1. UPSC topper’s 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. GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2013
  16. Mains answer-writing?
  17. Public Administration optional subject
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. UPSC Topper Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

UPSC topper’s profile

Name Rajarshi Raj Varma
Rank in CSE-2013 351
Roll No. 154924
Age 25
Total attempts in CSE 1
Optional Subject Public Administration
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Schooling medium English
College medium English
Home town/city Ranchi
Work-experience if any 1 year experience in a development consultancy
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures CAT, XAT; qualified for Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (Rural Management) through XAT in 2009
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material (if used)
  1. Sriram IAS for GS
  2. Pavan Sir for Pub Admn.
service preference #1, 2 and 3 IAS, IFS, IPS
state cadre preference (top3) Jharkhand, Bihar, Punjab


% in class 10 92.8
% in class 12 87
Schooling (Medium) English
Graduation course and % Economics (H); 66.6%
College Kirorimal College, Delhi University, 2008 batch
Post-graduation Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (Rural Management); 2009-11
Any other professional courses NA
Hobbies & Extra curricular Yoga, playing Cricket and Table Tennis


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

Topper CSE 2013 Rank 351 Rajarshi Verma

After having spent my formative years in Patna and Ranchi, I joined Economics (H) in Kirorimal College of Delhi University. Thereafter, I took admission in Rural Management programme of XIM, Bhubaneswar and worked in the development sector for a year before leaving the job for full time CSE preparation in 2012. During the course of my Rural Management degree and subsequently when I worked in rural development sector after my MBA, I travelled extensively in rural areas and realized the profound impact that administration has on the lives of the people and thus decided to prepare for this exam.

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.

It has to be an optimal mix of both. For optional, books and paper material are more important and for GS, internet has to be used extensively. For GS, I maintained e-notes under different headings (social issues, economy, S&T, foreign policy and IR etc) which I tried to revise before the exam. I could not make notes for my optional due to lack of time and relied on 2-3 readings instead.

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?

Given the long drawn and tedious nature of the exam, mood swings are inevitable. There would be days when you won’t feel like studying and there would be days when you would be excited and energetic. I guess the important thing is to know oneself and master the art of unwinding. When you are feeling low, take a break and do something that you enjoy (I used to watch movies). At the same time, the break should not be too long. The only way to ensure consistency is through internal motivation. Nobody can force you to study if the heart is not willing.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient 11th NCERT
History Medieval 11th NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) 12th NCERT, Spectrum
Culture society Did not prepare
Polity (theory + current) D.D Basu, Sriram notes, newspapers
Economy (theory + current) Sriram notes, newspapers
Science (theory + current) NCERT books (6th to 10th)
Environment (theory + current) Newspapers, Mrunal.org, googled relevant topics
geography physical NCERT (6th to 12th) and internet
geography India
geography world
other national/international current affairs Newspapers, television debates (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha tv, CNN-IBN and NDTV)
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Newspapers, TV, internet

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2013 paper?

The key is to focus on fundamentals and reading basic books

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths R.S Aggarwal
Reasoning Same
comprehension TMH manual
Decision Making Just previous year question papers

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

Emphasis should be on developing speed through practice

Prelim accuracy

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

No. I don’t think they are necessary. One can practice on one’s own by practicing mock papers.

Q2. Your score in preliminary exam

  • GS: 108.66
  • Aptitude: 169.18
  • Total: 278

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Just previous year question papers
your regional language Hindi

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

The compulsory papers this year were quite difficult and lengthy and hence should not be taken lightly.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

No specific preparation. GS preparation took care of Essay. I wanted to write few mock essays but could not due to paucity of time.

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

  1. Be the change you want to see in others (Gandhi)
  2. Is the Colonial mentality hindering India’s Success?
  3. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) along with GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) would be the right indices for judging the wellbeing of a country
  4. Science and technology is the panacea for the growth and security of the nation.

I wrote on the topic GDP (Gross Domestic Product) along with GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) would be the right indices for judging the wellbeing of a country. My Key points were as following:

  • Started with Amartya Sen’s recent quote: “GDP is not an end in itself but a means to achieve a higher end”
  • Took a lot of points from the recent debate between Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati on growth v/s redistribution (growth as a representative of GDP and redistribution required for equity/happiness not captured by GDP)
  • Definition of GDP, use of GDP as a measure of development and pros and cons of the same
  • Evolution of alternative indices of development such as PQLI, HDI, inequality adjusted HDI etc.
  • The concept of GNH and its components
  • The way forward (need to balance GDP and growth related parochial indicators with a more holistic concept entailing indicators pertaining to quality of life, equity, justice, environment etc.)

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Did not prepare
Indian history 12th NCERT and Spectrum; started reading Bipin Chandra after the exam; lots of overlapping between NCERT, Spectrum and Bipin Chandra
world history Old NCERT (9th and 10th); Sriram notes
post-independence India Bipin Chandra’s India after independence
Indian society NCERT sociology books
role of women, poverty etc. Newspapers, internet, TV debates
globalization on Indian society Same
communalism, regionalism, secularism Same
world geo physical Sriram notes
resource distribution NCERT and Mrunal.org
factors for industrial location Mrunal.org/geography
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT book on disaster management
impact on flora-fauna Nothing specific

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. D.D Basu; Sriram notes
comparing Constitution with world Did not do
parliament, state Legislatures D.D Basu
executive-judiciary D.D Basu
ministries departments 2nd ARC report
pressure group, informal asso. Internet, newspapers
Representation of people’s act Just went through those sections that were in news
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. D.D Basu, internet, Sriram notes
NGO, SHG etc Internet, newspapers
welfare schemes, bodies Draft 12th plan
social sector, health, edu, HRD Draft 12th plan
governance, transparency, accountability 2nd ARC reports
e-governance 2nd ARC report
role of civil service 2nd ARC report
India& neighbors Newspapers
bilateral/global grouping Newspapers
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Newspapers
diaspora Nothing specific
international bodies- structure mandate Internet; websites of different bodies

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Newspapers, 12th plan
inclusive growth 12th plan, Economic Survey
budgeting Union budget and newspaper reports; internet
major crops, irrigation NCERT geography
agro produce – storage, marketing Mrunal.org; newspaper items related to APMC act etc.
e-technology for famers Sriram material
farm subsidies, MSP Sriram material
PDS, buffer, food security Newspapers, Sriram material
technology mission Internet
animal rearing economics Did not do
food processing Mrunal.org/economy
land reforms Mrunal.org/polity
liberalization IGNOU material on economic reforms
infra 12th plan
investment models 12th plan
science-tech day to day life Nothing specific
Indian achievements in sci-tech Newspapers
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Sriram material, internet, newspapers
environmental impact assessment Did not do
Disaster Management NCERT book on disaster management
non state actors, internal security Annual report, Ministry of Home
internal security – role of media, social networking site Newspapers and TV debates
cyber security Newspapers and internet
money laundering Sriram material
border Management Sriram material
organized crime, terrorism Newspapers and internet
security agencies- structure mandate Sriram material

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics IGNOU material
attitude, moral influence etc. Sriram material
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc 2nd ARC report
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Sriram material
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?I did 4-5 thinkers such as Buddha, Vivekananda, Gandhi, Nehru etc.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. 2nd ARC reports
corporate governance Internet
probity in governance, work culture 2nd ARC report
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. 2nd ARC report
challenges of corruption 2nd ARC report
case studies on above topics I had joined a facebook group and used to contribute to case studies posted in the group

Any other comments, word of wisdom after going through the mains-2013.

Instead of reading too much, rely on your gut feeling and try to give a balanced answer

GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2013

Q. in GS4 ethics papers, please give a sketchy overview of your case study answers:

case your approach/keypoints
1: RTI: To hide or not to hide Will upload the answer-sheet once I get it through RTI
2: Engineer: Bogus flyover vs deadline
3: Child Labourers in Sivakasi
4: Nepotism in Job recruitment
5: Leaking information
6: Narrate one incident in your life when you were faced with such crisis of conscience and how you resolved the same.

Mains answer-writing?

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

I think there is enough space. Given the time constraint, anyway one won’t be able to write more than that.

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.

Mix of para and bullet points depending on the nature of questions. I believe we should not focus too much on words like examine, comment etc and try to write a multi-dimensional answer irrespective of the word used.

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.

Given the word constraint, a proper introduction and conclusion is not possible. I wrote 1 sentence of introduction, main body and 1 concluding remark.

Q. In GS papers, Since UPSC came with those 100 and 200 words questions. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.)

Although I tried attempting as many questions as possible, however there were a number of questions where I did not know anything and therefore did not want to antagonize the examiner by guessing too much

Q. How many marks worth questions did you skip/couldn’t finish in the GS papers?

GS (Mains paper) Couldn’t finish __ mark.
GS1 70-80 marks (it was a total disaster!)
GS2 30-40 marks (this went good but has been low scoring for everyone)
GS3 50-60 marks
GS4 Nil (only paper where I could attempt every thing)

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

Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)

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?


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

Blue pen

(Mrunal – since readers keep mailing such queries, therefore I’m asking the topper to clear all the air haha.)

Public Administration optional subject

Q1. First the essential books, resource and strategy

In Public Admn, I believe we should read as less books as possible.

Paper 1:

Paper 2:

Although, I wanted to go through Punchi Commission reports but could not due to paucity of time.

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

For paper 2, current affairs is very important; internet should be used for topics where enough material is not available in books

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

3-4 months
Q4. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?

I practiced answer writing 1 month before the exam

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

I could not make notes for optional due to lack of time. I relied on 2-3 readings of books and ARC reports.

Q6. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2013 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

The paper was quite tricky. It is no longer possible to predict questions in Pub Admn. I guess one should be thorough with fundamentals (especially first 3 units of paper 1) and try to answer, using whatever he/she has read, as per the needs of the question.

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 20 marks
paper II 10-15 marks

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 Public Administration given the scaling and odd questions. What’s your take on this?

Going by this year’s results, all optional seem to be in the same boat. I guess if you are able to score around 200 marks, you have done well and many people with Pub Admn have scored around or above that. I believe there is nothing wrong with Pub Admn as an optional. I took it in spite of its poor performance last year. I sincerely believe that if you are genuinely interested in a subject, every optional is good.

Before the interview

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

Just went through the basics of graduation subjects and current affairs related stuff related to Indian economy.

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?

Yes. I attended 1 interview at Samkalp and 1 at ALS. While they were quite different from actual interview, the feedback does help in preparation.

Q3. What did you wear? Some experts say coat is must, some say tie is must, and some say black shoes must. What attire did you pick up?

I wore a light blue shirt with black paint, blue tie and black shoes. But there were many people without a tie. Very few people wore coat. So, I guess if you are neat and your dress is ironed, coat or tie is not a must.

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

My sister’s home. I just brought few ARC reports and some notes related to my profile along with my laptop.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Alka Sirohi

Q2. How long was the interview?

30-35 minutes

Q3. Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too. [Since I don’t know whether they ask you this question or not. But if they had asked- what will be your reply?]

I was already working in the development sector. Although they did not ask why I wanted to join civil services, I did convey (in one of my answers) my experience of working in the rural areas and my understanding of ground level issues as the main reason for making me take this exam.

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.

Questions which I could answer:

  • What is the difference between public sensitivity and public conscience?
  • NSEL scam
  • Reasons for under-development in Orissa and how to tackle naxalism
  • Few questions related to biodiversity in Orissa (Olive Ridley Turtles)
  • Questions on Yoga
  • Recent incidents of DMs being kidnapped in Orissa and Chattisgarh. What do you feel? What should be done?
  • Reasons for single party getting a clear majority for the first time since last 30 years.

Question which I could not answer:

  • Can you name a hermit king from ancient Greece? (since the chairperson interpreted the meaning of my name as a hermit king)
  • Issue between Bihar Cricket Association and BCCI
  • Few questions on White Tigers (where did they originate, what will be the colour of the offspring if a White Tiger and a regular Tiger mate?)

I will try to upload detailed transcript of my interview in few days.

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?

Few unexpected questions were asked but I was ready for them. If I did not know an answer, I just said ‘I do not know Sir/Madam’. The board was very cordial.

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

Just carry the original documents along with photocopy as instructed in the call letter. The people there will take care of everything.

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

nothing to worry.

UPSC Topper Marksheet

Q. When UPSC uploads the Marksheets, please mail it to me so I can include it in your interview article.


Career Backup

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

It was my first attempt. So, had I not qualified, I would have joined my previous job and would have continued with the preparation.

Views on UPSC reforms

What are your views on following issues?

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers and the candidate whose optional subject gets favorable treatment under given year’s scaling formula.

Yes I sincerely believe that optional should be scrapped to ensure a level playing field for everyone.

Q. Despite what UPSC has done in recent years, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories. In fact it’s increased under the new syllabus in 2013. Let’s face it, most toppers who gave Mains-2013 have relied on (authentic OR Xeroxed) coaching notes because there was hardly any time left to prepare so many topics in such short time. This system work against an individual preparing from far-away area, without any financial resources or contacts in Delhi.

Yes. I do agree. Having said this, today, there is no dearth of information. Books and notes can be bought and strategy etc. is available on the internet (assuming you have access to internet). Websites like mrunal, blogs of toppers and forums such as iasforum.com are really helpful for those who cannot go to Delhi.

Q. Half-merger of IFoS with CSE is a bad move because it has raised the cutoffs for players who’re solely dedicated to IFoS only (and not to IAS/IPS).Adding salt to the wounds, many who had applied for both jobs, cleared the prelims- they did not even bother to appear in all the papers of Mains-IFoS. (RTI revealed this).

Yes. This is true. I think UPSC should de-merge the two.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answer key and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.

Yes, I agree. It will bring more certainty.

Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.

I guess this eventually would be done. However, logistics need to be worked out given the scale of the exam.

Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?

  • Shortening the entire process of the exam (say within 6 months-from prelims to final results)
  • Allocation of service should be done during or after the training (on the basis of merit list only but after proper counseling regarding the skill sets required for various services)

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? What is your message to these candidates?

I had a decent profile. So, I was not worried about that.

I believe, in the interview, your profile does not matter. It’s how you perform there that determines everything. On the contrary, if you have a humble profile and you perform well, the board members might get more impressed.


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?

My only message is that candidates should use this preparation phase as a learning experience. Do not think too much about the results. If you are sincere, results will come automatically. Even in the worst case, in case you do not qualify (god forbid), your knowledge base gets so enhanced that you will do well in whichever field you work.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2013. They’re feeling dejected- what is your message to them?

This exam is really a gamble. Just take few days off, introspect what went wrong and start your preparation with full vigour again. Just think that you have got the opportunity to study for some more months, learn and further expand your knowledge base. Even, I could not get the rank I wanted and would take the exam again.

Credit: Friends/family

Q. Behind every topper are many people who stood by 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 incidence that you would like to share with the readers?

My parents were really supportive after I left my job to prepare for this unpredictable exam. I would also like to thank my friends and the almighty.

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

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, I did use mrunal.org for my preparation. It was really helpful especially on issues related to economy and environment. I hope you keep up the good work and help umpteen number of candidates in unraveling this mother of all exams. Let me know if I could be of any help.

Mrunal comments: Thank you Rajarshi for sharing your journey and experience with us. Best wishes for the service allotment. Keep in touch.