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. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4
  14. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  15. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  16. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  17. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  18. GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2014
  19. Mains answer-writing?
  20. Mains Optional Subject
  21. Before the interview
  22. During the interview
  23. CSE-2014 Marksheet
  24. Career Backup
  25. Views on UPSC reforms
  26. Insecurity about profile
  27. Wisdom
  28. Credit: Friends/family
  29. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Ashis Panda

Q. Details
Rank in CSE-2014. 276
Roll No. 552079
Age. 27
Total attempts in CSE (including this one). 2
Optional Subject. PSYCHOLOGY
Schooling Medium. ODIYA
College medium. ENGLISH
Medium chosen for Mains answers. ENGLISH
Medium chosen for Interview. ENGLISH
Home town/city. BALASORE
Work-experience if any. Asst. manager, Vedanta aluminium ltd.
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures CAPF-2012(AIR-113,CRPF,TOOK EXTENSION),CSE-2013(NOT RECOMMENDED)
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Vajiram & ravi- gs coaching(is not worth the money,time waste), vision ias mains test series, psychology coaching and test series – mukul pathak
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS>IPS>IRS


fill the details here
% in class 10 92
% in class 12 73
Graduation course and % Mech engg,84
Name of college, city, passing out year Vss university of technology,burla,sambalpur,odisha,2010
Post-graduation Na
Any other professional courses Na
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Cricket& volleyball university level champion, essay writing, acting in drama


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

Hello friends, this is Ashis Panda, a mechanical engineer from the hinterland of Balasore,odisha. I got my school education in odiya medium but had an intense appetite for English literature from the very beginning. Was undisputedly first during schooling and came to lime light in the matriculation examination conducted by odisha board, though the infallibility was severely challenged during my college by other bright students. Right from my school days I had harbored the ambition of being a collector which got solidified during my engg. days. Myriad opportunities to be a nation builder along with phenomenal status and respect became the chief motivators in my pursuit of civil services. Joined Vedanta aluminium ltd. only to leave it after getting an amount to sustain my preparation innings. My preparation formally started in 2012.

My family includes my parents and two younger brothers. My father is a teacher and mother is a housewife. One of my brothers who was working as a civil engineer has left his job to start his chapter in civil services preparation and the youngest is in his final year in NIT,Rourkela.

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)

Yes, I agree that this is the age of information overload. This is d truth and aspirants have to accept it. We can’t shut our sensory organs up from incoming info. Irrespective of the medium through which it comes in. I relied on both electronic and paper material depending on the availability of the subject matter, but relied on the originality of the content. For example if I hd to read economic survey I read economic survey in original.

Whatever I read I made notes, gave a thought and made mindmaps which came handy during quick revisions.

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?

Discussion with friends,teachers,appearing mock tests etc. can keep one focused and the momentum intact. Mood swings are natural,they come and go, gossip with good friends can help. I maintained a diary to vent my negative mood states out.

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.

In my case I have never completely failed in any of my appearances in upsc. Reinforcements came in the form of success in capf 2012, then reaching interview stage in cse 2013 right in my 1st attempt. Nevertheless the road to success has been very lengthy and tiresome. Only thing a candidate should believe in is “every champion was once a contender who refused to give up”. After not getting my name in the final list of cse-2013 I did not crumble rather got emboldened seeing that poor interview mark of 113 was responsible for my failure else I was in. In my next attempt I vowed to do that good in mains that role of interview diminishes in deciding my fate in the final list. In this attempt also I ve 151 in interview still I got rank 276. I ll appear again.

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

In my previous attempt I had stayed at home. prepared the new syllabus completely of myself. Could not complete many topics. Did not attend any test series. Time management while answering the qns cd not be appropriate.

This time I completed the syllabus from authentic sources. Attended test series which was very useful. Answered max no. of the qns.

Working professional

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

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Chronicle special module
History Medieval Vajiram yellow book
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Bipan Chandra, spectrum(nothing but a summary of bipan Chandra)
Culture and society spectrum
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikanth, the hindu,ie
Economy (theory + current) Vajiram notes(hand written), mrunal.org
Science (theory + current) The hindu
Environment (theory + current) Shankar ias envt book
geography physical Ncert, goh cheng leong
geography India ncert
geography world ncert
other national/international current affairs The hindu,ie
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff India year book, mrunal.org

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

Was factual in nature. A perceptible downfall in quality as compared to qn papers of 2011,12 and 13

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?

Will leave to the goodwill of God.

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)?

Will study yearbook and Shankar ias envt. note more seriously.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Rs agrawal
reasoning ,,
comprehension ,,
Decision Making ,,

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

Was good.

Prelim accuracy

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

No. not necessary.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2014

attempted Q. correct (Expected)
GS 70 55
aptitude 60 53

Q3. Your score in prelim (when UPSC uploads it please mail me your score)

Paper 1-93,paper 2-132

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Did not prepare specifically
your regional language ,,

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

They are easy. Need not to be prepared specifically. But if you r poor in regional language read one newspaper 30 days before exam and read a standard grammar book.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Proficiency in essay to an extent is innate to the individual. Maturity in essay writing comes along with the maturity in subject knowledge. Gs and optional do contribute to essay. Opeds in newspaper,book reviews etc can enrich skills of essay writing. Robust analysis and an artistic expression help to fetch magical numbers.

My style- paper cuttings, memorizing quotations, writing for pleasure on occasions

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

Standardized tests, 50 gold in olympics

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

I’ve created a table, so you can quickly point out what you referred. Alternatively you can write a separate standalone “Strategy” article in a wordfile.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Requests while you fill up the following tables

  1. apart from your book/resource list, also comment on your own strategy after mains-2014 (e.g. after exam I realized that I shouldn’t have prepared xyz topic in so much detail, I couldn’t finish xyz syllabus topics properly before exam, I had expected UPSC to ask xyz from but they asked abc……etc.etc.etc.) [Same request for each table given below for gs2, gs3, gs4]
  2. If you used “internet” as source of preparation in xyz, then provide website name as and where possible.
  3. Since mains-2013 had new syllabus and many people relied on Xerox of some coaching notes. so If you used such resource, please attest comment on quality e.g. “it was too deep, but I did only selective study/ It did not cover xyz. OR its quality was not upto the mark, so I suggest future players to avoid it and use ABC instead…..etc..”

Anyways, here starts the list:

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture spectrum
Indian history Bipan chandra
world history Jain and mathur, ncert arjun dev
post-independence India Bipan chandra
Indian society Synergy notes,mrunal quick revision
role of women, poverty etc. ,,
globalization on Indian society ,,
communalism, regionalism, secularism ,,
world geo physical Ncert, gohchengleong
resource distribution Khullar,mrunal.org
factors for industrial location ,,
earthquake tsunami etc Searched internet
impact on flora-fauna ,,

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth,arc reports,punchi comm. Report(newspaper reading and comprehensive understanding very important for gs-2)
comparing Constitution with world Vision ias notes
parliament, state Legislatures laxmikanth
executive-judiciary laxmikanth
ministries departments Rajni goyal-pub ad book
pressure group, informal asso. Vision ias notes
Representation of people’s act ,,
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. laxmikanth
NGO, SHG etc Vision ias notes
welfare schemes, bodies IYB,mrunal,vision ias notes
social sector, health, edu, HRD ,,
governance, transparency, accountability Vision ias notes
e-governance Arc report
role of civil service Vision ias,rajni goyal
India & neighbors Rajiv shikri(for initial understanding),news paper note making,world focus important editions,mrunal sometimes
bilateral/global grouping Shankar ias note, mrunal
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest newspaper
Diaspora Muchkund dubey
international bodies- structure mandate Shankar ias note

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Uma kapila
inclusive growth ,,
Budgeting Pub ad notes
major crops, irrigation Vision ias notes, ncert geography
agro produce – storage, marketing Vision ias notes,economic survey
e-technology for famers Ministry website,vision note
farm subsidies, MSP Economic survey, ,,
PDS, buffer, food security ,,
technology mission Searched internet
animal rearing economics Mrunal.org
food processing ,,
land reforms Uma kapila
Liberalization ,,
Infra Sanjiv verma notes
investment models ,,
science-tech day to day life The hindu
Indian achievements in sci-tech Searched internet
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Newspaper,internet,vajiram science notes(all worthless)
environmental impact assessment Shankar ias envt book
Disaster Management Arc report
non state actors, internal security Vajiram material on security,newspaper,internet
internal security – role of media, social networking site ,,
cyber security ,,
money laundering ,,
border  Management ,,
organized crime, terrorism ,,
security agencies- structure mandate ,,

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Sk mishra ethics note
attitude, moral influence etc. Mukul sir psychology notes
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Sk mishra notes
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Psychology notes
moral thinkers of India and world 7,8 thinkers I prepared. Never used them
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Sk mishra notes
corporate governance ,,
probity in governance, work culture ,,
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Arc,sk mishra
challenges of corruption ,,
case studies on above topics ,,

GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2014

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

Case your approach/ keypoints
case1: your friend preparing UPSC
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).

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 15 5 5 25
GS2 14 5 19
GS3 13 5 2 20
GS4 all
Opt-P1 all
Opt-P2 all

One sd answer the qns that he knows very well 1st. then in the time remaining one can try other questions with atleast relevant lines not with filler bogus lines-may irritate the examiner according to me.

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

More than enough space available. 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.

Judicious mix of bullet and points. That sd be the approach of a wise candidate.

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.

Yes I wrote in that format,atleast tried as far as possible.

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


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

Yes,when I felt necessity

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

Pen,no time for pencil

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

I made them by hand.

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

Black pen(uniball-jetstream)

(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?

Psychology. During those days psychology was scoring. A previous topper advised me to take it.

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)

Yes psychology is good. One can take it. But don’t expect very high score in psychology. But fair marks achievable with a decent effort.

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.)

Mukul pathak class notes,printed material,baron including social psychology,carson and butcher for abnormal psychology, if you ve time go for krewick and chaplin, lindsey and hall-book on personality. Smarak swain for paper 2 is optional,u can do away with.

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?

Internet search is needed but fundamentals are very important. Current affairs can be put in paper 2.

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

Around 6 months are needed.

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

I had joined a test series.

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

Yes, in paper format.

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?

One should cover every nook and corner of the syllabus. Quality sd not be compromised as well.

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?

If you ve written the truth then you know about it. So one sd be very truthful while filling up daf. For mechanical engg. I took the help of my  friends who are doing phd etc. for odisha I read the yearbook by bk publisher. For current affairs I watched news channels like timesnow,headlinestoday, and read newspaper.

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 samkalp and byju. For  1st timers mocks are very essential. But what I ve observed in my 3 intvw experiences in upsc, real invws are drastically different than the mocks. Qns are unexpected and absurd.

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

Black pant,white shirt, a blue 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 stayed at my friend’s. I brought few optional books,my current affairs note,odisha year book etc .

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Alka Sirohi mam

Q2. How long was the interview?

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?]

Opportunities for transforming the society ,status, power and social respect are unparalleled in civil services. Ias is good means for consummation of earthly ambitions.(take in +ve sense)

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 answer.

ch- R you still working?

Me-no mam, have resigned.

Ch-solely preparing?

Me-yes mam.

Ch-asked me about Vedanta cairn deal, tax issue in that,  then asked me about Vodafone tax issue

Me-answered but was not sufficiently aware about Vedanta cairn tax issue.

M1-qns from psychological disorder, panic attack,personality types, germanwings co pilot issue

Me-fluently answered.

M2-odisha historical places,agn qns on disorders,odisha swatantra Pradesh when?


M3-why MOUs r failing in odisha,what you can do to uplift tribals,where is gandhamardan mountain,health hazards in an aluminium industry

Me-answered except gandhamardan

M4-spring failure where and how, what is hover craft, what are sea planes, how you can know the status of an engine without opening it?

Me-except hover craft answered all.

Ch-qns on dandakaranya statehood.


Ch-ur intvw is over

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?

No it was not on the expected lines. One sd be prepared for that. But was not a stress interview. Mam was paying enough attention and was supportive.

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

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

Do whatever you want in the preceding night. Don’t follow the 12 hr fasting rule. Don’t even hesitate inebriation…

CSE-2014 Marksheet

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

Prelim- paper 1-93,paper 2-132,

Mains- essay-146, gs 1-96,gs2-91,gs3-68,gs4-111, optional paper 1-134,paper 2-128


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

Will do better in optional. Will hope a better appraisal of my personality credentials.

Career Backup

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

Asst. commandant,CRPF

Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)

This year only, had I failed.

Views on UPSC reforms

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

To bring parity in the system, to create a level playing field, optional sd be done away with. Present system is arbitrary. Acting in favour of an optional in one year and in favour of other in the next.

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

If the aspiring bureaucrats of this country cant solve 6th 7th standard English and mathematics then God save this country.

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.

Yes there is substance in this argument but it is partially true. Removal of one optional has reduced the dependence on coaching walas. Now the institutions like mrunal.org have scope to flourish who provide free dedicated service to students. And in the age digital revolution a lad sitting even in the remotest corner of India has the access to internet(low speed if not high) and can browse no. of sites including yours. Can appear test series online. Can access newspaper online. I myself reside at such a far flung place but have never begged excuses. My only mistake in 2013 was that I did not attend test series…but that was my mistake for which I had to pay heavily.

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).

Yes 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.


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

Prelims can be made online to shorten the duration.

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

1.will reduce the weightage of interview.(807+83 should not happen. That is grave injustice)

2.will make one candidate appear atleast before 2 boards(avg. sd be taken)

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?

Ashis Panda is not from English medium,not from IIT or IIM, not even from a city. I spent most of the time of my life in village areas but never asked for excuses.


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?

This is very short but precious life. We should try to make full use of every second of our life. There is no charm and pleasure in life without struggle and pain. With determination and perseverance nothing is impossible. Never beg excuses. I believe in- if you win you may explain and if you loose you should not be there to explain.

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?

Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.

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?

You’ll need consistent emotional support during your preparation. In my case I got that from my parents, my brothers.

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 have mentioned already how and where Mrunal was helpful. Mrunal really saves your time and energy. Go on. your doing a great service.