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 2014
  18. Mains answer-writing?
  19. Mains Optional Subject
  20. Before the interview
  21. During the interview
  22. CSE-2014 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


Q. Details
Rank in CSE-2014 677
Roll No. 209443
Age 30
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 3
Optional Subject History
Schooling Medium Hindi (Till 12th Class)
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Pratapgarh, UP
Work-experience if any
  1. Currently working in IBM as Business Analyst.
  2. Previously in Tech Mahindra
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures NA
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) History optional: S. BaliyanMock Interviews: Samkalp (2), Chronicle (1), Chaitanya (1)
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS > IPS > IRS (IT) > IRS (Customs) > IA&AS
state cadre preference (Top-5) UP > UK > MP > Haryana > Rajasthan


fill the details here
% in class 10 77.17
% in class 12 76.6
Graduation course and % B Tech (75.9)
Name of college, city, passing out year UP Tech University (2006)
Post-graduation MS (2009, CGPA 8.54), BITS Pilani
Any other professional courses NA
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Reading Novels (Hindi)


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

I have been working in IT industry for last 8.5 years. 3 years back because of many small incidences I got inclined towards Civil services (though I have been a late starter).

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)

Electronic material is of great help if you want to study smartly and wish to make full use of the available time. For working professional it is much more important to use electronic materials. I have read new NCERTs completely on my phone and laptop only. The Hindu, mrunal.org, prsindia.org etc reading was from internet as well.

In CSE 2014, My day started at 5:30 AM. I used to attend History coaching (July – Nov, 2015) from 8 AM – 10 AM. In between this, I used to read the Hindu newspaper on my mobile. In case of idle time in office (Usually 30 minutes to 1 hour) used to read mrunal.org, prsindia.org, pib.nic.in etc.

After reaching home used to get a glimpse of the Hindu physical copy to fill the gap. Then tried to devote 2 to 3 hours in the night for book reading (GS and optional).

The no of hours are not important, but the consistency is the key in the preparation.

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 enjoy watching movies every week in the cinema hall. But more than that, the whole journey of preparing for civil services is so enriching that you get involved in the process and don’t even bother about other things.

Struggle of a Senior player

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.

The key is to enjoy the process and learn from the failures. Self-assessment is very important for the preparation.

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

Written Mains in all my 3 attempts.

CSE 2012: started the preparation late, just 3 month before the prelims. Could not cover complete syllabus before the Mains. Was short of 33 marks from Mains cutoff.

CSE 2013: Was short of 11 marks from Mains cutoff. Got very low marks in History First paper (57).

CSE 2014: I decided to take guidance from coaching to improve History First paper preparation. Though I got lesser time daily than the previous attempts, I tried to maintain consistency and religiously followed The Hindu newspaper and monthly CSC magazine for GS Mains preparation.

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job

If you have a job with normal working hours (9 AM – 6 PM), it is not difficult to prepare. There is enough time in the morning and after office hours to study. Then you can also make use of your idle time in office using internet. While Prelims and Personality test can be managed with job, the most difficult part comes getting leaves for Mains exam (1 week leave is needed to attend the exam itself). Ideally 2 weeks for revision + 1 week for exams is required for the Mains. I could get only 2 weeks leave for CSE 2014 Mains.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient R S Sharma/Old NCERT
History Medieval Satish Chandra/Old NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Bipin Chandra + Baliyan notes
Culture and society Baliyan notes
Polity (theory + current) M Laxmikant + prsindia.org
Economy (theory + current) Sriram Notes + Ramesh Singh + mrunal.org
Science (theory + current) NCERT + mrunal.org
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS Notes
geography physical NCERT + Leong
geography India NCERT
geography world NCERT
other national/international current affairs The Hindu + CSC magazine
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff CSC magazine

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2014 paper?

The GS paper was somewhat different from the last 3 year papers (2011 – 2013). So one thing to remember about UPSC is that nothing is certain. The only common pattern one can find is that reading NCERTs thoroughly always saves the day for you.

Q. in GS-Prelims 2014, there was unusual questions from environment and agriculture portion. If you were to give the attempt again in 2015, what new strategy / books / sources would you focus?

I found Shankar IAS Notes very useful for this portion. While I could not perform well in this area, these notes cover almost all the topics of environment. One more thing onc can add is following downtoearth.org.in website.

Q. Now that Aptitude paper has become qualifying, obvious more attention needs to be paid on the GS paper so apart from the books that you already have gone through, what else would you have tried for CSE-2015 (if you were going to appear)?

Solving question banks for each GS portion is something I would have done.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths No study
reasoning No study
comprehension No study
Decision Making No study

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2014 paper.

Now it is only of qualifying nature, not much to worry. But if someone does not feel confident in this area, one should practice for each section and develop reading habit for Comprehension section (reading The Hindu editorial will be helpful as well).

Prelim accuracy

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

Attended one free mock, scored only 20%. I feel as these mocks are far from the real UPSC exams, one should attend the mocks, only to get a feel of time management. The better way would be to solve the question banks of each sections of GS.

Q2. Your score in prelim

GS: 99.34

CSAT: 138.33

Total: 238

Mains: Compulsory language paper

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

Q2.other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2014

Attempting Essay first can be beneficial. Comprehension and grammar portion can fetch good marks as well.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

No separate study. Reading Newspaper articles helped in this.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?

  1. With greater power comes greater responsibility
  2. Was it the policy paralysis or the paralysis of implementation which slowed the growth of the country?

Do not remember the points, but I took 15 minutes for each of the essays to first formulate the structure, headings, subheadings, points and linkages between the sections.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
culture Baliyan notes
Indian history Old NCERTs
world history Arjun Dev/Old NCERT
post-independence India Bipin Chandra + Baliyan notes
Indian society The Hindu + Common sense
role of women, poverty etc. The Hindu + Common sense
globalization on Indian society The Hindu + Common sense
communalism, regionalism, secularism The Hindu + Common sense
world geo physical NCERT 11th + GC Leong
resource distribution NCERT + mrunal.org
factors for industrial location NCERT + mrunal.org
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT
impact on flora-fauna NCERT

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. M. LaxmikantThe Hindu

CSC monthly Polity section

prsindia.org (very helpful for Bill details)

Yojna/Kurukshetra (Schemes/social sector)

2nd ARC reports helps in answer writing for all the topics.

comparing Constitution with world
parliament, state Legislatures
ministries departments
pressure group, informal asso.
Representation of people’s act
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..
NGO, SHG etc
welfare schemes, bodies
social sector, health, edu, HRD
governance, transparency, accountability
role of civil service
India & neighbors Internet search + MEA website
bilateral/global grouping Internet search + MEA website + World history after second world war
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest
international bodies- structure mandate

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Sriram Economy notesmural.org (specially food processing, Economic Survey series)

Ramesh Singh (only a few chapters)

inclusive growth
major crops, irrigation
agro produce – storage, marketing
e-technology for famers
farm subsidies, MSP
PDS, buffer, food security
technology mission
animal rearing economics
food processing
land reforms
investment models
science-tech day to day life Vision IAS S&T notes
Indian achievements in sci-tech
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR
environmental impact assessment Shankar IAS notes
Disaster Management 2nd ARC
non state actors, internal security The Hindu + CSC
internal security – role of media, social networking site The Hindu + CSC
cyber security The Hindu + CSC
money laundering The Hindu + CSC
border  Management The Hindu + CSC
organized crime, terrorism The Hindu + CSC
security agencies- structure mandate Not prepared (But internet search can be useful)

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics 2nd ARC, Ethics theory portion from CSC magazine.https://mrunal.org/ethics (The articles on Conduct rules, Traps, Enquiries, Complaints and Suspension were really very helpful in tackling the case studies portion)

Apart from 2nd ARC report I read this paper only for 2 days.

attitude, moral influence etc.
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc
emotional intelligence, its use in governance
moral thinkers of India and world
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.
corporate governance
probity in governance, work culture
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.
challenges of corruption
case studies on above topics
How many thinkers did you prepare? None

GS4 Ethics case study answers

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

case your approach/ keypoints
case1: your friend preparing UPSC Don’t rememberhttps://mrunal.org/ethics was the main source for this.
case2: Rameshwar the uptight UPSC topper.
case3: no bribe no contract.
case4: corrupt subordinates file bogus rape complaint against you.
in  the remaining bol-bachchan type questions (e.g. why ethics important, why probity difficult etc). Don’t remember

Mains answer-writing?

Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 250
GS2 250
GS3 250
GS4 250
Opt-P1 250
Opt-P2 250

I wrote all the answers

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

The space was sufficient for writing answers. I just tried to use a font which could easily fill most of the blank space keeping in mind the word limit for that 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.

I have written my answers in paragraphs. But it is of not that much of value, as this year topper Ira Sighal has written in points and last year GS top scorer Neha Jain wrote in paragraphs. So it depends on the manner you can express your views the best in the exams.

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.

Usually I follow “introduction-body-conclusion” format, but there is again no hard and fast rule for this.

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


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

No. But it can be very useful in answering GS1 questions.

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

NA. Based on other’s experience, It seems that it is fine even if you draw with free hand using pen only.

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.)

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?

HISTORY. It is an interesting subject and you do not feel bored while reading the books. In the changed scenario, it is helpful in MAINS GS -1 paper as well.

Q. If a new player wants to pick this subject, would you advice for it or against it? (e.g. every senior player in Public Administration seems to be advising against pub.ad)

No subject is good or bad. Choose the optional wisely, as it is one of the factor to get a good rank. Actually once should choose the subject in which he is confident enough.

Q. First the essential book/resource list. (Also mention which one is the “Base book” for covering the theory? + Whatever comments you’ve for a particular book e.g. “my seniors said read xyz book but I found that ABC book was better”.  “xyz topic not given properly in this book, so prepare from xyz website or book…” OR and so on.)

  1. Ancient History: R S Sharma
  2. Medieval History: Satish Chandra
  3. Indian Freedom Struggle: Bipin Chandra
  4. Modern History: Bipin Chandra
  5. India After Independence: Bipin Chandra (few chapter only)
  6. World History: Old NCERT 9th and 10th (Arjun Dev)/ mrunal.org has a good collection of these pdfs too.
  7. Though I have not read (AL Basham: The Wonder that was India) completely, I think it is way better than reading Romila Thapar.
  8. This year I also attended S Baliyan’s classes for History which helped me in History first paper.

Q. 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 much. Somewhat for World history the internet search is required.

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

4 months.

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

Have not done writing practice due to paucity of time. Attended 1 class test of Ancient history in my coaching.

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

I used to write in the book/pdf file the important point of the particular page/paragraph.

Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2014 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

History 2nd paper is very interesting and can fetch very good marks. For 1st paper map practice is a must, concentration on social, cultural, economic history is more important than political history.

Before the interview

Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?

I tried to cover all the aspects of my DAF (my job profile, hobby, native place, current issues etc.). As it is said it is not the test of your knowledge, but of you personality for Civil services.

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 attended 4 mocks. 2 in Samkalp, 1 in Chronicle, 1 in Chaitanya. Though my interview was far from these mocks, the mocks gives you the chance to self-assess yourself and make necessary corrections before the D- day.

Q3. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.

Light Blue shirt, Dark Blue trousers, Black shoes and tie.

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

I live in Noida.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Mr. David

Q2. How long was the interview?

Around 30 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?]

The civil service offers a lot of diversity in terms of career. It provides a lot of decision making power and responsibilities at a very young age, which no other job can provide.

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. (Earlier some toppers only tell me their question but not their answer. I would appreciate if you give both Question + your original answers)

The interview was very cordial, no counter questioning. I smelled there was something wrong and knew that I would not be able to score more than 160 (got even worse 143 only).

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?

It was based on DAF only, but they asked only layman questions with no counter questions. So it was not a stress interview, but I was defiantly stressed after the interview and more stressed after the results.

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

Read the checklist before going for the interview. Take all the documents mentioned in the checklist.

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

10 Passport size photographs is required.

CSE-2014 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet. (when it comes)


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

Though I improved my score in History First paper (from 57 in CSE 2013 to 103 in CSE 2014), I would give more thought and time to improve this.

I scored very low score in GS 3 paper.

Personality test was a disaster, so would try to improve the grey areas.

Will dig more internet for each and everything.

Career Backup

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

I am currently working in IBM and just got my promotion in Feb this year.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.

Yes optional should be removed completely, as this along with Personality test produces a huge gap between different aspirants.

Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?

The better approach would have been to include some aptitude question in GS paper itself. Aspirants will have to wait unnecessarily for 3 hours for appearing in CSAT.

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 2014. Let’s face it, most candidates who gave Mains-2014 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.

Internet is now more important than the coaching notes and coaching. If someone can arrange for a decent internet (GPRS connection) he can have sufficient information on the net.

The Hindu and NCERTs still are very much useful in both the prelims and Mains stage.

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. (atleast that was the scene in 2013).

Have not given a thought on this.

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.

Prelims can be conducted online.

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

The entire duration of the exam can be shortened and all the issues which are subjective in nature (like optional and personality test) should be addressed properly. Writing 2 Essays in Essay paper in 2014 was a good move indeed.

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?

Determination, Perseverance and Consistency are the only important factors.


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?

Self-evaluation and self – assessment are the key. Enjoy the journey, you will definitely learn a lot from the life.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2014. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

Believe me not getting in Civil services is not the end of the road. There are many good or even better roles for you in the world.

If you are a doctor you are an asset to the society. If you are an IT engineer, you can revolutionize the public delivery by IT. Please remember each and every job is important, as all of us (whether a civil servant or not) are like cog in a wheel.

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 Father: Santosh Kumar Khare, My Mother: Usha Khare (respecting and approving all my decisions)

My Elder brother: Rajnish Kumar Khare (He did not even care for his life for my Mains exam)

My elder sister: Shweta Khare (my first guide in preparation for Civil services)

My friends who believed in me.

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.

Mrunal.org was one of the main source of my preparation and I have referred your site for many GS topics. The ethics portion was especially useful in Case studies in GS – 4 paper.