Gaurav Agrawal from Rajastan topped UPSC Civil Services Exam 2013. Gaurav did his graduation from IIT and post graduation from IIM. He got IPS in his first chance before securing All India Rank 1 this year. We have already shared Gaurav Agrawal’s UPSC interview transcript. In this post, we shall analyze how should one score to become an All India Topper and clear IAS! This post also examines the subjective nature in the present pattern of UPSC exam, especially the interview/personality test.
How well should you score to clear IAS with AIR 1?
As you all might be aware, there cannot be any generalizations. We have already done an analysis on UPSC mains marks cut-offs and have shown that the competition is getting tougher and the mains exam is becoming low scoring. Let’s have a quick look at AIR 1, Gaurav Agrawal’s total marks, which is 975/2025. This comes around 48.15 percentage, around 3 percent less than last year topper Haritha V. Kumar’s total. The decrease in percentage can be attributed to the reduction in number of optional papers and increase in general studies papers, with tight valuation. But the point here is : You just need around 48% marks to become All India Topper! And to clear IAS which has around 180 seats this year including reservation, the percentage needed is again less! However, things are not that easy! Let’s see.
Gaurav Agrawal’s UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam Marks
- General Studies Paper 1 (GS): 121.34 / 200
- General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT): 182.50 / 200
- Total: 304 / 400
PS : Marks of UPSC Preliminary Exam is not counted for final ranking. For 2013, the cut-off mark for general category was 241, OBC – 222, SC -207, ST-201, PH1 -199, PH2 – 184 and PH3 – 163.
It can be seen that Gaurav was way above the cut-off, even for Prelims. A high score in CSAT, can naturally be attributed to his IIT+IIM brain, but the score of 120+ in GS shows his command over the general studies paper too.
A good command over GS paper even at the time of Prelims would naturally give an edge to the candidate for Mains, as he/she already know many of the general studies topics. And a 300+ score for Prelims is just awesome! 🙂
Motivational quote from the topper for those who start late:
If you are confident enough in paper 2 (CSAT) , prelims specific preparation can be done in last 1-2 months itself.
Gaurav Agrawal’s UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam Marks
Thanks to Gaurav for sharing his detailed marks-break up.
- Essay: 135 / 250
- GS 1: 85 / 250
- GS 2: 63 / 250
- GS 3: 88 / 250
- GS 4: 102 / 250
- Economics 1: 134 / 250
- Economics 2: 162 / 250
- Total GS: 338 / 1000 (33.8%)
- Total Economics Optional : 296 / 500 (59.2%)
- Mains (written) total = 769 / 1750 (43.94%)
PS : Mains cut-off for general category was 564, and Gaurav had scored 205 marks above that minimum qualifying mark. 🙂
Gaurav Agrawal’s UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam Marks
- Interview (Dr. Kilemsungla board): 206 / 275
- Total: 975 / 2025
- Rank 1.
PS : After interview, Gaurav was 200 marks above the last recommended candidate in general category. (517th candidate)
All India Topper’s Mark for Mains and Interview : An Analysis
As per our analysis, there are three crucial areas which determines a mains qualified candidate his/her final rank, after the changed pattern.
- Essay Paper (250 marks).
- Optional Paper (500 marks).
- Interview (275 marks.)
You might be surprised why we didn’t include General Studies Paper in this list. Of-course, General Studies is also a factor, but in 2013, it was not a very crucial element, as there was no very big difference in the mark range even when the total General Studies weigtage was out of 1000 marks. Reason : GS1, GS2 and G3 papers had 25 questions each while GS4 had 14 questions. So the 1000 marks were divided among 89 main questions and 20+ sub questions. That will reduce the subjective elements and variations to a great extent. Analyze this break-up, in contrast to a single essay question worth 250 marks!
Subjectivity in the Essay Paper
Gaurav Agrawal scored 135 in essay paper, which is a very high score for essay this year. Yes, there are candidates who scored, 145 for essay, but the difference between the 145 and 135 is not that really big. But those who got only 50 or 60 mark in essay, are lagging behind the topper by near 80+ marks soon after the first paper itself! This is not a small difference to neglect. A single essay worth 250 marks can always lead to mark variations like this. Unless the next year essay paper contains 2-3 essays, the volatility of essay marks will remain.
Subjectivity in the Optional Paper
Gaurav Scored 296 marks in economics optional which is exceptional! Here also, there might be other candidates who scored higher for other optionals, but 296/500 is never a mean achievement. Gaurav said that it was his optional marks which secured him the first rank. We would only partly agree. He performed really well across sections 🙂 .
But again, who much is the marks range in optional paper? If Gaurav’s total was 296/500, there are also candidates who made it to the final list with less than 180/500 as optional paper mark. That means a big difference of 120+ marks is possible for optionals.
PS : The wide variation of marks between optional papers is well known. This has nothing to do with number of questions in each paper, but is often associated with the scaling process for equating marks between different optional papers. There are also unfortunate candidates with such low marks 3-11 in certain optional papers, after writing for 3 hour each (who of-course didn’t qualify) probably due to the scaling process for that optional paper!
Subjectivity in the UPSC Interview/Personality Test
Now let’s see how a candidate’s life and years of preparation can be drastically ruined in half an hour. For 2013 interview, there were as high marks as 210+ and low marks as 90 also. This means 120+ marks difference was possible in 30 minutes, which as per our analysis is the most life changing one. Even if you were 120+ marks above mains cut-off (mains = the stage which checks your knowledge and analytical abilities, with a weightage of 1750 marks ), a very low mark like 90 or less in the UPSC interview/personality test can spoil your chances.
PS : There are many instances of candidates securing very low marks like 90 or 100 one year crossing 200+ when he attends the UPSC board next year. It can be the reverse also. There are many who wonder how the personality of a candidate rise or fall so much in one year. This just point outs the subjectivity in a 30 minute interview. There are many who wonder if the personality of candidate can be judged at all in 30 minutes.
Gaurav scored 206 for interview, which is again very high marks. His GS score of 338/1000, though not exceptional, corresponds to around 85 marks per each paper out of 250, which is well above the average.
To conclude our analysis on UPSC Civil Services mains+interview, it is worrysome to note that the high range of marks existing in a 20-30 minute subjective process like interview. The subjective nature also exists in the valuation of a single essay worth 250 marks. Again, scaling in optional papers has been a matter of debate by lot of unfortunate candidates for many years. UPSC had made some reforms in exam pattern and syllabus in last 2-3 years, but still there is definite scope for improvement in the whole exam process, and we strongly suggest reducing the ‘range of marks’ that can be awarded for interview and essay. The difference between top and bottom marks should be a maximum 50. Except under exceptional circumstances, this rule should not be violated. Either remove the optional paper completely or bring more transparency to the scaling process for optional paper. Many successful and unsuccessful candidates associate the ‘luck element’ with the subjective and impulsive nature of awarding marks. The selection of the top bureaucrats who steer the governance and future of India, can never be left to any luck element, but should always be on the basis of merit.
And for Gaurav Agrawal, a consistent high scoring in all papers of mains and interview fetched him the top slot. He might not be the topper in individual papers, but he remained consistently high across all papers with exceptional performance in Economics optional. We are happy that his hard-work is finally rewarded, in-spite of the uncertainties existing in the system and exam process. A truly deserving candidate who crossed all hurdles, after being a little short the first time. All the very best to him! 🙂