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

Candidate Profile

Q. Details
Name Akhil Goel
Rank in CSE-2015 251
Roll No. 0007220
Age 24
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 2
Optional Subject Mathematics
Schooling Medium English
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Meerut (UP)
Work-experience if any 2 years 8 months as Software Developer ( 5 months in Oracle Bangalore and 2 years 3 months Adobe Systems Noida) Left my job in Feb, 2015
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures IIT JEE cleared but rank (7892) was not good so joined NIT through AIEEE.
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  1. Joined Rau’s Study circle but left in between. History and Geography was fine but rest was utter nonsense.
  2. Joined GS SCORE for Ethics.
  3. Mrunal.org video lectures of Economics and Geography.
  4. Borrowed material of IMS from a friend for Maths preparation.
  5. For current affairs, I used The Hindu newspaper and took help from online sites like mrunal.orgvisionias.in, insightsonindia.com and iasscore.in
  6. Joined GS and Essay test series in GS SCORE, another Essay test series in Vajiram, Maths test series in IMS institute.
Service preferences (Top-5)
  • IAS > IPS > IFS > IRS(IT) > IRS(C&CE);
  • Allotted to IRS(IT)
state cadre preference (Top-5) UP > Haryana > Himachal > Madhya Pradesh > Rajasthan


% in class 10 88%
% in class 12 90.2%
Graduation course and % 9.02 / 10
Name of college, city, passing out year NIT Allahabad, Computer Science and Engineering 2012 batch
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Hobbies -> I like watching cricket.

Achievements -> Published 4 Research Papers in different publications including IEEE, Springer and Elsevier.


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Akhil Goel
I am Akhil Goel. I have my parents, an elder sister and an elder brother in my family. My father is a Stenographer in Education Department in Meerut (UP) and my mother is a housewife. Despite being in a simple job, my father’s dreams were high and he wanted his children to achieve the highest level in education. That manifested in my sister becoming a Chartered Accountant (approx. 12 years back) and my brother becoming an IES officer (2010 batch currently working in Indian Railways). For me, my parents, especially my father wanted me to go for civils but I was hesitant because of the uncertainties civil services offer. After my B.Tech got completed in 2012, I started working as a software developer (initially in Oracle and then in Adobe). The job was lucrative but my dissatisfaction in the job increased year after year. There were multiple reasons. First, the work that I was doing, though technically sound, had little impact in the software world. Second, news of social unrest, corruption came up everyday and people in office including me did nothing but have a discussion which looked nothing but gossip to me. This frustrated me to a great extent. I wanted to do something, so that my work has some impact on people and I can do much more than just “discuss” issues. Civil services offered this but again I never thought I will be able to make it and the dilemma of leaving a lucrative job also crept in. In the midst of it, my father helped me through. He told me “If you don’t take risk now, you will regret latter. If you fail in the effort, you will atleast have a satisfaction that you tried.” Secondly, my brother was also preparing, so his guidance also helped me take a decision to go for it. I read the basic books while working in the office and in Feb 2015, I left my job to prepare full time. I was lucky and got selected.

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)
In today’s time, electronic material is very significant in civil services. For my GS mains preparation, I relied majorly on electronic material. So, for culture I would search answers to previous year questions. Economics and Geography were done via Mrunal youtube videos. Current affairs/articles from various sources online. I practiced Ethics case studies online itself. So, there is a significant usage of electronic material.
Having said that basic books also has a significant role especially in prelims. So, a Laxmikant or a Spectrum, NCERTs for Geography, history etc. are of great importance.
Regarding Notes making, I am not fond of making notes. I read newspaper daily and search for some unknown stuff online and when I read the monthly current affairs compilation of some institute, I use to highlight important information in the PDFs itself. Otherwise, I found notes making highly time consuming.
I relied on fixed material of every subject and read that material multiple times rather than to find more material and not being able to finish them. It is tough to describe a typical day in my study life because I seldom bound myself with a plan.

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?
It is quite normal to feel frustrated, dejected and depressed while preparation. With me, it happened whenever I wasted a day without study or when I got less marks in some test paper.
In those situation, I had to motivate myself by setting a small target of say 10 days. So, I would list down the sources I would complete in those 10 days and at the end of it, test myself with some questions. This helped me in getting my momentum back.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old NCERT class 6
History Medieval Old NCERT class 7
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum
Culture and society Nitin Singhaniya’s Notes,
GKToday PDF shared by Gaurav Aggarwal sir on his blog
Checked out culture questions on GKToday site.
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant for theory, Read some bills on PRS website and majorly covered current from Newspaper.
Economy (theory + current) Mrunal’s Youtube videos for everything.
Science (theory + current) NCERT from 6th -10th standard. For current, read the VisionIAS science compilation.
Environment (theory + current) NCERT, GKToday PDFs for environment (6 in number) for theory. Mrunal.org and GkToday for current.
geography physical Mrunal’s Youtube videos on Geography. NCERT from 6th to 12th and G C Leong
geography India -do-
geography world -do-
other national/international current affairs Mainly from newspaper and random search online.
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff -do-

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
Prelims 2015 was a sub-standard paper. It had lots of static/factual questions which are not expected looking at the standards set by UPSC. This was the reason for high cutoff for prelims this year. In the last 2 years, the analytical questions have declined which simply means that one has to start cramming the factual stuff more in the future papers.
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 did not read monthly current affairs compilations properly before prelims and relied solely on newspaper for current affairs. This was a big mistake I committed. So, this time around I would be focusing on the current affairs compilations more. In addition, I would be focusing more on solving test papers so that I could find lacunas in my preparation and work on that.

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths -nothing-
reasoning -nothing-
comprehension -nothing-
Decision Making -nothing-

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
The paper is redundant now with 33% qualifying marks.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? Do you think they’re necessary for success?
I did not formally join any test series for prelims but solved 10-12 papers which I bought from the market itself. Yes, I think practicing papers before prelims is important especially now when there is only one exam which is deciding your fate. Also, institutes are more inclined to ask factual questions in their test series. So, looking at the trend of prelims exam, these test papers are useful.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

  attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 85 64 114
aptitude 78 67 158.66

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Solved last 2 years papers
your regional language Hindi. Solved last 2 years papers

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
For people from English medium, English paper is a cakewalk. I faced some difficulty in Hindi paper w.r.t synonyms and English to Hindi conversion. 25% is the qualifying marks, so there is nothing much to worry about. But, to be on a safer side, just attempt few papers before the exams.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I joined 2 test series, one in Vajiram and other in GS SCORE institutes for two evaluation of my essay and practice.  I had no idea of how to approach essays, so I had to write more essays to understand. Unfortunately, due to some constraints, I could write only 5 tests (9 essays) which I think was the main reason for less marks in my essay.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and what key points did you include in it?
Section A – Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man more clever devil.
I divided the essay in 3 dimensions.

  • Why the education, even without values, is required -> Discussion in this dimension was around the increasing use of technology, higher demand for goods and services leads to the need for more technically “skilled” people who can fulfil the demands. And for providing the requisite skills, one need to be educated.
  • How is today’s education creating clever devil -> Discussion focused on lack of values in education. Quoted examples of terrorists.
  • What amendments are needed to fix the existing system? – Few points on education reform and the need of value education from the school level.

Section B – Technology cannot replace manpower.
My discussion primarily in this essay was to prove that with the introduction of technology, few jobs may be affected in the short term but ultimately provides higher employment in the long run.
I divided the essay in multiple paragraphs. Each paragraph dealt with a specific field say agriculture, defence, industrial etc. Each paragraph tried to prove the same point.

My Analysis of my essays -> I lacked the practice of writing philosophical essays, so I took a lot of time in my 1st essay. I had a strong hold in 2nd essay but since I was left with very less time, I could not justify my writing in the 2nd essay. In future, I would practice more essays and try to manage my time properly.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

In GS1, the main method of preparation was going through the previous 25 years History optional questions and searching online for some questions online. So, the sources for History, Geography remained the same but for history, previous year questions played a major role in strengthening the subject.

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Nitin Singhaniya Notes, GKToday PDF for culture, Class 6th and 7th old history NCERT.
Indian history Spectrum.
world history VisionIAS world history compilation.
post-independence India VisionIAS post-independence compilation.
Indian society Relied on newspaper.
role of women, poverty etc. -do-
globalization on Indian society -do-
communalism, regionalism, secularism -do-
world geo physical Rajtanil mam’s Youtube lectures, G C Leong
resource distribution Rajtanil mam’s Youtube lectures
factors for industrial location Mrunal’s article on industrial location.
earthquake tsunami etc Rajtanil mam’s Youtube lectures
impact on flora-fauna N0 specific source.

General studies (Mains) paper 2

In GS2, I did not prepare anything specifically as most of the subject gets covered with newpaper. For some topics, I went through some web searches. The biggest mistake in this year GS2 paper that I committed was not going through the provisions of the acts in news. Hence, very low marks in GS2.

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant
comparing Constitution with world Did not prepare.
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikant
executive-judiciary Laxmikant, some newspaper articles on separation of power.
ministries departments Did not prepare.
pressure group, informal asso. VisionIAS PDF on pressure group
Representation of people’s act VisionIAS PDF on RPA
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikant.
NGO, SHG etc VisionIAS PDF
welfare schemes, bodies GS SCORE compilation release a month before mains.
social sector, health, edu, HRD Mrunal Youtube Videos and GS SCORE compilation
governance, transparency, accountability No specific preparation.
e-governance No specific preparation.
role of civil service No specific preparation.
India & neighbors GS SCORE compilation for Internation Relations
bilateral/global grouping -do-
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest -do-
Diaspora -do-
international bodies- structure mandate Mrunal’s articles.

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

In GS3, for economics I majorly relied on Mrunal’s lectures and GS SCORE compilation a month before mains. For science, I relied on newspaper and for other topics, I had GS SCORE compilation like for internal security. J

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal’s Youtube lectures
inclusive growth Not prepared specifically.
Budgeting Mrunal’s Youtube lectures
major crops, irrigation Covered in Geography
agro produce – storage, marketing Mrunal’s Youtube lectures
e-technology for famers Mrunal’s Youtube lectures
farm subsidies, MSP Mrunal’s Youtube lectures
PDS, buffer, food security Mrunal’s Youtube lectures
technology mission Not prepared specifically.
animal rearing economics -do-
food processing Mrunal’s Youtube lectures
land reforms Covered in Post-independence.
Liberalization Mrunal’s Youtube lectures
Infra -do-
investment models Did not prepare.
science-tech day to day life VisionIAS science section in monthly current compilation.
Indian achievements in sci-tech Relied on newpaper.
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR -do-
environmental impact assessment -do-
Disaster Management VisionIAS PDF on DM.
non state actors, internal security GS SCORE compilation
internal security – role of media, social networking site -do-
cyber security -do-
money laundering -do-
border  Management -do-
organized crime, terrorism -do-
security agencies- structure mandate -do-

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics GS Score coaching material
attitude, moral influence etc. -do-
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc -do-
emotional intelligence, its use in governance -do-
moral thinkers of India and world -do- (Approx 10 thinkers)
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. -do-
corporate governance -do-
probity in governance, work culture -do-
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. -do-
challenges of corruption -do-
case studies on above topics -do-

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?
In Ethics paper, mostly I depended on my own instincts and answer writing. In this paper, most of the time one has to think and make the answer rather than using prior factual knowledge, so it is important that candidates have a good practice of this paper.
I attempted case studies first always because that required the most thinking and so in the initial period, one has cool head to think patiently.
For future aspirants, I would suggest to read any basic book or material from coaching and go for answer writing. Also, to practice case studies, one can take help from “insightsonindia” website.

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       19
GS2       18
GS3       16
GS4       Left one 5 marker
Opt-P1       182 marks correct attempt
Opt-P2       178 marks correct attempt

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]
My approach was to attempt the maximum number of questions without focusing much on quality. The reason for this was that I relied a lot on my optional i.e. Mathematics. I needed average marks in GS to qualify. There were few questions which I didn’t have any idea. I did not waste time in that and just crossed the question and moved forward.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Experience of fixed space was pleasant. You don’t have the fear of writing an answer at a wrong place and the space given is more than enough.
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 tried to answer most of my questions in point format in GS1, GS2 and GS3. This is because, it gives objectivity to my answer writing. For ethics, I followed paragraph format since I had to elaborate on a single point.
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 tried to follow this format in the initial 2 hours of every paper. But in the last hour, when I had to speed up to finish my paper, I skipped the intro part and directly wrote the points.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Not even a single one. (I was short on time. I wanted to make some diagrams in Geography.)
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
NA (Would have used pen only.)
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?
NA (Would have made without using ruler.)
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Blue Pen.

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
My optional subject was Mathematics. I preferred Maths because I did not have enough confidence to read a theory subject in detail. Moreover, I like Maths and most of the syllabus was already covered in my Engineering days.
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)
Maths is a dangerous subject for civils. I can only list positives and negatives of Maths optional.
– Truthful preparation of Maths offer minimum 240-250 marks.
– Material is static. You just have to finish a bundle of books/material and no current affairs involved.
– One can easily gauge the weakness in preparation and work accordingly.
– Extra hard work offer extra marks which is not guaranteed in subjective optionals.
– No need of Coaching.

  • Takes a lot of time to prepare and practice. First timer may have to spend 50%-60% of his preparation time to Maths.
  • No advantage in other subjects which is present in subjective optional.
  • Since time left for other subjects is less, so GS subjects may get compromised.
  • Scaling is on higher side. You may have “correctly” attempted questions worth 400 marks out of 500 but still you may get 260. Step marking in correctly attempted questions are also important.

One should judge himself/herself whether they can overcome the negatives and choose the subject accordingly.
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 borrowed the material of IMS institute in Delhi from a friend and studied that material myself. Believe me, if you can properly finish this material and practice the questions in it multiple times, one can score as high as 300.
The material doesn’t cover 2 topics properly. One is Fluid dynamics/Mechanics and the other is Statics/Dynamics. I read very few topics of Fluid and Mechanics. For Statics and Dynamics, I read the Krishna series books.
To practice more questions of Ordinary Differential Equations and Partial Differential Equations, I bought S. Chand book by M D Raisinghania.
If one wants to solve more questions, you can refer to this (https://prakashrajpurohit.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/mathematics-book-list/ ) booklist shared by Prakash Rajpurohit sir (Rank 2, CSE 2009).
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?
No current affairs involved. For some concepts, one can look for Maths lecture videos of IIT professors but that is also required at a minimum level. Material is good enough to cover most of the concepts.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
It takes 3-4 months to finish core syllabus of Maths. But, the biggest part is practice. One must practice the questions on a regular basis to be competitive. So, if you are preparing for 12 months, 6-7 months will solely be taken by Mathematics.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
I joined two test series of the same institute. One before prelims and other after prelims. So, in reality I started taking tests 4 months before prelims. I gave about 25 subjective tests before appearing in mains examination.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
For each chapter of mathematics, I wrote down the formulas on A4 sheet. I have about 40 pages of formula sheets which I revised every time I gave any test.
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?
This year Maths paper was definitely a bit tough than last year. The paper was lengthy too as some questions worth 6 marks and 7 marks were asked which usually are asked in 10-15 marks range. Questions from topic like Fluid/Mechanics were asked extensively this year which people usually skip. So, this year I would like to focus a bit more on Mechanics and focus more on solving questions as quickly as possible through test papers.

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?
My interview preparation was quite normal. I did not have to dig deep into anything as whatever I wrote in my DAF was extremely truthful. I divided my DAF into different sections which were Home town, State info, college and grad subject, work-ex, Hobbies, Achievements, optional and general questions.
For home town and State related info, I read the wiki page about Meerut and UP. Then I searched for major problems plaguing Meerut and UP and what could be the solutions to those problems.
My grad subject was Computer Science and I had worked in software development for about 3 years, so I actually didn’t study much about Computer Science because most of the topics were fresh in my mind.
My interests were cricket and computer programming. For cricket, I looked for as much factual information as I could get from wiki pages. It ranged from domestic tournaments to international and club cricket. I also kept in touch with the ongoing tournaments. For computer programming, I didn’t do anything as it is all about logic.
In achievements, I had published 4 research papers and got merit scholarship from CBSE. I knew about my research paper. I just had to work on how to explain my work to a layman. So, for that I tried explaining my work to some of the friends who were not from Comp science field and took feedback whether they were able to understand it or not.
I had Mathematics optional, so I had to read about ancient mathematicians, Vedic Maths, awards in Maths field like Fields’ medal and Turing award, modern mathematician like Ramanujam etc.
For general questions, I made a list of about 50-70 questions and tried to answer myself first and rephrase the language of the answers to look good.
I did not burden myself to revise current affairs as I wanted to remain calm and compose till the interview. I trusted myself to answer questions on current issues.
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 Interview Guidance Program in Samkalp institute in Delhi. I gave 2 mock tests there. Attending mock tests were important as I gained confidence which is the utmost requirement in the interview process. Mock tests were a bit different from official interview as there were just 3 members in the mock panel. Their presence also looked informal in nature, so I did not feel jittery not even for a moment in mock interviews but the official interview was damn serious and all the 5 panelists remained poker faced throughout the interview making me feel like they don’t understand what I was saying. :P
Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
I was living in Delhi itself for the preparation of next attempt. So, on the day of the interview, my parents came from Meerut early morning to pick me up for UPSC.
I did not take a single source before the interview. I just wanted to remain as calm as possible.
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Just go through the requirements for “fit” status given by DoPT online. I was declared temporarily unfit due to High BP which I could have easily avoided in case I had checked my BP before. It is an unnecessary trouble one has to take as you have to go for re-medical. So, just check for the requirements and verify that you fit those requirements before going for medical.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
I wore an off-white shirt, blue tie, black trouser and a coat.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Dr. Hem Chandra Gupta sir.
Q2. How long was the interview?
About 25 mins.
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?]
A civil servant is provided with wide range of opportunities and issues to handle, professionally very challenging and the social import is huge. Respect in the society is also there. At my age, it is enough of a motivation to work as a civil servant.
It may be said that I would be leaving the IT field for my career but my short experience in the college and in job has created in me a technical bent of mind which will always help me in administration.
Civil service provides authority to do certain task your way and implement your ideas in an area which is not present when you are outside the system. With civil service, impact of my work can be enhanced substantially. Moreover, I will be devoting 100% of my time to the work directly associated with the people which won’t be possible if I remain in private sector.
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)
Chairman (CM)
CM: Oracle and Adobe are such big companies. Why did you leave such a company?
Me: To prepare for civil services.
CM: But your package is so high. You won’t get such a salary. Are you ready?
Me: There are 2 parts to a salary. One is the essential part which involves essential necessities of life and the other part is the luxury part. This luxury part is never ending. Civil Services offer me enough salary and perks to live life in a proper way, in addition, it gives meaning to my life.
CM: Alright. I suppose you are following the US presidential Elections. What is the difference between US and Indian Election?
Me: US election is revolved around 2 parties Democratic and Republican parties and India, we have multiple parties. In US, Presidential Nominee for each party is chosen by the people from the candidates standing for the nomination. In India, there is no such system.
CM: Name the 5 candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties
Me: Sir, I just remember 2 candidates from each party. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz from Republican and Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders from Democratic Party.
CM: How many delegates do these parties have?
Me: Sorry sir, I don’t know any information regarding the number of delegates. I just know that there is a minimum requirement for a candidate to reach for Presidential nomination. That minimum number is different for both the parties.

Female member (FM)
FM: Do you know about Digital Wallet? What is it?
Me: Yes mam. Digital Wallet is a simple wallet in which transaction takes place through internet. A unique code for a wallet is provided to the person through which he/she can make transactions.
FM: What are the issues related to it?
Me: Digital wallets are good if the amount received in this wallet is through a bank account but some digital wallets offer deposit by cash payment. This opens a safe haven for black money.
FM: Can you describe the issue related to hacking in digital Wallet?
Me: Yes mam. These digital wallets ultimately have a central database where the information of all the clients are saved. If someone hacks the server of that database and transfers the money to a common wallet, this can result in a huge loss to clients’ money.
FM: What has govt. done to safeguard against the safety issues? What is the world scenario in digital wallet?
Me: Govt. has limited the transaction amount for each month. The amount is so less that people cannot use this method for black money circulation. For higher amounts, KYC norms need to be filled by the customer. Companies involved in digital wallets have also used several safeguards against hacking like use of OTP while doing any transaction. Connection time out after a certain time etc.
I don’t know much about the world scenario in digital wallets but it has got success in US.
FM: Soil health card?
Me: It a scheme by the Govt. to test the soil. It is useful for farmer as the farmer will know what amount of nutrients are needed in the soil, what kind of crop must be grown on that soil etc.
FM: What is the issue regarding nutrients imbalance and fertilizer companies in agriculture?
Me: Mam, agricultural land is suffering from overuse of fertilizers and excessive use of urea. The N:P:K ratio needed for land is 4:2:1 but overuse of Urea has converted the ratio to 8:2:1 which has degraded the soil health. This is because Urea is cheaper than other nutrients and manufacturing of Urea is easier and cheaper for Fertilizer companies. The problem lies in the subsidy regime of the Govt. The subsidies are given to the fertilizer companies and it is for all kind of fertilizers, so the companies use most of the subsidy in Urea. The need of the hour is nutrient based subsidy or DBT of subsidy based on nutrient bought by the farmer.
FM: Democracy as hindrance to economic growth. What do you think about this?
Me: Consensus is the soul of Democracy and for every legislative decision, we have a process whereby decisions are taken among the political parties on several issues. In the recent past, we have seen some bills like GST, Bankruptcy bill being delayed in the Upper house due to some political game. Such events are harmful for the economic growth of the nation. This can make us say that democracy acts as a hindrance to economic growth. But, such events are rare and as Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of Government, except for all the others”, so other form of Govt. offer much evil picture for a nation at large.

Member 2 (M2)
M2: What do you know about smart cities?
Me: Smart cities are normal cities which have good road connectivity, digital infrastructure, solid waste management system, environmental friendly systems. It is just that India don’t have any such city, so we have come up with such a name.
M2: Do you know international smart cities?
Me: Kyoto, New York. (the member said no to New York to which I said I don’t remember exactly.)
M2: There has been a news regarding mixing of alcohol in petrol/diesel. What do you know regarding that?
Me: Sir, sugar industry is in distress due to low sugar prices and to help them out, Govt. has come out with a plan to add 10% alcohol which is the byproduct of sugar industry in diesel. It is a win-win situation for the sugar industry, environmentally as well and for the farmers too.
M2: What is the issue if everything is so positive in this?
Me: sorry sir. I don’t remember.
M2: Jat agitation was in news recently. Why did it remain confined to Haryana while UP West also has a significant population of Jats?
Me: Sir, I think because Jat population in Haryana is more politically strong which the case in Western UP isn’t.
M2: But they are politically strong in West UP as well. Isn’t it?
Me: Sir, they used to be when the major Jat party INLD secured many seats in assembly and general elections. But, in the last 2 elections, they are reduced to 1 or 2 seats. This shows that Jat’s political presence in western UP is getting weaker.

Member 3 (M3)
M3: What is solid-waste management?
Me: Management of the solid waste generated domestically and in industries. One way to manage is to convert garbage into electricity.
M3: What is solid liquid resource management?
Me: Sorry sir. I don’t remember it now. (To which he said, just as you manage solid waste, managing solid and liquid waste it is. I said yes sirK)
M3: You said that your salary had 2 components, 1 is the essential requirements and the other is the luxury component which has no limits. So, when you have your children and you are posted in a district, will you be ready to send them to a Govt. schools as you may just have essential component of your salary?
Me: Sir, there is a perception that Govt. schools are not effective but there are some of them which is performing really well. My elder brother and sister have both studied in govt. schools and are doing well in their life. So, I don’t see any problem in sending my child to school.
M3: If there is no such govt. school which is performing well, are you then willing to sacrifice the future of your child?
Me: Sir, if I am posted in a district and if the govt. schools are not performing well, then it will be my failure. So, it is my duty to make the school administration work properly. Additionally, if I send my child to one of such school, that school will automatically start performing as the administration will know about my child’s presence which will benefit the other children as well. And even after all that, as a father I will help my child in solving his/her problems from time to time.
M3: Your interest is Computer programming. What kind of programming are you talking here? Whether group programming or single? (He meant whether you code alone or with a group)
Me: Sir. I like to write programs online.
M3: What are the essential features of a computer program? I mean logic etc.
Me: I said syntax, logic. (I was like why is he asking theory of a program. It is a piece of software, ask some logicsK )
M3: Do all the features require computer related knowledge?
Me: Yes sir.
M3: What about logic? Can’t a non-computer guy do it?
Me: Many of the logics can be told by a non-computer guy but there are some where one need prior knowledge of computer programming.

Member 4 (M4)
M4: Coal blocks have been allocated to some private companies as well. Why is it so?
Me: Sir, there are some private Iron and steel companies which require coal. So, some of the blocks have been auctioned to them, so that they can direct the resource directly to their manufacturing units.
M4: Do you know any relation to this with the Coal India limited?
Me: Sorry sir. I don’t remember.
M4: What do you know about WPI and CPI? How RBI’s rate cut is associated with it?
Me: WPI is Wholesale Price Index and it is a measure of inflation mainly at the manufacturing end. CPI is Consumer Price Index and it is a measure of inflation affecting the retailers and people. RBI’s rate cut is mainly associated with CPI whereby the RBI looks to keep CPI in 2%-6% range.
M4: Why the difference between WPI and CPI is so high?
Me: Sir, I think the difference is due to the large number of middlemen in between who have not lowered their commission and also the difference in basket. CPI has more weightage of Crude oil which has reduced significantly in the last year or so.
Chairman said to me “Akhil, your interview is over. You can go now.” I said thank you to all the members and went out.

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?
Yes, the entire interview was on expected lines, rather more cordial than I expected. There was a question asked by the chairman about the names of all the candidates standing in the US Presidential elections from both the parties. I knew just 2 names each. Also, he asked the number of delegates needed to win a nomination for each party. It was a complete bouncer.
The interview was very cordial. No stress given. There was one female member who gave a lot of confidence by just nodding her head when I was replying to questions. To any other question, which I knew I won’t be able to explain well or I didn’t know the answer, I simply said “I don’t remember” and the panel moved to a different question.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Just take all the papers required by UPSC. If you miss something, you’ll be called again which is unnecessary tension for a candidate. Also, if you have graduated from the college and haven’t collected your original degree, please make sure you collect it. UPSC will ask for it later and you may be put in the provisional list.
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Explained above.
CSE-2015 Marksheet
Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet
CSE 2015 mark sheet-
Prelims mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1 114
Paper 2 158.66

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1 110
General Studies – Paper 2 97
General Studies – Paper 3 65
General Studies – Paper 4 96
General Studies – Paper 5 87
Optional Paper – Paper-1 142
Optional Paper – Paper-2 133
Written total 730
Personality Test 173
Final Total 903

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
I would focus more on Essay and GS2 this time. Also, I would try to improve my writing speed in GS papers as I had left far too many questions in GS.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I would have gone back to software development.
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.)
After 1 more attempt.

Views on UPSC reforms

What are your views on following issues?
Before writing any views on matters related to UPSC reforms, I would just like to say that UPSC is an organization which conducts recruitment through examinations. When a body recruits, it has the right to decide what kind of people they want and accordingly they decide the pattern of the exam and syllabus. Any question raised on that by any person is just another excuse to hide his/her fear of the pattern. Any interference in the recruitment process from outside bodies is harmful in the larger interest of the nation.
Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
People come from various backgrounds in civil services. Some from humanities, some engineers, doctors, Chartered accountants and so on. Not all of them will stand equal chance, if optional wasn’t there. General studies doesn’t cover mainly the humanities field. So, to bring parity in the selection process, optional subject seem like a logical option.
But there are opposition that optional create irregularities and marks distribution is skewed in favour of some optional. This is true to some extent but removing the optional all together is not the solution. If one even removes the optional paper, it will be important to have more papers in mains examination for example Science, Mathematical aptitude, accounting etc. to give Science and Commerce background a fair chance. Things may turn ugly and so an optional paper seem the right way forward for now.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
I am clear on this. The paper is now completely redundant. It is a waste of resources to even conduct this paper now. Either remove the paper altogether or increase the qualifying percentage of CSAT to 50% to make some sense out of the paper.
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.
There is no doubt in the fact that coaching industry in civil services is prospering despite various efforts by UPSC. What I feel is that students need proper resources. I myself was lost in the initial year of preparation due to lack of knowledge of proper resources despite being in Delhi. So, more than the coaching, it is the material provided by the institutes that matter much. IF we can build an ecosystem in every state whereby every state govt. provides preparation guidance (including lectures) to candidates in few districts, then the role of costly private coaching can be largely reduced.

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).
I have clear views on this. Either take the IFoS paper separately or add it in the list of civil services itself.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Yes, I agree on this point. This will give the candidates clear picture of their performance and accordingly decide on their future decision. People who are on border line remain in dilemma for almost 2 months without actually doing anything. This will give respite to thousands of such candidates.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Prelims can be conducted online and the results can be declared in less than a month. This will reduce the cycle of exam by atleast 1 one month.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
One of the major reform I would like to take is regarding the cadre preference asked by UPSC. I understand toppers must get some benefit to choose their likely state but this has resulted in regionalism to some extent. Civil Services was supposed to be the steel frame of India. And like in previous times, a person from North was sent to East, South or West and likewise for other regions too. This was good as it did not involve biases related to regions. Taking a hypothetical example, say an IAS from UP gets UP cadre. There is a possibility of him getting involved in caste biases, political favoritism etc., possibility of which gets reduced if he is posted in South. So, according to me cadre should be randomly allocated to IAS, IPS. If one wants to give advantage to toppers, then the advantage can be reduced to say top 20 candidates or so. One more disadvantage is that people allocated IPS in the latter ranks, while giving options for services again fill IPS as their option next year for a better cadre. This simply wastes a seat for someone else.

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?
Personally I didn’t suffer with this because I considered my profile is a decent one. But for those who are insecure, I think they should shed out their fears. Remaining smartly truthful and confident in interview is what is important. One should be confident enough to say that I did not do any job for say 4 years because I was solely dedicated to civil service preparation. In fact your passion for civil service may go in your favor. So, just relax yourself and don’t bother much about your profile.


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?
You are your only strength is what I have learnt. One can get motivation from his parents or looking at seniors but in the long run, it is your inner strength that keeps you going.
In times of success, one must not forget what he went through during his/her preparation and what if you were not successful. One must respect the aspirants involved in the civil service preparation. Lakhs of dreams get shattered during the preparation and your success in achieving your dream doesn’t make you any bigger than them. We are just the fortunate ones. Don’t bring your success to your heads. Remain grounded.
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?
I have never had that feeling because this was my 1st serious attempt and luckily I got through. But, after the mains exam and interview, thoughts of failure did come up and it was scary. Thousands of aspirants are living this scary time. I don’t know what to say to them but just to keep your head high. Especially to those candidates who failed after the interviews, you are no less than the selected ones. You can’t be unfortunate forever. Just buckle up and gather your strength to show your mettle to the world.

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?
This is the best question. Finally I can tell the world about the people who helped me in this journey.
Papa (Sh. Arvind Goel) – The person who made me realize the importance of doing something more precious than just money. I would have not even thought of giving the exam, if not for my father. He has shared every small moments from getting good marks in a test to struggling to write an essay without even knowing what I was talking about. J
Maa (Smt. Manju Goel) – The person for whom it never mattered what I was doing. For her, it was always “Khaana theek se kha liya na?” She took the stress out by talking all the random stuff.
Talking to my parents on call after dinner every night was my moment of peace in this journey.
My brother (Ankit Goel, IES officer in Indian Railways) has been a guiding light in the preparation. He is the one with whom I discussed my preparation strategy and how to proceed forward. He has struggled a lot, the fruits of which has been rewarded to me.
My sister (CA Megha Goel), brother-in-law (CA Amit Gupta) for constantly motivating me and suggesting ways out to a problem since the last many years.
Sourabh Jakhar and family – He was the one I looked up to for reaching a higher level in GS. I lived in his home in Delhi for almost a year and we both prepared together for the exam. His parents (whenever they visited Delhi) took care of me as their own child and I will always be thankful to them.
Harshit Saini, the person who gave an impetus to my preparation before a month from prelims. I was saturated with information a month back although I wasn’t performing well in test. In that time, he always told me “We have to do it man. It’s now or never. J”
Vishal Raj – My Maths buddy. We shared the Maths material and solved the problems together. He has a significant contribution to 275 marks I got in Maths.
Many other friends who have helped me in the journey which include Sarang Chauhan, Ashish Rawat, my college group (ROCK ON :P).

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.
People have come and gone, the only constant in my UPSC journey is Mrunal.org. I started using your website in late 2013. Seeing your economy lecture, I realized I was beating around the bush till then. I followed your economic write-ups and then some environment, current affairs related ones. Then came your Youtube lecture series that actually benefitted me the most. For economics, I depended solely on the lectures. For geography also, 90% of the information I covered from the lectures. And still, for my next attempt, I am in touch with your Budget and Economic survey videos. You have been a great source of knowledge. Special Thank you to you sir.