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: MATHEMATICS
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. CSE-2017 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Grand wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate – Profile

UPSC Rank #86: Prateek Jain

Q. Details
Name Prateek Jain
Rank in CSE-2017 86
Roll No. 0001010
Age 24
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 2
Optional Subject Mathematics
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Ajmer
Work-experience if any None
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures AIR 3 in Indian Forest Service (IFoS) Examination 2016 (First attempt)

– Reached till interview stage in CSE 2016 (first attempt) but not recommended in the final list

Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) – Joined coaching for both GS and optional.

– Joined Test Series for GS/Optional for both my attempts.

Service preferences (Top-5) IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS(IT), IRS(Customs and Central Excise)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. 1. Rajasthan
2. Maharashtra
3. Karnataka


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 92.4
% in class 12 90.8
Graduation course and % B.E. (hons) Mechanical: 7.74 CGPA
Name of college, city, passing out year BITS Pilani, passed out in 2016
Post-graduation M.Sc. (hons) Biological Science from BITS Pilani
Any other professional courses No
Hobbies & Other achievements Hobbies: Teaching, Sports, Singing

Other Achievements:
– KVPY Fellow (2011-2016)
– Rank 1 in Rajasthan Pratibha Khoj Pariksha 2011


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

I belong to a middle class family in Ajmer. Both my parents are in government service at clerical positions. My parents gave me enough freedom to explore whatever I want in my childhood days. They motivated me to play sports, participate in cultural activities and many competitive examinations/quizzes at the school level. This helped me develop my aptitude in various domains and shaped my overall personality.

I started thinking about Civil Services Examination when I was in my second year of my graduation course. At that time, I was looking at various career options for me and soon realized that my mental orientation is towards civil services. These services provide a big platform to make good changes/improvements in the society. The power an officer gets can be effectively used to serve the nation at both micro and macro levels. As a person, I always wanted a position with high responsibilities for myself. Because of these reasons, I found IAS as the best career choice for me.


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)

It is good that there is ample of information available both in paper and electronic form. Different sources and ways can be helpful for different aspirants. It is important for them to identify the right sources for themselves. Before starting any subject, aspirants should do good research and talk to seniors to find out the best source to study it. After that, they should stick to it and should not get swayed away by random information sources.

For developing my basic concepts, I relied on standard books and newspapers. But I used Internet for browsing purpose and to understand some concepts in depth. Some online blogs and YouTube video lectures are also very good for some subjects.


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. Kept myself far away from all this once I was satisfied about my prelim/Main performance
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups Never used social media during my preparation
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 5-6 hours. Always kept my laptop on while studying GS.
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop


Q. Any other things that you wish to elaborate on above table: Online sources can be used very effectively to understand many things that are not directly given in any book. I never concentrated my doubts and tried to quickly Google about any doubt that I faced. But I took caution while using online media. It is important to stop browsing at the right time rather than keep going deeper and deeper. I also used website blockers to block e-commerce/social media/entertainment sites.


Style of Preparation and notes making

Q. What is your style of preparation and notes making? (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I’m reading, I just read multiple times but don’t maintain notes, I make mindmaps on computer, I use xyz software etc.)

I read standard books multiple times and made very short notes(10-20 pages per book) a month before the Pre/Main Exam which helped me for the final revision.  I also used Evernote to make current affairs notes.


Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old NCERT, Tamil Nadu Book
History Medieval Tamil Nadu Book
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum’s  Modern India, Bipan Chandra’s India’s Struggle for independence
Culture and society Tamil Nadu book, Nitin Singhania’s Indian Art and Culture
Polity (theory + current) Theory: Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity

Current: The Hindu and VisionIAS booklets

Economy (theory + current) Theory: Mrunal’s youtube lectures, Sriram’s Notes

Current: same as above

Science (theory + current) Nothing special for theory. Newspapers for current
Environment (theory + current) Theory: Shankar IAS book

Current: VisionIAS booklets

geography physical NCERT and Mrunal’s Geography series by Rajtanil Solanki
geography India NCERT and Mrunal’s Geography series by Rajtanil Solanki
geography world NCERT and Mrunal’s Geography series by Rajtanil Solanki
other national/international current affairs The Hindu
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Yojana, The Hindu and VisionIAS booklets


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?

Undoubtedly, the GS paper was tougher but it does not mean that aspirants resort to random flukes and guesses. I believe that 10-15 questions in the paper were very difficult (un-attemptable) but such questions are put in the paper to shake the confidence of the candidates. A candidate who has covered the syllabus thoroughly could easily identify these difficult questions and wisely ignore them. On the other hand, there were questions meant to check the depth of conceptual understanding (almost all questions in Polity) which if handled well could have fetched good marks.

I never expected direct questions picked up from any source, be it paper based or e-learning based. Utility of the sources need to be assessed based on the concepts that they are dealing with, not on the facts. I have used many such sources and they have widened my thinking and understanding, and this is what helps in the examination.


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 not have made any changes. I would have still focused on making a balance between the static and current portions.


Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Did not prepare anything
Reasoning Did not prepare anything
Comprehension Did not prepare anything
Decision Making Did not prepare anything


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:

I personally faced no such problem in both my attempts and was able to get good score in CSAT. Those facing difficulty in aptitude must do a lot of practice. Previous year question papers can be of great help for aspirants to understand the type of questions that are being asked.


Prelim accuracy

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

Yes, I wrote around 50 tests for my first attempt and around 25 tests for my second attempt. It is not necessary to join a test series. Any good test series can be picked up from the market and candidates can evaluate their performance on their own.

I strongly believe in simulating my mind for the exam-like environment. Solving tests within time limits challenges us again and again, and trains our mind to expect the unexpected in the actual Preliminary examination. The same goes true for Mains as well. These tests also help us in identifying our weak portions which can be later covered properly.


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


  attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 82 66 121.33
aptitude 70 63 149.18


Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Did not prepare anything
your regional language Hindi- I prepared for it during the Main Examination only, just the day before the examination.
I wrote an essay and prepared for Grammar portion that contains 50 marks (eg: learned all basic synonyms/Paryayvachi Shabda)



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

Both  Hindi and English papers were simple and could be completed in 2 or 2.5 hours. Essay and comprehensive unseen passage in both papers were simple and on easy topics.

English: Grammar portion was difficult but nothing can be specifically prepared for it.

First attempt candidates must invest one day in advance to prepare for these papers and look at the type of questions asked. One previous year paper can be picked up and can be attempted as a mock test. By doing this, aspirants will themselves know whether they need to prepare more or not.


Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

I wrote 5 essay tests (10 essays). Writing tests is important for time management in this paper. Last year, I was not able to complete my second essay, but this year I managed my time well.

I prepared for essay topic wise. Major topics include Science and Technology, Economy and Development, Environment, Women, Education and Philosophy. For each of this topic, I remembered few data points that include results of survey, reports, major indices, status in India and world etc. I also learned some quotations for every topic.


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

1. Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms

  • Classrooms as social spaces: help understand different cultures, increases unity among different religions, castes and classes, increases tolerance, decreases hatred.
  • classrooms during British era, the English education system and its consequences
  • demographic dividend and future of our country
  • learning from education systems of Finland and Japan
  • Gurukul model of classrooms

2.  Fulfillment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth

  • Vision of PM’s New India and its relation with New woman
  • social status of women in Indian society
  • labor force participation rate, gender gap, glass ceiling effect
  • political representation at all levels: how it has helped and what still lags
  • examples of successful women leaders and their contributions

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Nitin Singhania’s Indian Art and Culture
Indian history Spectrum’s Modern India
world history Old NCERT and Mrunal’s notes

– but in the last 2 years, questions in world history were difficult to find in any source. It is better to read these two basis sources to develop a good idea about world history and major events and then any question can be written using this understanding.

I also referred Vision IAS notes.

post-independence India Pradhanmantri  TV show, VisionIAS notes
Indian society – Prepared using questions in Test series and internet search

– made short notes on poverty,  population, migration, urbanization, secularism, communalism, regonalism

role of women, poverty etc. using questions in Test series and internet search
globalization on Indian society using questions in Test series and internet search
communalism, regionalism, secularism using questions in Test series and internet search
world geo physical NCERT and Mrunal
resource distribution NCERT and Mrunal
factors for industrial location NCERT and Mrunal
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT and Mrunal
impact on flora-fauna NCERT and Mrunal

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity and Laxmikanth’s Governance in India
comparing Constitution with world Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity and Laxmikanth’s Governance in India
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity and Newspapers
executive-judiciary Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity and Newspapers
ministries departments Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity and Newspapers
pressure group, informal asso. Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity and Newspapers
Representation of people’s act Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity and Newspapers
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity and Newspapers
NGO, SHG etc Newspapers
welfare schemes, bodies Yojana, Newspapers
social sector, health, edu, HRD Nespapers and VisionIAS booklets
governance, transparency, accountability Laxmikanth’s Governance in India
e-governance Laxmikanth’s Governance in India
role of civil service Laxmikanth’s Governance in India, 2ndARC
India & neighbors Newspapers and VisionIAS booklets
bilateral/global grouping Newspapers and VisionIAS booklets
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Newspapers and VisionIAS booklets
Diaspora Newspapers and VisionIAS booklets
international bodies- structure mandate Newspapers and VisionIAS booklets

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal and Sriram’s notes
inclusive growth Mrunal, Sriram’s notes and Ramesh Singh’s Indian Economy
Budgeting Mrunal and Sriram’s notes
major crops, irrigation Mrunal
agro produce – storage, marketing Mrunal, Sriram’s notes, VisionIAS current booklets and NITI Aayog 3 year action agenda
e-technology for famers Mrunal, Sriram’s notes and VisionIAS current booklets
farm subsidies, MSP Mrunal, Sriram’s notes, VisionIAS current booklets and NITI Aayog 3 year action agenda
PDS, buffer, food security Mrunal, Sriram’s notes and VisionIAS current booklets
technology mission Ramesh Singh
animal rearing economics VisionIAS booklets
food processing VisionIAS and NITI aayog
land reforms Ramesh Singh
Liberalization Ramesh Singh
Infra Mrunal and VisionIAS
investment models Sriram’s notes and Ramesh Singh
science-tech day to day life Newspapers
Indian achievements in sci-tech Newspapers
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR VisionIAS booklets
environmental impact assessment ShankarIAS notes and VisionIAS booklets
Disaster Management VisioIAS booklets
non state actors, internal security Newspapers, RSTV and VisionIAS booklets
internal security – role of media, social networking site Newspapers
cyber security Newspapers and VisionIAS booklets
money laundering Newspapers and VisionIAS booklets
border  Management Newspapers and India YearBook
organized crime, terrorism Newspapers and VisionIAS booklets
security agencies- structure mandate Newspapers and India YearBook

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Michael Sandel Lectures and Lexicon and  Mudit Jain’s 110+Ethics
attitude, moral influence etc. Michael Sandel Lectures, Lexicon and  Mudit Jain’s 110+Ethics
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc 2nd ARC, Lexicon
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon and Mudit Jain’s 110+Ethics
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?

Major thinkers that I prepared in detail:

– World: Aristotle, Plato, Bentham, Mill, Kant

– India: Gandhi, Vivekananda

Also, I just read the major ideas of the other thinkers

ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. 2nd ARC, Lexicon
corporate governance Lexicon, Newspapers
probity in governance, work culture Lexicon
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Lexicon
challenges of corruption Michael Sandel Lectures, Lexicon and Mudit Jain’s 110+Ethics
case studies on above topics Test Series and previous year 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?

Average marks in Ethics paper has decreased in 2017. Only a few have got 100+ marks. Unlike previous years, this paper now demands clear and broader thoughts. Many aspirants feel that answers should be full of Ethics terminology but it doesn’t help if the thoughts are not clear. Another belief is that every answer should be high on ethics and values and many candidates often ignore the practical side to the question. But I tried to make a balance between the two sides. I always tried to justify how I will be applying my values in the given circumstances rather than just showing that I know those values.


  • Always stick to the theme of the question in Part A. Do not go deeper in the philosophy. Answer in a broader manner by addressing as much areas as possible. Try to give short examples to the claims you are making in Part A.
  • Always give good justification to whatever claims/ideas you are supporting, both in Part A and Part B. Without justification, every answer looks hollow in Ethics.
  • Case studies are lengthy. Many students tend to write their answer in a haphazard manner. Structure of case studies plays a very important role. Better structures can only be achieved through practice. First read the entire case with all subparts asked, then look at the space provided and then divide each part proportionately while writing the answer.
  • Make sure that you do not miss any clue/pointer given in the case. Try to use all the information that is given.
  • Examiner will be more happy if each dilemma mentioned in the case study is answered with substance

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 18 2 0 20
GS2 20 0 0 20
GS3 18 2 0 20
GS4 13 out of 14 1/14 0 14/14
Opt-P1 195 marks     195 marks
Opt-P2 175 marks     175 marks


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 think that all questions should be attempted. I practiced GS answer writing a lot and made a habit to complete the entire paper within time.  I believe that after studying every part of the syllabus thoroughly, a general answer could be generated for every question even if it seems out of bounds at first. Rather than writing filler lines for such questions, I tried writing such answers in a manner that examiner would feel that I knew the answer. This can be done by writing answers in a structured manner and presenting whatever we know in a systematic manner. Examiner should not feel that we are writing it only for the sake of writing it.


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

For GS: The space provided is enough to write 200-250 words. I always tried to use the entire space provided to write my answer. The Question-cum-Answer Booklet provided is easy to handle, and it is easier to skip a question and come back later to write it.

For Optional (Mathematics): For many questions, the space provided was not enough to complete the solution. Also, fixed space leaves no scope to make any changes after making any calculation mistake. So, candidates need use the space wisely.


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.

A mix of bullet points and paragraphs. There can be different style of writing answers for others. But I tried to write my answers in a professional manner with special emphasis on presentation. I felt that simply writing bullet points gives an immature look to the answer, but others can have different opinion on this. The most important thing is to fulfill the demand of the question.


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.

Yes. I developed a habit to follow this format. I will again say that I managed my time properly and I gave proportionate time to every answer. So, I never faced shortage of time in any question and could write all my answers in a proper structured manner. I believe that if the examiner sees structural  consistency in your answers, he tend to give more marks.


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. I used many diagrams and flowcharts in all GS papers
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Pen only
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? No
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue pen (Pilot V7)

Mains Optional Subject: MATHEMATICS

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

My optional subject was Mathematics. I chose it because of more familiarity with the subject. I had covered 4 courses of Mathematics syllabus during my engineering only. The other topics also seemed familiar. Another factor is the objective nature of this optional. You do not need anyone to tell you whether your answer is up to the mark or not. You can evaluate your knowledge on your own simply by writing tests and practicing more questions. If not Mathematics, I would have chosen Physics or Mechanical Engineering.


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

I will surely advice to go with this optional. This year, the highest score in Mathematics is 375 which is much more than other subjects. Mathematics can be picked up easily by engineering/science graduates. But this optional demands a lot of practice. Making balance between Math and GS can become difficult due to the demanding nature of this optional.

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.)

Mathematics booklist is given in this blog by Kashish Mittal: https://kashishmittal.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/strategy-for-mathematics/

Notes and Test Series by IMS institute were also very helpful for me. These can be used to develop the base in this optional and then books can be picked up for more practice and in-depth study.

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?

Not much internet search is required. Answers to some difficult questions can be found on https://math.stackexchange.com/

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

There are 13 topics in Mathematics optional. 9 out of these can be finished in 6-7 months. The other 4 difficult topics include Analytical Geometry, Modern Algebra, Real Analysis and Fluid Dynamics. These courses take much more time to prepare.

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

Answer writing is an intrinsic and continuous part of this optional. I started writing full-length tests after my first Preliminary Examination.

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

I maintained summary sheets for every topic which contained major formulae and concepts. This is done by almost all who take Mathematics as optional, and these notes are very handy for the final revision.

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?

Paper 1 level has not changed much with respect to earlier years. But difficulty level of Paper 2 has increased a lot in the last 2 years. But despite this, there is not much difference in the final marks candidates are getting in this optional. With increasing difficulty, scaling has decreased. I attempted only 175 marks in Paper 2, but got 152 marks. So, that means accuracy matters a lot if difficulty is more.

Candidates should be giving more attention to Modern Algebra and Fluid Dynamics right from the start. A good hold on these topics can help secure very good marks in Mathematics.


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?

For college grad: Revised some major courses of my graduation and post-graduation subjects, and studied the emerging technologies in these areas. I also covered the status of research, their relevance and their future prospects for the development of India and the world

Hobbies: Nothing specific. Just tried to read all the news and issues related to my hobbies

Place of Origin: wikipedia and government websites

Current Affairs: Read 2 newspapers(The Hindu and The Economic Times) and followed RajyaSabha TV.

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 attended 6-7 mock interviews which I feel is important to gauge our preparation level.  They also help in building up confidence. But they cannot be compared with the official personality test. In the mock interviews, panelists are often not experts in judging the personality of the candidates and they focus more on factual details. But at UPSC, the type of questions are very different solely meant to check the personality and not just mere facts.

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 room in Delhi. I completed my final revision  2 days before the official Personality Test. On the last 2 days, I just followed news channels and newspapers.

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

Formal black suit with white shirt, blue tie and black shoes.


During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Ms. Sujata Mehta

Q2. How long was the interview?

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?]

These services are one of the most powerful and prestigious jobs available in the country. The scope of work in civil services is much wider as compared to any private sector job. A civil service officer can make direct and visible impact in the society, and there can be no platform bigger than the civil service to understand the problems faced by the country in an wholesome manner, and then work on it.


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]
Here is the link to my transcript: https://www.evernote.com/shard/s264/sh/746fb03b-7e31-495c-a7b9-4bbe44c42424/a7fbfe3a11ce39d990185c992e4f0b25


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?

The questions were good and no uncomfortable questions were asked. Questions were such that could be answered using the knowledge that I have, and were based on my DAF as well as current affairs.

Overall, I felt that it was a good conversation that I had with the board.


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

Read the instructions properly before going to the UPSC. Carry photographs and all educational qualifications certificates/degrees etc. as mentioned in the instructions


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

Candidates using lenses should get their eyes tested at any optical store before going to the hospital.


CSE-2017 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Prelims Paper-1 121.34
Prelims Paper-2 149.18
Mains Subjects Marks
Essay 137
GSM1 117
GSM2 125
GSM3 127
GSM4 101
Optional Paper-1 133
Optional Paper-2 152
Written Total 892
Interview 162
Final 1054

Career Backup

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

I was already in Indian Forest Service. I would have continued with that. I had not thought of any Plan-B before starting my preparation.

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.)

Once I got IFoS in my first attempt, I had made up my mind that I would be giving 2 more attempts. After that, I would have continued with IFoS. But I was quite satisfied with my performance in CSE 2016 and I had missed the final result cutoff only by a margin. In this attempt(2017), I identified my weak areas and I knew that I would be able to get IAS/IPS if I execute my strategy properly.


Views on UPSC reforms


Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?

It seems like a good decision. Earlier, it created a big barrier between students as CSAT made it simpler for the engineering students to qualify for Main Examination. But now it has created a level playing field for all. The importance of GS paper has increased which is good.

Also, keeping CSAT paper 33% qualifying still shows that a threshold aptitude level is required to qualify for Main, which I think is necessary to ensure quality of the future bureaucrats.


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.

It is true. Even I have seen many new coaching institutes/bookshops springing up in New Delhi in the last 3 years. UPSC’s initiative to curb this was a good idea but the coaching industry has commercialized to a very large scale and it seems very difficult to completely do away with them.

I think that UPSC should focus on framing questions from information sources that are universally available so that dependence of coaching decreases. For instance, government websites should be updated regularly in a neat and structured way so that students develop a habit of directly referring to official sources rather than buying coaching notes based on information picked from government sources.

If new topics are added, then it is good as they give direction to study a particular subject. But aspirants should take caution and should not get driven away by random coaching material available. They should only stick to the basics.

Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.

Prelim is completely objective in nature. Revealing answer-keys can help candidates to analyze where they went wrong. But this may give rise to more litigations as is happening with some state PCS, and this can slow down the examination cycle.

Q. UPSC should disclose the evaluated mains- answer sheets like some StatePCS are doing.

Mains answers are completely subjective. Disclosing these answer sheets will again give rise to litigations and will slow down the examination cycle.

Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.

This can be done at-least for Preliminary Examination as it is objective in nature. But even if Preliminary Examination results are declared early, I think that 4 months is a fair amount of time that every Mains preparing candidate should get. It means that making Preliminary Examination online will have very slight effect on the duration of the examination cycle.


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.

I think that the two examinations should be either completely merged together or should be completely separated. The importance of IFoS has decreased due to this half-merger.

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

  • Tentative declaration of all result dates.
  • DAF to be filled after the Main Examination.

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 did not have any such insecurities. I was always confident about my own abilities, and so should the other aspirants. I never compared myself with any other candidate. If you feel that you deserve the service, then it doesn’t matter what has been your background so far.

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?


Right kind of motivation(both from outside and from within) is very important to handle the tough times during the preparation. If not handled well, it can be a very painful process. Aspirants need to have a very good control over their minds to stay pumped up all the time.

Methods that I adopted to keep up the momentum:

  • Developed habits: Make a good time table and follow it rigorously. This helps in setting a good body clock. Train your body to do similar things at the same time of the day. For instance, I used to read the newspaper/magazines from 9 am to 10:30 am almost every day. Similarly, I had fixed my daily time for some specific tasks. If done repeatedly for a long time, this creates a comfort level for our body and mind (habits), and later it becomes easy to do the same thing every day. It also creates a kind of craving to do that thing if left undone.
  • Went into isolation: I cut down myself from many friends and relatives, and from all sorts of social media. This was again difficult for the first few days, but it became very normal once I was completely dedicated towards my preparation. I did not allow any kind of emotion to distract myself from my study plan. I believe this entire process increased my mental strength to stay true to my goal.
  • Study-buddy: A dear friend of mine was also preparing. It’s not like we studied together. We just used to meet once in a week to discuss what is to be done next. This created a healthy competition between us and discussing all plans reassured both of us that we are going in the right direction. We also shared our anxieties with each other to lighten up the mood.


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?

Most importantly, I have learned who I am. The entire process helps in developing a very good control over our senses. It has made me a disciplined person.
I have always been an admirer of the mountains and the seas. When we look at them, we feel so small. For me, this examination and this service were bigger than the mountains and the seas. Their might has made me humble, and after constantly fighting for it, I have also become braver than before.

New aspirants must have constant faith in their abilities. Do not get overwhelmed by the vastness of this process. Take your time, go slow but steady.


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 will not achieve anything by losing hope. This is just a test of your grit. Think of it this way: The service that you are dreaming for, will pose innumerous challenges in front of you(much tougher than what you are facing now). You will be able to handle those only when you deal with the present one smartly. Just prove it to yourself that you have the desired courage.

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?

For me, these people were my parents and three dear friends: Akshita, Rachit and Saurabh. They were there with me throughout this journey, right from the day I started making my mind to prepare for this examination. They are the people who always had faith in me and helped me in making all my strategies for the examination.

The day when the final results of CSE 2016 was announced, was probably the worst for me during the last 3 years. Right after the result, I went to meet these friends. Rather than consoling me, they fired me up for the next Preliminary Examination, and this is what I wanted. They know me really well and just like this, they always supplied the right kind of psychological/emotional dosage in all my uncertain times.

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.  

Mrunal.org helped me extensively. Your website has some great blogs dealing about what and how to study for this examination which helped me in my initial days of preparation. Then the YouTube lecture series on Economy and Geography helped me cover two main subjects in a lucid manner. I also read many Toppers interview on your website. Now I have one under my name and it feels great.