1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Struggle of a Senior player
  7. Working professional
  8. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  9. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  10. Prelim accuracy
  11. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  12. Mains: Essay
  13. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  14. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  15. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  16. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  17. GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2013
  18. Mains answer-writing?
  19. Law optional subject
  20. Before the interview
  21. During the interview
  22. CSE-2013 Marksheet
  23. Career Backup
  24. Views on UPSC reforms
  25. Insecurity about profile
  26. Wisdom
  27. Credit: Friends/family
  28. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Name Sakshi Sawhney
Rank in CSE-2013 6
Roll No. 200409
Age 24
Total attempts in CSE 2
Optional Subject Law
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 Nil
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  • Prelims Test series- Career Launcher(very good).
  • Vajiram and Ravi for Mains coaching(attended selective classes, but took lot of personal meetings with Raveendran Sir).
  • Took the vision IAS Test series for mains mock. (good because they provide flexibility)
  • Practiced answer writing everyday from insightsonindia.com (daily tests)
service preference #1, 2 and 3
  1. IAS
  2. IFS
  3. IPS
state cadre preference (top3)
  1. AGMUT
  2. Haryana
  3. Punjab


% in class 10 88.8
% in class 12 87.2
Schooling (Medium) English
Graduation course and % BA LLB(Hons.)7.62/8 (CGPA)
Name of college, city, passing out year NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad 2012
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extra curricular Reading fiction, fitness enthusiast, adventure sports


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

topper cse 2013 rank 6 sakshi sawhney IAS

I am a law graduate and belong to a family with a service background. My father is a civil servant himself and my mother is the Principal of a school that caters to the underprivileged children. My sister is a banker.

While studying law I realized I wanted to use my education for a purpose greater than my own self. That is when I first entertained the idea of joining the civil service. The fact that my father was a civil servant helped me a great deal.

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.

  • A mix of electronic and hardcopy. Firstly I memorized the mains syllabus.
  • I read three newspapers (most times)- The Hindu, The Indian Express and the Financial Express/Business Standard (the business newspapers I read selectively). I maintained separate notebooks – I.R, Social Issues, Culture/History/Geography, S&T, Glossary, Security Issues, Environment etc. wherein I took notes from the newspapers.
  • Websites to update notes: Mrunal.org; pib.nic.in; insightsonindia.com; relevant email updates from PRS/idsa
  • I also made notes (hardcopy) from all the books I read for preparation.

For quick revision I used a lot of post-its on books where I did not take down notes directly into any notebooks. This was especially useful while travelling, waiting in line, etc.

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 took frequent breaks. I exercised regularly. I tried to catch the latest release every Friday. The days on which I could not study, I just took the whole day off. Still there were many days when I did succumb to my mood swings. You will have rough days but take it easy and remember ‘This too Shall Pass.’ Also if you know the reason why you want to write this exam- it will immediately energize you and lift your mood and determination.

Struggle of a Senior player

After 1-2 failures in any competitive exam, a phase of mental saturation comes. The person knows the booklist, he knows what is necessary to succeed. But it doesn’t yield result….…Not to mention all the emotional struggle-against those irritating neighbors. MY question are two:

Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.

It was very difficult at first, especially in social situations. Thankfully, my family really supported me. I read a very nice book called The Dalai Lama’s Cat which really helped me to understand that I need to deal with all situations with equanimity. It also emphasizes on ‘Impermanence’ and the concept of ‘ This Too Shall Pass’. I tried to deal with my disillusionment in this manner.

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?

My essay marks in my first attempt were very low. Only 23/200. So despite getting decent marks in everything else (including interview) I could not make it to the final list. I had written on ‘PPP : Whether a Failure in India’. Frankly, I am still not sure why I was marked so poorly.

In this attempt I wrote on Colonial Mentality and made my position on the topic very evident in the beginning itself so that there was no confusion regarding my stand. But even now I have scored just 80/250- so I cannot really advise on essay writing.

Other changes made= answer writing; revision and re-revision. You will never really finish the syllabus so don’t wait till the end to start your revision. Do it every week. If you flip through your notes regularly they will get ingrained and your memory recall in a situation of 25X10 questions will be much greater.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

History Ancient NCERT 11/12
History Medieval NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)
  • Bipin Chandra
  • Spectrum
Culture society
Polity (theory + current)
Economy (theory + current)
Science (theory + current)
Environment (theory + current) NIOS, Newspaper
geography physical NCERT, Goh Cheng Leong
geography India NCERT
geography world Goh Cheng Leong, NCERT
other national/international current affairs
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Yojana

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

Know basics very well- so better to understand logically than to memorise. Mrunal.org really helps explain logically. Also try to use howstuffworks.com, youtube, etc. to enhance understanding of science concepts.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Maths RS Aggarwal for competitive exams
Reasoning Same
comprehension Regular tests, fast reading of newspaper with understanding
Decision Making None, just regular tests but the most balanced view point possible.

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

There was an increase in the number of maths questions and a reduction in English. Many aspirants (including me) who have a mortal fear of maths have a mind block against solving relatively easy questions. Please practice this area thoroughly since questions are in fact not so hard. These are also more scoring in the sense that there is only one right answer which can be gauged by sometimes not even solving the entire question. Lesson: DON’T HAVE ANY MIND BLOCK.

Prelim accuracy

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

Yes. Career Launcher. I feel it is crucial because it increases the speed, accuracy and confidence of the aspirants (especially for CSAT).

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

attempted Q. Official score
GS Around 65 103.34
aptitude Around 70 165
Total 268

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Past years papers
your regional language Hindi Past Year Papers+ Hindi newspaper towards exam

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

Very high level of difficulty in both English and Hindi. Don’t ignore preparation for compulsory language papers. Also complete the grammar portion first (especially for language paper which is not a strength) as this guarantees easy and confirmed marks. Thereafter proceed to do Comprehension, Essay, Precis and Translation.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Practiced essay writing. Made notes from newspaper which included interesting anecdotes, difficult words, catch words, etc. But it evidently still did not work LOL

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.

Colonial Mentality- my definition of colonial mentality was benign despotism like that of the British Raj. Thereafter, I mentioned clearly that I did not think it was hindering India’s success. I spoke of how the civil service was a legacy of the raj and yet democratic processes(aka we the people)- media, rise of Panchayats, etc had exposed and tried to remove lal batti culture, etc. governance reforms like rti, etc. mentioned, civil service reforms, etc.

Same line of argument taken regarding the Judiciary, Legislature and how democratic processes were exposing the hierarchical and opaque structures.

Finally spoke of foreign policy- how India perceived better than aggressive China, Gujral Policy, Bhutan’s transition to democracy and away from protectorate as facilitated by India, etc.

Thus showing how democratic processes were winning over colonial mentality and leading to India’s success= largest functioning democracy, supported widely in quest for permanent UNSC seat, one of the least impacted economies of global crisis,etc.

PROBLEM: was told that my definition of colonial mentality= incorrect as it is not white man’s burden but the feelings of the formerly oppressed and their need to stay oppressed and inferior. (something like that)

Further, I did not cover various factors such as casteism, fair skin/dark skin, etc. Basically I stuck to administration, governance and foreign policy.  My essay did not touch upon prejudices in daily life and the more micro level working of colonial mentality.

Score: 80/250

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture NCERT, Trends in Indian Culture, Friday Hindu
Indian history Bipin Chandra
world history
post-independence India Bipin Chandra: India Since Independence
Indian society Sociology NCERT 11, Newspaper
role of women, poverty etc. Googled role of women- found a Delhi University Paper; poverty – Uma Kapila; Dutt
globalization on Indian society Nothing specific- Vajiram handout (its okayish not exhaustive)
communalism, regionalism, secularism Sociology NCERT, Bipin Chandra(india since independence)
world geo physical Goh Cheng Leong, Atlas, NCERT
resource distributionfactors for industrial location
earthquake tsunami etc Google- howstuffworks.com
impact on flora-fauna NIOS, newspaper

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.
comparing Constitution with world Ditto+ Vajiram Notes
parliament, state Legislatures Ditto
executive-judiciary Ditto
ministries departments Ditto
pressure group, informal asso. Insightsonindia
Representation of people’s act Visionias handout
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Ditto
NGO, SHG etc Insightsonindia
welfare schemes, bodies Newspapers
social sector, health, edu, HRD Newspapers
governance, transparency, accountability Vajiram notes, Laxmikanth(on Governance)
e-governance Mohit Bhattacharya (just that chapter, had it from pub ad optional last year)
role of civil service Vajiram notes
India & neighbors Newspapers, World Focus
bilateral/global grouping Ditto
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Ditto
Diaspora Not much prep- skipped it except for policies for diaspora- done from Ministry website
international bodies- structure mandate Googled

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Dutt Sundaram
inclusive growth Ditto+ vision handout+ planning commission
Budgeting Vision ias + planning commission (especially recommendations on changing the budgeting process)
major crops, irrigation Past years geography optional solved
agro produce – storage, marketing Vajiram notes
e-technology for famers Newspapers
farm subsidies, MSP Uma Kapila
PDS, buffer, food security Ditto
technology mission Google
animal rearing economics Mrunal (very good)Vajiram notes
food processing
land reforms
Liberalization Uma Kapila
Infra Newspaper, Eco survey
investment models Vision Ias handout, extensive google
science-tech day to day life Newspaper.
Indian achievements in sci-tech Google
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Vajiram notes
environmental impact assessment Vajiram + google
Disaster Management Yojana, special issue of Chronicle, Newspaper
non state actors, internal security Newspaper, idsa
internal security – role of media, social networking site Ditto
cyber security Ditto
money laundering Ditto
border  Management Ministry of Home, vision ias handout
organized crime, terrorism Newspaper, internet
security agencies- structure mandate Vajiram handout

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
  1. ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics
  2. attitude, moral influence etc.
  3. civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc
  4. emotional intelligence, its use in governance
  5. ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.
  6. corporate governance
  7. probity in governance, work culture
  8. citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.
  9. challenges of corruption
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?4-5- I did Confucious, Gandhi, Kautilya. Buddha. While reading Freedom Struggle I made a mental note of incidents where our leaders faced moral dilemmas and noticed the choices they made. I tried to quote these examples in my answers. Further Subba Rao has cited many thinkers while providing practical answers to case studies, I went through these as well.
case studies on above topics Googled, + Subbarao

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

Be prepared to answer questions in as short time as possible. Use mix of point and para form.

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 Disclosure of Conflict of Interest if any + do right thing= not to hide
2: Engineer: Bogus flyover vs deadline Public interest and not self interest= inform head of problem, request for extra labour to help complete on time, otherwise extend time period and explainto public reasons + regret inconvenience.
3: Child Labourers in Sivakasi
  • Long and short
  • Recommend policy change= kids from elsewhere get covered
  • Have panchayat get involved= can identify those kids that are not relatives+ baal panchayats
  • Open school=> better long term employment opportunity + prosperity rather than firecracker
  • Find ways to maintain register of number of kids
4: Nepotism in Job recruitment Will act without fear and favour. In any case such stuff doesn’t suit the long term interests of maintaining academic excellence
5: Leaking information Without fear or favour. Will not leak information. Not in public interest. Will explain the same to that Minister as well.  If forced/coerced= will tell law enforcement agencies
6: Narrate one incident in your life when you were faced with such crisis of conscience and how you resolved the same. As editor of a Journal in assessment of editorial test of my friend had to take action against her- despite her being my friend. Because not in her interest (she will lie for bigger things later), nor in interest of journal.

Mains answer-writing?

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

No problem

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.

Mixed. I paid attention to the examine, comment, discuss. If discuss for eg. I wrote in paras.

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 tried initially but realized I was losing time. I then did away with intro, got straight to the point and wrote a one line optimistic conclusion.

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.)

I tried to maximize the number of questions. However, where there were straightforward questions to be answered, I did not attempt unless I was sure or could make an educated guess- eg. S&T. However, where I could gauge even vaguely, I attempted.

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

GS (Mains paper) Couldn’t finish __ mark.
GS1 0
GS2 4 ( 2 of which I knew very well and felt very bad about leaving them)
GS3 3
GS4 0

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

No – simply underlined with pen if I could

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.)

Law optional subject

Q1. First the essential book/resource list.

  • Torts- Bangia
  • International Law= S.k. Kapoor (very repetitive) or Starke ( if there is enough time- especially basics such as Treaty, Custom, etc)
  • Constitutional law MP Jain OR VN Shukla
  • Contract= Avtar Singh (question on Agency or Partnership always comes)
  • IPC= Gaur/Pillai + pay special attention to the Offences Against Property
  • AK Jain Dukkis strictly for revision purpose for all subjects+ small Acts= Sale of Goods, Partnership, Arbitration, IPR.

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?

Not too relevant except for certain topics= eg. Terrorism in International Law.

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

It is my graduation subject so not very long. Shouldn’t take more than 3 or 4 months if done from scratch.

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

  • Right after prelims- I started daily answer practice from insightsonindia
  • And test series from vision ias after one month of prelims( couldn’t do all tests)

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

Yes, I use post=its for revision. Paper form

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?

  • I thought the Law Paper especially Paper II was more difficult simply since the compulsory questions touched upon areas such as IPR which many aspirants tend not to study in detail due to the vastness of the course. Thus the best bet for a vast syllabus like law is to start early- do everything and constantly revise.
  • It is my suggestion that where the question paper asks for a case and you are not able to recall any (eg. In IPR) and you have no option but to attempt the question then explain the basic concept with the help of an example. This shows the examiner that you understand the concept and have displayed good skills by giving a hypothetical situation based on the concept. In such a case you may still get decently marked for the question even if you haven’t written a case name.  I did this for the IPR compulsory question.
  • While giving case laws, please don’t give a list of cases- just the most relevant.
  • One big problem most aspirants face while studying for law is what are the relevant cases in Paper 2. It is here that it is best to use the AK Jain Dukki to guide you in selecting the most relevant cases- the author has to be short so has most likely provided the most relevant case. Yes, it is still hard to retain all the case laws in mind. Thus, it is important to constantly revise. In any case, if you forget the name of the case you can still explain the facts or give an illustration. SO please don’t stress so much about the relevant cases in Paper II.

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 Did not skip
paper II Did not skip

Before the interview

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

Made several questions from DAF, got questions from peers and parents, answered them daily sometimes in front of mirror( had bad posture and wanted to ensure my hunch doesn’t come in involuntarily), Graduation subject not an issue since had studied it for Mains.

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 mocks at Vajiram and Samkalp. The official interview was not at all similar to the Mocks. But they are useful for building confidence.

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?

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’?

At home (I’m based in Delhi). Just looked at my diary of DAF qs&As once. Diary is a good way of introspection so that you know yourself thoroughly before you go into the interview room. Never try to mug up an answer. It should come naturally and from the heart,

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Rajni Razdan Ma’am.

Q2. How long was the interview?

25-30 mins

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?]

Want to use my education for purpose above myself. As civil servant any decisions can lead much larger imprint than any other (eg NGO)+ offers diversity, career progression.

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.

Ma’m may I come in.

Yes please do.

Goodmorning Ma’am, sirs (with a big smile)

May I take a seat?

Yes please be seated.

CP(Chairperson)- Is this you?(showing photo)? Tell me your Roll No.

CP: Name members of the cat family?

Me: Cat family? Lion, Tiger, Leopard, Panther, Cat itself. Ma’am I can’t recall any more.

CP: Come on. There are many more. Sounds like a car, shoes?

Me: Oh sorry Ma’am: Jaguar, Puma

CP: You are forgetting Cheetah the poor fellow

Me: Right Ma’am Cheetah as well

CP: What book have you read last? Tell me about

Me: Ma’am the last book I read was Khaled Hosseni’s And the Mountains Echoed. The book is about—-

CP: okay

M1: Can you tell us the latin maxim for no man can be a judge in his own cause?

Me: told

M1: How did you choose law?

Me: Sir I used to read a lot of books where young lawyers armed with a sense of justice and fairness were able to take on seemingly undefeatable perpetrators of injustice. I also noticed how many persons in public life had in fact been lawyers. I realized it would help me empower myself and through me others and therefore I chose law.

M1: What books did you read? Perry Mason

Me: No sir,(M1  said I thought you were a reading enthusiast). I read John Grisham and Jeffery Archer.

M1: Tell me as a lawyer and not as a woman, how do you see the justice system operating with respect to women?

Me: Sir, there are two things. First, law does not have to be emotional but has to be sensitive to women and thus many changes are being introduced to make justice more accessible to women eg. that women do not go through the same victimization while giving their testimony. Secondly, however, Courts have at times taken decisions that may not be in the spirit of the law- eg. The Shakti Mills Death sentence

M1: But then are there no ethics in law?( referring to my opposition to the Shakti Mills decision)

Me: Sir, certainly there are. But law cannot be emotional. Ethics automatically mean fairness and justice and not emotions.  Sensitivity ofcourse is good.

M2: You have been an editor of a magazine, what articles have you published recently. Or else what interesting articles from the field of IPR will you recommend to the board?

Me: Sir, I held the position of editor while I was in University so I have not published anything of late. However, there have been many interesting articles appearing in the newspaper with respect to India’s patent regime and how it is a friction point for Indo- US relations.

M3: How many years is patent given for? What is patent?

Me: Answered

M3: What is this special status of J& K?

Me: Answered

M3: From legal view point do you believe this has helped Kashmir?

Me: Certainly sir, first of all it is the link between the Accession Terms and the Constitution of India. Secondly, it has given more autonomy to the people of  Jammu and Kashmir and they have their own Constitution, Criminal Code, etc. this has kept the unique position of J&K in mind.

M3: okay have you heard of Women’s Representation Bill. Are you in its favour?

Me: Yes sir. I am certainly in favour of reservation for women in Parliament considering we have amongst the lowest number of women in the Parliament.

M3: Yes so why has it not been passed?

Me: Sir,  I believe there are differences of opinion wrt the provisions of the Act. I understand there are concerns with respect to the rotation of constituency. But there are many solutions eg. The dual member constituency. The Bill should atleast be debated.

M3: Do you think in the near future this is possible?

Me: yes sir, I am very hopeful and optimistic. As a woman voter I have voted keeping this issue in mind. Women have even sent a womanifesto which included this as an essential requirement of all political parties and a widespread consenus was seen. SO I am very optimistic.

M4:  ‘Law is an Ass’ what does it mean?

Me: Sir, Charles Dickens had written that Law is an Ass if it does not operate on the basis of ground reality but rather creates its own legal fiction. If law does this, then it is not being sensitive to what actually exists and may not be a sensible proposition. However, sir I feel we can even look at it in the positive sense that law is an ass because law works hard to keep up with society just like an ass works very hard. (Laughter from all)

M4: You have done many treks. Can you describe your last trek?

Me: Yes sir, We went on a family trek to Snow View Peak in Nainital last February. Its called Snow view but even that doesn’t prepare you for the gorgeous sight that appears before you. It was about 3- 4 Kms of a relatively easy trek and thereafter a slightly hard but rewarding climb. Once you reached the top of the peak you could see a vista of beautiful snow clad mountains. It was stunning.  (Everyone nodding etc)

Today one Court decision comes, tomorrow another bench decides something else. So where is the law?

Me: Sir, precedent is indeed very important. But sometimes if it is blindly followed then it can lead to injustice. For eg. There was a case called Mathura rape case wherein Supreme Court gave benefit of immunity to a police officer who had raped a young girl because he was under employment at the time of the incident and Government servants were said to enjoy immunity from prosecution when working in their official capacity. However, sir , this decision was not followed as precedent as it would have led to grave injustice.

At the same time sir I do believe that the Supreme Court specially should strictly follow the rule that only Constitutional benches (5 judge bench and above) can hear questions of public importance, rather than the current practice wherein even 2 judge benches are deciding issues. This will lead to the doctrine of precedent being followed even in the lower Courts.

M4: Is retrospective law a good thing?

Me: Sir, it depends. For instance criminal law should not be retrospectively applied but it can be done in civil law. Even in civil law however, for instances such as taxation if applied retrospectively it may not be correct if it greatly prejudices the tax planning.

Therafter there was a discussion between me and M4 on the difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance; the Vodafone case and finally Chairperson stepped in and said Okay THankyou.

Me: Ma’am the interview is over?

CP: Yes you can go before this debate continues endlessly (everyone was laughing- maybe M4 was a tax expert)

Me: Right Ma’am, Thankyou Ma’am and thank you sirs.

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?

Not really a stress interview. I like a quote that says you are ready for an interview not when you know all the answers but when you can handle all the questions. That was how my interview went. Rajni Ma’am pretended to sleep, ate peanuts , etc. but she was paying attention. I did not get distracted but if I felt I was going to get distracted then I did not look at her directly but looked at everyone else once in a while( this also  kept them all engaged ).

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

Photos+ completed survey+ date of birth confirmation (10th std certificate)

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

Carry a water bottle, wear something comfortable, carry a book. It takes from 9 Am- 4pm.

CSE-2013 Marksheet


Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?

I would really find out what goes wrong with my essay each time and work on that.

Career Backup

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

Practice as Advocate/ Research Assistantship/ write Judicial Service Exam

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

Simultaneously with next attempt (3rd)

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.

Optional subject still accounts for 500 marks. Maybe reduce weightage to 250 and then slowly phase out.

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 (partially or fully) 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 contacts in Delhi.

I agree. Syllabus changes should be announced well in advance. At the same time, maybe a basic prescribed book list will help- which are available as free download.

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).

I agree.

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

While disclosing cut offs immediately maybe difficult administratively till result for prelims is announced, UPSC should definitely have an answer key ready immediately.

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

  • This may not be a good option for students who are in remote areas, or where internet connection is poor.  Several times CAT aspirants have faced difficulties with the test being conducted again in particular centers. The numbers UPSC is dealing with is much greater than CAT. These issues might in fact slow down the process,
  • However, maybe UPSC can begin experimentation on pilot basis and then apply it to the exam.

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

At the interview stage – I would follow some kind of standardized policy of marking.

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?

  • The best thing about this exam (especially after recent changes) is that it offers a level playing field. It doesn’t matter if you are not from a big college or from a non- English medium. You are eligible for the exam which means you are as much competition as the next person.
  • Your personality is not dependent on the aforementioned factors.  Don’t let these distract you. Focus on the task at hand. Everyone comes to the exam with a clean slate.
  • I have read so many inspiring stories about aspirants from rural backgrounds studying under a street light at night and succeeding in the exam. What matters is that they are passionate, determined, and have grit and courage. This is all you need.


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?

  • Equanimity- Don’t get affected by either the success or the failure. Enjoy the journey that this exam is. It teaches you a lot about yourself and makes you stronger. When I got the result I was with my grandmother who was hospitalized.
  • I realized that even if the Result had not been positive, it would not have led me to be very frustrated because being in the hospital where people strive for life when they are this close to death I realized that there is so much more to life than worrying about a result. The exam is not the end , it is but a beginning of a journey. If you do not succeed, it is not the end of the world.

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

It happened to me in my first attempt. It feels terrible. But if you decide to go ahead with giving the next attempt then pick yourself up because there is no other way.  Take it one day at a time and study for the next round. Here are lines from a very inspiring song.

तेरी किस्मत तू बदल दे,

रख हिम्मत बस चल दे,

हाथ की लकीरों को थोडा मरोड़ता है होसला रे,

तो चल तेरे ख्वाबो को रंग में तू अपने जहाँ को भी रंग दे,

अब शाम है तो क्या

नई सुबह भी होगी.

Translated: Change your destiny, gather your strength and just walk towards your goal….your courage will alter the lines on your palm, so come and colour your world in the colours of your dreams. SO what if it’s dark right now, tomorrow will be a new morning.

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?

Credit to my family and fiancé. They really supported me throughout, especially on days when I was low.

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 used it all the time. I have subscribed to the email updates. I would regularly update my notes from this website. I love the crisp and logical explanations which ensure that a person truly understands rather than memorizes a concept. Mrunal’s notes on colonization of Africa, factors affecting location of industry, economy, etc. were really very useful.  Great job Mrunal!

Mrunal relies: Thanks a lot Ms.Sakshi, for detailing out your preparation strategy for general studies and Law optional, it’ll greatly help the future aspirants. We wish you the best for cadre allocation and long career ahead. Keep in touch.