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

Basant Kumar

Q. Details
Name Basant Kumar
Rank in CSE-2014 379
Roll No. 631623
Age 27
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 3
Optional Subject Political Science and International Relations
Schooling Medium English
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Nangal
Work-experience if any 3 years – NTPC; 1 year – Tata Steel
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures AIEEE-2005, IITJEE 2005 (Screening only), NDA-AFSB1 recommended (AIR-18) – medical out, CAT-2011
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Brilliant Tutorials Postal for IIT-JEE
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS>IPS>IFS>IRS(IT)>IRS(C&CE)
state cadre preference (Top-5) Pb>Hry>Guj>HP>Raj


fill the details here
% in class 10 92%
% in class 12 91.6%
Graduation course and % B Tech (ECE) – 8.80 /10.00 (CGPA)
Name of college, city, passing out year NIT Jalandhar, 2009 pass-out
Post-graduation MBA (2012-14)– IIM Kozhikode
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Painting, Calligraphy, Playing Soccer (on field :P ), Athletics (400m & long jump)


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

Civil Service is a field where your one decision has the potential to influence many lives. Keeping a cool head on your shoulder, that too in a stressed out condition, is a virtue mastered by few. The very challenge of this job to take potential ‘lives-changing’ decisions and then own it, made it attractive enough for me to try to join the services.

After all, it’s an endeavor so pious, it’s glorious even to fail.

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 prepared as a working professional and took no coaching. So the importance of internet for people like me becomes all the more important. Blogs like Mrunal or sites like GK Today are mana straight from heaven. But point is to separate wheat from the chaff. Reference to previous toppers’ interview helped somewhat.

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?

‘You are only confined by the walls you build yourself’. If the very mention of UPSC is not motivation enough to keep the momentum going, time is ripe to donate your Bipin Chandras and Laxmikanths  to the nearest library and enjoy your current job / life.

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.

I was in my job, so it was easier for me to avoid such nosy fellows. But yes, keep your friend circle small and your beer cold. This exam is a fight club and the first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club.

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

I did not have a clear idea of what to study and what not to in earlier attempts. But Darwin’s theory of evolution applies here too. I came to know about the correct material from internet sites and after reading some competitive magazines. But in the end, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get’.

Working professional

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

After office hours from 8 am to 6pm (or more) (even Saturday was/is working- full day; even Diwali was not a holiday  L ), I was left with no time and energy. Still tried to devote some after-work hours every day. I made my bones when peers were going out with cheerleaders. On weekends (read Sunday only) when almost everyone was away to pubs and clubs, I used to take out a book or magazine and tried to cover up as much as possible. Holidays/leaves were few to come by, so did not take any, lest I am left with too few for mains. Financial constraints (read IIM education loan) can make you go nuts and extract the best out of you at the same time.

Notes making was a distant dream. Syllabus toh complete ho jaye pahle. What does not kill you simply makes you crack UPSC

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient NCERT
History Medieval NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Bipin Chandra
Culture and society GK today
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant
Economy (theory + current) NCERT + hindu
Science (theory + current) NCERT + hindu
Environment (theory + current) Hindu
geography physical Leong
geography India Majid Hussain
geography world Skipped
other national/international current affairs Hindu
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Hindu

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

Tricky questions inspite of being more factual.

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?

New books? Itna hi revise ho jaye..

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)?

Again itna hi revise ho jaye

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths None
reasoning None
comprehension None
Decision Making None

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

Be accurate. Over-confidence is severely punished. But with changed scenario, hehehe.

Prelim accuracy

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

No. But it is needed if you are new to the system.

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

attempted Q. correct (Expected)
GS Don’t remember

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

82 (paper I) + 144 (paper – II)

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper None – GS/optionals ka syllabus hi complete nahi ho paa rha tha
your regional language None

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

Take it seriously. To remember and then write prayaavachi of ‘kanchan’ (unless it is your name :P ) in hindi paper after 10 years is no mean task.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Three simple steps:

Step 1: Read a lot

Step 2: Write a lot

Step 3: Go to step 1

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

  1. Are the standardized tests good measure of academic ability or progress?
  2. Tourism: Can this be the next big thing for India?

Everyone knows everything. I just tried to have a logical flow.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
culture GK today
Indian history NCERT
world history skipped
post-independence India Ye bhi padhna tha? :O
Indian society Hindu
role of women, poverty etc. Hindu
globalization on Indian society Hindu
communalism, regionalism, secularism Hindu
world geo physical Leong
resource distribution Majid Hussain
factors for industrial location Majid Hussain
earthquake tsunami etc Wiki
impact on flora-fauna hindu

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant
comparing Constitution with world Ye bhi padhna tha? :O
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikant
executive-judiciary Laxmikant
ministries departments Laxmikant
pressure group, informal asso. Hindu
Representation of people’s act Wiki
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikant
NGO, SHG etc Hindu
welfare schemes, bodies Hindu
social sector, health, edu, HRD Hindu
governance, transparency, accountability Hindu
e-governance Hindu
role of civil service Hindu
India & neighbors Wiki
bilateral/global grouping Wiki
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Wiki
diaspora Skipped
international bodies- structure mandate Wiki

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization The Hindu  + Frontline + Yojna + Kurushetra + ye bhi padh lo, wo bhi padh lete hai..(did not score very high too)
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
Indian achievements in sci-tech
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR
environmental impact assessment
Disaster Management
non state actors, internal security
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 Common sense
attitude, moral influence etc. Common sense
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Common sense
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Common sense
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Common sense
corporate governance Common sense
probity in governance, work culture Common sense
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Common sense
challenges of corruption Common sense
case studies on above topics Common sense

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 Common sense
case2: Rameshwar the uptight UPSC topper. Common sense
case3: no bribe no contract. Common sense
case4: corrupt subordinates file bogus rape complaint against you. Common sense
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 Somehow managed to attempt all, dunno how. Time management?

Content matters. Don’t beat around the bush. Fillers, bluffs won’t help.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?

Enough space. And people don’t disturb you in between your thought process shouting “sir, extra sheet” and creating unnecessary pressure “itni jaldi extra sheet kyu chahiye bhai?? :O , aisa kar meri sheet mein hi likh de baaki ka :/ “

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.

Tried to answer what is asked. Bullet points vs paragraphs hardly matter, if your content is right. If you write of SAARC instead of BRICS when asked about NDB, neither a flowery answer written in para nor those 9 bullet points will save you.

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.

Again tried to answer what is asked.

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

Log, ye bhi use karte hai ? :O

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?

Hihihi hohoho (Joker laugh)

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

Blue. (‘and I thought only my jokes were bad’)

(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?

Political Science and International Relations. Pure interest in the subject.

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)

Go for it. Similarly go for Sociology, go for Pub Ad or go for Electrical Engineering. There is nothing called good or bad subject. A bad workman always blames his tools. People score all types of marks in all types of subjects in all types of exam pattern in all types of year in all types of ……….

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.)

Political Science by N D Arora. IGNOU material.

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?

Very much necessary especially for part II

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

2 months

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

Did not get time to practice much but is necessary.

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

Self notes

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?

Not very difficult if you have prepared 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?

Prepared from internet. Collected all the information about all the above things.

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?

No. Nothing.

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

Cream colored shirt, dark blue trousers, laced black shoes and a 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’?

Hotel. Some hand written notes only to ward off anxiety.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Mr. Vinay Mittal

Q2. How long was the interview?

30 -35 min

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?]

Already said in first question. Nothing more to add.

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)

Scored just 132 in interview. L don’t feel like answering. Sorry guys.

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?

For me, surprisingly it was a stress interview. Not unexpected questions but lots of pure data.

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

Bring all documents as mentioned lest you get stressed out before the interview itself.

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

Chill, unless a missed breakfast gives you nightmares. There is no amrit that you can drink and become fit, if you are not so, in one day after interview. Do carry your eye sight number data in case of glasses. And you will make great friends to fill in up for your long day.

CSE-2014 Marksheet

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


Career Backup

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

To continue in my present job.

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.)

I am already executing that so called back up plan. So risk averse I am. :P

Views on UPSC reforms

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

Big policy decisions. I always believe that if DoPT or UPSC or any other stakeholder thinks that mastery over at least one subject is necessary to be a good civil servant, continue with it, otherwise I don’t want to know what Plato said about family values about 2500 years ago.

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

Again I am not in services. So, difficult to tell whether aptitude proficiency is essential or not. Only UPSC has to decide based on inputs from various stakeholders. But whatever is decided should result in getting the best of the lot into the services.

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.

Cheer up guys, high speed internet is more than enough provided you are not stalking your ex on FB. Digital India campaign, are you listening? In exam hall, your content pays dividends, does not matter if you learnt about Harappa Civilization from a coaching institute in Mukherjee Nagar or about Gandhara school of art from an internet blog.

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).

Not much idea. Not in a position to comment. Did not apply for IFoS.

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

How does it matter? You can always tally your answers with various keys available or simply google and get a rough estimate for your marks. Know your weak areas and strategize accordingly.

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

Yes. Should be

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

Try to reduce the length of whole process.

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?

You are not trying to get into an IIM or for that matter, into McKinsey. Your profile will certainly never matter until you reach the interview stage. Waha tak to pahuncho pahle. :D. After you reach there, you yourself will be in a position to answer this question and feel relaxed. So, keep calm and prepare for UPSC.

I always say to people, if a jughead like me can, than anyone else can too. Required are perseverance and few leaps of faith.


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?

The destination may seem sweet (how much sweet it is only time will tell :P) but path to it is certainly full of thorns. Prepare only because you love reading about battle of Panipats, Nathu La passes and function of CAG. Not because that paros wale uncle said to your father that it is panacea of all ills or that you are a born genius because you topped your class in 4th standard.

But given that you take the plunge, irrespective of the final outcome, you will certainly know much more about our culture, our history, our civilization, which will certainly help you directly or indirectly in whatever profession you finally land up into.

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?

I heard someone saying: Upar bhagwan hai, neeche IAS. Beware of such people. They create unnecessary pressure and are responsible of ruining youthful years of many. One should understand that Civil service is not moksh ki prapti. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. No shame in admitting the same. People have done many great things without passing this exam. Leave the preparation if you feel it’s too demanding. Cherish your youth. Either you die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

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?

1) My younger brother, Hemant

2) My teachers

3) My parents

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 helped me in giving a true picture of what this exam is, when I was shooting in the dark. I‘ll nominate you for Nobel Peace Prize, if I ever get a chance. :P Itna hi bahut hai. I don’t know for how long you will be contributing, but while in services, even then I‘ll like to come to this site just to get a feel what is the current scenario among aspirants. Please keep up the good work. Jai Hind. Hum bulbule hai iski, yeh gulsitaan humaara……