1. Introduction
  2. Inception
  3. Essay
  4. Your Study plan
  5. CSAT (Paper I) General studies
  6. About the CSAT aptitude
  7. Mains Examination
  8. Optional Subject #1 and #2
  11. Interview
  12. Marksheet


Name Aravind Menon
Roll number 238947
Rank (CSE 2011) 201
Optional Subjects Public Administration, Malayalam


Medium for Mains Exam English
Mains Examination Centre Thiruvananthapuram
Number of Attempts 2
Details of Graduation and Post-Grad. B.Tech in Electronics & Communication from College of Engineering, Trivandrum
Schooling (Medium) English
Extracurricular activities,

hobbies, achievements etc.

Cricket , Photography
Are you a working professional? No
If yes, then did you leave your job

or prepared while on the job?

Did you take Coaching? Prelims: Yes

Mains: Yes

Interview: Yes

Did you buy any postal courses? No
Did you join any Mock test series? Yes
Did you appear in any other competitive exams? Yes
If yes, provide the details: Selected as PO in SBI and  ACIO in IB


Q. When and how did the inspiration and idea of joining civil service come in your mind?

My parents are government servants.  So I grew up hearing the stories of IAS officers using their power to help the poor people.  The idea to join civil services had been in my mind right from my school days and  it became a conviction during my graduation .

The Choice of Optional Subjects

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?

  1. Interest in the subject ( most important)
  2. availability of help- study-material , guidance of seniors

Electronics was not offered by Upsc. That might not be the case with others. Graduation subject is also a good option.


Q. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year,

How did you keep yourself busy with the books, continuously?

First of all, it was not possible for me to be continuously engaged with studies all round the year. I took breaks in between to spend time with my friends, to watch movies, to visit the beach etc. But I ensured that these breaks were short and I got back to studies w/o affecting my time-plan. When I had planned , I allotted small bits of time for these relaxing activities. My parents and friends were extremely helpful in this regard.


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?

As often said , “The quality of time and not quantity of time matters”.  On my good days , I studied 8-10 hours including the time taken to read newspapers. There were days when I read only the newspaper and browsed internet. Since I had started early,  I studied leisurely & so I took nearly 10-12 months for completing the core syllabus. I studied GS, Pub ad and malayalam simultaneously.


How did you use computer and internet for your exam-preparation?
Internet is extremely useful in destroying the barricades of distance. But one must be careful in utilising it. It is very easy to drift from one website to another and lose time in the process.

So I used to browse the net when I was bored with the routine studies and came back to planned studies soon after.







To buy books online compare the prices in diff bookstores using http://www.indiabookstore.net/


How did you prepare yourself for the essay?

I didnt have any special preparation for essay. I simulated 3 tests under exam conditions and got it evaluated which was useful.

Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011? Essay regarding smaller states.

What were your keypoints in that essay? I sticked to the guidelines given in the essay question- wrote the administrative, economic and developmental issues under separate headings. Besides I gave lots of examples to substantiate my points.

How many marks did you get in that essay?  122


Q. What had gone wrong in your previous attempts? How did you fix those issues in your 2011’s attempt?

This was my 2nd attempt. I didnt qualify mains in 2010 because of lack of adequate preparation.

I didnt have writing practise and mock tests last time. This time, I subscribed for a postal test series for GS & Pub Ad and for malayalam I joined a class to get writing practise and mock tests – which eventually turned out to be good decisions.


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?

No profile is bad. How you present yourself and defend any short-comings in the profile is the key.

How do you rate your own profile?

I also don’t have any extra-curricular certificates,

any work experience, but I consider my profile as a good one.

How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?

30-35% (Including home state, school  and subsequent qns)

Did they ask any uncomfortable questions from your profile?



Q. In case you had not cleared the UPSC exam, what was your career/future backup plan?

I had been selected as a PO in SBI when the CSE 2011 results were announced.

Family and Friends

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?

My parents, my cousin-sister Chithra , my friend and sister-figure Ratna, my friends for life-Ganesh R and Harikrishnan . There are a lot of other friends who helped me in my preparation-directly and indirectly. I use this occasion to thank them all.

Your Study plan

CSAT (Paper I) General studies

Topic Source of your preparation
Current Affairs Hindu, Civil Services Chronicle(CSC)
History Ancient/Medieval/Modern Only Modern- Spectrum publishers
Physical Geography School text
Geography of India NCERT,Geography through Maps, Atlas
Geography of World NCERT, Atlas, Geography through Maps
Polity and Governance NCERT, Laxmikanth
Public Policy Public Admn texts
Rights issue Public Admn texts
Environment and Biodiversity Civil service times Spl issue + Chronicle monthly issues
Economic and social Development TMH – Indian Economy, Eduzone notes, magazines
Science Arihant GK
Economy TMH – Indian Economy, Eduzone notes,magazines

About the CSAT aptitude

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation Remarks, if Any
Quantitative Aptitude TIME material Borrowed it from CAT students
Data interpretation Career Launcher material            “
Logical reasoning TIME material
Reading comprehension Career Launcher material
Decision Making and Problem solving Didnt find any good ones

Mains Examination

Compulsory Language papers

Source of your preparation
English Nothing Special except regular reading of The Hindu
Indian language paper Nothing Special  except regular reading of  malayalam daily ( my optional was also malayalam)

General Studies paper I

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation
History Spectrum publishers- Modern India
Culture Spectrum publishers- Indian Culture ( selected reading), Mathrubhumi Year book
Geography of India NCERT
Polity NCERT, DD Basu, Pub Ad texts
Issues of social relevance Wizard social issues, CSC
Indian economy and planning TMH – Indian Economy, Eduzone notes, magazines
Public health CSC + Hindu
Law and order Public Admn topic
Good governance Public Admn topic
Environment Civil service times(CST) Spl issue + Chronicle monthly issues +Wiki+ Hindu survey on environment

General Studies paper 2

Aspirants would really appreciate if you elaborate more on how you prepared the topics marked with

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation
India and the World Fundamentals from Wikipedia, Made notes from Hindu, Read imp articles from Frontline, Identified bottlenecks and future prospects for imp countries,  indiacurrentaffairs.org
Indian diaspora Didnt get time- So concentrated on People in news
India’s Economic interaction with world Basics from TMH – Indian Economy &Eduzone notes,

Current from CSC , Hindu

International affairs and institutions Wikipedia, indiacurrentaf fairs.org    Realclearworld.com,
Statistics NCERT , Chronicle – Statistics made simple
Science & Tech. Wikipedia, S&T book of CST, CSC spl issue and regular issues

Optional Subject #1 and #2


Caution : I have only 254 marks  this year.

  1. Topic-wise previous qn- new vishal (important)
  2. Laxmikanth: Public Administration
  3. Prasad and Prasad: Administrative Thinkers
  4. Mohit Bhattacharya: New Horizons
  5. Rumki Basu: Concepts and theories
  6. Unique Publications guide -Paper 1 ( For topics not found in Standard texts)
  7. Arihant  Publications ( model qns and ans)  Paper 1
  8. Fadia & Fadia: Administrative Theories and Concepts ( only few topics )
  9. Rajni Goyal and R.K. Arora: Indian Administration
  10. DD Basu: Indian Polity
  11. Unique Publications guide (Paper  2) ( For topics not found in Standard texts)
  12. Arihant  Publications ( model qns and ans)  Paper 2
  13. Bidyut Chakravarthy : Indian Government & politics ( Unfortunately came to know about this book only after exam)
  14. Shubhra Saxena : Super 50
  15. “A concise dictionary of Public Administration” by Vikram Singh

Answer-writing practice is very important. Answers must be brief. Add diagrams to break the monotonous nature of the answer  ( though I was not very successful in it).

Time-limits must be followed.


  • I had read the following books for Paper I  before joining class-
  • Kairaliyude Kadha- M. Krishna Pillai
  • Malayala Sahithya Charithram- Kalaghattangalilude -: Erumeli
  • I also had read all the novels ,short-stories ,biographies in Paper II  before joining class.
  • So, I could write answers of previous qns during the course duration and get it evaluated. Answer-writing practice is very very important.
  • For paper II , one also has to read the critical reviews of the works mentioned in syllabus to increase the quality of our answers.
  • Mock tests really helped in finishing the actual exam in time.


How did you prepare for the interview?

Prepared thoroughly about my background as given in the Mains application form. Formed qns from each word given in it. Read one more english newspaper and  gave more importance to the regional news . I gave more attention to the current issues and tried to formulate my own views about them. Frontline was helpful. Attended mock interviews which were very helpful as I got good feedback and could correct my mannerisms.

Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Smt Alka Sirohi

Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or Did they ask you totally unexpected questions?

Any UPSC interview will have some unexpected qns. For me , the qns on  Much ado about nothing ,  all human beings are rational ( Plz see transcript given below) etc were unexpected.

What was the toughest question you faced during the interview and how did you answer it?

My 1st qn( Much ado about nothing) ( Plz see transcript given below)

( I have already posted this in IO)

My interview was on April 16th in the afternoon session. There were only 6 boards for our session , so each board had to interview 7 candidates each. As a result , each interview lasted for 20-25 minutes.

My  interview was no different. I was the third person to be  interviewed by the board chaired by Smt Alka Sirohi (CM) . When I was asked by the attender to enter the room, I asked permission to do so from the board . I was granted that and I went in.  All the 4 members (M1,M2,M3 & M4) other than the chairman were male members. So didnt had any confusion regarding how to wish. But even before I could wish them , CM asked me to be seated . Anyway , I wished them and took my seat. Everyone was busy doing something and was not giving much attention to me. That informal nature eased my tension .

CM started the proceedings by asking me to list out 2-3 things that occurred in the past decade which suited the description “Much ado about nothing” . My mind went blank and even after she explained the question, I was not able to recollect any such events. Later she told me that what she intended was Y2K and WMD.

M1 asked me about Chinmayananda Swami of Chinmaya Mission and his contributions to the society(I had my schooling in a Chinmaya Vidyalaya). I mentioned about his Jnana yajnas- spiritual knowledge to common man, opening of schools, social activities of its volunteers etc. then he asked about the essence of gita.

Me: man should do his duties(karma) without the expectation of any result as it will lead to disappointment.

He was expecting Aham brahmasmi and it was his next Qn.

Me: Each soul is part of the universal soul. He was not completely satisfied.

Q: Bertrand Russel’s statement that all human beings are rational but he is yet to find such a person.

Me:  most of the people I met were rational.

Q: then why world is like this

Me: a minority of people may be irrational causing hardships , but since majority are rational world is still existing

Q: Current political situation in Arab Spring countries

Me: Answered


Q : Is there any conflict of interest b/n india and china in indian ocean as both are energy hungry nations.

I didnt understand it completely. When he explained it , I thought it was regarding string of pearls and replied accordingly. I told about protecting our economic & security interests while maintaining a good relation with them. He kept on repeating the same Qn and CM intervened and asked M3 to start.


Q: Current status of the ‘treasure’ in SreePadmanabhaswamy temple and how to use it ( I am from kerala)

A: need to use modern techniques to open the vault B w/o destroying anything else .

It cannot be used for developmental purposes as it is part of our culture and history.

Q: in case of bop crisis?

Me: in that case it can be used for pledging but has to recovered when situation improves.

Q: will a 1991 type crisis recur in india

Me: No. diversity of trade, 300bn$ forex etc


Asked   about the details of the recent SC judgement on RTE which I answered.


Q: satellites in india and their uses.

Me: didnt remember much . Told abt insat, metsat, risat.

Q: remote sensing and its uses.

Me: replied but not satisfactorily.

Q: rocket launching centre?

Me: sriharikkota

Q: why?

Me: earth’s rotation aids the launch when it is launched in the easterly direction

Q: Any security aspects?

Me: in case of failure it will fall in ocean.

She smiled and said thank you.

I took a few seconds to understand that interview was over. Then I thanked everybody and got out.




Q. What is your message to the aspirants?

The preparation for this exam will entirely transform  you whether you make it or not.  The way one views the country,its society,its politics, its problems etc will change. We will start taking a positive and constructive view about things happening around us including in our personal life.

So, Enjoy the process and worry about the results only 2-3 days before its declaration. Surely , these are the most enriching days of my life.

Finally two clichéd questions

In the world full of blatant marketing propaganda, I’m going to ask you two questions. And you can reply negatively, yet I’ll post your answers verbatim.

  1. Did you use indianofficer.com  for your preparation? If yes, How did it help you?

Yes. I could get inputs from previous toppers which was very helpful.

  1. Did you use mrunal.org  for your preparation? If yes, how did it help you?

Yes. Mrunal’s economy topics were exceptional and was of great help in understanding the concepts.