1. Candidate Profile:GSS-Praveenchand
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Typical day in your Online life?
  6. Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude
  7. Prelim accuracy
  8. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  9. Mains: Essay
  10. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4:
  11. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  12. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  13. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  14. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  15. Mains answer-writing?
  16. Mains Optional Subject
  17. Before the interview
  18. During the interview
  19. CSE-2018 Marksheet
  20. Career Backup
  21. Insecurity about profile
  22. Struggle of a Senior player
  23. Struggle of Working professional
  24. Grand wisdom
  25. Credit: Friends/family
  26. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile: GSS Praveenchand

UPSC Topper Praveenchand Maths Optional

Q. Details
Name GSS Praveenchand
Rank in CSE-2018 64
Roll No. 335694
Age 26
Marital Status Unmarried
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 3
Optional Subject Mathematics
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Amalapuram, East Godavari, Andhra Pradesh
Work-experience if any 3 years, worked as a tech lead in a software company, Currently under probation in Indian Information Services(IIS) according to my last year UPSC tank – 512
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Cleated IIT JEE and got into IIT Patna, UPSC 2017 – 512 Rank
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Joined Sriram IAS for general studies , VisionIAS for mains test series and InsightsonIndia for prelims
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS > IPS > IFS > IRS(IT) > IRS (C&E)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. Andhra Pradesh > Maharashtra > Uttar Pradesh


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 90.88
% in class 12 95.8
Graduation course and % 92.3
Name of college, city, passing out year IIT Patna, 2013
Post-graduation NA
Any other professional courses NA
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements My hobbies include Writing, playing sports, reading books and listening to music.

I was Vice President of students gymkhana of IIT Patna.

I had published a research paper on Arrhythmia beat detection using neural networks in Elsevier journal.


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

I hail from Amalapuram, East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. I am an Electrical Engineering graduate from IIT Patna. Later I worked in the software industry for 3 years as a tech lead. My father name is Venkateswara Rao, He was a ration shop dealer. My mother name is Padmavathi, she was a homemaker. We are two siblings. My younger sister, Mounika is also an engineering graduate.

I wanted to become IAS mainly because of my mother. She had planted this idea in my mind. She used to tell that family doesn’t mean only parents and siblings, but also our society. She believed that the happiness of one lies in the happiness of society. This has shaped my personality very much.

Later as a student leader in college, I realized that public service is what gives me real satisfaction. So I have decided to leave my high paying job and attempt civil services. Unfortunately, both my parents are no more, as l lost my mother during early age and father before my IIT JEE exam. It is because of them I am here, so I want to dedicate my success to them. Election Commission of India has established control room for EVM complaints, this will work till counting

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 tried to stick to basic books for my preparation. I have read their physical copies and highlighted important points. I mostly relied on physical copies of the newspapers. I have referred to other websites only when needed. For example, if I needed more information about a scheme like POSHAN Abhiyan, I would directly go to the official government website and get my information. I had made most of my notes in EverNote and OneNote applications. Online note making had helped to update my notes with the latest happenings as on when needed. However, one setback I have faced with online note making is the strain it used to cause to my eyes some times.

One caution while reading electronic material is not to divert from the topic by researching on Google or opening social media etc.

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
Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups 0
Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. 2-3 hrs
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop

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

Don’t hunt for materials online. It is just a waste of time and energy. Stick to the basic and standard books along with a good newspaper. For reference, stick to a few standard websites like pib for updates on government schemes, Prsindia for legislations and insights on India for any reference. 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.)

  • My preparation style is simple
  • First I used to read textbooks and standard books, in the first reading I used to underline or highlight in the book itself. I used to make notes on my laptop in my 2nd and 3rd revision. I think it is better not to make notes in the first reading, as one might write everything or miss important points.
  • I also made notes from the Hindu, my notes were structured as per the general studies papers and they are topic wise. My notes can be assessed from the following links; initially, I made notes in Evernote. Later I made notes in OneNote software using iPad and Apple Pencil , which is as good as making notes with pen and paper.

Links to my online notes

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient OLD NCERT
History Medieval OLD NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) BIPIN CHANDRA – India’s struggle for Independence , Old NCERT
Culture and society Fine arts NCERT, CCRT website
Polity (theory + current) DD BASU, 11TH NCERT – Indian Constitution at Work
Economy (theory + current) NCERT – Indian Economic Development, SRIRAM BOOK
Science (theory + current) 6-9 NCERT, THE HINDU CURRENT AFFAIFS
geography physical 11TH CLASS NCERT –
geography India 11TH CLASS NCERT –
geography world 12TH CLASS NCERT
other national/international current affairs THE HINDU CURRENT AFFAIRS AND BIG PICTURE OF RAJYA SABHA TV
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff THE HINDU

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

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 do agree that prelims in 2017 and 2018 are on touched sides. But still, serious aspirants can get good marks with the right strategy. Approach to prelims surrounds around three elements

  • Being thorough with the static portion of the syllabus : Most of the times, prelims questions are just the application of the concepts from the basic materials like NCERTs. To gain mastery over these basic books repeated revision is the key.
  • Religiously following current affairs from any standard newspaper like the Hindu or Indian express. Preparing own notes from the newspaper helps in gaining clarity and remembering the concepts well. In my case, I have read the Hindu newspaper every day. I made my own notes from editorials and news items. I used to refer to Government websites to get more details about a new scheme, legislation’s, etc. this process has helped in being thorough with the latest happenings as well as gaining sufficient depth about various issues.
  • Previous year questions papers and mock tests: many times Upsc repeats questions or concepts from their previous year question papers directly or indirectly. Further, doing previous years questions helps us to understand the examination standard, so that one can mold the preparation accordingly

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths I had maths optional, so didn’t prepare separately
Reasoning -do-
Comprehension The Hindu newspaper helps in improving comprehension
Decision Making Solving previous year CSAT 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:

Since CSAT is a qualifying paper one need not worry about gaining high marks in it. However, adequate attention must be paid in order to go well prepared in aptitude, reasoning and comprehension questions. Though the paper recently is becoming difficult, yet it is still manageable with practice. Please practice previous year CSAT questions and some standard textbooks like RS AGGARWAL quantitative aptitude book.

Prelim accuracy

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

During my first attempt, I had subscribed to insightsonindia mock tests. Main purpose of these these is practice. Mock tests are also important because they give pool of questions. They have helped me in improving my conceptual clarity and accuracy in the final examination. I would highly recommend solving mock tests. One can download mock tests online from many websites like freeupscmaterials.org for free.

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

Attempted Q. Correct (Expected) Official Score
Paper-1 (General Studies) 95 69 120
Paper-2 (Aptitude) sorry, do not remember sorry, do not remember 135.83

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper The Hindu newspaper and 10th class English book for grammar
your regional language For me it is Telugu. I have read Telugu  Eenadu news paper for this. I also practiced last 3 year question paper to gain confidence.

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

Mains: Essay

Q. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Majority of the content for essay comes from general studies itself. So if one is thorough with general studies papers they will be able to write decent essay. Apart from knowledge, writing skills also matters in the essay. I lacked in good essay writing skills, so  I have scored only below average marks in my essay.

Essay preparation

  • Mrunal website has topic wise categorisation of the previous year essays. I picked those topics and made rough drafts for each category,
  • I used to maintain separate notes for my observations from newspapers, relevant quotes, good statements etc. some of them I have used to substantiate my arguments in the essay. For example, I have noted down PM statement in recent shangrila dialogue, which I have used in introduction of an essay.

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

I wrote the following essays

1. Management of Indian border dispute is a complex task

2. ‘The past’ is a permanent dimension of human consciousness and values

In both the essays, I have followed the introduction, body and conclusion format. Gave past, present and future dimensions to the essay. Most of the arguments were substantiated with examples, facts or logic.

Key points in the first essay are

Management of Indian border dispute is a complex task


Started with PMs statement from Shangri La dialogue, 2018: Emphasising on Asian century, contests must not turn into conflict; differences must not be allowed to become disputes. I have highlighted that border disputes have scope for bigger conflict, so it is a complex task due to various reasons.


  • Addressed various borders that India shares with all our neighbours
  • Geographical aspects: like difficult terrain, different ecosystems ( Siachen, river borders, etc )
  • Socio-economic difficulties: ethnicity, poor infrastructure, etc
  • Security and administrative issues: Lack of integrated command, delays in procurement,  issues with various border guarding forces like BSF, SSB, Assam Rifles, ITBP, etc
  • Relations with neighbourhood countries: Unresolved boundary disputes with China, Pakistan, complexities with initiatives like Belt and Road Initiative ( China-Pakistan Economic Corridor )
  • Gave solutions to the complex task; like Comprehensive and Integrated Border Management System ( CIBMS ), coordination between various border, proactive diplomacy, etc.


Ended on a positive note that: Gave the example of Wuhan summit, where India and China came forward to resolve certain issues. Ended by saying that the Asian century of cooperation will lead to prosperity for all.

Key points in the second essay

 ‘The past’ is a permanent dimension of human consciousness and values


Past always haunts us in various ways , in personal capacity or in institutional capacity. We commemorate various past events. Past shapes our thinking and behaviour, in turn shaping our values and consciousness.


  • From the age of Ice age to age of IT : The past is our permanent feature of human consciousness. Genetic material is transferred from one generation to another.
  • Explored various dimensions of the essay and explained through various examples how past is the permanent dimension of human consciousness and values
  • The social institution as such as caste system, gender , religion, family preserves the past and perpetuates traditions.
  • In international aspects , relations between various countries presently is defined by their past : India-Pak ( partition ), USA-Russia ( Cold War ) , etc
  • In political dimension : various political institutions are guided by the past ( like previous judgements of the supreme courts, conventions, past of the candidate is seen during elections ) ; many political systems are based on theories proposed in the past by various philosophers and scientists ( example of Socrates, Aristotle, Gandhiji, Marx etc were quoted )
  • Similarly , other explains from economics, science, ethics were also provided

Before concluding, I argued that keeping the past is important but embracing modern ideas , scientific temper are also equally important. We must learn from the past mistakes ( like Hitler’s holocaust , marginalisation of certain communities due to caste system ) and ensure that they are not repeated in the future.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4:

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Fine arts NCERT
Indian history Old ncert for ancient and medical, India’s struggle for independence by Bipin Chandra from modern India
world history Vision Ias world history booklet
post-independence India Post independence India NCERT
Indian society NCERT – Indian Society,
role of women, poverty etc. VisionIAS test series questions
globalization on Indian society VisionIAS test series questions
communalism, regionalism, secularism VisionIAS test series questions
world geo physical NCERT + Mrunal Geography lectures by Rajtanil Solanki Ma’am
resource distribution NCERT + Mrunal Geography lectures by Rajtanil Solanki Ma’am
factors for industrial location NCERT + Mrunal Geography lectures by Rajtanil Solanki Ma’am
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT + Mrunal Geography lectures by Rajtanil Solanki Ma’am
impact on flora-fauna NCERT + Mrunal Geography lectures by Rajtanil Solanki Ma’am

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. D.D. Basu introduction to the constitution of India
Comparing Constitution with world Didn’t prepare
Parliament, state Legislatures D.D. Basu introduction to the constitution of India
Executive-judiciary D.D. Basu introduction to the constitution of India
Ministries departments VisionIAS test series questions
Pressure group, informal asso. VisionIAS test series questions
Representation of people’s act RPA 1951 Act
Various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. D.D. Basu introduction to the constitution of India
NGO, SHG etc VisionIAS test series questions
Welfare schemes, bodies The Hindu and PIB
Social sector, health, edu, HRD The Hindu and PIB
Governance, transparency, accountability VisionIAS test series questions
e-governance VisionIAS test series questions
role of civil service VisionIAS test series questions
India & neighbors The Hindu and MEA Website
Bilateral/global grouping The Hindu and MEA Website
Effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest The Hindu and MEA Website
Diaspora The Hindu and MEA Website
International bodies- structure mandate Wikipedia pages of international bodies, The Hindu

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy
Inclusive growth NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy
Budgeting NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy, Economic Survey & Budget
Major crops, irrigation NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy, Economic Survey & Budget
Agro produce – storage, marketing NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy, Economic Survey & Budget
e-technology for famers
Farm subsidies, MSP NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy, Economic Survey & Budget
PDS, buffer, food security NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy, Economic Survey & Budget
Technology mission Ministry of agriculture website
Animal rearing economics Ministry of agriculture website
Food processing Mrunal articles on food processing
Land reforms Land reforms chapters from India Since Independence by Bipin Chandra
Liberalization NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy, Economic Survey & Budget
Infra NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy, Economic Survey & Budget
Investment models NCERT & SRIRAM IAS Indian Economy, Economic Survey & Budget
Science-tech day to day life The Hindu & curiosity – searching about latest terms and technologies that appears in the news paper ( only that are relevant to the syllabus )
Indian achievements in sci-tech The Hindu & curiosity – searching about latest terms and technologies that appears in the news paper ( only that are relevant to the syllabus )
Awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR The Hindu & curiosity – searching about latest terms and technologies that appears in the news paper ( only that are relevant to the syllabus ); Ministry of Science & Technology Website
Environmental impact assessment VisionIAS Test series questions
Disaster Management The Hindu + NCERT Indian physical environment book last chapter on disaster management,
Non state actors, internal security Sriram IAS notes on security + The Hindu
Internal security – role of media, social networking site Sriram IAS notes on security + The Hindu
Cyber security Sriram IAS notes on security + The Hindu
Money laundering Sriram IAS notes on security + The Hindu
Border  Management Sriram IAS notes on security + The Hindu
Organized crime, terrorism Sriram IAS notes on security + The Hindu
Security agencies- structure mandate Sriram IAS notes on security + The Hindu

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
attitude, moral influence etc. IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
emotional intelligence, its use in governance IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
moral thinkers of India and world Around 10-15 important thinkers given in book  IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
corporate governance IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
probity in governance, work culture IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
challenges of corruption IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts
case studies on above topics IAS Mains Paper 4 Ethics Integrity & Aptitude by Arihant Experts

Topic wise GS-4 questions are given in Mrunal website, I have practiced them.

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?

The first important principle in dealing with ethics is not to unnecessarily complicate the subject by referring to various sources. Stick to one standard book. Remember, in the final exam rather than knowledge of ethics, understanding and decision making as per ethical standards would be tested. Keep observing unethical things in your family, surrounding, newspaper, etc. Come up with your analysis and solution for such problems. Please do practice what you preach. This will certainly help in coming up with Better answers in the examination hall.

Practice writing ethics answers to previous year questions, review them yourself and rewrite them to your best possible extent. Keep the answers rooted in practicality and ethicality. Don’t write too impractical and idealistic solutions. UPSC needed civil servants who can bring changes by working within the existing setup, so keep that in mind as well.

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 10 10 20
GS2 12 8 20
GS3 14 4 2 20
GS4 7 4 3 14
Opt-P1 All All
Opt-P2 4 1 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]

  1. Don’t write garbage in any question, it will definitely create a negative impression in the mind of an evaluator. Whatever little relevant content you know about the question could be written to that extent only.
  2. Try to attempt all the questions, but in that race don’t lose control over the quality of answers. This could be developed by practicing answer writing.
  3. Stick to the word limit, this is crucial to attempt all the questions within the given time limit.

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

My experience with fixed space was very good. It gave me clear demarcation of how much to write and how to present it in the best manner. It also helped me saving time in not unnecessarily extending the arguments or examples. mrunal.org has dealt with how to present content in fixed space in the best possible way, one may refer to 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.

I believed in presenting my answers in a diverse manner. So in many questions, I have written in butler points with subheading to each point. In a few questions, I have written in paragraphs. While practicing I practiced both types. In my humble opinion, it doesn’t matter in what format you write the answer if you have quality content and arguments to present in the answers.

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.

  1. I had followed Introduction-body-conclusion format in all the answers.
  2. Organizing the content in this format gives structure to your answers and makes it in a more presentable way. It will make life easier for those reading and evaluating your answers.
  3. One must be organized in their answers, as it is one of the expected quality of a civil servant.

So please practice answer writing in a structured way

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

Q. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers? No
Q. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) Yes whenever possible I had used diagrams in my answers
Q. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? Mostly pen, few diagrams with pencil ( especially those written during initial hour of the exam )
Q. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? No
Q. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue pen ( cello butter flow )

Mains Optional Subject

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

My optional subject was mathematics. I have chosen mathematics due to the following reasons

  • During my graduation, I had fair exposure to mathematics.
  • I have benefited from many mathematical techniques during my three years of employment in the private sector.
  • So, as a continuation of that, I opted for mathematics.

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

Optional must be selected based on one’s interest and comfort. Just do not choose the optional as someone else scored good marks in that. For example in my case, during my second attempt, I made many calculation mistakes in mathematics and got 263 marks only, due to which I had to contend with 512 rank. Whereas this year, I got 342 marks in it and got 64th rank. So, just don’t go by optics, take this optional only if you have an interest and ready to work hard. Mathematics is a demanding subject requiring a lot of practice, some times it becomes difficult to manage maths and general studies simultaneously. So prepare yourself for such circumstances. At the same time, mathematics is very interesting and scoring as well, if one can ace this optional, then the sky is the only limit.

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.)

Mathematics optional book list

Paper 1

  1. Linear Algebra : Schaum’s outline on Linear Algebra
  2. Calculus : Mathematical analysis by S.C. Malik and Savita Arora, Krishna Series on Differential calculus , Krishna Series on Integral calculus and NPTEL lectures
  3. Analytical Geometry : Krishna Series on Analytical Geometry and Krishna Series on Analytical Solid Geometry : for Conicoids, Generating Lines
  4. Ordinary Differential Equation: Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations by MD Raisinghania. For Laplace, Advanced Differential Equations by MD Raisinghania
  5. Vector Analysis: Vector Analysis by Krishna series.
  6. Statics : Krishna Series
  7. Dynamics : Krishna Series

Paper 2

  1. Modern Algebra :Contemporary abstract algebra by Joseph Gallon and this playlist on youtube  ( https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmU0FIlJY-Mn3Pt-r5zQ_-Ar8mAnBZTf2 )
  2. Real Analysis Mathematical Analysis by S.C. Malik and Savita Arora and NPTEL lectures
  3. Complex Analysis : Complex analysis by Krishna series .
  4. Linear Programming : Linear Programming , Krishna Series book and NPTEL lectures
  5. Partial Differential Equations– M.D. Raisinghania and advance differential equation by M D raisinghania for boundary value problems
  6. Numerical analysis : Numerical Methods : For Scientific And Engineering Computation by Mahinder Kumar Jain, Satteluri R K Iyengar and Rajinder Kumar Jain
  7. Fluid Mechanics : M D Raisinghania.
  8. Mechanics: Rigid Dynamics (Volume I & Volume II) by Krishna series.

One must solve last 15-20 yeas questions of UPSC civil services optional. Solutions to them could be written in a notes. Revise these questions and solutions multiple times. It helps in quickly revising many concepts and formulae.

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?

In mathematics, current affairs are not relevant. The syllabus is largely static. I had used the internet whenever I couldn’t understand concepts form the book. For instance, I used to watch NPTEL lectures on https://nptel.ac.in and referred to one playlist on YouTube for Modern Algebra. Apart from these, most part of the syllabus can be done from books

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

It took 7-8 months to finish core optional syllabus.

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

Mathematics is a subject which can be studied only through practice using pen and paper. So answer writing starts from the day we start preparation.

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

During my first two attempts, I didn’t maintain any self-notes, which was a big mistake in my opinion. During my third attempt, I made notes of important formulae, concepts, theorems and solutions to previous year UPSC mathematics optional questions.

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

  1. The mathematics question paper was on the difficult side in 2016 and 2017. However, 2018 is slightly on the easier side, especially paper 1 was easy. Paper 2 remained difficult as was the case since 2016.
  2. Practice with pen and paper, just don’t read the answers from the textbooks.
  3. Take previous year mathematics optional questions seriously and practice them multiple times
  4. Have a revision plan for mathematics, as the syllabus is huge.
  5. Give at least 30-40 seconds to verify the solution to each question in the exam, It had saved me a 15 marker question in which I made a silly mistake.

Before the interview

Q. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?

  1.  identified all the keywords in my Detailed Application Form (DAF). I had prepared all the possible questions and answers to them. Through multiple iterations, I had refined the answers. Further, I used to practice infant of mirror and laptop. Some times I used to record them and introspect them.
  2. For current affairs, I had followed The Hindu and Indian Express during the interview. Besides newspapers, I had listened to Big Picture on Rajya Sabha Tv on YouTube.

Q. 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?

  1. I have attended a couple of mock interviews, but haven’t taken any coaching classes for interview
  2. I found a mock interview can just the purpose of practice, final interview would be much different than mock interviews. Level of anxiety, atmosphere, quality of questions asked are completely different in an official interview.
  3. Few mocks could be attended, as they help in practice. But don’t take their feedback too seriously. You are the best judge, do self-introspection and keep improving.

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

  1. I was undergoing training for Indian Information Service at Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), I stayed at the officers’ hostel of IIMC.
  2. I revised my interview notes – where I made notes on my DAF.
  3. I had also revised some current affairs that I felt could be asked in the interview.

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

  1. During my first two attempts, I went with a white shirt, navy blue pant and a tie.
  2. But, in 2018 interview, I went in a formal Suit and tie.
  3. One should wear formals, pant and shirt with a tie would do. It is not necessary to go with a suit.

During the interview

Q. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Professor Manoj Soni board

Q. How long was the interview?

Around 30 minutes

Q. 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?]

Multiple reasons responsible for this:

  • I was fortunate to be part of the student council at IIT Patna, there, I realized my passion and natural inclination towards public services.
  • Further, It was also my mother’s aspiration, which has reinforced my decision.
  • therefore, I thought civil services is the best platform in that direction.

Q. 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]

This year I only documented my questions, sorry I couldn’t document my answers. But during my interview last year  when I got 179 marks I had documented both questions and answers, check this link (https://qr.ae/TWN223) for my UPSC 2017 complete interview.

  1. What is your name?
  2. How is Amaravati doing?
  3. Can you tell me about the place you are coming from?
  4. How much is the distance from your place to Amaravati, in what direction?
  5. Have you got to visit any historical monuments in the city (Delhi )
  6. Did you read in depth about these monuments?
  7. Is Wikipedia authentic source?
  8. You have studied in Patna? What do you like about Patna?
  9. Have you got to visit any places there?
  10. What you don’t like about Patna
  11. How to prevent corruption in land records, bribery
  12. Using electrical engineering to reduce corruption
  13. What sensors can be used to reduce corruption ( CCTV )
  14. Senior will be pressurizing you to do unlawful things, what would you do?
  15. You mentioned about Wikipedia, what are Wiki Leaks?
  16. Who was the founder of Wiki Leaks, where is he seeking asylum?
  17. What are Cryptocurrencies? Are they legal or illegal?
  18. What is Darknet? How to monitor it?
  19. Reasons for deterioration of the position of women in the society from ancient times to modern times
  20. You have taken part in various student activities, are they important, why?
  21. What is your favorite newspaper? Why?
  22. Saudi- Pakistan issue, why did India didn’t allow Saudi crown prince to reach India directly from Pakistan?
  23. What has changed in the last four years between India-Saudi?
  24. What is the name of the highest honor given by Saudi Arabia to P.M Modi?
  25. Telangana was separated, why? What was the demand?
  26. What about small states? Are they feasible?
  27. Is Andhra Pradesh economically visible? Why are they demanding special category status? What about Bihar, compare the situation
  28. How is Eenadu contributing to the development of The state
  29. Engineering, mathematics, and communication. Why so?

Q. 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?

Overall my interview experience was very good. Board had asked me diverse questions ranging from my place of living to governance to international affairs. I always thoroughly enjoyed the process of UPSC interview, right from preparation to the actual day of the interview. Because the interview has helped to look inward and improve my personality.

I would say that my interview was largely based on my DAF. Hence it was on expected lines. It was not a stress interview, the board was very cordial.

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

  1. Follow the instruction sheet given by the UPSC on the day of the interview about medical test
  2. Carry eye prescription along with you.

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

Be cordial with the medical staff, they also have hectic schedules. Talk to other aspirants and make some friends.

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) 120 Cutoff: 40-98
Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m) 135.83 Passing Marks: 67
Mains Subjects Marks secured
Essay (250m) 119 Passing Marks: 25
GSM1 (250m) 98 Passing Marks: 25
GSM2 (250m) 107 Passing Marks: 25
GSM3 (250m) 106 Passing Marks: 25
GSM4 (250m) 101 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-1 (250m) 175 Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-2 (250m) 167 Passing Marks: 25
Written Total (1750m) 873 Cutoff: 520-774
Interview (275m) 157 N/A
Final (2025m) 1030 Cutoff: 754-982

Career Backup

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

I was already selected for Indian Information Service in Civil Services – 2017 examination , so I would have continued with that.

Q. 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.)

Immediately after the third attempt

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?

  1. I didn’t have insecurities about my profile. I was carrying a good academic and professional record.
  2. In my humble opinion, more than a profile, how we handle and answer the questions during the interview matters more than anything else. Don’t worry about something which you can’t change, but prepare well and give your best shot at the interview.

Struggle of a Senior player

Q. 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.

Whenever I felt like giving up the preparation, I used to remember the basic reason for leaving my high paying job to prepare for civil services. I always derived greater satisfaction in work with social connotation. It was also my mother’s aspiration, which I wanted to fulfill very strongly.  By remembering these and telling my self in front of a mirror, I used to derive self-motivation.

So, I urge all the aspirations to be clear with your priorities in life. If civil services are your passion, then try as hard as possible. Don’t get demotivated at any point. If you work hard definitely success will be yours.

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

Mistakes during my previous attempts

  1. First attempt: I study many books and at the end didn’t revise properly. Due to which I wasn’t able to recollect or reproduce what I had read.  Especially in  General Studies papers, I was able to score only around 370s in total. After prelims, I didn’t follow the proper revision schedule. So, despite finishing the syllabus and practicing answer writing I fared poorly in general studies papers.
  2. Second attempt: This time I had improved my General studies score to 450. But due to calculation mistakes in my mathematics options, where I scored only 263, I had to adjust with 512 rank.  Further, my score in the essay was only 116, which also had pulled my rank down.

Changes that I made during the current ( third ) attempt

  1. Restricted my books list and followed proper revision schedule till the end.
  2. Practiced mathematics rigorously to eliminate calculation mistakes in the exam.
  3. Did meditation during the exam period in order to reduce stress, I got some relief from this activity.

Struggle of Working professional

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

  1. Find time during breaks and read the newspaper during that period. ( I had rejoined my job after the 1st attempt, and gave rest of the attempts while working )
  2. If possible try to make notes online, this will help to read and revise during office hours whenever it is possible. While commuting from office to home and back, you may revise your online notes.
  3. Weekends must be fully utilized for studies, make your time table accordingly.
  4. During weekdays, utilize morning time; I used to wake up early in the morning and study. Because,  it is usually difficult to study In the evening, as one is tired after working in the office.

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 used to lose focus and confidence many a time during preparation. I think it is quite normal, as UPSC journey is a long drawn process requiring patience. Whenever I was low on confidence,  I used to go out for a walk or talk to my friends.

I used to take small breaks every day, to keep the focus on studies. I made it a point not to indulge in social media or any such distractions. This has helped me to maintain focus on studies.

Sticking to my time table and striving to achieve weekly and monthly goals had kept me busy. So, I believe making a time table and following it will ensure consistency in one’s preparation.

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 learned that honest efforts and handwork will pay off one day definitely. Regarding competition, don’t fall behind the rat race, but try to define your own goals and strive to achieve them. You must be your competitor, not someone else.

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?

Gather courage and put up your best efforts, you will definitely succeed in the field of civil services or whatever you choose to be in.

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?

After I failed to find my name in the final list of UPSC 2016 in my first attempt, I was fully depressed. Mainly because I was under financial troubles, I thought I won’t be able to fulfill my dream. I thought of leaving the preparation completely. But during that time my family and friends stood by my side. Particularly, my sister Mounika, friends: Bharadwaj, Ekant Sharma and Sowjanya were my pillars. They supported me in all means. They believed in me and shared my feeling.

Due to their support, I was able to carry my preparation even after joining the job. I can’t thank them enough.

I would also like to thank Utsav, Rena, Deepak, Himani, Rickey, Tushar and Isha who had helped me during my interview 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 had used mrunal.org heavily. In fact, humor in this website was very refreshing during preparation.

The initiatives that followed from this website are

  1. Economics articles: web articles and YouTube lectures
  2. Geography: YouTube lectures
  3. Answer writing series: series of articles were released on how to structure the content.I tried to emulate it. I believe that it had helped me immensely
  4. Source of inspiration: Toppers interviews were a source of constant inspiration,  I used to check them multiple times.