1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Why hindu is important
  5. Electronic Vs Paper material
  6. Tempo and style
  7. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  9. Prelim accuracy
  10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  11. Mains: Essay
  12. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  13. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  14. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  15. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  16. GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2013
  17. Mains answer-writing?
  18. Mains Optional Subject
  19. Before the interview
  20. During the interview
  21. CSE-2013 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

Rank in CSE-2013 138
Roll No. 118745
Age 23
Total attempts in CSE 1
Optional Subject GEOGRAPHY
Medium chosen for Mains answers ENGLISH
Schooling medium ENGLISH
College medium ENGLISH
Home town/city Oddanchatram, Dindigul district, Tamil Nadu;
Work-experience if any Nil
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
  1. SBI PO(declined)
  2. IFoS-2013, Rank-3
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal (if used) Shankar IAS academy, Chennai
service preference #1, 2 and 3 IAS, IPS, IFS
state cadre preference (top3) Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra(erstwhile united)


% in class 10 96
% in class 12 97
Schooling (Medium) English
Graduation course and % BE(ECE); 93%
Name of college, city, passing out year College of Engineering Guindy,Chennai; 2012
Post-graduation Nil
Any other professional courses Nil
Hobbies & Extra curricular Deriving inspiration from sports;Coordinating and organizing events;


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

IAS 2013 Rank 138 VP Gautham

I hail from a small town called Oddanchatram in central Tamil Nadu. But, I managed to get good quality education, thanks to my parents and my school(Christian Matriculation school, Oddanchatram). I studied in the same school till my 12th standard. My father V.Palanichamy is an advocate(a former government pleader and a public prosecutor) and my mother R.Kasthuri is a teacher in a government school. My little brother  V.P.Cibi is doing his eleventh standard. He is one awesome loving fellow, who cherishes my achievements. I am extremely happy that this time around, he was with me when I first saw the results(During my IFS results, I was away from home).  It was just awesome to be with family when I first came to know that I would be getting IAS. My father was the one who inspired me to take up the civil services. He gave me immense liberty, which allowed me to develop as a free thinking and an independent individual. My dad was always keen to share things with me, but not enforce things on me. He is my friend, philosopher and guide. My mother was the one who backed me during setbacks.

I am one person who always love to come forward and do things. I loved assuming leadership roles in all aspects of life. I was the President of the student union of my college(College of Engineering Guindy). I learnt a lot in this position and I feel that these lessons would help me in my future roles. So, it was not one event which made me enter this career. I think the various events in my life, my father’s inspiration and my innate desire to be a leader made me enter the field. I started full fledged preparations after finishing my U.G. in 2012.

Why hindu is important

  • Though I attended coaching at Shankar IAS academy, I never preferred handmade coaching class notes(neither from  my academy nor from Delhi). I just listened to the classes and made my own notes and value added to them. I had an aversion to coaching class materials. I rather preferred original sources and standard books, both for my GS and optional. But the classes helped me in giving valuable info and also initiated good chains of thought through classroom interactions (both with the faculty and co-aspirants).
  • My best all-in-all source for GS was ‘ The Hindu’. There is nothing in the world like a newspaper, as it throws light on multiple subjects simultaneous which allows inter-subject connection in the mindmap. When we are thorough with the basic concepts and information  in each subject, then  reading newspapers will be an awesome experience as most articles appear very familiar to us. This will help in gaining a familiarity over an area and will act as a valuable revision tool. For example, when I read a news item on a supreme court judgement(esp. in constitutional cases), I used to connect its arguments with the various articles in the constitution. This helped in revision of the articles as well as developing understanding of them..
  • Moreover, newspapers are a treasury of information. Reading them helped me garner many ‘fodder points’ which I could use for any question(especially those questions or areas for which we haven’t prepared specifically) in the examination. This made me confident in GS and I had the mentality to face any question whatsoever, since I could generate at least 2 or 3 points from what I had read in newspaper in the past 2 years. I feel being accomplished in newspaper reading was a great boon to me and that alone resulted in my high GS scores. All aspirants all over India prepare from almost similar sources but this clear newspaper reading(along with writing newspaper notes and revising them) would take you places. I, for one, used to spend 3-4 hours for newspaper reading (+of course writing down notes)alone.
  • Now, many students rely on various websites(like gktoday.in) for current affairs notes. Though these sites may help slightly when there is lack of time, they will never match the usefulness of a newspaper. And while reading newspaper, try to connect it with the conventional areas. For economics and international affairs, ‘The Hindu’ was my most important source. I tried reading 2-3 newspapers(like Indian express , Times of India, in addition to ‘The Hindu’) but I found this to be a futile exercise and hence stuck with ‘The Hindu’.

Mrunal : yes Mr.Gautham, this a very crucial suggestion that every aspirant should implement.

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.

I prefer conventional books, not the market materials or e-materials. Original conventional books are more readable and they help you in shaping opinions on your own. If you start searching for market material(both paper and electronic), it becomes very complex. In this information era, the most difficult thing is to pick out the necessary information from the huge chunk of data available. It is better to restrict your time on internet. Stick to a few sites like mrunal.org, prs(for overview on legislations), idsa(for selected foreign policy and strategic policy articles). I would suggest not to spend more than 1-2 hours on internet, on a daily basis. Internet is an ocean where you can get lost.

One kind advice. Never depend on market materials, especially for current affairs. Read ‘The Hindu’ daily. I would suggest preparing your own notes from the Hindu. Surf the net only for those areas where you need more background information about a news item. You can spend at least 3-4 hours for newspaper. Link the news items with all the core subjects(eg; link the news items on Supreme Court judgements with the polity topics that you have studied) that are a part of our syllabus. This would help in remembering the subjects and also in making the news more relevant to you.

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?

I think our mood is kind of a sine wave which keeps fluctuating. This is common for aspirants all over the country. But, the students should make sure that they should maintain the minimum required tempo(at least put in 4-5 hours of work ; do the minimum necessary things like reading newspaper, etc.) even during the worst phases.  It requires the highest amount of mental courage during the tough phases.  Any person might feel  stress and pressure during the course of preparation. Even when you are fully equipped to face the exam,  you may feel short on confidence and self doubts may appear. If we are able to cross these momentary stints of self doubts, then success is not far off.

For me, the best way to fight bad moods was to write CSAT(paper-II) mock tests(during my prelims preparation) and to read current affairs(during mains prep). These areas made me feel good and helped me ward off the bad emotions. So, during times when you feel low,I suggest taking up a subject which you really love.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient NCERT(old)
History Medieval NCERT(old)
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) NCERT(old); Bipan chandra’s struggle for independence;
Culture society Culture:crt.gov.inSociety: NCERT(1.Indian society; 2.Development and changes in Indian society;)+Since Sociology was my other optional, I didn’t concentrate much
Polity (theory + current) Indian polity: Lakshmikanth;Current: The Hindu, EPW(Economic and Political Weekly)
Economy (theory + current) Shankar IAS book on core concepts;Current: The Hindu, Economic  Survey, EPW
Science (theory + current) NCERT (8th,9th,10th); nobelprize.org(popular summary of the past 5 years nobel prize winning achievements); The Hindu; mrunal.org
Environment (theory + current)
  • Shankar IAS book on environment;
  • The Hindu
geography physical Geography was my optional; so this part was not given much stress by me; good reads are ‘Certificate physical geography’ by Go Cheng Leong and NCERT: Fundamentals of physical geography
geography India NCERT: India:physical setting; India: people and resources
geography world Distribution of resources and industries–à mrunal.org
other national/international current affairs The Hindu; EPW;
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Not laid exclusive attention;  with an in-depth reading of The Hindu, we can manage most of these areas

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
  • Just pick out the areas from which arithmetic questions are asked; Some prime
  • Areas are time-work,distance-speed-time, seating arrangements, HCF-LCM, trai problems, relative velocity,etc. Strengthen your basics and problem solving abilities in these areas.
reasoning Practice alone helps
comprehension Not to be considered as an exclusive area of Paper II. Instead, as and when you prepare for Paper I or when you read newspaper, just make sure that you understand each word verbatim and you’re able to grasp the core matter better. Such a practice while reading ‘The Hindu’ editorials will really help.
Decision Making Practice

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2013 paper.

I felt the paper was very easy, even having the scope for a 200/200 score. I think the UPSC aimed to lift the spirits of people with non engineering or rural background. But, I personally felt the comprehension questions should have been more competitive.

Prelim accuracy

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

I did and I did a lot many. I deem it to be absolutely necessary for a sureshot success.

Especially for paper II, mock tests are a key part of the preparation. I think I did at least 50 mock tests for P-II.

Q2. Your score in prelim (when UPSC uploads it please mail me your score)


Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Practised the previous years’ UPSC English Q Papers
your regional language Just read a few Tamil newspaper editorials  to remind myself of some socio-politico-economic jargons(like the Tamil words for Parliament, Constitution, globalization,etc.)  ; Practised writing some random Tamil passages, especially in the last one week leading to the exams. Practised the previous years’ UPSC English Q Papers

Q2.other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2013

The language papers were of a very good quality. I especially liked the competitiveness of the regional language paper. Though it was just a qualifying paper, writing it was a very satisfactory experience thanks to the quality of the questions. I would suggest my mates not to ignore this paper and dedicate at least some minimum preparation and brushing up. And make sure you complete these papers.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

I wrote quite a few essays from previous year CSE question papers for practice. This helped in making sure that we are able to write at least 15 pages on a given topic. Fodder points from ‘The Hindu’(especially the centre page lead article and Oped articles) really helped.This practice is essential to ensure that you don’t run out of points during the exam.
Q2. Which among the following essay did you write? What key points did you include in it?

  1. Be the change you want to see in others (Gandhi)
  2. Is the Colonial mentality hindering India’s Success?
  3. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) along with GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) would be the right indices for judging the wellbeing of a country
  4. Science and technology is the panacea for the growth and security of the nation.

I wrote essay about the COLONIAL MENTALITY. My key points were:

  • What is colonial mentality
  • Who has colonial mentality: citizens(submissive attitude, an inferiority complex); leaders( an arrogant approach to the citizens; )
  • In some fields, colonial mentality is hindering the progress of our nation.
  • Political: crackdowns on legitimate protests(learnt from our British rulers);
  • Economic: An anti-West attitude(owing to a perennial fear of colonisation);eg:-anti FDI protests;
  • Security: lack of strategic culture(since our Armed forces were headed and operated by the British commandoes, we did not have much indigenous strategic thought and this continues)
  • How to remove this colonial mentality and ensure development..

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture CCRT website. But I have not heard of a comprehensive resource for Culture. This is quite a huge portion but I did a selective study of CCRT, some culture related current affairs, PIB features on culture, etc.
Indian history
world history Arjun Dev NCERT; I also prepared answers for around 100 world history questions given by Shankar sir.
post-independence India
  • Bipan Chandra-‘India since independence’; This book has better exam related stuff than Guha’s ‘India after Gandhi’ which is more like a novel.
  • Though I really liked Guha’s book, I found the ‘Bipan Chandra’ to be more useful for the exam.
  • NCERT-‘politics in India since independence’-a must read; got some questions in the exam directly from this.
  • Personalities- Prepare some short note for all the leading figures of the past 60 years of independent India..
Indian society NCERT-Indian society;News items and articles on social issues;EPW
role of women, poverty etc. These are my optional areas. Hence did not concentrate much for GS. I prepared for Geography and Socio but retained Geography when the notification came.
globalization on Indian society These are my optional areas. Hence did not concentrate much for GS.
communalism, regionalism, secularism These are my optional areas. Hence did not concentrate much for GS.
world geo physical These are my optional areas. Hence did not concentrate much for GS.
resource distribution Mrunal.org/Geography
factors for industrial location
  • Mrunal.org/Geography
  • NCERT:India-people and resources
  • Models and theories-Majid Hussain. for Weber’s industry location theory, isodopane concepts, labour cost contours, etc.
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT: Fundamentals of Physical geography;Physical Geography: Savindra Singh- just give a light read on certain topics for GS
impact on flora-fauna
  • 4×4 report by NAPCC(GoI);
  • IPCC summary;
  • Newspaper articles

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Lakshmikanth;‘Constitution of India’ android app for articles verbatim; I’d recommend the aspirants to exactly remember at least the first 50 articles(upto DPSP) and other important articles(given in the back of Lakshmikanth); You can use them while answering essays and other questions;
comparing Constitution with world
  • Shankar sir’s class(comparison with US,UK,French, South African, Swiss constitutions);
  • NCERT-Constitution at work- Boxes articles highlighting the best features of some constitutions;
parliament, state Legislatures Lakshmikanth
executive-judiciary Lakshmikanth;
ministries departments I read some annual reports of some ministries; But I think it is like searching for a needle in a haystack; After reading through 100 pages, you would find only 10 good points; Maybe, you can share this work among your friends;
pressure group, informal asso.
Representation of people’s act Newspaper(Supreme Court verdicts);Election commission of India- website(for model code of conduct);PIB releases on elections;
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Lakshmikanth
NGO, SHG etc Shankar class notes
welfare schemes, bodies Economic survey
social sector, health, edu, HRD Economic survey;
governance, transparency, accountability
role of civil service
India & neighbors
  • Challenges and strategy: Rethinking India’s foreign policy by Rajiv Sikri; This book is a very nice and I would recommend it strongly to understand the basis of India’s foreign policy;
  • India and its world: A talkshow on Rajya Sabha TV- This explains recent international issues very clearly;
  • International news in ‘The Hindu’;
bilateral/global grouping
  • Shankar material on International organisations;
  • Official Websites of various groupings;
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest News articles
international bodies- structure mandate Shankar class notes;

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Since this paper is mainly a current affairs oriented paper, I did not do a lot of specific preparation for each topic. Hence, I am unable to quote a lot of sources for this paper. I mostly relied on ‘The Hindu’

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Newspaper
inclusive growth
budgeting Shankar sir classes
major crops, irrigation Optional area; Shankar sir’s classes
agro produce – storage, marketing
e-technology for famers Info from various sources- govt websites, news articles
farm subsidies, MSP
PDS, buffer, food security
technology mission
animal rearing economics
food processing PIB features
land reforms Bipan Chandra’s ‘India since independence’. Land acquisition problems. The new legislation.
liberalization Some points from Gurcharan Das’s ‘India Unbound’
investment models
science-tech day to day life The hindu, mrunal.org
Indian achievements in sci-tech
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR
environmental impact assessment Shankar material
Disaster Management
SECURITY: non state actors, internal security This entire area was taken last year by Mr.Suresh(2013 AIR 305). His classes helped immensely. A lot of questions appeared directly from the areas he had covered..
internal security – role of media, social networking site
cyber security
money laundering
border  Management
organized crime, terrorism
security agencies- structure mandate

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics
attitude, moral influence etc. Joseph(Officers’ IAS academy) sir’s classes;
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc
emotional intelligence, its use in governance KM Pathy’s notes; His blog ‘musings: reflections of a social nomad’ helped;
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?Mitra Pal sir’s classes and his material from DoPT website(I don’t know the exact URL)helped a lot in this paper.Around 10; India- Tagore, Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi,World: Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, John Rawls, JS Mill
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.
corporate governance
probity in governance, work culture
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.
challenges of corruption
case studies on above topics
  • Mrunal.org/ethics
  • The questions in the exam were almost similar to what mrunal had given in his blog;
  • We worked out a lot of his cases and it really helped. But, I would suggest you to use his questions and  write your entire answer(for 2 pages) without initially  refering to Mrunal’s answers;

Any other comments, word of wisdom after going through the mains-2013.

For me, the toughest phase in this entire exam was the mains(written). Since it is subjective, I couldn’t be as confident of my performance as I was during my prelims. There was always a glimmer of doubt, though all my family, friends and teachers firmly believed in my ability to come out on top. And, there is always this myth in civil services circles about the unpredictability of these exams(UPSC is often dubbed the ‘Unpredictable Public Service Commission). But, I want to make it clear that it is definitely possible to clear the CSE exams, with the right amount of hard work, focus and aptitude. Sometimes, certain factors(commonly called ‘luck’) may play a 0.1% role(either in appositive or a negative way). But, such factors can be won and overcome with more and more hard and smart work.

GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2013

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

Case your approach/ keypoints
1: RTI: To hide or not to hide I’ll share my answers on a future date, after taking some time off to read the questions and recollect my answers.Mrunal comments: sure thing, look forward to it.
2: Engineer: Bogus flyover vs deadline
3: Child Labourers in Sivakasi
4: Nepotism in Job recruitment
5: Leaking information
6: Narrate one incident in your life when you were faced with such crisis of conscience and how you resolved the same.

Mains answer-writing?

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

Fixed answer sheet is a boon in a way that it makes us restrict our answers and hence saves a lot of time. But, unlike IFS exam wherein a single page was given for a 8 marker, in CSE 3 pages were given for a 10 marker. I think 3 pages is too large a space for a 10 mark question. So, I restricted myself to 2 or 2 and a half pages. Some students fell prey to the fixed space format since they tried to fill the entire space which made finishing the paper very difficult.

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 mostly in paragraphs. For a very few questions, I wrote in bullets. I’d suggest following an appropriate format based on the nature and type of the question..

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.

I followed the “introduction-body-conclusion” format for most questions. I had the habit of writing that way and hence followed the same in the exams.

Q. How many marks worth questions did you skip/couldn’t finish in the GS papers?

GS (Mains paper) Couldn’t finish __ mark
GS1 35
GS2 20
GS3 30
GS4 0

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

No; did not have time for all that;

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

Yes; Almost very answer of mine had a diagram

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


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

By hand;

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

Blue pen; Black underline for headings;

(Mrunal – since readers keep mailing such queries, therefore I’m asking the topper to clear all the air haha.)

Mains Optional Subject

Q1. First the essential book/resource list.

will give detailed reply along with my ethics answer.

Q2. 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?

Internet can contribute upto 10% of my optional study. I don’t think internet is a must for optional.

Q3. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?

6 months.

Q4. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?

Immediately after my prelims. We had a team and we used to write answers for at least 2 questions everyday and discuss the pints among ourselves. The writing practice is essential to summon whatever you know at the right time and right place.

Q5. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?

I had detailed self prepared notes. I wanted to prepare a brief notes for revision but did not have time to. All my notes were in paper format.

Q6. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2013 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

Q7.How much did you skip OR couldn’t answer properly, in the optional paper?

optional paper Couldn’t finish __ mark. + comments on any weird questions
Paper I 50
paper II 0

Q8. (Only if pub.ad or geography) would you advice any interested party (new player) to pick this optional? Nowadays wind seems to be flowing towards sociology and political science. Some senior players advice new players not to pick them given the scaling and odd questions. What’s your take on this?

Geography was y optional. Though the paper I was really tough, I think the marks are not too low this year of you have managed well. I feel optional have not played a decisive role this year. So, I

Before the interview

Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? Particularly college graduation subjects related questions?

I zeroed in on certain basic subjects of my graduation course(B.E.-ECE). I picked 6 of my graduation papers and read the standard books associated with each of those papers and prepared short notes.. I didn’t go too deep(like equations, formulae,etc.)  but just glanced to recollect the concepts. I also prepared on the latest relating to my course(for eg; meaning of spectrum, 2G,3G, 2G scam, LED,LCD, etc.)

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?

Yes! I attended quite a few interviews. Some mock interviews were similar to the official while some were  not. Mock interviews can help you face unexpected situations and serve as an indicator o what type of questions might be asked to you, especially in the bio-data area.

Maybe, at least one suck mock is necessary to give you a look and feel of the interview experience. I think a limited no. of mock interviews is sufficient. The more we attend, the more we might get confused due to contradictory suggestions from each board. The mock interview with Mr.Shylendra Babu IPS(ADGP Coast Guard, Tamil Nadu) really helped, both during my IFS and Civil services interviews.

Q3. What did you wear? Some experts say coat is must, some say tie is must, and some say black shoes must. What attire did you pick up?

I think we can wear any attire that is pleasant and formal. Some say you should not wear coat especially since it is summer. But the UPSC office is ccompletely air conditioned and hence it will not be uncomfortable even if you wear a coat. I wore a white shirt, black trousers and a black coat and black shoes.

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

Tamil Nadu House, New Delhi. The Govt. of Tamil Nadu arranges low cost accommodation for civil service interviewees. I think many other state governments (Kerala, Andhra, Karnataka) also do the same. SO,interviewees- pls check out this possibility before going to Delhi. I just took with me a couple of small notebooks which I had prepared for the interview. Read the notebooks whenever I felt like reading. Most of the time when I was in Delhi, I never felt like reading. So, I would take a walk in the Nehru Park or I would just watch some news channel in my room.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Dr.David Sylmeiah

Q2. How long was the interview?

25 minutes(again approximate, since no watch inside interview hall)

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?]

They did not ask this question to me.

I entered this field because

  1. I think work is not merely for monetary purposes. As Marx says, work is an important avenue for expression of one’s personality. I feel that IAS can offer me that chance to express my personality. Moreover, unlike several jobs, I, as an IAS, will clearly know for what and for whom I work.
  2. The private sector doesn’t give me enough power(=ability to influence people’s lives) as the civil service. The amplification factor is high in civil services and my good work will be reflected in a positive way in the lives of thousands of people.
  3. Given that I believe in my talent, I’d like to use it where it matters the most.

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.

  • I had already shared my IFS interview experience(both with questions and answers) to Mrunal (click me) But, here, the interview was so monotonous(mostly based on my profile) that I don’t feel it’ll help  the people reading this;
  • 80% of my interview  was based on my profile; I was the students’ President in my college(College of Engineering Guindy); So, most questions were based on my presidency, student politics, student  elections, etc.
  • Initially, I felt that the members were not allowing me to complete my answer. So, I continued to talk despite the chair saying ‘ok’ implying me to stop; Then he explicitly pronounced a ‘stop’; This was an unpleasant experience, but fortunately it did not affect me psychologically. I thereon started answering in a short and concise manner.
  • The members were all enthusiastic and it seemed to me that they were impressed with what I delivered. But, the chair was expressionless, did not ask a lot of questions and so I did not know if he really liked my performance.
  • Overall, I felt I did okay. I could’ve done much better. I also found the interview to be very profile based, and it did not have much diversity of questions like my IFS interview.

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?

No unexpected questions; not designed to  be a stress interview.

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

nothing to worry.

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

Those wearing specs please bring your latest(not more than 6 months old) prescriptions; Check if your power has changed; I was called for a remedical in IFS because my power had increased to 3 from 2.5(in prescription).

CSE-2013 Marksheet


Career Backup

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

I did not have any backup in the mind, because I thought that it would distract me from my main goal. I believed in myself and so I backed myself to achieve what I set out to.

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 and the candidate whose optional subject gets favorable treatment under given year’s scaling formula.

I personally never liked the concept of ‘optional papers’. Though I had prepared for two optional papers by Jan 2013, I was wishing for the new notification(March 2013) to do away with both the optional. With this declared prejudice, I feel that doing away with optional will result in a more equal and subject-neutral exam. But, from the marks of some of my friends, it seems that the UPSC has reduced the disparity in optional and has made it a less decisive paper. I don’t think there is any optional paper which got a beating this year(like Pub ad last year). However I think some papers(like Tamil literature) received some boost.

Q. Despite what UPSC has done in recent years, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories. In fact it’s increased under the new syllabus in 2013. Let’s face it, most toppers who gave 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 or contacts in Delhi.

No! I think the arrival of more GS papers will eventually lead to students who prepare on their own. The GS papers are so dynamic that no specific notes can help you get through unless you have a broad knowledge and understanding. Newspapers(‘The Hindu) will continue to be the No.! coaching institute.

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. (RTI revealed this).

Yes, I, as an IFoS and CSE rankholder, know this personally. Several people who were solely dedicated to IFoS could not get in due to the increased competition. I think only 600 people appeared in the IFos mains(1000 were called). Though the partial merger was a move to attract the best talent to IFos and also to reduce the burden on evaluators(now thay have to correct only 1000 papers rather than 20,000), this can lead to a large no. of dropouts. For example, this year, out  of the 85 selected for IFos, 52 were called fro CSE interview out of which 16 were selected. But, I’m not sure how many people will leave IFoS this year. Many of those selected intend to reappear for CSE 2014, which ma lead to further attrition. There are several factors operating. Only time will tell how this merger will work.

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

Not a burning problem, I guess.  Since 95% of the answers can be verifiably worked out, there is no need for answer key. Also,, Cutoffs do not in anyway help the students to improve their preparation. Rather, most times it offends the students psychologically in either situation-  if they are either very close to the cut off or very less than the cut off. So, I think it is better to go ahead with preparation without worrying about the cutoffs.

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

My personal opinion is ‘negative’.  It is improbable for the UPSC to prepare hundreds of sets of different yet equivalent  question papers(esp for GS paper I) as they do for  CAT.

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

  • Reduce the age limit, to pump in fresh blood;
  • Eliminate optional subject;
  • Conduct 3 interviews and calculate the average of all the marks;

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? What is your message to these candidates?

Many of my friends and seniors have got into services, even with a pretty ordinary profile or with education in Tamil medium. Even this year’s topper from Tamil Nadu (Mr. Jeyaseelan) had his education in Tamil medium. I do not think your profile speaks for you. It’s your personality that will speak, even during the interview. If you are confident about yourself and if you are able to convey what you think, then there is no problem at all.


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?

  1. Never think of your friend or your co-aspirant as your competitor. Always be ready to lend a helping hand to your friends when they feel insecure. A few motivating words can do wonders. I have both been a giver and a receiver in this respect. So, I know the importance of the moral support of friends. The most difficult thing in preparing for civil services is to maintain your composure throughout the preparation period. It is quite natural if your motivation levels dip during this period, but it is important to stick to your goal and at least put in a few hours of study.
  2. Positive belief and self confidence are indispensables and these will come only with hard work. Never underrate yourself. There is nothing called inborn talent. Today’s hardwork is tomorrow’s talent. So, pls believe in yourself. You’ll become what you believe yourself to be.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2013. They’re feeling dejected- what is your message to them?

Mates! With all you hard work and dedication, you are going to definitely make it. It is only a matter of time. Just try to look out for your weaknesses and rectify them. Don’t let the fear of failure affect you. This is only a temporary setback, not a failure. Reaching the stage you have reached is itself a remarkable achievement. Just remember that you are just a step away from reaching your destination and realising your dream.

Credit: Friends/family

Q. Behind every topper are many people who stood by during those uncertain times when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with the readers?

  1. My friend Abinaya was one person who strongly believed in my ability to top these exams. She was one person who I could lean back for support, especially during troubled times. She always had a dream of seeing me as an All India topper, in the pursuit of which I have miserably failed
  2. My friend Hariharan was a motivating presence in my life. He was with me during my prelims and He came all the way to Delhi to be with me during my interview!!! His presence gave me the composure required for the interview.  My friend and roommate S.Gowtham was one awesome companion. He actually attended the IFoS interview and CSE main with me but he could not make it. I am terribly sorry for him and hope he would get through into the civil services.  My friend and ever loving junior Vishnu Prashanth was one person who always prayed for my successes. I would like to thank DB, Bharat and Jose for being with me through this tough journey.
  3. My senior and bro Senthil Prabhu(IFos Rank:56) was a very good study companion and was a very good guide. My dear studymate and friend Nagul was instrumental in kindling my thought process by firing one question after another. Studying with him was always fun. My friend Jeevitha Nair, who motivated me when I was down.
  4. Shankar IAS academy was one place which I just loved to be in. Shankar sir was my chief mentor. Whenever I was doubtful about my performances, I would just approach him. His very words gave me all the rejuvenating energy.  But, sorry sir for not having fulfilled your wish. Chandru sir was always very approachable and gave us the required comfort. Karthikeyan sir, my IFoS mentor, was a great well wisher of mine.
  5. And  finally, there was this team of mates- Dinesh, Arun Vignesh, Akta(AIR 136), KS Gowtham, Janakan- whose synergy helped each other. The discussions, debates, interactions and interviews with this study group are unforgettable. I cherish them and I miss them.
  6. And, to hundreds of other people- my friends, acquaintances and well wishers- all your positive belief was behind my success. And, thanks to the hundreds of good hearts who have called me from all over Tamil Nadu and expressed hope in me to contribute to the good of the nation.
  7. All these people believed in my abilities even more than I did. I would like to thank all these people from the greatest depth of my heart. Without you guys, it would have been almost impossible! My success is not mine, but ours!!!

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule – the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you?  And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering, unlike those competitive magazines.

  • Yes! I am a regular follower of Mrunal.org. This site was introduced to me by one of my seniors, when I had just started my preparations. Mrunal.org wass especially useful in understanding complex economic concepts. For example, I still remember the beautiful examples given by Mrunal to explain the concept of VAT. It also helped me in science and tech and in personalities areas.
  • Thanks to mrunal.org, I was able to score at least 10-15 marks more in my optional(Geography paper I- resource&industry distribution: I studied this topic from mrunal.org for the GS part, but fortunately it helped me in optional.)
  • You are doing a really amazing job, Mr.Mrunal!!! Kudos to your selfless work! Hope you’ll help create hundreds of success stories. Only a small suggeston. I think the contents can be organized in a better manner. Some first timers told me that it was difficult for them to initially find out what they wanted.

Mrunal comments: of course, I’m in process of weeding out old junk and classying the Archives in better organized manner, but as they say in Public Administration – routine tasks eat away all the time which is necessary to bring out long term reforms! Anyways, very nice interacting with you Mr.Gautham, we wish you the best for the service and cadre allocation ahead. Keep in touch.