1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  7. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  8. Prelim accuracy
  9. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  10. Mains: Essay
  11. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  12. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  13. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  14. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  15. Mains answer-writing?
  16. Public Administration Optional Subject
  17. Before the interview
  18. During the interview
  19. CSE-2013 Marksheet
  20. Career Backup
  21. Insecurity about profile
  22. Wisdom

Candidate Profile

Name Nima Arora
Rank in CSE-2013 50
Roll No. 85294
Age 25
Total attempts in CSE 2
Optional Subject Pub. Ad.
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Schooling medium English
College medium English
Home town/city New Delhi
Work-experience if any Nil
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
  1. SSC Grade C post of Auditor 2012
  2. Bank PO by IBPS 2012
  3. SBI (failed to clear) 2013
  4. RBI 2013 (failed to clear)
  5. IB ACIO 2013
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  1. Pub Ad: Vajiram (June 2011)
  2. Prelims 2012: Srirams (Oct 2011)

* Could not qualify prelims in my I attempt

  1. Mains Test Series: Synergy (Aug 2013)
  2. Interview: Samkalp and Vajiram
  3. GKT Online Programme for Pre/Mains 2013
service preference #1, 2 and 3 IAS, IPS, IRS
state cadre preference (top3) Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh


fill the details here
% in class 10 93.2
% in class 12 87.2
Schooling (Medium) English
Graduation course and % B.Tech (CSE) 86.02
Name of college, city, passing out year MSIT, Indrapratha University, Delhi 2011
Post-graduation M.A. Public Administration IGNOU (Gold Medalist)
Any other professional courses Nil
Hobbies & Extra curricular Playing Badminton, Teaching (have experience with an NGO)


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?

Topper cse 2013 rank 50 nima arora

I belong to a middle class family with liberal parents. Have been staying in Delhi for the past 25 years. I have 2 elder sisters and no one in government sector. It was a very new venture for me. It was during the end of third year of my college while discussing with my friend I decided to try for civil services. Being risky, I sat for every other gov paper which in turn boosted my confidence level especially during the phase after failing in prelims 2012.

Electronic Vs Paper material

Q. In recent times, there is spur in electronic material- blogs, sites, pdfs, RSS-feeds. Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. So, how much do you rely on electronic material and how much on the paper material (Books, newspapers)? If possible narrate a typical day in your studylife. What is your style of preparation.

I guess with changing times and move towards e-services, Internet is acting as an important resource for collecting information. I relied on electronic material more than the theoretical static books. The following are the sites I used to visit –

  1. Mrunal.org (I have read all economics articles written by you 2009 onwards.. first to last)
  2. InsightsOnIndia – I used to write, practice and read the style of answer writing there.
  3. Orkut and Forumias (It is a good informal platform for discussions)
  4. Did not like pib. Instead I made notes from newspaper (TOI) and frontline. Did not pile up magazines. Only wrote down imp pointers/issues.
  5. As mentioned earlier, I had enrolled myself with the online module of GKT. It helped me save time as pdfs were delivered on each topic specified in the syllabus. Used to read it once and highlight the imp issues only for future reference.

Regarding notes, I would suggest everyone to learn the habit of reading more and writing less. It is not necessary to prepare notes on every topic. I hardly made any notes except some current affairs that would enrich my answers in the mains exam and notes on IR.

My style of preparation – Do not count the number of hours you study. Quality matters. Even if you are able to devote only 4 hours per day, it is sufficient iff and only if you understand what CSE demands. More than knowledge, it is the way you express and present your answers. If one feels that this trait is lacking, focus more on answer writing and evaluate it yourself or from friends.

Tempo and style

Q. People know what books and syllabus points are to be prepared. But most of them lack consistency in their preparation. So, how do you keep study momentum going on? How do you fight against the mood swings and distractions?

I had many ups and downs during my preparation. But unlike others, I was very active with my college friends. Though they were not preparing with me, talking to them eased my tension to a great extent.

Q. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?

I was under-confident. This was the biggest reason why I failed in prelims. I got 206 and cutoff was 209. Later, I tried taking other government exams and gained the lost confidence.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Almost Left (some printed notes I referred but overall I am very bad at history)
History Medieval Again not a high scoring area. Almost left.
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum + NCERT + Bipin Chandra (selected)
Culture society Srirams Notes
Polity (theory + current) Lakshmikanth/ Srirams Polity Notes
Economy (theory + current) Srirams Notes
Science (theory + current) Did not deal specifically
Environment (theory + current) GKT modules
geography physical NCERT XI XII + GC Leong + coaching notes on Climate (hand written)
geography India NCERT
geography world NCERT
other national/international current affairs Newspaper+frontline+ GKT modules
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff GKT

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths R S Agarwal + sample mock papers
reasoning R S Agarwal + sample mock papers
comprehension Rcprep.com and previous year papers + mocks
Decision Making Nil

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2013 paper.

Be prepared for anything. The paper may have more Comprehensions or more maths. Just prepare yourself for the worst. I have succumbed to failure once so am aware of the necessity of having grip of maths, reasoning and English.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?

Yes, I had enrolled to GKToday for prelims test series on GS paper 1. It helped me this time.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2013

attempted Q. correct Q. (Expected) official score
GS 85 55 ( not able to recall accurately) 88
aptitude 78 64 (not able to recall accurately) 160
total 249

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Previous Year Papers
your regional language Hindi (Previous Year Papers)

Q2.other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2013

Did not face any difficulty

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

I did not try/practice any essay before Mains. I did refer InsightsOnIndia to understand the pointers one needs to keep in mind while writing an essay. One should try and have holistic approach wherein all dimensions – history, geography, economics, sociology and psychology should be included in seperate paragraphs.

Q2. Which essay did you write? What key points did you include in it?

Be the change you want to see in others (Gandhi)

To make my essay unique, I started off with a story in the beginning. It was a small one page conversation between mother and child. One should make sure that the beginning and the conclusion should be very catchy.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
culture Almost left this portion
Indian history NCERT + Spectrum
world history Stardust notes (pdf version) from forumias
post-independence India GKT material
Indian society Newspapers (current events) + GKT
role of women, poverty etc. GKT
globalization on Indian society GKT
communalism, regionalism, secularism GKT
world geo physical NCERT
resource distribution NCERT + Mrunal +learnt drawing maps of India, World in 20 secs for marking of resources
factors for industrial location Geography Instt. Notes (CBT ect) + Mrunal
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT + Newspape
impact on flora-fauna Nil

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Srirams Polity Notes
comparing Constitution with world GKT
parliament, state Legislatures Srirams Polity Notes
executive-judiciary Srirams Polity Notes
ministries departments India Year Book
pressure group, informal asso. Pub Ad Optional; no specific material needed
Representation of people’s act Internet ppts
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Lakshmikanth
NGO, SHG etc Pub Ad Optional + Yojana
welfare schemes, bodies GKT
social sector, health, edu, HRD India Year Book
governance, transparency, accountability Pub Ad Optional
e-governance Pub Ad Optional
role of civil service Pub Ad Optional
India & neighbors Used to make current affiairs based notes on IR + Map of India with border countries
bilateral/global grouping Internet. Had a seperate register for IR. Crisp, ready to read material.
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Nil
diaspora Last year Questions
international bodies- structure mandate Made 6-7 pages on International Institutions.

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Srirams Eco Notes + Mrunal articles on economy from the start. I was zero in economics but this blog helped me become an aware citizen.
inclusive growth No specifc preparation (Budget may suffice)
budgeting Pub Ad Notes on budget types
major crops, irrigation Mrunal articles
agro produce – storage, marketing Mrunal articles
e-technology for famers Yojana
farm subsidies, MSP Mrunal articles + GKT
PDS, buffer, food security Mrunal articles
technology mission Nil
animal rearing economics Mrunal articles
food processing GKT
land reforms Mrunal articles
liberalization Nil
infra Mrunal articles
investment models Nil
science-tech day to day life Newspapers (did not spend much time on S&T)
Indian achievements in sci-tech Nil
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Newspapers
environmental impact assessment Just read the basics from government websites + from monthly competition conducted by mrunal
Disaster Management Ignou Material (pub ad) + GKT
non state actors, internal security GKT + Internet
internal security – role of media, social networking site Nil
cyber security Internet
money laundering Nil
border  Management MHA website ( a pdf on border management)
organized crime, terrorism GKT
security agencies- structure mandate India Year Book + GKT

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

  • For GS Paper IV, I  referred GKT modules (around 100 pages) to understand the basic concepts. Along with that, I referred Ignou material on egyankosh and NIOS material available online. I had joined Synergy test series which helped me collecting notes on around 20 philosophers from the questions. Added to it, I tried to answer some case study based questions on InsightsOnIndia by the pseudo-name Dusky. It helped me a lot in understanding where I needed improvement.
  • Suggestion: I believe in the upcoming Mains Examination, the difficulty level of this paper would increase. There were no direct questions on philosophers this time but the aspirants should prepare themselves for such questions.
  • For my approach for the case study based questions, I may try to give a sketch here.
  • From the question, highlight the situation where you need to respond. Understand the facts available and then in point format write down the options you have (1,2,3,4). Then for each option (course of action), analyse the advantage and disadvantage. For most of the questions I attempted, option 4 was very idealistic but option 3 – pragmatic and doable. Option 1 and 2 were against one’s ethical stand. Thus, on properly weighing, I chose the third option as my final course of action.

Mains answer-writing?

Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?

I was happy with the change of mains pattern this year. It discourages rote learning and is more logical to attempt. The fixed space available is plenty and does not get completed mostly because of the time constraints. I remember that I wrote at max complete 2 pages for every answer for the sake of completing the paper rather than wasting time on introduction and conclusion (Except GS paper 1 which came as a shocker to everyone. Attempted all Geography questions in that paper but left almost 70 marks history questions).

Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players (who cleared mains and got interview call letter) were claiming that they wrote entire paper in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter….whether examiner is asking ‘examine, comment, discuss or xyz’….simply write in bullets and points.

I tried to write more in point format because of the time constraints. For the questions which according to me were vague, I tried to write in paragraphs.

Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.

No, I did not follow that format in-toto. Definitely, the starting 5 questions, I tried to write in proper segments, but later on, I switched to points in most cases.

Q. In GS papers, Since UPSC came with those 100 and 200 words questions. What was your approach in the exam??

  1. GS I : Attempted full Questions 15 to 25. Then came to the start (my history is weak) and tried completing as many questions I can (Total attempt: 180)
  2. GS II : Attempted full paper (Polity and IR are my favourite subjects). Did not find any problem but at max wrote 2 pages for each question
  3. GS III : Attempted 210 marks paper. Left those questions for which I had no clue at all. Could not bluff those
  4. GS IV: Attempted full paper

As of now, I am not sure as to how well this approach worked. But in the end, I was satisfied.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?

No. Only Blue Butterflow Pen.
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)

Yes. Map of India for Shale reserves; Climate based questions I approached with the help of diagrams.

Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?


Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?

No. Free hand.

Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?

Blue Pen

Public Administration Optional Subject

Q1. First the essential book/resource list and strategy

Vajiram Notes on Public Administration (paper 1 and 2) – These the the basics needed to understand the subject. In my opinion, it may also suffice the demand of the examination if one reads religiously. I had joined coaching for pub ad, so did not find any difficulty reading the hand written class notes.

  1. Mohit Bhattacharya
  2. Arora and goyal
  3. Super50 by Shubra Saxena
  4. 2nd ARC Report
  5. Yojana.

Though I have done MA in Pub Ad from IGNOU and the material given is also very good to read, I did not have time to go through that during the exam days.

Q2. How much of internet-research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?

One may simply rely on books but for recent examples, current affairs and yojana can be beneficial.

Q3. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?

3 months approximately

Q4. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?

It is continuous as I had joined test series and did some practice at home as well.

Q5. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?

Did not prepare many notes. It was only for current affairs and IR + some issues with which I had difficulty. Otherwise, I had kept one folder at my desktop which had all the pdfs I wanted to read before examination.

Q6. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2013 mains vs previous papers.

I think that with the current pattern, the papers are easier to approach if one is analytical and not a crammer. We must understand the concept rather than learning it.

Q7.How much did you skip OR couldn’t answer properly, in the optional paper?

optional paper Couldn’t finish __ mark. + comments on any weird questions
Paper I 10 marks (did not know)
paper II 10 marks (did not know)

Q8. would you advice any interested party (new player) to pick this optional? Nowadays wind seems to be flowing towards sociology and political science. Some senior players advice new players not to pick them given the scaling and odd questions. What’s your take on this?

Take up the optional subject which you find interesting. Rest leave everything to God.

Before the interview

Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? Particularly college graduation subjects related questions?

Seriously read the newspapers every day and prepared around 100 questions based on my DAF. Added to it, tried to be slow while conversing so that I do not stammer and speak out right words. Tried to be calm while answering. As I had completed MA in 2013, I knew I had to prepare the practical application of Pub Ad in detail.

Q2. Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar / different than official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?

I had joined a Telegram group for Interview Mentoring started by a senior IAS Officer. It really helped me in understanding how one may answer the questions being raised. We were guided by many civil servants in that group. It was a very interactive experience.

Also, I attended mock interviews by Samkalp and Vajiram. They were helpful in giving me confidence while speaking.

Q3. What did you wear?

A simple sky blue colored cotton Sari.

Q4. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?

As I reside in Delhi, I stayed at my home which is around 20 mins away from UPSC.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Mr. Vinay Mittal

Q2. How long was the interview?

Around 35 mins

Q3. Why do you want to join civil service?

Civil Service provides me the platform to work for the society with legal authority.

Q4. Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview.

I will try and write in detail about my interview experience soon. Right now, I only have the sets of questions raised by the panel members. These are as follows:

Questions were all related to DAF and my subsequent answers. Board was very cordial and it was a comfortable session.

Chairman: Why a shift from engg to Pub ad? (I told that it was in 4th year that I decided to go for civil services) Was it a planned decision? (Yes.. and then I added about my gold medal) What is public administration? (state and society work in tandem to achieve societal goals) More questions on community involvement, constitutional mandate regarding community models (PRIs and ULBs), How to make it effective (I included ICT, creating awareness and efficient communication here), more talks on how to get the people involved. Questions based on teaching and my volunteering in Bal Sahyog. Do you still teach and whom?

M1: How to improve health facilities in urban area say Delhi? Sewage treatment? How polio is spread (instead of faecal matter I said Foetus.. then corrected myself) Difference between IPV and OPV? A few more questions were there.. I answered them.

M2 (lady): You talked of sustainable development. What is it? (I told that there is a difference between need and greed.. Gave example of air conditioners we use and how the energy can be saved there) Any other example from Delhi? (I could not think of any.. I said I can recall SEWA model from Gujarat and explained SHGs and people participation) But there are many loopholes in that model, are you aware of that? (No ma’am)

M3: (I did not give appropriate answers to his questions) Questions on Lokpal, CBI, CVC ( I said CVC heads CBI and that was wrong) Questions on Badminton and lack of sports in our country (Answered these but overall was not satisfied) M4: You talked about people being happy and content, can you name the country which focuses on happiness index? (Bhutan) What can India learn from it? (Environmental protection, added Kerala Model and how tree plantation per person a day is important for future sustainability) Delhi Nirbhaya case and present situation? How as the head of police in district you would have handled it? (Talked about raising women force) Do you know the state where women police are more? (No Sir) I guess it is Tamil Nadu.. Another member added Kerala too. I thanked both of them.

Then in the end, Chairman asked me one final question. You talked about RWAs in Bhagidari Model but you see people are less concerned to get involved and we blame the authorities. Can you suggest me a way to solve the problem? (Yes Sir. The simplest and cost effective way – Ethical Hoardings stating what a resident should do as an aware citizen)

Interview Over. I thanked everyone. I was satisfied when I moved out and was happy how the last question ended.

Q5. Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions?  Was it a stress interview, did they ask any uncomfortable questions? If yes, how did you handle it?

My interview was totally based on my DAF and the answers I gave. So it was not a stress interview. The panel members were very cordial. I was cheerful, pleasant and composed.

Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?

Everything is mentioned in that call letter. Nothing to worry.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?

Nothing to be afraid of. It is a normal routine check up. Those with eye nos. should come up with prescription on that day.

CSE-2013 Marksheet

Essay 130
GS1 55
GS2 67
GS3 88
GS4 112
Pub.Ad Paper 1 110
Pub.Ad Paper 2 86
Written Total 648
Interview 206
Final total 854
Rank 50

Mrunal : three digit score in any paper of Public Administration equals *RESPECT*.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?

Since it was my second attempt, I would have definitely joined a government job and tried to take another attempt while working.

Q2. when were you going to “execute” that backup plan?

Just after this attempt. I was already exhausted.

Insecurity about profile

Q. Many candidates prepare sincerely but constantly live under fear about ‘profile insecurity’. I’m not from a big college, I’m not from English medium, and I don’t have work-experience. What if they ask some stressful questions in the interview about this? Did you suffer from such insecurities? What is your message to these candidates?

It was because of my lack of confidence in myself that I was not able to qualify prelims exam in 2012. I tried to overcome this by appearing in many other exams. It really helped me in this attempt.


Q. Through this struggle and success, what have your learned? What is the wisdom of life and competition? What is Your message to the new aspirants?

Learning – Nishkaam Karma (Do your best, do not await results)

Wisdom – Enjoy life. Be sincere not serious.

Message to new aspirants – Work on your dreams but do not get attached to them. Becoming an IAS is not the end of the world, many other opportunities knock our doors. One should welcome those as well.

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule – the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you?  And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering, unlike those competitive magazines.

Yes. Your site has helped me immensely. I have subscribed to it and am a regular visitor. You’re are doing a wonderful job.

Mrunal: Thanks a lot Ms. Nima for your sharing your journey and success with us. We wish you the best for your service allocation and state cadre allocation. Keep in touch.