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: Political Science
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. CSE-2016 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Insecurity about profile
  23. Grand wisdom
  24. Credit: Friends/family
  25. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Q. Details
Name Pratishtha Mamgain
Rank in CSE-2017 50
Roll No. 0194520
Age 22 years
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 1
Optional Subject Political Science and International Relations
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Delhi
Work-experience if any
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) GS & CSAT at Vajiram (I had stopped attending GS classes after 1-2 months)

Test series for GS prelims, mains, essay at VisionIAS

PSIR test series at Vajiram

Mocks for personality test at Samkalp, Chanakya and Vajiram

Service preferences (Top-5) IAS>IRS(IT)>IAAS>IRS(CE)>IRTS
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. AGMUT>Gujarat>Andhra Pradesh


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 10 CGPA
% in class 12 97.2%
Graduation course and % BA (Hons) Economics, 87.88%
Name of college, city, passing out year St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, 2016
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Reading fiction, writing analytical opinion-based articles


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

I was born and brought up in Delhi though I originally hail from Uttarakhand. I pursued B.A. (Hons) in Economics from St Stephen’s College, Delhi University. My father served as an officer in the Indian Army and my mother is a Political Science teacher. I have a younger sister who has recently completed her graduation from Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi University.

It was my mother’s dream to become an IAS officer herself. She always motivated me to prepare for the exam and had complete faith in me. I also used to read newspapers from a very young age and I gradually realized that an IAS officer has a lot of opportunities for bringing about social change. I decided in class 9 that I would prepare for CSE.

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)

After reading a lot of toppers’ interviews, I had a list of sources for different subjects. I stuck to my original list and avoided using too many sources for the same topic or experimenting with new material. I used the internet for 2 things only- greater clarity of concepts and for those topics of the syllabus that were not covered well in books. I relied on certain websites and even when googling terms I would open these websites only. I have always found it easier to study from paper than from a screen, so that in itself helped in maintaining a balance.

Also, to avoid any confusion, it is better to have the syllabus and past year papers at hand. This helps to streamline preparation.

Typical day in your Online life?

Online life Answer
Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“ related to civil services. None
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups None
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. It varied as I used online sources for certain topics.
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop

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

I would recommend deactivating Facebook in order to avoid distractions. I deactivated my account on the day of my final university exam to focus on my preparation.

Style of Preparation and notes making

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

I made notes on sheets for topics that I found difficult to memorize (example- river systems, soil types etc) or for information that I looked up on the internet. I had underlined and highlighted important things in my books or wrote short notes on the margins neatly or stapled it on the book. I revised all the matter a number of times.

In a separate notebook, I made notes for key terms, conventions, international organizations, statistics and other data that I copied from the net, newspapers or Yojana.

For the optional, I prepared one page summaries of each topic for quicker revision.

Most importantly, I focused on repeated revisions as I had read in a lot of interviews that inadequate revision is a very common mistake committed during preparation.


Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old NCERT by RS Sharma
History Medieval Old NCERT by Satish Chandra
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Old NCERT by Bipin Chandra+Spectrum
Culture and society Nitin Singhania Sir’s notes
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikanth+Hindu+Indian Express+Vision monthly magazines+internet

(I also downloaded an app to refer to the Constitution)

Economy (theory + current) Sriram book+Economic Survey+Budget+Hindu+Indian Express +mrunal.org
Science (theory + current) internet+Hindu+Indian Express+Vision magazines
Environment (theory + current) ShankarIAS book+ pmfias.com+ Hindu+Indian Express+Vision magazines
geography physical NCERT+G.C. Leong+pmfias.com
geography India NCERT+pmfias.com+mrunal.org+atlas
geography world NCERT+pmfias.com+mrunal.org+atlas
other national/international current affairs Vision monthly magazines+internet
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff India Yearbook (selectively), ShankarIAS compilation of govt schemes


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 feel that one has to strike a balance between being too risk averse and being too risk loving.  Writing mock tests with seriousness and preparation helps one to understand the optimum number of questions to be attempted. This optimum number varies from person to person. Options should be eliminated logically, but one should avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Also, one should avoid relying on past year trends to make predictions about important topics/subjects. All aspects should be given equal importance. Avoid becoming complacent or over confident about anything.

Looking at the 2017 and 2018 papers, I would prepare at least 2 years’ worth of current affairs instead of the earlier recommended 1 year. Besides this, I would continue with the same strategy.


Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Vajiram booklets & assignments + past year papers
Reasoning Vajiram booklets & assignments+ past year papers
Comprehension Vajiram booklets & assignments+ past year papers
Decision Making Vajiram booklets & assignments+ past 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 attempted the maths/reasoning questions followed by comprehension. For reasoning and maths questions, one should avoid getting stuck on a problem. It is better to move on to the next question and return later. Comprehension requires patience and concentration. It is better to read the passage once properly rather than reading it again for each question. Practice is important and one should avoid taking the paper lightly.

Prelim accuracy

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

Yes, I attended mock tests for GS (VisionIAS) and CSAT(Vajiram). I feel that they are important in order to analyse one’s strengths and weaknesses, devise a strategy and simulate exam conditions. But I also feel that they are useful only if backed by solid preparation and attempted with total seriousness.

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

  attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 82 111.46 118.6
aptitude 44 94.18


Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Wren & Martin to brush up grammar + past year papers
your regional language Samanya Hindi by Unique Publishers+past year papers

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

I feel that these papers should not be ignored or taken lightly as the entire effort will go waste if one fails to qualify. So if one is out of touch with the language/grammar rules, then time should be given here as well.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

I kept a separate record of important statistics copied from newspapers, Vision and Yojana magazines. I also made a list of quotes of famous personalities on diverse range of topics. I wrote mocks and had a look at copies of past years’ toppers. Content was not a problem as general studies and current affairs give enough matter to write.

I feel that it is important to be positive and optimistic especially in the conclusion and not get carried away while writing the criticism/negatives. One has to strike a balance between the positives and negatives. Always suggest solutions for problems.

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

  1. Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers.
  • Intro- ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ slogan, importance of farming, harvest festivals, farmer suicides and indebtedness
  • Problems in farming – explained various dimensions on the input and output side
  • Solutions- included examples of Australia, New Zealand, China, marketing, food processing, credit and insurance etc
  1. Fulfilment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth
  • Intro- quote of Dr Ambedkar, explained new woman term
  • Arguments in favour of statement- included violent crimes against women, gender discrimination, poor sex ratio, compared literacy rates, health, workforce participation
  • Arguments against the statement-included support for women athletes, initiatives of govt, growing awareness and public support, #MeToo movement
  • Positive conclusion along with quote of the Honourable Prime Minister

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Nitin Singhania Sir’s book

I made notes in the form of tables to memorise the states and art,dance,folk songs etc

Indian history Same as prelims
world history Old NCERT by Arjun Dev+ VisionIAS material
post-independence India NCERT Political Science- Class 12
Indian society Newspapers
role of women, poverty etc. Newspapers
globalization on Indian society Newspapers
communalism, regionalism, secularism Covered in optional
world geo physical Pmfias.com+mrunal.org+NCERTs+G.C. Leong
resource distribution Pmfias.com+mrunal.org+NCERTs
factors for industrial location Mrunal.org+NCERTs
earthquake tsunami etc Geography NCERTs+pmfias.com
impact on flora-fauna Geography NCERTs+pmfias.com

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth (I had Political Science optional which helped me to cover GS paper-2)
comparing Constitution with world Mrunal.org
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikanth
executive-judiciary Laxmikanth
ministries departments Limited to current affairs
pressure group, informal asso. Covered in optional
Representation of people’s act Laxmikanth+Vision material
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikanth
NGO, SHG etc Newspapers & current affairs
welfare schemes, bodies Newspapers & current affairs
social sector, health, edu, HRD Newspapers & current affairs
governance, transparency, accountability Newspapers & current affairs
e-governance Newspapers & current affairs
role of civil service Newspapers & current affairs
India & neighbors Covered in optional
bilateral/global grouping Covered in optional
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Covered in optional
Diaspora Covered in optional
international bodies- structure mandate Covered in optional

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization SriramIAS book (Economics was my graduation subject which was a boon)
inclusive growth SriramIAS book
Budgeting SriramIAS book
major crops, irrigation SriramIAS book
agro produce – storage, marketing Mrunal.org
e-technology for famers SriramIAS book
farm subsidies, MSP SriramIAS book+mrunal.org
PDS, buffer, food security SriramIAS book
technology mission SriramIAS book+schemes
animal rearing economics SriramIAS book+schemes
food processing Mrunal.org
land reforms Mrunal.org
Liberalization SriramIAS book
Infra SriramIAS book
investment models SriramIAS book
science-tech day to day life Newspapers+Vision monthly magazines+internet
Indian achievements in sci-tech Newspapers+Vision monthly magazines+internet
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Newspapers+Vision monthly magazines+internet

I made detailed notes on Indian space program from the internet.

environmental impact assessment ShankarIAS book
Disaster Management Yojana edition January 2017
non state actors, internal security “India internal security challenges and responses” by Prakash Singh, a paper published in Vivekananda International Foundation in 2013
internal security – role of media, social networking site Current affairs and internet
cyber security Vision and Insights material
money laundering Insights material
border  Management Vajiram notes
organized crime, terrorism Vajiram notes
security agencies- structure mandate Internet (mainly Wikipedia)

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Lexicon
attitude, moral influence etc. Lexicon
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Lexicon
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare? Only those I had covered in my optional.
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Lexicon (Also, I went through the introduction and summary of recommendations of 4th report of 2nd ARC)
corporate governance Lexicon
probity in governance, work culture Lexicon  (Also, I went through the introduction and summary of recommendations of 4th report of 2nd ARC)
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Lexicon
challenges of corruption Lexicon
case studies on above topics Lexicon

Q. In ethics, Most of the serious candidates (both topper and non-toppers) have received marks in similar ranges. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?

In my opinion, following things should be kept in mind while preparing for ethics:

  1. Originality/genuineness- Answers should be genuine and not seem robotic. This paper, like the Essay paper, is an opportunity to be creative.
  2. Balance- Solutions suggested should be practical and acceptable to all while adhering to an ethical code of conduct and rule of law.
  3. Time Management- This is important for all papers  but more so for ethics. One should try to balance the case studies with other sections. I found that my writing speed slowed down when I began from case studies in the mock test. So, in the mocks, one can experiment which section to start with.

Mains answer-writing?

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

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 14-15 2-3 2 19
GS2 Same as above     20 (all)
GS3 Same as above     20 (all)
GS4 Same as above     14 (all)
Opt-P1 Most of the answers except a couple of 10 markers at the end due to paucity of time     All
Opt-P2 Most of the answers except a couple of 10 markers at the end due to paucity of time     All

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

I did not ‘make up’ any answer as I did not want to annoy the examiner. First, I attempted those questions for which I had good content prepared. I was able to write good answers with a lot of content quickly. Then I moved on to questions for which I had to think a bit to form an answer. I think one should include only those things which are relevant to the question. One should try to complete the paper but if you have no idea about a particular question, spending time trying to write something is a waste.

Mention some facts or statistics wherever possible to support the answer. The conclusion should be positive and always focus on writing in such a manner so as to make it easier for the examiner to read.


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

It was not a problem except in Paper 2 of optional where we had less writing space compared to Paper 1 for the big markers.


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.

For general studies, it was a mix of points and paragraphs. In most answers, the points that I wrote were like small paragraphs. I tried to write complete sentences and did not write phrases containing just 3-4 words.


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 tried to stick to this format wherever possible.

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

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers? No
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) No
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?
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue

Mains Optional Subject: Political Science

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

My optional was Political Science and International Relations. This was different from my graduation subject Economics.

I have always had an interest in the subject as I have been reading newspapers since junior classes. Also, I had decided that I did not want to join classroom coaching for optional but I still wanted access to help if required. Taking this subject made sense as my mother is a Political Science teacher.

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

I would advise a new player to go for Political Science as it is a very interesting subject. There is ample guidance in the form of coaching and test series if required. The study material is easily available as well. Finally, there is significant overlap with general studies. However, the most important factor to keep in mind while choosing any optional is interest.


Q. First the essential book/resource list. (Also mention which one is the “Base book” for covering the theory? + Whatever comments you’ve for a particular book e.g. “my seniors said read xyz book but I found that ABC book was better”.  “xyz topic not given properly in this book, so prepare from xyz website or book…” OR and so on.)

Paper 1

1) O.P. Gauba- An introduction to political theory

2) Brian Nelson – Western Political Thoughts

3) Shubhra Ranjan Ma’am’s notes

4) Make a comprehensive list of important Supreme Court judgements in a chronological manner along with short notes on their significance.

5) For part two of the paper, current affairs are of utmost importance. Thorough & comprehensive reading of newspapers (The Hindu & Indian Express) is required.

For Indian Political Thought the book ‘Foundations of Indian Political Thought’ by V.R. Mehta is also recommended. However, I did not find it easy to read. So, I stuck to the notes.

Paper 2 –

1) Andrew Heywood – Global Politics (an excellent book)

2) IGNOU notes – help to provide a good base

3) Shubhra Ranjan Ma’am’s notes

4) Current affairs are of utmost importance. Thorough & comprehensive reading of newspapers (The Hindu & Indian Express) is required.

5) If time permits, one can read David Malone’s ‘Does the Elephant Dance?’+ Rajiv Sikri’s ‘ Challenge & Strategy Rethinking India’s foreign policy’ ( I personally could not find time)

Political Science NCERTs also provide a good base and are engaging (especially Class XII NCERTs).

Test series- Vajiram (Shubhra Ranjan ma’am) + Past year papers


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?

Current affairs are of great importance. Thorough & comprehensive reading of newspapers (The Hindu & Indian Express) is required. One should make it a point to read columnists like C Raja Mohan, Rakesh Sood, Suhasini Haidar, MK Narayanan, Happymon Jacob, Harsh Pant, Suhrith Parthasarthy, Christophe Jaffrelot, Pratap Bhanu Mehta etc.


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

3-4 months approximately

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

I joined test series after declaration of prelims result.

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

I wrote a one page summary for each topic in my own words on paper.


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 felt that the questions were more or less along expected lines. I think one should focus a lot on writing practice, especially for Paper 2.

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 created a word document which I then uploaded on google drive. I kept making additions on drive itself and kept revising every possible moment.

I made comprehensive notes on all aspects of the DAF, and tried to cover every possible word. I read Hindu and Indian Express comprehensively. I made it a point to read opinion pieces online as well (besides the ones in the newspapers) especially on hotly debated topics.


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 one mock each at Samkalp, Chanakya and Vajiram. I think the official interview is always going to be different from the mocks. But I found the one at Samkalp to be a good experience.

I think one should attend 2-3 mocks to get the practice and work on any shortcomings. But one should not overdo mock interviews. Do not get disheartened by unfavorable comments and be original.

Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?

At home in Delhi. Just the document on google drive and newspapers.

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

Orange-brown sari

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Dr. Manoj Soni sir

Q2. How long was the interview?

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.

I was asked by Chairman sir why I wanted to join the service when I’m only 22. I have given the answer in the transcript in the next question.

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.

( 3rd to go)

(Wished all members & took permission to sit)

Chairman- So Pratishtha Mamgain?

Me- Yes Sir

Ch-Born and brought up in Delhi?

Me- Yes sir

Ch- You studied in one of the most prestigious institution in India…

Me- Yes sir, St Stephens’s College

Ch- So why did you pursue economics honours?

Me- Sir, initially my plan was to pursue engineering. But then I realised I had greater interest in maths and economics. So I decided to pursue economics.

Ch- So college was the first time you studied economics?

Me- No sir, I studied economics in class 11th and 12th.

Ch- But you had science?

Me- Yes sir, I had science. But my combination was physics, chemistry, maths and economics.

Ch- Oh I didn’t see that. Tell me, you are young, only 22. Why did you decide to go for the exam, why not something else?

Me- Sir, I want to join the service when I’m young. This is something which I have always wanted to do.

Ch- When did you decide?

Me- Sir, I decided when I was in Class 9.

Ch- What motivated you? And social service etc is given, we accept that. But besides that what motivated you?

Me- Sir, my parents motivated me. It was my mother’s dream to become an IAS officer. She always wanted me to write the exam. So I had known that this was an avenue I could explore. Then, as I read newspapers that often covered the work done by IAS officers, I realised that they are agents of social change.

Ch- So your interest is writing analytical opinion based articles. Can you tell me if there is any relationship between energy and conflict?

Me- Yes sir, there is a relationship particularly if we see the Middle East. For example, Iraq was invaded by the US. Similarly, Venezuela is also witnessing instability.

Ch- But this is regional. Is there a universal relationship? Say across the world?

Me- Sir, I’m not sure of a universal relationship as certain energy rich countries like Canada are prosperous.

Ch- Maybe I can write on that.


Member 1- You come from Army background. Where is the Army involved in India?

M1- What is the unit called in these areas?

M1- What is difference between CAPF and Paramilitary force?

M1- Give examples of Paramilitary force.

M1- As your optional is political science, what is BRICS?

M1- There is also the New Development Bank. Which country has taken the lead ?


Member 2- As your interest is writing analytical, opinion based articles, what is your opinion on the recent agitations for reservations?

Me- Sir, the communities that are demanding reservations are traditionally landowning communities like Jats, Patels and Marathas. There are mainly two reasons for this demand- first, farming is not remunerative and second, the youth want white collar jobs. So, for them reservation seems to be the solution.

M2- Can you suggest some solutions?

M2- What is the government doing?

M2- Anything else?

M2- Will alleviating agrarian stress be enough?

Me- No sir, because a lot of youth may not wish to go back to farming, they have high aspirations and may want to pursue white collar jobs.

M2- What is ASEAN?

M2- How is India building ties with ASEAN?


Member 3 – Who was Saint Stephen?

M3- Where was he martyred?

M3- What is grey tourism?

M3- Another technical term which I can’t recall.

M3- What did you do during internship?

M3-It is said that culture changes and is passed on. How?

Me- Ma’am, culture changes with time and with influence of other cultures. It is passed on from one generation to the next.

M3-Is it just family/grandparents?

Me- No ma’am, I think society as a whole is responsible of which family is an important part. If only parents or grandparents were responsible, then a common culture would not emerge.

M3-What is the role of women in passing on culture?

Me- Ma’am women have an important role. Most children are very close to their mothers. Also, society is such that women are seen as the primary care givers with sole responsibility of bringing up children, which should not be the case.

M3- Is it difficult for working women to pass on culture?

Me- Ma’am, if a woman has family support it is easier to balance work and home. Otherwise, it becomes very difficult for a woman. Despite this, women still manage to multi task. This should not be the case and should change.

M3- Why should we change? Everything is working fine as it is.

Me- Ma’am I feel that mother and father are partners and need to share the burden fifty-fifty. It is in the best interest of the child.

M3- How is tourism important for India?

M3- You are the Secretary, Ministry of Tourism. What are 3 things that you would do to improve tourism?

Me- Ma’am, I would focus on training and certification of tour guides and organisers as lot of tourists get duped. Then I would like to focus on cleanliness of tourist sites and provisions of amenities like toilets. This is what the government been doing and I too would work on it.

M3- But this is at the level of the local govt.

Me- Yes ma’am, but I could coordinate with Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

M3- Ok, excellent.


M4- What is the constitution? Why is it important?

M4- Role of CAG?

More questions followed related to polity which I cannot recall.

Chairman- Can you give one solution each for corruption, health sector and poverty. It is difficult but take a couple of minutes to think.

Me- Sir, for corruption we need to strengthen whistle-blower protection so that if there is any wrongdoing in a department, it can be brought to light.

For healthcare, government expenditure has to increase. So, public investment with focus on primary health.

For poverty, we can try Universal Basic Income which was suggested in last year’s Economic Survey so that a certain subsistence level of income is assured.

Ch- Where do you see yourself in next 20 years?

Me- Sir, hopefully as an IAS officer.

(At this point all members laughed)

Ch- So the interview is over. It was nice meeting you and all the best.


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?

I think it was a mix of both. I was calm and composed throughout the interview, even for unexpected questions. The board was cordial and pleasant. It was overall an enjoyable experience.

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

Read the instructions given by UPSC very well.

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

Again, read the instructions well and bring enough passport photos, prescription for spectacles etc.

CSE-2016 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Subjects (Max. Marks) Marks secured Cutoff ranges

(PH to Gen.)

Prelims P1-GS (200m) 118.66 Cutoff: 40-105.34
Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m) 94.18 Passing Marks: 67
Mains Subjects Marks secured  
Essay (250m) 147.00 Passing Marks: 25
GSM1 (250m) 102.00 Passing Marks: 25
GSM2 (250m) 113.00 Passing Marks: 25
GSM3 (250m) 122.00 Passing Marks: 25
GSM4 (250m) 109.00 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-1 (250m) 167.00 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-2 (250m) 110.00 Passing Marks: 25
Written Total (1750m) 870.00 Cutoff: 578-809
Interview (275m) 198.00 N/A
Final (2025m) 1068.00 Cutoff: 830-1006

Career Backup

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

My backup was going for MBA. I was also enrolled in Delhi School of Economics.

Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? I had promised to limit myself to one attempt or a maximum of two attempts.

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?

The selected candidates have a variety of profiles. In my opinion, UPSC tries its best to provide a level playing field. The board tries to make the candidate comfortable and is positive and cordial. Have faith in yourself and your abilities. You are more than some label or profile.

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?

I think it boils down to how dedicated one is towards the goal. If you are dedicated and honest with yourself, consistency will be automatic.

Having a fixed routine, setting reasonable targets and completing them helps to keep the momentum going. Take breaks but these breaks should not go on for hours. Of course, there are days when one doesn’t feel like studying. On such days, I used to study for fewer hours. But in my opinion, one should avoid taking a day off completely as getting back the ‘study mode’ the next day becomes difficult.

Avoid using social media like Facebook and Instagram. Also, I would suggest that the lesser number of people know that you are preparing for civil services, lesser the pressure or judgement.

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 learnt a lot about myself – my capacity to handle stressful and tough situations. The entire process is a test of patience and perseverance. Most importantly, I have learnt the importance of being positive and optimistic (it is a work in progress). No matter what we do, we should learn to be happy.

To new aspirants my message would be to find what works best for you, instead of blindly following others. Do your own research and make your own path.

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?

Remind yourself ‘this too shall pass’. No phase in life is permanent. This is undoubtedly a tough phase but when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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?

My parents, sister and best friend were my support system. My family has always supported me in whatever I do. If I felt a little down, my mother, sister and friend would do their best to cheer me up and keep me motivated, telling me time and again that I will get through.

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 used Mrunal.org for my preparation. When I began my research on preparing for the exam back in college, I was fortunate to find the website. The book lists and toppers’ interviews gave me a good idea on how to go about my preparation. I used mrunal.org for a lot of topics that were not covered in books. In fact while googling terms or issues I would type ‘….xyz…mrunal’ to clear my doubts from a reliable source. This is a great initiative and I’m grateful to Mrunal Sir for his efforts!