1. Candidate – Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Typical day in your Online life?
  5. Style of Preparation and notes making
  6. Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
  7. Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude
  8. Prelim accuracy
  9. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  10. Mains: Essay
  11. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  12. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  13. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  14. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  15. Mains answer-writing?
  16. Mains Optional Subject
  17. Before the interview
  18. During the interview
  19. CSE-2017 Marksheet
  20. Career Backup
  21. Views on UPSC reforms
  22. Insecurity about profile
  23. Struggle of a Senior player
  24. Grand wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate – Profile

Utsav Gautam

Q. Details
Name Utsav Gautam
Rank in CSE-2017 33
Roll No. 0001140
Age 25
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 4
Optional Subject Mathematics
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Agra
Work-experience if any Mathura Refinery, IOCL , 10 months
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures AIR 4346 in IIT-JEE 2009
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) No classroom coaching, Test Series of VISION IAS in 2015
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS, IRS (IT), IPS, IFS, IRS (C&CE)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres.


Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar



Contact for aspirants https://gautamutsav.wordpress.com

I would like to help future aspirants through this platform. I have shared my notes on my blog.


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 91.8
% in class 12 87.6
Graduation course and % 8.43 (CPI), Electrical Engineering
Name of college, city, passing out year IIT Patna, 2013
Post-graduation NA
Any other professional courses NA
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Watching & playing cricket, watching movies, reading about astronomy.


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

I am Utsav Gautam from Agra, the city of Sulh-e-kul  and The Taj. I have done my schooling in agra, and I have done my Btech from IIT-Patna in electrical engineering. My family consists of my mother, my two sisters. My father passed away in sep 2016, two months before the mains of CSE-2016, my grandmother passed away 5 days before my mains of 2017.

I had developed independent inclination towards civil services from my class VI-VII  and I was equally encouraged by my father. I entered this field because I firmly believe that civil services gives one of the best opportunity to bring positive change in society.

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. 0.001 hrs
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups 15-20 min
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 1-2 hrs
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile desktop

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

Reading about rumours creates unnecessary anxiety and waste time as well. So I made an effort to make sure that I don’t open online forums unless there is urgent need for it.  I had subscribed to various telegram groups which share various material and test series papers. For prelims I had done a lot of googling and Wikipedia, while for mains it was minimal. I used to make notes on Microsoft one note.  I used to go offline(whatsapp) for 2-3 months before prelims and mains, interview respectively and I gave my facebook password to my sister and asked her not to give that to me.


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.)

Over the course of my preparation which consisted of 4 attempts, my style of preparation has evolved a lot. Earlier I used to read from lot of sources for static portion and current affairs, which I later realized was not good. In my 4th attempt, I took minimalist approach regarding reading which included a lot of discretion strictly based on UPSC question papers. I focused more on writing and developing ability on handling questions in which I know little.

I used to make notes on Microsoft Onenote (Thanks Sh. Gaurav Agarwal sir, IAS, CSE AIR-1 2013), my notes were very concise so that they facilitate quick revision. Even in those notes I used different  colours, for revising stuff which I am more prone to forget.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient old NCERT (R S Sharma), NIOS
History Medieval Old NCERT, NIOS
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Bipan Chandra, Spectrum
Culture and society NIOS, CCRT
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant, google
Economy (theory + current) MRUNAL, Ramesh Singh, NCERT, Sriram IAS booklet
Science (theory + current) Nothing , science background
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS, google + Wikipedia + highlighted stuff in test series
geography physical NCERT, MRUNAL geography series, G C Leong
geography India NCERT, MRUNAL geography series
geography world NECRT, MRUNAL geography series
other national/international current affairs VISION current affairs, Insightson ias daily coverage
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff VISION pdf on schemes


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 main weapon of every good cricket bowler is the surprise element. UPSC is no different. After easy paper of 2016, I had hunch that paper would be difficult so I prepared myself mentally.  The best and surest strategy for prelims is to increase the efficiency and tick wisely instead of making more attempts.

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 have focused more on increasing efficiency. Learning more facts in Indian history and practicing more tests.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Nothing
Reasoning Nothing
Comprehension Nothing
Decision Making Nothing

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 have always attempted logic, mathematics  and reasoning type question first. My IIT background has aided me in that. In the remaining time, I have attempted comprehension question.  I always tried to ensure 100 % efficiency in this paper by giving more time to each question, by attempting less questions.  If one tries to ensure this, scoring 33% is very easy.


Prelim accuracy

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

I have solved papers of VISION IAS and insightonias. My approach was to complete each test in 1.5 hrs which included reading solution as well. I think my aptitude for prelims was good, so I did not find any need for solving paper in time bound manner. I just used papers to increase my knowledge base.

If one doesn’t  have temperament, speed, ability to resist lappagiri (guessing)  for prelims, one should try to develop these qualities by solving test series papers.


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

  attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 87 110.34 107.34
aptitude     130.83


Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Reading grammar from Lucent book  for 2 days
your regional language Practicing spelling dictation for 1-2 days with my mother, a week before mains exam

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

  • For English, basic grammar should be revised. One precise writing can also be done by solving past year paper. Rest is just solving paper diligently while maintaining good handwriting.
  • For hindi, reading grammar is best  thing because it gives easy marks. Spelling mistakes in hindi needs to be avoided, for this thing I used to practice spelling dictation with my mother.  Attempting full paper should not be a priority, even if one is able to solve 80% of paper with full diligence he/she will clear language paper with a comfortable margin.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

 I used to write essay in exam like conditions every week. I used to get it evaluated by my friend.  Essay was not my strong point, but enough practice made me comfortable regarding choosing and handling of various topics.


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

I wrote on the following topics :

  1. Has the NAM lost its relevance in a multipolar world :  I basically analyzed  the topic, arguments in for and against both. It included various dimensions such as political, social, cultural, economic and international, environmental. In the conclusion I wrote that there is need for rebooting and reinventing NAM and gave arguments in support of it.
  2. Socially media is inherently a selfish medium :  This topic was quite difficult one and I realized that after writing 2-3 pages. I focused on why it is inherently selfish medium and reasons, implications etc of it. Then I countered the topic by giving opposite set of arguments. I spoke to some candidates who wrote this essay after the exam and I found out that many missed the dimension that of  “ inherently selfish” mentioned in the topic. So one should not miss the essence of the topic.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture NIOS
Indian history Spectrum + Bipan Chandra
world history VISION IAS (selective reading) + MRUNAL
post-independence India India after Gandhi + Google of various imp events
Indian society MRUNAL
role of women, poverty etc. Google
globalization on Indian society MRUNAL
communalism, regionalism, secularism Google
world geo physical MRUNAL (Ms Rajtanil Solanki, IRS) + Geo cheong Leong + NCERT
resource distribution MRUNAL (Ms Rajtanil Solanki, IRS) + Geo cheong Leong + NCERT
factors for industrial location MRUNAL (excellent notes)
earthquake tsunami etc MRUNAL (Ms Rajtanil Solanki, IRS) + Geo cheong Leong + NCERT
impact on flora-fauna Common sense

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant + VISION IAS + 2nd ARC Summary
comparing Constitution with world VISION IAS
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikant + VISION IAS + 2nd ARC Summary
executive-judiciary Laxmikant + VISION IAS + 2nd ARC Summary
ministries departments Laxmikant + VISION IAS + 2nd ARC Summary
pressure group, informal asso. VISION IAS
Representation of people’s act VISION IAS
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. VISION IAS
welfare schemes, bodies VISION IAS
social sector, health, edu, HRD VISION IAS
governance, transparency, accountability VISION IAS + 2nd ARC summary
e-governance VISION IAS + 2nd ARC summary
role of civil service VISION IAS
India & neighbors Current affairs
bilateral/global grouping Current affairs
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Current affairs
Diaspora Current affairs
international bodies- structure mandate Current affairs

For the topics related to International affairs, i had done extensive reading of various websites such as mea.gov.in , orf , IDSA, centre for policy research in my first two attempts, so in my 3rd and 4th attempt, I managed by reading current affairs only.

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization VISION IAS + MRUNAL SLIDES (selectively)
inclusive growth VISION IAS
Budgeting VISION IAS
major crops, irrigation Google
agro produce – storage, marketing MRUNAL (excellent material)
e-technology for famers Current Affairs
farm subsidies, MSP Current affairs
PDS, buffer, food security MRUNAL (excellent material)
technology mission Google
animal rearing economics MRUNAL (excellent material)
food processing MRUNAL (excellent material)
land reforms MRUNAL (excellent material)
Liberalization VISION IAS
investment models MRUNAL
science-tech day to day life None
Indian achievements in sci-tech Google
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR VISION IAS + google
environmental impact assessment Google + VISION IAS
Disaster Management VISION IAS
non state actors, internal security VAJIRAM, VISION IAS
internal security – role of media, social networking site VAJIRAM, VISION IAS
cyber security VAJIRAM, VISION IAS
money laundering VAJIRAM, VISION IAS
border  Management VAJIRAM, VISION IAS
organized crime, terrorism VAJIRAM, VISION IAS
security agencies- structure mandate VISION IAS + google

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
attitude, moral influence etc. Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
moral thinkers of India and world I prepared philosophers which were given only in VISION IAS pdf, I Just learnt in 1-2 line, gist of their theories. I left some philosophers in vision ias because their philosophy was beyond my comprehension.  I focused more developing skills of writing answer based on that 1-2 line information.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
corporate governance Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
probity in governance, work culture Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
challenges of corruption Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)
case studies on above topics Mrunal lectures (Sh. Kavin Lambasiya IRS) + Lexicon (selectively)


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?

In my opinion the only rule is that, one’s answer should reflect ethicality, which means use of vocabulary of ethics and not of general answer writing. There is no correlation between ethicality of a person and marks obtained by him/her. Similarly in case studies focus should be on maintaining practicality & ethicality.

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 12 5 3 20
GS2 12 4 4 20
GS3 11 5 4 20
GS4 12 2   14
Opt-P1 Mathematics optional thus not applicable      

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]

One should leave the question only when he/she has no clue about it otherwise educated guess type answer must be written.  I used to attempt the questions first with which I am most comfortable with, I had also attempted initial 3-4 questions quite nicely so as to create initial good impression.

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

It was quite good, no hassles.

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.

There is no fixed no rule, I used combination of para and points depending upon the demand of question. I have even used para and point in the same question also. One’s mind should be flexible and there should be no barrier regarding usage of only para or point.

Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.

I tried to maintain introduction-body-conclusion type format. In some questions, due to lack of time I skipped introduction but I made an effort to write conclusion because I felt that it gives completeness to the answer.  In 1-2 questions in each paper due to sheer lack of time I wrote only points.

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? Itna time nahi hota !
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Yes, world map also
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Pencil
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? Hand
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue pen

Mains Optional Subject

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

I chose choose mathematics as an optional because I was good in it and I found it interesting to read, despite the fact that its syllabus is very large and it doesn’t aid in GS and essay papers.


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

One should take mathematics only when he/she has some inherent skills and interest in it.


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.)

Blog by Shri Parkash Rajpurohit IAS, AIR-2, 2009 discusses all the books needed for mathematics optional very nicely.

I have also written about choosing & approaching maths optional in my blog, https://gautamutsav.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/my-maths-strategy/

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?

No need except for some internet searching to find solution to some problem,  which is not given in the book.


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

around 1 year


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

Through out the year.


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

Formula sheet in notebook.


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 -2 has become very tough especially in 2016 and 2017. Thus there is need to cover all the topics in depth to maximize the attempt. Similar is the case with 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?

I prepared list of possible questions on all areas mentioned in my DAF. I showed some of my answers to my friends. Did lot of introspection on answers regarding my profile.  Regarding current affairs, I read the Hindu, watched episodes of The Big Picture, Desh Deshantar, India’s world on RSTV. I formed my opinion on current issues backed by my own reasoning. If one doesn’t have own reasoning regarding various issues then it becomes difficult to defend own stance in further cross questioning. It also leads to inconsistency in reasoning as well.


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 gave mock of Vajiram, KSG etc. I found mock of KSG very good. In general mock are not at all reliable and should be used only for practice. In mock they focus more on questioning and answering, like a knowledge test and UPSC interview is personality test. In UPSC interview, they will watch candidate keenly with interest to explore the personality. Subtle features are observed by them. While in mock this is generally not the case.  So mock should be used for practice only and common mistakes highlighted in multiple mocks should be taken seriously.


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 mukherjee nagar for 1 month for giving mocks etc. because it was cumbersome to travel from agra to delhi for every mock. So I was  in delhi before the interview.  I revised my astronomy current affairs, hindu-epaper in the morning.


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

White shirt, black pant with blue tie and black shoes.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Prof P K Joshi

Q2. How long was the interview?

26 mins

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?]

This question contains multiple questions, none of them was asked to me. But I will take this opportunity to answer all of these, so that it helps candidates preparing for interview.

  • During my schooling days as I grew up, while reading local newspapers I was quite impressed by the wider social impact that civil services could offer.  Moreover civil service gives diversity of work, leadership of opportunity at young age, respect in society, better career prospects. It is my parental aspiration as well.
  • Why not private : Civil services provides me opportunity to  take significant part in national progress. Challenging & dynamic nature of job & career growth prospects. Plus at my age it would years to reach the stage in private sector where I would be the one making decisions.
  • Why not civil society: I agree that every citizen contribute to national progress in ways like NGOs, CSR in company act. However being part of executive organ gives enough scope to touch greater number of lives.
  • Why not politics : Becoming politician is not an easy task…one need to have good financial background, contacts are equally important for fighting election. While in IAS, all the battlefield is in your hands, one can prepare oneself. Moreover it gives responsibility at a relative younger age. Moreover after contributing to civil services one can still join politics for doing good, as he will be knowing the ground level challenges e.g. Sh  R.K . Singh, Sh. Pavan Verma.

Note : Though above points will give food for thought and can be used verbatim also, but one should introspect a lot on these question because if cross questioning is done by board then fault lines may get exposed.


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]

Utsav Gautam

16/03/18, FN, Prof P K Joshi, 1st one to go, 26 minutes

Mathematics optional, Ex-IOCL, Agra


Reading out portion from my DAF

Q: Why did you change school from class X and class XII ?

A: Sir, I took coaching for IIT-JEE. My earlier school and coaching were in two opposite parts of city, so I changed my school which was near to the coaching.

What is corporation in IOCL ?

Iam sorry sir, I don’t know

Difference between company & corporation ?

Iam sorry sir, I don’t know

Why ONGC changed from commission to corporation?

Sir, iam not sure but if you please allow me I would like to make an educated guess.

Ch : Go on

Me : when shares of ONGC were released as IPO, its named changed from commission to corporation.

Did you read statistics as part of Maths syllabus in UPSC mains?

A : no sir, It is not in syllabus

Did you read statistics in school ?

: Sir, I faintly remember, but  I have read statistics in school in class XI.

Q: can you tell me , what you read ?

A: Sir, I read about mean, median, mode, histogram , cumulative frequency etc.

What is the use of mode ?

: Sorry sir, Iam unable to recall.

Q : Where you  have been staying after I left the job?

A : agra

Q : Specialty of Agra ?

A : Tajmahal, culture of sulh-e-kul.

Q : What is the use of trigonometry in daily life ?

A: It is used in height and distances, architecture and finding the trajectory of ball in cricket.

Q : What is ideal gas ? boyle law ?

A: sorry sir, I don’t know


M1 : Difference between meteoroid, asteroid & comet ?

Me : meteoroid : a small body moving in the solar system that would become a meteor if it enters the earth’s atmosphere. Asteroid is celestial body rotating around sun in a orbit, they are primarily in asteroid belt and Kuiper belt. Comet is object comprising of volatile compounds orbiting around the sun in highly elliptical orbit.

M1 : Which one of them is larger ?

Me : there is no fixed rule, it depends on the case to case basis

M2 : but still, which one is larger ?

Me : generally asteroid is larger

M1 : Why comet has tail ?

Me: because when they come near sun, the volatile compound gets vapourised and they get repelled by solar wind, which forms the tail.

M1 : pointing towards book on the table, why book is lying on table, which law is working ?

Me : newton first law, since the resultant of forces on books is zero thus acceleration of book is zero and it is in rest state.

M1 : How jet engine works ?

Me : It works on newton third law, the gases that come out fast from rocket pushes rocket in forward direction.

M1 : Difference  between astronomy & astrology ?

Me : astronomy is the study of various celestial objects and related phenomenon such as black hole, worm hole etc. Astrology is linking of human future based on the study of position of stars.

M1 : he asked something about formation and lifecycle of stars ?

Me : I talked about red dwarf, brown dwarf, supernovae, hypernovae etc.



You studied in air force school ? were your parents from Air force background ?

No sir, I took admission as a part of civilian student.

Q. Asked about my school & prize I won?

A. told

Q. What have you learnt from your preparation?

A. I have learnt about various things about our country, society and world. I have also inculcated more maturity and empathy

Q. From what other sources you have learnt things in your life?

A. I learn a lot from observing the society, I learn from movies as well.

Q. Can you elaborate about the movie point?

A. Sir, we read about evils in the society in newspapers, but when we see that in movies  it creates more impact on our minds as visual impact is more prominent for eg in Marathi movie Sairat the various social evils depicted, encourage us to do something to change this.

Q. My Job profile questions, further cross questioning. asked a situational case study based on my job profile. I told him that this has happened with me many times so asked me  to narrate that incident with every tiny bit detail of it for around 6-7 minutes.

Q. You were captain of school cricket team, there is important match, there is good player not your friend and your close friend who is not a good player, whom will you choose ?

A. I will assess the strength of opposite team and will select the team accordingly

Q. which one you will play ?

A. I will select the better player and not my friend

Q. But he is your friend, why you will not select him, if he asks what you will say?

A. Since he is my friend, I will give him party after I win the match, but I will not select him, I will convey this to him humbly and firmly

Q. What if you lose the match ?

A. “What ifs” always remain in cricket, but one has to take the decision objectively that time.


What is biological hotspot ?

They are the areas where there is lot of biological diversity.

Criteria needed for it ?

Species endemism and threats to the species

What is hopespot ?

Sorry mam, I don’t know

What is NPA ? classification of bad loans, SARFAESI act ?


Threats to Taj Mahal ?

I talked about environmental threat (air pollution, insects due to sewage pollution in Yamuna), drying of Sal logs because of low water in Yamuna, security threats

Why pollution in agra, what are the emission standards followed there, why after so many laws pollution still there?

mentioned unavailability of natural gas as originally envisaged by taj trapezium case.

What needs to be done, to reduce pollution from tanneries?


What is MGNREGA? criticism of mgnrega ?

Mentioned all the generic points of GS answer


  1. How to measure the purity of any substance?
  1. Talked about six sigma standards
  1. How to measure purity of water in water bottle, he was pointing to bisleri bottle kept on table?
  1. Mentioned BoD, CoD, coliform content etc.
  1. How to separate, water from diesel & petrol?
  1. Fractional distillation can be done to separate all three.
  1. Vacuum distillation & subsequent cross questioning.


Overall very cordial board, M3 and M2 were nodding affirmatively at everything I was saying, Joshi sir was writing and m4 try to bit grill me. Questions purely based on DAF.




Q5. Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions?  Was it a stress interview, did they ask any uncomfortable questions? If yes, how did you handle it?

It was totally on expected lines mostly on the DAF. I realized my DAF was quite diverse so I was anticipating interview on expected lines only.


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

Just carefully read the instruction sheet which is there while downloading e-summon letter for personality test.

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

read the instruction sheet  given on the day of personality test and bring prescription for spectacles.

CSE-2017 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Prelims Paper-1 107.34
Prelims Paper-2 130.83
Mains Subjects Marks
Essay 127
GSM1 113
GSM2 121
GSM3 136
GSM4 95
Optional Paper-1 147
Optional Paper-2 163
Written Total 902
Interview 171
Final 1073

Career Backup

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

There was no backup plan, I had complete faith in myself that if I give my 100% then I will definitely get selected with good rank.

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.)

I would have exhausted my all 6 attempts, without thinking of any back plan.

Note  : candidates are advised not to try this, this is very wrong strategy. I also realized that my strategy was wrong regarding this, par jab sar par Junoon sawaar ho, to shayad dimaag ijaajat nahi deta back up plan ke liye.

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 to ensure parity.

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

I think it should be around 50% for qualifying because basic aptitude should be a criteria for selecting the civil servant.  33% is bit less to be used a criteria.


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 agree, this is the harsh reality.


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



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

No, because this will bring lot of litigation and conducting examination in a time bound fashion will not be possible.


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



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 disagree on this, UPSC is right in its approach of conducting common prelims examination.


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

Moderation of marks obtained in interview, so as to decrease the variation of marks across all boards.

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?

Personally I didn’t have that insecurity. Personality tests checks suitableness of personality for civil services.  It is not the test of “past career profile” so candidates should not feel afraid at all.

Struggle of a Senior player

(Answer only if you’re a senior player.)

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

I have shared my whole journey of UPSC on my blog: https://gautamutsav.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/story-of-my-upsc-journey/


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

There were plenty of mistakes. I learned a lot from my mistakes. Some mistakes were

  • wasting 4 months in reading 2nd ARC (Jan-April 2015), after mains 2014
  • Not practicing answer writing in 2015, despite knowing that it is the important thing.
  • lack of preparation in Paper II maths in 2015, leading to gigantic 73 marks :smiley:
  • doing research in astronomy after mains 2016 for interview, it lead to almost no preparation for my other portion in DAF.
  • Following toppers advice(given in mrunal & their blog) blindly, without making adjustment as per my strengths and weakness.

Changes made in this attempt :

  • Doing a lot of answer writing, focusing on structuring the answer.
  • Reducing calculation mistakes in maths.
  • Revamping my interview preparation, based on the mistakes I did in interview of CSE-2016.

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?

The reason lies in story of my journey,


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?

Firstly, human life is too big to be defined by success/failure in one exam.  Just work hard, and don’t take any tension. Be ready to sacrifice whatever it takes to give your best,  be it giving up watching movies, cricket, talking to friends etc etc.

Please always be honest to yourself, then only you can do self-assessment regarding your strengths and weakness. Introspection is very necessary in this journey and only you can do it. When you see yourself struggling with preparation and with other problems in your personal life, try to recall about the people who have faced bigger problems in their lives e.g. our fellow Indians facing ceasefire violations along LoC and international border, getting homeless because of it.

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?

I saw the video of movie MS DHONI in which dhoni didn’t get selected, he goes to friend shop and says “ Ka hua ?, ekdum shaant pad gaye aap log. Selection nahi hua hai, pata hai humko. Dekhiye iss tournament se humko itna to  pata chal gaya hai,  ki itne se nahi hoga, humko aur mehnat karna padega. Islye aaj ka din humare liye bahut hi important hai, ye singhada balushahi ka party isliye hai, kyunki hum aaj ka din nahi bhoolna chahte.”

I have shared this example many time. I kept recalling that line “itne se nahi hoga, humko aur mehnet karna padega” which means this will not suffice, I have to work hard more. And this is my message.

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?

Special thanks to my father Dr. Rajiv Kumar Gautam ( who passed away in sep 2016), he has been my foremost inspiration.  Along with my father, my mother (Ms Sadhana Gautam) remained  like a strong pillar for me. I sometimes jokingly call my mother, Bruce Wayne because this bruce saved this Gautam (Gotham) :P .  My both sisters Suchi and Khushboo were also there for me, everytime supporting me.

I am also thankful to Ankit Tripathi with whom I prepared mostly. My friend Romil Kumar and Praveenchand also supported me. Me and Praveenchand used to do preparation on skype for interview. I thank Ekant Sharma for support.

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 can proudly say, that I am one of oldest subscriber to Mrunal.org.  I learnt basic economics in 2011 from Mrunal Sir (that Tom Cruise series, teaching FDI, FII, share and equity etc. ). I also remember mrunal Sir clearing prelims and sharing his success, he getting 20 marks in essay( sorry for mentioning that :P).  Mrunal Sir jokes also helped in reducing the boredom.

Many things were excellent on mrunal.org, to name few

  • Food processing, land reforms, location factor of industries distribution (super awesome)
  • Geography series by Ms Rajtanil Solani (IRS) mam
  • Ethics by Kavin Lambasiya (IRS) sir
  • Mrunal series on ryotwari, mahalwari etc. and NCERT world history NCERT summary
  • Economic survey summary and budget discussion .
  • Other miscellaneous awesome items.