If it is worth sharing, it has to be tough… testing human endurance to its maximum. In the process, they script a story that people wish to share. It’s one such a story of unrelenting attitude, and an eternal hope that Shashank Shekhar lived in achieving the topper’s feat in ESE 2018.
IES Master: It’s a huge success. How was it received in your family? Who was the first person you informed in your family?
Shashank: First I called my mother because she is the source of inspiration to me.
IES Master: Tell us about your family?
Shashank: I belong to Vaishali district of Bihar. In my family there is my mother, father, and 4 sisters. One of my sisters is married, and the other three are pursuing their studies.
IES Master: When did you start preparing for ESE?
Shashank: I started preparing on 7th November, 2016. I just celebrated Chhath before that, and during Chhath celebration only I got time to think about my career, and then I decided to go for Engineering Services Examination. Engineering Services is the most prestigious examination for any engineering individual in our country, and that was the sole reason due to which I started preparing for Engineering Services Examination.
IES Master: What approach you took for ESE preparation?
Shashank: During my B.Tech only I have gone through the entire syllabus of ESE so I had good command over the technical subjects. So, what I did was that I purchased question banks of previous years, and started solving those questions. What I found was that I was able to solve most of the questions so I became confident during my preparation, and wherever I found problems, I searched solutions, and started noting down them in a notebook.
IES Master: How did IES Master Test Series help you in structuring your preparation, and how effective was the feedback?
Shashank: After solving the previous years’ questions, we come to know what type of questions have aleady come. But when we see the Test Series, it gives the feel of what questions may come in the future examinations. So here it helped me a lot as it had narrowed down the syllabus because if we see the Engineering Services syllabus, it is very huge. But when we give the Test Series, it helps us in focussing on the few areas from where the questions may come. In this regard, I would definitely like to say that IES Master Test Series helped me.
IES Master: How different was this year’s Conventional paper compared to previous year?
Shashank: Conventional was very different from previous year’s questions. The reason was that this time they did not change the syllabus, but they had put the questions that were very typical. If someone already had solved the questions, they could have solve the questions easily. But if someone is facing the questions first time then those questions were not so easy for them. Therefore, the maximum marks in Paper-II of Conventional would not be more than 170. What I have heard is that it would be around 150. Even people have got around 80 marks and qualified Engineering Services. So this type of differences UPSC has created this year in the Conventional Mains paper.
IES Master: How was Conventional Paper-I, and in what sequence you attempted the questions?
Shashank: Paper-I was more or less similar to last year’s Paper-I. There I could attempt around 230 mark questions. The question selection method that I always follow in examinations is that whichever questions are easy, I go for that first, and whichever questions are tough, I put them for the last session i.e. at the end of the examination. In that way, I secured 210 marks out of 300 in Paper-I.
IES Master: Take us through Conventional Paper-II.
Shashank: Paper-II was very different from the trend which UPSC had followed before this year because there they did not change the syllabus, but they had included very typical questions about every kind of topics that can be in the Paper-II, and even I remember that people were not able to solve questions. They were sitting idle and waiting for the time to complete. Paper-II was that much different from the previous years’ questions. I could score only 137 marks in Paper-II, and what I have heard is that the maximum in Paper-II may be around 150 or 160, not more than that.
IES Master: Given the fact that you were working with a private company, how did you manage to complete the entire ESE syllabus?
Shashank: Definitely, it was very challenging. Here I must say that if you have a dedication then only you can qualify. So what I did was that I divided my whole day in three parts, one part was from 6 to 9 when I used to study, and then I used to go to office, and then after coming back I used to study from 7 to 11. This time schedule I followed for entire 2 years, excluding a few days after the examination when I used to take leave.
IES Master: How effective was IES Master study material in your preparation?
Shashank: IES Master material is very compact, and they provide quality solutions. I can say that during my Prelims preparation also I had referred the study material of IES Master, and there I realised that they are not only giving the solution of any particular question, but also giving a bit explanation about that question as well as related theories. So how it can help you? Actually before going to write the exam, you need not to go through all of your notes. The material of IES Master not only contains the solution of any particular question, but one will also find the theory related to that question.
IES Master: How did you fare in IES Master Test Series?
Shashank: In IES Master Test Series, I used to score around 20 to 30. Sometimes my rank even went up to 75 or 79, but a few times I also scored 4 and 3. So there was a lot of variation in my rank during test series.
IES Master: What kept you motivated all through these years of your ESE preparation?
Shashank: The first thing that motivate me is the toughness level of any examination. If I sit in a examination, and I hear that this is the toughest examination, and if you crack it then you can prove yourself. That is the biggest source of inspiration for me, and that happened here also. If someone would have asked me before November 2016, there was no plan of mine for going for Engineering Services. But after discussing with my friends, I reaslised that this is the toughest examination, and clearing this examination can give you a boost in your confidence that you have cleared the toughest examination of the country, and that actually was the source of inspiration for me.
IES Master: Which board did you face during your UPSC interview, and what were the questions asked?
Shashank: My interview was on 14 September, 2018, and the chairperson of my interview board was Bhosle Sir. He was very polite during the interview, and when I entered the room, first of all he tried to make me feel comfortable, and started asking questions from my DAF. He praised me for my achievements in my career. His first question was from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech. He asked me whether I watched it, I said ‘Yes’. Then he asked me about the one point that I noticed. I said, Gaganyaan, and from there he started asking questions about IRNSS, GPS, GLONASS, etc.
The other panel members were taking their chances one by one in asking me different questions. Most of the questions they asked were technical, but as in Personal Interview, technical question doesn’t matter a lot. The things that matter are spontaneous questions like he asked that you are working on IoT, and Prime Minister Modi has announced about Smart Cities, so what will be your contribution. So this type of questions cannot be expected before going for the interview.
During interview, they would create different types of situations. Like I remember that when I was discussing about my M.Tech project, I have drawn Mux diagram, Mux tree, but ma’am asked whether is it decoded diagram. I said that no ma’am it’s Mux diagram. So this type of questions can be asked. Generally, whatever they ask, we say Yes Sir or Yes Ma’am. They don’t want such answers. So, in this way my interview continued, and in the last he asked, what is your plan after the interview, and with that he concluded my interview, wished me all the best, and asked me to leave the room.
IES Master: There is a general perception that ESE is something exclusive for IITians and NITians. Being a graduate from Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Bhubaneswar, what would be your message to future aspirants?
Shashank: This perception is completely wrong because I have done my B.Tech from Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Bhubaneswar, and during the preparation of Engineering Services, I had no coaching. The only reason that I could achieve success in this examination is the study that I had done at KIIT. So there is no point discussing that whether IITians or NITians only get better marks, or if this Engineering Services is for them only. Anyone can qualify, who has patience, who has dedication, and the talent.
I always follow one principle i.e. doing one thing at a time. This means that if you are preparing for Prelims then never ever think about Mains or Interview as these 3 rounds are completely different. In the current pattern, you might have noticed that there is a huge gap between the Prelims and the Mains, so if you are preparing for Prelims focus only on Prelims, and when you are going for Mains, focus on Mains, and for Interview go for Interview.
At IES Master, you will find that they have very different and very good strategy for every round. So why to worry about Mains or Interview when you are preparing for Prelims. So please go in that way, and I am damn sure that you would be selected if you follow all this things, and you have dedicated yourself for the Engineering Services Examination.
IES Master: You have been an excellent student here at IES Master. Thank you for sharing your experience. It was an absolute pleasure talking to you. God bless you!
Shashank: Thank you so much, Sir.