[Topper’s Interview] Sandeep Ghosh (Rank-67/CSE-2015) Sociology, W.Bengal, Income Tax Assistant

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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. Preparation Module
  9. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  10. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  11. Prelim accuracy
  12. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  13. Mains: Essay
  14. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  15. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  16. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  17. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  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

NameSandeep Kumar Ghosh
Rank in CSE-201567
Roll No.0041175
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)3
Optional SubjectSociology
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityKolkata
Work-experience if anyState Bank of India, Clerical Cadre & Officer cadre, Income Tax Department, Tax Assistant
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresState Bank Clerical Exam 2007, SSC 2012,Prasar Bharati Transmission Executive 2013
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)No coaching. Enrolled for mock interview.
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS,IFS,IRS(IT),IRS(CCE),IDAS
state cadre preference (Top-5)West Bengal, Sikkim, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat


% in class 1086.00%
% in class 1279.65%
Graduation course and %50.65%
Name of college, city, passing out yearSt. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, West Bengal
Post-graduationEnrolled for M.A. Sociology, IGNOU
Any other professional coursesCAIIB from Indian Institute of Banking and Finance, RTI Certification from Centre for Good Governance
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsTravelling, Reading books, Laughter Yoga, Playing Chess


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

UPSC Topper IAS/IPS Sandeep Ghosh Interviw & Tips
I am Sandeep Kumar Ghosh, born and brought up in Kolkata, currently working as Tax Assistant in Income Tax Department, Coimbatore. My father is a retired government servant and my mother is a homemaker. I have a younger brother who is a PO in UCO Bank.
The prime motive to enter in the field of competitive exams after college was to get a job.

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)
Both are necessary. It also depends on your personal choice. My favored one was to read physical books, supplemented by electronic material. For me the style of preparation has been to read multiple times but don’t maintain notes. I preferred to have markings and scribbles in my books only. Regularity is the key, with all subjects. Also regular revision, which takes your preparation to a higher level, rather than keeping revision deferred till exam.

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?
It is said that you need to do a thing consecutively 21 days to make it a habit! Build on the habit first, ones you have made the habit of studying for a designated hour each day it will become a routine! Distractions will come, so does mood swings! But once you have made the habit you will recoil back to your habitual study schedule very easily. At least it happened with me.
Another thing is if you are giving this exam due to some outside force, i.e. you are here because of some family pressure, or some friend is giving this exam or you have seen somebody, your momentum will always be temporary and you will always feel out of sorts, so try to find out at the individual level why you want to join the service? It will help in keeping yourself motivated.

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.
Well every one of us has unique ways of getting out of this mental prison! For me it was keeping calm and putting on the hard work no matter what others are saying! Motivational videos on YouTube and people like Carl Sagan’s speech always inspired me to keep on moving!
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
In 2013 mains answer writing was the major problem are along with not being able to complete all the questions. In 2014 preparation was not again up to the mark. Took CSAT little bit casually, had to pay the price by missing the mains. Practiced writing answers and analyzing how to approach answers. Prime target was to complete the paper, this time around.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
In State Bank of India I was not getting adequate time to study, therefore decided to resign and concentrate on study, at the age of 26! At the time of resignation, I didn’t had any job. Looking back I would say it was a very risky proposition indeed! Gave my first attempt in 2013. Later on joined Income Tax Department as Tax Assistant. The workload was considerably less but what was important was to use the time appropriately. Be regular with studies even on weekdays and utilize the weekends more efficiently.
Tips – Once you have done one year of dedicated study for UPSC which I did in 2013, you can join a service and keep on preparing for exam simultaneously! Now many working professionals are cracking this exam on a regular basis. That’s my take.

Preparation Module

I’ve created this PDF file, listing my tips and observation on general studies preparation for prelims and mains. You may download it from here.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History AncientTMH(Tata McGraw Hill), NCERT
History MedievalTMH, NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Spectrum – A brief History of Modern India, TMH
Culture and societySpectrum Indian Culture (if you have time, it’s full of facts and gives through details about every aspect), Newspapers, Nitin Singhaniya IAS notes
Polity (theory + current)Laxmikant, Newspapers
Economy (theory + current)Sanjiv Verma, Ramesh Singh, Budget, Economic Survey, Newspapers
Science (theory + current)Newspapers (questions for the past few years are mostly based on recent happenings), Basic science knowledge from some GK book will keep you on safer side
Environment (theory + current)Newspapers, Shankar’s Environment, Sometimes MoE website
geography physicalATLAS, NCERT Class XI, XII, GC Leong
geography IndiaATLAS, NCERT Class XI, XII
geography worldATLAS, GC Leong
other national/international current affairsNewspaper,
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffPIB (follow regularly), IYB

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
Regularity and planning is the key. It will work magic in the long run. You can have all the materials needed, but if you don’t plan out and be regular, you are not going to get success!
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)?
More and more thorough study. The GS questions are more about knowing things in detail.   Go through the standard books multiple times. Revise frequently.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsArihant Cracking the CSAT Paper 2, but any other standard CSAT book will suffice
Decision Making-Do-

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
Don’t be in a hurry to solve the paper. Take your time to solve the ones which are from your strong areas. If you are one who thinks he/she is weak in aptitude abilities try to practice more and more and solve papers before exam. CSAT paper has become qualifying, so no need to be in hurry, concentrate on sure shot questions like aptitude, mathematical ones. Don’t neglect this paper, exam pressure can create havoc, better to give a minimum yet adequate and regular amount of time as per your understanding.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? Do you think they’re necessary for success?
No I didn’t attend any mock. I don’t think it’s necessary. First the duration for GS paper is more than adequate. Second accuracy, in case of GS Paper ,this comes from the knowledge about the subject matter.
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 paperUnique’s General English, Put little attention on grammar, easily you can score 40+ out of 50
your regional languageUnique’s General Hindi, Put little attention on grammar, easily you can score 40+ out of 50

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
In both the Papers the standard of questions are considerably high, specially the one with whom you have limited interaction after your school or college.
Tricky as 10-12% Mains candidate fail in either or both whereby their performance in other Mains paper becomes obsolete.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

  1. I didn’t felt the need to separately prepare for Essay.
  2. Preparing for General Studies and reading relevant topics from newspapers, magazines provide the fodder.
  3. Practice at least four or five random essay to brush up your writing skills.
  4. Two parts – strategize the structure, that’s important. Your essay shouldn’t be monotonic. Rather it should be addressed from various angles. Don’t shy away from putting different perspectives.
  5. Flow – Essay should be written in such a manner which doesn’t seem to be hopping from one point to another or random tit bits.
  6. Be creative.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?

  1. Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man more clever devil.
  2. Points– Started with a quote – “With great power comes great responsibilities” – Defined Education and its importance, why it’s a kind of power – Values and its importance – Usefulness of education and values – Historical education system where value education was an important part e.g. Confucius study, Buddhist and Vedas philosophy – Recent education system (value-less, money oriented) – Recent scenario of society, what has our education system led to – Educated devils – Weapons, corruption, black money, littering – Recent changes, ethical studies – Issues like Patent wars etc. – What needs to be done – Conclusion
  3. Can Capitalism bring inclusive growth?
  4. Points – Started with a quote – “there is enough on Earth for everybody’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed” – Defined capitalism its principles, its effects on society – Positive and negative effects – What does inclusive growth mean for the society – Where does inclusive growth stand in relation to capitalism – Has capitalism succeeded in ensuring inclusive growth – Indian perspective – What are the other –ism available e.g. Socialism, communism and their success in bringing inclusive growth – Curious case of Scandinavian countries – Capitalism along with inclusive growth – How could capitalism be used to achieve inclusive growth – Conclusion.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

I’ve prepared a PDF outline containing my strategy for UPSC preparation. You can download it from here

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureSpectrum Indian Culture, Nitin Singhaniya, IAS Notes.
Indian historySpectrum A Brief History of Modern India.
world historyNcert world history and internet
post-independence IndiaGo through the internet related to events that happened after independence, You can read the book Ramchandra Guha’s – India after Independence if you have the habit of reading books
Indian societyMy optional, for others ncert sociology class xi, xii,
role of women, poverty etc.Newspapers /editorials+ internet
globalization on Indian societyNewspapers /editorials + internet
communalism, regionalism, secularismNewspapers/editorials + internet
world geo physicalGC Leong, atlas
resource distributionMrunal website
factors for industrial location-Do-
earthquake tsunami etcGK Today geography
impact on flora-faunaNewspaper

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.Laxmikant
comparing Constitution with worldLaxmikant, Subhas kashyap’s book has a relevant chapter in this regard
parliament, state LegislaturesLaxmikant
ministries departmentsLaxmikant, IYB
pressure group, informal asso.Laxmikant
Representation of people’s actInternet research
Various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..Laxmikant
NGO, SHG etcKnowledge from bank work xp, internet
welfare schemes, bodiesPIB website, IYB
social sector, health, edu, HRDPIB website, IYB
governance, transparency, accountabilityEthics paper, any new initiative by Govt. through PIB
e-governanceEthics paper, any new initiative by Govt. through PIB
role of civil serviceEthics paper, any new initiative by Govt. through PIB
India & neighborsNewspapers, MEA website
bilateral/global groupingNewspapers, MEA website
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestNewspapers, MEA website
DiasporaNewspapers, MEA website
international bodies- structure mandateNewspapers, search Wikipedia international bodies – it has a long list, choose the ones relevant to recent times and with relation to matters pertaining to India

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationThorough reading of Ramesh Singh and Sanjiv Verma, apart from budget, economic survey and Mrunal website
inclusive growth-Do-
major crops, irrigation-Do-
agro produce – storage, marketing-Do-
e-technology for famers-Do-
farm subsidies, MSP-Do-
PDS, buffer, food security-Do-
technology mission-Do-
animal rearing economics-Do-
food processing-Do-
land reforms-Do-
Infra-Do-, IYB, PIB
investment models-Do-, internet
science-tech day to day lifenewspapers
Indian achievements in sci-technewspapers
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRnewspapers
environmental impact assessmentShankar’s Environment
Disaster ManagementNDMA website
non state actors, internal securityNewspapers, internet
internal security – role of media, social networking sitenewspapers, internet
cyber securitynewspapers, internet (wiki)
money launderingnewspapers, internet (wiki)
border  Managementnewspapers, internet
organized crime, terrorismnewspapers, internet (wiki)
security agencies- structure mandateNewspapers, IYB

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsIn 2013 my preparation was purely based on internet stuff, This year I bought Reddy and Ajmera, Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude, where the topics are given in syllabus format; however my marks for both 2013 and 2015 remained the same! This time many people couldn’t complete this paper!
My analysis: analyze every situation you come across in your day to day life, be empathetic, observe, try to think from various angles, perspectives, you may have your own views but analyze why others views are different and what’s the basis of their viewpoints, most importantly be objective and ethical
Time constraint: In this paper thinking becomes an important tool; specially for case studies therefore people are not able to complete the paper. I would suggest aspirants to have decisive views right from the beginning, analyze day to day affairs and come to your own decisions. In this way you will be able to do the same in question paper also.
attitude, moral influence etc.-Do-
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc-Do-
emotional intelligence, its use in governance-Do-
moral thinkers of India and worldHow many thinkers did you prepare?
Apart from the famous and common ones, I have a habit of watching  YouTube videos of philosophers, one you tube channel “School of Life” has considerable number of thinkers. In case you have time please have a look.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.-Do-
corporate governance-Do-
probity in governance, work culture-Do-
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.-Do-
challenges of corruption-Do-
case studies on above topics-Do-

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
GS113-153-4Made a blunder by wasting time by jotting down points on the rough page! Had to pay the price by writing 2-3 questions just tit bits even though I knew those answers! Never repeated the mistake henceforth!250
GS4Rest of the paper apart from the ones mentioned under average qualityOne definition and one case studiesnone250

Completing the question paper should be one of the targets; there is no bigger blunder than not attempting all, even though you could have answered them! No need to give PhD stuff answers. Time, word and space are adequate; you have to be concise and to the point.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Unless someone has handwriting of XXL size (I hope you get it), the space is more than adequate!!
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 used a mixture of both; if they are asking you to compare you can’t go on describing or commenting by bullet points!! That’s my personal take.
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.
See this is a very old strategy! Now the word limit and space is constrained. You can’t put everything on the answer. It completely depends on the type of question. In case it asks what are the consequences of Indo-Bangladesh teesta river treaty you can’t go on to Indo-Bangladesh historical relations! You have to judge the scope of the question! Be concise and to the point.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketch pens in your answers?
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Q7. If yes, did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
N.A. In case I had to draw, it would have been free hand.
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Rather than blue or black, I would ask aspirants to select a pen which they find comfortable. Or else you will end up having wrist or elbow pain. Whichever pen you select at least use the pen for considerable amount of time before using it in mains.

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Sociology. Simple, I found this subject more interesting than other subjects.
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)

  1. Choose the one you find interesting – mug up attitude will not work – nor small short syllabus – If you don’t find something interesting you will never spend enough time to comprehend and clear the concepts
  2. Graduation subject – Nothing better than choosing your graduation subject – But again ask yourself whether you were forced to take this subject or someone else was pursuing therefore you enrolled for that subject – until you can personally say that i love this subject and i find it interesting, you are on the wrong track – and yes once you find a subject which titillates your interest you will find it easier to go ahead.
  3. Answer writing is important – From the perspective of Humanities subject (I had Sociology) Provide Name of thinkers here and there wherever possible – don’t get overboard on this count as it’s ok if you can’t find or remember a thinker or quote – but don’t push names of thinkers everywhere – a diagram or structure wherever possible will make your answer look better.
  4. Myths busted: All the following are outright myths and don’t fall for them-
  5. Subjects are being butchered – sorry every year there will be candidates from all streams who would get good marks – concentrate on improving you answer qualities
  6. Topper’s subject/Most selection – Again a misconception – If a particular subject is chosen by most people that will obviously create a greater probability of selection, as simple as that, it doesn’t mean free ride.
  7. Jump and you will succeed– If you have already started your preparation ask yourself why you had selected the subject at the first place – don’t be in a hurry – be rational and focussed to chose a new subject only after you have given your 100% to the optional that you already have – In case you change be firm and don’t look back.
  8. Scoring paper/Short syllabus – Unless you find the subject interesting you will not be able to comprehend the subject easily and write proper answers. So a medical science syllabus for others may seem formidable but for a medical science student that may seem easy and scoring. So it all comes down to the subject that you choose. In case you don’t like your graduation subject or like in my case i had left it some five years ago, choosing a new subject becomes crucial.
  9. Choosing the optional
  10. Go through the syllabus. Tick those subjects that you find interesting.
  11. Go to a nearby library to pick up some books on those subjects or buy some books if possible. You can use internet also for referring to the topics. Give this phase some time. Read various topics from the syllabus.
  12. Once you have dealt with all of them for a significant amount of time you will be in a position to take a call regarding your optional subject.
  13. For me it came down to sociology!
  14. 2013 Marks P1 – 93, P2 – 87 (Problem with answer writing)
  15. 2015 Marks P1 – 125, P2 – 132

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.)
NCERT Sociology for class XI and XII, IGNOU B.A., M.A. study material. IGNOU study material almost has every topic from the UPSC syllabus. Read Horlombus and Anthony Giddens as additional material. If you have time you can research about various topics through internet!
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?
Regular stories from newspapers does give a picture of our society and thus it gives fodder material for mains. Even editorials are mostly concerned with societal problems. So it definitely helps.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Three-Four months for basic knowledge.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
It was during the preparation phase. Sometimes framing the answers in mind or jotting down how I will frame the answer also helps.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
For sociology I had full IGNOU material in pdf/printed form. Concept clarity is needed more than notes.
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?
It felt little difficult this time around. Specially paper 2. Concept clarity. Answer writing practice from sociological perspective.

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?
Internet research. Wikipedia has details about everything! Apart from that I bought this book – Civil Services Interview-How to Excel, Madhukar Kumar Bhagat, Small and handy!
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 did attend mocks. My personal assessment is that they give you a psychological preparation. Although the D-day scenario is completely at a different level still it’s ok to practice maximum two-three mocks!
Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
Central Government Quarters at Curzon Road.
Bring minimal books! But definitely keep a tab on current affairs around the time of interview, especially on the interview date! Newspapers are available on interview day both at the document verification room as well as central hall. Rest is based on your DAF!
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Keep your weight under check. BMI should be less than 30! Or else you will be medically unfit for temporary period! Bring your eye lens prescription! The rest are routine check up! For further information and FAQs can be found at this link http://persmin.gov.in/ais1/Docs/CSE-FAQ.pdf
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
No blazer or suit, only tie! Be in a formal dress.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Professor Hemchandra Gupta.
Q2. How long was the interview?
Around 30 minutes.
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?]
The scope and diversity that comes along with the challenging nature of this job attracted me.
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)

  1. Why Cossipore (my place of schooling) is spelled in this manner and not Kashi-pore? Why so much fascination with letter O in Bengal?
  2. 15G/H forms? Use? Is it a method of tax evasion?
  3. What is Direct Tax Code and its present status?
  4. How many microbes are present in the interview room? Microbiology related.
  5. How many muscles in our body do we use when we laugh?
  6. Have you heard about the book ‘The Prince’?
  7. Who are the all time best players of football?
  8. Why is Pele famous for?
  9. What are rainforests? Difference with evergreen forests? Does India have rainforests?
  10. What are FMCG? Products?
  11. Why patanjali products are gaining so much revenue these days? Supply chain management?
  12. What was the story behind the film “Bend it like Beckham”? Director?
  13. Indo –Bangladesh water dispute and foreign relations? Teesta river?
  14. How to sociologically deal with dissent regarding water sharing?
  15. Why did Singur became famous? Did it impact Bengal’s industrial prospects? Economics concerns of both the people who lose their lands and overall economic interests?
  16. Development vs. environment debate?
  17. International relations vs. domestic politics?

Discussions based on these questions.

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 a kind of stress interview. The first few minutes were stressful, but later on it became a normal one! There were no uncomfortable questions though.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Don’t bring all the certificates that you have gathered throughout your life, from class 1 onwards! I have seen candidates bring all sorts of certificates! No need to bring the extracurricular certificates or hobbies certificates if any! It will create unnecessary tense situation for you. UPSC clearly instructs what documents you need to bring for interview. Stick to the list.
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Keep your weight under check. BMI should be less than 30! Or else you will be medically unfit for temporary period! Bring your eye lens prescription! The rest are routine check up! For further information and FAQs can be found at this link http://persmin.gov.in/ais1/Docs/CSE-FAQ.pdf

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Prelims mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1116.66
Paper 2110.56

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1144
General Studies – Paper 285
General Studies – Paper 391
General Studies – Paper 4103
General Studies – Paper 596
Optional Paper – Paper-1125
Optional Paper – Paper-2132
Written total 776
Personality Test 162
Final Total938

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
I would have tried to improve on all counts.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I was already working in Income Tax Department, would have given Civil Services Exam next year.
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.)
Already executed.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Having an optional does have its own pros and cons. A thorough study of an optional subject at least brings a certain degree of understanding in that field, which will help in future assignments.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
I think its ok. Although I personally scored 175 in CSAT 2013 but I do think GS should be given more weightage than CSAT.
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.
We get ample time to prepare for the exam. No need to hurry for topics, in case someone is serious.
For the ones who are from far away areas, basic books and newspapers will not be an issue. Internet is a necessity these days. Local cyber café may suffice, for high speed internet. As far financial resources I would suggest to get into some other jobs and start preparing for the exam.

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).
Clearing the prelims with IFoS cut off and not seating for the main exam is a matter of concern.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answer key and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
I think this is a well thought out procedure. I was at the receiving end for two years, yet I am fine with this procedure.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
I don’t think the time is ripe for such a change in case of UPSC. Simply because there are many people in the interiors who solely prepare for UPSC Civil Services. Until the digital divide is breached it’s better to stick to the current pattern. Already the exam duration has been considerably shortened! But definitely online exams have their own benefits, may be in the near future.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
I would humbly resist from making any statements. Mainly because the kind of experience and knowledge that is required, I haven’t achieved yet.

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?
See getting decent marks in the mains is the key, whichever medium you belong to! In interview board all of board members are experienced people with objective mindset to judge your personality, most certainly they will not ask such irrelevant question to demean a person, even if such questions are asked be truthful, don’t try to dodge or pass on the buck, accept that it’s where you come from and you should be proud of your past! If you yourself doubt your past, where from will you bring self-confidence?


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?
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?  (Clubbed two questions)

  1. I am just one of the 1078 successful candidates this year, which means there may be 1078 different ways to succeed in this exam, may be even more – Therefore I believe that you can discover your own way towards success. It’s a journey worth experiencing, for not just the knowledge about our country, the world and the society that we live, but also knowing ourselves, our emotions, that are intertwined on this road of self discovery!  For all those who have already started on this road or the ones who are about to start, here are my two cents, don’t be desperate or become vulnerable trying to conquer this exam, don’t lose your sleep and all the small yet significant happiness that you have right now, live at this moment, try to utilise your time yet don’t forget to enjoy “the life” that’s there with you right now, this phase, these days, as they are will never come back. Whether you succeed or fail in this exam will matter little at the end of your life, what will matter is whether you lived!

So go ahead and give it your best shot, for those who couldn’t clear it this time, I know it’s hard but if you can learn from your failures you will definitely succeed. Believe that
All the best.

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.

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 started using Mrunal website for preparatory phase, where I was taking small strides towards understanding this complex exam. Later on the economics and geography part really helped me in my preparation.

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 10 Comments posted

  1. shubham

    sir history lectures …..plz …………………..

  2. Anubhav

    Thank you for mentioning your essay points !! All the best.

  3. Kanth

    Sir , please share the tips how you improved answer writing and structure and contents of answer which boosted your score from 180 to 250 in sociology.

  4. Ashish Johari

    congrats sir……..

  5. Mudasir

    Congrats dear!

  6. neha

    Sir what did u do for writing improvment?

  7. 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:(

  8. sourav saha

    sir i am sourav saha C.A(articleship) student. my cousin wants to become an IAS. he just got 93% from wb board of madhyamik exam…my uncle wants to talk to u for a little time about preperation.can u give me ur contact no. plz??

  9. Suha

    Firstly congratulations for your success…I have a specific question regarding Sociology
    What are we supposed to write in the first and fifth questions in each section i.e. Sociological Analysis/Perspective ?
    e.g. Sociological Perspective on Five Year Plans.

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