[Topper’s Interview] Amandeep Singh [SDM] – HAS 2021 [Rank 12]

By | August 17, 2022

Interview by HP General Studies

Candidate Profile:

Name Amandeep Singh
Rank in HAS 12
Roll No 20121025
Age 26
Marital Status Unmarried
Total Attempts in HAS 4
Optional Subject English Literature
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium Chosen for Mains Answers English
Medium Chosen for Interview Not asked particularly. Used a mix of both English and Hindi based on the medium used by the members.
Hometown/City Theog (Shimla)
Work Experience if any Range Forest Officer (HP Forest Department) w.e.f. Sep 2019
Details of other competitive exams, including success and failures Cleared Patwari 2016, HPPSC RFO 2019, HP Sectt. Clerical 2019, HPPSC Allied 2019.

Cleared CDS a couple of times and CAPF also once, though never attended SSB.

Appeared in HPAS 2018 Interview.

Details of coaching/mock tests/postal material for this exam (if used) None.

Only gave mock interviews at CivilsTap and Nimbus.

Services preference HAS


%age in class 10 80.00%
%age in class 12 78.00%
Graduation course and %age B.Tech (IT), 71.54%
Name of college, city and passing out year UIIT, HPU Shimla, 2016
Post Graduation MBA (RD), HPU Shimla, 2018
Any other course Pursuing MA (English) through IGNOU
Hobbies and extracurricular achievement Playing Drums

Android OS Debugging


Ques: Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why you entered this field of competitive exams?

Ans: I’ve studied at JNV Theog, Himalayan International School Chharabra, Shimla Public School Khalini and St. Edwards School Shimla. Then completed B.Tech (IT) and MBA(RD) from HPU Shimla. Was selected as a Range Forest Officer in 2019 and recently completed 18-months RFO training course from UFTA Haldwani in May 2022.

My father has retired from state government service. Mother works as a lecturer (school).

I started preparing after completing graduation.

Civil services is the role of a lifetime.

Ques: Typical day in your online life?

Whatsapp/Telegram: Need-based only. I spend most of my online time on Reddit.

Online Study Websites/Apps: None in particular. Google searches FTW!

Ques: What is your style of preparation and notes making? – Self-study.

Ans: I used to make digital notes, week-wise, on OneNote of anything new that I read.

For the static portion, I used a mix of standard books plus my own notes (created on Google Docs/Sheets).

Writing down stuff rather than reading definitely helps a lot.

Prelims (Paper-1):

Topic Booklist/Strategy
Ancient History OLD NCERT + TN Board books (Only relevant portions)
Medieval History OLD NCERT (Only relevant portions)
Modern History OLD NCERT + Spectrum by Rajiv Ahir
Art & Culture OLD NCERT + Selected portions from Nitin Singhania’s book
Polity (Theory + Current) Laxmikant + SunyaIAS.com compilations
Economy (Theory + Current) NCERT + Sanjiv Verma’s Indian Economy + Economy Crux by iasselfstudy.com + Budget and Economic Survey of both Center and HP + SunyaIAS.com compilations
Science (Theory + Current) NCERT compilation + SunyaIAS.com compilations
Environment (Theory + Current) PMFIAS Environment + SunyaIAS.com compilations
Geography of India NCERT + Indian Geography by civilsdaily
Physical Geography NCERT + GC Leong
Geography of World NCERT + GC Leong
Current Affairs Newspaper + SunyaIAS.com monthly PDFs
Himachal GK Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra
Himachal Pradesh Current Affairs Newspaper

Prelims (Paper-2):

Topic Booklist/Strategy
Reasoning PYQs
English PYQs
Maths PYQs
Communication PYQs

Ques: Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? Do you think they’re necessary for success?

Ans: No, I did not. Totally relied on previous year papers. But, I believe they do help in getting the essence of real exam.

Ques: Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelims:

 Paper  Official Score
GS 103.33
Aptitude 89.33

Mains: Compulsory language Paper:

Compulsory language Paper  Your  preparation/Strategy/Booklist
English PYQs
Hindi PYQs + Minerva’s Hindi book for HPPSC Exams.

Ques: Other observations/tips/comments on the length/difficulty level of compulsory language papers?

Ans: Practice. Do not take them lightly.

Mains: Essay Paper:

Ques: How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Ans: I used inputs from factshots.in booklets.

Ques: Which essays did you write and what key points did you include in it?

Ans: I tried to keep the essay diverse and multi-dimensional/ multi-spectral with a positive outlook.

Mains: General Studies (Paper-1):

Topic/Unit How did you prepare/Booklist
History perspective of Indian Culture heritage OLD NCERT + Selected portions from Nitin Singhania’s book
World History OLD NCERT + DrishtiIAS Mains supplement booklet
History of Himachal Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra + BA-I History book by Sarla Publication
Disaster Management VisionIAS booklet
Indian Geography NCERT + Indian Geography by civilsdaily
Geography of Himachal Pradesh Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra
Indian Society VisionIAS booklet
Ethics/Gandhian Thoughts mkgandhi.org
Society and Culture of HP Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra

Mains: General Studies (Paper-2): 

Topic/Unit How did you prepare/Booklist
Constitution of India Laxmikant
Polity of Himachal Pradesh Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra
Governance in India Laxmikant
Governance in HP Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra
Social Issues VisionIAS booklet
International Relations VisionIAS booklet
International Institutions International Organisations by iasparliament.com
Cybercrime/Drug menace/Socio-Economic development of HP Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra + Economic Survey of HP + Newspaper

Mains: General Studies (Paper-3):

Topic/Unit How did you prepare/Booklist
Indian Economy NCERT + Sanjiv Verma’s Indian Economy + Economy Crux by iasselfstudy.com + Budget and Economic Survey + Google
Schemes and Important Institutions of the World Economy Crux by iasselfstudy.com + factshots.in + SunyaIAS.com compilations
Economy of HP Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra + Economic Survey of HP + Newspaper
Science and Technology Current affairs booklets + Newspaper
Energy Sector of India Wikipedia + Google searches
Science and Technology/IT/Biodiversity in HP Economic Survey of HP + Newspaper
Environment Science PMFIAS Environment
Agriculture and Horticulture Agriculture Red Book by ForumIAS + Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra + Economic Survey of HP + Newspaper
Tourism Sector in HP Wonderland Himachal by Jagmohan Balokhra + Economic Survey of HP + Newspaper

Ques: How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?

Ans: Fixed space helps to keep the answer short and concise. However, this should not be a cause of concern/ worry. Don’t give much importance to such things, focus on studying rather than writing materials/ stationary items.

Ques: Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players were claiming that they wrote the entire paper in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter whether the examiner is asking ‘examine, comment, discuss or xyz’. Simply write in bullets and points.

Ans: For 4-mark and 8-mark questions, I too relied on bullet points only.

Ques: For 20-mark questions, it was a mix of bullet points, paragraphs and headings (wherever required) – a typical essay-type answer.

Ques: Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? Because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.

Ans: For the 20-mark questions, yes I did follow the above-mentioned format.

Ques: I don’t like asking the following rudimentary questions, but these are the most frequently asked questions by new aspirants.

  1. Did you use highlighter/sketch-pen in your answers? – No.
  2. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? – Yes.
  3. If yes, did you draw a diagram with a pen/pencil? – Pen.
  4. Did you use a ruler? – No.
  5. Did you write with a Blue or Black pen? – Blue only.

Mains: Optional Subject

Ques: What’s your optional subject and why did you choose it and not something else?

Ans: English Literature.

Earlier I had Geography, but my performance in it was not okay. I hovered around 105-110.

Chose English out of love for reading and because it has compact syllabus + has readily available materials.

Ques: If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you give advice for it or against it?

Ans: It’s a great subject and will definitely help in improving your overall expression.

Analyse the previous year papers and while studying form your own opinion on each line of the poem and on events in novels/plays.

Good command over the language plays an important role too.

Ques: Essential book/resource list for the optional you have read:

Standard texts mixed with inputs from LitCharts, Wikipedia and YouTube.

Ques: How much internet research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?

One can simply rely on books and LitCharts.

Ques: How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?

Ans: 3 months.

Ques: How many days/ weeks before the exam, you start answer writing practice?

Ans: I was on a training tour so I could not practice.

Ques: Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?

Ans: Yes. I wrote a line-by-line interpretation of poems. For novels and plays, I maintained a character chart and timeline of important events.

Ques: I made notes digitally.

Ques: Your observation about the difficulty level of 2020 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions/rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for a given optional subject?

Ans: Exam was pretty much straightforward like previous papers.

Strategy should be to just stick to the standard texts. Rather than reading 10 interpretations for a single text, reading a single interpretation 10 times will prove fruitful.

Before the Interview:

Ques: How did you prepare for the interview for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, and current affairs at the national and international level?

Ans: I read newspapers, the Economic Survey and Budget of HP. Focused particularly on things like IT in governance, Rural Development and Forestry. Held discussions with friends and colleagues on contemporary issues.

Ques: Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar/different from the official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?

Ans: Yes. I gave two mocks, one at CivilsTap and the other one at Nimbus Academy.

I got great inputs from these which definitely helped me in the official one.

Ques: Describe the formal dress worn by you in an interview.

Ans: Navy blue suit, white shirt and navy blue tie with brown shoes.

During the interview:

Ques: Who was the chairman of your interview board?

Ans: Sh. Ajay Kumar

Ques: How long was the interview?

Ans: 30-35 minutes.

Ques: Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview.

Ans: Chairman – Qualities of a civil servant, problems of forestry, Drumming hobby, Fairs and Festivals of Himachal, etc.

M1 – Do you write, What was your first blog, Importance of research when writing, Agnipath scheme, I2U2, Author of God of Small Things, etc.

M2 – Android OS hobby, startups, Climate Change, Heatwave, last book read and its message, etc.

M3 – Cash Crop of Solan district, Mushroom production in Solan, why Solan is the mushroom city, old name of Solan, cement producing districts of Himachal, raw materials used in cement production, old name of kangra, who was the first king, who killed him, he fought on whose side, etc.

Ques: 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?

Ans: It was largely on expected lines with questions revolving around and related to my educational background, work experience & hobbies.

Yes, there were moments of uneasiness. There were factual questions and bouncers too. But, I overcame it all with subtle apologies and by avoiding guessing things.

Your mark sheet

Subject Marks Secured
Prelims (Paper-1) 103.33
Prelims (Paper-2) 89.33
Mains Subjects:  
English 63
Hindi 43
Essay 53
General Studies -1 64
General Studies -2 61
General Studies -3 98
Optional (P-1) 81
Optional (P-2) 83
Written Total 440
Interview 105
Final Score 545

Career Backup Plan:

Ques: If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?

Ans: I was already working as a RFO.

Ques: 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/boyfriend dumps me ☺ etc.)

Ans: N/A.

Struggle of a Senior Player/Junior Player:

Ques: How did you survive through this mental prison of HAS and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players/Junior Players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.

Ans: Try not to attach any emotional aspects with this exam. Consistency of efforts will count.

Ques: What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?

Ans: Low score in my previous optional was the reason that I missed in the previous attempts. Changing the optional worked!

Struggle of a Working Professional:

Ques: If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with a job?

Ans: Keep your notes handy. Time management and consistency is the key. There may be days when you can pull off 4-5 hour study shifts but at times it may be under an hour. I stuck to my weekly routines and utilised digital platforms for note-making.

Grand Wisdom:

Ques: People know what books and syllabus points are to be prepared. But most of them lack consistency in their preparation. So, how do you keep study momentum going? How do you fight against mood swings and distractions?

Ans: Distractions are a necessary hindrance and must be efficiently managed. Learn to say no!

For mood swings your will-power, the determination and your Decision Support System (Friends, family etc) holds the key. Be hardy!

Ques: Through this struggle and success, what have you learned? What is the wisdom of life and competition? What is your message to the new aspirants/veteran aspirants?

Ans: Leave your comfort zone and be patient. The journey is a long haul and at times it might feel like there is no end in sight. Believe in yourself. It doesn’t hurt while taking risks, it’ll be a whole new experience. Take that leap of faith!

Ques: Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of HAS 2020. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

Ans: Why do we fall? Just to get up again.

Credits: Family/Friends:

Ques: Behind every qualified candidate there 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?

Ans: Parents, friends and colleagues.

Ques: You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting interviews of qualified candidates- the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use www.hpgeneralstudies.com for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you? And you can even reply “No”.

Ans: Yes, I did. Specifically while travelling to give the mains exams. The website has crisp and concise topic-wise notes which makes up for a much-needed shot in the arm at the 11th hour.

HP General Studies remarks:

Thank you Mr. Amandeep Singh for giving us your precious time. Hopefully, this interview will help thousands of aspirants who have been preparing for the HAS exam.

HP General Studies wishes you a great future ahead.

Category: HAS Interview

One thought on “[Topper’s Interview] Amandeep Singh [SDM] – HAS 2021 [Rank 12]

  1. Madan Lal Banyal

    Well done congrats to you and your Parents Especially Sh Mohan Lal Azad Joint Director
    Wish you all the best Keep going like your Father


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