[Topper’s Interview] Abhishek Narayan Sinha (Rank-392/CSE-2015) History Optional, Oracle engineer from Gaya-Bihar

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

Candidate Profile

NameAbhishek Narayan Sinha
Rank in CSE-2015392
Roll No.0211028
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)2
Optional SubjectHistory
Schooling MediumHindi
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityGaya (Bihar)
Work-experience if any1 Year as Software Developer in Oracle,
2 Years as a Physics Faculty in FIITJEE and Aakash Institute
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresCSE-2014 (Reached Up to Interview)
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)Joined Sriram IAS for GS but left after few months and did self study. Did not do any coaching for Optional Paper.
Used Study materials of many coaching institutes like Vision, GS Score, Sriram.  Solved test papers of Vision, GS Score, Byju, Vision, Sriram etc.
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS, IFS, IRS(IT), IRS (C & CE), IPS
state cadre preference (Top-5)Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh


% in class 1078.28
% in class 1271
Graduation course and %Electronics and Communication Engineering, 7.82/10
Name of college, city, passing out yearIIT Guwahati, 2011
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsComposing Poetry, Blogging


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
UPSC Topper Abhishek Narayan Sinha
I was born and brought up in a village Rounia near Gaya district of Bihar. I studied up to 10th class from my village and then went to B.N. College, Patna for further studies. I was part of Super 30 Batch (2006-07) of Anand Kumar of Patna which led me to clearing JEE and admission in IIT Guwahati for my Bachelor degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering. I graduated from IIT Guwahati (2007-2011 Batch) and then did a job in a Software Company in Oracle and then left it for teaching career (as I was fascinated about teaching). Thought of preparation for Civil Services culminated while I was teaching.
My father is a retired high school teacher and brother is a Software Engineer.

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 took a lot of help from online sources and in fact I am in habit of reading from my tablet sometimes even whole days. I follow google news feed and apps of some newspapers like TOI and Indian Express. I save pages which I find important or save bookmarks. For most of the portions in syllabus, I search on google and read 2 or 3 or even more notes/articles about any particular topic.
One caution required while reading online sources is that one should know the syllabus and limit it to that. One should not go too deep and one should not read too many sources unless topic is too important.
I made notes of only my optional subjects and that’s too in electronic format as it saves time. Even I wrote answers in electronic format. But downside is that my writing habit suffered (which I will  change next time and I will devote some time in writing practice).

Tempo and style

Q. People know what books and syllabus points are to be prepared. But most of them lack consistency in their preparation. So, how do you keep study momentum going on? How do you fight against the mood swings and distractions?
Consistency is required to finish the syllabus as competition is fierce and loss of consistency means out of race. One should make short term targets to finish the syllabus and review it periodically.
I compose hindi poetry which gives me fresh energy, stabilizes my mood and saves from distraction.

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.
I do not know what is definition of a senior player. I am 26 years old and this was my second attempt so I think I can be put in the senior category.
My words of wisdom to other senior players is very simple: Don’t lose hope and never ever give up.
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
I gave interview in my first attempt but failed due to less marks in interview as well as moderate marks in main examination. Though I felt bad but I did not feel worse because my preparation was not great. My optional preparation was not complete.
I learnt some lesson and used it in this attempt. I hope some of experience of this attempt I would be able to use in the next one like writing practice. (as I am appearing again)
For the current attempt, I completed my syllabus in GS as well as optional paper. I had not prepared Map based question (which carries 50 marks) in first attempt but in  this attempt I prepared it well. I also prepared in much better way for interview (though marks in interview did not increase in the same proportion).

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History AncientRefer to History optional.
History MedievalRefer to History optional.
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Refer to History optional.
In history, more focus for prelims should be on Modern India because most of the questions are asked from this part.
Culture and societyNCERT, Selectively from Spectrum, CCRT, Internet searching.
Polity (theory + current)Laxmikanth, Sriram Notes, Polity part of Current Affairs from Vision and online sources like Insights, Google News feed and Internet searching.
Economy (theory + current)Sriram notes, Ramesh Singh (Selectively), Mrunal, Union Budget, Economic Survey, Google News feed and Internet searching.
Science (theory + current)Studied only current part from Vision, online sources (Insights, Mrunal, gktoday), Google News feed and Internet searching.
Environment (theory + current)Shankar IAS, gktoday, Environment part of Current Affairs from  Vision IAS, Google News feed and Internet searching.
geography physicalNCERT, Savinder Singh (xerox of selected useful topics are available) and test papers, Atlas: India and the world of Study Today Publication (I found this atlas much better than Oxford Atlas)
geography IndiaNCERT and test papers, Atlas: India and the world
geography worldNCERT, GC Leong and test papers, Atlas: India and the world
other national/international current affairsVision Current Affairs, Google News feed
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffVision Current Affairs, Google News feed

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
The paper was more balanced and easy compared to 2014 paper. It also had many current affairs type questions. I had attempted 99 questions in Paper I (and I still don’t know why I left one question) but I did so because I knew than I have easily crossed the cut off so taking some risk will not jeopardize my chances. Here taking risk does not mean marking answer which you do not know. Taking risk means marking answer where you only know the answer partially.
Command over current affairs is must for prelim exam. Apart from direct current affairs type questions, many questions are indirectly linked with current affairs.
Prelim exam is tricky and it does not matter how good you are, you can be eliminated. I have seen people getting rank in top 200 but getting eliminated in the next prelim examination. So one should not be complacent. Other thing is that if you are 100% sure of getting selected after prelims exam, you can study for main exam peacefully with full concentration. But if you think that you are on the borderline, you will waste time in counting and recounting your marks unless result of prelim comes. So, it is better to give enough time for prelim exam preparation (even at the little expense of Main exam preparation).
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 not be complacent and will put even extra effort. My strategy will remain the same but dynamic. In 2014 and 2015, I took risk after getting to safer side and in both the occasions, I got good marks in Paper I. In 2016, I will decide about how much should I depend on risk or accuracy only after during the exam.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsNo Preparation (probably due to my Engineering background)
ReasoningHad prepared during 2014 Prelim from Arihant.
comprehensionHad prepared during 2014 Prelim from Arihant.
Decision MakingHad prepared during 2014 Prelim from Arihant.

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
Just make sure you cross the minimum required marks and don’t be complacent.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
I bought question papers of Vision, Sriram, Insights and solved them all. I did not enroll in any test series. Since time is not a factor for Paper I, attending test series is not that much useful.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score
GS99Did not calculate131.34
aptitudeDon’t rememberDid not calculate150.20

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperSaw previous Years Papers
your regional languageSaw previous years papers

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Papers were easy but here also some people fail (and I know one of them). So don’t be complacent. One benefit of scoring high in regional language paper is that if in the final result, your marks is same with many others, one with higher marks in regional language paper is given better rank. So there is added benefit in scoring high here.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I did not prepare at all. Probably getting good marks in essay in 2014 exam without any preparation made me complacent and that was my mistake.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
1. Lending hand to someone is better than giving a dole.
Since I have limited English language knowledge, I write in plain and simple words and small sentences. I just covered all possible dimensions whatever came in my mind. I wrote it in economic, cultural, social terms. Also I gave examples in individual donors, giving doles to a poor state inside India, International donors (like giving doles to African countries by rich nations) and then I wrote how it did not help them in long term. I also gave examples of welfare programs of GOI or state government. At the same time I cautioned that giving dole is necessary at the starting level and helping hand should together with giving doles.
2. Dreams which should not let India sleep.
Here I started with quotes of APJ Abdul Kalam (Dream is not what you see in sleep….) and I also mentioned about dream of Martin Luther King Jr. about his country i.e. USA which he had mentioned in his famous “I have a dream” speech. Then I connected these two with my own dream about India. I tried to cover different dimensions like my dream in social, economic, cultural, political, international areas.
I could have done better had I practiced some essays as I wrote many points in both the essays but it was not structured well.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Requests while you fill up the following tables

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureSome topics from Spectrum and rest from History optional.
Indian historyRefer to History Optional Part
world historyRefer to History Optional Part
post-independence IndiaRefer to History Optional Part
Indian societyGS Score and Internet
role of women, poverty etc.GS Score and Internet
globalization on Indian societyGS Score and Internet
communalism, regionalism, secularismGS Score and Internet
world geo physicalNCERT, GC Leong and Internet
resource distributionVision and Internet
factors for industrial locationMrunal
earthquake tsunami etcNCERT, Savinder Singh (xerox of selected useful topics are available)
impact on flora-fauna

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.Laxmikanth, Sriram Notes, Current Affairs from Vision and Internet
comparing Constitution with worldSriram notes, Vision
parliament, state LegislaturesLaxmikanth, Sriram Notes, Current Affairs from Vision and Internet
executive-judiciaryLaxmikanth, Sriram Notes, Current Affairs from Vision and Internet
ministries departmentsLaxmikanth, Sriram Notes, Current Affairs from Vision and Internet
pressure group, informal asso.Laxmikanth, Sriram Notes, IGNOU and Internet
Representation of people’s actLaxmikant, Sriram Notes
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..Laxmikanth, Sriram Notes, Current Affairs from Vision and Internet
NGO, SHG etcIGNOU, Sriram Notes
welfare schemes, bodiesGS Score, Current Affairs from Vision, Google News feed
social sector, health, edu, HRDGS Score, Current Affairs from Vision, Google News feed
governance, transparency, accountabilityGS Score and Google News feed
e-governanceIGNOU and Internet
role of civil serviceInternet
India & neighborsRajiv Sikri, IDSA, Website of MoEA, Current Affairs from Vision, Google News feed and other Internet sources
bilateral/global groupingRajiv Sikri, IDSA, Website of MoEA, Current Affairs from Vision, Google News feed and other Internet sources
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestRajiv Sikri, IDSA, Website of MoEA, Current Affairs from Vision, Google News feed and other Internet sources
DiasporaIDSA, Website of MoEF, Google News feed and other Internet sources
international bodies- structure mandateWebsites of International bodies, Google News feed and other Internet sources

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationSriram Notes and Internet
inclusive growthSriram Notes and Internet
BudgetingSriram Notes and Internet
major crops, irrigationShankar IAS and Internet
agro produce – storage, marketingMrunal, Shankar IAS and Internet
e-technology for famersShankar IAS and Internet
farm subsidies, MSPMrunal, Shankar IAS and Internet
PDS, buffer, food securityMrunal, Shankar IAS and Internet
technology missionShankar IAS and Internet
animal rearing economicsShankar IAS and Internet
food processingMrunal and Internet
land reformsIGNOU
LiberalizationSriram Notes and Internet
InfraSriram Notes and Internet
investment modelsSriram Notes and Internet
science-tech day to day lifeGoogle News feed and Internet
Indian achievements in sci-techGoogle News feed and Internet
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRGoogle News feed and Internet
environmental impact assessmentGS Score
Disaster ManagementTMH and Internet
non state actors, internal securityTMH and Internet
internal security – role of media, social networking siteTMH, IDSA and Internet
cyber securityTMH, IDSA and Internet
money launderingTMH and Internet
border  ManagementTMH and Internet
organized crime, terrorismTMH and Internet
security agencies- structure mandateTMH and Internet

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsLexicon and Internet
attitude, moral influence etc.Lexicon and Internet
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcLexicon and Internet
emotional intelligence, its use in governanceLexicon and Internet
moral thinkers of India and worldHow many thinkers did you prepare?
I did not prepare for any particular thinker.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.Lexicon and online sources
corporate governanceLexicon and Internet
probity in governance, work cultureLexicon and Internet
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Lexicon and Internet
challenges of corruptionLexicon and Internet
case studies on above topicsLexicon and Internet

Q. Many candidates found Mains-2015 Ethics paper very peculiar and “out of the book”. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
Read basic definitions of terms (as per the syllabus) from a basic book or from online sources. It is better to develop own thinking instead of reading a lot of books for Ethics paper. Time management is must for this paper as this time I could not attempt a case study of 25 marks due to lack of time.

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
GS4left 1 question of 25 marks case Study

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]
I tried to answer all questions as I knew something about everything but I did not find time. I have tried this “attempting all question concept” in my first attempt without caring much for quality and it worked also for some papers (like GS Paper 1) but did not work for some paper (like GS Paper 3). So, we can never be sure which way if the best way.
In this attempt I attempted all question in GS Paper 3 and that’s too with many best attempted answers but I don’t know what went wrong as I got average marks in this paper. And I thought my ethics paper has gone bad as I left 25 marks question but I got good marks in this paper.
I think one should try to attempt all the questions but should not make up answers if one does not know it.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
It is fine. It saves us from not giving too much time and space for a particular question.
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 mixed both paragraph and bullet points in some of the questions and some questions contained only paragraph.
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.
In some questions which I knew well, I followed Introduction-body-conclusion format. When time was less, I used to skip either introduction or conclusion or both.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens 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?
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
In optional paper, I used black pen. In others, blue pen.

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
I chose this optional after weighing it against Physics (which I was teaching). I read Physics about 3 months but I found Physics more time consuming and lengthy syllabus. I had started reading history for GS and I found it interesting. Also I thought, history will help me in GS Paper I.
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 would say, unless there is at least some interest, don’t go for it. Also you can decide after weighing following positive and negative points of history optional.
Positive point of history optional is:

  • It is static and some previous years questions may get repeated directly or indirectly.
  • It can be studied without any coaching.
  • It is easy to score moderate marks in history. It has been hardly crucified as optionals like Pub-ad (in 2013, 2014) or somewhat Geography this time.
  • It helps in GS & Essay
  • Its sources are available easily.

Negative points of history optional is:

  • Syllabus is huge,
  • Some portions are memory based
  • It is very difficult to score very high in history (like many scored 300+ in Geography in 2014 or many score 300+ in science subjects)

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.)
Essential Books/Resource:
Ancient India: Upinder Singh (good book but I did not get time to read it completely. It is also helpful in map part). I read Romila Thapar (but I did not find it useless). Also you should read IGNOU.
Map Based Questions: Solve all previous years map based question of locations of Ancient India. Also some websites have listed these with solution which you can refer to. IGNOU is also good for map based questions.
Medieval India: Satish Chandra and Notes of Hemant Jha (I would suggest IGNOU though I did not get time to read it completely)
Modern India: Bipin Chandra, Grover& Mehta, Shekhar Bandopadhyay
World History: L Mukerjee, Norman Lowe and from Internet searching as per syllabus.
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?
No need of current affairs for History Optional. As for internet research, few portions of the syllabus whose source materials are difficult to find are sometimes available on internet. Also in map based questions of history, internet is quite helpful.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
I continuously studied optional paper along with other GS parts instead of giving it exclusive time.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
I am in habit of writing answers in electronic format and not in habit of writing answers by pen (and I am trying to change this bad habit).
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
I maintain self-notes in electronic format. Making notes of whole portion of history is time consuming. Notes of only those portion of the syllabus should be made whose material is not available easily or source is scattered.
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?
Difficulty level was almost the same. Map portion of 2015 in Paper I was easier.
For history optional, solving previous years papers is very helpful because some questions are either directly repeated or indirectly related. One should solve at least 20 years papers if time permits. If time does not permit, one should at least go through all the question to have some idea.

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?
Since I have already appeared in Interview in my first attempt, I had some notes in electronic format for my profile (home state, places of work, hobbies) which made my work easier. I just updated them. I tried to read some basics of college graduation subject but my preparation for this particular part was half-baked.
For current affairs, I kept on reading news specially from google news feed and some newspapers apps. Since news of 5 to 10 days before interview (including the day of interview) is the most important, I had gone though them rigorously.
Current affairs of national and international level is the most important part of interview preparation because not answering some factual questions of your optional or graduation subject could be forgiven but not answering current affairs gives a lot bad impression.
Q2. Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar / different than official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?
Yes. I attended mock interviews of Samkalp and all those whose mock interview was free of cost (like Byju, KSG, Sriram and Baliyan). Since I had poor English communication skill problem, I got help from mock in getting fluency. Three of the question asked in the real interview (About Super 30, UDAY Scheme and Why Civil Services) were asked in mock interview also.
In real interview, there are 5 interviewers but in most of the mock interview, there are only 3 interviewers. Also in real interview, table is round and candidate has to see whole 360 degree to see all the interviewers but in mock interviews, tables are generally rectangular.
Attending such mock interview is helpful but again what will happen in the real interview, no one knows. One can score very high marks without attending any interview while others can score poor marks in spite of attending many mock interviews.
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 with my friend and I only read newspaper of that particular day. Revising all stuffs would have brought unnecessary pressure so I did not do that.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Carry prescription if you wear specs.
Don’t take alcohol night before medical checkup (as they do urine test)
Don’t get stressed during BP check up as it might show high BP which would lead to re-medical in some other day and wastage of time.
Doctors are lenient and sometimes ignore minor things but if you have something serious which makes you unfit for technical service (like flat-foot) and they do not check it, it is better to tell them honestly. Suppose you don’t tell them about flat-foot and you get service like IPS, it will become difficult as before joining the service like IPS, there is re-check up.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Brown pant, White Shirt and Red Tie.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Arvind Saxena
Q2. How long was the interview?
30-35 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?]
I was asked the first question by the chairman, i.e. Why Civil Services in spite of earning so much money? My answer was: I want to do challenging and diversified work for which civil services is more suitable. After certain level money does not matter and what matters is what you really want to do in your life.
The chairman  did not ask any counter question.
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)
When I entered, everyone was reading my DAF and I was asked to sit down. Chairman was reading it louder.
Q. (While reading my DAF)You are from Gaya, you studied in Guwahati, you did internship in Tokyo and Paris, then you worked in Oracle and then Teaching. So tell me why CPI is more than WPI?
(It was easy question which anyone could have answered. But it was sudden and came out of nowhere. I started answering, fumbled and suddenly said sorry sir. I don’t know)
Q. Questions related to blockade of Nepal including first bloackade during Rajiv Gandhi Gov. (Answered)
Q. What is most favored nation? (Answered)
Q. Percentage of consumption on food in rural and urban area? (Answered with approx values)
Q. Why Civil services in spite of earning so much money? (Answered)
Q. Should bureaucrats, judges etc be given post retirement job? Positive and negative? What is the solution?
I said yes, they should be given post retirement job. Positive point is their experience can be used and negative point is that there are chances of quid-pro-quo.  Solution is “cooling off period”.
Q. Why are you having personal website?
Answered that it is my interest and it helps me and others in study as well.
Some questions related to my internship project which I answered reasonably well.
Member 1
What is your weakness? (Told: My communication skill)
What is super30? Who is the founder? Where else it has been expanded? (Answered only first two parts)
Will recent e-commerce regulation help consumers? (This was in the news of the very same day and I had read it well. So answered it well.
You used the term ‘bureaucratic hurdle’. Then why do you want to become bureaucrat if it is used negatively? (Answered that ‘bureaucratic hurdle’ means delay in the process of getting work done due to several factors like over-regulation. It does not mean dishonesty one the part of bureaucrats and there can be ‘bureaucratic hurdle’ inspite of honest bureaucrats)
Member 2:
Name of two famous religious place in western and northern part of Guwahati? (Answered only one: kamakhya)
Who built Kamakhya Temple? (Could not answer)
Name all states of north East india. Why north east india is underdeveloped? Problems of Nagaland and recent peace talks? Recent problems of Manipur? Mizo peace accord? Who are against bodos and from where they had come? Peace talks of ULFA and gov? Where paresh baruah is hiding? Which ulfa leader has been brought back from Bangladedh recently?
(Answered almost all)
Member 3 (Lady):
Question about solid state? (Couldn’t answer satisfactorily)
What is semiconductor? (Answered)
Difference between electronics and electrical? (Answered few points but not as much as she wanted)
Why Shizo Abe had visited shrine? Who had problems with his visit? Why so bitter relations between Japan and China&Korea? Who were comfort women? Historical background of the events? About japanese pacifist constitution, who wrote it, what are recent reinterpretations? How this reinterpretation will work if Japan has no formal army?
(Since I did internship in Tokyo so I was prepared for Japan related question. I answered all of them well)
Member 4:
Historical personality who fascinates you? Why? (Answered: Buddha because of his teaching of “Madhyam Marga”)
Who built Golghar? Why it was built? (Answered but second part was partially correct)
Total power generating capacity in India? (Answered)
UDAY Scheme? Will it help in reducing transmission loss? (Answered)
Percentage of T&D loss? (Answered)
Is electricity theft included in T&D loss or in AT&C loss (I said only in AT&C loss, he corrected me and said in both)
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?
My interview was on expected line and most of the things I knew and answered. It was not a stressed interview at all. If I gave half answers, they did not insist and just moved on to the next question.
Some of the things which needed improvements are the following:

  • My communication skill was below average and my voice was bit down.
  • I never smiled during interview (Smiling gives positive energy)
  • I answered some questions with not so great confidence and sometimes fumbled also.

Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Bring all the documents as instructed. But even you miss some, they will give you time to submit that.
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Carry prescription if you wear specs.
Don’t take alcohol night before medical checkup (as they do urine test)
Don’t get stressed during BP check up as it might show high BP which would lead to re-medical in some other day and wastage of time.
Doctors are lenient and sometimes ignore minor things but if you have something serious which makes you unfit for technical service (like flat-foot) and they do not check it, it is better to tell them honestly. Suppose you don’t tell them about flat-foot and you get service like IPS, it will become difficult as before joining the service like IPS, there is re-check up.

CSE-2015 Marksheet

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

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1131.34
Paper 2150.20

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1129
General Studies – Paper 2106
General Studies – Paper 369
General Studies – Paper 484
General Studies – Paper 596
Optional Paper – Paper-1125
Optional Paper – Paper-2119
Written total 728
Personality Test 162
Final Total890

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I was teaching Physics and I loved teaching. I also made good amount of money. So I would have gone back to teaching. The probability of going back to Software Job was also present.
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.)
I had thought of giving 3 attempts before going back to the backup plan but again it would have depended on situation.

Views on UPSC reforms

What are your views on following issues?
Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
I think weightage of optional paper should be made less (say of 250 marks) as sometimes it distorts the final result too much. As for the coaching-owners, book publishers etc, they are almost immortal and no reform can remove them. In fact changes in the pattern sometimes help them.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
33% is too less. It should be made at least 50% for qualifying. Also, it should remain as a qualifying paper or should be made paper with lesser weightage compared to Paper I. The reason behind it is that earlier pattern used to help those from Engineering and MBA background disproportionally vis a vis those from Arts background.
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 is a crude fact and change seems difficult in near future. Only way out is that availability of internet of at least modest speed in every part of India. Good thing is that many free sources including standard books and notes of almost all the coaching institutes, test papers etc are now available on Internet.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Yes I agree with it but probably UPSC does not want to get into any legal trouble which could slow down the process (like in state PSCs). But again we have examples of many state PSCs like Madhya Pradesh which discloses even prelim paper’s solution just after the examination and it does not delay the process.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Prelim exam should be conducted online and I think it will happen soon.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
I would try to lessen subjectivity of Interview process where sometimes marks of a candidate depends on personality of Interviewer instead of personality of the candidate.

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?
Coming from a big college but not performing well in interview can have boomerang effect.
Many candidates from Hindi medium interview has got very good marks so I don’t think it is an issue. But yes, having good communication skill (in whichever language you are giving interview) is always a big plus point.
Having no working experience is not a negative thing but having huge gaps need to be explained well in the interview if asked.
I did my B.Tech from IIT Guwahati and I also had work experience. So I did not suffer from any such insecurities. But since I studied in Hindi medium up to the tenth class and my communication skill in English is poor, I was always worried for it. There is always some weaknesses in all the aspirants, so we need to work hard to remove that as there is nothing more we can do.


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?
I have learnt that one should always have hope and should not underestimate oneself. The very nature of Civil Services examination provides almost equal chance to anyone even to get Rank 1.
Wisdom of life and competition is:
“Failure is guaranteed if one does not work hard but success is not guaranteed even if one works hard.”
Success and failure is not forever. Many failed in JEE and could not get into IIT college but some of them became IAS. And many who got top rank in JEE could not do well later on. Those who becomes IAS today would also fail tomorrow if they do not do their work honestly.
Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2015. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
I know it is hard feeling if one fails specially after working hard but one can’t do more than that. Apart from hard-work and good strategy, sometimes luck also decides the outcome. One should keep working hard and should not lose hope. At the same time, one should be prepared mentally for the worst case scenario.

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?
I want to give credit to my father Jairam Sharma, my mother Pushpa Devi, my younger brother Akash, my elder sister Arti and my friend Abhijeet. I started preparation after quitting highly paid teaching job and many advised against it. But support from my family and friend helped me in taking the decision of quitting the job. My reaching up to interview in my first attempt without good preparation also gave me hope.

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 got interest in economics and current affairs only after reading mrunal.org because the articles are very lucid and easy to understand. I got help in portions of Geography for main examination from this site. And yes, I read almost all the articles of this site as I used to read older articles while travelling. Big plus point of the articles in this site is easy and lucid language.

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 5 Comments posted

  1. Vivek

    Dear Sir, your schooling was in Hindi medium… wouldn’t it was slight difficulty..can you please provide honest suggestion…?

  2. sonali raj

    hii i would like to know how is history as an optional? is it too huge ?

  3. Sameer D Jagtap

    Abhishek Sinha sir….. did you find Hemant Jhas notes good for medieval India? were they able to provide material for kind of questions being asked in History now?

  4. Deepak r

    Respected mrunal sir
    Please interview diyva jyoti parida Air 26
    Sir please upload the interview of diyva sir because there is no good coaching for botany and online /offline material is also not available

  5. chandu

    Congrats wish you all the best

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