1. Introduction
  2. Educational Background
  3. Extra C
  4. Work Ex
  5. Family background
  6. Coaching
  7. Inception
  8. Information
  9. Study Momentum
  10. Hours
  11. Strategy: CSAT (Aptitude)
  12. Strategy: GS
  13. Mains 2013
  14. Optional: Public Administration
  15. Sociology
  16. Optional Subject in Mains 2013?
  17. Compulsory papers
  18. Essay
  19. Insecurity  about “Profile”
  20. Career Backup
  21. Family and Friends
  22. Interview
  23. Marksheets
  24. Wisdom
  25. Bogus marketing propaganda


Name Pankaj Kumawat
Roll number 8505
Rank (CSE 2012) 371
Optional Subjects
  1. Public Administration
  2. Sociology
Number of Attempts First
Medium for Mains Exam English
Schooling (Medium) Hindi (till 10th), English thereafter
Centre for Prelim exam Jaipur
Centre for Mains exam Jaipur
Name of home town/city Kishangarh-Renwal

Educational Background

% in class 10 93.87%
% in class 12 89.6%
Graduation course and % B.Tech in Computer Science, CGPA – 9.2/10
Name of college and year of passing out IIIT, Hyderabad. Passed out in May 2011
PG (if applicable) NA
Any professional courses (if applicable) NA

Extra C

  • Merit scholarship from GoI in class 10th
  • Silver medal in university in graduating class of 2011
  • Dean’s academic awards for excellence in academics for all 8 semesters
  • Student Placement Coordinator for class of 2011 in university and led efforts for ensuring 100% placements in graduating class
  • Quiz club member in university
  • Teaching Assistant for university courses – assisted professors. (Teaching in my hobby)
  • Prior selection in IIT-JEE and AIEEE

Work Ex

  1. Provide details of your job experience, name of post, months/years.
  • Started job in December 2012 ( after  my mains exam) as software engineer due to financial distress at home.
  1. Did you leave the job to prepare for upsc yes/no
  • I didn’t join job just after graduation as I had no solid foundation to prepare for this exam which in my opinion requires high quality self study.
  • I had taken up the job later on due to financial problems. I was able to prepare my bio-data and revise both GS, optionals before interview.
  1. Your advice to fellow working professionals who’re preparing for upsc simultaneously.
  • Be honest to yourself while assessing your preparation level.
  • If one has a base in GS, one might be able to crack the exam with job also. There have been toppers who have done this.
  • However, let me say it very frankly, if one lacks the knowledge of basic things say in economics or polity etc. I would recommend to them to take the daring steps of switching their job to a less demanding one ( of course with proportionate pay cuts) or a sabbatical. After all, mere wishful thinking can not help in cracking this exam.
  • So take a honest call depending upon
    • Your Work pressure
    • Your preparation level
    • Your time management skills
    • Your financial situation
    • Other obligations ( parents, spouse etc. )
    • Support base ( parents, spouse, friends etc.)
    • How crucial is a career in civil service for your happiness ?
  • I am no way suggesting an easy solution. Neither I am recommending a particular course of action. I am only recommending the working professionals to be bold and courageous. If one thinks that one can manage it with job, go ahead and do it. We would be very proud of you. If another thinks it difficult and can afford a sabbatical, go ahead with equal ferocity.

Family background

Tell us something about parents and siblings. (you can skip, if you don’t want to share).

  • Father – Chemist
  • Mother – Homemaker
  • We live in small town around 70 km away from jaipur city.


Did you join any Coaching? Yes for sociology. None for GS and Pub Ad.Took mocks at Vajiram, Samkalp for interview.
Did you join any postal courses? No
Did you join any Mock test series? No
Did you appear in any other competitive exams? No


AIR 371 CSE 2012 Pankaj

  • It was in summer holidays of pre-final year of graduation when I explored all probable career options which would make my life satisfying for me.
  • I had explored 4 options in detail for about 1 year vis-à-vis my priorities, interest and philosophy of life.
    • Entrepreneurship in software
    • MBA
    • Ph.d. in computer science (Researcher)
    • Civil services
  • I went into each of these to sufficient details to find which one suits me the best.
  • After deep thoughts, I came up with only 2 criteria’s to decide ( rejecting many others with high conviction)
    • My interest in the nature of job
    • Contribution to society
  • 2nd criteria was common to all options. Unlike many others, I think all professions make equal contribution to society and are sui-generis.
  • The more I read on civil services, the more I got interested into it. Then the need for any motivation vanished for me.


Outside Delhi, it’s hard to dig how to prepare for civil service. So How did you gather the necessary information / strategy / booklist?


  • Internet is now the best source. Several topper’s honest blogs and of course the most reliable is mrunal bhai.
  • I think, this question has now become obsolete. There is no dearth of information/strategy now outside delhi through internet.
  • Also, let me add that I am critical of Delhi as a place of study. I stayed in Delhi for all of 3 months for sociology and from Sept 2011 onwards till Dec 2012 in Rajasthan hinterland.
  • Reasons
    • It is economically very costly. ( a very small room in Rajinder Nagar costs a damn 8K per month)
    • Food and hygiene problems
    • Water problem
    • Lots of non serious players around = lot of time waste
    • Lots of gossip and rumours
    • Struggle in every aspect of life= less time for quality study.

Study Momentum

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 and fought the mood swings throughout the journey?


  • I have seen it happening with many candidates, both serious as well as non-serious. But I believe (philosophically) that serious candidate has right reasons to prepare and so would acquire his rhythm soon through introspection.
  • Enjoying the preparation is best way to keep momentum. (I read The Hindu even on the day when I got the rank. It is now a lifeline and addiction too.)
  • One can pursue one’s hobby actively to refresh and rejuvenate.
  • Barriers are high to keep the non serious out of the game. I am ruthless to non-serious ones.


Q. On an average, How many hours did you study per day?


12-15 Hours all along ( I had to do this as I had no background in GS and both optionals. I never read any newspaper before 2009! All things were new to me.)

Q. How many months did it take you to complete the core syllabus of GS and optional subjects?


For GS – 3-4 months

For Public Ad – 3 months

For Sociology – 3 Months

With lots of notes, countless revisions later on.

Strategy: CSAT (Aptitude)

Topic Books/sources
Maths Arihant publication book
Reasoning Do
Comprehension Do
Decision making Do
  • My maths and reasoning were sound ab initio due to my background. But some practice would always be beneficial for speed and accuracy. R.S. Agarwal is a good book to refer to.
  • No special preparation for comprehension, but making sense of newspaper editorials would do the trick.
  • For decision making also, while reading newspaper reports, place oneself in command position and take decisions.  It would be helpful in interview stage also.

Strategy: GS

Book/ source
History Ancient TMH GS guide
Medieval Do
Modern Bipan chandra’s classic India’s Struggle for independence,  Spectrum’s modern India
Culture Didn’t prepare unfortunately due to paucity of time
Mains Same as above
Polity Basics Laxmikanth polity, bare articles from P M Bakshi, occasional high dose from DD Basu as I liked intense stuff(never read it full)
Current The Hindu, mrunal, PRS, PIB, yojana, monthly magazines ( I changed from chronicle to wizard to CST to no magazine due to declining quality and irrelevance)
mains Same
Economy Basics NCERT, internet
Current The Hindu, occasionally ET, mrunal
mains Same
Geography Physical NCERT 11th and 12th, Go cheng leong ( only climate chapters of second half and first 3 chapters – for greater clarity)
Indian Same
World Not in deep, basics from NCERTs of lower classes and Oxford atlas
mains Same
Environment, Biodiversity Basics ICSE board books, THM GS guide, IYB
Current The hindu
Mains Nothing much
Science Tech Basics I had background in science. So nothing much here.
Current The Hindu, internet, mrunal
Mains Same
Yearbook / Govt. schemes etc. IYB, PIB, PRS
IR/diplomacy MEA site, The hindu, C.Raja Mohan’s articles in IE, mrunal

Components of my GS preparation were following:

  • Reading basics of all first from standard books
  • Grasping concepts
  • Multiple revisions, highlighting and note making
  • Constructing mental constructs and revising before going to bed.
  • Periodic assessment of preparation, time schedule
  • Extensive use of internet

Mains 2013

UPSC has changed the GS syllabus for Mains 2013. So if you were to prepare for it, what’d be your approach/strategy/booklist?

  • Salient changes in GS
    • World history and geography
    • Ethics, philosophical thinkers,
  • Not much change w.r.t
    • Economy
    • Polity
    • IR
    • Current affairs
    • Indian history and geography ( India after independence is added – Bipan chandra’s book on the subject is classic.)
    • S&T
  • So strategy would be
    • Going deeper and broader into what we are already doing in GS
    • 2 newspapers preferably through feeds in google reader ( google reader would expire soon. Feedly is a good RSS feed accumulator)
    • PRS and PIB features ( I don’t forget to take notes)
    • Yojana and kurushetra ( 4-5 articles in each edition, copy paste required part and take notes)
    •  I have lost faith in these magazines, be it chronicle or wizard. CST does some better job but still I read it at last if at all.
    • Covering the uncovered part of syllabus from IGNOU material.
    • All standard booklist as mentioned above would remain.
  • Recent changes in the way questions in GS are asked
    • Largely from current affairs – even nitty gritty details from it
    • Understanding based history questions ( Bipan Chandra would help here)
    • No static geography
    • Questions from IR + economics combined
    • Development issues – e.g. unorganized sector, farmer suicides, slums, SHGs etc.
    • Mostly questions requiring dynamic answers
      • Keep all facts ready and revise for using them liberally ( e.g. farmer’s suicide rate, IMR, MMR, child malnutrition level, census data etc.
      • Keep your opinions handy on current issues based on facts
        • E.g. last year we saw tiger conservation vs tourism vs local economy ; endosulfan ; innovation etc.
    • Preparation wise, much the same thing though with greater breadth and depth.
  • Note making of all… Summarize everything in 5-6 points. Highlight a keyword in each point. Throw away the rest.
  • Listen to what Mrunal Bhai has to say. I have followed him all along.

Optional: Public Administration

Booklist  for Paper-1

  • Thinkers by Prasad and Prasad ( read the book 6-8 times followed by 1 page cryptic note on each thinker followed by note revisions)
  • Fadia & Fadia – for most chapters, underlined and imp points noted.
  • Sharma & Sadna – for some chapters to supplement Fadia book.
  • Mohit Bhattacharya – I read the book around 6-8 times + notes + revision
  • Followed the strategy given on blog of prince dhawan, G.R. Gokul, Anay dwivedi and Mrunal.  When in doubt, take your own decisions.
  • Internet for stray topics e.g. anti development thesis, CPM, PERT etc.
  • Nicholas Henry for policy models, evolution of PA, budgeting
  • IGNOU BA for public policy

Booklist for Paper-2

  • Fadia & Fadia for paper-2
  • Laxmikanth
  • ARC reco + some browsing through its text when reco is not understood
  • I recommend full reading of ARC reports ( now imp for GS also, ethics paper and PA-2 likely to be more intense)
  • Arora and Goyal ( very obsolete now )
  • Internet + current affairs
  • PM Bakshi’s book for bare articles – remember almost all articles from a top down view of constitution.

Paper-1 in 2012 was very odd. I don’t know what can be done there. Marks are also in double digit. Difficult to find corrective measures in this regard from how the paper looked.

Paper-2 was fairly easy and standard texts mentioned above should do.

  • For paper-2 – ARC reports are crucial as questions are increasingly contemporary.
  • Using point forms to save time
  • Diagram may also help ….prepare in advance..search for google images for many topics..
    • E.g. budget making process.. executive accountability to parliament etc.


Sociology paper-1 booklist

  1. My coaching class notes and printed material( upendra Gaur coaching class notes are good)
  2. Haralambos and Holborn – note making and revision
  3. IGNOU BA & MA for remaining topics and for enrichment

Sociology paper-2 booklist

  1. Coaching class notes and printed material
  2. IGNOU MA was crucial – 6 booklets on indian sociology
  3. Tribal India by Nadeem Husnain – selected chapters
  4. 2-3 chapters from Modernization of Indian tradition
  5. Panini’s essay on caste in 20th century
  6. Changing India by Robert Stern
  7. Hindu and Frontline social issues

Questions in last 2 years are increasingly from lesser known topics and probable gaps from candidates’ sides. So cover the whole syllabus.

Optional Subject in Mains 2013?

Q.Instead of two, now UPSC will have only one optional subject. So if you were to give Mains 2013, which optional would you keep and why? And what will be your strategy / approach / booklist for it?


  • I would take sociology because of my comfort with the subject even though my marks in it are much less than in Pub Ad.
  • booklist wise – much the same as above.

Compulsory papers

Q. Your booklist/strategy for compulsory Regional language paper.

  • I studied in Hindi medium till 10th class. So was comfortable in it.
  • Though went through last 5 years’ papers to avoid any shock in exam.

Q. Your booklist/strategy for compulsory English language paper.

  • Did last 5 year’s papers


Q. How did you prepare yourself for the essay?

  • No specific preparation for this. Just read basic rules of writing essay.
  • Read articles of Yojana from essay point of view.
  • Content wise – GS and optionals were sufficient.

Q. Which Essay did you write in Mains-2012?

  • I wrote on PPP.

Q.Provide some keypoints/highlights of your Essay.

  • Introduction
    • Started with development thinking
    • Used quotes from mohit bhattacharya book ( new horizons on PA ) – top down to botton up view ( aeroplane model to helicopter )
    • State vs market for development
    • Dependency theorists
  • Why and how PPP came
    • Role of international agencies e.g. WB,IMF
    • Good governance concepts
  • India’s dev experiences
    • Centralized planned – why and then later problems ( started with Bombay plan — pvt sector for development )
    • Eco reforms
    • PPP
  • Models of PPP
  • Benefits of PPP
  • Potential risks
  • Recent incidents and CAG’s adverse reports
  • Solutions to risk
    • PPPP ( public pvt people partnership )
    • 2nd ARC reco
    • Quotes from Bhattacharya – Development is not about roads, ports, power plants but development is about people. Bottom up approach.

Thus my essay surrounded on PPP as a model of development.

Essay SCORE: 116 marks

Insecurity  about “Profile”

Q. 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…” What’s your take on this?


The so called good profiles may at times backfire as they have higher expectation from those candidates. My interview was offshoot from profile only but they demanded innovative answers which made me uncomfortable leading to not so good interview experience.

Whatever profile you have, don’t be insecure about it. Just prepare your profile based questions. You will be judged on the basis of how you perform rather than your profile per se.

Career Backup

In short term, as a software engineer but in due course would move towards a career in academia after doing my Ph.D. That was 2nd best option from amongst my 4 options.

Family and Friends

  • My family have been very supportive of me all along.
  • Tarun nayak ( IPS and my college senior ) helped me whenever I called him.


Q. How did you prepare for the interview?

  • Prepared my bio-date well in advance in anticipation of an interview call, rather than waiting till mains result.
  • In bio-data
    • Home state Rajasthan – culturally, economically, politically, socially, problems and potential solutions in all ares
    • Home district Jaipur – in above areas
    • Home town – problems and solutions
    • Graduation – focused on application side of it. I was technically strong anyway as I didn’t ignore my academics.
    • Hobby – teaching – all possible questions which I could think on and answers therein.
    • About my current job profile, company profile etc.
    • Content was taken from internet. Govt. websites, several articles on internet, Wikipedia, govt reports.
  • Current affairs
  • Mental make up for interview
    • Using courteous language more often than not
    • Showing humility while talking to anyone ( believe me, it doesn’t come by itself)

Q. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Prof. Venkatarami Reddy Y

Q. How long was the interview?

30 min.

Q. Provide the list of questions asked (and if possible answers also)

It was on 12th march, afternoon session. I was 4th to go.
CP – you are coming for the second time ? (asked this even before I reached my chair)

CP – what are you doing these days ?

CP – what is your salary ?

CP – that is higher than what an IAS earns. Justify how would you be satisfied with pay cut ?

CP – you are not counting perquisites and privileges of IAS. If we count that, your salary would be smaller. Now ?

CP – what would you do if your wife demands large amounts of jewellery ?

M1— what should be india’s foreign policy on pak ?

M1 – what are 5 concrete steps on the ground that you would take which satisfies 3 conditions ( which I enumerated in answer to first ones)

  • No war
  • Continue talking
  • Prevent Pak from becoming a security thread to India

M1 – countered all my suggestions as impractical and unimplementable.

M1 – you haven’t given me any practical solution to prevent infiltration.

M1 – what is one line response to cyber crime ?

M1 – how would you use your engineering knowledge in administration ?

M2 – how would you reform india’s technical education so as to boost our manufacturing especially aeronautics and automobile sector?

M2 – India’s higher education is unbalanced and uneven due to IT sector which is also low technology based. No good tech products from India. your response for balancing higher education so that engineering grads join different sectors ( not just IT)

M2 — for high tech products from Indian IT industry ?

M2 – practical steps to contain the problem of adulteration especially food adulteration.

M3 – Hyderabad blast issue – reasons, problems in prevention and potential solutions ?

M3 – north-east insurgency – solutions ?

M3 – we are already doing many of the things that you are suggesting but they have failed. Now ? is all out offensive not a solution now ?

M4 – what is this whole 2G issue from beginning to end. Tell me why at all did it happen ?

M4 – tell me one biggest policy failure in any sector of any time in India ?

M4 – what do you like in Jaipur ?

CP – ok your interview is over.

CP, M1, M2 grilled me like CBI cops. All my answers were countered. Moreover, CP didn’t give me enough time to give my answers on salary questions. That must have created a doubt on my integrity and hence low marks.

Many questions required some thinking but members didn’t allow me some time to think. E.g. biggest policy failure ( though there are many, I thought he wanted some specific. 3-4 seconds later he said food policy. I accepted that.)

I didn’t agree with some things that M2 had to say over Indian IT industry. He also rejected such sound ideas as industry-academia collaboration to create interest among engineering students in their subjects which put me off.

Thus it was sort of stressful because innovative solutions were sought on the spot.

Reason – my apparently good academic background. M1 pointed that out too. Their expectations were high. I disappointed them. Integrity questions were not allowed to be answered well due to interruptions by CP. I expected very low marks. But 164 isn’t very low.

My conclusion — > no matter how much prepared you are for interview, they may still shatter your chances.

Q. Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or  Did they ask you totally unexpected questions?  If yes, how did you handle it?

Though many questions were offshoot from my profile, they were not easy to answer especially in the face of members expecting innovative and different answers other than those which are prevailing state of action and thinking.

Naturally, I did struggle to answer and couldn’t meet their expectations on some questions and little time was given to me to ponder upon. M3 and M4 looked more or less satisfied. M2 looked highly dissatisfied and M1 reluctantly content. CP was doubting my integrity all along. ( I don’t know why)


CSAT/Preliminary 2012

I met a road accident in the recess period between the 2 papers. I was bleeding in my right eye all 2 hours in paper-2. Keeping my handkerchief with one hand on the eye while taking the exam was gruesome and unique experience.

GS 119.34
Aptitutde 111.68
Total rounded off 231

Mains+Interview 2012

Essay 116
GS1 108
GS2 116
Public Administration 1 91
Public Administration 2 166
Sociology 1 124
Sociology 2 76
Written Total 797
Interview 164
Final Total 961


Q. Through this journey, what have you learned about life and competition? What is your message to future aspirants?

  • Life is tough for all of us. Nothing worthwhile comes easy and if something comes too soon and too easily, it is not worthwhile.
  • Enjoy the process part without worrying about the ends.
  • In UPSC, getting a rank only suggests that you are good. But converse is not true i.e. not getting a rank does not mean that you are not good. In fact, many good candidates (many better than me) haven’t got any rank. So failure in this exam is not a failure at all. Keep your head high always.

Bogus marketing propaganda

You are well aware of the unwritten golden rule of conducting toppers’ interview. Final question has to be about bogus marketing propaganda. So,

Q1. Were you a subscriber/ regular reader of Mrunal.org. If yes, then Since when? You can even say “no”, I’ll publish it without editing, unlike certain magazines hahaha.

I am a subscriber to Mrunal.org from April 2012 ( before my prelims). Before mains 2012, I had read almost all articles in the site by digging through archives.

Q2. How did Mrunal.org help you in your preparation?

  • In ways beyond what I can enumerate.
  • Academically, emotionally and psychologically ( yes, when mrunal criticized coachings, I found a guy on my side)
  • Highly analytical, factually correct and comprehensive articles
  • His jokes amidst the heavy IR or eco stuff are hilarious. They refreshed me more than anything. So I visit this site not only for educative purposes but also to have a good laugh at least once in a day. Thanks mrunal for all this.