[Topper’s Interview] Debotosh Chatterjee (Rank-406/CSE-2015) Political Science, First Attempt, No Coaching, West-Bengal

Debotosh Chatterjee

[Topper’s Interview] Debotosh Chatterjee (Rank-406/CSE-2015) Political Science, First Attempt, No Coaching, West-Bengal

  1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Working professional
  7. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  9. Prelim accuracy
  10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  11. Mains: Essay
  12. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  13. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  14. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  15. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  16. Mains answer-writing?
  17. Mains Optional Subject
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. CSE-2015 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Q. Details 
Name Debotosh Chatterjee
Rank in CSE-2015 406
Roll No. 0047140
Age 24
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 1
Optional Subject Political Science and International Relations
Schooling Medium English
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Durgapur (West Bengal)
Work-experience if any Have been working as a blogger and freelance writer for the last 5 years.
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
  • CAT 2014 – 96 percentile (English – 99 percentile)
  • Cleared SSC CGL 2015
  • Missed cut off in RBI Grade B 2015 Prelims by 3.5 marks.
  • Missed cut off in Phase 1 of IRDA JO Recruitment 2016 by 1 mark.
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) No formal classroom coaching. Took GS Test Series from Vision IAS and Political Science Test Series from Trademark IAS (Kolkata). With the present format of the exam, it is way more peaceful and useful to opt for self preparation.
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS > IFS > IRS (IT) > IRS (CCE) > IAAS
state cadre preference (Top-5) Rajasthan > MP > AGMUT > Maharashtra > Haryana


% in class 10 90
% in class 12 75.6
Graduation course and % Chemical Engineering (67.78 %)
Name of college, city, passing out year Jadavpur University, Kolkata, Batch of 2015
Post-graduation Nopes
Any other professional courses Nopes
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Crazy about a couple of things – Writing and Cricket. The last 6 years of my life literally revolved around these two!


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Debotosh Chatterjee
Like so many UPSC CSE fanatics, my tryst with Civil Service started during my school days. Even though I belong to a middle class family with no civil service in the pedigree, I used to hear a lot about “IAS” in my childhood from my father and some close relatives. A few of my favourite teachers also used to talk encouragingly about the Civil Services, every now and then. This slowly led to my growing interest in this field as I started reading magazines like Competition Success Review and local newspapers even before Class 10 exams. After failure in IITJEE for two consecutive years (2010,2011), I became convinced that I really do not have much taste in these technical fields. However, hard pressed for options, I had to go for Chemical Engineering at JU since I really had nothing else to do back then. By that time, though, I had already made up my mind about CSE. It had to be my numero uno priority in life from thereon! Started blogging and writing professionally, besides reading 3 to 4 newspapers rigorously on daily basis. It all started in early 2011 when I was yet to get into college, and almost 5 years later I have tasted the fruits of my dedication and determination. So strong was my ambition that I outright opted out of the college placement process in final year.

Electronic Vs Paper material

Q. In recent times, there is spur in electronic material- blogs, sites, pdfs, RSS-feeds. Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. So, how much do you rely on electronic material and how much on the paper material (Books, newspapers)? If possible, narrate a typical day in your studylife. What is your style of preparation (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I’m reading, I just read multiple times but don’t maintain notes, I make mindmaps on computer …or xyz style)
I feel that for success in UPSC, the key lies NOT in selecting many sources. Rather, it is all about separating the chaff from the grain and prioritizing only what is necessary.
The whole idea of reading using electronic material does not fit into my strategy beyond a certain point. Hence, despite so much electronic material available, I mostly used books, newspapers and hard copies of PDF files. However, to save time and make the preparation more efficient, I used to make notes on One Note.
Tackling information overload : I always restricted myself to a few trusted websites. Some of them are Mrunal, Unacademy, IDSA, RSTV Youtube Channel, etc. Once these information sources are narrowed down, it becomes very easy to maintain discipline and follow them. However, even from these websites I used to be very selective at times. E.g. I did not follow RSTV discussions on political issues which had no bearing on my UPSC preparation. I could never revise from PDF files or make effective use of RSS feeds, so avoided those things. Mostly hard copies and a few trusted websites – that’s good enough.
Daily Routine : I did not have a tight routine. Rather I used to fix daily/weekly targets and tried to achieve as much as possible. This I used to do throughout the 12 months of preparation to keep myself on track for finishing the syllabus in quick time and revision subsequently. However, I must say that aspirants should try and avoid the “night bird life”. I changed my nocturnal routine to a diurnal one very early during the preparation, and my efficiency and health improved quite a lot.
Note making : Made notes only for things which were NOT STATIC or were TOO BIG to be read as a whole every time.
Where I made notes – Daily newspapers, RSTV Debates, IDSA articles, 12th Five Year Plan, Economic Survey, Optional Subject.
Where I DID NOT MAKE notes – NCERTs, Textbooks like Laxmikanth, Bipin Chandra, etc.

Tempo and style

Q. People know what books and syllabus points are to be prepared. But most of them lack consistency in their preparation. So, how do you keep study momentum going on? How do you fight against the mood swings and distractions?
About 3 months into the preparation, I realized this problem of mood swings as I lost almost 15 days trying to get past some annoying issues. I also realized that I can not let such mood swings damage my preparation after this. So I decided to take it light whenever such periods of limbo crept in. One can not study like a macho for 12 months and not do anything else! So I always used to set aside 1 or 2 days in a week or two for good Hollywood movies. I am a movie buff, and good movies always managed to bring me back on track. During the off-days, atleast newspaper reading should be done. Occasionally taking a day-long break is absolutely NECESSARY. Besides, listening to songs during times of mental turbulence helps calm things down. I preferred Hindi songs of the 70s an 80s, along with Rabindrasangeet.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
Not applicable (Though I was a professional freelancer, the job rarely took up more than 2 hours in day and still gave me enough pocket money).

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient MACGRAWHILL  GS Manual
History Medieval MACGRAWHILL  GS Manual
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Started with Bipin Chandra. After completing it in 7-8 days, switched to Spectrum for all purposes in the exam. Spectrum is a brilliant book for easy revision in both Pre and Mains.
Culture and society MACGRAWHILL  GS Manual + NCERT Fine Arts Cl 11 (v selective, but could not retain much)
Polity (theory + current) NCERT Cls 11 + Laxmikanth
Economy (theory + current) Mrunal videos (Wow!) + Economic Survey + NCERT Cls 12 (Macro only) + NCERT Cls 11 + Sanjeev Verma and Ramesh Singh (selectively). First 3 are most important. Focus on KEYWORDS in whatever you read for Prelims.
Science (theory + current) Very haphazard. Lucent + Unacademy + Mrunal. Had background in Science so not much of an issue with the basics. Humanities people should read NCERTs (Cls 6-10 if necessary) for strong basics. Vision IAS Current Affairs necessary for latest scientific developments.
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS + Unacademy + Vision IAS Current Affairs.
geography physical G C Leong + NCERT Cls 11/12
geography India NCERT Cls 11/12 (NCERTs are of critical importance in Geography, especially the climate and ocean portions. Master those well!)
geography world G C Leong + NCERT Cls 11/12
other national/international current affairs Vision IAS Current Affairs (v comprehensive) +  The Hindu
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff New Vishal’s India At A Glance 2015 (a compressed version of IYB). In Prelims these days, 2 or 3 questions are always from IYB. So, if there is time, this filtered version of the book can be very useful.

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
The paper reinforced the idea that nobody can second guess UPSC w.r.t. pattern of the GS Prelims paper. In 2013, 2014, 2015 we have seen 3 entirely different brands of question papers. So, I would request aspirants to fortify their basics in ALL the GS subjects. Otherwise tackling such diversified and unpredictable papers can be tough. And yes, please focus on keywords in Current Affairs too. It can save or ruin your day!
Q. Now that Aptitude paper has become qualifying, obvious more attention needs to be paid on the GS paper so apart from the books that you already have gone through, what else would you have tried for CSE-2016 (if you were going to appear)?
I would try and be more diversified in my approach, i.e. not try and expect anything from the paper. In 2015, I was expecting either a factual or a conceptual paper, and UPSC surprised us with a paper loaded with Current Affairs. So, for future aspirants, DO NOT try to guess what the paper can be. Instead try and plug as many loopholes in your preparation as you can. That means Factual, Conceptual, Current Affairs, etc! The completion is very intense, and any laxity in preparation can be a cause of missed cut offs. Leave nothing to FATE or UPSC. Practice more MCQs, revise more, whatever it takes. It is essential to stick with 1 or 2 books per subject and revision them 5 to 10 times before going to the battleground.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Nothing
reasoning Nothing
comprehension Nothing
Decision Making Nothing

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
It is not much of a headache now for even the die-hard CSAT haters, with qualification at just 66 marks! This year’s paper was quite normal, and I expect it to be so next year also.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? Do you think they’re necessary for success?
Yes I did attend a few of those. But never spent a dime subscribing for the costly Test series of coaching centres. Took tests which were available free of cost every now and then (E.g. Vision IAS Open Tests) and gauged my preparation. Just a few tests are enough, if one has practiced enough MCQs and has mastered the art of making “calculated guesses” (70% of Prelims GS paper has questions with NO direct answer!).
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 91 65 113.34
aptitude Don’t remember Don’t remember 149.37

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Nothing
your regional language Practised a couple of essays a week before the exam. Familiarized myself with the question pattern using last 5 years papers.

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
The regional language papers have become very dicey these days. There was a sudden change in the pattern of Grammar questions this year, and that meant I could not even touch 20 marks grammar in the paper. Translations have become a tad too tricky and difficult with every passing year. The paper CAN NOT be taken lightly at any cost. However, some simple revision of things learnt at school, in the last couple of weeks before Mains can suffice.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I have been writing almost 600 to 800 words on an average every day for the last 5 years, courtesy my freelancing job. So I always had a natural flair for writing. Hence no preparation needed. However, my strategy for Essay was to choose topics for which a lot of current information and well accepted analysis is already available. PLANNING the essay before writing it is extremely crucial, and I spent close to 35 minutes in the exam hall planning the two essays.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
1: “Dreams which should not let Indian sleep”.
Whenever I write on such broad issues, I mentally divide them into “Political” “Economic” “Environmental” “International” “Ethical” sections, just the way I have divided my ONE NOTE file. Here also I categorised India’s dreams into such sections and added lots of facts, figures (Econ Survey, 12th FYP, etc) and current examples to substantiate my points. For getting above average marks in Essay, EXAMPLES and RELEVANT facts are CRUCIAL. So, always keep such stuff ready at hand (e.g. literacy rate, latest govt. committees on sensitive issues, health indicators, etc).
2: “Education without values ….. man more clever devil”.
This topic had immense relevance with Ethics and Political Science. Besides, the statement is clearly stated and not much controversial stance needs to be taken. Here again, I started with examples from Ancient Greece and followed a timeline from Industrial Revolution and British exploitation in India to cyber crimes and scams of present. Substantiated using quotes of thinkers and practical arguments (e.g. wrote about how UPSC itself had added Ethics paper to emphasize on education laced with values).
In both essays, I made lot of paragraphs which facilitates easy reading and gave headings and sub headings wherever necessary.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture NCERT Cls 11 Ancient History + Nitin Singhania Notes
Indian history Spectrum
world history Norman Lewis. Used a Vision IAS pdf for revision purposes, as it expertly compressed the whole 600 pg book into a 200 pg document. Very essential for saving time, or else World History can take ages to complete. It’s very interesting, though.
post-independence India Bipin Chandra, NCERT India After Independence
Indian society NCERT Sociology Cls 11, 12. But UPSC questions are mostly based on common sense. So can be skipped.
role of women, poverty etc. NCERT Sociology Cls 11, 12
globalization on Indian society Vision IAS
communalism, regionalism, secularism NCERT Indian After Independence, Bipin Chandra
world geo physical G C Leong, NCERT, Mrunal videos (selective)
resource distribution One stop solution – Mrunal
factors for industrial location Mrunal
earthquake tsunami etc Vision IAS, NCERT Cls 11, 12
impact on flora-fauna Nothing

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth
comparing Constitution with world Vision IAS (more or less skipped)
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikanth (Static stuff not important)
executive-judiciary Laxmikanth (Static stuff not important)
ministries departments Laxmikanth (Static stuff not important)
pressure group, informal asso. Vision IAS Material + Current Affairs
Representation of people’s act Vision IAS Material (very static, so look for connected issues in current affairs – e.g. Anti Defection Law)
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikanth
NGO, SHG etc 12th FYP, Vision IAS Material + Current Affairs
welfare schemes, bodies 12th FYP Notes (self made) + Vision Current
social sector, health, edu, HRD 12th FYP Notes (self made) + Vision Current
governance, transparency, accountability Vision IAS Material + Common Sense
e-governance Vision IAS Material + Common Sense
role of civil service Vision IAS Material + Common Sense
India & neighbors Included in optional subject. No separate prep. Focus should be very much on Current Affairs
bilateral/global grouping Included in optional subject. No separate prep. Focus should be very much on Current Affairs
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Included in optional subject. No separate prep. Focus should be very much on Current Affairs
Diaspora Vision IAS Material (4,5 pgs) + Current Affairs
international bodies- structure mandate Nothing special. Avoided the static stuff as much as possible, and focused on relevant issues in news. (E.g. I focussed on India’s entry into UNSC, and there was a Mains question on that too!)

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization NCERT Cls 12 Macro + Ramesh Singh + Mrunal Videos
inclusive growth 12th FYP Notes (self made) + Mrunal
Budgeting Vision IAS (ignore static and factual content if time is at a premium).
major crops, irrigation Nothing special. Focussed on recent issues – e.g. fluctuating prices of Pulses; MSP issues, etc etc.
agro produce – storage, marketing Economic Survey, Vision IAS Material
e-technology for famers Economic Survey, Vision IAS Material
farm subsidies, MSP Economic Survey, Vision IAS Material
PDS, buffer, food security Economic Survey, Vision IAS Material
technology mission Vision IAS Material (mostly static content, so had to rely on Current Affairs).
animal rearing economics Vision IAS Material
food processing Vision IAS Material
land reforms Bipin Chandra + Mrunal (very good analysis)
Liberalization Mrunal Videos + Common Sense
Infra 12th FYP Notes (self made)
investment models Vision IAS + Current Affairs (2 new models were in news last year) + Mrunal Revision videos
science-tech day to day life Vision IAS S&T document released in November 2015. But UPSC questions were not mainstream factual ones. Seems like the stress on opinion-based questions is going to be the trend from here-on, as far as GS III S&T is concerned.
Indian achievements in sci-tech Skipped. Only current affairs.
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Skipped. Only current affairs.
environmental impact assessment Shankar IAS. Static content not essential, in my opinion.
Disaster Management Vision IAS, MHA Document.
non state actors, internal security IDSA (very good website if used selectively as per syllabus). I used a pdf document available there, authored by Namrata Goswami (“India’s Internal Security Situation”)
internal security – role of media, social networking site Vision IAS Material + IDSA + Current Affairs
cyber security IDSA pdf + Vision IAS
money laundering IDSA pdf + Vision IAS
border  Management MHA Document + Vision IAS
organized crime, terrorism Focus on Current Affairs. No need to memorize What? Who? When? Type of GK stuff. Form opinions on recent issues like money laundering.
security agencies- structure mandate More or less skipped. Only current issues needed. E.g. I focused on AFSPA as it was in news last year, and there was a question on that!

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Lexicon + Mrunal
attitude, moral influence etc. Lexicon + Mrunal
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Lexicon + Mrunal
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon + Mrunal
moral thinkers of India and world Part of Political Science (optional syllabus). No separate prep.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Lexicon + Mrunal
corporate governance Lexicon + Mrunal
probity in governance, work culture Lexicon + Mrunal
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Lexicon + Mrunal
challenges of corruption Lexicon + Mrunal
case studies on above topics Lexicon + Mrunal

Q. Many candidates found Mains-2015 Ethics paper very peculiar and “out of the book”. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
Yes, there were some awkward case studies (Dalit cook in school), and weird questions in the first part which made the paper very lengthy this time. However, I feel that good answer writing abilities can help you get “safe” marks even if the paper is not as per expectations. Besides, attempting the whole paper is also helpful in papers like 2015 Ethics, where one cannot exactly know the high scoring and low scoring answers. As I have always believed, it is better to go into the exam hall thinking that the question paper can have ANYTHING! Because it is UPSC, after all!

Mains answer-writing?

Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 10 8 2 All
GS2 10 4 4 All
GS3 13 6 1 All
GS4 Case Studies The Rest of the Paper No idea All
Opt-P1 All All
Opt-P2 150 marks 100 marks (in Section A), due to too much time spent in Section B Could not complete the last sentence in the last question! Rest fully attempted.

Q. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]
I always knew that the fight for a place in the ULTIMATE PDF always happens over a narrow range of marks. Since the interview is absolutely unpredictable, Mains in all that we have to mop up the marks. And for this, EVERY SINGLE MARK must be fought for. Besides, this was my First Attempt and I did not want to leave any stone unturned. So attempting ALL questions was Priority No. 1. However, there were 3,4 questions in every paper which I used to attempt in the last 10 or 15 minutes, whereas the best ones I attempted first. I had a 6,7,7 or 7,6,7 hour-wise breakdown plan for attempting the GS papers. The wrist watch is a real game changer in the Mains exam!
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Good enough. Helped me keep my answers within “reasonable limits” despite overshooting the 200 or 150 word limit.
Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players (who cleared mains and got interview call letter) were claiming that they wrote entire paper in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter….whether examiner is asking ‘examine, comment, discuss or xyz’….simply write in bullets and points.
I wrote almost 99% of the GS answers in bullet points with small intro and conclusion for most of them. However, into and conclusion is not always possible due to paucity of time. Bullet points format helped me think quicker than usual and produce answers faster.
For Optional, I used the Paragraph format since Political Science is a humanities subject and answers are supposed to be written from the point of view of a specialist.
Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.
Followed it in most of the questions in GS. Missed it when hard pressed for time. Happens when the wrist watch indicates that I am struggling to keep my hour-wise breakdown intact.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Just a few here and there. Mainly in Geography (GS I). Did not have time to innovate and create diagrams elsewhere.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
By Hand. Time is very cruel to those who try fancy things.
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Blue. Pilot V5. Absolutely fantastic pen, with an awesome speed.

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Political Science and International Relations (PSIR). Loved International Relations since before I joined college, and was also confident about the Constitution and Indian National Movement part because a strong foundation was built during school days. Plus, I had a flair for writing and PSIR is known to be very kind to people who are creative with words and language.
Q. If a new player wants to pick this subject, would you advice for it or against it? (e.g. every senior player in Public Administration seems to be advising against pub.ad)
I would, ONLY if they are INTERESTED in it. If you go by “popularity” or “scoring potential” or “success rate” of PSIR, it might doom you to ridiculous failure. I have heard of people getting marks in 20s and 30s after attempting 250 marks paper in PSIR. So, interest and love for the subject count the MOST.
Q. First the essential book/resource list. (Also mention which one is the “Base book” for covering the theory? + Whatever comments you’ve for a particular book e.g. “my seniors said read xyz book but I found that ABC book was better”.  “xyz topic not given properly in this book, so prepare from xyz website or book…” OR and so on.)
Paper 1 Section A – Completely static part of the syllabus. Multiple revisions of given resources helped. Besides, I DID NOT refer to too many books, to save time. Spend adequate time and you can master this section well enough.
Political Ideologies (Theoretical stuff) – O.P Gauba (good for basics, but some might find the language to be a bit convoluted) + Shubhra Ranjan Madam Notes
Indian Political Thought – V R Mehta + Shubhra Ranjan Madam Notes
Western Political Thought – Brian Nelson (excellent book) + Shubhra Ranjan Madam Notes
Paper 1 Section B – More or less overlapped with GS I and II, but had to be read with the flavor of optional. Good command over Current Affairs can give you the edge over others in the Polity section.
Indian National Movement – Bipin Chandra + Spectrum (excellent for revision) + Shubhra Ranjan Madam Notes
Indian Polity – B. L. Fadia (Very selective) + Shubhra Ranjan Madam Notes + Laxmikanth (this book is anyways read by everyone for basics).

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