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

Suresh Kumar Jagat

Q. Details
Name Suresh Kumar Jagat
Rank in CSE-2017 AIR-556
Roll No. 0168341
Age 28
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 4
Optional Subject Geography
Schooling Medium Hindi
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview Hindi
Home town/city Parsada(Korba)
Work-experience if any 3.5 years in NTPC Ltd.

2 years in Central Water Commission(through ESE- 2013)

Currently in Indian Railways Traffic Service (on leave) through CSE-2016

Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Indian Engineering Services-2013

CSE- 2016-    AIR- 1057(Indian Railways Traffic Service)

Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) I had enrolled for Vision IAS GS test series but could not give due to paucity of time. No other coaching/mock tests/postal material
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS>IPS>IRS(IT)>IRS(C & E)>IFS>IAAS
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. Chhattisgarh>Jharkhand>Rajasthan


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 89.3%
% in class 12 93.4%
Graduation course and % Mechanical Engineering, 81%
Name of college, city, passing out year National Institute of Technology, Raipur, 2008-2012
Post-graduation —–
Any other professional courses —–
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Watching movies, spending time with children, travelling


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

Ans. I come from a farmer family from remote tribal village called Parsada in Korba district of Chhattisgarh. My father is a farmer and my mother is a house wife. I have done my most of schooling from Janbhagidari School Parsada ( A school run by Gram Panchayat with the help of villagers). For higher secondary I went to Bharat Mata School Bilaspur. I pursued B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology Raipur in 2012. Since I was one of the toppers of my class I was selected in ONGC Ltd. through campus placement but I joined NTPC Ltd. through GATE examination in 2012.

Due to my rural background in my childhood I used to go to tehsil and district offices for various documents and got opportunities to know about the functioning of such offices. Ration shops were the places where I was a frequent visitor for subsidized rice, wheat and kerosene.  I also visited Collector Jan Darshan some times in nearby villages. So I have been seeing working style, power and responsibilities of the district magistrate since my childhood.

Above incidents in my life were the reasons that forced me to think about the public servant. Initially I did not prepare for Civil Sevices Examination as I wanted to be first financially stable. In NTPC Ltd I was posted in remote tribal area of Talcher in Odisha. I saw the lives of tribals there from very near which further pushed to go for Civil Services. In 2014 I gave my first attempt. I needed to go to Delhi for preparation but due to remote posting it was not possible. I prepared for Engineering Services and opted for Central Water Commission so that I can get posting in Delhi but I got posting in Central Water Commission Bhubaneswar which was not so favorable for the preparation.

So my preparation was not systematically at least for initial two attempts and forced me to use new techniques of time management, work management and self study.

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. My preparation was mainly based on online resources but I tried to make it offline. Due to dynamic nature of this examination one cannot rely on only one source and it is necessary to follow online sources but at the same time revision and writing practice is also must so one must adopt balanced approach between online and offline resources. I extensively read optional books, some reference books for GS like Laxmikant and Sprectrum and also watched Mrunal Videos on economy, geography, world history and ethics. Mobile was a realy good tool during my preparation. it helped me reading current affairs and PDFs even when I was  busy. Online resources are good if it is used optimally. One should know how to filter unnecessary information and should not spend too much time on social media in the name of preparation.

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. Due to working full time I do not have much time for all such activities. I was busy in my work life.
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups I used these groups to fill the current affairs gap and to know whats happening in Mukherjee Nagar or ORN so that I don’t feel lonely during the preparation.
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 2-3 hours daily in the office hours (especially during lunch) and whenever I am on official tour.
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Mobile and desktop during office hours and laptop in other times.

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

Ans. Internet is full of materials and preparation strategy and sometimes people with no guide like me are confused on to which material or which preparation strategy to follow. So it took me 2-3 months to understand the syllabus and pattern of the examination. The basic point is to “” Suno sabki lekin karo apne man ki”” i.e. go through many style of preparation but adopt one which is suitable for you.

I was unable to follow The Hindu Newspaper offline as news paper was not available daily in Bhubaneswar. So I used to follow Mrunal.org, Civils Daily App, Insights on India for current affairs. Due to paucity of time I could not make notes of current affairs so I used to make pdf of what I read or bookmarked for further revisions which was my weekly routine.

Style of Preparation and notes making

Q. What is your style of preparation and notes making?

Ans. Current Affairs: I used to follow daily current affairs from websites like Mrunal, Civils Daily App, insights on India etc. but hardly write 2-3 sentences as notes rather I made pdf and revise them on weekly basis. Rajyasabha TV and All India Radio were on my daily dose. I extensively googled about anything unknown to me and make PDFs. Revising many times were the key to keep things updated without making any notes. I used to collect some data/mind maps/figures on various issues and keep them on mobile so that I can read them multiple times.

General Studies: I went through the syllabus many times and made mind maps on the syllabus itself which helped in analysis of what is required in current affairs and static portions. Combining static and dynamic portion of any topic was key to use them effectively in the answers.

Optional: As geography has very large syllabus and cover many subjects, its preparations without coaching was not easy. I devoted 1-2 hours daily in the night for geography. I make notes only for some topics which were not covered in reference books and which required knowledge of current affairs like paper-2. I also make a notebook on map locations/maps/diagrams/graphs/mind maps.

So my style of preparation was based on availability of time on daily basis as I hardly got more than 4-5 hours in a day.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old NCERT, S.Chand History, Lucent’s GK book
History Medieval Old NCERT, S.Chand History, Lucent’s GK book, internet
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum, Bipin Chandra and internet
Culture and society Nitin Sighaniya, CCRT website, NCERT for society, internet for some topics
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant, RS TV, AIR, PRS India
Economy (theory + current) Mrunal videos, Ramesh Singh, investopedia, NCERT
Science (theory + current) Mrunal, VisionIAS, NCERT for basics, internet for current topics
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS, Savinder Singh, VisionIAS, internet for factual questions.
geography physical 11th and 12th NCERT, G.C.Leong and optional books
geography India 11th and 12th NCERT, optional books
geography world 11th and 12th NCERT, optional books
other national/international current affairs Mrunal, Vision IAS, Insights subjectwise compilation
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Mrunal, Vision IAS, Insights subjectwise compilation

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

Ans. I think that UPSC is known for its unpredictable nature. So one has to prepare each subjects extensively from more than one source. In the last two years the UPSC has given weightage to current affairs from uncharted territory like static portions of ancient history, deep knowledge of environment due to Indian Forest Service candidates, general knowledge of acts/process of election etc. In such situation anything narrowing down the process of preparation may be harmful to the candidates. But at same time too much extension of preparation territory becomes uncontrollable and unfruitful. Now a days the overall knowledge and preparation of Mains is helpful in the Prelims because of analytical and conceptual nature of preliminary examination.

If I were to prepare for next year I will take into account the changing pattern of UPSC as stated above. I would not skip basic things like India year Book, Economic Survey, NCERTs. Environment and Culture need to be studied in depth.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths R.S.Agrawal and previous years question papers
Reasoning R.S.Agrawal and previous years question papers
Comprehension R.S.Agrawal and previous years question papers
Decision Making R.S.Agrawal and previous years question papers

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. Practicing previous years question papers is very important for comprehension section as it is now becoming tougher to complete the paper. News paper editorial reading is helpful in easily understanding of comprehension. A lot of practice, underlining the important facts while reading and choosing the best suited option based on comprehension only (rather than generally accepted), thorough reading of comprehensions and questions/answers are the key to cope with the tough questions coming now a days. One should also practice mathematical section and should not ignore the paper.

Prelim accuracy

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

Ans. I did not attend any mock tests for prelims but solved some test series papers which had purchased. I think mock tests are important for prelims as the practice gives a sense of self confidence and some tricky questions are easy to solve. Also one should not solve so many test series in hasty as it could deteriorate the quality of preparation. Test series if solved seriously (proper reading of explanations given with answers) may be helpful during the examination.

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

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 70 57-60 106.00
aptitude 50 40-42 86.68

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper School grammar book and Previous years question papers
your regional language Previous years question papers for Hindi

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

Ans. I have done my schooling in Hindi medium so I was little nervous  about English paper so I went through english grammar. Many aspirants who come from Hindi medium should take this paper seriously otherwise it may spoil the whole preparation. English  paper may not be difficult for English medium aspirants and need to see the previous year’s papers only but they should be serious about regional language paper.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Ans. I made a notebook to write important area of work/concern for some important topics like women, rural development, farmers, development and growth. I also collected quotes on such topics. I practiced essay writing every month. Essay papers of toppers in Vision IAS were also helpful in comparing the quality of essay. These strategies helped in improving my marks from 110 in 2016 to 141 in 2017. The content of essay is part of the whole preparation so one has to work only on writing skill.

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

Ans. Essay-1: Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India.

I started with background and importance of agriculture in India with a quote of Gandhiji. Then I mentioned various problems in agriculture sector like land reforms, technological problems, credit issues etc. Various government interventions/schemes like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana etc. also got due mention afterwards. I also gave some data on the inability of agriculture to fulfill the basic needs of farmers and farmers suicides. I gave suggestions needs to be adopted by the government and by the farmers on various problems. Finally I concluded with optimistic quote and some data as rays of hope for the sector.

Essay-2: We may brave human laws but cannot resist natural laws.

I started explaining the basics of human laws and natural laws. I gave examples of laws made by human being and explained how it can be broken without much effect on our lives. Major portion of essay was devoted to the consequences of nature like natural disasters. Explaining various climate changes happening around the globe and their irreversible effect on our lives I gave some suggestions to prevent such events like Paris agreement etc. Finally I concluded with a quote on climate change and relating with Environmentalism and Possibilism from my geography optional.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Nitin Singhaniya notes(good for basics), Pandya Ma’am notes (Good for detailed analysis), NCERTs, CCRT websites(some missing topics can be found here)- I could not prepare much on culture after Guptas which ended in less quality answer in GS-1
Indian history Old NCERT, S.Chand History, Vision IAS booklets, Spectrum for Modern India, Wikipedia for some important topics- now a days medieval history is becoming important so should not skip it.
world history Mrunal and Roman Saini Videos (both are good for important topics), NCERTs(good for remaining unheard topics), 500 mock questions of Mrunal was good. Vision IAS booklets for selective reading. I think I would have studied colonization in Asia in detail.
post-independence India Bipin Chandra(only selective reading) and Vision IAS, Google for selective topics.
Indian society Class 12th NCERT, Vision booklets, Google for selective topics such as urbanization etc.
role of women, poverty etc. Class 12th NCERT, Mrunal, Google for selective topics
globalization on Indian society Class 12th NCERT, Mrunal, Google for selective topics
communalism, regionalism, secularism Class 12th NCERT, Mrunal, Google for selective topics
world geo physical NCERT Class 11th, Rajtanil Ma’am  video, geography optional
resource distribution NCERT Class 11th ,  Rajtanil Ma’am video, geography optional
factors for industrial location NCERT Class 11th ,  Rajtanil Ma’am  video, geography optional
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT Class 11th ,  Rajtanil Ma’am  video, geography optional
impact on flora-fauna NCERT Class 11th ,  Rajtanil Ma’am  video, geography optional

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant, Vision IAS booklets, Current affairs and 2nd ARC for disputes
comparing Constitution with world Vision IAS booklets
parliament, state Legislatures NCERT, Laxmikant
executive-judiciary NCERT, Laxmikant
ministries departments Laxmikant
pressure group, informal asso. Mrunal, NCERT, Laxmikant, Google
Representation of people’s act Mrunal, Laxmikant, current affairs
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Mrunal, Laxmikant, current affairs
NGO, SHG etc Mrunal, Laxmikant, current affairs
welfare schemes, bodies Vision IAS current affairs, Laxmikant, Ministry websites
social sector, health, edu, HRD Vision IAS current affairs, Ministry websites
governance, transparency, accountability Vision IAS current affairs, Ministry websites
e-governance Mrunal, Current Affairs
role of civil service Mrunal, Current Affairs
India & neighbors Rajiv Sikri book, IDSA website, Vision current affairs
bilateral/global grouping Vision IAS current affairs and booklets
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Vision IAS current affairs and booklets
Diaspora Vision IAS current affairs and booklets
international bodies- structure mandate Vision IAS current affairs and booklets

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal Videos for basics with  Vision IAS current affairs, Ramesh Singh for selected topics, Economic survey for  present economic situation, General budget, google for specific topics and state government programmes
inclusive growth -do-
Budgeting -do-
major crops, irrigation -do-
agro produce – storage, marketing -do-
e-technology for famers -do-
farm subsidies, MSP -do-
PDS, buffer, food security -do-
technology mission -do-
animal rearing economics -do-
food processing -do-
land reforms -do-
Liberalization -do-
Infra -do-
investment models -do-
science-tech day to day life Vision IAS current affairs
Indian achievements in sci-tech Vision IAS current affairs
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Vision IAS current affairs and booklets
environmental impact assessment Vision IAS current affairs, MoEF website
Disaster Management 2nd ARC report, Vision IAS current affairs and booklets
non state actors, internal security Mrunal, Vision IAS booklets and current affairs, Google for static topics
internal security – role of media, social networking site Mrunal, Vision IAS booklets and current affairs, Google for static topics
cyber security Mrunal, Vision IAS booklets and current affairs, Google for static topics
money laundering Mrunal, Vision IAS booklets and current affairs, Google for static topics
border  Management Mrunal, Vision IAS booklets and current affairs, Google for static topics
organized crime, terrorism Mrunal, Vision IAS booklets and current affairs, Google for static topics
security agencies- structure mandate Mrunal, Vision IAS booklets and current affairs, Google for static topics

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics 2nd ARC report, Lexicon(for definitions), Insights + vision notes
attitude, moral influence etc. -do-
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc -do-
emotional intelligence, its use in governance -do-
moral thinkers of India and world I covered around 15 moral thinkers from Lexicon and Insights online notes
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. 2nd ARC report, Lexicon(for definitions), Insights + vision notes
corporate governance -do-
probity in governance, work culture -do-
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. -do-
challenges of corruption -do-
case studies on above topics Toppers answers from Vision IAS and Insights notes

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. The marks this year in Ethics paper is very low even for the toppers. The pattern of case studies are more of practical situations with dilemma involved. In such cases on should keep in mind the basic qualities of a public servant and also the effectiveness of the system should be maintained. So the balance approach between moral obligations and effectiveness obligations should be adopted.

Apart from that some data, mind maps, practical examples, Supreme Court judgements should also be incorporated in the answers. So informations collected for GS papers can also be added if required.

Mains answer-writing?

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

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 13 5 2 20/20
GS2 13 6 1 20/20
GS3 15 4 1 20/20
GS4 14 4 1 19/19
Opt-P1 15 2 2 19/19
Opt-P2 16 3 19/19

Q. What was your approach in the exam Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies]

Ans. My approach in the exam was to first finish those questions which I  know very well then go to the other questions. Do not compromise where you are good but at the same time I also believe that remaining questions should compulsorily be attempted. In GS papers questions are divided into many parts. Not all parts are well known by anyone and similarly not all parts are unknown to any aspirant. So attempting all questions will give an edge over others. Also making up the answer will not give marks so if one is not sure about any part of the question better not to attempt those parts.

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

Ans. Fixed space answer sheet was helpful in following aspects:

  1. It allows to make answer short and simple.
  2. It prevents from writing unnecessary points.

Fixed space answer sheet was not good in following aspects:

  1. In case of any mistake one is left with no space to correct it.
  2. One has to think twice before drawing any diagram in limited space.


Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players 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 think the decision of writing in bullet point or paragraphs can be taken only when you see the questions. One should not make pre decisions to follow one style of writing. I wrote both in bullets and in paragraphs depending upon the demand of the questions. Like in polity questions I follow the paragraph format and in sociology question I followed bullet point style.  I believe that introduction and conclusion parts should always be made in paragraphs unless the question is technical.

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 followed Introduction-Body-Conclusion format and the reason for this format is that that allows you to put all relevant information at right stage of answer and the chance of missing some points are minimized.

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? I highlighted keypoints with ballpens.
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) I drew diagrams, flowcharts depending upon the requirement of the questions.
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? I drew with black ballpens.
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 ballpen.

Mains Optional Subject

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

Ans. Geography was my optional subject. Though I had cleared Engineering Services Examination in 2013 I was not confident enough to choose Mechanical Engineering as I had not joined any coaching institute for ESE-2013. So finally I was left with Geography subject. The reasons for choosing geography were:

  1. I have interest in Geographical locations from my childhood and due to my rural background I was fascinated about nature and its components.
  2. Large no of online material was available and I had to prepare it by self study because I was not able to join coaching institute due to my full time job and  posting in Odisha, so it helped.
  3. A lot of internet searching is required in this subject which gave me confident that I can prepare it my self.
  4. Being a technical subject it is easy to understand by an engineer.
  5. It is helpful in GS papers especially GS-1.

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

Ans. Looking at the recent pattern of results of Geography optional subject it is hard to advice someone to go with it. But if an aspirant has strong interest and graduation in geography it is advisable. But one thing is clear that a lot of hard work is required in this subject. If someone is not comfortable with any other subject then he/she should go with Geography.

Q. First the essential book/resource list.

Ans. Reading for basics : 11TH and 12TH NCERT, Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Che Leong, Indian Geography by Majid Hussain.


  1. Geomorphology: Physical Geography by Savinder Singh, Geomorphology by Savinder Singh(If Physical Geography by Savinder Singh not looks tough to understand ). It is the most dynamic topic which requires extensive research and answer writing practice. Each key words of this topic need to be understood and proper note making is required. Geographers names need to be remembered. Use flow charts and unique diagrams. Prepare topics like Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development, Erosion surfaces, Slope development in great detail with ample diagrams
  2. Climatology and Oceanography : Physical Geography by Savinder Singh, D.S. Lal Climatology.
  3. Biogeography and Environment geography: Environment Geography by Savinder Singh (selected topic but deep reading). Internet (prepare pointers for topics such as Social Forestry, Environmental Management etc). Rupa Made simple series  for soil section
  4. Perspective in Human Geography:  Human Geography by Majid Hussain, Geographical thought by Majid Hussain. Give precise definitions, theories, and examples given by Geographers in their studies. Original quotes by Hartshorne, Febvre, alongwith the names of their thesis or books.
  5. Economic Geography and Regional Planning: Rupa Made Simple, Khullar for selected topics, K. Sidhharth for some topics like Limits to growth etc., Google out some topics lik world trade pattern, agriculture and food, energy crisis etc.
  6. Population and Settlement geography:  Models and theories by majid hussain, D.R. Khullar for some topics, Rupa made simple.
  7. Models and theories: Models and theories by majid hussain and K. Sidhhartha:

Make notes on different theories , prepare diagrams, flowcharts and use examples and current affairs around the world. Remember names of geographers and their theories use them as required. Use current affairs examples extensively.


  1. Indian Geography by D.R.Khullar covers extensively but needs to be supplemented by Vision Current affairs (Geographical and international relations current affairs).
  2. Maps: make notes of different location in india and practice previous years questions on locations. Examrace video for maps practice.
  3. Diagrams and India map necessary to practice and draw wherever necessary.
  4. Some magazines like Geography and You, Down to Earth are good to interlink static parts with current affairs.
  5. Paper-2 is practical extension of paper-1. One should mention theories and geographers while answering the questions.
  6. Proper lebelling of maps drawn is necessary to get good marks.

Overall strategy for Geography optional:

  1. Good relevant diagrams/flow charts/graphs/maps are necessary to get good marks.
  2. Mentioning full name of geographer and his/her original book/paper name with the historical background related to theory are necessary to enrich the answer.
  3. Proper labeling of diagrams/maps.
  4. Interlinking theory of paper-1 with examples in paper-2.
  5. Due weightage to current affairs in paper-2.
  6. Map practice in paper-2
  7. Extensive research of key points of geomorphology section of the syllabus.
  8. Giving original examples mentioned by geographer rather than simple Indian examples.

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. A lot of research on internet is required in geography specially for innovative diagrams in paper-1 and current affairs and maps in paper-2.

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

Ans. I took 3 months with full time job to finish core optional subject.

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

Ans. I did not practice full length answer writing practice due to paucity of time rather while revising I practiced structure of answer in shorts. I followed this method after prelims itself.

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

Ans. Yes I made short notes for revision purpose.

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. Geography optional in 2017 was on tougher side than previous years as some compulsory questions were not on expected lines. To tackle such situation one must thoroughly read 11th and 12th NCERTs, Rupa Made Simple series, geography dictionary, physical geography by Savinder Singh etc. Deep reading of Oceanography, Biogeography, Environment geography and related terminology need to be done.  Effective interlinking of theory and current affairs and map practice are important in changing pattern of paper-2 to get good marks. Paper-2 was similar to 2016 but map section was little tough but map practice can help in unexpected questions.

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?


  1. Preparation of interview starts with mains preparation and proper filling of Detailed Application Form. Avoid putting unwanted information in DAF that you are not confident enough to answer.
  2. I prepared a lot of answers of questions from all the sections like graduation, work experience, native place etc. and revised them so that prompt reply can be given.
  3. I practiced in front of mirror to correct body language and nervousness.
  4. I went through one year current affairs and editorials.
  5. I brushed up my optional and graduation subjects.
  6. I had job experience in two areas Power and Water so prepared them very well.
  7. I also saw interview transcripts posted by other aspirants.

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 did not attend any mock interviews but I believe it is helpful to take few good mock tests to increases the confidence level and it helps in correcting mistakes.


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 in a hotel near Paharganj. I had brought a notebook in which I have prepared answers from my DAF.

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

Ans. Black suit and tie with white shirt.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Ans. Air Marshal Ajit Bhonsle Sir.

Q2. How long was the interview?

Ans. 25-30 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.   

Ans. Reasons for choosing civil service:

  1. The nature of civil service job is such that I provides an opportunity to directly connect with people which other services does not provide.
  2. My rural background helped in creating a positive image of a civil servant among the masses.
  3. I have work experience in two crucial sectors first in power sector and second in water sector and I can say these experiences forced me to work around the common masses.
  4. Career wise also civil service provides good enumeration and recognition.

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.



He started with appreciating me by reading the DAF for 5 minutes.

  1. You have worked in very crucial sectors, how do think that this will help in civil service? :I explained some important works I was doing and linked them with the works of a civil servant.
  2. Gender sensitivity in your previous jobs. : I described importance of women in water management specially in rural areas and they can change the face of water sector.
  3. How did you manage to come out from a remote village and the challenges associated with it. :I explained some of the challenges like new to urban life, English, maintaining the tag of topper etc and how I overcame those challenges.
  4. Water sector challenges in India. : I gave a brief about availability of water and some challenges.


  1. What do know about custodial death in the jails of Chhattisgarh and what needs to be done : I briefed about current news about custodial death in Bastar and gave solutions like strict rules for police officers, proper investigation and training, awareness among tribal people, strengthening civil society and human right organisation.
  2. Necessity of linking Aadhar with social sector programmes. : I answered that it necessary where inclusiveness increases and it is not necessary where it excludes some beneficiary.
  3. Data protection issue with Aadhar. ; I gave brief about Supreme Court decision and reasons for data protection policy and institutions.
  4. Tell me something about your native place?


  1. Give some data of water availability in India.
  2. Do you think that Central Water Commission (CWC) is doing good job? : I highlighted some achievements of  CWC with some of its challenges in current situation like Inter state water disputes, lack of professionalism, more weightage to surface water system than ground water system and some recommendations of Mihir Shah committee.
  3. What is Telgo Train?
  4. Railway sector reforms ? : mentioned the recommendations of 2-3 committees on railways.


  1. Banking fraud, reasons and solution?
  2. How to confiscate the assets of a person? : I could answer it.
  3. Letter of Understanding vs letter of credit?
  4. Tell me something about Financial resolution and deposit insurance bill?
  5. Demonetisation effect on economy. : I gave sector wise effect of demonetization.


  1. Mechanism of maintaining transparency in India? : I mentioned RTI, CAG, Lokpal etc.
  2. How will you insure corruption free society? I advocated about various interventions at different levels like at home, school, colleges, working place and finally government interventions.
  3. How do see the international relations of India with neighbouring countries considering the water disputes?: I talked about some water disputes with Pakistan, china, Bangladesh and Nepal and gave present status and works to be done in future. I also talked about future consequences if these disputes are not resolved.

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. The interview was on expected lines.  Some unexpected moments came during follow up questions. One member tried to make me uncomfortable but could not succeed. I was not reacting much on stressful questions and politely told that I am not able to answer. I was disagree in some questions but with politeness.

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

Ans. UPSC is not so strict about the documents but one must bring the original documents and photos compulsorily. One ID card is also necessary to bring. Reach the UPSC Bhawan before time, which will relieve some stress.

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


  1. Make sure that you have 2-3 days in hand for adverse situation.
  2. Bring eye subscription if any with you.

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) 106.00 Cutoff: 40-105.34
Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m) 86.68 Passing Marks: 67
Mains Subjects Marks secured
Essay (250m) 141 Passing Marks: 25
GSM1 (250m) 110 Passing Marks: 25
GSM2 (250m) 105 Passing Marks: 25
GSM3 (250m) 132 Passing Marks: 25
GSM4 (250m) 080 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-1 (250m) 133 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-2 (250m) 132 Passing Marks: 25
Written Total (1750m) 833 Cutoff: 578-809
Interview (275m) 171 N/A
Final (2025m) 1004 Cutoff: 830-1006

Career Backup

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

Ans. I have joined Indian Railways Traffic Service (IRTS) through CSE- 2016. So I would have continued there.

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. I also think that optional subjects should be removed as it does not provide level playing field. Optionals like Geography  show poor performance which affects many aspirants. As for as coaching centres are concerned I do not have any idea what’s going on in Delhi but I have heard that present situation is helping them. I optional are removed then self study will have an important say in ones preparation.

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?


A)  Removing optional is one option to make level playing field. Other than that answer sheet should be checked by 2-3 persons and the average should be taken as final marks.

B) Similarly, two interview panels should take interview of a candidate and averaging the marks.

Q. Despite what UPSC has done in last seven years in syllabus and pattern change, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories and the readymade e-material sellers. In fact, it’s increased under the new Mains-syllabus post-2013. Let’s face it, UPSC added so many topics and so many random questions, even fulltime student struggles to gather and process all standard reference books and material himself within the short time available to him. So, apart from revamping the mains-evaluation system, the mains-Syllabus needs to be compressed.

Ans. I do not think that syllabus should be compressed I would rather say that conceptuality in the syllabus should be incorporated. Syllabus should be clearly defined and should not be so opaque to understand. The syllabus should also incorporate psychological testing of candidate. More general studies papers need to be added to accommodate the removal of optional subject. Life of rural India and tribal population should be added. Culture of North East India is completely missing in the syllabus.

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

Ans. I agree that ethics paper is not checking the actual behavior of an aspirant but at the same time I would say that I gives an opportunity to think or brain storm the ideal or moral situation in a case study. Case studies are good in putting real life situation in the lives of a civil servant but the problem  lies in the syllabus as it does not provide due process of preparation or character building during the preparation.

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. Disclosing answer sheet may be good as:

  1. It will make evaluation process transparent.
  2. It will help in understanding the requirement of a question.
  3. I will remove the discrimination based on language/caste/regions.

But at the same time litigation process will delay the examination process and also trust on constitutional institutions may get deteriorated with time.

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. Prelims and mains (for those who could not qualify for Personality test) marks should be disclosed immediately after examination as it would help aspirants in correcting their mistakes as early as possible.

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

Ans. I think that present system of paper-2 being qualifying is good to incorporate both the aspects ( giving due weightage to aptitude and not discriminate non-engineers )

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 can be made online but mains should 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. These two examinanations should have their separate prelims because both have different requirements and present system disrespects both the requirements by merging two examinations.

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


1. Disclosing prelims marks immediately after examination.

2. Speeding up the mains checking process.

3. Completing the whole process in calendar year.

4. The date of result should be declared in advance.

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. I suffered all these profile insecurity during my first attempt but after wards it got vanished. Coming from a Hindi medium and a rural background with no guidance it was not easy to even think of applying for this exams. I was struggling with English from my college days itself but found the way to improve and as a challenge I decided to write exam in English medium. So the Civil Service preaparation not only helped in getting into civil service it also helped in learning English. I know many people who do not appear just because of lack of confidence due their poor background and English. Situation is improving fast for boys but girls from such background are still struggling for success. The message I want to give is that if someone will go through the syllabus and previous years questions they will certainly gain confidence as they will find some sorts of similarity between their graduation and the syllabus and they can start their preparation as how to start is a bigger question to answer than how to succeed. I believe that a person with a lot of challenges appears much stronger and is more able to handle the situation in the lives of a civil servant.

Aspirants should prepare holistically for personality test and should not worry about stressful questions as the panel wants to check our mental and behavioral status so answering in balanced way will result in good marks.

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. This was my fourth attempt so I can consider myself a senior player. What gives you success is ones patience, perseverance, adoptability to new syllabus and self motivation to keep trying. Civil service preparation is a continuous process. Continuous study and continuous learning is necessary. If possible career back should be in place to release the pressure. I got inspired by stories of many senior UPSC aspirants.

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

Ans. The problems I faced during my preparation were the lack of time, lack of material, stress from work and lack of guidance. These problems were the same throughout my preparation but I think I managed them with smart working, time management, understanding the syllabus and the requirements of examination thoroughly and by making a balanced approach between work and study.

Struggle of Working professional

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

Ans. As stated earlier following strategies worked for me while working full time:

  1. Making time table and completing them on time.
  2.  Optimum Use of online resources during office hours especially during lunch, official tour.
  3. Maximum use of weekends (I have 6 days week).
  4. Being thorough with the syllabus so that unwanted informations can be filtered and time is saved.
  5. Avoiding unnecessary chatting/mingling with people in social media.
  6. Saving time for revision.
  7. Smart strategies like using apps, evernote, online video like Mrunal will help in completing large syllabus with less time.

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. Self motivation is must for steady preparation. The paucity of time saved me from losing the momentum. To fight mood swings I used to watch some comedy clips not extending more than 5 minutes or else talk to my family. My Grandparents are my great source of inspiration. Whenever I feel low I used to think of them or talk to them.

Q. Through this struggle and success, what have your learned? What is the wisdom of life and competition? What is your message to the new aspirants?

Ans. I think that clearing this examination should not be a life and death situation as many aspirants think. The backup plan should always be there due the nature of this exam. Even if one does not get success, this exam teaches a lot of things in life which are going to be helpful in other parts of life. Having said that I would say that one should take risk in early years of preparation so that guilt feeling does not come afterwards. There are a lot of career prospects once you come out of the UPSC cycle so be happy keep trying and enjoy the life.

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. As stated above.

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 success is not only mine but it is associated with many directly and indirectly. First of all my family is a great source of inspiration. Though my Grandparents and Parents are not much aware about this examination but the kind of hardship they have seen in their lives can only motivate me in whatever I do. Seeing them working hard was inspirational in every stage of my life be it school, college, work or civil service preparation. My elders brothers also helped me in all sphere of my life. Manohar Bhaiya who himself is a torch bearer in our family continuously helped financially and emotionally and kept me motivated. So I am inspired by him as well. Apart from that my teachers and friends from school, college, NTPC, CWC were kind enough to motivate me throughout the preparation.

There were many memorable incidences during my preparation. Whenever I go to my home I sit with my Grandfather and listen from him the adverse situation he faced in his life. It helps in coming out of any kind of sadness or frustration during preparation. When the result was announced he was narrating a story of his life and I was sitting beside him at home in my village.

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. Mrunal.org is very helpful specially in Economics, Geographical locations, World history, Culture and question paper analysis. It is like boon for the Working people like me who can not go to Delhi or who are  financially not stable. I want to thank Mrunal sir for his selfless working. I have seen many aspirants thanking  and appreciating you for your work and believe me they do it from their heart. So keep doing your remarkable work.

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