[Topper’s Interview] Sunny Raj (Rank-368/CSE-2015) Geography, NIT Jamshedpur, Works in IOCL-Assam

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India Yearbook
  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. Strtegy for CASE studies in ethics
  18. Mains answer-writing?
  19. Mains Optional Subject
  20. Before the interview
  21. During the interview
  22. CSE-2015 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-2015368
Roll No.0170923
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)3
Optional SubjectGeography
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityPatna
Work-experience if anyPresently working in Indian Oil corporation limited (IOCL-Assam) as Asst. Manager (2011-present)
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresAIEEE, IIT, GATE-2010
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)Vision IAS test series(well, that’s indispensible), ALS essay test series, Vajiram current affairs notes…
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS>IPS>IFS>IRS(IT)>IRS(C)
state cadre preference (Top-5)BIHAR>JHARKHAND>MP>RAJASTHAN>UP


fill the details here
% in class 1095
% in class 1282
Graduation course and %Mechanical engg. (9.0/10 CGPA)
Name of college, city, passing out yearNIT JAMSHEDPUR (passed in 2011)
Any other professional courses-NO-
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsListening hindi songs, exploring nature/natural sites through bike riding, spending time with my friends, surfing….although if one is in job, he/she would rarely get time to pursue the hobbies (the same goes for me too)…


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

UPSC Topper Sunny Raj NIT Jamshedpur
I am Sunny Raj, a mechanical engineer from NIT Jamshedpur, graduated in 2011. I was placed through NIT campus recruitment into IOCL and was given the 1st ever posting in Assam (at a place called Bongaigaon). Well, few of you might have heard of this place. After working for around a year, I slowly came to realize that there is nothing new to come in the upcoming years. The same nature of job would be there for about 20-25 years to come. I started feeling a bit restless especially at a place where there is often 2 to 3 months curfew in a year (this Bongaigaon is near to Kokrajhar-the nerve centre of ethnic violence in Assam)  and there is no place to hang out with friends. You might be earning good (being in a Maharatna company i.e. IOCL) but there is no place to spend that. Moreover, I started realizing that I still have the tenacity to read/study and given my age and circumstances, I could channelize my energies into something more productive. Hence, initially I started preparing for IES (engineering services). I did that for around 2 months, but again came to know about UPSC (Civil services) through some friends named SUNNY ANAND & MANTOSH who were then preparing in Delhi. These two guys motivated me a lot to have my hands into UPSC (they were more confident of me than myself). As a result, I quit IES preparation and started looking through the syllabus of civil services. These friends advised me to start reading newspaper (THE HINDU). Believe me, before this, I had never even touched THE HINDU (infact no newspaper).
So, that was my entry into this field. The search for job satisfaction and the urge to prove myself drove me into this arena and thus my journey started. During all this, my FAMILY supported me a lot. My father works in Canara Bank (currently posted in Patna) and my mother is a housewife. My younger sister (Megha) has been the strongest pillar of support in this endeavor. So, with the constant support of my friends and family, I started this marvelous journey full of ups & downs, but at the end, managed to sail through this.

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)
Well, thats true that nowadays, there is an overload of information whether it be in electronic media or paper media. If you ask me, I relied on both. See…., in this preparation, you need to first of all, start recognizing what to read and what not to read. That insight would come once you go through the last years question papers (both prelims & mains) and can even talk to some senior players in this field (UPSC aspirants). They can truly guide you to be efficient in your study and choose the correct material.
To narrate a typical day :  As I said, I am a working professional. So, during job, one cannot rely on the a fixed daily routine because there would be some days on which you would have to work for entire night as my company refines crude and a refinery is 24X7 ON. So, one can be called even at 2 in the night to attend an emergency in my plant. So, pre-planning is a bit difficult. Although I somehow managed to read atleast THE HINDU in the office during the leisure time. That was my daily target for the office. I also used to make short/quick notes of the paper. One A-4 size paper note for one day newspaper, not more than that. I used to maintain a file to keep all these loose sheets. I never relied on cutting the newspaper as the place where I am posted, the paper format of THE HINDU is not available and hence, I had to rely on the digital format itself. My office hour goes from 8am to 6pm. I start self study at my home from 7pm and read till 1am in night. During this, my focus was to cover the conventional subjects like polity, history, geography from books.
Friends, do keep in mind: Write whatever you read (in a short crux form), otherwise during the days of the exam, it is humanly impossible to go through the entire thing in one single day (because you get 4-5 hours only to study between two consecutive day exams during mains). The most important thing is to make notes.
My Strategies:  I made 4 copies (GS-1,2,3,4) for GS. Whatever information I read, either from MRUNAL articles, newspaper, magazines, Yojana, kurukshetra, Chronicles, even books, I used to write them down in the respective copy. Then I also made a separate copy for LOK SABHA/RAJYA SABHA. In that I used to write the crux of the debate after listening them over You tube. Please do subscribe these two channels on You tube (programs like: THE BIG PICTURE, INDIA’S WORLD, DESH DESANTAR, LAW OF THE LAND (this year that arbitration and conciliation act question in GS-2 straight away matched with a debate on lok sabha tv on same topic and I wrote good answer in that) and STATE OF THE ECONOMY.
I would like to specifically put this point to everyone ATTENTION that in mains, I was able to solve infact approx. 3 questions in GS-1 (sociology angle questions), 5-6 questions in GS-2 and 6 questions in GS-3 directly from my notes which I made after listening the debates on LSTV/RSTV. And friends, this is not an exaggeration. This is the fact. The debates on these channels are apolitical and that is what is needed in your mains answers too. So, if you haven’t started yet, start it today, make it a habit to listen to these debates.

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?
Guys, mood swings are a part and parcel of this exam. They are bound to happen. It happened with me too. Although being a working professional, I had a place (my office) to divert my mind whenever I felt low. For all those who feel low during the preparation, just take a break from the regular routine, go and watch a good movie (or preferably Game of Thrones would help J  indeed ). Keep yourself motivated. Whenever you feel low, read the blogs of the successful people and appreciate the difficult situation they have gone through. Although the Talisman given by Gandhiji might sound a bit philosophical but believe me guys, it works. Just look at yourself. You are into this not because of some compulsion, but because of your own choice. So atleast respect your own choice.

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.
My words of wisdom….hahahha….well that is itself a heavy word. I am nobody to give wisdom, all I can give is a few suggestion to my senior fellow aspirants. Guys, do write..WRITE WRITE WRITE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. Make notes, revise, make short notes of already made notes or simply use highlighter in notes. I have met many senior aspirants who have not been able to crack mains or even if they crack it, the marks are not sufficient to put them into the final list. For all those brothers and sisters of mine, I would say…WRITE. Attend test series; write as much tests as you can (I wrote 32 tests for GS). Get the copies evaluated, imbibe the suggestions, write again, improve, write again. Make it a habit to write the test series in your home also. Insight IAS puts daily 10 questions on website. Come out of your inherent inertia and write those questions within fixed time frame.
BHAI LOG, MAINS NIKALANE KA EK HI MANTRA HAI….PADHO KAM, LIKHO JYADAAAA……..(the views are completely personal and this is atleast what I personally followed)

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
As I said, this was my 3rd attempt. I didn’t practice answers in previous mains, hence could not clear. This time, I wrote lots of test series (Vision IAS is the best) and the result is in front of you. I have scored more than 400 in GS and around 150 in essay. This is all because of writing and test series.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
This, I have already shared in few paragraphs above, kindly go through that. But I would say, if I can do this with job, so can anyone. It’s just the proper strategy and time management which you have to apply.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History AncientNCERT
History MedievalNCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)SPECTRUM
Culture and societyNitin singhania notes
Polity (theory + current)The great Laxmikant
Economy (theory + current)Mrunal + newspaper
Science (theory + current)Newspaper + vajiram notes
Environment (theory + current)Shankar IAS book
geography physicalNCERT
geography IndiaNCERT
geography worldNCERT
other national/international current affairsNewspaper (the hindu)
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffPRS, Hindu

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
Focus on the dynamic portion as its importance is increasing over all. Revision and mock tests are the key here. Also, I would say to be active on social media also. You never know from where you would get the answer of a question in prelims. I am not saying to keep posting something on FB, but keep having a look on all that is going in the social media. Apply logic and solve prelims questions.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
Decision MakingNA

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
I was comfortable with this part, hence didn’t do anything specific for it. Though my advice to aspirants who are not comfortable with this part would be to sincerely give mock tests and self evaluate.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Buy test copies available in the market and give test in your home itself. No need to pay thousands for this. But yes, do give atleast 9-10 tests before the actual prelims and evaluate sincerely.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score
aptitude Don’t rememberDon’t remember119

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperNothing specific needed, the paper is simple.
your regional languageFor hindi, atleast start reading a hindi newspaper one week before the actual exam, do write few pages in hindi before the exam.

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Nothing specific needed, but don’t ignore them. UPSC asks simple questions, nothing specific needed.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
Read newspaper, nothing specific needed for essay. But the framework exercise is quintessential. Such as understanding the essence of the essay (what, why, where, how, when). Using multidimensional framework such as social, political, legal, constitutional,  economic, sociological, philosophical, ecological, historical i.e. temporal and geographical i.e. spatial). Join an essay test series. Write 9-10 essays before the D-day and get them evaluated.
A short tips which I followed: In any essay, try to write atleast 25-30 paragraphs with each paragraph carrying a unique idea which should and must not be repeated again anywhere in the essay. In this way, you are done with 25 new different ideas which will definitely attract the attention of the examiner. In my previous mains, I got 130 and in this I got 144. So, follow this, you will get more than this. Also, during writing essays, after every 5 minute, re-read the topic again and again in order to check that you are not deviating from the actual topic. I have known people who get 50 or 55 in the mains essay paper (that is for deviating from the actual theme of the essay). Brain storming is very essential before starting the essay. One can even remember few quotations to fit into the lines.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
·  Dreams which should not let India sleep (anything which is not in India is a dream, so this was the most open ended essay one can get. In this one can include points like poverty-less society to UNSC permanent membership, all these are dreams for India).
·   Character of an institution is reflected in their leaders (I gave examples from world as well as Indian history, like Nazism and Hitler, Aurangzeb and proselytizing etc.)

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureNitin singhania notes
Indian historySpectrum + Tamil Nadu state board class11-12 book (mrunal recommended this)
world historyNCERT + Roman Saini lectures
post-independence IndiaNCERT +  Pradhan Mantri series of ABP news
Indian societyNewspaper + Vision notes
role of women, poverty etc.Newspaper + Vision notes
globalization on Indian societyNewspaper + Vision notes
communalism, regionalism, secularismNewspaper + Vision notes
world geo physicalNCERT (although Geography is my optional)
resource distributionNCERT + Vision notes
factors for industrial locationNCERT + Vision notes
earthquake tsunami etcNCERT
impact on flora-faunaNCERT + Vision notes

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.Laxmikant + VisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV (Samvidhaan series-10 episodes only..do watch it to have a feel) + LSTV
comparing Constitution with worldVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV
parliament, state LegislaturesVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV
executive-judiciaryVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV
ministries departmentsVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV
pressure group, informal asso.VisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV
Representation of people’s actVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..VisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV
NGO, SHG etcVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV+ Yojana + Kurukshetra
welfare schemes, bodiesVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV+ Yojana + Kurukshetra
social sector, health, edu, HRDVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV+ Yojana + Kurukshetra
governance, transparency, accountabilityVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV+ Yojana + Kurukshetra
e-governanceVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV+ Yojana + Kurukshetra
role of civil serviceVisionIAS Value addition material + Hindu + RSTV + LSTV+ Yojana + Kurukshetra
India & neighborsRSTV+HINDU+CHRONICLES magazine
bilateral/global groupingRSTV+HINDU+CHRONICLES magazine
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestRSTV+HINDU+CHRONICLES magazine
DiasporaRSTV+HINDU+CHRONICLES magazine+ Vision IAS notes
international bodies- structure mandateRSTV+HINDU+CHRONICLES magazine + Vision IAS notes

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationMrunal + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes + Chronicle magazine+ Yojana
inclusive growthMrunal  + Yojana + Kurukshetra + Hindu
BudgetingMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
major crops, irrigationHindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
agro produce – storage, marketingMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
e-technology for famersMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
farm subsidies, MSPMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
PDS, buffer, food securityMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
technology missionMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
animal rearing economicsMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
food processingMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
land reformsMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
LiberalizationMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
InfraMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
investment modelsMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
science-tech day to day lifeMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
Indian achievements in sci-techMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
environmental impact assessmentMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
Disaster ManagementMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
non state actors, internal securityMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
internal security – role of media, social networking siteMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
cyber securityMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
money launderingMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
border  ManagementMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
organized crime, terrorismMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes
security agencies- structure mandateMrunal article on you tube + Hindu + Vision IAS Value addition notes

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsVision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
attitude, moral influence etc.Vision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcVision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
emotional intelligence, its use in governanceVision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
moral thinkers of India and worldSome of the famous thinkers (Gandhiji is indispensible, believe me, if u write gandhi’s thought, u will get good marks, coz that’s India)
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.Vision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
corporate governanceVision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
probity in governance, work cultureVision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Vision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
challenges of corruptionVision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine
case studies on above topicsVision IAS notes + Lexicon + Chronicle magazine

Strtegy for CASE studies in ethics

Please give examples in each and every answer of Ethics mains paper. This would make your answer more objective and you will definitely get more marks. Read definitions of basic terms from internet (like attitude, aptitude, persuasion, EI, EQ etc.) but DO INCLUDE CURRENT AFFAIRS EXAMPLE WHILE WRITING ETHICS MAINS ANSWER. As I initially said, make a separate GS-4 copy and update it with current affairs example , such as if international relation vs Human right is asked, one can give example of Saudi incident in which the hands of maid (of Indian origin) were chopped off by her master…so this issue involves both human right as well as good relation of India and Saudi Arab….so such types of example will show that you have understood the essence of the question and you are capable of relating it to the day-to-day affairs. That shows your analytical skills. So, keep updating your GS4 copy with examples against each word mentioned in the syllabus (such as attitude, aptitude, EI, persuasion, impartiality, transparency, corruption, work order etc. etc. etc.)

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
GS1Attempted all Questions
GS2Attempted all Questions
GS3Attempted all Questions
GS4Attempted all Questions
Opt-P1Attempted all Questions
Opt-P2Attempted all Questions

Q. 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.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]
Well, based on my experience, I would say….ATTEMPT ALL QUESTIONS. Here, the fight is over each and every single mark, so one cannot afford to leave even a single question. Join test series, write a lot. First write those questions which you know the best. Try to make few diagrams, short flowcharts, venn diagrams, arrow marks, hub and spoke model etc. Now, on reading this, one can say that how would one get time to think and draw a diagram. Here I would say that these diagrams must be drawn and practiced at home itself. Try to INNOVATE. In those 5 minutes in the actual mains exam, one has to do the thinking and writing both. So, try to do the thinking part during test series (practice) and the writing part in the actual mains exam.
I hope you would have by now got the moral of the story i.e. WRITE & WRITE & WRITE.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
The space is enough to express one’s thoughts very well. Try to fill the remaining space by short and very simple diagrams/flowcharts. Not necessarily in all the questions, but yes in 7,8 questions out of total 20.
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.
Start with a short paragraph (introduction), then write the body in points, then again write the conclusion in paragraph. Atleast that is what I did this time and have scored well in GS. But the most important part is to write the CONCLUSION- A FORWARD LOOKING, HUMANISTIC, INCLUSIVE, OPTIMISTIC AND SUSTAINABLE CONCLUSION. (Are kuch nahi to yeh saare words hi likh dena conclusion me…wo bhi kaafi hai.  J )
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.
Yes, I did follow this “introduction-body-conclusion” format.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
Nope….but yes, I did underline the keywords in my answers with the same pen. This is very important to fetch good marks (atleast that is what I believe).
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Yes, I did where it was necessary. I have explained it above.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
With Pen itself.
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 pen (Cello technotip)

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Geography….as it is interesting and is a logical subject (being an engineer, I think I could connect well to geography). Although the syllabus is quite lengthy but still, its doable.
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)
Yes, go ahead…This subject can be read and understood by anyone. Not much external help required. Self study with proper test series would suffice.
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.)
Savinder Singh, Majid Hussain (paper-2 and human geography), Gopal singh, Direction IAS notes, Internet, newspaper, Khullar and few other notes.
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?
Paper 2 is dynamic. One needs to correlate it with current affairs portion.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
4 months
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
After prelims, I started writing answers, but in those months (Aug-Dec), I have written like anything. Almost every alternate day, I used to give tests (either at home or at test centres).
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Self notes are very essential for revision. Do make it (paper format). Revise them again and again.
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?
2015 mains was tougher and lengthier than 2014 mains, atleast that is what I felt (may be because this time, I was able to complete the entire paper). So, again I am repeating, “WRITING (test series/@ home tests) IS THE ONLY STRATEGY WHICH WILL NEVER BACK FIRE IN MAINS & WILL ALWAYS SUPPORT YOU”.

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 attended few mock interviews at VajiRam, Samkalp, ALS and Chankya. Go through the DAF and ask yourself all the probable questions which comes to your mind. Try to find answers to those.
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 believe that its necessary to attend mock interviews as that would help in pin pointing the flaws in your approach. But at the end, be yourself in the interview, don’t try to imitate and bluff.
Q3. 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 at my friend’s house. Focus on current affairs diligently and even read the newspaper of the day of the interview.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Its cool. The medical staffs are cooperative. There is nothing to be worried of.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Light blue Shirt and Black pant, black shoes and a dark blue tie.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Q2. How long was the interview?

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?]
Job satisfaction, diverse career opportunity, grass root level experience etc. etc. etc….
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)
Mr. DK Dewan awarded me lower marks inspite of the interview being on a satisfactory note. I almost answered all the questions. But after all, Dewan has always been in his own world. So, sorry friends, I could not answer this because until and unless, I have a better score in interview, its not worth sharing the experience. Anyways, few basic tips have been given below.
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 not a stress interview. The questions were both factual as well as opinion based. As far as the interview is concerned, one never knows, what can happen at what time. So, just be yourself and look confident. Have a smile on your face and try to maintain it all through your interview.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Get your original certificates and duplicate copies of each, still don’t worry. UPSC provides you with ample opportunities to produce the documents. Yeh exam nikaalna bahut muskil hai, baaki in sab cheezo ka koi importance nahi hai…baaki formalities to ho hi jaati hai…pehle qualify to karo…

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Prelims Marksheet

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1116
Paper 2119

Mains marksheet


Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
I WILL LOOK AFTER MY OPTIONAL AGAIN. Also try to maintain the same tempo in GS and Essay. Although geography was brutally crushed this time. But hopefully, next time, I would write more tests and get it evaluated. A better interview next time would certainly help me to improve my rank next time.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
As I said, I am a working professional in Indian Oil, so I would have continued with this job and do the preparation side-wise. But thankfully, now, I am going to resign next month and prepare for the next time.
Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)
After taking a break of few weeks. Infact I am already in the job.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
That has an element of truth. I think optional should be removed to set a level playing field for all the candidates irrespective of their background.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
I think it was a well thought out and comprehensive decision. I welcome this.
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.
This again is true, but to certain extent. It is a fact that an aspirant who is residing in Delhi has comparatively better access to fine-tuned study material. But again, there is always a light at the other end the tunnel. Hard work and patience is the core tenet to crack UPSC. Nothing can overshadow these qualities. So, guys in a digital world like today, one has to find ways to remain connected to the entire world. After all, on the internet, its all freely available, only when you know the real source. So, gear up and follow your passion.

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).
Yes, I think UPSC should do something to address this anomaly. By the way, at present, I am not able to come-up with any worthy suggestion. May be, next time.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answer key 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.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
SAME i.e. remove the optional subject in order to set a level playing field for the aspirants from varied background.

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?
All these do not matter. Seriously guys, believe me….there has been a number of instances when candidates from rural background have cracked this prestigious examination (that also with very good rank). So, just gear up…talk to few friends in Delhi…take proper feedback about what to read and what not to read…. And start preparing….SKY IS THE LIMIT.


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?
All I have learned is that hard work pays off, may be with some delay…but it certainly pays off. Patience is also the key. But mind it guys…This is just an exam, the life is much more important than this. Wo jab sabhi IIT ki tayaari karte the, to uss samay lagta tha  ki IIT nikaalna hi zindagi hai, iske aage kuch nahi…aur abhi socho, ……IIT ke bare me sochne ko bhi time nahi milta, ya fir lagta hai ki bekaar hi itna pareshaan the uss samay….Ek class 10th ke candidate se puchho, to usko lagta hai ki 10th board ke exams hi poori zindagi hai, iske aage kuch nahi hai….but hum khud hi 10th exam ke bare me ab kahan sochte hai….The same goes for UPSC also…Abhi hamaare life me yeh phase chal raha hai jab hame UPSC ke  aage kuch nahi soojh raha hai…yeh bhi 3 se 5 saal ke baad khatam ho jayega…its just a phase of life…So, relax….apne end se jo bhi kar sakte ho…KARO….but yaad rakho, yeh bas life ka ek chhota sa padaaw hai….padhaii ko enjoy kijiye…jam ke mehnat karo….aur khus raho…aur haan sabse jaroori baat…HEALTH PAR DHYAAN DO…ab isse jyada WISDOM dene ki capability nahi hai meri MRUNAL BHAI… J….maine jo feel kiya hai, likh diya…
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?
Dear Candidates, find out the flaw in your preparation and try to improve it. Anyways, there is also a luck factor involve in this exam…so bas socho ki abhi aapka waqt nahi aaya tha…thori mehnat aur chahiye…or I would say, thori strategy change ki jaroorat hai….Cynical aur hopeless feel karne ki jaroorat nahi hai bhai…agar mains me fail hue ho to jaahir si baat hai ki number nahi aaye…mujhse puchho to main to yahi kahunga ki AGAIN START WRITING….WRITE AS MUCH AS U CAN….mains ki itni practice karo ki agar interview thora kharaab bhi ho jaye, to bhi mains ke marks aapko list me lekar aa jaaye…aapke haatho me mains hi hai…jisme aap bahut acchha kar sakte ho….Interview is super-subjective…so, rely on what u write…and once again (I think I am writing this for numerous time)….WRITE, PRACTISE, GIVE TESTS…..

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 family for sure (my father, mother and little sister)….they have always stood behind me in every phase of life. My friends specially MANTOSH who has been the most motivating person for me in this entire journey. I would also like to name few like Rajeev, Sardar, Mayank, Tanmoy, Satyendra etc. etc. etc. (my company friends) who have always supported me in this endeavor. Thank you guys…without you all, this was not possible.

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.
Now comes the question I have been waiting to write about…MRUNAL BHAI…maine tayaari aap hi ki website dekh kar suru ki thi…the way you present things…that gave me a feeling that YES…UPSC is not that difficult…Things can be understood easily. I can say this with full confidence THAT I HAVE READ AND FOLLOWED EACH AND EVERY SINGLE POST OF MRUNAL LINE BY LINE TILL DATE. Actually, This website has been a supporting pillar for my success. I have even gone through all your YOU tube lectures related to GEOGRAPHY, GS, ECONOMY, CURRENT ETC.
So, it would be a very serious advice from my side to all the aspirants, subscribe the website, start reading the older posts…they are equally relevant in present time, because basic to Mrunal bhai aisa clear karte hai ki fir poore life time kuch aur dekhne ki jaroorat nahi hogi uss topic se…Go through the previous lectures and make it a habit to make notes out of Mrunal website…because at the end. Aapki khud ki banayi hui notes hi kaam aati hai…
Thanx a lot guys for having the ultimate patience to read all this…Wish u all…Best of luck…at the end again, I would say…Khoob likho….jo bhi padho, use likho…bas likho…and I guarantee you that next year, You will definitely find your name in the final list.

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 51 Comments posted

  1. saba alam

    very useful

  2. praveen_r

    One of the best interview I have read on this website. Congratulations Sunny & Mrunal.

    1. Sunny Anand

      Best strategy in a TOUCHING way…congratulations sunny raj

  3. Chandra

    Best interview…Congratulations Sunny and ol the best for your future endeavours.

  4. Vinod

    Congo sir..for ur splendid success…. Mrunal sir u r doing great job …especially for distant student who can not afford Delhi coaching.

  5. sowjanya sharma

    I want economics optional coaching … mrunal ji are u teaching for optional? I called pdpu to contact u but det denied to give ur numb. Plz ji rply karo

  6. Priyatan

    Sunny Ji , congratulations .

    One of the best interviews .
    Wish you all the best.
    Thanks for such an inspiring interview.

  7. omender

    sir, can you give us model answers of all 4 papers of mains given by these toppers. it will immensely help us.

  8. Vivek chaudhary

    Really motivating !!! Thanks sunny sir…for such guidance….. specially WRITE WRITE….portion…..

  9. Amol d chougule

    Best website

  10. Sunny Raj

    Thanx a lot guys for having the patience to read this… And once again, thanx to Mrunal for allowing me to share my strategies and experiences..

    1. Ravi Singh

      Sir,It was very helpful as i am also working in a PSU and have to manage time accordingly .
      I ll draw inspirations from you.

      – Your college junior

    2. Balu Sishtu

      Sir can you please share some more strategies for working people. Like number of days leave you have taken before mains and prelims and how to frame targets for study, etc.
      I wrote mains while working but couldn’t clear it.

    3. HariHaran

      Thanks a lot BOTH sunny and mrunal.

  11. shaivya

    truly inspiring…especially the wisdom part..congratulations sir:)

  12. Mantosh kumar

    Really appreciate sunny !! Congo..
    n ty mrunal sir … 👻

  13. RS

    Why didn’t you take your engineering subject as optional? Given you are from such an esteemed college of engineering with such high CGPA, you must be having a good grasp over it.

    1. Sunny Raj

      @RS…Its all about your interest. I had mechanical engg. for 4 years and so for UPSC, I thought to have something new, something different….And it is also a fact that geography has its added advantage in GS (See, I got 112 in GS-1 coz of that)…SO I think its completely your personal choice, but yes…Humanities subject do have an added advantage.

  14. pradip

    thanx sunny raj
    i m also a mech engg… why didnt you took mech engg. as optional , though it is ur grad subject?…is d problm with lengthy syllbus or less marking or smthng else.?..pls reply ur valuble experience..i need to choose my optional..thx

    1. Sunny Raj

      @pradip ..Its not about the length of the syllabus…Infact geography is considered to have one of the lenghtiest syllabus in civil services optional subjects. (also see my reply above)…franly speaking, its about the advantage geography has in relation to GS.

  15. sonu

    Hindi medium ke kisi safal vyakti ka interview please

  16. Vivek chaudhary

    @sunny Raj ……sir please share some more tips on how to prepare with job ?
    It will be helpful for all working professionals.

  17. Abhilash

    Wanted to know that is stammering comes under eligibility criteria for UPSC exams?
    Kindly help!!

    1. Sunny Raj

      I dont think so…….

  18. Sunny Raj

    @Vivek….I have already shared my strategy in one of the paragraph above..kindly go through that. Whatever, I have done being in job, I have mentioned it there…But there cant be any single full-fledged strategy…It all depends on how efficiently You manage your time..

    1. Neelesh

      hats off man !! … ur score shows how much u have bled while answer writing practice…could u plzzz upload ur sample answer sheets and especially essay…. thnx

    2. Sunny Raj

      @Akash ….as you can see from my marksheet, I have yet to score good in Geography…I got into the list coz of essay and GS. So, as of now, I am myself in search of a good test series for geography. 😉

  19. drsehgal

    is that NISSAN Sunny gifted to you by Mrunal Sir?! #justasking

    1. Sunny Raj

      Mrunal sir has gifted me (infact all of US) something much more valuable than a sedan (Nissan)……and that is his blog…his work is priceless….SO, keep following…..keep achieving………

  20. Pankaj

    Dear mrunal sir,
    motivation bahut le liya
    kuch history lecture upload ho jate to …..aur acha hota

  21. sonu nagar

    Very very inspiring..
    And thanks for this useful & motivated article.

  22. P.K.Chetia, CRU-MSQ

    One of the best interview I have ever read on this website. Congratulations Sunny

  23. Nilesh

    Please upload interviews of candidates who are like me, failed once in engineering, no medals to show academically or not selected through campus recruitment. You know the type of “underdogs”…..acha lagega padh kar…..candidates like Mr.Sunny Raj and all sound like Zeus and Poseidon to me….

  24. Abc

    Can anybody please tell me where to find good practice questions for MAINS GS (apart from the previous years questions)… All the papers, and for optional too. (I wrote mains twice n it turns out I suck at it:(



  26. shefali

    First of all a heartiest congrats to you sir…earlier i was afraid to take geography as my optional subject but after reading your interview it feels like i was waiting for these mantras only..i have just completed my b.tech.. n wants to devote myself to the UPSC preparation and your views and opinions are very friendly and charismatic..your words really give a feeling of relief and strength..All the best for your future.
    if u have any further suggestions or comments..so plzz tell me

    1. Sunny Raj

      go and take up geography…its a wonderful subject especially for us.THE ENGINEERS….coz, its very logical…dont go through my marks in this subject…actually, this year, geography has been scrued badly and also, there were some lacks in my optional preparation…but for geography….chances are brighter for the next time…so, best of luck…

      1. Jayendra

        Hey @sunny congrats for ur awesome performance and especially in GS and Essay….. i would like to know what more ur thought to improve in ur geo preparation to fetch more marks …. really appreciated if u share ur mail id or add me ([email protected]). I am newbie just starting so it will be very helpful if u focus on some key areas especially to handle notes and current affairs in geo.

  27. lucky

    sunny paaji …..
    First of all heartliest congratulations from the deepest core of my soul [for a kind soul u r in general n as a geo aspirant in particular].
    Sir i’m facing difficulty in human geo [optional – paper 1 – part 2 – chapter 1 : perspectives in human geo], though i had read[MJ books related to it] and to a larger extent comprehend that book, but still facing problems…
    So plz guide me how to approach that particular chapter [sources for that chapter like any book , videos etc]

    1. Sunny Raj

      Lucky.for perspectives in human geo…I would say that Mazid Hussain is good. You can go through that…Infact that is enough also…But the point is that nowadays, geography is getting more & more associated to current affairs and is highly dynamic. So, whatever perspective u r reading from which ever book, u need to connect it to some current events, then only ur answer would be marks fetching..also, take a good test series, sectional test of vision ias geography is good.

  28. tanuj

    congo. sir
    and mrunal sir you are doing a great job.

  29. Abhitesh

    congratulations sunny

  30. mohit

    right now, i am doing a job. but i want to clear this exam.. can you suggest me where to get vision ias notes

  31. mehul salat

    Sir .I want clear upsc prelim .how can I clear this exam??

  32. Shail

    Hi Sunny,

    Heartiest congratlations first of all, and thanks for sharing such a nice info on your approach.
    I will replicate Lucky’s question and agree with him that there is confusion regarding the prep material for geo optional, specially paper 2.
    Most of paper 1 topics are in Savindra Singh’s physical geography book. But Majid Hussain’s human geo does not cover all in paper 2.

    Sir it will be so helpful if you could please suggest material topic wise for paper 1 and paper 2.

    Thanks in advance !!

    Best Regards

  33. arun pillai

    hai sunny sir,,
    it was very motivating and i can always corelate it to myself as i have also started preparing along with my job.,iam also a mechanical engineer and work in a private firm, sunny sir u did your entire prepration ie prelims,mains, all along with your job or did you take any long leave for mains prepration after prelims ???

    1. Sunny Raj

      Arun….I took around 60 days leave after pre to attend test series………

  34. Tapan Talukdar

    sunny sir…. i am also working in IOCL marketing division at Guwahati AFS. If u can share your number it will be a great help for me.
    Sir i want to know that did management gave any problem while u apply for leave…

  35. aarya

    How to read/study???
    Studied whole book but when it comes to write ans.. Its of no use

  36. Rajdeep

    Hi sunny have gone through detailed blog today 12.10.2016….really it will helpful …
    Very much transparent…Thanks I became energized after reading.

  37. Gorav

    Hello Sir!


    I am also a working professional in IOCL, wanted to know more about your time management. Did u take any long break from job before prelims or mains, or continued with job till the day of exam.

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