[Topper’s Interview] Nitin Sangwan (Rank-28/CSE-2015) IIT-Madras, Sociology, Infosys, India Cements, hails from Haryana

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Mitrapal Philosophy
  1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Working professional
  7. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  9. Prelim accuracy
  10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  11. Mains: Essay
  12. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  13. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  14. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  15. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  16. Mains answer-writing?
  17. Mains Optional Subject
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. CSE-2015 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

NameNitin Sangwan
Rank in CSE-201528
Roll No.0055401
Age32
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)4
Optional SubjectSociology
Schooling MediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityCharkhi Dadri, Haryana
Work-experience if anyAfter Engineering: India Cements (6 Months), after MBA: ABB Ltd (6 Months), Infosys (22 Month), Tehsildar in Haryana (1 year), DANICS (9 Months), IRS C&E
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresState PCS cleared in 2013. Appeared for SSB via NDA and CDS.
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)Coaching for optional (Sociology) from an institution in Chandigarh
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS(IT), IRS (C&E)
state cadre preference (Top-5)Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP
My Blog to download notes  meandupsc.blogspot.in

Education

% in class 1076
% in class 1264
Graduation course and %BE Mechanical 72%
Name of college, city, passing out yearPDM College of Engineering, Bhadurgarh, Haryana
Post-graduationMBA, Dept. of Management Studies, IIT Madras
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsCartooning and Blogging (Daalmekaala.blogspot.in)
Yoga

Introduction

Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
UPSC Topper 2015 Nitin Sangwan
I am from a small town Charkhi Dadri with rural roots. My father is in banking and mother a housewife. I am married since last 4 years and in fact started preparation around the time of marriage and now we have a 3 year old daughter. I didn’t have any person in my circle who had cleared civil services exam, so guidance was lacking. My schooling and graduation were also from average institutions. However, after graduation I decided to write CAT and this was the time when I gave serious thoughts to studies. But Civil Services was still not in my mind at that time. Finally, in 2012 when I was in Infosys and was on bench I saw the question paper of that year’s preliminary exam. That was the time I started the preparation while still being in the job.

Electronic Vs Paper material

Q. In recent times, there is spur in electronic material- blogs, sites, pdfs, RSS-feeds. Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. So, how much do you rely on electronic material and how much on the paper material (Books, newspapers)? If possible, narrate a typical day in your study life. 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)
As I was working when I started preparation, it was difficult to carry books in the office and read them. So, I started to read NCERT books, newspapers etc online and started making notes out of them. Later I found making notes online very convenient as well as one can edit them anytime anywhere. You are also saved a lot of hassles of carrying the bulky books around. I typically mixed online/computer reading with the text book reading as reading on computer alone can be very tiring for eyes as well. I used to write a few paras now and then on my own (without joining any test series) as it helps you in organizing your thoughts. I always emphasize on making on notes making in your own language and I did that regularly. I never accumulated newspapers, but rather made soft notes out of that on regular basis (these notes are also available on my blog – www.meandupsc.blogspot.in). Making your own notes in own style improves your understanding of the things and helps in minimizing the bulky study material to manageable notes. It is true that there is information overload these days, every website claims to have the best material and sources and every topper also suggests the same things. So, it is utmost necessary that you read the basic books again and again and don’t get distracted by the other material. Once you are done with the basic stuff, explore other material and buy/download only that much which you can read and digest. This exam is about developing an understanding of things around you, so, do that first.

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?
Maintaining the study momentum is a very personal thing. It is about the self-motivation and the drive that one have. Everyone has his or her share of distractions, but one has to know his or her priorities in life. I kept myself away from social media for the whole phase of my preparation. I had a simple phone without internet. I used to feel low at times, but never let that feeling to overpower me as what I wanted to achieve was over and above my mood and distractions.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
For working professionals, following tips will be useful (as I was also working for the most of my preparation time, I also used to do the same):

  • First of all, never ever waste even a single minute of your time. Even your lunch time should be limited and the rest of the time should be devoted to studies. If you spend significant time in commuting, always carry some study material with you to utilize that time which is otherwise wasted. Similarly, whenever you go to your hometown, utilize the travelling time to study.
  • Secondly, for working professionals who sit on computer for work, the computer can be used to store the study material. Read that and make soft notes whenever you get even 10 minutes free.
  • Thirdly, if your profile provides you flexibility to move in such a division of your organisation which has lesser workload, move into that division.
  • Fourthly, if the above doesn’t work, move to other organization if possible. Also try to switch to such an organisation where you have to commute a little and have a Saturday and Sunday off.

Finally, don’t get discouraged y that fact that you get lesser time as compared to other full-timers. We also learn a lot of other things while being in job which can be used in this exam. If others take one year to prepare, you will take one and a half year at the max. Just believe in yourself and keep studying.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topicstrategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient and MedievalFor both ancient and medieval history, NCERT books (read both new as well as older ones) are more than sufficient. This portion is also helpful to cover the culture part. You cannot read culture notes alone without knowing the history our society as culture is a product of our society and its working. Generally a very few questions are directly asked from this portion and hence you need to have a broad chronological idea only. Further, there are some important aspects like – related to administration, social setup and political dynamics that need to be given special attention.
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)For this portion, old NCERTs or the Orient Blackswan book on history (slimmer one) by Bipan Chandra will be sufficient as the basic material. You may build upon it by using new NCERTs, internet, last year’s papers and so on. I have myself prepared some elaborate notes and they are available on my blog (www.meandupsc.blogspot.in) for reference of the aspirants.
Culture and societyFor beginners, the NIOS notes/book and the NCERT 11th class book is sufficient. On this topic also, I have myself prepared some elaborate notes and they are available on my blog (www.meandupsc.blogspot.in) for reference of the aspirants. To develop an understanding of culture and society, have a background knowledge of things in terms of our history. So, never ignore the ancient and medieval history books. Have a bare minimum basic idea of that. Try to visualize things elated to culture and history by looking at the related pictures from internet.
Polity (theory + current)Laxmikant Jindabad! This is the one book that I found is made for UPSC only. Read it umpteen times for both pre and mains. Apart from that, for current – any good newspaper like The Hindu or Indian Express is sufficient.
Economy (theory + current)You may refer any standard book like Ramesh Singh and Dutt and Sundaram. Apart from that, for current – any good newspaper like The Hindu or Indian Express is sufficient. Some people have jitters about economy portion due to some issues like a different background. They should first clarify the basic definitions and concepts. Some website offer very good explanations on basic definitions. Doing that can be helpful
Science (theory + current)Gone are the days when questions were asked from the basic sciences. So, I don’t think one should spend time on reading the NCERTs on science. Only those who have some phobia of science topics should read NCERTs. Now a days only those questions are asked which are related to day today science. So, read newspapers thoroughly.
Environment (theory + current)It has two sections – one is historical developments and other is current efforts. For the first portion, take notes of any popular institution or read any standard book. For the other part, again, newspaper is the only source.
Geography physical + India + World etcFor all topics of geography, NCERTs (both old and new) are adequate. Leave the obsolete data of Old NCERTs. Apart from these, the ‘Certificate Physical and Human Geography’ by Goh Che Leong is also a very good book. Read these books thoroughly. You make take help of internet and take diagrams from there to understand some physical phenomenon better.
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffEarlier, direct questions were asked on schemes, but now a days you can you these schemes only in your general GS answers. So, in a way, you need not to cram all the small details of such schemes, but their broad feature, their objectives and shortcomings. Newspaper is the only source. You may also read the India Book released by Government of India.

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2016 paper?
Never ever ignore the basic books in over-enthusiasm to attend test series. Always remember, test series can be of any use only if you are well prepared. 40-50% questions are very conceptual and are asked from basic topics, so you should read them quite well.
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 would have gone through solved objective papers of past couple of years of the other exams conducted by UPSC. This gives you a better idea about the kind of question UPSC is expected to ask.
Secondly, I would have tried to solve multiple objective types test papers and have noted down those areas in which my preparation is lacking.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsThere is only one strategy for all these – practice till you feel comfortable enough to attempt the actual exam.
reasoning
comprehension
Decision Making

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
I never attended any mock tests for prelims or even mains. I don’t think that they are even necessary. They are often time consuming and are very unreasistically designed and their outcomes can be very frustrating. Just read past years papers of UPSC and practice those kind of questions yourself. That would be much more helpful.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score
GSI don’t remember now110
aptitudeI don’t remember now167

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperRead past years papers of UPSC only.
your regional languageHindi. Read one Vyakaran

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Language papers may look like easy target for the most of us, but if you have slightest fear about it, I would suggest that you spare 15-20 minutes daily for 2-3 months before the Mains. Failing in the language papers is the worst thing as you are not even informed of score of your other GS papers. Language paper is an issue for many due to particular education and social setup we live in. In urban areas, Hindi and other regional languages are a casualty, in rural areas English is a casualty.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I never prepared separately for the essay paper and always paid my greatest attention to GS papers. However, I tried to learn a few quotes, note down some interesting and catchy information and jot down some basic facts for use in essay.
The foremost thing that you should keep in mind is that – your essay should have a clear well defined structure and smooth flow. If you can have a catchy opening (with some anecdote, non-cliched quote, some short story etc) and a though provoking conclusion (preferably with some suggestions if the topic demands so), nothing like that.
I never referred any book, but you may refer one if you feel you need some idea about good essays. Try to have a look at good essays from different sources and extract the good points from them.

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

  1. Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole.
  2. Dreams which should not let India sleep.

It is very difficult to recall the points that I had included. However, for the second essay, I can throw some light. Dreams that should not let India sleep included – challenges and aspirations that India faces in various walks of life. I also borrowed from the legacy that India has and its efforts to regain that. I also included the agenda of its peaceful rise and its aspiration of a global leader. I included the dire need of addressing social issues – from gender to caste to education. I also touched upon the quality of life issues. I also made a beautiful diagram or two depicting these dreams on a map of India. I tried to explore every single social, economic and political dimension related to essay. I also tried to link its aspirations and dreams to the outside world. I also enumerated the challenges and opportunities in achieving those dreams. Mine essays were well structured and had some meaningful conclusions as well.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureThis section of the examination is considered as the most scaring part by most of the aspirants if not by all. However, it should not be the case. Indian culture is something that we all can relate to as we are part of it and we create it daily as we live our lives.
My suggestion would be – first of all familiarize yourself with a broad outline of our history – from ancient to modern. This is because – culture is all about our accumulated achievements – in both tangible and intangible sphere. It is not about monuments and figures, but about the people and their lives also who created these.
Secondly, culture is also about visualization of human creation. When you see and hear things, you become more comfortable with them. So, whenever you read about some cultural item, google its image or videos. It will deepen your understanding and will also simplify the things.
Thirdly, don’t understand culture in terms of facts and data, but understand it in terms of stories and narratives. Stories which are driven by political factors, religion, geographies and above all human values.
To start with, there is a beautiful book of class 11th by NCERT – An Introduction to Indian Art. It doesn’t cover all the things, but it is very graphic and easy to understand. Attempt the questions given in it to deepen your understanding. Another book is by NIOS – Indian Culture and Heritage. The book fairly covers all the topics, but has some factual errors in it, so verify wherever you have a doubt.
Apart from these, I read too many a books and sources from internet. I finally complied them in form of a document which I think shall be very useful to all future aspirants and it can be found here at my blog – http://meandupsc.blogspot.in/
Indian historyIt is advisable that you read Old NCERTs absolutely thoroughly or may read “History of Modern India” by Bipan Chandra, Orient Black Swan Publication (It is a thin book and is a republication of the old NCERTs, read either of these). They cover almost all the topics. Don’t miss even a single word. (Attempt all the questions which are given at the end of those chapters in case you read NCERTs. It will also serve you as a sort of answer writing practice as well).
After reading these, you may refer to the new NCERTS as well. Why new NCERTs? Because they are more graphic and have an interactive style. At times they are more engaging than the older ones and had explained a few topics in a much lucid manner.
Google those events/topics which are not adequately covered in these (but are mentioned just in a few lines), but never go too deep into that as you just need to have a conceptual clarity about that particular event. After doing that, you may refer to my notes which are there at http://meandupsc.blogspot.in/
I have tried to arrange my these notes as per the requirement of the new syllabus of Mains Exam and have come up with these after intensive study of different resources, so these notes should be of special help to you.
World historyIt is advisable that you read Old NCERTs (9th and 10th class) absolutely thoroughly. They cover almost all the topics. Don’t miss even a single word. Attempt all the questions which are given at the end of those chapters. It will also serve you as a sort of answer writing practice as well. I have my notes on my blog as well.
Post-independence IndiaFor this section the recommended books (India After Independence by Bipan Chandra or India After Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha) are quite bulky. But if you have patience, read them once thoroughly and make your own notes out of them (I also did the same). You can google some of the topics and add to your notes. While reading these books, keep in mind that you need not memories those points which are totally of political nature and remember only that much which is necessary to formulate a narrative of all the events.
Don’t miss the nationally and socially important events – understand their background, causes if any and their consequences on national democratic and socio-economic framework.
Indian society, Role of women, poverty, globalization on Indian society etc.This area is very generic and you have to use your common sense. Many of the aspects are covered in the syllabus of history (i.e. origin of various institutions like caste, family and marriage etc to their change over the time). For contemporary issues, try to locate the articles in newspapers and magazines. Don’t stress yourself too much on this area by reading specialized books. Do that only if you have sufficient spare time. This is because if you are an aware member of society, then you know most of these issues. For their solution, it requires certain amount of critical thinking that you must exhibit in the examination hall.
Even if you want to read something, read sociology NCERTs (new ones).
Communalism, regionalism, secularismBipan Chandra has explained meaning and evolution of communalism quite well. However, that is not the only source. You can google such topics and you should get fairly good articles.
World geo physical, resource distribution, factors for industrial location, earthquake tsunami etc, impact on flora-faunaI myself relied on new NCERTs and Goh Che Leong book. Try to google a bit about the physical phenomenon that you read. Also read past years’ papers to get a hang of the kind of questions they ask.

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. parliament, state Legislatures, executive-judiciary, ministries departments, pressure group, informal asso., various bodies: Constitutional, statutory,Laxmikanth only + read newspaper diligently.
comparing Constitution with worldA short compilation is given in the Public Administration book by Laxmikanth and that is quite useful and lucid.
Representation of people’s actJust have a look at the important provisions of the bare act. However, the questions will not be asked from it. They are more likely to be asked from the contemporary issues related to elections etc. For example – the recent scrapping of a section pertaining to disqualification or recent Rajya Sabha elections and controversies thereof.
NGO, SHG etc, welfare schemes, bodies, social sector, health, edu, HRDHere your beloved Yojna or Kurukshetra can be of some help. For basic definitional concepts, you may google the terms, but their actual functioning and challenges, articles in these mags and newspapers can help.
governance, transparency, accountability, e-governanceIt is more of a recent origin. Try to follow the relevant news items. Also read the basics from India Book.
Role of civil serviceJust google it or read a few relevant pages of Laxmikant book of Public Administration
India & neighborsAny good book on foreign policy (or refer to Ministry of External Affairs website for detailed IR related documents) and newspaper. Refer
Bilateral/global grouping, international bodies- structure mandateNewspaper and any standard notes or books
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestNewspaper
DiasporaRefer to Ministry of External Affairs website and google the topic. There are some good articles available on internet, especially on history and evolution of diaspora.

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationAny standard book like Ramesh Singh or Dutt and Sundaram
Inclusive growthNewspaper and Yojna etc
BudgetingRead the highlight of recent budget and eco survey apart from Laxmikanth for the general process.
Major crops, irrigationNCERT geographic books
Agro produce – storage, marketingNewspaper articles + you may refer my notes at http://meandupsc.blogspot.in/
e-technology for famers
farm subsidies, MSP
PDS, buffer, food security
technology mission
animal rearing economics
food processing
land reformsIndia after independence notes or books
Liberalization
InfraNewspaper only
investment models
science-tech day to day lifeIndia book, newspaper plus any standard notes of any institution or website
Indian achievements in sci-tech
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR
environmental impact assessment
Disaster Management
non state actors, internal security
internal security – role of media, social networking site
cyber security
money laundering
border  Management
organized crime, terrorism
security agencies- structure mandate

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsI referred to only one book for Ethics – by Donald Menzel (Ethics Moments in Government).
attitude, moral influence etc.
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc
emotional intelligence, its use in governance
moral thinkers of India and worldI never referred to any thinker as I think it is a paper of your own original approach and logical thinking.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.This is GS stuff, so use your common sense and GS material.
corporate governance
probity in governance, work culture
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.
challenges of corruption
case studies on above topics

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?
I guess the paper was more of reasoning based. It was very generic and didn’t require any theoretical perspective. For ethics paper, follow your heart and try to explore as many options you can (where your suggestion is solicited).

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
GS1155020
GS2136120
GS3145120
GS4122014
Opt-P15005
Opt-P25005

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?
I tried to answer all the questions, but this doesn’t mean that I also answer those questions also about which I have no idea. If you are prepared well, you would like to attempt maximum. Try to learn to organize your thoughts in a lucid manner and don’t waste the time and space in the paper.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
I think it is a nice initiative. It also gives a level playing field as question sequence is same for everyone. It also curbs on your temptation of over-writing in those questions in which you feel more comfortable.
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.
It doesn’t matter actually, you should write as per the demand of the question and situation and your capabilities. If you know less about a question, writing in paras is preferred.
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.
I too think that it is futile to think too much about introduction, conclusion etc. Writing to the point saves time and also gives examiner what he or she really looking for.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
No, I didn’t use them, but used to underline a few points with the same pen.
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Yes, I used to draw diagrams wherever possible.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
I preferred drawing with the pencil.
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
Normally 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?
I had Sociology as the optional and it was by sheer chance that I took it after someone advised it to me. However, I think choice of optional should be made after a lot of deliberations, interests and consultation as once you take it, there is no looking back.
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)
As I said, it is not about advising something or the other optional. It should be largely driven by interest and situational factors. Indeed sociology is an optional with comparatively smaller syllabus and everyone can relate to it. So, one can think over it.
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.)
Most of us are generally familiar with the topics which are part of syllabus (except the thinkers part), so this subject is relatively familiar to every aspirant with Sociology as an optional. However, due to very this fact, some people become complacent and take many topics taken for granted. You should try to read thoroughly, but should never overlook the core concepts (for example, while studying caste – you should not overlook the very basic definition and perspectives on caste. You should ask yourself – What is caste? How it has changed historically? What is the theoretical framework lying beneath it? Is that framework accepted as it is by various social thinkers? If not, how and why?)
Then, the question comes – What to read? To this question, I would suggest following material –
New NCERTs on sociology – According to me, new NCERTs are much well designed than the older ones. They also have less factual errors and have a better flow. They also take a lot of examples from the day to day life which can be put in the answers. Try to read them again and again during various phases of your optional preparation. (Old NCERTs were more suitable for the older syllabus and hence may not be as useful, but if you have a hell lot of time, you may read them as well).
Sociology: Themes and Perspective (Haralambos and Heald) (the one with reddish cover and not so thick) – I have never read the thicker one, but read this book (available on flipkart etc). It is a bit outdated in terms of the data it uses as it has not been revised since long. But the case studies it has used are classical ones and are still referred by the social scientists and students alike. Try to match the topics of syllabus and read selectively. Its writing style is extremely lucid and most of the concepts are explained very well.
Sociology (Anthony Giddens) – While Haralambos gives you a conceptual framework, Giddens Sociology is more about the contemporary perspectives in sociology. It gives a fresh and novel perspectives through novel examples and illustrations. It helps you in developing a unique sociological perspective.
Sociology Dictionary (Penguin) – Dictionaries are helpful because, they provide the fundamental definitions of the topics of syllabus. They also carry reference to the works of important social thinkers and their works also. This dictionary is relatively simple in its language than the Oxford ones. You should read the dictionary thoroughly from first to last page and note down those terms and topics which are either part of syllabus (directly or indirectly) or have appeared in previous years’ exams. Some case studies may also be found here.
IGNOU Notes (Only graduation level, not post graduation) – They carry more or less the whole syllabus. They are especially useful for the Paper Two as one generally doesn’t find the topics anywhere else and that too compiled in one source.
Other supplementary sources – Apart from these, for specific topics, you may refer to some other books as well. For example, for Mead (you may refer the Sociology book by Ritzer), for Indian thinkers, you may refer a book by B K Nagala and so on.
Finally, as I always say, the exam is not only about reading books, but also about managing what you have read. Try to consolidate what you have read at a single place as it is easier to revise that during exam. Making your own notes also serves as a kind of writing practice and boosts your confidence as well.
From the day one, you should keep in mind that since the subject is about society and its relationship with individuals, so, you should be very keen observer of it. Whether there is some news article (say on marital trends, caste, family, demography, tribes, polity, socio-economic indicators of development and so on), some development in your neighborhood or even a personal observation, you should try to think over these and note down a thing or two. Such illustrations about society and its working will come handy in form of examples while attempting the questions in the mains paper and will definitely fetch you some extra marks.
I have also shared a few notes on the so called ‘difficult portion’ of the optional, they are there on my blog www.meandupsc.blogspot.in
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?
Not much. Most of the syllabus is covered in standard books and unlike various other optionals (political science, economics etc), very few things change. So, reading newspaper is sufficient.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
3-4 months
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
I never did this. I prefer utilizing my time in reading more and more and learning out of it.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Yes I made my own notes. Making your own notes is akin to writing practice of answers. It helps you in organizing your thoughts.
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 there was not much difference. If you have sound concepts and are well read, you can score big.

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?
For interview – prime focus should be your DAF and the current affairs. Though questions might be asked from your graduation or your optional, but they will be very basic questions and hence you may only brush up your optionals/grad subject.
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 1-2 mocks (but not more than that) each time. They help you in refining some behavioral aspects (the way you sit, enter the room, greet, look at the board or answer the question). Doing it with your colleagues and friends can benefit you a lot as they know a lot of things about you which even you may not be knowing, but still can be asked in the interview. It doesn’t matter if the mock-interview is same or different to the actual interview (and it can never be), it gives you an opportunity for self-introspection which is required at this stage.
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 in NACEN hostel before interview and went by Metro till the Khan Market station and then walked till UPSC. I never carried revision books material along with me. I believe, if you carry those, they add extra stress which you must avoid. However you may take 1-2 popular newspapers along to keep yourself aware about the previous day’s developments.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Read instructions carefully. Sometimes people go to the board with a heavy breakfast and it may cause some trouble in Sugar tests etc.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
I wore a plain light blue shirt and dark grey pants each times.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Shri D k Diwan
Q2. How long was the interview?
Around 40 minutes.
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)
Here is the full interview –
http://meandupsc.blogspot.in/2016/03/upsc-civil-services-interview-2016.html
Q5. Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions?  Was it a stress interview, did they ask any uncomfortable questions? If yes, how did you handle it?
It was more or less on expected lines, though they didn’t ask many questions from my core areas of hobbies and interests. I was expecting a generealish interview and there it was. There was one different question in which I was asked to deliver a speech. However, overall interview was more or less formal and congenial.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
No.

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet
CSE 2015 mark sheet-
Prelims mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1110
Paper 2167

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1140
General Studies – Paper 2120
General Studies – Paper 368
General Studies – Paper 4102
General Studies – Paper 594
Optional Paper – Paper-1122
Optional Paper – Paper-2124
Written total 770
Personality Test 193
Final Total963

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
There are hardly any such areas left after four years.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
This was my third time selection, so would have continued one of my earlier options. If even that would have not been there, then I was already a Tehsildar in Haryana. I found that job very fulfilling and would have continued that.

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.
Yes optional should be removed altogether. Despite ‘scaling’, there is a huge disparity in the average marks in the optional subjects and it ruins whole one year of many. Secondly, optional subject has no relevance for the service as well. Dumping the optional will help the candidates.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
CSAT was a controversial step as some section of aspirants viewed it as working to their disadvantage. But another section can now make the same accusation who have not been well versed with humanities during their graduation etc.
Further, CSAT like portions appear in every other exam – be it SSC CGL, Bank PO, CAT or any other exam for that matter. So, why there is no protest there, but only here? It was simply because the older generation doesn’t wanted to have a change in syllabus in the midway of their preparations.
The argument that CSAT worked in favor of English speaking section is baseless. If you leave the compulsory English part, rest paper could be attempted in other language as well.
Finally, the paper required preparation once in life only. Unlike GS portion which has to be crammed almost every time, retention of CSAT could have helped in reducing some stress from the process as aspirants could focus on the Mains exam directly instead of keeping themselves busy and stressed throughout the year.
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 disagree with this statement. Especially in wake of numerous good online platforms and information dissemination methods. Every information is now available on the click of a button. I myself never relied too much on the Delhi driven guidance. I think with time, preparation will become more secular as online platforms are maturing fast and no one will be at a disadvantage soon, though they are pretty much at level field with others.
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).
Again I disagree with this. Firstly, because target audience of both the services are different. Secondly, it reduces the unnecessary stress of taking multiple exams. From a candidate’s perspective, life should become easier as the attention is not split and there can be a sharper focus. Regarding those who fail to appear for the exam, this is the case for every competitive exam. Even for Civils Prelim only 50% people who have applied appear.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answer key and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
This can be done.

Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
That can be a possibility, at least for the prelims exam.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
Perhaps following should be done –

  • Do away with the optional
  • Secondly shorten the cycle duration to just six months or so
  • Bringing more objectivity in Mains paper as well. And if possible, introduce objective papers. To test writing and comprehension skills, a separate qualifying examination can be there.

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 come from a small town called Charkhi Dadri with an average schooling with 64% marks in class 12th. I did graduation also from a private engineering college. However, the fact that you have gathered courage to write this exam, should reflect positively on you. It takes a lot of effort and courage to come from some disadvantageous background and then pursue your dreams. I think everyone appreciates it rather that pointing fingers on your past achievements. Never ever harbor such thoughts. Be confident. If despite your so called ‘average background’ you have reached till interview, nothing can stop you.
In my case not even a single person was there in my vicinity or relations or even acquaintances who had prepared for civil services. It is solely about determination and hard work that you are ready to put and you will realize background is just immaterial.
The only thing you can do is – try to improve those weak areas (communication for example) which you think should be there for a good interview (and even as a successful administrator).

Wisdom

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?
The only thing I have learned is that – after all, this is also another kind of exam and you will also land into another kind of job. It is ok to say that you want to come into this to pursue your goals, but always remember there are so many avenues as well. You must realize – irrespective of whether you make it or not – that your life is not just about UPSC. Always give some minimum time to your health and family as well. The youthful time that you might put into this exam shall never come back. So, never take too much stress in this exam.

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?
Please refer above.

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 was married by the time I started my preparation. So, my wife (Seema) has a lot of credit to her. She stood like a friend and guide in all good and bad times. She almost sacrificed her own productive time in past couple of years. I also attribute my success to My maternal uncle Bijender Jakhar with who I spent my graduation years. He was such an inspiration to me and he always provoked me to work harder in life. And above all, my parents who I attribute all what I have. They supported my every good and bad decision. They exhibited confidence in me even when no one from my community or family had cleared this exam.

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.
Yes I referred initially, but later I lost track of it. I relied more on my self-research and notes making. However, I stumbled upon this blog now and then.

Mrunal recommends

  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

10 Comments on “[Topper’s Interview] Nitin Sangwan (Rank-28/CSE-2015) IIT-Madras, Sociology, Infosys, India Cements, hails from Haryana”

  1. thank you so much for such direction. but i remain confused for the optional writing practice and i am unable to tackle this problem can any one help.

  2. thank you so much sir … really respect .. you have done a lot of hardwork and thank you for your notes … indebted to you sir \,,/

  3. very inspirational,thnx sir…. ,

  4. thank u sir for making notes…

  5. Sir, can i write my answer in form of bullet points in sociology?

  6. Nice cartoons depicting Indian society, sir.

  7. Sir …Could you please tell me which class Ncert should we follow for General Studies subject like History , Geography ,Polity and also tell me can we rely on the Reference Books like Spectrum ,Bipin Chandara Pal instead of following Ncert .Kindly let me know as i am Preparing without any coaching .

  8. Thank u so much sir! plz guide the aspirant who belonging from rural background and complete there education in their reagenal language. And those people who earning their livlihood wiling to join this type exam.

  9. This is really inspiring interview ,you constantly kept on preparing without too much stress and having a easy approach towards exam is a positive motivation to follow this journey.

  10. thank u sir for making notes…and I have question…..
    What is strategy for UPSC CSE as a sociology optional for Mains?

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