[Topper’s Interview] Sachin Gupta (Rank-3/UPSC-2017) Art of Answer writing with Sample Handwritten Copies & Anthropology Resources

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Majid Hussain
  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. Art of Answer Writing
  17. Mains answer-writing?
  18. Anthropology: Mains Optional Subject
  19. Before the interview
  20. During the interview
  21. CSE-2016 Marksheet
  22. Career Backup
  23. Views on UPSC reforms
  24. Insecurity about profile
  25. Grand wisdom
  26. Credit: Friends/family
  27. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Q. Details
Name Sachin Gupta
Rank in CSE-2017 3rd
Roll No. 0587709
Age 26
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 3
Optional Subject Anthropology
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Sirsa ( Haryana)
Work-experience if any 2 years with Maruti Suzuki
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
  • Covered General Studies ( Economics, Geography, History) from Mrunal.org
  • Joined one institute in Gurgaon to build tempo while working with Maruti Suzuki
  • Further Prelims Test Series in 2015 ( VisionIAS)
  • Answer Writing Practice: Insights IAS
  • Took help of IASbaba as well
  • Further read VisionIAS ( PT 365)and Insights prelims( Exclusive Prelims Magazines) and Mains Specific material ( Mains365)
  • However went to many institutes for Mock Interview( 14-15) last year in 2017 , that backfired that I tried to correct it and given only 3 mock interviews. Moreover this  time focused on discussion group and taking issues with friends, seniors & mentors rather than being in controlled style mock interview.
  • In short, after my whole journey I would dedicate this success to Mrunal Sir, Vinay Sir( Insights) and Vaid Sir( Anthropology).
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS-IPS-IFS-IRS(IT)-IRS (C&E)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. Haryana-Maharashtra-Jharkhand
Contact for future aspirants I want to keep helping future aspirants thereby wants to share following means of communication specific to them through:

Education

Education fill the details here
% in class 10 89.8
% in class 12 82.8
Graduation course and % 84.8
Name of college, city, passing out year Thapar University, Patiala. I have done mechanical Engineering and passed out in 2013
Post-graduation
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Cricket , Reading Books and Watching Documentaries

Introduction

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

UPSC Topper Sachin Gupta IAS

Hello friends, I am Sachin Gupta comes from Sirsa, Haryana. I have done my graduation in Mechanical Engineering from Thapar University. My father is a farmer and mother is Primary Government School teacher. I had worked for Maruti Suzuki for two years, however left in 2015 to concentrate completely on civil services preparation.  In my second attempt I have secured 575 Rank and got Indian Corporate Law Service.

I have seen the difference of schools in which i read & studies and in which my mother use to teach. Although at that time i was just a child, things changed when i accidently went for teaching children from deprived sections of society, it changed everything. I started relating my childhood observations of difference. It changed the overall thought process from building a career in Engineer towards aspiring for bringing change in society. I always believe there is a supernatural power that somehow helps us out at in every situation; we just need to prudent enough to do the right things.

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)

The key here, lies in getting the best out of available sources, but not targeting what we can’t revise at least 3 times. I use to follow VisionIas magazines and consolidate my own notes of newspaper with it. Further, various government reports like Niti Aayog three agenda plan, provides a excellent gist on various themes. Not only I consolidated my theme based notes for all the papers but also prepared mind map to make it easier in revision.

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 generally tried to isolate myself from these groups
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups I use to practice prelims question.
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. Need based
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop

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

I personally there is no need to go to mainstream coaching institutes especially in changing pattern of UPSC. However one needs to complete basics from good resources and ensure daily answer practice in a disciplined manner. Here i am attaching list of topic wise free online resources available:

  1. Mrunal youtube channel for Geography, History, and Economics:    https://www.youtube.com/user/TheMrunalPatel
  2. Fantastic Fundas on Indian Polity
  3. Roman Saini for Environment
  4. Rajya SabhaTV for Current Affairs
  5. Answer writing: Insights secure initiative
  6. Iasbaba TLP Online programme and ForumIAS Daily answer Writing Practice.

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 use to make notes on each and every topic written in UPSC syllabus.  My strategy revolves around making one page notes or mind map covering various aspect:

  • Definitions:  Make a separate copy for each paper and find out important keywords like for GS 2: Constitution, Governance, Poverty, Hunger, Accountability, Citizen Charter and so on. And write good definition of each of it. Cram it by heart and understand crux of each of it. Generally question revolves around it only. For instance, question on Poverty was asked again and again in previous year so does is on Secularism. HAve clear idea and definition which will help you while writing answers
  • Mindmaps/Charts: Try to make mind map or charts on each of the topic and cover particularly various dimensions, important facts, figures, case studies in a concise manner. It will help you alot at the last moment for revision as well as gives you confidence after doing it.
  • Collect important Facts and Figures: It’s really important while reading a particular topic and make a note of it in a notebook or in a mind map so that you will be able to revise it and remember it exam
  • Notes of Important Historic Personalities:  Helps you in covering history portions UPSC in recent past tend to ask comparison between personalities.
  • Important Judgments:  Collect important judgements it will help you in writing GS 2 answers alot like on Privacy, Misuse of Ordinance Power, Centre-State Relations, Basic Structure Doctrine, Environmental Justice, Electoral Reforms and so on..

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old NCERT by RS Sharma
History Medieval Old NCERT by Satish Chandra
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Old NCERT by Bipan Chandra and Spectrum
Culture and society NCERT 11th class book on Art & Nitin Singhania’s notes
Polity (theory + current) Indian Constitution at Work, Laxmikant
Economy (theory + current)  Mrunal’s videos, NCERTs of Economics of Class 12th, Indian Economy Key Concepts by Sankarganesh
Science (theory + current) 11th and 12th NCERTs + VisionIAS & Insights Prelims Specific Module
Environment (theory + current)  Shankar’s and GkToday Environment Module
geography physical NCERTs, Rajtanil Ma’am lectures of Geography on Mrunal’s Youtube Channel
geography India NCERTs, Rajtanil Ma’am lectures of Geography on Mrunal’s Youtube Channel
geography world NCERTs, Rajtanil Ma’am lectures of Geography on Mrunal’s Youtube Channel
other national/international current affairs Vision and Insights Prelims Exclusive Magazines/Modules
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Vision and Insights Prelims Exclusive Magazines/Modules

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?

I think one has to find its strengths and weakness. In past 10 days I have met many toppers. I found guess or elimination strategy works when you read things from extensive resources. You have something at back of your mind with which you can eliminate some of the option or intuition generally works on an average. But if one is intensive reader and believe in revising restricted resources, then I would suggest don’t get into guessing framework.

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 still restrict myself to some of the core resources and keep revising. However I would have focused on current affair intensively.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Previous years question papers.
Reasoning Previous years question papers.
Comprehension Previous years question papers.
Decision Making Previous years question papers.

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:

Trick is if one is not comfortable in particular topic let’s say here is comprehension, just try to practice more and more. It will not only help one is gaining confidence in particular area but also increases speed in solving comprehension also. Further few of things that could help aspirants:

  1. Before reading comprehension just glance through the questions asked
  2. Read comprehension with full concentration and underline some of the keywords that are recurring  and also mentioned in questions
  3. Then again read the questions one by one and try to find the answer.

Prelim accuracy

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

Yes, I did solve many mock tests. It is difficult to say it’s necessary for success but this strategy works for me. I generally solves a lot of mock test paper of different institutes and especially UPSC previous year papers. It helped in finding the areas where I need to work hard and improves elimination.

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

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 93 67-70 ( Different Institutes Answer Key) 116.66
aptitude 77 68-73 ( Different Institutes Answer Key) 171.68

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Previous years question papers.
your regional language Previous years question papers.

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

Since I have studied in English Medium all throughout my life, didn’t find much difficulty in English paper but made a small diary for important keywords for Hindi.  It really helped me while attempting Hindi Compulsory paper

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Ans. For Essay paper, I tried to prepare all the topics, major themes like education health, women, etc in addition to some of the philosophical basics. For this, I read a lot of essay of past years’ toppers to get an idea about how they write. I found that there are some common things such as good flow, different features of a particular topic and a solid conclusion. In the introduction section, I tried to include some innovations like linking the topic with some recent incident so that the essay becomes more current and interesting to read. Highlight different facets in a planned way with sub-headings to ensure that the flow is maintained. Further collect some good examples, case studies that you can mention in the essay. Prepare some of real or imaginary stories that could be used as a starting. But one important thing I would like to highlight is “stick to the basics” that is keeping you in line with the crux of the theme/essay topic asked. Be very clear in your approach what you want to communicate.

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

  1. Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India.
  2. Fulfillment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Ishani Pandya Ma’am lectures on Mrunal + Art &Culture Ncert
Indian history Spectrum
world history Old Ncert Notes
post-independence India Vision Compilation and Post-independence Ncert
Indian society Ncerts class 12 ( Indian society, Social Movements) + Vision IAS Additional Material
role of women, poverty etc. Ncerts class 12 ( Indian society, Social Movements) + Internet resources + Current Affair Magazine
globalization on Indian society Ncerts class 12 ( Indian society, Social Movements) + Mrunal PPT
communalism, regionalism, secularism Ncerts class 12 ( Indian society, Social Movements) + Mrunal PPT
world geo physical NCERT Class 11th + Rajtanil Ma’am Lectures on youtube channel of Mrunal
resource distribution NCERT Class 11th + Rajtanil Ma’am Lectures on youtube channel of Mrunal
factors for industrial location NCERT Class 11th + Rajtanil Ma’am Lectures on youtube channel of Mrunal
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT Class 11th + Rajtanil Ma’am Lectures on youtube channel of Mrunal
impact on flora-fauna NCERT Class 11th + Rajtanil Ma’am Lectures on youtube channel of Mrunal

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant + Sriram Polity( Try to make note of definitions as well as specific issues and solution to them)
comparing Constitution with world Vision IAs Material
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikant + Sriram Polity( Try to make note of definitions as well as specific issues and solution to them)
executive-judiciary —do—
ministries departments —do—
pressure group, informal asso. Mrunal + Pawan Sir notes ( Make mindmaps on these things , update it regularly with recent issues & solutions)
Representation of people’s act —do—
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Mrunal + Pawan Sir notes ( Make mindmaps on these things , update it regularly with recent issues & solutions)
NGO, SHG etc —do—
welfare schemes, bodies Vision IAS current Affair Magazines  + Ministry report ( It provides all the relevant facts, figures on social indicators along with imporvemnt made my government under particular policy and scheme)
social sector, health, edu, HRD —do—
governance, transparency, accountability Mrunal + Pawan Sir notes ( Make mindmaps on these things , update it regularly with recent issues & solutions)
e-governance Mrunal covers the basics and application part. But try to keep oneself update with Current Events
role of civil service —do—
India & neighbors Shubhra Ranjan Ma’am Notes + VisionIAS Mains365 ( Try to make note of important keywords and dimensions in diplomacy)
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 Mrunal youtube lectures + Economic Survey
inclusive growth —do—
Budgeting —do—
major crops, irrigation —do—
agro produce – storage, marketing —do—
e-technology for famers —do—
farm subsidies, MSP —do—
PDS, buffer, food security —do—
technology mission —do—
animal rearing economics —do—
food processing —do—
land reforms —do—
Liberalization —do—
Infra —do—
investment models —do—
science-tech day to day life VisionIAS Mains 365
Indian achievements in sci-tech —do—
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Mrunal + VisionIAS Mains 365
environmental impact assessment —do—
Disaster Management 3rd Report of 2nd ARC: Crisis  Management + VisionIAS Material
non state actors, internal security Mrunal + VissionIAS Mains 365
internal security – role of media, social networking site —do—
cyber security —do—
money laundering —do—
border  Management —do— + Ministry of Home Affairs Report
organized crime, terrorism —do— + Ministry of Home Affairs Report
security agencies- structure mandate —do— + Ministry of Home Affairs Report

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics 2nd ARC Report on Ethics in governance + Mohanty Sir Class notes
attitude, moral influence etc. —do—
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc —do—
emotional intelligence, its use in governance —do—
moral thinkers of India and world Many I covered. Mohanty Sir has covered it quite extensively in class
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. 2nd ARC Report on Ethics in governance + Mohanty Sir Class notes
corporate governance 2nd ARC Report on Ethics in governance + Mohanty Sir Class notes + Kotak Report
probity in governance, work culture 2nd ARC Report on Ethics in governance + Mohanty Sir Class notes
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. —do—
challenges of corruption —do—
case studies on above topics I practiced extensively through my InsightsonIndis Mains Test series + Previous 4 year ethics papers.

Strategy to prepare particular topic 

  1. Definitions: Make a seperate copy for each paper and find out important keywords like for GS 2: Constitution, Governance, Poverty, Hunger, Accountability, Citizen Charter and so on. And write good definition of each of it. Cram it by heart and understand crux of each of it. Generally question revolves around it only. For instance, question on Poverty was asked again and again in previous year so does is on Secularism. HAve clear idea and definition which will help you while writing answers
  2. Mindmaps/Charts: Try to make mind map or charts on each of the topic and cover particularly various dimensions, important facts, figures, case studies in a concise manner. It will help you alot at the last moment for revision as well as gives you confidence after doing it.
  3. Collect important Facts and Figures: It’s really important while reading a particular topic and make a note of it in a notebook or in a mind map so that you will be able to revise it and remember it exam
  4. Notes of Important Historic Personalities: Helps you in covering history portions UPSC in recent past tend to ask comparison between personalities.
  5. Important Judgments: Collect important judgments it will help you in writing GS 2 answers like on Privacy, Misuse of Ordinance Power, Centre-State Relations, Basic Structure Doctrine, Environmental Justice, Electoral Reforms and so on..

Art of Answer Writing

Importance of Reading the Question: Most of the time what happens we use to write whatever we know about 2-3 keywords written in question but try to read question twice or thrice at least. Try to understand the what actually examiner wants to know and write that only. I also use to write whatever i knew about the question in my first two attempts that probably was the reason behind low marks in GS. This is something I rectified in my last attempt

Introduction: is one of the most crucial part of answer writing and i believe it left the first impression on the examiner, try to write in a proper manner. I use to follow mainly 4-5 ways to write it :

  • Definition: If i know the definition of crux of issue let’s say Food security i try to introduce my answer with definition of food security and interlink with the subparts being asked in question. It will not only give good flow to your answers but also structure your answer properly
  • Recent Events: Let’s say question was asked on simultaneous election. Then one can start with Prime Minister or President’s Speech where they have supported the idea. Then immediately try to connect with the issue being asked in the question
  • Facts/Figures: Third way was start a question with some important fact or figure. Let’s say question is about underemployment in India, one can give the reference of Niti Aayog’s Three Year Action plan and quote some facts or figures.
  • Location: It is generally helpful while writing history and geography question. For example question asked on decline of Indus Valley civilization , one can start with location of IVC and its timeline , then straight-forward to answering what is asked in question.
  • Interlinking: Fourth way could be to interlink all the subparts asked in a question and write about the crux of your answer in one line and straight forward jump to  subtopics

Break the Question into subparts:  Generally UPSC asks 2-3 questions in one question itself try to break it and address it properly.

Visibility: After breaking the question into subparts asked in the question, try to highlight it while writing. So that examiner will easily find out where and how you addressed different parts of the questions. It helps in two ways , first one would be answering all the subparts asked and ensure flow in the answers.

Point Format:  Try to write most of answers in point format especially in GS 1,2,3 and while answering any subparts, make subheading in front of every question, ,so that its easy to make out what one is going to write. And after writing argument/ statement try to substantiate your statement, lets say one gave argument in favour of strengthening of federal structure in recent past , then substantiate with financial independence ensured by 14th Finance Commission and so on!

Smart Answering: While answering a question, just try to think from where this question would have been asked, then answer it accordingly. In 2016 Mains, similar question was asked on Urban floods in GS1 and GS3, but try to think under which topic it would have been asked. In GS1 it relates more with problems of Urbanization, impact on various sections of societies so on. While in GS 3 , it could be from infrastructure or disaster management topic. Just try to include points accordingly. I have done the mistake and i don’t know this is the right way or not but i believe that questions are made out of syllabus and we should address it accordingly.

Importance of making flowchart/ Diagram / Map:  While writing answers just try to make flowchart in two or three questions, somewhere make diagrams or make map if required( especially in geography and location factors of industries).

Conclusion:  While writing conclusion , be very clear what you want to communicate and answering all the subparts in 1-2 lines. One may gave solutions just before concluding the answer but it depends upon the nature of question asked. One can link also DPSP’s if writing an answer of GS 2. But be very clear in your conclusion. I know the paucity of time in actual exam but try to conclude the question at the end. It gives an edge over others.

Here i would also like to caution you, i have seen many copies where sometimes aspirants try to make these things in every question. Please don’t over do it. It makes the answers too mechanical. Try to stick to the basics that is addressing the question properly and convincing examiner you know the things and your opinions are based upon facts.

Sample Answer Copies

Here are my sample answer copies to help aspirants understand above techniques

Mains answer-writing?

Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:

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GS1 14 4 2 20/20
GS2 15 4 1 20/20
GS3 15 4 1 20/20
GS4 14 4 1 19/19
Opt-P1 18 1 19/19
Opt-P2 18 1 19/19

Q. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]

I feel we should try to write maximum answers as we can however I firmly believe don’t bluff the examiner. I know people, who bluffed and wrote just for the sake of writing, get penalized with low marks. Here, I would also like to highlight if you don’t know the answer just try to define the important terminology and write somewhat relevant things. If you are not able to makeout that also, then its better to leave question

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

Its good actually, in limited space, we ultimately learn to write things in crisp and succinct manner.

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.

I tried to write most of the answers in bullet points with subheadings in front of each question. However, in the end I generally conclude my answers based upon the directive mentioned in the paper.  And further in case studies of ethics paper I wrote most of the questions in paragraph format with more focus on analyzing the case study rather than giving more points.

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 introduction-body-conclusion format only!

I don’t like asking following rudimentary questions, but these are the most frequently asked questions by new aspirants.

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers? No
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Yes , I tried to make diagrams as well as flowcharts, maps based upon relevancy to the question
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? Nothing like that, just made by hand.
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue

Mains Optional Subject: Anthropology

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

Anthropology

Earlier in my first attempt, I had different optional and I felt may be, I am not good in that particular subject. Then one of my friends advised me to take anthropology. I found it good and took it. I followed three criteria for choosing optional

  • One should be able to generate a bit of interest in optional after reading basics of subject.
  • Scoring Pattern in recent past of that particular optional
  • Some kind of guidance in form of seniors, mentors, friends or teacher.

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

It’s a good optional one can go with it. Only caution is, this subject is doing too well in recent past and UPSC generally has wave like performance of optional. However, if you can make sure with your hard work you will be able to become topper in your optional, and then go for it. Even in worst years, topper of that optional generally gets similar marks.

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.)

Here I am attaching extensive list of resources for anthropology with links:

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?

In anthropology, I think one needs to focus on both. On the face of it, anthropology seems to be static. But if one wants to really boost its score it should make notes of current happenings, contemporary debates and views of anthropologist in answers.

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

About 3 months

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

Answer writing remains my constant practice after taking anthropology as optional.  I think one should take it seriously and try to write almost all the previous year questions for at least 10 years.

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

I prepared almost all the notes by myself only in electronic format. Vaid Sir, helped me a lot in it. And in the end I  made short notes on each of the topic and kept on revising as well as practiced diagram extensively.

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?

In recent years, anthropology is turning more and more dynamic and examiner is setting questions from unconventional areas. For instance this year they asked about indigenous people v/s tribal debate, art & craft tradition to understand society. So don’t go by conventional wisdom of preparing anthropology in static form.

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?

I made Interview specific one note. I sent my DAF to different institutes for making questions and by myself I tried to dissect probable questions or recurring themes from previous year interview asked question compilations.

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?

Last year I have attended 15 different mocks that turns out to be a blunder and got more confused than clearer about myself. So this year, I have given only 3 mocks and focused more on improving articulation skills. I use to interview focused telegram group and one to one discussions on various topics with my friends that actually helped me a lot.

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 Haryana Bhawan. I majorly focused on the newspaper of that day, nothing more!

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

Black suit and tie with white shirt

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Smita Nagraj Ma’am

Q2. How long was the interview?

About 30-35 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?]

Answered above already

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]

Board : Smita nagraj ma’am

Education- BE Mechanical

Experience – 2 year work ex in Maruti Suzuki

From Haryana

Date – 7 march, 2018

Questions of the chairman

What you are doing right now?

What is Indian Corporate Law Service

Why the name changed from Company affairs to corporate affairs

What is your view regarding corporate issues in recent past?

How is corporate sector evolving in India?

How we evolved after Satyam scam

Pedagogy of your curriculum at your training institute

Where you will be posted / your domain after being in field?

How do you think you will be able to fight against experienced lawyers being from non-law background

How NLU Jodhpur attachment did helped you?

What is moot court?

What are the powers under companies act if any company deliberately don’t comply?

Questions of member 1

Who is Gauri Launkesh?

Any recent updates?

What is deendayal antodaya yojana?

Could PNB scam be prevented?

What are the key issues within the PNB scam?

Curative steps required now in banking sector?

Don’t you think personnel management is bigger issue in this?

What role do you think higher management could have played in this issue?

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Pros/cons?

Don’t you it will further decrease the jobs in India?

Questions of member 2

Can you differentiate between big data analytics and Artificial Intelligence?

How will you use it in improving the regulation of companies?

What are steps do you think we need to take for empowering investors?

Why still in India investors bets on speculation rather than long term investment

Do you think we should delineate the institution of md and chairman in board room of companies? Pros/cons

What more reforms do you suggest?

Questions of member 3

What is the role of independent directors in companies?

Recently NTPC, there is an explosion in boiler, all the directors are taken into cognizance, don’t you think independent director are being wrongly penalized?

How independent directors are liable in it?

Do you think developments in Maldives are threatening India’s interest?

What are the option does India have?

Do you think we should interfere into the internal affairs?

What is your vies of Indian Ocean region developments?

How should we counter Chinese assertiveness?

What are the steps India has already taken?

What are the strategic areas in Indian Ocean region?

Do you think we should make naval ports in Indian Ocean region?

How do you feel we can make our neighborhood policy more prudent?

Questions of member 4

Do you think we can double farm income?

What is your vies on land fragmentation?

Do you think it’s time to go back to coperativization?

Isn’t promising 1.5 times MSP and then playing out in calculation is a cheating?

Why do you think gram haats are so important?

Don’t you think by linking them to E-NAM it can crash the agriculture market, farmers will be at more risk?

How exactly price deficiency payment system does works?

What is treds?

Do you think we can introduce it in agriculture?

Chairman

Any examples where countries interfere in internal affairs of countries?

What if any-other countries does it with India?

Thank you your interview is over

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?

Most of the questions are on expected lines only. But I would like to highlight some of the mistakes I did in my second attempt’s Personality Test. I went for lots of Mock Interviews

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

Nothing as such

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

Nothing as such

CSE-2016 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

MARKS OBTAINED

SUBJECTS MARKS
ESSAY (PAPER-I) 141
GENERAL STUDIES -I (PAPER-II) 122
GENERAL STUDIES -II (PAPER-III) 121
GENERAL STUDIES -III (PAPER-IV) 131
GENERAL STUDIES -IV (PAPER-V) 092
OPTIONAL-I (ANTHROPOLOGY) (PAPER-VI) 158
OPTIONAL-II (ANTHROPOLOGY) (PAPER-VII) 181
WRITTEN TOTAL 946
PERSONALITY TEST 176
FINAL TOTAL 1122

Career Backup

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

I was already in the Indian Corporate Law Service, would have gone with that!

Views on UPSC reforms

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

Yes optional should be removed. It is a source of lot of variance in mains marks; moreover not all grad subjects are present too. Also, marking such widely differing subjects on equal footing is not possible.  Better we could introduce specific papers on case-studies that will check not only ethical but administrative aptitude as well.

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

Its good !

Q. Despite what UPSC has done in last seven years in syllabus and pattern change, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories and the readymade e-material sellers. In fact, it’s increased under the new Mains-syllabus post-2013. Let’s face it, UPSC added so many topics and so many random questions, even fulltime student struggles to gather and process all standard reference books and material himself within the short time available to him.

I feel, internet has come to rescue out of this situation. There are certain good online free resources that can improve accessibility to aspirants belonging to different regions of country

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

Definitely! It will make it easy for aspirants to calculate their marks and reduce speculations over answer key. People who are on border line remain in dilemma for almost 2 months without actually doing anything. This will give respite to thousands of such candidates.

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

Yes, they should do it. It will bring not only transparency but also ensure accountability to the evaluators. Further it will really help aspirants to understand where they need to work.

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

Definitely, UPSC can conduct prelims stage online, it will bring much needed reform of shortening the duration of exam. However, I am not sure about how prudent it would be conduct Mains stage online being its subjective nature. Many people who are not frequent user of laptops /computers may be at disadvantage.

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 believe, if two papers have same syllabus should be merged, it will save money and time for UPSC. Moreover, I think here we need to build collective wisdom in the aspirants to not fill for examination just for the sake of it. However, earlier many times, aspirants whose main aim was not IFOS, just to practice, that is eradicated by UPSC by keeping it after CSE-Mains. In long term, I think IFOS mains could be merged with CSE, no need to take separate exams for GS. One just has to specific optional papers after CSE optional paper.

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

Three basic areas I would like to focus on:

  • Reducing the duration of examination cycle
  • Introducing specific paper on case studies that deals with different domains of general studies to evaluate applied aptitude of candidate
  • Introducing psychological tests along with Personal interview

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?

Trust me, your background, your medium of speaking or work experience is not the criteria here. But your overall personality and articulating skill is.  Mine English is quite average, but rather than getting insecure over my command on English, I focused how I can communicate to interview panel convincingly!

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?

Mood swings and distraction have become part of life, especially in the age of internet. And its fine, don’t fret over it much. Further I have learnt through my journey few ingredients of success as:

Build our own Strategy: One might be going through interviews and articles of various toppers about their strategies but always try to build your own strategy. This is the first key ingredient of success; take the best out of everything available around you. In the course of preparation, I approached different places/institutes for just getting what I feel best in them. So from now on , whatever I will be writing try to see from your own perspective , whether you feel it is right or not for yourself and build your own strategy.

Second most important thing I feel is evaluating oneself in course of preparation, understand your strengths and weakness, & work over it. For instance, after my first attempt I faced difficulty in getting good marks in my optional and decided to change it. After my second attempt I felt that I seriously need to work hard on GS part as well, thereby I joined Insights offline test series for Answer Writing practice, which I found to be a game changer in this journey from Rank 575 to Rank 3. I had joined IAS Baba as well, particularly for Optional Answer Writing Practice & also, I found it good especially in understanding how to approach a particular topic. That I will cover in my next article on General Studies Preparation Strategy. But just try to find your own strengths and weakness & work over it.

Further I believe that hard work is the ultimate key for success. Trust me; this was the only thing we can bank upon throughout the journey. I have lived this journey through sheer hard work in different phases, even at the times when I was feeling whether, I will ever be able to clear this examination or not, when I will be out of the cycle of preparation & actually be a Change Agent. But here I would say, keep calm, be persistent in your goal and always believe why you want to be a Civil Servant, keep remembering that in your tough phases, and believe me you will not only cross it but you will with flying colors.

And last but not the least is Self-Belief, whenever you feel low, talk to your parents, mentors and well-wishers, try to get positive vibes from them. In the course of preparation we many times have self-doubt but that is normal & tries to get motivation from wherever you can.  I understand our core aim remains is to clear the examination and it should be that way. But live this journey from the perspective of becoming a better human being and transforming oneself how to be a change agent. Have the self-belief you will not only crack this examination and will be the change that we all aspire in the society!

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?

First and foremost thing i would like to communicate is just appreciate all these emotions, and it’s normal to have them. Failures are part of life. I also failed in my first attempt. I can understand the feeling of dejection that one gets after it. However, whenever you are going through the moments of low, try to speak it out with our well-wishers. Even if they don’t know about UPSC or Civil Services, try to talk with them, try to appreciate moments of success with them. Try to ingrain positive vibes from others. Trust me, it works and one needs to feel good about oneself to keep going.

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 were the one who kept me going all throughout this journey. There were thousands of moments of self-doubt, for this examination, a feeling of frustration, dejection after failures are part of this preparation. At those moments, it was my parents who gave me positivity in every phase and made me kept going. I still remember when I got my failure in mains, my father use to talk with me for hours to give me confidence that I can do it. I had also given CAPF in which I got out in physical test, I was literally under depression at that stage and I started doubting myself can I do anything worth in my life or not ever. But it was with the help of my parents, family iwas able to overcome that feeling. Further I believe, I should recognize the contribution of all the teachers, mentors and friends who contributed in becoming who I am today!

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 was my first companion through which I actually started my preparation. Till date I didn’t find any better resource for Economics, Geography, History Internal Security and so in! And that too at free of cost. Hats off to Mrunal Sir, to spread those worthy lectures and made preparation not only easier but also accessible to aspirants from different social backgrounds. Really thankful to Mrunal Sir, for investing lots of energy to keep this platform going on!

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3 Comments on “[Topper’s Interview] Sachin Gupta (Rank-3/UPSC-2017) Art of Answer writing with Sample Handwritten Copies & Anthropology Resources”

  1. Thank you sir for your inspiring words. All the best for future.

  2. Thank u sirj for giving such valuable guidance.

  3. Sir what is ‘do’, written in front of many topics in booklist section?
    Thank you

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