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Shri Richie Pandey attained 52nd Rank in his 3rd attempt in Civil Services Examination, 2015

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”


Shri Richie Pandey who attained 52nd Rank in his 3rd attempt in Civil Services Examination, 2015; in an important, exclusive, thought-provoking and highly inspiring interview; attributes to the secrets of his success: staying focussed constant hard work & extensive practice of mock papers. Extracts of the interview:

On preference in services opted for and priority:

I have obtained 52nd rank and have been allotted the Indian Administrative Service, which was my top preference. My next two choices were Indian Foreign Service and Indian Audit and Accounts Service. I believe that IAS offers the most job diversity amongst the civil services and it also has a critical role in ensuring the socio-economic development of the nation.

On ‘Success is Sweet”, confidence & reacting to the news of the Top Rank:

I was confident of getting through in CSE 2015 (third attempt) but was unsure of my rank. I was in office when the results were declared. The whole office erupted in celebrations and I was overwhelmed with the euphoria which engulfed me.

On IAS toppers being icons, media coverage to toppers, and your opinion about those toppers; and particular success story which influenced your journey to this result:

In CSE 2013, one of my dear friends and mentor, Munish Sharma obtained 2nd rank and proved to be a tremendous source of inspiration for me.

In CSE 2014, the success story of Ira Singhal Ma’am who topped the examination provided me much-needed boost.

On exact moment of realising importance of ‘Civil Services’:

In April-May 2012, I was doing my summer internship at Axis Bank in Mumbai. During my stint, I got to know that one of our most dynamic CEOs in the past was Mr. P.J. Nayak, who was an IAS officer. During my internship stint, I had a moment of epiphany and I realized the paramount importance of civil services in all the spheres of the society including the corporate sector.

On the point of time of making up mind to make career in ‘Civil Services’:

I decided to appear for Civil Service Examination after completion of my MBA in 2013.

On CSE being a planned decision or parents’ wish: 

Although, my father always wanted me to appear for the Civil Service Examination, yet this was my own decision.

On time-frame for the examination preparations and number of attempts:

I had not set any specific timelines for selection in CSE.

On ‘Time Management’ being a key factor in preparations & writing Prelims or the Mains:

I prepared weekly and daily schedules during preparation and ensured that I apportioned adequate time for all the subjects. I divided the available time by the number of questions to calculate the average available time per question and devoted slightly more time than the average in questions in which I was more proficient.

On choice & basis of selecting optional subject:

The most important considerations for choice of optional subject is familiarity with it, interest level and overlapping syllabus with GS subjects.

Optional Subject: Public Administration.

Since childhood, I have been a keen observer of politics/ administration and have enjoyed reading up on functioning of government departments, political parties and Indian bureaucracy. I had also acquired basic concepts of organizational theories and management during my MBA studies. Moreover, I feel   that   Public   Administration syllabus has a significant overlap with the GS papers (especially GS Paper-2) and therefore I opted for it.


Name: Richie Pandey

Father’s   Name: Dr.   Subhash Chandra Pandey

Mother’s Name: Smt.  Veena Pandey

Date of Birth: February 14, 1988.

Educational Qualifications :

10th: 2003, Caribbean Examination Council, St. Joseph’s Academy, St. John’s, Antigua (Grade 1)

12th: CBSE, Sanskriti School, New Delhi (84·80%)

B.E.: 2006-10, Delhi University, Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology (65·50%)

MBA: 2011-13, Delhi University, Faculty   of   Management   Studies (66·84%)


On the number of attempts, achieving success in the attempt and visualizing previous attempts?

  1. My first two attempts gave me considerable confidence as I had performed well in the General Studies’ exams and Interviews. The acquired wisdom by learning from the mistakes of the past helped me.

On the first step being the most difficult to prepare & getting the right advice:

For clarifying my initial doubts regarding CSE preparation, I consulted my father and my friend, Tavishi Behal (IFS, Rank-127  in  CSE  2010),  who  was  my batch mate.

On approach towards Paper I (General Studies) during Preliminary Examination preparation:

Prelims  preparation  was  easier  in  the  first  two attempts due to the CSAT exam and I tried to ensure that I commence preparation  for  mains  examination concurrently with prelims examination. However, in this attempt, the CSAT exam was made of qualifying nature and I studied exclusively for Prelims. I relied on various books for the prelims exam to complete the syllabus and solve sufficient questions from the data bank. I also went through the past prelims questions from General Studies’ subjects that have appeared since the last 20 years.

On any change in plan for General Studies & Paper II (Aptitude Test) being qualifying in Prelims:

As I have an engineering and MBA background, I was comfortable with the CSAT exam and did not require much preparation for it. No prior preparation was required as the exam was made qualifying in nature with only 33.33% marks required to clear it.

On tackling ‘Negative Marking’ in Prelims:

My main strategy to counter ‘Negative Marking’ is to attempt as many questions as possible which may seem counter-intuitive but bore fruit for me. My focus in the prelims examination was to identify the easiest questions in the first round. In successive rounds, I attempted questions where I could eliminate at least 1 or 2 choices.

On adopting a shift in strategy for MAINS (Written):

To improve my performance, I took test series for ‘Public Administration’ for CSE 2015.

I did a thorough analysis of my solved answer sheets which included selection of questions to be solved, apportionment of time to questions of different marks, number of words written in each answer and my overall presentation.

My efforts bore fruit as I was able to significantly improve my score in the optional exam and the writing practice definitely helped to write the other exams in a more focused way too.

I had also put special emphasis on reading each question carefully (as most of them are very wordy) and providing specific answers as desired by the examiner.

On special effort for effective preparation for ESSAY Paper & on pick up of topics:

For the essay exam, I used to regularly read editorials in Hindustan Times and The Hindu. I made a list of potential topics for the Essay exam and delineated their broad outline/key points. I also went through the topics that have appeared in previous CSE exams. I also took tips for effective essay writing from my friend and Mentor Munish Sharma (IAS).

My choices of topics of essay for CSE 2015 were the following:

(i)   Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole.

(ii)  Can capitalism bring inclusive growth?

I chose these topics primarily because I felt strongly about them and was at ease in articulating on them.

On preparation for Interview, the Personality Test & facing it:

I did self-preparation for the interview I thoroughly studied my profile and made a list     of anticipated questions related to educational background, hobbies and work experience. I also discussed key issues with my father and articulated on them in front of the mirror.

The Chairperson of my interview Board was Vice Admiral (Retd.) D.K. Dewan. He has a very warm personality and radiant smile which invariably calms the frayed nerves of candidates. The questions in my interview pertained to India’s national security, China’s expansion in the Indian Ocean, terrorism (Jaish-e-Mohammed), US sub-prime crisis, increasing   NPAs   in   the   banking sector, RBI guidelines, US presidential elections and Black Money. Dewan Sir also enquired as to how I utilized my engineering knowledge in my banking job.

As an aside, I would like to narrate an interesting experience. The first question of the interview that Dewan Sir asked me was the name of US President during 2nd World War. Since, the question was entirely un-expected, I could not immediately recollect the name. However, at the end, once I was told that the interview was over, a brainwave hit me and  with  the  permission  of  the   board, I gave the name of ‘Franklin Roosevelt’ which brought smiles on the faces of all board members. The overall interview lasted approx. 25-30 minutes.

Personal Qualities

Favourite Person: My father.

Strong Point: Ability to correlate and connect information, Cool Temperament and Reading speed.

Weak Point: My handwriting.

Hobbies: Singing, Acting, Reading and Travelling.


On preparing for other career opportunities as well while preparing for ultimate goal i.e. Career in Civil Services:

I have been working in AXIS Bank in the Corporate Banking department and my sole focus was on the Civil Service Examination.

On Motivation towards Civil Services despite other lucrative opportunities in changing economic environment:

Although the public services do not provide remuneration at par with the private sector, they are undoubtedly ahead in terms of job satisfaction and societal respect. The diversity and scope of work is also much wider in the civil service.

On Educational Level to start & minimum time-frame for preparation for Civil Services Examinations:

In my opinion, CSE aspirants should ideally start focused preparation from the penultimate year of their under-graduation. The entire preparation exercise requires at least 1 year if the candidate has sufficient proficiency in his optional exam.

On general   view that Science subjects have better chance to score than Humanities:

I feel that Science subjects (Maths, Physics or engineer-ing subjects) are chosen by specialists who have graduated from those specific streams only. On the other hand, Humanities subjects opted by many candidates who do not have prior experience in those subjects, resulting in lower marks on an average compared to science subjects.

On importance of medium of examination for exams like CSE:

I feel that the selection process of UPSC is very objective and does not differentiate candidates on the basis of medium of exam.

On impact of educational, financial and demographic status of the family of an aspirant on preparation:

Although the family background of a candidate definitely has an impact on his/her exam preparation, I believe that the proliferation of Internet and inexpensive study material has democratized the exam process. The wide diversity of socio-economic profiles of the selected candidates is a testimony to this fact.

On role the Competition Magazines play in preparing for an examination like Civil Services:

Competition Magazines help the candidates to keep updated on the most important current affairs and issues compared to studying directly from newspapers where they have to be discerning enough to avoid irrelevant information.

On finding “Pratiyogita Darpan” close to expectations & comments on the Extra Issues

Pratiyogita Darpan is a very useful reference magazine for Civil Service exam preparation as it includes detailed articles on a plethora of topics that are relevant for the Civil Service examination. The practice MCQs and questions from various competitive examinations are very useful while preparing for Prelims examination. The interviews of successful candidates of various competitive examinations provide valuable insights for devising an optimum exam strategy. In all, the magazine is close to my expectations.

On the “Pratiyogita Darpan” Extra Issues Series on ‘General Studies’ particularly ‘Indian   Economy’ & Optional:

I found the extra issue series extremely useful, especially for Indian Economy, Economic Survey and Union Budget. All the facts and issues were concisely encapsulated into useful bullet points and the use of info-graphics/tables aided me a lot in memorizing the data.

On being a reader of “Pratiyogita Darpan” opinion on the articles written by Atul Kapoor specifically for Civil Services Examination preparation.

Yes, the articles by Atul Sir have immense utility for doing a comprehensive macro-analysis of the Civil Service Examination and its various stages. The articles helped me to cull out useful information about the exam such as key trends, exam pattern and relative performance of various optional subjects and helped me to customize my exam preparation accordingly.

On Secret of Success:

The most important quality that helped me to achieve success was my unwavering determination and perseverance.

On Credit for Success:

My parents and the God

On suggestions/advice to future aspirants:

Read newspapers regularly as they are the best source of dynamic information. Develop the habit of speed reading and separating the wheat from chaff by focusing on key issues and not getting bogged by irrelevant information. Referring to too   many   textbooks   for   the same topics leads to redundancy/inefficiency and must be avoided. Get sufficient exam practice and try to increase writing speed.

The focus of GS papers is critical analysis of major national/inter-national issues and not mere statement of facts. Try to develop opinions based on your understanding and provide well balanced answers which should have an optimistic outlook. Make a comprehensive list of anticipated questions and frame your answers accordingly to sharpen your information retrieval skills.

The most important aspect of preparation is to remain happy and cheerful throughout. Stay in touch with family/friends and always get sufficient sleep. Reserve some time everyday for your hobby or any pastime (music, gym, sports). Never lose hope as this exam is as much about patience, perseverance and exam temperament as it is about knowledge.

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