1.  Introduction
  2. Family and Friends
  3. Your Study plan
  4. CSAT (Paper I) General studies
  5. GS Mains
  8. Marksheet


Name B Fouzia Taranum
Roll number 275787
Rank (CSE 2011) 307
Optional Subjects
  1. Public Administration
  2. Sociology
Medium for Mains Exam English
Mains Examination Centre Bangalore
Number of Attempts 2
Details of Graduation and Post-Grad.
Including college names
B.Com – Jyoti Nivas College, Bangalore
MBA (Finance) – Christ College, Bangalore
PG Diploma – Sustainable Development – Jyoti Nivas College
Schooling (Medium) Bishop Cotton Girls High School (English)
Extracurricular activities,
hobbies, achievements etc.
  • General and Subject Proficiency awards throughout academic life
  • Gold Medal – MBA
  • Bangalore University 5th Rank for B.Com
  • The Dr. Stella Samuel Award for the Most Promising Outgoing Student for the year (School)
  • The Best Prefect Award (School)
  • Vice captain of School and Prefect
  • Valedictorian – B.Com, MBA
  • Event manager of many fests/seminars/conferences
  • First place for the organization structure study project at MICO-BOSCH, Bangalore

Hobbies – Reading, Documentaries, Event Management, Craftwork

Are you a working professional? No
Did you leave your job
or prepared while on the job?
Left TCS in 2010 to prepare for CSE full time. (Wasn’t able to manage both due to demands of the job.)
Did you take Coaching? Prelims:  Yes – JSS, Bangalore (wonderful library)
Mains: No
Interview:  One mock with Mr. Ravindran,
One mock at Hamdard Study Circle, Delhi
One mock at Delhi Kannada Sangha (free)
Did you buy any postal courses? Yes – Vajiram&Ravi Mains 2010 – To get an idea about the exam – Didn’t read any of the books except Current Affairs and Economy though
Did you join any Mock test series? No
Did you appear in any other competitive exams? Yes, MBA entrance exams 2006



Q. When and how did the inspiration and idea of joining civil service come in your mind?

A. I can’t pinpoint the exact instant. Have always wanted to be able to serve as many people as possible and have wanted to play a role at the policy making level. IAS is the best job which will allow me to do this. Even though I had decided to take up these exams when I was in 12th grade, I started conscious preparation after my post grad.

The Choice of Optional Subjects

Q. After a person decides to appear in civil service exam, the first big obstacle is “Choice of optional subjects”. What factors did you consider before selecting your optional?

A. Interest, familiarity, your grad/post grad subjects, availability of material/guidance, and relevance to the service you want to join, and so on. Have a look at the syllabus of the optional. It helps if you choose optional which you enjoy reading, since we need to read them for 1-2 years. I chose pubad and socio for these reasons. I wish to reiterate that there is no such thing as a scoring subject. Your score depends on how well you are prepared and how you perform at the exam.


Q. People initially prepare with much enthusiasm but then a boredom phase comes. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year?

A. Focus on the goal. There are always periods of self-doubt, anxiety, boredom, distraction, depression. It’s normal for all of us to go through them I suppose. Each of us will have our own way of dealing with it. Music, talking to family, friends who believe in you more than you believe in yourself, re-reading your favourite book. Countdowns, knowing that the time to prepare is limited, knowing that if we work sincerely towards the goal something positive will definitely come of it. Your stress busters should not take up too much time though! Serious stuff like family obligations we cannot ignore – take your time on them, get it done with, get back to books with a vengeance to make up for lost time.


On an average, How many hours did you study per day? How many months did it take you to complete the core syllabus of GS and optional subjects?

A. 8-10 hours a day. Not very consistent but tried to be as much as possible. Went to the library 11 am to 7 pm, 6 days a week so as to get that discipline. Started dedicated preparation from Nov 2011. Till June 12, 2011 prepared for prelims i.e. GS + CSAT. After that concentrated on Optionals. Gave myself 3 weeks to revise GS before the mains. The momentum builds up once the results come out and as the exam nears. From my mistakes, I think the key is consistency and keeping daily, weekly, monthly targets and sticking to them. Days when things are going well tried to maximize study time (14-16 hours).


How did you use computer and internet for your exam-preparation? 

Well, it depends on what you are looking for. When I started preparation, I used to browse and try to gather as much info as possible. We get to learn from topper blogs, other members on IO/social networking sites etc. But that search process has to stop when you get a fair idea. After that it is all about bettering your knowledge on the various topics that you encounter in newspapers and books. For people who do not take coaching, the internet provides you with all your doubt solving. Also, for S&T (my weak area) I used Wikipedia extensively. Government websites are a mine of information. Avoided social networking sites so as to reduce distractions and increase study time.

From my mistakes I would like to point out – don’t sit in front of the computer aimlessly. I tended to waste a lot of time. Maintain a list of all the things you need to google/wiki, and try to get that done during an assigned hour as a break between study hours.


How did you prepare yourself for the essay?
Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?
What were your keypoints in that essay?
How many marks did you get in that essay?

No exclusive preparation.
Smaller states.
Wrote in short paragraphs with each para having 2-3 relevant points. Wrote about 1400 words. Balanced essay – looked at benefits and problem areas. Tried to suggest alternatives. Not too much info on all the commissions and politics of state reorganization – have heard that an essay is supposed to be more about assimilation of thoughts and not subject knowledge.


Q. What had gone wrong in your previous attempts? How did you fix those issues in your 2011’s attempt?

2011 was my second attempt technically – but my first serious attempt (with preparation).
2010 was a case study in how not to take up the exam. I didn’t even qualify Prelims – had my half baked knowledge about the exam itself to blame. Even though I was ill prepared, the prelim result saddened me. I quit work, got down to understanding the exam and its requirements, gathered books, spoke to seniors who have cleared the exam (no one in my family in the service) – then got down to business of preparation. Told myself, if I give it my all no one can stop me from succeeding.


Many aspirants fear the interview, thinking that “my profile is not good because 

  • I’ve low marks in SSC/HSC/College,
  • I don’t have any extra-curricular certificates,
  • I don’t have work experience,
  • I graduated from some unknown college,
  • I’m from non-English medium and so on…”

So, How important or relevant is the profile of a candidate during interview?

Our profile is our past! So many of us take up our grad subjects and colleges without paying heed to our interests and likes. Some of us do not have any source of guidance, some take ill informed decisions, some couldn’t afford to take up certain courses. I think the interview boards understand that. Even if that’s not the case, why bother about things we can’t change. The only thing that should matter to us is that what we can do – perform in the prelims, mains and the 30-40 minutes of interview, to the best of our ability.

Be thorough with your home state, details given in DAF, optional and current affairs – for interview. Questions may be from anywhere.


Q. In case you had not cleared the UPSC exam, what was your career/future backup plan?

The corporate world, or further study in the field of policy making/development studies (depending on circumstances.)

Family and Friends

Q. Behind one topper are many people who stood by him/her during those uncertain times when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with the readers?

I don’t feel like a topper, still I have so many people to thank for their constant support and help making possible whatever little I have achieved. My dad was the major reason for my taking up the exam – his belief in me (my daughter=Supergirl!) was both motivating and daunting, but without it I wouldn’t have made it. My mother and sisters have been winds beneath my sails – not just encouraging me with words and prayers but also the endless supplies of tea/coffee. My family made my dream theirs – they would have been more crushed than me if I wouldn’t have made it – this made me work harder! My friends have always been supportive – and a phone call away even during my anxiety/self doubt attacks at 3 am. I met many fellow aspirants during the course of my prep – seeing others in the same boat as me had a weirdly calming affect :P – and they have shared so much with me be it notes or snippets of information. Heartfelt thanks to everyone!

Your Study plan

CSAT (Paper I) General studies

Topic Source of your preparation
Current Affairs TOI, The Hindu, ET, Frontline, Wizard (added Indian Express during 3 months before interview)
History Ancient/Medieval/Modern Anc, Med – Did not prepare
Mod –

  1. Bipin Chandra,
  2. Spectrum,
  3. Ncert
Geography G C Leong,
NCERT – 11th and 12th (4 books), Atlas
Polity and Governance Indian Polity – Laxmikanth
Public Policy Civil Services Times Special edition + Internet
Rights issue Internet – made some notes
Environment and Biodiversity ICSE 10th text, Chronicle spl edition, CST spl edition
Economic and social Development Newspapers, Eco Survey, Year Book for schemes
Science Gen Sc – NCERT Std 6-9
S&T – Newspapers, Wikipedia
Economy PD – selective study, Vaji yellow book, ISC 11th & 12th text by Frank, Wizard spl edition, Internet

About the CSAT aptitude

TIME and IMS booklets, Mock papers solved as many as I could source

Mains Examination

Compulsory Language papers

Source of your preparation
English No prep, went through last 2 years’ Q papers
Indian language paper Last 5 years papers. Weak in Hindi – read through some grammar from 10th text book, listened to Hindi news for 2 months before mains, did some reading/writing practice.

General Studies paper I

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation
History Spectrum, NCERT
Culture Did not prepare
Geography of India G C Leong, NCERT – 11th and 12th (4 books), Atlas
Polity Indian Polity – Laxmikanth
Issues of social relevance No separate prep as such
Newspapers (+ Socio texts)
Indian economy and planning Newspapers, Wizard
Public health Internet (Min of Health and Family Welfare website + PIB)
Law and order No separate prep
Good governance No separate prep
Environment ICSE 10th text, Chronicle spl edition, CST spl edition

General Studies paper 2

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation
India and the World Newspapers, World Focus, Frontline
Indian diaspora Newspapers
India’s Economic interaction with world Newspapers + Internet
International affairs and institutions Newspapers + Internet
Statistics Spectrum
Science & Tech. Newspapers + Internet

Optional Subject


A lot of guidance available online – nothing much I can add. Have a look at Anay Dwivedi and Gokul GR’s blogs – 2009 and 2010 toppers. 2011 – Neeraj (Rank 11) and Kshitij (Rank 142) have given a detailed strategy on IO. (Read everyones and try to devise a strategy that works best for you.)

I would just like to reiterate the importance of newspapers and polity related current affairs along with extensive use of internet.


To be honest, I’m still not as comfortable with the optional as I should be after having given mains 2011 with it and scoring 314. Still have 4 units left in paper 2.

  • Prepared in 3-4 months – after prelims 2011. Self study.
  • Had a few discussions on thinkers and some units in paper 1 with friends who have socio as optional.
  • Papers getting general – I feel UPSC doesn’t want scholars in the subject but rather people who can comment coherently (with a sociological perspective) on current happenings.
  • Enjoyed reading it – very relevant subject
  • Used to relate to current events – gave examples in almost all answers
  • Did not segregate ppr 1 & 2… kept trying to find linkages and relevance of all topics everywhere.

Lacunae identified in my prep:

  • Did not complete syllabus
  • Read from many sources but did not consolidate well (not satisfied)
  • Made no notes for revision due to lack of time
  • Did not practice answer writing/mock papers – found it difficult to manage time in the mains – in both papers the quality of last 60 marks took a hit due to bad time management.



  1. C N Shankar Rao – Intro to socio
  2. Crack IAS notes – ppr 1
  3. Haralambos – very very important book acc to me (understood mead thanks to this book!)
  4. IGNOU BA Notes – selectively. (Did all units on thinkers thoroughly)
  5. Ritzer for Thinkers
  6. Upendra Notes – for thinkers and introduction only
  7. Collins Dictionary for Sociology

Paper 2

  1. C N Shankar Rao – Indian socio
  2. Crack IAS notes – ppr 2
  3. IGNOU BA Notes  – selectively
  4. Nagla for Indian Thinkers
  5. Upendra Notes – for movements only
  6. Nadeem Hasnain – Tribal India selectively
  7. Ram Ahuja – very few topics
  8. Year Book for programmes/schemes
  9. Spectrum History – for national movement
  10. Internet for few topics

Online resources

  1. Tanvi Sundariyal’s blog/other toppers’ blogs
  2. Vision IAS website/blog – read few answers by toppers
  3. IGNOU – egyankosh for pdfs on few topics
  4. Wikipedia!



Remark : Recommended.


Q. What is your message to the aspirants?

Believe in yourself and work towards the goal! It’s an achievable dream – don’t underestimate your abilities and don’t paint the goal as something too difficult/out of reach.
Luck is something we have no control over, so let’s work hard and smart! The more we work, the luckier we get.
Also UPSC is constantly evolving – it is very difficult to stay ahead here. But what we can do is stay flexible and adaptive. And Updated! (Think Darwin.)

Finally two questions

  1. Did you use indianofficer.com  for your preparation? If yes, How did it help you?
  2. Did you use mrunal.org  for your preparation? If yes, how did it help you?

And  you can reply “No”, it’ll be published without distortion.

Yes to both – they were useful in the information gathering stage, and understanding the demands of the exam. Eventually I reduced using IO due to paucity of time. It’s a great place to interact with fellow aspirants and verify any information/clarify doubts.