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. Grand wisdom
  27. Credit: Friends/family
  28. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Preetesh Raman Singh- Law Optional, NLU-Jodhpur




Preetesh Raman Singh

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


Work-experience if any

Practiced in Delhi High Court for sometime

Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures

Qualified IBPS Law officer- 2016 exam

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

No classroom coaching. Availed test series for Mains by ForumIAS.

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 %

8.1/10 -BA(Hons.) LLB(Hons.)- Gold Medallist

Name of college, city, passing out year

National Law University, Jodhpur

Passed out in 2014



Any other professional courses


Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements

Playing badminton and watching movies


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

Hello friends! Originally I belong to Bulandshahr (UP), however we have settled in Delhi. Since my father is in Central Government service, we have been transferred across the country. Therefore I have done my schooling from Kendriya Vidylaya at different places. Later on I graduated in law and took it as my optional subject for the civil services exam.

During graduation I was very much fascinated about the jobs in big law firms. Later on after doing multiple internships in these firms, I realized that I was losing touch with the people and ground realities of the society. I felt so disconnected. Then I decided to opt for Civil Services to fulfil my aspirations and I was duly motivated by my father. During my preparation I faced many failures. At one time I lost all hopes and started litigation in Delhi High Court but it was my father who believed in me and persuaded me to give up the practice and give the exam again with full vigour.

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 mostly relied on paper material. I am not very techno savvy but I used to google topics and other materials which are not available in hardcopies. I also used to watch YouTube videos mostly by Mrunal sir (Economics, Geography and World History), current affairs (only IAS) and few on ethics (sleepy classes).

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.

5-10 mins once in a week

Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups

20-30 minutes

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:


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.)

When I started preparation I used to read mostly from various sources and did not emphasise on notes making. However over the course I realized that this strategy was not getting me marks above the threshold though I cleared mains twice before this.

For this attempt I made notes for all the important topics of my optional subject and especially ethics. I also made notes for few topics of GS-I, II and III. These notes were very handy and comprehensive when it comes to revision. This helped me to save lot of time at the last moment. Moreover I felt that if one revises from notes then he mainly focuses on important parts eliminating chaff. It also augments one’s writing skills and abilities. I mainly relied on paper based notes instead of softcopies.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies



History Ancient

Old NCERT by RS Sharma, New NCERT (Themes-I)

History Medieval


History Modern (Freedom Struggle)

Spectrum, Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra

Culture and society

CCERT, Nitin Singhania’s hand written notes

Polity (theory + current)

Laxmikant, D D Basu

Economy (theory + current)

Mrunal, Sriram’s notes, Economic Survey

Science (theory + current)

NCERTs (6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th)

Environment (theory + current)

Shankar IAS material

geography physical

Old NCERT (11th), Mrunal (Rajtanil ma’am), G C Leong

geography India

NCERT, Mrunal (Rajtanil ma’am)

geography world

Old NCERT Geography (6th, 7th and 8th) and selective reading from Neetu Singh’s material

other national/international current affairs

VisionIAS monthly booklets, Insights on India and newspaper (The Hindu)

Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff

Vision IAS, annual report of important ministries


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 believe basic books should always be done and revised before the exam. Simultaneously current affairs should also be followed. We should not start focussing on a particular aspect like current affairs because UPSC has emphasized it in a particular year (2016) and ignore the rest. If one is prepared well then toughness becomes relative. It will bring down the cut-off. Moreover smart guess is a necessary evil (as was seen in 2018 prelims).


Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude


strategy / booklist


Previous Year papers


Previous Year papers


Previous Year papers

Decision Making

Previous Year 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:

I always did the comprehension first. I felt that because of their nature they need fresh mind and cannot be done at the end. Read the comprehension with calm mind, underline what you feel important and try to understand the gist. Don’t read it again. Then read questions and try to find out answers.

One can develop his own strategy depending upon his strength. You can find it out by solving mock papers. You just need to qualify. If you are good at maths/LR then go for it first.

Prelim accuracy

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

I used to buy different mock tests from the ORN market. I believe that at least one test series should be attempted diligently. The whole objective is not to expect same type of questions in the real exam, but it makes our mindset acquaint with the process of attempting paper. It also a great tool of revision.

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


attempted Q.

correct (Expected)

Official score



62 (112.66)







Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper

Your preparation strategy / booklist?

English paper

Past year papers

your regional language

Wrote 2-3 essays in hindi before the exam

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

Don’t ignore the compulsory language papers completely. Take a look at past year papers and practice those things which you feel you are not comfortable with.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

In all my previous attempts (including this one) I could not score well in essay. For this attempt I have put a lot of effort, I wrote around 15-16 essays and got them checked from seniors, friends etc. I read various blogs, toppers’ copy and watched videos to understand the intricacies of essay. I also maintained a separate notebook for content, data and facts for different topics. I am still not able to decipher what is required to write a good essay.

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

I wrote on:

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

Firstly I started with the importance of agriculture both for the country as well as farmers. Then I went on to explain the problems of agriculture. After that I talked about solutions including ongoing government schemes/policies, role of civil society, NGOs, etc in uplifting the state of agriculture.

I tried to make it multidimensional by deliberating on the issues from the beginning till the end like deteriorating fertility of soil, irrigation, land degradation, lack of farm mechanisation, inadequate insurance, low MSP, subsidies, agriculture market, food processing, etc.

  1. Fulfilment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth.

Initially I tried to interpret what is new woman. Currently new woman in India connotes educated woman, employed woman, independent woman, safe woman, cyber and financial literate woman, free woman, right to bodily integrity, knowledge of legal rights etc.

Then I wrote for the fulfilment of a new woman above conditions need to be satisfied. I talked about the present scenario in the country with respect to social, political, economic, legal, financial, education, sports etc milieu for woman. Then I gave solutions including the ongoing government schemes/policies, role of civil society, NGOs, etc in uplifting the state of woman.

In the end I said fulfilment of new woman in India will not remain a myth anymore if the present momentum to emancipate them continues unhindered.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1


How did you prepare?


CCERT, Nitin Sangwan’s notes and selective reading of old ncerts of ancient and medieval India

Indian history

Bipin Chandra, Spectrum and selective reading of old ncert

world history

Vision IAS notes, Mrunal series on world history and ncert by Arjun Dev

post-independence India

Indian since Independence (very selective), NCERT and Vision IAS notes

Indian society


role of women, poverty etc.


globalization on Indian society


communalism, regionalism, secularism

Google and Only IAS

world geo physical

Old NCERT, Mrunal and G C Leong

resource distribution

NCERT and Mrunal

factors for industrial location

Mrunal (one stop source)

earthquake tsunami etc

NCERT and Mrunal

impact on flora-fauna


General studies (Mains) paper 2


How Did You Prepare?

Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.

Law Optional (M.P Jain on Indian Constitution), D D basu and Vision IAS notes

comparing Constitution with world

Vision IAS notes

parliament, state Legislatures

Law Optional (M.P Jain on Indian Constitution), D D basu and Vision IAS notes


Vision IAS notes, 2nd ARC

ministries departments

Vision IAS notes, 2nd ARC

pressure group, informal asso.

Vision IAS notes, 2nd ARC

Representation of people’s act

Vision IAS notes, bare act (very selective reading) and latest developments

various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..

Law Optional (M.P Jain on Indian Constitution), D D basu and Vision IAS notes

NGO, SHG etc

Vision IAS notes, 2nd ARC (excellent source)

welfare schemes, bodies

Annual report of ministries (selective reading), Mrunal, current affairs material (Vision)

social sector, health, edu, HRD

Annual report of ministries (selective reading), Mrunal, current affairs material (Vision)

governance, transparency, accountability

Vision IAS notes, 2nd ARC


Vision IAS notes, 2nd ARC

role of civil service

Vision IAS notes, 2nd ARC

India & neighbours

Newspaper, Vision IAS current affairs

bilateral/global grouping

Newspaper, Vision IAS current affairs

effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest

Newspaper, Vision IAS current affairs


Newspaper, Vision IAS current affairs

international bodies- structure mandate

Newspaper, Vision IAS current affairs, Shankar IAS material on Institutions

General studies (Mains) Paper 3


How Did You Prepare?

Indian economy, resource mobilization

Mrunal+Vision IAS

inclusive growth

Mrunal+Vision IAS


Mrunal+Vision IAS

major crops, irrigation

Mrunal+Vision IAS

agro produce – storage, marketing

Mrunal+Vision IAS

e-technology for famers

Mrunal+Vision IAS

farm subsidies, MSP

Mrunal+Vision IAS

PDS, buffer, food security

Mrunal+Vision IAS

technology mission

Mrunal+Vision IAS

animal rearing economics

Mrunal+Vision IAS

food processing

Mrunal+Vision IAS

land reforms

Mrunal+Vision IAS+readings from internet+India since Independence by Bipin Chandra


Mrunal+Vision IAS


Mrunal+Vision IAS

investment models

Mrunal+Vision IAS

science-tech day to day life

Current affairs (Vision IAS)

Indian achievements in sci-tech

Current affairs (Vision IAS)

awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR

Current affairs (Vision IAS)

environmental impact assessment


Disaster Management

2nd ARC+NDMA website (notes on various disasters)+Roman Saini Videos

non state actors, internal security

classroom notes of Vision IAS( got from a friend)

internal security – role of media, social networking site

classroom notes of Vision IAS

cyber security

classroom notes of Vision IAS

money laundering

classroom notes of Vision IAS

border  Management

classroom notes of Vision IAS

organized crime, terrorism

classroom notes of Vision IAS

security agencies- structure mandate


General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude


How Did You Prepare?

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

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal (Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures) and internet for proper definitions

attitude, moral influence etc.

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal (Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures) and internet for proper definitions

civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal (Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures) and internet for proper definitions

emotional intelligence, its use in governance

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal(Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures) and internet for proper definitions

moral thinkers of India and world

How many thinkers did you prepare?

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

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal(Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures) and internet for proper definitions

corporate governance

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal(Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures)

probity in governance, work culture

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal(Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures)

citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal(Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures)

challenges of corruption

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal(Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures)

case studies on above topics

Lexicon, 2nd Arc, Sleepy classes(YouTube), Mrunal(Kavan Limbasiya sir’s lectures)

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 think that in 2016 the range of marks was very high; however it decreased drastically in 2017. Irrespective of the checking one has to prepare well for this paper. This takes the shortest time in comparison to other papers but most of the times prove more fruitful.

One has to understand and if possible learn the definition of every keyword given in the syllabus. Read every topic multi-dimensionally. Try to generate examples (if possible from your own life) for every topic. Examples should always follow explanation. Sleepy classes (YouTube) has given a plethora of relevant examples.

Do some moral thinkers and their philosophy in detail, so that you can use them in support of your arguments in answers. In case studies, I made tables to explain merits and demerits for every option. Do make notes of definitions, examples etc. for easy revision in the end. And do practice your strategy and approach in mock tests, so that you feel comfortable in actual exam.

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]

In my view each and every question should be attempted. If one has prepared well then there are chances that he knows something of the question asked (knowledge of keywords is enough to write a decent answer). However UPSC may ask questions like ‘McBride commission’ (Mains, 2016), such questions can be left as it would waste one’s time. I think if there is paucity of time then in the end answers could be written directly (to the point) without following the introduction-body-conclusion approach (though one liner introduction and conclusion is desirable).

Sometimes after writing 8-9 answers we become mechanical and lose interest. I believe that the enthusiasm and motivation should be maintained throughout the paper. Each and every question should be seen as a new challenge. It will help to recall relevant points and maintain a good level of creativity in every question.

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

‘Fixed space’ answer sheet gives you a sense of satisfaction that you have completed the paper. Space given is sufficient to write what is asked.

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 tried to write answers according to the demand. I wrote most of the answers in bullet points and few in paragraphs. Generally it was a combination of both. While writing answers I tried to give sub-headings for the points also and underlined them. I also tried to supplement my answers with diagram, tables etc.

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.

In most of the answers I tried to follow this format. However it becomes difficult when one is running out of time. But for better presentation it is essential.

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)

Yes including flow charts, tables etc in all the GS papers

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?

Just by hand

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

Blue Pen

Mains Optional Subject

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

My optional subject was Law. I have interest in the subject and I also did graduation in Law.

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

Mostly an optional subject needs to be picked up based on one’s interest. If we talk about law, it is interesting and logical however it has vast syllabus. In the past there are various instances when candidates from non law background have cleared the exam with law optional. It is advisable to go through the syllabus and take a glance at the books first before opting law.

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 am going to discuss the essential book/resource list as well as my strategy for law optional in detail:

1. Constitutional Law:

  • M.P. Jain on Constitutional law is an excellent book. Though prima facie it may look huge but it has to be done selectively according to the prescribed syllabus. Few people also prefer V.N. Shukla’s book.
  • Case laws/landmark judgments are very crucial in constitution. Most of the articles have been interpreted in detail by our Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in various cases. Thus it is important to substantiate answers with case law. Try to maintain a separate note book for case laws written topic wise. It needs to be handy for multiple revisions.
  • As the trend has changed, thus try not to skip any topic in this subject. Because sometimes even after doing international law diligently we are forced to attempt one extra question from constitutional law only.

2. Administrative Law:

  • Book by I.P. Massey is a good book. Again this book is thick and cost benefit is less. There are five topics in administrative law. It is better to google them and supplement the reading from the book.
  • There is no need to remember all cases in this subject. Just try to remember one or two important cases in topics like Principles of natural justice, Separation of Power and Delegated legislation.
  • If possible make concise notes of this part. Because in the end we are compelled to skip this part entirely due to paucity of time. UPSC has started asking compulsory questions from this part. For example, this year question on Judicial Review of administrative action was compulsory.

3. International Law:

  • International law is very huge and confusing. There are various books and sources for each and every topic. In this subject the challenge in not only to complete every given 15 odd topics but also to remember and recall them.
  • Last few topics should be tried to read with current affairs. For example this year question on provisions of Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 2017 was asked in international law.
  • Try to do past year questions on international law as most of the times questions are repetitive.

For the benefit of readers I would deal this part in detail-

  • Nature and definition of international law and Relationship between international law and municipal law:- These two topics can be done from S.K. Kapoor and A K Jain Dukki on international law. Handwritten classroom notes of Rahul IAS can also be referred. Emphasis should be laid on important definitions, evolution and various sources of international law. Theories of relationship between international and municipal law especially what is followed in India should be remembered. Try also to remember important case laws on sourced and theories of relationship.
  • State recognition and state succession:- S K Kapoor and AKJ Dukki. Few portions of state succession from Starke.
  • Law of the sea: Inland waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, continental shelf, exclusive economic zone, high seas.:- Starke, AKJ Dukki and Rahul IAS handwritten classroom notes
  • Individuals: Nationality, statelessness; Human rights and procedures available for their enforcement.:- Starke (nationality and statelessness), S K Kapoor(mainly for human rights) and Rahul IAS handwritten classroom notes
  • Territorial jurisdiction of States, extradition and asylum. :- Starke, Rahul IAS handwritten classroom notes (extradition and asylum are very well written)
  • Treaties: Formation, application, termination and reservation. :- S K Kapoor, AKJ Dukki
  • United Nations: Its principal organs, powers, functions and reform. :- S K Kapoor and UN website
  • Peaceful settlement of disputes – different modes.:- Rahul IAS handwritten classroom notes, S K Kapoor
  • Lawful recourse to force: aggression, self-defence, intervention.:- Rahul IAS handwritten classroom notes, S K Kapoor
  • Fundamental principles of international humanitarian law – International conventions and contemporary developments. :- Malcolm Shaw on international law (soft copy is available)
  • Legality of the use of nuclear weapons; ban on testing of nuclear weapons; Nuclear – non proliferation treaty, CTBT.:- Rahul IAS handwritten classroom notes and articles on internet
  • International terrorism, state sponsored terrorism, hijacking, international criminal court :- Rahul IAS handwritten classroom notes and internet
  • New international economic order and monetary law: WTO, TRIPS, GATT, IMF, World Bank. :- Rahul IAS handwritten classroom notes, some portions through GS and internet
  • Protection and improvement of the human environment: International efforts. :- Malcolm Shaw and Internet
  1. Law of Crimes:
  • I did K D Gaur for IPC and I found it sufficient. People also do Pillai or Ratanlal & Dhirajlal.
  • I suggest making notes on IPC including case laws (important to substantiate your answer). This subject is very direct and requires to the point explanation. It becomes easier if one has concise notes on the subject. Multiple revisions are requires for preciseness.
  • Topics like general exceptions, offences against human body and offences against property should be focussed more.
  • Prevention of corruption act, 1988 should be read from bare act. For explanation PRS blog can also be referred.
  • Bare act along with an explanatory article from internet is sufficient for Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.
  • Read any article on Plea Bargaining (refer to provisions of CrPC) on internet.
  1. Law of Torts
  • R K Bangia on law of torts is one stop source. Summary of the chapters given at the end can be used for quick revision. AKJ dukki can also be referred for compilation of case laws.
  • Again in this part case laws/judgments play a vital role. Since the law is not codified, it has evolved through court decisions. Try to mention at least 2-3 cases on every important topic like definition of tort, strict and absolute liability, defences, negligence etc.
  • It is always better to prepare a separate compilation of cases topic-wise for faster and effective revision.
  1. Law of Contracts
  • Again R K Bangia on law of contract is a good source. Avtar Singh can also be referred for the topics not covered properly in Bangia. If possible make comprehensive notes on important topics covering both the books so that you don’t need to open these bulky books again and again.
  • Here also I would like to emphasise the importance of case laws. Try to learn important case laws and incorporate in your answers. Keep a separate note book on case laws handy.
  • For topics like Contract of indemnity, guarantee and insurance and Contract of agency read Bangia and do past year questions.
  • Standard form contracts :- This topic is covered in Bangia as well as AKJ Dukki.
  1. Mercantile Law
  • Sale of goods and hire purchase :- Read bare act and refer to Ambition Law printed notes. Do past year questions.
  • Formation and dissolution of partnership :- Read bare act and refer to Ambition Law printed notes. Or if you have time you can also refer to Avtar Singh on Partnership. Do past year questions.
  • Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 :- I find this topic a bit tough. You can watch YouTube videos for CA for better understanding. Also read bare act for important topics. Important areas can be figured out by looking at past year questions.
  • Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 :- Read the amended act properly and it’s comparison with the older act. Also don’t forget to read bare acts along with important case laws.
  1. Contemporary Legal Developments:
  • We generally skip this part. But in the last few years UPSC has started giving questions from this part in compulsory or the options are such that we are left with no choice but to attempt question from this part.
  • Public Interest Litigation. :- one can prepare this topic from M.P. Jain on constitutional law or internet.
  • Intellectual property rights – Concept, types/prospects. :- read important provisions of bare act on copyright, trademark and patent.
  • Information Technology Law including Cyber Laws – Concept, purpose/ prospects. :- I skipped this part and did only current affairs.
  • Competition Law- Concept, purpose/ prospects. :- I skipped this part.
  • Alternate Dispute Resolution – Concept, types/prospects. :- read an article from internet.
  • Major statutes concerning environmental law. :- I skipped this part. But if time permits you can read AKJ Dukki (Law and Environment) very selectively.
  • Right to Information Act. :- bare act and internet.
  • Trial by media. :- internet

Answer Writing Related Strategy:

  • Read the question twice and underline the keyword in the question paper itself. We generally read only the theme like Article 21 of the constitution and end up writing an essay on right to life however the question might have asked a particular aspect for example right to privacy. Thus to avoid such mistake it is essential to be precise.
  • Try to mention Article or section number in the answers wherever possible. We can’t remember the provisions verbatim but while writing provision its essence should not be missed. You can also write the ingredients of a section in points. For example, if one has to write on Section 34 IPC, it can be written as- Section 34 of IPC talks about joint and constructive liability. It creates no offence specifically but it lays down the rule of evidence. If the following ingredients of the section are satisfied, then same punishment will be inflicted on every accused irrespective of his active or passive participation in crime.
  1. A criminal act must be done by two or more persons.
  2. There must be common intention towards the commission of the act.
  3. There must be participation of all in the commission of the offence in furtherance of that common intention.
  • While writing answers presentation is also important with content. Following approach can be used:
  1. Introduction– Two or three lines depending upon the marks of the question. One may write definition or explanation of the concept asked.
  2. Law– Here one has to write provision of the relevant statute. If possible try to mention article or section number.
  3. Analysis– here one has to analyse the question asked. Arguments can also be given depending upon the nature of question. Basically this consists of body of the answer.
  4. Case Laws– your body of the answer or arguments should be supplemented by case laws. There is no need to write a list of cases. One or Two cases will suffice but try to write landmark judgments.
  5. Examples– Although it’s not that crucial but it is a very important value addition tool. It also helps in situations where we do not remember case laws. It may enhance your marks.
  6. Conclusion– you can write the latest development or current affairs pertaining to the question in the end. 

This is the approach which I have followed. Strategy may differ from person to person. But whatever strategy you make, do practise it before the exam so that it gets internalised. It is important that the structure of an answer should come naturally and this can only be ensured by practicing answer writing.


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?

Most of the topics can be done through book only. However for few topics internet research is required.

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

Law was my graduation subject. I think for a non law background student it might take 4-5 months to finish the syllabus properly.

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

I started answer writing practice right after the prelims. I bought question papers and tried to solve them at home.

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

Yes, I made self notes for most of the topics. I maintained notes 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?

Now-a-days UPSC is trying to touch upon the unconventional topics. Moreover options are given in such a manner that we are forced to do question from minor acts. Therefore it is better not to skip any topic given in the syllabus.

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?

I tried to make multiple questions from each of the area mentioned in DAF and prepared them well. I regularly read newspaper from the date of the mains result till the date of interview to keep myself updated.

Q2. Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? How were they similar / different than official interview? Do you believe it is necessary to attend such mock interviews?

Yes, I attended 2-3 mock interviews by different coaching classes. They give a platform to practice and improve before the actual interview. One becomes more confident. However it is not necessary that they will resemble the actual interview.

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 belong to Delhi, so stayed at home only.

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

I wore a navy blue suit and striped tie.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Mr. B.S. Bassi

Q2. How long was the interview?

Around 25-30 minutes

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

I was not asked this question during the interview. Everyone has their own inspirations and motivations. For me I have tried everywhere whether it be a law firm or litigation, I did not get a sense of satisfaction. I felt that civil service will provide me self satisfaction by becoming an active contributor in the development of the society.

Q4. Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview. (Earlier some toppers only tell me their question but not their answer. I would appreciate if you give both Question + your original answers]

Most of the questions asked were related to law and international relations. I was not asked anything related to my hobbies or co-curricular activities.


Ch- Can you explain the concept of strict liability in criminal law?

Me- Firstly I defined the term ‘strict liability’. It is well established that ignorance of law is not excused, however in certain cases ignorance of facts is also not excused due to nature of offence. That is even one does not have adequate mens rea (guilty mind), he is still punished. Then I gave the examples like Kidnapping, public nuisance, socio-economic offences, environmental offences etc.

Ch- Why do we have problem of under-trial prisoners in India?

Me- I explained the problem of delay in trials. Then I talked about the issue of poverty because of which many prisoners are unable to give surety for bail bonds. I also spoke a little on the provisions of CrPC with respect of undertials.

Ch- Do you know the famous quote by Justice Krishna Iyer regarding the jail term and under-trails?

Me- Bail should be the norm and jail should be exception.

Ch- Is it happening in India?

Me- It is not happening because of various reasons. Police delays in investigation and filing of charge sheet. Under-trials are not aware of their rights. Getting bail is a costly affair for poor. Non-access to lawyers and legal aid augment the problem.

Ch- What is the main difference between ‘preparation’ and ‘attempt’?

Me- I could not answer it satisfactorily. I just ended up saying that attempt is the next step of preparation. Attempt is punishable separately or under section 511 of IPC. However preparation is punishable in very few offences like dacoity.

Ch- What are the recent amendments in Prevention of Money Laundering Act?

Me- I said sorry sir, I cannot recall them now however the amendments have been brought to increase the quantum of punishment.

Member 1:

M1- What are Quasi contracts?

Me- I gave the proper legal definition of quasi contract.

M1- Can you explain it with an example?

Me- Answered.

M1- What is FATF?

Me- I gave the full form of FATF along with its mandate with respect to black money and terror financing.

M1- What is the governance structure of FATF

Me- Sorry Sir, I don’t know.

M1- What does BIMSTEC stand for?

Me- I could not expand ‘T’ in BIMSTEC. I also told the countries in BIMSTEC.

M1- What is the governance structure of BIMSTEC?

Me- Sorry sir.

M1- What is SASEC?

Me- I had some idea but I chose not to answer. I knew that if I was cross questioned I would not be able to answer.

Member 2:

M2- Are our cyber laws enough to deal with any cyber crime?

Me- Yes, we have enough laws. However human resource development and implementation of law are the major obstacles in dealing with cyber crimes.

M2- IPC is a very old law belonging to colonial era. Today is there a need to replace it altogether with a new statute?

Me- Told about the rock solid foundational structure of IPC. Also talked about the recent amendments in IPC to ensure it’s relevance. Like criminal law amendment act, 2013, impugned provisions of Section 377 and adultery etc.

M2- What is the percentage of under-trial prisoner in India?

Me- According to NCRB data around 67%.

Member 3:

M3- It has been decided that Xi Jinping will be given another term. Do you think his rule in China is conducive for India?

M3- Should India breach Indus water treaty to punish Pakistan?

M3- How judges of ICJ are appointed?

Member 4:

M4- Various rules like CCS rules have made it difficult to dismiss a civil servant for non performance. Do you think these rules should be there?

M4- We have been talking about ease of doing business so much these days. One of the major factors is to reduce litigation. What should be done to achieve this and to bring more companies in India?


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?

Interview panel was very cordial and made me comfortable. There was a mix of expected and unexpected questions. If one prepares his/her DAF well, then there is no need to take stress. There are moments when you are put under stressed situation and such situation needs to be handled calmly.

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

Bring your ID and original documents.

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

Nothing specific just follow the guidelines.

CSE-2017 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?

If I was not selected, I would have gone for practice under some senior advocate.

Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ number of failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/ after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)

I would have definitely exhausted all my 6 attempts before executing my back up plan.

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.

I also hold the same view that optional should be removed altogether. After 2013 because of only one optional such discrimination (favourable/unfavourable) is more visible. However it would be a hardship on the people who choose optional subject of their graduation. As most of the youth opting for traditional courses in their graduation look forward to civil services examination, removing optional subjects will hamper their interest in graduation subject. Therefore a well defined policy is required which can only be formulated with great caution and deliberations.

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 did not 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) Mains evaluation system: UPSC has never shown answer sheets through RTI. The matter with regard to this is still sub judice. It would be too naive to comment on this without knowing the process.

B) Interview evaluation system: It is one part of the whole process which I feel is not very transparent and high subjectivity is involved in it. I think if some objective criteria of marking is laid down, then it may help us.

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.

I believe UPSC is not a selection board but a rejection board. The gruesome three stage process is there to reject lakhs of candidates who appear for the examination. In 2013 one optional subject was removed, thus it became necessary to expand mains syllabus. Moreover the randomness of questions is same for every candidate. However I think that UPSC has maintained the requirement of analytical approach to the questions, which is crucial.


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 also believe that marks and answer key should be disclosed at the earliest.


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?

If you have worked hard for the exam then nothing can stop you. Every year people from different colleges even with low grades get selected. One’s course of action at a particular moment is defined by various factors and it is not necessary at all that the future behaviour will also be determined by the same factors.

To clear this exam one should have faith, belief and trust in oneself. Irrespective of one’s background, you can live your dream with your hard work and perseverance.   

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.

Undoubtedly this exam checks our patience at every stage. There are moments when we feel frustrated and dejected. Sometimes we also develop a fear that we are not fit for this exam due to continuous failures. We are also under severe pressure due to various reasons like, family, financial, marriage, relatives etc. Now this is the time when we should hear our heart out. We should remain optimistic and have faith in ourselves. We should keep ourselves inspired from the stories of people who have fulfilled their dreams despite of great odds.

However one thing we should always remember that ‘Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow’. If today we have failed again, we should introspect whether we have kept our promise made yesterday to work honestly for next year.

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

In my previous attempts I was very lethargic about answer writing practice. I subscribed test series for every mains but used to write only 1-2 tests. I also lacked a coherent planning/strategy, my preparation was done in a very hotchpotch way. Due to this I ended up reading same thing from multiple sources. At the end I wrote exams without revisions. I never fully utilised the time gap between exams and results.

This time I took everything very seriously. I made a proper time table and followed it religiously. I cut down my sources and focused on answer writing/presentation. I also made short notes for quick revision in the end. I also tried not to leave any topic in the syllabus.

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?

To keep the momentum going on I think one should follow a daily routine/time table. Syllabus should be divided into daily, weekly and monthly targets. If you have a whole year to prepare then don’t keep unrealistic targets. One gets best sleep when he feels satisfied. Just try to achieve your daily targets and you will be the happiest person. Gradually you will find that everything is completed on time.

If possible do keep days off for break. Try spending time with your family or friends in your breaks. No exam is larger than life. Just be honest with your current duties and let the almighty decide your fate.

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?

Mine has been a long journey. I have learnt things a hard way through hit and trial. Initially I was a little reluctant in answer writing practice or even completing my GS or optional syllabus. Later on I realised that I cannot clear this exam with this attitude. In this attempt I worked on everything from content to presentation for both GS and optional.

I’m just writing this to point out that there is no shortcut to success (very cliché but true). Work hard on every aspect of the exam and deserve success.

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?

One has to find out shortcomings in his/her preparation because of which s/he failed. Improvement is the key. If one is keen on improving on the previous attempt he will always remain motivated.

Moreover in UPSC apart from hard work there are other factors which play crucial roles. It is just a matter of time. Everyone has his own time zone. Keep working hard and have faith in almighty. Your time will definitely come!

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?

Definitely it was my family who was always there to support me. My father has been a constant source of motivation and inspiration for me. My mother, brother and sister in law everybody played important part in my preparation. It is for their love, belief and affection that I have survived these long 3 years of preparation.

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.  

Yes, I was an ardent follower of mrunal.org. Budget and economic survey series provide holistic outlook for the in-depth preparation. It also provides tips for answer writing simultaneously. My tryst with this website was not limited to just GS paper 3, it also helped me in my geography, world history and ethics preparation. Moreover interviews of the toppers kept me motivated throughout the journey.

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