[Topper’s Interview] Gaurav Gupta (CSE-2013/AIR-117): IIT Kanpur, History Optional, Technopreneur

Subscribemotivation30 Comments

UPSC Paperset
  1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Struggle of a Senior player
  7. Working professional
  8. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  9. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  10. Prelim accuracy
  11. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  12. Mains: Essay
  13. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  14. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  15. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  16. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  17. GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2013
  18. Mains answer-writing?
  19. Mains Optional Subject – HISTORY
  20. Before the interview
  21. During the interview
  22. CSE-2013 Marksheet
  23. Career Backup
  24. Views on UPSC reforms
  25. Insecurity about profile
  26. Wisdom
  27. Credit: Friends/family
  28. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Rank in CSE-2013117
Roll No.153451
Age28 Year 10 months
Total attempts in CSE2
Optional SubjectHistory
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Schooling mediumHindi/English
College mediumEnglish
Home town/cityKanpur
Work-experience if any5.5 year
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresNA
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  • Prof BRA Rao Institute at Bangalore for GS
  • Vision IAS Test series (For GS Paper-II and III)
service preference #1, 2 and 3IAS, IFS, IRS
state cadre preference (top3)UP, MP, UK


% in class 1079
% in class 1282
Schooling (Medium)Hindi/English
Graduation course and %7.4
Name of college, city, passing out yearIIT Kanpur, Electrical Engineering, 2006
Any other professional coursesNA


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

topper cse 2013 rank 117 Gaurav Gupta

I have been born and brought up in Kanpur and then completed Engineering also from IIT Kanpur. After that I along with my friends started company – Aurora Integrated Systems developing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and shifted to Bangalore in 2007. During the job I had opportunity to interact and watch closely government (both civil and military domain) and got inspired to do more and contribute bigger towards nation. I felt by being in public sector I can contribute more. Challenges faced as entrepreneur inspired to get into the system. The job profile of administrative services also attracted me. So finally decided to take up civil services examination in 2012 and till that time our start-up was also stabilized and could be taken further by my friends. I was well supported by my wife in my decision. My parents live in Kanpur while younger brother is also graduate from IITK.

Electronic Vs Paper material

Q. 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 much do you rely on electronic material and how much on the paper material (Books, newspapers)? If possible narrate a typical day in your studylife. What is your style of preparation

  • I personally believe in notes making so that I can revise them at the end moment
  • I had a great friend circle with whom we used to debate/discuss/frame questions/write answers in a given time frame/discuss the answers etc – this “cooperative learning” helped me a lot
  • I heavily depended on electronic material/internet but one has to make sure that one is not reading the same thing/issue/topic from multiple sources. One really has to make sure that once you have fixed that you will read some topic from this source (after evaluating its efficacy) just stick to it and don’t get distracted to alternate material available from different source unless it is offering something very different.
  • I used to dedicate days to various GS papers and optional so that I can distribute equitable days to each subject. And I had fixed the sites/magazines/books I will refer and then I only relied on them.
  • For anything which was not covered in above fixed sources (based on syllabus), I will research it separately using internet search and make note of it.

Tempo and style

Q. 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 on? How do you fight against the mood swings and distractions?

  • Consistency is very important and fortunately I have been consistent since my school days and don’t believe in eleventh hour study and rush.
  • I used to make weekly targets (topic vise), and daily routine of study hours and tried to achieve those (but flexible in terms of what to study depending on the mood)
  • I also had revision targets before 1-1.5 month of Mains and 15 days before prelims.
  • All this helped me motivated and stick to my schedule and maintaining the consistency.
  • Regular (weekly) meeting with serious candidate friends kept my motivation and spirit of competition. Also support of my wife who always helped me to maintain the motivation level.

Struggle of a Senior player

After 1-2 failures in any competitive exam, a phase of mental saturation comes. The person knows the booklist, he knows what is necessary to succeed. But it doesn’t yield result. The armchair ‘experts’ would point out UPSC is ‘testing’ emotional intelligence of the candidate or UPSC wants to break the backs of senior players, daily conspiracy theories on orkut involving DP Agrawal….…Not to mention all the emotional struggle-against those irritating neighbor and relatives ..My question are two:

Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.

Yes, Even I was not fully free of this issue. Before the result I was feeling that this is it and I will not give any further attempt if unsuccessful. But at this juncture it is important to talk to your well wishers, family and friends to remove such doubts. Also before result I was once again became ready to fight one more time after watching “geeta-pravachan” in Mahabharata TV serial. So one may watch such motivational TV serial, stories, read biography of great people who became successful after being unsuccessful etc to get motivated again.

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?

I did not have enough writing practice and could not revise properly due to shortage of time (it being first attempt) also I could not make notes for some part of the syllabus – so I focused on these aspects and tried to plug all the loopholes in the syllabus and made sure that I have read all topics at least from one reference source.

Working professional

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

I worked only till Prelims of first attempt, after that I found that I should prepare full time as I was not able to do justice with my company. But it is personal call and if one feels that he can do justice to job and work in an efficient manner then one may manage the studies with job. However it demand great mental, physical and emotional toughness, I feel so.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History AncientMy optional, previous year questions
History MedievalMy optional, previous year questions
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)My optional (Bipin Chandra, Spectrum and self-made notes), previous year questions
Culture societyNCERT sociology book, My optional, Spectrum Culture, CCRT India website
Polity (theory + current)DD Basu, Coaching Notes, Political Science (NCERT), previous year questions
Economy (theory + current)NCERT Books (11th and 12th), previous year questions, Economic Survey of India (latest)
Science (theory + current)NCERT material till class 10th and selective part of 11th and 12th books (like biotechnology, genetics, pollution, environmental topics etc), coaching notes for biology
Environment (theory + current)NCERT Science, NCERT Geography and GS coverage based on News Paper, magazine and internet
geography physicalNCERT Books + previous year GS Mains questions related to geography
geography IndiaNCERT Books + previous year GS Mains questions related to geography
geography worldNCERT Books + previous year GS Mains questions related to geography
other national/international current affairsNews Paper and magazine (Chronicle, sometimes Frontline)
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffNews Paper and magazine (Chronicle), India Year Book, self-made notes based on Newspaper reading, website such as Mrunal/GK Study

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2013 paper?

  • Reading News paper ‘smartly’ (read from MCQ point of view, analyze previous year question paper, refer to Mrunal)
  • Reading questions carefully and options carefully. Use elimination strategy and take calculated risk
  • Don’t leave core subjects (History, Geography, Economics, and Polity) and cover them fully, for which you can answer with confidence

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsSelective practice from TMH book
reasoningSelective practice from TMH book
comprehensionSelective practice from TMH book
Decision MakingSelective practice from TMH book

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2013 paper.

Don’t ignore it.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? Do you think they’re necessary for success?

Yes I did mock tests (for paper-I) conducted by my coaching, they are essential to know your speed, weak points and improving analytical skills. But research carefully before opting any mock test as some are not aligned with the syllabus and style and may de-motivate you by asking waste questions based on facts. Now UPSC is focusing more on analytical based questions. I don’t have any positive experience about any mock test series except my coaching institute so no comment about this.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2013

attempted Q.Final Marks

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperOnline resources (various)
your regional languageVery selective parts from General Hindi by Upkaar

Q2.other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2013

  • This time they have changed the pattern. Now paper is more lengthy (2 essays, 2 précis writing) so maintain the speed from the beginning. I was totally fine with Hindi so not much preparation, just read some Hindi essays before the exam.
  • Try some grammar based questions from a book for general Hindi (I bought a book on General Hindi by Upkaar publications) and took some online tests (freely available on various websites – just search for those ex. “test for article usage”, “test for direct-indirect conversion”) on various aspects of English grammar (refer to previous year question paper) asked in question paper. 1-2 hour per 2-3 days before 1 month of examination would be sufficient.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

No specific preparation. Just tried writing essay two-three times. My strategy was to plan my essay well in first half-an-hour with a good structure. I always present my essay in blocks with heading and sub-headings. I am more inclined to write about socio-economic issues and fact based topics (related to economy, public administration related, development related issues). And compiled a list of economic parameters (GDP, population, poverty, growth, malnutrition etc) so that I remember them and use them in my essay.

Q2. Which among the following essay did you write? What key points did you include in it?

  1. Be the change you want to see in others (Gandhi)
  2. Is the Colonial mentality hindering India’s Success?
  3. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) along with GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) would be the right indices for judging the wellbeing of a country
  4. Science and technology is the panacea for the growth and security of the nation.

I wrote on topic #3 and covered these aspects (as far as I remember) –

  • Introduction showing contrast between GDP and Human development parameters by giving examples of contrasting feature of India’s socio-economic profile
  • Why GDP alone not sufficient? – listed some reasons like distribution problem, inequality, environment degradation, poverty – examples of different countries (Occupy movement, Arab Spring, India etc)
  • Definition of GHI and meaning of happiness – Bhutan example
  • How to measure GHI – subjective definition – no set criteria
  • Criteria to define GHI – 4 Pillars: Inclusiveness, sustainability, equitable, and environmental friendly
  • Conclusion by linking GHI with age-old conventions of our ancient civilization

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

By default NEWSPAPER and Internet (selective searching of specific topic) was an important input for all the topics and sub-topics so I have not mentioned separately everywhere.

Other websites I used to refer regularly-

  • Mrunal
  • GK Today
  • IDSA
  • EPW
  • The Economic Times
TopicHow did you prepare?
Indian historyMy Optional – Upinder Singh (Ancient), Salma Ahmed Farooqui (Medieval) and Bipin Chandra (Modern India) + Coaching Notes + Self Made Notes
world historyWorld history notes by Prof BRA Rao
post-independence IndiaClass 12th – Politics in India post-independence, India After Gandhi
Indian societyClass 12th – Indian Society, Class 12th – Social Change and Development in India, Class – 11th – Introducing Sociology and Class 11th – Understanding Society (all NCERT)
role of women, poverty etc.Covered in sociology NCERT books mentioned above. http://wcd.nic.in/publication/AR201213_english.pdf
globalization on Indian societyCovered in sociology NCERT books mentioned above
communalism, regionalism, secularismCovered in sociology NCERT books mentioned above + Political science Class 11th NCERT
world geo physicalNCERT Geography books + previous year papers
resource distributionNCERT Economics books as above
factors for industrial locationNCERT Geography books as above
earthquake tsunami etcNCERT Geography books as above
impact on flora-faunaNCERT Geography books as above

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.DD Basu, For dispute resolution made notes from internet
comparing Constitution with worldDD Basu/Laxmikant
parliament, state LegislaturesDD Basu/Laxmikant
executive-judiciaryDD Basu/Laxmikant
ministries departmentsDD Basu/Laxmikant, 15th ARC Report – State and district administration
pressure group, informal asso.DD Basu/Laxmikant
Representation of people’s actElection Commission website FAQ + original text of the RPA Act
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..DD Basu/Laxmikant, Internet
NGO, SHG etcDD Basu/Laxmikant, Internet, ARC Report on Social Capital
welfare schemes, bodiesIndian Economic Survey
social sector, health, edu, HRDEconomic Survey, Science books NCERT
governance, transparency, accountabilityARC report on RTI, Ethics and Citizen Centric Administration
e-governanceARC report on e-governance
role of civil serviceMohit Bhattacharya (Horizon of Public Admins) relevant chapter
India & neighborsMainly newspaper and India’s Foreign Policy by Rajiv Sikri, IDSA
bilateral/global groupingInternet, IDSA
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestIDSA, Internet
diasporaRead special coverage on Chronicle on Indian diaspora
international bodies- structure mandateInternet

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationIndian Economic Survey
inclusive growthIndian Economic Survey
budgetingIndian Economic Survey
major crops, irrigationCoaching material + NCERT geography books
agro produce – storage, marketingCoaching material + NCERT geography books
e-technology for famersCoaching material + NCERT geography books
farm subsidies, MSPCoaching material + NCERT geography books
PDS, buffer, food securityCoaching material + NCERT geography books + Indian Economy book NCERT
technology missionRegular coverage of Newspaper
animal rearing economicsCoaching material + NCERT geography books
food processingCoaching material (else Ministry of Food processing website)
land reforms“Indian Economy” book NCERT
liberalization“Indian Economy” book NCERT
infraPlanning commission approach paper – chapter on Energy and Infrastructure
investment modelsMrunal
science-tech day to day lifeRegular coverage
Indian achievements in sci-techNews coverage
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRNCERT book – biology book (has chapters on biotechnology)
environmental impact assessmentNCERT book – biology book (has chapters on pollution, environment), Internet search
Disaster ManagementARC report on Disaster Management
non state actors, internal securityARC report on Public Order, Internal Security and Home ministry report on Border Management
internal security – role of media, social networking siteARC report on Public Order, Internal Security
cyber securityA report on cyber security by IDSA
money launderingInternet research
border  ManagementHome ministry report on Border Management
organized crime, terrorismARC Report on Internal security and FAQ questions on it
security agencies- structure mandateInternet (made note on CBI, IB, and other intelligence agencies)

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsCoaching material and IGNOU material
attitude, moral influence etc.IGNOU material on attitude
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcRelevant chapter (Administrative Ethics) in New horizons of Pub Adm : Mohit Bhattacharya
emotional intelligence, its use in governanceOnline sources (there are websites which have summary of EI based on famous book of Daniel Goleman)
moral thinkers of India and worldHow many thinkers did you prepare? – Thinkers on Ethics IGNOU material. Mainly I prepared – Gandhi, Vivekananda, Buddha, Arvind Ghosh, Bhagvat Geeta, Lokmanya Tilak among Indians and Kant, Mill, Aristotle, John Rawls, Bentham among western thinkers
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.ARC report on ethics, RTI
corporate governanceNotes from Wikipedia and some other online sources
probity in governance, work cultureARC report on ethics, RTI
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Generally covered in other material
challenges of corruptionIGNOU chapter on Ethics in administration
case studies on above topics

GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2013

Q. in GS4 ethics papers, please give a sketchy overview of your case study answers:

caseyour approach/ keypoints
1: RTI: To hide or not to hideMy argument was that he should present information as it is without any change or modification as it may lead to legal action. I also said that he should recluse himself as there is conflict of interest.
2: Engineer: Bogus flyover vs deadlineQuality is more important than deadline as low quality will affect lives of people and may be disastrous. So no compromise on that.
3: Child Labourers in SivakasiChild labour is a social problem and should be dealt with strictly and legally. If not interfered we are playing with future of these innocent children. Also finding out way to give some employment
4: Nepotism in Job recruitmentTake decision without fear as if proposal is good then it will be through. However it should not also be rejected just because I have been called up. It should be based on merit.
5: Leaking informationNo disclosure as it will be not fair, criminal act and against spirit of fair competition. Complaint to appropriate authority.
6: Narrate one incident in your life when you were faced with such crisis of conscience and how you resolved the same.Based on personal experience while working in  my start-up

Mains answer-writing?

Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?

In first paper it took time to adapt to it and had to fight with tendency of filling space. After one hour it was clear that it does not matter.  Answers should be brief, to the point, should cover all parts of the question, and should cover all broad aspects with very brief examples.

Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players (who cleared mains and got interview call letter) were claiming that they wrote entire paper in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter….whether examiner is asking ‘examine, comment, discuss or xyz’….simply write in bullets and points.

It depended on the question. However I tried my best to answer in points and bullets as it saves time and takes less words to convey the message. But where critical analysis and conclusion was needed there I wrote in paragraph. As in my first paper I was stuck to paragraph based style so could not attempt 40 marks even if I knew the answers well. So in next two papers I tried to write in points (there can be sentences in individual points.) and thus covered more questions so even if strike rate gone down, I could have more per centage of marks and till third paper I could find a balance thus both the parameters improved.

My Final strategy in Paper 2 and 3: First attempt those questions which you know well, then attempt other, don’t attempt where you are in doubt and try to write in points/sub-headings, try to have a conclusion etc

Q. 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.

I followed this in my optional. In GS papers I did not have this structure as such but yes I generally started with an introductory line and tried to conclude in as many questions I can (about 40-50%) with 1-2 line conclusion – especially which had comment/analyze/critically analyze phrases and which asked “your opinion”.

Q. In GS papers, Since UPSC came with those 100 and 200 words questions. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.)

After seeing my marks I can comment that –

  • Maximise attempts even if you may compromise with content
  • First choose questions where you know answers and write them fast but don’t fluff them.
  • Then answer those which you partially and write them in points
  • Most answers should be done within 150 words, some may stretch to 200 words and some can be finished in 100 words successfully if written objectively
  • 220 marks can be attempted successfully if a person has good writing practice and 50% of questions are already prepared by him/her in some manner or the other (of course with paining hand !!!)

Q. How many marks worth questions did you skip/couldn’t finish in the GS papers?

Gaurvav Gupta strike rate

MarksAttemptedTotalStrike-rateAbsolute per-cent
Total GS322
GS + Essay420
HIS Total239
Cut-offsDiff with Cut-off
Written + Interview8382025775+63

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?

NO, I underlines important parts using the same pen

Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)


Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?


Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?


Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?

Blue pen

Mains Optional Subject – HISTORY

Q1. First the essential book/resource list and strategy.

My Base books

  1. Upinder Singh (Ancient and Early Medieval India) (VERY GOOD BOOK)
  2. Salma Ahmed Farooqui (Comprehensive History of Medieval India)
  3. Old NCERT Medieval India book
  4. Bipin Chandra (Modern India) + Coaching Notes
  5. Word History – Coaching Notes (HAD GOOD NOTES SO DID NOT REFER TO BOOK)

Q2. 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?

Not much. I used internet to plug the gaps (topics mentioned in syllabus but not found good in the books)

Q3. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?

4 Months along with Public Administration (Two readings)

Q4. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?

For second (this) attempt I started about 2.5 months before with my fellow friends.

Q5. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?

Yes (paper)

Q6. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2013 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

  • History First paper was interesting, the questions required deep understanding and the ability to frame the answer by combining various parts which are scattered here and there in the books. So reading analytically is must.
  • Map practice is must and I did a lot map practice and hence was able to attempt 80% of the places and I think got right 65% -70% correct.
  • Try to focus on what has been asked – this mistake I have realized that I did else could have gotten better marks, don’t go beating around the bush.
  • Good introduction and conclusion is a must

Q7.How much did you skip OR couldn’t answer properly, in the optional paper?

Mentioned above

Before the interview

Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? Particularly college graduation subjects related questions?

I referred two newspapers – The Hindu and Economic Times. I also read latest magazines which were out before one week of interview. I used to watch TV debates in NDTV/Times Now and RSTV. (but no benefit as I was asked only one current affairs question  — It happens but don’t make any assumptions !)

I prepared notes on my profile and bio-data and tried to do research in such a manner that I can speak for 2-3 min about anything mentioned in my bio-data with expected counter questions. (Kanpur – history of Kanpur, key persons, current economic condition etc). Think as interviewer and collect information but it should not mean that you copy entire Wikipedia!

Q2. 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?

Yes, I attended 2 mock interview sessions by Kerala Samahjam at Bangalore which were very well organized. I was also trained by 8 interview sessions by Kalpana Rao (from BRA Rao Institute) and this prepared me comprehensively and this prepared me for all kind of questions in a very good manner. I am very grateful to her for such a helping hand and guidance.

Then I also undertook mock interview at Delhi. Most interviews were similar however depending on type of board they focused in different aspects prominently so this helped me plugging those weaknesses. (For example in one interview I was asked many history questions so I revised modern history, a bit of ancient history (important parts) before the actual interview but here my guess was wrong – as I was asked history questions but from ‘world history’ — so it was a lesson. One should try to revise his optional completely especially if he has time. In my case it was excusable as my interview was on first day itself! J In one interview I was asked too much about my hobbies so I prepared about that well then again I was not asked anything on that  but who knows ! )

All these mock interviews has helped in realizing –

  • One does not everything so don’t be ashamed about it
  • Never bluff
  • Think and then speak (longer for new questions, 1-2 seconds for questions asked directly on your profile)
  • Listen carefully and let interviewer complete his question
  • Avoid “takiyakalams” (but very hard to implement !) like Basically/I think/etc
  • Controlling hand movements (but not too much, some movement is required) and what should be body language, eye contact

Q3. What did you wear? Some experts say coat is must, some say tie is must, and some say black shoes must. What attire did you pick up?

I wore white shirt and a tie with black trouser and black shoes. It is a personal choice. Whatever one may wear one should be confident about it and prepared to answer anything about it. (like why? What brand? Made of what  just in case!) As everyone wears tie so you may feel odd if you don’t, but many people don’t wear coat so its alright.

Q4. 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 with my younger brother and later at a guest house where I was getting good home like food – which was a good thing. I carried with me my history notes, Newspaper notes and interview related notes (research done based on my profile).

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Rajni Razdan

Q2. How long was the interview?

About 25 min

Q3. 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?]

I was asked this question as I was coming from entrepreneurial background. It was the most expected question and I had clear answer in my mind which was true so I didn’t have any hard time regarding this and my response came naturally.

I answered, “I had inclination towards civil services but as I was confronted the challenge of starting company I got involved in that. However during the journey as a part of my responsibilities I got chance to interact with civil servants and saw their challenging job from closer which excited me. I also felt that being in private sector one may not contribute to nation and society up to the extent which is possible in public sector. So after stabilizing the company I decided to take the plunge.” For counter questions other aspects of the answer was – I was attracted to diverse job profile offered by civil services and as I handled various aspects in my start-up like administration/finance/HR/hiring/product development I liked dynamic job profile.

This answer should be from the heart then there should no issues. Your natural response should be structured in a logical manner.

Q4. Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview.

Summary: Most of the interview was on my profile and optional. My starting was not good (could not answer/not properly answer initial fact based history questions but later I could answer expected questions on my profile and soon after Chairman’s hard hit I could regather my confidence and could answer calmly.)


1) tell me about Habsburg dynasty? (Some answer but interrupted in between as it was going nowhere, I was kind of shocked and perplexed about what to answer and how to answer)

2) What was the relation between Habsburg dynasty and Napolean? Don’t know – she said if you don’t know this then you have not read history but I answered “I don’t know” staring at her eyes! As I am not supposed to know everything!

3) How first world war started? — tell me specific incident which triggered first world war – fortunately told it right.


1) You are engineer, then u started ur company, then why u want to come to civil services? (answered well)

2) Being an engineer why u still want to be in civil services? (Answered well)

3) Can analytical ability help in solving human centric problems? Being engineer how one can solve human related problems. (I said I have experience of solving human centric problems also giving examples from my job experience)


1) History position going down, Why history as optional? (Told plainly that after 5.5 years of techno-managerial work I wanted to take any humanity subject which I can study on my own. And it was my natural choice based on interest and have been reading history books even while working)

2) Are u aware of any journal of history? (No)

3) Are you aware of Britannica history journal? (Yes, I have read it online.)


1) How can history as optional help in administration? Why history as optional being engineer? (Answered well – understanding socio-economic-political history is essential to understand the issues and then solve them. It is a scientific subject as it is based on evidence/historical records and many scientific techniques are being used now to uncover secrets of history.

2) Coming from Avionics background why we are not able to find MH370 aircraft? (Technological limitations explained of various communication systems of an aircraft)


1) You are from Kanpur, what do you know about Ursala Hospital? (Very simple answer, I think something else was expected like history but I didn’t answer that)

2) Do you know about auto-biography of Babur, what did he say about India in it? (Knew very little, told two observations)

(The next two questions I answered with great passion and energy)

3) Your salary was 75,000 pm but now you will earn much less, so why you are taking such decision? economic rational (In public sector your contingencies are well protected. Your health and post-retirement life is well maintained while in private you have to take care of all that. In civil services you get various other perks which are as good as in private sector. Good lifestyle.)

4) How would you cope up in hierarchy in bureaucracy? (I answered this with great passion saying that if one has conviction he will find a way!)

Q5. 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?

Yes, 70% was on expected lines. Judging from the beginning it was stress interview as the kind of comment passed on by the Chairman!

Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?


Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?

If you wear specs …Please bring your prescription about eye power from any eye Doctor.

CSE-2013 Marksheet

Total GS322
GS + Essay420
HISTORY Total239

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?

I have 5.5 years of experience so could have found job and anyway joined after Mains

Views on UPSC reforms

What are your views on following issues?

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers and the candidate whose optional subject gets favorable treatment under given year’s scaling formula.

Yes optional subjects should be done away with but present structure does test physical (writing) strength more rather than knowledge. Questions should be more difficult but less and evaluation reforms should also be there and transparency should be there in evaluation.

Q. Despite what UPSC has done in recent years, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories. In fact it’s increased under the new syllabus in 2013. Let’s face it, most candidates who gave Mains-2013 have relied on (authentic OR Xeroxed) coaching notes because there was hardly any time left to prepare so many topics in such short time. This system work against an individual preparing from far-away area, without any financial resources, high-speed internet or contacts in Delhi.

Yes, but I feel coaching is a personal choice. Many join just to be in an environment, get inspiration from good teacher and to get good network. I also joined for the same reason. But if someone want he/she may prepare without coaching if one has good friend circle.

Q. Half-merger of IFoS with CSE is a bad move because it has raised the cutoffs for players who’re solely dedicated to IFoS only (and not to IAS/IPS). Adding salt to the wounds, many who had applied for both jobs, cleared the prelims- they did not even bother to appear in all the papers of Mains-IFoS. (RTI revealed this).

Yes, this is not good move. There should be higher individual cut-off for Paper-I and no need to combine the two prelims and target audience is different. In fact there should be separate exam for IPS so that only those get the IPS who are really passionate about and not just accidental entries.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.


Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.

Mains should not be done online as then it will depend on typing speed!

Insecurity about profile

Q. 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?

NA. My message – I feel it is advantage rather than disadvantage as then you have chance to surprise them with your knowledge, personality and confidence so your interview will finish on high note.


Q. 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?

My blog entry on my feelings and emotions giving credit to all who have inspired and motivated me.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2013. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

Try to find weaknesses in your plan and preparation and also evaluate yourself truthfully. Plug the gaps and practice If marks indicate that you are on right track (close to cut-offs) and could not succeed due to just bad luck like  bad marks in 1-2 papers then prepare more and you will certainly succeed. If I can succeed then you can also succeed.

Credit: Friends/family

Q. 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 blog entry on my feelings and emotions giving credit to all who have inspired and motivated me.


BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule – the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you?  And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering, unlike those competitive magazines.

Yes and that’s why I am here. It’s a great initiative and I am fan of Mrunal (his witty style), his notes helped me a lot. Also the initiative of completion of notes making is also very good.

Mrunal : thank you Mr.Gupta, we wish you the best for service and cadre allocation. Keep in touch.

Mrunal recommends

  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books 4 History,Geo,Sci
  2. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  3. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  4. Maths: Quantam CAT Sarvesh Kumar
  5. Objective General English SP Bakshi
  6. Word Power made Easy -Norman Lowe
  7. Topic wise Solved Paperset by Disha

30 Comments on “[Topper’s Interview] Gaurav Gupta (CSE-2013/AIR-117): IIT Kanpur, History Optional, Technopreneur”

  1. First !What a privilege

    1. really!! is it? specially when mrunal keeps on posting tonns of articles under the sun. everybody now n then is getting this privilege. post something wortwhile to share. good luck…

  2. Refreshing interview. Thanks for such elaborated replies & well-asked questions. This is definitely a super-welcome move, given the fact, the competition magazines ask same stale repeated questions time & again. Thank you so much both of you(the interviewee & the interviewer! ) Regards.

  3. Sir ji coaching ka naam bhi likh hi dete, aisi kya sharmane wali baat thi! thodi guidance ho jati bachho ki!

    1. Prof BRA Rao Institute, Bangalore.

  4. Marks Gaurav Agarwal(AIR 1)
    135 Essay
    85 GS 1
    63 GS 2
    88 GS 3
    102 GS 4
    134 Economics optional 1
    162 optional paper 2
    206 interview
    TOTAL 975

  5. Sir‘ congratulations 4ur gr8 achivement and best of luck for d future.sir plz give me d strategy to clear prelims in 2 months as now i hav only completed d ncert books.sir plz help me by giving ur valuable suggestion.

  6. thanks sir and congrats gupta sir.

  7. sir plzz provide me histry optionl ntssss
    ur email iddd
    i wl be thnkful to uuu

  8. Dear Gaurav, heartiest congratulations on your grand success. History is my optional too. Can you please share your optional notes with us so that all of us would benefit from it?

    Thanks and Regards

  9. Anyone who got selected in 5th attempt??

  10. Mrunal Sir,plz provide marks of very last candidate in each category . . .thanx

  11. hey mrunal Sir ,Please suggest me a good book/to improve my communication skills bcs i’m not fluent so pls send me ur valueable instruction through my mail.Thanq you

  12. hello sir, first of congrats on your success !!

    sir i m too from kanpur and my optional is history, i want to knw from where did you prepare map work for optional and did u refer ignou notes for optional and i m from hindi medium but then b.tech (english) so was it difficult hindi/english (medium)??

  13. please upload the interview of any successful political science optional candidate .

  14. Has any one qualified with Sociology optionals? Please help…

  15. Heartiest Congratulations to all toppers. This is Splendid success !
    @mrunal – sir it would be great if you can arrange another topper’s interview having law as an optional subject. Also a link on law strategy would be quite handy. Thanks

  16. Congrats Gaurav Sir…..ofcourse many many thanks to mrunal sir for guiding us in the right direction…..

  17. congrats gaurav..!!

  18. congrts sir..very well done..detailed interaction…observation..prelims marks…good…even so many people ….got more than that but not enough to write mains…apna apna luck..

  19. Spot lets start off perform on this writeup, I seriously consider this astounding internet site needs much more consideration. Ill apt to become once again to find out to read considerably a lot more, thank you that information. kabfdddbgedf

  20. Hi all, I will update a new blog entry on History strategy soon, and will update. Regarding notes will try to my personal notes which are as soft copy (as many are in written format) but will not be able to put notes provided by coaching.

  21. Thanks for all the good wishes and best of luck to all fellow aspirants.

    1. sir thanx for ur strategy..sir how many words u hv written in 25 marks in 2nd paper and is it necessary to attempt every question or shd concentrate only on question that known well?

  22. Just read your blog. Your’s is the one of the best profiles which I went through.
    Also an inspiration to working professionals like me to achieve great success in civils in particular… and in any (other shikhars ..) in general. Wish you all the best.

  23. Congrats for your great achievement sir!

    Dear Mrunal Ji I am a candidate having management optional.So kindly publish some interviews of candidates having management option.It will be really helpful for me.

  24. Mrunal Sir you are doing a great job sorry service to us
    Kindly give a study plan to History optional as in which you given for Public Adminstration

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *