1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  7. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  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. GS4 Ethics case study answers in Mains 2014
  16. Mains answer-writing?
  17. Mains Optional: Electrical Engineering
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. CSE-2014 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Aman Mittal UPSC topper first attempt

Q. Details
Name Aman Mittal
Rank in CSE-2014 20
Roll No. 275061
Age 23
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 1
Optional Subject Electrical Engineering
Schooling Medium English
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city New Delhi
Work-experience if any No
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  1. Samkalp (classes)
  2. GKToday – Prelims Test Series
  3. GS Score –Mains Test Series
  4. VisionIAS – Mains Test Series
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS IFS IPS IRS(IT) IRS(CE)
state cadre preference (Top-5) AGMUT Maharashtra Rajasthan


fill the details here
% in class 10 92.6
% in class 12 90
Graduation course and % Dual Degree (B. Tech in Electrical Engineering  and M. Tech in Information and Communication Technology),CGPA : 8.2/10
Name of college, city, passing out year IIT Delhi, Delhi, 2014
Post-graduation M. Tech in ICT
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Chess, Meditation


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

I have largely been educated in Delhi and my academic details have been mentioned above. Apart from this, I practice meditation and strongly advise candidates to do the same during and after the course of preparation. My father is a professor in Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology Delhi and my mother is a homemaker. My elder brother works in a software firm in Gurgaon.

My main motivation for entering the civil services is to look forward to a career spanning 40 years that can provide opportunities to bring about visible change to the society. Job satisfaction and challenges along with decent standard of living are important considerations that made me opt for civil services.

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 just got bogged down by the length and width of your question. :P  Anyways, I strongly believe that good selection of available electronic material is extremely essential in the current pattern of examination. My reliance on electronic material was more than 50% during the course of preparation as going through the books to clarify a single doubt is generally wasteful of time.

Personally, I relied on disciplined study during the course of preparation. In the meanwhile, there are many instances when the pattern gets broken but it is all a part of the bigger picture. There is no set time table that I can enunciate here as I made multiple schedules. But, it is important to set achievable targets for oneself during the course of preparation as it keeps one focused.

I generally relied upon the memorizing important points in the newspaper editorial which I diligently read. Usually, editorials on a topic get repeated multiple times. But it is always preferable to make notes topic-wise, which I did for some topics that were important.

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?

Consistency in preparation is an important thing, but what is more important is that one should have faith in oneself throughout the course of preparation. I have seen people fretting over consistency and ruing over lost days rather than utilizing the time available at hand. Always remember that the present is the sum total of the past but the future will be the sum total of your present. So use your present effectively.

As far as mood swings and distractions are concerned, I would suggest that people develop a habit of wide reading and read those things related to economy or history etc. on the days when there is no inclination to study. Also suggested is the use of apps which can be read off the block any time of the day to utilize time even when partying J.  (I am not endorsing parties during preparation)

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient NCERT
History Medieval NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) NCERT, Bipan Chandra, Samkalp Notes
Culture and society CCRT, Spectrum, Unacademy
Polity (theory + current) DD Basu, Constitution of India App, Sriram Notes, Samkalp Notes
Economy (theory + current) Sanjiv Verma, Sriram( many random books, I had an interest in reading economy related stuff, even read piketty)
Science (theory + current) Relax
Environment (theory + current) Erach Bharucha, Notes on Conferences, Unacademy
geography physical NCERT, Samkalp Notes
geography India NCERT, Samkalp Notes
geography world NCERT, Samkalp Notes(if they existed, had a common geography copy)
other national/international current affairs Newspapers
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Relax

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

The paper largely focused on environment and culture. The portion on economy and polity was simple and the aim should be to score as much in these two areas. People should focus on environment as the questions are more doable unlike culture.
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 would believe those questions were an exception to UPSC. I would continue with similar sources as previously mentioned though I would certainly like to read more from the sources I already had. Frankly, I rarely read the entire notes that I bought.

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)?

I would have gone for multiple online mock tests and ensured that I properly read the solutions provided given the paucity of time.(only a month left)

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Decision Making

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

I finished the paper about 15 minutes before time, though the comprehensions were a little tough.

Prelim accuracy

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

Yes. I think mock tests do serve a good purpose as long as good solutions are provided and checking is prompt.

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

attempted Q. correct (Expected)
GS 86 60
Aptitude 74 65

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

  • GS: 101.34
  • CSAT: 155

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Relax
your regional language God help you.

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

My compulsory language was Hindi and I have to admit that the paragraphs were a bit tough. But given that it is merely qualifying, a good enough Hindi is sufficient to put you across the barrier. Moreover, Hindi is my mother tongue, I have to know it sufficiently well to qualify. So, have faith.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Try and write an essay every fortnight after the prelims. I took a test series with GS Score with essay component embedded in it. This proved to be quite useful during the preparation as a second person perspective on my essays was discussed with me in detail by Manoj Sir.

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

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

I generally focused on covering multiple dimensions in the essay. Given the time lag, I only have vague memory of what I wrote in the essay and do not want to give wrong information.

From my personal experience and analysis, I believe that essay should be more interactive, cover multiple dimensions relevant to the topic as well as effectively utilize quotations and examples from the real world.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Spectrum, Unacademy
Indian history Samkalp Notes, NCERT
world history NCERT
post-independence India Pradhanmantri TV Series
Indian society Practice
role of women, poverty etc. Newspapers
globalization on Indian society Newspapers
communalism, regionalism, secularism Personal Notes
world geo physical NCERT, Samkalp Notes
resource distribution Mrunal
factors for industrial location Mrunal
earthquake tsunami etc Samkalp Notes
impact on flora-fauna

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Constitution of India App, DD Basu
comparing Constitution with world DD Basu
parliament, state Legislatures Newspapers
executive-judiciary Nespapers, Samkalp Notes
ministries departments
pressure group, informal asso. Samkalp Notes
Representation of people’s act Mrunal weekly important topics(sad u ended the series)
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Internet
NGO, SHG etc Newspapers, Internet
welfare schemes, bodies Internet
social sector, health, edu, HRD Internet
governance, transparency, accountability Internet
e-governance Internet
role of civil service Internet
India & neighbors MEA India App
bilateral/global grouping MEA India App
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Newspaper Opinions
Diaspora Newspaper Opinions
international bodies- structure mandate Internet

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Sanjiv Verma
inclusive growth Newspapers
Budgeting Budget
major crops, irrigation Not much
agro produce – storage, marketing Learned during mock tests
e-technology for famers Learned during mock tests
farm subsidies, MSP Learned during mock tests
PDS, buffer, food security Learned during mock tests
technology mission Learned during mock tests
animal rearing economics Learned during mock tests
food processing Learned during mock tests
land reforms Mrunal
Liberalization Largely known
Infra Newspapers
investment models Newspapers
science-tech day to day life
Indian achievements in sci-tech
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR
environmental impact assessment Internet
Disaster Management ARC report, Internet
non state actors, internal security Learned during mock tests
internal security – role of media, social networking site Learned during mock tests
cyber security Learned during mock tests
money laundering Learned during mock tests
border  Management Learned during mock tests
organized crime, terrorism Learned during mock tests
security agencies- structure mandate Learned during mock tests

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
attitude, moral influence etc. Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
moral thinkers of India and world Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir), prepared whatever came along the way
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
corporate governance Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
probity in governance, work culture Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
challenges of corruption Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)
case studies on above topics Samkalp Notes(Mishra Sir)

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 Take a positive and reformist approach. Law of karma
case2: Rameshwar the uptight UPSC topper. Standard ethics case study. Listen to your heart and answer appropriately.
case3: no bribe no contract. Never bribe. Use RTI.
case4: corrupt subordinates file bogus rape complaint against you. Answer the notice and keep working diligently. Have faith in the institutions.
in  the remaining bol-bachchan type questions (e.g. why ethics important, why probity difficult etc). Be ethical in approach. Never compromise and always analyse.

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 15-16 3-4 3-4 25
GS2 12-14 3-4 2-3 20
GS3 13-15 3-4 1-2 20
GS4 8-9 5-6 0 14
Opt-P1 3 1 1 5
Opt-P2 4 1 0 5

I prepared well enough to finish the paper in time. Given the exam, it is recommended that best questions are attempted first, but there is no hard and fast rule for the same.

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

It is a very good thing done by the UPSC. There is sufficient space that allows sufficiently big handwriting people (like me) to utilize it effectively without being lulled into writing too much on a single 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.

Write appropriately as per the demands of the question. Some questions are better in paragraph, generally those with few points and many examples(mainly GS 2 and GS 3), while those with many points must be in point format.(GS 1 and GS 3)

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. Proper structure in every question.

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

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


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


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


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


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

Mains Optional: Electrical Engineering

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

Electrical Engineering. This was also my graduation subject and hence more of a natural choice for me.

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)

I endorse it. Completely. In fact I advertise it. But be prepared to work hard with fruitless years cursing yourselves for not working hard during engineering. But at the end of the day, you can go back to your college and say that the fault did not lie with you J.

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.)

Refer to Prince Dhawan Sir and Prakash Rajpurohit blog.

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 research is needed for many topics that are not generally taught in engineering.

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

About 7 to 8 months. I was lucky that my father is an Electrical Engineering professor and he taught the entire course.

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

After the prelims.

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


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?

Same. Similar paper is being repeated year on year for this optional. Given the marking is similar, one can expect electrical engineering score to go much higher.

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?

First of all, do not try to exaggerate on the DAF. My form was very simple and the pointers were thus in my zone of comfort. For the above mentioned topics, internet and discussion with peers is the best method that even I adopted during the course of my preparation.

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. They give good confidence before the actual interview. Though not necessary later, it is recommended for first timers(like me).

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

Formal black pant, blue shirt, formal tie and black shoes.

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

My home. No revision notes.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Vice Admiral (Retd.) D K Dewan

Q2. How long was the interview?

45-50 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?]

Civil services offer a career that one can look forward to for the challenges as well as giving you the platform to create visible changes in the society. It is just individual preference where one feels the satisfaction from and there is no hierarchy as to which field will allow oneself to do maximum social services etc.

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)

It was a long interview and I don’t feel inclined to write the entire thing right now. Will send the link if I decide to post the transcript somewhere.

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. In fact the interview went tangentially into US politics, Indian foreign policy etc. for a long time (I had gone to US for a competition)

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

Bring whatever is mentioned in the form. For the medical, please bring many extra photographs.

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

Be relaxed.

CSE-2014 Marksheet

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


  • GS 101.34
  • CSAT 155


  • Essay – 136
  • GS 1 – 91
  • GS 2 – 96
  • GS 3 – 91
  • GS 4 – 91
  • EE 1 – 128
  • EE 2 – 163
  • Interview – 193

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

If I was to prepare again, I would focus on ethics, essay and optionals again as they are more scoring.

Career Backup

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

Not decided yet.

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.)

Not decided yet.

Views on UPSC reforms

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

It is the prerogative of UPSC, but in my view at least the emphasis should not be too high on optionals. In the long run, it will be beneficial for the exam to be based on general studies, essay and interview only.

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

It would certainly help many candidates, but the qualifying criteria must be set a little higher so that the paper does not become a cakewalk.

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.

True. The focus of UPSC should always be to select good candidates. It is the nature of capitalist-oriented society that coaching institutes will always adapt to the changed pattern.

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).

It is partially true. Those dedicated to IFoS are at a disadvantage at prelims. But here again UPSC needs to simply ensure that good candidates are selected.

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

It would be a good idea.

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

No. The format and inclusive nature of the exam do not permit such change at this stage.

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

I guess UPSC official key should be released soon after the prelim exam. The time between mains and result should be reduced and separate exams should be conducted for AIS and other allied services so that the process can be significantly shortened. Payment for the forms of mains should be done online rather than by fee stamps.

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?

These are all unfound fears and one should realise that UPSC board members are experienced enough to look beyond such ‘insecurities’.


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?

Hard Work, perseverance and faith are the most important friends in the UPSC exam. There are moments of anxiety throughout the course of preparation. I always advise aspirants to learn some form of de-stressing activity, like meditation.

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?

UPSC exam is a lot about luck and perseverance. Sometimes we feel that life is harsh on us, but connecting the dots backward we would realize in the future that those moments are important learning points in our life. Analyse what went wrong in this attempt and move on to the future, next attempt or a new venture, whatever you may choose. Never lose hope.

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 success is 10% due to me and 90% due to the people who stood by me during the course of preparation.

First of all, I am thankful to God who blessed me with such great friends, family and teachers along the way. My parents and my elder brother were my biggest source of inspiration and guidance throughout the journey. I would also like to thank my entire family for standing by me during this time.

My teachers as well as my guides (Kak Sir and Rajib Sir) at Samkalp and GS Score were immensely helpful to me. They formed the part of my extended family on which I could rely on throughout the preparation for anything – personal or course related.

Lastly and most importantly, I can only count my blessings for having such great friends in my life. They not only stood by me, but they also gave the right piece of advise for preparation. I have to admit that I was literally counselled into studying by my friends. I know it is not enough, but thanks a lot for all the support.

There is only one specific incidence that I would like to mention. After my GATE result, I was extremely depressed as it seemed that my entire preparation was in doldrums. I could not even properly study. This was the time when I was thinking of leaving this attempt altogether. However, it was only due to the advise of my friends and family that I could gather the strength to work hard once again.

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 certainly a very useful website for me. In my view, your best initiative was the weekly overview of events. I used to study that portion every Sunday.