[Topper’s Interview] Digant Anand (Rank-223/CSE-2015) Political Science, 2nd Attempt, B.Tech, Adobe Engineer from Uttar PradeshDevendra Vishwakarma
- Candidate Profile
- Electronic Vs Paper material
- Tempo and style
- Struggle of a Senior player
- Working professional
- Prelims (CSAT) General studies
- Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
- Prelim accuracy
- Mains: Compulsory language paper
- Mains: Essay
- General Studies (Mains) paper 1
- General studies (Mains) paper 2
- General studies (Mains) Paper 3
- General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
- Mains answer-writing?
- Mains Optional Subject
- Before the interview
- During the interview
- CSE-2015 Marksheet
- Career Backup
- Views on UPSC reforms
- Insecurity about profile
- Credit: Friends/family
- BOGUS Marketing Propaganda
|Rank in CSE-2015||223|
|Total attempts in CSE (including this one)||2|
|Optional Subject||Political Science & International Relations|
|Medium chosen for Mains answers||English|
|Medium chosen for Interview||English|
|Home town/city||Bijnor (Uttar Pradesh)|
|Work-experience if any||Working as Software Engineer at Adobe Systems, Noida since May 2013|
|Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures||UPPCS, RBI Grade B Officers|
|Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)||Classroom coaching for optional (PSIR) at Vajiram and Ravi, Mains Test Series at VisionIAS|
|Service preferences (Top-5)||IAS>IPS>IRS(IT)>IRS(C&CE)>IFS|
|state cadre preference (Top-5)||UP>Rajasthan>Haryana>AGMUT>Gujarat|
|% in class 10||94.5%|
|% in class 12||82%|
|Graduation course and %||B.Tech (77.38%)|
|Name of college, city, passing out year||Bundelkhand Institute of Engineering & Technology, Jhansi, 2013|
|Any other professional courses||N.A|
|Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements||Reading Indian fiction and non-fiction, listening to ghazal recitals|
Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
I am an engineering graduate in Information Technology and have been working in Adobe, a US based MNC at Noida, for around 3 years. My father is Chairman of a Regional Rural Bank and my mother is an Associate Professor. I have an elder sister who is an eye surgeon and she is married to an IAS officer of 2013 batch. I wanted to join the civil services during my school days however I made a firm decision to go for UPSC CSE after working in the software industry for nearly two years. Inspiration and encouragement from parents and friends were also instrumental in shaping my inclination towards civil services.
Electronic Vs Paper material
Q. In recent times, there is spur in electronic material- blogs, sites, pdfs, RSS-feeds. Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. So, how much do you rely on electronic material and how much on the paper material (Books, newspapers)? If possible, narrate a typical day in your studylife. What is your style of preparation (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 …or xyz style)
I think it is hardly possible for a candidate of CSE to avoid electronic material altogether as one has to be updated with latest information for every stage of examination. Nevertheless, my preparation was highly skewed towards paper material viz books, magazines and modules except for the interview. However, I made regular use of electronic sources like RSTV videos, Mrunal Videos, Wikipedia and Ministries’ websites. My day used to begin with daily newspaper reading for roughly an hour followed by studying of optional or GS fundamental texts (Laxmikant, Heywood etc) for the rest of the day. I used to watch videos of RSTV or Mrunal at night mostly in mobile phone. I did not make any notes except for a few jottings here and there on edges of the books. For optional I made classroom notes.
Tempo and style
Q. People know what books and syllabus points are to be prepared. But most of them lack consistency in their preparation. So, how do you keep study momentum going on? How do you fight against the mood swings and distractions?
Consistency is the essential ingredient for a successful preparation of CSE. Mood swings and distractions can be fought against by limiting your company to sincerer and more committed people than yourself for atleast a year. I was fortunate enough to have a few study mates like this and it really helped. Besides, one should regularly keep testing himself/herself as there is no better way of putting yourself on fire than a poor score in a test. Progress in preparation can only be measured and monitored through tests.
Struggle of a Senior player
Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.
Although I do not consider myself as a senior player this being my first serious attempt yet I would like to share a bit of my experience. During my first official attempt i.e. CSE 2014, my preparation was not even in initiation phase. I could not complete even half of Laxmikant let alone any other book. A day before CSE(Pre) I was sitting in the office totally resolute that I won’t be appearing in that year’s prelims. On the day of Prelims during morning walk my father said that I won’t ever exhaust all the 6 attempts in any case then why don’t I go and appear for the prelims and see where I stand. I agreed to him and went to write the exam with a faint hope in mind that maybe Paper 2(CSAT) may get me through since GS will never do. As expected I was helpless in exam hall and could score only 44 marks in GS and failed in Prelims. But in retrospect that failure was a kickstart of my preparation for CSE since I faced the harsh reality of the huge gap to be covered. I think it’s evident that a failure can be used to shape your preparation strategy in the next attempt and can give you an added advantage over others if properly utilized.
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
My previous attempt was a farce in the name of UPSC preparation since I didn’t take even the very basic steps of preparation. It was characterized by sheer lack of knowledge. In current attempt, I followed a planned and time tested methodology of preparing optional before starting for prelim and then focus on prelim for a couple of months followed by extensive study for Mains’ GS and revision of optional.
If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
It is difficult to switch modes between a student and a professional and hence preparation with job becomes a challenge. Based on my experience it is easier to exploit the morning hours for studies before going to office since mind is free of official hullaballoo at that time. Post work hours can be used with electronic material like videos etc which engage us easily even if mind is tired. Besides, although unethical, office hours can also be sometimes stolen for reading newspapers etc if time permits. However, if at all possible, one should at least avail leave a month before exams.
Prelims (CSAT) General studies
|History Ancient||Old NCERT (selected topics)|
|History Medieval||Old NCERT (selected topics)|
|History Modern (Freedom Struggle)||B.L Grover (S.Chand)|
|Culture and society||Notes from Xerox shop|
|Polity (theory + current)||Laxmikanth and D D Basu|
|Economy (theory + current)||Mrunal videos (exclusively)|
|Science (theory + current)||Skipped|
|Environment (theory + current)||Shankar IAS’s book|
|geography physical||NCERTs, G C Leong|
|other national/international current affairs||Newspaper|
|Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff||skipped|
Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
Paper was easier than I expected but cutoff went up accordingly. There was seemingly undue weightage to international current affairs which were fortunately covered due to my optional. Questions from core subjects were on expected lines.
Q. Now that Aptitude paper has become qualifying, obvious more attention needs to be paid on the GS paper so apart from the books that you already have gone through, what else would you have tried for CSE-2016 (if you were going to appear)?
I heavily risked my chances of getting in the prelims by ignoring current affairs altogether at the time of prelims and relying only on core subjects of GS. I would have given greater emphasis on GS preparation this time.
Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
|Topic||strategy / booklist|
Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
Paper 2 was easy and qualifying it would have been a cakewalk for most. If one is from mathematical background and has regularly appeared for aptitude exams, he/she should not bother about preparation of Paper 2 till its qualifying in nature. If one is uncomfortable in aptitude exams, joining a test series 3-4 months before the prelims will equip you enough to clear the exam.
Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
I attended few mock tests for prelim’s GS. It helped me optimize the number of questions to attempt as per my preparation. If its one’s first attempt at prelim, test series can help you plan a strategy to attempt the paper.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015
|attempted Q.||correct (Expected)||Official score|
|aptitude||Don’t remember||Don’t remember||130.81|
Mains: Compulsory language paper
|Compulsory language paper||Your preparation strategy / booklist?|
|your regional language||NIL|
Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Difficulty level of compulsory papers is not above 10th standard exams and they are framed to just check the working knowledge of these languages. Someone who is proficient in reading, writing and comprehending these languages with sail through. NO specific preparation is required.
Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I did not do any dedicated preparation of essay paper and preparation for GS and optional helped in this paper. However, I wrote around 10 essays between prelim and mains for practice.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
I attempted the following essays:
- Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole.
- Dreams which should not let India sleep.
In the 1st essay I began with analyzing the statement and then went on covering the various facets of the context of this statement at different levels of society such as family, country, community and international relations. Used ornamental language in introduction and conclusion and kept simple otherwise.
For 2nd essay I began with how does a country dream and how the dreams of a billion eyes crystallize into national dreams, then went on in covering as many dreams(goals) for India as possible trying to sum up most of the national problems and targets.
General Studies (Mains) paper 1
|Topic||How did you prepare?|
|Culture||NCERT (Art and handicrafts…), Notes from xerox shop|
|Indian history||B.L Grover|
|world history||Norman Lowe|
|post-independence India||Skipped due to lack of time|
|Indian society||NCERT (11th and 12th)|
|role of women, poverty etc.||Nothing specific|
|globalization on Indian society||Covered in Society NCERT (11th and 12th)|
|communalism, regionalism, secularism||Covered in Society NCERT (11th and 12th)|
|world geo physical||NCERT|
|resource distribution||Skipped due to lack of time|
|factors for industrial location||Mrunal.org|
|earthquake tsunami etc||Covered in Geography NCERT (11th and 12th)|
|impact on flora-fauna||Skipped|
General studies (Mains) paper 2
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.||D D Basu and Laxmikanth|
|comparing Constitution with world||Covered in my optional preparation|
|parliament, state Legislatures||Covered in my optional preparation|
|executive-judiciary||Covered in my optional preparation|
|pressure group, informal asso.||Covered in my optional preparation|
|Representation of people’s act||Covered in my optional preparation|
|various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..||Covered in my optional preparation|
|NGO, SHG etc||Discussed with my father|
|welfare schemes, bodies||Newspapers, Mrunal.org videos|
|social sector, health, edu, HRD||Newspapers|
|governance, transparency, accountability||VisionIAS handout|
|role of civil service||No specific source|
|India & neighbors||Covered in my optional preparation|
|bilateral/global grouping||Covered in my optional preparation|
|effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest||Covered in my optional preparation|
|international bodies- structure mandate||Covered in my optional preparation|
General studies (Mains) Paper 3
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|Indian economy, resource mobilization||Economic survey, Mrunal.org videos|
|inclusive growth||Economic survey|
|major crops, irrigation||Skipped agriculture in general due to lack of time. Should have prepared in retrospect.|
|agro produce – storage, marketing||Economic survey|
|e-technology for famers||Skipped|
|farm subsidies, MSP||Economic survey|
|PDS, buffer, food security||Economic survey|
|animal rearing economics||Read 3-4 Insights Secure answers. Skipped otherwise|
|food processing||Read 3-4 Insights Secure answers. Skipped otherwise|
|land reforms||Covered in my optional preparation|
|Liberalization||No specific source|
|Infra||No specific source|
|investment models||VisionIAS handouts|
|science-tech day to day life||Skipped|
|Indian achievements in sci-tech||Newspaper|
|awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR||No specific source|
|environmental impact assessment||Shankar IAS’s book|
|Disaster Management||VisionIAS handouts|
|non state actors, internal security||Mrunal.org videos on internal security|
|internal security – role of media, social networking site||Mrunal.org videos on internal security|
|cyber security||Working in IT industry so skipped|
|money laundering||VisionIAS handouts|
|organized crime, terrorism||Mrunal.org videos on internal security|
|security agencies- structure mandate||Websites of prominent agencies|
General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics||Lexicon book|
|attitude, moral influence etc.||-do-|
|civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc||-do-|
|emotional intelligence, its use in governance||-do-|
|moral thinkers of India and world||How many thinkers did you prepare?
3-4 thinkers were covered in my optional preparation. Didn’t read others.
|ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.||Lexicon book|
|probity in governance, work culture||-do-|
|citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.||-do-|
|challenges of corruption||-do-|
|case studies on above topics||Discussed with my father|
I did not prepare for ethics at all as my total preparation for ethics was less than 24 hours and less than half of Lexicon book. In retrospect, it led to a low score in ethics paper and I could have scored more had I studied for this paper.
Q. Many candidates found Mains-2015 Ethics paper very peculiar and “out of the book”. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
I think the paper was not very different from previous years. Besides if ethics paper will not be “out of the book” then what will be!
Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:
|Paper||Best attempted||Average quality||namesake answer||Total attempt|
|GS1 (No. of ques)||12||6||0||18|
|GS2 (No. of ques)||9||6||1||16|
|GS3 (No. of ques)||12||6||2||20|
|GS4 (No. of ques)||6||4||2||12|
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]
Since the beginning of my UPSC preparation the biggest challenge for me was that I was never able to complete any of my mains paper due to slow writing speed. Even in the final exam, I could complete only one out of the seven mains papers. So my strategy has been to try to complete at least those questions about which I know some valid points. I never got time to “make up” answers in any of the paper. However, based on experience of some of my senior friends, made up answers hardly fetch any marks.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Fixed space answer sheet is a boon for people like me who have difficulty in completing the paper, besides it compels you to maintain brevity in your answer making it more comprehendible. I think it is a commendable move by UPSC.
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.
In all the papers except optional I followed the style of writing in bullet points sandwiched between two paragraphs, one each of introduction and conclusion. In optional papers I followed paragraph style.
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 “introduction-body-conclusion” format in almost all my answers
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
Not at all.
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Mains Optional Subject
Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Political Science and International Relations. Since the subject I graduated in was not available in the list of available subjects, I was looking for a subject which I could complete in a year and which didn’t appear dreadful to read and understand. Given my interest in polity and governance, PSIR was an obvious choice.
Q. If a new player wants to pick this subject, would you advice for it or against it? (e.g. every senior player in Public Administration seems to be advising against pub.ad)
PSIR is an excellent subject and very easy to understand if one develops interest in it. I will recommend it to everyone who does not have a subject of his background available in list of optionals. However, a word of caution is that just by reading the syllabus of PSIR, do not assume that it is the same as GS and you won’t have to read the two separately. What appears prima facie as same isn’t so in reality when you plunge into the subject.
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.)
- Western Political Thought by Brian Nelson
- Andrew Heywood series
- O.P Gauba
- Rajiv Sikri
All these are time tested texts and help in creating an understanding of the subject
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?
Paper 2 is heavily based on current affairs in IR. One must closely watch out for every international news and follow website of MEA as well as IR related discussions on RSTV.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Around 2 months
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
I started answer writing practice right after I was done with my prelim so approximately 3 months before mains.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
I did not maintain notes for optional and used classroom notes for revision.
Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2015 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
2015 mains Paper 1 of PSIR was widely considered as easier than earlier years’ papers although level of Paper 2 was comparable to previous years. However most candidates could not score exceptional in PSIR (except that AIR 1 has the same optional :-P). I think a diversity and originality is being increasingly expected in the answers of this optional.
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?
My interview was on the 2nd day of the interview schedule so I hardly got 2 weeks for preparation of the interview after the mains result was announced. Given the paucity of time I just brushed up the current affairs which I missed after and during the mains and went through economic survey and budget which was released just a week ago. Besides, I tried to thoroughly read my DAF and find out things related to keywords in my DAF e.g. place of birth, current organization, hobbies etc.
Q2. Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar / different than official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?
I attended one mock interview at Vajiram and Ravi but with hindsight I believe that although mock interviews might help in improvement they are not identical to official interview. If one has not appeared for an interview before or he/she is not sure about mannerisms to be maintained in interviews (s)he should attend a mock interview if time permits.
Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
I stay at Noida and my house is half an hour away from UPSC so I stayed at home. I mostly watched RSTV videos the day before my interview.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
It is just a procedural formality and there is nothing you can do about it. Just follow the instructions given out by UPSC carefully to avoid re scheduling of medical checkup.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
I wore a light blue colored shirt, with dark blue front creased trousers along with blue textured tie, black leather belt and shoes.
During the interview
Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Prof. H C Gupta
Q2. How long was the interview?
They stripped me off the wrist watch in the waiting room and I had to wait outside the board room for too long so I lost sense of time but it was approximately between 40 to 50 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?]
I was not asked but I had planned to say that my current job doesn’t offer much of long term prospects until I switch to more diverse role which prompted me to look for such roles and what can be a better role in terms of diversity and opportunities than the 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. (Earlier some toppers only tell me their question but not their answer. I would appreciate if you give both Question + your original answers)