IAS Toppers Interview

Srushti Jayant Deshmukh
Rank-5, CSE-2018


CSC: Heartiest congratulations to you from Civil Services Chronicle on your success. How are you feeling about it?

Ans:Thank you so much. I am feeling happy for securing a good rank. I am also relieved that my efforts have paid off and now I am looking forward to an exciting and an impactful career ahead.

CSC: What was your inspiration for becoming an IAS officer?

Ans:I always thought of what I could become, using my capacity to study and learn so as to reach out to the society and do something for the poor, marginalized etc. I got my answer, when I came across the UPSC CSE exam which could enable me to become an IAS officer.

CSC: Whom would you give credit to for your success?

Ans: I would like to thank my parents, my brother and my grandmother with whom I lived and who supported me in my preparation. I would also give credit to my closest friends, teachers and mentors who helped me throughout.

CSC: What was the role of your family and others (teachers, friends) in your preparation and success?

Ans:Family keeps you motivated through your ups and downs during the preparation. Your friends help you douse your stress and worries.

CSC: What were your sources for preparation? Which books, magazines, newspapers and online sources were used by you during the preparation?

Ans:I referred to NCERT - 6-12th Social Sciences as basic books along with standard books on each subject. I also used to read Yojana, Kurukshetra magazine, the Hindu as well as Indian Express. The online sources that I used to refer to were PIB and Rajya Sabha TV.

CSC: How much time did you devote for this exam?

(a)Prelims (b)Mains

(c)Interview(d)Optional

Ans:I integrated my preparation along with college. I prepared my optional subject a year earlier before, giving it 4-5 months. I focused separately on Prelims from February 2018 and prepared for Mains before itself. For interview, I started preparing after the Mains exam.

CSC: How did you manage your time in both Prelims and Mains examinations?

Ans:While attempting Prelims, I used to fill the OMR sheet for questions I was sure about at first, and used to leave the rest for revisiting. For Mains, I took 7-9 minutes to answer each question and did not leave any question unattempted.

CSC: Did you integrate your Prelims and Mains preparation or was it separate?

Ans:I prepared for Prelims and Mains in an integrated manner since most of the subjects overlap. Only when a specific phase of exam came near, I prepared separately on how to approach the questions.

CSC: Did you prepare any notes? How helpful are notes? What is your advice on making notes?

Ans:Yes. Making notes using pen and paper was the most helpful for me. Note making helps you to comprehend and understand topics well. The better your notes are, the better is your answer writing skill. Divide your notes category wise and keep condensing them for revision.

CSC: What was your strategy for preparing for Ethics paper and which books did you refer to?

Ans:I referred to Lexicon for basic terms and R. Rajagopalan for case studies. Proper analysis of a situation can be done by keeping in mind multi-dimensional impact for case studies. For rest of the questions, one can start with the definitions followed by examples.

CSC: Tell us something about your approach for Essay paper.

Ans:For Essay paper, one must broaden their reading base from newspapers to general magazines. One can divide their essay on different topics and dimensions. Practicing one essay on each Sunday and getting it evaluated helped me a lot.

CSC: What was your style of writing in the examination and how did you develop this writing style?

Ans:I focused on two aspects of an answer:

  1. Structure of the answer, depending on demand of the question
  2. Using facts, reports, data to enrich answer
  3. Focus on neat presentation, use of diagrams, maps, flowcharts.

I developed this style by practice and by looking at toppers’ copies.

CSC: What was your optional? What was the basis of selecting the optional?

Ans: My optional was Sociology. I found the subject very interesting and felt that I could spend time studying it in detail. This was the only basis. Besides, many topics were of help in General Studies as well.

CSC: How did you prepare for interview? Which types of questions were asked in the interview? Did you answer all the questions?

Ans: For the interview, I studied my detailed application form thoroughly first. Then I took mock interviews at various places like Vajirao & Reddy Institute that helped me to fine tune my mistakes and perform better.

I was asked question from diverse areas:

  • My major project
  • Range of temples in MP
  • Bhopal gas tragedy
  • How can Sociology help in administration?
  • Big data
  • Judiciary reforms
  • Education system in India
  • Laws related to pollution

I couldn't answer 1-2 questions, but politely accepted it and moved on.

CSC: Was there any specific area they emphasized upon?

Ans: No, the discussions touched upon various topics and areas and they did not emphasize on any specific area.

CSC: What is the role of Civil Services Chronicle in your success?

Ans: CSC can help aspirants to gain quality content for CSE preparation. Toppers’ strategy and practice questions are specifically helpful.

SUGGESTED BOOK LIST

Prelims:

General Studies:

  • NCERT- 6-12th Social Studies,
  • History- Rajiv Ahir Spectrum
  • Geography- GC Leong
  • CSAT: Previous year’s papers of CSAT

Mains:

GS 1 Same as Prelims

GS 2 Polity. M Lakshmikanth, DD Basu

GS 3 Economy: Ramesh Singh, Niti Aayog Action Agenda

GS 4 Lexicon for key terms, R. Rajagopalan book for case studies

Optional Paper-1 Sociology: Harlambos and Heald and Oxford dictionary

Optional Paper-2 B.K. Nagla and e-PG Pathshala online material

Magazines/Newspapers:

  • Yojana – Kurukshetra magazine
  • The Hindu, Indian Express, Livemint etc.

Vaishali Singh
Rank-8, CSE-2018


Civil Services Chronicle: Heartiest congratulations to you from Civil Services Chronicle on your success. How are you feeling post this achievement? What was your inspiration for becoming an IAS officer? Whom would you give credit to for your success? What was the role of family and others (teachers, friends) in your preparation and success?

Vaishali Singh:Thank you. It is a feeling of both relief and excitement. I feel relieved that I am out of this process and excited as I have achieved what I wanted to achieve.I will be able to move forward in life now. My inspiration came from my experiences during my law course at National Law University, Delhi. I was a part of a number of field research projects where I worked at the grassroots level which I found missing in my corporate law firm. Therefore, I got attracted towards Civil Services. I think there are a number of people who have been a part of my journey. Personally, my parents and my brother have been with me through all the ups and downs. Apart from that, I would like to give credit to my mentor, Mr. R.K. Gupta Sir who has been a very important part of this process. He guided me throughout the last one year of preparation.

CSC: What strategy should one follow for preparing for Civil Services Examination especially in General Studies Prelims as well as Mains papers? Please explain this with your subject-wise preparation strategy. How did you manage your time in both Prelims and Mains examination? Did you integrate your Prelims and Mains preparation or was it separate?

Vaishali: I believe that for both Prelims and Mains, the content is same. So, my strategy was to study in an integrated manner for both Prelims and Mains and apply that knowledge differently for Prelims and Mains. It is my suggestion that one must prepare for both Prelims and Mains together, so that one can cover the entire syllabus holistically. Until February end, I studied for both Prelims and Mains together. Towards the end, during March to May, I focused solely on Prelims. I did one mock test every day. This is how I divided my time between Mains and Prelims.

CSC: Did you prepare any notes? How helpful are notes in this examination? What is your advice for making notes?

Vaishali: I did not make any notes for core subjects because I prefer to study from the book itself. However, I did make notes for current affairs and certain other topics. I would say that making notes is extremely crucial for current affairs so that you don’t get lost in the plethora of materials that are available for current affairs. Therefore, making notes is important.

CSC: What was your strategy for preparing for Ethics paper and which books did you refer to?

Vaishali: Ethics (Paper-IV), in my opinion, is one of the most important papers because of the wide range of variations in marks associated with it. So, we must focus on Ethics. After Prelims, I joined a test series for Ethics. When I attempted the tests, I realised the demands of the Ethics paper and then I studied accordingly. I studied from multiple sources and made my own notes. Some of the sources were the Lexicon, model answers of certain papers, few examples from newspapers and sometimes online sources.

CSC: Tell us something about your approach for Essay paper.

Vaishali: Essay is one paper where I focused the most because after Prelims, I had less time left for my General Studies preparation and my optional was lengthy and I could not complete it earlier. So, I decided to focus a lot on Essay as it offers a lot of difference in marks. I first read the past year’s toppers’ copies to see what the constituents of a good essay are. Once I understood that we need a good introduction, body and conclusion, I started collecting material for certain important topics that I thought could be asked in the Essay paper. For examples, trade war and globalisation, gender equality and liberty, inequality and poverty, etc. Once I had identified the topics, I started collecting information, quotations, and examples and joined a test series to attempt more essays and I improved during the process.

CSC: What was your style of writing in the examination and how did you develop this writing style?

Vaishali: I come from a legal background. So, I had to write a lot. I made sure that I found certain words and sentences which could sum up a large paragraph. We all have different writing styles and we should not change it too much, otherwise we cease to be our natural selves. My natural writing style is mostly in the form of bullets which has developed since my school days. Other than that, I used to write certain paragraphs and essays on some important topics. I also wrote on some field research projects during my Law course. These improved my critical analysis and the ability to understand a given topic. That is how I built up my answer writing skills.

CSC: What was your optional? What was the basis of selecting the optional?

Vaishali: As I am a lawyer, I opted for Law optional as a natural choice. I was comfortable in the subject, having studied it for five years. Even though Law is not considered a high scoring subject, but still I opted for it because I was in a better position to understand and answer any off-guard question in the paper. I devoted about 4-5 months for optional. It is my suggestion that one must try to complete the optional before Prelims so that one does not have to worry about it after Prelims.

CSC: How did you prepare for interview? Which types of questions were asked in the interview? Did you answer all the questions? Was there any specific area that they emphasised upon?

Vaishali: My Interview preparation was based on a lot of mock interviews as mock practices are very important for all three stages of the examination. First, I prepared my DAF in great detail. Second, I focused on my graduation subject which was Law. Third, I focused on current affairs. This was my order of priority for Interview preparation. Thereafter, I went for mock interviews, learnt a lot from my mistakes and eventually I did well in my interview. 80-85% of questions in my interview pertained to Law, out of which, 90% questions were from Criminal Law. There were one or two questions which I could not answer. I smiled and honestly told the interview panel that I was unaware of the same.

CSC: What is your opinion on importance of coaching institutes for the preparation of this examination?

Vaishali: I believe that this examination is as much about knowledge as it is about strategy. Along with strategy, we need guidance which can come from multiple sources like online sources, coaching institutes, etc. So, if one feels that one does not have sufficient guidance around; one can go for coaching institutes. But if you have sufficient guidance from people around you and you think that the online sources would suffice, then it is not necessary to go for any specific coaching.

CSC: What are your suggestions for the freshers opting for Civil Services Examination and for those who have failed in their previous attempts?

Vaishali: We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. While we keep focusing on our strengths, we fail to improve upon our weaknesses. There are certain areas that one would find difficult to tackle. One should go for those areas first. One must identify where one is going wrong, so that the same mistakes are not repeated in different stages. I did that and it helped me immensely.

CSC: Which books, magazines, newspapers and online sources did you use during your preparation?

Vaishali: I followed the basic books that every topper used to talk about. I limited my sources. For all the core subjects, I followed NCERTs, Laxmikant, Spectrum, etc. For current affairs, I focused on a number of sources. I used to read two newspapers everyday, namely The Hindu and Livemint. From Livemint, I used to read only the last four pages. I used to refer to certain magazines and online sources for some good content on current affairs topics.

CSC: What is the role of Civil Services Chronicle in your success?

Vaishali: Civil Services Chronicle is one magazine that I used for my current affairs preparation. Here, you find a lot of good content on current affairs. This was one of my sources for current affairs preparation.


K. Lalith
Rank- 626, CSE-2018


Civil Services Chronicle: Heartiest congratulations to you from Civil Services Chronicle on your success. How are you feeling post this achievement? What was your inspiration for becoming an IAS officer? Whom would you give credit to for your success? What was the role of family and others (teachers, friends) in your preparation and success?

Ans:Thank you so much. I am feeling really elated and thankful to all those people who helped me reach where I am today. I would say my father being in the services is my biggest inspiration so far as the professional aspect of it goes because I have seen from close quarters as to what a civil servant can actually do and what difference he/she can bring in one's life. I would give credit to my parents because they have been really supportive. Generally, differently abled children don’t get a positive and conducive environment at home which cripples the kid mentally as well as emotionally. In that aspect, I have been very fortunate to have a supportive environment. Due to my father's job with Ministry of Railways, I did my schooling from various places which gave me exposure and helped me to sensitize with my surroundings. My mother could have gone for a corporate job as she is highly qualified, but she chose to stay back home and tutor me. So, she is my personal qualified tutor I would say.

CSC: What strategy one should follow for preparing for Civil Services Examination especially in General Studies Prelims as well as Mains papers. Please explain this with your subject-wise preparation strategy. How did you manage your time in both Prelims and Mains examination? Did you integrate your Prelims and Mains preparation or was it separate?

Ans:I would start off with saying that it is not rocket science and each one of us can do it by applying right methodology. My strategy for Prelims, Mains and Interview is CLEAR, that is,

  • Clarity of purpose: We need to know what this examination is all about. That is the first step. It's important to understand the purpose and intent of the examination.
  • Limited resources: We should not delve into multiple resources. For all the three stages, maximum one or two resources should be followed.
  • Efficient time management
  • Adequate practice: For both Prelims and Mains, a lot of practice with test series is required in order to gauge as to where we are in the relative scheme of competition.
  • Rigorous revision: With limited resources, we should have a good command over the syllabus. We should have self-discipline and consistency as it is a long duration examination.

My preparation was an integrated one from the beginning because it is important to qualify in all stages of the examination.

CSC: Did you prepare any notes? How helpful are notes in this examination? What is your advice for making notes?

Ans:My way of making notes is little different as I am visually impaired. I usually made soft copy notes using tools such as Evernote or Microsoft Word. I did not make extensive notes. My memory helped me a lot. But I used to prepare class notes which helped me revise quickly.

CSC: What was your strategy for preparing for Ethics paper and which books did you refer to?

Ans:One of the most prominent sources is the Ethics module provided by Civil Services Chronicle. Apart from that, I took up the syllabus and broke down the syllabus in to different words and phrases and googled each one of them to understand the context and the intent of the examination in order to write relevant answers. A focused preparation should be done, especially for Ethics on the basis of deconstruction of the syllabus and understanding the key terms in it.

CSC: Tell us something about your preparation approach for essay paper.

Ans:Fortunately, my writing skills are at par because of the practice of writing during my academics. I just had to fine-tune my writing as per the requirements of UPSC. For that, I took a number of tests.

CSC: What was your style of writing in the examination and how did you develop this writing style?

Ans:Generally, in academics, we are expected to go deep into the topic and deal with each aspect vividly. UPSC requires an overall perspective, a sociological aspect and sensitivity towards the society from the aspirants. Moreover, we should write to the point answers. We should provide anecdotal evidences, especially in Essay and Ethics papers, to enrich our answers.

CSC: What was your optional? What was the basis of selecting the optional?

Ans:My optional was Commerce and Accountancy. I was familiar with the subject as I am a commerce graduate and I am pursuing master’s degree in related subject. As far as my strategy goes, my graduation study materials and notes helped me a lot to improve the foundation. Apart from that, I also took coaching from Ranker’s Classes in Karol Bagh for Commerce and Accountancy.

CSC: How did you prepare for interview? Which types of questions were asked in the interview? Did you answer all the questions? Was there any specific area they emphasised upon?

Ans:At the outset, I would like to emphasise that preparing for interview is difficult in limited span of time between Mains examination result and interview. Therefore, we should prepare for the interview from the beginning itself as part of an integrated approach of preparation. We should ask ourselves as to what is the logic behind whatever is happening around us. We can get more than 70% prepared for the Interview by catering to the ‘why’ aspect of it. Without being afraid of anything, we just need to be ourselves in the interview.During my interview, I answered almost all the questions. The interview lasted for about 25-30 minutes. There were some tricky questions in which careful treading was required. The health and education aspects and some questions related to economics like stock markets were especially emphasized upon in the Interview.

CSC: What is your opinion on importance of coaching institutes for the preparation of this examination?

Ans:I think each one of us has personal strategy for preparation. There is no fixed rule regarding taking up coaching or going for self-study completely. It all depends on one's mindset and one’s requirement of hand-held assistance. I had the requirement of assistance, so I went for coaching. However, I think coaching is definitely helpful because one gets everything in a packaged format in coaching institute, which makes the preparation easier and systematic.

CSC: Being differently-abled, what challenges did you face while preparing for the examination?

Ans:I personally feel that cribbing about challenges is not a positive attitude. However, my journey was definitely not a smooth sail as I did face problems. The fundamental problem was the availability of get study material. As I am visually impaired, my learning is fundamentally extempore in nature. Finally, I received immense help and support from institutes like Chronicle IAS Academy. I used various screen reader software packages. I used to listen to the soft copies and memorise them. The other major challenge was I needed someone's help to solve the test papers. My mother helped me by reading out the questions to me, which I then solved. Later, she would also read out the answer key. Therefore, the entire process takes a little longer compared to regular students. Inspite of challenges, I got immense support from home as well as from outside due to which I could succeed in this examination.

CSC: What is the role of Civil Services Chronicle in your success?

Ans:Civil Services Chronicle has played a vital role in my preparation. I would say that the content of the magazine is qualitative. It is highly recommended for preparation, and especially for current affairs revision.

Junaid Ahmed
AIR 3, CSE 2018
"Integrated Study is the Key to Crack UPSC Civil Services Examination"


CSC: Heartiest congratulations to you from Civil Services Chronicle for your success. How are you feeling about it?

Junaid Ahmad: Getting AIR 3 in civil services is no less than a surreal feeling. I am really overwhelmed, but along with that a greater sense of responsibility has also come in.

CSC: What was your inspiration for becoming an IAS officer?

Junaid: I always looked for a career where I can find meaning in. Where along with my personal growth, I have avenues to return back to society what all I have received from it. Civil Service provides the best platform for it.

CSC: Whom do you give credit for your success?

Junaid: Firstly, thanks to the Almighty who kept his blessings on me. Along with that I also want to thank my parents, teachers and friends who remained a constant source of support for me during my preparation.

CSC: What was the role of family and others (teachers, friends) in your preparation and success?

Junaid:Family – Whenever I failed at any stage, they always motivated me, gave me the courage to stand up and fight again.

Teachers – It is due to their hard work and teaching that I am able to clear this exam.

About Your Preparation

CSC: What was your source of Preparation? Which Books, Magazines, News Papers and Online Sources were used by you during you preparation?

Junaid: Starting – Focus on UPSC syllabus and Previous Year’s Papers.

Books – NCERT’s help in developing a base for this exam. Then reference books like Laxmikant, Khullar for Geographhy etc help.

Magazines – Yojana andKurukshetra.

Newspapers – Indian express and The Hindu.

Online – PIB, ADR, Wikipedia website.

CSC: How much time did you devote for this Exam?

(a) Prelims,

(b) Mains,

(c) Interview,

(d) Optional

It is an integrated study. 1 – 1.5 years are required for building up a base with standard books.

Then for Mains – Answer writing every day and crisp and concise current affairs notes

Optional – It takes around 3-4 months to complete an optional.

CSC: How did you manage your time in both prelims and mains examinations?

Junaid:Prelims – 2 hours Paper

1st hour – first reading and attempting questions I know vey well.

2nd hour- second reading of questions whereI have some doubt.

Mains – Answer writing practice every day helped in managing the time in mains exam.

CSC: Did you integrate your Prelims and Mains preparation or was it separate?

Junaid:It is an integrated study in the beginning.

1-2 months prior to the prelims, one should focus more on objective questions and solving test series.

After clearing Prelims 2-3 months, answer writing should be focused upon along with revision.

CSC: Did you prepare notes? How helpful are notes? What is your advice on notes-making?

Junaid: Yes, notes are very very helpful during mains examination.

Making notes should be very crisp and concise, preferably bullet points which you can elaborate in the exam.

CSC:What were the Books and Strategy for Preparation of Ethics Paper- IV?

Junaid: Ethics is more of an applied thing. Still for basic terminologies LEXICON is good.

Apart from that focus on examples and try to use them in your answers.

CSC: Tell us something about the preparation of essay paper.

Junaid: Essay requires holistic application of knowledge which you have acquired during your preparation.

Quotes, anecdotes, poems, examples are different ways to start an essay. Also the demand should be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

CSC: What was your style of writing in the exam? How was it distinct from the general writing style? How did you develop this writing style?

Junaid: My style of writing was a mix of bullet points and paragraphs. Also, Introduction, body and conclusion are required along with headings and subheadings to make it more visible.

CSC: What was your optional? What was the basis of selecting this optional?

Junaid: My optional was Geography.I shortlisted few subjects like History, Geography and Political science. I read few books and found out that geography interested me the most. So it is solely your interest that should be the reason of selecting your optional.

CSS: How did you prepare for interview?

Junaid: I gave few mock interviews and tried to improve on my mistakes. Vajirao and Reddy helped me in this. More than knowledge, it is your personality which gets tested there.

CSC: Which type of questions was asked in the interview? Did you answer all the questions?

Junaid: Questions are mostly from your background and current affairs. For e.g., I am from B.Tech (ECE) background, so questions on New Electronics Policy 2019, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G difference etc. were asked. Since my optional is Geography, questions on strategic location of India, maritime zones and their importance etc were asked.

No, I did not answer all the questions. You can say no to those questions of which you are not sure of. Just do not try to bluff.

CSS: Was there any specific area they emphasized upon?

Junaid: Things which you mention in the application form, questions are asked from that only. Also International relations is an area they are interested in.

CSC: What is the importance of coaching in the preparation of exam?

Junaid: Coaching is helpful in the beginning to keep the new aspirant on track. After that it is your self-study that matters.

CSC: What is the role of Civil Services Chronicle in your success?

Junaid: CSC covers the domain of current affairs in detail, which has become an important area in prelims as well as mains exam.

Suggested Book List:

Prelims:

  1. G.S : NCERTs – 9th to 12th
  2. Reference books:
  3. Polity – Laximikanth
  4. Geography– GC Leong and Indian Geography by Khullar
  5. Economics- Ramesh Singh
  6. History-Bipan Chandra

Mains

  1. 1.G.S. 1, G.S.2, G.S.3 and G.S.4
    • For static part above mentioned books.
    • For current – Notes from newspapers.
  2. Optional Paper – 1: Savindra Singh and R D Dixit
  3. Optional Paper – 2: Khullar
  4. Magazines/Newspapers:The Hindu, Indian express, Yojana and Kurukshetra.

Mains Optional:Geography

UPSC Roll No.:0863569

Minal Karanwal
AIR 35, CSE 2018
"Work Expands to Fill Time, So Focus on Entire Syllabus Rather Than One Subject"


Civil Services Chronicle: Heartiest congratulations to you from Civil Services Chronicle for your success. How are you feeling post this achievement? What was your inspiration for becoming an IAS officer?Whom would you give credit for your Success?What was the role of family and others (teachers, friends) in your preparation and success?

Minal Karanwal: I am surely feeling very elated. You obsess over a dream for so long and finally you achieve it.

My inspiration for becoming an IAS officer was the job profile that would help me contribute my 2 cents towards nation building and also secure for myself such a good career opportunity.

Credit for my success goes to my entire family and ForumIAS Academy. That has handheld me through the entire process. Family provided the much needed moral and financial support, and my teachers at ForumIAS provided me the much needed guidance and mentorship.

CSC: What strategy one should follow for preparing Civil Services Examination especially in General Studies Prelims and Mains papers, Essay and Paper IV. Please explain this with your Subject- wise Preparation Strategy.

Minal: (a) For prelims: Making sure that I was conceptually thorough with every subject. Even for an intense subject like ‘Art and culture’, I had read Nitin Singhania, and had made many side notes in the book and separate topic wise notes for topics like types of dances, music etc.

(b) I had solved the last year question papers with a mind for reverse engineering, figuring out how the questions are asked by UPSC and what portions I should focus on. For ex: in geography the emphasis over the years has been questions on location of resources, location of cities etc. Hence, then my orientation while reading the text book was developed accordingly. In fact, I had even revised the last year papers, given that there is a chance of repetition.

(c) Faster completion of course- I was once advised at ForumIAS that since ‘work expands to fill time’, we should not get stuck on one subject and finish the course as fast as possible. Hence, I finished the first reading of the prelims course by January itself, even though I was still giving some time to my optional.

(d) 1000 revisions: metaphoric, but a lot of revision of my short notes and re reading of text books. This trained my sub conscious to even work under stress and anxiety.

(e) Practicing mocks: Practising and adapting yourself to solving regular tests will help you understand the exam pattern better and also help you figure out how you’ll go about solving it.

(f) Revision of some tests I hadn’t performed well in.

A. History: As far as Modern India is concerned, a thorough reading of Spectrum and solving of last year papers will suffice, because there are too many repetitions. Practice writing answers here as well.

  • For ‘Art and Culture’, I find Nitin Singhania a compulsory read here along with the NCERT and the last year papers. There is heavy mugging up of facts required and this can only be achieved by thorough practice and numerous revisions.
  • Post-independence: Bipin Chandra
  • World History: Norman Lowe+NCERTs+ ForumIAS Comprehensive Program (CGP) Handouts and Class notes
  • Focus was on making topic wise notes of everything.

B. Geography:

  • Reading the 11th and 12th class NCERTs is the most important. I preferred making short notes out of them so that revision is fact focussed. Most diagrams given in these books are also extremely handy.
  • For the topics of ‘Distribution of resources’ and ‘location of industries’, I referred a CGP book on it. In my opinion, it is brilliantly compiled, pontified , such that no separate notes are required.

C. Society:

  • Reading of NCERTs of class 11th and 12th plus adding the knowledge of current to it. The question in GS1 this time on contrasting Western and Indian secularism was sourced directly from these books and exact references came handy for me.

D. Polity and Governance:

  • I had Public Administration as my optional and hence I did not have to devote separate time for this portion. Also I used my PUB Ad notes for its preparation.
  • For ‘polity portion’, focus should be solving last year papers and test series papers. Open endedly reading Laxmikant will not suffice here.
  • For governance portion, it is important to read the ARC reports. Focus while reading them should be that of ‘differential study’: focus only on the specific problems highlighted and the corresponding solutions. I had made many notes from the ARC in a tabular ‘problem-solution’ approach. For example: in the 6th report of Local Governance the problem of 3Fs of Local bodies is pretty detailed and the solutions are also very specifically given. Ignoring them in the name of them being lengthy will be like putting a nail in your own coffin. You can get hold of either summaries or if you can read them fast and focussed, it would be better. ARCs that are a must:
  • oARC 1ST Report
  • oARC 4TH Report
  • oARC 5TH Report
  • oARC 6TH Report
  • oARC 10TH Report
  • oARC 12TH Report
  • oARC 14TH Report

E. Social Issues and IR: Dipin Sir’s Current Affairs Classes at Foum IAS sufficed.

F. Indian Economy:

  • Sri Ram’s economy book or any other standard Economy Book should be thoroughly read to gain a conceptual clarity.
  • Shankar Ganesh can be read exclusively for prelims perspective.
  • Reading newspaper and any CA booklet is very essential, as a current perspective is important while writing answers.

G. Government Budgeting: ARC 14TH Report has beautifully explained budgeting kinds and procedures. It must be read.

H. Agriculture:

  • I relied on Dipin Sir’s notes of ForumIAS and I bought the past year papers questions from the market and made notes out of them topic wise: regarding procurement, MSP issues, Food processing etc.
  • Land reforms was covered as part of Post Independence and the analysis of LARR, 2013 in the Classroom

I. Infrastructure, S&T: No separate preparation, only Dipin Sir’s notes of ForumIAS.

J. Investment Models: Sourced from my public administration notes. Emphasis should be on understanding various models like BOT, BOOT, EPC, HAM. And also what is the solution to make them more effective. Kelkar committee recommendations can be read.

K. Environment:

  • Focus was on reading Dipin Sir’s notes and Mains 365 selective reading
  • However, I also revised Shankar IAS’s book from mains perspective because of which I was able to solve the Biological Diversity Act question in GS 3, with utmost exactness.

L. Security:

  • Read the Tata McGraw Hill book selectively to cover static portions like Naxalism, communalism.
  • However, more reliance was on Dipin Sir’s class notes ForumIAS printed material.

M. Disaster Management:

  • Read the NDMA plan and made disaster wise notes in the form of pre-during-post disaster response
  • Read portions of Sendai framework and hence could solve question of Disaster risk reduction in GS paper 3.
  • Had also read portions of January 2017 Yojana.

N.Ethics:

  • Section A: Read Lexicon and CGP notes. Use of internet is very important to explore many concepts.
  • I had also collected many case studies while reading the newspapers to use as examples. Like: Case study for swachha bharat: pimprichinchwad
  • Section B: CGP had made us practice some standard case studies and practice of many case studies is crucial to get a hang on what stand to take in different case studies.

O. Essay: Content was derived from My GS knowledge itself. However, while writing essay, emphasis was on interpreting the topic rightly and exploring many dimensions relevant to the topic, like: SPECLIH [Social, Political, Economic, Cultural, Linguistic, International, Humanistic]

  • Sentences should be kept short and language simple.
  • I always started my essays with either an anecdote or a quote. This helped me give a different touch to the essay.

CSC: Which Books, Magazines, News Papers and Online Sources were used by you during your preparation? How much time did you devote for this exam for various stages namely Prelims, Mains, Optional and Interview?

Minal: I had relied on standard books that have been mentioned in my strategy above. Read ‘the Hindu’ newspaper throughout, except 2 months before Prelims and Mains both. I used to extensively search online on topics in GS4.

I used to study 8 hours minimum daily. Days that I didn’t study at all, I used to compensate by studying double the next day.

Read my optional till February 2018. After that devoted time exclusively to Prelims.

CSC: How did you manage your time in both Prelims and Mains examination?Did you integrate your Prelims and Mains preparation or was it separate?

Minal: In prelims, I managed to read my entire paper thrice. I used to mark sure shot questions in the 1st reading. In the 2nd reading, marked those that I knew 75% about. In the 3rd, I marked those that I knew 50% about.

I had practiced full length tests for mains exam and had strictly trained myself to not to give more than 8 minutes for either a 10 or a 15 marker. Hence I was able to finish all my mains papers within time limit.

I integrated my preparation to a large extent. The difference comes in the approach: prelims has to be facts oriented study and mains has to be concept oriented study. For example: What happened in Champaran Satyagrah is knowledge, important for both prelims and mains but ‘why Satyagraha was a tool used by Gandhi and how effective it was’ is the analysis required for mains perspective.

CSC: Did you prepare notes? How helpful are notes in this exam? What is your advice on notes-making?

Minal: Yes, I prepared notes for almost every topic I read. I believe that note making helps you learn better and also makes revision easier. They turned out to be the core of my preparation.

Students have less idea on how to make helpful notes. I have seen them writing summaries in running sentences. These are not notes. Notes should be concise, keyword oriented and if possible confined to one side of an A4 page, no matter how big the topic is. DO NOT include running sentences in your notes, they would be very difficult to revise and would be least effective.

For CA, I advise, that the notes should be concept oriented and strictly confined to one page. For ex: on Judiciary, everything ranging from the stats, problems, solutions etc. should be confined to one page. This works magic when the exam approaches and is very easy to recall.

CSC: What was your Strategy for preparing for Ethics Paper-IV andwhich books did you refer to?

Minal: GS4 is a paper, which if approached mechanically, will fetch you very average marks. I was advised at ForumIAS to keep it as organic as possible. Hence, keep the language very simple and the content very simplistic. Here, internet plays a very crucial role. I sourced many definitions and differences from the internet. I also believe that some case studies as examples add to the quality of your answer. These can be picked up from internet or while you are reading the newspaper. For ex: Haritha Keralam was a people’s movement to bring in cleanliness.

I had read Lexicon as my base and had read the ARC 4th report on Ethics and Governance, but was still scoring average marks. Hence I enrolled in a GS IV Test Series that helped me a lot to reorient both Section A and case studies. The emphasis in section A has to be on exploring as many dimensions as possible, keeping in mind major schools like Utilitarianism, Gandhian Ethics, Virtue ethics etc.

In section B, my attempt was to first contrast as many values, like how objectivity is in conflict with nepotism or integrity is in conflict with personal financial benefit. I used to 1st highlight these conflicts point wise. Then, I used to pragmatically trace solutions from the least favourable to the most favourable. Each solution was accompanied with its merits and demerits.

CSC: Tell us something about your preparation approach for essay paper.

Minal: Essay requires you to be Crisp, Concise and Relevant.

Even though my content was mostly driven from GS, I had collected a sample of quotes and anecdotes from previous year toppers notes and internet and had revised them thoroughly. Using them in your essay will definitely give you an edge over other students.

While practicing tests, I made it a point to be relevant to the topic and not deviate. And this happened because of the extensive rough work I did, before attempting the essay. In this rough work I traced the tiniest details of the essay, such that the entire narrative was ready before hand. This helped me not to deviate from the topic while I was writing. And trust me this is a big booster for anyone who is reading the essay.

Keep the sentences short and the language simple.

Explore all the SPECLIH dimensions even to a philosophical topic. Example: in my second essay on how a society advantages its privileges over principles, I adopted an example based approach, where I used the SPECLIH approach. The nature’s resources are being incessantly exploited than conserved, hence, the level of destruction around the globe.

CSC: What was your style of writing in the exam? How was it distinct from the general writing style? How did you develop this writing style?

Minal: I am from a humanities course, and hence I was trained to write long sentences. This backfired in my mock as I wasn’t able to confine myself to word limits and neither did the answers look comprehensible.

Hence the style that I adopted was:

  • Write in short sentences
  • Write in a very simple language
  • Use paragraphs and bullet points
  • Use as many sub headings as possible. Example: when the problems of judiciary is asked, prefer dividing it into procedural, infrastructural, operational, appointment related, etc
  • Use of diagrams and flowcharts, wherever possible, for example: if the question is on challenges of CPEC, draw a small map of the Indian subcontinent and show where the CPEC lies, with Gwadar and Xinjiang as its two ends
  • A very concrete conclusion: I never wrote a rhetorical conclusion as it will not fetch marks. I wrote a sub heading ‘Way Forward’ and wrote futuristic solutions in points. This mostly involved relevant committee recommendations.

This writing style develops after a lot of practice. Time individual answers and full papers. Only then you can subconsciously implement this writing style.

CSC: What was your optional? What was the basis of selecting this optional?

Minal: My optional was Public Administration. I selected it because the syllabus was very concise, manageable, extremely overlapping with GS2, 3, 4. Also, a couple of seniors who had already cleared the exam with this optional had advised me to consider it.

CSC: How did you prepare for interview? Which types of questions were asked in the interview? Did you answer all the questions? Was there any specific area they emphasised upon?

Minal: 3 important points for interview preparation:

  • Prepare for every word in your DAF. For ex: my address involves the word ‘Bengali’. In one mock I was asked on the minority status of Bengalis in Uttarakhand.
  • Prepare your opinions on important national and international happenings. Make sure that no opinion of yours is extreme and is not in severe opposition to the government’s position. You can constructively criticise the government’s policy, only if you have concrete solutions as alternatives. For ex: should education be a minimum qualification to contest panchayat elections? Yes, because it will help in bringing quality candidates into the political fold, but only once it is universalised by the efforts of the government.
  • Give an adequate number of mocks. If you stay in Delhi, then visit some institutes. Even if you don’t stay in Delhi, use the facility of e-mocks available these days. Mocks help you analyse the way you respond to a question extempore. You should also watch these mocks afterwards to assess your own performance.

CSC: What is your opinion on importance of coaching institutes for the preparation of this exam?

Minal: I believe that if there is genuine mentorship available in the coaching institutes, it should definitely be leveraged. Hard work and self-study are sure necessary for this exam. But without proper guidance, direction and mentorship, you’ll end up being part of a desolate crowd that blames its failures on its own capabilities. For me, ForumIAS was a place that I’ve gotten tiniest guidances ranging from how to make notes to how to write answers, without which I wouldn’t have made it to Rank 35.

These days help is available both online and offline. If you can, you should leverage it. If you cannot, know that every year there are many toppers who clear the exam with minimal help from the coaching industry as well. Find your feet and go all out in the preparation.

CSC: What are your suggestions to the freshers opting for Civil Services Examination and those who have failed in their previous attempts?

Minal: The only thing I would like to suggest to freshers is that if you can clear this exam in the very first attempt, nothing like it. The more time you spend in the process, the more your competency and confidence dips. Do not make any mistakes in the choice of your study material, how you read it. Make notes for every subject, in an effective manner. Write relevant test series and clear the exam as soon as possible.

For those who have failed previous attempts, know what your problems were. It cannot be possible that you did everything right, and you still didn’t clear the exam. This is not possible, and I can say that with conviction. Identify your problems and solve them as soon as possible.

CSC: What is the role of Civil Services Chronicle in your success?

Minal: Civil Services Chronicle provides a very comprehensive coverage of Current Affairs issues for both Prelims and Mains. It is helpful for candidates preparing for CSE across the country.

Your Suggested Book List for CSE Preparation

  1. Polity: Laxmikant for prelims and mains both. However, paper 2 requires you to read some ARCs, Ii have already elaborated it in my strategy.
  2. Modern India: Spectrum for both Prelims and Mains. For GS paper1, practice of last year questions, with a focus on Spectrum as the basis of the content will be sufficient.
  3. Ancient India: R.S. Sharma for prelims and mains. I also read Tamil Nadu History book and class 6 NCERT and Themes in India part 1. For mains perspective, in addition to this, I used Nitin Singhania.
  4. .Medieval India: class 7 NCERT and Themes in India part 2
  5. Art and culture: class 11 NCERT and Nitin Singhania.
  6. Geography: Old and New NCERTs from class 6-12 for both prelims and mains.G.C.Leong and Atlas. I also used ForumIAS CGP supplementary book for the topic of ‘location of industries of GS1’
  7. Society: NCERT of class 11 and 12 and used CA for this portion.
  8. Environment: Shankar IAS book and CA
  9. Security: Tata McGraw Hill for static. Rest CA.
  10. Ethics: Lexicon and test series papers from the market

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