1. IFS Topper Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Struggle of a Senior player
  7. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  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. Mains Optional Subject
  17. Before the interview
  18. During the interview
  19. CSE-2013 Marksheet
  20. Career Backup
  21. Views on UPSC reforms
  22. Insecurity about profile
  23. Wisdom
  24. Credit: Friends/family
  25. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

IFS Topper Profile

Name Neha Yadav
Rank in CSE-2013 24
Roll No. 531825
Age 26
Total attempts in CSE 2
Optional Subject Sociology
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Schooling medium English
College medium English
Home town/city Gorakhpur, U.P.
Work-experience if any None
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
  • PMT (Couldn’t score a decent Rank)
  • Research Fellowships (ICMR-JRF, DST-INSPIRE)
  • Qualified UPPCS Pre 2013-Didn’t appear for mains
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  • 1st attempt : Classroom guidance at Vajiram & Ravi (GS and Optionals)
  • 2nd attempt : Vision IAS test series for GS and Sociology
service preference #1, 2 and 3 IFS (Service Allotted)>IAS>IPS
state cadre preference (top3) U.P. , Haryana, M.P.


fill the details here
% in class 10 79.00
% in class 12 80.60
Schooling (Medium) English
Graduation course and % BSc , 77.70
Name of college, city, passing out year DDU, Gorakhpur University, 2009
Post-graduation MSc, 2011
Any other professional courses None
Hobbies & Extra curricular Debating, Cooking, Reading, Writing



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

I am born and brought up in Gorakhpur, hold a master’s degree in Microbiology. I have 2 siblings, My father has served the IAF and my mother is a homemaker. I was always fascinated by the idea of representing India on the world platform, it’s the ultimate privilege for me. I always thought of appearing for the CSE but it was only after getting my MSc degree (2011) it became obvious that I was never too interested in pursuing research as a career and hence it was my time to chase my dream. I was lucky enough to seek initial guidance from a friend (now senior)  who happened to qualify in the same year.

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 (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I’m reading, I just read multiple times but don’t maintain notes, I make mindmaps on computer …or xyz style)

I have a habit of reading online for quite some time now, though m a firm believer that ebooks cant replace the actual ones still I find it easier to search and read e-material. So, the answer is YES, my whole preparation revolved around the internet.

  1. I used to visit blogs like Mrunal.org, gktoday.in, halfmatnr.com (for ethics case study).
  2. Maintained account on Evernote (to maintain my notes, I would just read and save links in respective notebooks. Ease of access makes it a good source to revise) and Feedly ( RSS feeds from various sources – AIR news spotlight, newspaper editorials, IDSA, Mrunal, CFR, The Diplomat, PIB etc . used to read from here then save good articles in evernote to revise).
  3. I subscribed to few youtube channels and made rough notes while watching these:
  4. for MAINS: CEC UGC (for Sociology videos and few on Indian art, architecture, history, ethics
  5. for the INTERVIEW: Rajya Sabha TV (for India’s World, Law of the land, the big picture) , Indian Diplomacy by MEA
  6. I have relied more on the internet than the books. But I don’t promote this way, everyone should choose according to their convenience.
  7. I tried covering The Hindu thoroughly, would save the articles in evernote for revision.

A typical day would begin with reading the newspaper, saving articles, reading the topic at hand 2-3 hrs GS, same for the optional, checking feeds for updates, practicing answer writing for 1-2 questions, watching videos of interest.

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 my share of ups and downs, there were days of no study too, but I promised myself to atleast complete the newspaper daily  because it’s one thing that troubles the most in backlog. To keep the sources minimal I stuck with materials that kept my interest going, for instance – watching videos, reading a less formal article on the internet instead of reading same thing from a book, as long as I could solve a question, it was enough.

It’s also very imp to know your strength and weaknesses- I can understand things really well but have problem remembering the basics and facts at times, so to resolve this I used to read things from various sources to get a better understanding, then write down things to remember on flash cards (for eg – census figures, economic datas, acts, bills, schemes etc )

I tried to avoid distractions as much as possible, but when encountered with…. used to take few time off, clear the thought, watch LBSNAA FC videos (to remind myself of the goal) and move on.

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. The armchair ‘experts’ would point out UPSC is ‘testing’ emotional intelligence of the candidate or UPSC wants to break the backs of senior players, daily conspiracy theories on orkut….…Not to mention all the emotional struggle-against those irritating neighbors and relatives…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.

I qualified in my 2nd attempt, was too sure in the 1st one (without much preparation), it was shocking and heartbreaking, but thankfully my friends and family came to my rescue and made me realize that my preparation was not enough to make it too the list in that year, there were more deserving candidates than me. Also that results came out on 3rd of May and Pre on 25th I hardly had any time to grief upon, time heals everything.

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

Lack of revision and answer writing practice for the mains, I couldn’t even complete the syllabus. Even the interview score was not that good because I was quite nervous.

In my current attempt I tried to

  • complete the whole syllabus,
  •  enrolled in a test series for answer writing,
  • practiced 5-6 essays.

All this helped me gain confidence.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient NCERT, TMH Paper 1, Chronicle civil services (CCS)- special editions
History Medieval
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Bipin Chandra, TMH paper 1
Culture society Chronicle civil services- special editions on art
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant- Indian Polity, PRS Blog, Newspaper
Economy (theory + current) NCERT, Newspaper, Vajiram booklet on economy, Ramesh Singh- Indian economy
Science (theory + current) Rajya sabha tv- science reporter, The Hindu
Environment (theory + current) Gktoday GS manual – environment, Geography NCERT
geography physical NCERT
geography India NCERT
geography world NCERT
other national/international current affairs The hindu, CCS, Wikipedia
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff PIB, India year book, economic survey, yojana , kurukshetra

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

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Cenage Learning- CSAT practice book, Mrunal articles on CSAT
reasoning same
comprehension same
Decision Making same

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

Practice, Practice and Practice

Prelim accuracy

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

Vajiram and Ravi – didn’t help much, I wouldn’t say that they are indispensible as long as you practice enough MCQs.

GS 80
aptitude 155
Total 235

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Downloaded last year’s question paper and read to familiarize
your regional language (Hindi) Same + practiced writing paragraphs from hindi newspapers to get the flow

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

I wouldn’t say that paper was too difficult or lengthy but it was definitely trickier than the last time.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

I specifically prepared for essay this time, as last time scored just 75 marks due to lack of practice. Practiced 5-6 essays before the exam, atleast tried making the framework for each.

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.

Topic : Science and technology is the panacea for the growth and security of the nation.

Started with “S,T and Innovation Policy, 2013”, and the preface stating how India desires to become a science n tech superpower in the coming years.

  1. Science itself as a sector for development
  2. Science n tech as tool for development of other sectors
  3. Brief history of science n tech in India, Nehru era, present state, scope of development
  4. Examples from developed nations and role of s&t in that – Israel, U.S., France
  5. S n T in growth sectors – infrastructure, education, health, medicine, agriculture
  6. S n T in Security – internal and external, disaster management
  7. Technology as answer to security threat and also a target of attacks, privacy issues, snooping etc
  8. Way forward by investment in RnD
  9. Conclusion by a patriotic couplet .

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
culture CCS- special edition on art, Religion from spectrum
Indian history NCERT, Bipin Chandra
world history NCERT – 6th to 10th
post-independence India State reorganization and land reforms from Bipin Chandra, 11th Political science NCERT, a general timeline of post-Independence events from the internet
Indian society IGNOU- Sociology (had to study for optional)
role of women, poverty etc. Same + newspaper+ Excellent book series GS 1 (I bought these small books for all the papers just to cover any topic couldn’t find anywhere else)
globalization on Indian society same
communalism, regionalism, secularism Same + halfmatr.com
world geo physical NCERT + GC Leong
resource distribution Same
factors for industrial location Same
earthquake tsunami etc Wikipedia, youtube animated videos, disaster management edition CCS
impact on flora-fauna internet

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant- Indian polity, vision IAS material
comparing Constitution with world Laxmikant- Indian polity
parliament, state Legislatures Same
executive-judiciary Same
ministries departments India year book
pressure group, informal asso. Halfmatr.com, Wikipedia, IGNOU- sociology
Representation of people’s act Wikipedia, visionIAS material
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Same + Laxmikant- governance
NGO, SHG etc Same + internet
welfare schemes, bodies Same
social sector, health, edu, HRD Same
governance, transparency, accountability Same
e-governance Yojana special edition on e-gov, 2nd  ARC
role of civil service Laxmikant – governance + internet
India & neighbors IGNOU- India and world
bilateral/global grouping Wikipedia, MEA website
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Rajiv Sikiri – Indian foreign policy
diaspora CCS – special edition + MEA website
international bodies- structure mandate Wikipedia

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Ramesh Singh – indian economy + economic survey + visionias material
inclusive growth Visionias material + excellent book series paper 2
budgeting Same + wikipedia
major crops, irrigation Same + India year book
agro produce – storage, marketing Same
e-technology for famers Same
farm subsidies, MSP Same
PDS, buffer, food security Same
technology mission Same
animal rearing economics Same
food processing Same + food processing act document + yojana edition
land reforms Same
liberalization Same
infra Same
investment models Same
science-tech day to day life CCS – special edition on S&T
Indian achievements in sci-tech Same + internet
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Same
environmental impact assessment Same + wikipedia
Disaster Management Visionias material + CCS special edition on DM, 2nd ARC on disaster mgt, editorials from the Uttarakhand incident
non state actors, internal security Internet + visionias material+ excellent book series paper 3
internal security – role of media, social networking site same
cyber security same
money laundering same
border  Management same
organized crime, terrorism same
security agencies- structure mandate same

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Halfmatr.com + CCS special editions on Paper 4 + visionias material + Wikipedia + interent+ 2nd ARC – ethics in governance +  book on paper 4 (local publication- had all the topics of paper 4)
attitude, moral influence etc. Same + youtube Mukul Pathak class videos
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Same
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Same
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?I read about Mahatma Gandhi and Vivekananda in detail. Rest covered from various special editions
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. same
corporate governance same
probity in governance, work culture same
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. same
challenges of corruption same
case studies on above topics Halfmantr.com + CSE special edition

Mains answer-writing?

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

I focused on completing the answer, wrote mostly in point format, couldn’t fill the complete space provided answer for any question.

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.

Mainly bullet points, depending on the question. If its descriptive, 5-6 line introduction followed by points and conclude with a small paragraph.

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.

I had no 1 best method, it basically depended on the question asked.

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.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]

I attempted all the question because my main aim was to complete the paper, for the questions I wasn’t too sure about wrote limited content mainly in point format.

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

GS (Mains paper) Couldn’t finish __ marks
GS1 complete
GS2 complete
GS3 Left the abbreviation one
GS4 complete

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

2 pens : black n blue

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

Yes, small charts and 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?


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

Mainly blue

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

Mains Optional Subject

Q. Booklist and 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?

Internet was my main source of preparation

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

I was preparing both together so can’t say exactly, 3 n ½ months should be fine.

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

Just after the prelims I began preparation of this subject.

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

Mostly electronic and few loose papers with scribbled notes

Q.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 complete
paper II complete

Before the interview

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

I had two months’ time (interview was on 3rd June). Collected all the possible questions from various books and interview transcripts, tried penning down all the answers and also practiced them in front of a camera recorder.

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?

2 mocks at vajiram and ravi, mocks give a simulation.

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?

Light colored cotton suit

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

In Delhi

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Shri Chattar Singh

Q2. How long was the interview?

20 mins

Date – 3rd June, 2014

Afternoon Session, last candidate to go


  1. Showed my photo and asked “Is this you?”
  2. You like cooking, what type of food do you like to cook?
  3. What is your favorite dish? (kadhi and rice)
  4. How many types of kadhi do you know?
  5. How much time do we need to prepare a kadhi dish?
  6. You are a microbiologist…how would you use this knowledge in administration?

Member 1

  1. Name some communicable diseases
  2. Asked questions about my fellowship (DST-INSPIRE)
  3. What steps are being taken to control TB (revised policy)
  4. Name one discovery in your field from the british era (Ronald Ross got Noble Prize for discovering Malaria parasite)
  5. Where did he discovered this parasite (Calcutta)

Member 2

  1. Some govt schemes towards welfare of women and children
  2. Do you think that these schemes have worked so far?
  3. What further steps do we need to take to ensure better success in this field?
  4. Do you support women reservation bill

Member 3

  1. Name one famous chef who recently died (Tarla Dalal)
  2. She specialized in which cuisine (gujarati, parsi)
  3. Parsi population is found mostly in which part of India
  4. Why are the concentrated only there
  5. Story behind parsi people coming to India
  6. If govt fails to fill reserve seats for women due to non availability of desired candidates, who should be blaimed.

Member 4

  1. Who was Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay?
  2. What was his major contribution?
  3. How is he related to Gorakhpur?
  4. Why did you change school after 10th?
  5. Who was Yogi Gorakhshnath?
  6. His contributions?
  7. Is he an incarnation of Lord Shiva?


  1. What is nath sampradaya?
  2. What is nirgunaya and saguna movement?

Your interview is over, you may go now.

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?

Yes expected

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

Please ensure you have the round seal on your OBC certificate, people often miss that.

CSE-2013 Marksheet

CSAT 2014
GS 80
aptitude 155
Total 235


Final Marksheet :
Subjects Marks
Essay 130
GS 1 79
GS 2 70
GS 3 94
GS 4 105
Optional 1 114
Optional 2 92
Written total 684
Personality test 188
Final total 872

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

Notes on the all the topics, better coverage of history and geography

Career Backup

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

Nothing as such

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.


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 candidates 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, high-speed internet or contacts in Delhi.


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


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

Might create difficulty for people from rural areas

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?

Thankfully I didn’t suffer much and I personally don’t consider profile is too imp as long as you know your content.


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?

Focus on planned study, as variety to your sources. Have faith in yourself and constantly find your weaknesses and try resolving them.

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?

God, family (My Brother- Anurag who stood by me in every thick and thin) , my lovely friends – have few but all of them are gems, owe quite a lot to them, teachers: it was because of their faith in me that gave me confidence.

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.

I regularly visited your website for updates, it was an integral part of my preparation. I am thankful for your guidance, keep the good work going.