1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Struggle of a Senior player
  7. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  9. Prelim accuracy
  10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  11. Mains: Essay
  12. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4
  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. Mains answer-writing?
  18. Mains Optional Subject
  19. Before the interview
  20. During the interview
  21. CSE-2015 Marksheet
  22. Career Backup
  23. Views on UPSC reforms
  24. Insecurity about profile
  25. Wisdom
  26. Credit: Friends/family
  27. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Q. Details
Name Ashok Charan
Rank in CSE-2015 662 (OBC Rank – 143)
Roll No. 0670543
Age 25
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 2
Optional Subject History
Schooling Medium Hindi
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Jaisalmer (Rajasthan)
Work-experience if any Few Months, Not worth mentioning.
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures JEE, CAPF (Didn’t Appear for Interview)
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Springboard Academy, Jaipur
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS,IFS,IPS,IRS(IT),IRS(C&CE)
state cadre preference (Top-5) Raj,Guj,Haryana,Punjab,UP


% in class 10 87
% in class 12 63
Graduation course and % B.Tech. (Petroleum Engineering) 71%
Name of college, city, passing out year RGIPT, Rae Bareli, 2013
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Untrained Singing, Listening to Rajasthani folk songs sung by Manganiyars, Vaanis of Meerabai, Rap songs  by Afro Americans, Hindi songs composed by A R Rahman


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

I belong to Jaisalmer, a very small and beautiful town along the Indo Pak border in Rajasthan. I did schooling there only in a Hindi Medium school till class 10th, attended Coaching in Kota for JEE and got a low rank and hence joined Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology Rae Bareli on the basis of that rank. Suffered several setbacks during the course including demise of my mother leading to poor academic performance and so on. My father is a Principle in a school in Jaisalmer. After completing graduation I was offered a job in OILMax Energy Mumbai which I continued for a few months which did not satisfy me of course. My younger brother Himmat was preparing for RAS at springboard academy Jaipur and he motivated me to quit the job and prepare for RAS which I did. In Springboard I met Dileep Sir who right from the beginning had immense faith in my potential. I completed coaching and appeared for RAS Prelims which got cancelled and Dileep sir then forced me to apply for UPSC which I did unwillingly but after seeing my score in the mains of non serious first attempt in 2014 I felt for the first time that I can do it with a little more focused preparation. I performed pathetic in History paper 1 as I could not complete the syllabus in limited time and had not at all prepared maps, so I knew precisely where to improve and under the ablest guidance for History by Dileep Sir I was able to do that and that’s what has paid up this time.
P.S.: Dileep Sir guides free of cost to students for UPSC mains.

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 too felt exhausted with the load of guidance being provided by various sites now a days but I believed in my own class notes and made myself believe that these are sufficient. For certain unconventional topics Mrunal was sufficient. Though I was comfortable with online reading and I did that too for certain topics in worlds history and current affairs, I certainly believe that authentic newspapers and magazines can do just fine. Youtube is certainly a huge support and I used it too frequently for whatever topic that was not totally clear. I used to keep snapshots of videos for revision rather than making hand written notes.

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?
Mood swings and distractions occur when we lose track of our studies or when we fail to do things which we believe are necessary. I also failed to do my targets in time but at those moments I used to think of the moment when I would be searching for my name in the final list in front of my parents and people who matter. The very thought of failure would scare me to hell and I would be on track again. Besides, some songs of Eminem like Lose yourself, Rabbit Run, 8 Mile etc used to motivate to a great extent.

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 am just one attempt old so cant say much about this. I believe hard work always pays and if we have raised our level to the minimum that is required for this exam, success is just a matter of ‘when’ and not a matter of ‘if’. So I believe we should make sure we have done whatever is required and fate will certainly be on our side on the day before we are overaged.
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
I chose a random optional History and could not prepare Paper 1 in time so got pathetic marks in that. I did not even prepare maps and got only 53 marks. In the current attempt I did maps thoroughly and studied notes of ancient and medieval India and that’s exactly where I improved. Marks in the remaining papers are more or less same and I will improve in GS this time.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Springboard Academy Notes
History Medieval Springboard Academy Notes
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Springboard Academy Notes
NCERT by Bipan Chandra
Culture and society None
Polity (theory + current) Springboard Academy Notes
Economy (theory + current) Springboard Academy Notes
Economic Survey
Science (theory + current) Springboard Academy Notes
Environment (theory + current) Springboard Academy Notes
Online research
geography physical Springboard Academy Notes
geography India Springboard Academy Notes
geography world Springboard Academy Notes
other national/international current affairs Mrunal
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Mrunal

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
Attempt as many questions as you can. Even if you eliminate one option, make sure you attempt that.
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-2016 (if you were going to appear)?
I would be thorough with NCERTs and better aware of current issues.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

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

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
Attempt only Maths and Reasoning questions because we can be certain in them unlike in comprehension questions.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
No. But mock test certainly help improve our approach to the actual paper.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

  attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 87 60 118
aptitude 50 50 125

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper None
your regional language None

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
It can easily be qualified with basic knowledge of grammar in Hindi and English.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I wrote a lot of essays before mains and tried to cover as many horizons as I can. Prepared few relevant quotes as well which proved to be useful I believe.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?

  1. Valueless education
  2. Dreams which should not let India sleep

I included 2-3 quotes in each one of them, covered all the dimensions which could be included, did no grammatical mistake, kept sentences plain and easy to comprehend, expression was very clear with no ambiguous meaning.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture None
Indian history Springboard Academy Notes
world history Springboard Academy Notes
post-independence India none
Indian society none
role of women, poverty etc. none
globalization on Indian society none
communalism, regionalism, secularism none
world geo physical Springboard Academy Notes
resource distribution Springboard Academy Notes
factors for industrial location Springboard Academy Notes+NCERTs
earthquake tsunami etc Springboard Academy Notes
impact on flora-fauna Springboard Academy Notes + NCERTs

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. NCERT + Laxmikant + Springboard Academy Notes
comparing Constitution with world None
parliament, state Legislatures NCERT + Laxmikant + Springboard Academy Notes
executive-judiciary NCERT + Laxmikant + Springboard Academy Notes
ministries departments None
pressure group, informal asso. None
Representation of people’s act None
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikant + Springboard Academy Notes
NGO, SHG etc None
welfare schemes, bodies Mrunal
social sector, health, edu, HRD none
governance, transparency, accountability None
e-governance Springboard Academy Notes
role of civil service None
India & neighbors Springboard Academy Notes
bilateral/global grouping Springboard Academy Notes
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Springboard Academy Notes
Diaspora None
international bodies- structure mandate Springboard Academy Notes + Wikipedia

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Springboard Academy Notes
inclusive growth Springboard Academy Notes
Budgeting Springboard Academy Notes
major crops, irrigation None
agro produce – storage, marketing Springboard Academy Notes
e-technology for famers None
farm subsidies, MSP Springboard Academy Notes
PDS, buffer, food security Springboard Academy Notes
technology mission None
animal rearing economics None
food processing Springboard Academy Notes
land reforms Springboard Academy Notes
Liberalization Springboard Academy Notes
Infra Economic Survey
investment models Springboard Academy Notes
science-tech day to day life Springboard Academy Notes + NCERTs
Indian achievements in sci-tech Springboard Academy Notes
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Springboard Academy Notes
environmental impact assessment None
Disaster Management None
non state actors, internal security Springboard Academy Notes
internal security – role of media, social networking site Springboard Academy Notes
cyber security Springboard Academy Notes
money laundering Springboard Academy Notes
border  Management Springboard Academy Notes
organized crime, terrorism Springboard Academy Notes
security agencies- structure mandate None

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Writing Practice and No Study
attitude, moral influence etc. Writing Practice and No Study
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Writing Practice and No Study
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Writing Practice and No Study
moral thinkers of India and world None
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Writing Practice and No Study
corporate governance Writing Practice and No Study
probity in governance, work culture Writing Practice and No Study
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Writing Practice and No Study
challenges of corruption Writing Practice and No Study
case studies on above topics Writing Practice and No Study

Q. Many candidates found Mains-2015 Ethics paper very peculiar and “out of the book”. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
Though I got poor score in Ethics and that may be because I totally relied on writing skills and did not study anything but I believe still that no reading or textbook is required for ethics and it should be done on the basis of instincts during the exam. Honesty and practicality will certainly yield better output.

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 163 48 39 250
GS2 125 75 50 250
GS3 188 36 26 250
GS4 200 20 30 250
Opt-P1 250     250
Opt-P2 250     250

I have adopted ‘attempt all’ style so far which has not proved so encouraging thus far. I intend to stick to ‘perfect answers only’ approach now. But I strongly believe word limit should be adhered to because it saves a lot of time and results in better marks as well. I reached to this conclusion by talking to several mates who scored better.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
‘Fixed Space’ is an illusion because they provide much more space than needed and leaving blank pages in every answer creates pressure which prompts us to write lengthier which I believe is a trap in which I was caught this year. Please restrict yourself always to a page or a page and a half while ansering.
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.
Last year I wrote only in paragraphs and this year I used a mixed style. Marks were not much different so I believe only the quality of answer matters be it in paragraph or bullet points.
Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.
Yes I did.
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?
Blue gel pen

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
History. It was best suited for me because it needs to be studied anyways in GS as GS history syllabus is not much different from the optional one. It helps in GS as well. Seniors told me that History is a safe subject and never gets slaughtered in UPSC. History approach helps in Essays equally.
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 strongly advise for History as it reduces the hard work considerably and helps a lot in GS and Essay.
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.)
I relied completely on notes of Dileep Sir in history. I read NCERTs (Old as well) and in my opinion these suffice. Just for some more clarity I found Imtiyaz Ahmed book (Hindi Medium only) on Medieval very useful. For Maps I pin pointed locations using google and used Grid to memorise them.
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?
Books suffice great deal. In world history Wiki and youtube help a lot.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
3-4 months
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
Rights after prelims I started writing answers and did it so honestly and that’s what I think is the most important thing to clear mains. Answer writing practice for history helps in gs an essay as well.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
No self notes. Just photocopies in which I underlined, highlighted and everything and these could be revised before exam.
Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2015 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
It was more or less similar. Just make sure in paper two the question from contemporary world history is attempted because I felt it fetches higher marks.

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 was certain that my interview would revolve around either Petroleum sector, Jaisalmer or hobbies because all three are very uncommon, so I totally left out current affairs and I was fortunate enough that the gamble paid off.

Q2. Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar / different than official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?
I attended mocks at Samkalp, Vajiram, ALS and Chanakya. Real interview was entirely different but I believe mocks help gain confidence. Practice at 3-4 mocks is a good thing in my opinion. Besides, in mocks you see other people being interviewed and if you perform better, you gain a lot of confidence. But it is not at all necessary to attend mocks as mirror practice is also equally helpful (I didn’t do it though).
Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
Hotel. No Material because I Knew last moment study can help in mains but not in something like interview.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Go in lower, t-shirt and Chappals you will be much more comfortable.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Blue Suit, White shirt, Matching light blue tie and black formal shoes.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Arvind Saxena Sir.
Q2. How long was the interview?
30-35 minutes.
Q3. Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too.  [Since I don’t know whether they ask you this question or not. But if they had asked- what will be your reply?]
Social recognition, prestige, reputation, attractive career etc. along with decent income.
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.
Me: May I come in Sir?

C: Yes Ashok

Me: Good Afternoon Mr. Chairman and good afternoon Sirs

C: You are a petroleum engineer Ashok

Me: Yes Sir

C: Why didn't you work after college?

Me: Sir I wanted to solely prepare for civil services.

C: Ok, what is LNG?

Me: Sir Natural gas at standard conditions has huge volume and it can't be transported economically, so in order to make it easily transportable it is cooled down to say -150 degrees due to which its volume decreases by a factor of 600. This liquid is called LNG sir.

C: Why the containers which carry it are spherical?

Me: sir I'm not certain but I believe it is so because a sphere provides the maximum volume for a given surface area.

C: Oil prices have been very low for quite a long time now and it has rendered the shale gas  industry of the U.S. economically unviable Saudi Arabia is hindering efforts targeted at bringing the prices to normal levels. All the investments of the U.S. in Shale industry have been  threatened. Do you think the U.S. would attack Saudi Arabia if it continues in this manner.

Me: I, Sir, believe that the U.S. would never attack Saudi Arabia because first, it has huge  investments in the region and second, Saudi Arabia is one of the most significant ally of the U.S. in west Asia. Besides, the U.S. is the largest energy consumer in the world and Saudi Arabia is  vital for ensuring the energy security of the U.S. in near future when the prices are stabilized  again.

C: why do you think the prices would stabilize in near future.

Me: Because Sir the factors which caused over supply and under demand of the crude oil would  reverse in a couple of years or two. The U.S. Shale output is declining already. OPEC will agree over production cut eventually. Global economy will come out of the recession. Developing  economies will grow faster demanding more oil. Their markets will be more opened to  investments and production. Trade facilitation agreement would also certainly contribute.

C: Ashok do you know what graphene is?

Me: Graphene sir is an allotrope of carbon having exceptionally high electric conductance. It is also thermally highly conductive and is used in micro circuits. Graphene Sheets are rolled to  fabricate carbon nanotubes which have immense applications.

C: Can CNTs be used for lighting purposes like LEDs etc.?

Me: Sir I've not read about it but I believe in future they would certainly be used for lighting.

( The Chairman signals the first member and he takes over)

M1: Ashok you have history as your optional subject. Let me ask you a very simple question.  What is history? Plain and simple.

(Took a few seconds to think)

Me: Sir in my understanding history is study of past events and circumstances carried out in  present so as to make the future better.

M1: Nice definition which I can see has been formulated right here by you but is it only the  study of past or interpretation of it.

Me: Certainly interpretation and analysis too sir and that is how history has evolved so far.

M1: Ashok you talked about LNG. Have you heard of IOTC?

Me: No sir I m not aware of this acronym.

M1: Something related to transportation of oil in India?

Me: Sorry sir. I am not able to come out with anything like this sir.

M1: ok Ashok. What is Schlumberger?

Me: Sir it the largest service provider corporate in the world in petroleum industry.

M1: what does it exactly do?

Me: Sir it acquires seismic data for oil exploration, drills wells, gathers data from them, provides work over services and so on.

( Looks satisfied and signals the next member to take over)

M2: Ashok Indian companies have been carrying out activities in an offshore region which has  led to several disputes. Are you aware of the region where this happened?

Me: Sir, that was in the South China Sea where ONGC Videsh Ltd won an oil block put at  auction by the government of Vietnam and China has been objecting to these projects since the  beginning.

M2: What is the argument of China in this?

Me: Sir China asserts that the South China Sea is a disputed region and India should refrain from carrying out economic activities in such a region.

M2: Is it disputed between Vietnam and China?

Me: Yes sir but there are other states involved as well.

M2: can you name few?

Me: Sir Taiwan, Philippines, Combodia, Malasia etc.

M2: What has India's stand been on this.

Me: Sir India went ahead with the project saying it has acquired it through a lawful process by a sovereign country. India also objected China on the same grounds holding that China should also not carry out economic activities in the region of POK illegally occupied by Pakistan. China in  retaliation created hindrance in the navigation of Indian ships through the region which could  not deter India.

M2: Ashok why is gasoline considered a better eco friendly fuel as compared to diesel?

Me: Sir because one molecule of diesel has more number of carbon atoms than those in one  molecule of gasoline so upon combustion diesel produces more CO2 as compared to gasoline.

M2: Then why diesel is used in so many large vehicles?

Me: Sir diesel is denser than petrol so in a limited capacity fuel tank more mass of diesel can be accommodated which provides effectively more calories of energy despite petrol having higher  calorific value.

(The third member begins)

M3: Ashok your answers tell that you are more like a scientist. What made you take history as an optional subject.

Me: Sir I felt comfortable in history and I believe history is a safe subject. History also gives an  edge in GS papers and essays. So all these advantages and considerations led me to take history.

M3: I can conclude that from your impromptu definition of history and I am impressed to be  honest. Now you tell me, we had sufficient resources in past and were a prosperous country but  now me are way behind the developed world. What reasons do you find history for this state of ours?

Me: Thank you Sir. Sir two reasons in my opinion are the most significant of all. One is the two centuries long colonial rule in India and the other is the drastic increase in population.

M3: Explain both the reasons in detail.

Me: Explained economic policies of the British and the other reason too.

M3: So the British did not industrialise India at all?

Me: Sir the developed only those industries which fulfilled their colonial interests like railways, post and telegram, banking and insurance etc. but not those industries which might have created competition for rapidly industrialising England. They in fact deliberately ruined the cottage industries we had.

M3: Ok. Ashok how crude oil is refined?

Me: Sir it is carried out through a process called fractional distillation in which different products are separated on the basis of their boiling points.

M3: Ok that leads me to believe that input cost is same for all the oil products like gas diesel,  petrol, tar etc. They why do they have different prices?

Me: Sir the most important criteria to price a fuel is its calorific value which is very different for different products of refining. Other than this the government has so far played an important role in pricing as prices were regulated. But now the government has limited such practices.

M3: Why does the government intervene?

Me: Sir to make the essential fuels like kerosene and LPG available to citizens. To promote more eco friendly fuels like CNG and so on.

(The last member takes over)

M5: Ashok out constitution has borrowed so many provisions from other constitutions? Can you name few?

Me: Sir the constitutions of the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Germany, USSR, Australia, New  Zealand etc.

M4: Ok. Do we have a federal structure?

Me: Sir yes. But Union would be more appropriate for Indian political structure as it has features of both federal and unitary structures.

M4: Which provision separates jurisdictions of the Union and the states?

Me: Sir the seventh schedule which has separate lists of subjects over which the union, the states and both can legislate.

M4: What happens when contradictions arise in the legislation of the Union and states over the  subjects of concurrent list?

Me: Paused and said I'm not particularly aware sir but there must be something?

M4: There must be?

Me: I believe Sir.

M4: What is the third tier of the government?

Me: Local Self governance Sir.

M4: Has this been there since the beginning?

Me: No sir they were introduced statutorily in the constitution by two amendments in 1990s.

M4: Why two amendments?

Me: One is for rural and one for urban Sir.

M4: How do they function? I mean where do they get funds from?

Me: Sir funds are devolved to them on the basis of recommendations of state finance  commission.

M4: Are they getting enough funds?

Me: Not really Sir, they need more share in my opinion.

M4: Why do the not get funds?

Me: Sir these are institutions which are still maturing and state governments are waiting for the  right time. They are certainly increasing devolution in a phased manner but much needs to be done.
M4: (Laughs and says) That's a fancy way of saying the state governments are reluctant in this  regard.

Me: Joined him with a smile.

C: Ok Ashok that will be all.

Me: Thank you Sir, Thanks a lot 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?
It was along the expected lines and I was very comfortable during the interview and that confidence and calmness I believe fetched me really good marks.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet

Prelims mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1 118
Paper 2 125

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1 121
General Studies – Paper 2 87
General Studies – Paper 3 70
General Studies – Paper 4 100
General Studies – Paper 5 77
Optional Paper – Paper-1 105
Optional Paper – Paper-2 105
Written total 665
Personality Test 198
Final Total 863

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
Improve a great deal in GS and specially ethics. In essay I strongly feel I can add at least 15-20 more marks. In history also I will write more answers during practice.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I intended to fight till the last attempt. I was teaching in a reputed institute and would have continued that after my last attempt. I could also consider going back to petroleum sector.
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.)
All these options were to be executed on after I was ineligible to appear in the exam anymore.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Presence or absence of optional is in my opinion not that great a factor.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
Great move for non maths background students. This decision has created the required competition in mains which was somewhere lacking due to non serious engineering or management guys qualifying prelims.
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 Mains-syllabus in 2015. Let’s face it, most candidates who gave Mains-2015 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.
Fora like Mrunal are blessings to such candidates. Besides, I believe NCERTS are the only minimum knowledge essential to crack this exam. Rest all depends upon your ability to think which no coaching can give you and you have to do it yourself by writing a lot and a lot more. So in my opinion, considering the penetration of internet, nobody is at disadvantage if s/he does a lot of writing practice. My ego point was to crack the exam without going to Delhi which many people advised me to do after my first attempt. I am so glad that I could do that and I will try to improve rank by staying in Jaipur only.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
No it should not I think. Because that might attract controversies, litigations and so on which might affect the entire process and reputation of the most authentic exam of the country.

Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Online and offline are just methods having no impact on performance I believe.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
Bring in more objectivity and transparency in interview as many good candidates suffer due to so called ‘strict board’

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?
Nothing other than your own performance and personality matters in UPSC.


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 think UPSC preparation makes a person more rational and enlightened so one should be very happy about having prepared for this exam irrespective of results. I think the competition is not with others but with oneself. If you can improve yourself to the level required, you are bound to get through. Selection will just be a matter of time then.
Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2015. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
Please believe in yourself and try to do away with your weaknesses which are certainly there. Hunt for them and your name will be there I can guarantee.

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?
I strongly feel blessings of my mother were there during the entire process. My Father worked really hard to provide us siblings with everything we required. My elder brother Lalit and Bhabhiji Lata sacrificed all they had to make sure I continue my preparation. Guidance and faith of Dileep Sir made me believe that I could do it which I believe was a turning point. If not for him, I would still have not even applied for UPSC.  My younger brother Himmat deserves the maximum of credit because without him, I would still be doing some boring and unworthy petroleum engineer job. He at the outset convinced me to start preparing for state civil services and kept me motivated during the entire process of UPSC. My cousin Siddharth’s experience helped me a great deal. My friend Vikram Barath devoted most of his time to prepare maps for me, he also took care of all non academics things for me. Sunil Hudda constantly believed in me even at time when none else did, he is a true jewel I own as a friend. Akhil Tiwari’s room was where I stayed during my stay at Delhi for mocks, he was my roomie in college and is the most supportive person I’ve known thus far. Sumit Dadhich, Tarun Sodha and Pankaj Khatri from Jaisalmer were secret motivations. All the faculties of my college including Dr J P Gupta, Dr Satish Sinha, Dr C K Jain, Dr U S Prasad, Dr S K Mishra, Dr Saurabh Mishra, Dr Amritanshu Shukla, Dr A K Chaubey had immense faith in my abilities and proving my worth to the college was also a huge huge motivation all this while and gladly, I’m the first one from the college to even appear for the interview and to crack this exam. Thank you all for being there.

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- 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 used it extensively. I even wrote an article on Disinvestment during the days when you used to hold article writing competitions. It was published as well. That was a great initiative Mrunal Sir and I feel you should continue it in one form or the other. I’ve read all your articles related to IR, Economy, Current and so on. Toppers’ interviews on your site always pushed me to work harder so that my own can feature among them someday and I’m overwhelmed that the dream is being realized. You are a legend Sir, Keep it up.