- Candidate Profile
- Electronic Vs Paper material
- Typical day in your Online life?
- Style of Preparation and notes making
- Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
- Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude
- Prelim accuracy
- Mains: Compulsory language paper
- Mains: Essay
- General Studies (Mains) paper 1
- General studies (Mains) paper 2
- General studies (Mains) Paper 3
- General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
- Mains answer-writing?
- Mains Optional Subject
- Before the interview
- During the interview
- CSE-2018 Marksheet
- Career Backup
- Views on UPSC reforms
- Insecurity about profile
- Grand wisdom
- Credit: Friends/family
- BOGUS Marketing Propaganda
|Rank in CSE-2018||274|
|Total attempts in CSE (including this one)||01|
|Optional Subject||Commerce and accountancy|
|Medium chosen for Mains answers||English|
|Medium chosen for Interview||English|
|Work-experience if any||GK instructor at IMS, Delhi|
|Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures||Cleared Delhi School of Economics Masters entrance with AIR 33|
|Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)||No classroom coaching.
Insights test series for prelims
Vision IAS test series for mains.
|Service preferences (Top-5)||IAS<IPS<IFS<IRS(IT)<IRS(C&CE)|
|Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres.||Jharkhand, AGMUT, Maharashtra|
|Education||fill the details here|
|% in class 10||91.4%|
|% in class 12||93.2%|
|Graduation course and %||B.Com(Hons), 72%|
|Name of college, city, passing out year||Ramjas College, DU, 2017|
|Post-graduation||Delhi School of Economics, 2019|
|Any other professional courses||Nil|
|Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements||Quizzing, Traveling, Exploring street food|
Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
My name is Priyank Kishore. I was born in East Champaran district, Bihar. My father is currently posted as Dy.SP, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. Due to the transferable nature of my father’s job, I studied in different schools of Jharkhand and Bihar. Eventually I completed my 10th from St Xavier’s School, Ranchi and 12th from JVM Shyamali, Ranchi(Dhoni went to this same school).
My mother is a home maker and my elder brother is an Advocate at the Supreme Court.
I was always clear that Civil services provides an unparalleled platform both for professional and personal development. My police officer father inspired me right from childhood to pursue this path. I seriously began thinking of the exam post my stellar performance in Class 12 board exams. Serious preparation started in final year of college at Ramjas, and was further facilitated by the World class library Infrastructure at Delhi School of Economics.
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)
In my opinion this information overload has been able to level the playing field between those aspirants who are heavily reliant on coaching and others like me who have never taken any formal coaching. I extensively used the internet to read or listen to topper’s stories. I also used it extensively for understanding concepts that books failed to cover holistically. But I made it a point to not over do the internet. I never read static subjects from the internet, only used books for them. For dynamic subjects and current affairs I used of the internet.
|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||Was not a part till Interview call|
|Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep.||2-3|
|Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile||Laptop and mobile|
Any other things that you wish to elaborate on above table: Laptop was used for making online notes on evernote as well as to make summaries of daily current affairs from InsightsonIndia.com.
Phone was used for quick internet searches and also for listening to RSTV debates.
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.)
For Economy and Geography core subjects I did not make any notes and revised multiple times from Mrunal presentations available on the portal.
For other static subjects like Art and culture and History(all 3 categories), made handwritten notes from prelims perspective and never read the book once the notes were in place.
Made notes for laxmikanth but proved to be a big time and energy waste as never used them as the entire book was important.
Underlined in Shankar and GC leong(again most of the book was important)
Current affairs notes were prepared online using the software Evernote(highly recommended given the flexibility in maintaining notes and the longevity of your notes)
|History Ancient||Old NCERT+Tamil Nadu board history book(11)|
|History Medieval||Old NCERT+Tamil Nadu board history book(11)|
|History Modern (Freedom Struggle)||Bipin Chandra’s Struggle for Independence+Summary and appendix of spectrum|
|Culture and society||One can read Nitin Singhania book if time permits.
Read NIOS Module on Culture and NCERT Fine arts book on Architecture
Current affairs PT module from InsightsonIndia
|Polity (theory + current)||Laxmikanth
11-12 NCERTs on polity(highly recommended)
Current affairs PT module from InsightsonIndia
|Economy (theory + current)||Mrunal BES 17 presentations only
Current affairs PT module from InsightsonIndia
|Science (theory + current)||Overview from 9-10 NCERTS on Science
Current affairs PT module from InsightsonIndia
|Environment (theory + current)||Shankar IAS book(Cover to cover)+ 4 chapters on Environment and Ecology from NCERT(12) Biology
Current affairs PT module from InsightsonIndia
|geography physical||Mrunal videos+presentations+GC Leong(not required if you do Mrunal multiple times)|
|geography India||Mrunal videos+presentations|
|geography world||Mrunal videos+presentations|
|other national/international current affairs||InsightsonIndia PT module|
|Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff||InsightsonIndia PT module
Filled with test series gyan(Insights+Vision)
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 also gave Prelims of 2019(Scoring in the range of 135+) Prelims has become extremely unpredictable. No one knows for sure how many answers he has been able to mark accurately while in the exam hall. There has been an increase in the number of subjective questions. Therefore, I always made sure that I attempt maximum number of questions in the exam so as to increase my probability of getting more questions correct.
But I refrained from attempting single world answer questions about which my sub conscious was giving no response. So, I do not agree with the view that a candidate should limit his attempts, but at the same time ensure that this is done after a lot of practice in the test series.
In light of the changed scenario, I would stop unnecessarily burdening myself trying to rote memorize books like Laxmikanth, Shankar and current affairs modules and use the additional time to properly read the newspapers as well as browse authentic government websites and PIB as well as frequently use PRS and other such reliable sources. This is because if you see the nature of the current affairs questions either they are so simple that they can be solved even without reading CA magazines or else contain such minute facts which are not covered in these magazines.
|Topic||strategy / booklist|
|Maths||Watched few videos on unacademy|
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:
Candidates should focus on getting maximum questions correct from their stronger portion and only 6-7 from their weaker portions. Practice mock papers well in advance to ascertain your strengths. Hindi medium candidates and those from other mediums finding CSAT difficult should not think of it as qualifying rather as deterministic. Efforts will start flowing if you begin to think this way.
Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
Yes. They are very important to ascertain the level of accuracy and also the optimum number of questions one should attempt. They might also contain some important fillers which are useful in filling knowledge gaps. Plus, the practice helps calm nerves in the exam hall. A new aspirant should try and base his entire preparation on mock tests.
Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2018
|Attempted Q.||Correct (Expected)||Official Score|
|Paper-1 (General Studies)||93||67||118.67|
|Paper-2 (Aptitude)||Don’t remember||Don’t remember||114|
|Compulsory language paper||Your preparation strategy / booklist?|
|English paper||Did not prepare separately. Just glanced through last 2-3 years papers so that I am not uncomfortable in the exam.|
|your regional language||Hindi. Took Hindi dictation of about 250 words every day for 10 days. Wrote 2-3 essays in Hindi.|
other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2018
English paper was not very difficult.
Translation in the Hindi paper was not very easy. A candidate should devote some hours(depending on his competency) to avoid any disaster. Failing in Compulsory papers is as good as failing in Pre with the additional burden of having wasted 4 months.
Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
One mistake I made here was that I was overconfident of my essay writing skills. (although I did score a decent 129 this time) I did not join any test series for essay and circulated my essays among peers and family. Therefore, I never got any professional advice on the shortcomings of my essay.
Before essay exam, I did write 4-5 essays asked in the exam previously but did not prepare for the paper separately. I am bad at memorizing quotes and all so I thought I would write an essay impromptu, which I did, and did not score exceptionally high despite good command over GS(430 in all) and decent command over the English language.
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?
Managing Border Disputes: A complex task( I think I might have misread the topic a little here, wrote extensively on how managing borders is a complex task in the Indian context and not addressed the topic directly which asked about border dispute management)
Introduction: Pre partition governing treaties—Sagauli, Gandamak, Yandaboo etc—difference in interpretations
Unfinished agenda of partition
Differences in geographical nature of borders.
Body: Addressed disputes with different countries:
Indo-Pak- PoK, LoC and Sir Creek interlinked with how the border question has also fuelled insurgency in Kashmir and also it’s link with the Golden crescent. Also talked about Internationalization of our dispute adding to the complexity.
Indo-China- LaC, Aksai Chin, Pangong lake, Doklam and associated issues of Kailash Yatra. China becoming economic super power making it further difficult for us to assert our border sanctity. Link with CPEC.
Indo-Myanmar- No explicit dispute but talked about why managing is difficult, kinship, open influx leading to cattle, drugs and arms smuggling etc.
Indo-Bangladesh- riverine border issues, counterfeit notes and migrant influx.
Also talked about omnipresent cyber borders which are difficult to counter—Ransomware, Wannycry attack etc.
Conclusion: Suggested way forward:
Bilateral negotiations, Increase CBM, people to people contact, prevent internationalization of issues, De link Kashmir and Border issue. Finally strengthen Border security—Here talked about tech like CIBMS etc.
Ended with analogy of a doomsday clock ticking in a nuclear powered neighborhood therefore need to act swiftly.
Essay 2: Customary morality cannot be a guide to modern life
Sorry, I do not recollect the entire essay. But I had based my essay on the recent Supreme court judgments around Section 377, Adultery etc.
Had also used PESTEL approach in Body:
Politically- women were not allowed political participation earlier, things have changed 2 of the most powerful cabinet ministers are women( Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj)
Economically- more women CEOs doing good work( Indira Noori, Biocon CEO- Kiran Mazumdar Shaw)
Socially- how sati, dowry et al was discriminating against women, caste system etc.
Technologically- women’s access to technological devices like phones, digital banking etc. has increased and how it has positively affected their lives
Legally- Navtej Sarna case, Adultery case etc.
Past was discriminatory and needs to keep in tune with the rapidly modernizing society.
|Topic||How did you prepare?
All definitions like poverty, communalism, secularism etc. picked up from websites like UN, World Bank, OECD etc.- Used this as definitions)
Mostly questions are Current affairs based where you can start answers with static definitions and directly move to body on the basis of your CA knowledge)
|Culture||Prelims notes prepared from NIOS+NCERT Fine arts text book+Quickly glanced through Mrunal’s course(Ishani Ma’am) on Art and Culture.|
|Indian history||Bipin Chandra’s Struggle for Independence+Summary of Spectrum chapters(could be avoided as UPSC does not ask factual questions on Modern Indian History in Mains)|
|world history||Vision IAS material on world History(material is very exhaustive, therefore I request to only read key points and opening lines of all paras to save time)|
|post-independence India||Watched Pradhan Mantri show+ Read India after Gandhi(purely out of interest and can be completely skipped and supplemented with NCERTs+PM show)|
|Indian society||Red NCERT Sociology but did not find it useful.
Prepared current topics from Vision IAS Mains 365 module on Society. Also supplemented with Vision Value added Essay notes on Indian society.
Googled Key features of Indian society and made notes in about 250 words.
|role of women, poverty etc.||Vision IAS mains 365 on Society+Economy.|
|globalization on Indian society||Did not prepare separately.|
|communalism, regionalism, secularism||Definitions of each from Websites of International Institutions.
Bipin Chandra’s chapter on Rise of Communalism in India is a good source if you are looking for amazing clarity.
|world geo physical||Revised presentations from Mrunal+Compiled diagrams from GC leong|
|resource distribution||Mrunal’s article series on resource distribution(Very exhaustive- Only overview needed)|
|factors for industrial location||Mrunal’s article series on resource distribution(Very exhaustive- Only overview needed)|
|earthquake tsunami etc.||Mrunal geography+Supplement with Yojana edition on disaster management.|
|impact on flora-fauna||Did not prepare separately.|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?
All definitions like ADR, arbitration, pressure groups—NGOs etc. picked up from websites like UN, World Bank, OECD etc.- Used this as definitions)
Mostly questions are Current affairs based where you can start answers with static definitions and directly move to body on the basis of your CA knowledge)
Read Anudeep Sir’s summary of Ethics report on governance, which can be used in different questions asked.
Also read, recommendations of different committees(which we leave ahead of prelims) given in Laxmikanth.
Make a notes of important cases, Committee names and Articles from Vajiram notes on polity+laxmikanth and use it extensively during answer writing)
|Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc.||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|comparing Constitution with world||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|parliament, state Legislatures||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|executive-judiciary||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|ministries departments||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|pressure group, informal asso.||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|Representation of people’s act||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|various bodies: Constitutional, statutory..||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|NGO, SHG etc.||Laxmikanth+Vision Mains 365|
|welfare schemes, bodies||Vision Mains 365|
|social sector, health, edu, HRD||Vision Mains 365|
|governance, transparency, accountability||Authentic definitions+ Vision Mains 365|
|e-governance||Mrunal blog(google to find)|
|role of civil service||Mrunal blog(google to find)|
|India & neighbors||Had earlier read Pax indica by Shashi Tharoor (out of interest purely)+ Vision Mains 365+India’s world on RSTV|
|bilateral/global grouping||Vision Mains 365+India’s world on RSTV|
|effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest||Vision Mains 365+India’s world on RSTV|
|Diaspora||Vision Mains 365+India’s world on RSTV+googled why Diaspora is important, had found a research paper which I am unable to|
|international bodies- structure mandate||Did not prepare- Low RoI, would have used knowledge from Prelims.|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?
Niti Aayog 3 year action agenda and Mrunal made the base for preparation of this paper.
Note down all committee reports and statistics at one place and quote in answers.
|Indian economy, resource mobilization||Nitin Sangwan topper blog+Gaurav Agarwal Sir blog+Niti Aayog 3 year action agenda+Vision Mains 365|
|inclusive growth||Nitin Sangwan topper blog+Gaurav Agarwal Sir blog+Niti Aayog 3 year action agenda+Vision Mains 365|
|Budgeting||Google types of Budget and note definition of different types of budget from websites of international institutions+Vision Mains 365|
|major crops, irrigation||Mrunal geography|
|agro produce – storage, marketing||Mrunal geography+Nitin Sangwan sir notes+mains 365|
|e-technology for famers||Mrunal geography+Mrunal economy+Nitin Sangwan sir notes|
|farm subsidies, MSP||Mrunal Economy+Geography+Mains 365|
|PDS, buffer, food security||Vision Mains 365+Mrunal Economy|
|technology mission||Did not prepare separately|
|animal rearing economics||Did not prepare separately|
|food processing||Vision Mains 365+Nitin Sangwan sir notes|
|land reforms||Mrunal geography|
|Liberalization||Just googled definition|
|Infra||Niti Aayog 3 year action agenda|
|investment models||Mrunal Economy+Note definition of key types of models|
|science-tech day to day life||Vision Mains 365|
|Indian achievements in sci-tech||Vision mains 365|
|awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR||Vision Mains 365|
|environmental impact assessment||Shankar Environment chapter on EIA|
|Disaster Management||Yojana edition on Disaster management+Nitin Sir notes|
|non state actors, internal security||Googled definitions+Gaurav agarwal sir notes(still relevant for Internal security)+Vision Mains 365|
|internal security – role of media, social networking site||http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/media-and-national-security/
Vision Mains 365
Vision Mains 365
|money laundering||Google definition+Vision mains 365
https://www.oecd.org/cleangovbiz/toolkit/moneylaundering.htm(Quickly scan through some of their recommendations for brownie points)
|border Management||Gaurav Agarwal Sir notes+Mains 365+One episode of RSTV show-Security Scan
https://idsa.in/taxonomy/term/509(make notes from 6-7 latest articles)
|organized crime, terrorism||Google Definitons+IDSA website+ Episode of Security scan+Vision mains 365|
|security agencies- structure mandate||Nitin Sangwan Sir notes(Breifly write down about all known security agencies, rest can be taken care of using prelims knowledge)|
|Topic||How Did You Prepare?
For background preparation Watch Justice by Michael Sandel at 1.5 x speed on Youtube.
Make notes of best case practices and use in different answers(even in other GS papers) from Niti Aayog Compendium on best case practices.
Heavy googling required for definitions of different terms(Bookish definitions seem clichéd)
ARC ethics report on governance forms the base of this paper
|ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics||Lexicon for understanding+Notes from Google|
|attitude, moral influence etc.||Lexicon for understanding+Notes from Google|
|civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc||Lexicon for understanding+Notes from Google|
|emotional intelligence, its use in governance||Lexicon for understanding+Notes from Google|
|moral thinkers of India and world||How many thinkers did you prepare?
Not many. Western thinkers would have written on the basis of knowledge from Justice videos
Indian from overall knowledge+go through lexicon summary on thinkers if not confident
|ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc.||Lexicon+ARC report- Ethics on Governance|
|corporate governance||Definition from google+keep an eye on Current affairs here(Kotak committee was in news then)|
|probity in governance, work culture||Definition from google+Ethics report on governance|
|citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.||Ethics report on governance
http://niepid.nic.in/CitizensCharter.pdf(This will take care of everything)
|challenges of corruption||Ethics report on governance|
|case studies on above topics||Did not prepare separately.
Just went through Vision IAS toppers answer copies and read 40-45 case studies to understand the approach and structure
In ethics, Most of the serious candidates (both topper and non-toppers) have received marks in similar ranges. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?
I do not subscribe to the same view. I have scored 110 in GS 4, without putting in a lot of effort in terms of time. Most people are hovering in the range of 90-95. A score of 110+ is a huge gain.
I have realized that merely writing coaching prepared and lexicon definitions and examples in the paper irritates the examiner. A personal approach to the answers is much needed. The definitions should be from sources like World Bank, OECD, UN etc(you can trust WHO for providing a better definition of compassion than Lexicon)
Create a good repository of Examples and use it wherever you can. Examples should be thought by you and personal to you.
For case studies, I see aspirants running behind different case study modules being sold in the market. All this is unnecessary. They just make your cases mechanical and philosophical which does not work in my opinion.
Write answers to case studies as if you are the administrator and not on the basis of random 100 case studies discussed in different coachings. Don’t philosophize the paper unnecessarily.
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|
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 am one of those who attempts the entire paper. For me quantity trumps quality, as in the exam you are never sure about which answer is qualitative and which is not.
Moreover, 95% aspirants these days are completing all the questions in a paper. Therefore, leaving questions is not recommended. We should focus on completing 100% of the paper with 80% quality rather than the other way round.
How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
Owing to my bigger writing font, initially I found it difficult to write all 150 words in the fixed space provided. But, with practice in the Vision IAS answer booklets, I could accommodate 135-140 words in the paper. If given a chance, I would further reduce my font size as the space available is optimum but not ample.
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 wrote the introduction and conclusion in paragraphs and the body using points. I feel this approach helps you track the number of points you write for each answer and also makes the job of the examiner easier.
For those questions, about which an aspirant has very little content, he can directly choose to write the key points in bullets to save time and energy.
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.
I followed the introduction-body-conclusion format in almost 80% of my answers. Introduction and conclusion were written in paras and body in bullet points.
I chose to skip this format only in those answers in which I did not have sufficient matter, as half-baked knowledge in this format may frustrate the examiner. Moreover, the approach is time taking and an aspirant can ignore this if he does not have proper idea of any question.
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 time for the same|
|Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)||Yes, drew a few diagrams in geography paper 1(Mantle plume+india map where required)
Other papers- used flowcharts, pie charts, bar graphs etc.
|Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?||Pen|
|Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?||By hand|
|Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?||Blue pen- Pilot pen V7(must try-improved my handwriting)|
What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else?
Commerce and Accountancy.
I chose it primarily as it was also my subject during graduation and post-graduation. Moreover, the result of this optional has been above par in the recent years and also some high quality guidance in the form of Ranker’s Classes is available.
If a new player wants to pick your subject, would you advice for it or against it?
I would only recommend taking up this optional if someone has really mastered it at the CA or graduation level.
The optional punishes you with difficult and lengthy papers with no room for scaling. The syllabus is vast and requires reading from varied sources and finally a lot of consolidation.
However, some of the pros of this optional is that there is little competition so the marking is generally in accordance with your expectations. Paper 2 is 100% theoretical so reading it is as good as reading any other humanities subject.
So, if a person is confident of his Commerce skills he can definitely go for it. If not, he can opt for some other optional more suited to his taste. (Don’t take this decision in haste, I scored one of the highest in GS but I am 274 and not 74 because of poor performance in optional)
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.)
Booklist for Paper 1:
Financial accounting- Ranker’s classes notes only
Cost accounting- Theory and practical from MN Arora(DU B.Com(H) Book)- Read the book cover to cover, practiced all solved examples. Solved examples from Ranker’s material on cost accountancy.
Auditing- Ranker’s material only
Taxation- Selective reading of Girish Ahuja’s Simplified approach to Income tax(DU-B.COM(H)
Only read the chapters pertaining to Salary, Gross Total Income, Set off, Clubbing, Capital gains)
Indirect taxation- Googled and made small notes of GST. Not in detail, only working knowledge as UPSC has not been asking from this section.
Financial Management- RP Rustagi book on FM(DU-B.Com(H))
Financial markets and Institutions- Ranker’s module on the same+Current affairs sent by Ranker’s Classes before mains(Ask someone who has taken classroom coaching)
Booklist: Paper 2:
Organisation behavior- SP Robbin’s book(chapters relevant for the syllabus)+ Read missing portions from Ranker’s material
Organization theory- TN Chabbra+ read missing portions from Ranker’s material
HRM- CB Gupta+Read missing portions from Ranker’s material.
Industrial relations- Current from Economy module of Vision Mains 365+Ranker’s material on Industrial relations.
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?
Part 1 of Paper 1 does not require any internet research for CA.
Financial markets part of paper 1 requires background knowledge which does not need to be prepared separately, Preparation of GS 3 and Ranker’s current affairs notes sent before the exam will suffice.
Paper 2 also does not require internet searches, but try and integrate your GS knowledge as examples in answers.
How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?
5 months. From July 2017-Novermber 2017
How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
3 months before Mains, started practice of numerical and answer writing for the optional.
Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
Maintained hand written notes of theory portions of Paper 1 and Paper 2 completely.
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?
Paper 1 was extremely lengthy and none of the numericals could be termed easy. Even experienced aspirants struggled to finish the paper. There has been a significant dip in the marks secured in paper 1.
Therefore, I recommend all aspirants to invest a lot of time in practicing numericals so that time taken per question is brought down. Furthermore, I made the mistake of not enrolling for a test series which enables a person to answer in a time bound manner and under exam conditions. This should be avoided.
Paper 2 was on expected lines. Candidates should utilize their GS knowledge to maximize scores in Paper 2.
How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?
Since this was my first interview I put in significant effort to avoid knowledge vacuum. Therefore, I tried to gather as much information as possible for each word given on my daf. I read the Wikipedia pages and the official websites of my school, college, district etc. Additionally, I referred to Google news to gather information about my home state and home city so as to keep up with the current happenings.
Since I am from Jharkhand, I glanced through a book by Arihant publishers on my state. This book is useful as it has compiled all demographical and cultural aspects of my state at one place. I also tried to understand the background behind state specific issues going on at that time such as Pathalgadi and Naxalism etc.
For current affairs at National and International level, I had joined a 5 day current affairs classroom session conducted by Vajiram and Ravi. It was helpful as it filled in the void that had come in post completion of mains. After this, I simply read the Hindu+The Indian Express+ occasionally read the Livemint editorials. This was further supplemented by the Big Picture Show of RSTV which I had been following since Mains.
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 mock interviews at 5-6 different places. One of them at Rau’s IAS was similar to the actual interview as both of them were extremely factual.
In my opinion, it is necessary to give atleast 2-3 mocks before the actual interview as it helps in smoothening the rough edges of a person. Try to take the feedback positively and with an open mind. Do not get bogged down if you feel the feedback provided is not constructive.
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 at home in Lajpat Nagar which was hardly 5-6 kms from Dholpur house.
Just carried the day’s Indian express to Dholpur House.
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
Dark grey suit, light blue shirt and navy blue tie.
Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
M Sathiyavathy Madam
Q2. How long was the interview?
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?]
This question was not asked to me. But I would have said that I have been inspired by my police officer father. He has had an extremely diverse professional career as well as received social recognition for his job. Private sector does not provide both the things together at such a young age.
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]
- Is your course integrated?
No ma’am I cleared Delhi school entrance and currently in my final semester at the DSE.
- But why is likely date of completion of Ug and PG same?
No ma’am they are different, date of completion of ug and date of joining pg are same.
- Ok, read out details of my DAF aloud to other members, city, education, hobby, subjects taken during graduation. Said, interesting set of subjects.
- Started off with, have you followed the budget?
Yes ma’am, I have tried to.
- How far do you think the revenue and expenditure estimations are justified?
Ma’am IMF economic growth has projected India to be…..cut short, No, lets talk from some other perspective.
Ma’am, DT and GST projections are good, given that they are buoyant, tax filing has increased, GST will become a source of increased revenue in the time to come, given that it is still not fully developed.
Moreover, Direct tax(DT) will further increase given the manifold increase in tax filers and also given that we are switching to an online tax interface.(Nods) Disinvestment targets 80,000 cr look acvble.
- Don’t you think there is no real disinvestment happening, only govt companies buying each other?
No ma’am. FDI.
- FRBM norms have been breached.
Yes ma’am but because of 75k cr. in agri., there is slippage and we can afford to do that given how food prices have crashed.
- why volatility in stock market?
global, budget has brought positive sentiment from industry.
- Ma’am said no sentiment at all I think
Limited sentiment given this is only an interim budget.
Lets shift from Finance to something else. Looks like finance is your forte.
1.What do you know about the geography of JK?
I said, have traveled there, cut me short, and then said about PoK
I said yes, India considers the areas of Azad kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan occupied by Pakistan. these areas are given autonomy by pakistan but not provincial status.
- Ok, how much area is currently with India, does China also hold something?
Yes sir, 43% is currently in Indian control, don’t know exact area with pak and China.
- Does China also hold some area?
Yes Sir, Aksai shin and Shaksgam valley
- Does Pakistan hold area larger than India?
Don’t know sir, will read about this when I go back.
- What do you know about LoC and LaC?
Said, LoC is the line of control demarcated Indian state of Kashmir from PoK, LaC, Chinese controlled areas from India
- Do you think LaC is more than that or only in Jk?
said, only in JK
said are you sure
I said no Sir.
PSUs are in loss. Should we shut them?
No sir, profit not sole consideration of PSUs. In Jan dhan yojana, SBI opened 20 cr acs out of total 33 cr. ONGC invests risk capital for making India self-sustainable in oil production.
- Ok, what do you know about One rank one pension? What are the issues and its current status.
I don’t know sir, will read about it.
Ok, Thank you, this member looked satisfied.
- Ok, Do you know air show is currently going on in Bangalore
- name 2 aircrafts that are there
I said, may I think for a moment, and said Rafale and Tejas.
- What do you know about tejas?
Said, indigenously developed LCA, lightest in its category.
- Do you know which missile?
- Its Brahmos, tell us something about Brahmos?
Indigenously developed nuclear tipped missile of intermediate range, also in the process of extending its range.
- Ok Ok, How are jharkhand and Bihar collaborating with each other?
Said, anti-naxal operations given the border Sahebganj multi modal terminal on National waterway will ease transport in Bihar emotional support
- Ok ok, But has Jharkhand benefitted as a separate state?
Yes sir, political representation increased, all but one tribal CMs, tribals in jobs otherwise. Said, Good Good.
- You were alumni coordinator, why have Indian alumni not worked to their potential and worked in US
Said, US me colleges have been in existence for longer time, things are changing in India, IIMs have good alumni network. Ramjas also had Alumni presence in centennial celebration
- How does alumni help?
investments, hand holding, mentorship
Ok Thank you.
M3(Lady member, IFS officer):
- What is your service preference said
- Ok, lets ask questions from IR. How has there been a policy shift in Indian IR approach in last 5 years.
Said, more leverage of soft power, focus on African continent, and ASEAN. handled Srilankan constitutional crisis and Maldivian crisis well, without getting our fingers burnt. China also given a clear message after Doklam, we did not back off. Pakistan-Pulwama handling well.
- How are we handling Pulwama well?
Pakistan isolated internationally in a very short period of time. Countries openly supporting India, tenor of talks with regard to countries like US harsher than under previous governments.
- yes yes. Ok, tell me do you think the entire pressure of environmental mgt should fall on govt, if not, how can the common citizen support?
Ma’am, simple interventions like, segregation of waste at source which does not happen in Delhi, limiting plastic use, as well as cycling or walking more often can play a role, like it happens in European countries.
- Tell me 2 countries with which our foreign policy approach has improved in past 5 years?
Said, South Africa and as a result whole African continent, Iran–have handled the crisis well, said why not USA, I wanted to hear USA(aisa kuch, not exactly)
- But is there any place to cycle of walk in Delhi, what about cleanliness?
(wanted to bring in SBM but M4 picked up instantly)
Domain knowledge is good, so lets ask something else.
- Do you follow sports?
Yes Sir, I try to.
- How many times have we won Davis cup?
I don’t know Sir, but we have reached the finals.
- When what happened?
We pulled out, I don’t know the exact background
- Do you think we should sever ties with Pakistan in the cricket wc also
yes sir, sports diplomacy is an integral part of Indo pak relations. Have to corner Pak on all fronts, sports being one part, unless something constructive happens from Pakistan’s end cannot play.
- Ok Ok, Serena Williams in Us open issue khud hi samjahya: fir pucha
Kya issue tha, gender and racial discrimination.
- why weren’t there any sanctions against her
Said, don’t know, khud hi samjhaya fir.
From all members, do you have any more questions? No. Thank you, your interview is over.
General impression was confident abstract and random nature of interview Members seemed interested, were nodding throughout. Chair was smiling
Problem- lack of flow in the interview, not very connected questions seem out of context no personal questions or questions on Hobby.
Q5. Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions? Was it a stress interview, did they ask any uncomfortable questions? If yes, how did you handle it?
My interview was not on expected lines. It was an extremely short interview. Must have lasted for about 15-18 minutes. Most of the questions were factual and there were literally no questions from DAF directly.
Although my interview cannot be categorized as a stress interview as members seemed involved and were nodding in affirmation for a major part of the interview. Chairperson was smiling and accommodative throughout.
Q6. Any side details about technicalities like “make sure you bring xyz document or do xyz thing, or you’ll face problem”?
No such problem faced. They put you in the provisional list if you turn up for the interview with a missing document.
Q7. Any word of wisdom / observations about medical checkup?
Try and enjoy the time in the hospital. Strike conversations with the members facing the same medical board. Most of them will be service mates later or can help in future preparation.
Some hospitals insist on a prescription for your glasses. It will save you some hassle if you carry it.
Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:
|Subjects (Max. Marks)||Marks secured||Cutoff ranges
(PH to Gen.)
|Prelims P1-GS (200m)||118.67||Cutoff: 40-98|
|Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m)||114||Passing Marks: 67|
|Mains Subjects||Marks secured|
|Essay (250m)||129||Passing Marks: 25|
|GSM1 (250m)||111||Passing Marks: 25|
|GSM2 (250m)||105||Passing Marks: 25|
|GSM3 (250m)||104||Passing Marks: 25|
|GSM4 (250m)||110||Passing Marks: 25|
|Optional Paper-1 (250m)||123||Passing Marks: 25|
|Optional Paper-2 (250m)||132||Passing Marks: 25|
|Written Total (1750m)||814||Cutoff: 520-774|
|Final (2025m)||993||Cutoff: 754-982|
Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?
I was already enrolled at Delhi School of Economics. Would have completed my Masters and applied for lectureship. Candidates should not be too focused on their backup if they are 21-23 and have not failed more than once at this exam.
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.)
After I failed twice.
Although Political science and sociology are both humanities subjects, yet depending on exam year, one of this subject gets more favorable scaling-treatment than the other, consequently some candidates are denied even interview calls, despite having good marks in GS and Essay parallel to toppers. So, optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present scenario is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Yes, optional subjects should be removed altogether. There is no parity between the marks awarded between optionals. Furthermore, most do not add any administration relevant knowledge in a candidate and become redundant post selection. Instead, a couple of papers on law or Public administration could be added.
After Mains-Syllabus change of 2013, initially some candidates got very high ranks, despite scoring poorly in interviews- thanks to their tall scores in written (mains). So in recent years, it seems UPSC has tweaked the mains-evaluation process in such manner that everyone gets similar range of marks in Essay, GSM2 and GSM4. Thus, selection is majorly dependent on optional scaling and interview score. In CSE-2018, total 759 successful candidates in a spectrum of mere ~403 marks. Yes, UPSC does have internal mechanisms to reduce panel-wise variation of interview marks, yet many candidates didnot make it just because of a ‘strict’ interview panel. So, what should be done to reform A) the mains-evaluation system and B) the interview evaluation system?
I did not find much fault in the Mains evaluation system as I received marks broadly in line with my expectations. Both in case of GS and optional.
However, the interview should have a structured approach to bring more parity between 2 interview boards. It should have a mix of questions from all categories. Moreover, there should be a standardized duration of the interview. My interview would have hardly lasted for 15-20 minutes and I came out extremely dissatisfied with the short duration of the interview.
Speaking of Mains syllabus, UPSC Mains Ethics Paper (GS4) should be removed. Case studies are superficial, and as I pointed out earlier, pretty much everyone is given similar range marks. Safeer Karim (IPS) had scored 108 out of 250 marks in Ethics paper (2014), and same gentleman was caught cheating in Mains-2017 with Bluetooth and also running coaching class. So, this paper serves no utility of evaluating a candidate’s character, it has become just a source of income for book publishers and coaching classes. So GSM4 paper should be removed.
I don’t think everyone is given marks in a similar range. Marks range between 80-125. 45 marks means almost 200 ranks. So the effective weightage of GS 4 is huge in this exam.
Ethics paper is one of the first additions in the exam which does not completely revolve around rote learning. It checks an aspirant’s personality to an extent. Ofcourse it is not full proof, and there may be such incidents. But the very fact, that a person invests time and energy in reading ethics, increases the chances of him turning out to be a more sensible and sensitized person.
In addition to Ethics paper, UPSC should undertake other reforms such as increasing weightage of interview, to ascertain suitability of candidates.
UPSC should disclose the evaluated mains- answer sheets like some StatePCS are doing. Although such ‘transparency’ has its demerits e.g. in recent GPSC Class-1-2 exam, after uploading the evaluated copies it turned out that those who wrote answer in Gujarati were given less marks compared to those who wrote identical answer in English. In such situation, process gets stuck in litigation and stay orders, therefore UPSC’s decision of being “less” transparent helps UPSC finish exam process within time-frame, without litigation and stay orders. What are your views on conundrum?
I think the decision of UPSC to nor disclose evaluated mains answer sheets is justified. It ensures time bound completion of the examination process. This is the only certainty in this exam amidst the ocean of uncertainty. If the exam process is delayed due to litigation the fine line between quality of exams conducted by UPSC and SPSCs will suffer. Moreover, in my opinion, if an aspirant is able to accurately gauge his level of answer writing the marks awarded by UPSC is more or less in line with his expectations.
What UPSC, can do however is to reveal a methodology for answer correction as well as display model and best answer copies so that aspirants can compare and compete.
(in context of my earlier question on transparency vs litigation) UPSC should disclose official prelim answerkey and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over. Your thoughts?
Yes, UPSC should disclose official answer key post prelims. This will make the Commission more accountable to the aspirant community. Majority of aspirants face mental agony in the wait up till Prelims result. Answer key declaration will help them plan their investments in test series, optional classes etc.
Due to protests by Hindi-belt, UPSC made Prelim-Paper-II qualifying in nature (33%) but in recent prelims, you’d have noticed that each passage is followed by only 1 MCQ (instead of 2-3 MCQs as in past), and maths-reasoning also became increasingly complicated, so finishing the paper in time limit and scoring that 33% is also a headache for non-engineer candidates from Rurban areas. And although Decision Making and Basic English comprehension are part of official prelim paper-2 syllabus, due to fear of backlash, UPSC stopped asking this since 2015. So, don’t you think Paper-2 should be removed OR merged with Paper-1 just like CAPF- where same one paper has 125 MCQs containing both GS and Aptitude.
No, present arrangement works well. All serious aspirants can score 33% marks in CSAT with a little preparation. Moreover the paper contains only 28-29 English questions, Rest are maths and reasoning which can be considered same for both students from urban and rural areas.
The focus of UPSC on students having at least a minimum knowledge of English and Reasoning is not unjustified. Both of these will be utilized in some form or the other in administration.
UPSC has converted COMBINED MEDICAL SERVICE (CMS) exam into online test. RBI Officer’s exam has descriptive paper at mains-stage, yet it’s completely online -candidate has to ‘type’ the answer on computer screen. So, 1) Whether Prelim should be conducted online 2) whether mains should be conducted online. Your views?
Both prelims and Mains should not be conducted online at this stage, as UPSC CSE is taken by a large number of aspirants coming from very diverse backgrounds. Computer literacy is not very high even among graduates. Moreover, conducting prelims for such large number of students will provide infrastructural bottlenecks as well as be cost prohibitive. Therefore, present system is sound for atleast 3-4 years.
The other exams that you have mentioned have a very specific aspirant base.
Half-merger of IFoS with CSE is a bad move because it has raised the cutoffs for players who’re solely dedicated to IFoS only (and not to IAS/IPS). Adding salt to the wounds, many who had applied for both jobs, cleared the prelims- they did not even bother to appear in all the papers of Mains-IFoS.
Yes, the 2 exams require different orientation and preparation. So having a common prelims which just contains 15% Environment questions does not make sense. Instead the filtration mechanism will be better if IFoS has separate Prelims with around 50-60% weightage of Environment and Science which will be more relevant for IFoS officers.
If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
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?
No. I did not suffer from any such insecurity.
Even candidates coming from not so good backgrounds can expect good marks in the interview. Take the case of Junaid Ahmed Sir, as he himself has consistently reiterated. So, all this should not affect one’s interview preparation and performance.
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 aligned my preparation entirely with test series plan both at the prelims and mains stages. My day did not consist of a set number of hours, rather the tasks to be completed for that day. Post completion of the set schedule for the day I would utilize my time as I wished without any guilt. Many aspirants just keep on studying because they feel guilty to not be studying. My case was different. Even if I had completed the day’s tasks in 6-7 hours I did not venture beyond that.
Moreover, I studied in a library everyday without fail. (and sincerely request all aspirants to do the same) My brain was tuned to believe that going to the library and studying there was a job that I was doing. This helped sustain the momentum. For rejuvenation I took half days off on Sundays to plan for the next week and also catch up with friends. In this way, I never felt left out in the course of my preparation.
Despite the limited hours I studied, I did face the problem of mood swings. In this case, I took small breaks of 5-10 minutes every 30 minutes I studied (Pomo technique-Google to read more)
6-7 such power packed sessions helped me save a day from getting completely wasted.
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 learnt one thing- that the purest form of honesty is when you are being honest with yourself. If you honestly prepare for the examination or for anything in general you are certainly rewarded. The Universe literally conspires to make things work if it is satisfied with your honesty. So many people have stepped up to help me in this struggle just because they knew what this exam meant to me and how seriously I was pursuing it. And if you don’t get what you really want despite the honesty there might be a bigger and better conspiracy in the working.
My message to all the new aspirants is to respect the exam- in turn it will respect you.
Also some quote that motivated me throughout this journey.
- “Sleep with satisfaction and wake up with determination”
- “The harder you work, the luckier you get”
Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2018. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
If you have taken more than 3 serious attempts you should take a break, work on your career and then come back and take the exam with greater determination and renewed energy.
If not, analyze where you have been going wrong. If GS is holding you back, seek professional guidance. You may also need to update your notes and add new things to your preparation(RSTV is a good starting point)
If optional is holding you back despite, you putting your best, an optional change can also be considered. A new optional can be studied like a novice, and a novice always reads better than a seasoned player.
But more than all of this, work on your emotional IQ, This exam is a matter of bouncing back when you are at your lowest infact. (Take motivation from the likes of Anudeep Sir, Junaid etc.)
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 journey from an ordinary 21-year-old boy to a civil servant would not have been possible without the support of my girlfriend- Kanika. Kanika taught me Science and Biotechnology personally. She also took the pain of teaching me conceptual portions of Environment and Ecology. Not just this, she stood behind me like a rock, shielding me from all the negativity around me during the preparation phase. When I fell ill she went to the hospitals with me, teaching me in the wards of government hospitals so that some of my time is saved. She must have read at least 10 toppers essays and 30 case studies so that she is in an informed position to give me feedback on my answers and essays.
In all of my Mains and Prelims papers she was there at the exam centre to ensure that I do not panic before the exam. This journey has indeed been a 50-50 partnership.
Another, person closely involved in my UPSC journey has been Nitish K Jha, a childhood friend who helped me whenever I hit a roadblock. These people, even though unrelated with the UPSC prep, provided me a varied perspective to the things I was doing wrong.
My mock scores were taken seriously by them. We analyzed my mistakes together.
My successful journey is a tribute to them. Thank You J
You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use Mrunal.org for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you? And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still publish your answer without tempering.
I have extensively used Mrunal for my preparation. My geography preparation has been solely done from Mrunal geography presentations. I would have revised from the slides at least 20 times by now.
Despite, being from an Economics background I would have viewed both the BES 16 and 17 series 3-4 times.
I also used the blog to understand certain key concepts of Ethics.
Mrunal should be the first source for any new comer to this exam. He should read atleast 10-12 strategy blogs on Mrunal. He should then proceed to finish all the videos pertaining to Civil services preparation on the YouTube Channel. The quality and syllabus coverage of all the lecture series is exemplary.
Visit Mrunal.org/Toppers for More Success Stories and Motivational Interviews!