Praveen Kumar, All India Medical CBSE Topper, had a plump job in corporate sector, but wanted to serve the society. Today he shares his journey of struggle and success with us.


Name Praveen Kumar
Roll number 261979
Rank (CSE 2011) 708
Optional Subjects Medical Science and Psychology
Medium for Mains Exam English
Mains Examination Centre Delhi
Number of Attempts 2
Details of Graduation and Post-Grad. MBBS from UCMS and GTB Hospital, DU
Schooling (Medium) English
Extracurricular activities,hobbies, achievements etc.
  • Member of NGO Aman biradari,
  • working on overall development of marginalized children
  • Elected VP of students’ college union while in MBBS
Are you a working professional? No, worked after mains exam on ad hoc basis for 2 months only
Did you take Coaching? Prelims: NoMains: Dr Usha Alim Psychology test series

Interview: Samkalp only mocks

Did you buy any postal courses? No
Did you join any Mock test series? Yes for Psychology only



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

I was working in Business research and consulting in the healthcare domain after my graduation. The impersonal nature of work and the mad rush for bottomline oriented practices led me to believe that I am not a good fit for a self serving role which is mostly offered by private companies. I am an MBBS in a sense I have made 2 career shifts, from clinics to business and then now to civil services..I guess the desire to impact a larger population made me strive for this. I started preparing in July 2009.

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?

I selected psychology since I found it semi-scientific and having a huge implication on our daily lives. Medical science was my graduation subject and the one related to my corporate career as well. I did  not take subjects like philosophy, geography because of their limited utility in real life.


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,

How did you keep yourself busy with the books, continuously?

Within a month of my starting preparation, my father died due to a sudden heart attack while discharging his duties as a state level assistant engineer..I was later told that the nearby public health clinic might have been able to save my father’s life has it ensured that the oxygen cylinders there were in working condition..This sad incident is a typical example of the state of affairs in our country..whenever I felt low.i tried to remember the extreme hardships our countrymen are witnessing due to myriad such administrative failures..This kept me motivated..civil services was  not a career for was like a calling in life..I had chucked a decent paying job to sue there was no way I could fail..(I talked myself out of demotivation..using these small self boosting things) ..otherwise I spent time by watching documentaries on youtube and reading papers from all over the much is freely available on the internet you never feel bored..


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?

Min- 5 hours..maximum – 15..near exam days..This exam’s preparation needs the last month’s time more than anything else..if you have not revised in the last are nowhere!!


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

Sites  I visited daily..Press Information bureau, MEA website, EPW and frontline on net ‘’all freely retrospect I feel..i could have given less time to GS since the returns were not proportionate to efforts.


How did you prepare yourself for the essay?

No special preparation—nothing at all..

Which Essay did you write in Mains-2011?

Indian Cinema

What were your keypoints in that essay?

covered Indian cinema in all its key metrices..regional, linguistic, socio-economic, industrial (gave example of films like Naya daur..where Dilip Kumar fights against the industrial elite, which showed the grievances of labour class..)

How many marks did you get in that essay?



Q. Serious players get mentally shattered and depressed after failure in competitive exams. How did you cope up with failures and rose from the ashes again? What had gone wrong in your previous attempts? How did you fix those issues in your 2011’s attempt?

Last year my psychology marks were below I knew where I had to improve..was depressed for sometime..but UPSC needs failures before bestowing success..Shena , this year’s topper topped in her 3rd on paper  (theoretically) I can also top in my next (3rd attempt)..(I am not being boastful..please see the “can” is italicized ..he he)


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?

it is only as important as the bad profile of another candidate..if a candidate can convince the panel that he is not appearing at the interview by fluke..there is no reason to be worried..all the poets of meritocracy and genius might sing about genius and other things but I guess UPSC panel members know that in a highly competitive exam like this..luck more often than merit decides the winners..

How do you rate your own profile?

decent..All India Rank 63rd in Medical Entrance in 2000

3 years job experience..

How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?

about 5 minutes on what I did in my last corporate consulting job.

Did they ask any uncomfortable questions from your profile?

yes..they insisted that I left medicine and went to corporate consulting because the pay there is higher..I answered by saying that..sir pay in civil services would be half of what I got in my corporate job…”so salary is immaterial since I am a person of minimal materialistic ambitions”..these were my exact words..i resented saying this upfront..but that is what interview is all about..they scratch ur shell by some tough questions and answers like these help them decide the right person for the job..


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

I would have worked in healthcare business consulting!

Working professional

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

3 hours per day is enough till august and in sept October..10-15 hours…so try to change jobs in these 2 months..its tough but some people do it.!

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 was helped by my family..financially, emotionally…my elder brothers and mother helped me  inspite of the tough times that had befallen on our family because of the sudden death of my father. But in general I found the attitude of fellow aspirants very of the guys who was selected last year..told me that since I was of OBC category, I need not study that much for education and wisdom..(when I asked him about how to improve on psychology)..Do people think that a 20-30 marks difference..makes them a genius!!

Your Study plan

CSAT (Paper I) General studies

Topic Source of your preparation
Current Affairs Net, chronicle
History Ancient/Medieval/Modern India’s Struggle For Independence by Bipin Chandra+ ncert
Physical Geography Ncert+net
Geography of India Ncert+net
Geography of World Ncert+net
Polity and Governance Buy Introduction to the Constitution of India by DD Basu
Public Policy None specific
Rights issue None specific
Environment and Biodiversity None specific
Economic and social Development None specific
Science None specific
Economy None specific

Mains Examination

Compulsory Language papers

Source of your preparation
English Nothing specific
Indian language paper Nothing specific

Optional Subject #1 and #2

  • I have scored poorly in psychology..only 91 in paper 2 and 156 in paper my prep method is probably flawed.
  • In medical science  I followed the standard books and each night slept reading some medical topic from my mobile’s Medscape Application for Android.


How did you prepare for the interview?

prepared questions based on my resume..and my career shifts..twice in 4 years!

Who was the chairman of you interview board?

K K Paul

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

Did they ask you totally unexpected questions?

asked totally unexpected questions about 80% of my 25 minutes time..e.g. – Psychological profile of Hitler.!

What was the toughest question you faced during the interview and how did you answer it?

The toughest question was about the history of China Taiwan relations..I started from 1890s  and after fumbling a bit, stopped for a couple of seconds and described the history event by event..


Please copy paste your marksheet.

Essay – 110

GS – 124 and 100

Medical Science – 165 and 160

Psychology – 81 and 156

Interview- 174 –K K Paul Board

My total is 1070.. Rank 708.


Q. What is your message to the aspirants?

Wisdom of all competitive exams is have to conquer the syllabus..whatever it takes..though I have not really cracked this exam (708) is not a high flying rank..but having cracked All India medical (without category..AIR 63) and now UPSC..the best piece of wisdom is do not follow self made excuses to avoid doing some hard work!