[Topper’s Interview] Shilipi (Rank-198/CSE-2015) Mathematics, Delhi University, Hails from Gurgaon/Gurugram

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  1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  7. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  8. Prelim accuracy
  9. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  10. Mains: Essay
  11. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4
  12. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  13. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  14. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  15. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  16. Mains answer-writing?
  17. Mains Optional Subject
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. CSE-2015 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Q.Details
NameShilpi
Rank in CSE-2015198
Roll No.0043212
Age23
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)2
Optional SubjectMathematics
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityGurgaon
Work-experience if any
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)KSG (For GS), Test Series for mathematics and GS
Service preferences (Top-5)
  • IAS
  • IFS
  • IRS IT
  • IRS C&E
  • IPS
state cadre preference (Top-5)Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Agmut, Telangana

Education

% in class 1096.6
% in class 1293
Graduation course and %Mathematics Honours, 85.64
Name of college, city, passing out yearSri Venkateswara College, Delhi University, 2013
Post-graduation
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsYoga & Watching Crime Drama

Introduction

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

UPSC Topper Shilipi
I belong to Gurgaon (Gurugram to be exact :P), graduated from Delhi University. I am a self-motivated individual with only little push required from outside sources to achieve my goals. My family is more like a business family with no exposure to Civil Services. I live with my parents and an elder brother in our humble abode in Gurugram.
“Civil Services Dream” was handed to me by my father after I aced 10th Board exams. Soon enough, I made it my own dream and entered here soon after I finished my graduation.

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 would have to say here that all these online sources are a boon to all the aspirants. The key is to use them judiciously.
My typical day would start with reading the Hindu online  and make notes of it in Evernote.
Then, in the afternoon, I would go for selected articles of EPW (again available for free for recent weeks) and make notes out of it.
Between these two exercises, I prefer reading a topic that doesn’t require laptop viewing for eye comfort.
These notes were segregated topicwise in different notebooks (Agriculture, Foreign Policy, Security, Geography, etc.)
Slowly, I brought almost everything on Evernote and now I can’t live without it! Preparation of GS was almost made paperless with certain exceptions like History. These days Geography has gone dynamic too, so made some online notes for Geography as well.
One added benefit of making online notes is easy collection of quotations. Columnists start their articles with some quote or fact. If one is smart enough, then it can very well be put into Essay. For example, I read this:
“Oscar Wilde said: Every saint has a past and every sinner a future”
Now, one can use it in multiple ways:
1.  to advocate abolishment of death penalty (polity)
2. emphasise on forgiveness (in ethics)
3. That present reality isn’t the only reality we should be concerned about (philosophical)
This way a pack of quotations can be prepared and used.

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?
I believe self-motivation is the only motivation that can keep one going for a long period of time without burning out.
Apart from that, one may take help of a friend: I usually advice my friends about making a pact with another person (who is equally dedicated as they are) to prepare. Whenever, there is a low in your preparation, you can count on this person to put you back in the rising cycle of preparation and soon enough, you’d find yourself working again J
The trick here is that your friend should be fully dedicated towards preparation and you make a pact with just one friend. Not two, not three, as it creates a problem of coordination.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topicstrategy/booklist/comment
History AncientRS Sharma + GS Manual few pages (although I didn’t find it much useful)
History MedievalKSG class notes (just for the sake of touching medieval part)
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Both Bipin Chandra (Ncert + blue cover) + Ready reference data pages of Spectrum.
I  condensed the whole BC into 10-15 odd pages of spectrum that made revision easy
Culture and societyCCRT, NIOS, Fine Arts ncert of XI/XII
Polity (theory + current)Laxmikanth + Parliamentary handbook by Mrunal + KSG notes
Economy (theory + current)Mrunal (hands down) + KSG notes (Zulfiqar sir)
About eco book: In my personal view, I didn’t find any book more worthless than Ramesh Singh’s. Sorry Mrunal, but here I sincerely deviate from your recommendation of Ramesh Singh.
Science (theory + current)GS Manual (only Physics) + NCERTs 6-11th
Environment (theory + current)Did gadha majdoori in this topic, internet digging, so can’t recall from act source + Shankar IAS Printed notes (just for the sake of competitive edge)
geography physicalNCERT
geography IndiaNCERT
geography worldGC Leong
other national/international current affairsVision CA (again available for free) + my own notes + random website checking (could do Indira Gandhi Peace Prize question because I checked ISRO’s website few days ago)
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffOwn notes prepared online + GS Score schemes compilation

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
Observation: Tricky paper camouflaged with 10-12 easy questions.
Comment: Kept UPSC’s unpredictable nature alive
Tips: Know your category. You should know what works for you: risk aversion or 90+ attempt. I belong to first category and I attempted only 65 questions. Got 64 correct. Accuracy paid.
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)?
I will try to put in the same effort I managed last year.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
Maths– didn’t prepare
reasoning
comprehension
Decision Making

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
For prelims, I bought few question papers and practiced by myself at home. I think it’s necessary that one practices papers but not necessarily by enrolling in a Test Series. Keep sharing papers with friends so that everyone is benefitted.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score
GS6564127.34
aptitude<55
Can’t recall exactly
Don’t know :/128.28

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperDidn’t prepare
your regional language
(Hindi)
Read a book for grammar portion, “Samanya Gyan”
Wrote 2-3 essays before exams.

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Finishing the paper seems to be the key to have peace of mind about compulsory papers.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I started writing essays with my friend Bharat Bhasin in May/June. We sent them to our friends and reviewed each other’s essays tooth and nail. We had very distinct styles of writing so it helped in getting the best out of each other’s styles.
I lace my essays with phrases and quotations. There is no particular place to get quotations from. While reading online for GS, whatever I got, I would simply put them in Evernote and before writing any essay, I used to look at that list. Then while writing, I would use them according to the topic. Sometimes, I would create a story in my essay so as to use a particular quotation that I have in mind. This strategy helped me in managing time.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and what key points did you include in it?
Lending-doles
Dreams
Not able to recall all that many points. I believe it’s difficult to create difference from other aspirants as far as points are concerned. Other things like flow of essay and writing style matter more.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureCCRT, NIOS, Fine Arts ncert of XI/XII, RS Sharma
Indian historyBipin Chandra (both books) + prepared personalities from internet digging
world historyNorman Lowe + NCERT
Caution: Non-history optional people, my sincere advice is to stay away from Jain and Mathur. I’ve suffered a lot with this book in my first attempt.
post-independence IndiaBipin Chandra (Post independence) [pretty useless though] Searched topics like post independence wars and made online notes
Indian societyPrepared online notes with my friend Bharat
role of women, poverty etc.Same as above
globalization on Indian societySame as above
communalism, regionalism, secularismSame as above
world geo physicalGC Leong + Rajtanil’s videos
resource distributionMrunal articles + Vision IAS supplementary notes
factors for industrial locationMrunal articles + Vision IAS supplementary notes
earthquake tsunami etc
impact on flora-fauna

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.Laxmikanth + NP
comparing Constitution with worldKSG notes
parliament, state LegislaturesLaxmikanth + NP + Vision IAS Monthly CA
executive-judiciaryARC Report + NP + Vision IAS Monthly CA
ministries departmentsARC Report + NP + Vision IAS Monthly CA
pressure group, informal asso.
Representation of people’s actKSG Notes
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..Laxmikanth + analysis from Vision CA
NGO, SHG etc
welfare schemes, bodies
social sector, health, edu, HRD
governance, transparency, accountabilityARC
e-governanceNotes of e-gov models from web sources
role of civil serviceARC
India & neighborsIDSA + Vision + web digging
bilateral/global groupingIDSA + Vision + web digging
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestIDSA + Vision + web digging
DiasporaIDSA + Vision + web digging
international bodies- structure mandateIDSA + Vision + web digging

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationKSG notes + Vision IAS + focus on writing answers to cover as many topics as possible
inclusive growthKSG notes
BudgetingRead analysis from several places
major crops, irrigationKSG notes
agro produce – storage, marketingKSG notes
e-technology for famersRandom internet search – made notes
farm subsidies, MSPKSG notes
PDS, buffer, food securityKSG notes
technology mission
animal rearing economicsReport of Agri ministry
food processingKSG notes
land reformsKSG notes
LiberalizationKSG notes
InfraMrunal.org (eco survey chapters of last year)
investment modelsKSG notes
science-tech day to day life
Indian achievements in sci-tech
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR
environmental impact assessmentKSG notes
Disaster ManagementARC Report + reports on disasters on govt websites
non state actors, internal securityIDSA
internal security – role of media, social networking siteIDSA + Current Affairs from Vision
cyber securityIDSA + Current Affairs from Vision
money launderingKSG notes
border  ManagementIDSA + Current Affairs from Vision
organized crime, terrorismIDSA + Current Affairs from Vision
security agencies- structure mandateVajjiram booklet

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsArihant + answer writing
attitude, moral influence etc.Arihant  + answer writing
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcArihant  + answer writing
emotional intelligence, its use in governanceArihant  + answer writing
moral thinkers of India and worldKSG Notes
Preparing thinkers isn’t of much use coz in paper they ask us our own interpretation of a particular statement irrespective of the actual context in which it was actually used
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.Arihant  + answer writing
corporate governanceArihant  + answer writing
probity in governance, work cultureArihant  + answer writing
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Arihant  + answer writing
challenges of corruptionArihant  + answer writing
case studies on above topicsPracticed with a friend

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
GS1162119
GS2143320
GS3182020
GS4all
Opt-P1170-180
Opt-P2180-190

I tried to maximize my attempt, do all questions. There are 20 questions in paper with limited space. So, it’s very much possible to attempt all with good-to-average quality
Making stuff up won’t help and all serious aspirants know that (as a matter of fact, everyone who is writing mains is a serious candidate!)
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
It’s not a hurdle as far as GS papers are concerned; it actually helps in finishing the paper on time.
But it’s a big disadvantage in Mathematics.
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.
I wrote in bullets mostly – easier to structure + fixed space issue gone + I can keep a tab on how many dimensions I’ve covered.
“examine, comment, discuss or xyz” don’t imply that one can’t write in points. It is a simple shift really..you’re anyways writing things in paragraph; you can simply switch to simple bullets.

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 structured my answers in “introduction-body-conclusion” format.
Bullets were used for “body” part.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
no

Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Yes, all of them

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

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

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

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Mathematics (my grad subject)

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)
I am giving up on mathematics for Philosophy. But mathematics is a great subject with people scoring over 300 every year. If your aptitude aligns with it, you should go for it.

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.)
Blogs of Prakash Rajpurohit, Kashish Mittal and Nitish K have elaborate booklist. I followed them. Pls look them up. J

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?
none

Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Takes 6-8 months

Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
Not applicable to math

Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Not applicable to math

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 broke up my DAF in some 20 parts.  Some of them are mentioned here:
Yoga (hobby) – met a yoga professional + practiced some asanas + read yoga school of philosohphy + prepared static questions and current ones like commercialization of yoga + discussed over forumias.com (LINK ). Just to give here the idea what I’m talking about.
Crime drama watching (another hobby) – watched episodes of Castle, Shelock again + researched things like how bullet proof jackets work + why not IPS as pref if Crime drama as a hobby (this was a straight question asked to me in actual interview)
College – visited my college and made 4-5 well-wishing professors to sit with me for 2 hours and gave the whole college Kundli to me.
Place of origin:
1. Gurgaon – met Gurgaon DC 3-4 times to get a grasp at issues related to ggn (one of the finest minds I’ve ever met)
2. Haryana – attended State class at Samkalp + internet digging
Current affairs: I feel this is the simplest part as far as interview is concerned. One needs to know the basic issue only and the rest of the answer can be made pretty easily (we get enough practice of doing it in Mains). I discussed issues with friends (Bharat, Sudhanshu Dhama and Pranodh Sharma)

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?
Samkalp and KSG
Special Mock Interview by Mr. Sudhanshu Dhama (AIR 115)
UPSC interview was the first formal interview I had. so mocks helped me prepare for it in following ways:
1. my interview was scheduled on 9th March (within 19 days of result) and i was grossly under-confident about it. These mocks made me realize that I had some kind of natural knack for analytical questions in interview setting.
2. also, their feedback helped in communicating better: Earlier I was in the habit of looking at one person while answering, but with 3 mocks, I became sufficiently comfortable in engaging everyone while I was answering.
3. I learnt how not to answer – how to say “I don’t know” in a manner that the interviewer felt bad that s/he even asked you that question! 😀

Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
Went straight from my place in Gurgaon

Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Don’t forget your eye prescription and be on time (hospital staff isn’t the most hospitable lot if u get late)

Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Indian suit

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Mr. Manbir Singh
Q2. How long was the interview?
30 min (Recently came to know about interview duration from the person who went next to me :P)
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?]
My bookish answer was this: Civil Services offer the best opportunity to serve the society and make tangible change to it while giving authority and resources to achieve the same. It catapults one to a high position at a young age as compared to other fields/jobs. This is how one can work for a longer period of time while being in authority and achieve one’s objectives more rigorously.
This answer eliminates the need for the other two questions, coz I’ve already compared CS with other jobs + never brought Social sector in the answer at all.

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)
I am not able to recall all my answers, but I will try as much as I can.
My interview transcript:
CM:
1. you’re from Delhi University, how do you see JNU issue. What all issues are raised due to it?
Gave 4: student politics, role of college admin, sedition (& 1 more I can’t seem to recall)

2. Is Freedom of Speech and Expression unfettered and is it possible to ask for azaadi from a democratically elected govt?
Of course it is restricted in the constitution itself. And “azaadi” can be asked if it meant azaadi from policies within boundaries of Constitution itself. We are a democracy and this fact strengthens their right to dissent.

(That’s it for cm)

M1.
1. EPF issue – do you support the move?
I told him some statistics related to it in support of my answer. (He seemed pleased with it)

2. Threats from China
Border, Pak nuclear, missile programme, issues with US (another Cold war type situation is unhealthy for Indian interests).
3. He further asked me about border problem and said Chinese went back by themselves from Arunachal so how are you saying there is border issue?
I replied by talking about stapled visa issue back in 2013-14.
4. Then he gave me a clue about another issue and said “is there some water issue as well?”, then I suddenly realized that he probably had this issue in his mind all this while while I was busy talking about all the other stuff.
Some small discussion happened over this issue.

M2.
You’re from Mathematics so you should have gone for PG in economics as these two subjects go hand in hand (I was like, ye to weird connection banaya h!).
Are there any social repercussions of economic development that we’ve seen so far?
Some discussion on this only, I kept on giving more and more examples. Got over with her.

M3. Pure math vs applied math (mentioned in DAF)
How’s philosophy related to pure mathematics? (Explained the whole Rationalist thought of philo)
Then he asked about relationship with Indian philosophy.. I explained something about Shankaracharya.
Then he went on with relationship of Zero with philosophy. At this point, I said sir ab aur nahi pata! (don’t know further)
I think he was referring to Shunyvada school of Buddhism but since I didn’t know much about that school, I avoided telling him to avoid further discussion which would have revealed the actual depth of my philosophical knowledge

Personal comment: this above question/discussion was quite a happy coincidence for me: I knew all of this philosophical stuff only because I gave up on Mathematics as optional right after Mains and started studying philosophy. It worked pretty well for me in the interview 😀

M4 (the most interesting/easy questions came from him)

1. Commercialisation of yoga
I said something about dilution of yoga. Talked about “Yoga on mat”, how yoga is seen to be limited to a mat and its 7 other limbs (according to Yoga school of philosophy) have been neglected.

2. what’s impure yoga according to you? (Explained it with limbs of yoga).
3. When is yoga day? Specialty of that day?

4. Yoga was born in the country then why are we getting corrupt? What can be done about it?
I said that the fact that yoga originated in India shows that we aren’t inherently corrupt, it’s just that we have forgotten it. We need to recollect those good values by keep practicing yoga 😛 (there was mild laughter in the room)

5. Why do you watch crime drama series?
Coz of their approach towards problem solving – from nothing to everything based on tiny evidences

What all do you like? Why didn’t you prefer IPS if you like such series?
Not ips – problem solving is involved in all civil serives including the IPS. (diplomatic answer)

Why don’t you watch Indian series? (Told him about nonsensical CID here- unrealistic and unfair to crime solving machinery of the country)

Then the CM thanked me and said that Shilpi, your interview got over. I thanked all of them again and got out J

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?
It was on expected lines mostly.
Only Philosophical discussion with M3 was unexpected. I answered those questions satisfactorily but I refrained from answering the moment I realized the discussion could go deeper. This worked well I think.

Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
No issues like that (I didn’t even have an ID proof and my passport picture wasn’t really matching with me, but faced no problem due to it)

CSE-2015 Marksheet

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

paper 1127.34
Paper 2128.28

Mains mark sheet-

Essay – Paper-1137
General Studies – Paper 2107
General Studies – Paper 376
General Studies – Paper 4102
General Studies – Paper 590
Optional Paper – Paper-171
Optional Paper – Paper-2119
Written total 206
Personality Test 908

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?

  1. Changing my optional
  2. Work harder in essay (my score declined slightly as compared to 2014 mains)
  3. Take paper GS 2 seriously
  4. Rethinking Ethics paper altogether

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
No back up

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
I think it should be removed. It is a well known that there is no level playing field. We hear stories of subjects getting butchered and all of these create uncertainties in the minds of aspirants. This goes on to create “Luck” factor even more significant, which is not the best way to choose the best among the rest for the topmost services of the country.

Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
CSAT seems pretty redundant now. It can be safely done away with as it can’t eliminate even 2% of the candidates.

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 Mains-syllabus in 2015. Let’s face it, most candidates who gave Mains-2015 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.
Many resources are available for free these days. Apart from great efforts that Mrunal puts in, there are other websites too which are doing a great job for free! Try bringing your preparation online and there is a great deal to learn and share at a fraction of the cost one pays at coaching institutes. Forumias.com is another great platform for students preparing all by themselves. One doesn’t need a very wide bandwidth for these simple solutions 🙂
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. (atleast that was the scene in 2013).
I feel it’s unfair to those dedicated to IFoS only. In fact, I would take it as an opportunity to urge people to not apply for forest if they haven’t prepared for IFoS Mains.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
I think declaring answer key might be an issue (as happens in many State PCS) but I strongly feel marks should be declared so that the aspiring mind don’t continue to get tormented until the exam cycle finishes. We are trusting upsc here (upholding one’s faith in authorities) but people need closure too – the least they can get is their marks declared along with the result.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam
While I agree than online format is better for objective type questions, I think the only difference it would make is that prelims result can be declared sooner than 50-60 days they take normally. We need sufficient interval between prelims and mains and what we are getting now (~ 100 days) is much required.
This year we saw that cycle got completed in (August 23 – May 10). Seems okay to me, although I will be happy if they reduce mains-interview-final result time even further.

Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
1. optional remove
2. marks + cut off declared at every stage (if not answer keys)
3. mains answer sheets be made available after final result + model answers
4. butchering by few boards needs to be taken care of
5. all changes in exam to be well informed in advance (reduce political pressure on upsc)

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 straight advice: don’t feel insecure of anything – be it your age, attempt, work exp, appearance, education, anything in the world!
Having an insecurity actually helps if you know how to capitalise on it.
Here is how: It is more than likely that the board would also notice your insecurity and would like to grill on it. If you prepare a forceful and convincing answer for that insecurity, then you’ll be rewarded handsomely! You just need to be confident about your weaknesses coz your weaknesses only go on to show that you are a human being who despite of those weaknesses beat the odds and sitting in front of them. (usual success ratio for getting an interview call isn’t more than .6%; it is .3% for general category candidates). So pls understand that you’ve got some substance and that’s why you’re there.
Just be ruthlessly confident, don’t evaluate yourself before the board evaluates youJ

Wisdom

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 learning: self-motivation should be one’s driving force as no other factor would remain permanent. It will help you gear up during “thin” of your preparation.
Message to new aspirants: Start preparing as soon as you’ve made up your mind for this exam. Never give excuses to yourself except for genuine family and financial issues. If your excuse is limited only to you, then come out of that mental prison asap.
Stay away from social media like FB that bombards you with countless pictures of your friends making quick progress in their lives. One can’t help but being a little sad for oneself even if one is extremely self-driven. Go back to it as an achiever.
Meanwhile, stay in touch with your “real” friends, meet them, enjoy with them to decompress yourself.
Wisdom for life and competition: Share as many resources as you can with fellow aspirants. The more you help others, the more help you’re bound to get. And the nature of the exam is such that you’d need help of others at one point or the other. This way this exam would not only put you at a high social status but also make you a better individual. Stay humble.

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?
Treat your next attempt as your first attempt and go for the final kill (Borrowed words from a kind soul). You know the aim, you know the path, and you can’t let small kinks get in the away of your coveted dream. Gear up!

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?
Needless to say, my parents (Subhash Mittal and Veena Mittal) had the biggest role to play. I was pretty distant from them until I began preparing for this exam. But their unflinching support and affection made me realize how lucky I was to have them in their life.
My brother played the role of a guiding light: after my graduation, I had a job offer and also the option to go for post-graduation from DU itself. For a moment, I got swayed by these “safer” options, but he gave a big-brotherly talk and reminded me of my goal. Since then, he played an immense role in my preparation. I can never forget his signature statement “arre, Tera selection to hua pada hai”
Apart from family, I got great support from my best friend Jyotsna (who scolded me to even think about that corporate job offer) and helped me put back on track.
I am indebted to Bharat Bhasin as well for all our GS answer writing discussions that helped in keeping exam temperament up.

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 learnt Economy from two sources: Zulfiqar sir of KSG and Mrunal Patel. I hoped to become Mrunal’s Eklavya one day 😛 (don’t ask for my thumb though :D) This year, his geography videos helped me a lot. Then topic listing exercise was of much help.

Mrunal recommends

  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books
  2. Environment by ShankarIAS
  3. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  4. Art & Culture by Nitin Singhania (Hindi | English)
  5. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  6. Bipin Chandra: Post Independence
  7. Fast-track to Arithmetic Rajesh Verma
  8. MK Pandey’s Analytical Reasoning
  9. Disha’s Topicwise Paperset (Hindi | English)
  10. School Atlas
  11. Mains: Language papers
  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


So far 104 Comments posted

  1. Preeti

    Thank you so much for the reply ma’am.
    Along with that, my second concern was regarding the test series that toppers often mention. If not at Delhi, is it possible or mock tests can be skipped altogether?
    All the best.

    1. Shilpi

      Look for test series that are provided in online mode. GS Score and Vision IAS provide that.

  2. bhupendra kumar

    first of all many many congratulations to you mam for getting a good rank in that coveted list. mam , I too appeared for interview this year but couldn’t make it to the final list because I got extremely low marks in interview (143) n missed this chance by 4 marks. I just saw your marks in interview and they are outstanding. everything was not so great during my interview but not so bad also because I was able to maintain my confidence level n able to answer all the questions (though not up to the satisfaction of members ) and I was expecting average marks. can you please tell me about your interview experience and how you were able to fetch these awesome marks and also mock interviews were helpful to you or not because in my case they didn’t help me instead made me confused.

    1. Shilpi

      Hey Bhupender
      Thanks 🙂
      I think currently we need to focus on pre and mains. interview ki chinta thoda baad me karenge 🙂 (let’s think about the interview a bit later)

  3. Nishant

    Shilpi Ma’am i would be very grateful and thankful if u answer me the following….
    1. Are .unacademy videos of Roman sir helpful?
    2. Did u watch them?
    3. Does choosing maths optional fetch higher marks in interview ?
    And
    4.can upsc be cleared without reading the hindu?
    i ask u these questions because these questions tend to disturb me more often!
    (My intentions are not to hurt u anyone who is/are preparing for this exam).

    1. Shilpi

      1 & 2. Haven’t watched
      3. No correlation
      4. one needs to be aware about issues and need a constant source of recent info. The Hindu is just one way to have that. but these days there are many other options: daily and monthly compilations are provided by many sites. you can refer them.

  4. Nishant

    Thank u very much .u r doing a great work. Btw this was the first time any upsc topper replied to any of my comments i ever made.once again thank you.

  5. khan

    why many toppers ..do study reference book besides their coaching material? or simply not honest enough to admit that he/she depend on internet,,how do they find time besides coaching ‘s notes to read other..strange!

    1. khan

      coaching(not internet)* (mistakes)

  6. Sumit

    Conveyed your message!
    🙂

  7. Shyam Lal Bagaria

    Hi Shilpi, heartiest congratulations on your success. This is Shyam Lal, your classmate from Venky. I am writing CSE’ 17 with Mathematics as an optional subject. I have the IMS class notes but for some topics I need the books. Kindly comment, if you still have the prescribed books.

    Thanks

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