IAS RANK 107: Nikhil Pathak, 1st attempt, Sociology Optional

Nikhil Pathak has secured Rank 107 in Civil Services Examination,2015. This was his first attempt at the coveted exam.

Nikhil has been associated with forumias.com since the last one year and has been an active member throughout. He has inspired many with his timely advices, comments and now, with his success.

ForumIAS would like to congratulate him for his spectacular success and wish him all the best for his life as an officer.

Given below is the transcript of his interview with forumias where he describes his journey, experiences and preparation strategy. We hope that it would be of immense help to everyone.


Your NameNikhil Pathak

All India Rank in Civil Services Examination 


Your ForumIAS User Name 


Which attempt was this at Civil Services Examination?


Where do you hail from?

Lucknow, UP

Tell us something about your family background

Middle class. Dad in Railways, mom is a housewife.

Your graduation or early education

BA, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi

Your Optional Subjects


Your medium of Instruction in School?


Your medium of instruction in college?


Your medium of writing the Mains?


Any initial preparation?

No coaching. Started basic preparation from the first year of college and gave my prelims right after passing out.


What books/notes did you refer to for General Studies and CSAT for prelims?

For CSAT nothing.

For GS
1. Laxmikant
2. Spectrum for modern history
3. NCERT for ancient and medieval history.
4. Class 11 and 12 ncert + G. C. Leong+ a good atlas.
5. Sriram eco notes and Ramesh Singh + mrunal + solve questions and clear doubts from net.
6. Vision for current affairs.
7. Shankar for environment. Plus net for seeing various bodies, treaties etc related to environment.
8. Spectrum + Nitin singhania+ ccert+ ncert for arts and culture. ( invested too much time with no benefit accruing).
9. Tmh manual for theory based science and tech.
10. Wikipedia for various intl bodies
Prelims should not be taken lightly as it is not selection but elimination round.

How many questions did you attempt in GS in Prelims?

81, Marks: 112

Do you think attempting more questions is the key to success in Prelims? Is there an ideal number of questions one should attempt? How did you decide to attempt those questions which you were not sure of?

nope not in prelims but it is in mains. Ideal is above 70% questions that too with good amount of surety. just take 120 to be your target score.

I Used elimination method and if I was adequately sure I went for it else left it. You can see a nice video made by Roman Saini on this topic it was really beneficial to me.

What was your score in UPSC Prelims?


How much was the variation in your official Prelims score in comparison to that of coaching keys?

A lot. Vajiram was the closest.


When did you start preparing for Mains Examination?

December 2014

How did you cover Current Affairs?

Vision plus the Hindu.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 1

I started reading books in this basically static paper from January 2015. The books used are the same as suggested by toppers and a lot of reading on the internet. Marks scored: 118

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 2

It is a dynamic paper mostly based on current affairs. Did it from vision current affairs modules plus internet. Started after prelims. marks scored: 88

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 3

Same  as above. Marks: 116

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 4

Used the Arihant book and looked up key concepts from net. It is the only paper for which I did answer writing practice at my place. Started in January 2015 and finished it off in a month.Marks: 104

Full Preparation: The Conquering of ESSAY

Just did a lot of writing practice. Saw the video by Roman Saini on this topic. Marks: 115

Full Preparation: The Conquering of Optional Subject

Read notes by Bibhash Sharma and made this and IGNOU BA material as base. Then read Ritzer and Harlambos selectively. Also read the amazing Modernization of Indian Tradition book. Used internet too especially for understanding Mead. Besides solved all previous years question. Marks: 118+118


How many questions did you attempt in GS1, GS2, GS3 and GS4?


Which Essays did you attempt in the Mains Examination?

The one on cleaver devil and dreams that should not let India sleep.

Did you use the headings/subheading in an Essay?


Did you underline the important statements in Essay?


What went wrong in your previous attempt(s)? Which changes did you make in this attempt?


Did you write your answers in bullet points or in paragraphs?


Did you make any diagrams along with your answers in any of the GS papers?


Did you give examples in most of your answers? Also did you mention any points from govt. reports like ARC, Punchhi Commission etc. in your answers?

A lot. Every point had an example or govt report or SC/NGT judgement backing my argument.

What was that one smart move you think you made in the exam which you would like others to know.

Attempt all the questions.


Did you join any coaching classes for Prelims or Mains? If yes, which one?

No. Only for Sociology: Bibhash Sharma.

How far do you think is coaching necessary for preparing for Prelims and Mains Examination?

Not important. CSE questions are not that tough that you may need coachings etc. For those difficult concepts of economics you can use the internet and for geography you can use Youtube. You may take test series if you feel like. Just read the well known basic books many times over and look up things you dont understand on the internet. Thats all.

 Did you join any test series for Prelims and Mains? If yes, please mention the name and also how useful it was.


Did you practice answer writing for mains? If yes, please mention the approach you followed.

Yes a lot. Mostly followed the advice of Roman Saini.


Which Interview Board did you face?

Mr. Manbir Singh.

How long was your interview?

25 minutes.

Can you tell us briefly about your interview experience?

The feeling I had after the end of my interview was commensurate with my marks, 151.

What did you wear for the Interview?

A black suit.

What qualities do you think are being tested in the Interview? Some strict Do’s and Dont’s for the Interview for aspirants and Interview candidates?

Interview is an enigma and the list of qualities that UPSC notification says are tested in the interview just cant be tested in such a format and in such a little time. What I have known is that confidence is the key, along with calmness to think and answer effectively. Plus respectfulness and honesty are the other two important things.

Strict Don’ts: dont bluff. Interview checks your moral and intellectual integrity.
Don’t be disrespectful towards the members, behave in a dignified manner. Never forget the stature of the member, the setting of the meeting and the service you are an applicant for.

What magazines /newspapers did you refer to for preparing Current Affairs?

Vision and The Hindu.

Did you attend any mock interview sessions at the coaching classes? If yes, were they beneficial?

Yes. Yes.

Do you think marks in school or college can impact one’s score in the Interview?


Was there any improvement in your interview marks this year as compared to previous year(s) (if applicable)? If yes, what changed did you incorporate this time?



How far did you use the Internet for your Preparation? Do you think in the changed UPSC pattern, today an aspirant can prepare wholly by referring sources from the Internet?

I used internet a lot and at every stage of preparation. No, you cant depend wholly on it. basic books like Laxmikant or Spectrum etc are a must and they, or their equivalent, are not available online.

How far did ForumIAS.com help you as a social network, as a sharing platform for you Prelims, Mains & Interview Preparation (and the excruciating period between the exam and results to chill out with co-aspirants and other successful candidates)?

A lot. Its a great place to get information, support, help and to network with like minded people. And as the question says, it was really a saviour during my wait for the final result.

What is the best thing you like about ForumIAS?

It brings together aspirants from all over the country and provides a dedicated plateform to them to discuss and share things that concerns them.

Do you use any other websites for your preparation? Is yes, name them.

Too many to write them all. insightsonindia, the hindu, youtube, wikipedia etc.


Congratulation for making it. Is there any message you would like to give to IAS Aspirants who look up to you?

This exam needs constant hardwork over a period of time. So be a hardworking and a consistently hardworking candidate. Be honest to your inner conscience and always remind yourself that you are doing all this hardwork for the benefit of the people of our country. This attitude will help you tide over difficulties and failures.

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