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. Struggle of a Senior player
  26. Struggle of Working professional
  27. Grand wisdom
  28. Credit: Friends/family
  29. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Nitesh Wadhwani

Q. Details
Name Nitesh Wadhwani
Rank in CSE-2017 209
Roll No. 0005580
Age 29
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 4
Optional Subject Mechanical Engineering
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Agra
Work-experience if any Yes, Larsen& Toubro Ltd. (1 year 2 months). Presently working in Central Secretariat Service (since December 2015)
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Appeared for UPSC ESE interview once and left preparation afterwards, Qualified UPPCS ,HPCS and UKPCS prelims but didn’t appear for mains, qualified some group B examinations like SSC CGL, Railway Recruitment Board Ahmedabad etc.
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Took coaching from Vajiram and Ravi in 2014 (stopped attending mid-way), GS Test Series, Optional test series and Mock interviews from NextIAS
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS(IT), IRS(C&EX)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. UP, RJ, MH
Contact for aspirants nitesh.w13@gmail.com


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 87.4
% in class 12 90.4
Graduation course and % 7.90 CGPA
Name of college, city, passing out year NIT SURAT 2008-2012
Post-graduation _
Any other professional courses _
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Reading novels, Jogging and Listening to old Hindi Songs


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

Ans. I am Nitesh Wadhwani from Agra, Uttar Pradesh. I have done my schooling from Simpkins School, Agra. I graduated in Mechanical Engineering from NIT Surat in 2012. After that, I worked in Larsen & Toubro Ltd. for one year. Currently, I am working as an Assistant Section Officer in Central Secretariat Service (since Dec 2015). My father owns a garment store in Agra and my mother is a homemaker. I have a younger sister who is a Chartered Accountant.

I started preparing for this exam after quitting my job at L&T. During school time, I and my friends were fascinated with Civil Services. I always wanted to prepare for this but didn’t know where to start. After a year, I realized it’s about time I should and quit my job to pursue this dream. Having worked with government as a client while in L&T, i realized that civil services is the way to bring about real change.

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. There is a deluge of online study material available nowadays. It can be quite confusing as to which one to follow religiously and which one to skip. Although the approach to it may be individually specific, i focused only on ones which provided a holistic pre cum mains approach with regular answer writing and topic specific articles (Mrunal and IASBABA). Needless to say, mrunal.org has been there before UPSC focused websites bombarded the internet. However, there is no substitute to reading a newspaper. I read two newspapers (IE and livemint) throughout the year.

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. Nil
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups Nil
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 2-3
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop

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

Ans. Online forums can be demoralising sometimes, so i limited myself only to the content and concepts. The one time i did refer to online forums was after the mains about essay topics and was demoralised when i saw that i may have interpreted the essay topic wrong. (man made laws vs natural laws).

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 made notes from the newspaper on an almost regular basis (difficult to be consistent while working). The notes really helped me revise current affairs part during mains. I made notes selectively, leaving 1-2 pages free if the topic is reoccurring in editorials, so that i could add more if need be. Selective reading is quite important, which can only be done if you have memorized the syllabus. It saves tons of time. I prepared flowcharts of topics which are asked every year but require only one read, i.e., Disaster Management, Security issues etc.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Yellow Book-Vajiram
History Medieval Not prepared
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) NCERT and Arihant Magbook
Culture and society CCRT and Nitin Singhania notes
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikanth, IASBABA
Economy (theory + current) NCERT ,livemint articles, budget speech, economic survey, Mrunal
Science (theory + current) only current affairs from IASBABA
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS, IASBABA
geography physical Mrunal, NCERT
geography India Mrunal, NCERT
geography world Mrunal, ATLAS, GC Leong
other national/international current affairs International organisations, UN, environmental forums etc.from internet
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff India year book (selected chapters), Vision material for schemes, own newspaper notes

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. The prelims have evolved to gauge the candidate’s deeper understanding of the subject. For e.g. polity questions now can’t be answered by reading laxmikanth alone. I read the polity NCERTs and found them very useful. On the other hand, in subjects such as environment, factual questions about organisations, forums and their mandate are being asked. I referred to the UN site (although couldn’t recall 50% at the time of prelims due to lack of revision) and found that helpful. Geography, Space tech, art and culture are still scoring and are sourced from static part as well as current affairs. Government schemes now need a thorough reading as the questions asked are not superficial.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths NA
Reasoning NA
Comprehension NA
Decision Making NA

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. The focus should be shifted to strengths in this paper as one has to score just above qualifying marks.

Prelim accuracy

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

Ans. No, although i had a look at the previous year papers to gauge the level of prep required (had failed in prelims twice earlier)

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

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 70-72 61 110
aptitude 62-63 didn’t calculate 140

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper None
your regional language saw the last two years Hindi question paper

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

Ans. Can be tackled easily by looking at previous year papers

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Ans. The essay is one of the deciding factors in this examination. Since i was working in a government department, i had the habit of following a structured way of writing, which came in handy during essay writing. Essay needs three components- Content, Structure and Expression. The content part i prepared from own newspaper notes and IASBABA’s Yojana Gist. Besides, i quoted national as well as international initiatives, statistics, reports, drew block diagrams (IR part) and used a lot of examples. The structure part does not mean that there is a set formula for writing the essay. It just means that essay should progress in a logical way so as to ease readability. For e.g. introduction must be followed by a gist of what you are going to write in the essay. Then descriptive type of writing on a parameter (social, economic or what, why etc.) should follow. The conclusion needs to summarise point of view(s) and must end in a optimistic way. The expression part is very well covered by the examples one uses. Simple and plain english has the upper hand over complex sentences.

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

Ans. I wrote on relevance of NAM and man-made laws vs natural laws.

In the first essay, i used a lot of recent examples of multi-polar world which has led to erosion of credibility of NAM. (US-China-N.Korea, US-India-Russia etc.). Then i used some examples to prove that NAM may not have been totally useless (Iran-India-US). I drew block diagrams to simplify understanding of geopolitics.

In the second essay, i was skeptical of the content i was about to write but wrote about how the environment has degraded (dearth of examples present) and the steps being taken. Then i commented whether these steps are enough or not. I ended my essay with an optimistic note.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Requests while you fill up the following tables


  1. apart from your book/resource list, also comment on your own strategy after mains-2017 (e.g. after exam I realized that I shouldn’t have prepared xyz topic in so much detail, I couldn’t finish xyz syllabus topics properly before exam, I had expected UPSC to ask xyz from but they asked abc……etc.etc.etc.) [Same request for each table given below for gs2, gs3, gs4]
  2. If you used “internet” as source of preparation in xyz, then provide website name as and where possible.
  3. Since mains-2013 had new syllabus and many people relied on Xerox of some coaching notes. so If you used such resource, please attest comment on quality e.g. “it was too deep, but I did only selective study/ It did not cover xyz. OR its quality was not upto the mark, so I suggest future players to avoid it and use ABC instead…..etc..”

Anyways, here starts the list:

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture CCRT Selected topics (Architecture and Paintings). Used to skip this part every year. Also, The Hindu Friday review contains articles about culture which are very relevant to pre as well as mains.
Indian history NCERT, Bipin Chandra’s Struggle for Independence, Arihant History Magbook (concise notes-point wise)
world history NCERT, Norman Lowe (An interesting read with paragraphs in question answer format)
post-independence India Bipin Chandra India Since Independence (Selected Chapters of Land Reforms, Economic and Foreign Policies etc. minus the political part)
Indian society Sociology NCERT, Ram Ahuja’s Book Indian Society
role of women, poverty etc. Sociology NCERT, Ram Ahuja’s Book Social Problems in India
globalization on Indian society Sociology NCERT, Ram Ahuja’s Book Social Problems in India
communalism, regionalism, secularism Sociology NCERT, Ram Ahuja’s Book Social Problems in India
world geo physical NCERT, GC Leong, Mrunal
resource distribution Mrunal
factors for industrial location Mrunal (Saved me one answer)
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT, Mrunal
impact on flora-fauna _

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare? (complemented by own newspaper notes and IASBABA’s Yojana Gist)
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365
comparing Constitution with world Didn’t prepare
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365
executive-judiciary Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365
ministries departments _
pressure group, informal asso. Laxmikanth
Representation of people’s act Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365
NGO, SHG etc Internet
welfare schemes, bodies Vision Mains 365
social sector, health, edu, HRD Vision Mains 365
governance, transparency, accountability 2nd ARC
e-governance 2nd ARC
role of civil service 2nd ARC
India & neighbors Vision Mains 365
bilateral/global grouping Vision Mains 365
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Vision Mains 365
Diaspora _
international bodies- structure mandate Vision Mains 365

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare? (complemented by own newspaper notes and IASBABA’s Yojana Gist)
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal +Vision Mains 365
inclusive growth Current Affairs
Budgeting Mrunal +Vision Mains 365
major crops, irrigation NCERT
agro produce – storage, marketing Mrunal+Internet
e-technology for famers Current Affairs
farm subsidies, MSP Mrunal+Internet
PDS, buffer, food security Mrunal+Internet
technology mission Internet
animal rearing economics Government website- department of animal husbandry
food processing Mrunal +Vision Mains 365
land reforms Vision Material
Liberalization Vision Material
Infra Vision Material
investment models Mrunal+Internet
science-tech day to day life _
Indian achievements in sci-tech _
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR _
environmental impact assessment Shankar IAS
Disaster Management NDMA website+ Sendai Framework
non state actors, internal security Vajiram Yellow Book
internal security – role of media, social networking site Vajiram Yellow Book
cyber security Vajiram Yellow Book
money laundering Vajiram Yellow Book
border  Management Vajiram Yellow Book
organized crime, terrorism Vajiram Yellow Book
security agencies- structure mandate Vajiram Yellow Book

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Mrunal and Lexicon
attitude, moral influence etc. Mrunal and Lexicon
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Mrunal and Lexicon
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Mrunal and Lexicon
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?- prepared Rabindra nath tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. didn’t prepare aristotle, plato etc.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Mrunal and Lexicon
corporate governance Mrunal and Lexicon
probity in governance, work culture Mrunal and Lexicon
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Mrunal and Lexicon
challenges of corruption Mrunal and Lexicon
case studies on above topics Mrunal and Lexicon

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. I had scored very less in Ethics during the last mains attempt. I incorporated at least 2 examples with almost every answer i wrote. I made sure that answers were at least practical. I didn’t use too much of ethical jargon although wrote basic keywords like values, integrity, anonymity etc. in my own words. That is what i think raised my score from 64 to 94. Ethics is a scoring subject requiring little preparation. One could read basic definitions, practice a few case studies, quote examples from current affairs/personal incidents and score very good in this paper.

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 6 1 20
GS2 15 4 1 20
GS3 11 6 2 19
GS4 11 2 1 14

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

Ans. I have tried attempting only the questions which i know fully and got average or less marks. I attempted all the questions and didn’t linger on every answer to be perfect. I just wrote the core of the answer and finished it with 1-2 line conclusion so as to save time. The mains paper is such that one could write at least rudimentarily on every question, so it makes better sense to attempt all rather focusing on perfecting 10-11 answers.

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

Ans. I didn’t fill the full sheets given for each answer (left half a page/answer). The fixed space is a nice thing as it saves time wasted in pondering whether your answer is too short or too long.

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 most answers in bullet points. Used paragraphs where i was not entirely acquainted with the question. Also, i used flowcharts when the time left was too less for me to attempt the question fully.

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. I stuck with one line introduction (history/statistic), body and then 2 line optimistic conclusion. I used name of reports/schemes/statistic/international initiative etc. wherever necessary (value addition).

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. Underlining keywords and points will suffice.
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Yes, Block maps (representing a country by a circle or a square to save time).
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? Drew freehand. There isn’t enough time to use a ruler.
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue pen. Pilot V5

Mains Optional Subject

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

Ans. My optional is Mechanical Engineering. I chose Mechanical Engineering because of the familiarity with at least the basics of the subject. Also, in other Humanities optional(s), when you encounter a question you don’t know the answer to, there is too much beating around the bush. Mechanical engineering does not give you that headache. Either you can solve the question or you can’t.

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

Ans. I would definitely advise for it despite my score being quite average in the subject. I attribute it to lack of practice and time (working full time). Mechanical Engineering is a scoring subject, all one needs is practice.

Q. First the essential book/resource list.

Theory of Machines S S Rattan
Strength of Materials U C Jindal/Ramamurtham
Material Science and MT P N Rao
Workshop Tech Hazra Choudhary (both volumes)
Production Engineering Swadesh Singh
Thermodynamics P K Nag
Fluid Mechanics R K bansal
Power Plant P K Nag (selected chapters)
Heat and mass Transfer D S Kumar
Elements of Gas Turbine S M Yahya
I C Engines Ganesan
Miscellaneous topics NPTEL(can refer for any or all subjects)
Previous year solved NEXTIAS Books(Extremely helpful)

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. No internet research required

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

Ans. 10-12 months

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

Ans. Mechanical engineering requires only practice. I stuck with the daily 1-2 hour regimen of solving previous year papers.  For GS, I used to write 1-2 answers daily starting from April. Wrote a few tests after prelims. Proper feedback remains the key to improving answer writing skills.

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

Ans. Self notes only for material science. For other subjects, I referred only text books.

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 scored average in Mechanical Engineering due to lack of practice. Solving previous year question papers for this optional is one of the most important things which could raise the score. Further, more analytical and rough work, rather than mugging is required for this optional.

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. I read my DAF daily and prepared questions which could be asked. Read newspaper daily without fail. Above all, honesty remains the key to cracking interview. If you don’t know something, say so, otherwise the board may mistake it as arrogance.

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 attended two mocks by NEXTIAS, which really boosted my morale. The quality of board members there was unparalleled. My interview was somewhat on similar lines (place of birth and hobbies part)

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 have been working in Delhi only. I just read the newspaper while waiting in the UPSC hall.

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

Ans. Coat suit and tie.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Ans. B S Bassi

Q2. How long was the interview?

Ans. 30-35 min

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. I want a career with diversity of work. At the same time, civil services is the platform by which maximum change can be brought in the society.

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.



  1. You like old songs? Heard of K L Saighal?

I have heard of him sir but my favourite is Mohd. Rafi

2. Mohd. Rafi or Lata Mangeshkar, who was better?

Both are luminaries. Can’t compare them but Lata Mangeshkar’s range is commendable.

3. What do you mean by Range in singing?

The difference in highest and lowest notes

4. Where all automation in Industries is being used?

(threw in some technical jargon)

5. Who was Bulleh Shah? Is he real or fictional?

He is a real character born in Sindh, Pakistan.

6. Was he persecuted? Where was he from? Where is his shrine?

Yes, he was persecuted but his shrine is still there.

7. Importance of Afghanistan for India?

(Iran angle, Pakistan’s security, Balochistan etc.)

8. If given charge of IPS, would you use violence? Why not?

Violence should be the last resort. Sensitive policing should be the key. (quoted SMART initiative)

Member 1

  1. What is AMRUT?


2. Which novels have you read?


3. Which is your favorite Indian Author (English)?


4. Sanitation scene of Agra (Hometown)? Which NGO from hyderabad is working there and Why?


Member 2

  1. What is CSR?


2. What do you mean by Social Sector?


3. Lawyers today are charging exorbitant fees and are charging upto Rs. 8 lakh per hearing or so? What is your view on this?

For individuals, there should be an upper limit and a different upper limit for corporations.

4.  Bangladesh has been successful in reducing terrorism to a large extent while India has not been able to do so. What is your view on this?

Didn’t answer properly

5. Should we purchase power from Bhutan at a higher cost than we are doing as of now? Your view?


Member 3

  1. What is RERA?


2. Provisions of RERA?


3.  Who maintains Tajmahal?


Member 4

  1. Who built Agra Fort?


2. Was there any evidence of a structure before Agra Fort?

Don’t know

3. Din-i-ilahi was found where?


4. Why was Fatehpur Sikri Abandoned?

Water crisis. (although the member refuted my point)

5. Was it not due to fear of Rajputs?

don’t know

6. Where was Anarkali Buried? Are you sure its just a story?

Surely a story

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. Yes, there were unexpected questions on slightly offbeat topics. I could answer only halfway and finished off by saying i am not able to think of anything else to avoid any controversial answer.

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

Ans. None

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

Ans. None. The hospital staff is quite cooperative.

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) 110 Cutoff: 40-105.34
Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m) 140 Passing Marks: 67
Mains Subjects Marks secured
Essay (250m) 160 Passing Marks: 25
GSM1 (250m) 110 Passing Marks: 25
GSM2 (250m) 112 Passing Marks: 25
GSM3 (250m) 130 Passing Marks: 25
GSM4 (250m) 94 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-1 (250m) 145 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-2 (250m) 118 Passing Marks: 25
Written Total (1750m) 869 Cutoff: 578-809
Interview (275m) 165 N/A
Final (2025m) 1034 Cutoff: 830-1006

Career Backup

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

Ans. I was already working in CSS. I would have tried again if I had failed.

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. The plan was already in play.

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 score in optional subjects still decide the fate of candidates. There is so much variability in the scores received by the candidates of different optionals as well as by candidates with the same optional. Removing optionals could pave the way for a level playing field.

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 didnot 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. Bringing in some set of guidelines or at least increasing transparency in the process could be beneficial.

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. Its an era of inter-dimensional subjects. Although the mains syllabus is comprehensive, each and every subject has a role to play. Besides, compressing the syllabus might not result in reduced standard of the questions.

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. Obviously one can’t judge a person by his score in Ethics paper but the paper itself compels you to think over modalities such as accountability, conflict of interest, anonymity etc. In my opinion, ethics could be retained but with case studies only. The theory part is superfluous.

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. Transparency is meant to instil trust in the government machinery. Some measure of transparency is required in the examination as it will reassure candidates of the infallibility of the process.

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. Yes, it could ease the anxiety and pave the way for aspirants to calibrate their preparation according to the outcome.

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. There is enough aptitude and reasoning part to be able to score 33% in the examination. Besides, in my point of view, these skills are crucial for any type of employment in administration.

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. Prelims could be conducted online but Mains should necessarily be offline.

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. After changing the timetable of the IFoS examination since last year, UPSC has ensured that the number of candidates appearing for IFoS will rise.

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


  1. Standardising the procedure and guidelines for mains paper correction
  2. Bringing in transparency in the process

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. Your background, education, language  etc. is irrelevant. The only relevant thing is how determined you are.

Struggle of a Senior player

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

Ans. I joined CSS after 2 unsuccessful UPSC attempts because i was not able to cope with the fact that i was being supported by my parents despite being fully competent to take up a job. In hindsight, it was the right decision. It made me focus on the examination more. The lack of time for preparation made me more efficient, which couldn’t have been possible without a full time job. Having a fallback option was also a relief.

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

Ans. I failed n my earlier attempts because of:-

-Lack of revision and answer writing practice

-No timetable

-Reading too much and recalling too little

-Not covering full syllabus of Mains

I made sticky notes everyday irrespective of whether i finished my ToDo list or not. I didn’t linger much on static portion for mains the time and revised whatever i read at least 2 times.

Struggle of Working professional

If you’re a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job

Ans. My superior had denied me even a week long leave to study for mains. I somehow managed attending office for 1-2 days in that week with the help of a few colleagues who covered for me. The one thing I learned is that one shouldn’t expect an easy path studying for Civil Services while working. At the end of the day, it’s your fight and you have to fight it alone. No amount of excuses can compensate failure.

Few tips that helped me are listed below:-

-Use Youtube channels such as Mrunal, Ikenedu & Stratfor(listened to them while commuting)

  • Always carry a notebook you want to revise or magazine/newspaper
  • Less office gossip=more time for study
  • Plan for the whole day hour by hour. Use sticky notes. No matter how many times you fail sticking to the time table, do it every day.
  • Stay determined

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 used to go out for short intense jogs during evening plus reading on nasa website has been a favourite pass time for me. Besides, after office hours, i had little time to be temperamental.

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. One of my superiors said to me, when i asked him for a relaxation – ‘You have to burn like a sun to shine like one’. This has been etched on my memory since and i believe this to be true.

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 have failed prelims twice and this was my first interview call. As much as this sounds cliched, i have learnt that there is no alternative to the effort you put in. One might be unlucky once or twice but hard work always trumps luck.

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 family and friends have been my rock during these trying times. My mother and sister cheered me up whenever I was down and out. My father believed in me and constantly encouraged me. Kind words of encouragement from friends, family and colleagues have been the constant motivator. There have been naysayers and difficult times too; people saying things like “yeh banenge afsar” but it further strengthened my resolve.  I wouldn’t have secured a rank had it not been for the critics and cynics.

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. Yes, Mrunal.org has been instrumental in my studies. Be it economy, geography or ethics, the concepts are laid down so that even a layman can get a proper understanding. The basics of economy are explained in such a simple and interactive manner that retention is easier. Articles on PDS, buffer stock, animal rearing etc. and like topics of GS-3, which reoccur every year, are of a superior quality. Grateful to Mrunal sir for such a noble initiative.

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