IAS RANK 156: Saurabh Kumar Agrawal, 3rd Attempt, Geography Optional

Saurabh Kumar Agrawal has secured Rank 156 in Civil Services Examination,2015. This was his third attempt at the coveted exam.

Saurabh has been closely associated with forumias.com 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 Name

Saurabh kumar agrawal

All India Rank in Civil Services Examination


Your ForumIAS User Name


Which attempt was this at Civil Services Examination?


Where do you hail from?

Karauli, rajasthan

Tell us something about your family background

I hail from a middle class family. Both my parents are teachers. My elder brother is an IAS officer(AIR 43, CSE 2014). My younger brother is an examiner is customs.

Your graduation or early education

B.TECH in computer science from NIT Kurukshetra

Your Optional Subjects


Your medium of Instruction in School?


Your medium of instruction in college?


Your medium of writing the Mains?


Any initial preparation?

I joinied Sriram ias for GS prepatation in 2013. Took classes from ALS for geography optional same year



First, tell us something about yourself!

I am a normal person with average capabilities. I have had good academic past. I am a lot of interest in learning new things.


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

Practiced test papers.

How many questions did you attempt in GS in Prelims?


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?

One should not have any pre-determined notions regrading number of attempts. It depends on difficulty as well as competition level. I attempt those questions in which I am able to strike off two options straight away.

What was your score in UPSC Prelims?

125+ 175

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

around 2-3%


When did you start preparing for Mains Examination?

I started mains prepataion in 2013.

How did you cover Current Affairs?

Newspaper(The hindu), vision ias gs current affair module

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 1

Apart from self study, took classes from sriram ias.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 2

Apart from self study, took classes from sriram ias.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 3

Apart from self study, took classes from sriram ias.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 4

Relied solely on self study and answer writing practice. Books like chronicle ias lexicon, subba rao helped a lot.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of ESSAY

Practiced essay writing and discussed with friends.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of Optional Subject

Took classes from ALS. Practiced a lot of diagrams and maps.


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


Which Essays did you attempt in the Mains Examination?

Value education and the dreams that wont 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?

First-couldn’t clear prelims, lacked even basic preparation. It was more of an enthusiastic attempt not backed by ample preparation.
Second-Reached interview but missed final cutoff, My GS prepataion was not good. Time mismanagement during exam time also cost me heavily. Couldn’t include many dimensions in essay.
In personality test, I was little nervous. Feel good factor was missing.

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

Paragraphs with points in between.

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

Yes, in GS1.

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?

Yes. I use a lot of examples and case studies.

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

Time management inside the exam hall and a healthy routine outside exam hall.


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

Yes-Sriram ias

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

Not at all necessary. But being a beginner one needs guidance in which coaching may help. Right guidance and interaction may put you ahead in beginning days.But beware of bogus coaching. Not join it for the sake of it. Extract the best out of it.

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

Mains-vision ias

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

yes. Apart from regular test series, attempted questions from insights. Discussed with friends and took feedback. Tried to attempt them in a given timeframe.


Which Interview Board did you face?

Shri Chattar Singh

How long was your interview?

Around 30 min

Can you tell us briefly about your interview experience?

It was a pleasant and purposeful discussion. I was lucky that the board was eager to listen to me despite the fact that I was last to be interviewed in the session. I fumbled, said sorry a few times, but I think my constant smile, confidence, helpful attitude of board member did the trick for me.

What did you wear for the Interview?

white formal shirt and black trousers

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?

In my opinion, upsc is looking for confident, pleasant persons with balanced views and systemic approach.
Smile, they are not there to beat you.
Be confident.
Accept your mistakes if any.
Make them happy anyhow. Be funny but don’t overdo it.
Be simple, don’t be over smart.
Support women, vulnerable sections in your answers.
Take 2-3 sips of water before entering.

Dont wear a dress you are not comfortable in.
Don’t argue. Don’t hurt their egos.
Don’t show your political ideologies. Be balanced.
Avoid person with negative opinions 2-3 days before the interview.
Don’t write fake things in DAF just to impress board members.

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

The hindu

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

yes-at samkalp and sriram.
samkalp is OK. Atleast their dedicated and helpful attitude makes your feel good in times of emotional deprivation. Try to attend mock interviews early. With time quality deteriorates.
Sriram- I dont know who qualified them to take mocks. It was free and they justified their cost.
Yes, take mocks. Don’t bother about comments. Self-analyse and improve.

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

Definitely. Good academics can only help.

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?

Yes, last year got 151. This year got 185.
I improved upon mu non-verbal communication abilities. I remained calm and composed, kept constant smile, made eye contact throughout my interview.


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?

Internet is very important. Supplement your material with what is not covered in standard books. But don’t rely too much on internet. Its an ocean of data. Select only relevant material.
I wont recommend to rely wholly on internet.

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)?

I am a regular visitor of forumias (earlier with name Skay). The interaction with fellow aspirants during inter-result period was soothing as well as motivating.
New initiatives of forum are truly worth it.

What is the best thing you like about ForumIAS?

Interaction with fellow aspirants.

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

Insights, pib


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

UPSC preparation in itself is a very enriching and learning process. If you make it finally, all good. If you don’t, this learning will make you a better person definitely. After 2 failed attempts, start working on your backup plan along with preparation. Follow nishkam karma and remember one thing-“Success in upsc is not a barometer for success in life but only a path to success in life.”

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