1. About Suman Sourav Mohanty: Rank-9, UPSC-2016
  2. Electronic Vs Paper material
  3. Typical day in your Online life?
  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: Public Administration
  16. Before the interview
  17. During the interview
  18. CSE-2016 Marksheet
  19. Career Backup
  20. Views on UPSC reforms
  21. Insecurity about profile
  22. Internal Motivation
  23. Struggle of a Senior player
  24. Struggle of Working professional
  25. Grand wisdom
  26. Credit: Friends/family
  27. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

About Suman Sourav Mohanty: Rank-9, UPSC-2016

IAS Topper Suman Sourav Mohanty
Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Hello friends! I am suman sourav mohanty  a resident of odisha ,Bhubaneswar, and a mechanical engineer from kiit university. My father is a retired bureaucrat ,mother a homemaker , elder brother working as a software engineer in TCS and sister a faculty in an engineering college.i strongly feel and believe UPSC is god’s desire to see you serve the poor and needy and destiny brings you closer to the goal.having served in private companies then consultant in state government i never had the inkling that one day i would get the opportunity to serve my country as an IAS officer .however in 2015 i started my preparartion and i got through Indian revenue service (customs and central excise). Previously i was selected as Dy Collector in Odisha State PSC exams and secured 6th rank .The main motivation coming from a state which has low social and human development indicators was to serve as a change agent to bring about development with pro people participation, and make administration go closer to people.

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. I regularly followed only ias baba and neostencil.com for my preparation .

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. This is the most useless things people do ,specially spending hours on discussing in social forums.
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups No fb during prep. Whatsapp only using study group.
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:
I used internet for gs material research and extra pointers on current affairs. Apart from that since my preparation was based out of Bhubaneswar, I used neostencil.com to access Pawan sir’s classes for public administration and test series discussion

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.)
Notes making i did on the book or current affairs pdf.no mindmaps or evernote i am not that techsavvy.

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,tmh
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? 
UPSC is too clever so its a mix of factual and current affairs related. Don’t be selective about studying and focus on multiple revisions
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 and focus more on factual answers

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Rajesh verma
Reasoning Rs aggarwal
Comprehension Mk pandey
Decision Making Mk pandey

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:
practice as much comprehension as you can. Practise more from higher level comprehension rather than lower level.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
yes  attended from insights ,vision . they are necessary as it gives u confidence and you relaise you are on the right track.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2016

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 75 15 140
aptitude 40 38 93.33

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper No preparation
your regional language Odiya-10th standard book of odisha government

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

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper? 
focus on logical structure of essay, put facts and figures and make it multi dimensional by linking it with general studies  syllabus ,use subheadings
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.
cooperative federalism myth or reality
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. NCERTS
globalization on Indian society NCERTS
communalism, regionalism, secularism Left
world geo physical 11th & 12th NCERT, Mrunal.org, GC Leong(Selective)
resource distribution 11th & 12th NCERT, Mrunal.org, GC Leong(Selective)
factors for industrial location 11th & 12th NCERT, Mrunal.org, GC Leong(Selective)
earthquake tsunami etc 11th & 12th NCERT, Mrunal.org, GC Leong(Selective)
impact on flora-fauna 11th & 12th NCERT, Mrunal.org, GC Leong(Selective)

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 Laxmikanth, The Hindu, PRS India, Frontline etc.
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikanth, The Hindu, PRS India, Frontline etc.
executive-judiciary Laxmikanth, The Hindu, PRS India, Frontline etc.
ministries departments Laxmikanth, The Hindu, PRS India, Frontline etc.
pressure group, informal asso. Laxmikanth, The Hindu, PRS India, Frontline etc.
Representation of people’s act Laxmikanth, The Hindu, PRS India, Frontline etc.
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikanth, The Hindu, PRS India, Frontline etc.
welfare schemes, bodies The Hindu, India Year Book, EPW
social sector, health, edu, HRD The Hindu, India Year Book, EPW
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 The Hindu, Chronicle Magazine Special Edition, Mains 365.
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest The Hindu, Chronicle Magazine Special Edition, Mains 365.
Diaspora The Hindu, Chronicle Magazine Special Edition, Mains 365.
international bodies- structure mandate The Hindu, Chronicle Magazine Special Edition, Mains 365.

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
inclusive growth Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
Budgeting Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
major crops, irrigation Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
agro produce – storage, marketing Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
e-technology for famers Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
farm subsidies, MSP Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
PDS, buffer, food security Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
technology mission Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
animal rearing economics Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
food processing Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
land reforms Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
Liberalization Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
Infra Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
investment models Mrunal.org, Sriram Economy, Economic Survey, Yojana.
science-tech day to day life Mains 365, Science Reporter(Selective)
Indian achievements in sci-tech Mains 365, Science Reporter(Selective)
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Mains 365, Science Reporter(Selective)
environmental impact assessment Mains 365, Science Reporter(Selective)
Disaster Management Wikipedia, NDMA Website
non state actors, internal security Mains 365, Wikipedia
internal security – role of media, social networking site Mains 365, Wikipedia
cyber security Mains 365, Wikipedia
money laundering Mains 365, Wikipedia
border Management Mains 365, Wikipedia
organized crime, terrorism Mains 365, Wikipedia
security agencies- structure mandate Mains 365, Wikipedia

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. Lexicon, 2nd ARC(Selective)
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Lexicon, 2nd ARC(Selective)
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon, 2nd ARC(Selective)
moral thinkers of India and world None.
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

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? 
best way is use simple language and common sense, secondly try for quoting principles of philosophers in the essay.

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 14 6 0 20
GS2 13 6 1 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.focus on 9 minute strategy rather than writing everything .
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.
point wise is best with subheadings answering each part of the q.
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 7-8 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? Blue add gel

Mains Optional Subject: Public Administration

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Public administration
easy to grasp, link to current affairs, less work in gs 2 3 and 4 due to interlinkages.i had faith in public administration and knew that it is easy to score marks . this time questions came easy also.
Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
yes because its easy, interlinkages with gs paper 2,3,4 and lesser course .
Q. First the essential book/resource list. 
R Aribam, Rajnigoyal, Pawan sirs notes and online courses of neostencil.com, laxmikanth, ignou for certain chapters.
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 link to Indian administration and current affairs
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.

Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
3 months before
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Yes, bookbased 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?
Public administration was easier this year  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.

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.
blue suit and tie white shirt

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 related to current affairs and daf, some questions were from my state and the low social indicators . mostly the board was cordial and made me feel comfortable .
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. 
interview was basically about why ias, problems with gst , issues in odisha, poverty, situational questions as dm , questions from mechanical engineering .Interview was cordial and nice .
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 interviewwith expected questions. No uncomfortable questions at all.

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:

GS1 123

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I would have continue in IRS C&CE..
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.
Coaching would exist and we cannot help it . However, to better manage time and costs, nowadays students can attend classes of Delhi’s coaching from their hometown through neostencil.com at a fraction of price. This mode of learing was very helpful in preparation journey. However coaching can only guide and ultimate effort has to be done by the student.
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.
make interview in two phases

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.
the interview is a personality test and it actually is a test of personality,English speaking doesn’t matter.

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.second go for physical exercise and spiritualism.

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.
captain manoj pandey paramvir chakra awardee”some goals are so worthy its glorious to fail”
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.
take time off on weekends and prepare for three four hours on weekdays.

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 sincerely,success is round the corner.

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 ,geography sections.met rajtanil madam during my probation at IRS C&CE.
specially the doubt clearing aspects!