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. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  13. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  14. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  15. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  16. Mains answer-writing?
  17. Mains Optional Subject
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. CSE-2016 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Views on UPSC reforms
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Struggle of a Senior player
  25. Grand wisdom
  26. Credit: Friends/family
  27. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

UPSC Topper Varsha Meena




Varsha Meena

Rank in CSE-2017


Roll No.




Marital Status


Total attempts in CSE (including this one)


Optional Subject


Schooling Medium


College Medium


Medium chosen for Mains answers


Medium chosen for Interview


Home town/city

Dholpur, Rajasthan

Work-experience if any


Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures

IIT JEE(success)

Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)

Vision IAS mains test series, mock interviews

Service preferences (Top-5)


Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres.




fill the details here

% in class 10


% in class 12


Graduation course and %

8.16/10  CGPA

Name of college, city, passing out year

IIT Roorkee, 2014 batch pass out



Any other professional courses


Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements

  • Playing volleyball, origami, clay art
  • Gold medalist in InterIIT sports meet
  • Captain of IIT Roorkee girl’s Volleyball team


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

Hello everyone. Myself Varsha Meena. My father is superintendent in customs and central excise (now GST). I live in Delhi presently. My elder brother is an MBA from IIM Lucknow and younger brother is IIT Kanpur graduate, presently working as an IES officer in railways. My mother is housewife. I started my preparation after passing out from college. Motivation behind this was my interest in kind of work a civil servant does. And thus I started my civil service journey.

I am told that I am first IAS from my district, Dholpur. Earlier I was surprisingly happy but later I realized that this is not something to be happy. I am hopeful that after my success, many aspirants will get motivation and we will see many more students clearing this exam from Dholpur.

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).

I never referred to any book throughout my preparation. All my notes were in laptop. I used ‘’onenote’’ software to maintain my notes. I used to update them on daily basis. I even converted Lakshmikant’s polity e-book into notes. The very size of the book used to give me headache. So I made notes from that book in softcopy format. I kept my sources limited and made notes from them. I focused on revising my notes and writing test series instead of pilling up loads of study material.

Typical day in your Online life?

Online life


Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services.


Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups


Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep.

2-3 hours

Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile


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

As I mentioned earlier, I had my notes in softcopy format. So I used to spend the entire day in front of my laptop revising, updating the notes. I never installed whatapp/telegram throughout my preparation. I took no coaching and prepared from home. Therefore I had no friends who were preparing for CSE. This was the other reason that I would rarely get call/messages from anyone. I will suggest one should stay away from these online platforms as they kill your precious time and time is everything for an IAS aspirant. 

Style of Preparation and notes making

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

So I started by making online notes for static portion like culture, world history etc. I referred a number of sources like books, toppers notes, coaching material, online sources like mrunal.org for this. I made current affair notes from insightsonindia on daily basis. At the end of month I used to make notes from vision monthly magazines. I kept updating and revising my notes.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies



History Ancient

NCERT, nitin singhania sir’s notes, nitin sangwan sir’s notes on insightsonindia, TN board book

History Medieval

NCERT, nitin singhania sir’s notes, nitin sangwan sir’s notes on insightsonindia, TN board book

History Modern (Freedom Struggle)

NCERT, mrunal.org, Bipin Chandra, brief history of modern india by Rajiv Ahir

Culture and society

  • Culture from NCERT, CCRT site, nitin singhania sir’s notes, nitin sangwan sir’s notes on insightsonindia, TN  board book
  • Society from NCERT+CA from insightsonindia

Polity (theory + current)

Lakshmikant’s polity, insightsonindia CA, vision monthly booklet

Economy (theory + current)

Mrunal sir’s video lecture, insightsonindia CA, vision monthly booklet

Science (theory + current)

NCERT, insightsonindia CA, vision monthly booklet

Environment (theory + current)

NCERT, Shankar ias environment book, insightsonindia CA

geography physical

NCERT, Made notes from Rajtanil mam’s video lectures, my optional notes

geography India

NCERT, Made notes from Rajtanil mam’s video lectures, my optional notes

geography world

NCERT, Made notes from Rajtanil mam’s video lectures, my optional notes

other national/international current affairs

Insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff

Insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet


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?

I had cleared prelims in all my 3 attempts. I never made any change in my strategy. The strategy should be to clear concepts, improve analytical skills, cover current affair as much as possible. CSE 2017 had very analytical questions and those with good conceptual clarity could attempt them. The focus should be to understand the concepts especially in polity, economics etc as there is no shortcut to it. In culture one should try to go as much in depth as possible as the questions are not predictable. So I wouldn’t have made any change in my prelims strategy if I was to give this year’s prelims.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude


strategy / booklist


Mock tests


Mock tests


Mock tests

Decision Making

Mock tests

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:

I used to attempt Maths and reasoning questions first as one can be sure about the answer while comprehensive portion can be lengthy and tough. I will suggest same to future aspirants as the paper is qualifying and we need to just get 33% marks. No bonus point for attempting the whole paper.

Prelim accuracy

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

I bought few CSAT question papers from market and solved them at home under time bound conditions. For paper 1, I solved the mock test just to keep a track on current affairs which I might have missed.

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


attempted Q.

correct (Expected)

Official score








Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper

Your preparation strategy / booklist?

English paper

No preparation

your regional language

Hindi, no preparation

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

The papers are quite easy. No additional preparation is needed. The time one gets is more than sufficient. Infact it becomes difficult to pass time once the paper is completed :D

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Content wise no special preparation is needed for essay as GS and optional covers most aspect of essay. But presentation needs to be worked on. I gave 2 mocks at visionias and made notes of mistakes I made and suggestions I received. I made sure I don’t repeat them in final exam. I got decent marks both years ie 144 last year and 146 this year.

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

I prefer writing on social issues as they can be made interesting while factual one tend to bore the examiner like NAM one asked this year. 2 essays I wrote were

  1. Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms.
  2. Fulfillment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth.

Few things I kept in mind were

  1. Used quotes at beginning and end and also sometimes in between. Linked them to topic and explained them.
  2. Gave recent examples like in new women essay, I wrote

“Two very important ministries usually associated with men ie defense ministry and external affair ministry are being headed by women in India presently.”

This was to prove my point that ‘new women’ is not a myth. I concluded with optimism that Fulfillment of ‘new woman’ in India is neither a myth nor a reality as of now but we are definitely moving toward making it a reality

  1. Keep re-iterating the topic. Whatever you write should be linked with the topic
  2. Give multidimensional aspects to the topic. I gave lots of historical/current examples in both my essay. The essay should be made interesting. Too much facts and data make it boring. Do support your argument with facts but try to keep examiner engaged. Else he/she might end up giving average marks.


  1. Memorize quotes of famous thinkers like mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincon, BR Ambedkar etc
  2. Give half an hour in making draft of essay—this help in smooth flow while writing. One hour is sufficient to write 1200 words essay

General Studies (Mains) paper 1



How did you prepare?


  • NCERT, nitin singhania sir’s notes, nitin sangwan sir’s notes on insightsonindia, TN board book, CCRT
  • I referred to a large number of sources to make my culture notes. Thus my notes were very comprehensive but short which made revision easy. Owing to my notes I could attempt questions like Gupta coins.

Indian history

NCERT, mrunal.org, Bipin Chandra, brief history of modern india by Rajiv Ahir

world history

Made notes from Mrunal.org articles and video lectures

post-independence India

Made notes from Pradhanmantri series by RSTV, Bipin Chandra, NCERT

Indian society

Static portion from NCERT, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

role of women, poverty etc.

Static portion from NCERT, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

globalization on Indian society

Static portion from NCERT, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

communalism, regionalism, secularism

Static portion from NCERT, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

world geo physical

NCERT, Made notes from Rajtanil mam’s video lectures, my optional notes

resource distribution

NCERT, my optional notes

factors for industrial location

Mrunal.org articles

earthquake tsunami etc

NCERT, my optional notes

impact on flora-fauna

NCERT, my optional notes

General studies (Mains) paper 2


How Did You Prepare?

Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.

Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

comparing Constitution with world

Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

parliament, state Legislatures

Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet


Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

ministries departments

Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

pressure group, informal asso.

Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

Representation of people’s act

Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..

Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

NGO, SHG etc

CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

welfare schemes, bodies

CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

social sector, health, edu, HRD

CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

governance, transparency, accountability

  • CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet,
  • Transparency, accountability covered under ethics notes


CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

role of civil service

Static portion from Lakshmikant’s polity, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

India & neighbors

Wikipedia , CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

bilateral/global grouping

Wikipedia , CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest

Wikipedia , CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet


Wikipedia , CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

international bodies- structure mandate

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

General studies (Mains) Paper 3


How Did You Prepare?

Indian economy, resource mobilization

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

inclusive growth

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet


Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

major crops, irrigation

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

agro produce – storage, marketing

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

e-technology for famers

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

farm subsidies, MSP

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

PDS, buffer, food security

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

technology mission

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

animal rearing economics

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

food processing

Geography optional notes, Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

land reforms

Mrunal.org articles




Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

investment models

Mrunal.org, Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

science-tech day to day life

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

Indian achievements in sci-tech

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

environmental impact assessment

Geography optional notes

Disaster Management

NCERT, my optional notes

non state actors, internal security

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

internal security – role of media, social networking site

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

cyber security

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

money laundering

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

border  Management

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

organized crime, terrorism

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

security agencies- structure mandate

Wikipedia, CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude


How Did You Prepare?

ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics

 Mrunal.org ethics articles, lexicon, visionias mains test series for making additional notes and learn art of writing 10 markers

attitude, moral influence etc.

 Mrunal.org ethics articles, lexicon, visionias mains test series for making additional notes and learn art of writing 10 markers

civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc

Mrunal.org ethics articles, lexicon, visionias mains test series for making additional notes and learn art of writing 10 markers

emotional intelligence, its use in governance

Mrunal.org ethics articles, lexicon, visionias mains test series for making additional notes and learn art of writing 10 markers

moral thinkers of India and world

How many thinkers did you prepare

I prepared none in detail-just memorized some of quotes of famous thinkers like mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincon, BR Ambedkar etc that came handy in essay also

ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.

Lexicon, visionias mains test for making additional notes and learn art of writing 10 markers

corporate governance

Mrunal.org economy video,  lexicon, visionias mains test series for making additional notes and learn art of writing 10 markers

probity in governance, work culture

Lexicon, visionias mains test series for making additional notes and learn art of writing 10 markers

citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.

Lexicon, visionias mains test series for making additional notes and learn art of writing 10 markers

challenges of corruption

CA from insightsonindia, vision monthly booklet,

case studies on above topics

Lexicon, visionias mains test series to learn way of attempting case studies.

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?

I got 100 marks in ethics which is a decent score this year. This is one paper where I studied minimum but managed to score well. I made notes from Mrunal.org ethics articles, lexicon. I updated my notes from visionias mains test series. I revised these notes multiple times and thus I was ready with plenty of examples which I used in 10 markers. Thus key to score good in ethics is to substantiate what you say with an example. Do memorize definition of all the terms mentioned in syllabus like ethics, aptitude, accountability etc. Define them at the beginning of the answer. In case studies, look into all possible ethical aspects of the situation and elaborate as much as you can. Do keep track of time and attempt all question maintaining the quality of answers. 

Mains answer-writing?

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


Best attempted

Average quality

namesake answer

Total attempt































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]

I attempted 1740/1750 mark questions. 10 marks I left were the map marking in geography about which I had no idea. I attempted all questions not because I had to write something but because I knew them atleast partially like gupta coin, malay peninsula. Luckily I knew some of the so called difficult question of last year mains like Juno, ECOSOC. I believe in this exam one can’t risk leaving a question when the competition is so high. Even one mark can impact your result/service/cadre. But I will not suggest attempting a question when you have no idea at all. Better prepare before mains so well that you can make wise guess and attempt a question. Even if that adds 1 mark to your score, the purpose is served.

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

I had very good experience. My objective was to write relevant points in the space provided. Of course one need to fill all the pages because the space is anyway not much and if you are addressing demand of the question you will find the space just sufficient-neither less nor more. One should learn this by writing mocks in fixed space. 

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.

I mostly wrote in points under separate heading, underlining key words. This makes the answer more structured and presentable. Also you can give more content to the answer within the fixed space. This gives the impression that you are well versed with the topic. This is also easier for examiner to evaluate which will surely work in your favor when he/she awards marks.

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, I followed “introduction-body-conclusion” format. This gives proper structure to the answer and makes it more presentable.

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?


Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)


Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?


Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?

Drew by hand

Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?

Blue writometer ball pen.

Do practice writing mocks with the same pen that you plan to use to write your mains.

Mains Optional Subject

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

I had two options in my mind, Geography and electrical engineering. I wanted to study something new and thus chose geography. Other reason was my interest in the subject from school time. Also it has certain level of technical aspect in it and is therefore opted by most of the engineers.

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

I will advice him/her to choose geography if he/she has genuine interest in the subject to maintain the momentum throughout the preparation period. Interest should be the primary reason; rest should be secondary because people score equally good/bad in all subjects.

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.)

I made my notes from following sources

  1. Physical Geography by Savindra Singh
  2. Indian Geography by Khullar
  3. NCERT- for map marking
  4. Rajtanil mam’s video lectures
  5. Oxford atlas
  6. Internet for illustrations & miscellaneous topics
  7. Coaching notes of ALS, vajiram. I bought them from shops in ORN. Referred them for each topic and prepared my own notes which were very comprehensive.

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?

UPSC ask many current affair related questions especially in paper 2. Thus internet comes very handy. Also GS preparation helps in geography optional and vice-versa.

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

6 months. But I kept updating my notes throughout the preparation as I was never satisfied with them till the end. Well this is the specialty of geography optional. There is always something left out no matter how much you prepare.  

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

After prelims I joined visionias mains test series and wrote about 6 mocks there. Beside this I did no writing practice.

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

Yes I had very comprehensive self-notes of geography. They were in paper format.

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 pathetic score in geography this year. I was surprised to see my marks falling so low when I had scored 280 marks last year. I am still to decode the reason for such a low score. The paper was indeed difficult this year but people have scored very well so I can’t complain about checking. If I had to give this exam again I would have referred to some more sources and focused on writing better answers.  

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. I made interview notes for current affair from my mains notes. Kept updating them till the interview.
  2. Watched RSTV program to imitate the way bureaucrats speak.
  3. Prepared questions on hobbies, hometown, school, college, graduation subject etc
  4. Revised these notes as many times as possible

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 gave many mocks. I think mocks are very important to learn how to present you before the panel. I watched my mock videos, realized my mistakes and tried to rectify them.

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

I live in Delhi only. I revised my notes which were in softcopy format before the interview

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

I wore a cream color crepe sari.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Manoj Soni sir

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?]

I wasn’t asked this question. I chose civil services because it provides good career opportunities and a platform to serve the public. Indeed there are many means to an end and I have chosen this particular one. The reason being diversity and scope which civil services offers is absent in others.

Not politics because there is no certainty, I have no political background, easy to fight for civil services as it is solely based on merit unlike wining an election seat.

NGOs have been instrumental in bringing change in lives of downtrodden people, aiding govt agencies in policy formulation and implementation. But without power, their actions don't carry responsibility, herein comes role of civil service. There is nothing wrong in power but for me ultimate aim of power is to empower the most underprivileged ones. Therefore IAS.

I did not continue in my graduation field because the work would have been restricted to one field only. Social service can be done from private sector too but after a point, you can’t do much.

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]

My interview was scheduled to be held on 2nd April in the afternoon.

I was 5th to be interviewed.

There were 5 members in the panel, no women panelist was there.

Mine was very cordial interview. Very few counter questions were asked. I kept the members engaged throughout the conversation. Manoj soni sir was keenly listening and observing me throughout the interview.

Me: May I come in sir?

CM: yes please, come in.

Me: (with a moderate smile) good evening sir.

CM: good evening Miss Varsha. Please have a seat.

Me: Thank you sir.

CM: (in the meanwhile, tea was being served and CM got distracted a bit, but he again focused on the interview). So you are from Dholpur, how does it feel like to come to Dholpur house?

Me: (with a smile) sir, It feels like home.

M3: (interrupted with a smile)….ofcourse, afterall it’s your property (he meant it was built by Maharaja of Dholpur who got revenue from Dholpur people).

Me: (still smiling and thinking…wow, what a beginning of the interview) yes sir…

CM: so Varsha, tell me some important historical incident of Dholpur

Me: (damn, I prepared almost everything about Dholpur but I never found any important historical incident of dholpur…I was wondering, Mr Chairman should know that Dholpur is not that famous)… sir, Dholpur princely was founded in 1806 by a Hindu Jat Ruler. It became british protectorate, The Ranas ruled until independence of India in 1947.

(I knew he wasn’t asking this and so I stopped and realized that I should accept that I don’t know the answer)..sir, I am not aware of any important historical incident of Dholpur.

CM: ok, so you don’t know….then leave it.

Tell me about the evolution of telecommunication sector in India?

Me: (damn….why telecommunication sector, why not power sector!! I am electrical engineer and not electronics engineer….i decided to answer this as briefly as possible to avoid any counter question)… sir, it was during Rajiv Gandhi period that government focused on improving telecommunication infrastructure. C-Dot was formed under the leadership of Sam Pitroda. New telecom policy, 1999 brought mobile and TV revolution. Tariff reduced, mobile became affordable to poor, TRAI was formed to regulate this sector. NOFN project presently aims at improving internet connectivity in rural areas. So internet penetration is expected to increase in future which is must for the success of e-governance.

CM: recently there was a player in news in this sector?

Me: sir private player?

CM: yes..yes

Me: sir reliance for Jio scheme.

CM: yes…so has TRAI raised any objection regarding that?

Me: No sir, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (don’t know why I mentioned the full form!!) has raised no objection. It is a fair scheme.

CM: hmm….so it’s a business strategy….

Me: yes sir…. (I was glad that he stopped asking questions on this topic..)

CM: (asking M4)…please ask questions.

M4: (don’t know where was he lost…)….sir, I am not ready yet…

CM: (after a pause)—ok….. (looking at M1)…aap poochiye..

M1: what are smart cities?

Me: (gave well prepared GS3 vali defination) A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure ie smart physical, social/civic, economic infrastructure. It s a city where IT is principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents.

M1: how smart villages are important for success of smart cities?

Me: smart villages will have all basic amenities like hospitals, schools, banks, roads, water facilities. They will have employment opportunities. Thus migration to urban area will reduce which will help in solving problems of our cities like slums, traffic congestion etc. Also there need to have transportation facilities from sub-urban areas to urban areas which will reduce permanent migration to cities and rural people can commutate daily.

M1: what are the problems which our agriculture sector is facing?

Me: Firstly crops are being lost due to weather vagaries like unseasonal rainfall, drought etc. Secondly, farmers are not getting adequate remuneration for their crops. There are marketing issues, crops lost due to lack of proper warehousing, cold storage facilities.

M1: how far was green revolution successful?

Me: It helped in making India self-sufficient in wheat production but resulted in regional disparity and inter-crop disparity as many crops like pulses, oilseeds were ignored.

M1: what were key elements of green revolution?

Me: HYV seeds, irrigation facilities, pesticides, herbicides, consolidation of landholding…

M1:  (he repeated) HYV seeds, irrigation facilities, pesticides ( I realized that “consolidation of landholding” was not needed in the answer)

What are your views on artificial intelligence?

Me: Issues like job loss are being raised in Indian scenario but my views- are more jobs will be created in organized sector. Thus reskilling will be correct word and not job loss. Skilling manpower should be our focus.

M1: Give an example where complete automation has happened in India?

Me: (thinking hard)…..Online train ticket booking on IRCTC-no jobs lost as was thought, more jobs for data engineers.

M1: (not happy) I am talking of automation!!

Me: (a recent example struck my mind and I felt happy)…….recently driverless metro trains are introduced in Delhi.

M1: (satisfied and done)

M2: you have had a good academic record. You have got 95% in 10th class, 91.4% in 12th, 8+ CGPA in college… (he was literally reading out this from my DAF)….

Why do you think an IAS officer is more important than an electrical engineer?

Me: sir, I don’t think an IAS officer is more important than an electrical engineer…. it’s just that I have interest in administrative work and therefore i want to become civil servant.

M2: (the typical question)…why do you think you are suitable for IAS?

Me: (the typical answer)…. Sir, I have leadership and management skills which a civil servant must possess. I was captain and secretary of girl’s Volleyball team in college. I was also publicity manager of our college’s cultural fest. So I believe I have these traits.

M2: (after a pause) What is greenhouse?

Me: A greenhouse is made of glass which regulates temperature inside it. In cold region it is used to keep plants to increase the inside temperature.

M2: glass…..! No, it can be made of any transparent material including plastic…

Me: (silent…don’t know what to say)…..

M2: did you know this already?

Me: (I could have said yes,, but don’t know why I said) no sir,

M3: what are few things that India should learn from China?

Me: (I felt good… I like China questions).. Sir, China has done very well in social sector. They have lesser people under poverty line, more literacy than India. We need to learn this.

Secondly, they have done well in infrastructure sector like OBOR, CPEC etc. this will boost their economy and diplomacy. We should improve our infrastructure too.

Thirdly, China has done immensely good in defense sector. This must also we learnt by India.

M3: (I knew he liked my answer but he was reluctant to show… anyways.. he asked next question)… what are the issues in power sector in India?

Me: (finally a question from my domain).. Indebted DISCOMS leading to power in grid but no one to purchase it.

  • High AT&C losses.
  • Inadequate last mile connectivity 96% villages electrified but only 70% houses have electricity connections
  • Unscheduled load shedding in summers.

M3: what are issues with manufacturing sector in India? (see the diversity of questions he was asking!)

Me: manufacturing sector contributes only 15% to GDP. Some reasons are lack of capital, technology, high price, MSME has no R&D, High taxation, Electricity, loan, transport expensive which makes our product less competitive.

M3: has share of agriculture in GDP increased or decreased?

Me: (paused as I couldn’t get his question)…..i said it has increased from 13% to 19% as of now… (I stopped…I realized that he was asking since independence)

M3: no….it has reduced….which time span you are talking of?

Me: (I wanted to say, I don’t know)….sir last 10 year.

M3: May be you are right….i will check

Me: (I was wondering if I was right indeed)

M4: (the same person who wasn’t ready earlier to ask question… he was from Mizoram. I guessed that from the kind of excitement he showed when I mentioned Mizoram)

How far has Indian government been successful in curbing insurgency in India?

Me: Naga peace accord, 2015 is very recent example of success of our government. Though the details of the accord are not out, it is being reported that hostilities between NSCN(IM) and security forces have reduced, level of violence has come down.

M4: anything else?

Me: sir, area under Naxalism has also reduced after the surrender-cum-rehabilitation scheme.

M4: (not satisfied)…anything else…not so recent

Me: (thinking very hard) 1986 peace agreement signed between Rajiv Gandhi and Laldenga. Mizoram was granted statehood.

M4: he gave some more info regarding this…. (I was listening, Chairman was not liking this as the question was getting stretched)….what about Punjab insurgency?

Me: (pretending that yes…I knew this, it just slipped out of my mind)….yes sir but normalcy came in Punjab over long period of time…. President rule was imposed for years, elections were held and then only the insurgency was rooted permanently.

M4: (finally he agreed with me)…yes..yes

CM: Varsha, one last question…

Poverty, poor education and corruption are three main problems India is facing….

Me: (I thought his question is over….and he want me to agree to his statement, so I said).. sir, I would like to add one more (I was about to say environmental issues is fourth major concern for India but he interrupted me)

CM: no …no….for now just take these three (I felt stupid)… so what will be your priority while tackling these issues?

Me: (spoke instantly)… sir education will make people more skilled and thus they can earn more which will help in reducing poverty. Also education is not only technical education but also moral education. We need to teach values and ethics to people as a part of their curriculum and that will take care of corruption issue. (I said the last line with a lot of confidence)

CM: okey Varsha, your interview is over. Thank you.

Me: Thank you sir…

I came out of room. The last person was waiting on chair. I was very happy. I wished him all the best and told him that the panel is really cordial and is asking very good questions. Actually earlier we three people were talking about which board we wish we get. I had told him that I wish I get Manoj Soni sir’s board. I was happy that I got his board. I was expecting a decent score. I got 179 marks and I am happy with my score.

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?

My interview was on expected lines. Most of the questions were those which I had prepared. No unexpected question was asked.

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

Just carry the documents asked in notification.

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

Don’t eat anything 8 hours before the medical checkup.

CSE-2016 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Prelims Paper-1


Prelims Paper-2


Mains Subjects












Optional Paper-1


Optional Paper-2


Written Total






Career Backup

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

I would have tried for state PSC exams

Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan?

I already had given RPSC exam once.

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.

Yes, I am in favor of removing optional. It will help in having a level playing field.

Q. After Mains-Syllabus change of 2013, initially some candidates got very high ranks, despite scoring poorly in interviews- thanks to their tall scores in written (mains). So in recent years, it seems UPSC has tweaked the mains-evaluation process in such manner that everyone gets similar range of marks in Essay, GSM2 and GSM4. Thus, selection is majorly dependent on optional scaling and interview score. In CSE-2017, total 990 successful candidates in a spectrum of mere ~296 marks. Yes, UPSC does have internal mechanisms to reduce panel-wise variation of interview marks, yet many candidates didnot make it just because of a 'strict' interview panel. So, what should be done to reform A) the mains-evaluation system and B) the interview evaluation system?

a) In mains, optional should be done away with.

b) Weightage of interview should be reduced to 100.

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.

Inspite of living in Delhi only, I never took any coaching for anything, not even for my optional subject geography for which coaching is so famous. The only thing I want to tell future aspirants is that CSE can be cleared with self-study. Coaching is not panacea for anything. Neither can it substitute the hard work one puts in. In era of Digital India, all you need is internet connection and motivation to clear this exam.

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.

No doubt, integrity of a person can’t be judged from a 250 marks question paper in just three hours. But till a better method is evolved, I feel GS4 should be retained. If those case studies makes a person even 1% more ethical, the purpose is be served. My personal reason for liking GS4 is the small and interesting syllabus it has which lightens up 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?

I believe disclosing mains answer sheets will increase litigation as the answers are very subjective. But other grievances like total, typo error should be addressed properly and quickly.

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?

I endorse the above suggestion that UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over.

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.

I believe scoring 33% marks in paper 2 shouldn’t be an issue even for Hindi-belt aspirants as they can always chose to attempt maths and aptitude questions over English questions.

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?

1. Yes, prelims should be conducted online

2.  I support present method as far as mains are concerned.

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.

Yes, the concerns mentioned above need to be addressed. IFoS prelims should be conducted separately.

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

1. Declare prelims key along with the prelims result

2. Disclose marks of mains non-qualified candidates along with mains result so that they make necessary changes in their strategy for next attempt. Also they can change optional if they haven’t performed well there while filling next year’s form. 

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?

I didn’t suffer from any such insecurity and neither of us should. I have seen people coming from Hindi medium, from not so good college, with no job experience but scoring wonderful marks in interview. Gandhiji has said “A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes”. So think that you are the best. If you have doubts about yourself, how will you make the panel believe that you are a suitable candidate for this job.

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.

Firstly enjoy the process. I loved everything I used to read. I used to look forward for the next day’s newspaper. I used to look forward for the next mock test so that I can implement my strategy to score better. Keep yourself busy. Have a schedule and follow it by heart. Whenever you are sad, imagine yourself as DC. This entire struggle is nothing in front of what you will get in return. Believe me, all your struggle is totally worth your goal.

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

I couldn’t revise my notes properly before the mains. Also due to paucity of time; I couldn’t do much writing practice.

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?

Think of the final result. Imagine yourself a DC, listening to grievances of poor people. That should motivate you to give your best. Believe me, every sleepless night; every tiring day you spend in your preparation is totally worth the fruit you will get. I used to write diary whenever I had doubts. I would lock all my anxiety in my diary and used to start a fresh. That was helpful.

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?

I have become stronger emotionally. I am sure that no failure in future will be able to break me now. I have learnt that happiness and gloominess are part and parcel of life. Nothing is permanent. Change is the only constant in this world.

This too shall pass and you will emerge as a better person. Remember –“The best way to predict future is to create it”. The pain is your privilege…own it. Feel privileged that you have got the opportunity to follow your dreams. Go and create your future, the future that you dream of for yourself.

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?

Nothing great comes easy. There is no short cut to IAS. It is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great. So, hard work should never scare you. Remember ‘'the darkest hour is just before the dawn’’.  Just keep giving your best. Don’t forget— “you haven’t failed, your success is just postponed”

Finally never doubt yourself. Read this wonderful story of optimism and success….


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?

First of all, I want to thank almighty above for everything. All candidates who appear for interview are equally capable and hardworking. Luck plays important role for those who make it to the list and especially in service allotment. So I consider myself extremely lucky and I am very thankful to God. My mother is a lively and jolly kind of person. She always used to lighten up my mind and boost my spirit when I was upset. This helped me in staying motivated and keep going. She is indeed my best friend. My father is a person of high intellect. I discuss everything with him- mains questions, cut off, marks, service, cadre, friends and what not. He still remembers questions of my mains exam and often tells his friends that how I attempted that easy question wrong (he calls it silly mistake!)). He helped me a lot in interview preparation especially in opinion based questions. In mocks and final interview I realized that I am thinking his way, speaking his words. I still do that. My elder brother would bring home delicious food just to make me feel good and cheer me up at the end of a tiring day. And my younger brother had so much trust in me that he told me not to appear for any other exam. After I couldn’t make it to the list last year, he came to my room and told me—“ didi, you are almost there,,,you have to improve just 10% and you will be an IAS”. (I never knew he was so wise till then :P). That was a morale booster at the crucial time when only 15 days were left for the next prelims. In short, my family was bedrock of me throughout my journey.

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.  

I have mentioned mrunal.org many times above. I am recommending his articles/video to aspirants who come to me for guidance. It has helped me a lot in my preparation. This site is blessing for CSE aspirants especially for those who are preparing from home like me.

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