[Topper’s Interview] Shiv Narayan Sharma (Rank-278/UPSC-2017): Anthropology 4th Attempt, Software Developer from Mathura

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Majid Hussain
  1. CANDIDATE – PROFILE
  2. EDUCATION
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. ELECTRONIC VS PAPER MATERIAL
  5. TYPICAL DAY IN YOUR ONLINE LIFE?
  6. STYLE OF PREPARATION AND NOTES MAKING
  7. PRELIMS (CSAT) PAPER-1: GENERAL STUDIES
  8. PRELIMS (CSAT): PAPER-2: APTITUDE
  9. PRELIM ACCURACY s
  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. MAINS ANSWER-WRITING?
  17. MAINS OPTIONAL SUBJECT
  18. BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
  19. DURING THE INTERVIEW
  20. CSE-2017 MARKSHEET
  21. CAREER BACKUP
  22. VIEWS ON UPSC REFORMS
  23. INSECURITY ABOUT PROFILE
  24. STRUGGLE OF A SENIOR PLAYER
  25. STRUGGLE OF WORKING PROFESSIONAL
  26. GRAND WISDOM
  27. CREDIT: FRIENDS/FAMILY
  28. BOGUS MARKETING PROPAGANDA

CANDIDATE – PROFILE

Q. Details
Name Shiv Narayan Sharma
Rank in CSE-2017 278
Roll No. 0442702
Age 25
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 4
Optional Subject Anthropology
Schooling Medium Hindi(till 10th), English(11th onward)
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Raya,Mathura
Work-experience if any Working since June 2013 as Software Developer(around 5 years)
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Selected for Madhya Pradesh Forest Service
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Took coaching from Vajiram for GS,Test series from VisionIAS for both prelims and Mains, L2A for Anthropology Test.
I joined SrinivasIAS  for Anthropology [Not recommended]
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS>IPS>IFS>IRS(IT)>IAAS>>IRS(C&E)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres.

EDUCATION

Education fill the details here
% in class 10 62% (UP Board)
% in class 12 87.4%(CBSE)
Graduation course and % Computer Engineering, 73.37%
Name of college, city, passing out year Delhi College of Engineering(Now Delhi Technological University), Delhi
Post-graduation
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Computer Gaming,Table Tennis,Swimming,

INTRODUCTION

UPSC Topper Shiv Narayan Sharma
Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
I come from a village in Mathura district. My father has worked with BSNL and mother is homemaker. I’ve done my basic schooling from my native village.  In my family I’m youngest and was fortunate to get lot of support and guidance from elder siblings. when I was in 8th standard my elder sister contemplated pursuing Civil services but couldn’t prepare because of lack of resources and guidance and societal constraints against females prevalent in rural India. I performed very average in 10th boards despite all hard work due to lack of quality education in UP board schools and culture of mass copying. On my elder siblings insistence my father decided to enrol me into a local IIT-JEE coaching centre(I had absolutely no idea what IIT actually is) . I was unable to cope with the English medium teaching and highly competitive environment. There started my journey of competitive exams, which continues till now. It was very difficult in the beginning, but It  was the best learning experience for me.  Gradually I improved myself and was able to get admit into a TIer 1 Engineering college in Delhi. Family members always pushed for Civil services, but I wanted some financial security,So focused on getting good college placement. I was lucky to get placed into a Delhi based fintech startup. Having a job in Delhi proved very helpful to me as I could prepare along with financial security  I feel very blessed as I had never thought to travel that long from very humble beginning.

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 do you balance this i.e. electronic material vs. paper material (Books, newspapers)

  • Keep your preparation as simple as possible. Keep your resources bare minimum. Those who thinks that selected candidates are more knowledgeable are not fully aware about the exam. After a level, knowledge doesn’t matter. Please choose standard sources and read them multiple times.  Don’t spam yourself with free PDF’s overflowing on telegram groups and websites. I’ve read almost same sources in all 3 serious attempts and trust me it helps quick revision and retaining the topics for long time.
  • One may follow electronic or paper material, but attempt should be made to use the resources in smart manner so that you get maximum in minimum time. Don’t do #DoubleMazoori by reading multiple souces for same topics.

TYPICAL DAY IN YOUR ONLINE LIFE?

Online life Answer
Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services. 0
Worry about things you can control.
No-one can predict cutoff. Start preparing immediately for mains, even if you fail you will end up covering mains syllabus thoroughly which will help you immensely in next mains.
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups Not much.(Telegram groups only during interview phase)
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. Varied Everyday, but limited to youtube videos and some googling
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop

STYLE OF PREPARATION AND NOTES MAKING

Q. What is your style of preparation and notes making? (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, I use xyz software etc.) :

  • For some topics i got readymade notes, so i read them multiple times. Only for very few topics of Optional, whose notes were not available I made personal notes.
  • I also used Evernote for organising material collected online. I would save some article read on your site to my Evernote Notebook and read that multiple times.
  • For standard books like Laxmikant, ShankarIAS, modern India, etc I read the books multiple times and made mindmaps on margins.

PRELIMS (CSAT) PAPER-1: GENERAL STUDIES

Topic strategy/booklist/commen
History Ancient NCERT(RS Sharma)
History Medieval NIOS
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Followed Vajiram’s Yellow book +Some Online gist(would recommend Spectrum, as it  contains all topics and easy to complete)
Culture and society For culture I followed 11th NCERT on fine arts,Nitin Singhania and NIOS.
For society :not much reading required as Anthropology covers that.
Ncerts can be read if one feels uncomfortable
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant+Vision Monthly Magazine
Economy (theory + current) I feel indebted to Mrunal sir for Economy videos(The videos might have become outdated,but can be done selectively)+ Economic survey+ Vision Monthly Magazine.
Science (theory + current) 9th,10th NCERT +Vision Monthly Magazine
Environment (theory + current) Shankar +Vision Monthly Magazine
geography physical Rajtanil Mam’s video( I again feel indebted for these video, have seen them more than 10 times)
geography India Rajtanil Mam’s video
geography world Rajtanil Mam’s video(You won’t find any better source than these videos)
other national/international current affairs Vision Monthly Magazine
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Vision Monthly Magazine+

Q. Candidates are complaining that compared to earlier years, Prelim 2017 GS paper was very tougher, Tickmasters’ 90+ strategy (and its perverted & populist version known as Guessmaster-giri) and E-learning materials had limited utility. What are you views and wisdom on all these?

  • Most certainly it was difficult to do guess work, as elimination was not possible. In previous years me and my friend developed a trick to go for All of above if one of the statement is dicey and other options are true. This worked in 2016 and the cutoff was so high. Similar was the scenario with Vision’s Test series. But no such trick worked there in the exam. In fact many questions had None of the above as Right answer.  Also some IR type questions were more than 2-3 year old, taking aspirants by surprise. The paper was good mix of current and static, which could be seen as  BackbreakingTM move of UPSC.
  • In my opinion, Current and Static should be prepared in balanced way. You can’t rely only on current affair or  static alone. Try to cover whole syllabus and don’t overdo a particular topic. I’ve seen people doing Polity more than 10 times and leaving important topics like Econmic survey or medieval india.
  • Similarly some people are misguided by previous toppers that Prelims can be cleared in 1-2 months simply by solving question papers of various Coachings, It may have worked for her, but will not necessarily work for others. In my opinion It is simply reverse engineering, which is bound to fail for most of the people. So kindly do the basics, and current affairs and then rely on test papers.

Q. Suppose, If you had to prepare for Prelims-2018, then after going through this 2017 paper, what changes would you make in your preparation?
I will go with my previous strategy of maintaining good balance. I’ll try to cover all topics at least once.

PRELIMS (CSAT): PAPER-2: APTITUDE

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths No Particular Strategy
Reasoning No Particular Strategy
Comprehension No Particular Strategy
Decision Making No Particular Strategy

Q. In the recent two prelims (2016 and 2017), the comprehension portion becoming quite tough and lengthy. Candidates struggle even to finish the paper-II. Kindly provide some words of wisdom:
I myself faced difficulty in doing English Comprehension part, but i was fortunate to get Quantitative part correct. Some people relied totally on English comprehensions as they found Quantitative party very difficult, due to which many got eliminated despite having good marks in GS. This is also one of the reason for decline in this years prelims cutoff.  Please don’t take this risk. if you face difficulty in Quant or English, prepare beforehand. Don’t take CSAT for granted, UPSC always try to be keep things unpredictable under its Backbreaking Strategy.

PRELIM ACCURACY s

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Yes I’ve followed VisionIAS prelims test series for all the attempts.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2017

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 110(+-2)  110
aptitude  109

MAINS: COMPULSORY LANGUAGE PAPER

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Previous year question papers
your regional language Previous year question papers

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2017
Don’t take Hindi/regional language paper for granted. If you are out of writing practice, make sure to write few Essays 1 week before the exam.(some say 10% percent people  get eliminated due to Hindi/English)

MAINS: ESSAY

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
As such No particular preparation is required.  But I joined Vision’s test series so that I could write 7-8 essays before the exam. I found this particular video very useful for generating content.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T185sgl7Azg&t=8147s

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
1. Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India.
2. ‘Social media’ is inherently a selfish medium.

GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture NIOS,FINE Arts NCERT,Nitin Singhania(You don’t have to do much here if you did culture in depth during prelims)
Indian history Same sources as followed in prelims
world history
  • It was my favorite topic and covered it from Vision’s World History booklets(best in the market).
  • Don’t get tempted to read books like norman lowe,cost to benefit ratio will be very poor.
post-independence India PradhanMantri Youtube videos by ABP news. The whole series is based on India After Gandhi by R.C.GUHA(Reading voluminous GUHA during exam time may be impossible). These videos are really interesting, I used to watch them when i felt bored with other subjects.
Indian society Didn’t do anything as Sociology part in Anthropology covers these sections.
role of women, poverty etc. Didn’t do anything as Sociology part in Anthropology covers these sections.
globalization on Indian society Didn’t do anything as Sociology part in Anthropology covers these sections.
communalism, regionalism, secularism Didn’t do anything as Sociology part in Anthropology covers these sections.
world geo physical rajtanil solanki mam’s video on Mrunal.org youtube channel.
resource distribution
factors for industrial location In 1st Mains, I had read all the articles on Mrunal.org for this, but the articles are very bulky and cost to benefit ratio is very poor.  It is mainly current affair and general understanding based topic, which can be done with GS knowledge.
earthquake tsunami etc rajtanil solanki mam’s video on Mrunal.org youtube channel
impact on flora-fauna Current affairs based.

GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. LaxmiKant+ Vision Material
comparing Constitution with world Not much is asked till now. Laxmikant gives basic understanding of this topic while discussing core polity topics.
Vision’s material can be followed if one want to Cover it in details(I didn’t do that much)
parliament, state Legislatures Only LaxmiKant
executive-judiciary Only LaxmiKant
ministries departments Only LaxmiKant(its current affair based,no particular reading is required)
pressure group, informal asso. Vision’s GS paper 2 material
Representation of people’s act Vision’s GS paper 2 material(very bulky). Read what is there in the news
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Only LaxmiKant
NGO, SHG etc Vajiram’s Classnotes +Vision’s GS paper 2 material is very good.
welfare schemes, bodies its current affair based, which can be done from VIsion’s Monthly magazine,no particular reading is required
social sector, health, edu, HRD NITI Ayog’s  3 year vision Document has good data on this, I pooled notes with 3 other friends.
governance, transparency, accountability Vajiram Classnotes +Vision’s GS paper 2 material is very good.
e-governance Vision’s GS paper 2 material is very good.(NITI Ayog’s  3 year vision Document has good data on this)
role of civil service Vision’s GS paper 2 Material
India & neighbors VIsion’s Monthly magazine,no particular reading is required
(Don’t get tempted to read fancy books, your cost to benefit ratio wil be very very poor)
bilateral/global grouping VIsion’s Monthly magazine
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest VIsion’s Monthly magazine
Diaspora VIsion’s Monthly magazine
international bodies- structure mandate VIsion’s Monthly magazine

GENERAL STUDIES (MAINS) PAPER 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Current affairs+ economic survey covers this well.(Developed much better understanding from Mrunal.org youtube videos)
inclusive growth Vision’s material + few  pages of Vajiram classroom notes
Budgeting Mrunal.org(best in the market)
major crops, irrigation rajtanil solanki mam’s videos on Mrunal.org(best in the market)
agro produce – storage, marketing Current Affair based
e-technology for famers Current Affair+Mrunal.org Youtube videos
farm subsidies, MSP Current Affair+Mrunal.org Youtube videos
PDS, buffer, food security Current Affair + Mrunal.org Youtube videos
technology mission Current Affair
animal rearing economics rajtanil solanki mam’s videos on Mrunal.org
food processing Current affair + Vajiram’s classnotes
land reforms rajtanil solanki mam’s videos on Mrunal.org + from here and there(its also covered in post independent indian history)
Liberalization Mrunal.org + Current affairs
Infra Mrunal.org + Current affairs
investment models Mrunal.org + Current affairs
science-tech day to day life Vision’s Current affairs
Indian achievements in sci-tech Vision’s Current affairs
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Vision’s Current affairs
environmental impact assessment Shankar
Disaster Management Vajiram Classnotes
non state actors, internal security Challenges to Internal Security of India by Asok Kumar (IPS), Vipul (DANIPS).
Somone starting afresh can watch RajyaSabha TV security Scan videos
internal security – role of media, social networking site Challenges to Internal Security of India by Asok Kumar (IPS), Vipul (DANIPS).
Somone starting afresh can watch RajyaSabha TV security Scan videos
cyber security Challenges to Internal Security of India by Asok Kumar (IPS), Vipul (DANIPS).
Somone starting afresh can watch RajyaSabha TV security Scan videos
money laundering Challenges to Internal Security of India by Asok Kumar (IPS), Vipul (DANIPS).
Somone starting afresh can watch RajyaSabha TV security Scan videos
border  Management Challenges to Internal Security of India by Asok Kumar (IPS), Vipul (DANIPS).
Somone starting afresh can watch RajyaSabha TV security Scan videos
organized crime, terrorism Challenges to Internal Security of India by Asok Kumar (IPS), Vipul (DANIPS).
Somone starting afresh can watch RajyaSabha TV security Scan videos
security agencies- structure mandate Challenges to Internal Security of India by Asok Kumar (IPS), Vipul (DANIPS).

GENERAL STUDIES 4: ETHICS, INTEGRITY, APTITUDE

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
attitude, moral influence etc. Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare? Very limited.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
corporate governance Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
probity in governance, work culture Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
challenges of corruption Lexicon +few topics from GS score material
case studies on above topics

Q. In ethics, Most of the serious candidates (both topper and non-toppers) have received marks in similar ranges. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?

  • Don’t stress too much on theory Part. Attempt should be made to develop ethical perspective and to complete the question paper on time.
  • People are not able to complete their Question papers, because of lack of writing practice or otherwise. Start from Case studies and complete the case studies part in 1 hour 40 minutes at max. Don’t commit mistake of doing the theory questions in just 1 hour. Keep a balance. Writing bogus points in Case studies is not going to fetch more marks, rather you’ll end up wasting your time.

MAINS ANSWER-WRITING?

Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:
I really don’t remember quality wise

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1
GS2
GS3
GS4
Opt-P1 240 10 0 250
Opt-P2 230 20 0 250

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’ve focused on completing the questions paper.  I tried to attempt as many questions as possible.  But that doesn’t mean to write bogus points in questions about which you have no idea.
  • I simply left Cryosphere because i knew nothing except that it is related to freezing part of earth. Don’t put your effort in innovating an answer in the exam, you are wasting your precious minutes. Rather use that time to complete other part of the paper.
  • My strategy was to complete the paper and write only what i knew in difficult questions like stem cell. Avoid writing bogus points for sake of filling pages.

Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
I have given 3 mains,I’m used to it. Faced no issue whatsoever.

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.
Intro and conclusion in paragraphs format and rest I tried to write in bullet points.  I tried to mix paragraph with bullet points wherever possible.
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.
Yes I followed Intro-body-conclusion. Atleast a small intro and conclusion should be given wherever possible.

I don’t like asking following rudimentary questions, but these are the most frequently asked questions by new aspirants.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers? No
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Yes a lot where-ever possible. Try drawing India’s map and explain the concept with the help of diagram.[watch youtube video on how to draw India’s map in 20 seconds]
I tried to explain the answer with the help of flow-chart wherever i had more number points and wanted to save space and time. You can learn how to draw flow diagrams from here
https://www.evernote.com/l/AGBDDNbO-eFJeqS0t2z9tKwvezkmXeDhI2o
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Pen
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? Hand
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue Pen(Pilot V7 RT= Try it, if your hand get tired of writing. )

MAINS OPTIONAL SUBJECT

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you choose it and not something else?
Anthropology.I was full time working professional when I chose this optional. Reasons included concise Syllabus, logical and easy to understand.

Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
Chose only if you have  some interest in the subject. Invest few days in doing some basic reading and then only go for it. Don’t chose this subject only because of this year’s extraordinary performance. Many people find it difficult to cope with it as you have to mug up some topics.

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.)

  • please don’t read any of the fancy books. Your cost to benefit ratio will be very poor.
  • It is difficult to find all topics from one particular book or notes. So you’ll have to put some efforts here. If you are full time civil service aspirant, please make your own notes. Having personal notes is very very helpful.
  • You can make Braintree’s notes as base of your preparation and jote down points if you have the habit of making notes.
  • I’ve seen Telugu academy  books are also good for first paper(but i didn’t read them, becauase i had covered the topics from other source. Didn’t want to do #doubleMazoori)
  • For tribal part I read topics from Munirutam. Collected data from XaXa report and Case studies. No need to read cover to cover if you are short on time, just go through its recommendation. But reading the book may help you developing new perspective.
  • I was fortunate to have one seniors notes, which were base of my preparation. I didn’t read any of the Nadeem Hussain book, because the cost to benefit ratio was very poor.
  • I’ll write something in detail about antro some other day.

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?

  • Some case studies related to tribal part and Social part needed to be collected
  • Some physical anthropology topics can be better understood through Interent. If One is not able to take coaching, they can definitely use UGC e pathshala Anthropology videos to learn few topics.
  • It was my 3rd mains so, I’ve fairly used internet and current affair, but one can score good even by traditional sources.

Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Everyone will say 3 months,But thats myth. How many hours you are giving in those 3 months and quality of your attention is more important. By and large the syllabus is not bulky and the subject is easy to understand. But you need multiple revisions to write quality answers in the exam as you forget the terms very quickly.
I took coaching, which covered only 40% syllabus,and I was able to cover the syllabus after prelims.
So overall it could be done in lesser time with more ease but it requires efficient time utilisation.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
immediately after prelims got over. i.e 2 weeks post prelims.

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

  • I totally relied on notes.  In optional you can’t write GS like general answers, you have to be specific to the demand, so it is very important to maintain notes as It becomes impossible to revise from the  books just before the Mains. You get one day break before optional paper. So my target was to revise once before the exam. If you have read the same notes 3-4 times earlier, it becomes easy to revise the whole syllabus in 1 and half day you get before the optional paper.
  • Most of my notes are on paper. But Some news clipping related to Anthropology and some cases studies I saved on evernote. For example the question on “Age at Menarche” I wrote about “precocious puberty”, which i found in some news article. https://www.evernote.com/l/AGC9sZf8dyxN94tEtXjI76aqX6TX0WwCDvw .   Similarly I quoted from another article how animal fattening hormones enters human body through meat consumption impacting onset of menarche and their impact. Such news articles can be collected from newspapers.

Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2017 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

It was comparatively on easier note. But Don’t assume same pattern will repeat in future. Try to cover whole syllabus and don’t fall in trap of selective reading. Some people try to guess which Anthropological theory will be asked next time and leave other theories as they are time taking. Selective reading may reduce chances of covering whole question paper as you may have difficulty in doing one part from 1 question set. If you are leaving 2-3 question in that way, your attempt will come down to 200-220 reducing your marks by 20-30, which can make or break things. so please maintain a balanced approach.

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?

  • Passed out in 2013 and had industry experience so didn’t prepare on academic subjects.
  • Only prepared basics of computer technology like Blockchain, 3D printing, VR, AR, IOT ,AI etc and other computer science  related recent happening in the field.
  • For current affairs read 2-3 newspaper religiously(many who have habit of reading gists like VIsion CA face problems in interviews, because board sometimes start testing in-depth knowledge, so short cut may not work in interview, )
  • for hobies and other DAF related topics i did extensive internet research and saved all the stuff on evernote.

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?

  • Attended several mock interviews. Mock interview provides a familiarity with the process but they aren’t similar to the real interview process. I attended more mocks as I’m not good at speaking, my voice is distorted, wanted to get more confidence.
  • Its not necessary to attend but attending 1-2 mocks is advisable so that you don’t commit blunders. At least know formalities like what to wear, interview etiquettes, and  what to say and what to not say in the interviews.
  • Generally no coaching centre has 5 member interview board, nor do members ask good quality questions and the table and whole room environment is totally different from UPSC.

Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
Was staying in Delhi in rented flat.

Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Formal Suit, white shirt and black shoes.

DURING THE INTERVIEW

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Smita Nagraj
Q2. How long was the interview?
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?]

Honestly everyone in my family wanted me to pursue civil service. For me, The idea of becoming part of public service, which provides such a wide canvas to bring about positive changes in lives of umpteen number of people gave me lot of motivation to go for 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

CM: Smita Nagraj.

  1. Recently there was a new finding of a black race fossil in the UK. Are you aware of that?
  2. There is one theory which talks that all the Europeans were earlier negroid.  What is your view?
  3. Which view do you subscribe to?
  4. If I ask your personal opinion as a student of anthropology, which view will u support?
  5. North Indian vs South Indian racial origin theory.
  6. What do Aryan means?
  7. Where is the word Aryan originated from?
  8. There was controversy about evolution. Do you support the theory of evolution?
  9. Okay, you are in favor of evolutionary theory. What changes can you imagine in next 5000 years?
  10. Okay, how about next 5 million years.

M1.

  1. There are two things related to water and electricity which are mandatory to be fulfilled before getting the permit for building construction. What are those two?
  2. You know about GPS satellites. How many minimum numbers of satellites are minimum neede for getting correct user location?
  3. Okay, tell me how many are the maximum number of satellites.
  4. Okay, make a guess.
  5. What is minimum internet speed required to play videos on youtube?
  6. What is the difference between joy and happiness?
  7. Which is more important to you?

M2.

  1. Do you think we were successful in organizing Commonwealth games?
  2. Has our sporting culture improved after CWG?
  3. Should such games be used as a tool to promote urban infrastructure?
  4. What was its impact on Delhi?
  5. Okay, you are a computer specialist. Tell me how will you secure wireless access networks?
  6. How is India’s preparation level in CyberSecurity?
  7. What is role of Ethics in Cyber attacks against other countries. ?

M3. 

  1. A long story, which concluded with the statement that supposes the US and North Korea are able to drop 4 nuclear bombs each on their territory. The nuclear attack has taken place despite all the regulation, international cooperation, and ballistic missile defense systems. Tell me what will be its impact on the world. (He left it very open-ended)
  2. We talk a lot about solar energy. What is India’s achievement in this sector?
  3. Do we have the capacity to achieve the target? What is India’s capacity? Overall

M4.

  1. What was your role in CWG?
  2. Suppose you are chairman of the organising committee of an international festival of performing art. You have got 1 years time for its preparation.  How will you go about it? (Left it very open-ended)
  3. Tell me all the steps that you will take.
  4. What about the performers in the event?
  5. Told name of some department of govt(something related to Culture). She asked what is its work.
  6. Okay, what are the things we should learn from child and birds?

CM again:

  1. you said that open WI-FIs are not secure. Delhi government was talking about setting open wifi access points. So do you think the government is not concerned about the security of the user’s data?
  2. Yesterday Attorney general gave a statement in SC that, Aadhar data is protected by 10*4 meter wide wall. I was not able to understand what does this wall mean.  So what is this wall?
  3. Is this a physical wall?
  4. Is this really 4 meters wide?
  5. Do you want to make a guess?
  6. I told will go back and read more. And the interview got over there.

Duration: 35 minutes. Cordial board. Didn’t counter question.
It was bit difficult interview. bit factual and situation based.
I committed the mistake of answering each question, even if I was not fully sure, which should be avoided.
My interview score is below average.
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?
Though the interview was related to DAF, but they asked many abstract and hypothetical questions which were quite difficult. Overall the board was cordial.

Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
UPSC would never trouble with such formalities, they are very supportive regarding formalities.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Carry 12 photographs, and Eye prescriptions if you wear glasses. Avoid drinking alcohol on the eve of medical.

CSE-2017 MARKSHEET

Q1. Please provide  final mark sheet:

Subject Marks
Essay 126
GSM1 107
GSM2 125
GSM3 118
GSM4 85
Optional Paper-1 145
Optional Paper-2 170
Written Total 876
Interview 151
Final 1027

CAREER BACKUP

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I was working as Senior Software Developer and was also selected for Madhya Pradesh Forest Service. Due to previous 2 failure, I was also contemplating going abroad for master in case Civil Services doesn’t work out.

Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ number of failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/ after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)
Didn’t reach that breaking point. But i’m sure it would have been very difficult to go out of UPSC trap without exhausting all the attempts.  for past 3 years I’m stuck in cycle of pre-main-interview but fortunately work kept me occupied during breaks, so it was less troubling.

VIEWS ON UPSC REFORMS

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Yes Optional marking is very subjective. To provide level playing field it should be removed. I’m saying it despite i might have got benefit of good performance of my optional.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
Removing CSAT might have reduced chances of non serious aspirants clearing the prelims. But still 70-80% selected candidates are from Engineering background, having received most of their schooling in good convent  schools. So the stated objective of providing equal opportunities to Non English medium students from rural areas is not fulfilled.

Q. Despite what UPSC has done in last seven years in syllabus and pattern change, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories and the readymade e-material sellers. In fact, it’s increased under the new Mains-syllabus post-2013. Let’s face it, UPSC added so many topics and so many random questions, even fulltime student struggles to gather and process all standard reference books and material himself within the short time available to him.
It is true. But in my opinion whatever reform UPSC makes, These Coachingwalas will continue to mint money due to very high competition. people are desperate to improve their performance at any cost.  I’ve even seen ads for improving handwriting, with the help of calligrapher, which is quite stunning.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
ideally it should be done immediately after prelims. But UPSC doesn’t do that to avoid litigations. Although Everyone support transparency but in my opinion it is well thought out strategy of UPSC. State PSC’s results get stuck in court cases and 95% deserving candidates suffers at the cost of other 5% who litigate to get favourable results. Definitely UPSC should ensure making ambiguous questions like ‘Indus valley horse’ and should declare answer key immediately after prelims and correct them according to public feedback.
Q. UPSC should disclose the evaluated mains- answer sheets like some StatePCS are doing.
Definitely yes. But again this may lead to court cases and delay the whole process.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
although the idea seems very good,I don’t support the idea, specially after SSC fiasco. I myself have been working to design an online test platform to conduct PT tests.  The system is prone to multiple failures arising due to poor internet speeds, Hardware problems and vulnerable to hacking. It may put rural candidates at disadvantage, who may lack good familiarity. SSC conduct the exam on multiple days, which may not suit the UPSC’s pattern.
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.
Now IFOS mains has been kept after CSE mains, so having common prelims keeps both doors open, which in my opinion is a good decision.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?

  1. Remove the optional altogether.
  2. Increasing transparency in the exam process.

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?

I fortunately didn’t suffer from any such insecurity. Especially after first interview such misconceptions were removed. UPSC interview panel need some topic on which they can talk to you for 30 minutes. All the achievement on your profile are immaterial except that they help them in initiating a conversation through which they judge your personality.

STRUGGLE OF A SENIOR PLAYER

Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison of UPSC  and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.
UPSC preparation is like a trap where you are stuck in the cycle of prelims, mains and interview. If you succeed than well and good and if you fail even by 1 marks, You have to start again from level 1, i.e, prelims.  I’ve failed twice at interview stage and morale was quite low for 3rd interview.  Just keep in mind, you only need one attempt to get selected, just be honest with your effort and have some patience. Having some job helps in three ways:

  1. One, it provides financial security so you don’t have to rely on parents.
  2. Two, It helps in staying away from negativity, which is helpful in maintaining peace of mind.
  3. Third, Knowledge gathered in college and previous jobs do not become obsolete, as you are continuously in touch with your core competency(Computer Engineering in my case). This gives you confidence that if civil service doesn’t work out, you always have the option to go back to the industry.

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?

  • In 1st mains, I was working full time and got only 2.5  months  to prepare for mains. Was able to get interview call but failed to make it to the list due to low marks in mains.
  • In 2nd  mains, could improve mains marks only by 30 marks which  were negatively balanced by reduction in interview marks, which pushed me out of list.

STRUGGLE OF WORKING PROFESSIONAL

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job

  • I’ve worked full time till October 2015 and working on adhoc basis thenceforth till now.  It is difficult to compete with people preparing full time, but efficient utilisation of your time can work wonders.
  • Utilising your travelling time and time you get in night after work in smart way is very crucial.
  • We spend 1-2 hour daily in doing unproductive daily chores like brushing teeths, eating breakfast , getting ready for office etc. I tried to multitask during this time by listening to All India radio Spotlight discussions on VISION IAS mobile app. Instead of checking out Facebook on mobile, Current affairs can be read on CIVILSdaily app.
  • I feel highly indebted to Mrunal sir for Geography and Economy videos. I’ve extensively used these videos. I have seen these video’s more than 10 times and I could do whole Geography revision only while I’ll be walking after dinner or while I’ll be going out for some other purpose.
  • You’ll have to sacrifice on your social life. Like I missed one one office sponsored foreign trip to save 1 week for preparation. I couldn’t go home even on Diwali and Holi.
  • You will have to control all your temptations, like when you open your FB, you’ll see your friends visiting exotic foreign destinations and you’ll feel like stuck in the streets of Old Rajinder Nagar for decades.

GRAND WISDOM

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?

  • In all my 3 serious attempts, I have totally relied on VIsion’s Test series. I make a target to complete vision’s test according to their plan, which helped me in completing the syllabus and maintaining consistency.
  • Mood swings and distractions are bound to occur. It is natural that one day you’ll read 15 hours at your maxima and won’t study for weeks on your minima due to several reasons. You should make an attempt to  reduce your minima and increase the maxima.
  • Keep giving your mind a negative feedback about wastage of time and it’ll return back to normal.
  • Don’t compromise on your sleep by becoming over ambitious for some day where you become insomanic. This preparation is very time taking and you can’t sustain by compromising on your sleep. There have not been a single day when i’ve not sleep for 6-7 hours.
  • Please maintain good hygienic diet and avoid saving money on food. If you get sick even for a week, you may lose your precious time, which is more valuable than few bucks.

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?

  • stay honest with yourself and give your 100% to the process and leave rest to the fate.
  • Do what is in your hand and stop worrying about things you can’t control. I’ve seen so many of my friend worrying about cutoff after prelims and don’t study for weeks in the anxiety. Lot of people spend their energy in useless discussions on online forums to find right answer to ambiguous question. In my opinion such unproductive tasks should be avoided.
  • Remember the chinese proverb “Those who think they can and those who think they can’t are bothusually right.” So belive in your hardwork and Stop worrying about others capabilities, rather focus on yourself.
  • Try to improve yourself everyday by honest assessment of your efforts. When you go to bed,  ask yourself if you did justice to the day gone by, if answer is no then you need to improve the next day.
  • You may succeed or fail despite all the hard work, but you’ll certainly fail if fail to work hard. So Hard work is necessary but not the sufficient condition to clear this exam.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2017. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

  • Despite all the hardwork, I’ve failed twice earlier atlast stage and knows exactly how it feel like to not get the fruits of your success. Friends keep in mind this is highly subjective exam in which so many things should work in your favour to get selected. Especially your optional should not be butchered and then your interview board should be kind enough to not kill your aspirations by awarding below average marks.
  • We all know the 30 minute interview can’t judge your personality nor your potential to perform as an bureaucrat. My marks declined heavily in from 1st interview to 2nd interview, so does that mean my personality had degraded in that one year ? Or a person with Geography/Pub Ad optional who may have spent much more time than a  literature/Anthro/PSIR guys are less talented?. These are some subjective aspects which are beyond our control and we’ve to accept the fact that the whole process is highly subjective and  can’t judge a person of its true potential.
  • One exam can’t decide your true potential, if you are honest hard worker, you’ll definitely succeed in some other walk of life. It’s just a temporary delay.  I remember I could not secure good rank in IIT-JEE but was fortunate to get decent college through AIEEE and I have got no regret about not getting into IITs.
  • Do not attach your happiness to this exam. Accept whatever may come. Having failed twice earlier, i was preparing my mind for all types of result, be it any rank or no rank at all, i would have accepted it, thats why I feel content with a mediocre rank. To be honest I was contemplating going for VIPASANA to fight against mental struggle.
  • There are People in my close friend circle, who have achieved ranks in top 20s and there are others who couldn’t even clear mains. Both set of people are from same college, read same sources, worked almost equally hard and are almost equally good in terms of intellect.  But their results are very different What do you get out of this? The whole UPSC process is full of subjectivity!

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?

  • My whole family, especially my sister through whom i got to know about civil services and elder brother who always motivated to prepare for civil services.
  • There are countless teachers and  friends whose list goes very very long.   My journey has been very long and there are So many people have helped me in the path. I’ll personally try to reach out to all those who have helped me in my journey to express my sincere gratitude

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. 

  1. I’m very grateful to Mrunal.org for providing a right direction to my preparation. The portal has helped me in following may
    • initialy my preparation was wholy based on your 5 part series on how to prepare for civil service. You broke all the myths about the exam and helped in developing a smart strategy toward the exam.
    • Through your articles, I understood the importance of reading the same material repeatedly and not following multiple source, which saved lot of time and helped improving retaining concepts for long time ( NO #DOUBLEMAZOORI)
    • To take the whole UPSC process holistically and not to study according to previous years question paper only.( BackbreakingTM Move)
  2. In initial days of preparation  I understood the importance of “cost to benefit ratio” through your articles. I’ve never read fancy books and always avoided non standard materials. That has helped in saving lot of time and maintaining a smart strategy.
  3. Content wise, for Geography and Economy I’ve fully relied on your videos. The content is really good and I’ve totally relied on these videos for Geography preparation and static portions of Economy.
  4. Your witty humoured way of explaining makes the difficult topic easy to understand and helps in retaining the concept for long.
  5. Use of famous personalities names like #RajanBhai , #SadhuYadav, #TomCruise etc helps alot in developing a mind map, which is really helpful.
  6. I’ve read almost all the toppers interview published on your site. Those interview gave lot of motivation in time of mental breakdown. So a very big Thank you to you sir for publishing high quality content.

 

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2 Comments on “[Topper’s Interview] Shiv Narayan Sharma (Rank-278/UPSC-2017): Anthropology 4th Attempt, Software Developer from Mathura”

  1. For tribal part I read topics from Munirathnam Reddy*

  2. sir would please give your email id or whatsapp number so that I can have a discussion with you

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