[Topper’s Interview] S.Chitharanjan (Rank-574/CSE-2015)

Topper who followed IAS ABHIYAN’s Compilations

Candidate Profile

NameS. Chitharanjan
Rank in CSE-2015574
Roll No.155540
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)03
Optional SubjectAnthropology
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/citySecunderabad
Work-experience if anyWorked as an Assistant Central Intelligence Officer (ACIO) from 2012 to Jan 2016
Right now working as an Assistant Commandant, ITBP.
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresCleared ACIO-II exam (Intelligence Bureau) in 2012
Cleared CAPF 2013 (AIR# 239)
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)I didn’t  get an opportunity to take coaching for Anthropology or General Studies as I have been working (took coaching for Geography and Public Administration in 2010 and they didn’t help me as they are no more my optional)
Service preferences (Top-5)IPS>IAS>IFS>IRS(IT)>IRS(C)
state cadre preference (Top-5)Telangana> Andhra Pradesh>Karnataka>Tamil nadu>Maharasthra


% in class 1090.3
% in class 1288
Graduation course and %72.03
Name of college, city, passing out yearSri  Ramachandra College of Pharmacy,
Sri Ramachandra University,
Passing out year – 2010
Post-graduationMBA in Human resource management,
Osmania University,
Passing out year – 2012
Any other professional coursesBasic and Advanced Mountaineering Courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsRock Climbing,
Scaled Mt. Phulang and Mt. Brumkhangse in North Sikkim in two different mountaineering expeditions.


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?

I have always been an above average last bench student throughout my academics. Because of few personal experiences which I have faced in my college days drove me to pursue some profession which is powerful enough to fight injustice. So I shifted from pharmacy to academics/ profession involving more of studying people and their behavior (Human resources and Intelligence Bureau) and simultaneously started preparing for Civil Services. In August 2012, I joined as an ACIO-II in Intelligence Bureau and I cleared CAPF, 2013 and joined ITBP as an Assistant Commandant in 2016.
My father is a Metropolitan Sessions Judge in Hyderabad, my mother is a Home maker and my younger sister is an Advocate.  I’m native of Warangal and we settled in Secunderabad, Telangana.

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)

  • There is a lot of material available in the market/internet. One should know what to study and what not to.  Collect the online material and save them in different folders accordingly for future reference.
  • I avoided reading bulky books and preferred reading more of concise versions of books which are available @iasabhiyan.com.
  • I used to read articles from mrunal.org instead of swimming in ocean of newspapers. I didn’t waste time making notes from newspapers because they are already prepared by many online sites like insightsonindia, iasbaba and I took printouts of important ones and categorically filed them for further revision.
  • One thing for sure is we are preparing our PhD thesis, all we want is 10-15 points on every topic with conceptual clarity. But there are some standard books like Laxmikanth, Spectrum , GC. Leong which u can’t afford to skip them. My formula is read more from many sources for Prelims (because of uncertainty of questions) and Write more for Mains from limited reliable sources.

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?
Target based study is key to my success. I used to design a study plan for every 15 days and it also includes what to study every hour in a day, so that I don’t waste facebooking and whatsapping. I used to study for an hour then take 5 mins gap and again switch over to another subject so that I don’t get bored with one subject, staring at a single page. After lunch, one hour sleep to refresh my mood. I used to make sure that my day ends happily with a documentary or a thrilling TV serial (definitely not desiwala).
Once in a fortnight, a day off (chill out with friends and family) and once in 60 days I used to plan an adventure trip with friends for3- 5days.

Struggle of 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.
. I believe in Law of Attraction– you always get want you want, sincerely want. All you have to do is ask, sincerely ask.
As we all know Energy neither can neither be created nor destroyed but only transformed from one form to another… all you have to do is put your energy into what you want to be. The higher you aim, higher energy it demands. Believe in flow of energy, the energy you spent will never go waste.

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
My first attempt in 2011 turned out to be a disaster because of poor optional selection (Geography and Public Administration).later I got selected as an ACIO-II and I took two years gap to focus more on my profession. Again in 2014 I couldn’t even clear prelims because of my poor performance in CSAT paper II. In 2015, making CSAT paper qualifying made things easier for me. In 2015 attempt I shifted to Anthropology from Geography. Being from  science background made things easier for me in Anthropology and I didn’t even take any coaching for it. I prepared my own notes from various sources covering 90% of syllabus. It took 4 months to prepare my own notes and revised it regularly with recent updates (I will share my notes soon on this forum).
I dedicated 2 hours daily for writing practice for both GS, optional and Essay. I answered day to day questions from Secure 2015 of Insightsonindia.com and compared them with others who posted their answers in the above platform.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
Simple answer- I took leave before my Mains examination. Once you are sure about your prelims result you can risk taking EOL. Utilise your after work hours smartly focusing more on conventional topics.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History AncientTN NCERT
History MedievalTN NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Spectrum, NCERT compilations,
Indian Freedom struggle by Bipin Chandra (not compulsory)
Culture and societyGK Today material, CCRT notes, NCERT compilations
Polity (theory + current)Laxmikanth, NCERT
Economy (theory + current)Mrunal articles, Key concepts of Economy (Sankar IAS material), NCERT compilations
Science (theory + current)NCERT Compilations
Environment (theory + current)Shankar IAS material, GK today material
geography physicalNCERT, GC Leong, GK today material
geography IndiaNCERT , GK  Today material
geography worldNCERT, GK  Today material
other national/international current affairsGathered final current affairs compilation material from xaam.in 15 days before prelims.
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffOnline sources.

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
There are no/few questions from Culture, Environment and all of a sudden more questions from Current affairs. Because of uncertainty of questions from different topics, I suggest focusing on all topics equally and don’t prioritise. UPSC is too unpredictable so don’t take chances. For Prelims read topics from more than one source to strengthen your elimination strategy and to increase your probability while risking answering 50:50 questions.

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)?

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsRS Agarwal
reasoningRS Agarwal
Decision Making

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
I’m not right person to suggest because I scored only 81/ 200.. Just enough to qualify…

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
I didn’t attend any mock tests but I solved daily 50 questions of previous year question papers and from other sources available in the market. I think they will help you in time management and analysis your elimination strategies.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score
aptitude41Don’t remember81.1

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperNIL
your regional languageWrote daily a passage two months before Mains
from local newspaper

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Don’t neglect Regional language paper, especially candidates from English medium.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I started preparing for essay sincerely from about a month before the mains. I picked up topics from civilserviceindia and did brainstorming over a paper, whatever comes in my mind regarding that topic and categorized it into historical, economic, social and cultural aspects. Same time I wrote down pros, cons and solutions, if possible case studies. Now on the other side of paper I made a rectangle with ten boxes (each box represent a paper) in it and organized the brain stormed points in it (see below).

Introduction with an anecdote or a story. Body-1
Explaining the theme of the essay include historical perspective
Case study
With examples
the problem in socio cultural context
the problem
SolutionsSolutionsA Success story Conclusion
Don’t add anything new here. It should be a summary of your essay.

I do suggest writing at least 6 complete essays (within 10 days of mains) and give it to other aspirants to evaluate it. Focus more on presenting decent introduction and conclusion. Add some  historical examples to keep your  essay interesting.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man more clever devil.
I gave introduction mentioning Alexander, his respect towards cultural values imbibed by Aristotle during his education. Gave historical examples like Hilter’s unethical experiments on humans, mentioned problems in Bureaucracy, Corruption in Civil Services, nuclear experimentation, developing chemical/ biological weapons, confession of Oppenheimer after his Project Manhattan and radicalization of educated youth into ISIS by a PhD holder Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. Also gave solutions like reforms in Education, role of family and society in molding children into better citizens.
Technology cannot replace manpower.
Started essay  introduction with the development of early civilizations mentioning Cultural evolution. Gave historical examples like Luddites against machines, IBM computer defeating Chess Grandmaster, pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence. Finally on Cyber issues, humans role in innovation, risk handling, decision making in crucial situations.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureGK Today, NCERT books (not compilations)
Indian historySpectrum, GK today material
world historyNCERT , Wizard World History
post-independence IndiaNCERT( Politics in India since Independence)- more than sufficient
Indian societyI skipped it (I’m a part of from past 26 years)
role of women, poverty etc.Covered in current affairs
globalization on Indian societyI skipped it
communalism, regionalism, secularismI skipped it
world geo physical11th and 12th NCERT
resource distributionMrunal.org )- more than sufficient
factors for industrial locationMrunal.org )- more than sufficient
earthquake tsunami etcGC.Leong
impact on flora-faunaPrepared my own notes from Current events

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.Laxmikanth
comparing Constitution with worldVision ias material
parliament, state LegislaturesLaxmikanth
ministries departmentsIndia Yearbook  compilation
pressure group, informal asso.Vision ias material
Representation of people’s actVision ias material
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..Laxmikanth
NGO, SHG etcVision ias material
welfare schemes, bodiesOnline sources like xaam.in
social sector, health, edu, HRDIndian Express, Yojana
governance, transparency, accountabilityVision Ias material
e-governanceYojana issue
role of civil serviceVision ias material
India & neighborsPrepared my own notes from Radio
bilateral/global groupingPrepared my own notes from Radio
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestCurrent Affairs, Radio, IDSA website
DiasporaPrepared my own notes from Radio
international bodies- structure mandateVision Ias material

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationMrunal  Youtube videos and articles
inclusive growthVision Ias material
major crops, irrigationVision Ias material
agro produce – storage, marketingVision Ias material
e-technology for famersCase studies from kurukshetra
farm subsidies, MSPVision Ias material
PDS, buffer, food securityVision Ias material + Yojana issue
 technology missionVision Ias material
animal rearing economicsVision Ias material
food processingMake in India website+ Vision Ias material
land reformsNCERT
LiberalizationI skipped it
InfraMake in India website
investment modelsVision Ias material
science-tech day to day lifeXaam.in (s&t link)
Indian achievements in sci-techAll India Radio+ Xaam.in (s&t link)
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRXaam.in (s&t link)
environmental impact assessmentMinistry of Environment website+ Shankar Ias notes
Disaster ManagementYojana+ Vision Ias material
non state actors, internal securityVajiram Yellow book+ Current events
internal security – role of media, social networking siteVajiram Yellow book+ Current events
cyber securityVajiram Yellow book+ Current events
money launderingVajiram Yellow book+ Current events
border  ManagementVajiram Yellow book+ Current events
organized crime, terrorismVajiram Yellow book+ Current events
security agencies- structure mandateVajiram Yellow book+ Current events

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Mrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
attitude, moral influence etc.Mrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcMrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
emotional intelligence, its use in governanceMrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
moral thinkers of India and worldHow many thinkers did you prepare?
Mrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.Mrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
corporate governanceMrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
probity in governance, work cultureMrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Vision ias material
challenges of corruptionMrunal videos, articles+ Lexicon
case studies on above topicsGS score case studies

I followed a three step strategy for General studies.
First, I read all the basic information from the above sources, getting a conceptual clarity.
Second, I maintained four different notes for four GS papers. Every day I used to answer questions from www.insightsonindia.com/secure2015 . Simultaneously I noted down the important points in concerned GS notes for further revision.
Third, I listened to All India Radio News analysis for different viewpoints and maintained a separate notes.
The above strategy made things easy for my GS preparation , saving time and enabled me to focus more on my optional.
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?
After finishing my Ethics paper, I was very confident that I wil score minimum 110+. But it turned out to be a disaster. May be my approach was wrong. So I can’t comment or guide on Ethics paper. I still don’t understand where I went wrong… may be I lacked flamboyance in my presentation.
One thing for sure, start your Ethics paper preparation with Mrunal articles..  they will definitely help you.

Mains answer-writing?

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

PaperBest attemptedAverage qualitynamesake answerTotal attempt

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 suggest answering (not attempt) all questions. Incase if a question is Greek and Latin to you, better skip it. If you write irrelevant answers, it will impact the evaluation of consequent answers. I also heard that there is negative marking for writing irrelevant answers. But if you have an idea about an answer at least two or three points, do manage time and answer those questions.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Sufficient enough to answer.

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.
It depends upon the question and paper you are answering. In all the GS papers except Ethics (GS4) I answered in bullet points. Bullet points make things easy for evaluator. Make him comfortable so that he can give you bonus marks if he is impressed. At the same time you can’t expect one to answer a case study in bullet points.
In Anthropology Paper 1, I answered most of the questions in flow chart model and bullet points. But in Paper 2, I wrote in small paragraphs because of the nature of the questions which require more analytical presentation.
While answering questions like critically evaluate , I gave introduction, both pros and cons and a conclusion whereas for questions like analyse and comment I emphasized more on providing my views and supporting examples.

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.
Yes, I did follow the Intro- Body-Conclusion format for most of the questions. I gave a small introduction in 40 words. The rest in bullet points, finally a two sentence conclusion.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
No. Only single colour
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Only in Anthropology, Paper 1.

Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
With a pen.
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
No time Sirji.. I did it by hand.

Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Blue pen (Reynolds racer gel/ pilot v7)
Reynolds racer gel is waterproof whereas pilot v7 is not.

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Anthropology is my optional (scored 240/500). In my previous attempts in chose Geography but because of poor scoring and vast syllabus I shifted to Anthropology.
Pros: More scientific, interesting, more suitable for science grads, direct questions, good track record in previous year’s scores.
Cons: Poor material availability requires more up gradation from current events.
So to mitigate the cons I compiled my own notes from various sources and gave spaces in between so that I can write down updates in blanks.

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)
Until and unless you have no hatred towards Life sciences/biology/diagrams, you can happily pick this subject (Anthropology). I strongly recommend this subject for aspirants from Life science graduates.

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.)
For Physical Anthropology I suggest Telugu academy books which are prepared only for the purpose of UPSC.
For rest of the syllabus I suggest Brain Tree material (3 volumes).
Maintain a separate notes for Tribal issues from current events , recent anthropological excavations and their discoveries.
If you are a new comer and you have plenty, I mean PLENTY of time then you can afford reading EMBER and EMBER for conceptual clarity in Anthropology or else you can skip it. I saying again, our main focus is to score decent marks in UPSC, not to become a PhD holder in Anthropology.

Q. How much of internet-research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?
I strongly recommend to do internet research for this optional, particularly for Paper 2 because of its dynamic nature. Even in Paper 1 (social Anthropology) one has to quote decent examples in contemporary context to have an advantage over other aspirants.
At the same time I don’t suggest to subscribe International Anthropological journals which are time consuming to read and to be frank they are UPSC syllabus ka aukaat se bahaar.
Just note down tribal issues, unrest, displacements, SC & ST statistics, case studies, archeological excavations etc., in a separate notes, this will suffice.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
4 months (4 hours a day)
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
To be frank, for Anthropology I didn’t focus much on answer writing. As the answers were direct I focused more on quality of the content to be presented in the examination. Sometimes I picked up few questions and just framed outline of answers, how to begin, how to insert examples and presenting a conclusion.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Yes, I prepared my own notes for Anthropology in Paper format.   It saved my time as I don’t have to go through different bulky material every time during revision. One can’t draw diagrams and flow charts in electronic format, so I avoided it.

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet
Prelims mark sheet-

SubjectMarks obtained
Paper 1126
Paper 281.1

Mains mark sheet-

SubjectMarks obtained
Essay – Paper-1127
General Studies – Paper 294
General Studies – Paper 367
General Studies – Paper 491
General Studies – Paper 588
Optional Paper – Paper-1120
Optional Paper – Paper-2120
Written total707
Personality Test171
Final Total878

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
As my first preference is IPS and I will be allotted my desired service this time. Incase if I want to prepare again I will focus on HOW TO IMPRESS DAVID SIR DURING MY INTERVIEW.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I’m already working as an Assistant Commandant in Indo Tibetan Border Police and more over I had few more attempts. So I would have used all my life lines if I didn’t clear this time.

Views on UPSC reforms

I never gave a thought about the UPSC reform issues seriously because my only aim was to get into service whatever the exam pattern was. UPSC has changed the exam pattern thrice since 2010(in 5years). So all I focused on is how diversified my knowledge should be to clear UPSC. As I cleared my CSE now, I will think about the reforms now.. From now on…

Insecurity about profile

Q. Many candidates prepare sincerely but constantly live under fear about ‘profile insecurity’. I’m not from a big college, I’m not from English medium, and I don’t have work-experience. What if they ask some stressful questions in the interview about this? Did you suffer from such insecurities? What is your message to these candidates?
I didn’t face such profile insecurities and a civil services aspirant should never be. It doesn’t matter from which background you are. All it matters is what you are capable now and after.
Being from a big college will not fetch you more marks.  It all depends upon how you perform during that 30 minutes, how you present your views and impress them. We all see many rankers coming from a humble background and with minimum education qualifications. One can give their interview in their own regional language with prior intimation to UPSC at the time of filling your DAF (AIR# 101, CSE  2015 gave his interview in Telugu).
Regarding communication skills, it is obtained only through practice and not a one night show. So I suggest to aspirants to interact with people, form groups and discuss issues which will definitely help you during your interview.


Q. Through this struggle and success, what have your learned? What is the wisdom of life and competition? What is your message to the new aspirants?
I never liked the feeling of my fate not in my hands, I always objected it. But after cracking this exam (Fortunately, I will also get my desired service), I can say one thing for sure– you can mould your destiny…  Only mantra is- give your best, organise your daily routine, plan your strategies, modify them according to the requirements and be prepared for everything. In this competitive world people, there is a shift from Struggle for existence to struggle for Excellence. Have a competition between yesterday and a today. All is strive to become a better version of yourself everyday…Evolve..

Credit: Friends/family

Q. Behind every topper are many people who stood by during those uncertain times when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with the readers?
Yes, there are many people behind my success. I thank my parents for consistent support all these years and being on my side all the way even in taking risky decisions like resigning for my job.  I thank my younger sister for constantly boosting my morale, reminding me what I’m capable of through nostalgic incidents. There are times when she stopped watching /downloading movies from the internet so that I can use Internet at full speed.
I also thank my friend Mahesh Kalyanapu (Income Tax Inspector), a fellow IAS aspirant with whom I discussed critical topics, ethics case studies and answer writing techniques over telephone. Funny thing is I met him last in December, 2012 and so far we didn’t meet again.

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you?  And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering.
Yes, I used mrunal.org since beginning for analyzing prelims question patterns, tricks in CSAT and so. This helped in planning my strategy for prelims. For mains I completely relied on mrunal for economy and ethics. The articles on Ethics provided a conceptual clarity and made things easy for me answering case studies.

Source: Mrunal.org


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