A Working Professional cracks the Civil Service Exam, without leaving job, without taking Coaching.

I congratulate Mr.Kshitij Tyagi, an IITian, poet, blogger, now IAS topper and thank him for giving this interview.

  1. Introduction
  2. Essay
  3. Your Study plan
  4. Interview
  5. Marksheet
  6. Message


Roll number 216217
Rank (CSE 2011) 148
Optional Subjects Sociology and Public Administration
Medium for Mains Exam English
Mains Examination Centre Delhi
Number of Attempts 2
Details of Graduation and Post-Grad. B.Tech – Mechanical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur; M.Tech – Thermal Energy and Environmental Engineering, IIT Kharagpur (5 year dual degree)
Schooling (Medium) Mount Carmel School, New Delhi (English Medium)
Extracurricular activities,
hobbies, achievements etc.
Blogging : www.kshitij-tyagi.blogspot.in
Are you a working professional? Yes – working as a Senior Scientific Officer in Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (Central service group A)
If yes, then did you leave your job
or prepared while on the job?
Did you take Coaching? Prelims: No
Mains: No
Interview: Took three mock interviews at Vajiram
Did you buy any postal courses? No
Did you join any Mock test series? No
Did you appear in any other competitive exams? Yes (previously)
If yes, provide the details: JEE-2002, rank-1381,
Exam for entry into Ministry of New & Renewable Energy – 2009 – Rank-4



Q. When and how did the inspiration and idea of joining civil service come in your mind?
A.  I cannot possibly identify any singular point in space and time where this idea germinated. As a child, I used to jocularly declare that I would one day be an IAS officer, but those were nothing more than puerile fascinations, dreams fed by media and society. I went completely astray after that and the thought of civil services had made a quiet exit from my mind. During my engineering days, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what it is that I would like to do in life. The answer remained painfully elusive. After I passed out from IIT, I joined an MNC. My work there was interesting but a huge vacuum remained and I didn’t feel, for the lack of a better word, ‘significant’ enough. I wanted to ‘touch lives’, I wanted to ‘matter’. It was during my stint there that some of my friends cleared these exams. This got me curious, and thankfully, interested enough to explore more about the services and the selection process.

I quit my job with the private firm and entered MNRE through a competitive exam and interview. I was interested in the field of renewable energy, and to top it, I had planned that if I had evenings to myself during weekdays, I could prepare well for CSE. Fortunately, the plan worked.

I gave my first attempt in 2010 rather frivolously since there wasn’t much time left before pre. I had taken mechanical engineering as optional but couldn’t clear pre without preparation. After that I dabbled with psychology for some time. It was in December, 2010, when I zeroed in on Public Administration and Sociology. I was regular with current affairs since January-2010. More details of my preparation strategy can be found on my blog – kshitij-tyagi.blogspot.in .

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?

  1. I went through the basic books of Public Administration and Sociology – just a cursory glance at each to ascertain if it was my cup of tea. A major reason behind choosing these optionals  was that both of them can be done easily in lesser time, and I could manage both with my job. Also, there is no dearth of material available for these subjects in the market. Thirdly, they enable substantial value add to other portions of the syllabus such as Essay, GS and Interview.


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. How did you sustain the study-momentum throughout the year?

  1.  I had my share of interludes of inactivity as well. The key is to get back on track as early as possible. In fact, some breaks are necessary to recharge oneself for the arduous journey ahead. During my sojourn, I became an excellent time manager. The more tired I was after my day at work, the harder I would push myself to make good use of the remaining time of the day. The source of inspiration is a very individual thing. I looked within for motivation, I would write poetry to energize myself at times. I have detailed some of these aspects on my blog.


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?

  1. I didn’t adhere to a strict number of hours – in fact it must have varied from 1 to 5 on weekdays and 4 to 10-12 on weekends, depending upon various factors. My focus was on completing the syllabus and revising what I had read as much as possible.


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

  1. I referred to Wikipedia for many subjects. The PIB releases were also a good source of information. Other than that, I would download whatever I felt was relevant and store it for revision at a later date.


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?

I got 118 marks for the following essay –

TOPIC – In the Indian context, both human intelligence and technical intelligence are crucial in combating terrorism

This was my introduction

Men and women often take great pride in having been able to forge the sword of technological evolution in their quest to rule nature. Little did they realise that in the process, they would end up gashing their own hands, and hearts. The wounds run deep and the only cure is the ever so elusive admixture of peace, harmony and cooperation. One such wound is the emergence of the hydra-headed demon called terrorism.

This was my conclusion
Pablo Picasso once remarked – “Unless you destroy, you cannot create.” What we need in this ominous hour are not correction slips but transformative changes in our security architecture and social, economic and political outlook. The objective is to enable harmonious interplay of human and technical intelligence to effectively curb this menace. With a youthful population and a demographic dividend in the offing, one can certainly be hopeful that vox populi would rise to the occasion and drive the shining diamond that is India, into a realm where winds of peace and prosperity blow about freely and the dark clouds of terrorism, in absence of any raisons-d’etre, are dissipated forever.

This is how i approached the topic

1. Emergence of terrorism as a hydra headed demon
2. Glimpse of forms and bases of terrorism and the role of human and tech intelligence in both controlling or exacerbating it
3. Human intelligence and various perspectives on it—-international, national, community – civil society and media—-with failures and lessons learnt for india
4. Technological intelligence perspectives —lacunaes and suggestions drawn from national and international experience to be applied in india
5. Need for harmonious interplay between human and tech intelligence to curb the menace
6. Vision for future

Wrote about 1200 words


Q. Serious players get mentally shattered and depressed after failure in competitive exams. How did you cope up with failures?

I was never shattered since I knew I had not given it my 100% in my first attempt. In the following attempt, I was satisfied that I had given it my best shot. (Refer to the post titled “Three Hours” on my blog). I’ve always felt that getting into civil services was my target, and not my dream. I did not put it on a pedestal that is too high to achieve. These services are only one of the myriad ways in which you can set foot on a path that would lead you to your dream… Dreams are bigger, dreams are fantastic…!

What had gone wrong in your previous attempts, how did you fix it this time?

As opposed to my previous attempt, I was well prepared this time. My strategy was in place and I had left no stone unturned in covering the syllabus. I was confident of my success.


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?

Though I wouldn’t say that a good profile is a must, but it does give an edge in the interview. So those who had low marks in their graduation and are not working can do some value add to their CV through internships, work with NGOs, Govt agencies, etc. However, this is not a rule, and many candidates have secured very good marks without having any of those accolades to show for.

How do you rate your own profile?

I would call it a 6/10

How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?

About 50% of my interview was centered on my current job!

Did they ask any uncomfortable questions from your profile?

They didn’t ask me uncomfortable questions per se, but there were some that stumped me. For example, the question on traditional medicine industry in India was completely unrelated to my profile.

If yes, how did you reply to those questions?
My interview transcript is available on my blog. (Click me)


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

I would have continued to work in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. I am a part of the National Solar Mission and there are exciting opportunities visible on the horizon.

Working professional

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

  1. When preparing for CSE, your job becomes secondary. So if they’ve wasted your entire day in meetings, no mattered how tired you are in the evening, get back to books with a vengeance, even if it is for a few hours. Always remember that you are competing with people who are dedicated to CSE 24X7, but believe that you can still outperform them. Be the most efficient machine you’ve ever been! Also, two months’ leave before mains is a must in my opinion, for it is not just knowledge that you need then…you also need the sublime mental focus of an eagle,  and industriousness of an ass!

Family and Friends

Q. Whom do you attribute your success to?
A. My family – I wouldn’t have succeeded without their constant support and sacrifice.

Your Study plan

(Mrunal Edit: The gems are scattered throughout http://kshitij-tyagi.blogspot.in  but here are the links to some specific topics)

  1. GS Mains
  2. PubAd -1
  3. PubAd -2
  4. Socio- 1
  5. How to Make notes
  6. Reading The Hindu


  1. My Personality Test 22/03/ 2012



Remarks: Recommend


Q. What is your message to the aspirants?
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. –  Mark Twain.