19. CSE-2017 MARKSHEET


UPSC Topper IAS Shivani Goyal

Q. Details
Name Shivani Goyal
Rank in CSE-2017 15
Roll No. 0018033
Age 23
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 2
Optional Subject Commerce and accountancy
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city New Delhi
Work-experience if any
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Coaching: Vajiram for GS (attended selective classes), Rankers classes for commerce Paper 2
Mock tests: Vision for GS, Rankers and Vajiram for commerce
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS>IFS>IPS>IRS
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. AGMUT> Gujarat > UP


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 9.8 CGPA
% in class 12 96.75%
Graduation course and % B.com (H) – 85 %
Name of college, city, passing out year Shri Ram College of Commerce- Delhi- 2015 batch
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Bharatnatyam


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

Hi! I am Shivani Goyal and I feel fortunate and humbled to have got rank 15 in CSE 2017. I live in Delhi with my family consisting of my parents and my brother. I started preparing for this exam from mid 2015. The reason behind my choice to sit for UPSC was the greater satisfaction I could have received while working for the society. Since school and college, the issues affecting the society and my country have affected me and made me think and I thought this career would provide a platform to work on those issues. Also the diversity and the challenges involved in the services also attracted me to this career choice.


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)

I had used both electronic and paper medium. Also, the nature of the exam has evolved in such a way that it is best if an aspirant focusses on both. The decision should be guided by which source is concise and provides the best possible content as per your requirement. However, information overload (focusing on too many sources) is a death knell for UPSC preparation. I had myself done this mistake initially which had costed me an attempt. So, choose your sources judiciously and stick to minimum number of sources for every topic while striking a balance between online and paper medium. You do not have to read each and every source you lay your eyes on. You need to choose your sources as per the syllabus and can take help from the various rank holders blogs to select your list of sources. Once your book list is final, stick to that and focus more on revisions rather than going behind additional sources.


Online life Answer
Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services. 0
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups Less than 30 minutes to discuss about the preparation with select friends.
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 1-2 hours
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile All were used.

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


Q. What is your style of preparation and notes making? (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I’m reading, I just read multiple times but don’t maintain notes, I make mindmaps on computer, I use xyz software etc.)

I had made notes of most of the subjects. The reason was that I used to find it more convenient to revise from my own set of consolidated notes as compared from the book because it used to save time immensely. Trust me, the biggest change in between my first attempt (where I qualified mains by 9 marks) and second attempt (where I qualified mains by 124 marks) was the emphasis on creating  crisp and concise notes and revising them again and again. And how do we ensure that we have time for revision? By ensuring we start from the smartest list of sources (keeping them minimum- as highlighted in the above question) and utilising the pending time for revision. So i had 4 major ways to make my notes as highlighted below:

For books like Shankar environment, Vision Mains 365:

In this category of books,  per page, I was only able to find 5- 6 lines worth putting in my long term memory. So I used to take a small paper (a big sticky note can also be used), write crisp points on it and staple it on that page of the book itself. Also there might be few lines on that page which are important and need to be learnt as it is. So just underline those lines with a sketch pen to avoid rewriting them and later, just go through them when you are revising.


Since optional is the most important part of the preparation, I tried to do around 5-6 revisions for the same and with each revision, kept on consolidating my notes. After attempting few mocks, I realised that despite reading 500 plus pages, after a couple of days, I am only able to remember a few. So hence with every revision, I tried to extract only the keywords from each page and write it again. By this strategy, I was able to reduce 500-600 pages notes to just 50-60. This immensely benefited me during last moment revisions. For reference, I have uploaded my final version of commerce paper 2 notes on: http://www.shivanigoyal.com/

Current affairs:

This is somewhere I wasted a lot of time in my first attempt. In the initial few months of my preparation, I used to spend hours on maintaining notes from diverse sources. Later, I found this activity entirely useless as before the exam, I was not even able to revise those hefty notes. Therefore, in my second attempt, I read newspaper regularly and I relied on Vision monthly compilations for current affairs.  I also jotted down few important points in a register while watching RSTV’s Big Picture and AIR Spotlight Analysis. So if it suits you, you can decide to not maintain notes on a daily basis and rely on the compilations.

Ethics and Essay:

I preferred Evernote as I constantly did many additions to my notes whenever I found something nice.


Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old NCERTS (focussing more on culture portion and very very short notes for political history), Vajiram class notes, GK Today PDFs (brilliant content for topics like Buddhism and Jainism), Nitin Singhania book
History Medieval same as above
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum and NCERT by Bipin Chandra
Culture and society Same as ancient and medieval history
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikanth
Economy (theory + current) Sriram institute’s notes and Mrunal Videos (the presentations for these videos are available in ORN shops- so you do not have to make notes)
Science (theory + current) Had skimmed through NCERTS 6-10th class (but not very important)+ Vision Pre 365 for current portion
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS book + Ending environment related chapters of 12th biology NCERT book
geography physical I would suggest you can stick to old and new NCERTs (11th and 12th class) plus watch Mrunal videos on youtube. NCERTs are must but in many instances, it fails to explain the concept comprehensively. Since I attended Vajiram classes of physical geography regularly, understanding the concepts became easier.
geography India NCERTs are a must + book on Indian geography by Periyar Publications (selectively)
geography world NCERTs
other national/international current affairs Vision PT 365
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Vision PT 365

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?

Most of us who prepare and clear the prelims have a similar strategy. There are 3 pillars you have to concentrate on- your standard static books (such as Laxmikanth, Spectrum, Geo NCERTS, Shankar, etc.), current affairs (such as Vision PT 365) and practising test papers. The difficulty level of the exam would decide the cut off  (for instance there was a drop in 2017 cutoff compared to 2016) and not your preparation strategy. So you should not worry about the difficulty level but only analyse the question papers to know about the changing patterns and kind of questions asked (for instances asking about reports and their publishing organisation/ endangered species, etc are favourites of UPSC). The number of questions you will attempt and amount of smart guesswork should not be very rigid and should be as per the question paper. Try to identify your optimum by giving mock tests.

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?

No major change, continue with the same preparation strategy. Also attempt and revise as many mock tests possible.


Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Strategy- First attempt few mocks/ previous year papers to know whether you can comfortably clear the exam or not. If there are weak areas, practice more questions from that topic till you are able to reach the safe cut off level. Book- McGraw Hill
Reasoning same as above
Comprehension same as above
Decision Making same as above

Q. In the recent two prelims (2016 and 2017), the comprehension portion becoming quite tough and lengthy. Candidates struggle even to finish the paper-II. Kindly provide some words of wisdom:

I think you can first get to know where you stand by giving few mocks initially and then work on your weak areas by practising more questions. Even I was more comfortable in attempting math/ logical reasoning questions compared to english comprehension, so I first did all maths and LR questions to reach the safe cut off level and in the pending time, do as many  comprehensions as time permitted.


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

Extremely important. Mock tests do not just help to manage your time and improve intelligent guesswork but also enhances the knowledge base about important things. Both the times I was able to see direct/ indirect questions from various test series in the final prelims exam. I generally did Vision IAS test series and few of Insightsonindia or vajiram.

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

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS I had expected around 104. Had committed few mistakes while attempting the paper and hence, was not very optimistic. 109.3
aptitude 90.83


Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper I did not do much. Just saw the pattern of the exam before going.
your regional language Referred to a book – Samanya Hindi by Unique Publications for reading few essays, grammar and some practise.

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

Just do not absolutely ignore the compulsory papers. Please go through the questions of previous years, write couple of essays (specially if you are out of touch with any language) and go through the basic grammar like synonyms idioms etc, .


Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

In my first attempt, I faced the problem of managing my time and hence, was not able to do full justice to both the essays. I realised that I am not a quick writer, and therefore did two things- practised more mocks and prepared some content for few select topics. I went through the Mrunal’s list of 25 previous year essay topics and started collecting content on 15- 20 topics on evernote. I tried to collect good introductions, endings, interesting data, points and perspectives on these few essay topics. I just kept my eyes and ears open while I used to read newspaper, articles or watch videos to scavenge for good content and then add it to evernote. I also took help from the content/ model essay notes provided by Vikas Ranjan sir.

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

I am writing the points which I am able to remember:

1. Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms


Started with this ancedote:
One day, Narayan murthy, founder of tech giant Infosys in one of his interviews narrated an incident “I went to a school in Bangalore and asked why do we have different seasons? The students did not even know that the axis of rotation causes this. I asked the same question in a school in Japan and the students looked at me as if I am some stupid fellow, asking such an obvious question. I asked a girl what would happen if the earth’s axis was at 45 degrees instead of 23.5 degrees. She instantly answered that we will be completely covered in snow.”

And then in the second paragraph, compared the Japanese technical prowess and our shortcomings and traced it to the difference in education systems. Then included and explained my thesis statement that how education is necessary to build and influence the minds of a nation which then creates destiny of the nation.

Then I talked about weaknesses of India’s education system across various domains- such as primary and university/ college level.

Few points I included:
1. ASER report and poor performance in PISA tests. Infrastructural and teaching challenges.
2. Too much influence on rote, crushing creativity. Stress driving students to society.
3. Need huge emphasis on moral education- especially for a society like us- solution to national problems like gender issues, diversity, environmental.
4. Sports- less focus in formative years leads to poor inculcation of sports culture and sub par performances in international events.
5. University level- poor enrollment rates- binary problem- quality institutions like IITs IIMs on one side and IIPM on another
6. Lack of vocational focus- comparison with China and Korea

Ending: Steps needed to be taken, various government steps being taken in this direction and importance of education to take India to heights.

Also drew a diagram showing weaknesses of India’s education system (saw it in Yojana).

2. Fulfillment of new woman in india is a myth.

Introduction: Started with a sanskrit shloka: Yatra naryastu pujyante ramante tatra devta.
Then talked about the paradox where people worship goddesses in temples and outside we have examples of nirbhaya.

Thesis statement: Then defined who is a new woman (I had defined it as a woman we envisage in New India, which we intend to create) and briefly listed down the challenges facing women presently.

Historical angle: Talked that how this idea of woman is not new. Examples like gargi, lofamundra, Rani laxmibai, Raziya Sultan have existed in India in history.

Challenges: Then started talking about the challenges being faced by women. I might have included points on safety, crimes against women, nutrition (cited statistics), educational status, employment opportunities.

Reforms: Talked about the steps needed to realise this dream and various government initiatives like beti bachao beti padhao, maternity benefit, etc. Important portfolios such as defence and external affairs being handled by women ministers.

Ending that to create New India, realisation of the dream of new woman is necessary.

Also drew a diagram where around a circle, I showed various issues relating to women from female foeticide to safety to nutrition issues, etc.


Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Same notes which I had used for prelims but since too much factual knowledge is not required in mains, I consolidated those notes for last day revision.
Indian history Same as above
world history I would suggest that you can go for Vision IAS notes and consolidate them into fewer pages by understanding the important events and extracting the keywords. (You can watch unacademy videos created by Roman Saini on youtube to understand how to approach events in world history).
I had selectively tried to do NCERTs, Norman Lowe and Jain and Mathur book but would suggest against it as the cost benefit is low.
post-independence India Vajiram class notes and found a brilliant set of notes prepared by Nitin Sangwan, Rank 28, CSE 2015


Indian society Vajiram class notes (very short notes)- the approach should be you need to have some content to write if question comes related to this topic
role of women, poverty etc. same as above
globalization on Indian society same as above
communalism, regionalism, secularism same as above
world geo physical Same sources as prelims. Had consolidated them for quick revision.
resource distribution Mrunal
factors for industrial location Mrunal
earthquake tsunami etc Same sources as prelims.
impact on flora-fauna Left it. It is generally covered when you do Environment Mains 365.


Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes (material they provide with test series) selectively.
comparing Constitution with world Left it
parliament, state Legislatures Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes selectively.
executive-judiciary Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes selectively.
ministries departments Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes selectively.
pressure group, informal asso. Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes selectively. Also try to include few current examples.
Representation of people’s act Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes selectively.
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes selectively.
NGO, SHG etc Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes selectively. Please include current examples in your notes.
welfare schemes, bodies Vajiram class notes, Laxmikanth and Vision notes selectively.
social sector, health, edu, HRD Had done Health and Education Yojana (had come in 2016)
Vision mains 365
governance, transparency, accountability Vajiram class notes by Rambabu sir.
e-governance Vajiram class notes by Rambabu sir. You can make it more relevant by stating few current examples- eg: the answer would be incomplete without giving reference to Digital India initiative. So you can take help of PIB to know the latest schemes.
role of civil service Vajiram class notes.
India & neighbors Vision mains 365 notes+ regularly listened to RSTVs Big Picture and AIR spotlight analysis debates.
bilateral/global grouping Vision mains 365 notes+ regularly listened to RSTVs Big Picture and AIR spotlight analysis debates.
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Vision mains 365 notes+ regularly listened to RSTVs Big Picture and AIR spotlight analysis debates.
Diaspora Vision mains 365 notes+ regularly listened to RSTVs Big Picture and AIR spotlight analysis debates.
international bodies- structure mandate Left it.


Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Vision Mains 365
inclusive growth Vision Mains 365
Budgeting Vision Mains 365
major crops, irrigation Vision Mains 365
agro produce – storage, marketing Vision Mains 365
You can refer to Ramesh SIngh book and create some short notes.

Again the approach in these static topics can be to have some content (2-3 pages maximum) and add few relevant schemes/ initiatives of present day.

e-technology for famers same as above
farm subsidies, MSP same as above
PDS, buffer, food security same as above
technology mission same as above
animal rearing economics same as above
food processing same as above
land reforms same as above
Liberalization same as above
Infra same as above
investment models same as above
science-tech day to day life Vision mains 365
Indian achievements in sci-tech Vision mains 365
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Vision mains 365
environmental impact assessment did some online search and created 2-3 pages notes
Disaster Management Disaster Management NCERT+ skimmed through 2nd ARC related sections. I had kept few diagrams ready for all disasters.
non state actors, internal security Vajiram yellow book and Vision Mains 365
internal security – role of media, social networking site Vajiram yellow book and Vision Mains 365
cyber security Vajiram yellow book and Vision Mains 365
money laundering Vajiram yellow book and Vision Mains 365
border  Management Vajiram yellow book and Vision Mains 365
organized crime, terrorism Vajiram yellow book and Vision Mains 365
security agencies- structure mandate Vajiram yellow book and Vision Mains 365


Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics I made my own notes by doing some brainstorming on the topics mentioned and also took points from books like Lexicon, Subbarao, Vajiram yellow book (selective study)
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?
ones which were there in Subbarao book
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. I made my own notes by doing some brainstorming on the topics mentioned and also took points from books like Lexicon, Subbarao, Vajiram yellow book (selective study)
corporate governance same as above
probity in governance, work culture same as above
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. same as above
challenges of corruption same as above
case studies on above topics Practised few from mock test papers

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?


  1. Create content– During preparation, take each topic one by one and prepare it in a multi-dimensional way.For example- Let us take Emotional intelligence.

    Questions can be- What is EI, an example, a real-life example in your life, utility in individual’s life, interpersonal relations in personal and professional life and importance in a civil servant’s life. You can create such repository of questions by looking at the previous year papers. The utility of the exercise is that since the ethics paper is one of the lengthiest paper in mains, it helps you to produce rich content without taking much time. This helps you save time in section- A which can be put to use in section B- case studies.
    I used Evernote for my ethics notes as it was easier to edit and include examples if something new comes to my mind. I have shared few of those notes on my blog.

  2. Time management-Do go for timed tests. Most of the people (including me) faced difficulty in completing the paper. Abide by the watch strictly while writing the exam.
  3. Express yourself in the paper- I feel ethics paper gives you the best chance to express yourself and show your personality. To think about it, they are analyzing your personality and not knowledge related to ethics terms by the answers written by you. So just go for it and show the real side of you in the paper. Also, I did not bind myself in any pre-decided format while attempting the questions. For example in 2017 paper, in the case study question relating to RTI, I made a table showing on one side – the general complaints of RTI and on another side showed that how strengthening the act in place of adding more safeguards will be more fruitful. I wrote that if one is working as per the rules and adhering to the spirit of the act, then there will be less scope for misuse.
  4. Be creative–In seventy percent of my answers, I used diagrams and flowcharts. For example- to explain corporate governance/ CSR- show a venn diagram having an intersection of economic, environmental and social aspects.
    Similarly- CSR can be explained in terms of company’s responsibility to various stakeholders and can be explained with the help of a table.
    Therefore prepare one or two diagrams for each topic beforehand.
  5. Books-I selectively did many books such as Subba Rao, Lexicon, Vajiram and Vision notes.
    So please decide any one-two sources for static material (such as thinkers) and complement it with what you feel about that topic (as explained in point 1). Please do not forget that the examiner is gauging your personality and not your knowledge through your answers.


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

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 12 questions (tried to fill all sheets with good content) 4-5 questions
(Tried to fill most of the space)
1-2 questions
(one or half page answers for questions which I did not have much idea about and not much time was left)
GS2 same as above for all GS papers All
GS3 All
GS4 All
Opt-P1 Most of the answers apart from 1-2 questions Left a 20 marks question
Opt-P2 Most of the answers apart from 1-2 questions All

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]”

1. Avoid leaving questions unattempted (except when one knows absolutely nothing about the question eg: 2016’s GS2 Mcbride commission). In questions where you only have some idea, write whatever something you know. You might get 1 marks in that question and these 1-1 marks together make a huge difference in deciding where you are in the list.

2. For me, it  was a challenge to focus on quality (content) and quantity (number of questions attempted) simultaneously. Therefore through practising in timed mocks, do get into the habit of producing good content in a limited time frame. Production of good content also requires good revisions so that you are able to recollect quickly as soon as you see the question.

3. My general way of attempting the paper?
I generally used to put more emphasis on the first few questions in the paper (importance of first impression). While attempting the paper, I used to start with questions where I have good amount of content and then gradually move on to questions where I have less content. So in the end, my answer sheet had approximately 10- 15 questions where I used to fill all pages and in the pending questions (where I didn’t have much idea) filled fewer pages.
Another word of caution- please do not be over emotional while attempting any question. Caution needs to be specially exercised in questions in which you have good content. If you have allocated 8 minutes per question, then follow it religiously without fail in all questions. It is because an extra minute spent in any question means you will have to compromise with another question in the same paper.

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

It was decent. The space given is too sufficient for writing whatever we know generally. :P
Also, be ready for an eventuality during the exam, for instance: the changed pattern this time of having 10 marks and 15 marks questions.

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.

My answers are combination of paragraphs, bullet points, tables, diagrams, flow charts and so on. Through various techniques, try to make the important parts of your answer/ keywords visible. Write in such a way that in the initial couple of seconds only, the examiner develops an impression that you know the answer (by giving more visibility to the best parts of answer by underlining/ diagram/ etc.) Please try to ensure that your paper has some aesthetic appeal and looks pleasant enough for the examiner to read and award marks. And definitely, focus on words like examine, comment, discuss and one should try to answer in line with the question asked. Generally, it’s better to evaluate both the pros and cos, be comprehensive and talk about the present day relevance/ initiatives announced by government as part of conclusion.

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.

Yes, in most of the answers. Only if last ten minutes are there and two questions are pending in the paper, then I used to breach this style of presentation.

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

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers? No
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Yes. Diagrams, tables, flowcharts in 70- 80 percent of questions across all papers.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Pencil generally
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? make it by hand
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Only blue. Simplicity is the best thing!


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

Commerce and Accountancy as my graduation is in commerce.

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

Mostly commerce as an optional is taken by B.com graduates or CAs. I would definitely suggest the people with this background to consider it as an optional. The reasons are:
1.  Most of the paper 1 is already covered during our earlier studies and hence needs no added effort.
2. Practical aspect in Paper 1 adds to the scoring potential
3. Good material for both paper 1 and 2 are available.
4. Consistent performance of the optional.

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.)

Paper 1

I would like to say that please stick to the book which you have done for the specified topic (specially practical portion) in your graduation or CA. The reason being that these books are already comprehensive and there’s some amount of comfort due to familiarity with the book and important questions marked.
Still broadly my list was:

Accounting as a Financial Information System; Impact of Behavioural Sciences- Rankers classes material (short pages of 2-3 pages suffice)
Accounting Standards:  Rankers classes material- a book by D Rawat Sir was given to us and I had created 1 page short notes for each of the accounting standard for quick revision.

Accounting for Share Capital Transactions -BK goyal and rankers classes material.

Preparation and Presentation of Company Final Accounts.-BK goyal and rankers classes material
Amalgamation, Absorption and Reconstruction of Companies.- ICAI material and rankers classes material

Nature and Functions of Cost Accounting. Installation of Cost Accounting System. Cost Concepts related to Income Measurement, – Theory from Ashish Kalra and Rankers classes material

Methods of Costing: Job Costing, Process Costing, Activity Based Costing. Volume – cost – Profit Relationship as a tool of Profit Planning.- MN Arora

Incremental Analysis/ Differential Costing as a Tool of Pricing Decisions, Product Decisions, Make or Buy Decisions, Shut-Down Decisions etc.- MN arora

Techniques of Cost Control and Cost Reduction: Budgeting as a Tool of Planning and Control. Standard Costing and Variance Analysis.- Rankers material and Ashish kalra for theory and Ashish Kalra for practical.

Responsibility Accounting and Divisional Performance Measurement.- MN arora


Income Tax: Revised Girish Ahuja’s sir book as I had done it during graduation. Later, supplemented it with Rankers classes material for both theory and practical preparation.

Auditing- Not much effort is required in the preparation. Just did a small booklet provided by Rankers classes.

Financial Management- Rustagi Sir’s/ Ashish Kalra book (1 book per 1 topic is sufficient)  and added some portion of theory from Rankers classes.

Corporate Restructuring with focus on Mergers and Acquisitions (Financial aspects only).- Rankers classes material

Financial markets and institutions- Rankers classes material.

(For theory topics in above, I made very short notes so that I can revise all of it easily in the one day gap before the exam)

Paper 2

Organisation Theory and Behaviourbase book is Rankers classes material and later you can also skim through Singh and Chabra book

HRM and IR- Rankers classes material is sufficient.

In paper 2, rather than going in for too many books, pick 1 book, do it comprehensively, extract keywords and focus a lot on presentation of answers.

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?

It is best, specially in paper 2, to include examples from current happenings. However, this is taken care of by rankers classes as they keep on sending us such material/ current examples to add to our answers. So I used to skim through that material and pick examples /case studies which I liked to include in my answer. Therefore, I did not spend much time on internet research.

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

Most of the Paper 1 was already covered in graduation, so one just needs some time to revise those topics as per the UPSC requirement

Paper 2 which is a theory topic can easily be covered in 2-3 months, provided you are strategic with your preparation. Please restrict yourself to one set of material, focus more on revision and extremely important- focus on improving your presentation.

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

I was regularly giving mocks in between prelims and mains. In paper 1, it is necessary to check your speed and accuracy. In paper 2, mocks are extremely crucial as that can help you improve the presentation of the answers from the feedback received by the mentors. I was benefited by the detailed feedback received from RS Aggarwal sir from Rankers classes which helped me improve the way i was writing answers.

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

For commerce, I maintained notes on paper. I made short notes for theory/ formula sheet for quick revision in Paper 1. For paper 2 which is an entirely theory paper, I kept consolidating  my notes from the Rankers classes material through successive revisions. I had tried to consolidate the entire thing into 60 pages so that I can revise maximum in the one day gap before the optional paper. For reference, you can refer to my final version of notes on my blog. As you can see, I used to only include the keywords in my final 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?

I have written my strategy for commerce on my blog- http://www.shivanigoyal.com/


Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?

I tried to produce questions from the things written in my daf and thought about the answers I would like to give. Through this way, you can easily create 500 + questions from your daf. I maintained these notes on Evernote for quick modification if required.

Similarly for current affairs, develop your opinion on various issues in the news.

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?

Yes I attended 3- 4 mocks from coaching institutes. They are not very similar to the official interview but at least help you get accustomed to an environment where five senior bureaucrats/ experts are asking questions from you. You get to know about your weaknesses and you can improve the personality/ speaking related aspects from the feedback.

It is good to attend few mocks to be more prepared to face the final board. However do not confuse yourself by going for too many mocks and do take their feedback with a pinch of salt.

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

My home. I live in delhi.
Please avoid last moment revision before the interview.
Read the newspaper of the day and relax! Have a pleasing and calm demeanour and you are good to go!

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

Light pink colour sari and blazer.


Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Sujata Mehta ma’am.

Q2. How long was the interview?

35 minutes.

Q3. Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too.  [Since I don’t know whether they ask you this question or not. But if they had asked- what will be your reply?]

They asked me the if there is any special reason behind my choice of selection of this career- I talked about the wider experience possible in the career and the satisfaction received while working for 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. (Earlier some toppers only tell me their question but not their answer. I would appreciate if you give both Question + your original answers]

23.2.18 afternoon – Sujata Mehta ma’am Board

2nd to enter.

Starts at 3.00 m

CH: Good afternoon Shivani

Me: Good afternoon ma’am

CH: Briefly tell me about yourself, your educational background etc.

CH: Any special reasons for getting attracted to civils?

CH: Have you done your arangetram? (Diploma in Bharatnatyam)

CH: Shivani, when you read about the rising number of billionaires in the country, what do you think?

CH: Have you heard about Thomas Picketty, Inequality? What is your say

CH: What do you think about being billionaires through arbitrage? (was not able to understand the question)

M1: Do you agree with progressive taxation?

M1: you have got CGPA and Marks, which system is better.

M1: Tell 3 challenges to Indian economy?

M1: What is the banking crisis? (NPA problem)

M1: Do you think we can provide jobs to all the young people?

M1- We hear bad things about Kashmir, tell me 2 good news?

M2: Bharatnatyam, who was your teacher?

M2: why did you start?

M2: What is the difference between Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam?

M2: Do we have mudras in kuchipudi?

M2: What is arangetram?

M2:Rural urban divide? As a DM, how will you curb?

M2: Why are women unsafe in Delhi? If it happens in rural areas, where barbaric people exist- it can still be understood?

M3: Tell me risk and prospect theory- did not know.

M3: who is …. economist? Hadn’t heard of him and hence, I do  not remember the name asked,

M3: In which field Nobel Prize was given in economics?

M3: What are derivatives?

M3: What is Vienna convention?

M3: what do common people think about police?

M3: As an IPS, one change you would like to bring?

M3:Where would you like to serve? Tribal or urban?

M4: Bookkeeping? What do you think about bookkeeping and blockchain?

M4: Do you think Satyam could have been avoided if blockchain?

M4: Bitcoin- Is it a legal tender? Is it illegal? Difference between virtual currency and cryptocurrency?

M4: Congestion? Can we reduce cars?

CH: Anything you would like to say?

Out at 3.35pm

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

It was not at all a stress interview. Questions were mixed- Few expected and few unexpected.

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

Nothing as such.

Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Just carry prescription for your spectacles and photographs in spectacles (if you wear them) for the medical check up. Few hospitals ask for all this.


Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Prelims Paper-1 109.3
Prelims Paper-2 90.83
Mains Subjects Marks
Essay 155
GSM1 113
GSM2 111
GSM3 136
GSM4 098
Optional Paper-1 154
Optional Paper-2 166
Written Total 933
Interview 162
Final 1095


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

I did not think much about it.


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?

There are candidates who have cleared this exam who are not from a big college/ from Hindi Medium/ and have no work experience. And I think that is sufficient proof for not getting insecure about your profile. The board members in the UPSC interview come with decades of experience and ask questions and judge the personality of the aspirant according to his/ her background. Therefore, your profile is not the slightest reason to worry about. Be confident about who you are, be proud of your achievements and humble for your weaknesses and ignorance- that I think can be one of the needed tips while you sit for the UPSC interview.


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.

Ask yourself that do you have it in you to clear this exam (self belief) ?
If yes, ask yourself that whether procrastination, fear or mood swings help your case or push you behind in the race?

So, If  they do not help you, the only solution to move out of this chakravyuh is to move forward and give your cent percent.

I used to watch this video many times during my preparation! And the message she gives at 12.00 was sufficient for me to get back to my work ;)


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

1. Complicating the strategy- Too may books and sources.

Therefore,this time, my focus was to have maximum coverage across all topics while sticking to one or two sources.

2. Lack of revision-

This time I dedicated around a month for revision before mains. I was aided by the short notes which I had created  in my successive revisions.

3. Not following timetable religiously-

Tried to religiously follow the timetable every day. I just thought that if I procrastinate on any day and leave my targets incomplete, it will just hurt my preparation in the end by affecting my revision plans.


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?

I used to think about the sacrifices which I have made to sit and prepare for this exam and the situation if I do not clear the exam (one more attempt/ frustration/  dubious career) and this used to push me to study harder. I knew that only warding off mood swings and distractions and getting back on track is the only thing that will help me in this journey. Also, this exam not just tests your intelligence but it also tests your perseverance, patience and consistency. Therefore, consider the daily perseverance as part of your preparation and the mood swings and distractions as something to battle with and win over. I would reiterate what a previous rank holder said, “that this exam is not just a test of knowledge but it is also a test of personality”. You will not just come out as knowledgeable but also a stronger and disciplined person out of the preparation journey.

A practical tip- make a timetable and follow it religiously. That helps in staying consistent and knowing where your preparation is going. If you can, use Microsoft Excel rather than making timetable on paper or diaries. This was one change I had brought in my second attempt as this exercise helps you in easy modification and keeping track of your progress. Divide your bigger goals into weekly and daily goals and try to achieve them. And don’t forget to treat yourself every now and then, if you meet those goals! ;)

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?

1. Keep calm-

There are times in life when you are not able to see too far away and the future looks uncertain. In those moments, take it one day at a time and be honest with your work every day. And that is all. Trust me, if you are honest with your work, God has a plan for you and will make it work for you!

2. Be a good person-

I heard it years ago that luck is nothing but an accumulation of your good deeds, good wishes from others and blessings. And how do you become luckier? ;) By selflessly trying to help others and being good to them. I am being very honest here that I used to be amazed on seeing the good work done by Mrunal, GV Rao sir (Learning space videos), Rambabu sir and many more such great people. Therefore, this is also one of my learnings in the preparation journey that above all titles, be it IAS/ IPS/ IFS/ Doctor/ CA, the most important title is to be a good human being.

3. Being consistent daily-

One of the biggest differences between my first and second attempt strategy was about following my daily targets religiously. UPSC is a long journey. It is a marathon and not a sprint. So my learning was that in  instances like these, just divide your bigger goal into smaller ones and get down to achieving those small goals. These tiny steps everyday will take you towards your dream one day. Also you can give the the following article a read:


4. Be happy:
My mother says this to me quite often, “Happiness always attracts happiness”. Be cheerful, happy and upbeat always. After all, what is the end goal of life? If happiness is the end goal, then why to sacrifice it in pursuit of smaller goals on the way. Stay ruthlessly positive and trust me, all good things will come in your way!

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2017. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
I feel extremely humbled that I was able to clear this exam in my second attempt. However, there are extremely brilliant candidates who sometimes take more number of attempts. This makes me believe in the luck component in this exam. Therefore, do not stop by being cynical, hopeless and depressed. Look at all those candidates who never said no and had the strength to keep going till they got their dream. At the end, it is one’s choice that whether you want to stop midway after being cynical or gather all the strength and fight back. I consider my first attempt as a brilliant opportunity as it helped me realise where my shortcomings are. Therefore, aided by my experience of my first attempt, I just improved my strategy in my second attempt and it hopefully worked.


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?

Firstly- my parents who were the cornerstone in my preparation. I want to thank them for believing in me more than I believed in myself and cheering me up when the going got tough.

My brother- again a major guide and motivator during the preparation journey.
The teachers who guided me and helped me improve with their feedback.
I also want to thank all the silent contributors like mrunal, insightsonindia, civilsprep for the amount of hard work put in by them which makes our work easier. Also, my friends for bringing some cheer and sanity in the dull days of preparation! And most importantly, God! :)


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. 

Hahaha! YES! Was immensely helped by Mrunal during preparation.
In fact, Mrunal is one of the best ways to start with the preparation journey by reading the toppers’ interviews. I myself made my initial book list and was helped a lot by the experiences shared by the rank holders. I also took great help from the economy and geography videos available on youtube and the notes available on the mrunal website. Also other resources such as World History and International Relations notes (eg: Israel- Palestine), paper analysis, previous year questions list also helped a lot during the journey! And I must not forget to add the tinge of humour in all his articles and videos which were an icing on the cake! ;)

I love the website and I hugely appreciate the effort by Mrunal sir and the entire faculty and team. You have played such a major role in our successes. So thank you so much and keep up the good work! :)

Visit Mrunal.org/Toppers for More Success Stories and Motivational Interviews!