Essay & Interview -Doing well in these two is almost indispensable if one wants to taste success; says Naveen Kumar Chandra (AIR 490; CSE 2017)

Naveen Kumar Chandra (AIR 490; CSE 2017) candidly talks about his experiences with Civil Services Examination. It gives a detailed idea about his moves, strategies and resources he used.

Optional Subject: Political Science and International Relations

Number of Attempts: Two (2)

Previous Selections: CSE 2016, got IRPS

 By:      On Wednesday 18th July 2018     

Naveen Kumar Chandra

(AIR 490; CSE 2017)


Medium (Language)

Language for Writing Examination: English

Language for Interview: English

Nature of Examination

It’s true that the exam is very unpredictable, so much so that it’s popularly called as ‘Un-Predictable Service Commission’; but, there is one thing which is almost always predictable, that is, hard work pays.

But, Luck does play a part; only once you have done your bit will it come into picture.

The best way to go about things is keeping in mind the famous lesson, कर्म करो, फल की चिन्ता नहीं (Karm Karo, Falki Chinta Nahi), i.e., “Do your work honestly, don’t bother about the result”, because, it would be good if you give your honest best.

Views about Preliminary Examination

Preliminary Examination is not at all pure luck, luck surely plays a role but only after you’ve reached a certain level of preparation. 

Role of Optional Subject

It’s very important and optional subject has played an increasingly more important role every year.

Optional carries a whopping 500 marks and in an exam where there are 10s of ranks in the final list with same marks, one can imagine the difference 500 marks can make.

Now, it must be kept in mind that if one can select the optional subject based on their interest and liking, there is nothing like it but if not, then one can go for the subject which suits their aptitude or even one with maximum overlap with GS.

Targeting General Studies

General Studies carry a thousand marks, that’s a lot. Each and every paper is unique and requires a careful selection of resources to go about them.

My approach towards each paper:

General Studies Paper 1 is mostly static and thus it can be mostly covered by standard books, for the one off current affairs related topic, one can refer to newspapers, it’s more than enough.

For General Studies Paper 2, one has to be on their toes at all times. One must not miss out on any new legislation of importance, any policy, social justice scheme, SC judgements on constitutional matters etc. Also, a careful reading of the syllabus would show that one must not ignore the newspaper at all, IR is also of great importance and thus one must follow developments on that front as well.

For General Studies Paper 3, this is one paper where one has to go through a variety of sources for different topics. For economics can be done from 12th NCERT, the summary of budget and the survey. For Disaster management, again NCERT is good enough while guidelines issued by the govt must also be looked at. Similarly, this paper too needs one to go through the newspaper, specifically the Science and Technology part.

General Studies Paper 4, this is the riddle we are all trying to solve. There are no standard books in the market unlike for other papers, apart from say the Lexicon, which is in no way enough. The best way to prepare for this paper is to practice case studies on standard issues and how one would deal with them. Also read the core ideas of famous thinkers and use them in case studies to support your ideas and viewpoints. For the rest of the paper, government reports like 2nd ARC, books like ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Goleman can be helpful.

Essay Paper

Essay preparation is very simple. It’s a 3 step process, first, get to know what the essay paper demands, see toppers essays and what they write on a particular topic, second, prepare essays on most common topics to be ahead like on ‘women empowerment’, ‘education’ etc and third, try and add value to your essays by incorporating relevant data, citing reports, quoting experts, writing a few quotes here and there etc

Then you must compare your essay with those of the toppers on similar topic and see where you lack. 

Interview (Personality Test)

Board: B. S. Bassi

Date: 03-04-18

Questions asked: Mostly on my DAF, a lot of them on football. Also, I was asked an interesting case study on the famous “Human Shield” incident in J&K.

Role of Essay & Interview marks in your success

Huge role, I did reasonably well in essay and interview. Doing well in these two is almost indispensable if one wants to taste success.

Essays are to be written not like the one we write in school, or in essay competitions. Here, more than depth, breadth is important. It matters how much you can cover and how many varied aspects you can touch.

Similarly, interview is the one which makes or breaks your rank

Evaluation of my efforts by UPSC

My score is Essay is 136 and in Interview I got 171 marks.

You can be an IAS or out of the list based on your interview marks alone. A good score of 175+ is almost necessary for one to get a decent rank.

Books and Study Resources

Prelims and Mains have a huge overlap, only the pattern and the depth differs.

Major areas concerned are 5, viz Polity, Economy, Geography, History and Current Affairs.

All of them are equally important and there are other small and niche areas like security, environment, IR etc but they can be brought under the above 5 subjects.

First and foremost, a newspaper is a must, best to read either The Hindu or The Express. But not for more than 30–40 minutes as all that you should care about can be done in this much time, else you are doing it wrong.

Then the books, for polity, you must have P.M. Bakshi, and carry it with you, glance over, once in a while. Then read either D.D. Basu or SubhashKashyap. Laxmikant is also an important book, but you can skip it if you want, I did and though some say it’s a must for Prelims, I scored 154 and 120 in my 2 attempts, so, relax.

For security, read newspapers, follow the news, and read the basics about Naxalism, Communalism, Extremism, Money Laundering, Terrorism etc and link them to ways to tackle them and govt measure and policy in these regards. All can be done by newspapers.

For IR, again, only newspapers are enough for current as it is highly important to be updated in IR, for the static portion, read, ‘Does the Elephant Dance’ by Malone.

For History, read the NCERT for class VI, Bipan Chandra and yes NCERT for class XI on Indian Art. World History can be done from Arjun Dev.

For Economics, just read the survey, the budget highlights and follow the newspaper religiously. Also follow NITI Aayog website, also, you can read the approach papers to various reports. No book is needed but the NCERT for class XII on macroeconomics.

For Geography, read the NCERTs from VI to IX and GC Leong, that is enough. Also, do some mapping practice. For environment, again, only current is important and thus only newspaper.

Now, for current affairs, read the newspaper, follow the daily updates on any of the online platforms and read the monthly current affair compilation to fill in the gaps.

All this and you are set, good luck


Last Update Wednesday 18th July 2018

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