1. Candidate Profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Typical day in your Online life?
  6. Style of Preparation and notes making
  7. Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
  8. Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude
  9. Prelim accuracy
  10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  11. Mains: Essay
  12. Mains General studies paper 1 to 4
  13. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  14. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  15. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  16. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  17. Mains answer-writing from DAY1
  18. Mains answer-writing- real exam?
  19. Mains Optional Subject- LAW?
  20. Before the interview
  21. During the interview
  22. CSE-2019 Marksheet
  23. Career Backup
  24. Insecurity about profile
  25. Struggle of a Senior player
  26. Corona Exam Cancellation
  27. Message to Failed Candidates
  28. Credit: Friends/family
  29. Grand wisdom of LIFE
  30. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile: Akarshi Jain

[Topper’s Interview] Akarshi Jain (Rank-140/UPSC-2019): Law Optional, 4th Attempt, LLB from NLU-Jodhpur

Q. Details
Name Akarshi Jain
Rank in CSE-2019 140
Roll No. 0116370
Age 26
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 4
Optional Subject Law
Schooling Medium English
College Medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers English
Medium chosen for Interview English
Home town/city Ahmedabad
Work-experience if any None
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures None
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used)
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS (IT) & IRS (CCE)
Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal cadres. Gujarat, Rajasthan & Karnataka


Education fill the details here
% in class 10 89.2
% in class 12 94.0
Graduation course and % B.B.A., LL.B.

CGPA – 7.78

Name of college, city, passing out year National Law University, Jodhpur


Post-graduation NA
Any other professional courses NA
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Reading fiction


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

I was born in Delhi, however, during my childhood I have moved around many places. Currently, I am living in Ahmedabad. My father is a government servant in the Indian Revenue Services and my mother is a homemaker. I finished my last four years of schooling from Delhi in the science stream, after which I decided to pursue law. After I finished my graduation in 2016, I decided to start preparing for the civil services exam.

A part of my inspiration came from my father. I grew up watching him love his work and he would constantly tell us about the good that one can do. But mostly, I started seeing civil services as a career path where I can more fully contribute to the society, while developing personally as well.

Electronic Vs Paper material

  1. 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 prefer reading paper material, which also helps me limit my resources. Some month into my preparation, I realized that I would have to draw a closing line with my preparation. So, my base material (textbooks for static portion, newspapers and monthly compilations for current affairs) would always be paper based and only the add-on material (PIB website, clarification of certain terms/concepts) would be referred to through electronic means.

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. 1-2 (however, this increased considerably during interview preparation)
Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Mobile (accessible)
  1. Any other things that you wish to elaborate on above table:

I was not very comfortable with using electronic devices for long hours. However, I am aware of people who use them quite frequently as the primary means of studying. I think the idea is to limit your resources and be conscious of what kinds of activity are you engaging in (excessive social media usage may be avoided), online or offline.

Style of Preparation and notes making

  1. 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 General Studies, I did not make any notes from the basic textbooks and NCERTS. I preferred reading them multiple times because every reading gave me a fresh perspective/something that I missed out on earlier. Similarly, I prepared no notes from newspapers or monthly modules.

However, I did prepare notes for following:

  • World History (the course is too much and revising books again is not feasible, low cost-benefit)
  • Details of bills or schemes (this factual knowledge may not be accurately given in newspapers. But it may be required in mains answer writing)
  • Optional subject – Law (Course is huge and multiple revisions are required)

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Old Ncert (Read only once to get chronology clear)

New NCERT – 6th and 12th Theme I

History Medieval Old Ncert (Read only once to get chronology clear)

New NCERT – 7th and 12th Theme II

History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Spectrum

New NCERT – 8th and 12th Theme III

Culture and society Class XI textbook on Fine Arts

Revised subject specific mock tests about Culture

Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant

Political Theory, Class XI NCERT (Highly recommend this book to answer recently seen subjective questions. Like, meaning of liberty in 2019 paper)


Current affairs from newspapers, monthly modules and PIB

Economy (theory + current) NCERT (XI and XII Macroeconomics)

Mrunal videos for concept clarification

Current affairs from Newspapers, budget and economic survey

Science (theory + current) I didn’t read much on theory

For current, I read monthly magazines. But read up basics on important topics (Eg. Space – kind of orbits/satellites, Defence – kind of missles) on the internet

Environment (theory + current) NIOS material on environment (Read only once)

Last two chapters of NCERT Physical Geography

For Current, newspapers and monthly modules. I identified some topics – RAMSAR sites, National Parks, Animals, etc – for which I downloaded maps/lists etc.

geography physical Class XI NCERT

Mrunal videos for concept clarity

geography India NCERT

Mrunal videos for concept clarity

geography world NCERT

Mrunal videos for concept clarity

other national/international current affairs Newspapers and monthly modules.

For some topics like Organizations, conventions, etc, I visited their website and read ‘About us’ sections.

Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Identified them through newspapers or modules. Read about them on PIB.


  1. Candidates are complaining that compared to earlier years, Prelim 2017, 2018 and 2019’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-2020, what changes would you make in the strategy?

I believe that UPSC papers are bound to be unpredictable. Because of this, any strategy that we devise has to be flexible and very personal. There are some people who attempt maximum number of questions and are able to score well. But a straightjacket adoption of such strategy can be counterproductive, leading to negative marking.

Here, what helped me was analyzing my mock tests. After some attempts, I realized that for me, guesswork in extremely factual questions was leading to negative marks. But with reasoning based questions, I was more comfortable. So, I made it a point to never guess in factual questions even in the actual paper.

With respect to E-learning material, maybe the number of direct questions from there are lesser. But revision of this available material can help you eliminate options to get the correct answer. Here the caveat is that newspapers are continued and the amount of e-learning material used is limited/concise.

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Maths Past year papers
Reasoning Past year papers
Comprehension Past year papers
Decision Making Past year papers
  1. 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:

Thankfully, paper 2 is qualifying. Here, I would advise that our strengths must be identified so that minimum marks can be secured. If somebody is good with maths, they should first attempt those questions.

For reading comprehension, I would recommend that questions may be read first. That can lead to focused reading. The important portions may also be underlined in the paragraphs to help locate the answers better.

Prelim accuracy

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

I did give a couple of mock tests which were available in the market. They did help me to build my speed in answering and analyze my strengths/weaknesses. But I wouldn’t say that they are extremely necessary for success. The same exercise can be done with past year papers.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in Prelim-2019

  Attempted Q. Correct (Expected) Official Score
Paper-1 (General Studies) 78 60 108
Paper-2 (Aptitude) 55-60


45 100


Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Past year papers
your regional language Hindi – past year papers
  1. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2019

I was not able to devote much time to compulsory papers. But I did go through past 5-6 years of papers to understand the pattern and devise my strategy (which questions will I attempt first). This is important because the papers might be lengthy and going through them for the very first time in the exam hall can create confusion/stress.

Looking at the papers might also throw light on what aspects/topic do we need to study separately.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Content-wise I did not study anything special (GS preparation and newspaper reading should suffice). Here my focus was more on writing style. I used to divide my essay topic into broad 4-5 questions. These questions then used to become my headings in the main essay. I would take almost 30 mins to draw my outline wherein under every question, I would identify my arguments and examples supporting those examples. I would then take 1 hour to write the essay.

Here, I would like to mention that I did not use quotes in my essay as one, I could not remember many and two, didn’t feel that they were essential.


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

Best for an individual is not necessarily best for the society: Here, I broadly covered aspects of ‘when best for an individual is best for the society’, ‘when such a general rule is not applicable’ and ‘what mechanisms can we put in place to balance the two interests’.

Biased media is a real threat to Indian democracy: I covered major themes of ‘media’s importance in a democracy’, ‘what is biased media’, ‘how does it threaten democracy’ and ‘what can be done to address media bias’.

Mains General studies paper 1 to 4

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Same booklist as prelims

Attempted past year questions from UPSC papers

Revised a few questions from the mock tests

Indian history Same as Prelims
world history Old NCERT
post-independence India NCERT – Politics in India since independence
Indian society NCERT – Indian Society

Google research to prepare a 2 page writeup

role of women, poverty etc. Google research to prepare a 2 page writeup
globalization on Indian society Gobalization chapter in NCERT Contemporary world politics; Internet research
communalism, regionalism, secularism Chapters in NCERT – Political Theory
world geo physical NCERT
resource distribution NCERT
factors for industrial location NCERT
earthquake tsunami etc NCERT
impact on flora-fauna NCERT

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. Laxmikant + covered under my optional
comparing Constitution with world Laxmikant
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikant + covered under my optional
executive-judiciary Laxmikant + covered under my optional
ministries departments Did not do this separately
pressure group, informal asso. Internet Research
Representation of people’s act Internet Research
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory.. Laxmikant + ‘about us’ sections of bodies in news
NGO, SHG etc Internet Research
welfare schemes, bodies Newspapers + monthly modules + PIB
social sector, health, edu, HRD Newspapers + monthly modules + PIB
governance, transparency, accountability 2nd ARC Report, Ethics in Governance + Internet Research
e-governance Internet Research
role of civil service Internet Research
India & neighbors NCERT – Contemporary world politics + current affairs + Internet (MEA website articles)
bilateral/global grouping NCERT – Contemporary world politics + current affairs + Internet (MEA website articles)
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest NCERT – Contemporary world politics + current affairs + Internet (MEA website articles)
Diaspora NCERT – Contemporary world politics + current affairs + Internet
international bodies- structure mandate Identified important ones and visited their official page

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Class XI NCERT + Mrunal Videos
inclusive growth NCERT + Internet Research
Budgeting Class XI NCERT + Mrunal Videos
major crops, irrigation Geography NCERT
agro produce – storage, marketing Geography NCERT + Internet Research (Some official report summary can be seen here)
e-technology for famers Internet Research
farm subsidies, MSP Internet Research (Some official report summary can be seen here) + Mrunal Website
PDS, buffer, food security Internet Research (Some official report summary can be seen here) + Mrunal Website
technology mission Internet Research (Some official report summary can be seen here)
animal rearing economics Internet Research (Some official report summary can be seen here)
food processing Internet Research (Some official report summary can be seen here) + Mrunal Website
land reforms Internet Research (Some official report summary can be seen here)
Liberalization Class XI NCERT
Infra Internet Research
investment models Internet Research
science-tech day to day life Current affairs compilation on S&T
Indian achievements in sci-tech Current affairs compilation on S&T
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Current affairs compilation on S&T
environmental impact assessment Internet Research
Disaster Management Geography NCERT + Internet Research
non state actors, internal security Internet Research
internal security – role of media, social networking site Internet Research
cyber security Internet Research
money laundering Internet Research (basics of PMLA and International initiatives)
border  Management Internet Research
organized crime, terrorism Internet Research
security agencies- structure mandate Identified important ones and visited their official page

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Lexicon for basic ideas + examples from real life/current affairs
attitude, moral influence etc. Definitions from lexicon + examples from real life/current affairs
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc 2nd ARC Report for definitions
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Lexicon
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?

Zero. But I did read up about the broad theories (utilitarianism, deontology)

ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. 2nd ARC Report for definitions
corporate governance Internet Research
probity in governance, work culture 2nd ARC Report
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. 2nd ARC Report
challenges of corruption 2nd ARC Report
case studies on above topics Past year papers, mock tests.
  1. 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 am not aware of the marks ranges in this paper. But from my experience, I believe that this paper gives you a lot of scope to truly express yourself. As compared to other papers, where one may need to read/remember a lot of concepts, ethics is comparatively less knowledge oriented. Here, few basic ideas need to be known. Apart from that, one needs to explore their own though process (why do we conclude in a particular manner). Buttering them up with examples from current affairs or one’s own life should be a good strategy.

Mains answer-writing from DAY1

  1. Some toppers and coaching classes are advising students to start mains answer writing from day1. Your inputs/suggestions in this regard- when exactly should a candidate start practicing for answer mains?

This is a question of personal strategy. But for myself, I did not properly start answer writing till I cleared prelims. Before that, I would try to jot down points or make a framework of answer. This too became possible only when I was done with my initial readings of basic books and a few months of reading newspapers.

Mains answer-writing- real exam?

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 16 2-3 1 (couldn’t complete last answer) 19
GS2 17 2 1 (couldn’t complete last answer) 19
GS3 18 1 1 20
GS4 19 1 20
Opt-P1 20 20
Opt-P2 19 1 20
  1. 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 would take a middle stand on this. I would suggest attempting all the answers in the paper. Leaving the question blank (which will give a zero) is not a better option than writing something and getting a 1 or 2. Having said so, I would strongly urge people to not ‘make up’ answers or introduce fillers. If you know only 4 lines about an answer, write them honestly. And utilize the remaining time to perfectly write the answers which we do know.

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

I had no problem in writing within the fixed space.

  1. 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.

My answer format (bullet points or paragraphs) depended upon the kind of question. Often in some answers (Eg. In GSI), the question demands a descriptive answer where paragraphs will have to be written. But in case of other questions, say benefits and challenges of a policy, bullet points can be used.

However, this is also a matter of personal style. I prefer writing in paragraphs. So even where I used bullet points, I used them only for a part of answer. My introductions and conclusions were always descriptive.

  1. 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 format in as many questions as I could. Only when I ran out of time in the first two GS papers, was I forced to skip the conclusion in the last answer.

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

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers? No
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) No
Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? NA
Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? NA
Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue

Mains Optional Subject- LAW?

  1. Why did you chose Law Optional, and not something else?

I did my graduation in Law. Having this background, I reasoned that I would be better placed to answer the questions (as compared to any other subject, where I would have to start from scratch). Plus my genuine interest in this subject helped me decide in favour of it.

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

I would advice for it, especially if the person is a law graduate. Even though the course is a little bulky, it will be rewarding. One, the subject is extremely interesting. Two, the legal knowledge is helpful even in GS papers (like, GS 2).

For students who aren’t law graduates, I would suggest to go through the syllabus and basic concept ones. Depending upon their comfort, they can opt for it as the question papers are more concerned with the impact of the law rather than its technical details.

  1. 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.)

Constitution: J N Pandey (MP Jain may get bulky to finish)

International Law: S.K. Kapoor + Internet research for the last 5 topics (Pick up important articles from specific conventions) + UN Audiovisual library on International Law (for limited topics)

Law of Crimes: PSA Pillai (Please only read the syllabus topics from it and not the entire book)

Law of Torts: R K Bangia

Law of Contracts: Avtar Singh

For other minor acts, I read the bare acts and did internet research on them. Compilations by Nishith Desai Associates on Arbitration and IPR also helped me.

  1. 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?

Akarshi Jain UPSC Topper National Law University Jodhpur
There are certain topics in the syllabus which will require a thorough internet research: either because material isn’t available in books or cost benefit of reading a textbook is low. (Eg: Environmental laws). A tentative list is:

  • Ombudsman: Lokayukta, Lokpal etc.
  • Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and subsequent legislative developments.
  • Plea bargaining.
  • Consumer Protection Act
  • Public Interest Litigation.
  • Intellectual property rights – Concept, types/prospects.
  • Information Technology Law including Cyber Laws – Concept, purpose/prospects.
  • Competition Law- Concept, purpose/ prospects.
  • Alternate Dispute Resolution – Concept, types/prospects.
  • Major statutes concerning environmental law.
  • Right to Information Act.
  • Trial by media.

Apart from that, there are increasing questions from current developments. A large part of this will be covered under polity section of current affairs modules. But apart from it, one can regularly follow livelaw/the wire/any other legal news site.

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

It took me 4 months to finish the core optional syllabus.

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

I started writing 3 months before the exam. As and when I would finish a broad topic (Eg: Constitution), I would start attempting past year questions on it while simultaneously studying the next topic. Once I was done with say, the syllabus for Paper I, I started attempting full length paper while simultaneously studying for Paper II.

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

Yes. Because the syllabus is comprehensive, I made notes. I read these notes multiple times for revision (did not read the textbooks again). However, a month before the exam, I prepared extremely short notes just the article/sections and case laws/imp observation), which I used in the 5-6 days between GS papers and Optional Papers.

  1. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2019 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

I cannot say much about difficulty of the paper. But I would like to point out there is an increased emphasis on the impact of the law, both the static concepts and the new case laws/recent developments. So, for a future strategy, one can go through the standard textbooks. But one must also need to critically analyse laws/legal provisions (be mindful of objectives/benefits/shortcomings/way forward).

Before the interview

Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? – for college grad, hobbies, place of origin, current affairs at national and international level?

For topics mentioned in my DAF, I read up briefs from the internet (Wikipedia page in most cases). After having this broad idea, I tried formulating questions around it and then read up more wherever it was required.

For current affairs, I continued reading newspapers. I also watched debates on RSTV on a few important topics.

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

I attended a few mocks at SPIPA, Ahmedabad. They were helpful to me as they gave me useful tips about my conduct in the interview. They also helped me expand my question base for preparation.

However, the actual interview can go in any direction, which cannot be expected beforehand. My actual interview was almost entirely on technical aspects of law (with a few exceptions).

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 lived with my extended family in Delhi. I reached Delhi 2 days before the date of my interview. I carried only a small diary, in which I had made short notes about my DAF, with me.

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

I wore a cotton saree.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Sh. Bhim Sain Bassi

Q2. How long was the interview?

30 mins

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?]

The reason that I am attracted towards the civil services is the exposure that it will provide in my career. In a single service, I may get to work in a variety of areas (health, education, etc) or if that is not the case, in a variety of roles (implementer, adjudicator, policy maker). This continuous leaning process along with the chance to participate in nation building, I believe, will lead to my job satisfaction.

Why don’t I continue in my graduation (answered later)

Social service can be done from private sector too – That is true, but private corporations are mostly driven by profit motive and well-being of their stakeholders. Government, on the other hand, works for the benefit of all. More importantly, government work is broader than social service. It does work for the benefit of marginalized, but it is also concerned with the governing of all people and activities.

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]


Why do you not want to join the judicial services? Or practice career as an advocate? (Judicial services/advocate have a limited job role – adjudication. Civil services has a broader mandate)

You want to join the executive which usually doesn’t do a good job. No joining the judiciary, you will get the chance to keep a check on it. (First stage with the executive only, can contribute better there)

After 5 years of joining the service, you’ll get frustrated that you haven’t been able to contribute, what will you do then? (Identify and work on my own shortcomings; if any suggestions, pass on to senior through proper channels)

It is a given that you’ll be frustrated and the seniors don’t care about your suggestions. How will you continue? (manage myself better)


Tell us something about international humanitarian law (law that governs the war or armed conflict)

Does it have any religious connotations? (some rules found in religion, but modern law applicable to all)

What is that one rule of war which is found in almost all religions? (to not harm the unarmed)

Can you quote an example from Mahabharat where it was violated? (I couldn’t recollect)

Who is a terrorist? Does law of war protect them? (no general definition, but subject specific treaties like hijacking; if they are declared as unlawful combatants, not protected)

Who are mercenaries? Does law of war protect them? (Didn’t know the exact meaning; they are not protected)

Are you aware of any group of people in India who are mercenaries but entitled to protection? (don’t know)

What about the Nepalese in Indian army. Are they mercenaries? Are they protected under law of war? (they are inducted under oath, hence not mercenaries and hence, protected)


What are the attributes that you see in a civil servant, in the order of priority? (integrity, compassion, impartiality, discipline, self-development)

You said you wanted to work in policymaking. But that is often a grey area. Recount us one if the grey areas in your life and how did you navigate it?

Let me put you in a grey area. What if you’re the legal secretary and there is some project you have to implement like live proceedings initiative. You know the problems in it. What will you do? (Will first assess the situation: how many courts have still not implemented. Will identify issues therein. Initiate a dialogue with all stakeholders – court staff, judges, bar council members)


In works contract, what dispute resolution mechanism is provided for? (Don’t know but generally courts Or ADR)

But you’re talking about ultimate resolution, what about day to day problem solving? (Don’t know)

How does arbitration work? Explain mechanism to me (Agreement, panel composed, proceedings, award, implementation)

How many members does an arbitrary tribunal have? (depends on the contract, no fixed number)

How are they appointed? (Parties appoint or the court appoints)

What were the amendments that were introduced in the arbitration act in 2018? (fee schedule inserted, timelines prescribed)


As a lawyer, explain to me the legal process by which the changes were made to A. 370? (Explained the process)

When this was done, was the state under presidents rule? (Don’t remember if it was president or governor’s rule, but the state assembly was definitely not in session)

Why is there such an uproar if a UT has been created from the erstwhile state? (UT has limited powers compared to state)

But even today, it has its own legislative assembly. So why problem? (Centre still retains powers over all matters, irrespective of an assembly, can override their laws)

Some follow up questions

What do you understand by the legal maxim – law is made for the man and not man for the law? (law should be responsive to the needs of people and needs to change with time. Shouldn’t be so rigid so that its compliance becomes burdensome)

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?

No, it was not a stress interview. The board was extremely cordial to me. However, the detailed questions about arbitration or International Humanitarian Law were a little surprising to me, though not completely unexpected. I answered them to the best of my knowledge and when I didn’t know, I was very honest about my lack of further knowledge.

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

Please go through the notifications, including the medical exam letter, in detail. Highlight the documents that are needed (I realized it a little late that I was supposed to carry prescription for my specs). Carry an extra photocopy of documents, just in case.

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

Keep 2 days margin between medical and your return ticket. I had to stay back 3 days because of an extra test (which I was not expecting). Though this doesn’t happen to everybody, it is a possibility.

CSE-2019 Marksheet

Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Subjects (Max. Marks) Marks secured Cutoff ranges

(PH to General)

Prelims P1-GS (200m) Cutoff: 40-98
Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m) Passing Marks: 67
Mains Subjects Marks secured  
Essay (250m) Passing Marks: 25
GSM1 (250m) Passing Marks: 25
GSM2 (250m) Passing Marks: 25
GSM3 (250m) Passing Marks: 25
GSM4 (250m) Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-1 (250m) Passing Marks: 25
Optional Paper-2 (250m) Passing Marks: 25
Written Total (1750m) Cutoff: 561-751
Interview (275m) N/A
Final (2025m) Cutoff: 708-961


Career Backup

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

I would have gone back to my profession of law. I planned to start working under a senior lawyer in Gujarat High Court.

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.)

This was my last attempt of full time preparation. I had decided to take up a job after this.

Insecurity about profile

  1. Many candidates prepare sincerely but constantly live under fear about ‘profile insecurity’. I’m not from a big college, I’m not from English medium, and I don’t have work-experience. What if they ask some stressful questions in the interview about this? Did you suffer from such insecurities? What is your message to these candidates?

I can relate to the insecurity of ‘no work experience’. But somewhere along the line, I understood that such insecurity is only in my mind and it is not a consideration for the Commission.

For anybody who suffers from any insecurity, I would only like to say that we are aspiring to become a part of the governance machinery of a country which is as diverse as one could imagine. This system needs people from all backgrounds, not just the elite institutions/particular medium/profession etc. Your viewpoint and experience is different but still invaluable. Have confidence in yourself and keep working towards your goal.

Struggle of a Senior player

Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison of UPSC  and what’re your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.

UPSC exam can be tiring at times because of the time commitment that one undertakes (1.5 years minimum). And for people who are giving their 3rd/4th attempt, it may get difficult to repeat the same syllabus again and again.

In my experience, the first thing is not to compare yourself with others because that may create unrealistic expectations/guilt. All we can do is to focus on our progress and work. Which brings me to the second thing, periodic evaluation of one’s work. This helps bring our shortcomings to the forefront, which can drive us to work harder. Three, make it a habit to have a larger perspective than just the UPSC exam sometimes. Here, talking to non-upsc friends/watching a light show/pursuing some hobby (music, for eg) etc can help (maybe, can do so once in a while). Lastly, having a backup in your mind can also relieve some of the stress we may feel.

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

My first attempt was merely 2 months after I finished my graduation (I had only started preparing after graduation).

In my second attempt, I struggled to balance the static and current affairs portions of the syllabus. So I ended up giving undue focus on one of the two. I couldn’t clear prelims that year.

In my third attempt, I started dividing my day into 3 segments of static, current and optional, which helped me keep a balance. Two months before prelims, I dedicated my attention completely to prelims. However, for mains, I found it difficult to inculcate all the different views about answer writing (diagrams, bullet points, presentations, examples, quotes).

This year, I decided to write in a manner which was most comfortable to me. I focused more on thought clarity and flow of the answer, rather than presentation/multiple angle analysis. I also took UPSC papers as my base material for practicing answer writing rather than mocks (though I practiced a few of them as well). I also took limited feedback, accepting and rejecting it according to my own style.

Corona Exam Cancellation

  • Many candidates not preparing because of dilemmas over exam cancellation / postponement due to Corona. What is your advice to them?

I would say that the exam is a test of our mental strength as well. The exam will definitely happen, the only question is when. Tweak your schedule a little if you have to (some activity to relax/calm your mind), but continue with the studying as if the exam is happening on the scheduled date. Worst case, if the exam is postponed, this hardwork will still benefit you.

Message to Failed Candidates

  • Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2019. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

Feeling sad is normal but we have to make sure that we do not remain in the state for too long. With a calm mind, one needs to assess their options and see if they want to attempt again. In case they do, then understand that every failure can be an opportunity to learn. Refocus your energy and start again.

Credit: Friends/family

  • 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?

That is definitely true. Every success is a group effort, even when the winner seems to be only one. In my case, firstly, it was my parents. My father spent countless hours in consoling me, going through my answers, reading up himself to help me better. My mother was the source of my willpower. She made sure to always empathetically listen on the days when I felt low.

Secondly, I was very lucky to have a set of friends and extended family, who vehemently brushed aside any self-doubt that I would express and always urged me to give in my best.

Grand wisdom of LIFE

  1. 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?

Mood swings and distractions are normal. The idea is not to give into them. I started seeing them as signs that I need a break or needed to reorient myself. So I would walk away from studies for an hour or so. I also made breaks part of my daily and weekly schedules to prevent burn out.

I got into the habits of writing down daily goals and ticking them off. And on the worst days, I would remind myself as to why exactly do I want to clear this exam, which motivated me to study again.

  1. 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 might not label it as ‘wisdom’, but I have realized that one needs to be the biggest supporter of themselves. One needs to honor their own journey, without focusing too much on others. When we express excess competition/self-doubt/guilt etc, we diminish not only our potential, but we also stop enjoying the process.

To new aspirants, I would like to say that please put your heart in the preparation. What you learn is going to be transformational for you, which will help you not only in the exam but in life as well.

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Ms.Jain, as a senior player, You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- the last questions must be about self-marketing. So…

  1. I (Mrunal) had evaluated your mock mains answer copies for last two years. How much did it benefit you?

I found your evaluation to be very helpful. The distinguishing feature was the detailed criteria that you had made for marking answers (Intro, conclusion, answer flow, etc). It helped me understand where exactly was I going wrong/what my strengths were. There was also a good balance of content and presentation based marking.

  1. I (Mrunal) had conducted your mock interviews and also study material for mock interview questions. How much did it benefit you?

Again, I found them very helpful. You asked me questions from those aspects of my DAF which I had till then understood to be not-so-important (Eg. BBA). The situational questions that you had asked me also helped me broaden my thought process. Lastly, you were extremely encouraging of my efforts, which was a confidence booster in the last lap of the exam.

  1. 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’ve mentioned this earlier as well. I used the videos quite extensively, especially for geography and economy. Apart from that, I also read up a few topper’s interviews on the page and your analysis of the past year mains papers.

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