Nitin Sangwan (CSE 2015 Rank 28) UPSC Topper’s Interview: From Infosys Bench to Indian Administrative Service (IAS)

Nitin Sangwan felt that he should try to get into Indian Administrative Service (IAS) when he was in the Infosys bench. That was his second job then. He worked as Tehsildar in Haryana (1 year), DANICS (9 Months) and in Indian Revenue Service (IRS) before he cleared IAS exam in 2015.  This was his 4th attempt at UPSC CSE and except the first, on all the other attempts he made it to the final rank list.

Nitin is honest and frank in his replies about his UPSC preparation. We are sure that our students can learn a lot from Nithin. Let’s welcome Nitin Sangwan to the “UPSC Toppers Interview” at

Brief Bio- data:

Nitin Sangwan IAS

  • Name: Nitin Sangwan
  • Age: 32
  • Name of the Exam and Year: CSE 2015
  • Rank: 28
  • Roll number: 0055401
  • Category (General/OBC/SC/ST): General
  • Graduation Background and College: B.E. (PDM College of Engineering)
  • Post Graduation Background and College (if any): MBA (IIT Madras)
  • Work Experience: Organization and Duration (if any): After Engineering: India Cements (6 Months), after MBA: ABB Ltd (6 Months), Infosys (22 Month), Tehsildar in Haryana (1 year), DANICS (9 Months), IRS C&E
  • UPSC Optional Subject: Sociology
  • UPSC Mains Medium: English
  • UPSC Interview Medium: English
  • Number of attempts taken to achieve this feat: 4
  • Performance in previous attempts (if any): Mains Not Qualified, 320th, 359th
  • State and Place of Residence (Permanent): Charkhi Dadri, Haryana
  • Percentage of Marks in 10th and Board: 76, CBSE
  • Percentage of Marks in 12th and Board: 64, CBSE
  • Percentage of Marks in Graduation and Board/University: 72, Mahirishi Dayanand University, Rohtak Haryana
  • Percentage of Marks in Post Graduation and Board/University (if any): 7.99 CGPA. IIT Madras
  • Service Preference (Top 5): IAS, IPS, IRS (IT), IRS (C&E), DANICS
  • Cadre Preference (Top 5): Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh

Background + Inspirational Journey So Far: Hearty congratulations from ClearIAS for this exceptional achievement!  We are happy that your efforts are finally rewarded, that too in grand style! Let’s start from the beginning. How did you come across the idea of writing UPSC Civil Services Examination? Was it your childhood dream?

No, it wasn’t a childhood dream. I started very late when I was in Infosys. I just wanted to have a more diverse work profile and had inclination towards public service. How did you feel when you came to know that your name is in the toppers list? Can you share the moments of happiness with our readers?

It was almost difficult to believe at first. But I was very happy that my hard work finally paid off. Can you share a little bit about your background? (Family, School, College, Work etc.)

I am from a small town Charkhi Dadri with rural roots. My father is in banking and mother a housewife. I am married since last 4 years and in fact started preparation around the time of marriage and now have a 3 year old daughter. I didn’t have any person in my circle who had cleared civil services exam, so guidance was lacking. My schooling and graduation were also from average institutions. However, after graduation I decided to write CAT and this was the time when I gave serious thoughts to studies. But Civil Services was still not in my mind. Finally, when I was in Infosys and was on bench I saw question paper of that year’s preliminary exam. That was the time I started the preparation while still being in the job. How can you correlate your graduation background, work experience (if any) and entry into civil services? Can you brief us your thoughts, views, and ambitions when you climbed each position in the ladder of your life?

I think it has nothing to do with my graduation or work experience. The idea of entering into Civil Services came to all of a sudden. It was not like that I didn’t like my job or had an education which motivated me to enter into civil service. Rather, it was the nature of work in Civil Services which attracted me. Even if I were in any other job, I would have written this exam. I just set a goal and tried to achieve that with my full capacity. Do you feel that the competition level of UPSC Civil Services Exam is on a rise? It seems that there is an increasing trend of candidates from IITs, IIMs and AIIMS attempting and clearing this exam. Is Civil Service the final destination /ambition of Indian youth, in this age of lucrative private sector jobs?

Competition in Civil Services is not rising as sharply as sometimes pointed out. Out of the 7-8 lakh applicants, only half of them appear in the prelims. Secondly, in the scenario of economic slowdown, public jobs look more promising. So, it is just cyclical. Thirdly, more candidates might be coming from IITs, IIMs etc, but at the same time their intake has also sharply increased. Civil Services is not the final destination given the fact that out of many lakh students, only a handful of them appear in this examination. Others are following their heart and bringing name and glory for the nation in other fields of life.

Study Plan What is the secret of your success 🙂? How did you approach this exam? What was your strategy in general (Prelims, Mains, and Interview)?

In terms of strategy, I combined the preparation for pre, mains and interview. The only approach to this examination is – hard work and consistency. How long (Years/Months) have you been preparing before you gave this attempt? Also, on an average how many hours did you put on a daily basis? How did you manage time?

For my first attempt, I started around one year before and gave 9-10 hours. For consequent attempts, I gave 6-8 hours or even less as I joined some service. Were you a person who studied alone? Or a person who favored the combined study approach?

I like to study in isolation. Group study distracts me. I did it occasionally to have different view points, but solo preparation was preferable to me. Did you attend any coaching institute or subscribe to mock tests for prelims or mains? If yes, can you provide the details for each stage (Prelims/Mains/Interview)? How helpful were the coaching institutes?

I did coaching for optional in Chandigarh, but not for general studies. I wrote answers on my own, but never gave mock tests. For interview, I took a few mock interviews to polish the behavioral traits and have a feel of the interview board. What websites (online preparation websites or government websites) will you recommend for future aspirants for UPSC preparation?

PIB website is the one. There are so many of them, though I never visited them regularly. Mrunal, Insights, Wikipedia pages for specific topics, indianetzone for some culture topics and so on. What is your opinion/feedback about the ClearIAS website, ClearIAS app, and ClearIAS online mock test series platform for UPSC Prelims ? Did you come revised the archives of the 50-day ClearIAS free mains mock answer writing series for aspirants depending on self-study to clear this exam?

The website is a good one. I haven’t seen other platforms. Did you use Social Media like Facebook, Twitter or other forums for UPSC Preparation? Or did you say good-bye to the social media during preparation days? Any technology-tips (Eg: Mobile apps, Note making software etc.)?

I avoided use of social media during preparation time given its time wasting potential. What were the Newspapers and Magazines (Eg: Yojana, Kurukshetra etc.) you followed? How many hours did you devote for newspapers? Any tips on newspaper-reading?

Indian Express and Frontline. It is not about hours, it is about covering it. It used to take anywhere between 1-2 hours in the beginning and 45 minutes and 2 hours later. The only tip is that – just memorize the whole syllabus first and get a flavor of the questions that were asked previously so that you can give proper direction to your newspaper reading. What was your preference: Reading online (Laptop/Tablet/Mobile) or reading the traditional way (Books)? Or a mix of both?

Both ways, but I prefer online and on laptop as it is easier to edit and save in this way. Can you elaborate your daily timetable (When will you wake up, study, sleep etc.)

I am very particular about 8-9 hours sleep, so I try to follow that and used to wake up at 7-8 am and then sleep at 11-12 pm. Rest of the time I used to devote to office (7-8 hours), going for a walk in the evening (45 minutes). Some time with family and my daughter and rest for studying. How did you keep yourself motivated for this one-year-long exam?

Support of my wife and family was crucial in that. I too was pretty determined to achieve the goal I set for myself. Being self-determined is the best medication for being motivated.

Nitin Sangwan

UPSC Prelims Can you elaborate on your preparation strategies/approach and study materials and books used for Prelims Paper 1 and Paper 2 ?(Please mention books/materials used for each subject)

  • Books/Study materials for History: Primarily NCERTs (old and new), India After Independence and searching internet for specific topics.
  • Books/Study materials for Geography: Old and New NCERTs and Khullar and searching internet for specific topics.
  • Books/Study materials for Polity: Laxmikanth, NCERTs and and searching internet for specific topics.
  • Books/Study materials for Economics: Dutta and Sundaram and searching internet for specific topics.
  • Books/Study materials for Science and Technology: Primarily newspaper and searching internet for specific topics.
  • Books/Study materials for Environment: Prepared my own notes based on various sources.
  • Books/Study materials for Current Affairs: Indian Express, Frontline, PIB, internet etc
  • Books/Study materials for General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT): I had appeared for CAT earlier, so never had an issue in this paper. Any tips/pieces of advice especially for UPSC Civil Services Prelims?

First of all, thoroughly read the basic books a few times so that a base is created. Instead of reading too many books, read the standard books first. After that try to read as much as you can so that your coverage increases. Try to solve various objective type papers on GS – mocks, UPSC papers on various exams and so on.

UPSC Mains Can you elaborate on your 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 like books/materials used for each subtopic like Disaster Management, Internal security, Indian Society, Biodiversity etc.)

They are same as I mentioned in the prelim. I didn’t differentiate between the two papers.

  • Books/Study materials used for Essay Paper: I didn’t specifically prepare for it as I believe that a good GS preparation prepares you for essay as well. However, a few extra things can be done like – reading a few quotations, noting down some crucial information or other material. Reading good essays from some sources.
  • Books/Study materials used for General Studies 1 (Indian History, World History, Indian Society, Indian Geography, and World Geography): They are same as I mentioned in the prelim. I didn’t differentiate between the two papers.
  • Books/Study materials used for General Studies 2 (Constitution, Polity, Governance, Social Justice, Foreign relations, and International affairs): They are same as I mentioned in the prelim. I didn’t differentiate between the two papers.
  • Books/Study materials used for General Studies 3 (Indian Economy, Biodiversity, Science and Technology, Internal Security and Disaster Management): Mainly newspaper and magazines.
  • Books/Study materials used for General Studies 4 (Ethics + Case Studies): I didn’t prepare much for this, but read a book on case studies by Donald Menzel.
  • Books/Study materials used for Optional Subject Paper 1 and 2: IGNOU Notes on Sociology, Haralambos, Giddens, Ritzer for a few topics, new NCERTS (I didn’t find the old ones so useful, new are better and more illustrative), SAGE or Penguin Dictionary on Sociology.
  • Books/Study materials used for Regional Language (Compulsory): I am well versed with Hindi as I studied it till 12th.
  • Books/Study materials used for English Language (Compulsory): None.
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I prepared my own notes on laptop/computer and used to compile the newspapers weekly. I never kept cuttings of papers magazines etc, but updated them regularly. This way, it led to better management of material on current affairs.

Update: I have some of my soft notes available on my blog ( along with my last two interview transcripts and my mains GS answers of last years as well. What are the government reports that aspirants should go through, before giving Mains Exam?

ARC2 Summary and selected reports (I don’t think reading all the full reports is even feasible), highlights of economic survey and budget. Generally, all these things are covered in newspapers, but a look on them gives you confidence. What was the color of the pen you used for writing mains (Blue Ink/ Black Ink)? Also, the company and brand name of the pen used:

I think this question is too trivial to answer. Pen and color should only match your taste and comfort. For all the exams I used different pens as I thought, they suited my grip. So, grip can be a factor, but a pen is generally not a big factor in improving your speed or handwriting. The only thing you can keep in mind is that it should not smudge much while writing. Last time I used Mitsubishi Uni Ball, before that Reynold Jetter, even before that Reynolds 045 and so on. What were your writing style in GS and optional subject? Bullet Points/ Essay style or a mix of both styles?

It depended upon the question and the content I had. If I had more points, then AI will use numbering style, else will go for descriptive style. I tried to be to the point with less emphasis on niceties like – introduction, conclusion etc. One should try to answer to the point and cover maximum dimensions. What are your suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in essay paper? What were the essays you choose to write? Did you use sub-heading/points/graphs in your essay paper?

First of all, chose a topic which interest you and not the one which you think can be more scoring. For example, Dreams which should not let India sleep which was quite general, but I decided to attempt it. I chose Essay is like a food-dish. The whole point is how to make it more delicious. There cannot be one fixed style for different cooks (aspirants). However, it should be well structured and you should use your language and writing skills to the maximum in it. You can also use your creativity in form of maps, diagrams, quotations as well. It should always be to the point and have a smooth flow. It should also reflect your own thoughts, rather than just replicated facts. Apart from material dimensions, also try to cover moral, ethical, socio-political dimensions in your essay. Try to think from perspective of a single person to whole community and society and the world at large. Try to figure out implications of the topic and its positive and negative fallouts. Try to come up with smart ideas and solutions. In a nutshell, try to look a bit different and impressive than the others. What are your suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in GS1 paper (History, Geography, Society etc?

Since this paper has a very wide coverage, one should not leave any one of the areas. For example, some people don’t cover culture portion adequately. I believe that this paper alone carries more weightage than other 3 GS papers, so one should be very serious about it. It will also help you in essay. For specific topics – like related to society, you can take help of your friends who have sociology optional and take their notes for specific areas like – caste, women, family, tribes, village, modernization and globalization, kinship and so on. What are you suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in GS2 paper (Polity, Constitution, Social Justice, International relations etc?

Now a days, they ask more questions from current and require you to think about those. So, you should read current developments thoroughly and never miss the core issues. Think in terms of their impact on society and governance and the common man. What are you suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in GS3 paper (Economy, Environment, Science and Tech, Internal Security, Disaster Management etc?

Almost same as above. Just read newspapers and magazines and develop a basic understanding of things, especially in reference to economy portion. What are you suggestions to aspirants for improving the score in GS4 paper (Ethics paper)? Can you brief on how you attempted the Ethics paper? Please explain the strategies and writing the style for Ethics case studies.

Ethics paper is about your moral aptitude and not about what other philosophers have said. Hence, it is a desirable that you try to avoid reference to the moral thinkers as it may affect originality of your answer. Secondly, don’t try to elaborate too much, be very specific and concise. For case studies, try to learn to think logically. They are more to test your comprehension ability and logical thinking. Give as many logical options where the examiner seeks various courses of actions with justifications for each. Make it sure that you sound like a normal human being and not like Aristotle or Gandhi. What was your optional subject? Please give our readers detailed insights on your selection and strategies regarding your optional subject. We are sure that there will be many who take the same optional subject as yours in future.

Sociology was my optional and I had already mentioned a book list i.e. IGNOU Notes on Sociology, Haralambos, Giddens, Ritzer for a few topics, new NCERTS (I didn’t find the old ones so useful, new are better and more illustrative), SAGE or Penguin Dictionary on Sociology. I chose sociology as it sounded very familiar subject to me. So, chose optional very carefully. Try to note down the information which comes in newspapers and is relevant to your optional. 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?

I used to attempt all the questions, though not compromising on quality. I tried to shorten the answers just a bit by being to the point. Write only what has been asked, without giving much attention to introduction and conclusion. Make a few illustrations if you can, to make your answer look more attractive.

UPSC Interview Can you elaborate on your approach and preparation for Interview? Did you attend any mock interviews?

I attended 2 mock interview each time, but used to discuss my DAF with friends and even gave them mock interviews. As interview is rather a ‘Personality Test’, I tried to work on my behavioral aspects and improved my speech and delivery a bit. While speaking, I tried to smile, sound confident and calm. I think, if you remain confident and calm and speak politely, half the battle is won. Can you elaborate a bit on the things mentioned in your DAF (Detailed Application Form) like your hobbies, extracurricular activities or prizes won:

Hobbies – cartooning, planting trees, Yoga What was your interview dress?

Light blue shirt, dark grey pants and striped dark blue tie. Who was the Chairman of the board you faced? How long was the interview?

D K Diwan Board, 40 minutes. Can you share with our readers your UPSC Interview experience? Our readers would be really happy to hear those questions and replies in the UPSC Topper’s Interview.

Date of Interview – 9th March 2016, Forenoon (2nd day of interview). It was D K Dewan’s Board and I was the first one to get in. It lasted around 35-40 minutes. I wished the members good morning and was asked to sit down. The Chair was tucked inside the table and I had to pull it out. It was a heavier wooden chair and as I tried to lift it, it hit the table above.

CH: What is your roll number?
Me: *******

CH: Where are you posted right now?
Me: Sir, currently I am a probationer at National Academy of Customs Excise and Narcotics, Faridabad.

CH: So, you have worked as a Tehsildar in Haryana. How long you were there?
Me: Sir, around one and half year.

CH: In which areas did you work there?
Me: Sir, I was still in training and for some time I got field experience as a Patwari and a Quanungo.

CH: So, you have not worked in actual capacity as a Tehsildar?
Me: No Sir, probation period was actually 2 years old and I had left before it was over.

CH: Nitin, India has been aspiring for a permanent seat in the UNSC for a long time and has been struggling for that. Assuming this is the platform of the UN and you are the Indian ambassador to the UN. You will get one minute to think or write and 2.5 minutes for presenting your case assuming that this is the gathering at the UN.

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(I scribbled a few points on a piece of paper and was soon asked to stop and deliver)

Me: (with a little louder voice) – Good, Morning all, India is the largest democracy in the world and yet the irony is that India is not a permanent member of the UNSC. We are the third largest economy as well in terms of PPP as well. We are one of the largest contributors of the peacekeeping forces in the world as well. Historically, India has an excellent record of upholding peace and other noble ideals. We have also supported all the major progressive resolution in UN like – Women, rights of the underprivileged and so on. So, being the largest democracy we of the world, we deserve this seat. (My conclusion was a bit awkward hinging on the word ‘democracy’, idea of nuclear weapon state, NAM etc was in my mind, but I deliberately avoided them for some reasons).

CH: You mentioned democracy twice, what so big thing about that. And It is a fact that we are still behind 5th on GDP.
Me: (almost interrupted) Sir, GDP is measured in various terms, India is 3rd not in real terms, but on PPP.

CH: Who said that? What is the difference? There must be some various other areas where India has excelled and which you might have added. Can you think of more?
Me: (It suddenly dawned upon me that Dewan is an ex-navy personnel) Sir, in terms of military strength also we are a leading country.

CH: Yes, we are fifth biggest military power. What else?
Me: In terms of population also we represent almost 1/6th of the world.

CH: What population (almost as if population is a kind of burden on India and is of no consequence). Give me some other points.
Me: Sir, nothing comes to my mind at this time.

CH: India has done so well in terms of technology, services. We are also a leading space power. We are also a nuclear power as well.
(I nodded as each utterance and at this he passed it to other members)

M1: What is the difference between Engineering and Technology?
Me: Sir, I would like to explain it with the help of an illustration. For example, in a lighter, how we make the lighter and its parts is about engineering and how it actually works is technology. (I had read similar definition and example earlier somewhere and I blurted it out).

(At this Chairman interrupted)
CH: Can you give another example?
Me: Sir, If we take another simpler example of say a wheel, then the process of making the wheel i.e. chipping wood off it, turning it etc will be engineering part and how the wheel functions is the technology.

M1: What is Panchsheel?
Me: Sir, it was a doctrine of foreign policy that was propounded in the early 1950s by India, especially keeping in mind our neighbors like China. It is said that its core philosophy was taken from Buddhism and it included 5 principles like – non-interference, peaceful coexistence and so on. Basically, it was a peace doctrine of India.

M1: Why did our first PM, Nehru, decided to go ahead with PSUs after the independence?
Me: Sir, at the time of independence, level of industrial development was very poor. Private enterprise was also very weak as the British followed a policy of imports and it had virtually killed our domestic private enterprise. Hence, to give industrial development a push in India, state had to invest in certain basic and heavy industries.

M1: Government invests more in engineering as compared to other social sciences. And when they go somewhere else, this money is wasted. Do you think so?
Me: Sir, education is not just about… (at this point, I was interrupted by M1).

M1: I think you are not clear with the question. Let me repeat it again (and he repeated, saying that government suffers loss actually when this happens as engineers are not doing engineering work).
Me: Sir, there may be a notional loss in terms of say money when an engineer enters into other fields like Management, Civil Services and even entrepreneurship. The contribution that one make there cannot be always quantified in measurable terms and may in terms of value addition, there may be even more in these fields.
(At this point, M2 takes over)

M2: In Lakshadweep, what kind of Administrative challenges do you face? (I was in DANICS earlier, so he probably asked this one for that reason)
CH: Sir, first of all, it is the communication and transportation. There are only two way to connect there – by sea or by air. And very few airlines operate on that route. So, essential supplies is one issue. Secondly, the island is a coral island and hence fragile one and hence tourism can also not be promoted to great extent. Islands are small and not well connected and hence this is also an issue.

M2: Any other issues?
Me: Sir, actually, I haven’t been there so I not aware much about that.

M2: (smiling), So, what if you have not been there. From where do you get electricity there?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about that.

M2: Ok, what is the economic mainstay of Lakshadweep?
Me: Sir, Tourism is one source. Secondly, since education and literacy is high there, service industry is also another source. As the predominant Malyali community lives there, fishing is also important source of income.

M2: What else?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about that much.

M2: Coconut?
Me: (With a bigger smile and nodding, as if I knew it and had just forgotten to say).

M2: You told that you have not worked much as Tehsildar, but you must be having a fair idea about land records. In some countries, land record system is managed very well and there are hardly any disputes, while in India, it is not so. Do you know about any such countries?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about any such countries but in India the problem is due to poor land records. First of all, the land is not consolidated in many states except a few states like Haryana. Some land holdings are still of irregular shapes and this creates problems. Further, intakaals or mutations are also not timely and sometimes, revenue officials also connive with parties to deform the records. So, this creates issues in India.

M2: What is this ‘Record of Rights’ called in Haryana?
Me: Sir it is called ‘Jamabandi’.

M2: How this system of land records can be improved?
Me: Sir, first of all, the consolidation of the land-holdings has to be carried out. Secondly, technology has to be used so that human interface is minimized. For example, in Haryana, to pay the stamp duty, there is now ‘e-Stamping’ in which money is paid in the banks and one need not bring cash. Similarly, there are also plans to digitization of all the records through Online Registration. This will ensure that all records are online and anyone can access these from any place. It will bring more transparency in the whole system.

M2: What is the name of the program of the Government of India regarding this?
Me: Sir, It is National Land Record Modernization Program. (at this he nodded and seemed a bit satisfied)

M2: You have worked in both the private and public fields. How did you find them?
Me: Sir, both the places had their own advantages and specialties. In private, things are more streamlined, there are fewer rules and paperwork is lesser. As compared to that, in government, diversity of work is more though paperwork is also more as e-Governance has still to catch up in government. In some areas like work-life balance, some companies like Infosys – they are actively promoting work-life balance – as you find everything you need within campus itself. On the other hand, public sector has still to catch on these terms. (I had mugged up so many points, but only these came out).

M3: Have you heard of this term ‘Work Ethics’? (I said ‘Yes’). What is it?
Me: (I struggled a bit as I didn’t have a clear definition in my mind and tried to fabricate one) Sir, work ethics is doing your work with full honesty, dedication and sincerity. It is aligning your goals with organizational objectives and pursuing them. (And I almost repeated the same things again, but as a different sentence).

M3: Different countries have different work ethics. Some are known for good work ethics. Can you name a few.
Me: Japan is one such country sir. I have heard that employees work there diligently even if employer is not watching them. This is the reason that even the notions of ‘quality’ come from… (At this I was interrupted).

M3: Ok, leave Japan and Germany, which other countries?
Me: Sir, there are many other European countries. In Asia we have Singapore, and for that reason, it is also at the top of Ease of Doing Business Index as well.

M3: Do you agree that India has inferior work ethics?
Me: No sir, we don’t have inferior work ethics, but ‘different’ work ethics. Different would be actually the right word. The notions of ‘work’ in modern history arrived with industrialisation which incidentally happened first in the West and some Asian countries like Japan and South Korea and hence the idea of work ethics. We have a different historical context and have a complex society. So, sometimes there are some extraneous factors that affect workplace as well.

M3: What are those extraneous factors?
Me: Sir, caste is one. Religion is also there. We have pictures of gods and deities even in our government offices. Apart from it, we are a very closed knit society and sometimes relatives and friends ask for some favors as well.

M3: Why sex ratio is poor in Haryana?
Me: Sir, Haryana is a patriarchal society and for that reason, people attach different notions and values to male and female child. Secondly, some sociologists also suggest that as land prices went up and property became costly, due to a patriarchal and patrilineal system, preference for male child also became higher. Thirdly, Haryana is closer to Delhi and hence there was early access to sex detection techniques in the region. (again, this was another much expected question and I had prepared it well. But only these things came out of me)

M3: Can you name a few Indian Sociologists?
Me: Sir, starting from G S Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Yogendra Singh (and then I suddenly went blank, though I know names of a lot of them, and seeing my this situation, M3 came to my rescue).

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M3: Ok, tell me the contribution of any one of them.
Me: Sir, Mr M N Srinivas is considered as to be belonging to the structural functionalist tradition I sociology. He gave various theories on village, caste and religion. He gave idea of ‘Dominant Caste’ and ‘Sanskritisation’ which explains the phenomenon of social change via idea of cultural change.

(Now the Chairman took over)
CH: Recently, there was some issue in Haryana. How do you feel about that? Why they were doing so and how things played out?
Me: Sir, regarding how I feel about it, I feel very bad about it… (at this I was interrupted)

CH: I am not asking about your emotions. You are a future administrator, you have to take decisions. Tell me how it played out and where administration failed.
Me: Sir, the protests started as a particular community felt that their main economic mainstay ‘land’ is no longer there as land holdings become very small. They also found themselves with no other options like other castes. Adding to that, employment opportunities also shrunk in both public and private sector. Public jobs declined from 21 million in 1990s to 17 million today. Similarly, private sector also failed to provide meaningful jobs. In this situation, the particular community felt that they are no longer the so called ‘dominant caste’ that others used to call them and hence suffer from economic handicaps. Regarding how it played out, I would say that it was an ‘error of judgment’ on the behalf of administration and while the protests were growing, adequate preventive and enforcement measures were not taken and intelligence also apparently failed. Government and higher officials also failed to establish dialogue and bring the parties on the table for talks to alleviate their apprehensions. So, there was a communication gap as well. In this situation, technology played its role and mis-information and rumors spread like a wild-fire through social media, Whatsapp etc and situation turned very volatile. As a result, communities turned against each others as well.

CH: What do you think that they should be given reservation or not?
Me: No Sir.

CH: Thanks, your interview is over.
Me: Thank you sir. (I said thank you to other members as well who were sitting beside me).
Suddenly, it came to my mind that chair was inside the table when I entered the room (and keeping in mind that I was sitting in front of an armed forces personnel and to show my etiquette), I picked up the chair very gently and tucked it again inside the table – where it was earlier – and left.

Overall, there were no questions on my hobby or current affairs which I had prepared so much and was expecting questions on those as well. Overall, there was no major blunder on my part and I was relatively calm and composed and answered back the question with occasional smiles as well. Till now, the feedback is that other boards are also following the same pattern and they are asking generalish questions and pressing for opinions of candidates. This makes it a bit difficult to judge how I fared as there were no questions from my strong areas and hence, answers to other generalish questions were also not very insightful at times.

PS: I don’t remember what the 4th member had asked (not even sure that whether he had asked any Qs at all), or whether some of these Qs were by the 4th member. So I have totally skipped him.

Note: Aspirants can read more about Nitin’s previous interview experience in his blog. Were you happy after the interview? Did you expect good marks?

Yes, I was contended and was expecting good marks as I remained confident till the end and didn’t commit any mistake. Any tips for aspirants going for UPSC Interview?

Try to remain in touch with books after mains so that you sound knowledgeable in interview. Especially current events should be done well if not optional and graduation subject. Work on your speech and delivery. Don’t sound arrogant or aggressive. Be balanced in your answers and use facts and information to support your views wherever possible. Do you think that there is a relation between the profile of the candidate (age or education background) and interview marks? At a time when lot many candidates from top institutes like IIT, IIM or AIIMs appearing this exam, is there any matter of worry for other candidates from state colleges or those without work experience?

Absolutely not. I have mere 64% marks in 12th and did graduation from an average private engineering college. Interview board members are very mature persons and they factor in all conditions through which the candidate might have gone through in life. However, you should sound well prepared regarding whatever you write in DAF and this is the thing which matters the most.

Previous Attempts/ Backups/ Others Jobs Qualified (if any) Comment on your previous attempts on UPSC Civil Services Exam, if any? What have you learned from the mistakes/failures?

  1. 2012 – Mains not qualified.
  2. 2013 – 320th Rank
  3. 2014 – 359th Rank

You learn more from your mistakes than success. I too learned quite a few things. Time management and temperament management are the two things which help a lot in any examination. They are even more crucial in this exam. Apart from that, I re-focused on my weak areas and covered them up. What was your backup plan in case you didn’t qualify?

I was planning to join teaching. Did you write/clear any other exams (like Bank exams/State PSCs/ Private Jobs) during the preparation period or before:

I cleared the State PCS before clearing UPSC.

More on Work Experience (if any) Details of your organization, name of post and the duration of experience:

After Engineering: India Cements (6 Months), after MBA: ABB Ltd (6 Months), Infosys (22 Month), Tehsildar in Haryana (1 year), DANICS (9 Months), IRS C&E Did you leave the job to prepare?

Initially no, but later yes. What is your advice to working professionals who’re preparing for IAS exam simultaneously?

Use your time very prudently. Don’t waste even a single minute, but at the same time also don’t overstress yourself and maintain a good health.

Marks – Prelims, Mains, and Interview

Preliminary Exam (Just for Qualification)

  • General Studies Paper 1: (Out of 200) Around 110 (80 Q)
  • General Studies Paper 2: (Out of 200) Around 167 (95Q)

Mains: (Please also indicate the approximate number of attempts in each General studies paper and the optional paper. For how many marks did you attempt in each paper?)

  • Essay (Out of 250): 140 (All)
  • GS1 (Out of 250): 120 (All)
  • GS2 (Out of 250): 58 (All)
  • GS3 (Out of 250): 102 (All)
  • GS4 (Out of 250): 94 (All)
  • Optional Paper 1 (Out of 250): 122 (All)
  • Optional Paper 2 (Out of 250): 124 (All)
  • Written Total (Out of 1750): 770

Interview (Out of 275)

  • Marks for Personality Test: 193

Final Marks (Out of 2025): 770 + 193 = 963 After looking at the mark sheet, suppose if you are going to write prelims and mains this year, what changes will you make in your preparation, answer writing, and interview?



Nitin Sangwan with his kid What do you think of as the main reason for your success? (Feel free to name any special help from friends, teachers, family, coaching institutes, websites, or other sources)

I think I was quite focused from the beginning and was ready to put any amount of hard work. I read quite a lot which made a good base. I never confined myself to any single advise or master strategy. I always tend to over-prepare myself. When preparation levels are good, one feel confident while writing papers. My wife and family are main driving forces. After marriage, it can be very difficult to prepare without support of your spouse. What preference in services have you opted for? Is there any particular reason for that priority? What are the novel ideas you have for the country, to be implemented once you get into civil services?

IAS and IPS were my top two choices, the rest were for the sake of filling choices. The reason for entering into these services is to get an opportunity to work on ground level and address those issue which affect the not so privileged sections of society. I have an urge that I give back to my society more than what I received. I wish others don’t have to face those things in administration which many others have faced in past. I would like to make efforts in the areas of education and health the most. Did your life change after success/attempt in UPSC Civil Services Exam? If yes, how?

It has changed in the sense that now I feel more responsible for quite a few things. I feel more empowered to implement my ideas which I always wanted to. Does the educational or financial status of the family of the aspirant impact the UPSC preparation and result?

Yes it can affect a bit, but not much. Material for preparation is available almost free of cost online now a days and it is the determination and consistency which matters the most. Any tips on Civil Services exam preparation and other priorities in life (Financial security, Higher Studies, Marriage, Family life etc.)

Work satisfaction and a healthy life would be top priority apart from a happy family. What is your advice to the freshers who are going to appear in this exam?

Stay focused, never remain under stress. Be honest to yourself. Always. What is your advice to all those candidates who didn’t succeed in this exam yet?

This was told to me when I failed in SSB of NDA – ‘This is not the end of life, something better is waiting for you’. And this is always true. We like to express our heartiest congratulations to Nitin Sangwan once again for this grand success. We are happy that you chose to share your happiness on this special occasion. ClearIAS Team sincerely thank you, on behalf our readers and ourselves, for the spirit and benevolence to find time to write answers to our detailed questionnaire. Wishing you, all the very best in career and life.

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