- Candidate – Profile
- Electronic Vs Paper material
- Typical day in your Online life?
- Style of Preparation and notes making
- Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
- Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude
- Prelim accuracy
- Mains: Compulsory language paper
- Mains: Essay
- General Studies (Mains) paper 1
- General studies (Mains) paper 2
- General studies (Mains) Paper 3
- General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
- Mains answer-writing?
- Mains Optional Subject
- Before the interview
- During the interview
- CSE-2017 Marksheet
- Career Backup
- Views on UPSC reforms
- Insecurity about profile
- Struggle of a Senior player
- Struggle of Working professional
- Grand wisdom
- Credit: Friends/family
- BOGUS Marketing Propaganda
|Name||Iswar Kumar Kandoo|
|Rank in CSE-2017||187|
|Total attempts in CSE (including this one)||4|
|Medium chosen for Mains answers||English|
|Medium chosen for Interview||English|
|Work-experience if any||5 years ( 1 year in LPGCL, a BAJAJ group power plant in Lalitpur & ~4 yrs in SAIL, Rourkela)|
|Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures||NDA – Written cleared, SSB out
AFCAT – Written cleared, SSB out
GATE’13 – ~3000 rank in instrumentation (not considered for any PSUs or IITs)
UPPCS’14 – Prelims cleared, Couldn’t clear mains.
CAPF’16 – Written cleared, did not go for PAT.
CSE’14 & 15 – Could not clear prelims.
CSE’16 – Could not clear mains.
|Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)||
|Service preferences (Top-5)||IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS (IT), IRS (CE)|
|Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres.||UP, HARYANA, MP.|
|Education||fill the details here|
|% in class 10||84.33 % (UP Board)|
|% in class 12||72.8 % (UP Board)|
|Graduation course and %||B.tech (Electronics & Instrumentation), 78%|
|Name of college, city, passing out year||Krishna Institute of Engg & Tech, Ghaziabad, 2009-2013 batch.|
|Any other professional courses||NA|
|Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements||Diary writing, Playing cricket, table tennis, chess.
Recently started taking interest in shayari.
Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Ans. Hello Everyone, I am Iswar kumar kandoo, from Lucknow, UP. My father is a shopkeeper & mother is a home maker. I have 2 sisters and a brother. I spent my childhood in my maternal grandfather’s (Nanaji’s) village ie Mahrajganj, Azamgarh. I did my schooling throughout in Hindi medium & passed the high school with 18th rank in UP board merit list. After that I moved to Lucknow & completed my intermediate from Montfort Inter College. I did my engineering from KIET, Ghaziabad & got campus placement in two companies ie: Samsung & Bajaj. I joined Bajaj group & worked there for ~1 yr & after that I joined SAIL , rourkela in 2014 & currently working there.
The bug of civil services preparation was there since my school days because of my mamaji’s motivation & encouragement. He himself was preparing at that time & more often he used to teach me and encourage me for participating in quiz competitions, essay writings etc. But after moving to Lucknow, as the time passed, I started focusing more on getting a well paid job to secure economic stability of my family. It may sound like a cliche but in 2012-13 during my final year of college, when I came across incidents like coal scams, Nirbhaya case, Lokpal conundrum etc, I started thinking seriously about my role in society & dream of becoming civil servant. I also took inspiration from my college seniors like Sudhanshu sir & Shreyansh sir who were preparing and cleared this exam in subsequent years.
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. My study was a combination of both. Since I was a working professional throughout my preparation time, so I had to rely on online sources, especially during office hours. I rationalized the online sources on the basis of requirement. For example : I relied completely on online materials for current affairs & limited myself to sources like Civilsdaily & Vision’s monthly compilations only. So, what I want to convey is that first of all, draw your own boundary like which sources are you going to follow & whether you will be able to revise it or not. We must aware of “what to leave” in order to avoid the information overload. Apart from that, I also used lots of websites like mrunal, insights, ias baba ,selfstudyhistory etc..but again…rationally.
|Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services.||Almost
|Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups||Used whatsapp to send my answers to friends for evaluation.|
|Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep.||Depending on time and content.|
|Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile||Mobile, desktop @ office, mostly laptop @room.|
Q. Any other things that you wish to elaborate on above table:
Ans. Personally, I don’t really think that making a target of daily study hours work in this preparation. Especially for those, who are preparing along with job. So, rather than focusing on “daily hrs spent on etc etc”, the focus should be on completing daily targets. Everyone has his/her own pace & his/her own unique way of understanding the things (like TAARE ZAMEEN PAR :P ), so if you complete your targets of the day, go n enjoy fully :D.
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. During my initial two attempts, I made the notes of everything I read which made them so bulky that I couldn’t even revise them before my prelims. I used to write the gist of newspapers, books, online videos, pdfs etc which was time consuming as well as boring for me.
So, after going through various topper’s articles, Since 2016, I followed the strategy of not making any notes in 1st reading. In my first reading, I tried to read the books, contents just like a novel & tried to visualize as much as possible. It helped me to have an overview of that book/content etc. Now during the second reading, I used to highlight the important lines & started writing on the margins of the books in my own language. I also bookmarked various articles & made mind maps on some issues. Regarding videos, I started downloading their PPTs (https://mrunal.org/powerpoint) & started editing them as per need. Once in 2 weeks, I used to revise my notes.
In short, I reduced my notes making time & also made them interesting by using different methods. This helped me revising them multiple times.
|History Ancient||6-8 NCERT, 11th class TN board (download from mrunal.org), History optional materials.|
|History Medieval||6-8 NCERT, 11th class TN BOARD, History optional materials|
|History Modern (Freedom Struggle)||Spectrum, selected topics from fantastic funda modern history lectures (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzAXg5f_YzQ&list=PLm4mHNnXLSkWxmBpLO0gt3P4gBGjDnVuU)|
|Culture and society||Ishani Pandya mam’s lecture on Arts & Culture (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2kwblESn4I&list=PLAMBum9_RkuP3gSvJu3owIwi7l8y2F7uw), selected topics from Nitin Sangwan sir’s notes.|
|Polity (theory + current||Theory : M .Laxmikanth
Current : Vision IAS monthly compilation + Civils Daily
|Economy (theory + current)||Mrunal.org video lectures ( From 2015 to 2017) + Economic survey + vision currents compilations|
|Science (theory + current)||6-9 NCERT + Vision compilations|
|Environment (theory + current)||9-12 Geography NCERT + Shankar IAS + VISION Compilation + Internet|
|geography physical||9-12 NCERT + Rajtanil Mam’s lectures (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMPO60DOTKQ&list=PLAMBum9_RkuNDtzpNQlCRcaOrNqrD4Gf7)|
|geography India||9-12 NCERT + Rajtanil Mam’s lectures (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMPO60DOTKQ&list=PLAMBum9_RkuNDtzpNQlCRcaOrNqrD4Gf7)|
|geography world||9-12 NCERT + Rajtanil Mam’s lectures (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMPO60DOTKQ&list=PLAMBum9_RkuNDtzpNQlCRcaOrNqrD4Gf7)|
|other national/international current affairs||Civils Daily + Vision IAS compilations|
|Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff||Separate compilation pdfs are available on internet. (EXP: INSIGHTS)|
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?
Ans. Yes, I too think that Prelims 2017 was tougher compared to 2016 but that’s what UPSC is known for ie: unexpected back breaking. Guess-mastergiri , if done blindly ,does not works even in easy papers. Rather its calculated guess which may help. I attempted 80+ questions in my all 4 attempts, but failed in initial two because I overestimated my guessmastergiri which costed me missing cutoffs by 8-10 marks. In later 2 attempts, I checked my guessing ability in mocks & took very calculated guess in exams. I personally believe that one should attempt a question only if he/she is able to eliminate 2 options. But again, it depends on individual’s ability. Some people are quiet accurate so they attempts ~65-70 only so its better to assess yourself in mock tests.
Regarding the utility of e-learning materials, I think they are still very relevant. One should not expect direct questions from any sources, rather use them for understanding purpose which can be applied while attempting the questions.
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?
Ans. I would have worked more on static part, especially on factual informations.
|Topic||strategy / booklist|
|Maths||Did not prepare|
|Reasoning||Did not prepare|
|Comprehension||Did not prepare|
|Decision Making||Did not prepare|
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:
Ans. In Paper-II, first of all try to solve Maths , reasoning & decision making sections where the answers are almost definite, less confusing & relatively easy. It will ensure the required minimum 67 marks. For solving the comprehension portion, first read the questions which are asked from that passage & then read the whole passage & highlight the related keywords. For fast reading and understanding, count the number of words per minute you read & understand & try to increase them.
Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Ans. I did not attend any test series for prelims, however lots of mock test papers are available on internet which I solved. Mock tests are very necessary for clearing prelims as they mainly serve 5 purposes
- Acts as a reminder in case you are lagging.
- Develops the ability to solve unconventional questions. (elimination )
- Helps in revision.
- Gives confidence.
- Helpful in self assessment regarding guess & all.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2017.
|attempted Q.||correct (Expected)||Official score|
|aptitude||Don’t remember||Don’t remember||~115|
|Compulsory language paper||Your preparation strategy / booklist?|
|English paper||Nothing specific, just saw previous year papers to gain confidence.|
|your regional language||Hindi – Nothing specific, just saw previous year papers to gain confidence.|
Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2017.
Ans. English grammer section was difficult for me. Similarly finding the exact hindi meaning of English words was little tough. Hindi paper went very easy though. Overall one need not to worry but try to solve a previous year paper to gain confidence.
Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
Ans. For Essays, I did following things:
- Read topper’s essays to get some knowhow. I read essays of TINA mam, Gaurav sir, Chandra mohan sir & tried to incorporate some key points from them. Exp : After seeing Tina mam’s essay, I started giving more attention on things like handwriting & avoiding cuttings. Similarly from Gaurav Agrawal sir’s essays, I learned how to carry the flow of your essay in such a manner that examiner’s interest remain intact. He used to raise questions in the intro part of the essay itself & then explain them throughout the essay.
- Made a separate copy after prelims, wrote lots of quotes of famous personalities on different themes like education, technology, women etc & tried to remember them. I also prepared short stories & case studies on those themes. EXP : Laxmi agrawal on women, Afroz Shah on environment etc. This one is a new addition compared to my previous attempts which was suggested by my friend Nikhil.
- I had a small group of 3-4 friends who were also giving mains. I used to send my essays to them for evaluation. I wrote around 9-10 essays before mains.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
- Destiny of a nation resides in its classrooms.
In this essay, I started my intro with a short story on the life of Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Then moved on the typical points like types of education, importance of education, conditions of classrooms, virtual education, related issues, best global & local practices & then ended it with a quote.
- “NEW WOMAN” in India is a myth.
Started with a Sanskrit quote & then moved on the historical aspects of women condition in different time period, what is new woman? how it is different from traditional image of a woman? , Its role in changing time in different areas, What lacunas, case studies, way forward.
|Topic||How did you prepare?|
|Culture||Ishani Pandya mam’s lecture, Rest of the topics from Nitin sangwan notes.
I found Ishani mam’s lecture very useful for both prelims as well as mains.
|Indian history||NCERT (6-9), TN board 11th , Baliyan Sir’s notes, Spectrum, Gaps were filled by Fantastic funda’s lectures|
|world history||Baliyan Sir’s notes, few chapters from norman lowe, websites like selfstudyhistory.com|
|post-independence India||Baliyan Sir’s notes, selfstudyhistory.com + Pradhanmantri Series selected episodes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_3i0Hf8KMI&list=ELYR5txmTpa_c)|
|Indian society||Mrunal GSM lecture series of 2015,16 & 17 + current affairs + some case studies (real incidents)
I feel that there is no need to refer lots of coaching notes for this section. Mrunal & current affairs are enough.
|role of women, poverty etc.||Mrunal GSM lecture series of 2015,16 & 17 + current affairs.|
|globalization on Indian society||Mrunal GSM lecture series of 2015,16 & 17 + current affairs.|
|communalism, regionalism, secularism||Nothing specific just tried to relate some recent incidents with these topics.|
|world geo physical||NCERT 9-12, Rajtanil mam’s lectures|
|resource distribution||NCERT 9-12, mrunal’s article on resources (https://mrunal.org/2015/11/upsc-mains-geography-natural-resource-distribution-world-physical.html|
|factors for industrial location||Mrunal (https://mrunal.org/tag/gsm1-geo-location )|
|earthquake tsunami etc||NCERT 9-12, Rajtanil mam’s lectures|
|impact on flora-fauna||NCERT 9-12, Rajtanil mam’s lectures|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.||M. Laxmikanth + Vision compilations|
|comparing Constitution with world||Random internet search|
|parliament, state Legislatures||M. Laxmikanth + Vision compilations|
|executive-judiciary||M. Laxmikanth + Vision compilations|
|ministries departments||M. LAXMIKANTH + vision compilations|
|pressure group, informal asso.||Mrunal GSM lectures 2015 + Vision currents|
|Representation of people’s act||Gk Today article + laxmijkanth +currents|
|various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..||M. LAXMIKANTH + vision compilations|
|NGO, SHG etc||Mrunal GSM lectures 2015 + Vision currents + Friend’s notes (Vajiram)|
|welfare schemes, bodies||Civils daily + Vision currents compilations + Mrunal lectures|
|social sector, health, edu, HRD||Mrunal GSM lectures 2015,16,17|
|governance, transparency, accountability||Mrunal GSM lectures 2015 + Vajiram notes|
|e-governance||Mrunal GSM lectures 2015|
|role of civil service||Mrunal GSM lectures 2015|
|India & neighbors||Vision current affairs|
|bilateral/global grouping||Vision current affairs|
|effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest||Vision current affairs|
|Diaspora||Vision current affairs|
|international bodies- structure mandate||Mrunal lectures + Vision compilations.|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|Indian economy, resource mobilization||Mrunal lectures( 2015 to 17) + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations + Economic survey
One need not to follow all the 2015 & 16 lectures as mrunal sir has already decontentized them :p & included all the basic infos in 2017 lecture series. But for some specic topics/events, you can refer those lectures.
|inclusive growth||Mrunal lectures( 2015 to 17) + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations + Economic survey|
|Budgeting||Mrunal lectures + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations + Economic survey|
|major crops, irrigation||Mrunal lectures + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations|
|agro produce – storage, marketing||Mrunal lectures( 2015 to 17) + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations + RSTV|
|e-technology for famers||Mrunal lectures( 2015 to 17) + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations.|
|farm subsidies, MSP||Mrunal lectures( 2015 to 17) + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations.|
|PDS, buffer, food security||Mrunal lectures( 2015 to 17) + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations + RSTV|
|technology mission||Vision currents compilation.|
|animal rearing economics||Mrunal lectures( 2015 to 17) + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations + Economic survey|
|food processing||Mrunal lectures( 2015 to 17) + PPT for revision + Vision current compilations + Economic survey + RSTV debate on Sampada yojna.|
|land reforms||Basics from history optional + Vajiram Notes|
|investment models||Mrunal lectures|
|science-tech day to day life||Vision currents compilations.|
|Indian achievements in sci-tech||Random internet search|
|awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR||Vajiram notes + Vision current affairs.|
|environmental impact assessment||Shankar IAS book + Case studies from internet.|
|Disaster Management||Mrunal lectures + Vision currents|
|non state actors, internal security||Mrunal lectures + Vision currents|
|internal security – role of media, social networking site||Vision currents|
|cyber security||Vajiram Notes +Vision currents|
|money laundering||Mrunal lectures + vision currents|
|border Management||Vision currents compilations|
|organized crime, terrorism||Vajiram notes + vision currents|
|security agencies- structure mandate||Vajiram notes.|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?|
|ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics||I committed a mistake that I did not read the definitions of all these Hathodaa topics. I depended more on my own understanding of these terms. I tried to become very honest here which did not fetch me good marks in ethics :p :p. (Got only 94 in 2016 and 86 this year ).
So I would suggest to read the definitions & examples from any notes & try to connect your real life examples with these terms.
|attitude, moral influence etc.||Same as above.|
|civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc||Same as above.|
|emotional intelligence, its use in governance||Same as above|
|moral thinkers of India and world||How many thinkers did you prepare?
Mrunal ethics lectures + Lexicon moral thinkers
|ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.||Friend’s notes.|
|corporate governance||Mrunal ppt|
|probity in governance, work culture||Own understading|
|citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.||Friend’s notes.|
|challenges of corruption||Own understanding|
|case studies on above topics||Lexicon + Demo lectures of mukul Pathak sir.|
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. Most of the candidates think that one need not to prepare specifically for ethics paper. So they generally give very less time to this paper compared to other three which causes loss of some valuable marks. I myself was a believer of this thinking & now I feel that had I prepared it well, I would have got under 100 rank. But for future aspirants I would like to suggest that try to invest sufficient amount of time to this paper as well. Read the definitions as well as examples of all the terms mentioned in the syllabus, whether from any book or notes. Try to find out some real life incidents & mention them in your answers (Exp : Kailash Satyarthi & his works , Odisha man carrying the dead body of his wife etc ). You can also mention your own experiences. Regarding case studies, one should imagine oneself as a lead character of the case & after that, try to think by removing all your biasness, inclinations etc & try to be as ideal as possible especially in terms of the moral values. You can also make diagrams & write quotes as I did it in my tests & exam.
Please tell us how many marks worth attempts did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:
|Paper||Best attempted||Average quality||namesake answer||Total attempt|
|Opt-P1||All||14 + Map|
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. I always tried to attempt all the questions. I think it is relatively easy to get extra marks by attempting all questions even if you have very little idea rather than trying to write perfect answers of selected questions. But this doesn’t mean that you should write useless stuffs. In case you are completely unaware of question (exp : Mcbride for me in 2016) , you can skip but if there is even little idea, you must write. In that kind of questions try to focus on the keywords given in the question itself and frame your answer around it. It may fetch you 1-2 marks which is anytime better than getting 0.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Ans. Normally Space is not an issue at all. But here I would like to narrate an incident during my GS1 paper. This year, there were 10 & 15 marker questions unlike 12.5 markers of previous years. So space was varying from 2 to 3 pages for 10/15 markers. However, due to excitement or anxiety :p , I did not read the instructions & started answering the first question (10 marker) keeping in mind that I have 3 pages to finish. It was only after 2nd page when I realized that I do not have space & still my answer is incomplete. So this made me feel panic for some time but anyway I kept my cool for the rest of the exam. So, read the instructions properly & check the space in your answer sheet before writing.
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. I wrote all my GS answers in bullet points however in optional, I made a combo of paragraph & bullet points. I always tried to show both the sides of the issue, opinion & counter opinion etc. I also did not pay much attention to end keywords, especially in GS.
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. YES, I followed the “introduction-body-conclusion” format throughout my GS & optional papers. However sometimes due to paucity of time, I skipped the conclusion or wrote 1-line filler type conclusion.
- Here I would like to write my strategy regarding answer writing because this is the only thing which helped me improving my GS marks from 378 to 427 & optional marks from 219 to 316 this year. I know that anybody who is clearing prelims, definitely have a decent idea about the syllabus. Only thing, which you need to master before the mains examination is “How to reproduce/represent your knowledge/content in the best possible manner within the given word limit under 8 minutes time pressure”.
- For that I did following things:
- I took the help of my friends who were also giving mains. We made a plan, divided the syllabus on weekly basis & started writing 2-3 answers daily & evaluate each other. We also tried to learn from each other’s mistakes. I learned how to use diagrams, flowcharts, case studies, examples etc from a friend, Nikhil. These things were missing in my previous years’ attempt.
- Intro : For introduction, I followed Mrunal sir’s strategy ie: GIVE definition or throw data or give background information (EXP : What is SDG?, You can give any 1 of the 3 approach ). This approach saves us from deviating the topic. Otherwise in Mrunal sir’s language “ Stadium ke bahar jaake bowling karte rahoge :p :p “.
- Body : Here I tried to make diagrams/flowcharts/ maps etc along with bullet point content. wrote both the sides of the issue & defended my arguments with examples/case studies & tried to give multiple points.
- Conclusion : I tried to give positive ending by giving encouraging examples/quotes etc.
- Apart from that, I also joined test series & focused more on 1 to 1 interaction with faculty. It helped me in microanalysis of my answers.
- I don’t like asking following rudimentary questions, but these are the most frequently asked questions by new aspirants.
- You can read my sample answer copies on this link: http://www.mediafire.com/?lotkwu5xtcc19
|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, Lots of ( In GS-1,2,3,4 as well in optional)|
|Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?||You will not get that much time to switch over between pen & pencil and if you are getting time then it’s not a good sign….:p :p :D|
|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 (Reynolds ) pen.|
Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Ans. In my initial two attempts, I prepared with Geography but by March 2016, I came to realize that geography is not my cup of tea so I switched over to History. I choose history because of following factors:
Instrumentation engineering is not in the list of UPSC optionals….:p :D
Interesting to read (No definitions, deep philosophical theories etc).
No requirement of classroom coaching.
Availability of online guidance, study material etc.
Helpful in GS, Essays.
Static syllabus ie little relation with current affairs.
Q. If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
Ans. I would suggest that take this optional only if you have interest or you are willing to take interest in it. History is a very good optional with very less chances of surprises in exam. Even with decent preparation, one can get average score easily but after that one has to really work hard to get good score.
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. I have already given detail strategy & booklist in following article.
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. I did lots of internet search for optional reading especially from websites like selfstudyhistory, mrunal, fantasticfunda lectures, pradhanmantri series etc. I also tried to co relate the current affairs with History ( Exp: ISIS & Middle east issue, Korean crisis etc ). Combination of both ie book reading & online sources is required to prepare this optional.
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
Ans. Since I was preparing with job, so I took slightly more time . I completed it in around 6 months.
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
Ans. Although I tried answer writing before the prelims itself, but was never regular. So I left it & started seriously 4-5 days after prelims.
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Ans. I wrote on the margins of book & added them in Balyan sir’s notes so that in last moments, I could be able to revise all the things from those notes.
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. I found this year’s paper easier compared to last year. There was no unconventional questions like last year ( Educational reform of Behmani & Mehmud gawan …type). For future, I would suggest that be mentally prepare for some unconventional questions & even try to attempt some in your test series or during answer writing. It will give confidence as well as you will not get panic after seeing those questions in exam.
Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?
Ans. For Interview preparation, again I took the help of my friends. I sent my DAF to my friends (childhood, college & office friends …in order to cover these aspects of my DAF) & told them to prepare & ask possible questions from there. Again, we three ie: Me, Ashutosh & Nikhil started taking mock interviews of each other (telephonic interview :p ) along with feedback.
College Grad : Read basic concepts, books & discussed it with my classmates & college friends. I did not prepare it much because I was already working as an instrumentation engineer which was my graduation subject.
Hobbies : My hobbies were diary writing, Playing & following cricket,chess. I prepared the possible questions from internet, friends etc. I followed IPL, chess candidates tournament etc type events as well. Read about some famous diary writers from India & world.
Place of origin : Internet, talked to my parents & relatives.
Current Affairs : RSTV debates, The Hindu, Vision compilations.
Besides that I also sent my DAF to various institutes who made the list of probable interview questions.
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. Yes, I attended 7 mock interviews in different coaching centers (Samkalp, Next IAS, KSG, ALS, GS Score, Analog etc). I believe that it is necessary to attend atleast 2-3 mock interviews as it helps reducing anxiety, gives confidence & also helpful in pointing out our mistakes. I found real interview slightly different than mocks as the board members were much more cordial & they were more willing to listen you rather than eating snacks & biscuits :p :p.
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. I stayed at my friend’s place & did not carry anything for the revision. I am that kind of person who always try to refrain from last moment study whether its prelims, mains or interview because it increases my anxiety. So I tried to remain cool, calm as much as possible. Even did not discuss anything with any candidate at interview centre.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Ans. Blue colour suit, pant & tie, Navy blue shirt, black shoes.
Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Ans. Mr. BHIM SAIN BASSI
Q2. How long was the interview?
Ans. ~30 minutes
Q3. Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too. [Since I don’t know whether they ask you this question or not. But if they had asked- what will be your reply?]
Ans. Although I was not asked this question in the interview but frankly speaking I was in a dilemma even on the interview day whether I should answer in my own way (which was not recommended by my mock interviewers) or in a way which is more safe as per them.
My own thinking is like..….. I have a strong belief in “Learn, Earn & Return” principle. Since learning is an endless process & I am already working in a Maharatna PSU like SAIL so also earning well. Now the last thing which I want to do is to returning the society /country which has invested so much in me through ways like education, scholarships, education loans etc & for me, civil services is one of the best medium of doing this… I know these lines might sound like a cliché to many & I was also advised by coaching centres to not say these things in the interview but this is what I actually feel & through this plateform I am just expressing it.
However, for interview answer, I refined these lines which may sound more practical to others ie. “It is one of the best career opportunities we have in our country in which along with the factors like pay & perks, job satisfaction, self esteem & self actualization , one can also make direct & visible impact on the lives of people & can become a leader in nation building process.”
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.
Ans. My interview was on 18th April. I was the second candidate. I was sitting outside the room when the 1st candidate was giving his interview. I still cherish those 12-15 minutes as one of the unforgettable moments of my life because in those 15 minutes, sitting outside the interview room, I rewinded my whole life since childhood to 27 years including those struggle phase & it was not because of any anxiety but because of that happiness which I was feeling at that moment that I am fortunate enough to be here & just few inches away to my goal for which I have invested my past few years.
Anyways …I entered the room & wished everyone. It was a 5 member board with 1 lady member.
Q1 : So Iswar, What is this “ Srujani Award” that you got in SAIL, RSP?
ME : Sir, It is an award given for any innovative technical modification which helps the organization. I , along with my subordinates modified the hardware circuit & softwares of existing Oxygen compressor which was operating with 2 rack PLC. We converted it into a single rack PLC system. That generated lots of spare I/O cards which helped RSP saving ~20 lakhs for the purchase of new spares.
Q 2: Make & model of PLC?
Schneider electric, Model : M-340
Q3 : What kind of modifications you did in software?
Q4 : From where you got the license?Why didn’t you call Schneider people ? Isn’t it a breach of property rights?
Q5 : So, you have choosen history as an optional, Tell me whether nonviolence was the outcome of Gandhi’s own experience or it was endear to him?
I couldn’t hear it properly so I requested him to repeat the question.
Me: Sir, It was the combination of both. Since childhood, he was the avid follower of various thinkers & philosophers & it shaped his thinking towards truth & nonviolence. Similarly the success of his nonviolent struggle in Africa ie his own experience ,boosted his moral & thus he used it as a tool in our national movement as well.
Q6 : Was he stick to it throughout the freedom struggle?
Sir, at personal level, he always practiced nonviolence. But in 1942, during quit india movement, he gave the freedom to other freedom fighters to use their own methods. This was a visible break from his stand in 1922 when he suspended the non cooperation movement after a violent incident in Gorakhpur.
Q : Ishwar….God :p …so what do you think the meaning of Iswar?? Do you think you justify your name?
Me : Sir, the meaning of ishwar is ISH + VARA ie capable of doing excellent & then I also blabbered some pholosophiocal things on God …Regarding justifying my name I said that I always try to give my 100% in everything I do, sometimes I get success sometimes not. But yes, regarding the meaning, I believe that I have the capability of doing excellent.
Q: Extent of poverty in our country? Why is it so & What will you do as an administrator?
Me: Gave some data regarding the extent of poverty in our country. The reason behind poverty is lack of education, employment, skill, poor health condition, large population etc. As an administrator, besides improving these basic things like education, health , skill etc I would specifically focus on Decision making aspect, because poverty is not merely lack of income rather it is something which imposes cognitive taxes, social taxes etc on the mind of a person which affect his/her decision making ability (gave an example from Mrunal – Sending children to school during harvesting period or not?). For this tailor made implementation of schemes as per suitability, sensitizing the officials for treating them with dignity & rather than thinking them as a beneficiary of government schemes, think like they are the rightful customer whom we have to serve.
Q : About nature of job in SAIL ?
Me : answered.
Q : NCC “B” Certificate & NSS member? Tell me what are the lacunas in NCC & whether should we make it compulsory?
Me : answered.
Q: Difference between Iron & steel?
Q : UP is such a large state whether it should be divided or not?
ME : Yes Sir, It is difficult to administer such a large & highly populated state & it should be divided in two parts ( Western & Eastern) by keeping into mind the allocation of resources like rivers, minerals, agricultural aspects, job prospects etc .
Q : Why in two parts why not in 4 parts as suggested by then CM in 2011?
ME : Sir, I think it is not sustainable because if we talk about areas like Bundelkhand. They don’t have agricultural as well as mineral resources in sufficient quantity. Job prospect is also not much better there as penetration of service industry is not that great.
MEMBER 2 :
Q : I will continue the last question, tell me the legislative procedure in case UP is going to be divided in two parts?
Q: Trump has imposed duty on steel imports, Its impact on world in general & india in particular?
Q : Why we are exporting our cheap raw material to countries like Japan & importing cheaper finished steel from them?
Answered (But was confused whether it should be Japan or China ).
Q: You are working in Odisha where cyclones are frequent. What will you do for tackling it?
ME : Sir, in what capacity?
Q : As a chief secretary of Odisha.
Me : Sir, First of all I will call a meeting with the stakeholders like administrators (district & division level ), State disaster management teams, Early warning teams & will formulate the macro & micro level plan after discussing with them. I will also direct them to involve district disaster teams , NGOs etc. Then ensuring technological efficiency like early warning , availability of satellite phones etc. Ensuring man , material , tools etc in sufficient numbers. Rehabilitation & Relocation of those vulnerable to cyclone. Ensuring their safety , hygiene & providing alternate means of employment via govt schemes. Regular visits, taking feedback & passing it to government as well.
Q : Diary writing hobby…what have you written recently?
Me : Answered
Q : Do you share your diary with any one & if no then why?
Me: Sir, I do not share it with any one as they are very personal.
Member 3 :
Q : Why India is investing so much in Afghanistan?
Me : Answered
2-3 Counter questions related with AFG-PAK-INDIA relations, Chabhar port, INSTC etc
Q : SAARC & its future ? Why India is so rigid? What other options do we have?
Me: Answered…talked about BIMSTEC, SASEC etc.
1-2 ques about BIMSTEC.
Q : What Is SCO ? Its mandate?
Me : Answered.
Q : Some factual question.. Do not exactly remember…said I am sorry sir, I do not know.
Q : Time period of Satvahana kingdom & notable works done by them?
Me : answered.
Q : Why you did your schooling from Azamgarh when your parents were in lucknow?
Me : Answered.
Member 4 ( Lady member with pleasant smile unlike other 4 serious gentleman )
SHE : First of all, I must say that You have a very good voice iswar.
I thanked her.
Q : population control targets? How to met?
Q : Should we follow China’s 1 child policy?
Me : Mam , I think we should not follow china’s policy as we are a democratic country where every citizen has certain rights. Rather than imposing the decisions from above, we should work more on changing mindset through awareness & all.
Q : But that has not yielded desired result. Don’t you think we need to do more?
Me : Yes mam, Definitely we need to do more. Even government has started designing schemes in such a manner that promotes population control ( gave exp of maternity leaves limited till 2 children only ). Apart from that awareness should also be more in the direction of male vasectomy which is less painfull & easier as compare to female sterilization.(gave data ~97% of total is female sterilization)
Q : As a district magistrate, what will you do to control hunger, malnutrition & unemployment?
Me : answered but fumbled a lot.
Q : Goa Iron mining issue?
Me : Started answering by raising environmental concerns and all but she interrupted
Q : Tell me the technical reasons ?
Me : Sorry mam, I am not aware about it.
No problem, Thank you.
Chairman : Okay Iswar, your interview is over , have a sweet ( He offered me sweets from his plate). At first, I humbly said that Thank you Sir, but I have done my breakfast. He insisted by saying that you have earned it so either eat it here or take it away with you. This time I accepted it & came out of the interview room with the sweet.
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. Barring 3-4 questions, It was on expected lines & mostly from my DAF. Some factual questions were there which I wasn’t expecting but that happens with everyone. There were 3-4 situation based questions (Roleplaying ). In these type of questions, I asked for some time to think & answered after ~10 seconds. I tried to answer these questions in point wise by using keywords. In some questions, I fumbled because of stress (thoda to rhta hi hai :p :p ), Also on 1-2 occasions, I referred lady member as Sir which indeed was a mistake.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
Ans. Always carry ~10 photographs. Rest UPSC is very supportive in this matter.
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Ans. Avoid boozing in the night before medical checkup :p :p (There was a case ). Carry the prescriptions if any. Avoid tea in the morning.
Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:
|Subjects (Max. Marks)||Marks secured||Cutoff ranges
(PH to Gen.)
|Prelims P1-GS (200m)||118.67||Cutoff: 40-105.34|
|Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m)||115.00||Passing Marks: 67|
|Mains Subjects||Marks secured|
|Essay (250m)||134||Passing Marks: 25|
|GSM1 (250m)||118||Passing Marks: 25|
|GSM2 (250m)||099||Passing Marks: 25|
|GSM3 (250m)||124||Passing Marks: 25|
|GSM4 (250m)||086||Passing Marks: 25|
|Optional Paper-1 (250m)||160||Passing Marks: 25|
|Optional Paper-2 (250m)||156||Passing Marks: 25|
|Written Total (1750m)||877||Cutoff: 578-809|
|Final (2025m)||1037||Cutoff: 830-1006|
Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
Ans. I was already a working professional so would have continued with that.
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 1 more attempt.
Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Ans. I also think that optionals should be removed as they are not serving any purpose & also creating a kind of thinking in aspirant’s mind that particular optional is being axed, scaling etc. Rather GS papers should be increased by including things like public administration, laws, management, roleplaying, diplomacy etc.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
Ans. A certain amount of aptitude should be there in a civil servant but on the other side it must be realized that lots of candidate belong to rural & digitally, educationally backward areas. Also there are many candidates who are not from engineering, medical, management background (as they have certain advantages in CSAT). So as per me, it’s a good step which balance both the requirement.
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.
Ans. Yes, I agree. 2018 prelims paper is a classic example of that.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over.
Ans. UPSC should disclose Cutoffs & marks just after the prelims as it will help the aspirants knowing their actual preparation level & they can plan accordingly. However, answer key should be released only after the complete process otherwise there would be lots of court cases like state pcs exams which will delay the examination process & ultimately the aspirants will suffer.
Q. UPSC should disclose the evaluated mains- answer sheets like some StatePCS are doing.
Ans. It may bring transparency but on the other side it will cause delaying of examination process & lots of cases. Rather there should be model answers released by UPSC.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Ans. Yes, especially prelims.
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. Yes, I too think so.
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
Ans. Reforms in interview process. A candidate should be evaluated by atleast 3 boards who would check different aspects of his/her personality & final score should be average of marks got from each board. It might increase the duration of interview process but it will certainly reduce the subjectivity. For reducing the duration I will try to reduce the time gap between mains exam & beginning of interview process which is currently ~3.5 months.
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. Yes, I am also not from a big college (No IIT , NIT or Govt Engg college ).I too did my entire schooling in hindi medium. But even after that I did not suffer from any such insecurities and neither should any other aspirant. The fact that you’ve reached the interview stage speaks itself about your abilities. Own with pride whatever has built you.
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.
Ans. This was my 4th attempt. I failed twice in prelims & once in mains so I really consider myself a senior player now…:p . And yes, preparing for UPSC, that too along with job, that too with family responsibilities in a young age requires strong mental will. For this, I always tried to steal some time for me from my daily schedule, whether its my hobbies, sports, bike-riding, talking to friends, watching movies etc. I used to watch Bollywood pot-boiler movies & dialogues whenever I wanted to feel better. Its not that k I like those fake action sequences or substandard acting & stories. I actually tried to take inspiration from the characters that the actors were portraying ( Like Prabhas in Bahubali series, Ajay in Gangajal, Raid).
Regarding specific incident, It was in 2005, when I passed my high school with 18th rank in UP board merit list. I got lots of attention from media, people, relatives, friends etc. Everyone was praising me like if I am a new Einstein. Being an 14 yr old immature teenager, I too started overestimating myself after that success & stopped studying seriously. As a result, I failed in the 11th class the very next year & had to repeat that class (I passed my intermediate in 2008 ). During that failure period, I saw a distinct change in the attitude of people, relatives & some friends. Those who were praising me last year started saying that my success was a fluke…UP Board me to cheating bhi hota hai n all. After that I realized that just like the failure, success too is temporary if we are not sustaining it with continuous efforts and hard work. Since then, I always try to make an equilibrium between the celebration of success & grief of failure & this was the main reason that I never felt demotivated even after 3 failures in CSE.
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
Ans. I was not prepared in my first attempt (2014). I had just completed NCERTs & Laxmikanth before the prelims.
In my 2nd attempt (2015), I studied well but did not solve any test paper before prelims. Also I made very bulky notes because of which I couldn’t revise properly.
In my third attempt (2016), I cleared the prelims but did not do any answer writing practice for mains. Also I had changed my optional this time, so maximum time went for completing optional’s syllabus. I got only 219 marks in history & missed the cutoff with 22 marks.
In this attempt, my main focus was on answer writing & presentation which helped me to improve ~60 marks in GS + Essay & ~100 marks in optional.
If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job.
Ans. I was a full time working professional (9 hrs daily, 6 days a week ) right from the day one when I left my college in 2013. I would suggest the following things to the working professionals which I myself have learned from various toppers & followed.
- Utilize the spare time you get in your office. Don’t think in terms of number of hours rather think in terms of minutes. Save as many minutes as you can. (Exp : 30 minutes in lunch, 15 in tea breaks etc ).
- Always carry some study material in your cellphone, paper notes in pockets & try to read whenever you get time.
- Try to complete atleast newspaper/currents in office hours.
- Be ready for small sacrifices like skipping family gatherings, office parties, trips etc.
- Rationalize your leaves in such a way that you get enough before prelims, mains & interview.
- Avoid being a part of office politics. Try to maintain the equilibrium between professional life & study as much as possible. No matter what happens, control the outcome …it’s on you :p :p
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 always tried to remind myself that why am I doing this, about the bigger picture & I have chosen this path myself…by choice. Apart from that, I already said that my parents, friends, hobbies, movies etc helped me to avoid mood swings.
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. Celebrate your success, but never get overexcited. Similarly analyse your mistakes, learn from them , do introspection but never get demotivated by them. As I have already said that try to maintain the equilibrium of emotions during success & failure. Always try to be as humble as possible.The motto of our training institute ie LBSNAA itself is Sheelam Param Bhushanam (character is the strongest virtue ).
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 that it’s just an exam & nothing more than that. Yes, we all invest so much time & energy that it hurts after gatting failure but it’s not always in our hand. Sometimes a bad day, health conditions etc can also affect our chances. Life is much more than just an exam. There are people who are working much better in their respective field & also contributing a lot without clearing CSE ( Kailash Satyarthi ji, Anna Hazare ji etc), also there are few civil servants as well who are not doing justice with their responsibilities. So give your 100% & enjoy this experience of CSE preparation which is very enriching & which makes you more matured, humble & better human being. As Javed Akhtar said “ kyu darein zindagi me kya hoga, kuch nahin hoga to tazurba hoga”. So, always cherish that tazurba with you. There are much better & beautiful things in life waiting for you. There are lots of big fish (opportunities) in this pond (life) J J.
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. Whatever success I have got, it is just because of lots of sacrifices & unconditional love of my parents, family & the support of my friends. Apart from my parents, I find myself very lucky in terms of friends as they made me the person I am today whether its my childhood friends like Nishant, Manish, Anjul or college friends like Kartikey, Krati, Mukund, Anu, Manish, Amitosh, Datta, Ashutosh etc. During my uncertain times of preparation, few friends like Ashu, Kartikey, Brijesh & Nikhil were always there & motivated me by their constant support & encouragement. Last but not the least, it’s the blessings of almighty.
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. Definitely YES, Mrunal.org has played a pivotal role in my success. I am following your articles & lectures since the beginning of my preparation. Apart from economics lectures, I also prepared geography, ethics thinkers & art & culture from this website. As a working professional in Rourkela, I didn’t have the liberty of attending classroom coachings. During those time I made mrunal.org as a major source of my preparation. Especially Mrunal sir, his way of teaching, use of jokes, slangs, Bollywood characters & above all selflessness made economics an interesting subject for an engineer like me. Sir, in the end, I would like to thank you & other faculties associated with mrunal.org for their invaluable guidance.