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. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4
  13. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  14. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  15. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  16. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  17. Mains answer-writing?
  18. Mains Optional Subject
  19. Before the interview
  20. During the interview
  21. CSE-2017 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

UPSC Topper IAS Anubhav Singh

Q. Details
Name Anubhav Singh
Rank in CSE-2017 8
Roll No. 464321
Age 23
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 2
Optional Subject Mathematics
Schooling Medium Hindi
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Allahabad
Work-experience if any IRS IT
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures NA
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) ForumIAS MGP+IGP mock interviews at many institutes
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS >IPS(I had filled only two services this year)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. UP>MP>RAJ


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 70
% in class 12 85
Graduation course and % B.Tech and 77%
Name of college, city, passing out year IIT Roorkee,2015
Post-graduation NA
Any other professional courses NA
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements International Cinema and Literature


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

Ans: Myself Anubhav Singh and I am a native of Daser Village in Allahabad district of Uttar Pradesh.I have studied till class 8th in my village itself and from 9th class onwards I moved to Allahabad to continue my school education. My mother works in a nearby school as a clerk and my father is a farmer. Due to my parents’ professions they had to let me go to Allahabad all alone. So for next 4 years of my schooling life I had to cook my own food and do all other chores along with my academic requirements. My mother visited me twice or thrice in a month and that was a big respite for me. I decided to enter in CSE in my second year of graduation , this was a result of careful thinking about my career options and my duty towards the society. My parents also wished the same.I got IRS IT in my first attempt and then took the extra ordinary leave from training to prepare for interview and enjoy with friends because i was reasonably sure after my mains that I would change my service.So instead of cramming IT laws , I preferred to enjoy a light life with family and friends and pursue my hobbies.

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)

ANS:I studied the dynamic part of GS via internet sources and catalogued the articles for future reference. For the static part I used standard books for every topic. In my optional subject the syllabus is pretty much static so I referred to the standard books only.I think one should use these sources as per one’s requirement and temperament ,however one must be aware of the fact that overuse of internet can affect your study span.

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. None
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups None
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 1-2 hours
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop

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.)

Ans.I tried to maintain a close focus on very selective study material for each topic and i read that content as many times as possible.Instead of making notes i preferred to revise that topic. For maths I maintained a sheet with important theorems and formulae so that I could revise them just before the exam.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old NCERT
History Medieval Old NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum+Bipan Chandra
Culture and society NIOS+CCRT+WIKI+Nitin Sangwan notes
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikanth and newspaper
Economy (theory + current) NCERT Macroeconomics and Economic Survey+Mrunal Sir’s videos
Science (theory + current) Vision Current Affairs
Environment (theory + current) Sankar+Official Websites of UNEP,UNDP,UNfCC etc
geography physical NCERT +Leong+Rajtanil ma’am lectures
geography India NCERT+Rajtanil ma’am lectures
geography world NCERT+Rajtanil ma’am lectures
other national/international current affairs Vision IAS
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Vision+Internet

Q. Candidates are complaining that compared to earlier years, Prelim 2017 and 2018’s GS papers were very tougher, Tickmasters’ 90+ strategy (and its perverted & populist version known as Guessmaster-giri) and E-learning materials had limited utility. What are you views and wisdom on all these? If you were to prepare for the Prelim-2019, what changes would you make in the strategy?

Ans: I would completely agree with the estimate that last two years’ papers were tougher than earlier ones. Number of questions attempted should be strictly limited to only those questions for which the candidate is reasonably sure.I don’t think that there is any such set rule such as 90 strategy to clear prelims. E learning materials are only useful if the candidate is sure of it’s quality and utility. I have seen that some candidates use e materials as pastime which gives them psychological satisfaction of studying. As for the last question I would have increased my focus on newspapers and PIB as more depth is required now.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Optional/Engg background
Reasoning Engg background
Comprehension Engg background
Decision Making Engg background

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

ANS: I have an old habit of reading books,So i could tackle comprehension part pretty easily.I would suggest to the new aspirants that they should pick a classic and read it in their free time. this will give them respite from their preparation anxiety and teach them important things about life and world ,along with helping them in comprehensions.

Prelim accuracy

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

Ans: No, I did not and I don’t think that they are necessary for success.

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

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 85 63 105.34
aptitude 70 60-65 144

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper None
your regional language None

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

Ans: Only that one should solve last three years language papers before exam, if one is not comfortable then she should prepare adequately.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Ans:First thing about UPSC essay is that it is not a literary essay. To new aspirants ,I would suggest that they should take a look on some essays written by top scorers and try to analyse those essays with respect to content and structure.The essays in part A are generally concrete topics relating to economy, society, polity etc.For this part one should focus on reading magazines such as Yojana, EPW and Frontline etc. If the aspirant is regularly reading articles from these magazines, he will not face problems in gathering content for this part. Topics prepared for General Studies are also of great help in this part. On the other hand topics in part B are generally vague and philosophical in nature. For this part I would suggest reading some classical literature to develop abstract and critical thinking, for example Dostoyevsky and Camus. Debating and discussing abstract issues with your friends could also be of great help. You can also acquaint yourself with thinkers like Kierkegaard, Kant, Aristotle and Freud by using YouTube videos. Now as far as the structure is concerned,I started every essay with a catchy introduction (sometimes with a small incident or story) and then proceeded to analyse the topic in detail. I tried to analyse the topics with as many dimensions as possible by including views from multiple perspectives. In the conclusion summarise the dominant theme and end the essay with an optimistic and emotional note .
I would also suggest quoting national policies, acts, schemes, historical events, quotes by eminent persons to make your points concrete and one can also use graphs and diagrams to substantiate the point. Underlining the important themes is also a good practice as it makes the examiner’s job easier.

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

Topic I
Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India
Topic II

We may brave human laws but can not resist natural laws.

In the first essay i started my essay with a scene from mother india to elaborate the poor condition of farmer in India. then i argued on both sides of schemes by quoting plethora of government policies, schemes, initiatives and backing my claims with data.

As the second essay was vague and philosophical, i subjected the statement of essay to tests of scientific and philosophical principles and also illustrating many examples from history of India and the world.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Nitin Sangwan+CCRT+Wiki+NCERT Fine Arts
Indian history NCERT for Ancient and medieval, Bipan Chandra and Sekhar Bandyopadhyaya for Modern
world history Norman Lowe+Khan Academy lectures+Wiki
post-independence India Guha India after Gandhi
Indian society NCERT ,EPW
role of women, poverty etc. Newspaper, general reading
globalization on Indian society Newspaper, general reading
communalism, regionalism, secularism Newspaper, general reading,EPW
world geo physical NCERT+Rajtanil ma’am’s lectures
resource distribution NCERT+Rajtanil ma’am’s lectures
factors for industrial location Mrunal sir’s writeup
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT+Rajtanil ma’am’s lectures
impact on flora-fauna Newspaper, general reading

One suggestion I would like to make is one can use basic questions from history optional papers for preparation and practice, some of them have been repeated in GS1 paper.The quantum of unpredictability is very high in culture and World History.

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth
comparing Constitution with world Laxmikanth+Vision notes
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikanth
executive-judiciary Laxmikanth
ministries departments Newspaper, general reading
pressure group, informal asso. Mrunal sir’s video
Representation of people’s act summary from web
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikanth
NGO, SHG etc Mrunal sir’s video
welfare schemes, bodies Newspaper, Ias4sure scheme compilation+Forum’s Dipin Sir’s articles
social sector, health, edu, HRD Newspaper, general reading
governance, transparency, accountability Newspaper, general reading
e-governance Mrunal sir’s video
role of civil service Newspaper, general reading
India & neighbors ORF,Newspaper,The diplomat+Forum’s Dipin Sir’s articles
bilateral/global grouping ORF,Newspaper,The diplomat+Forum’s Dipin Sir’s articles
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest ORF,Newspaper,The diplomat+Forum’s Dipin Sir’s articles
Diaspora Newspaper, general reading
international bodies- structure mandate WIKI+Newspaper

I would suggest that one should write down each dimension of India’s relations with important countries. One can also do the same with internal security topics such as Naxalism, Insurgency, Coastal security and border security. Analysis of important supreme court judgements should also be prepared.Important laws and government policies and schemes must be prepared in detail.ARC and Punchi commission’s report ’s summary should be prepared.

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Economic Survey,Newspaper
inclusive growth Economic Survey,Newspaper
Budgeting Economic Survey,Newspaper,Budget document+Forum’s Dipin Sir’s articles
major crops, irrigation Economic Survey,Newspaper,Niti Aayog’s website
agro produce – storage, marketing Economic Survey,Newspaper,Niti Aayog’s website
e-technology for famers Economic Survey,Newspaper,Niti Aayog’s website
farm subsidies, MSP Economic Survey,Newspaper,Niti Aayog’s website
PDS, buffer, food security Economic Survey,Newspaper,Niti Aayog’s website
technology mission Newspaper
animal rearing economics Mrunal sir’s text
food processing Economic Survey,Newspaper,Niti Aayog’s website
land reforms Niti Aayog’s analysis of Haq committee report
Liberalization Newspaper
Infra Economic Survey,Newspaper,Niti Aayog’s website
investment models Mrunal sir’s video
science-tech day to day life Vision Current notes
Indian achievements in sci-tech Newspaper
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Vision notes
environmental impact assessment Internet
Disaster Management NDMA website, NDMP 2016
non state actors, internal security Newspaper+IDSA articles
internal security – role of media, social networking site Newspaper+IDSA articles+Forum’s Dipin Sir’s articles
cyber security Newspaper+IDSA articles
money laundering Internet
border  Management Newspaper+IDSA articles
organized crime, terrorism Newspaper+IDSA articles
security agencies- structure mandate Internet search

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Google search and followup
attitude, moral influence etc. Google search and followup
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Google search and followup
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Google search and followup
moral thinkers of India and world I had read Will Durant’s History of Philosophy which contained almost all important thinkers totalling to 15-20. but i think 5-6 important thinkers are enough.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. 2nd ARC summary
corporate governance Google search and followup
probity in governance, work culture 2nd ARC summary
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. 2nd ARC summary
challenges of corruption 2nd ARC summary
case studies on above topics

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?

Ans:Answer writing is of supreme importance in this paper.I would suggest using definitions of terms mentioned in the questions as introduction.One should also memorise some diagrams and flowchart and use it wherever possible.

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 5 1 20
GS3 12 7 1 20
GS4 11 4 15
Opt-P1 230 20 250
Opt-P2 205 30 235

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]

Ans: My experience is that one should attempt all the questions in GS papers even if you have only vague knowledge of some of the questions. Only if you don’t have even an iota of the question ,you should leave the question. Giving introduction and conclusion in each answer fetches better marks. Mentioning facts, data, government policy and act is important in every GS paper.Underlining is also important.

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

Ans: It was good and I did not face any issues due to this.Although in science and engineering subjects on should be very careful in solving numerical problems because if you have made a calculation mistake ,you may not get enough space to solve it again.I do not think that humanities papers have anything to do with fixed space.In fact in humanities it restricts the candidates against writing bogus content.

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.

Ans:Regarding paragraph vs bullet point debate,I would say that one should use them as per the question and candidates’ comfort.

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.

Ans:In some questions I followed this method and in some I did not depending upon the question and availability of time.

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
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? By 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?

Ans:Mathematics was my favourite subject since my schooldays. But this was not the sole criteria on which i decided to take maths as optional in UPSC, I reckoned that this was the subject in which I could score maximum. Along with interest, pragmatism should also inform the choice of optional subject.

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

Ans: My considered view is that one should take maths only if he has a strong inclination and background in it. Anyone (and not only IIT grads) can take this optional subject to the above mentioned conditions. One should not be tempted by stellar marks of some successful candidates as there are a lot more candidates consistently scoring low marks. Syllabus of maths is huge and it requires very heavy effort to prepare it properly.

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.

Ans: For book list, one should refer to Nitish K’s blog.It contains all the necessary information in this regard. Syllabus is a bit bulky so the aspirant must stick to topics mentioned in UPSC syllabus. Last 15 years papers of CSE and IFoS must be prepared thoroughly. Accuracy is of central importance in mathematics. To improve accuracy, I would suggest that one should solve the questions completely in a step by step manner, as it reduces probability of mistakes.While practicing questions ,do not leave questions half done(you might think that it is very easy and only so and so steps are involved) and write all the steps neatly to avoid confusion and mistakes. Some topics such as Mechanics,Fluid dynamics,Rigid dynamics are complicated and require constant revision.Make notes of past years questions of these topics and revise them frequently. Prepare abstract algebra only if you have time because for most of the students this topic does not provide proportional dividends.
I had taken IMS’s test series in 2016. It is helpful for ensuring time bound completion of the paper. Do not take any topic for granted. Practice a lot, even if you think that any particular topic is easier.Here I am mainly referring to ODE,PDE,LPP etc. Since last two three years, level of complication, specially in paper 2 is increasing very fast. So, obtaining conceptual clarity is very important. However, there is hardly any scaling in paper 2 as I attempted correctly 170 marks in 2016 and got 161. Similarly this year I attempted 205 marks correctly and I have got 194 marks. At the end,I would say practice and revision is key to scoring high marks in mathematics.I have covered in this part only those dimensions which are not there in the blogs I have mentioned.One should study in detail the blogs to orient themselves properly in maths optional.

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?

Ans: Almost none. One should rely completely on standard textbooks and previous year question papers.

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

Ans: 1 year.

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

Ans: I always practiced maths.

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

Ans: yes.Paper

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?

Ans: Difficulty level is increasing every year and in depth and thorough preparation is necessary to tackle the paper.I would stress again on accuracy and practice. these two things should be of prime importance to maths optional candidates. Difficulty level in pure mathematics problems is increasing day by day, so one should prepare Pure math topics in great detail and depth.Also due to increasing candidates in maths, the intra optional competition is very high thus to score good marks your correct attempt should be higher.

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?

Ans:Mostly by searching keywords on internet and writing down the important points in a diary.I read newspaper thoroughly.

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?

Ans:I gave six mock interviews.I think mock interviews are very helpful in identification and rectification of problems.

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

Ans:At my friends’ home in Gurgaon.Just the diary, I had maintained.

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

Ans:I had worn a formal suit with tie and dark black formal shoe. I think the dress should be comfortable and elegant.I would suggest suit to male candidates if they are comfortable in it.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Ans: Ms. Smitha Nagraj.

Q2. How long was the interview?

Ans: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?]

Ans: A chance to be a part of nation building and a promising career.

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]

Ans:Questions asked:
1.You are already in the IRS .Are you satisfied?-I said i am fairly satisfied but want to utilise my full potential.
2.What would you like better raids or tax policy formulation?-I said that given my maths background tax policy formulation would better suit me but as an officer of law if required i would happily conduct a raid .
3.Who is the most remarkable person you have met ?-I told about my friend Khushdeep who is in dairy business.
4.What is the benefit of Desi cow milk over Jersey cow?-A2 allele of protein in Desi cow milk makes it healthier than Jersey cow milk.
5.What is more important‐ milk production increase or indigenous breeds protection?-I said both are important.
6.What would be your priorities as District Collector.
7.You talked about education.how would you improve quality of education?
8.Problems in higher education sector in india and what would you suggest.

9.Do you think private universities are doing good? What are the issues related to them. -Told about high fees, quality control and lack of inclusion.
10.What is innovation? Suggest an innovative idea to improve higher education in india.
11.what is AFSPA and it’s provisions. Should we remove the act ? two commissions related to AFSPA.-Told about Hegde and Reddy commissions.

12.Tell me the difference between real number natural number and imaginary number. 13.National mathematics day why and when celebrated.-
14.Important works of Ramanujan. which prime minister declared this day? -Dr. Manmohan Singh had declared this day.
15.what do you think about loan waivers in up?is it a solution?-I said its dressing only and not a solution.
16.What about transition from BS4to Bs6 .benefits and challenges.direct gasoline injection engines.

17.Maslow hierarchy of needs?sustainable development in Indian policy making.
18.Do you think we could have used 93000 Pakistani pows to solve Kashmir issue.-I said yes.
19.Anubhav what is game theory? -Told the definition.

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?

Ans: My interview was not a stress interview despite the fact that it was not on expected lines.They did not ask any uncomfortable questions and the board was very cordial.

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

Ans: No.

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

Ans: No.

CSE-2017 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Subjects (Max. Marks) Marks secured Cutoff ranges

(PH to Gen.)

Prelims P1-GS (200m) 105.34 Cutoff: 40-105.34
Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m) 133.33 Passing Marks: 67
Mains Subjects Marks secured
Essay (250m) 155 Passing Marks: 25
GSM1 (250m) 098 Passing Marks: 25
GSM2 (250m) 107 Passing Marks: 25
GSM3 (250m) 129 Passing Marks: 25
GSM4 (250m) 081 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-1 (250m) 181 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-2 (250m) 194 Passing Marks: 25
Written Total (1750m) 945 Cutoff: 578-809
Interview (275m) 165 N/A
Final (2025m) 1110 Cutoff: 830-1006

Career Backup

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

Ans: I would have prepared for the engineering services.

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.)

Ans: After 3 attempts.

Views on UPSC reforms

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

Ans: The fact is that there is huge quantum of subjectivity in evaluation of all papers including Essay and ethics paper. However there should not be any discrimination in awarding marks and scaling formula should be properly calibrated before application. I am not in favour of removing optional subject but all subjects should be on level playing field subjected to toughness of the subject and question paper.

Q. After Mains-Syllabus change of 2013, initially some candidates got very high ranks, despite scoring poorly in interviews- thanks to their tall scores in written (mains). So in recent years, it seems UPSC has tweaked the mains-evaluation process in such manner that everyone gets similar range of marks in Essay, GSM2 and GSM4. Thus, selection is majorly dependent on optional scaling and interview score. In CSE-2017, total 990 successful candidates in a spectrum of mere ~296 marks. Yes, UPSC does have internal mechanisms to reduce panel-wise variation of interview marks, yet many candidates did not make it just because of a ‘strict’ interview panel. So, what should be done to reform A) the mains-evaluation system and B) the interview evaluation system?

Ans. A: Both the constitution and evaluation of question paper should be made more objective by clearly dissecting the questions in parts.Model answers should be given to examiners ,so that there is consistency in checking of all examiners.UPSC should also penalise heavily for bogus answers.

ANS B: The weight of interview could be reduced as it is very difficult to make the process objective. Intake after mains can be reduced and only 2 or 3 panels should be there to take interview.

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. So, apart from revamping the mains-evaluation system, the mains-Syllabus needs to be compressed.

Ans: I believe that UPSC should stick to high standard textbooks and standard government publications for mains questions because in random questions a non sincere candidate can score better than a sincere candidate depending upon examiner’s views.Only way to counter these menaces is to frame a scholarly question paper requiring not only memorisation but also imagination and in depth understanding of subjects. But it is also a fact that a hyper competitive environment will degrade the quality of exam process at any cost.

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

Ans: I am of the same view that case studies are indeed superficial and i do not think they can check actual ethical qualities. Instead some standard literary and philosophical works should me made mandatory and in depth and analytical questions should be asked out of that fixed material.

Q. UPSC should disclose the evaluated mains- answer sheets like some StatePCS are doing. Although such ‘transparency’ has its demerits e.g. in recent GPSC Class-1-2 exam, after uploading the evaluated copies it turned out that those who wrote answer in Gujarati were given less marks compared to those who wrote identical answer in English. In such situation, process gets stuck in litigation and stay orders, therefore UPSC’s decision of being “less” transparent helps UPSC finish exam process within time-frame, without litigation and stay orders. What are your views on conundrum?

Ans: I think litigation would erode sanctity of exam process hence UPSC should build strong in house mechanisms to deal with these issues.But i believe UPSC should prepare and release model answers to reduce coachingwalla’s exploitation and speculation that UPSC wants this or that, and a fixed ideal for every answer.Bottomline is that if everything would be scrutinised by courts then it would take 3 to 4 years to finish the process just like state commissions.Bilingual professors should be empanelled to check copies so as to reduce any bias.

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

Ans: I don’t think that this measure would serve any purpose except bunch of candidates going to court over some questions . This unnecessary litigation would delay the process.At the same time I think that UPSC should not ask any ambiguous question because it harms many serious candidates and favours the tukkewalaas. An unambiguous and conceptual question paper is very important for channeling most suited candidates to the mains exam.

Q. Due to protests by Hindi-belt, UPSC made Prelim-Paper-II qualifying in nature (33%) but in recent prelims, you’d have noticed that each passage is followed by only 1 MCQ (instead of 2-3 MCQs as in past), and maths-reasoning also became increasingly complicated, so finishing the paper in time limit and scoring that 33% is also a headache for non-engineer candidates from Rurban areas. And although Decision Making and Basic English comprehension are part of official prelim paper-2 syllabus, due to fear of backlash, UPSC stopped asking this since 2015. So, don’t you think Paper-2 should be removed OR merged with Paper-1 just like CAPF- where same one paper has 125 MCQs containing both GS and Aptitude.

Ans: I am of the view that basic maths reasoning is as necessary as GS ,so marks of paper 2 should be fully counted instead of being of qualifying nature.A CAPF like paper is also a middle way of solving this problem.Basic reasoning and comprehension should not be seen as favourable to a section of candidates, no engineering course in our country has these topics in curriculum. I believe Candidates should not pay attention to brouhaha and If they can prepare humongous GS syllabus ,they can also prepare these easy topics.

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

Ans: In prelims it could be done given that sanctity of process is not violated as in the case of SSC exams. In mains I don’t think it’s a good idea because only few centres are required and it would unleash the aspirants towards typing institutes.Although it will be funny sight to see future IAS,IPS officers practicing typing along with there future Stenos ,as an unintended consequence it could lead to camaraderie between officers and there staff members.

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.

Ans: I believe these exams should be decoupled completely for the sake of dedicated Ifos candidates.

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

Ans: Just the above-mentioned schemes.

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?

Ans: No, I did not suffer from any insecurity and neither should anyone. one must be clear in mind that these things do not matter to the commission. I would also suggest to choose medium of interview as per one’s comfort and command over language. Candidates from all mediums score high and low marks in interview.I was educated in government Hindi medium schools and had no work experience with predominantly rural background.  Maintaining calm is the most important thing in the interview. My friend Kartik was made to stand up and the walk in the room by Bassi sir, So one should maintain calm and act as per the situation.

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?

Ans:I prepared with my friend Kartik ,So we used to motivate and push each other. he also got selected with 529 rank.Preparing alone is a tough endeavour ,a friend can help you not only in studies but can also act as a pillar of strength in tough times.I generally watched movies and went out with friends to relieve the stress.Distractions should be kept to minimum by enforcing strict short to long term plans.One should always take stock of his preparation by measuring with respect to set milestones.If you can play some sport ,please do because it will help in maintaining emotional Balance.Talk to your family members frequently and keep distance from demotivating and negative persons.

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?

Ans: I have learned and achievements and successes won’t matter if you will judge your life through them.Life can not be reduced to any one thing or objective.Life manifests it’s beautiful colours in form of nature, arts, family and friends. So, while preparing or after succeeding give due importance to all factors of life. Develop purity of emotions and strength of character to enjoy life fully. Basically live your life in such a manner that even if you do not qualify the exam you can remember this period of your life with joy and without regret.I have enjoyed my share of struggle from last 11 years.I left my family when i was 13 years old for a completely new place and people,I have done most of those things myself for which people need guardians and parents, just imagine a 13 year old boy cooking food, washing dishes and clothes etc and you will realise that you are a lucky person .this early struggle taught me that events do not matter ,people do.

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?

Ans:I would say to them that despite failing in exam they have many things to look forward to.Do not get disheartened by one failure, there are unlimited opportunities for every human being in this world.Take into account your positives as well before making an assessment of your life.the fact is that life can not be measured by success or failure in an exam.If possible, they can prepare again with renewed vigour.If you are feeling depressed go to your loved ones and spend some time with them to renew your energy.There is no path for happiness, happiness is the path.

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?

Ans:My mother’s sacrifices for my education is unparalleled , she made my education only purpose of her life. The friendly support from my sister Sushmita was also sine qua non for my success. the support of my friends Sunil,Ratnesh,Kartik,Shani,Shishir was no less in any manner. they stood by me in my best and worst time without thinking the consequences.It was their support in my first four years in Allahabad that made a 13 year old boy to live alone in an alien place for the sake of education.

It was due to their effort only that I qualified the IIT JEE in 2011 and qualified the CSE twice.I don’t know how to thank them because thanking them would be like thanking myself because i believe our existence and consciousness is collective.I would thank god instead for giving me such a great family and friends.


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. 

Ans: When I started my preparation I did not have any source of guidance, so i heavily depended on mrunal.org. Rajtanil ma’am’s Geography lectures are superb and i did not need other sources in that subject except Ncerts. Mrunal Sir’s economy lectures are a very hand tool for preparing economy in depth.I would take this opportunity to thank Mrunal Sir for his great initiative for helping aspirants.