CSE 2017 – My Interview Transcript

Brief Background -B Tech from IITD. Worked in corporate sector and startups. Currently under training as IPS Probationer. Hobbies are Astrophyiscs, Cooking, Travel Photography, Reading Memoirs.

20/2/18. Afternoon session. First to go.
Ch – Bhonsle sir
-nice haircut! How often?
-‎how did you get interested in astrophysics?
-‎ who gave the theory of evolution and what was the name of the book?
-why have you filled IPS again?
-why do you want to change cadre?
What did you do to get this ambsaador of change award?
Do you think you were successful?
Why so?
What is needed to bring the chaneg?
Three changes that you will like to bring on district?
– who said that we should leave the earth in 100 years? What could be the rationale? Do you subscribe to it?
– ‎some wise man said that Venus was like earth before? Why did he say so?
M3 (lady)
-what do you like to cook?
-‎how do you cook daal baati?
-‎what were you doing in Chile?
-‎what is last memoir you’ve read and what is your favorite memoir?
-‎what do you like about it?
-dont you think there are certain cons of home cadre? what are the pro and cons of home cadre?
-why do you want to opt for IAS? what will you do if you get west bengal again in IAS?
-will you leave police service for IFS?
– is police service or force?
– ‎wb has WB police and WB police service? What’s the difference?
– ‎what is the perception of people about police?
– ‎why is it so?
– ‎what are the issues being faced by police?
– ‎what will you do to address these?
– ‎three challenges facing India?
-What was this Zestbuds?
– what should india do for women empowerment to bring them at the level they are in Singapore?
– ‎have you seen dabang? What’s the image of police it potrays? Is it correct?
The board was extremely cordial. Interview went like a breeze.

IFoS Interview Preparation

Here’s a article that I wrote for IFoS interview prep on ForumIAS blog a few months back (http://blog.forumias.com/strategy-ifos-interview-preparation-by-abhishek-surana-ifos-rank-2/) –

First of all, hearty congratulations to all of you who have cleared the IFoS Mains Examination.  This time UPSC has broken all records by declaring the results in 21 days. About 301 candidates have been called for, from which 110 will be finally selected.

I appeared for IFoS in 2016 ( last year ) and was able to get a humble rank of 2 in the final list. I am writing this for fellow aspirants who are scheduled to appear for the IFoS Interview in the coming week. In my opinion, the Interviews will commence soon and wind up within a week , before the Civil’s result comes and CSE Interview starts. So you have lesser time than usual, and hope that you make the most of this time.

I am assuming that you have been doing Current Affairs / newspaper well. Here is my experience

What happens?

  • It is a 20-25 min interview with 4-5 board members.
  • The chairman starts the interview and after 4-5 mins asks one of the members to carry on.
  • Usually 2 board sits for forest interview which means 22-24 people get interviewed in a day
  • From my own experience and of few others, there is usually one senior IFoS officer (could be retired) in the panel. He asks few questions related to forests and environment
  • There may or may not be a psychologist. One can’t guess

What to prepare?

  • Your DAF. Each and every word should be carefully pondered over. Prepare possible questions on it.
    •  For example – “Ambassador of Change award for social service”. Possible questions could be about ambassador car, the post of ambassador, type of changes, etc. I know I am stretching it a bit too far but you never know what a interviewer think of after looking at a certain word
    • Another example – My hobby is photography.  So they asked me “You do photography? What Kind? Why not wildlife? What equipment you would need to do wildlife photography?”
  • Prepare basic concepts of forestry and name of few trees – both scientific and common. Current affairs should also be prepared with special focus on environment and forestry.
    • For example – questions that were asked  to me in the interview were –
      • Tell me about vegetation of xyz tiger reserve.
      • Tell me about corridors of xyz tiger reserve.
      • What tribes exist in xyz tiger reserve
      • Why do we need corridors?
      • What spices do we get from forest?
      • What medicinal plants do we get from forest?
      • How can finance industry help in forest conservation
      • How can finance industry help SHG of tribals?
      • How should CAMPA fund be used?
    • Other possible questions for you to get an idea –
      • Difference between 
        • Forest cover and tree cover
        • Hard wood and softwood
        •   Forestry and agriculture
        •   Conservation and preservation
        •   NP and Sanctuaries
        •   Cheetah and leopard
        •  Teak and Sal
      • How is ‘Environment’ defined under Indian Law?
      •  What is the difference between the laws enacted before and after independence with respect to environmental protection in India?
      • Why so many environment legislation after independence
      • Are tribal responsible for forest degradation?
      • Name few forest officer?
      • which laws does a forest officer implements?
      • History of Indian forest service? Before it?
      • Situational questions: How to relocate farmers from area that has been declared as reserved forests
  • Basic knowledge about  the state of forest in India, your state, district etc. My home state is Rajasthan so the questions which were asked from me
    • Where do we find Very dense forest in Rajasthan? What is total area of very dense forest?
    • Tell me about vegetation and fauna of dessert national park
    • How do we know that a certain place had forest before?
  • General questions
    • Why do you people want to join IFoS, and what will be your choice if you’re getting IAS and IFoS and why?
  • Important topics
    • Biotechnology
    • Global warming
    • Climate change negotiation
    • State of Forest report
    • Forest rights act and its implementations
    • Tribal affairs
    • Water conservation
    • Human animal conflict
    • Poaching
    • Relocation issues
    • Agroforestry
    • Forest fires
    • New Wetland rules
    • Proposed new Environment management law – TSR Subramanium committee
    • Air pollution in Delhi
    • NGT rulings
    • CAMPA funds
    • Important personalities connected to Forest affairs in India – Hari Singh, Jim Corbett, verrier elwin, Salim Ali


  • This is a test for your personality and not knowledge. But as Ayush Sir has said in one of his videos – what may be knowledge for you may be personality for UPSC board member. For example – They may ask who is DFO of your district? What is the forest area of your district? If you don’t know answer to these basic yet crucial questions then you are in a bad soup. It reflects bad on you that as a person interested to be in public service and who is expected to be well versed with general knowledge of things around him doesn’t know even this much.
  • You are not expected to know answers to all the questions
  • Always smile. While entering, while answering, even if you don’t know the answer, while leaving. Shows a pleasing personality
  • Be humble – Like a cow. You are not perfect and can never be. Accept your weakness.
  • Be prepared to say No if you are not sure of an answer. In my opinion a No is a better answer than “I think it could be” or “I guess”.
  • Work on your communication skills- especially if you have a habit of using filler words like – “you know”.
    • You can video record yourself and analyse it

Last few words

  • People have got marks up to 220s last year and even higher before that. Only possible with a calm mind.
  • Candidates who’ve gotten into arguments with the board have seen their marks reduced.
  • Selected aspirants usually hover around 55-70%. But there are always exception.
  • Give as many mocks as possible. If possible give a mock at Forum or have at least one-on-one session with Ayush Sir.

-Best of Luck

Coaching for CSE

In last few days I was told by my friends and wellwishers that a number of coaching institutes are using my photo in their advertisement. They were curious to know if I really utilized these coaching’s services or was it something else? At the same time a number of aspirants have been asking me which coaching to join?

I will answer the second question first – There is no direct answer to which coaching to join. It all depends on what your needs are and which stage of preparation you are in. If you are preparing for CSE from scratch, may be a comprehensive GS programme would be good for you. If you have already gone though certain portion of syllabus than may be individual classes from specific teachers might be better. If this is your 3rd or subsequent attempt then you may go for test series specific coaching. Among all this your optional is different ballgame. So as you see the answer is not very clear. It will vary for person to person.

Now coming to first question – whether I utilized the services of these coaching institutes? I certainly did. 

A clarification first – I don’t know which all coaching are using my name or photo.

So I will list down, in chronological order (from 2014 onwards). the coachings that I attended and for what purpose. May be this will help future aspirants to make a better decision


1> DIAS – For Physics (my optional). I attended regular classes. Vajpayee sir has been a teacher and mentor for me in last 4 years. His was the first class I attended when I came to Rajinder Nagar. Always looked upto him for guidance.

2> Vajiram – Attended their 1 month IR module for 2014 mains. It helped in giving direction to my preparation for topics which I had no idea of.


1> Vajiram – Essay classes by Shabbir sir. Immensely helpful. I followed his strategy till my 4th attempt. Thank you sir.

2> VisionIAS – Test series for mains and essay. The question quality was best in the market but the checking left much to be desired as I felt that the feedback system wasn’t that great.


1> DIAS – Physics test series.

2> Lukmaan – GS4 and GS2 test series by Ansari sir. Enjoyed his classes. He’s a gem of a person. Thank you sir.

3> OrientIAS – Prelims and Mains test series. So my experience last year at Vision taught me that for me personal guidance mattered a lot. I went to Orient initially in May for Prelims and realized that teacher there were much more accessible. So just after Prelims I joined their GS and Essay mains test series.

4> GS Score – Attended Ethics and Essay mains test series. The competition was great and Manoj sir was accessible. Although at times the questions and case studies were totally out of the blue. But there was logic behind that too as it prepared us for the uncertainty in the real exam paper.

5> VisionIAS – Open test for Prelims

6> ForumIAS – Open test for Prelims

7> InsightsOnIndia – Joined their online mains test series for practice purpose

For Interview

1> Samkalp – For both IFoS and CSE interview guidance programme

2> CareerQuest – For IFoS mock

3> Evolution – For IFoS mock.

2> Vajiram – Attended mock sessions. 1-2-1 seating with Ravindran sir gives you quite an accurate idea about tentative marks in interview.

3> Sriram – Sriram sir is a legend. Attended a mock and a class with him. He told me that I was taking 1 step forward and 2 step back in interview. He was right 🙂

4> Chanakya – For mock interview. Good panel.

5> ALS – For mock interview with Jojo Mathew sir. It was a stress interview and I enjoyed it

6> BYJU – For mock interview

7> DIAS – For mock interview with Vajpayee sir.

7> ClearIAS – They did a wonderful DAF analysis (all online) free of cost. I was pleasantly surprised.


1> ForumIAS – Joined MGP programme after Mains. Copies were checked on time. Mentors like Asif sir and Ayush sir were always available. Although I dont know my GS marks as I write this I have a hunch that I might have scored better in GS for which a part of credit definitely goes to Forum.

2> OrientIAS – I joined regular classes for Ethics by Atul Garg sir. I felt GS4 was one area where I was lacking and since it was my final attempt I decided to go all in. Atul sir’s approach to the paper I felt was quite pragamtic. And he is never short of example and anecdotes which are much needed for this paper. I also wrote Essay test series by Kapil sir. Kapil sir’s standard for essay are quite high. It will be a challenge to match them.

3> InsightsOnIndia – Joined their online mains test series. Did not write a single test due to paucity of time.

4> Braintree Hyderabad – Went for a mock. Gave direction to interview prep in short span of time

5> Deeksha Hyderabad – Went for a mock. The best part was the candidates were asked to sit in each other’s mock which helped in finding out area of improvement.

6> NextIAS – Joined their online portal for electrical engineering notes. One of my weakest area in Interview

So as one can see, the coaching are not wrong when they say that this person has been our student. Anyone who has lived in Old Rajinder Nagar (the mecca for CSE) for 3-4 years will attest to the fact that you cant be immune to the coachingwallahs. But few important things to note here:

1> I did not attend GS Classroom coaching anywhere except for Ethics classes by Atul Garg Sir at OrientIAS (in 2017)

2> I attended mock interviews wherever possible in 2016 as I was desperate to get a rank in the list somehow.

I will write a separate post about the notes from various coaching institutes that I’ve used over the years. They are the unsung heroes in my opinion 😉

I hope it clears a lot of apprehensions and doubts. This could help aspirants in making a judicious decision before they commit themselves to a particular coaching.

All the best. May the force be with you!




My Civil Services Interview

Date – 03/04/2017, Forenoon Session

Board – BS Bassi Sir

  • Have you been to cancun..?! What was this competition about?
  • Don’t worry I am not going to ask you anything about greepeace. i know enough about them…
  • Where all have you travelled?
  • Have you been to Machu Picchu?
  • Tell me about Inca civilisation
  • You’ve been interested in environmental issues..Tell me what is biodiversity, what is biodiversity hotspots, and where are they in india?
  • High salary…low salary…why this cut?
  • Lot of talk about startup…but they have been facing issues…what issues?
  • What to do to help entrepreneurs?
  • Surrogacy…what do you think of it?
  • What is NSS? What did you do as NSS Secretary ?
  • You talked about commercial surrogacy..whats your opinion on it?
  • NPA…Why they are there?
  • What to do with them?
  • Lets talk about media…what do you think of it? do you think they are giving less news and more sensationalism ?
  • What do you think of media trial?
  • If there is an earthquake in the district where you are posted, what will you do?
  • What is the issue with finance bill?
  • What is a money bill?
  • Why is opposition saying that this finance bill is not money bill?
  • What is the difference between judicial review, judicial activism, judicial overreach? give example of each
  • Judicial review is based on what?
  • One example where judicial activism has been good?
  • What do you think of SC judgement on liquor ban on highway?
  • Does constitution provide for reservation based on economic criteria?
  • There was a judgement too? Mandal case…what the other name of the case…what was the verdict?
M4 (lady member)
  • What do you think of reservation?
  • Shouldn’t those communities who have benefited from reservation be now removed from the list?
  • Why civil service? You could have had a good life abroad?
  • Education…Lets talk about it…it is not making people employable..why? what to do?
  • Is there a mismatch between what engineering institution are offering and what companies are demanding?
  • How to fix this?
  • I have a problem yaar…I want a bulb outside my room..I have 3 meter wire…That one socket is there..I am using it for all out and i don’t want to use it for light…now what to do? take you time..have a good look..

Board was cordial. Except 1 or 2 supplementary, I answered almost all the questions.

Score – 173/275

My Indian Forest Service Interview

Date – 02/03/2017, Afternoon session
Board – P K Joshi Sir
M1 – Chairman
  • Tell me about your work expereince. How was it?
  • Tell me about solar policy of India
  • How much land does it take to setup 1MW solar plant?
  • Where is the largest solar plant in India?
M2 – Lady member
  • Why people/students don’t take risk? Is it changing? Why? How?
  • Compare startup ecosystem from 2012 to 2017
  • What new policies government has announced?
  • Have you cleared CSE?
  • You do photography? What Kind? Why not wildlife? What equipment you would need to do wildlife photography?
  • Tell me about vegetations of  …… tiger reserve.
  • Tell me about corridors of ….. tiger reserve.
  • What tribes exist in….. tiger reserve
  • Why do we need corridors?
  • What dishes do you like to cook?
  • What species do we get from forest?
  • What medicinal plants do we get from forest?
  • How can finance industry help in forest conservation
  • How can finance industry help SHG of tribals?
  • How should CAMPA fund be used?
  • What is cultural ecology?
  • What do you like in Astronomy?
  • What is difference between Astronomy and Astrology?
  • Do you believe in Astrology?
  • Where do we find Very dense forest in Rajasthan? What is total area of very dense forest?
  • Tell me about vegetation and fauna of dessert national park
  • How do we know that a certain place had forest before?
  • Where do we find coal?
  • What is species?

Interview lasted about 20-25 mins. I was third one to go.  Board was extremely cordial. I couldn’t answer few questions related to forestry.

I got 201/300.