Ashwin Bhaskaran (RANK-264th)
CSC: What were the basic mantras of your success?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: Consistent preparation without major breaks during study hours and remaining cool and composed to balance work with studies.
CSC: When did you start preparation for the IAS examination? When should one ideally begin thinking about preparing for this exam?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: I started my preparation for CSE-2012 in August 2011. I think one full year of preparation before Mains examination should be ideally sufficient for both working professionals and people who are preparing full time.
CSC: What were your optionals? What was the basis of selecting these optionals?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: I had chosen Management and Geography as my optionals. Since I\'ve done PGDM from IIM and also because I\'m working in the branding domain, I thought Management should be an ideal fit. As far as Geography is concerned, it is more of an objective type of paper and I had an interest for Geography and more importantly I had great faculty like Shankar Sir in Chennai who helped me improve on some areas and provided me personal guidance, recognizing my time constraints.
CSC: Tell us something about preparation of essay paper.
Ashwin Bhaskaran: Essay paper looks at your analytical capability in providing structured viewpoints on some specific topics. There is no separate preparation necessary for the essay paper. Reading good newspapers, editorials and understanding all current issues of social, economic and political importance along with the causes, effects is a must. Also the ability to generate some viewpoints on all current issues is very much necessary. More importantly, the knack of answering to the point and taking the flow of the essay without deviating from the main stand taken and providing an apt conclusion is necessary.
CSC: What are your suggestions for freshers who want to join coaching institutes for preparation?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: It is just a personal call basis the comfort level. The individual has to clearly understand his strengths in the conventional areas and also see if he is strong in his graduation subjects. With changing pattern and having just one optional, freshers may consider taking their area of graduation as optional (provided they are comfortable).
CSC: Which types of questions were asked in the interview? Did you answer them all?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: Since I was working full time with ITC Limited, many of the questions were about my current job, ITC Limited, brand management, marketing and strategy. Also there were lots of questions on my hobbies (travelling, playing table tennis) and also questions about IIM Kozhikode and generally about IIMs. I answered most of the questions.
CSC: Was there any specific area they emphasized upon?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: On my UG and PG colleges, Company (ITC Limited, which is also the largest cigarette maker in the country) and on my role (Assistant Brand Manager for Classmate notebooks brand).
CSC: To whom would you credit your success?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: Firstly, to my parents who dedicated their entire effort in my upbringing and next, to my sister Lavanya for boosting my moral whenever I found things getting difficult. I would like to mention my friend/ philosopher Thavaseelan, IAS, who has been consistently guiding me through all the processes from Prelims, Mains and till Interview. Special credits to Shankar Sir (Shankar IAS Academy) and Raja Sir (Cracking IAS Academy) for providing me guidance through phone or in person.
CSC: What is your advice to the freshers who are going to appear in this exam?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: This is long game. Don’t lose focus and attention at any point of time. It takes one full year of consistent preparation.
CSC: What is your advice to the candidates who have failed in this exam?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: UPSC is not an end game. It gives opportunity to show an enhanced performance every next year with even better preparation. Also it is more important for aspirants who have failed in this exam (CSE-2012) to understand that they have just failed in a small examination and definitely not in life!
CSC: What is the best way to prepare current affairs?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: For current affairs, one should read - Newspaper (The Hindu & Economic Times), Economic & Political Weekly (Weekly magazine), PIB press releases, IDSA and IPCS websites and CSC Magazine.
CSC: What should be the criteria to select optionals?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: One’s comfort level with the subject. Better to choose the graduation subject, however it’s not a must clause. If one from engineering background finds Political Science and International Relations interesting, then he/she can definitely choose that.
CSC: What is your opinion about the Civil Services Chronicle? Since when have you been reading CS Chronicle? Which section of CSC benefited you the most?
Ashwin Bhaskaran: Civil Services Chronicle was quite useful during my preparation for all Prelims, Mains and Interview. I have been reading it from the time I started my civils preparation i.e., Aug 2011. The in-depth analysis of current issues that we read in newspaper helped me to organize the important points about each issue. Also some short articles on conventional topics of GS helped me strengthen my knowledge on GS topics. The Article Section of Civil Services Chronicle is one I found most useful.