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Sandeep Chaudhary, Rank – 158, CSE – 2014: Preparation Strategy

 Sandeep Chaudhary

 Rank –  158, CSE – 2014

I initially started using InsightOnindia along with Mrunal and GK Today for current affairs as the contents were rich and as per the demand of UPSC. Later after the announcement of Mains 2013 result, I found lack of answer writing practice as a major reason  behind my failure, so to overcome it I started searching internet for Answer Writing Practice.  My problem was  solved when I found the Secure 2014 initiative of InsightOnIndia. I started answer writing daily guided by the SECURE 2014 initiative. I rigorously followed it , and finally it proved to be one of major reasons behind the fruits of my hard-work. There were brilliant people(MSI, Sherlock Holmes and many more) who wrote ideal answers, this encouraged me to improve upon my answers.

The in-depth articles published on Insight were also immensely helpful. I am finding analysis of Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha debates and The Hindu news analysis very helpful for aspirants like me who have to use their limited time preciously.

Recent initiative for Prelims 2015 (Self Study Guide) is brilliant which helps us to do focused study. On a whole insightonindia is providing a meaningful platform for us to improve ourselves.
Again I want to thank the Insight team for their efforts and new initiatives. I can only suggest one thing to all CSE aspirants that never compromise on answer writing and use the opportunity for the best result, so that next time you will be sharing your experiences and journey with others.

Which is the most difficult part of this exam and why? What was your strategy for tackling this difficult part?

If preparation is done in parts (i.e. separately for prelims, main and interview) it become cumbersome and hectic, initially I missed this thing which cost me time. Always focus on integrated preparation. As everyone has his/her strengths and weaknesses, so I made my own strategy based on my strengths and weaknesses. Always take inspiration and motivation from others to keep you motivated and full of energy. “There is only one secret to life, that there is no secret at all”. Always

For success three ingredients are essential: – Determination, Motivation and Hard work  Everyone knows this but still lack the courage to follow it rigorously.

This was the core of my strategy on which I always relied upon.

How did you manage your time for both Prelims and Mains examinations?

I did integrated preparation for prelims and mains, 1 month prior to prelims; I shifted focus on prelims and did many mock test, kept notes of important points from current affairs for revision purpose. For mains my main focus was on revision and answer writing instead of studying new things from different sources.

What was your strategy for covering the lengthy syllabus of General Studies for both Prelims and Mains?

I sticked my self to basic books which are advised for the preparation. For many topics I referred to internet and some useful websites. Once I covered whole syllabus I just revising that and keep writing answers to reproduce what I studied and learned.

Did you integrate your Prelims or Mains preparation or was it separate?

It was integrated with slight modification prior to prelims and mains exam.

What would be the best strategy to tackle negative marking in Prelims?

I did practice many mocks and note down important points from solution particularly for art & culture and environment portion, it helped in revision. (Give sufficient time to check your mock test becoz that is the time when you learn from your mistakes)

I attempted around 83 questions of that around 12-13 were wrong, i took some calculated risk otherwise i could had attempted only 60-65 questions. By doing mock you will learn how to take calculated risk, how to eliminate choices and make smart guesses particularly in environment and SnT questions. As in environment question you can never know each and everything, so you have to make some smart guessing

GS Mains was altogether new, as current pattern is only two years old. How did you prepare for that?

  • I write with a good speed. But in last one hour always attempted around 100-110 marks paper, due to which quality compromised somewhat. I always had one thing in my mind that I had to complete the paper and so ,I ensured to accomplished it in all the four papers.
  • Used slightly big fonts, space in between paragraphs. I tried to fill the space as possible so that it look like that I decently attempted the questions.
  • Paragraphs as well as bullet points, It depends on the question available content and time. I freely switched between paragraphs and bullet points.
  • For the whole year I wrote answers using Joined mains test series of VISION IAS , GKTODAY because of flexibility that they provide. Made strategy to handle GS papers.

Did you complete the GS mains papers?

Paper Best attempted Average quality namesake answer Total attempt
GS1 80 120 50 250
GS2 70 120 60 250
GS3 50 120 80 250
GS4 120 100 30 250

What was your style of writing in the exam? How was it distinct from the general writing style? How did you develop this writing style?

It will develop itself once you start answer writing and incorporate the suggestion provided by evaluator or in peer review.

How did you prepare for essay paper?

No Essay-specific preparation. Before examination wrote atleast 4-5 full length essays and make proper framework for around 10-15 essays. Your general studies will help you in essay writing. Try to incorporate as many possible dimensions and current events in your essay.

I tried to include max aspects in my essay e.g. Society, women empowerment, social justice, gender issue, global security, intolerance, inclusive growth, sustainable development, poverty, disparities etc (on a whole whatever came to my mind, I just tried to relate it with the essay topic). I’ll advise same to you as this approach drastically improved my essay score from 98 in 2013 to 142 in 2014.

What should be the basis of selecting optional?

You interest, subject scoring potential, availability of material and guidance.

Chose geography because of.

  • Somewhat conceptual subject.
  • Found it very interesting, love to know various Geographical phenomena’s, events, processes and features.
  • Helpful in GS.
  • Easy availability of material

Did you follow the myth that only so called popular optional should be opted?

I took informed decision with deep consideration of pros and cons.

How did you plan your optional strategy?

For Geography

Focus on Maps and diagrams in your answers, it will help to write less and score more marks. Practice answers writing to improve upon the contents of your answers.

I used vajiram’s class notes along with my own notes and Majid Hussain for Indian Geography for broad coverage of the syllabus. Always give due importance to OLD and NEW NCERT books of class 11th and 12th of Geography.

Practice and revision through maps and diagrams.

How helpful are the notes? What is your advice on notes-making?

Essential for revision, focus on quality aspect while making notes. I made short notes for current affairs and Geography in loose sheets as per my convince which later organized for systematic revision

Civil Services Exam process is quite strenuous. It requires long hours of constant study. How did you maintain your tempo and what did you do to break the monotony of preparation?

Self motivation, determination never let me diverted from the objective. If I found myself saturated or bored of studying, I simply spent time to my daughter, my wife and my family which re-energized me. My Focus was on quality of study rather than no. of hrs, still I studied around 7-9 hours daily.

How helpful is one’s educational background in his/her success?

It helps in understanding many part of syllabus, but still overall preparation is largely independent of your background and achievements.

How did you prepare for interview?

  1. College graduation related –Did not study anything.
  2. Hobbies – Some basic things searched on internet.
  3. Place of origin – Google based study
  4. Current affairs – The Hindu, Business Standard online. Watched Rajya Sabha debates.

Mock Interviews attended at Samkalp, GS Score, Byju’s and Vision India.

Which types of questions were asked in the interview?

The interviewers were very cordial and friendly, Chairperson and members were asking question in English & Hindi, and I was replying in Hindi.


  • Why you did MBA and how it help in BSNL.
  • What will you do as DM to protect national integrity and internal security?
  • What steps you will take in r/o climate change.
  • What is the procedure in BSNL to recover the losses is any agency or authority cut your cable.

Member 1

  • How mica is formed.
  • Draw a map of India.
  • Point Chattishgarh in it
  • Which states are it neighboring
  • How you will reach to Landon from Delhi by Land route, Tell me the countries u’ll travel through.
  • Tell in details about different layers of atmosphere.
  • What is the function and usefulness of ionosphere.
  • How food get hot in microwave oven.

Member 2

  • What will be the use of MBA in administration.
  • What is social justice.
  • What is equal pay equal work
  • Are subordinates are exploited by managers.
  • Your view in respect of recent amendments proposed in juvenile justice act

Member 3

  • What is sarvo system.
  • Who communication is managed in disaster cases.
  • What is international roaming.
  • Asked about some foreign author book that I studied or not for MBA.
  • Diffrence between management and administration.

Member 4

  • Low Sex ration in Haryana
  • Role of Khap Panchayat
  • Why BSNL services are poor.
  • Few more questions , not able to recall.
  • What is your advice to the candidates who have failed in this exam?

If you are really determined, focused and motivated than always remember that ”Success can only be delayed but can’t be denied”. Delay depends on your own efforts and hard work.

Can you disclose your marks in detail?

Subjects Marks
Essay (Paper-I) 142
Genral Studies -I (Paper-Ii) 096
Genral Studies -Ii (Paper-Iii) 090
Genral Studies -Iii (Paper-Iv) 080
Genral Studies -Iv (Paper-V) 102
Optional-I (Geography.) (Paper-Vi) 145
Optional-Ii (Geography.).) (Paper-Vii) 133
Written Total 788
Personality Test 154
Final Total 942

Prelims score: Paper one 132 + Paper two 133.33 = Total: 265.33

What is your suggestion/advice for future aspirants?

Try to achieve balance between various parts of your life, though CSE mean a lot to every aspirant but never forget that it is not the end. Success in CSE depends on many factors, some of them are out of your control, so always put your best and prepare for the worst. Remember countless successful persons who are neither IAS nor IFS/IPS/IRS, still the achieved their dreams and contributed for the society’s well being (APJ Abdul Kalam, Kailesh Satyarathi). You’ll learn amazing things during the preparation; just try to follow the good ones throughout your life.