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CSC: When did you start preparation for the IAS examination? When should one ideally begin thinking about preparing for this exam?
Athul: Preparation was started post completion of my graduation. There is no ideal time to begin thinking. Its more individual based. But more important is that from the day of starting preparation a concentrated effort should be put in.

CSC: How helpful is ones background in his/her success?
Athul: Cant really say. My engineering background has given me strengths in the preparation of this exam that cannot be explicitly measured. Whatever be the background its how one prepares for this exam that matters as it is not like our school or college exams.

CSC: Which is the most difficult part of this examination and why? What was your strategy to tackle this difficult part?
Athul: Prelims was the most difficult part, as it has been an unpredictable pattern exam over the years. Whatever be the level of preparation, one can t guarantee the clearing of this hurdle as cutoff may be anywhere. My strategy was to take Prelims Test Series so as to learn more tips and tricks and methodologies to tackle this exam.

CSC: Did you integrate your Prelims and Mains or was it separate?
Athul: My preparation was an integrated one. I was attending module classes for mains papers at Coaching Institute during my pre-Prelims period. Most of the prelims portion if expanded or extrapolated make up a mains exam answer

CSC: What was your optional? According to you, what should be the criteria of selecting optional paper for Mains?
Athul: Geography was my optional subject. Main criterion for selection was - coaching/guidance - material availability - syllabus range - average scoring over the years - availability of test series

CSC: Tell us something about preparation of essay paper.
Athul: Essay paper preparation was basically dependent on test series. The essay writing has certain style requirement that differentiates it from a normal answer writing.

CSC: What is the best way to prepare current affairs? But even before that tell something about the increased weightage on GS portion in the Mains exam?
Athul: GS papers make a level playing field as it encompasses many parts. Current affairs preparation also is individual style based. I had help in form of Current Affairs and News Analysis [CANA] class at Coaching Institute along with online reading.

CSC: How did you prepare for interview?
Athul: Mock interviews was a main way. Gave confidence, ideas and acquaintance with a probable interview scenario. Various questions that could be thrown at a candidate based on DAF or other aspects are discussed and this helps a lot. Language preparation was always a natural thing, not just for interview but for a general improvement.

CSC: Which types of question were asked in the interview? Did you answer them all? Share some interesting moments from your interview which can be of help to our readers and aspirants?
Athul: My interview had questions from my DAF, optional subject, engg, home state based, hobbies and activities, opinions, static based etc. I did not answer all the questions. I had question based on issues which had to be tackled in a balanced way like judicial activism and overreach, political situation in Kannur etc.

CSC: Civil Services Examination is called as the  mother of all exams . What is your view on this?
Athul: I agree, given the length, depth, diversity, duration and levels of exam.

CSC: What is your view about the Diagnostic Test (a test to identify ones strength and weaknesses) for the freshers?
Athul: A fresher cannot understand completely whether he/she is more suited for this exam through a diagnostic test. An initial time period is required to actually identify ones strength and weakness.

CSC: Generally, it is believed that one need more than one attempt to get selected in Civil Services Examination. But every year a good percentage of first-timers figure in the recommended list. What is your view on number of attempts in CSE?
Athul: Clear as fast as possible.

CSC: Kindly share your preparation strategy which will in some way help the freshers and those who are struggling to figure in the recommended list.
Athul: Evolving my own strategy based on opinions and advices from others along with my own understandings of the exam. Learning from trial and error method to understand which methodology works best for me.

CSC: As higher percentage of convent educated and professional/technical background students are getting through in Prelims, there is higher percentage of these students in the Mains also. This ultimately leads to more number of finally selected candidates from either convent educated or professional candidates. What is your view on this?
Athul: Its a biased view. We have a large number of professional candidates relative to other streams and thats why it seems so.

CSC: This year UPSC has introduced a new protocol by giving inbuilt answer sheet with the question paper. Do you think it is useful for time management?
Athul: Yes

CSC: Do you think a separate paper on Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude at the Mains level has made this exam complete and comprehensive for testing the aptitude for a future-Bureaucrat?
Answer: Yes

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