1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Tempo and style
  5. Struggle of a Senior player
  6. Working professional
  7. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  9. Prelim accuracy
  10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  11. Mains: Essay
  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. CSE-2015 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

Q. Details
Name Ashutosh Dwivedi
Rank in CSE-2015 208
Roll No. 0022889
Age 28
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 4
Optional Subject Sociology
Schooling Medium Hindi
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Raebareli
Work-experience if any Sr. Engineer in GAIL(India) Limited
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
  1. Selected as Assistant Security Commissioner in RPF through CSE 2014 (Reserve List)
  2. Selected as Assistant Director, Sports Authority of India
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  1. Test Series in Vision
  2. Online guidance from mrunal.org
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS
state cadre preference (Top-5) UP


% in class 10 78.3
% in class 12 75.2
Graduation course and % B. Tech (Mechanical Engineering) 74.3%
Name of college, city, passing out year HBTI, Kanpur, 2009
Post-graduation None
Any other professional courses None
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements 1.Reading
2. Writing
1. Winner of national level debate
2. Winner of acting and skit competitions
3. Winner of first prize in creative writing.
4. Winner of essay competitions.
5. Worked as marketing coordinator of national level college festivals.
6. Worked as vice president of Departmental Association in College.
7. Worked as School captain in school.
8. Worked as hostel captain in school.


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

Ans- “Nahi hua” (Didn’t get through), I uttered these two words and the aspirational hopes of a typical middle class UP family came crashing down. The day was 27th March 2002 and I had cycled to nearby Cyber café to know about the final result of my elder brother, which apparently was “Nahi hua”. I think that was the time when I first thought that I have to fulfill his dream.
Gradually during the fun and frolic of engineering college and the glitz of first job, the thought was forgotten.
Cut to a dusty field in a typical village of Southern UP. “Saahab, aap nhi de skte aur muaawajaa , to SDM ya DM saahab se keh k kuchh krwaa dijie. Wo zarur hmari kuchh madad kar sakenge” , (Sir, if you cannot give us more compensation, please help us get something by asking SDM or DM, they will certainly be able to help us.) I was working as a Senior Engineer in GAIL (India) Limited and looking after a pipeline laying project that crisscrossed through villages of Southern UP and Rajasthan. Compensation was always a sticky point and at times, personally I felt a lot for the poor farmers and wanted to do something for them but my hands were tied by the Petroleum and Mineral Pipelines Act (which laid down the norms dealing with the compensation). I saw their drudgery closely and realized the enormity of difference that a administrator can bring in their lives to alleviate them from this drudgery. I wanted to be a part of the system which was working towards that end.
Now, that thought stuck to me and the faces of those villagers kept me motivated to keep striving and here I am today!
Now about me and my family. We are a middle class family, father Dr. M P Dwivedi was a government veterinary officer in UP state government, who has seen poverty at its worst during his childhood days but came above it all through the mighty tool – education!! Mother, Mrs. Vimla Dwivedi, is home maker and maker of destiny of all of us, including my father, whom she motivated to go for higher studies even after having children of college going age. I am aware that my mother does not possess any ornament, nor my parents have any bank balance of significance but they invested in what mattered the most – education of their kids. Investors can take a lesson or two from them regarding intelligent investment!!
Elder brother Dr. S K Dwivedi is also veterinary officer in UP state government and a role model of an elder brother. Gave interview of UPSC as narrated above. Sister – in – Law Dr Seema Dwivedi is Ph. D in History and teacher in UP government. She also gave mains and I can vividly remember her and my elder brother discussing history and she still has ancient history at her fingertips. My nephew Divyansh Bhardwaj is in 10th and looks promising having a number of Maths and science Olympiads under his belt.
Elder sister Mrs Archana Mishra is married to Dr Rahul Mishra, a scientist in multinational pharmaceutical firm. He has also written mains during his days. So, we are actually a family of aspirants and this result is a culmination of a long held dream!
I passed 10th from a village school, cycling 12 KM daily to school. As it was rural area and electricity supply was on a weekly basis- one week morning 10 to evening 4 ; next week from night 10 to morning 4. So, effectively there was no supply when actually needed for study i.e. in evening. So, we studied in lamps. Now, I find it funny to share that I actually studied in electric light only when I came to Hostel in Kanpur from 11th onwards J
Cleared IIT prelims but could not get the Coveted IIT tag as I failed in mains. (The quest to get the “I”(As in Indian – institute or services –  has been fulfilled nowJ) Did my B. Tech from HBTI Kanpur. Worked in ISRO as Scientist after graduating, resigned and then came to GAIL where I have been since 2009.
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)

Ans- True, there is deluge of material and one must choose wisely. I chose to have a judicious mix of both paper and electronic material. E.g. reading basics from books and then updating it through electronic material. (Though I always read newspaper in hard copy format).
Websites like PIB, PRS, IDSA, etc help a lot in the preparation and one should visit them depending on the time available. Mrunal.org was a constant during the whole preparation and the way in which intricate concepts (esp. of economics) are explained here, it makes it a must for all.
Typically, my day started with Yoga, Pranayam and meditation for some time and then reading and “MAKING NOTES” of the newspaper. You can see the emphasis on making notes, as if you are reading newspaper and not making notes of the important articles, you will not be able to retain it at all at the time of examination.
Now, depending on whether it was a working day or a holiday, I proceeded to office or studied. Being a pipeline engineer, the days were unpredictable but I tried to make the most of it.
Regarding making notes, in case of books, I normally underlined and skipped making notes as time was always a scarce resource and underlining worked well for me. Now, one word of caution here – “what works for one person may not work for the other. The key here is to get to figure out what works for you and follow that”.

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?

Ans –  The most important thing regarding mood swings and distractions is to accept that they will be there and not get unnecessarily puzzled by them. They will come and we need to have a strategy at hand to handle them. The strategy could be anything. One may listen to music or dance a bit or go for a walk or chat with some friends. I liked reading and kept a book handy to ward off the boredom or monotony. I also loved my optional (though my marks in optional tell a different story L) and reading sociology after the torture of GS was a cool respite. Writing poems also helped me a lot. Also I had a very close group and sometimes, when nothing worked, talking to any one or all of them or simply discussing something with them refreshed me.
Moreover, remember your reason of writing this exam. In case of any negative emotions, close your eyes and remember that, you will instantly feel charged. Though it may seem bit idealist, but I genuinely wanted to bring some positive change in the society. Whenever I saw someone in suffering, I just imagined the enormous amount of positive change that I could bring in their life if I were a civil servant and that was the ultimate motivation for me throughout this entire journey.
Talking to my college senior Sh. Swarochish Somvanshi (IAS, MP Cadre) or even going through his facebook page gave me instant feel that I want to be doing THIS and I was at work again.
Having said so, in spite of having all these tools in the arsenal, there used to be bouts of lethargy, procrastination, distractions and all negative emotions and I used to have spells of even days with zero study and felt frustrated later on because of all this. All this is a part of the game and you should not make the problem bigger than yourself and keep moving- sometimes at snail’s pace – but keep moving!!

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.
Ans- The most important thing is to find your anchor i.e. the reason why you started on this journey? If you can remember that reason and envision the destination, you will be able to continue the journey, howsoever arduous it may be.

Another important thing is to keep learning from your mistakes of the past attempts. That way, you will be on a path of improvement and also, you will see yourself gradually improving in the process. If you get stuck at one place, you would get demotivated and be tempted to give up.
The Japanese philosophy of “Kaizen” can be of great help. It means – Continuous Improvement. Keep becoming better from whatever level you are at. That way, you will maintain the hope and zeal of success and certainly succeed.
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
Ans- One of the major mistakes was that I was reading but not writing. I focused on answer writing in this attempt and that paid. I had made the same mistake in Essay too in the earlier attempts. In this attempt, I wrote a few essays beforehand and that did fetch me marks.
Proper revision was an issue in the earlier attempts and a little in this attempt too though I tried to work on it this time. I want to request to all of you that focus well on the revision part since lack of proper revision will actually nullify the entire time you spent on the first reading too. (until you have a photostate memory J).

Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
Ans- At the onset, I want to state one thing that UPSC preparation is a full time job and if your circumstances permit, you should devote full time to it. Having said so, people do get selected along with job but that requires devotion and dedication, which is required greater for people who are working full time. I am sharing some of the strategies I used to deploy in managing studies along with job –

  1. Make clear plans on what you have to do on a weekly as well as daily basis regarding office work and studies. That will help you in planning well and also in getting an idea regarding how your preparation is going.
  2. Remember that there will be some unforeseeable situations in workplace that may derail your plan. So, always keep some reserve time in your schedule, which may be used for covering the backlog.
  3. Develop good relations with peers and bosses, so that there is a stress free workplace environment(that will aid your studies). Also, because of good relations, you might get some help in office matters, sparing you more time for studies.
  4. Remember you are juggling two things, so you might have to sacrifice the extra luxuries of life  like chatting with friends, socializing, social networking like facebook and so on. Be ready for that.
  5. Procrastination has to be gotten rid of – in both work life and studies. As procrastination will lead to pile up of work as well as studies and then it will become a huge burden. (I am myself struggling to give up my own procrastination, so I might not sound much convincing but please, let us do this together. It will be helpful.)

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient NCERT
History Medieval NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) NCERT and Spectrum ( Tried to read Bipan Chandra but gave up due to lack of time)
Culture and society NCERT for culture (I hear that Nitin Singhania’s notes are good but haven’t read)
Society – Nothing separately as I have sociology as optional.
Polity (theory + current) M Laxmikanth
Wizard publication Polity
Supplemented by polity section of Vision current
Economy (theory + current) Wizard publication Economy
Supplemented by economy section of Vision current
Mrunal.org – One of the best sources of economy J
Science (theory + current) Science section of Vision current
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS
ALS notes
geography physical NCERT
GC Leong
geography India NCERT
geography world NCERT
other national/international current affairs IR – ALS notes
Vision current
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Mrunal.org
Current affairs

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2015 paper?
Ans- There was more factual portion than earlier. So, we need to focus on factual part as well.
Environment is gaining importance (not a new revelation for sure). So, it needs due attention.

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)?
Ans- 1. I will focus on culture.
3. Proper focus on current affairs

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Sorry, but I didn’t read separately for paper – II but it is perceived that RS Agrawal is a good book
Decision Making

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
AnsThough, it has been relegated to qualifying status, one should not undermine the importance of Aptitude paper. A proper strategy of ample practice will do the trick for this paper.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Ans- Yes, I attended a few mock tests. They give you a sense of the examination and are very important for the final exam. You can try various strategies in these tests and then deploy your best weapon in the actual exam.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2015

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 128.66
aptitude 168.78

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Nothing separately
your regional language Nothing separately

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
Ans- The language papers were of moderate difficulty and if you are aware of the languages, hopefully no problem will be there. One may go through old qualifying papers to judge one’s condition and plan accordingly. Writing practice is very important, particularly for the regional language paper.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
Ans- Essay has been one of the issues in previous attempts. Till my third attempt, I had written only two essays(after school)- one in first attempt and one in second attempt . But I wrote a few essays beforehand in this attempt and it paid off.
We tend to ignore Essay, thinking that it is an inherent art but let me tell you that practice can fetch marks in essay. In the exam, choose a topic you are comfortable with and make a framework of what you want to write – the starting point, the ending point and the path between two.
Don’t be in the trap of writing more. Repeating same ideas will not fetch marks

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture CCRT and NCERT
Indian history NCERT and Spectrum
world history Wizard publication (good for point wise revision)
Vision value addition material
post-independence India Pradhanmantri Serial series
Indian society Nothing special, relied on sociology optional
role of women, poverty etc. Nothing special, relied on sociology optional
globalization on Indian society Nothing special, relied on sociology optional
communalism, regionalism, secularism Nothing special, relied on sociology optional
world geo physical GC Leong
resource distribution NCERT
factors for industrial location Mrunal.org
earthquake tsunami etc GC Leong and NCERT
Wizard Geography
impact on flora-fauna Wizard Geography

General studies (Mains) paper 2

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

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
inclusive growth Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
Budgeting Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
major crops, irrigation Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
agro produce – storage, marketing Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
e-technology for famers Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
farm subsidies, MSP Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
Vision IAS value added material
PDS, buffer, food security Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
Vision IAS value added material
technology mission Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
animal rearing economics Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
food processing Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
land reforms Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
Liberalization Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
Infra Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
investment models Sri Ram IAS notes
Wizard publication
science-tech day to day life ALS notes
Indian achievements in sci-tech Vision IAS value added material
ALS notes
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR ALS notes
environmental impact assessment Shankar IAS notes
Disaster Management ARC report
Vision material
non state actors, internal security ALS notes
internal security – role of media, social networking site ALS notes
cyber security ALS notes
money laundering ALS notes
border  Management ALS notes
organized crime, terrorism ALS notes
security agencies- structure mandate ALS notes

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Lexicon, (Though I cannot say how much it helped considering the paper J )
attitude, moral influence etc. Lexicon
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Lexicon
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon
moral thinkers of India and world Lexicon
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Lexicon
corporate governance Lexicon
probity in governance, work culture Lexicon
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Lexicon
challenges of corruption Lexicon
case studies on above topics Lexicon
ALS notes

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?
Ans-  It is true that the paper was such that no book can be said to be the guiding light. One’s grounded moral principles were put to real test in the paper.
I must admit that for such a paper, no clear cut strategy can be devised, and even I did not know that I would get good marks in the paper. Having said so, I am writing my own observations and way to handle such paper:

  1. It may sound prophetic, but actually having sound moral principles and actually being an ethical personal does help.
  2. Have clarity of mind regarding the course of action particularly in the case studies. You should not appear confused to the examiner.
  3. During preparation, apart from time for reading and writing, take out some time for thinking and analyzing whatever you have studied. It would help.
  4. Prepare the definitions of a few key words beforehand, as many similar sounding concepts appear all the same.

Mains answer-writing?

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]

Ans- First thing first, do not attempt questions just for the sake of attempting. If you don’t know the answer, it will give you a perfect rounded zero, along with wasted time.
Having said so, try to attempt as many questions as possible (not the ones which you are unaware of). Practice time management, so that you don’t have to leave questions because of lack of time. You may also take a stop watch (normal one without much electronic functions).
Remember, the instruction says “not more than 200 words”, you can write less words.
My strategy was that I used to follow the time limit, not the word limit. In a paper of 20 questions, if 9 minutes gets over, you have to move on to the next question. So, after 8 minutes, start wrapping up your answer.

Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Ans- Awesome. It is very good. No issue of leaving spaces to come back and write and then having no time to write it. My habit was always to write answers sequentially and the fixed space answer sheet augurs well with that.
Though, I write in slightly larger font, but I never faced any space crunch while writing answers.
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.
Ans- I know that this is one of the largest doubts in the minds of the aspirants. Even, I was confused till the end regarding this.
What I adopted was a mix of both. Using judiciously both will be a better thing to do. For example, I would not suggest using bullet points in ‘Discuss’ or ‘Analyze’ questions.
But if it is the last 5 minutes, and you want to do 2 questions, go with the bullet points as it may get you a few marks per question rather than doing only one in the conventional 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.
Ans- I tried to write in the “introduction-body-conclusion” format, but sometimes because of time crunch, I could not follow it.
Like I said in the last question, a proper mix of both strategies depending on the conditions should be the preferred way.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?
Ans- No, I used only a single colour pen as the time was a major constraint and my aim was to complete the paper.

Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
Ans- I wanted to and they are fruitful also. But, I am very bad at it and it takes a lot of time. So, considering the cost – benefit ananlysis, I did not draw. If you can complete the question along with the diagram in given time, go for it otherwise, it won’t be prudent to draw diagram in some questions at the cost of leaving some other questions.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?
Ans- Didn’t draw.

Q8. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?
Ans- Blue pen

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Ans- Sociology.
Earlier my optional was Geography and Pub Ad. Then after writing or rather during writing my first mains, I realized that I cannot handle geography because of maps, diagrams, etc. It is a fact, that during my geography optional paper, I was doing pros – cons analysis of other optionals on the last page of my geography answer sheet J. Then I zeroed on sociology. So, second mains was with Sociology and Pub Ad.
When the single optional era came, I chose sociology. It is an interesting subject and fun to read.

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)
Ans- I would advise for it.

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.)
Ans – 1. Haralambos and Holborn – paper 1
2.George Ritzer – For Thinkers
3. Vikash Ranjan For Paper 2 (not very good to read but it has all the topics covered, syllabus wise. So, you would have gone through all the topics)
4. IGNOU material.

Q. How much of internet-research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?
Ans- Very important to be abreast with current, particularly for second paper. Books give you a basic idea but current is very important.

Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Ans- 5- 6 months. But then current updatation is an onoing process.

Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
Ans – 2 months. Actually, my main source of answer writing practice was the test series and that started at about that time. I would suggest (though I could not do it ) that answer writing should be made a regular part of preparation and it should go on simultaneously.

Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Ans- I made short notes for quick revision in paper format. It was basically of the things which I had to remember by heart. It helped a lot in revision and particularly, the last minute revision.

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?
Ans- The paper has been becoming gradually difficult in past years.
To handle this, broadening the base of knowledge will be the strategy. More answer writing from varied sources should be the key.

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?
Ans- I sat with few of my friends and analyzed my whole DAF and tried to frame as many questions as possible. This gives you a sense of confidence that you are well prepared. (though questions may not be same as you have prepared)
Going through current affairs of recent times and analyzing it from interview point of view can be helpful.

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?
Ans- I attended mock interviews at ALS and Samkalp. Like I said earlier, though they were different from the actual interview, attending mocks gives you self-confidence, which is the most important thing in the interview.

I think it is important to attend mock interviews. It is not necessary that you have to attend it in a coaching only. You can also make a board amongst your friends who are preparing and take their mock – turn by turn. In fact, that helps more than any mock as they give you enough time and analyse each and every aspect of your personality.
My personal experience has been that I learned more from my friends Sarvesh, Kuldeep and Ravi during interview preparation than I learned from anywhere else.

Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
Ans- I stayed at my friend’s place. I had few pages notes related to my DAF and I revised that just before the interview.

Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
Ans- 1. Read the instructions hosted on DoPT website before medical.

  1. Remember, you have to go empty stomach.
  2. People with specs, do take your latest eye test report. It caused a lot of problem for many people.
  3. For people who consume alcohol, avoid “partying” too much on the preceding night.  Though there is no test regarding it but just to be on the safe side.
  4. Medical is not such a big deal. So, relax and go through it.

Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Ans- Light blue shirt
Dark blue pants.
Black leather shoes.
Dark blue tie with light blue dots.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Ans- Alka Sirohi Madam

Q2. How long was the interview?
Ans- 14-15 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?]
Ans- I am very happy in my current job as an engineer. I have learnt a lot during my tenure in GAIL as an  engineer and I think I am now ready to move to the next level. I am serving currently by providing green energy to the nation (I am in GAIL) and now I wish to serve my nation on a broader level.
It is true that social service can be done through private sector too. In my opinion if anyone is doing his or job properly in his/her own capacity, he is serving the society. I am a very social person and am inclined towards being directly involved with people and want to solve their problems. Civil services will give me that opportunity. Here, a whole tested and trusted system has been designed where by just by doing one’s daily job, a person can contribute towards making a better society and a better nation.

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)

Ans- My interview was on 16th March Forenoon session. Incidentally, I was the last person in the forenoon session (the same was the case last year). So, I was aware that the board would be tired and hungry by then L . I don’t know whether it worked in my favour or not.
After document verification and other formalities, we were waiting in the waiting hall and were told that we had Madam Alka Sirohi’s Board. Now I will narrate the interview, focusing more on the thought process going in answering the questions as I think that is more important than the actual answers. The thought process is given in the brackets.

I was waiting outside the room and my heart was racing like hell! Already I was pretty much confused about the specific decorum regarding whether to sit with the button of suit open or not? I was sitting outside with button open and had planned to close it before entering and open again while sitting and close again on getting up after interview. Confusing?? Believe me, I was way more confused !!!

The attendant signaled to enter and I entered and was just bowled by seeing the setting of the room as I entered from the side of the chairperson. Again confusion – to proceed from which way? It was entirely different from the previous board room and completely unexpected. I moved and finally went near my chair and she signaled me to sit.
“scccrreeeccchhhhh” the chair backrest made a particularly annoying sound by rubbing against my back. (Damn , I am done here, now)
Chairperson (C)- So, Ashutosh..you work in GAIL?
Me – yes, maám (with a smile, trying to be as genuine as possible)
And she signaled towards first member.
(I was like “what”??? Madam, is that it?? aap ko hi to marks dene hain, kuchh aur pooch lijie na..(you only have to give marks ,please ask something more)
M1- So, what is the KG- D6 issue?
Ans- I narrated the issue and he seemed satisfied.
M 1- So how can India get more gas?
Ans- I talked about shale gas, CBM, etc.
M1 – Where is the CBM pilot project going on?
Ans- (I did not know but I had seen a CBM block of reliance in Shahdol when I visited my friend there) Sir, there is one block of reliance.
(he didn’t seem satisfied. I think he was asking about some other block)
M1- why has US not explored shale gas earlier?
Me – I talked about environmental concerns and opposition from certain group.
M1- what is the impact of US shale boom on world economy?
Ans- I talked about lower oil and gas prices and related impact.
He then transferred the ball to M2’s court
M2- have you heard about TAPI pipeline?
Me- yes, sir.
M2- what are the technical issues?
Ans- I started talking about the security problems, lack of funding, etc.
M2- no, no, I am talking about technical problems like temperature is so low, etc..
Me- (oh, sir..you are actually considering me a pipeline engineerJ)Ok sir. On the technical front, the temperature variation is a problem as it passes through various areas.
Secondly, the terrain is very varied, so maintaining pressure profile would be an issue and we will have to put multiple compressor stations in between.
(he hinted about temperature. I added pressure and somehow I managed the question)
M2 – Suppose, you are working in a factory and there is labour unrest . How will you manage it?
Ans- Sir, I will call a few labour leaders and listen to their demands. I would agree to their reasonable demands and about the demands that cannot be met, I will explain to them that because of so and so reasons, these demands cannot be met. By explaining them the actual situation, I would try to help them consider themselves as equal stake holders.

M2- but would you not do something to ensure that the production does not suffer?
Me – (damn, I again failed to think like an engineer) yes sir, I will ask them not to hinder the production as it would harm the interest of all.
The, he passed the baton to M3.
M3- what is integrity?
Me- (ohh, I should have revised lexicon before interview L) I answered something, which I don’t remember now. Somewhere it contained the word “honesty”
M3- what is honesty?
Me – ( Maar hi daaloge kyaa sir ) I again said something with puppy eyes. It contained the word “efficiency”
M3- A handicapped person cannot perform a job as well as someone else. Is he less efficient?
Me- (I wanted  to say sir, the term is specially abled but refrained from being obersmart J) sir, efficiency is a subjective phenomenon and if a person is giving his or her own best, he or she is efficient.
He ended GS paper 4 and handed over the baton to M4
M4 – what are your suggestions about improving higher education?
Ans- I talked about a few things, I can’t recall now.
M4 – what about faculty?
Me – ( do I have a pathological problem of missing important point) yes sir, faculty crunch is one of the major problems and it needs to be handled properly by attracting and retaining the best talent.
(then the chairperson took over)
CP – So , Ashutosh, I will ask just two questions from your own field of mechanical engineering.
Me – (I am a dead man now! No issues, beta! You have attempts left stillL)
CP- what is augmentative loco?
Me- pardon , ma’am??
CP – augmentative loco?
Me – sorry ma’am, never heard of it. (I tried to give a disarming smile saying sorry. But seeing the next question, I don’t think she was disarmed )
CP- why do railway lines buckle?
Me – (I don’t know how I passed my Strength of Material course in B.Tech. Didn’t know it will haunt till nowL. I had to answer, could not say “never heard of it” for this.)
Ma’am, when the stress and strain profile goes beyond the design parameters, it may lead to buckling.( tried  to throw some mechanical engineering jargon )
CP- Stress profile or strain profile?
Me – (Can’t throw jargon here, dude) ma’am , stress profile.
CP – No, something very basic, Ashutosh???
Me – ma’am , nowadays, the coaches are getting increased and it increases the load on the rail and because of it, the rails may buckle.
Me – ( now, I wished I should not have wished for her to ask more questions in the starting ) sorry , ma’am, I cannot think of anything else at this time (attempted disarming smile)
CP – If the gap between rails is not appropriate, it would expand and buckle.
Me- (oh, man!! It was actually so basic to the level of class 9th and I had always thought that the railway guys would have been leaving the gap by proper calculation)
Thank you ma’am.
CP – Ok, Ashutosh. Thanks a lot.
Me  – thank you ma’am. Thank you, sirs.
(and I came out after another round of “sscccccrreeeeaaacccchhh)
I was very sad that I could not answer any question of the chairperson and just hoped that she would give due consideration to my answers to the members. I just hoped that I would have sounded positive and confident)
P.S. – I completely forgot about the suit button. Went with open button. Sat with open button. Came back with open button J
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?
Ans – I did not have any expectations regarding interview. There was no stress element and all the members were very cordial. I was maintaining eye contact with everyone. And whenever I looked at the chairperson, she gave a very pleasant smile (except when I was answering her questions ) and that was very encouraging.

Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Ans-  1. Your call letter.

  1. Original degree and certificate
  2. 2 photographs.

Anyways, if you don’t have anything, you can give an undertaking. So, no issues.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Ans- Nothing as such

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet
Prelims mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1 128.66
Paper 2 168.78

Mains mark sheet-

Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1 136
General Studies – Paper 2 95
General Studies – Paper 3 71
General Studies – Paper 4 106
General Studies – Paper 5 107
Optional Paper – Paper-1 108
Optional Paper – Paper-2 100
Written total 723
Personality Test 184
Final Total 907

Q2. After looking at the marksheet, suppose you had to prepare again next time, what changes will you make in your studies?
Ans- Focus more on optional.
Prepare governance portion with more attention.

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
Ans-  I would have joined RPF, which I got from last year reserve list.

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.)
Ans-   Would have taken EOL to give another attempt. After that, I would have enjoyed in RPF.

Views on UPSC reforms

What are your views on following issues-
Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Ans- I believe that when one optional was removed, they should have removed both. The problem of scoring optional – science optional – and what not would have been over. But then, they are people with greater wisdom and might have had something in their mind while retaining one optional.

Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
Ans- Personally, I have been at loss being an engineer. But I think, it strikes a good balance and levels the field for non – engineering people. It was a good decision.

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 2014. Let’s face it, most candidates who gave Mains-2014 have relied on (authentic OR Xeroxed) coaching notes because there was hardly any time left to prepare so many topics in such short time. This system work against an individual preparing from far-away area, without any financial resources, high-speed internet or contacts in Delhi.
Ans-  Many people are also getting selected without coaching and many selected people are saying that coaching was of no use. I think it is of individual preference. If one can be regular and dedicated without coaching, he or she can do it without coaching too.

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).
Ans –  I don’t have any idea about IFoS, so can’t say much. But I would appeal to all that if you are not serious for IFoS, please don’t choose the option of both in pre. It would increase the cut off unnecessarily and will be problematic for people aiming for IFoS.

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?
Ans- All these do not matter. I did my 12th from a hindi medium school and my graduation from a mediocre college. But I have never let any of this bog me down. Always remember that these things will affect only if you lose your calm because of these. You are the best in your own way.
My own life is a text book definition of mediocrity and I am very happy about this because I believe that this exam is an exam for mediocre people.  Mediocre students clear this exam in more number because they are aware about their mediocrity and  they compensate it with their hard work and that is what is needed. While, extraordinary students tend to be slack on hard work part and that proves fatal.
So, be confident and move ahead with full faith in yourself. Success awaits you!


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?
Ans- This long journey has taught a lot. I have believed firmly that this exam and its preparation changes you as a person. You become a better person and that is the takeaway from this preparation. It is like a “tapasya”(penance), where not everyone gets “vardan”( the fruit) but everyone gets “siddhi”.

I never considered it as a competition. I have always believed that “When you move from competition to cooperation, life becomes a celebration”
Here, you have to compete with only yourself. You have to beat your own records and attain glory.
I want to quote two lines which I had written during this journey-
“गलियाँ तो बाखूब चौड़ी हैं, उन तक पहुँचने के रास्ते ही तंग हैं
इस मैदान में सब एक दूसरे को ताकते दंग हैं ।
परेशानी यही है कि कोई प्रतिद्वंद्वी नहीं किसी का,
अजीब इस मैदान में सब की खुद से ही जंग है ॥”
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?
Ans – Failure is depressing but you cannot spend time in the depression. Remember people have failed multiple times and then passed in this exam. The beauty of this exam is that one success erases the pain of all the failures. So, gear up and give your best shot.
Even, if you fail in your last attempt, remember that it is not the end of life. It is just a way to do whatever you wish. And there are innumerable other ways. Life moves on. It will no doubt be painful but collect yourself and start afresh on some other path. No one can take away the knowledge and experience you have gained from this journey. Make use of it at some other place, in some other way.
Even mrunal sir is an example for all of us. His contribution to today’s youth is comparable to any other administrator or rather more than some of them.
So, give it your best shot. If you succeed, it is good. If you don’t, it is better. Remember, when this one door is closed, many other doors will open simultaneously.

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?
The role of my family is inexplicable in my success, as I have already mentioned above. They have always trusted and stood by me in all my decisions even when some of them proved out to be not so prudent ones. Besides, I am lucky to have a bunch of good friends like Pragya, Preeti, Shantanu, Abhinav, Dinesh, Anshuman, Sarvesh, Kuldeep, Anoop and many more who share the same wavelength as me and talking to them made me maintain my sanity throughout. Since I was working throughout in this attempt, my colleagues in Gail were of tremendous support and I am greatly indebted to them. Having said so, I also realize that man is indeed a social being and there are innumerous people and situations that lead to his ultimate formation and I may not be able to express myself and name them all but I am abundantly thankful to each and every one of them.

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.
Ans- Mrunal.org has been a very important source, particularly for economics. It provided a vital connection to the preparation world, especially for a person like me who was preparing along with job and had to reside in a remote place.  I thank mrunal sir for all the efforts he puts in preparing and uploading such useful content.