Starting this season’s first interview-Pratibha Singh, she is an Assistant (CSS) in Commerce Ministry, cracked UPSC without leaving job.

  1. Bio
  2. Work Ex
  3. Advice to Working professionals
  4. Family background
  5. Coaching
  6. Inception
  7. Study Momentum
  8. Hours
  9. Strategy: CSAT (Aptitude)
  10. Strategy: GS
  11. Mains 2013
  12. Geography (Optional)
  13. Hindi Literature (optional)
  14. Optional Subject in Mains 2013?
  15. Compulsory papers
  16. Essay
  17. Previous Attempts
  18. Insecurity  about “Profile”
  19. Backup
  20. Family and Friends
  21. Interview
  22. Marksheet
  23. Message to aspirants
  24. Bogus marketing propaganda


Name Pratibha Singh
Roll number 456952
Rank (CSE 2012) 407
Optional Subjects
Medium for Mains Exam HINDI
Schooling (Medium)
Centre for Prelim exam LUCKNOW
Centre for Mains exam
Your home town/city
No. of attempts 3
Did you appear in any other competitive exams?
  1. Yes- Qualified Astt. Commandant written(didn’t gave interview),
  2. UPPCS(once gave interview but didn’t qualify)
  3. LIC-assistant (selected)
  4. SSC CGL-CSS (selected): all India rank 9


% in class 10 72.5(U.P. Board)
% in class 12 78.5(U.P. Board)
Graduation course and % B.A(HISTORY,GEOGRAPHY) and 76.5%
Name of college and year of passing out LUCKNOW UNIVERSITY in 2006
PG (if applicable) NA(I am planning to do it now)
Any professional courses (if applicable) NA

Extra C

Provide details of Extracurricular actives, achievements and hobbies.

  1. Class monitor for consecutive 4 years at school level.
  2. House Vice Caption for 2 years at school level.
  3. Awarded silver medal for securing 2nd position in Intermediate examination.
  4. Project leader of my project group at college level.
  5. Topper of the batch in graduation course.
  6. Secured AIR-9 in SSC-CGL 2006.

Interested in carom and badminton, helping mother in kitchen, teaching children.

Work Ex

Q. Provide details of your job experience, name of post, months/years.

  1. LIFE INSURANCE CORPORATION– Assistant for near 9 months- Salary 8500pm
  2. CSS through SSC: MINISTRY OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY,GOVERNMENT OF INDIA- Assistant- from 2009 till present –Salary 38500pm
  1. Did you leave the job to prepare for upsc yes/no

NO(due to family compulsions AND in my opinion you can manage with Job also  because when you know that time is less with you, you automatically work harder and harder)

Advice to Working professionals

Q. Your advice to fellow working professionals who’re preparing for upsc simultaneously.
topper-pratibha singh 407-2012

  • Just believe in yourself and don’t  let your hardwork be overpowered by work stress or even failure(its easy to say so but when you yourself wont realize your strength, you cant give your best).
  • To be very frank,managing  preparation that too of IAS with job is never easy..there are times and days when you feel like giving up making yourself convince that your present job is good enough…but then again the next morning you wake up with full motivation and strength as if you are the only one who can qualify this examination. I just want to say that “you” are the best and you have to qualify IAS,no matter how much tuff the situations are..and believe me my dear friends “hard work” never..never goes in vain.

Family background

Tell us something about your family

  • My father was also a competitor. He gave several interviews of IAS,PCS,PCS-J,APO but didn’t succeed but till now the fire of competition is within him and he always motivates us for doing our best. We have faced very adverse conditions- both financial and mental but my Papa acted as a candle in those days of darkness for us. Our success is a result of sacrifice which Papa and Mummy made for us….
  • Mother:House wife


Did you join any Coaching? For Pre- NoFor mains- Yes

For interview- No

Did you join any postal courses? Yes- CrackIAS but only current affairs portion are helpful but you can ignore that too also because you can get better alternatives.
Did you join any Mock test series? No


Q. When and how did you get the inspiration / motivation / desire to prepare for Civil service exam?

Because of the efforts of my father, I was motivated since my 12th class, that’s why I did B.A  to strengthen my GS portion and didn’t go for M.A as I thought it would waste my 2 years(this perception is highly opposed and it’s a completely bogus perception).


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

Ans. Since I was selected in SSC and got CSS cadre,I was posted in Delhi so had access to the materials but to be frank there are more bogus material in delhi than effective ones. You can call it a market where study(especially preparation of IAS) has taken a more than commercialized form.

Study Momentum

Q. People initially prepare with much enthusiasm but then the 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 and fought the mood swings throughout the journey?

Ans. In my opinion Boredom should be taken as an eminent part of preparation phase since till Boredum would not come,you can never realize the importance of never feel bad or sorry for the things you did that wasted your time , just concentrate on present because neither past nor future is in your hands..its just the present that is in your hands and u even don’t want anything else but your present to be with you..

Believe me friends if you are studying even around 4-5 hrs daily with full concentration ,you would definitely make it. With job it was hard for me to manage even 2 hrs daily with full concentration but managing 2hrs daily is more than enough provided you study with full devotion in those two hours and accelerate a month or 45 days before examination because those 30-45 days are the most crucial time for your success.

I was living with my brother who regularly motivated me and provided me with motivational stories of the toppers.


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

Ans. 2-3 hrs in normal times and about 8-9 hrs before 1 months or so before the examination: not more than that seriously and those who say 10-12 daily please its my advice stay away from them.

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

For GS

GS syllabus is so vast that it could never be completely completed so its my advice to set a target what you have to complete before exam..write on a sheet of paper subject wise(like polity,ecology,economic and social development etc) and set target accordingly.

Yaar GS syllabus of mine was not completed even after my exam was over so I cant answer the time..but you should try to cover first the important portion..set priority while studying….

For optional subjects :

since geography was my graduation subject,I was much comfortable with it and it took around 30-35 days to revise topics+ current events related to it..

For Hindi-more or less same time..

Strategy: CSAT (Aptitude)

First, please provide the list books/sources used for preparation for following topics.

Topic Books/sources
Maths RS Agarwal(more than enough)+ keep reading for simplified explanations
Reasoning Analytical reasoning by BSC(magical book series) + RS Agarwal(moti wali)
Comprehension Previous years solve papers of IAS,Bank po etc..Comprehension requires just practice and practice..Try to solve papers conducted by UPSC like CDS etc to know the mindset of UPSC and answers to know what answers they exactly want.
Decision making NA

Now please share the tips regarding aptitude preparation, especially the comprehension and decision making portion.

Strategy: GS

First please  provide the booklist/sources you used for GS, Prelims and mains:

Book/ source
History Ancient Didn’t prepare
Medieval Didn’t prepare
Culture same
Mains same
Polity Basics LAXMIKANTH
Economy Basics SRIRAM IAS notes(they are the best-in English… hindi no proper material is available)
Current Newspapaer only
mains Combined both
Geography Physical NCERT –physical geog
Indian NCERT- Class 11th
World Didn’t prepare specifically..Concentrated on current affairs
mains Supplemented above resources by newspapers notes
Environment, Biodiversity Basics
Current same
Mains same
Science Tech Basics same
Current same
Mains same
Yearbook / Govt. schemes etc. Didn’t  studied yearbook its too much time taking..Just relied on the schemes/policies that were in news in the newspaper and searched them on the internet.
IR/diplomacy Newspaper+Internet

Q. Now please tell about your strategy, approach for General studies for both prelims and mains.

Ans. Strategy depends on the time since u strated preparation..I believe everyone has different strengths so they might plan different strategies…

My strategy was to convert my maximum possible time into preparation time…daily 2-3 hrs is more than enough for a working guy(non working guy 4-5 hrs) because I feel God is seeing from above that this guy/girl is doing job and also preparing  so he gives his equal blessing to working guy studying 2-3 hrs daily and non-working guy studying 5-6 hrs a day/

For pre- focus mainly on polity,history,economics and geog – mrunal has explained better I think.

For mains- GS concentrate on newspapers and practice writing in a creative manner that u r reading…because in mains what matters is ur writing skills…Try to cover your 1 optional with GS(till july-aug) and then another optional with GS….

Mains 2013

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

Ans. Mains 2013 has given an equal oppurtuinty for everyone so it’s the best time to show ur innovation and creative skills..

After prelims,focus on maximum 2 subjects at a time+ makes note with CHARTS and DIAGRAMS where possible because charts require less words to express a large  content..I have not gone through the detailed syllabus..But I will upload the possible strategy Separate strategy for GS I would definitely provide after prelims……..what yaar u have Mrunal with u and he can best explain gs strategy and I completely agree with his strategies….

Geography (Optional)

Q. Provide the booklist, strategy, approach for your first optional.

  • I think it is better to read the minimum possible number of books, but it should be revised regularly…..Use diagrams, maps, flowcharts & other innovative illustrations in your answers. Diagrams simplify the detail & improve the presentation also. Even in questions where the need of a diagram may not be apparent, try to draw at least one.
  • Practice drawing of diagrams to increase speed & save time.
  • For ‘’contemporary issues’’ topic in the syllabus, I mainly relied on my preparation for GS.
  • I read many interview of the selected candidates about the book list and chose few among those for my preparation…..

Geography Paper1

  • Geomorphology/climatolgy & oceanography – Physical geography by savindra singh
  • Biogeography & ecology part of environmental geography – Rupa series
  • Contemporary areas of bio/environmental geography – no specific preparation. Just what i read in magazines & newspapers
  • World agriculture in economic geo – Models, theories & processes by Siddartha &
  • Certificate Physical and Human geography by goh cheng leong.
  • Settlement geo – Spectrum’s geography guide (Ed. I think author is “Rajiv Ahir”)
  • Models, theories & laws – Geographic theories by Siddartha & parts from Internet.

Geography Paper 2

  • Regional development & planning – Government websites and internet
  • Settlements – NCERT & Spectrum’s geography guide
  • Contemporary issues – no specific preparation. Just what i read in magazines & newspapers
  • For the rest about india, ncerts & Indian Geography by Khullar is more than sufficient.

Hindi Literature (optional)

For hindi,I relied mainly on Sarthak IAS notes and my father’s notes and knowledge(his optional was also hindi)….but these books are also useful ..I found these while searching when I was preparing and I also took help from these and made notes.

  1. IGNOU Notes: Literature of Hindi Language
  2. Hindi Sahitya Ka Itihaas – Kumar Sarvesh
  3. Hindi Kavita – Kal se Aaj Tak – Kumar Sarvesh
  4. Nirala Aur Muktaboth ki Chaar Lambi Kavitayen – Nand Kishore Naval
  5. Kavya Ke Tatva – Acharya Devendra Nath Thakur
  6. Scandgupta – Siddh Nath Kumar
  7. Triveni – Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla
  8. Kabir – Hajari Prasad Divedi
  9. Surdas – Balram Tiwari
  10. Bharat Durdasha – Dinesh Dwivedi, Revati Raman
  11. Aashadh ka Ek Din – Girish Rastogi and Siddh Nath Kumar

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?

Ans. I would keep geography because of its relevance to the syllabus,

I would say that now everyone has an equal chance to qualify…just believe in urself and also

Listen..syllabus may have changed but what have not changed is the “hard work” which has no alternative…..

Compulsory papers

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

No specific preparation

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

No specific preparation just checked last yr papers


Q. How did you prepare yourself for the essay?

No separate preparation- relied on notes made from newspaper.

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

I wrote on:

Is the criticism that the ‘Public-Private-Partnership’ (PPP) model for development is more of a bane than a boon in the Indian context, justified ?

Q.Provide some keypoints/highlights of your Essay.

Let the marksheet come and if I secure 110+..then I would surely share…

Previous Attempts

Q. When you look back in the past, what were the deficiency in your preparation in previous attempt? How did you rectify them this time?

Ans. Very relevant question……..This was my 3rd attempt and my 1st interview experience…

  • 1st attempt: I gave in 2006(just after graduation): not well prepared,over-confident..didnt even qualify prelims
  • 2nd attempt in 2011: well prepared, confident more about mains than prelims..took “leave without pay “  from 3 months before the prelims till 2 months after prelims till results came and all hope shattered- was prepared for mains but didn’t qualify even prelims again..I secured 192.5 marks(through R.T.I) I got to know and the cut off was 198 for general I think…That were the toughest time for me…so remember “patience” is the key to success…
  • But this this I seized the moment and ultimately I won the occasion(I was hoping for rank below 100 but I am satisfied with 407,atleast for now) because there is only 50-100 marks difference b/w 1st rank nd 400th  rank and also 50-100 marks difference b/w 400th  and the last rank or even one who is not selected so instead of hoping that “if” I would have got 50 marks more,I would have been in top 100 or even 50..I  am thanking God that I didn’t get 50 marks less…because anything can happen in UPSC.

Insecurity  about “Profile”

Many aspirants fear the interview, thinking that “my profile is not good because  I’ve low marks in SSC/HSC/College, I’m from some unknown college, don’t have work ex” etc.etc.etc. So, How important or relevant is the profile of a candidate during interview?

How much portion of your interview centered on your profile?

Did they ask any uncomfortable question from your profile during the interview?


  • Profile definitely matters but in private jobs not in upsc..what matters in upsc is “U”…..your personality,your confidence and nothing else
  • I am a simple graduate from Lucknow University(no IITS/IIMS etc) but I was quite satisfied with my interview(I dont know how much marks I got for the same but still..)..UPSC would ask u what u really are…they just want to confirm your honesty and your passion for civil services, nothing else…


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

Ans. I am already working in government job so I was not much worried about backup plans…I had just 1 thing in mind that I have to clear it and when my brother came to prepare,after his graduation in 2011 his support made my dream come true…

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 motivational/inspiration incidence that you would like to share with the readers?

  • As I told,my father is the biggest motivation+my whole family –my sister who is in the administration(APO) motivated me almost daily…my brother has been like a continuous guide to me..
  • 1 thing I want to share is that whenever I saw children begging on the streets, I always had a feeling to help them…but just money would not help them but education will and for that a proper policy f/w is required. I know after getting 407 rank(general),I would be getting IRS-IT or IRS-CUSTOMS or IRTS but not get proper I would again give my last left attempt in 2014…..


Q. How did you prepare for the interview?

Actually my real preparation for interview started only after my interview date was announced i.e from  around 1st april..I was preparing,but at a slow pace before that..+ I was not getting leave from the office ,it was only for 15 days before my interview I got leave…I relied on newspaper(Dainik jagran:rastriya sanskaran+the hindu) for interview, read interviews of selected candidates to develop confidence+ my brother helped me a lot in preparing..he analysed my answers and corrected me at almost every sentence..:)

Q. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Mr. P.K. Mishra

Q. How long was the interview?

Approx. 30-35 min(watches are not allowed inside interview hall)

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

Mostly questions were from Job profile,State i.e UP,problems of women in UP and how it can be “effectively” solved, few questions from geog like what are public goods, difference between public goods and common goods(I didn’t answer dis), Many ques were from my hobby,intrest section- Badminton: procedure,what is “wall of china” in badminton, name of few female players,how you manage ur job and ur interest…etc….i answered all thisJ

Name of the personality matching ur name, name of the minister of ur ministry,how many members of UP in Parliament, If you are selected how would u improve the sondition of UP etc….

The board was very cordial and I was more or less satisfied with my interview

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?

One thing ,to be frank, before entering the examination hall, my mind was completely blank..

What matters the most inside the hall is to be yourself. You have been tested what u have learnt in mains..interview is your personality test..what you think, in which way you think etc is analysed here so just be yourself…

Not much unexpected question were asked…


Q. Please copy paste your marksheet, if you’ve received it.


Message to aspirants

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

Just think..”I” am the best and I can do it and believe me you all can do it..just be focused…

Focus on “present”..dont think about past please its my request…

I pray to god that all of you with your hard work get selection in ias…and after u get selected please thank to everyone who directly or indirectly helped u achieving you aim(especially god,your family and definitely )J

Bogus marketing propaganda

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

Were you a subscriber/ regular reader of You can even say “no”, I’ll publish it without editing, unlike certain magazines hahaha.

Ans. Yes..I am a silent visitor of this community, though I never replied.

How did help you in your preparation?

Ans. Definitely it helped.

I am a silent visitor of this community and few of your articles are really much clarity and simplified answers are rarely available.

+ Your analysis about the strategy to be followed and the regular motivation is really great.