[Topper’s Interview] Gaurav Singh Sogarwal (Rank-99/CSE-2015) Hindi Medium, Sanskrit Optional, Hails from Rajasthan


Candidate Profile

Q. Details
Name Gaurav Singh Sogarwal
Rank in CSE-2015 99
Roll No. 0399914
Age 27
Total attempts in CSE (including this one) 3
Optional Subject Sanskrit
Schooling Medium Hindi
College medium English
Medium chosen for Mains answers Hindi
Medium chosen for Interview Hindi
Home town/city Bharatpur, Rajasthan
Work-experience if any Etoos Academy Kota, Narayana IIT academy Delhi
Details of other competitive exams, including success/failures Assistant commandant
Details of coaching, mock tests, postal material for any competitive exam (if used) Panini IAS (Kailash Bihari sir), Sanskrit; ignited minds (Amit sir)- Ethics and K D Sir (Nirman IAS ) for interview
Service preferences (Top-5) IAS- IPS- IFS
state cadre preference (Top-5) Rajasthan, MP, UP
BLOG gauravsogarwal.wordpress.com


% in class 10 90
% in class 12 78
 Graduation course and % BE electrical engineering, 74
Name of college, city, passing out year Bharati Vidhyapeeth
Any other professional courses
Hobbies & Extracurricular achievements Reading spiritual books, following startups and social service


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?
Gaurav Singh Sogarwal
I was born in a rural family with agricultural back ground and completed my schooling from a Hindi medium school.
Two major events that changed me and my family’s entire life were the demise of my mother in 1991 and my father in 2002.
I was 3 years old when my mother passed away. From 1991-1997 I was bought up by my father after which he married again. I received the motherly love from my second mother who played the role of Yashoda in my life.
Life once again showed its hardship in 2002 when my father expired I was then 14 years old with the responsibility of my mother, elder sister and younger brother.
When my father deceased I was in class 10th preparing for my board exams and I was completely broken. The values my parents inculcated in me and my siblings helped me to come out of that situation and fought strongly. My father was my inspiration It was his dream that I prepare for civil services and today I am glad that I have fulfilled his dream. If he would have been here he would be the happiest person.
Since childhood the necessities to fulfill the requirements of my family was on me. We had a small farm not sufficient to survive. Though my father was a Govt. school teacher and we had his pension as an option, it took one year to come which too was a slight amount. I used to do all the labour work, agricultural work, household work and manage all the emotional traumas. Life was full of challenges and becoming an IAS seemed impossible. But it was the dream of my father which encouraged me to move on and fight for my ultimate goal. Whenever I felt discouraged I used to remember my father which was the biggest motivational factor in my life.
The struggle continued but I managed to join the college. I did my college from Pune (most fascinating City in India) but for me challenges were no less as I had to manage the study expenses of my brother and sister, household expenses and my college expenses.
In order to raise the finances in college my daily schedule was to wake up at 5:00am to take tuitions for school children, return by 9:30 am and then get ready for college. My college timings were from 10:30am to 5:30pm in between that time I used to complete my college assignments as again I had to go to take tuitions from 6:00pm. I used to return to my hostel by 9:30 at night.
When other students were enjoying their college life I was living the life of a guardian. The main challenge came in my final year when I had to choose between college placement and civil services. I chose civil services it was a tough decision as I had no finance.
After passing the college to raise funds I started taking coaching classes in Narayana Out Academy, Delhi. As a part of my preparation for civil services I started visiting religious places of UPSC Mythology-Mukherjee Nagar and Rajinder Nagar. Then a great thing happened I got a call from ETOOS coaching institute, Kota and they offered me an annual package of 20 lacs (approx.). This was a huge amount which boosted my confidence and helped me to pay off some of my debts. I started teaching at that institute and at the same time I was in contact with my Delhi friends who were preparing for the exam (civil services).
I taught there for 2 years so that I could become financially stable. In the mean while I arranged my sister’s marriage and my brother’s MBA now I was a bit relaxed. I was earning good here but was not satisfied, my destiny was calling me I discontinued the contract and bought the contract period.
From here the main journey started. I stayed at Mukherjee Nagar with little money that would help me to survive for 6-7 months. I persuaded my preparation and when I faced financial crisis I started taking home tuitions. Delhi helped me in that as these are in demand here.
I qualified the Assistant Commandant examination and secured my career. Hence devoted full time for the examination.
One funny and serious incident happened which I would like to share-
I cleared mains in 2015 and my interview was scheduled on 6th April but my BSF training was starting from 29th Feb. So I applied for extension till 11th April. Due to certain events I reached academy on 12th April. I thought that they will give some minor punishment and I will continue my training but I misjudged the BSF rules and they denied me to join the training. I was relieved from my academy. I had cleared the Assistant Commandant exam in July 2014 and was relaxed that I have a job, now this was gone just because of 1 day. I was completely shattered and felt that I was the unluckiest person on this planet. I went to Delhi and contacted BSF DG sir. I told him about my problem and after many ups and down he finally allowed me to join the academy. On 10th May morning I joined the training and on the very same day I got the news that I cleared the Civil Services Exam (according to a friend I attained Moksha).
Please don’t try to this kind of mistakes in your life.
For Hindi medium candidates:
If possible read The Hindu / Indian express regularly and make short notes. Don’t buy cheap books and materials available in the market because there are many mistakes in them. Don’t use Google translator for translation from English to Hindi the whole crux of the matter will be lost and eventually you will be flooded with wrong knowledge.
Take help from mrunal.org (YouTube lectures) because they are in HINGLISH so there will be no problem of language. Thank you Mrunal sir for this.

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 much do you rely on electronic material and how much on the paper material (Books, newspapers)? If possible, narrate a typical day in your study life. What is your style of preparation (e.g. I continue making notes no matter what I am reading, I just read multiple times but don’t maintain notes, I make mind maps on computer or xyz style)?
First focus on basics and newspaper and once you are done with it then only use Internet to update that information. I used Mrunal, IASBABA, IDSA.

TeMpo and style

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 was determined and whenever I used to deviate from the goal I used to remember the struggle of my family, my father’s dream and my goal.

Struggle of a Senior player

Q1. How did you survive through this mental prison and what are your words of wisdom to other senior players? If any specific inspirational incident(s), please share.
At times it becomes difficult to keep going on after 1-2 failures but one must never give up because till you have attempts you can fight this battle. Whenever I felt exhausted and depressed I used to talk to my mother and my family members and boosted up my confidence.
Q2. What went wrong in your previous attempt? What changes did you make in this current attempt?
In the first attempt I was not comfortable with CSAT so I could not clear and in my second attempt I missed cutoff of mains by 17 marks due to less marks in GS. Gradually I realized my weak areas and I worked on them.

Working professional

If you are a working professional, share some tips on how to manage studies with job
I know many people who are working and preparing simultaneously yet they have secured top ranks. Even I used to give home tuitions during my preparation and travelled 3 hours daily for that. You have to divide your time judicially whether in office or at home. We youngsters complain that we are tired after working 8 hours but look at our PM he works 18 hours every day. So nothing is impossible just keep up the high spirit.

Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Topic strategy/booklist/comment
History Ancient Ncert 11th
History Medieval Ncert 12th
History Modern (Freedom Struggle) Bipan Chandra
Culture and society Ncert 11th
Polity (theory + current) Laxmikant
Economy (theory + current) Mrunal for concepts and current also. Economic survey
Science (theory + current) Ncert 9,10
Environment (theory + current) Biology 12th old ( last 4 chapters , very imp) and ncert and Internet help
geography physical Ncert , leong
geography India Ncert
geography world Ncert
other national/international current affairs The Hindu , mrunal
Schemes, Policy & Filler Stuff Ncert and the Hindu
Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS prelim 2014 paper?
Prelims is a game of pin pointed knowledge. In mains if out of 10 points we know only 3 to 4 we will be able to write 200 words answer but in prelims we will lose one question.
I tasted the failure in prelims in my first attempt. I failed by a margin of 40 marks. Don’t ever take the prelims lightly as it is the elimination round and all the mains knowledge will be wasted. In my 2nd and 3rd attempt I scored maximum marks in GS                          in 2014-137 and 2015-138.
My advice is first get hold on basics by reading basic books like ncerts and other reference books. Mrunal has mentioned all the books then try to solve mock test papers to evaluate yourself and improve your score. Try to solve back year prelims and CDs, capf test papers.
One more important thing is to divide subject into sections and then further in subsection and so on. It will help you in remembering facts about that particular topic
 e.gpolity – parliament – bills – money bill
Make a one page note of all topics, subtopics and then start preparing
1885-1919 write all important events congress formation, Swadeshi movement, moderates and extremist, Muslim League, split in congress, etc.
It will help you in analyzing not only in prelims perspective but also in mains.
Q. Now that Aptitude paper has become qualifying, obvious more attention needs to be paid on the GS paper so apart from the books that you already have gone through, what else would you have tried for CSE-2016 (if you were going to appear)?
No need to prepare separately now. But if someone is not comfortable with this part then find out in which portion eg. Comprehension, Mathematics you are poor then try to solve as many questions as you can

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topic strategy / booklist
Math CL test papers
Reasoning Ditto
comprehension Ditto
Decision Making Ditto
Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2015 paper.
GS paper was simple but factual. Lot of current issues were asked. One must follow one newspaper and make short notes and monthly current affairs magazine (if time permit).

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?
No but I used to solve UPSC papers and used to collect papers from my friends and Xerox shop in Mukherjee Nagar and try to solve them.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2014

attempted Q. correct (Expected) Official score
GS 138
aptitude 115.62

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paper Your preparation strategy / booklist?
English paper Didn’t prepare
your regional language Didn’t prepare
Q. other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2015
I was comfortable with this part.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?
I wrote around 8-10 essay and evaluated them from my teachers and my friends
Q2. Which two essays did you write and What key points did you include in it?

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

Topic How did you prepare?
Culture NCERT 11
Indian history Grover and mehta, sumit sarkar
world history Jain and mathur
post-independence India Bipan Chandra
Indian society didn’t prepare separately
role of women, poverty etc.  Ditto
globalization on Indian society Ditto
communalism, regionalism, secularism Ditto
world geo physical Mrunal
resource distribution Mrunal
factors for industrial location Mrunal
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
comparing Constitution with world Vision IAS notes
parliament, state Legislatures Laxmikant
executive-judiciary Ditto
ministries departments Ditto
pressure group, informal asso. Ditto
Representation of people’s act Internet
various bodies: Constitutional, statutory Laxmikant
NGO, SHG etc. Yojana
welfare schemes, bodies India year book and the Hindu
social sector, health, Edu, HRD Ditto
governance, transparency, accountability  Indian express and Internet
e-governance Internet
role of civil service Same
India & neighbors Indian express
bilateral/global grouping Indian express
effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest The Hindu and idsa
Diaspora Same
international bodies- structure mandate Internet

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Mrunal
inclusive growth
Budgeting Laxmikant
major crops, irrigation Mrunal
agro produce – storage, marketing Mrunal
e-technology for famers Ditto
farm subsidies, MSP Ditto
PDS, buffer, food security Ditto
technology mission Ditto
animal rearing economics Ditto
food processing Ditto
land reforms Bipan Chandra and yojana
Liberalization Didn’t prepare
Infra Mrunal
investment models Mrunal
science-tech day to day life The Hindu, the Indian express and space IAS notes
Indian achievements in sci-tech Ditto
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Ditto
environmental impact assessment
Disaster Management
non state actors, internal security Prepared during capf so didn’t prepare separately. Idsa and the Hindu
internal security – role of media, social networking site Ditto
cyber security Ditto
money laundering Ditto
border  Management Ditto
organized crime, terrorism Ditto
security agencies- structure mandate Ditto

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

Topic How Did You Prepare?
ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Ignited minds classroom
attitude, moral influence etc. Ditto
civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Ditto
emotional intelligence, its use in governance Ditto
moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare?  Classroom
ethics in pub.ad, accountability, laws, rules etc. Ditto
corporate governance Ditto
probity in governance, work culture Ditto
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. Ditto
challenges of corruption Ditto
case studies on above topics For this I practice’s in classroom and also I used to discuss with my friends
Q. Many candidates found Mains-2015 Ethics paper very peculiar and “out of the book”. What are your observations and tips for future aspirants regarding preparation of this paper?

Mains answer-writing?

Please tell us how many marks worth attempt did you give? along with comments if any, in the following cells:
Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 14 2 2 18
GS2 12 4 3 19
GS3 15 3 1 19
GS4 7 4 2 13
Opt-P1 4 1 5
Opt-P2 3 2 5
Q. What was your approach in the exam (I wrote all, I only focused on the questions where I could answer perfectly, I just not to high quality points to reach the word limit etc.) Because the UPSC aspirant Community is divided over what counts as a ‘good’ paper. Some experts claim you should attempt all- even if it involves “making up” an answer with filler lines, some claim attempt only those questions you know perfectly. Where do you stand on this? [Based on your experience and of your seniors/buddies] I tried to complete the full paper because if you will lose 3-4 questions then your marks will be evaluated from 220-230.
Q. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?
I was comfortable with the space.
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?
In GS I tried to write in points and paragraphs. It also depends upon the demand of the question. In optional and essay I tried to write in paragraph form and tried to mention subheading also.
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 followed this pattern.
Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketch pens in your answers?
Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)
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? 

Mains Optional Subject

Q. What’s your optional subject and why did you chose it and not something else? 
Sanskrit. It is a good optional subject and scoring too.
Q. If a new player wants to pick this subject, would your advice for it or against it? (e.g. every senior player in Public Administration seems to be advising against pub.ad)?
One must have interest in it. As I was from engineering background so I took coaching in panini classes by Kailash Bihari sir which was very helpful.
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.)?
I followed Kailash Bihari sir’s class.
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?
Q. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus? 
3 months
Q. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?
3 months
Q. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?
No. Panini classes (Kailash Bihari sir note)
Q. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2014 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?
Paper was comparatively tough from 2014 and I was expecting good marks this year but I think due to scaling my score decreased from previous year.

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 prepared my DAF with the help of Internet and also took my friends help.
DAF is the most important document because around 70% questions will revolve around it. So one must fill his/her cautiously.
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 mock interview under personal guidance of K D sir (in Nirman IAS) and in other institutes like Samkalp .
Q3. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?
At my friend’s place (Dr. Ravi Pratap).
Q4. Any words of wisdom about Medical checkup?
No difficulty
Q5. Describe the formal-dress worn by you in interview.
I dressed in my BSF formal attire.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?
Manbir Singh
Q2. How long was the interview?
30-35 min
  • UN, it’s success and failure
  • What you will do in agricultur prctices
  • Hobby q agriculture -challenges ,  start ups … Challenges
  • BSF: its role, challenges , piracy etc.

CSE-2015 Marksheet

Q1. Please attach both prelim and final marksheet
Prelims mark sheet-
Subject Marks obtained
Paper 1 138
Paper 2 115.62
Mains mark sheet-
Subject Marks obtained
Essay – Paper-1 138
General Studies – Paper 2 99
General Studies – Paper 3 92
General Studies – Paper 4 109
General Studies – Paper 5 89
Optional Paper – Paper-1 117
Optional Paper – Paper-2 106
Written total 750
Personality Test 179
Final Total 929

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan? 
I was already selected in BSF (AC) So I would have continued my job and preparation.
Q2. When were you going to “execute” that backup plan? (e.g. after __ failed attempts/ after I cross __ age/after dad retires/ after girlfriend dumps me etc.)
I was in the training

Views on UPSC reforms

What are your views on following issues?
Q. Optional subjects should be removed altogether. The present stalemate is helping no-one, except coaching-owners, book publishers.
Q. Your views on the decision to make CSAT paper 33% qualifying?
It’s a good move because it helped me in clearing my prelims. But many of my cast friends lost their pre due to it.
Q. Despite what UPSC has done in recent years, it has failed to curb the nuisance of Delhi’s coaching factories. In fact, it’s increased under the new Mains-syllabus in 2014. Let’s face it, most candidates who gave Mains-2014 have relied on (authentic OR Xeroxed) coaching notes because there was hardly any time left to prepare so many topics in such short time. This system work against an individual preparing from far-away area, without any financial resources, high-speed internet or contacts in Delhi?
Though I didn’t take help of any coaching for GS but I will advise that if you feel to join the coaching then don’t hesitate and start the journey
Q. Half-merger of IFoS with CSE is a bad move because it has raised the cutoffs for players who’re solely dedicated to IFoS only (and not to IAS/IPS). Adding salt to the wounds, many who had applied for both jobs, cleared the prelims- they did not even bother to appear in all the papers of Mains-IFoS. (at least that was the scene in 2013)?
Yes, many technical environmental questions are being asked.
Q. UPSC should disclose official prelim answer key and cutoffs, immediately after prelim is over, instead of postponing it till interview phase is over. 
Yes, it will be helpful for the candidates to evaluate themselves and be ready for next prelims with a dedicated plan.
Q. UPSC should be conducted online like IBPS and CAT exam to shorten the duration of exam.
Depends on UPSC
Q. If you are made the UPSC chairman, what other reforms would you initiate for the civil service exam?
There should be parity in Marks of interview and optional should be removed.

Insecurity about profile

Q. Many candidates prepare sincerely but constantly live under fear about ‘profile insecurity’. I’m not from a big college, I’m not from English medium, and I don’t have work-experience. What if they ask some stressful questions in the interview about this? Did you suffer from such insecurities? What is your message to these candidates?
Jab nigaahe manzil par ho to raste mil hi jate hai. I know many selected candidates including me from rural background with no profile at all but with hard work, dedication and with blessing of God we achieved our goal.


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?
Never give up. What may come accept it and work towards the solution.
Q. Many hardworking candidates have failed in Mains/Interview of CSE-2014. They’re feeling cynical, hopeless and depressed- what is your message to them?
Life does not end at this stage. I can feel their pain because I personally know 2-3 such candidates but life has to move on. Never stop dreaming big.

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 father, mother and their values. My sister, brother-in-law, my brother.
My friends, Bharati college friends and Mukhrrjee nagar friends who were with me in my good and bad times.

Source: xaam.in