[Topper’s Interview] Aparajita (Rank-40/UPSC-2017): History Optional, 3rd Attempt, BIT Mesra alumni, hails from Varanasi

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  19. CSE-2017 MARKSHEET


Q. Details
Name Aparajita
Rank in CSE-2017 40
Roll No. 0005945
Age 26
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 3 serious attempts
Optional Subject History
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Varanasi
Work-experience if any ACC Ltd (2013-2014)
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures —-
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  • No coaching for GS.
  • Took coaching for history optional.
  • Mrunal for Economics, Geography, and Art and Culture.
  • Test series for GS (Forum IAS) and History(GS Score)
  • Mock interviews taken for the Personality Test.
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS, IRS, IFS, IPS, IAAS
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 82
% in class 12 76
Graduation course and % 7.5
Name of college, city, passing out year Birla Institute OF Technology, Mesra -2013
Post-graduation NA
Any other professional courses NA
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Hobbies – Reading, Writing, Singing, travellingAchievements – Secretary (Indian institute of Chemical engineers, BIT Mesra Chapter), PR Manager(Entrepreneurship Development Cell, BIT Mesra)


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Aparajita IAS Rank 40
I am Aparajita. I’m the only daughter to my parents and I was born and brought up in Varanasi.. My father is a retd IRS officer and my mother was a Professor (Ancient History).

Entering civil service was always at the back of my mind because my maternal grandfather always wanted me to consider it as a career option. While at Job (As Deputy Manager – Environment at ACC Ltd.), I was posted in a plant where I was the only female employee in the whole setup. The experiences and insights I gained therein convinced me to give a serious thought to UPSC -CSE.


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)
I made sure I kept my sources to the minimum. I am not the kind who can juggle mind maps and RSTV summaries and Youtube videos and this and that at the same time so even though I tried my hand at the varied sources of information, I ended up with a disorganised mess. Therefore I decided to regularly follow only a couple of sites and the rest of the material was offline. That said, I did a lot of random googling of topics and saved the screenshots which I later revised.


Online life Answer
Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services. 0 at least before the exams
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram study groups 1.5-2
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 2
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Mobile because I usually keep screenshots which I later use for revision


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.)
I used to make notes earlier but I found it to be a time-taking task so I stopped.. I tried to consolidate the information, so later on I used to scribble relevant information on the margins of my books or on a paper (which I would staple to the book later). Revision was my primary concern, so the lesser the better became my motto.


Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Upinder Singh, NCERTs(old and new)
History Medieval Satish Chandra, NCERTs(New)
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Bipan Chandra, BL Grover, Google
Culture and society CCRT + Any Current Affairs monthly handout available in the market
Polity (theory + current) M Laxmikanth + PIB + Government websites
Economy (theory + current) Mrunal Lectures+ Economic Survey + Sankarganesh Karrupiah (book)
Science (theory + current) NCERTs + CA(Current Affairs) monthly Handouts + Google
Environment (theory + current) NCERTs + Shankar IAS book, CA handouts + Google
geography physical NCERT + G.C. Leong + Mrunal Geography lecture series
geography India NCERT +Mrunal Geography lecture series
geography world NCERT + GC Leong + Mrunal Geography lecture series
other national/international current affairs CA monthly handouts + Newspapers
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff PIB+ CA handouts + Vikaspedia (Sometimes)

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?
The preliminary exam is becoming tougher and more unpredictable by the day only because our sources tend to rely on the traditional material being circulated in the market in Old Rajinder Nagar. Perhaps UPSC has gotten a whiff of it, and wants us to focus more on PIB, IGNOU et cetera !
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?
I would rely much more on newspapers ( Previously I had depended hugely on monthly CA handouts), websites like PRS, PIB and neglected sources such as NIOS and IGNOU books.


Topic strategy / booklist
Decision Making

Never gave any time to CSAT preparation.

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:
Even I couldn’t finish the comprehension section and took it very lightly. If I were to take the 2018 Prelims, I would probably practice the same for half an hour everyday a month before the exam.


Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
I bought the test papers from the market and solved them. Yes, I think ample practise is needed by way of solving tests to be able to do intelligent guesswork, and develop confidence before appearing for the Preliminary exam.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2017

<tdeight:28px;”><tdeight:28px;”> attempted Q.<tdeight:28px;”> correct (Expected)<tdeight:28px;”> Official score

GS 86 62 110
aptitude Don’t remember —- 94.18


Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper None
your regional language None

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2017




Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I never really had any strategy in place for essays because I have always enjoyed writing and putting my thoughts into words. At school I was always an active participant in article or essay writing competitions, while in college I took to reading blogs as well and so I didn’t have to face a lot of problems in this area. All said, I never neglected the paper and did write a few essays prior to the exam.

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

Destiny of a nation is shaped in the classroom

  1. Started with a quote.
  2. Introduction – What education entails
  3. Importance of education for the nation (Use your imagination here to make the content rich and powerful)
  4. current state of education in India – Some data +Problems eg Lack of safety in schools, lack of adaptive learning tools in classroom
  5. Reforms being carried out by government – Smart Classrooms, Vidyanjali Scheme, SSA etc
  6. Contribution of Civic society – Teach For India, Dr. Neeraja Raghavan , Super 30 etc
  7. What else can be done/suggestions
  8. Conclusion – Basically a recycled introduction

Fulfillment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth

  1. Started with a quote
  2. Introduction – Explain your understanding of the phrase ‘New Woman’
  3. Multiple role a woman plays ; that of a mother, a sister, companion and a daughter, concept of Yin and Yang to show how balance is needed in our social lives by way of contribution on men as well as well.
  4. Current state of women in India – Female literacy, sex ratio, concept of missing women, sexual harassment at workplace etc
  5. Govt reforms and their on-ground results
  6. Contribution of some eminent women in nation building – Navika Sagar Tarini, enrollment of women in combat roles etc to show how India is changing to the needs of the new woman
  7. Contribution of civic society
  8. Suggestions
  9. Conclusion + Quote


Topic How did you prepare?
Culture CCRT, Internet, Mrunal’s PPT on Art and Culture
Indian history Optional subject so didn’t need any extra preparation
world history Optional subject so didn’t need any extra preparation
post-independence India Questions are very basic and can be tackle
d with the understanding we have developed at school level. However I watched the TV series “Pradhanmantri” to brush up the knowledge.
Indian society NCERT Class 12th – Sociology
role of women, poverty etc. No preparation required.
globalization on Indian society No preparation required.
communalism, regionalism, secularism No preparation required.
world geo physical NCERTS + Mrunal Geography lectures by Rajtanil Solanki + GC Leong, NOAA and IMD Websites.
resource distribution NCERT + Geography of India(Periyar Prakashan)
factors for industrial location NCERT + Geography of India (Periyar Prakashan)
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT + GC Leong + NOAA website
impact on flora-fauna Didn’t prepare.


Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. M Laxmikanth, Vision IAS Handouts
comparing Constitution with world M Laxmikanth, Vision IAS Handouts
parliament, state Legislatures M Laxmikanth, Vision IAS Handouts
executive-judiciary M Laxmikanth, Vision IAS Handouts
ministries departments Didn’t prepare
pressure group, informal asso. Didn’t prepare
Representation of people’s act M Laxmikanth, Internet
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. M Laxmikanth, Government websites
NGO, SHG etc Didn’t prepare. Had a basic idea.
welfare schemes, bodies Current Affairs monthly handouts
social sector, health, edu, HRD Current Affairs monthly handouts + internet
governance, transparency, accountability Excerpts from 13th report of the 2nd ARC
e-governance Didn’t prepare as such.
role of civil service Vision IAS Handouts + Excerpts from the 2nd ARC Report
India & neighbors CA monthly handouts + Observer Research Foundation and IDSA websites (As and when required) + The Diplomat (as and when required)
bilateral/global grouping CA monthly handouts + Observer Research Foundation and IDSA websites (As and when required) + The Diplomat (as and when required) + Civils Daily App
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest CA monthly handouts + Observer Research Foundation and IDSA websites + Civils Daily App
Diaspora CA monthly handouts + Observer Research Foundation and IDSA websites + Civils Daily App
international bodies- structure mandate CA monthly handouts + Observer Research Foundation website + Civils Daily App


*All the sources listed here are in addition to the newspapers, NCERTS, and the Economic survey

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization No specific source
inclusive growth No specific source
Budgeting Vision IAS Handouts + Internet
major crops, irrigation Some PDFs on InsightsonIndia.com
agro produce – storage, marketing Internet + some PDFs on InsightsonIndia + Erudition IAS handout
e-technology for famers Internet
farm subsidies, MSP Mrunal lecture series + random sources on the internet
PDS, buffer, food security Internet + Erudition IAS handout
technology mission Internet.
animal rearing economics Didn’t prepare.
food processing CA monthly handouts + Internet
land reforms Mrunal Lecture series + NCERT + Internet
Liberalization Internet
Infra Erudition IAS handout
investment models Erudition IAS handout
science-tech day to day life CA monthly handouts + Internet
Indian achievements in sci-tech CA monthly handouts + Internet
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR CA monthly handouts + Internet
environmental impact assessment Didn’t prepare
Disaster Management 2nd ARC report summary
non state actors, internal security CA monthly handouts + Internet
internal security – role of media, social networking site CA monthly handouts + Internet
cyber security CA monthly handouts + Internet
money laundering CA monthly handouts + Internet
border Management CA monthly handouts + Internet
organized crime, terrorism CA monthly handouts + Internet
security agencies- structure mandate Didn’t prepare


Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Lexicon
attitude, moral influence etc. Videos of Michael Sandel (Harvard University)
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Lexicon
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?Was aware of the basics since I like to read about thinkers. Gaps were filled by Lexicon and a handout released by GS Score(Which I read selectively)
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Lexicon
corporate governance Had found a World Bank article somewhere
probity in governance, work culture No specific preparation
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Internet
challenges of corruption Didn’t prepare.. had basic understanding.
case studies on above topics Didn’t prepare anything specifically. Wrote out of my own accord.

Q. In ethics, 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?
Sorry I can’t dole out any tips because I never really prepared for this paper as such.. just follow your conscience and make sure its aligned with societal values.


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 Left a 10 marker
GS2 Left a 15 marker
GS3 Attempted all
GS4 Attempted all, but very generic answers.
Opt-P1 Left a 20 marker
Opt-P2 Left none, but wasn’t very satisfied with the paper overall.

I don’t remember which questions were best attempted which weren’t. My overall impression was that most of the answers were average, and none brilliant. My writing speed being slow, my primary concern was attempting as many questions as possible and even then I left out a few. Like most of the Junta, I have apprehensions whether my answers to the questions involving ECOSOC and Indian Diaspora in South-East Asia [GS-2] even fall in the category of average.

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]
Every single mark counts so I tried to cover as many questions as possible, but of course, please show some respect to the examiner and don’t writer utter nonsense.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
I wrote only what I thought was relevant regardless of whether it occupies the whole of the given space or not. I don’t think aspirants should try to ‘fill the space’, because it does more harm than good.
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 questions where I had a lot of fodder I used bullet points, and in which I had limited knowledge I used paragraphs
Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.
Yes, I followed the said format in most of the questions.
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) No, due to want of time
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Not Applicable
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? Not Applicable
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue Pilot Pen


Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you choose it and not something else?
I chose history as my optional subject because of two reasons :

1. It was a strategic decision as a huge chunk of the GS syllabus gets covered as well, which saves time.
2. My mother was a professor of ancient history and therefore I had a natural inclination towards the subject.

Moreover, it provides a wider perspective on the problems of the present.
Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
It depends solely on an aspirant’s interest. I would advise the candidate to take history as the optional subject because it is thoroughly engrossing and insightful, but that comes with a rider that it has no defined syllabus whatsoever and its highly likely that you’d never be able to cover all of it. Moreover don’t expect scores like 360+ (As seen with Mathematics and Anthropology this year).
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.)
Ancient History

  • A history of Ancient and Early Medieval India – Upinder Singh (Base book)
  • IGNOU M.A.( Selective reading)
  • NCERTs(Old and New)
  • Baliyan Class notes
  • GS Score solution papers + Internet (Fillers)


  • Satish Chandra (Base book)
  • IGNOU B.A., M.A. (Selective Reading)
  • NCERTs( New)
  • Baliyan Class notes
  • GS Score solution papers + Internet (Fillers)


  • Plassey to Partition – Sekhar Bandopadhyay ( Base book : Very Insightful but
  • very lengthy)
  • A New Look at Modern Indian History – B.L. Grover (An easy read)
  • India Since Independence – Bipan Chandra
  • Baliyan Class notes
  • GS Score solution papers + Internet (Fillers)

World History

  • Baliyan Notes (Base)
  • L Mukherjee (Selective reading)
  • GS Score solution papers + Internet + Mrunal.com (Fillers)
  • I did NOT read Norman Lowe, even though my friends who have scored 285+ in history papers swear by it.
  • Maps
  • Mostly Self Study History(website) + Baliyan Notes

Q. How much of internet-research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?
Not much (except for World History portion and Maps)..I mostly relied on books.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
I still don’t think I have covered the entire syllabus..but first reading took about 4 months
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
In August (Mains examination was scheduled from October 28)
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Yes…mostly in Paper format.

Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2017 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
I found the paper to be on the easier side, but some questions were very general and felt like a trap. Moreover I felt that the marks were assigned to the questions in a peculiar manner ; the questions which would traditionally have elaborate answers were 10 markers, while those which could be answered in a shorter space were assigned more marks.


Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?
Grad Subject – I did not revise my graduation subject as such, because from the previous years’ transcripts I gathered that if you’re a chemical engineer, questions that are asked generally pertain to chemistry (which is very different from chemical processes and their economization which chemical engineering deals with). Therefore I revised NCERTs (Chemistry).

Hobbies – My hobbies were related to Reading(Hindi and English Fiction) and environmental Issues.

For Reading as the hobby I brainstormed the likely questions – Favorite books, Favorite authors and their background, national and international Prizes, English readership vs readership in regional languages, Role of Digitization vis-a-vis the books etc.

For Environmental issues I revised whatever I had read for the written leg of the examination, Environmental Issues at the Local, National and Global level and their solutions etc
Home district and Home State I belong to Varanasi which is our Honorable PM’s constituency so I had to pay specific attention every aspect of the city. I took the help of the census handbook of Varanasi, apart from scavenging the internet for random factoids (Geographical indication tags etc)

As for the home state, the website of UP government, State budget analysis, Compilation of Schemes for UP (MoRD document), Annual Plan, SDG Report etc are some documents that I took the help of.

Job – I was the Deputy Manager (Environment) in ACC Ltd. Problems of the cement industry, Pollution load it causes and the corresponding solutions, Market capitalization, Mergers and acquisitions in cement sector, basic manufacturing process of cement, Best practises vis-a-vis pollution control are some directions in which I worked as regards the interview.

To cover Current issues, I read The Hindu, Indian Express and Times of India, and I tried to listen to the morning AIR news whenever possible.

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?
Only a few mock interviews. I tried the free ones too eg. I took one mock at ALS, and I don’t recommend it. It was very different from the official interview. The mock at IAnugrah on the other hand really boosted my morale and gave a positive spin to my outlook towards the entire interview process in general. My overall impression is that mocks aren’t necessary as such but then again that depends from person to person. Mock interviews should be taken only to build resilience against the unexpected, and to increase the confidence level so that you don’t feel like a critically endangered specie during the actual interview. That said, take the mocks with a pinch of salt, and pick and choose from the advice you’re given as per your comfort level. Don’t lose your authenticity in the process.
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 with my friends. Alongwith I took my optional notes, and the notes I’d gotten during the training period in my job.

Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Plain beige cotton saree(bordered) with a 3/4th sleeve blouse.

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Mr. Bhim Sain Bassi
Q2. How long was the interview?
Felt about 18-20 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 feel this is one service wherein I could have the maximum impact of my work . It’s highly diverse and challenging which is something my private job didn’t offer me. Also it gives me the opportunity to utilise the knowledge of my graduation subject, and job experience in issues such as Environmental Pollution control and so on.
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]


Q1So Aparajita, happy to be here ?
A – Yes sir, very.

Q2So you’ve worked in ACC. Tell me what are the problems of the cement industry ?
A – [ I’d heard from people who had faced the board previously, to keep my answers short..so I gave a 40-50 second answer ]

Q3See, you’re here to talk and I’m here to listen. So if you have nothing else to tell me, I can very well say thank you to you and you can go out.
A– [ This made me a little nervous, but I started listing the problems and I think I spoke for about 2.5-3 minutes straight ]

Chairman staring throughout.

Member 1

Q1 – Aparajita, You’re from Banaras..what has made it famous in the recent years ?
A – Sir, it’s our honorable PM’s constituency.

Q2Tell me 3 more things about Banaras that make it famous ?
A – Sir Banarasi Paan, Banarasi Saree, and the idea of Banarasi masti.

Q3Banarasi Masti ? What is that ? [Follow-up] A – Its a way of life. Even a penniless man roams around in the alleys of Banaras without any care in the
world, and thinks of himself as his own master, who is not to be controlled by any external entity
apart from Lord Vishwanath ( who is considered to be the Adhipati, or the Captain of all the
Banarasis). Since all Banarasis think of Baba Vishwanath as their Spiritual teacher/ King, people
often address each other as “Kya Raja/Kya Guru”. Moreover its is probably the only city in the world
where we celebrate life as well as death. The embodiment of these ideas in the lives of the people,
is what Banarasi Masti is.

// Chairman is smiling and staring.

M1So you’re a proud Banarasi, Aparajita..[Follow-up] Me – Yes, sir.

Q4Tell me some problems the weavers face in Varanasi
A – Listed the problems, as follows :

1. With electricity a powerloom gives 12 sarees a day, while for handloom if a family of 5-6 people sits
it would still take them 2 days to finish a saree. So the competition is very stiff.
2. The next generation of weavers don’t want to carry on with the profession and want Blue collar jobs
3. The design patterns are very limited which can’t keep up with the demand of the consumer.
4. Taxation regime is improper – The silk yarn imported from China is taxed at a higher rate than the
fabric itself which becomes a competition for the weavers

[ Most of the problems I had listed here, I heard from the horse’s mouth himself..I had contacted a few saree retailers in Banaras who’d told me all this ]

M1 [cutting me off] – “No, No that’s not correct…may be you read it somewhere (Now looking at other members and laughing), but that’s not how it is
Me – Sorry sir, I stand corrected.

Q5Do you know from where most of the Chinese silk comes from ?
A – Sir Chengdu, in Sichuan province.

Q6And the locally made silk ? [Follow-up] A – Sir, Bangalore

Q7Yes, right.. so tell me what has the government done to allay weavers’ problems ?
A – [Listed the initiatives]

Q8What will you do as a Chemical engineer in this direction ?
A – Sir, the problem of pollution is a persisting one in Banaras and after weaving the fabric the weavers
usually dye the product with synthetic dyes which increases the pollution load. Recently some
students of IIT BHU have developed and Eco-friendly dye. Such products can be marketed with an
Eco-mark tag and sell it to the niche consumer base, thereby augmenting the income of the weavers.

[ Here the usage of the word ‘Chemical’ made me answer the question differently ]

Q9Anything else ?
A – [ After a pause ].. Sir Sorry I can’t recall

[ I couldn’t think of a lot of things in that moment which would relate specifically to my chemical engineering degree ]

Q10 – Have you never heard of Amazon and E-marketing ?
A – Yes sir, that can be done as well.

[In my head I was protesting – “Of course I have ! But the question was asked in reference to being a chemical engineer specifically !” ]

// Meanwhile the Chairman is taking a nap.

Member 2

Q1 – Aparajita you know in the recent NCRB report, your state has topped as far as the number of crimes
committed are concerned. What is the percentage of rape cases in UP?

A – Sorry Ma’am I don’t remember the figure.

Q2Tell me what will you do about the situation as the DM ?
A – Answered [Self Defense(Sashakti scheme), successful examples like Mahila police volunteer,
Operation Veerangana (community policing), CCTVs etc]

Q3 Do you think the Police and Judiciary also need to change ?
A – Yes Ma’am, because women are often scared of approaching the police as often victims are blamed and denigrated or they are suggested to take the FIRs back and attempt a compromise which puts them under a greater danger.

Similarly, Prosecution and conviction have to be fast-tracked(etc etc)

Q5Did the Ganga Action Plan fail ? What are the polluting industries nearby ?
A – Answered

Q6Can the treated water from the STPs and ETPs be discharged in the river ?
A – Ideally it shouldn’t but it’s often done in the case of the Ganga.

Q7How many functional ETPs are there in Varanasi currently ?
A – Sorry Ma’am I’m not sure.
Q8 – What parameter do you use to conclude that the Ganges is dirty ?
A – [ Gave the BOD and CFU(colony forming units for coliform bacteria) values]

// At this point, everyone seemed thoroughly bored

Member 3

[ Even though M3 seemed good-natured, I couldn’t understand his diction at all. I had to concentrate all my faculties only on listening and trying to comprehend what he was saying and therefore it was difficult to formulate the answers inside my head simultaneously. ] Q1. Know any singer who got Bharat Ratna ?
A – Sir Lata Mangeshkar

Q2Any male singer ?
A – Sorry Sir I can’t recall. // It was Bhimsen Joshi :D

Q3Have you heard of *to this date I don’t know what he said here* ?
A – I beg your pardon, sir?

[M3 repeated his question but I could still not understand what he was saying, so I just “I am sorry Sir, I’m not aware”, because I was afraid that asking him to repeat again may irritate him. ]

Q4Who is Ragini ?
// Again, he said it in a way that made me lose a lot of time before understanding the question. Since he’d also asked “Who” instead of “What”, I assumed it was a person he was asking about, and not the concept of Raag-Raagini.
A – I don’t know Sir.
M3You’ve won so many medals in singing but you don’t know anything.
Me – Sorry Sir, it was just a hobby.

Q5– Have you heard of Mahila Courts ?
// What I heard was “Maghila Goats”. I asked M3 to repeat, which he did, but I still couldn’t understand what he said. Finally Bassi Sir had to wake up from his afternoon siesta and tell me it was actually “Mahila Courts” he was talking about.
A – I’m sorry Sir, I’m not very sure.

Q6Have you heard of NALSA?
A – Answered, faltered a lot.

Q7So how will you file an appeal against the decision of Lok Adalats ?
A – Sir no appeal lies against the decision of a Lok Adalat.

// By the end of M3’s set of questions, I was admittedly nervous and jittery and had started stammering here and there. Every member seemed highly disappointed with the answers I was giving.

Member 4

Q1 – You’re aware that these days there is a trend of giving living person status to the rivers?
Why is this happening ?

A – [Said something about rivers providing not only spiritual & physical sustenance but nurturing us like
mothers, therefore it is a good move etc]

Q2 – [Cutting me off and laughing while looking at other members..] But that way the air we breathe
is also very important so shall we give it the status of our father ?

A – Sir it can be done if its serves a good cause.

Q3 How is it possible for the rivers to defend themselves ?
A – Explained the Parens Patriae Jurisdiction

Q4 What is the psychology of a terrorist ?
A – Sir the aim is to spread fear in free and open societies for ideological, political or religious gains.
It usually happens because of deprivation eg poverty, unemployment, or issues with mental
health. [Not sure what he was expecting ]

Q5What can be done to change the psychology ?
A – [Gave examples of De-radicalization cell in Maharashtra, Extremism Counselling hotlines
Self regulation of social media etc]

//He didn’t seem satisfied with my answers at all

Q6What is the deadliest weapon the terrorists have ever used ?
A – [I took a very long pause because answering the question ] Sir ISIS has used chemical weapons
several times in Iraq and Syria.

Q7No..its something else..
A – Sorry Sir, I am not aware.

M4They’ve recently used Ballistic Missiles
Me – Okay sir, thank you

[Follow-up questions were specifically on ballistic missiles, I could answer one, but said “I don’t
know” for the rest two]

// With his hand covering his face, the Chairman sighed. Bassi board people can imagine.


Q4 – What is Brexit ?
A – [Explained..talked about Art 50 of the Lisbon treaty etc]

Q5Do you think its pleasant or acrimonious ?
A – Sir it’s not a very pleasant development per se

Q6Do you mean to say it’s slightly pleasant ?
A – Sir international relations dictates alignment along multiple axes, and no two units can treat each
other with complete hostility

Q6 – So Aparajita, You’re a student of History, Tell me about Indo-Pak skirmishes
A – [ I mentioned both 1965 and 1971 wars, the Kashmir standoff, but I don’t know why Siachen
dispute slipped my mind and I jumped directly to the present scenario, i.e. Uri etc]

Q7- Are you aware of the Siachen Standoff ?
A – [Explained the whole standoff, the issue with NJ9842 (What India wants, what Pak wants) then talked about Operation Meghdoot(1983)].

Q8 – Tell me, Exactly the year when NJ9842 was identified ?
A – Sorry Sir, I am not aware.

Chairman – Thank you, your interview is over.

All in all, even though it seemed that the members were not at all happy with my answers, I found them to be encouraging. M1 was nodding at some of my answers, which was a relief (in that moment). M2 was straight-faced but nice. I couldn’t understand what M3 was saying, and he made his disappointment amply clear. M4 was comforting, and he was trying to give me hints too or so I felt. Chairman was sleeping out of boredom(It seemed).

Towards the end I was nervous and inarticulate, but I tried to smile throughout the interview, answered with honestly whatever I knew and said “I don’t know” wherever I wasn’t sure.
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?
Some questions were expected but starting with the Question 3 by the Chairman and whatever transpired thereafter, I felt it was a stress interview.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?

  • Take the latest photographs along with
  • Bespectacled people – Get your eyesight re-checked and get your new prescription glasses before the medical.
  • The process typically lasts from 9 AM to 3 PM, so make good use of that time. You can either get a book to read, or make new friends of other co-aspirants you get to meet. I’d choose the latter.


Prelims Paper-1 110.00
Prelims Paper-2 94.18
Mains Subjects Marks
Essay 147
GSM1 119
GSM2 119
GSM3 146
GSM4 89
Optional Paper-1 138
Optional Paper-2 149
Written Total 907
Interview 163
Final 1070


Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
By my own honest admission, I had no back-up plan. I hadn’t even filled the form for the next prelims. I don’t suggest anyone follow this.. please make sure you have a Plan-B to fall back on.
Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ number of failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/ after dad retires/ etc.)

Not Applicable


Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Optional subjects and their variety give each of us the chance to perform their best in the exam. I personally feel optionals should stay.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
A basic level of aptitude is expected of a civil servant. The questions that come, is basically school-level maths. However the standard of the questions should be set keeping in mind the possible disadvantage
to those from hinterland or rural areas. Paper shouldn’t be unnecessarily tough.

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.
I think since 2016, we’re beginning to see some good changes in this regard.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answer key and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Q. UPSC should disclose the evaluated mains- answer sheets like some StatePCS are doing.
Yes, that’ll bring transparency.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
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?

Interviews are highly subjective and can make or break one’s chances of finding their name in the list, so something should be done about it.

Also the exam is an year-long process & several upheavals happen in the lives of people over such long periods which may disrupt the preparation..the duration of the entire process should be reduced.



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?
No I did not suffer from any such insecurities and neither should any other aspirant. The fact that you’ve reached the interview stage speaks volumes about your abilities as it is. Own with pride whatever has built you.


Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison of UPSC and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.
Talk to your parents everyday, and don’t neglect your friends, and your hobbies. This is your ecosystem and it will help you sail through in the toughest of times. And If you start finding stray grey hairs prematurely, don’t fret..that’s just a sign that you’re closer to the goal :D
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?

Since I hadn’t taken any coaching, my sources started lacking specificity and the whole preparation became very disorganised which really pulled me back. Moreover I’ve had trouble concentrating since childhood, so often I wouldn’t read the instructions or the questions properly and paid the price in the form of blunders I did in haste in my earlier attempts(both in pre and in mains)

In my current attempt, I swiftly incised away the excess, reduced and consolidated my sources and focussed on revision. I also made sure I read the question carefully(usually twice), underlined the keywords and only then proceeded to mark the correct option/write the answer.


If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
Not applicable


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 will be good and bad days and all days won’t be equally satisfying as regards the quality of study. That’s just how things are. Always keep the larger goal in mind, and keep going.

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?
It’s not a test of your knowledge, it’s a test for your common sense and patience. Utilize your time on
the correct sources, be patient and success will be yours.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2017. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
This is just another exam, It isn’t the end of the world so don’t let it define you in any way. If you’ve been knocked down, you’ve simply got to get up and fight harder.


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?
My parents from whom I knew nothing but incessant love and support, and my friends who always told me they imagine me as nothing less than an IAS officer.


Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you? And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering.
Yes, I did. A substantial part of my Economics and Geography preparation was done through Mrunal.org and I will be forever indebted for the clarity it has provided me with, particularly the lectures on Indian Economy. Mrunal.org was a much needed respite from the commercial web of coachings in Delhi, not only for me but also for many other aspirants, I’m certain.

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3 Comments on “[Topper’s Interview] Aparajita (Rank-40/UPSC-2017): History Optional, 3rd Attempt, BIT Mesra alumni, hails from Varanasi”

  1. Congratulations madam😀😀😀

  2. Maghila goats….hahahaha….for sure M3 was from Tamilnadu :)

  3. Just because you did good in optionals, you support optionals. You got average marks in Interview so you think that interviews should be reformed.
    Human nature :p

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