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-2017 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Struggle of a Senior player
  25. Grand wisdom
  26. Credit: Friends/family
  27. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate – Profile

Pruthvik Shankar

Q. Details
Name Pruthvik Shankar
Rank in CSE-2017 211
Roll No. 0295901
Age 25
Marital Status Not married
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 2
Optional Subject Public administration
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Mysore
Work-experience if any NA
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures CAPF 2016 – Didn’t clear first stage

RBI 2016 – failed miserably because of aptitude

IB ACIO 2017 – cleared two stages and got interview call. Didn’t attend it since UPSC 2017 results came before this.

KPSC – state PSC exam. Cleared prelims and have written mains in December 2017. Results yet to come.

Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Vajiram & Ravi July 2015 batch
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS – IPS – IFS – IRS(IT) – IRS(C&E)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. Karnataka – Maharashtra – AGMUT


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 89.8
% in class 12 96.8
Graduation course and % B.Sc (Hons) Chemistry – 4.72 out of 5 CGPA
Name of college, city, passing out year Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Whitefield, Bangalore. Passing out year 2013.
Post-graduation M.Sc Chemistry in Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh. Passing out year 2015.
Any other professional courses NA
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Watching NBA games, cricket and playing table tennis.


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

I stay in Mysore but my native village is in Mandya district. My mother, Sudha is a homemaker and my father, Shankare Gowda currently works in LIC(Life Insurance Corporation) as a Development Officer due to retire in July this year. I have an elder brother Nisarg who is currently working as Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering Department, SJBIT College of Engineering. Becoming a civil servant was definitely not my childhood dream. While doing B.Sc I thought I should try this exam. But my serious preparation started only after I moved to Delhi in May 2015 after completing M.Sc.

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 personally feel there is over abundance of study material in the internet and more so for UPSC civil services exam. So aspirants should use them wisely and not waste too much time by following numerous websites. My word of advice is follow one or two websites consistently.

I was always comfortable having printed material even for monthly current affairs. I studied either Vision IAS or InsightsonIndia monthly current affairs booklet. For prelims mocks or Daily current affairs quiz I used to solve them online. Some people are comfortable with studying e-materials, but I was not. An aspirant can choose between the two based on one’s convenience. Clearing this exam is important and not the satisfaction of having studied multiple blogs and sites. So kindly limit your sources of study and do multiple revisions. Sooner you realize this, the earlier you can rid yourself from this virtuous (vicious) cycle of preparation.


Typical day in your Online life?

Online life Answer
Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services. 1 or 2 hours for few days in the immediate aftermath of prelims.
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram study groups 30 minutes.
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 1 hour.
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Tablet

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

There is a glut of telegram groups sharing materials. Here again moderation helps.

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 never made any notes for General Studies. I used to study the books, underline them and revise. In case I read something new about the topic somewhere else, I used to note them in top and bottom spaces in the same page. For Public Administration, I did make notes for few topics.

For interview preparation, I made notes in Evernote.


Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Ancient India Old NCERT.
History Medieval I didn’t study anything and got away with it. My suggestion would be not to neglect this part as UPSC has started asking medieval terms off late and invariably 2-3 questions come in prelims from this part. So study at least old NCERT medieval India.
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Old NCERT Modern India and Spectrum
Culture and society Book of fine arts new NCERT and Nitin Singhania book.
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant and Ravindran sir notes of Vajiram.
Economy (theory + current) NCERT and Mrunal sir’s economy posts. For any concept I didn’t understand I used to refer sir’s articles or videos. Very beautifully explained using pictures.
Science (theory + current) Nothing for theory. Monthly current affairs booklet for recent developments.
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS
geography physical Rajtanil mam lecture videos on this website.
geography India Rajtanil mam lecture videos on this website.
geography world Rajtanil mam lecture videos on this website.
other national/international current affairs Vision IAS or  InsightsonIndia monthly booklets
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Same as above

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?

The lesser one worries  about this, better it is. UPSC doesn’t really bother about trends. They try to make each question paper an unpredictable one and catch aspirants off guard. We should be prepared to face anything. Solving many prelims question papers from at least two different institutions helps.



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?

Solve as many question papers or mocks as possible and revise them. Since both the prelims I cleared were by a whisker of margin(see the score cards appended at the bottom), I would ideally want to steer clear of the cutoff.


Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

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 CSAT I didn’t study anything but I solved 1 or 2 comprehensive question papers. After having seen 2017 paper, I feel candidates should not neglect CSAT because many didn’t qualify in that despite having a good score in paper 1. This can become a nightmare. So give due respect to this paper especially if you struggle in CSAT.

Prelim accuracy

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

I attended mock tests for both 2016 and 2017 prelims. Mock tests are a vital ingredient for success in prelims. Just studying standard books without solving any tests could prove hazardous. Mock tests are as important or rather more important than studying. I can’t emphasize enough on this.


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

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 81 60 106.0
aptitude 41 35 82.5


Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Nothing
your regional language For those who had opted Sanskrit in place of their regional language(like me) should write at least one essay before this exam.

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

None at all…

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

There should be coherence in preparation of both essay and ethics to some extent. Quotes and sayings of important people can be used in both cases.

Regarding practice of essay before mains, write at least 5 essays. Also practice at least twice, writing 2 essays in 3 hours. Many people who don’t do this, end up writing one good essay but compromise on the quality of the second essay due to lack of time management.

Apart from covering various dimensions of the essay topic, make efforts to link it to daily life examples. Also, be empathetic in showing concern to vulnerable or affected people in your writing. End on a positive and optimistic note by giving futuristic ideas. SDGs can come in handy here.

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

I wrote :

  1. Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India.
  • I wrote this more or less like a GS answer. Covering all aspects of farming like land availability, irrigation support, credit availability, insurance, price support mechanism, etc. This essay was most attempted and also the easiest of the lot.
  1. Fulfillment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth.
  • I was apprehensive about this as the concept of new woman could be subjective. Since I got 154 in essay, I must have got decent score in this essay also.
  • I began with Moga bus incident and sterilisation accident of Chhattisgarh. Then tried to define what ‘old woman’ would mean – meek, submissive, discriminated upon, faced pay disparity, etc. The ‘old woman’ would not do much about it. Then I talked about what ‘new woman’ meant – no longer ok with discrimination, self reliant, independent, excellence across all fields and walks of life, etc. Gave lot of examples like Deepika getting higher pay than male protagonists in Padmaavat(I think back then it was Padmavati), fearless girl statue, #Metoo campaign, time’s person of the year, etc.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture I had done book of fine arts and Nitin Singhania for prelims, but couldn’t revise them for mains. I revised class notes.
Indian history I revised only spectrum.
world history I had studied old ncert but used Bhavesh Mishra’s notes during mains for revision. One can also use Nitin Sangwan’s notes. Both are good. Use one of them.
post-independence India Vision value added material.
Indian society Vajiram class notes
role of women, poverty etc. Vajiram class notes
globalization on Indian society Vajiram class notes
communalism, regionalism, secularism Vajiram class notes
world geo physical Rajtanil mam lectures on mrunal blog.
resource distribution Vision value added material.
factors for industrial location Mrunal articles on the same
earthquake tsunami etc Rajtanil mam lectures on mrunal blog.
impact on flora-fauna

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant
comparing Constitution with world Dint read anything specific
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikant
executive-judiciary Laxmikant
ministries departments Studied in optional
pressure group, informal asso. Laxmikant and studied in optional
Representation of people’s act Laxmikant
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikant
NGO, SHG etc Studied in optional
welfare schemes, bodies Current affairs and newspapers
social sector, health, edu, HRD Current affairs and newspapers
governance, transparency, accountability Studied in optional
e-governance Studied in optional
role of civil service Studied in optional
India & neighbors Current affairs and newspapers
bilateral/global grouping Current affairs and newspapers
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Current affairs and newspapers
Diaspora Current affairs and newspapers
international bodies- structure mandate Current affairs and newspapers

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mains 365, economic survey and Mrunal.
inclusive growth Mains 365, economic survey and Mrunal.
Budgeting Studied in optional
major crops, irrigation  Rajtanil mam videos on mrunal blog
agro produce – storage, marketing Mains 365, economic survey and Mrunal.
e-technology for famers Mains 365 and current affairs
farm subsidies, MSP Mains 365, economic survey and current affairs.
PDS, buffer, food security Mains 365, economic survey and current affairs.
technology mission Mains 365, economic survey and current affairs.
animal rearing economics Mains 365, economic survey and current affairs.
food processing Mrunal articles
land reforms Mrunal articles
Liberalization Mains 365, economic survey and current affairs.
Infra Mains 365, economic survey and current affairs.
investment models Mains 365, economic survey and current affairs.
science-tech day to day life Mains 365 and current affairs.
Indian achievements in sci-tech Mains 365 and current affairs.
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Mains 365 and current affairs.
environmental impact assessment Environment by Shankar
Disaster Management Studied in optional
non state actors, internal security Class notes of Vajiram
internal security – role of media, social networking site Current affairs
cyber security Class notes of vajiram
money laundering Class notes of vajiram
border  Management Class notes of vajiram
organized crime, terrorism Class notes of vajiram
security agencies- structure mandate Class notes of vajiram

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Lexicon and 4th report of II ARC – Ethics in Governance
attitude, moral influence etc. Lexicon and 4th report of II ARC – Ethics in Governance
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Lexicon and 4th report of II ARC – Ethics in Governance
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon and 4th report of II ARC – Ethics in Governance
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare? Whatever was covered in Lexicon
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Lexicon and 4th report of II ARC – Ethics in Governance
corporate governance Lexicon
probity in governance, work culture Lexicon and 4th report of II ARC – Ethics in Governance
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Lexicon and 4th report of II ARC – Ethics in Governance
challenges of corruption Lexicon and 4th report of II ARC – Ethics in Governance
case studies on above topics Mains test series of Insights and Vision IAS

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?

I also got low score in ethics. This year the theory part of ethics was very lengthy by having numerous sub questions in them. Have good examples and practice answer writing especially the case studies.


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 13 5 2 20
GS2 14 4 2 20
GS3 11 8 1 20
GS4 11 3 0 14

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]

Attempting all questions is good as it will give 20-30 marks more than leaving 1 or 2 questions unanswered in each paper. But for unknown questions, I wrote some general but relevant points.


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

It gives a sense of uniformity and we know how much we can write in the given space. This prevents us from writing more for familiar questions.


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.

After writing the introduction to each question, I used to write the body in points. I know toppers who have written in paragraphs and have secured good ranks. So content of the answer is important regardless of how you write. But underline the key ideas or words.

As far as directives are concerned, be careful not to make blunders like writing negatives when the question is elucidate.


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 followed this format for all the answers.


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. For Paper 1
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Pen
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? Made it by hand
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue gel pen.

Mains Optional Subject

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

Public administration. I chose this because pubad seemed easy to understand(back then) and it also had lot of overlap with GS papers. I hadn’t seen the recent question papers before opting for it.


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

Though public administration is not performing well as an optional in recent years I wont discourage anyone from taking pubad. I suggest aspirants to look at two things while choosing an optional – their interest or liking towards the subject and also the trend of scores in the subject in the recent times.


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.)

– vajiram class notes

– 2 books by aribam (These books cover paper 1 and 2 separately. They are so good. I didn’t know about them until after prelims 2016. These can be the base books. For me, class notes as well as aribam books formed the base books.)

– Prasad and Prasad for thinkers.

– Rajni and Goyal selectively for few chapters of paper 2

– II ARC summary and I did two full reports – 4th report(ethics in governance) and 10th report(personnel administration).

– Public Administration Dictionary by Vikram Singh. It’s a handy book and covers most of the pubad terms very nicely. Whenever you come across any term that you can’t understand, look them up here.


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?

Current affairs is very important for both paper 1 and paper 2. Trying to link current events with even static theory has helped many to score good marks. For ex – unity of control is a classical pubad term but we can link it with the demand for chief of defence staff in India.


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?

Two months before exam


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

No I study from the book and then revise only what I have underlined.

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?

2017 paper like 2016 was a much needed relief for all the Pubad aspirants. It was not as terrifying as the previous years. Revise the syllabus and more importantly practice writing to improve the quality of answers. One oft repeated suggestion that has worked well for many of the Pubad aspirants is to interlink paper 1 and paper 2 while answering the questions. Give paper 2 examples and instances from Indian administration in paper 1 and conversely link the Indian administration aspects to theoretical concepts of paper 1.

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?

College grad – I tried to brush up my basic chemistry concepts and also about recent chemistry developments related to Nobel prizes.

Hobbies – I made evernote notes

Current affairs – Aspirants who had qualified for interview discussed among ourselves in insights(Bangalore) and tried to form balanced views on important issues.


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?

For my second attempt(i.e cse 2017), I attended mock interviews in Raj kumar academy, Kerala Samajam academy and samkalp in Bangalore. It helped me to prepare for the final interview.

Purpose of mock interview is to see and analyse how we answer when in front of experienced people. It doesn’t matter how it is similar or different from the official interview. Lucky if we get similar questions in the final interview. If you interact with people who have appeared for interview you will realise that no two interviews are same and also for the same aspirant interview is different from one year to another.

Don’t have any preconceived notions on different UPSC boards. Go with an open mind.


Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?

Karnataka bhavan.

I just had current affairs books and my Evernote notes on my DAF


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

Since my interview was on March 23, I wore suit. In my first attempt, I wore formals and tie as my date of interview was May 15 and it was too hot to wear suit.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

B.S.Bassi sir


Q2. How long was the interview?

About 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?]

Those who have given interviews will know that it is the most tricky question to find answer for. We were also told that routine answers will be countered by the board members (see pictorial illustration by mrunal sir in the article on how to prepare for the interview).

I wasn’t asked this question in both of my interviews. In case they had asked me this, I would have said that I was inspired by one of my acquaintances who joined IPS in 2008.


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]

I was asked lot of factual questions on IR, defence, economy and Polity. Very few or no questions from my DAF, hobbies and native place.

One of the members asked me very basic questions on economy like what is repo?slr?crr? What is its duration and lot of follow up questions regarding their details. I was not so comfortable with these questions and I said I don’t know for many of these as I hadn’t revised them for interview.



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?

Questions on IR and defence were from current affairs so I could handle most of them well or at least so I felt. I couldn’t recollect the name of the lokayukta official that had been stabbed which was a famous incident back then though I had read it.

Except the set of questions by a member on basics of economy, all the other questions were comfortable to handle. It was not a stress interview at all. I got less score in interview i.e 154.


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

Generally we prepare for interview together. So make sure you cross check with fellow aspirants on the list of things to take to Delhi.

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

None worth mentioning.

CSE-2017 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Prelims Paper-1 106
Prelims Paper-2 82.50
Mains Subjects Marks
Essay 154
GSM1 109
GSM2 114
GSM3 128
GSM4 84
Optional Paper-1 133
Optional Paper-2 158
Written Total 880
Interview 154
Final 1034

Career Backup

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

Though I have done M.Sc in Chemistry, I didn’t want to go back to this field. I was planning on doing MBA and then join some job. But I had also appeared for some exams conducted by state PSC.

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.)

Had I not cleared anything, I would have stopped after 4 attempts and done MBA.

Views on UPSC reforms

Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.

Everyone knows that there is huge confusion and subjectivity regarding the performance trends and scaling of optionals. It has only gotten worse when we look at how literature optionals have performed this year.


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

It has created even platform for engineering and humanities students alike.

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.

UPSC preparation is a big market and nothing that UPSC does will reverse it. It is so because there is intense competition and lakhs of students appear for it.


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 know many aspirants who cleared IFoS prelims but didn’t care to appear for mains. IFoS cutoff is also very high.

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?

UPSC exam is a great leveler. It really doesn’t matter what your graduation is or where you have done it from. Many aspirants from regional language background have secured very good ranks. I am from basic sciences and I had no work experience. If you prepare and equip yourself for the demand of UPSC exam, other things are immaterial.

Naturally everyone has some insecurities except few who have already secured a rank. It is normal. For instance I also had doubts when I didn’t clear first time and I was doubtful of clearing prelims. But have patience and believe in your hard work and efforts. Having perseverance will yield results and our efforts is insignificant compared to what awaits us after we clear this exam.

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.

Since I went to interview in my first attempt, I was busy the whole time. Also when I didn’t clear, there was hardly any time to grieve as there were 18 days left for next prelims. But staying with like minded good company will help. While deciding on attempting this exam, make up your mind to give at least 2-3 years. If you can do it before this, well and good. Otherwise you know it requires time and patience.


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

I didn’t practice enough answer writing in my first attempt. For my next attempt I practiced lot of answer writing by writing numerous tests in InsightsonIndia mains test series. Hence I could write all the questions and complete all the papers in the final exam. Your rank depends on your performance in mains which in turn hinges on your answer writing. So your answer writing is the key.

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?

Don’t plan your studies according to number of hours. Instead plan to complete designated portion of syllabus or book. This way you don’t get lost. Here again having good company of aspirants helps a great deal. Its natural to have mood swings but it is important that you come out of it sooner and get back in the zone.


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?

Know your strengths and weaknesses and work on them. Don’t get cynical about this exam. Though there is huge uncertainty surrounding this exam, there is a method to this madness. Persist and the results will definitely follow.

For the new aspirants, understand the gravity of the exam and the intense competition associated with it. This helps you to have realistic ambitions and also push yourself to work hard.


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?

Make real assessment of what could have gone wrong and work on them. If I and many others have done it, so can you.


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 parents and brother. I also had lot of support from all relatives and friends. I had very supportive roommates – Prakash, Shabarish, Manoj, Mayur, sachin and Preetham. I would also specially thank three of my seniors(who cleared CSE 2016) without whose help I wouldn’t have secured this rank- Jagadeesh.B(IRS IT), Naveen Bhat.Y(IAS) and Nimishamba.C.P(IRS CnE). They guided me and offered lot of help.

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you?  And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering.  

I began my UPSC preparation by reading toppers articles on Mrunal blog. Whenever I had any economy doubt, I would refer this blog. Mrunal Sir nicely explains using pictures and humour. The geography lectures on this blog was very helpful for my preparation. I relied solely on these notes for geography.