- Candidate Profile
- Electronic Vs Paper material
- Tempo and style
- Prelims (CSAT) General studies
- Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
- Prelim accuracy
- Mains: Compulsory language paper
- Mains: Essay
- General Studies (Mains) paper 1
- General studies (Mains) paper 2
- General studies (Mains) Paper 3
- General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
- Mains answer-writing?
- Mains Optional Subject
- Before the interview
- During the interview
- CSE-2015 Marksheet
- Career Backup
- Views on UPSC reforms
- Insecurity about profile
- Credit: Friends/family
- BOGUS Marketing Propaganda
|Name||Rishav Kumar Jha|
|Rank in CSE-201||162|
|Total attempts in CSE (including this one)||2|
|Medium chosen for Mains answers||English|
|Medium chosen for Interview||English|
|Home town/city||Saharsa, Bihar|
|Work-experience if any||No|
|Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures||Qualified BPSC prelims, SBI associates PO. Failed in RBI grade B prelims.|
|Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)||Coaching for optional(Prabodhan IAS), Vision test series for mains GS, Mock interview at Samkalp, Chanakya, Byju’s.|
|Service preferences (Top-5)||IAS>IPS>IRS(IT)>IRS(C&E)>IFS|
|state cadre preference (Top-5)||Bihar>Jharkhand>Rajasthan>MP|
|% in class 10||98|
|% in class 12||80|
|Graduation course and %||Electrical and electronics engineering (6.7 CGPA)|
|Name of college, city, passing out year||NIT Karnataka, Surathkal (2014)|
|Any other professional courses||No|
|Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements||Watching movies|
Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
I am from Bihar. My father is a professor and my mother is a teacher. My brother works in Perfetti and my sister in Axis bank. I wanted to get into civil services right since my college days. I straightaway started preparations after my college. I believed I could not derive personal satisfaction out of a corporate job and I wanted to do something which could change lives. I couldn’t do it without the financial and emotional backing of my family, especially my father, given that I have been completely unemployed till now.
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)
For GS, paper 1 is still very much bookish. Papers 2&3 are almost entirely dynamic and have to be prepared from Hindu, Mrunal, insights, PRS etc. Static portions have to be completed from authentic books and notes, but should be kept minimal as questions are not directly asked from static portions. My typical day would start at 11 in the morning and go up to 4-5 in the morning. There was no strict schedule but I would not waste much time. I would rather sleep or watch a good movie when bored. I made hand-written notes from weight-losing sources like Hindu, Yojana, random internet articles etc. But I would never make notes out of books which need to be read cover-to-cover like Laxmikanth. I personally think it is a wastage of time and effort.
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?
Mood swings and distractions happen when you are not sure whether you are on the right track or not. I would plan my studies for the next 15 days and execute them efficiently. So when my target would seem to be in reach, I would take a break and not exert any undue pressure on myself. Another aspect is to choose the right sources. Right sources can be chosen either through a trial and error method or by going through the sources of toppers. The second option is much more efficient.
|History Ancient||GS manual by MACGRAWHILL|
|History Medieval||GS manual by MACGRAWHILL|
|History Modern (Freedom Struggle)||GS manual by MACGRAWHILL|
|Culture and society||Nitin Singhaniya notes and CCRT|
|Polity (theory + current)||Laxmikanth|
|Economy (theory + current)||Mrunal for basics and Ramesh Singh|
|Science (theory + current)||MACGRAWHILL manual|
|Environment (theory + current)||Shankar IAS book|
|geography physical||NCERT+ Goh Cheng Leong for concept clarity|
|geography world||NCERT+Mrunal articles|
|other national/international current affairs||GK Today current affairs+ Hindu+ Vision monthly booklets + Mrunal updates|
|Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff||PIB + Official ministry websites|
Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
With the demise of CSAT (made qualifying), no one can afford to take prelims lightly anymore, not even someone who has scored 100-something rank and is taking the exam again. Keep your sources minimal and cover them exhaustively. Attempt more questions and don’t try to be overtly safe or foolhardy. If you are confused between 2 or 3 options, take the attempt because the probability is in your favour mathematically.
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)?
This was also the case in 2015 prelims. So I would not make any changes to my approach.
|Topic||strategy / booklist|
Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
One should practice a few papers before taking the exam. Those who are not comfortable with maths or english should devote some time exclusively for CSAT.
Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
For prelims, mock tests are not necessary because the number of probable questions is infinite. However, I would buy test papers of coaching institutes from market and practice them at home only. It helps you in gauging your progress, weaknesses etc.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015
|attempted Q.||correct (Expected)||Official score|
|Compulsory language paper||Your preparation strategy / booklist?|
|your regional language||No|
Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Both papers were comfortable for me. For those with English medium or hindi medium, one should practice some papers in language they are not comfortable with. Length is not an issue, provided time management is taken care of.
Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I didn’t study anything different for essay. The content comes from everything you read for GS. But few things need to be kept in mind. The introduction and conclusion should be catchy. For this, I mugged up a few quotes by inspirational figures like Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Einstein etc. I also used a story in the beginning in one of the essays which I thought was both relevant and catchy. Body should be multi-dimensional (history, geography, economy, ethics etc.) and flow should be maintained. Different paragraphs should not look like disjoint articles. One should pick up few good articles in Hindu and go through them to get an idea of how good authors write lengthy pieces.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
In section A, I wrote on education without values. I started with how Dr. Kalam and Dr. Khan (nuclear father of Pakistan) had different values with similar education and how that ended up for these two nations. I included reports, education policies etc to give some weightage to my essay and deliberately kept it multi-dimensional. In section, I wrote on “Technology can’t replace manpower”. I started with a story I had read somewhere and included all dimensions. In both essays, I included a lot of quotes which I had mugged up a few days before the exam and which I can’t recall right now. Always keep in mind to finish the first essay within 1.5 hours. Lots of people do this mistake and end up having a sub-standard second essay.
|Topic||How did you prepare?|
|Culture||Nitin Singhaniya, CCRT|
|Indian history||Bipin Chandra|
|world history||Alok Jha notes (synergy)|
|post-independence India||Bipin Chandra (India since independence). This book is extremely useful for writing essays too.|
|Indian society||Vajiram notes|
|role of women, poverty etc.||Vision booklets|
|globalization on Indian society||Vision booklets|
|communalism, regionalism, secularism||Vision booklets|
|world geo physical||NCERT and Goh Cheng Leong|
|resource distribution||NCERT and Mrunal|
|factors for industrial location||Mrunal articles series (The best source you can get on this topic)|
|earthquake tsunami etc||NCERT and youtube videos|
|impact on flora-fauna||Didn’t do|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.||Laxmikanth|
|comparing Constitution with world||Vision booklets|
|parliament, state Legislatures||Vision booklets, Punchhi commission report|
|executive-judiciary||Vision booklets, Punchhi commission report|
|ministries departments||Vision booklets and official ministry websites|
|pressure group, informal asso.||Vision booklets|
|Representation of people’s act||Vision booklets and bare acts|
|various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..||Vision booklets|
|NGO, SHG etc||Vision booklets|
|welfare schemes, bodies||Mrunal, Hindu, Yojana, Vision monthly current affairs|
|social sector, health, edu, HRD||Mrunal, Hindu, Yojana, Vision monthly current affairs|
|governance, transparency, accountability||Vision booklets and 2nd ARC report|
|e-governance||Vision booklets and 2nd ARC report|
|role of civil service||Vision booklets and 2nd ARC report|
|India & neighbors||Hindu, Idsa.in|
|bilateral/global grouping||Hindu, idsa.in, Insights articles|
|effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest||Same|
|international bodies- structure mandate||Same|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|Indian economy, resource mobilization||Ramesh Singh|
|inclusive growth||Vision booklets|
|Budgeting||Compiled notes from various sources|
|major crops, irrigation||GK Today notes, geography NCERT|
|agro produce – storage, marketing||GK today notes|
|e-technology for famers||GK today notes|
|farm subsidies, MSP||GK today notes|
|PDS, buffer, food security||GK today notes|
|technology mission||GK today notes|
|animal rearing economics||GK today notes|
|food processing||Mrunal series on food processing|
|land reforms||Mrunal series, Bipin Chandra|
|Infra||Vision booklets, Mrunal series|
|investment models||Vision booklets|
|science-tech day to day life||Hindu|
|Indian achievements in sci-tech||Hindu|
|awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR||Hindu, Insights articles|
|environmental impact assessment||Vision booklets|
|Disaster Management||Vision booklets|
|non state actors, internal security||Vajiram’s book|
|internal security – role of media, social networking site||Vajiram’s book, Internal Security by MACGRAWHILL|
|cyber security||Vision booklet|
|money laundering||Vision booklet|
|border Management||Vision booklet|
|organized crime, terrorism||Vision, Vajiram’s booklets|
|security agencies- structure mandate||Internal security by MACGRAWHILL|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics||Mrunal series, MK Mohanty book, Michael Sandel’s youtube videos|
|attitude, moral influence etc.||Mrunal videos|
|civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc||S K mishra class notes|
|emotional intelligence, its use in governance||Youtube videos|
|moral thinkers of India and world||How many thinkers did you prepare? Two: Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda|
|ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.||M K Mohanty book and S K Mishra classnotes|
|corporate governance||M K Mohanty book|
|probity in governance, work culture||Mohanty|
|citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.||Mohanty, 2nd ARC report|
|challenges of corruption||2nd ARC report|
|case studies on above topics||Vision GS test series|
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?
This paper’s core syllabus is very limited and can be prepared within 15 days. However, answer writing needs to be developed. This paper is not only about ethics; it’s about polity, economy and everything else. One should link the answers with the dynamic issues, viz. IB report on Greenpeace when writing about environmental ethics. Also one should use as many examples as possible. I used examples of Sachin tendulkar and APJ Abdul kalam in many answers. Case study answers should be written taking into account various constitutional provisions and various laws of the nation. Watch Rachit Raj’s videos on how to write ethics answers to get an insight.
Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:
|Paper||Best attempted||Average quality||namesake answer||Total attempt|
I think if one has even slight idea about a topic, one should attempt the question. However, there is a very fine line between attempting an unexpected question and bluffing. So this path should be treaded cautiously. In GS2, the question on arbitration and conciliation act was totally unexpected for me. But, still I wrote a few generic points which I knew wouldn’t amount to bluffing. There are questions where we can answer only a part; those questions should also be attempted according to me.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
3 pages for a 12.5-marks question is a trap. No one can write 60 pages in 3 hours, and that too with the kind of quality that UPSC demands. Avoid falling into that trap. I would not write more than 2 pages on an average.
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.
This is a sticky issue. Usually, body should be written in points and intro-conclusion in paragraphs. But there are questions where we can’t just write in points. Directives are very important to follow. They make differences to make or break your selection.
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, in most of the questions. I personally think one should “bother” about proper intro-conclusion. They make slight differences in each question, which ultimately makes a huge impact in the overall result. Try practicing quality answers during test series or at home.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
Nope. I still wonder how some people actually manage to do that.
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
I did in one answer. In IRNSS question in GS 3, I drew a map of India to show the locations of 7 satellites instead of writing them.
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?
Blue writometer gel pen.
Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Maithili. The syllabus is extremely limited compared to other optionals. There is no dynamic portion and I just had to mug up the notes provided by my teacher. The best thing was, at the end of the day, I just didn’t have to worry about my optional. I didn’t have to worry about notes or new dynamic issues or anything else. It was a safe decision.
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 strongly advise every hindi-speaking candidate for taking up Maithili. Anyone from bihar or Jharkhand or UP or MP or Rajasthan can take it up. In fact, this year, a girl from Orissa has secured 200-something rank with Maithili as the optional. If you have been jinxed with a particular optional, try considering Maithili as an optional.
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.)
Maithili essentially consists of notes provided by the coaching institute. I studied at Prabodhan IAS (by Surendra Raut sir) in Mukherjee Nagar and I completely depended upon him my notes. In paper 2, there are some books which are a part of the syllabus. One just has to read them and answer in their words. So, basically, apart from the 15-odd books mentioned in the syllabus, one just has to mug up the notes.
Q. How much of internet-research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?
In my optional, there is no dynamic question at all. So, there is no internet-research needed. One can completely rely upon the notes.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Around 3 months for my coaching to be finished.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
No. My class notes were sufficient and necessary, so there was no scope to milk any extracts out of them.
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?
Maithili papers are almost similar every year. The marking patterns differ slightly across the years. Precautions need to be taken in the form of avoiding complacency while preparing for it because most people rely on the last 1-2 months to finish the entire syllabus, which can be detrimental.
Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?
I prepared questions from my DAF, especially my birth place, state, engineering subject, hobbies etc. I mostly relied upon internet to gather information about these aspects. I tried to keep it simple. At the same time, I tried to broaden my thinking and understanding to cope up with possible out-of-the-blue questions. I practiced answering questions in a closed room to brush up my communication skills and my ability to come up with the right words at the right time.
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 attended mock interviews at Samkalp, Chanakya and Byju’s. They helped me to brush up some of the expected answers. Also, they helped me to overcome my psychological fears. However, the original interview had some very unexpected questions, which I could not answer very freely. Still, mock interviews are very helpful and should be attended.
Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
I stayed at my own rented flat. I just read the newspaper in the morning and didn’t bring any notes for the interview.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Take the prescription for eyeglasses, in case you wear them. Overweight people should try to keep their BMI under 30 as it may lead to temporary disqualification.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Light grey shirt, black trousers and a black tie with black shoes.
Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Q2. How long was the interview?
Around 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?]
Answer should not be either too ideal or too practical. For me, it was about personal satisfaction of job as well as helping the society in a proactive manner.
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)
My interview was mostly on expected lines. They asked me questions from my DAF, about my hobbies, economy (mostly budget), and a few questions from science. E.g. Heisenberg uncertainty principle. I replied most of the questions. At one point, one of the members asked me whether Modi government would take anti-populist measures to boost the economy. I told that any good government should take these measures, but I can’t say whether they will do or not.
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?
Most of the questions were expected. A few unexpected questions cropped up, e.g. what were the problems between Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison? I couldn’t answer it. It was not a stress interview though. On being asked about my political inclination (as mentioned above), I fumbled a bit and I guess that’s where I lost a few marks.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Nope. You will get detailed information about these beforehand.
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Try keeping your BMI under 30. It was a problem for some people.
Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet
Prelims mark sheet-
Mains mark sheet-
|Essay – Paper-1||135|
|General Studies – Paper 2||102|
|General Studies – Paper 3||84|
|General Studies – Paper 4||113|
|General Studies – Paper 5||76|
|Optional Paper – Paper-1||122|
|Optional Paper – Paper-2||119|
Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
I would try to improve my marks in ethics paper and in interview.
Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I had not prepared a backup plan yet as I am a 2014 pass-out and this was my 1st real attempt.
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.)
If I had not been selected this year, maybe I would have started preparing a back-up plan.
Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Yes o’course. One, most optional subjects have no relevance to civil services whatsoever, mine included. Two, it distorts the level-playing field between aspirants from different optional. Three, it promotes rote learning.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
It is a progressive step. But the qualifying marks should be around 40%. It is a personal opinion.
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.
I agree with this view. In fact, I prepared most of the topics from different coaching booklets. People from far-away areas, especially rural, have to make that extra effort just to get their hands on the right materials. I believe the right solution would be to provide the serious aspirants with a conducive environment with the help of the state. As per the need of the internet or newer technologies are concerned, I believe this kind of study makes an aspirant versatile and takes him/her away from rote learning and so, is a progressive step.
Q. Half-merger of IFoS with CSE is a bad move because it has raised the cutoffs for players who’re solely dedicated to IFoS only (and not to IAS/IPS). Adding salt to the wounds, many who had applied for both jobs, cleared the prelims- they did not even bother to appear in all the papers of Mains-IFoS. (atleast that was the scene in 2013).
Yes, the two exams should be separated altogether.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Yes. This step would clear the path for those whose marks are hovering around the expected cutoffs and save them the anguish which they face now till the prelims results are out.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Prelims can be conducted online. But taking online test for all 4-5 lakh candidates would be difficult and taking exams on different dates would distort the level playing field as GS questions are not like CAT questions where levels can be compared. Normalisation can be a solution.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
I would try to get a whole cycle completed within 6 months.
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 didn’t. No one needs to be insecure about their profiles. UPSC interviews are not like IIM interviews. You will not be judged by your past academic record. I personally know a guy who completed his engineering in 6 years and ended up within top-100. You just need to have good justification about any situation. If you have managed to overcome your past insecurities and reach the UPSC interview, you will make a good civil servant.
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?
Enjoy the process. The things you learn during this phase will change you as a human being. Competition is tough and seats are limited. So, no matter you fail or succeed, you will always remember this phase. Life gives us many chances, we have to grab just one.
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?
Being successful myself (in this exam, not in life), I am not the right person to comment on this because it will sound hollow. I would suggest them to meet people who have earlier failed in civil services but have been successful in their lives. I know there are thousands of such people. Just because you have failed in this exam doesn’t mean you have failed in life. Just because I have succeeded in this exam doesn’t mean I have succeeded in life.
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?
Firstly, my father. He believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. A few days before the result, he had told me that I would get IPS even when I knew that my chances of getting a rank were dim. My mother, my brother and my sister have been there through thick and thin, handling all my mood swings and my unsocial behavior. I have been in a positive relationship for past many years and that helped me immensely emotionally. My friends and my family have been just awesome. All credits to them for helping me getting over the line.
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.
When I was in college, I started reading economics articles from Mrunal.org and trust me when I say this, it just ignited the spark inside me to take up the preparations. I believe Mrunal sir should get some kind of award for decoding economics in a way no one has ever done before. I also prepared some topics exclusively from mrunal.org- location factors, food processing, land reforms etc. I also used to study the current topics series from this website.