[Toppers Interview] Neha Nautiyal (AIR 185/CSE 2011) working professional cracks UPSC and shares History Booklist and study tips

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Unacademy Plus Mrunal Economy for Prelims and Mains UPSC!

Neha Nautiyal cracks UPSC without leaving job. Here she shares the journey, the time Management tips for working professionals, strategy and booklist for General studies, History, Public Administration and more.

  1. Introduction
  2. Your Study plan
  3. CSAT (Paper I) General studies
  4. About the CSAT aptitude
  5. Mains Examination
  6. Compulsory Language papers
  7. General Studies paper I
  8. General Studies paper 2
  9. Optional Subject #1 and #2
  10. Public Administration
  11. History
  12. Marksheet


Roll number 235262
Rank (CSE 2011) 185
Optional Subjects 1. History
2. Public Administration
Medium for Mains Exam English
Mains Examination Centre Chandigarh
Number of Attempts 2
Details of Graduation and Post-Grad. 1.B.Sc. B.Ed 4 yr integrated course
2.M.Sc. (Zoology)
Schooling (Medium) Kendriya Vidhyalaya (English)
Extracurricular activities,
hobbies, achievements etc.
Listening songs,
Internet Surfing,
Playing Badminton
Are you a working professional? Yes
If yes, then did you leave your job
or prepared while on the job?
No I prepared while on job.
Did you take Coaching? Prelims: Yes (From Dehradun)
Mains: Yes (From Dehradun)
Interview: Yes (From Delhi)
Did you buy any postal courses? Yes from Cracking IAS
Did you join any Mock test series? Yes for Interview only
Did you appear in any other competitive exams? Yes
If yes, provide the details: IBPS PO, SBI PO (qualified written of both but didn’t gave Interview),
CASE( The present job I am holding was by this exam)


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

Ans: It was when I was doing my post graduation (during 2009) that I started thinking seriously about Civil Services. I was interested in teaching but slowly I realized about the Impact of various other factors on education. This was a major driving force which inspired me for joining the services. Besides there were many other factors like good career profile, varied opportunities etc. etc.

The Choice of Optional Subjects

Q7. 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?

Ans: Definitely the choice of optional is the first major obstacle. My basis of selection of optional was based on many factors:

  1. My interest and aptitude towards the optional.
  2. Relative popularity of the optional.
  3. Availability of good books related to that optional in Dehradun (Since Doon being a small city there is always a lack of good books related to many subjects particularly the science one).
  4. Subjectivity and objectivity of the subject (For example, I took History due to its objectivity apart from my interest in it).


Q. People initially prepare with much enthusiasm but then a boredom phase comes – they don’t even find the motivation to read the daily newspapers, let alone studying the books.
Sometimes they get diverted because of external factors e.g. heavy workload in office, family responsibilities and so on. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year?

Ans: Whenever I got bored during preparation I took a break of 1 or 2 days. During the break I watched movies, read novel (which I love much), went for an outing. So it all depends upon you and your interest. If at any point of time I became de-motivated I thought about why I am preparing it? The inner motivation coupled with the motivation and support of family and friends kept me sail through the difficult phase of examination.


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?

Ans: I never gave much importance to hours. I believed that one should be honest to himself/herself while studying. If you don’t feel like studying don’t do it. It will not be much productive. Rather take interest while studying even if it is for a short duration of 15-20 min. Believe me it will give good results.
If I calculate on an average it will come around 2-4 hours. As I was a working professional I was not having much time on weekdays so I stretched it during weekends.

I started the preparation approx. 1 year before appearing in the prelims of 2010 so I took nearly 6-7 months in completing the core syllabus of G.S.


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

Ans: The IT boom is really very helpful. Besides entertainment I used it to add up study-material. I used many forums like IO, Orkut to clear my doubts. Lok sabha channel for listening discussions . Many other sites to clear my doubt. Mrunal’s blog for economy and any other site which was helpful for preparation. One can arrange study material from net like IGNOU notes, ARC report, Economic survey, NCERT’s etc.


How did you prepare yourself for the essay?

Ans: Specifically I didn’t prepare much for essay. During preparation I wrote some essays on common topics like Corruption, Women empowerment, Judicial System, sustainable management etc. I purchased a book related to some common essays so as to get some points related to essay writing. Saw essays on net.

Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?

Ans:  Creation of smaller states and the consequent administrative, economic and developmental implication.

How many marks did you get in that essay?

Ans: 94


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

Ans: I would say that yes failure is really depressing but its important to rise again with full vigor. Analyze your mistakes, areas which need more focus, work out for a new strategy.

The mistake which I committed during 2010 was that I didn’t have much writing practice for mains. As a result the quality of my answers was not good at all. Besides I resorted to reading many books. But this time I did continuous revision, tried to memorize and relate different topics as much as I can. Apart from that mainly in Public Administration I focused more on theoretical part related to thinkers and used it in many other questions also.


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?

Ans: I don’t feel like the profile plays much importance. It can only give a plus point during the interview to a very limited extent. Even if you don’t have any such advantage you have to prove to the interviewer that you possess skills to do the job. You just have to impress the interviewer with your attitude.

How do you rate your own profile?

Ans: I myself rate my profile to be average or less than that. Neither I am a student of any reputed institute nor have any extra stars attached to my profile. The only positive point was that I am a working person.

How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?

Ans: There were few questions related to my PG subject, Job related, Hobbies and some were general.

Did they ask any uncomfortable questions from your profile?

Ans: No


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

Ans: I would have continued with the job I am currently doing.

Working professional

What is your advice and tips to working professionals – particularly on time Management?

Ans: For time management I resorted to the tips given by Mrunal somewhere in the IO Forum.
I didn’t indulge in office gossiping, used free time of office for preparation. Did proper utilization of internet facility given by the office. Read newspaper during office hours.
Besides I resorted to studying daily even if it was only for an hour. I stretched during weekend upto 7-8 hrs.

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?

Ans: In my case my parents, brother and friends were the constant motivating factors.

Your Study plan

CSAT (Paper I) General studies

Topic Source of your preparation remark, if any
Current Affairs From Chronicle (monthly edition) and from net. During the peak time any book covering the entire period (I used Wizard  special edition for pre preparation) Internet
History Ancient/Medieval/Modern Prepared it alongwith optional preparation
Physical Geography From Khullar, Wizard special edition for geography Some topics from internet for clarity.
Geography of India From Khullar, Wizard special edition for geography, Atlas is must
Geography of World From Wizard special edition for geography, atlas
Polity and Governance D D Basu, P M Bakshi, Polity special edition
Public Policy Monthly magazine
Rights issue Monthly magazine
Environment and Biodiversity Chronicle special edition Many of the  topics from internet.
Economic and social Development From India Year Book and monthly magazine
Science NCERT’s, Internet, Special edition of magazines.
Economy Mainly relied on net for this.

About the CSAT aptitude

I had study material of TIME given by one of my friend  so all the topics related to paper II were prepared from that only.

Mains Examination

Compulsory Language papers

Source of your preparation
English No preparation at all.
Indian language paper No preparation at all.

There are some instances of candidates failing in Compulsory Indian language (Hindi / Bengali etc.) so please do provide your source of preparation for it.

Ans: If one is not confident in a language paper it is imperative for him to prepare it well as it is important for clearing mains. For that one can resort to very basic books of the subject concerned. For English one can use Wren and Martin whereas for any other language any basic grammer book will suffice.

General Studies paper I

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation Remarks, if Any
History Being optional subject same books
Culture From spectrum for art and culture
Geography of India Khullar,
Polity P M Bakshi, D D Basu, Some topics from Special polity edition Latest issues from Chronicle monthly magazine
Issues of social relevance From Chronicle magazine and news paper
Indian economy and planning From internet (I have mentioned the sites which I used), rest some issues from Economic survey, Budget and the monthly magazine. Any book related to special addition of economics.
Public health From magazines
Law and order From Chronicle magazine
Good governance From magazine
Environment Special edition by Chronicle Didn’t study it much due to my bio background.

I also read some of the topics from India Yearbook mainly the topics related to Welfare, Environment, Art and culture.

General Studies paper 2

Syllabus Topic Source of your preparation Remarks, if Any
India and the World From newspaper and magazine
Indian diaspora From the study material of Cracking IAS
India’s Economic interaction with world Mainly From Internet Study material of Cracking IAS
International affairs and institutions Internet Prepared self notes for these topics and added latest issues related to it in them.
Statistics From the study material of BT tutorial
Science & Tech. From the monthly magazine and study material of cracking IAS. Study material of Cracking IAS

Optional Subject #1 and #2

Instead of reading many books I mainly relied on reading single book many times.

Public Administration

Paper I

Sharma and Sadana
Some topics from Mohit Bhattacharya
Thinkers from Prasad and Prasad
Notes of R.V. Varun Kumar (which I got from IO forum)

Paper II

Indian Administration from Arora And Goyal
Report of 2nd ARC
Selected topics from IIPA journals
Some topics from internet also.
Some of the topics for both papers from IGNOU notes.


Paper I

  • Ancient India: D. N. Jha
  • Romila Thapar
  • Medieval India: By Satish Chandra (Both Parts)
  • An atlas (Spectrum)
  • IGNOU notes mainly for the pre historic period.

Paper II

For Modern India

  1. India’s struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  2. Modern India by Grover and Grover

For World History

  1. From Jain and Mathur

IGNOU notes for selected topics
The major focus of History preparation was on society, Art and architecture, culture. This helped me in writing quality answers.


How did you prepare for the interview?

Ans: For interview preparation I focused mainly on bio-data. I did a scrutiny of my DAF and identified the areas of preparation. Try to formulate questions related to that. Read two newspapers during the month of March so that I didn’t miss any important news.
I did a mistake as I didn’t prepared my PG subject (Zoology) much and so was not able to answer some of the questions related to zoology.

Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Ans: Dr K.K. Paul

Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or

Did they ask you totally unexpected questions?
Ans: Some of the questions asked were related to the Biodata, Mainly related to Zoology, Uttarakhand. Besides some were general like Land acquisition, Privatization, difference between regulatory adm and development adm, your area of priority, mountain peaks of Uttarakhand etc. etc.


2011 2010
(not qualified in Mains)


Q. What is your message to the aspirants?

Ans: Be honest to yourself and always believe that yes you can do it. Its not easy to think about preparation of Civil Services but you have thought about it which means you have the caliber.
Work smartly and think about what the exam demands? Perseverance, Self-confidence and positive attitude is the key to success.

Finally two questions

When you’ll give interview in the famous competitive magazines, the last question is generally a loaded question “how did your magazine help us in preparing for IAS Exam!?”
In the era of blatant marketing campaigns, I too have to ask two similar but unloaded questions. Although you can answer “No”, yet it’ll be published without distortion.

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

Ans: Yes I used IO very much during the preparation. I was the passive follower of the forum. The dignity maintained by the candidates on this forum is what I like most about it. It helped me in covering many important topics, to have another opinion related to many topics, in relieving tension during the result time, for optional preparation.

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

Ans: Yes I used your website quite often. I love your website very much. Believe me I was very poor in economics. And one of my friends gave me the link to your website and yes it helped me very much in understanding the core principles of economy. The explanation given by you was so easy that the economics which gave me nightmare earlier was now being interested by me much.
Even till day I use your website. The Diclophenac and vulture, graphene etc. quest in pre was solved bcoz of your website. I love the economy part of your website most.

Indian History Freedom Struggle Pratik Nayak

51 Comments on “[Toppers Interview] Neha Nautiyal (AIR 185/CSE 2011) working professional cracks UPSC and shares History Booklist and study tips”

  1. Thanks for guiding us .I am little bit confused about public administration paper -II .With regard to report of 2nd ARC please let me know which portions to refer? please share with me the relevant portion of IIPA journal

  2. mam i have read(though once only) al basham for ancient india. do i need to read it again or dn jha(‘vealso read it ) + romila thaper will do?


  4. hiii Neha,
    First of all a big big congratulations!!!
    you are such an aspiration…. i am also a working professional and also from the remotest part of north east india, i always did well in my optionals, but when it comes to g.s, i fare poorly. i m wondering if you would tell me how good is cracking ias notes? are they dependable? here in my place, newpapers , magazines cant reach in time and thus i lost interest in reading them..hope you can enlighten me. Thanking you with anticipation.

  5. @ CA. Amit lath
    Read the topics related to the PRI, Urban local governments, Citizen centric adm,Public order. You can also go with the summary of all the 15 reports and include their suggestion while answer writing. As for IIPA journal there are many topics like NPM, liberlisation etc. Whatever is relevant with the sylaabus you can read it depending upon time.

    @ rajender
    I have only read one topic from Basham so i cant comment on that. I just read Romila Thapar (that too some topics only like feudalism,period between 8th century and 12 cen etc.)and D N Jha. See u just cover ur syllabus as much as u can. For that seek for different topics from the books u have already read. If u have time than only read a new book otherwise just revise topics from the books u have read.

    @ junivelli
    I just read their notes related to current affairs.The problem with their current affair portion is that they deliver it late (mainly the summary part) which is quite relevant. So at that time is becomes useless. Their core books are fine for some topics but not much coverance. So you cannot blindly rely on them.
    I think magazine and newspapers are the best option. You can subscribe them online also.

    1. good noon friend please help me i am study from lakshay coching se mera first year h mujhe mujhe puchana tha kuch ap kis tarike se study ki h ki succese huyi h please tell me friend mujhe samajh me nhi a raha ki kaise reading kare please friend please please

  6. hai Mam, first of all to congrats to u for this great success. iwant to know what was your strategy to solve the paragraph questions in csat. Is TIME material enough for csat or we need some other books. what was your probable score in the csat paper. please provide me the answers of these questions. thanks!!!!

  7. Congratulation once again Neha didi, I’m also from Dehradun. I’m very happy and proud of you that a Garhwali girl, especially a working one, made it to the most coveted job in the country. Your interview here is also inspirational.
    I’m also preparing for the Civil Service Examination with same optional subject as yours. Hope I also reach the destination.

  8. How do u suggest that i start prep for history ..i hv started with the ncerts n completed ..do i then take the books like romila thapar or first ghe ignou notes??

  9. Neha didi I am also bracing myself on preparation of UPSC. I am working person. Your success inspired me that I can also do it otherwise I am standing alone presently in front of everyone . Can you please guide how to proceed because I can’t take coaching. So can you please suggest me good study material from where I can start my long journey step by step. Will be very helpful of me if you do reply and guide me. Many congratulation for your success.

  10. Hi Neha,
    Its nice to know you cleared UPSC IAS being a working professional.As i read your Preparation strategy & found quite appealing.For prelims taking one day leave is not a big deal.As iam a working profession as software enginner in TCS.But my concern is wat about Mains exam preparation leave.I think it will be in a stretch from oct 1st week or fron oct 20th onwards.Can you have something to guide & help me for pre-mains preparation,before mains exam how many days of leave will be suffice for doing well in Exam.

    Thanks & Regards
    Software Engineer
    Tata Consultancy Services

  11. Hi Neha,
    Congratulations for ur success in CSE.
    I am working as a Software Engineer. As Mr.Tirupadi mentioned above, i too have concerns about how many days leave will be sufficient for both pre-prelims and pre-mains preparation.
    I am going to give my first attempt, i will be glad if you can guide me regarding this no.of.days-leave issue.

    1. me too have the same doubt……..

  12. sir i varun sharma b-tech in mechanical engg. and know i am intersed in Civil Service Examination. so please suggesst me

    thanks and rturn mail me plz

  13. thank u…

  14. After studying madam nehas comment,it seems she works for sbi(bank job).So my question is can a professional working in a IT company crack the UPSC exam.Because IT companies sees that their employees make it office even on weekends.So it is possible for working professionals like me.So does i need a career tranformation to bank job

  15. hi neha.

    the big big congrats to you.


  17. Congratulations Madam :D
    You are a great inspiration for me :)

  18. hi mam congrats for your success and i read your full interview so inspire so much from you before i didnt study that much now i have to study wanna be like you .

  19. ma’m, which institute did you join in dehradun?

  20. goodafternoon maim,i am a c.s.e 3rd sem engineering student at bit raipur chhattisgarh,and i am only belive in IAS/IPS so maim suggest me…..thank you

  21. Hi mam congrats for your success and i read your full interview so inspire so much from you before i didnt study that much now i have to study wanna be like you ….
    i m heavily confused with taking books so can u plz help out.
    I have taken history as an optional so plzz …..
    i hope so u will help me


  22. mam i am very much inspired by your atitude toward the civil,thanks

  23. i am a btech computer sc.graduate.i want guidance for selection of subjects for mains.and how to start preparation without coaching.and study material & books list for prelims.


  24. Ma’am could u provide details from where u had taken claases for civil services in Dehradun

  25. Thanks to give your information and experience in cse. i inspired that why i literally study well.

  26. (Hi mrunal the below was sent to neha’ fb page, but eventually i ended up contacting the wrong neha. Please guide me for the below queries that i have)
    hi neha congratulations, on your triumph for upsc. Neha, this is ganesh gupta. I am bascically from mumbai, but got a job in a broking firm in pune. I had and have some financial constaints due to which I cannot leave my job. I always dreamnt of being an ias officer but eventually ended up with a job in night shift which totally riped of my schedules. I am 26 right now, and somehow got a job here in pune. Being this a new place and out of social life and some amount of time that I have here I guess this time of my life gives me some levy to go back to studies for upsc. Its already late and I think I am delaying it, I wanted to strongly go for the prep. But my morning shift from 6.30 till afternoon 4.30 somtimes even 5 makes me exhausted. Since sitting all day on chair is making me lazy and unhealthy I started gyming for 45 mins. So from 5.30 to 6.20 I gym. Then I have a spare time of another 1 hrs before I could go for dinner. Once I am done with my dinner It totally becomes difficult for me to go for studies. I saw ur interview on mrunals site and wanted a few tips if u could share.
    1st what can I do during the course of my working hrs to fuel in some study and which lasts in my brain.
    2nd for that extra time I can wake up early lets say at 4 in morning and cud study for lets say an hour.
    3rd since I have been of study for almost 4 yrs now it becomes totally an impossible task to focus and study, tough if I come up with some plans.

  27. thanks for sharing experience, it kept me confident that i would also be doing same for my ies exam and hope by next year i will crack it..

  28. Hii Neha,

    I need your opinion on this. Can language medium of a coaching centre be a hindrance? I mean if a person is from an English medium school will taking a Hindi medium coaching affect his performance.

  29. I am an average student & very keen to pursue the UPSC exams. The apex motto is to be an IAS OR IPS. I m 26 yrs old & working man at jet airways. I would prefer to pursue CSE preparation in Mumbai.

    Ajay Yadav

  30. hi all, plz tell me that if i appears for mains how much optional subjects i can take ? means is thre only one subject that i should take as optional?

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