Sunday, 12 August 2018

My Journey to Success - Hemashri Khanikar - ACS 2017 (APSC CCE 2015)

Hemashri Khanikar
Rank in Civil Services
Roll No.               
Marital Status
Total attempts in CEE (including this one)           
Optional Subjects
History and Geography
Service preferences Top – 3 (ACS, APS, ALRS etc.)
Service Joined
Schooling Medium (English/Assamese/Hindi/Bengali)
College Medium (English/Assamese/Hindi/Bengali)
Medium chosen for Mains answers
Medium chosen for Interview
English and Assamese
Home town/city
Work-experience if any


% in class 10
% in class 12
Graduation course and %
B.Tech in Information Technology, 8.33 CGPA or 78.3%
Name of college, city, passing out year
Gauhati University Institute of Science and Technology, 2015
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements
Reading, Gardening etc


Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-discussion“related to civil services.             
Very little. About half an hour to 1 hr.
Daily hrs spent on WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram study groups
1-2 hrs.
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep/mock test
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile  
Laptop and Cell phone


Did you use highlighters / sketch pens in your answers?
Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in Geography)If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
Yes. With pencil.
Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
If required yes.
You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Blue pen


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

My family is a nuclear one consisting of my father, my mother and myself. Both my parents are govt servants. I passed my HSLC and HS from Kendriya Vidyalaya Khanapara in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Then I did my Engineering in Information technology from Gauhati University in 2015. As for the question why I chose civil services is that I always had an affinity towards civil services and it always fascinated me. And also it gives you the best platform to serve the society and the people.

2.        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 do you balance this i.e. electronic material vs. paper material (Books, newspapers)

Electronic materials are an integral part of the whole preparation process. My first hand information on any topic was always from books, newspapers, magazines etc. In case I fail to find such on books etc. I would take help of the electronic medium. And for further information, took help of the electronics material and jot down the important points.

3.        Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper? What is your style of preparation and notes making? 

Yes, I did made notes for optional in paper format. I highlighted the important keywords in the notes itself for the last minute revision. First I studied the syllabus of the subject and accordingly prepared notes on the topics with flowcharts or diagrams etc wherever required.

4.        What was your approach in the exam?

The first thing I did the examination was I studied the whole question paper thoroughly which also include the instructions, word limits etc. Then accordingly I wrote my answers keeping in mind the word limit and the time. I wrote to the point answers with proper introduction, conclusion and diagrams & analysis wherever necessary.

5.     Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? 

My answers had both paragraphs and bullet points. I wrote bullet points wherever it was needed. I did follow the introduction-body-conclusion format.

6.      What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else? If a new aspirant wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it? 

My optional subject in prelims was Indian History and History and Geography in mains. I took these two as my optional because it captured my interest and I was comfortable reading and understanding it.
NCERTs (11th and 12th) are must for all subjects.
For History:
Books by Bipan Chandra, Sumeet Sarkar, Upinder Singh, Satish Chandra, Shekhar Bandopadhyay and Krishna Reddy can be consulted for the Indian part. One can also read R.S Sharma and Romila Thapar too. Indian History Book by Spectrum.
For the world history part one can take up World history by Krishna Reddy, by Jain and Mathur and by L. Mukherjee.   

For Geography:
Savinder Singh’s physical geography, Geography book by spectrum, Indian Geography by DR Khullar, Human Geography by Majid Hussain, Physical geography by GC Leong, Oceanography & Climatology by DS Lal, Geography through Maps, Fundamentals of Cartography by RP Mishra, Research Methodology Book by any good author, Geography of Assam by Ahmed & Tahr and Atlas is must.
And apart from that internet can be of great help in the preparations.

7.      What are the books you studied doing your preparations and your list of recommended books? 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?

Recommended books for History and Geography are mentioned above. Apart from that, books one can follow are:

GS Paper I and CSAT by Tata Macgraw Hill, Laxmikant & Subhas Kashyap’s book for Polity, Ramesh Singh and Sankarganesh’s book for Economics, Sc & Tech by Tata Macgraw, Pratiyogita Darpan (Monthly and all the special issues of Economy, History, Geography, Polity), Assam Year Book, A brief History of Assam by NN Acharya, History of Assam by Edward Gait, History of Assam by Priyam Goswami, Economic Survey both India and Assam, Sankar IAS’s Environment and Ecology, Nitin SInghania’s Art & Culture, PT365 pdfs on IR, Polity, Culture, Govt Schemes etc by Vision IAS, notes by Vajiram on specific topics such as on rivers, drainage system etc, Wren & Martin English grammar book, various govt websites for current affairs, news articles and daily newspaper.

8.        How many months did it take to finish the optional syllabus?

It was a continuous process. I can’t pin point the time frame as such. The subjects I chose as my optional were integral subjects, required both in prelims and mains. So keeping in mind the whole schedule I did study my optional subjects for about 2 years in thorough and organized manner.

9.        Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? Do you think they’re necessary for success? How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice papers?

Yes I did appear in mock test. I think they are important for self-assessment but not necessary that everybody have to appear mock tests. It’s like icing on the cake. I didn’t separate the answer writing of practice papers a different process. I integrated it while making notes on different topics.

10.    If you are made the UPSC/APSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?

If appointed so, first I will study the reforms happened so far and what new and innovative approach/ reforms can be brought into the system.  And as such will act upon it.


1.        How did you prepare for the interview? – (for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level)

I prepared thoroughly my mains optional subjects and my graduation subject. Since my engineering discipline is IT, I did prepared thoroughly the various schemes/projects both national and international regarding technology, digital world etc. And also important events and information relating to my place of origin. Brushed up my current affairs before the interview.

2.        Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar / different than official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?

I did attend a mock interview. Mostly they were different in my case. The type of questions I faced in mock was lot different than the official interview. Actually the choices of topic by the mock interviewers were different. One or two sessions of mock interview can be helpful to boost your confidence, to be fluent in your articulation, to shape your presentation and to overcome the nervousness etc.

3.        Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?

I stayed at my home and had accesses to all my books & materials for the revision.

4.        Who was the chairman of you interview board? How long was the interview? Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too.  [Since I don’t know whether they ask you this question or not. But if they had asked- what will be your reply?]

My interview board was chaired by in-charge Chairman of APSC himself. My interview happened for about 20-25 minutes. As for the question why I chose civil services is that I always had an affinity towards civil services and it always fascinated me. And also it gives you the best platform to serve the society and the people. Civil Services was always my first preference, if had not been successful in civil services after all the attempts I would have then continued in my graduation field.

5.        Describe the formal-dress worn by you on the day of your interview.

I wore a sober coloured silk salwar suit with a pair of small studs.

6.        Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions?  Was it a stress interview, did they ask any uncomfortable questions? If yes, how did you handle it?

It was on expected lines. More or less they asked me questions from my optional subjects and a few on my engineering discipline. It was not a stress interview.

7.        Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?

The documents verification was done day before the interview date. But I did carry my documents on the day of interview as well.

8.        Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview. (Earlier some toppers only tell me their question but not their answer. I would appreciate if you give both Question + your original answers)

My overall experience in interview was good. The interview board asked questions from various aspects which also included my optional subjects in mains.
At this moment I remember some of the topics but I don’t recall all the exact questions I was asked. I was asked questions on FRs, DPSPs, Flood situation of Assam (I remember answering the causes because of which the flood occurs and the flood prone areas of Assam), regarding calorie consumption (urban and rural), IR of India & Myanmar (answered: Moreh, friendship gate between India & Myanmar, India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, trade relation etc), Geography and History of Assam, RBI & Nationalization of banks, India’s independence struggle, Padma Awards & Bharat Ratna etc.

The Miscellaneous Ones

1.        If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ number of failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/ after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)

If exhausted all my attempts to get into civil services, I would have gone back to my engineering discipline.

2.        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?

There is nothing to take tension of such things. I didn’t suffer from any such insecurity. My message to all the candidates is: just be confident of yourself, stay away from negative and unnecessary thoughts and trust yourself.

3.        People, 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?

Consistency throughout the preparation is very much important and necessary. When your faith in you to achieve something is stronger than your distractions, such situation will never arise.

4.        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? Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

As the saying goes, when there is will there is a way. Never give up. Even if one doesn’t succeed one shouldn’t feel hopeless. In the whole process, one has acquired a lot of knowledge and has learned a lot.

5.        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?

My parents, my teachers who were with me in this whole preparation process and some of my very good friends were the support system when I was merely an aspirant. My parents always kept motivating me and never let me feel dejected or hopeless throughout my preparations and stood by me through thick and thin.

Thank You Hemashri for taking the effort to fill this questionnaire. Your effort will go a long way to guide someone in their preparations and fulfil their long cherished dream of becoming a civil servant.


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