21. CSE-2016 MARKSHEET


Q. Details
Name Rishi Raj
Rank in CSE-2017 27
Roll No. 0730471
Age 24
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 2
Optional Subject Electrical engineering
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Singrauli, M.P
Work-experience if any None
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures AIR 5485 in IIT JEE 2011
AIR 05 in GATE 2015
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS, IFS, IRS(IT), IRS (C&E), IAAS
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh , Rajasthan


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 96
% in class 12 89.4
Graduation course and % B.Tech Electrical Engineering , 94.5
Name of college, city, passing out year IIT(ISM) Dhanbad, Dhanbad, 2015
Post-graduation None
Any other professional courses None
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Kinesics , Haptics, Vocalis and Chronemics.


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
I am an Electrical Engineer from IIT(ISM) Dhanbad. My father is a Manager at NTPC dadri, UP. My mother is housewife. I have a younger brother who is also an electrical engineer who is in a job.
I started UPSC CSE preparation from June 2015 (after my graduation). I decided to enter in this field because just after my graduation, I was declared medically unfit (colorblind) to pursue a career as an Electrical engineer. So I decide to reinvent my career dreams by shifting my compass towards Non-technical services under UPSC CSE.


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)
Rishi Raj IAS Topper
During starting phase of my preparation, I too have been bogged down by Information Explosion these days. There after I decided to minimize my resources (both online and offline). I decided to study the static portion from the paper material and for the current affairs I depended on monthly current affairs online magazines. I never read any newspaper for current affairs, my idea was not to complete any newspaper rather than to complete the issue/topic. So I daily gazed through online news sites and then after I researched about that news topic/ issue from several other sites to complete that topic rather than completing just the news. This helped me in my mains answer writing and regarding prelims, I just went through the current affairs compilations available during last 2-3 months before prelims. Also, it is very important to figure out best online resources other than government websites, for me they were Mrunal for economy and current affairs and NeoStencil for ethics, essay and internal security courses.


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. None.
Daily hrs spent on WhatsApp and telegram study groups WhatsApp:  0 hours since last 2 years.
telegram : 5-10 minutes daily only to look for shared materials.
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 3 hours
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop

Q. Any other things that you wish to elaborate on above table:
Few things (cutoff, syllabus change, age limit changes and other bakaiti) are beyond our control so one must not worry about such things. Only control the Controllable (hard work and effort).


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.)
For prelims, I made mindmaps for polity revision and for stuffs which have to be crammed only like National parks, rivers etc.
For the mains, note making is essential. I made 3-4 small notes/ points for every topic mentioned in the Mains syllabus. This helps to retrieve information and write quality answer in 7-8 minutes.


Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old Ncert
History Medieval Never studied
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum
Culture and society Ncert class 11 book
Polity (theory + current) M. laxmikanth , current affairs compilation
Economy (theory + current) Mrunal videos,  current affairs compilation
Science (theory + current)  current affairs compilation
Environment (theory + current) Shankar Ias book ,  current affairs compilation
geography physical Ncert class 11 book
geography India Ncert class 11 book
geography world Ncert class 11 book
other national/international current affairs current affairs compilation
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff current affairs compilation

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?
One must try to discriminate between Bol bachchan and Gyan. The trick masters are aiming to make their video viral rather than providing gyan. Prelims 2017 Gs paper was tougher because straight forward current affairs questions were less compared to 2016 paper, also more analytical questions on polity made it even tougher.
Therefore, one must try to balance static and dynamic portions during prelims preparation. Finally, read only what will make you clear cutoff rather than reading what is being propagated by trick masters / UPSC Munnabhais.

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 try to give more time to static portions like polity, environment and ecology etc. Also I would focus on solving the paper without having any preconceived notions regarding cutoffs.


Topic strategy / booklist
Maths none
Reasoning none
Comprehension none
Decision Making none

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:
For comprehension, the trick is to first read the question and then go through the passage. Also it becomes tough when we try to tick the answer based upon our previous outside information. So NEVER try to look for answer beyond the comprehension.


Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Yes, I do attempt only the Full length tests available online for free. I think they are necessary because it helps one to identify his/her shortcomings and rectify it. Also it helps to get into the zone/ mental space required to write prelims.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2017

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 72 65 yet to be released
aptitude 70 66 yet to be released


Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper going through previous year papers
your regional language going through previous year papers


Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I took guidance from my friend who had scored 148 marks in 2016. Also I referred to available online courses from Neostencil, toppers answer sheets etc.
This year I tried to include relevant quotes, current happenings and made short notes from President and other dignitaries speeches.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?

  1. Has the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) lost its relevance in a multipolar world?
  2. Fulfilment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth.

Key points: started with current happenings, took a stand, substantiated the stand with various dimensions, mentioned the challenges/ lacunae, provided own unique solutions/ suggestions and concluded with relevant quote.



Anyways, here starts the list:

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture NCERT  class 11th book
Indian history spectrum , bipin chandra book
world history Mrunal videos
post-independence India made short notes from Wikipedia on selected topics
Indian society current affairs compilation
role of women, poverty etc. current affairs compilation
globalization on Indian society current affairs compilation
communalism, regionalism, secularism current affairs compilation , self-notes from Wikipedia
world geo physical ncert class 11th book
resource distribution Wikipedia self-made notes
factors for industrial location ncert
earthquake tsunami etc. ncert class 11
impact on flora-fauna current affairs compilation


Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. M. laxmikant
comparing Constitution with world telegram study group
parliament, state Legislatures M laxmikant, current affairs compilation
executive-judiciary current affairs compilation
ministries departments current affairs compilation , ministries websites
pressure group, informal asso. M laxmikant, current affairs compilation
Representation of people’s act current affairs compilation
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. M laxmikant, current affairs compilation
NGO, SHG etc. current affairs compilation
welfare schemes, bodies current affairs compilation
social sector, health, edu, HRD current affairs compilation
governance, transparency, accountability 2nd ARC summaries
e-governance 2nd ARC summaries
role of civil service 2nd ARC summaries
India & neighbors MEA website, loksabha question search on loksabha website
bilateral/global grouping MEA website, loksabha question search on loksabha website
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest MEA website, loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
Diaspora MEA website, loksabha question search on loksabha website, current afffairs compilation
international bodies- structure mandate their websites, telegram study groups


Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal videos
inclusive growth Ncert
Budgeting m laxmikant
major crops, irrigation telegram study group
agro produce – storage, marketing telegram study group , govt schemes
e-technology for famers telegram study group , govt schemes
farm subsidies, MSP loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
PDS, buffer, food security loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
technology mission loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
animal rearing economics loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
food processing loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
land reforms loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation, NITI aayog committee report
Liberalization ncert
Infra loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
investment models loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
science-tech day to day life current affairs compilation
Indian achievements in sci-tech loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
environmental impact assessment telegram study group
Disaster Management loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation, telegram study groups
non state actors, internal security Neostencil , loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
internal security – role of media, social networking site Neostencil , loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
cyber security Neostencil , loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
money laundering Neostencil , loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
border  Management Neostencil , loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
organized crime, terrorism Neostencil , loksabha question search on loksabha website, current affairs compilation
security agencies- structure mandate Neostencil , telegram study group


Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Neostencil , telegram study group notes , Mrunal videos
attitude, moral influence etc. Neostencil , telegram study group notes, Mrunal videos
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc. Neostencil , telegram study group notes
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Neostencil , telegram study group notes
moral thinkers of India and world I prepared almost all the thinkers from the notes available in the market …..especially after losing heavily in 2016 paper.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. 2nd ARC summary
corporate governance Mrunal website
probity in governance, work culture mrunal videos
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. 2nd ARC summary
challenges of corruption 2nd ARC summary
case studies on above topics Neo stencil, telegram study group

Q. In ethics, 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?
Marks no yet disclosed.


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 4 2 20
GS2 15 3 2 20
GS3 16 2 2 20
GS4 15 2 2 19
Opt-P1 3 2 0 5
Opt-P2 3 1 1 5

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]
In 2016, I attempted only what I knew with full quality. Because of which I left 2-3 questions in each paper. Hence I could not make into the final list. Thereafter I realized that in GS, perhaps attempting all questions is better than writing 12-14 quality answers.
In 2017, I attempted all questions, tried to improve my presentation by drawing maps, including current affairs examples etc. A candidate must try to attempt all questions because others are not Harishchandra . However, don’t try to fake any answer, try to write as much relevant content you know about that question, in such questions maps/ current affairs examples could act as a filler.

Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Fixed space is double edged sword. Please don’t write only to fill the space especially in 15 markers.
Also adhere to the space in the 10 markers, try to promote swatch Baharat (don’t overwrite) in 10 markers.

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.
No I did not write papers entirely in one format. It depends upon demand of question. If multiple points are to be covered then go for bullets, but if analysis is required (especially in polity) go for paragraphs.

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 not follow any fixed Intro- Body-conclusion format uniformly for all questions. However, if I felt that any question demands to have an introduction or a conclusion, I provided it concisely in those questions “only”.

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 , try to draw as much as you can in GS papers.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? pencil
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? no, used hands only .
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? blue for all papers. used black pen only in essay to write heading, quotes, story.


Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
My optional was Electrical engineering. I am a Goldmedalist in Electrical engineering from IIT, hence because of my stronghold over the topic I chose electrical as my optional.
Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
If the new player is an Electrical or Electronics Engineer, then definitely YES!
I would advise him /her to look for previous years’ papers and gauge the amount of preparation required.

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.)
The resource list must start with previous year solved papers available in the market. Then one must identify the high frequency questions and try to figure out which books/ online NPTEL videos cover maximum of those high frequency questions. Those books would be the go to books for this optional.
One could also follow the resource list mentioned by Prince Dhawan sir in his blog.

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?
Interest and level of familiarity is very necessary.  No one cannot simply rely on books to score in electrical engineering.

Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
3-4 months

Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
8 weeks

Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
YES, I made short notes for formulas in paper form.

Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2017 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
The paper was almost as much difficult or easy as it was in previous years. Since electrical engineering optional candidates are minority hence our we can’t complain why our papers are always made difficult as compared to other humanities optional. “The fixed answer space available is the biggest bias against engineering optional candidates”. We can’t even afford a calculation mistake in any single step …we can’t strike it down and start afresh as it happens in university exams. There is no extra space. Perhaps UPSC wants us to memories each questions like our Humanities friends.
So try to reduce such calculation mistakes by practicing more and more numerical. Also try to make “calculator your best friend “while preparing for this optional.


Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?
I prepared a list of expected questions from my DAF and memorized it. Regarding current affairs, I used to google and interview transcripts on telegram study groups.

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 do attend several mocks. few were similar and others were completely different from real interview process. Yes, I believe it is necessary to attend such mocks because it provides crucial net practice before actual game begins. But one must not overdo the mocks. It is very important to look original and uncoached.

Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
My father’s home at NTPC dadri, up. Therefore, I had access to all my notes till the very last moment.

Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Black coat, dark blue tie, light blue full shirt, black formal pant, black leather belt, black leather formal shoes.


Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Prof (Dr) Pradeep Kumar Joshi
Q2. How long was the interview?
around 25-30 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?]
why civils: to become part of governance system of the country .
why not graduation field: tried but medically unfit, so decided to increase my ambit of service from engineering to administration.

Q4. Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview. (Earlier some toppers only tell me their question but not their answer. I would appreciate if you give both Question + your original answers]
Chairman sir:

  1. what are you doing since graduation in 2015? told that wrote gate got air 5 in 2015 but was declared medically unfit to pursue career as an engineer, thereafter started preparing for civils.
  2. what is smart grid? gave the answer which I had prepared…it was my research project.
  1. what is smart city?  use of smart solutions to improve quality of living in cities.
  2. what is smart village? providing infrastructure amenities of available in urban areas in villages, at the same time keeping their soul intact.
  3. how will you contribute in services? I could contribute towards vibrant energy sector of our country …mentioned several schemes and my research project.

member 1 (lady)

  1. reasons for high crime rate against women in country? gave general answer covering political, social, historical, economic dimensions
  2. how would you solve the problem? gave suggestion on improving criminal justice system, police reforms, Mali math committee etc.
  3. how to solve this problem using education syllabus if you are education secretary? told about good touch and bad touch in nursery and primary level. then gender/ sex education in secondary, senior secondary level.

member 2

  1. what is your opinion on standalone grid? gave technical reply on off grids systems and mentioned their relevance in 100% electrification
  2. how as a BDO you would present idea of renewable energy to villagers? told about focus on convergence. agriculture- solar energy convergence, swatch Baharat – biogas energy convergence, crop residue burning – waste to energy generation convergence

member 3

  1. what is goal of your life? told that after I die, people must remember me as a person who helped them
  2. how will you help others? I told it is not necessary to become IAS/IPS to help others…if I could become a teacher I would give my 100% to my students so they themselves could become IAS/IPS
  3. have you taught earlier? told him about Karvataya ngo at IIT (ISM) DHANBAD.

member 4

  1. what is your hobby? told about kinesis
  2. how do you use it? told about analyzing body language of others and helping them to improve it
  3. what is the Singapore model of smart city? told don’t know sir…then he gave the hint that work/ play/ live at the same place…then I elaborated it using Transit Oriented Development concept.

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 on expected lines. It was not a stress interview.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
follow the instructions mentioned in the call letter. God forbid even if you miss any document, don’t panic give an undertaking that I would produce so and so document on so and so date.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Avoid partying after interview, wait till the medical exam.


Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:


Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I would have gone for higher studies.

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.)
If I would not have cleared this time (second attempt, second interview) then I had prepared my mind to go for PMRF scheme announced in budget 2018.


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.
Optional should be removed or at least parity in syllabus/ marking/ scaling/ fixed answer space should be looked into to encourage minority optional like Electrical engineering.

Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
As an engineer, I feel it was done to deliberately keep engineers or CAT aspirants out of the game.
they have been penalized to possess a sharp mind.
Shows open bias towards people from humanities background.

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.
I would suggest to have a psycho analysis paper which would weed out the black sheeps and it is coaching proof too.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
YES, I support this.
Q. UPSC should disclose the evaluated mains- answer sheets like some StatePCS are doing.
yes, I support this.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.

prelims could be online but not the mains

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.
Yes, it has increased cutoff for people who are only preparing for civils. so the prelims must be separated.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
Bring parity in optional and marking range of different interview boards.


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?
no I never faced any such insecurity. for aspirants who have such insecurity, I would suggest to read about sage valmiki and his transformation… history is history one can’t change it…only thing what can be done is to improve our future.


(Answer only if you’re a senior player.)
Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison of UPSC and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.

Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?


If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job


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?
always remember the moment when you started preparing for civils. You will never lose hope or get distracted.

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?
accept the failures and the worst possible outcome. internalize it. then use all your strength to make it less bad, then make more effort to make it again slightly less work. This way one is away from tension and devotes fullest time to preparation.

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2017. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, you are not alone, I was at similar situation last year.


IAS Topper Rishi Raj
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?
My college friends (5th wing, 6th wing, electrical dept. students), teachers, family members.


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. 
it helped me in economics, modern history, world history, geography, art and culture, ethics papers.
SPECIAL THANKS to MRUNAL SIR!!! Sir keep the good work going.