Hariram Shankar (CSE 2016 Rank 145) UPSC Topper’s Interview: From NIT, SBI PO, IAAS, and now IPS!

Hariram ShankarHariram Shankar, 26, is a young man with a lot of confidence and energy. Knowing him for many years, what makes his special, in our opinion, is his unique analysis and opinion about various things around him. And that includes what works well in UPSC Civil Services Exam and what may not.

Hariram is not a one-time lucky guy. He is now in IPS because of sheer dedication, hard-work and his own strategies. He is bold – he took the risky decision to quit his job as SBI PO – when he failed to clear IAS Mains the second time. He made it to IAAS next time. And now, with an all-India rank of 145, Hariram Shanker can be sure of IPS (Indian Police Service)!

Let’s welcome Hariram Shankar to the “UPSC Toppers Interview” at www.clearias.com.

Brief Bio- data:

  • Name: Hariram Shankar
  • Age: 26
  • Name of the Exam and Year: CSE 2016
  • Rank: 145
  • Roll number: 0525284
  • Category (General/OBC/SC/ST): General
  • Graduation Background and College: B Tech, Mechanical Engineering from NIT Calicut
  • Post Graduation Background and College (if any): NIL
  • Work Experience: Organization and Duration: IA&AS officer trainee (2014 exam), SBI P.O (2013 exam)
  • UPSC Optional Subject: Geography
  • UPSC Mains Medium: English
  • UPSC Interview Medium: English
  • The number of attempts taken to achieve this feat: 5
  • Performance in previous attempts (if any): Rank 483, CSE 2014
  • State and Place of Residence (Permanent): Kerala, Thrissur
  • Percentage of Marks in 10th and Board: 94
  • Percentage of Marks in 12th and Board: 94.6
  • Percentage of Marks in Graduation and Board/University: 8.51/10
  • Extra qualifications or achievements (if any): Participated in school and college mimes, Debating competitions, science fiction writing
  • What’s unique about your profile: I usually take initiatives, though many of them do not reach any fruitful conclusion. But some do succeed and those things make my profile (DAF, I am assuming) unique.
  • Service Preference (Top 5): IAS, IPS (already in IA&AS.)
  • Cadre Preference (Top 5): Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu.

Background + Inspirational Journey So Far:

ClearIAS.com: Hearty congratulations from ClearIAS.com for this exceptional achievement!  We are happy that your efforts are finally rewarded, that too in grand style! Let’s start from the beginning. How did you come across the idea of writing UPSC Civil Services Examination? Was it your childhood dream?

ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series

Thank you for the appreciation. It was a long journey for me too. So all the happier. I decided to write civil service exam in my final year of Engineering. Till then, I had planned on going for higher studies, preferably somewhere abroad. Then my college senior Gokul G.R (now Idukki Collector) cleared the exam in his very first attempt straight out of college with 19th rank. Seeing this, a few of us felt that Civil Service is an achievable goal if we work hard enough. That’s when I decided to take the plunge. It was never my childhood dream.

ClearIAS.com: How did you feel when you came to know that your name is in the toppers list? Can you share the moments of happiness with our readers?

Haha..I was with my parents and brother when the results came. I was hoping that if my name came in the list, it should be below 200 so that I get IAS or IPS. Since I am already in IA&AS which is an excellent service, I hoped either get me in top 200 or out of the list. So I was really happy when I saw my rank at 145.

ClearIAS.com: Can you share a little bit about your background? (Family, School, College, Work etc.)

My dad Venkitachalam V.H, works as a section officer at IMG, Kochi (a Kerala state autonomous body). My mother works as an Ayurveda Doctor at Vaidyaratnam Ayurveda College, Thrissur. My brother Bharadwaj is going for M Tech (Research) in Machine design at IIT Bombay. I studied at St Pauls School in Thrissur till 4th standard and from 5th to 12th at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir, Poochatty. Then I did Mechanical Engineering at NIT Calicut. After 1 attempt, I joined SBI as a P.O. Then I realised I have not done justice to the exam when I gave the attempt. So I quit SBI and wrote again and cleared on my 3rd attempt. I underwent 1 year of training at National Academy of Audit and Accounts (Yarrows), Shimla and 6 months of On the Job Training at Kolkata.

ClearIAS.com: How can you correlate you graduation background, work experience (if any) and entry into civil services? Can you brief us your thoughts, views, and ambitions when you climbed each position in the ladder of your life?

Well, during my college days, few of us had tried to focus on developing socially relevant and impactful projects like Low-Cost Housing. But then we realised technical ideas and solutions are aplenty in our country. It’s just that not many are proactive enough to implement these things. This sense of helplessness made me feel that civil service is probably the best platform to take charge of the situation. My work experience in SBI as a P.O exposed me to the problems faced by poor especially when it comes to financial access. These insights will definitely help in my career. But most importantly, my experience at NAAA, Yarrows helped me to clear this time. The professionalism and training imparted there not only improves your knowledge but improves your confidence and personality as well. It’s very difficult to quantify such things but let me put it in perspective. During my first CSE interview, I had 168 marks because I was doubtful and less confident. All the exposures in the academy made me much more confident, which translated into 206 marks in the interview this time. The Indian Audit and Accounts Service is also so diverse and interesting that a small exposure to it gave me many insights which I could share during my interview.

ClearIAS.com: Do you feel that the competition level of UPSC Civil Services Exam is on a rise? It seems that there is an increasing trend of candidates from IITs, IIMs and AIIMS attempting and clearing this exam. Is Civil Service the final destination /ambition of Indian youth, in this age of lucrative private sector jobs?

Well, competition level of exam is definitely increasing. If you take any engineering entrance exam, you only have to compete with the best people who prepare for Engineering entrance exams only, that too of 2 years (regular and repeaters). However, in civil service exam, we have to compete with the best brains across 10 years spread across all discipline. It is a massive challenge for sure. More and more people are now increasingly writing civil services, especially the best in all sectors is because Civil Services provide an avenue to have a meaningful career, satisfying in not just monetary terms but in terms of social impact, respect from the society and a good night’s sleep knowing one has made a small but certain impact in someone’s life.

Study Plan

ClearIAS.com: What is the secret of your success? How did you approach this exam? What was your strategy in general (Prelims, Mains, and Interview)?

I cleared on my 5th attempt. Hence I really suspect my legitimacy in answering it. However, I have cleared prelims with minimal effort in all the attempts. Here I can help more. In prelims, remember that the most important skill you need is learning how to guess intelligently. There is a limit to which one can study, especially seeing recent year papers. SO I suggest that before waiting to study fully, do as many mock tests as possible WITHOUT STUDYING. Once your brain gets the idea of how to guess intelligently, later studies will further help, thus maximising your prelims marks. For mains, Answer writing is more important than knowledge of intricate things. Also remember, do not fill your GS answers with current affairs of past 1 year. Mention them and use them. But never assume that one current affairs article is the answer to a particular question, Think multi-dimensionally. For the interview, there is only one correct way of attending it. Confidently. If you have very little knowledge but have confidence, then you are more likely to score much more than a candidate who has a lot of knowledge but less confidence.

ClearIAS.com: How long (Years/Months) have you been preparing before you gave this attempt? Also, on an average how many hours did you put on a daily basis? How did you manage time?

I started preparing in 2012. Total serious attempts were 3. So I can count it to close to 3 years. I cannot study consistently. So most days, it was less than 5. A month before mains, it will be 8 to 9. A week before, it goes up to 11.

ClearIAS.com: Were you a person who studied alone? Or a person who favoured the combined study approach?

Mostly alone. Combined study only when I have the luxury of time, that is when mains is far away.

ClearIAS.com: Did you attend any coaching institute or subscribe to mock tests for prelims or mains? If yes, can you provide the details for each stage (Prelims/Mains/Interview)? How helpful were the coaching institutes?

Coaching institutes help in orienting us, preventing us from going off the track, especially in answer writing and giving us a structured environment to study. However, this contributes to 30 to 40 percent of the preparation. The rest is up to us to study, improve from our mistakes, take feedback from successful as well as failed candidates about the strategies that worked and strategies that failed.

The coaching institutes I relied upon and for what purpose are as follows

  • NEO IAS Academy for GS and essay answer writing
  • Shankar IAS Academy for Geography and i-Learn IAS academy notes on geography
  • VISION IAS compiled notes for current affairs
  • Pala Civil Service Academy and Kerala State Civil Service Academy for interview
  • Career Launcher Test series for Prelims

ClearIAS.com: What websites (online preparation websites or government websites) will you recommend for future aspirants for UPSC preparation?

I relied on clearias, insightsonindia,iasbaba and mrunal for compiled notes on various topics. RSTV, LSTV, AIR and PIB videos, audio recordings and clippings were also used very selectively.

ClearIAS.com: What is your opinion/feedback about the ClearIAS.com website/ClearIAS app?

Clearias has unique content on many topics which no other websites provide, like excellent cut off analysis without pandering to speculation and rumours. Writeups on various topics are also of highest quality. The app is very smooth and very user-friendly. This makes it a handy tool for aspirants. The popularity of the website and the app is itself self-explanatory of how people judge its quality.

ClearIAS.com: Please mention the programs of ClearIAS which you used from the list ( ClearIAS Free Online Study Materials and Guidance, ClearIAS Prelims Test Series, ClearIAS Mains Answer Writing Practice, ClearIAS Interview Program)

ClearIAS Free Online Study Materials and Guidance, ClearIAS Prelims Test Series (just the free tests)

ClearIAS.com: Did you use Social Media like Facebook, Twitter or other forums for UPSC Preparation? Or did you say good-bye to the social media during preparation days? Any technology-tips (Eg: Mobile apps, Note making software etc.)?

It’s better to stay away from social media, especially when we are slogging attempt after attempt with so much uncertainty while our classmates and schoolmates go for foreign trips, graduate MBA’s, get married and alas, in my case, had cute kids too… Enjoy social media after we prove ourselves. Else, it can be distracting. I always did manual note making, if I had to. Apps like clearias can be used as a quick reference guide for topics we are weak about.

ClearIAS.com: What were the Newspapers and Magazines (Eg: Yojana, Kurukshetra etc.) you followed? How many hours did you devote for newspapers? Any tips on newspaper-reading?

The Hindu newspaper, the summary of Yojana and Kurukshetra from some of the websites I mentioned above. Earlier, I was a purist who would only rely on my own handwritten notes and do not refer any compilations. These days, the quality of compiled notes and analysis is so good that one need not do the donkey’s work and spent time note making. Wait for monthly compiled notes. Side by side, read the editorials of The Hindu or Indian Express. Then practice answer writing. No point in spending more than 2 hours a day for newspapers.

ClearIAS.com: What was your preference: Reading online (Laptop/Tablet/Mobile) or reading the traditional way (Books)? Or a mix of both?

The traditional way only. But when it’s compiled sources, I prefer soft copy so that I can highlight and later read only those regions.

ClearIAS.com: Can you elaborate your daily timetable (When will you wake up, study, sleep etc. )

Haha..all 5 attempts had different patterns. So the information will be irrelevant. But I always made it a point to sleep well. I can never wake up early unless I have to travel. So better not to learn anything from me in this matter.

ClearIAS.com: How did you keep yourself motivated for this one-year-long exam?

Motivation is for people who have Plan B. For those who have no plan or option but to clear civil services, desperation and uncertainty of the future are the biggest motivators. Yes, when we fail, we find it hard to come back. But I think the most beautiful part of civil service exam is the failure. It teaches you on how you can pick yourself up even when 2 years of effort went down the drain because some interview board didn’t like your subdued attitude or some essay evaluator thought you deviated from the topic. It’s very easy not to clear this exam. Even the flimsiest reasons will do. So the important thing I learnt is that Out of 15,000 people who write mains, at least 2000 people have put as much effort as the 1st ranker. It’s just a combination of factors that came favourable or unfavourable to an individual that decides the rank. The key to keep yourself motivated is to understand the truth of this exam “Study well, do everything from your part and wait for the odds to be in your favour. Don’t take it personally”. Success or failure in this exam is not indicative of how good you are. Also, always remember that your happiness or sadness in life does not depend on your job. We have depressed IPS officers and happy constables.

UPSC Prelims

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

  • Books/Study Materials for History: Spectrum’s Modern Indian History.
  • Books/Study materials for Geography: Certificate course in Physical Geography by GC Leong, NCERT 11th and 12th
  • Books/Study materials for Polity: Indian Polity by Lakshmikant
  • Books/Study materials for Economics: Mrunal’s notes (website), Indian Economy by K.Sankarganesh (excellent book for ready reference)
  • Books/Study Materials for Science and Technology: 8th,9th and 10th NCERT, compiled notes for current affairs
  • Books/Study materials for Environment: NIOS textbook on environment, newspaper.
  • Books/Study Materials for Current Affairs: Summarised notes from NEO IAS, Vision IAS compilations
  • Books/Study materials for General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT): Nothing.

ClearIAS.com: Any tips/pieces of advice especially for UPSC Civil Services Prelims?

Attempt more than 85, learn the art of guessing as I explained before. Take risk.

UPSC Mains

ClearIAS.com: Can you elaborate on your study materials and books used for each topic of Mains Papers? (Please give a detailed view, especially for sub-topics in all the general studies papers like books/materials used for each subtopic like Disaster Management, Internal security, Indian Society, Biodiversity etc.)

  • Books/Study materials used for Essay Paper: Nothing
  • Books/Study materials used for General Studies 1 (Indian History, World History, Indian Society, Indian Geography, and WorldGeography): Wizard’s World History, NCERT 11th and 12th World History, Norman Lowe for topics like UN, the time between 2 world wars, League of Nations, Arab nationalism. Plus all other books used in Prelims.
  • Books/Study materials used for General Studies 2 (Constitution, Polity, Governance, Social Justice, Foreign Relations, and International Affairs): IR from newspapers, compiled notes. Polity from Lakshmikant and Our Political system by Subhash Kashyap. Rest is all current affairs.
  • Books/Study materials used for General Studies 3 (Indian Economy, Biodiversity, Science and Technology, Internal Security and Disaster Management): Summary of the economic survey, rest all compiled notes by various websites.
  • Books/Study materials used for General Studies 4 (Ethics + Case Studies): TMH books for definitions, Michael Sandel’s lecture series on ethics.
  • Books/Study materials used for Optional SubjectPaper 1: Neetu Singh’s notes, i-Learn Academy notes, Shankar IAS academy notes
  • Books/Study materials used for Optional Subject Paper 2: Shankar IAS academy notes
  • Books/Study materials used for Regional Language (Compulsory): Grammar books
  • Books/Study materials used for the English Language (Compulsory): Nothing

ClearIAS.com: Did you prepare hand notes or participated in mock answer writing before mains? What was the strategy for preparing current affairs topics in general?

I wrote mock tests for GS. The Importance of Studying to Answer writing is in the ratio 30:70. Sadly, most people only study. Current affairs topics were generally skimmed through, not stressing on minor details for they are not going to fetch you any marks more than a good generalist answer.

ClearIAS.com: What are the government reports that aspirants should go through, before giving Mains Exam?

Economic survey and India Year book, summarised versions available in the market, that too, very selectively.

ClearIAS.com: What was the colour of the pen you used for writing mains (Blue Ink/ Black Ink)? Also, the company and brand name of the pen used:

Black for writing, Blue for diagrams. Reynolds (now Rorito) liquiflo

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

1 line introduction. Body full bullet points grouped under various headings. Ample amount of diagrams and flow charts (at least 1 in an answer). 2 line conclusion. This format makes it the easiest for the evaluator to give us marks. So it’s better to help them give marks to us rather than making it complex, superfluous and difficult to evaluate. Give it to them on a spoon. UNDERLINE KEYWORDS OF ALL ANSWERS. It might sound silly but I have found it very very useful.

ClearIAS.com: What are your suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in essay paper? What were the essays you choose to write? Did you use sub-heading/points/graphs in your essay paper?

Introduction- make it catchy, with a story or narration.

Body – Group the writing theme wise. Don’t mix them.

Conclusion-optimistic – put in a few quotes or a few poem lines which you prepare before.

Use 3 to 4 creative subheadings so that structure not only exists but also will be perceived to exist. There is a risk that the evaluator may not be able to identify the structure of your essay if you do not give headings. So better give 3 or 4. I suggest drawing diagrams might be a risk as it is not the conventional way of writing an essay. Not every evaluator will appreciate it.

I wrote about Engendered development and Cyber Space in 2016 Mains.

What are your suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in GS1 paper (History, Geography, Society etc?

Diagrams, including as many dimensions as possible.

What are your suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in the GS2 paper (Polity, Constitution, Social Justice, International relations etc?

Diagrams, including as many dimensions as possible.

What are your suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in GS3 paper (Economy, Environment, Science and Tech, Internal Security, Disaster Management etc?

Diagrams, including as many dimensions as possible. Quote economic survey if possible.

ClearIAS.com: What are your suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in GS4 paper (Ethics paper)? Can you brief on how you attempted the Ethics paper? Please explain the strategies and writing the style for Ethics case studies.

Use a lot of examples. DO NOT use any examples from any textbooks. Only use original examples, which can even be personal experiences. Try to address as many dimensions as possible – personal, family, social, national, international implications.

ClearIAS.com: What was your optional subject? Please give our readers detailed insights on your selection and strategies regarding your optional subject. We are sure that there will be many who take the same optional subject as yours in future.

Geography. I still regret to this day my decision to choose geography. I was good in Mechanical Engineering.  I was bad in drawing diagrams and studying non-scientific things. Yet, I jumped the geography bandwagon as it was a “scoring” optional. So I suggest everyone choose their strengths, not what others may say. Look into past 5 years papers and see if you are comfortable in it. Then choose.

I completely relied on one or the other institute materials for geography. Shankar Sir finally helped me in answer writing which pulled up my marks a lot.

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?

It’s simple. If you do not know, leave it blank. If you know something, write it as points and fill half to 3/4th of the page and leave it, This way, you can free up time to improve other answers, add a diagram or two here. So be happy if you don’t know an answer or 2 in every paper. It will only lead to more marks than if you knew all the answers.

UPSC Interview

Hariram Shankar UPSC Topper

ClearIAS.com: Can you elaborate on your approach and preparation for Interview? Did you attend any mock interviews?

For those going for the interview, I suggest attending a maximum of 3 mocks (many will disagree with me). During my 3rd attempt, I attended close to 12 mocks, Every “expert” will give you different feedback. In the end, you will be confused and that reflects in the real interview. In my 5th attempt, I attended 0 mocks. It helped me in presenting me as myself rather than someone the mock interview people think is ideal for UPSC. Prepare each and every inch of your DAF, revise your graduation subject, revise your job-related information and revise current affairs and optional subject. This effort one has to put. Then it’s all about going in there confidently.

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

Mime, debating, science fiction writing, leadership roles in clubs at college, NSS, college project on low-cost housing. Hobbies being swimming and developing innovative solutions to social problems.

ClearIAS.com: What was your interview dress?

Morocco brown suit, white shirt, deep violet tie, brown shoes without shoe lace.

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

Shri Vinay Mittal’s board. The interview was 25-30 mins. I couldn’t exactly clock it.

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.

It was very pleasant. I made it a point to smile throughout my interview.I was asked many questions from Audit (my present job), how it helps in systemic improvement, social audit, GST audit and such. Then I was asked questions like “Is ISIS a CIA conspiracy”, Divorce rates are increasing – so what are the problems faced by young couples, Green, blue, white and pink revolution, few questions related to companies act, Current Account Convertibility and Capital Account convertibility, its status in India and its future, what exactly were the reforms done by Dr. Manmohan Singh in early 1990s, explain commanding heights of economy, 3 problems faced by Gram Panchayats etc. I wasn’t able to answer 2 to 3 questions for which I politely said: “I don’t know”. But remember that they don’t judge you on the answer you do not know. They judge you on how you respond to the next question after you didn’t answer one. One reply which the readers might find interesting was on the question of divorce rates increasing and so what are the problems faced by young couples. I replied that divorce rates are increasing due to multiple reasons. Firstly, women are now more empowered to take that decision rather than suffering in silence. The second reason is that joint families gave way to nuclear families. So there is no emotional support system in case of issues between married couples. I also mentioned that another reason is our lifestyle these days. I said these days, many live to work than work to live. This means very little time for personal life which further strains family ties. Then finally, I quoted on how the nuns would come home to help couples in case Christian couples are planning for divorce in Kerala. So, a problem between 2 people is now carried as a burden of the society which tries to help in every possible way. The interviewer smiled at me.

ClearIAS.com: Were you happy after the interview? Did you expect good marks?

Yes. I was very happy. I told to myself, whether I get good marks or not, I have presented my true personality there, without any fear or faking. So I thought it didn’t matter what marks I got. In UPSC interview, many people have come out depressed and scored 200 plus. Many jubilant people have scored in 120s and 130s. So I was wiser not to expect anything. Just the satisfaction that I have done justice to myself.

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

Smile, doesn’t matter if they don’t reciprocate. Still, smile, Treat the panel members as equals, not as God sent messengers to test your worth. Treat them with respect and humility but not with fear and awe. Make it into an interesting conversation than a Q n A session. So try to speak more and give ideas if you get a gap to do so.

Do you think that there is a relation between the profile of the candidate (age or education background) 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?

No no. Nothing of that sort. Young or old, IIT or IIM or JNU or Self financing college or IGNOU, it doesn’t matter where you studied and how you studied. Only your performance on that day matters. The interview is a great leveller in that way.

Previous Attempts/ Backups/ Others Jobs Qualified (if any)

ClearIAS.com: Comment on your previous attempts on UPSC Civil Services Exam, if any? What have you learned from the mistakes/failures?

2012, 2013, 2015 – Wrote mains, didn’t clear

2014 – Rank 483

Learnings from mistakes

– Stress more on answer writing than merely collecting knowledge

-Be really good at your optional. GS, essay and interview together might not be able to pull you out from the disadvantage of having medium to low marks in optionals.

ClearIAS.com: What was your backup plan in case you didn’t qualify?

Continue in IA&AS. I had the luxury of being part of a great service which is very satisfying, In case if anyone does not have a job, push up to 3 full attempts without job/part time job. After 3, find yourself a decent job and study part time because, by that time, most things to be studied will be over. It will be a matter of waiting for the odds to come in your favour.

ClearIAS.com: Did you write/clear any other exams (like Bank exams/State PSCs/ Private Jobs) during the preparation period or before:

SBI PO 2013. Cleared also.

More on Work Experience (if any)

ClearIAS.com: Details of your organisation, name of the post and the duration of experience:

Indian Audit and Accounts Service for past 1.5 years as an Assistant Accountant General.

ClearIAS.com: Did you leave the job to prepare?


ClearIAS.com: What is your advice to working professionals who’re preparing for IAS exam simultaneously?

Enroll for test series, stick to reading summarised notes and put more time for optionals than GS.

Marks – Prelims, Mains, and Interview

Preliminary Exam (Just for Qualification)

Please also indicate the approximate number of attempts and correct answers in each paper.

  • General Studies Paper 1: (Out of 200): 119 (88 attempted)
  • General Studies Paper 2: (Out of 200): 154 (75 attempted)


Please also indicate the approximate number of attempts in each General Studies paper and the optional paper. For how many marks did you attempt in each paper?

  • Essay (Out of 250): 143
  • GS1 (Out of 250): 116 (212.5)
  • GS2 (Out of 250): 77 (225)
  • GS3 (Out of 250):117 (237.5)
  • GS4 (Out of 250): 108 (250)
  • Optional Paper 1 (Out of 250): 117 (230)
  • Optional Paper 2 (Out of 250):143 (240)

Written Total (Out of 1750): 823

Interview (Out of 275)

Marks for Personality Test: 206

Final Marks (Out of 2025): 1029

After looking at the mark sheet, suppose if you are going to write prelims and mains this year, what changes will you make in your preparation, answer writing, and interview?

No changes for prelims and interview. Will focus on GS 2 answer writing and revise geography more times before the exam.


Hariram Shankar IPS

ClearIAS.com: What do you think of as the main reason for your success? (Feel free to name any special help from friends, teachers, family, coaching institutes, websites, or other sources)

My friends Arun K Vijayan (now in IAS), Nand Dulal Das (batchmate in IA&AS), Vinayak and Rahul P (in IAAS) who pushed me to write again, my father who has so much hope in me, no matter what, my mother and brother whose happiness makes me want to try and make them happy more, my coaching institute mentors Samjad Sir (NEO IAS) and Shankar Sir (Shankar IAS) and my school teachers at Bhavan’s, especially Vasantha teacher.

ClearIAS.com: What preference in services have you opted for? Is there any particular reason for that priority? What are the novel ideas you have for the country, to be implemented once you get into civil services?

I will be allotted IPS based on my rank. I have hopes and ideas to try and end women and child trafficking, exploitation of children and atrocities committed against Dalits and tribal communities in the name of caste and multitude of factors.

ClearIAS.com: Did your life change after success/attempt in UPSC Civil Services Exam? If yes, how?

From a nobody, one feels accomplished when name comes in the list. However, I believe that the real source of happiness and satisfaction will come once I start performing as a civil servant. So it is a great first step. But its only the beginning of a long journey. So other than people praising me all around for my success in the exam and lot of happy faces of people close to me which has made me overjoyed, life hasn’t changed much. As I said, it will change drastically once I get the responsibility of the job.

ClearIAS.com: Does the educational or financial status of the family of the aspirant impact the UPSC preparation and result?

Well, there are now a lot of online sources, like clearias, which provide compiled notes and information for free. So this has reduced disparities. However, coming from a rural background from regional language medium with very little exposure is definitely a disadvantage for many. Writing exams in the regional language is an option but even that requires coaching. Social disparities that exist is naturally reflected in the exam preparation also. However, we hear so many inspirational stories of people from humblest of background who even completed their degrees from distance learning universities clearing this exam. So I think for disadvantaged people, the journey will be harder but determination and will power will overcome any hurdles.

ClearIAS.com: Any tips on Civil Services exam preparation and other priorities in life (Financial security, Higher Studies, Marriage, Family life etc.)

Financial security : If no one is financially dependent on you, then go for at least 3 attempts before joining a job. If you have dire financial constraints, get a job and study part time. Nobody said you have to study full time to clear this exam. Squeeze in 4 to 5 hours of quality time. Even though the full timers prepare for 8 to 9 hours, quality time might be still 4 to 5 as work expands to the time you have.

Higher studies: If you are really interested in your subject and want to pursue higher studies, I humbly request you to follow. Any generalist can do any work in civil service. In specialist jobs like research or neurosurgery, only those who have learnt the subject with interest can perform well. Though the society might value the civil servants more, even if they don’t perform, India needs good neurosurgeons and excellent journalists much more than civil servants.

If higher studies is like a plan B for getting a job, then join after 2 to 3 attempts as most higher studies tests do not have age limits or attempt limits. It will only take you a year of preparation to get back into the game.

ClearIAS.com: What is your advice to the freshers who are going to appear in this exam?

Freshers have the advantage of originality. In 2 to 3 attempts, your answers will be compliant to coaching institute notes. However, originality can give you marks in UPSC, even if points or content is lesser. So try and conserve your own style of writing.

ClearIAS.com: What is your advice to all those candidates who didn’t succeed in this exam yet?

UPSC is a game of dice. Do whatever is within your control. Make sure you put your best. Make sure to analyse old marks to identify weak areas and improve. Learning from mistakes is the most important part in clearing this exam. The rest isn’t in our hands, but rest assured that if you have given your best, whoever you are and no matter what your background and capabilities are, one day the odds will favour you. Have the patient to wait till then. It’s definitely worth the wait. Failure is the best thing that can happen to you if you manage to learn from it and pick yourself up to be successful.

ClearIAS.com: We like to express our heartiest congratulations once again for this grand success. We are happy that you chose ClearIAS.com to share your happiness on this special occasion. ClearIAS.com sincerely thank you, on behalf our readers and ourselves, for the spirit and benevolence to find time to write answers to our detailed questionnaire. Wishing you, all the very best in career and life.

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