Roshni Thomson (CSE 2014 Rank 98) who made it to Indian Foreign Service(IFS) this year has already shared her background and study materials in Part1 and Part2 of this detailed interview with clearias.com. In the last part of the interview, she shares her UPSC interview experience. She also provides a detailed break-up of her marks for Prelims, Mains and Interview.
ClearIAS.com: Can you elaborate on your approach and preparation for Interview? Did you attend any mock interviews?
I have attended mock interviews, and have found them useful to get a feedback on our mannerisms and to get an idea of the probable questions that might come up from our DAF. But we should guard against the stereotyping of UPSC interview by institutes. We should do a thorough research on everything that we ourselves have written in the DAF. During my first attempt, outside the interview room, I broke down due to anxiety and the burden of the moment when I am at the final frontier to my dream. I made the mistake of evaluating my answers while answering and ended up contradicting myself many times.
But this time, I could correct my mistakes and see UPSC interview with more maturity. I tried to check my own understanding of many fundamental aspects (like death penalty, euthanasia, reservation, corruption, development of India etc) and tried to reason out aloud why I believed something should be so and so. I answered confidently those questions that I knew, and didn’t feel bad about saying that I didn’t know answers to the questions that I didn’t know.
ClearIAS.com: Can you elaborate a bit about things mentioned in your DAF (Detailed Application Form) like your hobbies, extracurricular activities or prizes won:
Hobbies: Reading Fiction, Volunteering for Palliative care.
Prizes and scholarships: University Rank (B-Tech), Minority MCM Scholarship. Prizes in extempore speech, essay writing, and personality contest at inter-school and college levels, completed an Online course on justice.
Positions of Leadership: School house captain, Organizing committee- college arts festival.
ClearIAS.com: What was your interview dress?
ClearIAS.com: Who was the Chairman of the board you faced? How long was the interview?
H.C. Gupta ; about 30-35 minutes
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.
The interview started with the name of my school ‘Vidhyadhiraja’. The chairman asked me to pronounce it and I did. Then he asked me,
1) Why do you add ‘h’ to a lot of words in the South? Eg: my name is written as H. C. ‘Guptha’ with an ‘h’. Why?
I told him that in Dravidian languages many sounds have deeper pronunciation and so that could be one reason. But he seemed not satisfied with it yet moved on anyway. Next he asked me what I am doing at present and asked me
2) What ails the Dept. of Posts? How to improve efficiency?
I talked about need for technology induction, personnel training, better office management, the need to leverage the unique strengths of the dept etc. but the chairman shared a personal experience of his Speed Post not being delivered on time. So I admitted that problems in delivery do exist and needs more attention in order to make the dept competitive vis-s-vis private players.
3) Is it a worthwhile idea to give banking to post offices as you cannot even deliver letters on time?
I elaborated on the presence of post offices in the rural areas and the trust that the organization still has among the people. I spoke of how the post office already has the knowledge of running small savings accounts used by millions of the rural poor. I also talked about how money lenders are wrecking havoc in the lives of the poor and that micro credit loans by a Postal Bank was the solution that rural poor needs.
4) When was telegraph discontinued? (The date)
I could not recall. Then, the 1st member saw “course on Justice” written in my DAF and asked me details of the course, about MOOCs, and to elaborate on the content of the course. I answered and he picked up the following thinker from my reply.
5) What was John Rawls contribution to moral philosophy? What is Justice Theory and are there countries which use it?
I explained Justice Theory and gave reservation as an example of its application. I also named the various systems of reservation in some countries which is based on this principle.
6) Distinction between Reservation Systems of India and U.S.A? Which do you support?
I talked about the positive reservation and income support provided by US govt and the quota system followed in India. I elaborated on why I find the US system ideal from the point of view of Justice Theory. But, I also explained why the quota system of reservation is still necessary in India.
7) Do you support reservation on the basis of income criteria? Why? When can reservations be removed in India?
I disagreed with income criteria for reservation as then reservation would be a permanent feature as relative poverty would always exist and because poverty of one person can also be of his own making, unlike educational or social (caste) backwardness of a community. I elaborated on the criteria presently used for reservations and said that many times the decision to grant reservations are taken on political considerations.
Then member 2 greeted me in Malayalam and asked about the town where my college was located.
8) Name an Annual sporting event which happens in Kothamangalam?
I could not answer this and admitted my lack of interest in sports.
9) In Public Administration, what is the theory of “Long arm, short finger” and “short Arm, long finger”?
I could not recall this.
10) In a democracy, what are called “Islands of Autonomy”/ “Fourth arm of Govt”?
I was unsure for some time and with some help from the member I figured out he was asking about Regulatory agencies.
11) What are regulatory agencies? Explain their place in the economy. Give some examples of regulatory agencies. How do they maintain independence from the govt?
I explained the principle of regulation by elaborating the role of different players in an economy. Gave examples like SEBI, RBI, IRDA, PFRDA etc. I talked about their constitution and appointment and their relationship with the government.
12) In the RTI Act, there are certain exceptions provided where information need not be provided. Which are those? Where are these exceptions mentioned? Regarding deliberations of the cabinet, does it come under RTI?
I enumerated a few exceptions under the Act. Cabinet deliberations come under the Act only after the decision has been taken.
13) Comparing India with Japan and South Korea, it seems that we have not progressed at all and have wasted the first thirty years after independence. What do you think?
I disagreed politely with the 3rd member who asked me this and told him that we had indeed achieved a lot on the fronts of poverty reduction, infrastructure creation, food self sufficiency and more than everything else, ensuring a vibrant democracy. I agreed that development may not have met the quantum of people’s expectations, but the path that we chose of democracy and freedom, is the only sustainable way to development, even if it is slow.
Some of the other questions were 14) What are administrative problems in the North Eastern states? – answered plurality of languages, militancy, lack of infrastructure etc.
15) What is ASI? Functions?
14) What is voluntary disclosure under RTI ?
15) For Govt Departments, RTI is a nuisance, costing most resources for trivial and useless information. What three amendments would you suggest for the act? Who can demand information under RTI?
Answered this as someone already in service and having witnessed the stated problem first hand. But I took the stand that, despite problems with the act, its contribution to increase transparency, accountability and responsibility fixation, makes it highly relevant.
16) What was the controversy regarding Indian Media Coverage of Nepal Earthquake tragedy?
17) In your opinion is there anything wrong with Indian media? Does Indian media need regulation?
I stated the problems of ownership of media houses and how they can influence public perception by lack of editorial independence. But I stated only self regulation and took a stand against any state regulation of these custodians of freedom of expression.
ClearIAS.com: Were you happy after the interview? Did you expect good marks?
I was more satisfied with the interview than my previous attempts, but did not expect very good marks.
ClearIAS.com: Any tips for aspirants going for UPSC Interview?
After 3 continuous UPSC interviews, with marks of 156, 165 and 193, I realize that the interview is all about one’s confidence and clarity of thought. Your worst enemy in interview is yourself. The colour of your dress, the type of jewelery or tie, suit/ saree or no suit /saree etc are only relevant only up to a point. Beyond that, its all about what you say and how confidently you say it. we need to be logically consistent in our thinking. No matter which board one goes to, if we are able to keep our cool, answer confidently and with consistency, we will be adequately rewarded.
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?
I do not think there is much importance to the candidates’ background. But it is true that candidates from premier institutes went to those institutes because they had ability and talent. Therefore this will be reflected in their performance in UPSC interview also. But, their marks are due to their performance in UPSC interview, not because they hail from any particular institute. There is no need for worry for people from state colleges or those without work experience. I say this as I am one like that myself, and yet, the board never looked down upon my background. Rather, one can tell oneself that, despite being from moderate backgrounds I am at the same interview for the same job as those from all the premier institutes. It shows my merit and ability to fight with lesser resources.
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?
The preparation during my first attempt in UPSC was quite limited. I could not cover much material outside the coaching institute notes. I could rectify this in my second attempt with wider sources. But neglect of essay paper and the choice of an ambiguous topic cost me an year in my second attempt as I could not get a desired service. But I am richer and more experienced for the 8 months of service in IPoS, in more ways than one.
ClearIAS.com: What was your backup plan in case you didn’t qualify?
Nil. I decided not to have a backup plan until I was done with and had given up the Civil Service dream. And so my only way was forward. But I had enough confidence in myself that I would crack some other competitive exam had UPSC rejected me.
ClearIAS.com: Did you write/clear any other exams (like Bank exams/State PSCs/ Private Jobs) during the preparation period or before:
ClearIAS.com: Details of your organization, name of post and the duration of experience:
Indian Postal Service batch of 2014 (UPSC Exam 2013), Department of Posts, GoI
8 months of service
ClearIAS.com: Did you leave the job to prepare?
Took exemption from Foundation Course to prepare for mains.
ClearIAS.com: What is your advice to working professionals who’re preparing for IAS exam simultaneously?
If there is a will, there is a way.
Marks – Prelims, Mains, and Interview
Preliminary Exam (Just for Qualification)
- General Studies Paper 1: (Out of 200) – 105.34 (around 62/63 attempted)
- General Studies Paper 2: (Out of 185) – 133.33
- Essay (Out of 250): 142
- GS1 (Out of 250): 104 (attempted for around 180 marks)
- GS2 (Out of 250): 102 (attempted for around 230 marks)
- GS3 (Out of 250): 93 (attempted for around 230 marks)
- GS4 (Out of 250): 117 (attempted full)
- Optional Paper 1 (Out of 250): 106 (attempted full)
- Optional Paper 2 (Out of 250): 95 (attempted for 240 marks)
- Written Total (Out of 1750): 759
Interview (Out of 275)
- Marks for Personality Test: 193
- Final Marks (Out of 2025): 952
ClearIAS.com: 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?
I would manage time better in GS mains Papers, revisit my strategy in Pub ad Paper 2 and try to widen my sources.
ClearIAS.com: What do you think as the main reason for your success? Whom do you credit for your success ?(Feel free to name any special help from friends, teachers, family, coaching institutes, websites, or other sources)
Reason for success: persistence.
Credit for success: to my parents who supported me unconditionally both, when I qualified and when I couldn’t ; my friends who bore with my exam tensions and kept motivating me. Both my parents and my closest friends believed in me and held me up when I couldn’t do it myself.
Ms. Deepika Reddy madam, Hyderabad, who was a mentor to me and helped with study material, test series, question paper evaluation etc. She identified my strengths and weaknesses and helped me strategize and utilize time well.
Dr. Babu Paul Sir who gave me advice and prayers when I needed them most.
KSCSA for their well stocked library. Prem Sir Trivandrum for his invaluable guidance, especially in Public Administration and Ethics.
Shabir Ahmed sir and Rakesh Gupta Sir of Vajiram.
IPoS, for giving me unparalleled exposure, understanding and experience which reflects in my personality as well as interview marks.
ClearIAS.com: What preference in services have you opted for? 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?
IAS, IFS, IRS.
I am not a very athletic person and cannot fathom the idea of being in police ‘Force’. Therefore no IPS.
Once in service, I would like to specialize in a particular area as I think, administrators despite being generalists, should acquire deeper understanding of their subject matter for better disposal of duties.
ClearIAS.com: Did your life change after success/attempt in UPSC Civil Services Exam? If yes, how?
I feel happy I got a good result for all the effort that I put in and all the prayers of my loved ones. Yes, qualifying this exam changes your life as well as of those around you. We receive respect, admiration, joy, happiness and job security. We feel as being given a chance to make a difference in the society around us. In short words, yes, everything that we went through in preparation, it is totally worth it, when we qualify.
ClearIAS.com: Does the educational or financial status of the family of the aspirant impact the UPSC preparation and result?
Not at all. It’s who you are that matters and not your family status. But preparing full time without a job, requires financial support, especially as this is a long drawn out examination process. But many who have qualified along with me are self made, who prepared with their own resources.
ClearIAS.com: Any tips on Civil Services exam preparation and other priorities in life (Financial security, Higher Studies, Marriage, Family life etc.)
Many of us keep worrying about job, higher studies, marriage and family etc during upsc preparation as the long examination process is risky and demands the best years of our lives. We see our friends going for higher studies, getting jobs or getting married and we seem to be stuck in the cycle of prelims, mains and interview. We can find solace in people whom we trust and the fact that once we qualify, we will not have to look back into any of these problems. There is no gain, where there is no pain.
ClearIAS.com: What is your advice to the freshers who are going to appear in this exam?
Prepare well, take each stage of the exam, one at a time, plan your preparation and study according to it. Make sure your reading is wide enough. Do not stick to one or two sources alone.
ClearIAS.com: What is your advice to all those candidates who didn’t succeed in this exam yet?
Keep yourself motivated. Don’t start doubting all your steps of preparation. Understand what went wrong this time, and work specially on that. Whatever you studied this time will help you build faster and higher in your next attempt. Like a friend kept telling me all during my preparation, “A war never goes waste”. Even if we won the war or lost it, we are wiser because of it.
Any extra note in general (if any):
I think I have already said more than required. =D
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 for our detailed questionnaire. Wishing you, all the very best in career and life.