[Topper’s Interview] Samir Saurabh (Rank-127/CSE-2015) Anthropology, NIT Tiruchirappalli, Jharkhand allotted to IPS

Samir Saurabh

[Topper’s Interview] Samir Saurabh (Rank-127/CSE-2015) Anthropology, NIT Tiruchirappalli, Jharkhand allotted to IPS

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

Candidate Profile

Q. Details
Name Samir Saurabh
Rank in CSE-2015 127
Roll No. 0407622
Age 32
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 4
Optional Subject Anthropology
Schooling Medium English
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Hazaribag (JH)
Work-experience if any 4 years in Morgan Stanley, Mumbai
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Not Applicable (N/A)
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Sriram’s IAS for GS, Vaid’s ICS for Anthro, Samkalp and Chanakyafor Interview
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS>IPS>IFS>IRS(IT)>IRS(C&CE)
Finally allotted to IPS
state cadre preference (Top-5) MP>GJ>MH>RJ>AP


% in class 10 87
% in class 12 77
Graduation course and % B. Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering; CGPA 8.9 out of 10
Name of college, city, passing out year NIT Tiruchirappalli, TN; 2007
Post-graduation N/A
Any other professional courses N/A
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Sketching, Painting, English Crosswords


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Samir Saurabh
I am the eldest of my two siblings. My father is a retired Executive Engineer (State Govt) and my mother is a homemaker. My younger brother is an IIT grad and MBA from US, and is currently working in Singapore. My sister is married and lives in Chennai. I got married in 2010 and have a very supportive wife, who has my pillar of strength during the last 5 years. And yes … I also have a lovely 4-year old daughter, who is always confused that why does her dad study so much J
During my school and Btech days, I never “dreamt” of becoming an IAS or an IPS. I always thought that a private sector job is way cooler than a public sector one. So, with full zeal, I joined Morgan Stanley through campus placement. Job as Morgan was great. I was working with some of the best brains of the industry, and on very crucial projects. But after 3 years or so, a sense of discontent started emerging. Job started to look monotonous. There was hardly any direct social impact of my work. Though the working environment at Morgan was very encouraging, diverse and cosmopolitan, I personally felt I wanted something more out of my life – something where I can make a direct contribution to the society.
Jumping into Civil Services Preparation was the natural, and perhaps the best option.

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 am an old-school guy. I always prefer paper material over electronic ones. If I find something important online, I generally take a printout and read from that.
A typical day in my study-life starts at about 9 in the morning. During the first 1.5 hours, I glimpse through the newspapers (The Hindu andIndian Express) and highlight the important articles which I have to make notes upon. Then, as per that day’s plan, I study sections of GS or Optional. After lunch, I sleep for about 1.5 hours in the afternoon, and spend another 1.5 hours in the evening with my wife and daughter. During late evenings and night, I again study GS/Optional as per the plan. And in the last 2 hours (generally 12 to 2 am), I prepare word-doc notes from the newspaper based on articles that I highlighted in the morning. At the end of each month, I take the printout of the newspaper notes and revise them.
My focus during preparation is to make my revision easier. So, I always make notes for my optional and some areas in GS. However, there are few books, which one has to read thoroughly – for these I did not make separate notes. At best, I wrote few keywords on page margins, or used those yellow stickies.

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?
I think the prime mover for this exam HAS to be a very strong motivation – why one wants to enter Civil Services. If this motivation is strong, issues such as lack of consistency and slacking momentum can be taken care of to a large extent. But since the exam calendar is so long, one must proactively guard against such issues. Inculcating interest in the subjects, following a weekly and a daily study plan and testing one’s preparation level periodically are some of the ways to stay focussed.
But despite all this, there WILL be days when you just don’t want to study, which is quite natural. Do whatever refreshes you – watch a movie, chill out with friends, go for a long walk, play with your daughter J etc. But then, do get back to your study table the next day – with full vigor. Prolonging such cooling-off periods can be fatal to your preparation as well as your morale.

Struggle of a Senior player

(Answer only if you’re a senior player.)
Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.
Understanding the nature of this exam is crucial for a candidate. I think patience and perseverance are the twin oars that can steer you through tough times during preparation. Always have faith in your abilities, and stay optimistic. But then, if you are failing in prelims repeatedly, there’s something seriously wrong with your preparation approach, and you must rectify that. Success in prelims/mains can be a great motivator.  I think I survived to take my 4th attempt because I had reached till the interview stage in CSE 2013 and 2014. Therefore, I knew I needed to iron out only a few flaws to make it to the final list.
While there is no specific incident which inspired me, I remember being quite pumped-up after listening to Suharsha Bhagat (AIR 5, CSE 2014), who got into IAS in his 5th attempt.  His story of failures, struggles and finally success motivated me to stay in the hunt. As he said, perhaps UPSC also realizes that its recruitment process is a bit subjective, and that’s why it has given 4 (now 6) attempts to a candidate to prove her worth.
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
In my first attempt, I failed in prelims, because I was a bit overconfident about Paper 2 (CSAT). In 2nd and 3rd attempts, I reached till the Interview stage, but failed to make into the final list because of low marks in mains. In this attempt, I wrote answers in Anthro more from an application-oriented perspective, rather than a purely theoretical perspective. Also, used lots of examples and diagrams in my answers. I think this strategy might have paid off, since I got good marks in Anthro this time.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
I had quit my job before coming to Delhi, because I wanted to give my best to Civil Services preparation.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Ancient India (NCERT 11th) by RS Sharma. Must read it from Cover to Cover.
History Medieval Did not prepare. I felt there was too much to read and not many questions come from Medieval. Studied some specific topics such as Mughal architecture, etc.
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra et al. THE best book, by far. In order to answer History questions, you need to be aware of the story around an event, which is given beautifully in this book.
Culture and society Selective study of Spectrum’s Art&Culture. Also, use Ancient India NCERT.
Polity (theory + current) DD Basu and Sriram’s IAS Polity; PM Bakshi for Bare Acts. The Hindu for current affairs.
Economy (theory + current) Introductory Macroeconomics (NCERT); Sriram’s IAS Economy; The Hindu; Economic Survey; Mrunal.org
Science (theory + current) The Hindu only. Focussed less on Science-Tech because of its low reward to effort ratio.
Environment (theory + current) The Hindu, Wikipedia, Mrunal.org
Geography physical Goh Cheng Leong; NCERT 11th Fundamentals of Physical Geog.
Geography India NCERT 11th India Physical
Geography world Resource Geography – NCERT 8th
Other national/international current affairs Newspaper (The Hindu)
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Newspaper(The Hindu)

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
I think the preparation should always be aligned towards the Main exam, not prelims. But yes, 40 to 50 days before the prelims, the focus should be solely on prelims. Prepare the 4 core topics – History, Polity, Economy and Geography very well. Topics such as Envt and Science-Tech have high volatility in terms of number of questions asked. So, better be selective in these.
In GS Prelims 2015, quite a few questions tested your awareness level not only from very recent topics, but also from topics which have been in news over the last two years or so. So, mugging up Prelims-specific notes from Coaching institutes may not be very helpful. Having a comprehensive and deeper awareness about national and international happenings is crucial now.
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 don’t think anything else needs to be done. If you prepare the 4 core topics solidly, and stay abreast of current affairs, you should be able to answer 65-70% of the questions in GS Prelims (assuming average difficulty level of the paper).

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Revise the formulae; and Practice & Practice
reasoning Nothing specific.
comprehension Inculcate the habit of reading a good newspaper. That should be sufficient.
Decision Making Think like an administrator in such questions.

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
Never align your preparation strategy to a specific pattern of questions asked by the UPSC, because the pattern may be changed anytime. UPSC is always keen on staying unpredictable. For example, in Prelims 2015, there were no decision-making questions in Paper 2. You have to be ready for such surprises.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
During my previous attempts (CSE 2013 and 2014), when CSAT was crucial for success in prelims, I attended CL’s Mock tests, which were extremely helpful in improving my accuracy and speed. In CSE 2015, I did not attend any mock test. Now that CSAT has been made qualifying, the usefulness of such mock tests has reduced. But still, for those who are not from Science/Maths background, I would strongly suggest to take few mock tests to improve speed and accuracy.
For Paper I of prelims, mock test can be useful, though to a limited extent. Many coaching institutes come up with their own such tests, but the level of questions in most of these is sub-standard and does not reflect the UPSC level. Still, from a revision point-of-view, these mock tests may be helpful.

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