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[Topper’s Interview] Pratishtha Mamgain (Rank-

50/UPSC-2017) 1st Attempt, Political Science, St

Stephen’s Delhi

September 1, 2018

1. Candidate Profile
2. Education
3. Introduction
4. Electronic Vs Paper material
5. Typical day in your Online life?
6. Style of Preparation and notes making
7. Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies
8. Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude
9. Prelim accuracy
10. Mains: Compulsory language paper
11. Mains: Essay
12. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
13. General studies (Mains) paper 2
14. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
15. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
16. Mains answer-writing?
17. Mains Optional Subject: Political Science
18. Before the interview
19. During the interview
20. CSE-2016 Marksheet
21. Career Backup
22. Insecurity about profile
23. Grand wisdom
24. Credit: Friends/family
25. BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Candidate Profile

Q. Details

Name Pratishtha Mamgain

Rank in CSE-2017 50

Roll No. 0194520

Age 22 years

Marital Status Unmarried

Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 1

Optional Subject Political Science and International Relations

Schooling Medium English

College Medium English

Medium chosen for Mains answers English

Medium chosen for Interview English

Home town/city Delhi

Work-experience if any –

Details of other competitive exams, including –


Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material GS & CSAT at Vajiram (I had stopped
for any competitive exam (if used) attending GS classes after 1-2 months)
Test series for GS prelims, mains, essay at

PSIR test series at Vajiram

Mocks for personality test at Samkalp,

Chanakya and Vajiram

Service preferences (Top-5) IAS>IRS(IT)>IAAS>IRS(CE)>IRTS

Preference for the first states in top-3 zonal AGMUT>Gujarat>Andhra Pradesh



Education fill the details here

% in class 10 10 CGPA

% in class 12 97.2%

Graduation course and % BA (Hons) Economics, 87.88%

Name of college, city, passing out year St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, 2016

Post-graduation –

Any other professional courses –

Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Reading fiction, writing analytical opinion-based articles

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

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

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

Electronic Vs Paper material

Q. In recent times, there is spur in electronic material- blogs, sites, pdfs, RSS-feeds.
Many aspirants feel bogged down by this information overload. So, how do you
balance this i.e. electronic material vs. paper material (Books, newspapers)

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

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

Typical day in your Online life?

Online life Answer

Daily hrs spent on online platforms for predicting cutoff / syllabus None
change / age-attempt limit change and other “peripheral-bolbachchan“
related to civil services.

Daily hrs spent on whatsapp and telegram studygroups None

Daily hrs spent on online for exam prep. It varied as I used

online sources for
certain topics.

Primary Device for online study: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile Laptop

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

I would recommend deactivating Facebook in order to avoid distractions. I deactivated my

account on the day of my final university exam to focus on my preparation.

Style of Preparation and notes making

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

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

In a separate notebook, I made notes for key terms, conventions, international

organizations, statistics and other data that I copied from the net, newspapers or Yojana.

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

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

Prelims (CSAT) Paper-1: General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment

History Ancient Old NCERT by RS Sharma

History Medieval Old NCERT by Satish Chandra

History Modern (Freedom Old NCERT by Bipin Chandra+Spectrum


Culture and society Nitin Singhania Sir’s notes

Polity (theory + current) Laxmikanth+Hindu+Indian Express+Vision monthly

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

Economy (theory + current) Sriram book+Economic Survey+Budget+Hindu+Indian Express

Science (theory + current) internet+Hindu+Indian Express+Vision magazines

Environment (theory + current) ShankarIAS book+ Hindu+Indian Express+Vision


geography physical NCERT+G.C.

geography India

geography world

other national/international Vision monthly magazines+internet

current affairs

Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff India Yearbook (selectively), ShankarIAS compilation of govt

Q. Candidates are complaining that compared to earlier years, Prelim 2017 and
2018’s GS papers were very tougher, Tickmasters’ 90+ strategy (and its perverted &
populist version known as Guessmaster-giri) and E-learning materials had limited
utility. What are you views and wisdom on all these? If you were to prepare for the
Prelim-2019, what changes would you make in the strategy?

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

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

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

Prelims (CSAT): Paper-2: Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist

Maths Vajiram booklets & assignments + past year papers

Reasoning Vajiram booklets & assignments+ past year papers

Comprehension Vajiram booklets & assignments+ past year papers

Decision Making Vajiram booklets & assignments+ past year papers

Q. In the recent prelims, the comprehension portion becoming quite tough and
lengthy. Candidates struggle even to finish the paper-II. Kindly provide some words
of wisdom:

I attempted the maths/reasoning questions followed by comprehension. For reasoning and

maths questions, one should avoid getting stuck on a problem. It is better to move on to the
next question and return later. Comprehension requires patience and concentration. It is
better to read the passage once properly rather than reading it again for each question.
Practice is important and one should avoid taking the paper lightly.

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

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

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

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score

GS 82 111.46 118.6

aptitude 44 – 94.18

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?

English paper Wren & Martin to brush up grammar + past year papers

your regional language Samanya Hindi by Unique Publishers+past year papers

Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory

language papers in CSE-2017

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

Mains: Essay
Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

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

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

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

1. Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers.

Intro- ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ slogan, importance of farming, harvest festivals, farmer
suicides and indebtedness
Problems in farming – explained various dimensions on the input and output side
Solutions- included examples of Australia, New Zealand, China, marketing, food
processing, credit and insurance etc

1. Fulfilment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth

Intro- quote of Dr Ambedkar, explained new woman term

Arguments in favour of statement- included violent crimes against women, gender
discrimination, poor sex ratio, compared literacy rates, health, workforce participation
Arguments against the statement-included support for women athletes, initiatives of
govt, growing awareness and public support, #MeToo movement
Positive conclusion along with quote of the Honourable Prime Minister

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?

Culture Nitin Singhania Sir’s book
I made notes in the form of tables to memorise the states and
art,dance,folk songs etc

Indian history Same as prelims

world history Old NCERT by Arjun Dev+ VisionIAS material

post-independence India NCERT Political Science- Class 12

Indian society Newspapers

role of women, poverty etc. Newspapers

globalization on Indian Newspapers


communalism, regionalism, Covered in optional


world geo physical Leong

resource distribution

factors for industrial location

earthquake tsunami etc Geography

impact on flora-fauna Geography

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Topic How Did You Prepare?

Indian Constitution, devolution, Laxmikanth (I had Political Science optional which helped
dispute redressal etc. me to cover GS paper-2)

comparing Constitution with world

parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikanth

executive-judiciary Laxmikanth

ministries departments Limited to current affairs

pressure group, informal asso. Covered in optional

Representation of people’s act Laxmikanth+Vision material

various bodies: Constitutional, Laxmikanth


NGO, SHG etc Newspapers & current affairs

welfare schemes, bodies Newspapers & current affairs

social sector, health, edu, HRD Newspapers & current affairs

governance, transparency, Newspapers & current affairs


e-governance Newspapers & current affairs

role of civil service Newspapers & current affairs

India & neighbors Covered in optional

bilateral/global grouping Covered in optional

effect of foreign country policies on Covered in optional

Indian interest

Diaspora Covered in optional

international bodies- structure Covered in optional


General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?

Indian economy, resource SriramIAS book (Economics was my graduation subject which was a
mobilization boon)

inclusive growth SriramIAS book

Budgeting SriramIAS book

major crops, irrigation SriramIAS book

agro produce – storage,


e-technology for famers SriramIAS book

farm subsidies, MSP SriramIAS

PDS, buffer, food security SriramIAS book

technology mission SriramIAS book+schemes

animal rearing economics SriramIAS book+schemes

food processing

land reforms

Liberalization SriramIAS book

Infra SriramIAS book

investment models SriramIAS book

science-tech day to day life Newspapers+Vision monthly magazines+internet

Indian achievements in sci- Newspapers+Vision monthly magazines+internet


awareness in IT, space, Newspapers+Vision monthly magazines+internet

biotech, nano, IPR I made detailed notes on Indian space program from the internet.

environmental impact ShankarIAS book


Disaster Management Yojana edition January 2017

non state actors, internal “India internal security challenges and responses” by Prakash Singh, a
security paper published in Vivekananda International Foundation in 2013

internal security – role of Current affairs and internet

media, social networking

cyber security Vision and Insights material

money laundering Insights material

border Management Vajiram notes

organized crime, terrorism Vajiram notes

security agencies- Internet (mainly Wikipedia)

structure mandate

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?

ethics and interface, family, society Lexicon

and all the hathodaa topics

attitude, moral influence etc. Lexicon

civil service: integrity, impartiality, Lexicon

tolerance to weak etc

emotional intelligence, its use in Lexicon


moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare? Only those I had
covered in my optional.

ethics in, accountability, Lexicon (Also, I went through the introduction and summary
laws, rules etc. of recommendations of 4th report of 2nd ARC)

corporate governance Lexicon

probity in governance, work culture Lexicon (Also, I went through the introduction and summary
of recommendations of 4th report of 2nd ARC)

citizen charter, ethics code, work Lexicon

culture etc.

challenges of corruption Lexicon

case studies on above topics Lexicon

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

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

1. Originality/genuineness- Answers should be genuine and not seem robotic. This

paper, like the Essay paper, is an opportunity to be creative.
2. Balance- Solutions suggested should be practical and acceptable to all while

adhering to an ethical code of conduct and rule of law.
3. Time Management- This is important for all papers but more so for ethics. One
should try to balance the case studies with other sections. I found that my writing
speed slowed down when I began from case studies in the mock test. So, in the
mocks, one can experiment which section to start with.

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

Paper Best attempted Average namesake Total

quality answer attempt

GS1 14-15 2-3 2 19

GS2 Same as above 20 (all)

GS3 Same as above 20 (all)

GS4 Same as above 14 (all)

Opt- Most of the answers except a couple of 10 markers at All

P1 the end due to paucity of time

Opt- Most of the answers except a couple of 10 markers at All

P2 the end due to paucity of time

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs? Some players (who
cleared mains and got interview call letter) were claiming that they wrote entire paper
in bullet points, so it doesn’t matter…. whether examiner is asking ‘examine,
comment, discuss or xyz’….simply write in bullets and points.

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

Q. Did you follow the “introduction-body-conclusion” format? because some mains-

qualified candidates claim they simply wrote the points they could recall within the
time, instead of bothering with proper introduction and conclusion.

Yes, I tried to stick to this format wherever possible.

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

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers? No

Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography) No

Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen? –

Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand? –

Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen? Blue

Mains Optional Subject: Political Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paper 1–

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

2) Brian Nelson – Western Political Thoughts

3) Shubhra Ranjan Ma’am’s notes

4) Make a comprehensive list of important Supreme Court judgements in a chronological

manner along with short notes on their significance.

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

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

Paper 2 –

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

2) IGNOU notes – help to provide a good base

3) Shubhra Ranjan Ma’am’s notes

4) Current affairs are of utmost importance. Thorough & comprehensive reading of

newspapers (The Hindu & Indian Express) is required.

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

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

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

Q. How much of internet-research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR

can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?

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

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

3-4 months approximately

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

I joined test series after declaration of prelims result.

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


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

Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2017 mains vs previous papers. And
what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given
optional subject?

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

Before the interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orange-brown sari

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Dr. Manoj Soni sir

Q2. How long was the interview?

30 minutes

Q3. Why do you want to join civil service? Why don’t you continue in your
graduation field? Social service can be done from private sector too.

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

Q4. Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did
you reply and other pleasant or uncomfortable experiences during the interview.

( 3rd to go)

(Wished all members & took permission to sit)

Chairman- So Pratishtha Mamgain?

Me- Yes Sir

Ch-Born and brought up in Delhi?

Me- Yes sir

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

Me- Yes sir, St Stephens’s College

Ch- So why did you pursue economics honours?

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

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

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

Ch- But you had science?

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

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

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

Ch- When did you decide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch- Maybe I can write on that.

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

M1- What is the unit called in these areas?

M1- What is difference between CAPF and Paramilitary force?

M1- Give examples of Paramilitary force.

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

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

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

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

M2- Can you suggest some solutions?

M2- What is the government doing?

M2- Anything else?

M2- Will alleviating agrarian stress be enough?

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

M2- What is ASEAN?

M2- How is India building ties with ASEAN?

Member 3 – Who was Saint Stephen?

M3- Where was he martyred?

M3- What is grey tourism?

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

M3- What did you do during internship?

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

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

M3-Is it just family/grandparents?

Me- No ma’am, I think society as a whole is responsible of which family is an important

part. If only parents or grandparents were responsible, then a common culture would not

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

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

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

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

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

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

M3- How is tourism important for India?

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

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

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

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

M3- Ok, excellent.

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

M4- Role of CAG?

More questions followed related to polity which I cannot recall.

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

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

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

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

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

Me- Sir, hopefully as an IAS officer.

(At this point all members laughed)

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

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

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

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

Read the instructions given by UPSC very well.

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

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

CSE-2016 Marksheet
Q1. Please provide both prelim and final mark sheet:

Subjects (Max. Marks) Marks secured Cutoff ranges

(PH to Gen.)

Prelims P1-GS (200m) 118.66 Cutoff: 40-105.34

Prelims P2-Aptitude (200m) 94.18 Passing Marks: 67

Mains Subjects Marks secured

Essay (250m) 147.00 Passing Marks: 25

GSM1 (250m) 102.00 Passing Marks: 25

GSM2 (250m) 113.00 Passing Marks: 25

GSM3 (250m) 122.00 Passing Marks: 25

GSM4 (250m) 109.00 Passing Marks: 25

Optional Paper-1 (250m) 167.00 Passing Marks: 25

Optional Paper-2 (250m) 110.00 Passing Marks: 25

Written Total (1750m) 870.00 Cutoff: 578-809

Interview (275m) 198.00 N/A

Final (2025m) 1068.00 Cutoff: 830-1006

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

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

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

Insecurity about profile

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

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

Grand wisdom
Q. People know what books and syllabus points are to be prepared. But most of
them lack consistency in their preparation. So, how do you keep study momentum
going on? How do you fight against the mood swings and distractions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2017. They’re

feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?

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

Credit: Friends/family
Q. Behind every topper are many people who stood by during those uncertain times
when he/she was merely an ‘aspirant’. Would you like to tell the world, who were
those people in your case? Any specific incidence that you would like to share with
the readers?

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

BOGUS Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware of the sacred rule of conducting toppers interview- the last
question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use for your
preparation and if yes, how did it help you? And you can even reply “No”. I’ll still
publish your answer without tempering.

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