CSE 2014, AIR 222

Here I try to present my Tale of three interviews and with it the things that worked well for me.

June 2012 marked the end of my stint with IT. Having reached hostel in Delhi, where I stayed and studied for civil services 2013, the first realization was that I wasn’t alone in the race and I wasn’t any different. Out of first ten other aspirants I met eight were from IITs and other grand institutions. I mention this as I graduated from Amity University better known for things other than academic. This very fact humbled me and perhaps worked in my favor in long run as it “forced” me not only to work hard but work out of my skin.

The start wasn’t good as I happened to be short of information regarding various aspects about this exam like what subjects to choose as my optional subjects. Taking advice of my seniors I blindly went for two of the most accepted combinations then, Geography and Public administration. I have only UPSC to thank that it reduced optional to one. This decreased my misery to some extent and I selected Geography.

Clearing prelims in first attempt was dream come true for me as even that appeared to be a big task. Then started the real “fun” that lasted for 180 odd days. It was MAINS preparation. Looking at the syllabus I decided that I will make my own study material and not rely on any institute. This was one instinctive decision that helped me a lot over the course of my preparation. As I decided this, many friends and seniors warned against the same. Advices rushed in from all corners and headed in one direction. But I stuck to my decision and had faith in myself. I always told myself that though it was a huge risk, it was worth taking.

In my view the trickiest thing regarding MAINS exam is to understand what the examiner wants from you and once you catch the nerve of UPSC you can clear this exam every time you appear for it. Also you need to focus at each and every thing mentioned in syllabus. Once I was having a casual chat with one of my senior and he advised me to learn the syllabus. This was perhaps the most important thing I did. This also tells that UPSC aspirant should keep his senses open 24*7. You never know which thing might help you later.

My first Mains went quite good and I was confident about clearing it. And so I did but as I came to know later, I had performed very poorly in my optional subject geography scoring 156 out of 500. At the same time I did very well in GS securing 340 marks. This acted as a big boost for my second attempt. My strategy and all the risk I took had paid off, though only partially.

Where I lagged behind from others was the personality test round. My interview went quite well. The board was cordial as they always are. The members had smile on their faces. Later when the marks were disclosed I realized that smile meant something else. I managed a paltry 118 out of 275 while the average marks awarded were 170. This was bound to go against me and I failed to secure any rank.

A new week marked another beginning when I started studying for my second prelims exam. Time was less and hence I did the necessary things and banked on CSAT basically. After the prelims when I checked online answer keys I was in shock to see that I was managing a score that according to many was a borderline score. Next two months till the results were again a tough period. It was very important to maintain focus and study for mains.

I focused on my weaknesses this time around and studied geography the way I studied GS in my first attempt i.e. from internet. Learning from your past mistakes is very important. So is learning from your strengths and building on the already strong foundation. Hence I balanced out GS and geography. Frankly, even before appearing for mains I knew I will clear it and I did.

Now the challenge was to forget the 118 horror. I got 14 odd days to prepare for my second interview and I was very happy with the fact that I do not need to study for more time unnecessarily. Having appeared once, I was confident about doing well in my second personality test. Also there was a feeling that I had already seen the worse last year itself and it could not go below 118 “benchmark”.

The interview went well. Soon results were out and I secured AIR222. I was obviously happy and felt that I must have done well in GS and got the personality test monkey off the back. But a friend of mine somehow came to the conclusion that I must have scored less in interview again. I could not digest the fact as securing 222nd rank prima facie means an all-round score. As it happened out to be I scored second lowest marks (110) in interview amongst selected candidates. What it meant was that I scored heavily in mains (822).

The joy of clearing civil services exam was over powered by the disgust of not getting through the final hurdle yet again. Personality test monkey is yet to get off my back. Having faced the same fate twice, I very well realize that problem is not in the process and I need to work on one last hurdle.

I have always found inspiration from different sources. Here is one of them. “There was a point to prove not to others but to myself”- MSD after winning 2011 WC.  As it stands today with my third prelims already done, I am starting my journey for my third interview. And I am very confident that the “Tale of the third interview” will be different and better from my earlier interviews.

CRUX of the matter:

  • Select optional subject carefully. Go for the subject which you can study without burden.
  • Do not rely on institutes. Make your own way. Back yourself.
  • It is very important to decode thinking of examiner. For example in Ethics, why this question is asked? What should be written to influence him/her the most.
  • Work on your weaknesses before it’s too late.
  • If possible, study from internet. It really worked well for me.
  • There is no fixed format for optional answer writing. Innovate!!!
  • Work on inter-linkages. You cannot study everything under the sun.
  • The most important thing…when we interact, do tell me what wrong I am doing. I need your help 🙂



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