1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Style of Preparation and notes making
  5. Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
  6. Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude
  7. Prelim accuracy
  8. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  9. Mains: Essay
  10. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  11. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  12. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  13. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  14. Mains answer-writing?
  15. Mains Optional Subject
  16. Before the interview
  17. During the interview
  18. Career Backup
  19. Views on UPSC reforms
  20. Insecurity about profile
  21. Internal Motivation
  22. Struggle of a Senior player
  23. Struggle of Working professional
  24. Grand wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Milind Bapna

Q. Details
Name Milind Bapna
Rank in CSE-2016 61
Roll No. 0202307
Age 26
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) Three
Optional Subject Anthropology
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Udaipur(Raj.)
Work-experience if any Currently working as Manager , Central Bank Of India (3 years)
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Selected in IBPS PO, GMAT(Shortlisted for Oxford, Kellogg MBA’s)
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) No coaching, total self-study.
Although a few interview mocks.
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS, IPS, IRS(IT), IRS(C&CE), IFS.
state cadre preference (Top-5) Raj., Gujarat, MP, Haryana, Maharashtra.


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 80%
% in class 12 85%
Graduation course and % Commerce 78%
Name of college, city, passing out year MLSU, Udaipur
Post-graduation Business Law, NLSIU Bangalore
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Swimming, Gym etc


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Hello friends,
I am a native of Udaipur(Raj.), a very beautiful city and and currently working as a banker.
Initially I never thought of making a career in civil services, as I always wanted to do an IVY league MBA and enter investment banking/private equity sector particularly the top wall street firms but soon I realized a career as an IAS would give me more diverse options, a good work-life balance and most importantly working in a capacity where one can do something for the society and the nation, which a monotonous high paying corporate job will never provide.
In my last attempt also I reached interview stage and missed by a whisker(highly disappointing times) and in this attempt I improved on my weak areas and secured a good rank.
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 do you balance this i.e. electronic material vs. paper material (Books, newspapers)
My mantra is KEEP IT SIMPLE.Read from limited sources, revise more and have a sense of self belief that whatever you are reading is enough.
Generally most aspirants keep on buying new materials like fresh green vegetables on everyday basis and end up leaving all of them, this should be avoided.
Typical day in your Online life?

Online life Answer
Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services. We are here, just to clear this exam and leave this vicious cycle, that’s it.
Doing R&D on these trivial/beyond control issues, does more damage than to benefit someone.
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups No whatsapp, fb during prep.
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 2-3 hrs
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop.

Q. Any other things that you wish to elaborate on above table:
Use of internet can go both ways, it can do more harm than good too.
So rather than wasting time on online forums and watching inspirational videos whole day, one should spend time on learning useful for the exam.

Style of Preparation and notes making

Q. What is your style of preparation and notes making? (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, I use xyz software etc.)
I am a lazy person, so I generally maintained notes of just my optional subject and some very important topics only.This varies so just do what suits you the most.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old NCERT
History Medieval Old NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) TMH GS Manual
Culture and society GK Today Compendium, CCRT
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikanth
Economy (theory + current) Mrunal, Sriram Eco.
Science (theory + current) PT 365
Environment (theory + current) Mrunal, Shankar Env., PT 365
geography physical 11th & 12th NCERT
geography India 11th & 12th NCERT
geography world 11th & 12th NCERT
other national/international current affairs PT 365
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Anything I got on internet.

Q. Candidates are complaining that compared to earlier years, Prelim 2017 GS paper was very tougher, Tickmasters’ 90+ strategy (and its perverted & populist version known as Guessmaster-giri) and E-learning materials had limited utility. What are you views and wisdom on all these?
Every year a new pattern comes out and online forums start debates on future course of UPSC exam pattern etc.
Just keep on reading and learning whatever good source you have.
It doesn’t matter what and from where you are reading, what makes the difference is on exam day what you can recall and deliver there.

Q. Suppose, If you had to prepare for Prelims-2018, then after going through this 2017 paper, what changes would you make in your preparation?
I would never ever do selective study on basis of useless R&D on future papers.
Will go through everything from current affairs to core syllabus.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths TMH
Reasoning TMH
Comprehension TMH
Decision Making TMH

Q. In the recent two prelims (2016 and 2017), the comprehension portion becoming quite tough and lengthy. Candidates struggle even to finish the paper-II. Kindly provide some words of wisdom:
Not completing the paper is totally NON-NEGOTIABLE.
You have to attempt each and every question no matter what because the range of scores is very limited, one cant even afford to loose a single marks here in this highly subjective exam.
So, work on your writing speed.
Completing the paper is the best answer writing tip I can give to anyone.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Never joined any test series but downloaded papers from internet and attempted them in exam conditions.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2016

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 98 78 142.66
aptitude 40 38 93.33

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Left
your regional language Hindi-left

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2016
One can go through past year papers.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
No specific prep., just maintained a quote book and dumped everything from it in paper.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare.
Cyberspace and internet: Blessing or curse to the human civilization in the long run.

Easy to write 1500 words on these mainstream topics.
Try to make a flow chart before writing and have a wider approach rather than a deep one.
Mostly wrote what I read for my GS prep.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture GK Today Compendium, CCRT
Indian history Indias Struggle For Independence, TMH GS Manual.
world history Norman Lewis(Selective)
post-independence India India after independence (Selective)
Indian society NCERTS
role of women, poverty etc. -do-
globalization on Indian society -do-
communalism, regionalism, secularism Left
world geo physical 11th & 12th NCERT, Mrunal.org, GC Leong(Selective)
resource distribution -do-
factors for industrial location -do-
earthquake tsunami etc -do-
impact on flora-fauna -do-

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth, The Hindu, PRS India, Frontline etc.
comparing Constitution with world -do-
parliament, state Legislatures -do-
executive-judiciary -do-
ministries departments -do-
pressure group, informal asso. -do-
Representation of people’s act -do-
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. -do-
welfare schemes, bodies The Hindu, India Year Book, EPW
social sector, health, edu, HRD -do-
governance, transparency, accountability Left
e-governance Left
role of civil service Left
India & neighbors The Hindu, Chronicle Magazine Special Edition, Mains 365.
bilateral/global grouping -do-
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest -do-
Diaspora -do-
international bodies- structure mandate -do-

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
inclusive growth -do-
Budgeting -do-
major crops, irrigation -do-
agro produce – storage, marketing -do-
e-technology for famers -do-
farm subsidies, MSP -do-
PDS, buffer, food security -do-
technology mission -do-
animal rearing economics -do-
food processing -do-
land reforms -do-
Liberalization -do-
Infra -do-
investment models -do-
science-tech day to day life Mains 365, Science Reporter(Selective)
Indian achievements in sci-tech -do-
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR -do-
environmental impact assessment -do-
Disaster Management Wikipedia, NDMA Website
non state actors, internal security Mains 365, Wikipedia
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 Lexicon, 2nd ARC(Selective)
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 None.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Lexicon
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. In ethics, they’re asking random definition and concepts out of the book. Most of the serious candidates (both topper and non-toppers) have received marks in similar ranges. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
Ethics paper is not a test of how good your ethical vocabulary is but how ethical and sensitive one is towards everyday dilemmas and how one reacts to them.
So avoid being a Shakespeare, keep your answers simple and lucid, include real life examples from great leaders/your own life etc.

Mains answer-writing?

Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 12 6 2 20
GS2 10 6 4 20
GS3 14 4 2 20
GS4 10 8 2 20
Opt-P1 14 4 1 19
Opt-P2 15 2 2 19

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]
Attempt each and every question, whether you know it or not.
A completely attempted paper anyday is better than a paper where one attempts around 70-80% questions only, because the range of marks is quite less between the best and average attempted papers, so every marks counts.

Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Its beneficial and keeps you time bound and avoids situation where one gets emotional and keeps on writing and writing on seeing a familiar question.

Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players (who cleared mains and got interview call letter) were claiming that they wrote entire paper in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter…. whether examiner is asking ‘examine, comment, discuss or xyz’….simply write in bullets and points.
Doesn’t matter.
Still bullets in questions which I knew the best or time was limited.
Paragraphs in History/Society type ques. Or which I attempted just for the sake of attempting.

Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.
I did mix of all according to real conditions there.
Its impossible to follow introduction-body-conclusion in almost every question, generally a majority of aspirants do it in first few ques. only when one is high on energy and time.


I don’t like asking following rudimentary questions, but these are the most frequently asked questions by new aspirants.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers? No
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Yes 3-4 in each paper.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Pen
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? Rudimentary Diagrams
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Black.

Mains Optional Subject

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

Less dynamic, limited syllabus(I don’t feel so.)
Limited books and sources.
Most importantly I could read it for one whole year with less uneasiness.
No one has official and verified data to claim the exact success rate of each optional.
Still commonsense prevails that a good no. of aspirants from each optional who are have genuinely worked hard and are good at nailing them get selected each year even if general opinion is not in favour of that particular optional.
Yes, one can say it might have an impact on your final rank because its quite subjective, still selection is assured if you have worked on your optional with right approach.

Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
Current trend says Anthropology is the go to optional and King maker but you never know this optional might be begging for marks in next attempt.
So work on your strength and choose the optional in which you are most comfortable and confident.

Q. First the essential book/resource list.
Books-P.Nath, Nadeem Hasnain, Ember, Makhan Jha(Selective Study).
IGNOU MA Anthropology Books(Selective Study).
Braintree coaching notes(Selective Study).
Solving all past year papers diligently(Most Important).

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?
Paper One I feel can be done through books alone.
Paper Two one can go through internet for recent developments and collecting Case Studies.

Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Four months.
I started after prelims. but wont recommend this strategy.

Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
Extempore, although not recommended.
No answer writing practice, just cramming everything and dumping on exam day.

Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Yes, paper based notes.
Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2016 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
Anthropology this year was difficult as compared to last year still average scores are high.
Your optional is the only paper you can be confident and sure about in this exam, with other papers its all uncertainty.
So make the best out of your optional and try to score as much as possible in it.

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?
The Hindu, Business Standard
Prepared DAF well.
Big Picture, Indias World can be beneficial for interview.
Q2. Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar / different than official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?
Yes I did a few mocks.
No mock can simulate the real interview even if it has retired members in it.
Depends but don’t overdo your mocks, 4-5 mocks are sufficient.
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 stayed in my official Guest House.
Just read the morning newspaper before interview.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Off White Shirt-Grey Striped Tie-Charcoal Grey Trousers-Black Oxford Shoes.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Ms. Sujata Mehta
Q2. How long was the interview?
30 mins appx.
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?]
Questions were on why I filled IFS as my fifth choice.
Indian Banking Scenario.
Why chose civil services over corporate?
Is civil service a platform for social service, if yes than what is NGO?
Issues in home state, district etc.
Most questions were related to current affairs.
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.
The best tip I can give for interview is not to depend on your interview at all for your selection, rather give your best in Mains exam because civil service interview can go anywhere, even if you were applauded or loathed in mock interviews or have the best of oratory skills, envious academic records and achievements, admirable employment history etc.
Still prepare your DAF, current affairs well and be humble, alert, stress free etc. on your interview day.
Q5. Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions? Was it a stress interview, did they ask any uncomfortable questions? If yes, how did you handle it?
It was stress free interview with unexpected questions. :D
I was grilled on why I filled IFS as my fifth option and many counter questions on this.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
The whole process is smooth and easy.
Just bring the required documents as stated.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
It’s quite basic and no need to worry.
CSE-2016 Marksheet
Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:



Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I would have accepted MBA admission at Oxford and opted investment banking as my career.
Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ number of failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/ after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)
Already started working on it after this year Mains exam.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Optionals should be removed.
It increases subjectivity and hardly the learnings from optionals can be used in professional lives.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
It can be continued.
Q. Despite what UPSC has done in last seven years in syllabus and pattern change, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories and the readymade e-material sellers. In fact, it’s increased under the new Mains-syllabus post-2013. Let’s face it, UPSC added so many topics and so many random questions, even fulltime student struggles to gather and process all standard reference books and material himself within the short time available to him. and This system work against an individual preparing from far-away area, without any financial resources, high-speed internet or contacts in Delhi to procure the said material in authentic or pirated form.
Half of the time is used in what to study and rest from where to find that golden/sure-shot resource to get selected, leaving no time to study.

I myself never enrolled in any coaching for prelims or mains and can confidently claim that in this age of internet one can easily crack this exam without doing a mandatory civil services pilgrimage to Delhi etc. as there is already more than sufficient free material available on internet to get one selected, and all you need to be is smart, hard working and consistent.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Yes, it should be published after prelims.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Can be a possibility.
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.
Altogether separate exams can be a solution.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
Remove optional subjects altogether.
Separate exams for IFS and IFoS, as they require totally different skill sets.
Once the candidate clears prelims. he/she should be given a single opportunity to sit in next Mains exam also without appearing for prelims. again.

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?
Once you enter the room, all that matters is you and how you act in those few minutes.
Good credentials can be a positive but a so called inferior profile is never going to have a negative impact.

Internal Motivation

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?
Be passionate about you reason to join civil services and as its a competitive exam and one cant afford to be sluggish.

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.
A desire to be a part of this service and to break the myth(for myself) that civil services is a hard nut to crack.

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
I took my optional subject casually for which I paid the price last year by loosing final selection by a whisker.
This year I diligently prepared my optional.

Struggle of Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job.
I have been working for the past three years as a banker and I managed my studies with my job, although it was tough initially to manage both but with a few sacrifices here and there, it is possible even if you are a working professional.

Grand wisdom

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?
Give your best shot in 1-2 attempts only, and in case you are unsuccessful don’t mourn and leave this vicious cycle of giving multiple attempts and wasting fruitful years of your life because at the end its just an exam and being IAS is just a job which comes with its own pros and cons.
Also, many are under the dilemma that whether one should go for civil services or enter corporate/entrepreneurship etc. after graduation.In my view one should first go for civil services first, either you will get selected or you won’t.In case you are successful you always have the opportunity to exit civil services, with better skills, network and more diverse opportunities.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2016 and scored quite low in Prelims-2017. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
Keep working on your weak areas, work harder and be optimistic.

Credit: Friends/family

Q. Behind every topper are many people who stood by during those uncertain times when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with the readers?
I am grateful to my parents, sister, friends etc. for being a constant source of support during my entire journey and my employer who was liberal in giving me leaves for preparation.

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you? And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering.
I remember Mrunal.org was the very first source from where I downloaded the exam strategy and learned the nuances of this exam, particularly economy and environment sections.
I hope the website continues to serve the purpose of many future aspirants as well.
Good Luck!