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 Subject
  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

Vinay Tiwari

Q. Details
Rank in CSE-2014 193
Roll No. 250219
Age 24
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 2
Optional Subject CIVIL ENGINEERING (CSE 2014)
Schooling Medium HINDI
College medium ENGLISH
Medium chosen for Mains answers ENGLISH
Medium chosen for Interview ENGLISH
Home town/city LALITPUR (The city of dams J ) UP
Work-experience if any NO
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures IIT JEE 2008 AIR 4037; ESE (ENGG SERIVICES) 2014 AIR 50; CSE 2013 Could not clear mains;
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Joined Vajiram and Ravi for GS in 2012 attended selectively; Mains test series at vajiram in 2014; Mock interview at Samkalp, Vajiram, chanakya.
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS> IPS> IFS> IRS(IT)> IRS( C & CE)
state cadre preference (Top-5) IAS ->  UP> MP>RAJASTHAN> GUJARAT>MAHARASHTRA


fill the details here
% in class 10 71.33
% in class 12 76.22
Graduation course and % B.TECH (CIVIL ENGG-2012).
-7.62/10 DGPA
Name of college, city, passing out year IIT-BHU, VARANASI.
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Interacting with people; Yoga and meditation; Writes Hindi Vyangya; Teaching.


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Hello everyone! I belong to Lalitpur district in Bundelkhand region of UP. I did my schooling up to class 8th from Saraswati Shishu Mandir and class 9-10 from Govt school of Lalitpur and class 11-12 from Chanderi MP all in Hindi medium up to standard 12th.   I was an average student all through my school days. After qualifying IIT-JEE, I did my B.TECH in civil engineering from IIT-BHU Varanasi (The city of Ghats).  My family background is agricultural.
During the last year of graduation I was gravitating towards civil services. The underlying reason for this inclination was the kind of job satisfaction the services offer. The amount of stress, workload for my workaholic personality and the diversity of job in addition to the social recognition all went in favour of giving a try for civil services.
I was placed in JSPL as an assistant manager during final year of engineering and I wanted to prepare along with the job so as not to put further burden on the shoulders of my farmer father.
But I was wrong; a farmer’s shoulders in India are no less strong than the soldier’s.  All the credit for him to stand like a rock behind me and giving me strength to leave the lucrative job in JSPL, he also gave me a free-way in preparation for all the available attempts.

Electronic Vs Paper material

Q. In recent times, there is spur in electronic material- blogs, sites, pdfs, RSS-feeds. Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. So, how much do you rely on electronic material and how much on the paper material (Books, newspapers)? If possible narrate a typical day in your studylife. What is your style of preparation (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I’m reading, I just read multiple times but don’t maintain notes, I make mindmaps on computer …or xyz style)
I have used the mix of physical and digital world. At times I too felt getting bogged down by digital information overload. But then I decided to follow few selected websites and to stick to them only.
I did not have a proper plan of study. I was and I am a much unorganized person. I never had a uniform man-hour study circle. Given a day I did study as max as 12 hrs or as min as zero hrs. So I don’t just think but it is my conviction that these things do not matter at all!!!
Regarding style of preparation- I relied on reading same book multiple times for general studies. Though I did underline whatever I read. I tried making daily notes from newspaper but I was never successful for more than 10-15 days. So I relied on notes from newspaper made by some of my friends. For the vast optional like civil engineering I did prepare small notes having conceptual crux and all formulas. Also I tried to make notes of whatever material I read online and through PDFs.

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?
This is the cruelest question that I kept on fighting during my whole preparation years. I was much inconsistent and unorganized in preparation.
Mood swings and distractions are natural phenomenon but the cause varies from person to person. If I wasted few hours in distractions then I multiplied it and wasted few more hours. But the day when I studied few good hours then I did study for entire day. It was/is the scenario for me.
I never had any option to lose momentum for more than few days. For motivation I kept on thinking about the effort of my father and my burning desire to serve the nation.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Vajiram class notes only
History Medieval Left
Culture and society Selective reading of CCRT notes, Nitin singhania complete, Architecture from Spectrum.
Polity (theory + current) Vajiram class notes + Laxmikant. PRS for current bills
Economy (theory + current) Vajiram class notes, Macroeconomy NCERT, The hindu updates
Science (theory + current) Revised basics of general science from class 9th-10th NCERT. I would advise not to attend vajiram science classes. It was a waste of time for me
Environment (theory + current) The hindu survey of environment of 2012, Google search, shankar IAS,
geography physical G C leong and NCERT + vaji notes
geography India Vajiram notes and NCERT
geography world Oxford Atlas
other national/international current affairs PRS……Mrunal….did not focus much on current affair for prelims
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Government websites

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2014 paper?
I was busy in ESE 2014. I could not prepare exhaustively for GS. But there was a sailor in those times known as CSATL.
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?
For environment it is very uncertain. Still I would have gone for multiple sources like mrunal.org current articles on environment, search for news items related to ecology, revising Shankar IAS one more time and also reading class 12th bio NCERT selectively for environment (last 4 chapters).
No idea for such questions like Neem tree and vegetative propagation in agriculture.
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)?
Prepare current affair exhaustively as lots of schemes n all came since last year.
I would not have skipped ancient history NCERT by R S Sharma; revised Shankar IAS environment selectively few more times.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Practice 2-3 papers
Reasoning Practice 2-3 papers
comprehension Read editorials in general
Decision Making Practice previous year questions

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2014 paper.
I think most of the students suffer in comprehensions because mathematics and reasoning portions are quite easy. For comprehensions reading different writers and developing connect with different writing styles are very important.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
NO….Not at all..
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2014

attempted Q. correct (Expected)
GS 81 54
aptitude 66 57

Q3. Your score in prelim (when UPSC uploads it please mail me your score)
UPSC has uploaded it.
CSAT- 133
TOTAL – 216

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Nothing
your regional language Hindi. I was a Hindi medium student till class 12th and I write vyangya in Hindi so no problem at all.
Still we should attempt the entire paper.

Q2.other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2014
Try to write Hindi or regional language fluently whenever you get leisure time.
For Hindi students listening PRIME TIME on NDTV with Ravish Kumar can be useful as he covers current issues while speaking good Hindi.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
For essay we can read some good books having idea oriented content. I went through the world is flat and Imagining India. I also regularly read articles and editorials from mint; frontline and firstpost.com and noted down any important idea, concept and good expression.
I also wrote 4-5 essays before mains examination and got them evaluated by seniors and friends.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and what key points did you include in it?
I wrote on Tourism and Competition.
In tourism- started with PM’s 5 T concepts then outlined different kind of tourism like environmental tourism, cultural tourism and their relevancy for resource crunched county like ours in development. Then talked about various challenges like law n order, infrastructure and ended with a conclusion which highlighted ways n means to overcome such challenges and how to harness full and still unexploited potential of tourism sector.
In competition- I did not write a good essay in this. I wrote mostly socially harmful aspects of competition on youth. I regret I could have given wider perspective in this essay.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Spectrum for Architecture, complete Nitin singhania photocopy on art and culture, CCRT for literature.
I did not do class 11th NCERT on art. I regret after seeing it. I recommend class 11th NCERT on fine arts.
Indian history Bipan Chandra- India’s struggle for freedom.
Spectrum for revising the same. And NCERT 12th modern history. First 6-7 chapters of NCERT are very good. Vajiram and Ravi class notes
world history  Last 2 chapter of Class 9th NCERT on world history, class 10th NCERT. Also read Arjun Dev’s History of the modern world. Used internet for industrial revolution and few other topics randomly.
post-independence India Ram Chandra Guha’s India After Gandhi. Bipan chandra’s India since independence. Videos of Pradhan Mantri on YouTube. Used Wikipedia for all important wars and famous events.
I read India After Gandhi out of curiosity. It can be avoided but I think the social connection and social analysis of post independence India is helpful for essay and elsewhere.
Indian society Articles from newspaper on contemporary social issues.
role of women, poverty etc. Just search on Google the syllabus points with dot pdf. Read those few pdf and made notes
globalization on Indian society Just search on Google the syllabus points with dot pdf. Read those few pdf and made notes. Sometimes also made notes from
communalism, regionalism, secularism Just search on Google the syllabus points with dot pdf. Read those few pdf and made notes
world geo physical G C Leong, And old physical NCERT.
resource distribution Old NCERT of resource distribution
factors for industrial location Google for this.
earthquake tsunami etc Vajiram and ravi class notes. And G C LEONG
impact on flora-fauna Google

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant for Indian polity. The Hindu and Indian express editorials relating to contemporary constitutional issues.
comparing Constitution with world ALS photocopy for this via a friend.
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikant and editorials.
executive-judiciary LAXMIKANT
ministries departments ——
pressure group, informal asso. All this is current affair related which can be covered in newspaper editorials. Though in my previous attempt I read Vajiram’s volume 2 or 3 for mains and that was a big mistake.
Representation of people’s act Google.
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikant and editorials
NGO, SHG etc Current affair related, The Hindu
welfare schemes, bodies Schemes can be covered through Govt. websites and PIB and their analysis in newspapers.
social sector, health, edu, HRD The Hindu or Indian express. Google
governance, transparency, accountability The Hindu or Indian express. Vajiram material part 2 or 3 and it was again a waste of time.
e-governance The Hindu or Indian express. Google
role of civil service The Hindu or Indian express
India & neighbors Vajiram class notes. Vajiram’s IR material that comes just before mains is a fantastic booklet for IR. I thoroughly read PAX INDICA by Shashi Tharoor. And I give it 5 stars. It is just an awesome book both for IR and essay content.
bilateral/global grouping The Hindu or Indian express. Pax Indica and vajiram IR printed material that comes just before mains.
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest The Hindu or Indian express. Pax Indica and vajiram IR printed material that comes just before mains.
Diaspora ———————-
international bodies- structure mandate The Hindu or Indian express. Pax Indica and vajiram IR printed material that comes just before mains.

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Uma kapila for Indian economy. Vajiram class notes. The Hindu. Economic survey’s selective reading
One of my friends has been making notes from business standard. I took his help and biz standard notes at the end of month to prepare current issues relating to economy part.
inclusive growth Current affair + vision IAS print out on inclusive growth.
Budgeting Vision IAS material + Google
major crops, irrigation Vajiram class notes.
agro produce – storage, marketing Vajiram class notes+  few pdf are there on google
e-technology for famers Vajiram class notes+  few pdf are there on google+ Newspaper notes.
farm subsidies, MSP Uma kapila covers this topic + notes from the hindu and business standard
PDS, buffer, food security Uma kapila covers this topic + notes from the hindu and business standard
technology mission Vajiram class notes+  few pdf are there on google+
animal rearing economics ————–
food processing notes from the hindu and business standard + vision IAS material on food processing
land reforms Bipan chandra’s india since independence few chapters on land reform + economic survey points on land reform
Liberalization Pdf from internet + economic survey + Uma kapila
Infra Pdf from internet + economic survey + Uma kapila
investment models ———————-
science-tech day to day life Could not cover this topic. I did not like reading the Hindu’s sci tech page. So in the end read vision IAS science and tech material.
Indian achievements in sci-tech Could not cover this topic. I did not like reading the Hindu’s sci tech page. So in the end read vision IAS science and tech material.
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Could not cover this topic. I did not like reading the Hindu’s sci tech page. So in the end read vision IAS science and tech material.
environmental impact assessment Core of civil engg. I thoroughly covered it in my optional preparation
Disaster Management ARC report on disaster management.
non state actors, internal security Book on internal security by Ashok Kumar. Vajiram’s printed material on security + the hindu  notes
internal security – role of media, social networking site Book on internal security by Ashok Kumar. Vajiram’s printed material on security + the hindu  notes
cyber security Book on internal security by Ashok Kumar. Vajiram’s printed material on security + the hindu  notes
money laundering Book on internal security by Ashok Kumar. Vajiram’s printed material on security + the hindu  notes
border  Management Book on internal security by Ashok Kumar. Vajiram’s printed material on security + the hindu  notes
organized crime, terrorism Book on internal security by Ashok Kumar. Vajiram’s printed material on security + the hindu  notes
security agencies- structure mandate Book on internal security by Ashok Kumar. Vajiram’s printed material on security + the hindu  notes

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
attitude, moral influence etc. Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
moral thinkers of India and world Total 10-12 thinkers of both India and world
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
corporate governance Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
probity in governance, work culture Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
challenges of corruption Ethics class notes of Mohanti sir available in Delhi book shops. Read Ethics book for UPSC by Subba Rao.
case studies on above topics Extensive discussion with my friends on various case studies from different test series.

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 It is difficult to recall same key points that have been used in the exam!!!
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 120 100 30 250
GS2 100 100 50 250
GS3 140 70 40 250
GS4 150 70 10 240
Opt-P1 160 50 210
Opt-P2 140 40 20 200

Q. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]
In my last attempt of CSE 2013 I could not attempt even more than half of the paper!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So this time I decided to attempt nearly the whole paper with a view to write half of the answers as best quality ones and rest with whatever knowledge, idea, related concepts that I had. Though I do not agree with the filler lines concept but I would say general observations and analytical points can be written even if one has a little idea about the asked theme.
I also did not give due importance to the “word limit “prescribed in the paper. I utterly breached it in some questions and did not even reach 75% of the limit in some other questions.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
It will never be a constraint even if you breach the word limit.
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 wrote in bullet points for technically oriented part such as geography, science & tech while for history, society related questions I went with paragraph format.
Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.
I did not have time to muster over any format. I just wrote whatever was coming to my mind though due to little practice of answer writing not many random or scattered thoughts were coming to my mind. Answer writing practice is very important to this. Answer writing not only improves speed but also improves the quality of relevant material we can recall or analysis that our mind can do in those few 6-7 mins.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
I tried to do so but just couldn’t do in all the papers. If you do it well and good!!

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?
Not Applicable
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
Not Applicable
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Blue Pen. (Racer Gel and writo meter)
(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?
This is a point where I did a mistake earlier and realized later. In CSE 2013 I had mathematics as my optional subject. I took it based on the thought that I had a very good score and command on mathematics during IIT-JEE preparation. But the syllabus, approach and concepts for mathematics optional was quite different for CSE. In my opinion, it is more inclined towards abstract form of concepts which I was not comfortable with. And also I didn’t give sufficient time and attention for mathematics in my first attempt. I could not revise and practice whatever I read and I literally broke down a night before the optional paper. I got 160 marks in mathematics in CSE 2013.
Realizing my mistake and to give my career a safe road I took civil engineering after CSE 2013 result came out.
So I would suggest all to choose optional subject based only and only on their interest.
As, in my view, through optional UPSC looks your depth of knowledge in your chosen field and to have such a depth you must have a great level of interest in your subject.
Concepts like scoring and scaling seems to be too abstract with respect to UPSC. No one really knows what and how they do it. Though you may not find many recommended candidates with optional like civil engineering but I can assure you that many candidates have scored very good marks in civil engineering. It is scoring but the problem is the width of the syllabus. To be honest the way UPSC has defined the syllabus it is equivalent to all the four GS paper on one side and civil engineering on the other. As very few good scorers are there so I would like to share their marks with you. In 2013 Ashish Vasishtha (AIR 15) got around 297 marks in civil engineering optional. Earlier my respected senior Trilok Bansal sir had scored 374 and 360 out of 600 in CSE 2007-2008. I, myself, have actually benefitted a lot from Trilok sir’s guidance and due to him only I got 291 marks in optional subject. In a nutshell I am trying to break the myth which has developed regarding getting a good score in civil engineering optional 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)
I would never advise against the Civil Engg as the optional subject. But you must have to bear in your mind the implications of vast syllabus of civil engg on your GS and essay preparation. In my point of view considerable time line of your preparation would be taken up by civil engg so be ready for it!!!!!!!
One major problem is there regarding non availability of any book or material having solved questions asked previously in civil services. Because questions asked in civil services are quite different from ESE or forest, so during preparation one tends to get frustrate as he is having no support and authenticated answers. I am trying to consolidate and write solutions of all solved questions asked in CSE in last 10-15 years in a structured book format which would be useful for candidates opting civil engineering.
Another thing is that many aspirants take this optional the same way as their preparation for ESE (Engg services). The syllabus, content, important topics, approach all are drastically different for Engg services, forest services and civil services. So before picking it up go through the syllabus, previously asked questions and then only take the final call!!!!!!
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.)
Strategy to cover civil engg optional subject for civil services:
General Tips:
1: Syllabus is too wide. There are some niche areas from where questions are being asked. Try to find those grey areas.
2: Fringe elements- I have observed that UPSC asks questions from the fringes of such a vast ocean. Suppose you are reading arches chapter in structural analysis. Till you reach the effect of settlement of support on the stresses within the structure you would have lost all of your energy. They ask questions from these fringes. So be ready for it!!!!!
3- You need not cover all the topics. We can’t actually cover whole of all the topics. We can’t also just leave any topic entirely.
4- So I divided all the topics in three classes – Class A- To cover few topics completely!!! Mean it literally completely!!! I must have good conceptual command as well as fingertips formulae and intensive practice for these topics.
5- Class B- In these topics I would not go for intensive practice rather I will just try to make sure that No easy question, concept, topic, formulae should be left untouched. I will leave and do not touch those chapters which I am not comfortable with. For example In Soil Mechanics I never ever understood the shear stress chapter so I left it at all!!!
6- Class C- In these topics, my strategy were to solve previously asked questions only and do not cover topics reading whole book. In some topics you would be having a fair idea that not much new questions can be generated so even if we solve previous questions it is well and good. For example I was not that good in RCC so I just make sure that all the kinds of questions asked in RCC from beam and retaining wall are being handled and also I tried to cover code-based basic questions in RCC.
7- Element of unpredictability is there even in the way of setting the paper. So never make yourself rigid that I wouldn’t attempt question of this or that topic. Given a situation you need to befriend any topic.
8- Selecting 5 out of 8 questions in the exam is also a great art. Don’t choose all objective or all theoretical ones. A judicious mix of both works better.
9- Formulae fear- The number and the complexity of formulae are also a big headache. For this, a month before the exam, I tried to recall and write on paper different formulae of different topics on daily basis for continuously 30 days.
10- Short handy revision notes- We must have our own hand made short notes of formulae and important concepts to revise in last 10 days. The amount of stress during last 15 days is very much. There is all probability of buckling under that pressure as the syllabus is really huge…huge!!!!
11- Syllabus should also be on your fingertips. Keep in mind whatever topic they are touching it is mentioned in the syllabus. So make sure no such topic is left out of your visibility!!!
12- Make a repository of previously asked questions and categorize them topic wise- chapter wise- even sub heading or sub topic wise. It is really important. I have my repository that I will soon share with you all. But the thing is even before starting a chapter, go through all of the questions asked it will smoothen your approach and will be less time consuming.
13- Do not; do not run for number of books for any topic. Even if you do make sure you are reading one topic from a single book only.
14- Practice not only numerical from the previously asked questions but also theoretical questions. For chapters like building construction and material they really have asked some of the good theoretical ones. Try to answer them in limited words and directly.
15- This is a subjective paper. Bear in your mind that your optional paper evaluation is relative. So be better than others.
16- Use figures, elaborate as optimally as you can. Try to have applicative approach in general.
17- Some favourite topics of UPSC are to be found out. For example UPSC loves to ask from Retaining wall, secant formulae, and septic tank. Do practice them exhaustively.
18- One last yet very important point – always remember while studying that you are utilizing your scarce time resource. So make sure that the topic which you are preparing you would be able to attempt it in given time during the exam time. Even if a hint is there that how so much you study it is difficult or not prudent to attempt this topic in the exam, just DO NOT READ THAT TOPIC. LEAVE IT FOR GOD SAKE.

Book and resource list:
Paper 1- This paper will take less of your time and efforts and will give you good output provided you are very strong with your concepts. And you have covered many lesser known formulas or concepts (For ex: This year they asked Immediate Settlement of footings using influence factor)

  1. Engineering Mechanics- If you are opting for civil engineering you must have no problem in this part. No need for referring to any book. Just solve all 10-15 years asked questions and discuss with your friends. Still for refreshing old concepts refer selected chapters of Irvin Shames engineering mechanics.
  2. Strength of Materials-    This topic is really very scoring. Timoshenko for conceptual part and Ramamurtham to practice. Focus on fringe topics of bending and shear stress.
  3. Structural Analysis- C. K. Wang intermediate structural analysis for concepts and Ramamurtham to practice.
  4. Structural Steel Design: UPSC is making fun of us by asking both limit state (new code) and working stress (old code) method. That’s why this topic has become one of the lengthiest. Books are N. Subramanian, Duggal and IS Code.
  5. Design of concrete and masonry structures: I left masonry design. Covered RCC from S N Sinha and Prestress concrete from N. Raju.
  6. Fluid Mechanics:  It can be covered from Modi And Seth. It is just an awesome book. Remember to cover derivations of eulers, navier-strokes etc. As this is relatively easy so fringe topics becomes important. Boundary layer and Turbulent flows are also dear to UPSC.
  7.   Open Channel: It is one of the easiest and scoring one. K. Subramanya is a good book to cover this topic.
  8. Hydraulic Machines and Hydropower: I found it to be a class B type. Modi and Seth covers the topic. But still many times UPSC asks questions way tough than what have been given in modi and seth. So those who want to complete it try to study it through mechanical engineer friends of yours. Remember to cover water power it is relatively easy!!
  9. Geotechnical Engineering : Shear strength, foundation, and Earth pressure are frequently asked. Gopal Ranjan should be referred for tough topics for conceptual purposes and S K GARG for practicing UPSC type questions!!!

PAPER 2- This paper is relatively easy to understand but difficult to cover. It is also very scoring. Devote considerable time and energy it will give you more than expected outcome.
2.1- Construction Technology, Equipment, Planning and management:  For general materials refer Rangwala building material. For materials like ferro cement and specific use materials use internet and make your own notes.

For Building construction parts refer Sushil Kumar. For machinery and equipment portion refer U K Shrivastava’s book on construction planning and management.

For construction planning and management and CPM/PERT also I found U K Shirvastava to be a best one!!!

2.2- Surveying and Transportation engineering: Surveying was class C topic for me. Photogrammetric surveying is frequently asked area which is also easy to cover. Refer B C Punmia’s all three volumes for rest of the topics.

For Railway Engineering also I read only previously asked questions. It is time consuming to go through entire book as the range of questions are limited so just read previous questions and answers.

For Highway Engineering Khanna and Justo should be done completely. Special attention is required for Traffic studies and Design formulae.

2.3- Hydrology, Water resources and engineering: Refer K Subramanya’s book on hydrology.
UPSC loves ground water flow and ask diverse question form this topic. For ground and surface water resources, Reservoir engineering and Irrigation Engineering refer B C PUNMIA’s book on irrigation and water power engineering. Do cover all the theoretical questions of irrigation though some of them may require little search on internet. Do it. It is easy and scoring. Do not fall for questions like design of Sharda fall etc. They are questions which are not to be attempted.

2.4- Environmental Engineering: S K GARG’s both volumes on environment engineering are best of all.  In this the component of civil services is there like focus on quality parameter of drinking water, disease related items, intake of water structures etc. Focus on solid waste management is required. EIA and waste disposal also gets due attention.


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
It is bizarre that internet-research is required even for civil engg optional. Because the way they have defined syllabus and non-availability of books targeting syllabus specifically to civil services make it important to do internet research.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
YES. IT IS TIME CONSUMING. It may eat up your time meant for GS and essay. If you have not done ESE syllabus then 6-8 months are required to cover it from zero. And if you have already qualified engineering services than 4 months are enough!!
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
You have to be in answer writing or solving the question right from the first day!!
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?
Both 2013 and 2014 civil engineering papers were unique. They were different from the trend in their structure. So caution is structure will keep on changing but the core will be the same forever!!!!

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 had a study group. All of them were either my college mates or seniors.
We all prepared together for interview. We INTERVIEWED each other. Asking questions and forming opinions.
For me college graduation was important as I have not been working anywhere since graduation. But I had my engineering background as my optional subject so no problem at all. But I would advice all to prepare graduation background as it carries considerable weight and image.
Being related to farmer background from bundelkhand I had to prepare this exhaustively. As farmer suicide issue was in news at that time. I met the DM of my district, understood agricultural profile and reasons of distress particularly in Lalitpur and other Bundelkhand areas.
Regarding hobbies, I interacted with seniors and friends and tried to answer their questions. Then search it on internet. Try to get as many as possible questions relating to your hobbies.
Newspapers were best to cover current affairs. I would recommend reading 3-4 newspapers on the D-Day.
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 also attended few mock interviews in institutes like samkalp, vajiram and chanakya.
Not necessary but they are shock absorber. Also it is not wise to give too many mocks. Only 2-3 are required to overcome fear factor.

Q3. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Shirt, trouser 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’?
Friend’s Room.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Alka Sirohi ma’am
Q2. How long was the interview?
20-25 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?]
No they did not ask me this question.

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 my first interview for civil services.
My interview experience as it went on 8th June 2015 from 2:05 pm to 2:30 pm.
I reached UPSC just at 1:00 pm. Got entry and document verification completed till 1:45pm.
I was just relaxing there suddenly the clerk came with the list and my name was on top. I was getting more and more nervous as he also did not tell me the name of the panel.
He called me at 2 pm and got me seated near the alka sirohi’s room.
For next 5 minutes to overcome nervousness I was murmuring my favourite “ Aarambh hai prachand”  and “Aashaayen from IQBAL movie” song to get some confidence. Till now I have lost myself since I have heard a lot about alka ma’am and her marking pattern. Two of my close friends have also got the same board. So dreams started shattering.
Then he opened the door and called me.
I wished Alka ma’am first and then all other members.
Me: good afternoon ma’am. Good afternoon sirs.
CP: Good afternoon Vinay. Please take your seat.
CP: So you practice yoga and meditation. Tell me what is meditation?
Me: (despite preparing and knowing it well. I could not answer in a structured manner coz of nervousness) yes ma’am. Meditation is about concentrating our energy and freeing mind from multiple scattered thoughts to one.
CP: How it helps you?
Me: yes ma’am. It makes my mind calm, focused and free from unnecessary thoughts.
It also helps to synergize body and mind.
CP:  what is transcendental meditation?
Me: yes ma’am. The transcendental meditation involves use of mantras. For example meditating with the “om” sound.
CP: Which yoga or aasanas you practice?
Me: yes ma’am. I practice surya namaskar.
CP: How many aasanas are there in surya namaskar?
Me: 12.
CP: Can you name them?
Me : yes ma’am.  It starts from pranamasan which is a prayer pose.
Then there is hastauttanasana i.e. the raised arm pose.
Then hastapadasana, ashwasanchalasana, dandasana, ashtanga namaskar.
CP interrupted..okay…..
CP: Tell me what you have been doing since your graduation?
Me : yes ma’am. I graduated in 2012 and I have been preparing for services since then and also teaching students to manage expenditure.
CP: okay, and directed towards member 1.

M1: you said through yoga you control your body and mind both. How you do it?
Me: (though I have said something he has interpreted something else) yes sir. Then I don’t remember exactly what I answered but said something like it increases both mental stamina and physical stamina etc…
(He was not satisfied at all)
M1: Are you comfortable for a talk on international trade?
Me: (no option) I have to reply in affirmative.
M1: Tell me the kind of shift that you can observe in the pattern of international trade over a decade or two?
Me: (there started the disaster) yes sir. Since last 2 decades the international trade has shifted towards asia-pacific region and has challenged the western domination of trade
M1 interrupted no no…its not that
Me: sorry sir, there is also a problem. Not all trade partners have equal say on international platform like WTO ……..he again interrupted…No no..you are wrong.
(Having answered wrong two times. I was just lost. Recollected myself and tried again)
Me: ohh sorry sir, it’s not that. Countries have equal say in WTO and that’s what stalling global trade, for example the stalemate in Doha round regarding AOA. So to avoid this all now the new pattern in trade can be seen like signing of agreements like ITA, TTIP, RCEP and TPP.
M1:  Yes….now you are on the track.
M1:  so what would you call it?
Me: sir it’s kind of regional arrangement for trade. It is not possible to take all countries on board to have multilateral trade.
M1: In which one India is interested and why?
Me: yes sir, India is interested in RCEP and currently is part of ongoing negotiations with countries onboard RCEP. Sir India looks at RCEP to boost its service exports and to facilitate investment from ASEAN countries. India can also avail RCEP as a platform to improve its economic and strategic status in Asia-Pacific.
M1: what is the issue with TPP?
Me: Sir, it is US led arrangement. India, not on par with the developed countries on the issues of environmental, Labour and IPR aspects, do not find itself in a position to match the regulatory standards of TPP.
M1: Why has china been interested in joining these trading arrangements?
Me: Sir in recent times china’s growth has slowed down. It is looking at these arrangements to boost its economy. It also wants to increase its weight in international geopolitics.
M1: What about silk route?
Me: Yes sir. Silk route both land and maritime are also china’s effort to promote its export and investment in the region by developing infrastructure and connectivity.
M1 wanted to ask further but CP directed towards M2.
M2: how did you come from your home to Delhi?
Me: By train sir.
M2: which train?
Me: (I was surprised, I couldn’t understand what he is exactly asking) 22181, JBP-NZM sir.
M2: What did you see in your journey?
Me: Sir, I was thinking about my interview and nervous about it. So I slept early and woke up at destination.
M2: No….No….you must have observed something about railways?
Me: Yes sir. There was no water in the taps at the platforms in my district. Safety was also not up to the mark. Narrated the recent incident of loot in the same train. And then the speed issue, to cover a distance of 480 km it took 9 hrs for a superfast train.
(I recalled that I did not give even a single positive point about railways.L. so now moderated my answers accordingly to imbibe positive points)
M2: So you want high speed trains?
Me: Yes sir, though there are trains like bpl-ndls shatabdi which runs at good speed. Still we require speed improvements via existing track improvements on many routes.
M2: what is the speed of Shatabdi?
Me: sir its highest speed is 160km/hr though the average speed is around 90km/hr.
M2: what are the speeds of high speed bullet trains?
Me: sir, they run at around 350km/hr.
M2: In which countries it is?
Me: sir, it is there in Japan Maglev Trains, in China, in France……..he interrupted
M2: Have you heard about dedicated corridors?
Me: Yes sir. Presently there are two dedicated corridors, eastern and western, to be used as freight corridor. Their aim is to segregate freight traffic from passenger and to facilitate faster movements of goods.
M2: Suppose you have two options either to improve speed for freight trains or for passenger trains which one you do first if the resources are limited?
Me: Yes sir, firstly I would prefer improving speed on freight traffic using limited resources. The faster movement of goods will then result into faster economic growth. Increased resources can then be used for improving speed on passenger routes.
M2 nodded towards CP and CP directed to M3
M3 asked 2 questions back to back. I requested him to repeat it but even after repetition could not even understand the question let alone answering it!!!!
This was the most nervous scene of the story. I was feeling like coming out of a crushing mill. All of them were staring at me. I unconsciously asked CP “ma’am may I take some water”
CP: yes….yes…. you take it. It’s very hot outside.
M3: Ok. Are you alright?
Me: yes sir.
M3: what are the issues in primary education?
Me: sir, though we have achieved a higher level of enrollment but the learning outcomes are very poor. Infrastructure is also not adequate. We need functional infrastructure. In many schools there are toilets but not water!!
M3: can you quote any report regarding learning outcomes?
Me: yes sir. ASER report is there.
M3: what about inclusive studies in primary schools?
Me: yes sir. This is also serious issue. If the teacher is caste or gender biased with respect to students then it is difficult to enhance learning levels of students belonging to marginalized sections like SC/ST, OBC, Women, and Minority etc.
CP directed to M4
M4: Discussed a long case study regarding expenditure incurred in wedding, celebrations etc. Long cross questioning followed.
Me: In crux I replied
“Ma’am if the expenditure incurred stimulates economic activity in the economy then in my point of view it is ethical. For example expenditure in a wedding if done prudently can create employment for others. But the irrational wastage of money is not only unethical but can also be inflationary!!”
CP: How much of civil engineering do you remember? I will ask basics.
Me:  yes ma’am.
CP: Have you ever been to Kolkata?
Me: no ma’am.
CP: Howrah Bridge is which kind of bridge?
Me: ma’am it is truss suspended Cantilever bridge.
CP: okay. And the Vidyasagar Setu?
Me: Ma’am it is cable stayed bridge with use of steel pylons.
CP: what is setting of cement and its initial setting time?
Me: 30 mins.
CP: and final setting time?
ME: 10 hrs ma’am.
CP: When we should use raft foundation?
Me: to avoid differential settlement we use raft foundation.
CP: any other reason?
Me: When the spacing between isolated footings is too less then mat foundation proves to be economical.
CP: Your interview is over.
Me: Thank you ma’am. Thank you sirs.
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?
Interview was quite predictable like questions from hobbies and graduation subject. Stress is natural in UPSC interview. They did not ask any uncomfortable questions.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Just carry 10th certificate and educational qualification certificate along with your photos.
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Do not mess up with the health personnel in government hospitals.

CSE-2014 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet. (when it comes)
Prelims GS 83 CSAT 133 TOTAL= 216

Subjects Marks
Essay (Paper-I) 117
General Studies -I (Paper-Ii) 95
General Studies -Ii (Paper-Iii) 73
General Studies -Iii (Paper-Iv) 78
General Studies -Iv (Paper-V) 98
Optional-I (Civil Engg.) (Paper-Vi) 159
Optional-II (Civil Engg.) (Paper-Vii) 132
Written Total 752
Personality Test 184
Final Total 936

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
I would have worked to improve my score particularly in Essay and GS 2 AND 3.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I have attempted engineering services examination (UPSC) 2014. It was only to give my career a safe road.

Views on UPSC reforms

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 things do not matter at all. Yes at psychological level it really matters. Break these bondages. Many people from diverse background such as Hindi Medium, Low Profile College and with zero work experiences have already established their feat!!!!
I have also studied in Hindi Medium in government school till class 12th and had zero work experience. UPSC is really the sacrosanct institution.


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?
I have learnt the 3 S formulas.
Sangharsh, Soch aur Sakaratmakta.
(Struggle, Vision and Positivity). Out of these positivity is utmost important wisdom for competition.
For new aspirants, 1- develop right perspective, 2- Be confident, 3- This exam in my view is more about your reflection, analysis and thoughts. Keep developing these.
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?
Don’t be so. It is just an exam. Success and failure in it doesn’t say anything about you, your personality or capabilities. The journey is more interesting and enriching than the destination. Enjoy the phase, enjoy the study, then you will feel lighter during preparation. Stress study should be avoided. I have written two lines to keep myself motivated.
“जीवन अपार है संभावनाओ का सार है। तू खोजते चल ऐ राही बस इतना समझ रास्ता जीत और मंजिल हार है।

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 was those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with the readers?
I thank my father (Papa) for giving me best opportunity of education. He has been the bedrock support. Thank you maa, bhaiya, didi for having faith in my efforts. Thank you all the friends, teachers, seniors, juniors, IITBHU mates who have helped me a lot in the preparation.

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 referred mrunal.org for few selected articles of current affairs. I always wanted to cover current affairs from mrunal.org but due to inconsistency I couldn’t.