Akash P (CSE 2013 Rank 63) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 2

Well, if you missed the UPSC Topper Akash P’s (CSE 2013 Rank 63) Interview – Part 1, you can read it by following the hyperlink. The story, continues here. Having already shared the background and approach, Akash goes into the details of his preparations strategies and books referred at each stages of the UPSC Civil Services Exam – Prelims, Mains and Interview. He has also shared his UPSC interview transcript in this part. Enjoy!

UPSC Prelims

ClearIAS.com: Can you elaborate on your preparation strategies/approach and study materials/books used for Prelims Paper 1 and Paper 2 (for each subjects)?

  • History : Focused on Spectrum Modern India.
  • Geography: Mexus videos of geography.
  • Polity : Laxmikanth, Hindu, Frontline, EPW.
  • Economics: Ramesh Singh, Newspapers, Mrunal.org.
  • Science and Technology: Hindu, Frontline.
  • Environment : Hindu, Frontline, Mrunal.org etc.
  • Current Affairs: Hindu, Frontline, Mrunal.org.
  • General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT) : TIME Mock Test Series.

UPSC Mains

ClearIAS.com: Can you elaborate on your preparation strategies/approach and study materials/books used for each topic of Mains Papers? (Please give a detailed view, especially for sub-topics in all the general studies papers)

  • Regional Language (Compulsory): No preparation. Very confident and fluent in Malayalam. It’s advisable to attempt a couple of previous papers in examination conditions.
  • English Language (Compulsory):  Just went through previous paper. Took the IFoS General English paper as a sort of mock test.
  • Essay Paper: [Also mention the essay you wrote]  I had prepared for writing in English by taking my minor in English Literature at college. The exam was my first effort in writing such a long essay within a stipulated time. No special books, institute or method of preparation. I did buy some useless books like how to write an essay from market but didn’t have time to read them at all. Selected Essay : “Science and technology is the panacea for the growth and security of the nation”.
  • General Studies 1 : Spectrum, Ram Guha, John Green Videos, Mexus Videos, Mrunal’s notes.
  • General Studies 2 : Laxmikanth, Granville Austine, Pax Indica, Hindu, Mrunal, Wikipedia etc.
  • General Studies 3: Ramesh Singh, Majid Hussain, Economic Survey, Mrunal etc.
  • General Studies 4 (Ethics): Wikipedia, JTS institute book, Mrunal, insightsonida etc.
  • Optional  Paper 1 and 2 : My Optional was Mathematics. There is no base book. There are as many books are there are topics. You can refer to any of them. The aim is to improve the problem solving ability and enhance the accuracy. I think it’s all about practice. The more, the merrier.

    Booklist is given in Prakash Rajpurohit’s blog (previous rank holder). You may go through them as I have nothing to add.

 ClearIAS.com: What was your optional subject? Please give some insights on your selection of optional subject.

ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series

Mathematics. I was very strong in that subject even from my school days. And added to that was my engineering background which bolstered the case for selecting Mathematics.

ClearIAS.com : What was the color of the pen you used for writing mains? Blue Pen/ Black Pen?

I used black ink ball point pen.

ClearIAS.com: What was your writing style in GS and optional? Bullet Points/ Essay style or a mix of both styles?

I did the paragraph style in GS. Did not use bullets or underlining. There was so little time for anything. So just scribbled whatever that came to my mind. Optional was Mathematics, so it’s all steps of the problem.

ClearIAS.com : Did you use sub-heading/points/graphs in your essay paper?

Yes, I did use sub-headings, but not points, pictures or diagrams.

ClearIAS.com: If you didn’t explain it in detail earlier (Qn 1), can you brief on how you attempted the Ethics paper? Strategies and writing style for Ethics case studies?

For ethics theory, I had bought the book of JTS institute. It was largely copy paste, but contains all the essential concepts explained. Wikipedia contains brilliant articles about some ethical concepts.

For case study, I referred to some Mrunal articles and also that given in insightsonindia.com. I examined various possibilities and specified which one I would do for each answer. I will share my answer copy when I get it.

ClearIAS.com : What was your exam-hall strategy for mains: attempting all questions even at the cost of compromising quality or writing only quality answers compromising on the number of questions attempted?

I attempted all the questions even while compromising the quality of the answers. Given that my GS marks were not good enough, I am not sure if that was the right strategy. It’s left for the candidates to judge.

UPSC Interview

ClearIAS.com: Can you elaborate on your approach and preparation for Interview?

For interview, I just attended the mock sessions of KSCSA, which was very good and at par with the UPSC interview.

ClearIAS.com : Can you elaborate a bit about things mentioned in your DAF (Detailed Application Form) like your hobbies, extracurricular activities or prizes won:

My DAF was almost blank. Hobbies/interests filled was reading, mathematics; prices won: NTSE, extracurricular activities none.

ClearIAS.com : Interview Dress 🙂

I wore a simple full sleeve shirt and pants inserted but with black shoes. No blazers, no tie. Coats are unneeded. If it enhances your confidence go for it.

ClearIAS.com: Who was the Chairman of the board you faced? How long was the interview?

Mr Chattar Singh IAS (retd). It was about 30 minutes long.

ClearIAS.com: Can you share with our readers your UPSC Interview experience? Our readers would be really happy to hear those questions and replies in the UPSC Topper’s Interview.

Akash P - IAS Topper

Well, any question can be asked at the interview. Since narrating one’s interview would at least give a sketchy picture for future aspirants to form a broad idea of how a UPSC interview may span out, I am giving some of the questions-which I recollect now- and the answers that I gave. The level of detail would be just enough to comprehend the question and the import of my answer and not vivid enough to betray my stupidity.

Chairman: Mr Akash, whats your opposite?

Me: Pataal (Akash =sky, pataal= underworld) {Answered promptly}.

Chairman: Very good. Despite being south Indian you immediately….blah…blah…. (visibly impressed, extremely happy gave, 204. That’s it, nailed; I think that was the high point. It enhanced my confidence to no end.)

C: reading hobby, what do you read?

Me: said poetry, literature, non fiction, newspaper. (matter ended-no connected questions)

C: maths optional and interest (I gave mathematics as my hobby/interest also), why students find it difficult, what to do?

Me: said useless answer like you have to make students love the subject by personal attention and other crap.

C: Finance commission? Planning commission? Overlapping mandate, why two?

Me: FC constitutional technocratic body, PC political body.

Then Chair extended my answer by saying that “so we need a pliable political handle” and he was extremely impressed by that point and said very good again.

M1 was again our friend.

M1: Kerala, why better developed?
Me: said clichéd and canonical answers.
M1: smaller states good?
Me: said yes and no. Explained advantages and disadvantages.
M1: some question about NREGA (answered satisfactorily)
There were connected questions which I don’t recollect in sequential order. This member was also very happy with my answers.

Next came the villain. M3 a history wallah.

M2: Some crap about Zamorin, Vasco da Gama, and latter’s visit to Kerala. (I drew a blank)
M2: Its deplorable that an ambitious young man knows so little about his own place. (Adverse comment. Heart pumps faster! But Chattar still happy, so I was happy!)
M2:what is petro dollars? (I bluffed)
M2: You are guessing man, I will ask another question.
M2: what is privy purse? Significance of Kerala in foreign contribution? Jingoism?
Answered kind of OK.
M2: where is Mairai (I had no idea)
So this guy slightly screwed me but Chattar fortunately holds pen and paper!

M3 was a skeptical frenchie who always looked quizzical and unsatisfied. He looks like the stereotypical psychiatrist in movies!

M3: technological growth in 30s what spurred them?
Me: Said world war, consumerism, desire for better life, globalization etc. ( He looked sceptical)
M3:Treasures at Padmanabha swamy temple, what to do?
Since connected with religion, won’t reveal my answer. M3 still looked skeptical and suspicious.

Chattar Singh: Whats important about 1905 in physics (I am B-Tech in Engineering Physics)

Me: Einstein’s paper- Brownian, special relativity.

Chattar: Thank You Akash.

Thank You Sir, Sirs. Exit.

Extra note : The board (mine had only 4 members as 1 left before mine due to personal reasons) was very cordial and friendly. The interview was largely background (Kerala) based and there was nothing unexpected. Perhaps those questions on Kerala history completely caught me off guard.

ClearIAS.com: Any tips for aspirants going for UPSC Interview?

There are a few words of wisdom:

  1. Interview is unpredictable and clearly some luck is involved.
  2. Your attire is irrelevant as long as you are neatly dressed.
  3. They may be looking for some key words and specific points in your answers and they will reward you plentifully if they get it from your mouth.
  4. Placate the Chairman. Only he has the pen and paper. Its 275 marks of pure whimsy. Make him happy. Don’t argue with him, but take his questions very seriously. Even if some members aren’t happy about you, still doesn’t matter.
  5. Be confident. Take mock sessions. Dress neatly. Forget about how you did the exam and do your best!

ClearIAS.com: Do you think that there is relation between profile of the candidate and interview marks? At a time when lot many candidates from top institutes like IIT, IIM or AIIMs appearing this exam, is there any matter of worry for other candidates from state colleges or those without work experience?

I don’t think so because there are cases of such candidates getting low marks as well. Interview marks are determined by the image or perception created in the mind of the board. No need to worry about it at all. Be confident!

Read Part 3 of this interview : Akash P (CSE 2013 Rank 63) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 3.

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