1. Bio
  2. Information
  3. Study-Momentum
  4. Strategy: CSAT (Aptitude)
  5. Strategy: GS
  6. Mains 2013
  7. Optional Subject in Mains 2013?
  8. Essay
  9. Previous Attempts
  10. Insecurity  about “Profile”
  11. Interview
  12. Backup
  13. Family and Friends
  14. Marksheet
  15. Wisdom
  16. Bogus marketing propaganda


Roll number 140762
Rank (CSE 2012) 449
Optional Subjects
  1. Law
  2. Public Adm
Number of Attempts 2
Medium for Mains Exam English
Schooling (Medium) English
Centre for Prelim exam Kochi
Centre for Mains exam Thiruvananthapuram
Name of home town/city Kochi


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. Internet is information-superhighway. All the information you need for this exam is available right at your finger tips, and any book you need, can be ordered online.


topper gayathri AIR  449 CSE 2013
I had made a plan before I started the preparation – not in terms of this many hours per day, but in terms of this much portion per day. Having a clear plan of action tremendously helped me to stay focused.

Mood swings are quite natural. In my opinion, occasional lows help one focus better. Make sure they don’t go on for longer than needed. If they do, just take out your schedule and see where you have reached. When you realize time is fast running out and that you are lagging behind your schedule – you automatically return to the schedule with more vigor.

Strategy: CSAT (Aptitude)

I didn’t follow any particular book for CSAT, but few days before the exam, I did do a few practice papers.

Regarding comprehension, if you face any difficulty, there is only one solution – more and more practice. It is a very simple thing; you just need to get the hang of it. Same goes the case with decision making.

Strategy: GS

  • Because I was preparing for the exam on my own, my basic strategy was to gain basic conceptual clarity.
  • Here in my city, a couple of us aspirants had formed a discussion group. We met regularly and discussed some of the important topics, tried to figure out the possible questions and prepare those areas.
  • The basic idea is to anticipate what might come as a question, gain conceptual clarity, and be prepared to answer those.

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?


  • The approach essentially remains the same.
  • Now that we have a structured syllabus, it is a huge advantage. You know the topics to prepare already – form a discussion group, take each module, think about probable questions and study them.
  • Make maximum use of the internet and online resources.
  • General reading is going to be crucial from this year on. Make sure you don’t lose out on that count.
  • The secret lies in observation – observe the UPSC question pattern and understand the difficulty level, observe and understand yourself – your strengths and weaknesses, where and how you make mistakes and correct those areas.
  • Make no compromise on the syllabus. Cover it fully.
  • However, keep in mind that what is needed is not plain hard work, but smart, strategic work. I mean, don’t overdo it. You are not studying in order to compile an encyclopedia, but to cover the syllabus – as is needed FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS EXAM. Never lose that clarity of purpose.

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. Law, because I have a background on it already.

For preparing any optional subject, you need to be really thorough with both the syllabus and the previous years’ question papers. That gives you a really good grasp on how questions come and where our preparation needs more strength.


Q. How did you prepare yourself for the essay?

I did some essay writing practice. I gave myself topics and wrote essays on them, just to get familiar with the 3 hour framework of writing a wholesome essay on a given topic.

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

Working women.

Q.Provide some keypoints/highlights of your Essay.

I made sure I wrote in a cohesive and lucid manner, and ensured that there was a flow in the essay.

I don’t really remember much about the essay now. I think I gave numbered reasons as to why I thought Indian working women weren’t getting a fair deal. I ended the essay suggesting a possible way forward. I remembered a few quotes that I thought would be appropriate for the essay and wrote them at the appropriate places too.

Score: 108 marks.

Previous Attempts

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

Ans. I definitely did lack writing practice in the first attempt, which I did try to correct in the second attempt.

Insecurity  about “Profile”

Q.Many aspirants have the (unnecessary) fear of interview, thinking that “my profile is not good because  I’ve low score in class 10/12/college/ I’m from unknown college, I’ve no work experience etc.etc.etc.” So, How important or relevant is the profile of a candidate during interview?

Ans. At the end of the day, it is about a 30 minutes interaction with the board members. Therefore, the only thing that matters is you give a really impressive performance there, on that day. So no matter how bad or good your profile looks, just have faith in yourself, have complete presence of mind while at the interview and answer their questions confidently. That is all that counts.


Chairman of your Interview Board

P.K. Mishra

List of questions asked

  • Let’s start with your name. So who’s Gayathri?
  • Do you know how she became Veda matha?
  • What is the sociological school of law?
  • Does law cover ethics and morality?
  • Indians would rather live with guilt than with shame, Americans tend to do the opposite. Why?
  • How do you reconcile law and justice?
  • Can we limit the number of adjournments allowed in a particular case?
  • Why only the rich get away scot free?
  • Do you think rising crime graph is because our social values are eroding?
  • How would you attain a no-governance society?
  • What is Shashi Tharoor doing for Trivandrum?
  • Should we open up legal profession to the world?
  • What are family courts for?
  • Have you participated in any seminars conducted by the National Commission for Women?
  • Kant said: “Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.” What is your comment on it?
  • Cicero said: “…..” Well I forgot that quote! All I remember is it was a very deeply philosophical one.


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

Ans. Practice law.

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?

Countless. Starting from my family and teachers to my friends, especially the non-CSE aspirants, who very kindly understood the pulls and pressures of the exam, and graciously excused my absence from social gatherings.




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

  • That if you look beyond all the hard work and long hours spend reading and researching on a number of random topics, lies a really enjoyable and enriching experience. Enjoy what you do.
  • Things are so much fun when shared. Form a group and study together. Never try to shun yourself from the rest of the world and prepare for the exam. We are all social beings. We all need generous doses of human company and interaction.
  • Making it to the final list involves a certain amount of imponderables. When a lot of factors come together for you, you make it. Do not blow the exam – success or failure in it – out of proportions. Life is so much more than a UPSC exam.

Bogus marketing propaganda

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

Q1. Were you a subscriber/ regular reader of Mrunal.org. If yes, since when?

And You can even say “no”, I’ll publish it without editing, unlike certain magazines hahaha.

Ans. I am a subscriber, but not a regular reader.

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

Ans. Mrunal posts topics that are pertinent for the exam. It is a very good source for topics, and also for basic conceptual clarity.