[Topper’s Interview] Rajat Chaturvedi (Rank-480/CSE-2015) Anthropology, B.Tech, Earlier cleared ACIO, SSC, hails from Lucknow

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  1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Struggle of a Senior player
  7. Working professional
  8. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  9. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  10. Prelim accuracy
  11. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  12. Mains: Essay
  13. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4
  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

NameRajat R Chaturvedi
Rank in CSE-2015480
Roll No.301837
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)2
Optional SubjectAnthropology
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityLucknow
Work-experience if any2+ years, Assistant in IB
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresSSC 2012 – AIR 104
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)Vajiram 2013 batch (left at half way point)
Mrunal, Insights mostly
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS,IPS,IFS,IRS(IT),IRS(C&CE)
state cadre preference (Top-5)UP,MP,Rajasthan,HP,UK


% in class 1089.6
% in class 1288.7
Graduation course and %B.Tech (CS) 75%
Name of college, city, passing out yearGLA Mathura, 2012
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsPlaying Guitar, Diploma in Classical music, Reading non-fiction


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

I hail from Lucknow, studied from ICSE board throughout, B.Tech from an UPTU. My father’s in Govt service, mother’s homemaker and brother is AVP in CITI Bank. Honestly, I never thought I would end up here. I always had a lust for private sector lifestyle, was placed in Infosys, scored 98.6% in CAT, got into MBA colllege, but I don’t really know when I chose a different path. Flushed the MBA plan and went for UPSC, and took the job in IB.

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)
In my successful attempt, I mostly depended upon the Electronic material, though I continued to make notes from newspapers. Special thanks goes to Mrunal revision series, it formed almost 30-40% of my preparation. Further, I wrote occasional answers and essays on InsightonIndia.

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?
Actually, I didn’t. I get easily distracted. I am used to party hard. Almost every weekend. I don’t believe in studying like hell even if you don’t want to. I believe in rewarding myself. Working and studying 5 days a week becomes tiring. So I partied on weekend with friends. However, with 2 months left to pre/mains, I used to study almost the whole day and night. (Follow at your own risk! )

Struggle of a Senior player

Q. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
I ignored my optionals and the essay paper. That is the most disastrous thing you can do to sabotage your chances of getting in.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
It is undoubtly hard to manage both. I earned my seniors’ favour by working hard initially and hence got leave before mains. On other days, I used to squeeze a hour or 2 durng job to check out internet material. Rest after job.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History AncientSkipped
History MedievalSkipped
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Bipin Chandra, Vajiram notes
Culture and societyVision notes, society- Exclusively Mrunal revision series
Polity (theory + current)Laxmikant, newpaper
Economy (theory + current)NCERT 11th, Vajiram notes, Economic Survey (Most important), Mrunal
Science (theory + current)Not needed for prelims, skipped for mains (No questions asked in 2014, took the risk)
Environment (theory + current)Shankar notes, NCERT
geography physicalVajiram notes, G.C.Leong
geography IndiaNCERT, Vajiram, Mrunal lectures (very helpful)
geography worldMrunal lectures (Rajtanil ones)
other national/international current affairsNewspaper, Mrunal IR lectures, InsightonIndia- Current events
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffMrunal revision series (more than enough!)

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
After CSAT being made qualifying, prelims is a nightmare for me. However, the key to crack lies in attempting maximum questions (Attmepted 90, left only the ones which were ridiculously difficult)

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsOnce a CAT aspirant, hence not needed
Decision Making

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
Go for the english portion, can easily score 33%

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Definitly, I solved about 30 test papers of InsightonIndia prelims series. I also posted online answers for Mains series on the same website. Universal truth- for prelims, solve more and more MCQs and for Mains, write more and more answers. (and mug up the optional!)
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score
GS90No idea118

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperNot needed
your regional languageNot needed

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Pretty easy

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
That was the most important addition for my second attempt (2014-98, 2015-136). I mostly followed InsightonIndia Sunday essay writing initiative. I occassionaly wrote essay on that. Read the links given, quite useful. I wrote about 25 essays before Mains, after prelims. Strategy followed is simple. You gotta touch most dimesions. For that, use your UPSC syllabus !

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
I wrote the ‘Education without values makes a clevere devil’ and the one on ‘Capitalism…..’. I essay I usually start with an example from World History (M good at it), so I took the case of Che Guevara in Capitalism essay. Continues to touch the social aspects, example from Indian socialism, differences in imperialism and capitalism, example of Milind Kamble (SC entreprenuer who found DICCI) and how capitalism broke the shackles of social barrier. Examples from economy (including the other sided view too- subprime crisis) and so on.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureVision (Don’t waste much time, only a couple question in Mains out of which atleast one will be out of reach anyway)
Indian historyBipin Chandra, Secure-2015 (InsightonIndia)
world historyOld Ncert
post-independence IndiaVision notes, Vajiram notes
Indian societyMrunal lectures (Best you can get)
role of women, poverty etc.Same as above
globalization on Indian society
communalism, regionalism, secularism
world geo physicalVajiram notes, Mrunal lectures, G.C.Leong
resource distributionMrunal lecture
factors for industrial locationVajiram
earthquake tsunami etcBoth
impact on flora-fauna

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.Laxmikanth, Newpaper
comparing Constitution with worldVajiram notes
parliament, state LegislaturesLaxmikanth
ministries departments
pressure group, informal asso.Mrunal
Representation of people’s actNotes vajiram
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..
NGO, SHG etcMrunal
welfare schemes, bodiesNews papers
social sector, health, edu, HRDNewspapers and mrunal
governance, transparency, accountabilityVajiram notes
e-governanceMrunal lecture
role of civil service
India & neighborsNewspaper
bilateral/global groupingNewspaper
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest
international bodies- structure mandateInternet

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationEconomic survey and vajiram notes
inclusive growthMrunal
major crops, irrigationSkipped
agro produce – storage, marketingInternet
e-technology for famersMrunal
farm subsidies, MSP
PDS, buffer, food security
technology mission
animal rearing economicsNewspaper
food processingInternet
land reformsInternet
LiberalizationVajiram notes
investment models
science-tech day to day lifeSkipped
Indian achievements in sci-tech
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR
environmental impact assessment
Disaster ManagementVajiram notes and current from newspaper
non state actors, internal securityNewspaper and Mrunal
internal security – role of media, social networking site
cyber security
money launderingNew paper
border  Management
organized crime, terrorism
security agencies- structure mandateInternet

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsVajiram notes and little bit mrunal
attitude, moral influence etc.
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc
emotional intelligence, its use in governance
moral thinkers of India and worldHow many thinkers did you prepare? None
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.
corporate governance
probity in governance, work culture
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.
challenges of corruption
case studies on above topicsPractised case studies (and area I need to improve)

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?
As ethis and interview are the two portions that screwed me so I don’t think I am the right person to comment on that.

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

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]
Attempted all questions in all exams, excpet GS-4. I think we should go for all the questions as we know that we cannot write quality answers in more than 50 or at max 60% of paper. So better go for quantity.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
The space was enough for me. My handwriting isn’t big.
Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players (who cleared mains and got interview call letter) were claiming that they wrote entire paper in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter….whether examiner is asking ‘examine, comment, discuss or xyz’….simply write in bullets and points.
I wrote mainly in bullets. No subheadings though. Drew many diagrams in Geography an IR portion.

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 intro-body-conclusion.    Actually I followed what was told on Mrunal with an Intro-body showing different dimensions, and positive or ‘way forward’ sort of conclusion.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Almost in every Geo. Question.
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?
By hand
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Blue pen.

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Anthropology. Quite frankly, being an UPTU engineer, I am not fond of studying much. I saw an ooportunity in Anthro dure to shorter syllabus and I took it. I chose it ‘cause I almost fainted while looking at the syllabus of Geography.
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)
Pick Anthro. If you have confidence in your answer writing skills and are slightly good at mugging up.
Q. First the essential book/resource list. (Also mention which one is the “Base book” for covering the theory? + Whatever comments you’ve for a particular book e.g. “my seniors said read xyz book but I found that ABC book was better”.  “xyz topic not given properly in this book, so prepare from xyz website or book…” OR and so on.)
I mostly relied on Vaid’s sir notes. The parts of syllabus not covered in his notes, I read from 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?
There isn’t much current research in Anthro (one more advantage in taking the subject). However, since Indian books are not much good in soome areas, websites of foreign universities help in explaining some parts better. (Even Youtube videos)
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Well, techically I finished it once in about 3 months. But trust me, until and unless you revise Anthro atleast 7-8 times, it won’t do any good. However, once completed, the time of revision comes down exponentially.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
For GS, I wrote 1-2 answers ocassional before prelims,and after september atleast 3-4 answers on an average (including test series)
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Yes, mostly paper. Micro-notes are very essential in preparing for Anthro
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?
I think 2015 paper was a bit difficult (paper 2). However, easy marking made it up for it.

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?
Self-preparation. Although no comments on this portion as I scored only 150 marks (20-30 marks more could have landed me in IPS L)

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
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?]
After giving the interview, I understand now that it is all but a stroke of luck. So, I would suggest everyone to expect worst from the interview and do their utter best in the written exam.

CSE-2015 Marksheet

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

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1118
Paper 2167

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1136
General Studies – Paper 2107
General Studies – Paper 371
General Studies – Paper 4100
General Studies – Paper 569
Optional Paper – Paper-1117
Optional Paper – Paper-2134
Written total 734
Personality Test 150
Final Total884

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
Focus on ethics more. Rest I will keep the same.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
Already in Job

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
It hurt me the most. Now I have to waste time mugging up for Prelims !
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.
Its true. Although everybody has access to newspaper, but lets face it, we still need coaching notes, summaries, online lectures, etc. So these facilities are essential. But trends show that coaching institutes are becoming irrelevant. People join only because they have no idea about the material both offline and online already available.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Yea, that would atleast save us from 1 ½ month of limbo.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Prelims can be made online, yea.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
I will definitly scrap interview. If not scrap it, I ll lessen its weightage. You cannot judge a person’s years of preparation in 30 minutes of factual questions and answers.

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?
I was no topper in my school. I am no IITian. Many knew how UPTU engineering is. It does’t matter where you came from, you will always be master of your fate.


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?
Patience is the key. Do not take failure too hard. Drink. Laugh it out with friends. Go Goa ! and start it all over again.
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?
‘If you want to leave footprints in the sands of time, don’t drag your feet.’

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?
When I first came to Delhi, I had no idea what UPSC CSE is. I stayed with my buddy, also an aspirant, who gave me initial guidance and steadied my feet. If it were not for him, I might not have garnered the strength to carry out this marriage with UPSC. Further, parents and my collegues are always there for me. And ofcourse, the one ‘special friend’ who used to pick me up every time I fall down, listen to my babblings, frustrations and hopes. J

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 already mentioned the role of Mrunal in many times above. I must reiterate that I have extensively used Mrunal, especially the revision series.

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 4 Comments posted

  1. Taniya Jha

    Any book for Hindi paper?

  2. Taniya Jha

    Sir suggest me any book for Hindi Paper.


    in aptitude no of question is only 80…. how u attempted 98….?????

  4. pappyfizz

    hello sir, congratulations on ur success…
    sir i just want to ask that whether joining assistant in ib through ssc was a part of ur plan for preparing for upsc ?

    as i am also appearing for ssc this tym can u plz tell me which jobs will be good if i want to prepare for upsc later ?

    thanku sir

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