1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Typical day in your Online life?
  6. Style of Preparation and notes making
  7. Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: 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-2016 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Struggle of a Senior player
  25. Struggle of Working professional
  26. Grand wisdom
  27. Credit: Friends/family
  28. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Abhishek Sharma

Q. Details
Name Abhishek Sharma
Rank in CSE-2017 69
Roll No. 0171920
Age 24
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 3
Optional Subject Political Science & International Relations
Schooling Medium Hindi ( upto class 10th)
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Kishtwar ( Jammu & Kashmir )
Work-experience if any Junior Engineer in PHE/Irrigation department
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Qualified AIEEE,JKCET,GATE,JKSSB


Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) GS from Vajiram, left in between because didn’t find it useful , but their material was good, realized in 3rd attempt, Optional relied on self study, notes and tests of Shubhra Ranjan Ma’am. And none other than MRUNAL, whose economy lectures and then videos made life easier for candidates like me, who were preparing away from Delhi.
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS> IFS > IPS > IRS(IT) >IRS(C&E)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. J&K > Chhattisgarh > Andhra Pradesh


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 90.2
% in class 12 93.3
Graduation course and % 76
Name of college, city, passing out year GCET Jammu  2014
Any other professional courses  
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Painting, sketching, cooking, Started Vivekananda Youth Forum Kishtwar in 2017


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

I am from a very humble background. I have done agriculture and cattle rearing to support the family and I loved to do that since my childhood. My mother who is was Clerk in SDM office motivated me to go for IAS and told me that an Administrator has to do everything from basic law and order and development , this idea inspired me that I will  be doing every kind of work and that’s why I took active interest in nearly every sphere  of life. I also used to watch DD national too much and loved Indian Diversity , so wanted to work at national level. But, my funda is clear that at one time focus on one thing and excel in that, so during my B.E ( grad) my whole focus was on it and to excel in it. After graduation , I started preparing seriously and emotionally  for this exam ( though later realized that this doesn’t deserve such emotional attachment , ye exam Bewafa bhi hai :P )

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)

I have tried everything , from book specific to electronic material heavy preparation , used to maintain Evernote and all. But realized that it consumes too much time and the Input/output ratio is very high for me. So I will say that it depends upon the type of person. Whatever takes less time to read and revise should be done . Keep in mind , memory becomes deeper when we revise something from same source again . Also , don’t change your sources for general studies, it is more important to revise 10 times than reading 10 books and revising none. So in a  day I kept around 2 hours of  time for reading on laptop or mobile.

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. I used to be a silent spectator on these platforms and never believed in any cutoff predictions.
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups Depends upon the time , before prelims I used to be active in many telegram groups for tests , after pre , I used whatsapp for sending my answer copies to my friends for feedback.
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 2-3 hours
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop > Mobile.

Q. Any other things that you wish to elaborate on above table:

Technology is a janus shaped sword , it is very easy to get deviated and spend too much time on this. While using electronic medium , our goal should be exam specific and in the end this is just an exam , we don’t have to research each and everything ( we are not applying for Job in a Think Tank )

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.)

Somewhere between the 2 extremes, earlier used to do note making rigorously , but later realized that time management is very important. So, made very short and crisp notes ( Especially Optional) so that I can revise the syllabus before mains papers.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Ncert , Nitin singhania
History Medieval do
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Arihant’s Magbook
Culture and society Nitin singhania, NCERT Fine arts book  NCERTs for Society
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikanth + My optional  + Newspaper Hindu
Economy (theory + current) Vajiram class notes + Mrunal + Economic Survey + Budget + NCERTs
Science (theory + current) This has no limits to prepare , but what we can’t ignore is NCERTS and Newspaper ( THE HINDU) + S&T compilation from any notes
Environment (theory + current) Shankar Ias book + Newspaper
geography physical NCERT
geography India NCERT
geography world NCERT + G C Leong + VisionIas booklet on resources
other national/international current affairs Newspaper + VisionIas compilations
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Government websites + RSTV big picture + Newspaper


Q. Candidates are complaining that compared to earlier years, Prelim 2017 and 2018’s GS papers were 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? If you were to prepare for the Prelim-2019, what changes would you make in the strategy?


Yes, pre of 2017 and 2018 were very unconventional and I think upsc is trying to attack some vested interests ( coachings) . So in 2015 pre was more static and conceptual based , in 2016 it was more current based ( and vision was very useful) , in 2017 , those who had entirely relied on vision were caught unawares and like 2018 , focus is more on schemes, policies etc. I would suggest put your eggs in multiple baskets, be ready to face any type of question paper. And practice and revise a lot. Newspaper has no alternative. Read monthly compilations but don’t ignore newspaper. Plus, whenever PM announces any scheme, be attentive . keep  the static concepts very clear .

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Practice of previous year questions
Reasoning do
Comprehension do
Decision Making do

Q. In the recent prelims, the comprehension portion becoming quite tough and lengthy. Candidates struggle even to finish the paper-II. Kindly provide some words of wisdom:

You don’t have to score maximum marks in CSAT , just need 33% , so strategize accordingly. I found that Maths and reasoning questions have better accuracy rates. So, I would first attempt these types and then if I would be around 33% , I would answer some comprehension questions so that I would attempt at least 50% paper.


Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?

Yes, I took a lot of tests – Vajiram + Vision in my 1st ( got 144) , vision + Insights in 2nd ( got 138) , Vision in 3rd ( had just 16 days for prelims ) ( got 115+)

More than just joining a test series , one can purchase test papers and practice oneself and then revise atleast once.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2017

  attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS Around 70s 60s 115+
aptitude Around 40 Around 35 80s


Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Previous papers
your regional language do

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2017

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

I did not do any practice in 1st attempt and got just 107 marks, in 2nd attempt I read  sidhhant jain’s strategy of essay and also prepared a set of quotes. Practiced around 8 essays . and got 147 in the next attempt.

Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?

This time I wrote :

  • Social media is inherently a Selfish medium : In this I began with a quote and then wrote basic things about social media. I highlighted both the aspects – where social media appears as selfish and where social media is used for positive purpose. In the end I concluded that , social media is just a technology and it depends upon how we use it. So we need to have better capacity development and focus on value based education . In this way , we can minimize the negative consequences.
  • Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India.  : I began with a real life story of my own District. I linked the story to various sectors like health, education , migration , child labour . I gave causes for unremunerative farming and in the end I gave various solutions to make farming renumerative. I also linked it with PM’s vision of doubling farmer’s income by 2022.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Nitin singhania + NCERT fine arts book
Indian history Arihant Magbook
world history Vajiram class notes ( Ojha sir) & Norman Lowe
post-independence India NCERT
Indian society NCERT
role of women, poverty etc. General reading from newspaper, prepared some topics on Evernote.
globalization on Indian society do
communalism, regionalism, secularism Laxmikanth Chapter of national integration for definition. NCERT of sociology.
world geo physical NCERT + GC Leong
resource distribution Vision notes
factors for industrial location NCERT of Economic geography
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT + Website of NDMA
impact on flora-fauna Evernote

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth plus had Political science  & IR as my optional so prepared current affairs from newspaper
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 Vajiram printed notes
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Website of the bodies
NGO, SHG etc Vajiram printed notes
welfare schemes, bodies do
social sector, health, edu, HRD do
governance, transparency, accountability do
e-governance do
role of civil service do
India & neighbors newspaper
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 Vajiram class notes + Economic survey + Mrunal
inclusive growth do
Budgeting do
major crops, irrigation do
agro produce – storage, marketing Prepared some handwritten notes from Yojana etc. + Mrunal
e-technology for famers do
farm subsidies, MSP Mrunal , I still remember that Sugarcane pricing issue from Mrunal.
PDS, buffer, food security do
technology mission Basic reading
animal rearing economics do
food processing Mrunal + Website  ( Sampada Scheme )
land reforms Optional Notes
Liberalization do
Infra do
investment models Mrunal
science-tech day to day life newspaper
Indian achievements in sci-tech do
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Vision notes on various topics
environmental impact assessment Shankar IAS book
Disaster Management NDMA website , Ncert , Vajiram printed notes
non state actors, internal security Vajiram Printed notes + newspaper
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 Searched meaning of terms on google
attitude, moral influence etc. Lexicon + DoPT manual on Ethics in governance
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc do
emotional intelligence, its use in governance do
moral thinkers of India and world I had read some thinkers from my optional
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. do
corporate governance Vajiram printed notes
probity in governance, work culture do
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. do
challenges of corruption do
case studies on above topics Practiced test papers.

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?

This year the average marks have been lower than previous years. I think focus is more on honest and practical solution of case studies than a mechanically written answer. Also structure and presentation is also important.

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 Don’t remember      
GS2 do      
GS3 do      
GS4 do      
Opt-P1 do      
Opt-P2 do      

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]

I devoted time to every question based on the marks. I started answering those questions first which I knew and then others. If there is a question on which you don’t have any idea , it is better to leave . but if you have some basic idea about any term in the question, write what you know. There is no perfect answer in Upsc.

Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?

It works for people like me who don’t have a great speed. But we need to practice a lot to improve the structure of the answer.

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.


More focus on Bullet points. But write full sentences . Introduction & conclusion are mostly in paragraph format. Also in many places I wrote in 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 tried to write introduction and conclusion for every answer.

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 , who gets time for that?
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Yes, a lot. Maps, flowcharts, whatever is relevant
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Pen only, who gets time to change pen or pencil.
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? Just hand, we don’t have that much time.
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue pen

Mains Optional Subject

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

PSIR because I had a lot of interest in IR . I didn’t

Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?

Yes , it is a good optional with good study material , but it is lengthy and one needs to work hard and be patient in this.

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.)

Paper 1 (a) : relied on Shubhra Ranjan Mam’s notes , read a few topics from Rajiv bhargava

Paper 1 (b) : Shubhra mam notes + Laxmikanth + Website of various constitutional bodies etc , + Selected topics from Oxford handbook for Indian Politics edited by Pratap Bhanu Mehta  + Newspaper

Paper 2(a) : Mam’s notes + Andrew Heywood Global politics few chapters,

Paper 2(B) : Mam’s notes + Newspaper

Mam’s notes formed the base material , and any book we read should be used for particular topics and don’t have to be read from cover to cover. Revision is 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?

Since Indian Politics and International Relations are very dynamic topics, thus a lot of internet surfing and reading is important. But, there is tendency to overdo it and waste crucial time on internet. So a fine balance is needed.

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

Since I didn’t took coaching for my optional, reading the Entire notes on my own took me 6 months. But Revision takes lesser time .

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

After Prelims .

Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?

Yes, in our time there used to be no or just 1 holiday before optional, so if we don’t create very short notes, its impossible to revise entire syllabus well in time. So, I made very short notes on many topics and also jotted down the names of scholars, their ideas, books. This helped me a great deal .

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?

I found paper 2 to be more difficult than earlier . It is important to Have a grip over the entire syllabus.  If you face unexpected questions from dynamic areas like Indian Politics and International Relations, don’t get scared and use the concepts from Static areas also. The question may look difficult , but the answer doesn’t have to be.

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?

It was my 3rd consecutive interview. Preparing DAF is the most important. Those with work experience prepare well. Current affairs has to be covered from the newspaper except Hindu or Express. Watching RSTV debates is 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?

I took 3 mock interviews, it depends . In my 2nd interview, there was no coincidence. But this time 2 or 3 questions were asked. It is not necessary but I think it is always better to test oneself before the real interview. The Feedback should be taken selectively, its our tendency , if someone criticizes us, we either get angry or sad. In this exam process , we should keep our ego aside and see ourselves from a 3rd person perspective. That always helps us to minimize our weaknesses.

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 JK House . I had brought a short  book on Civil Engineering( Grad) , A document on Saffron Cultivation ( My hobby) , a book on Water Supply Engineering ( Job) and a Book of swami Vivekananda ( To keep myself Motivated)


Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.

Black Suit , white shirt, navy blue tie.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Dr. Manoj Soni

Q2. How long was the interview?

Around 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?]

My mother who worked as a clerk in SDM office inspired me to go for this.

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]

My interview was on the last day 25th of April . Having learnt from previous experience, I had learnt that the most important thing on the day is to stay calm and composed. I  didn’t read the newspaper fully, just went through the headlines so that I don’t get panicked ki ye bhi nhi aata, wo bhi nhi aata.

I entered the room and greeted Good morning to all with a cheerful face. It was a nice start because everyone was smiling.

Chairman  was reading my DAF and then on seeing that I am working as junior engineer. Asked me about job profile. Then asked me which competitive exam I qualified.

CM:So, you have heard of the terms insaniyat kashmiriyat jamhuriyat , what do you mean by all this.
Me : Told that the terms were given by Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji and explained their meaning in brief.

CM :Are steps being taken to promote kashmiriyat.
Me : Sir, in my honest view, I don’t think that genuine efforts are being made on that front.

CM : Where is kishtwar located?

Me : Sir, it is the central most region in J&K, It connects to Jammu, Kashmir and Laddakh and also to Himachal Pradesh.

CM:what is Kishtwar  famous for?

ME : It is famous for Saffron, Sapphire and its Hydroelectric potential.

CM : We hear about a lot of people discussing this Kashmir issue , can you give some of your own  innovative solutions ?

Me : ( This was the most trickiest one, I could have said such and such report or interlocutor or etc, but the Chairman wanted my own innovative solution so had to think for some time ) , Sir, I would divide my solution under 3 categories : Political, Economic and Cultural : Under Economic part, focusing on Microhydel power projects as our state has a great potential in this . Microhydel projects aren’t harmful for environment and create lot of local jobs.

Under Political front, 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment acts haven’t been implemented in our state. I would ensure these are implemented because it will strengthen the  3rd tier of  democracy and political empowerment of people at grassroot level.

Under Cultural front , I would try to revive that old spirit of Kashmiriyat .

Member 1 ( From History or Geography background, asked mostly factual )
Q :African countries on western coast .

Replied some

Q.What is Maghreb region?


Q.Where is Levant region


Q. How many battles were fought at Panipat ?


Q why battles were fought in  panipat?

Me: ( This was a great relief, in 2014 mains , this question was asked and I had thought about it) Replied to their satisfaction.

Q.Arrange in chronological order the various invaders .

Me : Sir, I am not able to remember this at this moment.

Q. On Air India divestment,views


Q . Rohingya issue : Who are the Rohingyas ?

Answered well.

Q. Are the Rohingyas a Threat to national security?

( this was another surgical strike on me ) : replied quite honestly that yes they are and gave various reasons.

Q. ( this was again a tricky one like chakravyuh ) Who allowed the Rohingyas to settle in Jammu?

Me : Sir, I had read somewhere that Rohingyas came into jammu in 2012.

( a sigh of relief )

Member 2 ( I think , he was from Science background)
Q Name some Notable scientists of India

Me : ( Remembering art and culture ) , Aryabhattta , Varahamihir , Bhaskar …..blah blah.

M2 : No, tell me about recent ones?

Me : APJ hi sirf yaad aa rhe the, Sir, Hargobind Khurana?

M2: I am asking about Indian Scientist and not Indian-origin ones.

Me : Sorry sir, I am not able to recollect the names.
M2: Not even the one who was awarded Bharat ratna recently?

Me : Sorry sir, blah blah.

M2 (leave it, ) How much is the Govt expenditure on rnd?

Me : Sir, I don’t know the exact figures but its is very low compared to other countries like China.
M2 : Give me an example of innovation.

Me : thinking very hard and couldn’t give a single example, Sorry sir, Blah blah.

M2: difference between Basic research or applied research


M2 : if you are to decide the budget allocation , how  will you decide between basic or applied ( 50:50 , 60:40 , 70:30 etc)

Me : after thinking for some time , Sir, I don’t think myself capable at this time to decide about the budget allocation.

M2 pressed again to get some reply.

ME : Sir , since I don’t have deep information regarding this, I cannot decide about this myself, firstly I would like to take the opinion of the experts of the field.

M2 : what is the difference between Green building & smart building.
What is you opinion on Property rights to outsiders in J&K.

ME : I think it is wrong. In a single country there should be no discrimination among citizens .

M3 : Who introduced this provision ?

Me : sir, maharaja Hari singh did it.

M3 :Why  did he do so?

Replied something, but he rebuked and said that under the influence of his advisors.

M3: You recently said that you read this in a book by  Jagmohan. Whats the name of the book?

ME :  I had read it, but couldn’t remember the exact name out of stress, said, sir. Some frozen turbulence. The member nodded and said : Yes, my frozen turbulence in Kashmir.

M3 : Recenly an IAS of J&K cadre has written a Book on insider-outsider thing, have you read that?

( The book was Written by Sonali kumar IAS and the excerpts used to come in the local newspaper for a week, I had read just a few paragraphs , Thus had an idea) : Sir, the name of the book is Outsider’s curse, but I haven’t read the book, I have just read the excerpts.

M3: What’s written in the book?

Me : Sir, the author has written that there is discrimination against outsiders even within the Bureaucracy.

M3 : Why is the name of your department as public health engineering .

Repled , but wasn’t satisfied.

M3 : In rural areas  why don’t you do  water treatment.

Since, I knew the reality , I told that it is true that in most of the rural areas, there is little water treatment, gave the various causes .

M3 : ( another controversial question ) Is Kathua incident communal issue?

Me : (Quite passionately) Sir, it is very unfortunate that such a thing happened to 8 year old girl. But this is not a communal issue, it is being communalized now.

M4 ( Lady member )
M4 : Said a long sentence and in the end asked  who Lends  to  the poor?

I replied the usual GS2 & GS 3 jargon, like MUDRA , Start Up Stand up etc. but she said  NO!!! , I am not asking about this. Leave it.

M4 : Do you know about MFI (microfinance institutions )?

Me : mujhe laga ye aata hai, said yes ma’am. But couldn’t explain anything ( I thought , kabada kar diya )

M4 (this question was the face saver )

What are SHGs how do they operate ?

I have regular interaction  with members of a SHG and also explained the concept of SHGs to many Women of my village and hence could explain quite clearly, and also linked MFI to the SHG and hence made her know that MFI bhi aata tha bas explain nhi kar paaya tha.

M4 : what is the status of Women in j&k?

I had forgot all indicators, sex ratio, literacy etc. so thought for a while and explained the status region wise  : Status in Laddakh, Jammu urban , Jammu Rural  , Kashmir Valley , Tribal region. Touched parameters like women freedom, participation in Decision making, Economy , education ; health status etc.

M4: Difference in Saffron from Kashmir and kishtwar ( saffron  Cultivation is my hobby ) so answered it well.

M4 : Tell me some of Swami Vivekananda’s ideas which inspired me

Replied : Potential divinity of every soul, Service to mankind is service to God, Acceptance of all Religions as true.

M4 : What do you do in Vivekananda Youth Forum ? ( I  started VYF Kishtwar in 2017 )

Told about it
M4 : Do you do any social service?

Replied honestly that as of now, We haven’t done anthing of that level.

Finally The Lady member turned to Chairman. The chairman smiled and said something which I couldn’t get clearly, He said something like : It was very nice talking to you etc.

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?

Mostly , it was on expected lines.

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

Bring the documents mentioned, one girl in my board didn’t have category certificate, she was asked to furnish it after the interview.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?

Bring photographs and prescription for spectacles .

CSE-2016 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Prelims Paper-1 114.66
Prelims Paper-2 84.18
Mains Subjects Marks
Essay 129
GSM1 126
GSM2 111
GSM3 125
GSM4 83
Optional Paper-1 142
Optional Paper-2 151
Written Total 867
Interview 190
Final 1057


Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?

Although I was working as a Civil Engineer in PHE/Irrigation deptt , but I had made up my mind to change my profession. if not IAS, then I would have gone for Higher studies in International Relations and give attempts side by side. I had qualified JNU entrance exam in PISM course .


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.)

May be after 4th or 5th attempt.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Although Political science and sociology are both humanities subjects, yet in 2016, one of this subject got very favorable scaling-treatment than the other, consequently some candidates were denied even interview calls, despite having good marks in GS and Essay parallel to toppers. So, optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present scenario is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.

Totally agree with this. Those who have access to coachings have an edge in Optional subjects. But General Studies doesn’t give this luxury. But , from aspirant’s point of view, general studies is borderless and bottomless sea .


Q. After Mains-Syllabus change of 2013, initially some candidates got very high ranks, despite scoring poorly in interviews- thanks to their tall scores in written (mains). So in recent years, it seems UPSC has tweaked the mains-evaluation process in such manner that everyone gets similar range of marks in Essay, GSM2 and GSM4. Thus, selection is majorly dependent on optional scaling and interview score. In CSE-2017, total 990 successful candidates in a spectrum of mere ~296 marks. Yes, UPSC does have internal mechanisms to reduce panel-wise variation of interview marks, yet many candidates didnot make it just because of a ‘strict’ interview panel. So, what should be done to reform A) the mains-evaluation system and B) the interview evaluation system?

Mains : I don’t know how UPSC awards marks.

Interview : I have faced the wrath of interview board twice and believe me, interview score also depends a lot upon luck and chance. In my opinion , the weightage of Interview can further be reduced.


Q. Speaking of Mains syllabus, UPSC Mains Ethics Paper (GS4) should be removed. Case studies are superficial, and as I pointed out earlier, pretty much everyone is given similar range marks. Safeer Karim (IPS) had scored 108 out of 250 marks in Ethics paper (2014), and same gentleman was caught cheating in Mains-2017 with Bluetooth and also running coaching class. So, this paper serves no utility of evaluating a candidate’s character, it has become just a source of income for book publishers and coaching classes.

Totally. I have seen people good at heart scoring less in ethics paper because they didn’t knew the art of answer writing or had less speed and vice versa. Moreover how can one judge the moral compass of a person in question answer format?


Q. (in context of my earlier question on transparency vs litigation) UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.  Your thoughts?

That is helpful for those on borderline , but again the whole process will be stuck in litigation.


Q. UPSC has converted COMBINED MEDICAL SERVICE (CMS) exam into online test. RBI Officer’s exam has descriptive paper at mains-stage, yet it’s completely online -candidate has to ‘type’ the answer on computer screen. So, 1) Whether Prelim should be conducted online 2) whether mains should be conducted online. Your views?


Prelims should be conducted online. I cannot say the same about mains though.


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. I think the same .

Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?

Depends upon whether Foundation Course will play a role in Ranking or not  . :P


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?

I have had my primary education in  Hindi Medium school in my Village. Studied in ordinary college . And then I was insecure about speaking fluently in English in interview. But, I have realized that such things don’t matter in UPSC. What is required is your sincerity and honesty and hard work like I used to read the newspaper aloud for half an hour to improve my English Fluency.

Struggle of 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.

My family acted like a Shield in crucial times. But , I didn’t kept myself locked for studies. I lived life like a ordinary person, interacted with my family , friends, watched movies, pursued my interests and used to watch some motivational videos in times of crisis.

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

Got too much emotionally attached to this exam and didn’t  focus on all papers equally . This time took this exam like any other exam and prepared every subject and every topic of syllabus thoroughly. Plus, multiple revisions and answer writing practice helps.

Struggle of Working professional

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

You don’t need to put in 12 hours of study after some time. What is important is consistency, So, keep your resources in your mobile, tab etc. If you get some time , study . And use your time optimally. But, before prelims or mains is approaching ( atleast 2 weeks before ), get a leave and Revise/prepare full time.

Grand wisdom

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?

If you have a passion for civil services and have will power , it’s the best power. But , every other day especially after 1st attempt, we think : maybe this is not my cup of tea, you see your friends and classmates enjoying in corporate sector, going on foreign trips etc. that makes us sad. But keep in mind : This too shall pass, just wait for your time and work hard till then. I had pasted a couple of motivational quotes on the wall and used to watch a scene from movie “ Nil Battey Sannata “ when I thought : nahi ho paayega, It used to fill fresh energy in my mind.


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?

Patience and Perseverance are great virtues. The one who fails today might be a topper tomorrow. If you qualify in 1st attempt, doesn’t mean its only because of hard work, luck or grace of God was also on your side and if you don’t qualify, learn from your mistakes and work on them .

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?

You don’t know what tomorrow has for you. Just wait for your time and keep on working hard. This exam demands positive attitude . If you have the quality of standing up again and again after falling, you will make great officers.

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?

My Family  ( Mummy , Dady, Elder brothers and sisters ) , Friends ( Sahil, Vikas, Nittu , Rahul, Urvi) and lot of other people.

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.  

Yes, totally . I was preparing from my home, 850km away from Delhi. You were the one who used to fill our gloomy days with laughter , fun. You make learning so much enjoying and I still remember your characters like , General Dong, Dongrila, Rajan bhai etc. Your memes were awesome.Thank you Mrunal Sir.

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