Interview preparation – CSE

I’m sharing few notes that I made for CSE interview 2017. These are relevant for those who are coming from policing background (IPS/CAPF/DySP) and aiming for IAS or IFS.

Policing – 1

Policing – 2

Policing – 3

Apologies for the formatting. I am current on road for winter study tour.

Good luck,



My videos for CSE and IFoS related guidance

Collating these videos here for reference

CSE guidance video – briefly touches upon important aspects of my strategy for all 3 stages of CSE i.e. interview, mains and interview

CSE Guidance video –

CSE Physics Optional strategy  – exhaustive coverage of Physics strategy. Few words of wisdom from Vajpai sir who has been my mentor.

CSE Physics Optional Strategy

Notesmaking strategy

IFoS guidance video – covers GK, English, Forestry Optional and Interview

CSE GS1 Strategy

GS1 usually takes most times of aspirant as subjects like History and Culture are highly time consuming but not really rewarding. I would suggest you to not devote much time to these topics as either the questions would be so easy that everyone would be able to write something meaningful or so difficult that most of the candidate will have no idea what they are suppose to write.


  • History – TN Board 11th NCERT, Modern Spectrum, Few chapters from TMH
  • Culture – Nitin Singhania’s handwritten notes+GK Today notes
  • Geography – NCERT, G C Leong, Vajiram class notes
  • Society – Vision IAS Notes, Current affairs

I made revision notes for all material. For Spectrum, I got the summary pages at the end of each chapter photocopied and wrote extra stuff on them for last minute revision.

My evernote collection

Other reosurces

CSE GS2 Strategy

I use to think GS2 is one paper where candidates from Public Administration, Sociology, PSIR have a distinct advantage. But that’s not the case really. The paper doesnt demand in depth knowledge. Although in initial years of my preparation I was a little afraid of the content but later became confident.

I’ve relied heavily on current affairs, Vision notes and puri sir notes for this paper. In my opinion they are the key ingredient to attain a certain level of preparation.


  • Polity – Lakshmikant, M Puri sir’s class notes
  • Governance – Current affairs, Vision IAS notes
  • International relations – Vajiram’s class notes, M Puri sir’s class notes

Try and make revision notes for all your content except Lakshmikant as it is humanly impossible to do for this book.

My evernote collection

Other resources

CSE GS3 Strategy

GS3 has scored comparatively high this year. It is difficult to point out a reason for that. Usually GS2 and GS3 have scored similarly.

This paper has been one of my favorites as it contains diverse set of subjects.

Book list

  • Economy – Sriram IAS class notes
  • Security – Vajiram Yellow book
  • Environment – Shankar IAS Notes
  • S&T – Vajiram class notes+Vajiram’s yellow book
  • Disaster management – Yojana’s editions which comes once in two years or so
  • Current affaris – Vision IAS Monthly magazine, Editorials from various news appers especially Livemint, Business standard


  • I made concise revision notes for all subjects except S&T
  • I drew as many diagrams as possible in the paper
  • Kept my online notes updated via newspapers and vision magazine

My evernote collection –

Other resources

Interview Preparation

As I outlined in my other post , I attended mock in 2016 at as many places as I could since I was nervous. My experience was mixed. On one hand it made me comfortable with the interview process but on the other hand I became too conscious of myself. I scored 173 finally in B S Bassi Sir’s board. In 2017, since I was undergoing training at NPA, I didn’t have much time to prepare and mocks. So I gave just one mock. I still scored same marks i.e. 173 in Bhonsle Sir’s board.

In nutshell, My opinion is that you should give at least 3-4 mock interviews properly

Regarding preparation

  • I started reading two-three newspapers 2-3 week after mains – The Hindu/Indian Express+Livemint/Business standard/Economic times+HT/ToI.
    • I use to jot down important news from these papers either in evernote or in a notebook.
  • Your DAF. Each and every word should be carefully pondered over. Prepare possible questions on it.
    •  For example – “Ambassador of Change award for social service”. Possible questions could be about ambassador car, the post of ambassador, type of changes, etc. I know I am stretching it a bit too far but you never know what a interviewer think of after looking at a certain word
    • Another example – My hobby is photography.  So they asked me “You do photography? What Kind? Why not wildlife? What equipment you would need to do wildlife photography?”
  • General question
    • Why do you people want to join IAS and what will be your choice if you’re getting IPS again and why?

What happens?

  • It is a 25-30 min interview with 5 board members.
  • The chairman starts the interview and after 4-5 mins asks one of the members to carry on.
  • There may or may not be a psychologist. One can’t guess.


  • This is a test for your personality and not knowledge. But as Ayush Sir has said in one of his videos – what may be knowledge for you may be personality for UPSC board member. For example – They may ask who is CDO of your district? What is the literacy rate of your district? If you don’t know answer to these basic yet crucial questions then you are in a bad soup. It reflects bad on you that as a person interested to be in public service and who is expected to be well versed with general knowledge of things around him doesn’t know even this much.
  • You are not expected to know answers to all the questions
  • Always smile. While entering, while answering, even if you don’t know the answer, while leaving. Shows a pleasing personality
  • Be humble – Like a cow. You are not perfect and can never be. Accept your weakness. Also start practicing use of “sir”
  • Be prepared to say No if you are not sure of an answer. In my opinion a No is a better answer than “I think it could be” or “I guess”.
  • Work on your communication skills- especially if you have a habit of using filler words like – “you know”.
    • You can video record yourself and analyse it
  • Candidates who’ve gotten into arguments with the board have seen their marks reduced.
    • dont correct a board member
    • don’t be anti establishment
  • Selected aspirants usually hover around 55-70%. But there are always exception.
  • Ask for “May I sit down” if not asked to.
  • No answers in binaries – yes/no – unless very sure? for e.g. – you wasted a seat at IIT?
  • Try to use ‘our country ‘ or ‘our nation ‘ as many times as possible
  • Voice level should be sufficient to make it hear to everyone
  • Appropriate answer and not correct answer is required
  • Always take a position that administration would take
Strategy articles that I’ve referred to
Transcripts collection I’ve referred to

Evernote collection – It also contains notes on Rajasthan, Delhi, electrical engineering, forestry, physics etc

Rajasthan related material besides Evernote

Rajasthan Adhyan (1-4)


Other related material


All the best!

GS4 (Ethics) Strategy

Ethics is one paper which was usually considered scoring in past years but this year it suffered a blow due to strict marking (probably)

Reference Material

These are my Ethics notes from evernote –

Case study approaches

  • My strategy
    • Introduce one line with ethical dilemma involved. explicitly mention other ethical issues
    • mention stakeholders involved – mention values/decision premise – on basis on what values or ethical principles are you going to analyze the case
    • reasoning/justification
      • how the chosen option resolves the dilemmas and issues mention in the beginning using the values involved
      • how the chosen option affects stakeholder -could use table here
      • peripheral issues – how are they resolved
      • approach – base don what principles
    • merit/demrit
      • in each option give justification based on value and implication of the action
  • Atul Sir – framework for ethical decision making
    • Identify ethical issues/value concerns/ethical dilemmas
      • Sun diagram
      • Listing
    • Getting the facts
      • Relevant facts of the case
      • Avoid this due to paucity of space
    • Stakeholder ,- individual and groups that have stake in he outcome
      • Important steps
    • Various option
      • Only if asked
    • Have I identified creative options?
      • Middle path
    • Evaluate alternative options
      • Use 5 schools + leaders + emotional intelligence+ altitude
    • Decision
      • Can write some facts ,- sc judgement or constitution or society
      • Making it
      • Put it in people and society – that course of action is desired by them

Exam Paper Strategy

  • Use ethical theories, moral precedents, examples and anecdotes in reasoning for your decisions in case studies
  • Infant devote maximum time and space to reasoning – that is the area where you can really shine and create difference. Rest is run of the mill things
  • Never break the law in case study
  • Never show your prejudice of politician
  • Emphasis on exploration rather than prescription
  • Problem solving approach
    • Don’t reach conclusion in the starting
  • Personal biases need to be considered – don’t write them
  • Take a ethical stand wherever possible
  • Strict action must be taken
    • Deterrent approach
  • Avoid irrelevant information
  • Be optimistic
  • Attempt the case study with various options first – warmup
  • Quality of suggestions should be applicable to the situation and environment. Eg -Biometric system for school attendance in Bihar would not work
  • Stick to keywords in syllabus and previous year question papers
  • Don’t forget the appeal power – quintessential Indian things (ex – saat phere instead of marriage /mai-baap ) which show that you are integral part of the society
  • use tabular format as far as possible
  • don’t get too bogged down in nitty gritty. focus on the essence or theme of the question
  • Use hypothetical scenarios in Ethics answer
  • Be gender neutral in your answers. Use She/He or Him/Her
  • – Some parts of the syllabus must reflect in the answer
  • bring the language of ethics in the paper
  • – highlight the philosophy behind the answer
  • – contemporary examples
  • – Quote a thinker
  • – mention contradictory principles/values
  • In the quotes question in section a – connect it to one of the issues from syllabus in current context
  • Questions in which suggestions are asked
    • Mention ethical issue before
  • If not asked explicitly always write 1-2 line about why/reason behind the statement
  • Prepare yourself for all kind of SURPRISES IN PAPER
  • Remember the difference between eyesight and vision. Take people beyond what is minimum required.
  • Show your capacity to experience

For case studies

  • Introduce the case before coming to the point
  • should mention main stakeholder in the beginning
  • if stakeholders r not important then mention chief issues in the beginning if not even asked
  • don’t use I too much . try using indirect speech
  • Options are standalone. steps are discrete
  • course of action and justification is the main part of the answer
  • don’t give your best option as the first one- curtain raiser. arrows curiosity of the examiner
  • demerits are basically administrative challenges or limitation
  • try to list as many possible traits of leaders, reformer , administrators
  • If there are multiple stakeholder in the case study – then in your suggestion explain steps that you will take wrt each of them and their alternates if it doesn’t work out
  • Practical solution and not just vague suggestions (how to improve transparency rather than just improve transparency)
  • Also mention the most undesirable option in case study
  • Touch the peripheral issues and not just the core issues
  • Human values+Foundational values are the core of answering all case study

Things to take note

  • When gs 2 type questions are asked in paper 4
    • you have to address issues like why a particular thing is happening?
      • someone not performing their duty
      • lack of values,morals
      • role of family, society
      • it is not there empathy is not there?
    • eg  – migration case studies
      • gs2 perspective – implementation issues etc
      • gs4 perspective – deep rooted disvalues in society, some servants are not doing their duty, lacking commitment, not just systematic failure


Anything else you want to know, please post in comments.

All the best


CSE Physics Optional Strategy

First of all I must thanks the giant of UPSC Physics preparation – D P Vajpayee sir. He has made it possible that I am writing this blog today. I took coaching for Physics from DIAS in 2014 and appeared for test series in 2016.

Secondly, my sincere gratitude to previous years toppers – Supreet Singh Gulati Sir (2007), Abhijeet Agarwal Sir (2009), Kashish Mittal Sir (2012), Divyanshu Jha Sir (2013), Manish Bansal Sir (2013), Rishav Gupta Sir (2013), Vishu Mahajan (2016) and Prateek Jain (2016). I have immensely benefited from their strategy, notes and guidance in past 4 years.

Book list – I stuck to just one book for each topic except for Paper 2 where Resnick and Eisberg helps in covering some topics in Modern Physics.
  • Mechanics
    • JCUpadhyay
  • Optics
    • Ghatak
  • Electricity and magentism
    • Griffith and SP
  • Thermo
    • Garg, bansal, ghosh
  • Resnick and Eisberg
  • Quantum
    • HCV
  • Atomic and molecular
    • Rajkumar and ban well
  • Nuclear and Particle
    • SBPatel
  • Solid state and digital electronics
    • Puri and babbart

Other sources

  • I came across Hyperphysics very late in my preparation. It is immensely helpful for notes making as well to understand certain concepts. You will find a whole of easy to draw diagrams on this.
  • Abhijeet Sir’s notes – available on his blog cited above – use it for in depth study only if you have time.
  • Rishav Sir’s notes – available on his blog cited above – They should be your primary source. He has covered almost all the topics succinctly
  • Brilliant Tutorial Notes – They are usually available in photocopy form in ORN or Ber Sarai market. They are beneficial to cover previous year questions. Also topics like Solid state and digital electronics can be covered from them
  • DIAS classroom notes – If you are not able to attend the classes then get the latest notes from one of the students attending them. All your other notes would be structured around them.

Test series at DIAS

  • You must write all the test. And on time
  • Many opt for test series by correspondence. I would advice against that. There is no way you can simulate that environment sitting 2000km away. The experience of giving the test series at the centre is very different

Answer writing – This is a highly important part in preparation. You need to practice this well. You can get 50-70% marks for a correct answer (taking into account scaling etc)

  • Best way is to prepare model answers for all your tutorial sheets. Get model UPSC answer booklets from market and start writing answers for previous year questions from tutorial sheets. Tutorial Sheet, Previous Year Papers
  • Make it a habit to add a line or two in the beginning and end of the answer. This could be related to the physics/definition of the concept asked in the question or a comment on the answer (like for HUP – you can write that such value of answer make it improbable to witness it directly). You can also write real world application for the concept asked or some meta data like who is the discoverer or which experiment led to the discovery of the concept
  • Draw diagrams as far as possible.
  • Use a different coloured pen (black if you are using blue for writing) for diagrams and underlining
  • Be very neat in your presentation. Reduce the cutting
  • Most critically, choose the questions carefully. Prepare at least 3 topics out of 4 in each paper thoroughly so that you can attempt 90% paper.
  • You can have a look at these model answers by Supreet Sir – Model Answers by Supreet Sir

Notes making – You should ideally take notes in Vajpayee sir class on one side of A4 sheets. Leave the other side blank to add further notes from books or other sources

Revision – Prepare revision notes (summary sheets – 3-4 pages for each units). Cant emphasize the importance of this. If you don’t have these, you’ll be overwhelmed just before the exam by the sheer size of the notes. Have a look at Prateek Jain blog for these flash notes.

I got 303/500 last year and 327/500 this year. On the other hand my preparation last year was much better than this year. But you never know what works in your favour.

All the best!




Answer writing for CSE Mains

I’ve improved my marks  from 394/1000 last year to 471/1000 this year in GS papers. I feel that improving my answer writing skills played an important role in this. There was no new addition of content as such besides the regular current affairs. So in this post I will try to jot down my two cents on this topics

Directive words – Please try to understand the difference between tailwards. Not every question demands pro and cons.  A better understanding of these tailwords will help you in writing relevant content and give better structure to the answer. I am attaching  two pdfs  from which I benefitted for your perusal

Structuring – Use diagrams, double underlines, pragraphing, sub headings, bullet points etc to give structure to your answer. There are no rules on how you go about this. This can come only by practice

  • Draw borders around your diagrams
  • Use double under line for your subehadings
  • Dont strectch a paragraph beyond 3-4 sentences
  • You can us directive words as sub heading in certain cases

I found this document immensely useful for diagrams – IAS4Sure material – for presentation and diagram. 

I ALSO use to analyse answer booklets of each year toppers as well as best copies for the test. Used them to get ideas on presentation and diagrams

Practice –

  1. If this is the first time you are writing answer then go for InsightsonIndia Secure inaitive. It will help you in gradually improving your answer quality. You will see what other candidates are writing, improve your content and strcutring, learn about difference between tailwords.
  2. Join a test series once you are able to do 4-5 questions from insights in an hour.
  3. Never sit for more than 3 hours during a test. Many aspirants have the habit of taking time beyond the permissible limit. I feel this does not help you prepare psychologically which is much needed in mains exam.
  4. Use Previous year Questions for practice

Some of my answer booklets

Wishing you all the best



Notesmaking in Evernote [Online Notes]

I consider this as a skill which lot of aspirant doesn’t give much thought to. Usually what happens is that as soon as one start preparation, they start making notes in some manner – either jotting down important points in a copy, or scribbling in the book or highlighting it. And as they progress,  they are stuck in that particular manner of making notes since one has already invested some time in

In my humble opinion and experience of last 4 years, you need to be constantly on your toes to improve your efficiency in notes making.

There are certain priorities that one should keep in mind

1> Notes should be comprehensive in a way that you don’t need to refer to other sources while revising or in subsequent attempts

2> Try to combine materail from different sources/books/coachings at one place for each topic. Otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed before final exam. For example if you have basic notes on SHGs from M Puri sir’s classes then keep on adding to them from current affairs for any SHG related news.

3> For certain books especially Lakshmikant for Polity, Spectrum for History etc- it is impossible to make notes. Don’t try to do that.

My strategy for making notes

I had both online and offline notes for each topic. This was because I felt that it would consume lot of my time to convert all offline notes to online.

For online notes, I used evernote. It is easy to use and dedicated to note making.


  1. At the top level I created a stack for UPSC..
  2. Under 4 different notebooks for GS1-4. They contained notes for each topic in syllabus
  3. Notebooks for different subjects – Culture, History, Geography, Society, Economics, Polity etc.  These notebooks contained notes for topics which weren’t directly part of syllabus or demanded separate notes
    • Tags like gs1-4, essay for overlapping topics like Governance (GS2, GS4), Corruption, Poverty etc
  1. Evernote provides a functionality to create table of content based on a list of notes – so you can use that
  2. Collection of Datapoints, Quotes, Anecdotes

I use to copy whatever I found useful from online sources to my main notes. Also for all the tests (both prelims and mains) I use to gather solution PDFs so as to copy important content from there to my notes. Later I created Revision notes for each subject so that it becomes easy to revise just before exam.

Ultimately my goal was that before the exam I should not be having 500-700 pages to revise. It becomes overwhelming when you have to revise all of it in 1 day.