Gaurav Agrawal (CSE 2013 Rank 1) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 3

Well, if you missed the UPSC Topper Gaurav Agrawal’s (CSE 2013 Rank 1) Interview – Part 2, where Gaurav discusses the books referred for UPSC Civil Services Prelims, you can read it by following the hyperlink. Having already shared the background and approach and Prelims study-materials, Gaurav goes into the details of his preparations strategies and books referred for each sub-topics of the UPSC Civil Services Main Exam.

UPSC Mains Can you elaborate on your preparation strategies/approach and study materials and books used for each topic of Mains Papers? (Please give a detailed view, especially for sub-topics in all the general studies papers. Also please mention the books/materials used for each subtopic like Disaster Management, Internal security, Indian Society, Biodiversity etc.)

  • Regional Language (Compulsory): None
  • English Language (Compulsory): None
  • Essay Paper: [Also mention the essay you wrote] S&T. Can be found in my blog post link on essay.
  • General Studies 1 :
Topic How did you prepare?
Culture Multiple sources, mentioned here.
Indian history Shekhar Bandopadhyay – From Plassey to Partition, Bipin Chandra (both freedom struggle and since independence)
World history Baliyan’s history optional classnotes. Also read Europe Since Napoleon for history optional last year.
Post-independence India Mentioned above. Most of the questions asked were common knowledge which we develop from school time via newspapers and stories.
Indian society Everybody knows everything. Skipped.
Role of women, poverty etc. Everybody knows everything. Skipped.
Globalization on Indian society Everybody knows everything. Skipped.
Communalism, regionalism, secularism Everybody knows everything. Skipped.
World geo physical Had some basic idea. Got some coaching notes of Baliyan and Vajiram. Read some topics from Savinder Singh’s book. Prepared cyclones from IMD website.
Resource distribution Skipped .
Factors for industrial location Skipped. Most of it is common sense.
Earthquake tsunami etc NCERT, Savinder Singh.
Impact on flora-fauna Skipped.
  •  General Studies 2 :
Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etc. DD Basu
Comparing Constitutions Basic comparison everybody knows. So skipped.
Parliament, state Legislatures DD Basu, Puncchi Commission and 2nd ARC reports.
Executive-judiciary DD Basu and also current issues.
Ministries departments Skipped
Pressure groups, informal associations 2nd ARC report. But too general a topic, everybody knows everything.
Representation of people’s act Current issues (SC rulings had come on this issue)
Various bodies: Constitutional, statutory etc. Internet based study, Wikipedia, expert opinion. Basically find the composition etc. of the body. Powers, functions etc. mostly same. Weaknesses and strengths also mostly same. Refer to my notes here.
NGO, SHG etc Everybody knows everything. Still studied 2nd ARC report for core issues.
Welfare schemes, bodies Vajiram came out with a public pdf analyzing various schemes.
Social sector, health, edu, HRD Follow current issues
Governance, transparency, accountability 2nd ARC report
e-governance 2nd ARC report
Role of civil service 2nd ARC report
India & neighbors Newspapers and internet
Bilateral/global grouping Newspapers and internet
Effect of foreign country policies on Indian interest Newspapers and internet
Diaspora Newspapers and internet
International bodies- structure mandate Newspapers and internet
  • General Studies 3:
Also read:  Renu Raj (CSE 2014 Rank 2) UPSC Topper’s Interview - Part 1
Topic How Did You Prepare?
Indian economy, resource mobilization Everything under the sun comes under it. What to prepare.
Inclusive growth Everybody knows everything.
Budgeting I read 2nd ARC report on Financial Management. But obviously question asked was from somewhere else and I had no idea. But still one should read it to cover basic stock issues in the topic like accrual budgeting, other types of budget etc. Additionally I think one should read the budget carefully and watch out for any interesting term in it.
Major crops, irrigation Report titled “State of Indian Agriculture” presented in parliament in March / April 2012.
Agro produce – storage, marketing APMC Acts, direct marketing, e-marketing initiatives, FDI in retail, schemes of the ministry, Mega food park scheme, National Food Processing Missin etc. All this can be found on internet.
e-technology for famers
Farm subsidies, MSP From economics optional background. Understand what are the issues with farm subsidies and MSPs. See what leading economists are saying about these. Read a few papers from CACP website.
PDS, buffer, food security CACP website, FSB, internet based study totally.
Technology mission Internet.
Animal rearing economics Couldn’t prepare except for whatever is given in State of Indian Agriculture Report, 2012.
Food processing Mentioned above in storage, marketing topic.
Land reforms Prepared it as a part of economics optional. You can see my notes. Bhoodan and Gramdan I saw from Mrunal.
Liberalization Internet, newspapers
Infra Internet, newspapers
Investment models Internet, newspapers
Science-tech day to day life Coaching material, but all of it was useless.
Indian achievements in sci-tech Skipped
Awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPR Tried to follow current developments. For all effective purposes, skipped.
Environmental impact assessment Skipped. Everybody knows everything.
Disaster Management 2nd ARC report. CAG report on the topic.
Non state actors, internal security 2nd ARC and Puncchi Commission reports covering tribal councils, 5th and 6th schedule issues, PESA, FRA etc.
Internal security – role of media, social networking site Too general, everybody knows everything. Just keep following current issues.
Cyber security Skipped. Everybody knows everything.
Money laundering Skipped. Everybody knows everything.
Border  Management Skipped. Everybody knows everything.
Organized crime, terrorism Skipped mostly. Read some discussion on anti-terror law in 2nd ARC report. Everybody knows everything.
Security agencies- structure mandate Some Wikipedia based study, but mostly skipped. Everybody knows everything.
Also read:  Roshni Thomson (CSE 2014 Rank 98) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 3

 General Studies 4 (Ethics):

Topic How Did You Prepare?
Ethics and interface, family, society and all the hathodaa topics Too general topics. Everybody knows everything about these topics. Most important question in this topic is what is the role of family / society in framing morality / ethics.
Attitude, moral influence etc. Sriram, Baliyan and Vajiram material available in photocopy shops for basic definitions.
Civil service: integrity, impartiality, tolerance to weak etc Vajiram and Baliyan material available in photocopy shops. Nolan committee report. 2nd ARC report.
Emotional intelligence, its use in governance Sriram material for basic definitions. Too general topic, everybody knows everything about it. One important question is role of EI in administration.
Moral thinkers of India and world How many thinkers did you prepare? Mostly skipped it. Tried to remember a few thinkers from Baliyan’s and Sriram’s notes but found it couldn’t be done.
Ethics in, accountability, laws, rules etc. 2nd ARC report. Everybody knows everything.
Corporate governance Important topics I thought here were recent Company law, Sebi recommendations. But they didn’t ask these. Otherwise this is too general a topic and everybody knows everything.
Probity in governance, work culture Everybody knows everything.
Citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc. 2nd ARC reports on ethics and governance.
Challenges of corruption 2nd ARC report on ethics.
Case studies on above topics Bring it on approach. What was your optional subject? Please give some insights on your selection of optional subject.

Economics. It was my strength. I love it and will also do PhD later on in Economics. : What was the color of the pen you used for writing mains? Blue Pen/ Black Pen?


Gaurav Agrawal UPSC Topper What was your writing style in GS and optionals? Bullet Points/ Essay style or a mix of both styles?

Bullet points with proper headings, sub headings, underlining. I wrote almost all my answers in points but still I gave a proper introduction, proper headings and sub-headings and then a conclusion. The main bulk of the answer was in points.

Also read:  Roman Saini (CSE 2013 Rank 18) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 1 : You have mentioned in your blog about referring government reports like ARC report and Punchi Commission report. These reports being very lengthy, what was your approach? Are there are any other government reports that aspirants should go through before Mains?

Approach is to read them quickly just understanding the gist of what is being said in that section. While reading the general report, if we find anything useful, we should highlight it then and there. It is difficult to do this in pdfs, so I downloaded nitro pdf reader which lets one highlight stuff in yellow.  Once the highlighting is done, the next step is to make notes in our own words out of the highlighted portion. This is very important and should be done at such perfection that we should never feel the need to refer to the pdf again.

All relevant current government and committee reports should be read. : Did you use sub-heading/points/graphs in your essay paper?

Yes for headings and subheadings. No for points and graphs although graph usage at appropriate places would definitely make the essay better. If you didn’t explain it in detail earlier (Qn 1), can you brief on how you attempted the Ethics paper? Strategies and writing style for Ethics case studies?

In Ethics case studies, one thing I distinctly remember is that I always tried to analyze each option from a theoretical perspective. I used to take an option and see what the 4-5 school of ethics say about it and then try to come to an acceptable ethical decision. : What was your exam-hall strategy for mains: attempting all questions even at the cost of compromising quality or writing only quality answers compromising on the number of questions attempted?

Extremes in public life are mostly bad and one has to do a balancing act. Same applies to your question above. I would only say, have faith in your judgment, apply your mind, and rely on intuition on what to attempt and what not. Exam condition is so dynamic, can’t apply any rigid formula there. I simply attempted questions I ‘felt’ I should attempt.

Continued in Part 4 of the interview: Gaurav Agrawal (CSE 2013 Rank 1) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 4.

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