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

Gaurav Agrawal IASThe name Gaurav Agrawal needs no introduction. All India Rank 1 in UPSC Civil Services Exam 2013, who is also an IITian, ‘IIM’ian and an IPS trainee!!! Gaurav, 29, now into Indian Administrative Service (IAS), topped the toughest and the lengthiest exam in India applied by 7.5 lakh applicants and attempted by 3.15 lakh in 2013.

Know the tips and strategies – straight from a UPSC topper!

Update: Now, compilations of ClearIAS study materials and mock questions are available for download from the ClearIAS online store. Learning made easy and faster!

Not only Civil Services aspirants, but almost all Indians are eager to know the preparation methods of the topper. had requested Gaurav to share his approach, tips and strategies with the readers of our website and in spite of his busy schedule, Gaurav has answered the detailed interview questionnaire of, a much more tiring exercise than the actual IAS exam :-P.

We hope this interview will turn out as a real confidence booster for all aspirants, particularly those from rural India who do not have access to expensive coaching/guidance. Now aspirants have the expert guidance from none other than, Gaurav Agrawal, 2013 Rank 1. Let’s welcome Gaurav to the “UPSC Toppers Interview” at

Brief Bio- data:

Name: Gaurav Agrawal
Age: 29
Roll number: 249085
Name of the Exam and Year: CSE 2013
Result/Rank: 1
Graduation Background and College: IIT Kanpur, Computer Science. Multiple F’s, Degree extended. 6.8 / 10
Post Graduation Background and College(if any): IIM Lucknow, Finance. Gold Medal. 9.25 / 10
Work Experience : Company and Duration (if any): Citigroup, Hong Kong, Credit Derivatives Trading, 3.5 years
UPSC Optional Paper: Economics
UPSC Mains Medium: English
UPSC Interview Medium: English
Number of attempts taken to achieve this feat: 2
State and Place of Residence (Permanent):  Rajasthan
Percentage of Marks in 10th and Board: 88.2, CBSE
Percentage of Marks in 12th and Board: 85.6 CBSE
Percentage of Marks in Graduation and Board/University: Mentioned above
Percentage of Marks in Post Graduation and Board/University:  Mentioned above
Service Preference (Top 3):  IAS > IPS > IRS
Cadre Preference (Top 3):  Rajasthan > MP > Gujarat

Inspirational Journey So Far + Background:

Gaurav Agrawal IAS

ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series  All India Rank 1 in UPSC Civil Services Exam!!!  Dream of lakhs of aspirants! Hearty congratulations from for this unmatchable achievement! 🙂 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 such childhood dream. Only realized strongly I wanted to do this when I was working. This job attracted me because of the impact it can allow one to have on thousands of peoples’ lives. How did you feel when you came to know that you are the topper (AIR 1)? Can you share the moments of happiness with our readers?

I couldn’t believe. Thought there has to be some mistake in my interpretation of the result. Then I called 3-4 other IPS Probationers and they verified it. IIT, IIM, IPS and now IAS!!! Can you brief us your thoughts, views and ambitions when you climbed each position in the ladder of your life?

Interesting question, would write a blog on it soon. : 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 level has always been high. Still if one has to do a comparative study, it is decreasing now. Earlier, it was the only job opportunity but now so many other avenues have opened up. People are going abroad, working in private sector. You should thank the opening up of economy for this. Otherwise all the bright people I have met in my career in other places would have instead appeared for this exam.

Also, people from IITs have always been appearing and topping this exam. This trend has actually decreased if anything from 80s and 90s.

Study Plan for UPSC Prelims, Mains and Interview

Note from : Gaurav Agarwal is a familiar face to the readers of Clear IAS, as Gaurav has already shared his UPSC interview transcript with us earlier. His hobby is blogging and in his blog Khelo India, he has been writing many useful articles regarding UPSC Civil Services Exam. Many hyper links in the next set of questions connect to Gaurav’s blog. How did you approach this exam? What was your strategy in general (Prelims, Mains and Interview)? 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?

1st attempt: studied for 1 year. Daily 10-12 hours. This attempt: studied for 4 months. Daily 6-8 hours. Were you a person who studied alone? Or a person who favored the combined-study approach?

Alone. Resorted to group only to ask what topics / important questions to study. What were the Newspapers and Magazines you followed? How many hours did you devote for newspapers? Any tips on newspaper-reading?

Hindu and followed other news websites (all popular ones) on RSS reader. For magazine, only EPW. About 2 hours for newspapers and websites. To know more about newspaper reading visit the post How to read newspaper? Did you attend any coaching institute? If yes, can you provide the details for each stage (Prelims/Mains/Interview)? How helpful were the coaching institutes?

  • Vision IAS and Synergy test series useful.
  • Baliyan history optional classroom coaching useful, but don’t rely soley on it.
  • Attended mock interviews at various places and found them useful.
  • Attended classroom coaching at Vajiram, Sriram, Lalwani’s Axiom and found them to be a total waste of my time and left soon / didn’t attend classes.

For entire list and feedback, please read here: What websites will you recommend for future aspirants for UPSC preparation, including the government websites?, PIB, etc. Did you use Social Media like Face book, Twitter or other forums for UPSC Preparation? Or did you say good-bye to the social media during preparation days? Any tips?

Yes, forumias and orkut (now What was your preference: Reading online (Laptop/Tablet/Mobile) or reading the traditional way (Books)? Or a mix of both?

Both : How did you keep yourself motivated for this one year long exam?

Clarity of goal. : Daily time table 🙂 (When will you wake up, study sleep etc. etc.)

Such a long time, time table varied.

Continued in Part 2 of the interview : Gaurav Agrawal (CSE 2013 Rank 1) UPSC Topper’s Interview – Part 2.

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