[Topper’s Interview] Poonam (Rank-308/CSE-2015) Sociology, Served as ACP-Gurgaon, SBI-PO, Income Tax Inspector

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  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. Mains answer-writing?
  18. Mains Optional Subject
  19. Before the interview
  20. During the interview
  21. CSE-2015 Marksheet
  22. Career Backup
  23. Views on UPSC reforms
  24. Insecurity about profile
  25. Wisdom
  26. Credit: Friends/family
  27. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Rank in CSE-2015308
Roll No.0506094
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)4
Optional SubjectSociology
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityDelhi
Work-experience if any
  • 1)Assistant Commissioner of Police, Gurgaon (Present Posting since 2011),
  • 2) Income Tax Inspector(2009-2011),
  • 3) State Bank Probationary Officer(2006-2009),
  • 4)Primary Teacher(2003-2005)
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresCSE 2009 &10 (Railways), Haryana Civil Services, SSC Graduate Level Exam, SBI P.O, Delhi Govt Primary Teacher Exam(DSSSB).
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)Public Administration, Essay and Ethics : Pavan Sir.
Sociology : Abhimanu IAS Study Circle ,Chandigarh.
GS: Mostly Online with Mrunal, Iasbaba, InsightsonIndia, Clearias and Pavan sir’s classes and material.
Service preferences (Top-5)
  1. IAS
  2. IPS
  3. IRS(IT)
state cadre preference (Top-5)
  1. Haryana
  2. Agmut
  3. Punjab
  4. Rajasthan
  5. Himachal Pradesh.


% in class 1080%
% in class 1276%
Graduation course and %54%
Name of college, city, passing out yearSchool of External Studies, Delhi University
Any other professional coursesElementary Teachers Training Course.
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsListening to Hindi Movie Songs,Teaching.


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

UPSC Topper IAS/IPS Poonam Interviw & Tips
I have been born and brought up in Delhi, though my ancestral roots belong to Village Chhara,  Distt. Jhajjar (Haryana). I am happily married for the last 7 years and have an infant son 8 months old.
I started very late for UPSC Preparation (In fact I gave my first attempt at the age of 28 years). As specified above I started my career as a Primary Teacher in a Delhi Govt. School and along with the job did my graduation as external Student from Delhi University. After completing my graduation I appeared for different Bank PO Exams and SSC Graduate Level Exam and cleared all of them(SBI PO,SBI Associates PO, Union Bank Of India PO, SSC Graduate Level 2005) but finally chose SBI PO( As I look back, I regret that there was nobody to guide me about UPSC Exam, had somebody at that time would have guided me about UPSC Exam I would have given it a try at that stage and may be you would have been reading this interview much earlier. Also, I want to share the fact that at that stage I used to be very under-confident about my chances at CS Examination. I am sharing these thoughts so that all of those who are somehow feeling the same as I had once been, can come out of it and not repeat the mistake which I did.
After 3 years in SBI, I joined the Income Tax Department securing a very decent rank(7) at all India level in SSC graduate level Examination 2006 which gave me the confidence of writing UPSC and also the fact that being a General Category candidate my attempts were going to be wasted anyhow  because of my age. I thus gave my first attempt at UPSC CSE in 2009 and got Railways (RPF). I didn’t join that service and sat for CSE 2010 but again I got Railways (IRPS). Meanwhile, I had cleared Haryana PSC and joined as Dy.SP in Haryana Police in 2011. In 2011, I couldn’t qualify Prelims and my tryst with UPSC was over due to age limit. Later, as 2011 candidates were accorded an extra attempt at CSE 2015 so I got an opportunity to appear again for UPSC. This attempt came as a great challenge and opportunity as I was out of touch with preparation and the fact that I was 9 months pregnant at the time of prelims and while mains I had a son about 3 months old was making it even harder. But as luck would have it, I got my best rank in the most challenging circumstances.

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 (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I’m reading, I just read multiple times but don’t maintain notes, I make mindmaps on computer …or xyz style)
I have given the exam in both coaching oriented era (i.e CSE 2009, 2010) and electronic material focused era (CSE 2015) and I find that both have their pros and cons. During this attempt I focused exclusively on Self Study, Online material sp. Mrunal youtube lectures on Geography n Economics ,Selfstudyias Prelims Test Series, Clearias prelims Test Series ,Iasbaba TLP Programme, InsightsonIndia Secure Initiative on Current Events. Also, I was fortunate to have regular mentoring of Pavan Sir for GS, Essay and Ethics Papers.  I relied on the standard books of polity like M.Laxmikanth, Rajiv Ahir Spectrum for modern history, Shankar’s Environment Notes, Culture of Nitin Singhania n of course the tried n tested old NCERT Books.
Bcoz of my special circumstances I could study only for 2-3 months for Prelims and for Mains I could hardly get a month before mains (since my baby was born in Sept.) So, could not prepare the whole syllabus nor could study for long time but I must appreciate the help provided by online sites like Mrunal, Iasbaba which made my work much easier. Whatever little I used to study I concentrated on focusing on the traditional areas like Polity, History, Geography, my optional Sociology. Also, I used to make notes of certain key areas in every paper for quick reference n revision.

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?
Perpetual support of my family sp. my husband n brothers who were also preparing, continuous discussions with them on the subject matters, current events kept me on track. Having a focused and disciplined approach to crack the exam is needed and this is what makes the difference.

Struggle of a Senior player

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.
As I Look back now, I feel that lack of confidence in myself actually costed me a lot.  We all need to remember the fact that it is Just an Exam like many others and can be cracked with dedication and a strategic preparation. We should not be scared of this Exam. Many of us write our first attempt to be able to just clear prelims (as happened with me in my first attempt CSE 2009, I could clear Prelims but since was focus was only on clearing prelims I had not prepared enough for Mains and thus though qualified Mains but got just above Cut Off Score and thus even getting good marks in Interview (208) I could get only Railways. This attitude of not taking the holistic view of all stages of Exam Prelims, Mains and interview costed me my first Attempt.
Secondly, I feel that this Exam actually requires Consistent Efforts. There should be more regularity in the Preparation. It is more beneficial to study for 6 hours each rather than studying one day for 18 hours and not studying another day at all. Also, study schedule should be properly planned and should be followed religiously. Prepare a monthly planner, weekly planner and daily planner based on the syllabus and time at one’s disposal. Every morning plan your day (what is your target today) and every night audit your output.
Thirdly, never let stress take over you. All of us have d same anxiety and pressure of this exam but handle dis nervousness effectively otherwise it will result in more problems. Be an optimist always. (I am sharing this fact because of the personal experience of the failure in Prelims in my third attempt. I was almost confident of getting a very good rank in my second attempt but unfortunately even though obtaining a very good score in mains of CSE 2010 I got a very bad score in Interview n could again get Railways (IRPS) and this threw me into depression. I could not prepare for the Changed pattern of CSAT of 2011 Attempt and the stress n pressure of last attempt made me lose in the first round itself. Now, I realize that had I taken the failure of obtaining good rank in CSE 2010 in a positive stride and not taken stress of last attempt I could have easily managed the changed pattern of CSE 2011 and would have easily qualified Prelims. (I have earlier qualified Bank P.O exams and CSAT was not that difficult thing for me but the stress I took in the last attempt ruined my Third Chance).
Fourthly, we need to take into account the factor of luck also in this exam. One need to understand that to be in the list or not is also dependent on so many permutation and combination and one should also factor in the handwork of one’s destiny in it. Give your best shot at UPSC but also have a backup plan to fall back on as life goes on with or without UPSC.

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
I have mentioned most of the wrongs of the previous attempts. In this attempt, I tried to be consistent and regular with my preparation. Also, as I mentioned about my peculiar Situation I tried to be as positive and cool about my preparation. I knew I am not having a lot of time but I made sure that whatever Little time I had I will invest it wisely without taking any pressure.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job?
I gave all my attempts with a job .Since, in this attempt I was totally out of preparation I focused more on Online preparation. I found websites like Mrunal,IASBaba,InsightsonIndia,Selfstudyias extremely helpful and relevant for the preparation . One can make use of these websites while commuting for office, in the free time.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History AncientOld Ncert Book,Own Notes.
History MedievalOld Ncert Book,Own Notes.
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Bipin Chandra, Rajiv Ahir.
Culture and societyOld Ncert Book,Nitin Singhania Notes and Newspaper.
Polity (theory + current)M.laxmikanth.
Economy (theory + current)Mrunal youtube lectures,Economic Survey.
Science (theory + current)Old Ncert book.
Environment (theory + current)Shankar Ias Notes.
geography physicalMrunal Rajtanil Mam youtube lectures ,Oxford Atlas,NCERT.
geography IndiaMrunal Rajtanil Mam youtube lectures,Oxford Atlas,NCERT.
geography worldMrunal Rajtanil Mam youtube lectures,NCERT,Oxford Atlas.
other national/international current affairsNewspapers like Hindu and Indian Express,RSTv,Insightson India.
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffWebsites like Mrunal,Iasbaba,InsightsonIndia.

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2016 paper?
Focus on Traditional Areas like Polity, Geography, and Economics.
Q. Now that Aptitude paper has become qualifying, obvious more attention needs to be paid on the GS paper so apart from the books that you already have gone through, what else would you have tried for CSE-2016 (if you were going to appear)?

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsM Tyra
reasoningM k Pandey
comprehensionCareer Launcher Notes and Tests
Decision MakingCareer Launcher Notes and Tests

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about CS Aptitude 2016 paper.
Do some practice test papers .

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Selfstudy Ias GS Mock tests . They are not mandatory but I found them the most close to UPSC Papers.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperSelf Study(Checked the Last year Papers)
your regional language(Hindi)Self Study(Checked the Last year Papers)

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Nothing Specific.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
Nothing at all, except reading newspaper (Due to paucity of time).Though it was a mistake as it costed me nearly 15-20 marks. I myself was not happy with my essays as because of no essay writing practice the flow and chain of thoughts in the essay was not good and while writing essays itself  I was not satisfied .
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
1) Education without values.
2) Dreams, which should not let India sleep.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureNitin Singhania notes and Self Created notes from old NCERT history books.
Indian historyRajiv Ahir n Bipin Chandra
world historyOld NCERT Book
post-independence IndiaRam Chandra Guha Book “India Since independence”.
Indian societySociology Optional
role of women, poverty etc.Sociology Optional
globalization on Indian societySociology Optional
communalism, regionalism, secularismNewspaper, nothing specific
world geo physicalSelf Notes of NCERT Geography n Mrunal Geography YouTube lectures
resource distributionSelf Notes of NCERT Geography n Mrunal Geography YouTube lectures
factors for industrial locationSelf Notes of NCERT Geography n Mrunal Geography YouTube lectures
earthquake tsunami etcSelf Notes of NCERT Geography n Mrunal Geography YouTube lectures
impact on flora-faunaSelf Notes of NCERT Geography n Mrunal Geography YouTube lectures

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.M.Laxmikanth and Pavan sir
comparing Constitution with worldM.Laxmikanth
parliament, state LegislaturesM.Laxmikanth, Pavan sir and 2nd ARC Commission.
executive-judiciaryM.Laxmikanth, Pavan sir and 2nd ARC Commission.
ministries departmentsM.Laxmikanth and 2nd ARC Commission.
pressure group, informal asso.Sociology Optional Notes n M.Laxmikanth
Representation of people’s actM.Laxmikanth and 2nd ARC Commission.
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..M.Laxmikanth and 2nd ARC Commission.
NGO, SHG etcPavan Sir Class Notes of Public Administration.
welfare schemes, bodiesPavan Sir Class Notes of Public Administration.
social sector, health, edu, HRDPavan Sir Class Notes of Public Administration,Website of Vikaspedia,Ias baba Mindmaps,InsightsonIndia.
governance, transparency, accountabilityPavan Sir Class Notes of Public Administration.
e-governancePavan Sir Class Notes of Public Administration.
role of civil servicePavan Sir Class Notes of Public Administration.
India & neighborsChokalingam Class notes on IR.
bilateral/global groupingChokalingam Class notes on IR.
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestChokalingam Class notes on IR.
DiasporaChokalingam Class notes on IR.
international bodies- structure mandateChokalingam Class notes on IR.

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
inclusive growthMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
BudgetingMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
major crops, irrigationMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
agro produce – storage, marketingMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
e-technology for famersMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
farm subsidies, MSPMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
PDS, buffer, food securityMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
technology missionMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
animal rearing economicsMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
food processingMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
land reformsMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
LiberalizationMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
InfraMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
investment modelsMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures,Economic Survey,Sriram Economics Booklet.
science-tech day to day lifeNothing Specific.
Indian achievements in sci-techNothing Specific.
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRMrunal Economics YouTube Lectures.
environmental impact assessmentShankar Ias Environment Notes.
Disaster Management2nd  ARC Report.
non state actors, internal security2nd ARC Report.
internal security – role of media, social networking siteNothing specific from different websites.Just googled it.
cyber securityNothing specific from different websites.Just googled it.
money launderingNothing specific from different websites. Just googled it.
border  ManagementNothing specific from different websites. Just googled it.
organized crime, terrorismNothing specific from different websites. Just googled it.
security agencies- structure mandateNothing specific from different websites.Just googled it.

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsPavan Sir Ethics Class Notes
attitude, moral influence etc.Pavan Sir Ethics Class Notes
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcPavan Sir Ethics Class Notes
emotional intelligence, its use in governancePavan Sir Ethics Class Notes
moral thinkers of India and worldPavan Sir Ethics Class Notes
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.Pavan Sir Ethics Class Notes and 2 nd ARC Report.
corporate governancePavan Sir Ethics Class Notes and 2 nd ARC Report.
probity in governance, work culturePavan Sir Ethics Class Notes and 2 nd ARC Report.
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Pavan Sir Ethics Class Notes and 2 nd ARC Report.
challenges of corruptionPavan Sir Ethics and Public Administration Class Notes and 2 nd ARC Report.
case studies on above topicsPavan Sir Ethics Class Notes.

Q. Many candidates found Mains-2015 Ethics paper very peculiar and “out of the book”. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
Can’t comment much as couldn’t prepare extensively except Pavan Sir Ethics Class Notes and 2 nd ARC Report.

Mains answer-writing?

Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:

PaperBest attemptedAverage qualitynamesake answerTotal attempt

I think quality matters a lot over quantity but at the same time one need to maintain the speed as I suffered a lot because of lack of speed and time management. In every paper I was not able to maintain speed and thus have to leave 20-30 marks papers unattempted. Writing Answers every day is the key to obtain good marks in Mains and I sincerely believe I could have gained at least 40 marks had I done that practice as I would have been much better in my speed and time management.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
It is good as it saves time as compared to earlier sheets system where one needed to fill in details of supplementary sheet every time one takes that. Also it does not allow the mistake of writing too much. Always make sure to detach the Question Paper from the Answer sheet (which is attached at the back) as soon as u get the sheet so that u can plan to read quickly the whole question paper n can plan which questions to attempt first.
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.
Both Bullets n Paragraph as per the requirement of the question. Bulleted point answer for questions demanding more information and paragraph for analytical questions.
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.
Both , In good attempted questions ““introduction-body-conclusion” format while in hurry just points.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
Only in Good attempted questions underlined the key points. Later was struggling to complete the paper so didn’t have that time to focus. Speed is d key. Pl focus on that.
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Yes, In certain questions of Geography and flowchart in some answers of optional.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
Black pen
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
No, not having that much time. By hand only.
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Blue pen

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
My optional was Sociology. I chose it because of the familiarity with the subject and also interest.
Q. If a new player wants to pick this subject, would you advice for it or against it? (e.g. every senior player in Public Administration seems to be advising against pub.ad)
This year even Sociology has suffered the same fate but I feel that every year there are toppers from every subject So, an individual interest and knowledge in the subject is more important than any other criterion. One needs to do a lots of Answer Writing Practice in his/her optional and tats more important.
Q. First the essential book/resource list. (Also mention which one is the “Base book” for covering the theory? + Whatever comments you’ve for a particular book e.g. “my seniors said read xyz book but I found that ABC book was better”.  “xyz topic not given properly in this book, so prepare from xyz website or book…” OR and so on.)
I took coaching from Abhimanu’s IAS Sociology at Chandigarh in CSE 2009 and made notes of the study material. Those I read them again. But I would add that I equally found Upendra Sir Class notes of Sociology equally good. Harlambos is a recommended book for beginners.
Q. 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?
I think reading Newspaper like Indian Express and The Hindu is relevant for preparing contemporary topics.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
3 months is fine even if start afresh.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
Could not write any but recommend it to every candidate.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Some self notes, in paper form.
Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2015 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
This year Sociology Paper II was very unconventional thus, one need to be prepared for any uncertainity. Also, one need to understand the concept of Relativity that if paper is tough or unconventional then it is tough and unconventional for everybody and thus it hardly matters so without losing confidence give your best.

Before the interview

Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?
I prepared my DAF thoroughly, had a discussion with my husband, brothers, Seniors about the same and formed the database of expected questions and prepared answers for them.

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?
I gave mock interview at SAMKALP, had a personal session with Ravindran Sir and Pavan Sir. They were helpful as they make you acquainted with the interview process.

Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
At own home and not much revision. Discussion at Home with my family about current events and my professional background.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Nothing Specific.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
I wore a Cream n Pink saree.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Mr. Arvind Saxena.
Q2. How long was the interview?
30-35 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?]
Didn’t ask. But had asked then my reply would have been the amount of opportunities one gets to serve the people along with the job satisfaction one can have.

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. (Earlier some toppers only tell me their question but not their answer. I would appreciate if you give both Question + your original answers)
The questions were mostly on my professional background, reasons for having a varied career, which job I like among all, mostly questions on policing, women empowerment, IR related questions concerning Indian security scenario etc.

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?
Some questions were on expected lines but some were different. The board was overall cordial and I had a comfortable Interview (though the marks were not that comfortable 171)

Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Nothing  Specific.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Nothing  Specific.

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet
Prelims mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1124
Paper 2151.06

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1124
General Studies – Paper 295
General Studies – Paper 379
General Studies – Paper 490
General Studies – Paper 597
Optional Paper – Paper-1114
Optional Paper – Paper-2127
Written total 726
Personality Test 171
Final Total897

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
Not having the luxury of another attempt but if I had then would have written a lot of answers for all GS Papers, Essay and Optional too.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
Already working as Dy.SP , Haryana Police.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Yes, it would end the uncertainty and also address the anxiety among candidates along with making the process more transparent.

Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
No, UPSC is recruiting Civil Servants and it has a unique character attached to it. Some changes are required in the present format only which can enhance objectivity.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
I would ensure that just as UPSC is having Calendar of Events It would also specify beforehand date of declaration of result of Prelims, Mains and Interview.

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?
My UPSC journey is full of these complexities and Insecurities. As I mentioned before, My First attempt I was quite under confident (because of that suffered in mains) but despite having a graduation degree from External Studies (i.e.  I got a good score in my first Interview (208,Board of Khan Sir) but somehow I feel in my second attempt despite getting good in mains My lack of regular education was definitely a factor in ruining my Interview(140,Rajni Razdan Mam, Total Stress Interview).Again in my this attempt I was slightly anxious because of my varied job experience and Not having regular degree and chances are that it may have been one of the factor in having not so extraordinary marks(171) but this is again so subjective. The same background was appreciated by one board but may be taken in a negative stride by others. But again I would say that all these are assumptions and thus involve a lot of subjectivity. Thus, overall what matters the most is your confidence, dedication and luck for this exam.


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?
Been through this momentous journey of struggle and success ,I would only say have a positive thinking ,take both success and failure in your stride comfortably, learn from your failures but learn more from your success as it allows you to respect the struggle of all those who couldn’t succeed. Thank God, family, friends for their role in your success and support in your failure. Whatever be the case Try to move forward in your life, give your best and leave the rest to the almighty.
Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2015. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
I would only say this is just an exam, Life is a much bigger canvas and it is having both bright and dark shades in it and both have their beauty. Explore Life and yourself. May be you are meant for other bigger things and for doing great things in life one don’t need to be a civil servant only, Being a great human being is enough and that is wat really matters.

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?
The list is endless but I would like to dedicate all this to my family and friends sp. My mother and my late father, who taught me the basic values of life and have always supported me.  My Husband, who has been my rock for last so many years and has been actively involved with my preparation.  My brothers, My Parents In laws for their continuous support and confidence in my abilities and top of all  my son who has completely transformed me and my life for good.

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- 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.
I have done Economics and Geography from Mrunal only and recommend it to everybody. These sections are just awesome and makes the learning so easier and fun. Keep the good Work Going.

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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

63 Comments on “[Topper’s Interview] Poonam (Rank-308/CSE-2015) Sociology, Served as ACP-Gurgaon, SBI-PO, Income Tax Inspector”

  1. Truely Humbled…..

  2. very good..awsum.even i m married and confused abt preparation n having a baby

  3. Thanks Mrunal sir for sharing Poonam mam’s great journey.

  4. truly inspirational mam…performing in such critical conditions is really a big lesson for us…..congratulations mam!!!!!!

  5. true dedication ,well done

  6. If a person is working as a ACP and clears civil services in the meantime, then is he/she going to get a incremental posting or same as a fresher. I mean are they also going to start from zero.

  7. I would call u an Iron lady….coz u have crossed lots of obstacles in ur journey which can easily stop a person but u nailed it…congrats ma’am n best wishes to ur future journey !! N thnx to Mrunal for posting this special interview here !!

  8. Congratulations.You are an inspiration to all the women candidates . Hats off to you.

  9. First of all heartiest congratulations mam…..your success story will definitely inspire many to take this venture of CSE being a professional..I m 28 working in defence and just started my preparation for CSE 17….your interview on this site came as a blessing for me and many aspirants like me who want to pursue their dream of being a civil servant while being in their present job….and the way you transformed your hardship of going through pregnancy, taking care of baby and preparation for CSE . This shows your dedication, perseverance and untiring attitude…..once again heartiest congrats and wish you and your family a happy and successful life……truly inspiring…..

  10. आप ही हैं…असली टॉपर.. जय हिन्द….!

  11. अदभुत !
    बस एक ही पंंक्ति दिल से निकली –
    शान्दार , जबरदस्त , जिंदाबाद ।

  12. sir ias exam ke pre,main,interview ki tayyari kaise karen

  13. really inspiring mam…………….

  14. it message is useful

  15. Really inspiring

  16. Great madam, you are true Indian woman… really inspiration madam.

  17. fantastic fact.

  18. It message is very useful mam………

  19. Being a banking aspirant , i must say mam , u r a great fighter .. Hats off to u :)

  20. Thanks a lot for your kind wishes.I m rather humbled by your responses.

  21. First, I congratulate for your grandeur success. Mam I have opted Sociology as optional subject for CSE 2017. I brought the book Sociology-Themes and prospective of Haralombos with Robin Heald through online as per recommendation by the experts/aspirants . But some other suggested the author name as Haralambos and Horborn. Mam, please guide me what is the difference between these two books.

  22. Mam, can i write answers in bullet form in socio?

  23. hello, mam …. my nam is a Arun kumar ..and i am become make a good officer …but mam my english is a week ..so i want to know that how can i improve our english …..than.k sir

  24. and i am wanted to know ….what he they want to a ssb ..what is ssb

  25. hallo madam
    मैं महराष्ट्र से हु मुज़े अँग्रेजी इतनी खास आती नही मैं UPSC STUDY कहासे शुरुवात करू

  26. Hello mam ,fir of many many congratulations to u. Mam please tell me a complete strategy for prelims 2017. I am in very great confusion .n my English is so weak.give me some inspirational tips please. Reply. ……………

  27. Hello Mam, Please tell me, you solved 5 question in optional papers and every question was 20 marks and you got 114 or 127. How it possible ?

  28. You are brilliant poonam

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