gender issues, child labour/abuse/trafficking, environment, S&T, farmers, downtrodden groups of the society, employment generating schemes, Agricultural and Rural Development, infrastructure, transport, energy, banking and financial sector,Health, education, water conservation, sanitation, etc..
Q. Behind one topper are many people who stood by him/her 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?
My parents, my brothers, my wife Rhythm and my friend Bhal Chandra were the key stones of my success. I think, I have shared enough incidences above.
|Topic||Source of your preparation|
|Current Affairs||New papers, TV deabtes|
|History Ancient/Medieval/Modern||Brief history of modern India|
|Physical Geography||NCERT 6-12|
|Geography of India||NCERT 6-12|
|Geography of World||NCERT 6-12|
|Polity and Governance||Laxmikanth|
|Public Policy||Laxmikanth, news papers|
|Environment and Biodiversity||Did not prepare|
|Economic and social Development||News papers (TOI/ET)|
|Science||Did not prepare|
|Economy||ET, accumulated knowledge|
|Syllabus Topic||Source of your preparation||Remarks, if Any|
|Quantitative Aptitude||R S Agarwal||My LR/DI and QACapabilities are good fromThe beginning, that’s why not prepared separately, though sharing some books.|
|Data interpretation||R S Agarwal|
|Logical reasoning||R S Agarwal|
|Decision Making and Problem solving||R S Agarwal|
Compulsory Language papers
|Source of your preparation|
|English||Did not prepare separately|
|Indian language paper||Did not prepare separately|
There are some instances of candidates failing in Compulsory Indian language (Hindi / Bengali etc.) so please do provide your source of preparation for it.
|Syllabus Topic||Source of your preparation||Remarks, if Any|
|Current Affairs||Mainly newspapers and internet.Current Affairs Q&A Book by Chronicle http://indiacurrentaffairs.org/http://www.jagranjosh.com/current-affairs||Wizard might also help|
|History||Brief history of modern India|
|Culture||Vajiram Notes||Facts of Indian Culture by Spectrum (I did not read it though recommended by some friend)|
|Geography of India||NCERT 6-12||Hang maps of india and world in your room and randomly study them, It frees up your mind and good time pass.|
|Issues of social relevance||Google+newspapers|
|Indian economy and planning||ET+Google +NCERT 9-12http://www.ficci.com/studies.aspSpecial issue of PD on economy||Economic survey(Don’t mug up the data, try to understand macro policies)|
|Law and order||Newspapers|
|Good governance||Newspapers, http://www.indiagovernance.gov.in/map.php||This website is useful for quoting examples. More relevant for Pub ad|
|Environment||Relevant portions of S&T book by spectrum+Google||Mangrooves, wetlands, coral reefs etc..|
+In leisure time,read blogs of civil service aspirants who became successful. It will provide motivation and information. Be observant to your nearby happenings. Join one of the forums like indianofficer.com, Selectively read http://www.globalissues.org/ , once in a while visit, upscportal.com. No need to read DD Basu or Subhash Kashyap, We are not preparing for LL.B. Laxmikanth is enough for polity/constitution plus one constitution chart that you may find at any book shop. Hang it in your Room. Don’t think that you would be able to answer all the questions. Nowdays 250 is the average GS score of top 100. I’ll be sharing some of my GS notes with you. I think that will help lot of people.
|Syllabus Topic||Source of your preparation||Remarks, if Any|
|India and the World||Read Indian foreign policy by Vivek Kumar Singh for understanding Basics.For updates and current issues:www.southasiaanalysis.orgwww.idsa.inmrunal.org
(Also see points illustrated below)
|Most imp part of second paper and most neglected by coaching institutes|
|Indian diaspora||Not much focused|
|India’s Economic interaction with world||Read about world bank, IMF, WTO on wikipedia. http://wtocentre.iift.ac.in/faq.asphttp://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/exrp/differ/differ.htm||Also subscribe one business news paper|
|International affairs and institutions||Newspapers+above websites|
|Statistics||12th NCERT is good, If want special knowledge then read SP Gupta(relevant portions)|
|Science & Tech.||Weakest area of my preparation, therefore can’t guide|
- Just 15-20 days before mains, Go to the website of MEA. Look for the visits that indian PM/president made or some foreign premieres who came to India. In all probability questions form those countries will be asked. Look for the press release or joint communique and briefly note down the main issues discussed or agreed upon.
- Type INDIA in Wikipedia and read the article completely expanding the links. Also read history of Srilanka (ltte war), Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal to build the base for understanding foreign relations.
- Southasiaanalysis.org is the most referred source of mine. It beautifully captures the events affecting india from Indian perspective. It might happen that in the beginning you don’t understand anything but be persistent. With the time you will grasp it all. Use power of google and Wikipedia when you don’t understand anything.
If you’ve the time, please provide the detailed study plan for your both optional subjects, answer-writing skills etc.
- Awasthi maheshwari, Fadia, Ramesh arora rajni goyal, Shubha saxena top 50.
- Special issue of PD of PUB Ad,Some diagrams that I would be sharing. These are multi purpose and can be used in many answers creatively.
- And Most Important Administrative thinkers by Prasad and Prasad (read this book at least 6-8 times cover to cover and you will find each time something new that you did not understand in your earlier readings) Plus selectively go through IGNOU Study Material. News papers and debates are must.
- Also refer http://www.indiagovernance.gov.in/map.php for good governance examples. Summary of ARC-II reports. Again I would say that don’t try to mug up these books, try to understand the macro concepts. Also don’t refer so many books because someone else say they are good.
- Many people recommend Mohit Bahttacharya but It could not help me much though I read it once. These days, papers are focused on concepts and application rather on theories therefore a good knowledge base along with awareness regarding current social/governance issues will prove a great asset here.
- Also refer Prince Dhawan’s Blog @ https://princedhawan.wordpress.com (He is AIR3-CSE2011 and probably highest marks scorer in Pub Ad-394)
How did you prepare for the interview?
Did not prepare separately. Though just before the interview I formed a group with 3-4 friends. We sat till late night. They asked me every possible question related to my profile, current affairs. Then we discussed the answers and better way to present the answers.
Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or
Did they ask you totally unexpected questions?
Will be sharing script of my interview separately.
|SUBJECTS||MARKS 2011||MARKS 2010|
|GENRAL STUDIES (PAPER-IV)||154||152|
|GENRAL STUDIES (PAPER-V)||096*||118|
|OPTIONAL-I(COMM.& ACCOUNTANCY) (PAPER-VI)||184||195|
|OPTIONAL-I(COMM.& ACCOUNTANCY) (PAPER-VII)||188||183|
|OPTIONAL-II(PUBLIC ADMIN.) (PAPER-VIII)||152||117|
|OPTIONAL-II(PUBLIC ADMIN.) (PAPER-IX)||159||178|
*I still don’t understand that why did I get 96 in GS-II. I expected in the range of 150-170. But this is the way of UPSC. When mrunal can get 20 odd marks in essay then why can’t I 96 in GS-II.
Always remember, ultimately its all written in the destiny. Have faith in God. ”Whatever he does, does for the best.”
Q. What is your message to the aspirants?
Kaun kahta hai ki Aasman me ched nahi ho sakta….
Ek Patthar to dil se uchalo yaron…
Kham thok thelta hai jab nar…
Parwat ke jaate paon Ukhad,
Manav jab jor lagata hai..
To patthar pani ban jata hai.
Q. When you’ll give interview in the famous competitive magazines, the last question is generally a loaded question “how did our magazine help you in IAS preparation?” In the era of blatant marketing propaganda, I too need to ask something similar! Did you use mrunal.org for your preparation? If yes, how did it help you? You can reply “no”, and it’ll be published without any distortion hahaha.
Ans: You believe it or not, I did not use any magazines for my preparation. I just relied on internet and my accumulated knowledge. Your website was one great source that made me familiar with entire UPSC procedure apart from providing valuable knowledge inputs from time to time. I have bookmarked some websites that I open first thing in the morning on my computer and mrunal.org is one of them.
Update: For the benefit of future aspirants, Mr.Om Kasera has provided all his notes for free download: Click ME
To read other informative and inspirational interviews of UPSC Civil Service Exam toppers, Click ME