IAS Target

V. P. Gautam

Year : 2013

Rank : 138

Topper Story - V. P. GAUTAM Background
Myself V. P. Gautam and I secured 138th rank in civil service exam. I hail from a small town called Oddanchatram in central Tamil Nadu. But, I managed to get good quality education, thanks to my parents and my school (Christian Matriculation school, Oddanchatram). My father V.Palanichamy is an advocate and my mother R.Kasthuri is a teacher in a government school.
It was just awesome to be with family when I first came to know that I would be getting IAS. My father was the one who inspired me to take up the civil services. He gave me immense liberty, which allowed me to develop as a free thinker and an independent individual. My dad is my friend, philosopher and guide. My mother was the one who backed me during setbacks.
I started fully fledged preparations after finishing my U.G. in 2012. Though I attended coaching at the Shankar IAS academy, I never preferred handmade coaching class notes (neither from my academy nor from Delhi). I just listened to the classes and made my own notes and value added to them. I preferred original sources and standard books, both for my GS and optional. But the classes helped me in giving valuable info and also initiated good chains of thought through classroom interactions.
My best all-in-all source for GS was ‘The Hindu’. There is nothing in the world like a newspaper, as it throws light on multiple subjects simultaneously, which allows inter-subject connection in the mindmap. Newspapers are a treasury of information. Reading them helped me garner many ‘fodder points’ which I could use for any question in the examination. This made me confident in GS and I had the mentality to face any question. I feel being accomplished in newspaper reading was a great boon to me and that alone resulted in my high GS scores. I, for one, used to spend 3-4 hours for newspaper reading alone.
While reading newspaper, try to connect it with the conventional areas. For economics and international affairs, ‘The Hindu’ was my most important source. I tried reading 2-3 newspapers (like Indian express, Times of India, in addition to ‘The Hindu’) but I found this to be a futile exercise and hence stuck with ‘The Hindu’.
I prefer conventional books, original conventional books are more readable and they help you in shaping opinions on your own. In this information era, the most difficult thing is to pick out the necessary information from the huge chunk of data available. It is better to restrict your time on the internet. Stick to a few sites like mrunal.org, prs, idsa. I would suggest not to spend more than 1-2 hours on the internet, on a daily basis. An internet is an ocean where you can get lost.
I would suggest preparing your own notes from the Hindu. Surf the net only in those areas where you need more background information about a news item. The students should make sure that they should maintain the minimum required tempo(at least put in 4-5 hours of work ; do the minimum necessary things like reading newspaper, etc.) even during the worst phases. Any person might feel stress and pressure during the course of preparation. Even when you are fully equipped to face the exam, you may feel short on confidence and self doubts may appear. If we are able to cross these momentary stints of self doubts, then success is not far off.
For me, the best way to fight bad moods was to write CSAT(paper-II) mock tests(during my prelims preparation) and to read current affairs(during mains prep) and i suggest taking up a subject which you really love.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient NCERT(old)
History Medieval NCERT(old)
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) NCERT(old); Bipan chandra’s struggle for independence;
Culture society
Culture ccrt.gov.in
  • NCERT,
  • Indian society;
  • Development and changes in Indian society;
  • Since Sociology was my other optional, I didn’t concentrate much Polity (theory + current)
Indian polity Lakshmikanth;
Current The Hindu, EPW(Economic and Political Weekly), Economic Survey
Economy (theory + current) Shankar IAS book on core concepts;
Science (theory + current) NCERT (8th,9th,10th); nobelprize.org(popular summary of the past 5 years Nobel prize winning achievements); The Hindu; mrunal.org
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS book on environment; The Hindu
  • Physical Geography was my optional; so this part was not given much stress by me;
  • Good reads are ‘Certificate physical geography’ by Go Cheng Leong and NCERT:
  • Fundamentals of physical geography
  • Geography India NCERT:
  • India:physical setting; India: people and resource
  • Geography world Distribution of resources and industries–mrunal.org other national/international current affairs
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Not laid exclusive attention; with an in-depth reading of The Hindu, we can manage most of these areas

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Maths Just pick out the areas from which arithmetic questions are asked; Some prime Areas are time-work, distance-speed-time, seating arrangements, HCF-LCM, relative velocity, etc. Strengthen your basics and problem solving abilities in these areas.
Reasoning Practice alone helps
Comprehension Not to be considered as an exclusive area of Paper II. Instead, as and when you prepare for Paper I or when you read the newspaper, just make sure that you understand each word verbatim and you’re able to grasp the core matter better. Such a practice while reading ‘The Hindu’ editorials will really help.

Prelims Score Card

Paper Marks
General Studies (Paper – 1) 125.33
CSAT (Paper – 2) 183.33
Total 309


I wrote quite a few essays from previous year CSE question papers for practice. This helped in making sure that we are able to write at least 15 pages on a given topic. This practice is essential to ensure that you don’t run out of points during the exam.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Culture CCRT website. But I have not heard of a comprehensive resource for Culture. I did a selective study of CCRT, some culture related current affairs, PIB features on culture, etc.
Indian history Modern India NCERT; Bipan Chandra-‘India’s Struggle for independence’
World history Arjun Dev NCERT; I also prepared answers for around 100 world history questions given by Shankar sir.
Post-independence India Bipan Chandra-‘India since independence’; NCERT-‘politics in India since independence’-a must read; got some questions in the exam directly from this.
Indian society NCERT-Indian society;News items and articles on social issues; EPW, role of women, poverty etc. I prepared for Geography and Socio. Globalization of Indian society, Communalism, regionalism, secularism.
  • World geo-physical - these are my optional areas. Hence did not concentrate much on GS.
  • Resource distribution Mrunal.org/Geography factors for industrial location, Mrunal.org/Geography, NCERT:India-people and resources
  • Models and theories-Majid Hussain for Weber’s industry location theory, isodopane concepts, labour cost contours, etc. earthquake tsunami etc NCERT:
  • Fundamentals of Physical geography;Physical Geography: Savindra Singh- just give a light read about certain topics for GS
  • Impact on flora-fauna 4×4 report by NAPCC (GoI);
  • IPCC summary; Newspaper articles

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Lakshmikanth; ‘Constitution of India’ android app for articles verbatim; I’d recommend the aspirants to exactly remember at least the first 50 articles(up to DPSP) and other important articles; You can use them while answering essays' and other questions; comparing Constitution with the world
Shankar sir’s class(comparison with US, UK, French, South African, Swiss constitutions); NCERT-Constitution at work.
Parliament, State Legislatures, executive-judiciary - Lakshmikants Ministries Departments - I read some annual reports of some ministries;
Pressure group, informal asso., Representation of the people’s act, Newspaper(Supreme Court verdicts);Election commission of India- website (for model code of conduct);PIB releases on elections;
Various bodies: Constitutional, statutory. Lakshmikanth
NGO, SHG etc Shankar class notes
Welfare schemes, bodies Economic survey
Social sector, health, edu, HRD Economic survey;
Governance, transparency, accountability, e-governance, role of civil service

India & neighbors

Challenges and strategy Rethinking India’s foreign policy by Rajiv Sikri;
India and its world Rajya Sabha TV
International bodies Structure mandate Shankar class notes;
  • International news in ‘The Hindu’;
  • Bilateral/global grouping
  • Shankar material on International organisations;
  • Effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest
  • News articles, Diaspora
  • Official Websites of various groupings;

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

  • Indian economy, resource mobilization Newspaper
  • Inclusive growth
  • Budgeting Shankar sir classes
  • Major crops, irrigation Optional area; Shankar sir’s classes
  • Agro produce – storage, marketing
  • E-technology for farmers Info from various sources- govt websites, news articles
  • Farm subsidies, MSP, PDS, buffer, food security
  • Technology mission, animal rearing economics
  • Food processing PIB features
  • Land reforms Bipan Chandra’s ‘India since independence’. Land acquisition problems. The new legislation.
  • Liberalization Some points from Gurcharan Das’s ‘India Unbound’
  • Infra, investment models
  • Science-tech day to day life The Hindu, mrunal.org
  • Indian achievements in sci-tech, awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR
  • Environmental impact assessment Shankar material
  • Disaster Management
  • Security: non state actors, internal security
  • This entire area was taken last year by Mr. Suresh (2013 AIR 305). His classes helped immensely. A lot of questions appeared directly from the areas he had covered.
  • Internal security – role of media, social networking site
  • Cyber security, money laundering, border Management, organized crime, terrorism, security agencies- structure mandate

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

  • Ethics and interface, family, society
  • Attitude, moral influence, etc. Joseph (Officers’ IAS academy) sir’s classes;
  • Civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance for weak etc.
  • Emotional intelligence, its use in governance KM Pathy’s notes; His blog ‘musings: reflections of a social nomad’ helped;
  • Moral thinkers of India and world Mitra Pal sir’s classes and his material from DoPT website helped a lot in this paper.
  • Ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.
  • Corporate governance
  • Probity in governance, work and culture
  • Citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.
  • Challenges of corruption
  • Case studies on above topics Mrunal.org/ethics
  • Overview of your case study answers

Case your approach/ keypoints

  • RTI - To hide or not to hide
  • Engineer: Bogus flyover vs deadline
  • Child Labourers in Sivakasi
  • Nepotism in Job recruitment
  • Leaking information
  • Narrate one incident in your life when you were faced with such crisis of conscience and how you resolved the same.
I wrote mostly in paragraphs. For a very few questions, I wrote in bullets. I’d suggest following an appropriate format based on the nature and type of the question. I followed the “introduction-body-conclusion” format for most questions. I had the habit of writing that way and hence followed the same in the exams.
Immediately after my prelims, I started writing answer. We had a team and we used to write answers for at least 2 questions everyday and discuss the points among ourselves. The writing practice is essential to summon whatever you know at the right time and right place.
I attended quite a few interviews. Some mock interviews were similar to the official while some were not. Mock interviews can help you face unexpected situations and serve as an indicator to what type of questions might be asked to you, especially in the bio-data area. The mock interview with Mr.Shylendra Babu IPS(ADGP Coast Guard, Tamil Nadu) really helped, both during my IFS and Civil services interviews.

Chairman of Interview Board

Dr.David Sylmeiah

I entered this field because i think work is not merely for monetary purposes. As Marx says, work is an important avenue for expression of one’s personality. I feel that IAS can offer me that chance to express my personality. Moreover, unlike several jobs, I, as an IAS, will clearly know for what and for whom I work. The private sector doesn’t give me enough power (ability to influence people’s lives) as the civil service. The amplification factor is high in civil services and my good work will be reflected in a positive way in the lives of thousands of people.
Given that I believe in my talent, I’d like to use it where it matters the most. 80% of my interview was based on my profile; I was the students’ President in my college (College of Engineering Guindy); So, most questions were based on my presidency, student politics, student elections, etc. Initially, I felt that the members were not allowing me to complete my answer. So, I continued to talk despite the chair saying ‘ok’ implying me to stop; then he explicitly pronounced a ‘stop’; This was an unpleasant experience, but fortunately it did not affect me psychologically. I thereon started answering in a short and concise manner.
The members were all enthusiastic and it seemed to me that they were impressed with what I delivered. But the chair was expressionless, did not ask a lot of questions and so I did not know if he really liked my performance. Overall, I felt I did okay. I could’ve done much better. I also found the interview to be very profile based, and it did not have much diversity of questions like my IFS interview.

CSE-2013 Marksheet

Subjects Marks
Essay (Paper – 1) 94
General Studies - 1 (Paper – 2) 75
General Studies - 2 (Paper – 3) 77
General Studies - 3 (Paper – 4) 93
General Studies - 4 (Paper – 5) 97
Optional – 1 (Geography) (Paper – 6) 118
Optional – 2 (Geography) (Paper – 7) 103
Written Total 657
Personality Test 1 173
Grand Total 830