[Topper’s Interview] Prateek Jain (Rank-82/CSE16): Physics, First Attempt in UPSC, IIT Guwahati alumni

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UPSC Paperset
  1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Typical day in your Online life?
  6. Style of Preparation and notes making
  7. Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude
  9. Prelim accuracy
  10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  11. Mains: Essay
  12. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4
  13. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  14. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  15. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  16. Mains answer-writing?
  17. ELASTICITY of Optional Subject Score
  18. Mains Optional Subject
  19. Before the interview
  20. During the interview
  21. CSE-2016 Marksheet
  22. Career Backup
  23. Views on UPSC reforms
  24. Insecurity about profile
  25. Internal Motivation
  26. Grand wisdom
  27. Credit: Friends/family
  28. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Prateek Jain

Q.Details
NamePrateek Jain
Rank in CSE-201682
Roll No.0005053
Age25
Total attempts in CSE (including this one)1
Optional SubjectPhysics
Schooling MediumEnglish
College MediumEnglish
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Medium chosen for InterviewEnglish
Home town/cityDelhi
Work-experience if anySchlumberger Asia Services ltd. (16 months)
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failuresIIT JEE 2009 – AIR 2043
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)Physics Classroom Classes & Test Series – DIAS
GS Prelims and Mains (Test Series only)– Insights & VisionIAS
Interview – Samkalp
Service preferences (Top-5)IAS, IRS-IT, IFS, IPS, IRS-C&E
state cadre preference (Top-5)RJ, MP, GJ, HR, MH

PS: During my JEE prep I took coaching and in subsequent years at college, I felt that this method wasn’t sustainable at all. It really feels like a bot or a machine when we think in flashback. Thus I decided to not to take any coaching for GS this time and prepare it on my own with whatever resources are available online and in form of notes. I still feel that GS is something that any and every learned and educated citizen of this country can know about on his/her own if guided well enough about all the do’s and don’ts of this journey.

Education

% in class 1092
% in class 1286
Graduation course and %Electronics & Electrical Eng., CPI 7.41
Name of college, city, passing out yearIIT Guwahati, Batch 2009-2013
Post-graduationNA
Any other professional coursesNA
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievementsReading and Writing poetry, watching movies, reading books, Sudoku designing

Introduction

Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
I belong to Delhi. Born and brought up in here only. I have an elder brother who is already in the revenue services (IRS-IT, Batch 2013). It is him along with my parents and other well-wishers who have been constantly by my side to guide, console and celebrate every small and big thing all this while. Honestly, at first I had been very reluctant and apprehensive of this exam, (primarily IT is called ‘mother of all examinations’) and it was nearly after 6 years since my JEE days that I was coming for another competitive exam, but I finally took a leap of faith to do what I wanted to do for long but was suppressing it for simple fear of failure and uncertainty.

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 do you balance this i.e. electronic material vs. paper material (Books, newspapers)
There is no need to be bogged down from excess of information available at hand. Just measure your appetite and take as much as you can accommodate. For example, during the interval between prelims and mains I used to see if I already had enough material for a given topic for ex (water management in the country) and the given feeds/editorial is also talking about the same then I would skim through it to find a point or two only otherwise I will ignore it and move ahead. At last one need just 150-160 words ONLY on any topic and once we have it we can skip the related feeds. But throughout my preparation I relied on both electronic (feeds of Mrunal and InisghtonIndia) and paper material (Newspapers+NCERTs +reference books). Even my notes had mix of both electronic (Mindmaps + Evernote) and hard copy medium.

Typical day in your Online life?

Online lifeAnswer
Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services.None.
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroupsNone
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep.Av. 1hr
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobileLaptop

Q. Any other things that you wish to elaborate on above table:
I spent no time on keeping a track of first row. I had subscribed Mrunal and InsightsonIndia websites via RSS feeds, and trusted them blindly that if EVER, any substantial (authentic too) change would be made, I would get to know it automatically. Regarding second row, I had a small coterie of people who were preparing and were more or less on my own frequency, to discuss and diss about the various facets of this exam. I didn’t spend time online on daily basis but on an average it would amount to 1 hr only.

Style of Preparation and notes making

Q. What is your style of preparation and notes making? (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, I use xyz software etc.)
During preparations I felt that there were couple of things that first were needed to fit into the brain for ex the universal principles like how monetary policy and inflation is related or how winds/ocean currents flow. Once all such fundamentals are clear in head, one needs to remember some ‘hard facts’ like how many members are there in MPC or which ocean current flows from which place etc. Thus, I insisted on making very short and concise notes of latter portion in handwritten formats. At first, I used to read the given source 2-3 times and when I had got all fed up in my brain, I turned all this info in form of very short notes. For ex: whole lexicon was compressed in 8 A4s. And crippled with lethargy I used to make mindmaps, venn diagrams, flow-charts etc in making these notes itself. And once these ‘flash’ notes were ready I revised them multiple times (usually every-time before my mock tests and also the final exam). I have uploaded all of my GS evernote notes and Physics flash on my blog (iprateekjain.wordpress.com)

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topicstrategy/booklist/comment
History AncientNCERT (Old by R S Sharma)
History MedievalNCERT (Old by Satish Chandra)
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)NCERT (Old by Bipin Chandra) + Spectrum
Culture and societyNCERT (An introduction to Indian Art)
Polity (theory + current)NCERT (Our Constitution at work)
Economy (theory + current)NCERTs (Macroeconomics + Economic Development + Mrunal lectures & PPTs)
Science (theory + current)Newspapers + Mrunal
Environment (theory + current)ShankarIAS + Newspaper + Wikipedia
geography physicalMrunal Ratanjali lectures + NCERT + YouTube
geography IndiaMrunal Ratanjali lectures + NCERT
geography worldMrunal Ratanjali lectures + NCERT
other national/international current affairsNewspapers
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffNewspapers + InsightsonIndia

Q. Candidates are complaining that compared to earlier years, Prelim 2017 GS paper was very tougher, Tickmasters’ 90+ strategy (and its perverted & populist version known as Guessmaster-giri) and E-learning materials had limited utility. What are you views and wisdom on all these?
Prelims Paper of 2017 was quite different in my view. I think much of knowledge or many of mock tests would have made very little difference, rather much of confidence and calm temperament in those 2 hours would have done the job. It would be better if one would go with an open mind in the exam hall and ‘insisting’ on doing best in those 120 minutes irrespective of difficulty or ‘weirdness’ of the question paper.
Q. Suppose, If you had to prepare for Prelims-2018, then after going through this 2017 paper, what changes would you make in your preparation?
Building muscle to face and do best in most ‘different’ paper. Keeping cool and calm in those 120 minutes’ despite of all the odds is a big thing I feel.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsPrevious Year Papers
ReasoningPrevious Year Papers
ComprehensionPrevious Year Papers
Decision MakingPrevious Year Papers

Q. In the recent two prelims (2016 and 2017), the comprehension portion becoming quite tough and lengthy. Candidates struggle even to finish the paper-II. Kindly provide some words of wisdom:
Beforehand practice can only help in this case.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Yes, I enrolled in the VisionIAS mock test series. And I feel mock test series are useful in at all three stages of the examination. If one is honest enough with these tests they would not only help oneself in completing the whole syllabus in most organized manner but would also expose one’s weaknesses and strengths. They help immensely in developing the required temperament for the examination and also give ample amount of opportunity to experiment and learn prior to the final show. For ex I felt that if I start attempting prelims paper from Q.No 51 I perform well :P

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2016

attempted Q.correct (Expected)Official score
GS121
aptitude134

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperSolved previous 3 year question papers
your regional languagesame

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2016
There was enough time left to write these papers so no worries. Just go with an open and fresh mind.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I started writing essays on every weekend 6 months prior to prelims. At first 2-3 weeks, I couldn’t got hold of the required tone and content that an essay demands in UPSC main examination. But after reading many essays on InsightsonIndia and various subsequent comments, I developed my own style of writing. It is important that one writes 20-30 essays before the final exam. We always feel, no matter how long had we been preparing for, that at present we don’t have sufficient matter to write an essay or GS answers, but once we develop that knack of writing it seems that it’s not just content that limits our writing but just the style and structure that determines the overall appeal of our essay or the GS answer.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
In section 1 I wrote on ‘Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare’ and in section 2 I wrote on ‘ Cyberspace and internet: Blessing or curse to the human civilization in the long run’.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

TopicHow did you prepare?
CultureNCERTs (Ancient, Medieval, Intro to Indian Art)
Indian historyNCERT (Bipin Chandra + Spectrum)
world historyWorld History (Arjun Dev) + VisionIAS Material + Khan Academy documentaries on WW I & II
post-independence IndiaPradhanmantri Series
Indian societyNewspapers + Sociology NCERT
role of women, poverty etc.Newspapers
globalization on Indian societyNewspapers
communalism, regionalism, secularismNewspapers
world geo physicalMrunal + NCERT
resource distributionMrunal + NCERT
factors for industrial locationMrunal (Very good compilation)
earthquake tsunami etcNewspapers
impact on flora-faunaNewspapers

General studies (Mains) paper 2

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.Newspapers + Lakshmikant
comparing Constitution with worldNewspapers + Lakshmikant
parliament, state LegislaturesNewspapers + Lakshmikant
executive-judiciaryNewspapers + Lakshmikant
ministries departmentsNewspapers
pressure group, informal asso.Newspapers
Representation of people’s actNewspapers
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..Newspapers + Lakshmikant
NGO, SHG etcNewspapers
welfare schemes, bodiesNewspapers + AIR Spotlight
social sector, health, edu, HRDNewspapers + AIR Spotlight
governance, transparency, accountabilityNewspapers
e-governanceNewspapers
role of civil serviceNewspapers
India & neighborsNewspapers + AIR Spotlight
bilateral/global groupingNewspapers + AIR Spotlight
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interestNewspapers + AIR Spotlight
DiasporaNewspapers + AIR Spotlight
international bodies- structure mandateNewspapers + AIR Spotlight

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilizationMrunal + Newspaper + AIR Spotlight
inclusive growthNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
BudgetingNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
major crops, irrigationNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
agro produce – storage, marketingNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
e-technology for famersNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
farm subsidies, MSPNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
PDS, buffer, food securityNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
technology missionNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
animal rearing economicsNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
food processingNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
land reformsMrunal + Newspaper + AIR Spotlight
LiberalizationNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
InfraNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
investment modelsNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
science-tech day to day lifeNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
Indian achievements in sci-techNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
environmental impact assessmentNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
Disaster ManagementNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
non state actors, internal securityNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
internal security – role of media, social networking siteNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
cyber securityNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
money launderingNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
border  ManagementNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
organized crime, terrorismNewspaper + AIR Spotlight
security agencies- structure mandateNewspaper + AIR Spotlight

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

TopicHow Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topicsMichael Sandel Lectures, Lexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
attitude, moral influence etc.Michael Sandel Lectures, Lexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etcMichael Sandel Lectures, Lexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
emotional intelligence, its use in governanceMichael Sandel Lectures, Lexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
moral thinkers of India and worldHow many thinkers did you prepare? None
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.Michael Sandel Lectures, Lexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
corporate governanceLexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
probity in governance, work cultureLexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.Lexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
challenges of corruptionMichael Sandel Lectures, Lexicon, InsightonIndia pdfs
case studies on above topicsUPSC previous year papers + test series

Q. In ethics, they’re asking random definition and concepts out of the book. Most of the serious candidates (both topper and non-toppers) have received marks in similar ranges. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
GS 4 is one paper which is most about us and our pure understanding. Einstein once said, ‘if you can’t explain it to a child, you haven’t understood it too’. Thus take these ‘random’ definitions as if you are explaining to a small kid with most simple and clear language with very basic examples or situations to bring out the true essence of concept in discussion. The same thing was discussed by Mr. D K Balaji (AIR 36 CSE 2015) where he insisted on giving examples from daily life to explain our take on values or ethics for ex: one might define courage or leadership by not jumping a traffic signal even though vehicles at back are honking horns at you, or when you alone is not spilling garbage on street when most of your companions are least concerned for it and you care to carry your waste in your hand until you spot a dustbin on the street. Thus, I feel any book is needed to get us start thinking about ethics and once we reach that state of mind, it’s all about how much we can pour into it from our own side.

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
GS117320
GS21919
GS318119
GS42020
Opt-P1230 Marks230 Marks
Opt-P2220 Marks220 marks

Q. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]
I have had 3 categories in my head viz: First category, the questions which I know and thus can directly attempt them. I used to get structure, relevant points straight ahead. And I believe that no matter who or how a paper is set, this category would always constitute the majority of the paper. Second category, the questions which are around something which you know and you would be needing an extra effort to attempt these. Thus, these questions are usually saved for later to be attempted when our first category is done. I generally used to note down the serial number of these questions in margin and attempt them at last. Then lastly comes third category, the ones which we know nothing. (for ex: Mc Bride Commission in GS 2 paper in 2016). These are the ones which we can ignore and leave. For being ‘smart’ in these can prove to be counter-productive. I read somewhere ‘attempt as much as you know, examiner won’t be mad at you for leaving a few blank sheets but surely when you will be trying to fool him/her’.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
It is best aid if managed well. Especially in optional subject (Physics) somehow the space itself contained the hint that what exactly the examiner wants from us. Similarly, in 2016 less space was given in case studies (as told to me by senior players as compared to previous years), which in a way indicates that UPSC intends us to write ‘better’ answers and not necessarily ‘longer’ ones. Also, paper-on-paper format is logistically more sound and easier in handling.
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.
In general, I wrote my answers in bullet forms. But in GS 2 and GS 4 it was more of in paragraph format. So ideally it was mix of both; depending upon the requirement of the question and my comfort level. For ex, explaining is simpler in paragraphs while analysis is easier in bullet forms (with enlisting of both pros and cons)
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, to a greater extent I followed this approach. And it has got one plus point too. A simple declarative or affirmative sentence as an introduction sets the overall context of subsequent answer; sometimes making it easier for examiner to follow the rest of it. Similarly, conclusion gives a chance to uniquely strike the balance and offer optimism or way ahead to the context at hand. So yes, this format helps in writing good-balanced-holistic answers.
I don’t like asking following rudimentary questions, but these are the most frequently asked questions by new aspirants.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?No
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)Yes (In all 4 GS papers in one form or other like flow diagrams, Mindmaps, Geo diag, Venn Diagrams, political maps etc)
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?Pen
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?No
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue Ball pen (Flair Writo-meter)

ELASTICITY of Optional Subject Score

Q2. What are you views on following observation: “In CSM-2016, the marking gap between average to brilliant scorers is smaller in Essay to GS papers and interviews; but in optional subjects there is huge difference among average to brilliant scorers.” Therefore, the deciding factor was the marking in the optional. I have not asked this question to suggest in anyways that you got ‘lucky’ with your optional. But I’ve asked this question because these days younger candidates tend to select or change optionals based on how their coaching-walla, peer-group or social media portrays the particular optional subject. E.g. some three Mains back, there was an atmosphere “you should shift from Public Administration to Pol.Sci or Sociology or anthropology because of Public Administration is giving only two digit scores in each paper.” Similarly, two mains back, some were preaching others to avoid LAW optional because not even 20 are getting interview calls and so forth (data unverified). So, kindly provide wisdom for younger aspirants.
Optional might give oneself an edge (to some extent in my case too). But I still prefer to stick to repeated wisdom – ‘every optional is equally easy and difficult’. It depends on how one performs with it. Hearsay can’t be trusted and neither the peer pressure, for it takes real interest and enthusiasm to persist with one subject for 2-3 years and that too in much detail.

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Physics was my optional. I had no ulterior motive to choose other than that I was most comfortable and confident in this one subject. Also, there was enough of guidance available in terms of classroom classes, test series, online blogs etc
Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
I would advise for this optional  for very basic and objective reasons: First, Physics has got static syllabus means, if once you do it there would be very less that you would add on after 2 years or 3 years, unlike other humanity based subjects (like Geography etc) which needs to be updated and studied in context of contemporary phenomena. Second, there is not much need of expression and command over language in it (which many of science graduates do not have in general). Third, it might give oneself a break from long hours of study of GS.
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.)
Everything has been compiled (including book list and flash notes) on my blog. (iprateekjain.wordpress.com)
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?
Only one topic needs some help of Internet (i.e. Nuclear Physics) else rest of the syllabus can be very well covered from the core textbooks themselves.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
5-6 months.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
I had joined a test series and started practicing answer writing during the same itself
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
I prepared flash notes of each of 8 subtopics in Physics. Which were very concise and to the point, but containing all the poignant information, diagrams, formulas, derivations etc. I prepared them in handwritten A4 sheets.
Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2016 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
I found Paper 1 of physics in 2016 to be easier and more basic as compared to previous year. While Paper 2 was of similar difficulty level as in past. For future, one should focus more on conceptual clarity rather than difficulty levels of question. UPSC might not ask very difficult questions and thus it would be game of what quality one is able to give in such a paper.

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?
There were 2 things to take care of; First DAF related and Secondly general current affairs. For former part, I prepared all possible questions around each word of DAF and thought around them. And for later, I kept on reading newspaper and surfed Internet to understand the relevant context of the NEWS.
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 2 mock interviews at Samkalp and 1 free mock interview at Byjus. Other than these I didn’t enroll for any other coaching institute. Else, I used to sit with my friends and elder brother to discuss any part of my DAF. These mock interviews and discussion sessions were of great importance as they exposed many of the questions that could be framed given my profile and also helped in identifying my plus and negative points which I later tried to manage.
Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
My home is in Delhi itself. So I was at home only. I read that day newspaper prior to going to the interview room.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Navy blue colored Suit, white shirt, tie, formal shoes, combed hair and clean shaven.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Mr.Chattar Singh was Chairman of my Personality Test board.
Q2. How long was the interview?
It must have lasted for 20-25 minutes.
Q3. Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too.  [Since I don’t know whether they ask you this question or not. But if they had asked- what will be your reply?]
I intended to join civil service from the sole point to improve and better the lives of poor people in this country. I might not remove poverty and misery from the lives of many people as an officer, but I believe that it will give me a chance to reduce it to some extent. That was and still is my motivation to come forth. And while being in private job, I could have donated some money of my ‘big salary’ but I think it would have never been a sustainable, for how long can one rely on donations. It needs something else to fix the institutional defaults and shortcomings to overcome this chronic disease.
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)
I have briefed my entire interview at iprateekjain.wordpress.com  Also I have attached my interview transcript here with.
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?
More or less the interview went pretty much on the expected lines only. More than 80% of questions were based on my DAF especially on my hobbies and engineering.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
One id with your DOB and college degree/graduation certificate
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Don’t party one night before the medical. :P

CSE-2016 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Prelim paper-1121
Prelim paper-2134
Mainsmarks
Essay105
Gs 196
Gs 2107
Gs 3105
Gs 4122
Opt 1177
Opt 2145
Written total857
Interview186
Total1043

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
Backup of all backups would always be teaching Physics at any normal coaching class. I was sure that nothing could ever take it from me and in worst of things I could always fall back upon it with enough of peace of mind and happiness.
Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ number of failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/ after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)
Honestly, I had nothing fixed but I would have given no less than 2 ‘best’ attempts at UPSC.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
I don’t think it would be wise if optional subjects would be removed altogether. In my opinion, UPSC is said to always ensure a level playing field in overall scheme of examination thus, if optional is removed, the mains would become highly biased against the candidates with science/technical backgrounds.

Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
I feel it is in sync with the ultimate aim of the exam procedure i.e. to recruit the most able administrators for the country. Thus, the criteria of qualifying CSAT with 33% would ensure at-least a certain level of thought, reasoning and aptitude abilities in the future officers.

Q. Despite what UPSC has done in last seven years in syllabus and pattern change, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories and the readymade e-material sellers. In fact, it’s increased under the new Mains-syllabus post-2013. Let’s face it, UPSC added so many topics and so many random questions, even fulltime student struggles to gather and process all standard reference books and material himself within the short time available to him. and This system work against an individual preparing from far-away area, without any financial resources, high-speed internet or contacts in Delhi to procure the said material in authentic or pirated form.
Undeniably, the Mains syllabus is vast enough and requires some short ready-made notes to prepare the syllabus comprehensively for at least once. I myself relied on Mrunal (for location factors, SnT etc) and InsightsonIndia, VisionIAS monthly current affairs for timely updates and coverage. But I feel this ecosystem based on e-resources is most necessary and desirable as well. It might put a certain section of aspirants at disadvantage but at same time has enabled to overcome the monopolies in Delhi’s ORN and other classroom coachings.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
No I think this might impede with overall examination process (maybe causing added delays and postponement)

Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
It should be but given the infrastructural constraints and diverse backgrounds (in almost every term) it might be not possible for UPSC to conduct the same. For a start at least Prelims can be conducted online.
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.

Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
Nothing fancy but just two : 1. Fixing a tentative deadline for results declaration to save unnecessary and AVOIDABLE misery and anxiety to candidates. 2. Declaring marks of both essay separately.

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 had my own share of insecurities but often I put them at bay for I have heard enough of stories in past that how a poor farmer’s son or daughter make it through, cracking the toughest exam given all the odds. Thus, all my FRIVOLOUS worries and insecurities used to get humbled from this one remembrance. Rest, one needs enough intrinsic energy to cross over the 3 big enough thresholds at every stage and such negative thoughts would make the task rather difficult for oneself. Thus, avoid them for best; talk them through to friends, family or mentor. Max Ehrman wrote ‘Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness’ thus avoid them or kill them young only. J

Internal Motivation

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?
There were couple of things which kept me going. First, I insisted on keeping short term goals; say for a day or two at max and pouring in to achieve them to best. These targets used to be my sole purpose and nothing more. Second, I tried to keep the learning as enjoyful as possible. Whenever things used to become heavy and unsustainable, I shifted to other topics or subjects. For ex doing a case study or two in between or reviewing peer’s essay to break the monotony and freshen up. Also, I insisted on one thing that if I am studying for 10 hours I used to ensure that I get worth out of these 10 hours. I never sat and studied with half heart, whenever this used to be the case, I used to treat myself with better food or a movie.

Grand 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?
Only our best efforts can give us happiness. Final success might depend on number of facts and factors like luck and destiny but what can bring us peace is our own hard-work and self-evaluation. The only corollary is that one got to be damn honest and objective with oneself.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2016 and scored quite low in Prelims-2017. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
Cry your heart out with friend or family and once you feel done, get on your feet and come back in the ring for your one last best shot at it. If you feel it was your best shot, then there is surely something exciting waiting for you after this turn. J

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?
There are many who shaped, inspired and accompanied in this otherwise, dull and heavy journey. The mere presence of all these people not only enlightened the path but also made it little lighter and joyful. For a start, my family – parents, brother, grandparents, uncles and aunts. My friends (I prefer to call my coterie) and my teachers.
To quote of an incident, I was sitting with a hostel friend, eating litti chokha in middle of two back to back mains mock tests in ORN, when that friend asked me what would I do after mains. ‘I don’t know, let’s see. What would you do?’ I said. He replied back, ‘I would be away for 2 weeks then come back to prepare again’. I know It wasn’t much fancy thing to quote or say, but the poise and determination with which he said it got it all much deeper in me, I guess. The reason he was sure enough that he is not giving it up just like that, I got to ask of myself why I was so unsure of this forthcoming journey so early.

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. From start to end I can proudly say. Even before I resigned and made up mind to come forth and prepare for this exam, I fell back upon at Mrunal.org. And besides the various resources I referred (which I have already mentioned in abundance here and as well on my personal blog) the one particular thing which always worked for me, was the counter in its left panel which always indicated the number of days left for Prelims and Mains examination. It always stirred my leisure stances, putting me back on schedule and work. Great Innovation Mrunal!  :P

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

2 Comments on “[Topper’s Interview] Prateek Jain (Rank-82/CSE16): Physics, First Attempt in UPSC, IIT Guwahati alumni”

  1. best stratergy. honest one.

  2. Why did you got so less marks in essay?

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