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-2018 Marksheet
  22. Career Backup
  23. Insecurity about profile
  24. Struggle of Working professional
  25. Grand wisdom
  26. Credit: Friends/family
  27. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Siddhartha Nahar download UPSC topper IAS notes

Q. Details
Name Siddhartha Nahar
Rank in CSE-2018 182
Roll No. 2201280
Age 28
Marital Status Married
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 3
Optional Subject Philosophy
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Jodhpur
Work-experience if any 6
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Not Appeared
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) 2 Month Coaching in Vajiram then Left
Service preferences (Top-5) IFS>IAS>IPS>IRS(IT)>IRS(CE)>IAAS
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 90.6
% in class 12 80.8
Graduation course and % 6.71 CGPA
Name of college, city, passing out year Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University



Post-graduation N/A
Any other professional courses Summer School from London School of Economics

In Econometrics

Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements
  1. Winner of Paper Presentation at Petrotech Energy Conclave
  2. Scholarship for Internship at University of Oklahoma, Texas
  3. Winner of SPE Logo Designing Competition for SPE Student Chapter


  1. Studying Digital Economy
  2. Philosophy of Minimalism
  3. Keeping My Surrounding Structured and Organized


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

I believe in doing unconventional things in life which pushed me to complete my undergraduate degree in Petroleum Engineering. After Graduation, I worked with GSPL as Procurement Officer for 2 years (2012-2014). While working I got inspired by the working style of Sh. Tapan Ray Sir (IAS) who at that time was MD of GSPC Group.  His vision of establishing online procurement in the company took shape very quickly. This made me realize the impact and changes an IAS officer can bring in a short amount of time. This incident inspired me to start preparing for this exam. While preparing for the Exam (2014-2018) I owned a small Online Education Business to finance myself during the preparation phase. In this, I sold software tutorials to my audience in the USA and Australia.

My Family belongs to Jodhpur (Rajasthan). My father is an Engineer and works as a Construction Consultant while my mother is a Homemaker.  My Wife, Divya is a Chartered Accountant (CA) and owns a consultancy Firm.

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)

It is true that the internet is full of materials including blogs and pdf. What is creating more problem is n-number of YouTube channels from the house of every aspirant living in Rajinder Nagar. This flood of Information leaves a candidate confused with what to do and what not to do. It is like “Water, Water everywhere but not a drop to drink”. This information is increasing manifolds even as I type this. The only way to avoid it is to go offline.

Like I mentioned in my Hobby that I follow ‘Minimalism’ which means ‘Use Only those things you actually require and throw away useless things’. I applied this concept in my preparation in the following way:

  1. Decided what all books and sources I want to study (Mentioned Below)
  2. Took a print out of all these sources or bought Physical Books. Click Here to access scanned copy of all my notes.
  3. Never changed any of the sources and kept on revising them till my final stage of Exam.
  4. ONLY went online to do the following:
  • Watch LSTV or RSTV
  • Conceptual Clarity on YouTube
  • Meaning/Data/Definition/Map

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. 0 Hours
Daily hrs spent on WhatsApp and telegram study groups Did not use any Social Media
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 1-2 Hours
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile I-Pad

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

The above-mentioned time is not a fixed schedule. We are humans and not Robots. I used to Watch Netflix Web Series on weekends or whenever I wanted to change my mood.

Regarding Social Media, I completely deleted all my social Media Accounts except LinkedIn because I required it or work. I always used a basic Nokia 1100 Phone while preparing to minimize the distraction.

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.)

I never made notes in my entire preparation. The market is flooded with books/material/notes so I bought/downloaded the best in each category and kept on revising the same. I did use sticky notes in printed material and in front of my study table to remind myself key facts.  I made some flow charts in my optional preparation but that was a bare minimum.

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient NCERT (6-12) / Tamil Nadu Board Book + Update from test Series
History Medieval NCERT (6-12) / Tamil Nadu Board Book + Update from test Series
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) NCERT (6-12) / Tamil Nadu Board Book + Spectrum
Culture and society GS Score Compilation + Fine Arts NCERT + Current Affairs (Insights Monthly Booklet)
Polity (theory + current) M. Laxmikanth + Current Affairs (Insights Monthly Booklet)
Economy (theory + current) Mrunal Sir’s BES 17/18 Series + Current Affairs (Insights Monthly Booklet)
Science (theory + current) Current Affairs (Insights)
Environment (theory + current) Shankar IAS Booklet + Current Affairs (Insights Monthly Booklet)
geography physical Rajtanil Mam Video Lectures + 6-12 NCERT + Map Work
geography India Rajtanil Mam Video Lectures + 6-12 NCERT + Map Work
geography world Rajtanil Mam Video Lectures + 6-12 NCERT + Map Work
other national/international current affairs Current Affairs (Insights Monthly Booklet)
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff IAS Parliament Compilation on Schemes, International Organization

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 the biggest mistake we commit is that we compare papers of UPSC CSE from last year or any year for that matter. When we have this approach, we often get biased for one coaching center notes or study material. We have to see this exam every year from a fresh perspective. So only do the standard textbooks for static (Which are time tested like NCERT, Laxmikanth and Spectrum). Apart from that do current affairs from 1 or 2 sources maximum (Either the Hindu or Coaching Compilations).

If I were to appear in 2019, I wouldn’t change my strategy at all and continue with the same set of sources

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Did not study separately
Reasoning Did not study separately
Comprehension Did not study separately
Decision Making Did not study separately

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 am not aware of the fact that people are facing such a problem. If you prepare well for this paper then I don’t think such a problem would arise. We put so much effort in Paper 1, why do we shy away from that when it comes to Paper 2

Prelim accuracy

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

I attended mock test series of 4 institutes. Vision IAS, Insights, IAS Baba and Vajiram. I think the best source of preparation in last 3 months is test series. Our course material teaches us what is right while test series tell us what is wrong. This dual Right/Wrong approach helps you immensely in making an educated guess or calculated risk in Prelims paper. Plus scoring a certain amount of marks in test series makes you feel confident about your preparation and if you score less constantly 3-4 times in a row, it’s an indication that something is wrong.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2018

Attempted Q. Correct (Expected) Official Score
Paper-1 (General Studies) 87 60 102
Paper-2 (Aptitude) Don’t Remember Don’t Remember 120.83

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Solved Previous 4-year Papers
your regional language Solved Previous 4-year Papers

Q. Other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2018

Language paper is not very difficult if you know the basics. Just solve 2-3 papers during your mains preparation to know what kind of questions are being framed. I literally finished the papers 1 hour before the scheduled time.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Essay paper is more about structuring your thoughts and giving it flow rather than your knowledge. The reader should sail through your essay so easily that he does not even realize when he has finished reading 10-15 pages.

I prepared for this by writing sample essays and getting them reviewed by my friends. Then I reviewed them myself and compared them with essay of toppers whose essays from test series are available online. Here are a few take away:

  1. Never mention points in essays. Always write in paragraphs
  2. Make a diagram only if necessary.
  3. Spend half an hour in each essay just for accumulating points and structuring it. Once that is done, essay writing will not take much time.
  4. Read the topic of essay again and again and think what exactly does that mean. It has often happened with my friends that they completely missed the crux of the topic and wrote every other non-sense thing.
  5. Always give various angles to your essay like social, political, economic, environmental, international.
  6. Substantiate with examples wherever required. Take examples from your own life to make it look natural and authentic
  7. Learn 10-15 general quotes about women, economy etc. to add in essay.
  8. Always end the essay with a positive note or constructive criticism
  9. NEVER change the essay topic once you start writing. If you cut what you wrote and begin writing another essay it gives a bad impression

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

  1. Alternative technologies for a climate change resilient India
  2. A people that values its privileges above its principles loses both

I do not remember the exact set of points I wrote but the topics were fairly simple and straight forward

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture GS Score Compilation + Vision Monthly (Please note that I used Insights monthly CA for prelims)

Don’t go too deep into these topics. Know the basics. There is no end to Art and Culture

Indian history NCERT + Spectrum
world history Vision IAS Compilation (Part 1 and 2)
post-independence India Vision IAS Compilation + NCERT
Indian society General Understanding + Facts/Scheme from CA
role of women, poverty etc. General Understanding + Facts/Scheme from CA
globalization on Indian society General Understanding + Facts/Scheme from CA
communalism, regionalism, secularism Covered in Philosophy Optional
world geo physical Rajtanil Mam Video Lectures + 6-12 NCERT
resource distribution Rajtanil Mam Video Lectures + 6-12 NCERT
factors for industrial location www.mrunal.org + Common Sense
earthquake tsunami etc Rajtanil Mam Video Lectures + 6-12 NCERT
impact on flora-fauna General Understanding

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
comparing Constitution with world Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
executive-judiciary Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
ministries departments Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
pressure group, informal asso. Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
Representation of people’s act Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
NGO, SHG etc Laxmikanth + Vision IAS Monthly CA
welfare schemes, bodies Vision Monthly CA + IAS Parliament Compilation
social sector, health, edu, HRD Vision IAS Monthly CA
governance, transparency, accountability Vajiram Class Notes Borrowed from Friend
e-governance Vajiram Class Notes Borrowed from Friend
role of civil service Vajiram Class Notes Borrowed from Friend
India & neighbors Vision IAS Monthly CA
bilateral/global grouping Vision IAS Monthly CA
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Vision IAS Monthly CA
Diaspora Vision IAS Monthly CA
international bodies- structure mandate IAS Parliament Compilation

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal Sir’s BES 17/18 Series + Current Affairs (Vision Monthly Booklet)
inclusive growth Mrunal Sir’s BES 17/18 Series + Current Affairs (Vision Monthly Booklet)
Budgeting Mrunal Sir’s BES 17/18 Series + Current Affairs (Vision Monthly Booklet)
major crops, irrigation http://www.civilsdaily.com
agro produce – storage, marketing www.civilsdaily.com
e-technology for famers www.civilsdaily.com
farm subsidies, MSP www.civilsdaily.com + Mrunal.org
PDS, buffer, food security www.civilsdaily.com + Mrunal.org
technology mission http://www.civilsdaily.com
animal rearing economics NPTEL Lecture (Available free on YouTube)
food processing http://www.Mrunal.org
land reforms http://www.Mrunal.org
Liberalization Did Not Study Separately
Infra Mrunal Sir’s BES 17/18 Series + Current Affairs (Vision Monthly Booklet)
investment models Mrunal Sir’s BES 17/18 Series + Current Affairs (Vision Monthly Booklet)
science-tech day to day life Current Affairs (Vision Monthly Booklet)
Indian achievements in sci-tech Current Affairs (Vision Monthly Booklet)
awareness in IT, space, biotech, Mano, IPR Current Affairs (Vision Monthly Booklet)
environmental impact assessment Shankar IAS (There is a chapter on EIA)
Disaster Management Vision IAS Compilation + Current Affairs
non state actors, internal security Vision IAS Compilation + Current Affairs
internal security – role of media, social networking site Vision IAS Compilation + Current Affairs
cyber security Vision IAS Compilation + Current Affairs
money laundering Vision IAS Compilation + Current Affairs
border  Management Vision IAS Compilation + Current Affairs
organized crime, terrorism Vision IAS Compilation + Current Affairs
security agencies- structure mandate Vision IAS Compilation + Current Affairs

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
attitude, moral influence etc. Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
moral thinkers of India and world None
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
corporate governance Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
probity in governance, work culture Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
challenges of corruption Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)
case studies on above topics Mudit Jain Sir Notes available on his Blog (74 Pages)

All my notes have been uploaded on my website www.fightcivils.com. You can also click here to access the scanned copy of these notes.

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

Ethics is a highly subjective paper what your life has taught for 22-25 years will be the best input you can add to your ethics answers. Most of the examples I quoted were from my life including personal and professional.

  1. Cover basic definition from Mudit Sir’s Notes
  2. Recall as many real-life examples as you can add note them down. Use them in your answers
  3. Think about small incidents you see in your life from Ethics point of view. You can do this simple exercise while you are in metro or watching TV. Keep your ears and eyes open

Mains answer-writing?

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

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 13 4 3 20
GS2 14 5 1 20
GS3 13 5 2 20
GS4 15 4 1 20
Opt-P1 11 3 All (As per Options Available)
Opt-P2 12 2 All (As per Options Available)

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

  1. Attempt all the question. If you are leaving a question that means you are asking the examiner to give you marks from 235 instead of 250 (Assuming you missed a 15-marker question)
  2. Attempting all question is possible because after studying so much it’s not possible that ‘You Know Nothing’ about a question. You are not Jon Snow
  3. Do not make up an answer by adding stupid points but any relevant point you can think of will be an added advantage.
  4. Always make diagram or flowchart. Even if you make 1 diagram in 10 questions, you can hope an additional ½ mark for each. That gives extra 5 marks per paper and 30 marks overall. These 30 marks can change your fate forever.

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

Fixed space is the great initiative.

  1. You don’t have to waste 10 seconds per question to decide how much you have to write
  2. If you are well prepared for an answer, fixed space controls your emotions and helps you focus on writing what is truly important and cut the extra things which you write to show off your knowledge
  3. It forces you to write to the point which is what UPSC wants. Rather than thinking about it some idiot aspirants keep criticizing it

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.

  1. Almost 90% of my answers (except essay) were in points because writing in points saves a lot of time you waste writing syllables and fillers like A, An, The etc.
  2. It gives your answer a very structured approach
  3. It saves space which you can use to make diagrams and flowcharts

When it comes to questions where Comment, Discuss, Examine or anything else is, we have to think what the answer demands. Then write it in points/paragraphs. The demand of question and writing style have no connection. You can comment/discuss in paragraph as well as points.

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.

So, my typical answer was always in this format

  1. One or two-line introduction
  2. Part 1 of the question (2-4 Points)
  3. Part 2 of the question (2-4 Points)
  4. One or Two-Line Conclusion or Constructive Criticism

I used this format in ALL my answers. Even if I did not know a conclusion, I simple wrote one line in the end ‘This will help us achieve SDG No. 1-17 (Whatever the question demands)

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

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketch pens in your answers? Only underline from same pen I used for answer writing
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Almost in 80% of answer
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Same pen I used for answer writing
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? Hand
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue Pen (V5)

Mains Optional Subject

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

Philosophy. I chose it because:

  1. My graduation subject (Petroleum Engineering) Not in Syllabus
  2. Personal Interest in Subject
  3. Philosophy Syllabus is Highly logical (Like Mathematics)
  4. No current affairs in philosophy

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

All subjects are good. Don’t go for ay speculation in market. If you can study it, go for it.

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 purchased coaching notes of Mitra and Patanjali and compiled them. I did not do any books available in market. Only notes of these institutes

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?

My optional does not have current affairs so I will not be the right person to comment on it

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

3 Months

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

Right after prelims result came (I think 14th/15th July)

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

I did not make any notes. Only some mind maps

Q. Your observation about the difficulty level of 2018 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

I am sorry but like I mentioned I do not compare papers with previous year. This is a futile exercise. What is easy for me might be difficult for someone else and vice versa. This is a very subjective thing.

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. Under-Graduation: Internet and Old Notes/PPT from College
  2. Hobbies: My hobbies were my genuine hobbies and I did not create them for writing in DAF. So I did not require any preparation
  3. Place of Origin: Internet and Stories by my Grandfather
  4. Current Affairs: Vision IAS Monthly Compilation

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?

I attended 4 mocks. Here I want to tell a bitter truth which my seniors had told me and I did not listen. I will tell you the same but even you will not listen because no one wants to take risk at the interview stage. Mocks are nowhere near the real interview experience. Most mocks will tell you s much about your weakness that you will become artificial while trying to improve upon them in such a short time. The name of this stage is ‘Personality Test’ and personality is what you acquire in 22-25 years. How can you expect to change that in 2 months?

  1. Be Yourself
  2. Wear decent clothes
  3. Don’t wear any ornaments like watch, bangles etc.
  4. Smile but not always
  5. Think for 3-4 before answering
  6. If you don’t know an answer, accept it in front of them. I did not answer 5 questions in a row and still got 190 marks

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 stayed with my In-Laws Family since my Wife is from Delhi. I did not carry any book/material to interview for revision.

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

Light Grey suit and White Shirt

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Smt. M Sathiyavathy Mam

Q2. How long was the interview?

30-35 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?]

Although they did not ask me this but they asked me Why have I kept IFS as my first preference. I gave this answer, “Sir 10 years from now, the world will be hyper connected and India will need diplomats more than ever to secure its interest. New forms of energy and nanotechnology will rule the world and India will need manpower who can negotiate deals to get that in India”

Then they asked me what qualities do you have for being an IFS Officer. I replied, “Sir the nature of my work has allowed me to interact with clients from various cultures and time zones. I feel really comfortable interacting with them. Also, I have finished my basic level Spanish training from Gujarat Vidyapeeth. Considering all these facts, I find myself qualified to do this job”

Later on, I realized I shouldn’t have used the last line. But in the interview room, keeping things in control is difficult.

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]


Interview Questions with Chairman after she told rest of the esteemed panel members about my profile.

  1. Why did you choose Petroleum Engineering?
  2. Siddhartha, your hobby is practicing Minimalism. What exactly is it?
  3. Do you think younger people will follow this idea especially with increasing consumerism?
  4. So old people like me won’t be able to do it? (She asked this because in my previous answer I had replied that, Minimalism is more popular in age group 18-40)
  5. You are a Digital Asset Consultant. What exactly do you do?
  6. For how much do you sell your course?
  7. Is there any RBI limit for earning in FOREX? (I should have known this but I did not have any idea. Out of nowhere, my wife came to my rescue. She is a CA and handles the account. So, I said, “I don’t know about this. My wife takes care of financial matters”)
  8. What do you think is the future of Online Education?
  9. You are earning well and already settled. Why this sudden plan to enter civil services?


  1. What is Brexit?
  2. What do you think will be its impact on India?
  3. What is the difference between Europe, EU and Schengen?
  4. Any country which is in Schengen and not EU?
  5. What is the difference between League of Nations, UN? Do you think LON was successful?
  6. What is Red Cross? (I was stupid enough to pass this question, saying I don’t know)


Now since my Interview was on 26th Feb (Morning 10:30 AM) from here my interview turned towards India-Pakistan relations. Why? Because the same day, India had attacked in Balakot. But I was not aware of this since my phone was switched off since the morning. I guess it was a blessing in disguise

  1. What do you think about increasing tension between India and Pakistan?
  2. If you were the ambassador of India to Pakistan, how would you resolve this matter?
  3. Is military action a solution? (Here I mentioned that military action is not a permanent solution and only way to decrease the trust deficit between the 2 countries is bilateral trade and peace talks. I tried to stick to this point all throughout the interview. That’s when they started to pressurize me to accept military action as the only solution)
  4. But Pakistan is not ready to talk. How will you do this?
  5. Even International pressure is not working on Pakistan?

At this point I realized there would no end to this discussion and its in my best interest to say that, “Sir as per the best of my knowledge war is only temporary and diplomacy is a long-term solution. We should not give up on diplomacy even If Pakistan is not ready to talk. We should always be hopeful. May be 10 years from now, we will have a great solution through diplomacy.”

This eased the tension a little bit and we moved on


  1. So, you’re your preference is IFS. Why so?
  2. What qualities do you think you have to become a good IFS officer?
  3. Do you follow international relations?
  4. What is Proxy War?
  5. Is there any proxy war going on? (I was foolish enough to talk about China’s debt trap diplomacy.  I mean why on earth would I say that?)
  6. What is chemical weapon? Any conventions for it?
  7. How will you apply your practice of minimalism in Governance?


  1. What is the meaning of Centre State Relations?
  2. Do you think Centre is strong or State?
  3. Why do you think states are becoming stronger these days? Please don’t state political reason
  4. How are revenues divided between centre and state?
  5. What were 14th FC recommendations?

Your Interview is now over

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

It was mostly on expected lines since my nature of work, Engineering and hobbies were very unique. It was not at all a stress interview except at one point or two where they pressurized about India-Pak relations. Rest of the interview went very smoothly

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

Nothing as such. UPSC gives very clear instructions in advance

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

Nothing in particular since my medical went smoothly. But one of my friends had got Lasik done and he did not have proper documents. So please carry all your relevant medical reposts.

CSE-2018 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Subjects (Max. Marks) Marks secured Cutoff ranges

(PH to Gen.)

Prelims P1-GS (200m) 102 Cutoff: 40-98
Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m) 120.83 Passing Marks: 67
Mains Subjects Marks secured
Essay (250m) 129 Passing Marks: 25
GSM1 (250m) 98 Passing Marks: 25
GSM2 (250m) 113 Passing Marks: 25
GSM3 (250m) 104 Passing Marks: 25
GSM4 (250m) 93 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-1 (250m) 136 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-2 (250m) 140 Passing Marks: 25
Written Total (1750m) 813 Cutoff: 520-774
Interview (275m) 190 N/A
Final (2025m) 1003 Cutoff: 754-982

Career Backup

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

I had 3 more attempts left so I would have exhausted all of the them. Still If I would not have made it then I would have continued with my Online Education Business

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.)

Already mentioned in Above Answer

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 did not suffer from any of them but I would like to tell the candidates that if you have such thing in mind please remove it. I don’t think there is any bias against any of the things mentioned above. Every year all kinds of students get selected. Stay confident and have faith. If you have made it to the Interview stage, you can get selected also.

Struggle of Working professional

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

I did not have much struggle because I loved my work and I loved studying. So, I was able to manage both of them. It’s not that there were no problems but If you love what you do, then all the problems can be overcome. Still I would like to share some tips:

  1. Define your working hours and study hours strictly.
  2. Don’t study while you work and don’t work while you study
  3. Don’t have this thought in your mind that clearing CSE is more important. Your work is important too. I have seen people with this attitude, “Ek Baar UPSC clear hone do, apna resignation company ke muh pe maar ke aaungaPlease don’t have this attitude. Whatever you are doing, whether your business or Job, it is feeding you and taking care of your expenses. It is also helping you prepare for your bigger dream. So, respect that and finish it with grace once you clear CSE.

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?

Having mood swings and distraction was a regular phenomenon for me. It was difficult to handle it alone, so I shifted from Gurgaon (My work place) to Jodhpur (My Home Town) so that I can be with family. This really helped me a lot. Other things I did were:

  1. Reminding myself everyday Why was I doing it
  2. Learning that mood swings are only temporary but my achievements will bring long term results
  3. The weirdest thing I did was Watching Dark Thriller and Crime Thrillers on Netflix. When I finished watching them, I realized my life is so easy and simple. All I have to do is sit and study. That seemed like an easier task. I hope you get the idea.
  4. Planning short 2-3 days’ vacation with my Wife every 3rd month. Trust me, small vacations help you a lot
  5. Pursuit of Happiness is my favourite movie. I always thought, If Chris Gardner can make it happen despite all odds, I can also do it.

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

  1. If you want something. Go, Get It. PERIOD

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2018. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

  1. If you really want to achieve your target, you don’t need any message from me. I would repeat the same thing here, “If you want something. Go, Get It. PERIOD”

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?

I had given my first 2 attempts in 2015-2016 but without any serious preparation. After my marriage my wife convinced me to give the exam again and she stood by me during those 2 years of preparation and exam.  There was no need to get back to UPSC but she made me realize that I had left something without completing it and I need to go back and do it. That kept me motivated.

My Father, Mother and Brother had a much greater role. I had not told about my preparation to anyone except these 4 people in my life. So, they played a great role in keeping my preparation a secret from family and friends. It was not like I did not want to tell anyone but I did not want unnecessary social pressure on me. I was living a double life for 2 years and these 4 people were the ones who helped me through that tough time.

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.  

Mrunal Sir’s website played a major part in my preparation. I did all the below mentioned subjects/topics solely from Mrunal.org

  1. Economics BES 18
  2. Geography (Rajtanil Solanki Mam Lectures)
  3. Food Processing
  4. Land Reforms
  5. Toppers Interview During my Interview Preparation

Mrunal Sir is doing a fantastic job. It is because of his website that most of my economics concept got cleared. Hiss dedication, simple way of teaching and down to earth nature attracts not just people who are reading for CSE but others as well. I remember I was listening to his lecture one day and my wife came and sat near me. She listened to him for 2 hours without saying a word although she had nothing to do with UPSC preparation. And at the end she told me, “Mrunal Sir’s way of teaching is so intriguing that anyone would want to start UPSC preparation.”

Thank you So Much Sir.