RANK 87: Mukul Kumar Gupta, 3rd Attempt, Public Administration Optional

Mukul Kumar Gupta has secured Rank 87 in Civil Services Examination,2015. This was his third attempt at the coveted exam.

Mukul has been associated with forumias.com since the last one year and has been an active member. You can reach him on ForumIAS at Username @Matrix_Reloaded

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

Mukul Kumar Gupta

All India Rank in Civil Services Examination


Your ForumIAS User Name


Which attempt was this at Civil Services Examination?


Where do you hail from?

Muzaffarpur, Bihar

Tell us something about your family background

My father is a businessman and mother is housewife. I belong to rural area.

Your graduation or early education

I started my schooling in a local school. I got selected in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in class 6th and studied there till class 10th.I took admission into SASTRA University through AIEEE in 2007.

Your Optional Subjects

Public Administration

Your medium of Instruction in School?


Your medium of instruction in college?


Your medium of writing the Mains?


Any initial preparation?

I started following Mrunal.org and PIB in 2013 when i was working for a software company. Other than that , i had the habit of reading newspaper )as my father used to force me 🙂 ). I didn’t take any full term coaching classes.Few of my friends had taken classes in Delhi and they guided me very well.

First, tell us something about yourself!

For me IAS was a long cherished dream. After graduating in 2011, I worked for  around 4 years in a MNC. JNV moto “Come to learn , Go to serve” has always motivated me to get into civil services.


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

All standard books.
History – Old Ncert, Bipin Chandra
Art & Culture – CCRT, History Ncert
Economics – Ramessh Singh
Geography – NCERT, G.C. Leong
Environment – Market Available material
Polity  – Laxmikanth
Current – Coaching material available in the market
Science & Tech – Newspaper

How many questions did you attempt in GS in Prelims?

Total Attempt – 72

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?

It depends on your accuracy level. Practice more before prelims to improve your accuracy rather than on getting marks.
NO of questions to be attempted – Depends on the level of question asked. If you have worked hard, your accuracy is good, have got good marks in practice test, you will yourself realise what could be the probable cutoff.

What was your score in UPSC Prelims?


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

I checked my answer with various keys and marks were in range of 106 – 115. I got 112.


When did you start preparing for Mains Examination?

I never separated my prelims and mains preparation. Post prelims , i focussed more on writing skills , revision and test series.  As said before, i used to have GS and optional syllabus with me always . It helped me to have whole topics in mind.

How did you cover Current Affairs?

Reading Newspaper daily, used to follow FORUMIAS and INSIGHTSONINDIA secure initiative in which they ask question on current topics.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 1

As said before, my friends guided me. They told me about various books which are required. After writing my first mains in 2013 and going through toppers interview (particularly Gaurav sir’s AIR 1,2013) post results, i actually realised what to study and more importantly what not to. I used to have UPSC syllabus with me (Engineering Habits 🙂 ).

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 2

Having Public administration as optional has both advantages and disadvantages. It helped me to complete GS paper 2 easily (got 93 in 2014). I didn’t find any  good material available for Paper 2 in the market so aspirants who have some other optional can go through Pub Ad paper 2 syllabus.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 3

Read standard books. Focus more on current affairs. Read Economic survey multiple times. Practiced a lot of questions.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 4

Started after prelims in 2014 as well as 2015, But it is always better to have studied it during april-may.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of ESSAY

I followed Vikash Ranjan sir’s strategy for essay. Multidimensional, temporal, spatial, full of examples, real time examples, within law and constitution. A very attractive introduction.

I used to write essays and get it checked by my friends and apply their comments also in next essay.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of Optional Subject

My optional is public administration one of the hated subjects by UPSC. But Pavan’s sir guidance helped me to get good marks this year (237).
You must complete your optional before May. Post prelims revise it as many time possible. Make short notes. Write test series.


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

GS1 – ALL GS2 – 19 GS3 -19 GS4 – ALL

Which Essays did you attempt in the Mains Examination?

  1. Education without value
  2. Dreams

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?

Wasted so much time on topics which are not required to study post prelims,  followed wrong approach in Pub AD test series ( due to timing issues, attended discussion first then wrote test ).

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

Both. According to demand of question

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

Only 1 n GS paper 1 for pressure belt/oceanic current question

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 think it is most important. ARC is great source to give example and suggestion and same is the case with various committees.
We must use economic survey very well in paper 3.
Same is the case with paper 4. Aspirants must try to give current example. For this purpose, they must read newspaper post prelims thoroughly.
For ex. In Paper 4 , they asked Action Legally valid but morally wrong.
My answer : The Shakurbasti Incident in which Railway demolished illegal colony in Winter (November 2015). The action was legally correct as they had served 3 notice in last one year and also had notified before demolishing it. But as the HC Delhi also said it was morally invalid.   

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

I couldn’t make into final list last year due to my optional. Initially i felt, the problem was with the subject itself but it was with me. Wrote test after listening to discussion was a big mistake.


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


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

I think It depends on aspirant’s initial knowledge, available source of guidance if any.
If they want to start from scratch , they may join. I think proper guidance is more required than classes.

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

I attended test series only for manis, Chronicle IAS Academy for GS, Pavan Sir (ORN) for Pub AD and took guidance from Pavan Sir & Vikash Ranjan Sir (Chronicle) at each stage.

I used to buy question papers from market and solve it at home for prelims but strictly under similar condition.

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

Yes. I did a lot of writing practice for mains. InsightsonIndia secure 2015 and secure 2016 initiatives helped me a lot to improve my writing skills. Used both paragraph and point form according to the demand of question.


Which Interview Board did you face?

Shri Vinay Mittal

How long was your interview?

Around 30 minutes

Can you tell us briefly about your interview experience?

The board was cordial. I was the first to go. I didn’t find myself in any kind of stress.Same was the case with my last year (2014 CSE).

What did you wear for the Interview?

Formal shirt (sky color) , Black Paint and Tie

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?

Certainly they focus more on personality traits rather than knowledge.
Do’s – Always be polite, Humble, Listen to question very carefully, listen to their arguments like listening to “Angry Father”,  Be calm & confident. Always be Objective while answering , include various aspects. If asked about solution for any problem, you must check various stakeholders and reply accordingly.

This is the only stage where Examiner is for selecting the candidate not to reject.

Dont’s: Don’t try to be over smart (they are much smarter than any of us), Don’t politicise your views, Dont’s say anything  derogatory to caste, religion, sex, place.

Always keep constitutional values in mind.

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

The HIndu , Indian Express , Yojna, Kurukshetra, HT and TOI (only for interview).

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

Yes. Every aspirant going for PT must attend. It will give a different level of confidence.

But you must take precaution. Many coachingwala’s interview board treat themselves as UPSC Chairman as if they are going to select you. They will shout on you unnecessarily , lowering down your confidence (Happened with me in 2014 cse , i felt “I KNOW NOTHING”). Attend maximum 2-3.

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

Many of the toppers had not so good academics.

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?

2014 CSE – PT marks 162
2015 CSE – PT marks 179

I didn’t attend those coachingwala for PT.
Attended Samkalp. The board boosted my confidence.
Most importantly – Me and My friend used to discuss daily over phone for 1-2 hours about current affairs , DAF and other things.


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 think internet is a great source but it cannot be the substitute for UPSC preparation. (They had asked me the same question in personality test 🙂 ). Internet should be used specially for topics for which good material is not available in the market or for which we don’t need 100s page book.
Internet is very useful particularly for personality test. Use it as much as you can.

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 would like to thank forumias for the tremendous amount of effort they are putting for aspirants like us. The discussion forum, quiz, daily briefs are really useful. It’s new initiatives like test series with large no of aspirants will certainly help to evaluate our performance.

What is the best thing you like about ForumIAS?

  1. 9 PM Daily Brief
  2. Discussion (particularly Bakar – So much of relief during isolated days)
  3. Timely Notifications

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



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

There is no substitute to hard work for CSE. Believe in God ( I couldn’t achieve anything substantial post my 10th and 12th results (topped my school in both). Failed in IIT JEE exam, got Rank around 10k in AIEEE. Started professional career with a salary (almost equal to MGNREGA wages 🙂 ). But GOD had something very special for me.  Keep motivating yourself.

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