- Candidate Profile
- Electronic Vs Paper material
- Typical day in your Online life?
- Style of Preparation and notes making
- Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
- Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: 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?
- ELASTICITY of Optional Subject Score
- Mains Optional Subject
- Before the interview
- During the interview
- CSE-2016 Marksheet
- Views on UPSC reforms
- Insecurity about profile
- Internal Motivation
- Struggle of Working professional
- Grand wisdom
- Credit: Friends/family
- BOGUS Marketing Propaganda
|Name||Aparna H S|
|Rank in CSE-2016||613|
|Total attempts in CSE (including this one)||2|
|Optional Subject||Public Administration|
|Medium chosen for Mains answers||English|
|Medium chosen for Interview||English|
|Work-experience if any||Internship at Motorola Mobility|
Freelance Developer at 2 startups
Assistant Manager at NABARD (present)
|Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures||CAT 2015 – got IIM indore (didn’t join)|
Karnataka PSC 2015 – didn’t clear mains
SBI PO 2016 – selected (didn’t join)
NABARD Grade A 2016 – selected and joined
|Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)||Vision online test series for GS and essay|
Lukman online test series for Pub Ad
|Service preferences (Top-5)||IAS>IPS>IFS>IRS IT >IRS C & E|
|state cadre preference (Top-5)||Karantaka > Ap > Telangana > Tn > Kerala|
|Education||fill the details here|
|% in class 10||96.57|
|% in class 12||89.50|
|Graduation course and %||Btech Computer science, cgpa : 9.32|
|Name of college, city, passing out year||R.V college of Engineering, Bangalore, 2015|
|Any other professional courses||–|
|Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements||Carnatic classical, writing poetry, blogging, won in Intl level hackathons, All India Poetry Competition 2015, Policy research intern at ISDG, Taught English to govt school children through Youth for seva|
Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
My dad is retired Central Govt Employee ( Dept of Telecom) and my mother is a home maker. The thought of CSE was infixed in me by my father during high school days. But it was only in the back of my mind. During final year engineering, I thought I’ll work for an year or two and then probably quit and prepare for CSE. However, when I started interning in final semester in Motorola where I had got placed, I talked to a senior who is 2014 batch IRS. She told me to begin preparation and give the exam in 2015 itself. Once I got into the spree, I felt I want to dedicate 1-2 years completely for CSE, and get back into IT if it doesn’t work out. So hence I started this journey in January 2015.
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)
The trick is to get the best out of available sources, but not try eating more than we can digest. I too felt overwhelmed especially in my first attempt, when I didn’t know clearly where to read what from. To balance,
-have base books for each subject eg spectrum for modern history, laxmikanth for polity, ncert geo etc
-if you are not working and can dedicate 2-3 hours – read at least one newspaper completely and supplement with any one online source – eg vision monthly/insights daily
-if working, read the editorials and follow one or two online sources
-important thing is to choose and stick to the sources – both online and offline, otherwise one may end up reading many things on one topic and none at all for another
-use rstv youtube channel to watch the debates, be smart – read yojana/kurukshetra selectively, if time doesn’t permit read the summaries from ias baba – repeatedly and continuously do whatever you are doing
|Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services.||0 – Except for a bit immediately post prelims|
|Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups||1-2 (optional group for answer writing/ discussions on telegram)|
|Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep.||2-3 (above + 1/2hr to 1 hour on rstv)|
|Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile||laptop|
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.)
Firstly, I am very lazy to make notes – so I just underline in the books I read. But anything I read online, I condense the info and make notes on evernote/book. Same with newspapers and current issues. In my present attempt, we were a group of 4 who studied together, so for committee reports and the like we would each read something tell it to others, and one of the others would write down in short which later served as notes for quick revision. Also, we made sticky notes on factual stuff for prelims, and things to remember for optional, and revised them multiple times.
|History Ancient||Tamil nadu State 11th std text book + new ncert(11th/12th)|
|History Medieval||Tamil nadu State 11th std text book + new ncert(11th/12th)|
|History Modern (Freedom Struggle)||Spectrum – A brief history of Modern India|
|Culture and society||Ccrt india website, made notes from pib from ministry of culture posts|
|Polity (theory + current)||Laxmikanth + Hindu + insights daily current|
|Economy (theory + current)||Mrunal.org – made notes of while watching all videos and revised them, + economic survey|
|Science (theory + current)||TMH manual science section + Hindu + insights daily current|
|Environment (theory + current)||Read a booklet by Sri ram IAS, kept tabs on animals/birds/national parks etc coming in news by evernoting them, made short notes from annual report by environment ministry|
Saw these Roman Saini’s videos on environment (these were put on Youtube before formal launch of Unacademy).
|geography physical||New NCERT 11th, 12th, goh che leong|
|geography India||New NCERT 11th, 12th|
|geography world||Goh Che leong, friend’s notes of Rajtanil videos on mrunal.org|
|other national/international current affairs||Hindu + insights daily current + vision monthly for the time when I skipped newspapers|
|Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff||Nothing specific|
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?
I would reiterate, do not neglect the base books, revise them multiple times, do not totally ignore daily newspaper reading, also only solving many mcqs and question papers without getting the basics right doesn’t help.
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?
Haven’t considered any change in particular.
I didn’t specifically prepare for this paper after it became qualifying. However I referred RS Agarwal quantitiatvie aptitude book, and reasoning book, and practiced few numericals through previous papers of SBI PO, Nabard Grade A as I gave those exams in 2016.
|Topic||strategy / booklist|
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:
I am luckily good in quantitative apti, and reasoning, so I solve those first and take limited risks with comprehension. Hence, cannot comment.
Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Didn’t enroll for any. But, solved few tests of insights and Career Launcher which I got through kind hearted friends (Read Telegram :D ). Also, I answered Vision Open Tests. Me and my friends noted down some good content which came in questions and we had no idea of. They are not necessary per se, however prelims requires a kind of knack to enable a candidate to eliminate options, take intelligent guesses, to develop these mock tests may be helpful. However, I do not belong to the group who suggest answering many mock tests, revising all of them etc. I am pretty old school in that.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2016
|attempted Q.||correct (Expected)||Official score|
|GS||87 or 89||138.66||138.66|
|aptitude||Don’t remember||Didn’t count||I have forgotten, unable to find the downloaded marksheet! But it was above 124 less than 140|
|Compulsory language paper||Your preparation strategy / booklist?|
|English paper||Nothing in particular|
|your regional language||Kannada|
Previous day I read some tatsama tadbhava,
Sandhi, and couple of articles in kannada prabha
Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2016
Don’t neglect these completely, especially if you are very good at them. Practice writing regional language at least once in a while.
Kannada regional paper – scoring areas is mainly essay, pressi, comprehension. Finish these first so you safely cross the required mark.
Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I had enrolled for Essay Online Test Series by Vision IAS. Though I was getting good marks there, my actual essay mark in cse 2016 is below par compared to the marks got by rankers this year. So, not sure if I should pen down my strategy here. However one of my friends in study group has got a whooping 170 in essay!! Since we prepared together, I’ll just pen down the things we did.
We reviewed each others’ essays (4 of us). Didn’t specifically prepare for it. However, we had made it a norm of looking at the essay topic from point of view of all GS papers and the subjects within them (eg historical aspect, social aspect, legal aspect, political aspect, administrational aspect, economical, ethical etc), penning down points and structuring them for first half an hour, then writing the essay.
Further, we also had made note of some quotes, which we revised regularly before mains – helped for both essay and gs4.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
If development is not engendered, it is endangered.
Cyberspace and Internet: Blessing or curse to the human civilization in the long run?
Do not remember key points.
|Topic||How did you prepare?|
|Culture||Same as for prelims|
|Indian history||Same as for prelims|
|world history||For before world wars – watched these Roman Saini videos (published on YouTube before formal launch of Unacademy)|
For later part – History of the World by Arjun Dev and Indra Arjun Dev
|post-independence India||India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra|
There is no need to read the entire book. I did not
Chapters on Consolidation of India as a nation are most important
Other chapters to read :
Chapters 11,12,13,16,17,18,19,20,21 — all the info in these chaps may not be important, give one reading to get the perspective of what happened when and why, underline important things, can thereafter only read those, even in first reading line by line reading is not required in all these chapters. See the nature of questions asked in past papers, get the feel of UPSC and read accordingly.
Land Reforms – important here and more so in GS 3 – I read only Mrunal articles for this section and haven’t even glanced at Bipan for these till date.
IF there is lack of time and you are a first timer who takes lot of time to read books – good alternative is – NCERT – politics of India since independence – EXTREMELY good NCERT which covers almost everything required plus gives good movie suggestions ;) if you have the time for them
I read the ncert before second attempt prelims, and thereafter for 2016 mains skimmed through underlined parts of both books.
|Indian society||No specific preparations|
Read Vision 365 society compilation shortly before mains
|role of women, poverty etc.||Same as above|
|globalization on Indian society||Same as above|
|communalism, regionalism, secularism||Same as above|
|world geo physical||Same as prelims|
|resource distribution||Mrunal article series on the same|
|factors for industrial location||Mrunal article series on the same|
|earthquake tsunami etc||Ndma website|
|impact on flora-fauna||Nothing specific|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.||Laxmikanth|
|comparing Constitution with world||Vision pdf on the topic|
|parliament, state Legislatures||Laxmikanth|
|ministries departments||Pub Ad paper 2|
|pressure group, informal asso.||Laxmikanth|
|Representation of people’s act||Read key points of the act online|
|various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..,||Vision pdf on the same|
|NGO, SHG etc||Arc 2 report – Social Capital – read summary by target ias available online|
|welfare schemes, bodies||Yojana/kuruk articles related to the topics, current affairs|
|social sector, health, edu, HRD||Yojana/kuruk issue on health, eduction|
|governance, transparency, accountability||Pub ad paper 2|
|e-governance||Pub ad paper 2|
|role of civil service||Pub ad paper 2|
|India & neighbors||Insights Secure Compilation + followed India’s world regularly (evernoted important pointS)|
|bilateral/global grouping||Insights Secure Compilation + followed India’s world regularly (evernoted important pointS)|
|effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest||Insights Secure Compilation + followed India’s world regularly (evernoted important pointS)|
|Diaspora||Diddnt prepare specifically|
|international bodies- structure mandate||Had evernoted some international orgs in news, tried reading their structure , functions from wiki/org’s website|
Also, for bills/acts we read from prs – made a single document of those – and revised them – however they were not of direct use this mains due to changed nature of questions
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|Indian economy, resource mobilization||Mrunal.org – I have watched almost all videos on economy, my initial economy prep began with mrunal’s article series and videos on economy|
|inclusive growth||Mrunal, economic survey|
|Budgeting||Types of budget from Pub Ad paper 1, highlights of 2016-17 budget|
|major crops, irrigation||Economic survey|
|agro produce – storage, marketing||Mrunal articles on shanata kumar commt report etc|
|e-technology for famers||Few things here and there – on mrunal, india year book, current affais|
|farm subsidies, MSP||Mrunal.org|
|PDS, buffer, food security||Mrunal.org|
|technology mission||India year book|
|animal rearing economics||Nothing in particular|
|food processing||Mrunal.org article series|
|land reforms||Mrunal.org article series|
|Infra||Read infra related schemes from current affairs, some articles on yojana on smart cities, rurban etc|
|investment models||Vision ias pdf on same|
|science-tech day to day life||Current affairs, read vision 365 booklet on same shortly before mains|
|Indian achievements in sci-tech||Current affairs, read vision 365 booklet on same shortly before mains|
|awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR||Current affairs, read vision 365 booklet on same shortly before mains|
|environmental impact assessment||I had basic understanding of same as I had taken Enviroment Studies as an elective during engineering, didn’t prepare anything specifically|
|Disaster Management||Read national disaster management plan|
|non state actors, internal security||Made evernote from current affairs on this and all below topics, revised them and one reading of vajiram booklet on same for basics(though it proved to be nt much use)|
|internal security – role of media, social networking site||-do-|
|organized crime, terrorism||-do-|
|security agencies- structure mandate||-do-|
For most of gs3, I relied on mrunal.org and economic survey. Also, I read some articles on yojana, kurukshetra selectively. Following Big Picture on RSTV also helped – both for gs2 and gs3
Also me and my friends tried reading secure compilation of gs2,gs3 – we didn’t read exhaustively. However we ensuring we have points on most of the topic by going thru the pdfs – we divided them amongst the 4 of us – highlighted important things – so our work was reduced by 1/4th , time was saved by reading just the highlighted parts.
But one caution – regarding the secure compilations – there are some who consider these as THE sources for gs2,gs3. However, since insights own answers started coming up (I’m not sure if this is continued now) – they became too long, too elaborate for me at least. Also, I found some mistakes in ppl’s answers as well as insights’ – maube a clerical error, or just new facts/news came up making old ones not applicable – so don’t blindly read them, they may also constrict your views. But, can definitely Use them to ensure u have covered all the current topics.
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics||Lexicon – ethics, integrity, aptitude|
|attitude, moral influence etc.||Lexicon – ethics, integrity, aptitude|
|civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc||Lexicon – ethics, integrity, aptitude|
|emotional intelligence, its use in governance||Lexicon – ethics, integrity, aptitude|
|moral thinkers of India and world||How many thinkers did you prepare?|
Only whatever was there in Lexicon – ethics, integrity, aptitude
|ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.||Pub ad optional|
|corporate governance||Lexicon – ethics, integrity, aptitude|
|probity in governance, work culture||Lexicon – ethics, integrity, aptitude|
|citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.||Pub ad|
|challenges of corruption||Had read arc 2 summary for pub ad|
|case studies on above topics||Lexicon – ethics, integrity, aptitude|
Case studies in mock tests
I also watched this video series “Justice with Michael Sandel” (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL30C13C91CFFEFEA6) – much before mains – probably before prelims. Though may not have direct relevance to ethics paper, it will form a good base ethical, philosophical questions, thinkers etc. Also, the lectures are very enjoyable, one a day during dinner will help a lot.
Also, me and my friends referred IAS Baba mind map for gs 4 – we picked each topic in the mind map – discussed amongst ourselves – thought of examples – case studies – and evernoted them.
As I mentioned before we had a evernote of quotes – helpful for both essay and gs4
Common for Gs2,3,4 : NITI Ayog website is a treasure trove of successful models – http://niti.gov.in/content/best-practices – its even theme wise – for instance, education, financial literacy etc – we made a document of this in short – revised and tried using them in gs and pub ad papers
In gs4 case studies – I tried to be pragmatic than totally ideal – and I tried substantiating my stand using examples, case studies which have worked – for which the above was highly useful.
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?
Guessed this is answered above. I would like to add, for this paper siting with 2-3 people you closely know and brainstorming certain issues – the philosophical, ethical aspects of them, will really help. Also if you have group you can gather more data with less effort – so many random definitions may turn into something which you have heard previously at least.!
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|
|GS1||Mosty I felt all remaining fell in this category||2 ( air mass question and anti colonial struggle in west Africa)||All|
|GS2||Question 5 on Republic – rest I don’t remember||Colehno and mc bride question||All|
|GS3||Question 8 – alleleopathy – had no idea what it is||All|
|Opt-P2||Left one 10 marker|
Q. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]
I tried writing all in all papers. However if couldn’t formulate an answer immediately or I knew nothing on the topic, I didn’t waste time over it. I skipped it, came back in end to it, and tried writing some generalistic points which may have relevance to the question.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
It was good for me – especially this times gs4 which had reduced spaces – so I could finish the paper on time.
Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players (who cleared mains and got interview call letter) were claiming that they wrote entire paper in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter…. whether examiner is asking ‘examine, comment, discuss or xyz’….simply write in bullets and points.
I feel either should be ok as long your answer is easily readable.
My handwriting is very bad – so I combine short paragraphs and bullet points to make it easily visible and seem structured. I also have short headings based on question – for instance if question had 3 sub parts , my answer to was divided accordingly.
Even if one doesn’t like writing in points, it would be good to divide the answer into headed paragraphs than writing at a stretch.
Also I used tabular form for some answers in gs as well as optional.
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 tried to follow it, at least in optional paper.
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?||I underlined parts of answer in pen itself|
|Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)||Yes|
|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, by hand|
|Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?||blue|
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.
In fact, I too feel optional marks are a game changer and there is huge variance in marks. I consider myself lucky in fact because pub ad has scored decently this mains, and I had pretty decent score , which has ensured my name in rank list.
The usual gyaan is to choose the optional which excites you, which you love etc etc. However, one must remember it boils down to how much marks you get – if it will push u into rank list, or out, if it will push you into top 100 or out.
So, I would say, do no choose an optional just because it interests you, or you find it exciting to know about the subject – this can be done without writing 2 papers worth 250 marks each on them. Choose an optional with higher benefit to cost. If your graduation subject is one of the upsc optionals – think about choosing it seriously before jumping to decide you suck at your grad sub, so you’ll choose something else. And consider your strengths and weaknesses – are you good at current affairs analysis, are you good at mugging things , are you good at solving numericals – based on these shortlist some optionals – speak to seniors who have taken these – try speaking to those who succeeded in it and also to those who failed – see the availability of material – see the past scores of the optional – take all these plus interest into consideration and only then choose your optional.
Q. What’s your optional subject why did you chose it and not something else?
I chose it after hearing usual bol bachhan on interest, excitement etc – public administration somehow directly equated to knowing the government before getting in also!! It was in early 2015 and I didn’t know many in upsc journey yet. My graduation subject also wasn’t there in cse syllabus. Also, I didn’t know completely about poor performance of Pub Ad optional and I didn’t bother finding more because I was arrogant and I thought since I have the interest, so I’ll do well, all optionals are same, people are just confused but I am not ! :D
Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
I would not advice either. First, the problem with pub ad is there are just too many with the optional and its difficult to stand out, and get the highest marks. Except for this year, previous years, even the highest was only near average of many other optional.
But availability of material is good. Its an interesting subject. J
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.)
If you are not taking any coaching for the subject (I didn’t)- then my suggestion is to begin with notes of either Pavan Kumar or Lukman IAS
I myself read only Mohit Bhattacharya, parts of Fadia n Fadiya in first attempt. The realization was I hardly had understood Pub Ad.
So, read those notes or Aribam ( which I later discovered to be very good book covering almost all topics in brief, there are two books – one for each paper) first. Then Mohit Bhattacharya. For leadership theories, morale and other small topics I used Fadia and Fadia
For thinkers – Prasad and Prasad
For Paper 2 Indian Adminstration – arora and goyal indian administration – there is no need to read this book completely, can be read selectively.
Arc 2 summaries of Target IAS
For disaster management – ndma website and national disaster management plan
For law and order administration – lukman book on summaries of committee and commission reports – I read all summaries related to the topic
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?
Quite a lot needed, canot rely on books alone.
Analyzing current affairs from public administration point of view is very important. Also, should practice linking thinkers , their theories to current affairs , case studies, other thinkers and Indian administration.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Around 3 monthly along with gs preps
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
I made mistake of not taking tests in 1st attempt. However then also I had written some answers in IAS Baba Daily answer writing for Pub Ad
In this attempt, pub ad was the one thing I dreaded, so I took a test series online from Lukman IAS before prelims – wrote around 9/11 tests
After prelims, again I took Lukman test series – wrote all the tests (11) and watched all the discussion videos – they really helped me to structure my answers, get the knack of writing pub ad answers. Ansari sir tried covering most of the topic in test series. Also he provided solutions/best answer copy for nearly all the tests which also immensely helped. Further before mains, they gave a pdf on important current issues for Pub Ad – which also helped for both Pub Ad and Gs 2 paper.
I tried following Ansari sir’s advice on answer writing. It involves beginning with a basic one-line intro/background on topic/issue, then dividing the answer into exactly what the question demands. Giving examples from Indian Adminstration, incorporating tables, descriptive diagrams to show our analysis of the topic/issue .
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
I maintained small notes for revision on paper. My friend (part of our study group) made several sticky nots on Pub Ad which we revised multiple times and helped us to remember things.
However we realized later, if we had given more time to it and made connections between the sticky notes, and examples and kept them ready and revised multiple times – it would benfit more.
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?
Paper was straight forward and easier compared to previous years. Precaution would be to not neglect the basics and ensure base preparation on every topic.
Also, I feel we ought to write simple answers when the questions are straight forward, than trying hard to be unique and complicating our answers.
Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?
Made ever note on each personal topic and revised and practiced saying them aloud. I talked to people who were having similar hobbies, background etc.
For current issues, me and a friend made list of all issues, one liner on them and our opinion – also pros and cons.
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 3 mock interviews in this order
- Narayana IAS Hyderabad – was a very good feel, got positive remarks
- Shankar IAS Bangalore – was a disaster, I screwed up completely, got negative remarks
- One on one with Vinay Sir insights – went to him after the bad mock at Shankar, sir boosted my confidence.
Official interview was much better than all of my mocks. The panel were very cool and friendly compared to my mock interviews. For me, my first mock was kind of similar to the real one.
However I feel, mock interviews are only to give you a feel of the interview, and one should not take them too seriously or too lightly.
There is no need to travel to Delhi, pay hefty sum for mocks and interview classes. Take a couple or maximum 3 mocks in a decent place close by which is free
(Chennai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad , Trivandrum etc – al have insitutes which conduct free mocks)
My second mock helped me to take current affairs more seriously, and the first and third ensured my confidence.
Mocks help in letting you know how others perceive your DAF and gives you pointers on directing your preparation.
Further, another essential thing – more so than mock interviews is – sharing your DAFs with friends , peers you know, family etc. Ask them to ask you questions, ask your elder ones about your native place if you haven’t lived there. Talk to your senior colleagues at work about your organization. Converse with people whenever you get a chance.
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 Central Govt Holiday home in Kidwai nagar. I carried my laptop, with my evernotes and two movies – Udtaa Punjab and Dead Poets Society. I went to Delhi two days before my interview. I watched these movies, browsed through my evernotes once, met two friends whose interview got over.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
I wore a brownish plain saree, clipped my hair, and wore sandals with very low heels with thin framed spectacles. I am mentioning specifically because I had numerous doubts on how to dress for interview, and mostly online we find answers pertaining to men only ( K :D )
Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Shri Chattar Singh
Q2. How long was the interview?
Around 40 minutes
Q3. Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too. [Since I don’t know whether they ask you this question or not. But if they had asked- what will be your reply?]
I was not asked this question, thankfully, as I till the previous day I hadn’t framed the perfect answer to this question, as I wanted the answer to be unique as well as truthful. (so if any of you haven’t arrived at the proper answer, its okay, have a framework and say it, they wont judge solely on this one answer)
I would have told something on lines of my grad background restricting me to the technical aspects of things, while civil service provides opportunity to take this technological innovations to a larger level, reach out to more people, enable improvement in sectors through technology, by being involved in the ground level as well as policy level etc. Also I would that my experience at NABARD has given me taste of public sector, and shown how much more potential for work is there by getting into civil services.
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)
Ch – is this you (showing my photo)
Me – yes sir.
What is keeping u busy these days
Me – told about working in nabard
Ch – How long
.Me -around 3 months sir ( it was almost 6, don’t know why I said 3)
Ch – very new then, what is NABARD
Me – national bank for agri and rural development, it’s a developmental finance institution.
Ch – (cut me short) can I open an account there
Me – No sir, its not a retail bank
Ch – Why then bank
Me – (I fumbled, and was explaining about lending to other banks, refinance, nabard’s status as DFI, and mentioned direct lending )
Ch – So, it does direct lending also now?
Me – ( was excited , as I wanted to speak on pros cons of going to direct lending, was prepared for follow up questions etc started to tell about whom nabard does direct lending..was cut short)
Ch – Ok, that’s okay. computer science, do u study more of hardware or software
Me – Software sir
Ch – Why more software
Me – ( I don’t remember what exactly I said, but it wasn’t very clear/accurate, many questions followed)
Ch – Why in any stream not much of hardware is taught, say electronics also..
Me – ( I was talking of demand supply, hardware is still taught etc)
Ch – Why is India not prominent in manufacturing (guess this arose of my talking of demand supply)
Me – Spoke of 2nd IR we missed, but we caught on the IT revolution, opened our markets at right time, brught in investments, and even home grown companies like infy became world renowned
Ch : We only provide services, In software also there i-s not much innovation, no patents?
Me – Sir, patents are not allowed in Software in India
Ch – (smiling, thank got he didn’t go into IPR! ) I mean there not many products, or anything new for that matter
Me – Yes sir it is true we have focussed on services. But that was the demand then. Now more or less that secotr is saturating, BPO, consultancy etc and hance the focus is on products and innovation. And even in India, this change is happening, companies have to reinvent themselves otherwise they will soon become redundant. That is also the reason, product innovation focus is also there in our Startup India programme. IOT is coming up, AI , ( I spoke something on these lines and more)
Ch – Yes, so this brings automation , job loss, where will ppl go, what shud we do? Even in manufacturing before so many wud produce some quantity, now very less human power needed? What to do for our youth in this scenario
Me – Sir automation will definitely come and will lead to job losses. We cannot say no to automation too, coz even if we say no someone else will do it, some other country, and market mechanisms of the world will ensure we end up loosing. So what we should do is prepare our youth for whats coming, make curriculams of schools and colleges better, so the students can cope with the changes. Ensure success of Skill India and similar programmes, so our youth can find jobs in the changing scenario. It is not that all jobs will go, only their nature and quality will differ, and we should prepare our country for it.
M1- You are from, chikkammagaluru, an historical event in Indian politics happened there
Me – Yes sir, Indra Gandhi’s election
M1 – yes yes most memorable anyway u weren’t born then
Me – ( just smiled )
M1 – you have good extra curriculals, you have taught in schools, what are some of the problems u see?
Me – sir do u mean in education, in the schools ? (I had taught English to govt school children through an NGO Youth For Seva )
M1- not necessarily, anything we have lots of health, societal problems, where does Ur interest lie?
Me- health sir, the primary health system in our county. (I elaborated a bit, spoke on phc etc)
M1- what are the problems in phc?
Me – spoke on lack of doctors, absentism, infra problems, apathy etc I also told about how free supplies from government were diverted in my village, and also sold as fertilizers!
M1 –but phc is also for set of villages., how will everyone come there even if all these problems are solved?
Me – I talked about asha workers, giving them tablets for telemedicine, connecting them to doctors
M1 – have u worked in a phc
Me – No sir, but I have visited in my village
M1 – You worked in Motorola, it lost out its space to Nokia then Samsung, why? It was such a famous brand before
Me – Told about how Motorola didn’t adapt to changing times. But even Nokia didn’t, I t didn’t adapt to smart phone era, It entered agreement with Microsoft long after Samsung started with Android phones. I also told how Motorla regained its space after being acquired by Google, when it stormed back into market with Moto G especially in India.
M1 – did u work in any communication technology there
Me – not exactly sir, I was in the software development centre in Bangalore, I worked on Android apps involving camera technology
M2 – he was blinking and opening eyes wide repeatedly, dunno if he had some problem or he was trying to distract me
M2 – Internship in engineering – Why is it necessary
Me – I spoke of how engineering curriculum doesn’t always reflect present needs, and working in industry gives exposure to that. Mentioned survey that many engineers unemployable
M2 – Technology changing at fast place, so even if you learn something in internship, it will soon become outdated, so What’s the point of internship
Me – Sir , in college there is prescribed syllabus, reading material, which will ensure marks/ grades to pass the course. Howeve in a working environment, there is very little handholding, we need to learn on the job on our own, with requirements that change very fast, so internship prepares us for this sort of learning on the go, by ourselves, and putting into action, rather than any one technology in particular. So this will be major takeway to know reality of workspace, and how to make ourselves suitable for it
M2 –Ok, Why can’t we have a common engineering curriculum instead of different branches..I think that’s better. In medicine there is no specialisation in Graduation
Me – but sir we do learn basics of all branches in first year, then we move on to specialization of our branch. In each of these there are so many specializations ,so if we learn the branch in particular, it will help for post grad
M2 – (he cut me while speaking ) In first-year do u learn chemical engineering
Me – No sir, but we have chemistry in one semester
M2 – Chemistry and chemical engineering is wholly different isn’t it
Me – said yes sir, but — told something – don’t remember
M4 and M3 had friendly laughs on who shoud ask next, then chairman said any of u ask
M3 – You mentioned Startup India before, – why do u we need startups, already big companies are there
Me – I talked of how its hard for big companies to innovate as they have their markets , customer portfolio , technology, and any change will be very costly . while its easy for startups, plus new ideas. We have so many problems in our country – societal, health, education. Startups can be the answer etc…
M3 – So u did some startups?
Me – no sir, but I worked in couple of them
M3 – So what do startups want?
Me – firstly, they need funds and capital backing
M3 – Why is outside funding necessary? Have u heard of crowd funding.? Some feel outside funding scuttles innovation..isn’t it so
Me – I said there are pros and cons of both. Outside funding may give much needed capital backing, and also bring in expertise of experienced investors who know market, does not always scuttle innovations. While more freedom in crowd funding or bootstrap (self funding) there are limitations in terms of outreach etc
M3 – So in case u do not get into services, consider u want to do a startup, what are the key things u wud look at?
Me – First sir, I would get a good team
M3 – Yes yes that’s very important, then
Me – Then secondly., I would want an idea, a problem to solve, which will create impact on being solved , make a mrk. And funds of course
M3 – Say u are heading district, or say u r director of startup india, how will u promote /help startups
Me – I said something on lines of facilitating the startups, connecting them to investors, connecting them to market, giving specific problems ,seeking solutions , gave example of startup india hackathon, and incorporating the solution from a government level – if its for health etc
M3 – So facilitating startups, that will give u satisfaction right (he was widely smiling)
Me – I said startups only means, not ends, if they lead to good ends like solve problems of our country, then yes I ll be satisfied. But currently in India mostly retail based startups, so many doing the same thing wont be sustainable
M3 – yes yes indeed we want technology to solve problems
M4 – Why computer science u took as Ur engineering discipline
Me – I was telling on how I ws not sure, now the trend is to do engineering then think what to do, wasn’t interested in electronics, good work opportunities in cs after grad..
M4 – (he cut me) so good job was the only attraction?
Me – No sir , I was also interested in programming since school, that time I didn’t know what all CS engineering entails, closest to liking coding was cs engineering so I took it
M4: which areas in computer science do you like
Me – Mobile Computing, IOT ..
M4 – But now, there are so many Security issues in internet of things, isn’t Information Tech a demon now?
Me – Sir in any are there is always a risk, it depends on how we use innovation. IoT opens up a lot of potential to change many things as we know it, to better lives of many. For instance, in college I was part of project where we developed an Android Application which could communicate to Arduino microcontroller in a drip irrigation system,so farmers could control the irrigation by sitting in their homes. Now even Govt is doing something similar on mass scale. This is just one example of IoT. But , I do agree, while terrorisms and bombs may have been the hugest things 10 years back, there are even now, but now cyber terrorism may soon become threat. For instance 2 days back we saw the Wanna Cry attack. It boils down to there are opportunites and threats, how we utilize the opportunities, reduce the threats ( my answer was on these lines, may not have been an easy flow like it appears here)
M4 – So how do we tackle these
Me – Sir, first and most important is education and awareness. If people are vigilant enough, that itself will go a long away in preventing these attacks. For instance, having a strong password for neworks and systems, following good safe practices, keeping systems updated with latest anti virus defintions etc, having latest software. For instance sir the core reason of Wanna cry attack also was because systems were running on Windows XP for which support has been stopped by Microsoft plus they hadn’t applied the patch which Microsoft had released for the vulnerability. Also, I have seen durng District Training in Nabard that even banks are running on outdated software n OS eg APGVB Andhra Pradesh grameen vikas bank, this opens up the systems to huge number of possible attacks
M4 – So is it so easy, if systems are updated and ppl are vigilant will it solve all problems
Me- No sir, but it will definitely reduce them to a minimum and we can ensure have defence systems to tackle the rest. If not making things totally fool proof, we can ensure risks are reduced.
Ch – thank you Aparna
Board was very cordial, about M2 dunno if his eye movements were intentional or not, M1 had gone out in middle, they were having tea and snacks in between, M3 and M4 were smiling most of the time. The chairman was busy writing when others were asking questions
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?
Looking back it feels I should have expected the way my interview went. However, I felt it was very unexpected as it almost entirely focused on technology, IT. The mistake was on my end – I Had filled too much in my DAF, in hobbies, extra curriculars, achievements. I had Carnatic music, poetry, blogging etc in hobbies and had prepared extensively on them. But there was not a single question. However I enjoyed the way my interview, and felt satisfied on my performance when I came out of the room.
A word of advice to those filing DAF – fill crisply, don’t give details in DAF so that they can quiz you on them, and keep everything clearly visible in points
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Nothing as such
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Nothing as such, though I heard many facing problems because of high bmi. Ensure its below 30, you will be fine.
Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
Was already working in NABARD, would have continued.
Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Yes they should be removed. It causes lot of variance in marks and not all grad subjects are present too. Also, marking such widely differing subjects on equal footing is next to impossible. Instead GS papers can be increased with relevant content from selected optionals.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
Good considering many would qualify only based on CSAT having low GS scores. Also as year on year, complexity of CSAT is increasing, it ensures candidates have minimum potential in apti.
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.
It is indeed sad that coaching factories have increased rather than decreased, with even centres other than Delhi also becoming a hub. There are websites which have converted themselves to coaching instituons. Decent internet though can solve most problems. Lets hope Digital India Succeeds and every student can avail a good net connection. I myself never went to Delhi for coaching, only went to attend interview. I didn’t take any classes except mains test series. But these does cost money.
My advice if I may give one is, UPSC is unpredictable, even if you can attend an institution that doesn’t guarantee success, even if you have high speed internet, its easy to get overwhelmed by the content online. So, do not be too hesistant to prepare with job – its been done its possible. What I feel after this mains is UPSC wants simple answers, so know your basics from the standard books, keep in touch with issues, connect them, think on them, develop opinions, read articles, whatever material you have make the best use of them.
For pre- revise the same things as many times as possible
For mains – write write as much as possible
Do not go about collecting material and end up not reading them even once, make the best use of what you have.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Yes even state PSCs who are notorious on their transperncy does this. UPSC definetly can
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Yes gradually, by first giving option for online and offline. The argument given against this is rural students may not be well versed with computers and maybe at a disadvantage. But, the number of rural candidats who give bank exams are much more than upsc and all bank exams are online. So there is no reason for UPSC dragging feet on the same.
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.
Yes. I am one such culprit who simply filled IFoS and didn’t even attend any paper of Mains – IfoS as centre was not in Bangalore, and there was no time for preparing 2 new optional.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
–reduce the duration of exam process from one year
-try having 3 rounds of interview with different boards and take average mark (though would considerably increase time required – maybe duration of each round can be less)
-instant prelims score- and rsults in 1 week is highly essential – so that if a candidate fails prelims – they can at least get engaged with some work for most part of the year
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 suffer from such insecurity. The board tests personality and isn’t looking for premier insti students. In fact, the disadvantges faced in education can be turned to an advantage. If you are from rural area try bringing that into the interview, the harships u faced and how being in the system u can understand the problems and solve them. If you are from regional language medium – be proud despite most material being available im English u reached the interview while lakhs didn’t – be humble – showcase yourself and your background – and how it makes you the person you are – that’s what the board wants to see! The real you!
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?
My view is mood swings and distractions are a given – they happen – you cannot say you will never have them.
Have a close group of 3-4 people who can push you along, or at least keep you occupied with productive work even when you are at your lowest. My present attempt that was the best thing that happened to me. I met a girl during State PSC mains and joined their group to study from April 2016. They are dearest friends now and each of them and her mother have a huge role to play in my success.
Even if you are preparing alone, strain yourself a bit so you feel good about it (especially if you are preparing full time). For instance, stay up in night study till 2am. Next morning take a hour or two off go out, but you will feel elated you worked hard and that will motivate you to continue working hard. Train your mind – tell yourself that you will buy yourself a chat in your favorite chat gaadi if you finish a paper. Do it and give yourself a treat. Have those simple joys, reduce FB, Insta if your friends’ “happening” lives makes you sad. When you get that rank, your “I DID IT” post will get the sum total and more of all those likes which others’ pics got ;)
If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
I wasn’t continuously in job while preparing , so may not be qualified enough to answer this question.
However when I was at Motorola and I was preparing – I studied during bus journeys to and fro office, finished newspaper in office, tried getting solid 3-4 hours in night after getting home
Then for some months I was working part-time so kind of was not totally occupied with work.
After mains I was working fulltime, but preparing for interview with job is quite easy, so I wont comment.
Q. Through this struggle and success, what have your learned? What is the wisdom of life and competition? What is your message to the new aspirants?
I have learnt that success comes and goes, success itself is very subjective concept.
Read this quora answer. That’s the summary of this competition, upsc – no one is happy totally in end! If you are fully happy, what will you strive for in life anyway?
After my failure in first mains, I wanted to quit, wanted to go back take a high paying job in IT – in one of the companies I interviewed in that time, in the final round, the interviewer found me out, my upsc dreams – he became my mentor. He said, when you are 70/80 – it would be more worthwhile to tell your grandkids that you took the risk, strived for something fully, did it in end or couldn’t do it , but had the satisfaction of trying and used that to do something else. It wouldn’t make a nice story to tell you went back to a job you were not so willing to, always regretted not trying your best and gave up so soon! The What IF will always remain. I realized then, in life we shoudlnt have any regrets.
I studied for Prelims 2016 outside ICU in hospitals for quite some time, my grandmother was struggling between life and death. I made multiple trips to my native, tried not falling asleep and reading in bus journeys. But I could manage it, my parents relied on me so much for the first time, I chose the hospitals, I talked to the doctors, when case was hopeless, I was he one to ask her to be discharged and brought home to live her final days. I realized the necessity of money, health insurance, being financially sound, being pragmatic in UPSC – I decided UPSC was worth the full time this attempt, but after this mains m taking a job, in IT or elsewhere. I am writing year almost exactly an year after, her first year ceremony has just concluded, there is more to life than UPSC, than competition, the fact its life explains it!
Everyone in NABARD Hyderabad knew about my interview, was very excited for me and helpful. But I was concerned – what if I don’t make it and have to stay back here. Will be so bad to face these people! But 2 days before my interview, when I was living to Delhi, and was in airport, I got the news that wife of one of my friends in office had committed suicide. With confusion, sadness and shock ,I realized what a small thing I was getting worried on, his miseries were incomparably higher. It dawned that we don’t live for others, we don’t live for how others see us, we should live for ourselves.
After getting my rank – I was happy. But not for long, I saw the predicted vacancies for this year, I was last in general category, so what if I get AFHQ? What was all this struggle for, and just because I ddint get few more marks? Also, I realized I haven’t filled my service preferences very well, as my focus then was only on top 3-4 services. I realized I might get a service considered relatively bad. I was concerned, I kept doing data analsys, reading about the services – I didn’t study a bit for prelims. I diddnt even feel like going through the process again – pre main interview and then this – not again! But the day before Prelims I got peace. I read Akand’s article above again and again. It is okay whatever happens. Infact I was better positioned than most people., 24 with not too much gap in employment, with a well-paying job, name in rank list and many bonds I had created, friends I had made, contacts I had developed along the way.
I didn’t do well in prelims. I counted my score on the same day, unlike previously where I would be anxious and not count for days. I was getting border score 104-107. But I was peaceful, it was okay!
I didn’t clear prelims, from 138 last year, I didn’t clear this year – I was alone at a railway station alone when the result came – I reread parts of a wonderful book Siddartha which I had read on a friend’s suggestion a short while back. I felt happy, it was okay, I knew why I didn’t clear prelims and maybe it was all for good. To give me a break in this journey.
Now I have been allotted Indian Corporate Law Service on a provisional basis, I am praying I don’t get an upgrade :P
So this confusion, ups and downs continue.
I’ll end this long long message (don’t know if Mrunal will publish the entire thing! :D ) with few lines from Khalil Gibran’s Prophet (again thanks to the friend who suggested Siddartha, he suggested this too)
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
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?
Covered it pretty much above.
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?
Many! I did mention one instance in previous answer – my interview – with the guy who became my mentor – Ashish! He continues to guide me to this day.
And theres my friends group I mentioned several times – Jabeen, Manasa, Sailesh
Jabeen’s mother, my parents, my aunt who passed away recently all have in one way or other been there for me, made me who I am, and a friend of mine who was there when I decided to this, who has held my hand all throughout and continues to this day, and many other friends who lifted my spirits, told me it was okay, helped me overcome my doubts, depressions etc.
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.
As I said previously, I have extensively used MRunal.org, especially fo GS3, economy. When I started out, mrunal.org was the first source for how to begin preparation. I read those articles by mrunal for strategy subject wise, many of those books like TN state book I got to know only because of mrunal.org. I read toppers’ strategies – especially for optional to shape mine. I would follow nd enjoy the current affairs too in 2015 when they were regular. In 2015 mains gs3 was my highest score 106 – totally due to mrunal.org. This year too I expected 10+ more marks – dunno though! Its upsc! This is one of the very few sites which continues to give credible help, without getting converted to full scale coaching classes.