IAS RANK 103: J Snehaja, Hyderabad Girl , 206 Marks in Interview

J Snehaja has secured Rank 103 in Civil Services Examination,2015. She learned from her mistakes and worked on her weaknesses. She also improved her score in the Personality Test from 165 Marks last year to  206 Marks this year.

She was already selected in the Reserve List after losing out my merely 8 marks in Final List before, and was serving with the Armed Forces Headquarters Service.

She has also scored 122 marks in the Prelims, you could ask her your Prelims related doubts as well 🙂

ForumIAS would like to congratulate her for her spectacular success and wish her all the best for her life as an officer.

Given below is the transcript of her interview with forumias where she describes her journey, experiences and preparation strategy. We hope that it would be of immense help to everyone.


Your Name

J Snehaja

All India Rank in Civil Services Examination


Your ForumIAS User Name

jonnalagadda snehaja

Which attempt was this at Civil Services Examination?


Where do you hail from?

Hyderabad, Telangana

Tell us something about your family background

Father- J.Venkateswarlu, practicing Chartered accountant
Mother- Dr.G.Sujatha, Head of the library in Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Open university

Your graduation or early education

B.Com from IGNOU, Cleared CA in 2011

Your Optional Subjects

Commerce and Accountancy

Your medium of Instruction in School?


Your medium of instruction in college?


Your medium of writing the Mains?


Any initial preparation?

After clearing CA in 2011, I was teaching auditing for CA intermediate students in hyderabad and i have been working as an audit manager in a CA firm. For the first two attempts i lacked proper guidance and in 2013 i went to Delhi. Then I came back to Hyderabad for this attempt to attend the mentorship program by Rambabu Sir at La Excellence.


What books/notes did you refer to for General Studies and CSAT for prelims?

The basic books:
History- Ancient India by RS sharma
Modern India- NCERT by Bipin Chandra
Economics- Eco survey and followed mrunal videos
Economics basic concepts book by Shanker (IRS officer)
Geography- Class XI and XII ncerts along with GC leong
Environment- Shanker Academy book
Science- NCERT from 6-8, (9,10 did selectively)
Polity- Lakshmikanth book
Followed the Hindu newspaper and revised from Vision compilations and Insights compilations

How many questions did you attempt in GS in Prelims?

About 90 questions

Do you think attempting more questions is the key to success in Prelims? Is there an ideal number of questions one should attempt? How did you decide to attempt those questions which you were not sure of?

There is no ideal no of questions. In the first round, I attempted all the questions that i was sure of. In the second round i tried tackling those questions where i could eliminate 2 options and in the remaining tried to use some logic and reasoning. I completely avoided guess work and didnt touch those questions for which i had no idea.

What was your score in UPSC Prelims?

122 in paper 1

How much was the variation in your official Prelims score in comparison to that of coaching keys?

About 5-7 marks


When did you start preparing for Mains Examination?

It was an integrated preparation for prelims and mains.

How did you cover Current Affairs?

I read the Hindu and i focused more on current issues rather than affairs. Tried to form opinions on various issues. Referred Insights and www.civilsprep.com for current affairs. Civilsprep analysis is mainly useful for Mains and simplifies current Affairs.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 1

I studied the basic ncert books and for prelims focused more on the factual information and for mains focused more on the analytical part.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 2

I studied the basic ncert books and for prelims focused more on the factual information and for mains focused more on the analytical part.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 3

I studied the basic ncert books and for prelims focused more on the factual information and for mains focused more on the analytical part.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 4

I didn’t take any special classes for GS 4 and focused more on the free flow of thought. I referred lexicon book for definitions and followed some case studies from subba rao book on ethics.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of ESSAY

Though i enrolled in vajiram for essay classes, never managed to attend them regularly. I tried to incorporate various dimensions in essay so that it gives a holistic view.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of Optional Subject

Being a CA, paper 1 of optional was relatively easier as i had to focus on revising my CA study material. Regarding paper 2, i followed rankers notes and supplemented it with current issues.


How many questions did you attempt in GS1, GS2, GS3 and GS4?

I attempted all the questions. Probably 2-3 questions in each paper in the end lacked the necessary points.

Which Essays did you attempt in the Mains Examination?

Dreams which should not let India sleep and education without  values as useful as it is seems rather to make a man more clever devil

Did you use the headings/subheading in an Essay?


Did you underline the important statements in Essay?


What went wrong in your previous attempt(s)? Which changes did you make in this attempt?

I had a problem of crossing word limit in the previous attempts. Rambabu sir consciously made an attempt to shift to point format, flow charts and examples to reduce the number of words. I wrote clear introduction and conclusion for the answers. I made sure to connect my conclusion with current Affairs. Gave lot of examples to substantiate my points.

Did you write your answers in bullet points or in paragraphs?

It was a mix of both.

Did you make any diagrams along with your answers in any of the GS papers?

Used flow charts.

Did you give examples in most of your answers? Also did you mention any points from govt. reports like ARC, Punchhi Commission etc. in your answers?

Yes, wherever i could recollect, supplemented the answers with latest reports and indices.

What was that one smart move you think you made in the exam which you would like others to know.

Writing in point format and trying to give various dimensions to an answer.


Did you join any coaching classes for Prelims or Mains? If yes, which one?

I joined newspaper classes in Aspire, Delhi. For this attempt, I joined mentorship program in La excellence, Hyderabad. The mentorship program helped me in identifying my mistakes in previous attempts and correcting them.

How far do you think is coaching necessary for preparing for Prelims and Mains Examination?

Coaching is just like a lighthouse to guide us in the right direction. If a student can get the right guidance from seniors, coaching is not essential for those who cannot afford it.

Did you join any test series for Prelims and Mains? If yes, please mention the name and also how useful it was.

I wrote tests in mentorship program in La Excellence Hyderabad. This was done during my mains preparation. It helped me in time management and also in correcting my previous mistakes and it made me focus on the right material. The personal guidance helped me immensely.It started immediately the next day after prelims and so we are able to judiciously use the time.

Did you practice answer writing for mains? If yes, please mention the approach you followed.

Yes, i practiced writing for mains. The objective was to check whether i was following effective time management and how i could present my answers better. It also helped me in keeping my mind open to tackle any kind of questions and being able to present at least few relevant points for every question.


Which Interview Board did you face?

Vice admiral Dk Dewan board

How long was your interview?

25-30 minutes

Can you tell us briefly about your interview experience?

It was a cordial interview and it revolved around CA profession and opinion based questions on profession and DAF. Questions such as ethical practices for auditors, how did you handle pressure in audits, regarding cash flow statement and other questions based on core profession were asked.

What did you wear for the Interview?


What qualities do you think are being tested in the Interview? Some strict Do’s and Dont’s for the Interview for aspirants and Interview candidates?

I personally feel the interview tests how quickly one is able to adapt to the situation, how one is able to answer questions from various fields and most importantly whether one is honest and not bluffing.
Have a pleasant personality, be truthful and dont try to bluff. Avoid tension and anxiety as much as possible. It is ok even if one is not able to answer questions but that shouldn’t demoralize a candidate and each question should be taken as a new question. Avoid entering into an argument with a member. Last but not the least, interview has a certain element of luck. So prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

What magazines /newspapers did you refer to for preparing Current Affairs?

vision, insights and gs score

Did you attend any mock interview sessions at the coaching classes? If yes, were they beneficial?

Yes attended mock sessions and these helped me in handling various kinds of questions.

Do you think marks in school or college can impact one’s score in the Interview?

No, i don’t think they have any impact. The personality is assessed and not the academic achievements.

Was there any improvement in your interview marks this year as compared to previous year(s) (if applicable)? If yes, what changed did you incorporate this time?

Yes, Last year i scored 165 and this year i scored 206. I think the trick was to remain cool and composed. I was nervous for the previous interview but for this attempt, i focused more on my DAF and was more confident compared to last time.


How far did you use the Internet for your Preparation? Do you think in the changed UPSC pattern, today an aspirant can prepare wholly by referring sources from the Internet?

I referred to various websites such as civilsprep.com, mrunal and insights for preparation. They are useful and an aspirant has lot of material available on the net. However one needs to draw a line as to what is essential for the preparation. For students who cannot afford coaching classes, internet is a blessing.

How far did ForumIAS.com help you as a social network, as a sharing platform for you Prelims, Mains & Interview Preparation (and the excruciating period between the exam and results to chill out with co-aspirants and other successful candidates)?

I was a silent observer on Forumias. However it always helped me in knowing the various happenings and it was a stress reliever.

What is the best thing you like about ForumIAS?

The recent initiatives such as news compilations and quizzes are helping thousands of aspirants. A platform like this is a blessing as it is bridging the gap and also helps in interaction and clearing the doubts. One can get various reviews and feedback regarding material and institutes and in this present scenario where one cannot afford to make mistakes, such a platform helps in the right decision making.


Congratulation for making it. Is there any message you would like to give to IAS Aspirants who look up to you?

I would just like to say that please follow smartness in the preparation. Have patience and consistency. Sometimes its a matter of luck but dont ever give up and continue to follow your dreams. When one is entering into this field, keep in mind to have a strong back up and also be prepared to spend at least 3 years of your time in this field. Not everyone is lucky to crack in the first attempt and dont ever give an attempt just to get the feel of it or because you have lot of attempts. Give it seriously and give it your best. As already said prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Snehaja’s Prelims Marksheet


Snehaja’s Mains Marksheet


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