Mukul Jamloki from Uttarakhand, AIR 260 in CSE 2019, Shares his Preparation Strategy of UPSC

Mukul Jamloki AIR 260 UPSC CSE 2019

The Civil Services Examination is the most coveted nationwide competitive examination of our country. It is conducted by UPSC for recruitment to various civil services of government of India, including IAS, IPS and IFS. Driven by a variety of motivations, almost a million candidates apply every year for a few hundred seats.

Hailing from the remote area of Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, Mukul Jamloki has cracked this examination with AIR 260 in CSE 2019. He worked hard consistently and qualified this exam three times out of his total four attempts that shows his grit and determination.

Mukul Jamloki AIR 260 UPSC CSE 2019 from Uttarakhand

In an exclusive interview with DehradunTales, Mukul shares the motivation behind choosing Civil Services as a career option, his detailed preparation strategy including the interview strategy and role of coaching and test series along with list of books and websites etc.

Being a keen follower of cricket, Mukul quotes his words of wisdom to the candidates appearing for this exam in a metaphoric way,

“Just be prepared for the long grind. CSE prep is Pujara-esque, not a Pant-ification. It’s a marathon not a 100 metres sprint. If you are off the blocks fast, that’s good. If you are not, don’t worry. You need to carry enough gas in the tank till the final lap. The result of the marathon is decided in the final few laps.”

Read the full interview to explore his journey, hobbies and much more.

Marks in CSE 2019

Essay 128
GS 1 089
GS 2 082
GS 3 084
GS 4 122
Optional paper 1 147
Optional paper 2 134
Interview 187
Total 973


Tell us something about yourself and your family.

I am from Ravigram village in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. I have done a majority of my schooling from Dehradun and my graduation in engineering from Delhi. Before joining the Civil Services, I worked for one year at ABB India Limited (Bengaluru) as a Design Engineer in the Oil & Gas sector.

Mukul Jamloki AIR 260 UPSC CSE 2019 from Uttarakhand

Why did you choose civil services as a career option?

Civil services is a good career option for any individual: diversity of job roles, good pay and allowances, and an invaluable opportunity to contribute more directly in the development of the nation.

Secondly, I felt I had developed an aptitude (during the course of my education) for public policy management and hence civil services was a natural choice.

Thirdly, and funnily enough, while in college I used to visit Delhi University for quizzes. There I came across some fantastic personalities, and during my interactions with them, I was inspired to prepare for civil services from them.

How was the reaction of your family members/ friends/ relatives when the result was out? Whom would you credit your success to?

They were indeed very happy and joyful when the results came out. It was a moment of pride for them.

I would give the credit for this to my family: my mother, my father, and my younger sister. In addition to that I must give credit to my friends who gave me emotional support through thick and thin.

When and how did you start preparing for the Civil Service Examination?

I started preparation for UPSC CSE in the final quarter of 2015. In my first attempt of CSE 2016, I got AIR 609 and got into the Indian Information Service. In my second attempt of CSE 2017, I got AIR 505 and got into the Indian Postal Service.

Mukul Jamloki AIR 260 UPSC CSE 2019 from Uttarakhand

In my third attempt of CSE 2018, I appeared for the Personality Test but didn’t get a rank in the final merit list. In my fourth attempt of CSE 2019, I got AIR 260 and got into the Indian Audit & Accounts Service, where I am currently serving.

Did you take any coaching or relied on self-study?

I took a 4-months coaching for History Optional at Baliyan’s Classes. The experience was good, because we were able to cover the basics of a subject I had never studied before.

However, I had to work a lot after that on the subject on my own because the classes only gave an idea of what we had to study. The “actual” effort had to be put in individually. And that’s the thing with History.

A simple effort will make you reach 225-250 easily. But beyond that, to score every extra mark, the effort increases exponentially, as compared to probably every other Optional subject.

And hence History is recommended to only those who are ready to put in that exponential effort, a major part of which depends on the “interest” in the subject.

I took another 3-months coaching for Political Science & Governance from M. Puri’s classes because the basics help in overall GS papers. The experience was really good, and one gets a critical perspective to look at things (UPSC and non-UPSC stuff both) around oneself.

Beyond that, I took only the Test Series for Mains exams.

Mukul Jamloki AIR 260 UPSC CSE 2019 from Uttarakhand

What was your strategy for prelims? Did you adopt the same for mains as well?

Prelims is a game of “attitude” more than just “aptitude”. I have given five Prelims consecutively from 2016-2020, and I have cleared all of them.

And the mantra is choosing which questions to leave aside, and attempting those which you select, on a “calculated-risk” based approach.

It’s just like Test Match cricket, but played in a T-20 format of just 2 hours, that you have to decide which balls to leave and which ones to score off.

Attempt a minimum 80-85 questions, and that makes the “choice” of which questions to leave, as extremely critical.

The Big Four of History (including Art & Culture), Geography (including Environment), Economy, and Political Science (including International Relations) are the building blocks for Prelims but expect plenty of application-based and reasoning-based questions.

What was your daily routine during preparation?

This is one question whose answers from previous successful aspirants used to make me tremble. When I used to read that toppers study for 10-12 hours daily, I always thought that this was just impossible for me.

For every individual there’s a different routine. In my first two attempts, I was at home, and I tried to get six quality hours daily. 3 hours early in the morning, and 3 hours in the evening were my best quality hours. Anything in between, as I look back, wasn’t really that worthwhile.

In my next two attempts, I was working, and I tried to get minimum three to four quality hours daily. 2 hours early in the morning, and 2 hours in the evening were my best quality hours.

When it comes to Mains, in our early attempts, we have a lot of content but we lack presentation skills. Later on, although our content’s value and freshness decreases gradually, the rise in our presentation skills compensates for it.

How helpful do you find digital platforms and online study material for CSE?

Digital means of education are really worthwhile, but I belong more to the old school of thought. I have used Evernote and Gmail to make online notes to revise them on my mobile, but relied mostly on standard books’ hard copies.

However, there’s no doubt that digital platforms have democratised CSE preparation tremendously and many successful aspirants today can vouch for their effectiveness.

Your booklist, websites and other sources for GS 1,2,3,4 and optional.

GS 1 (250 marks): New NCERTs 9-12 for Ancient and Medieval Indian History and World History (just plain reading like a story-book, please don’t make any notes, it is only to initiate you into the subject); New NCERTs 11-12 for Art and Culture, in case you feel that’s not sufficient you can refer Baliyan’s Art and Culture Notes; Old and New NCERTs 11-12 for Geography; New NCERTs 11-12 for Sociology but glance fleetingly, no need to study too hard because most questions are contemporary.

Strategy: Prepare short notes which you can revise one month before the exams; for each and every word mentioned in the syllabus you should have a definition ready, plus Causes-Pros-Challenges sort setup ready, and remember to use current affairs and relevant examples to give your answer an extra edge; combine Geography topics with Environment and Disaster Management topics.

GS2 (250 marks): Laxmikant for Polity (less relevant for Mains and more for Preliminary Exam but the fundamentals are important for Mains), Puri’s or any other relevant notes in the market for governance and polity, Newspaper reading for IR and government schemes is must; you can also refer Economic Survey for this paper, or at least its Summary, the trick lies in quoting relevant data wherever contextually applicable.

Strategy: Answers in this paper should comprise a healthy mix of static portions and dynamic portions so current affairs become very important in this paper; Use important newspaper links in Insights Daily Secure initiative, Vision current affairs magazine, etc to keep yourself up to date.

GS3 (250 marks): NCERTs XI-XII and Economic Survey (or at least its Summary) for Economics, for Internal Security you can again refer Puri’s notes or any other relevant notes in the market (or watch Security Scan on RSTV); Sanjeev Verma for Economics if you have time; for Science and Technology use current affairs and basics from NCERTs 6-12 (if you feel Science is your weaker point); for Disaster Management find online material or notes, utilise geography knowledge constituting static part with current affairs; Shankar’s IAS book for Environment is relevant both for Prelims and Mains.

Strategy: Answers in this paper should comprise a healthy mix of static portions and dynamic portions so current affairs become very important in this paper; Use important newspaper links in Insights Daily Secure initiative, Vision current affairs magazine, etc to keep yourself up to date.

Prepare short notes which you can revise one month before the exams; for each and every word mentioned in the syllabus you should have a definition ready, plus Causes-Pros-Challenges sort setup ready, and remember to use current affairs and relevant examples to give your answer an extra edge;

GS4 (250 marks): Any relevant material you find in the market, I referred Mrunal website and Google extensively and found it enough.

Strategy: Prepare short notes which you can revise one month before the exams, for each and every word mentioned in the syllabus you should have a definition ready, plus Causes-Pros-Challenges sort setup ready (like attitude, Ethics, perception, etc.) and remember to use current affairs and relevant examples from your daily life to give your answer an extra edge; I begin my papers with case studies always; case studies are to be solved like mathematical equations-> mention the data you have, mention what’s your task at hand, then mention your choices plus the pros-cons in every choice, then choose your option and give the REASON why you made that choice; in this paper almost every one will make the same choice, what will fetch you more marks is the REASON why you made that choice, plus use words of Civil Servants’ desired qualities like transparency, compassionate, etc to justify your answers.

Common tip for all GS papers: Use maps, diagrams, flow charts, relevant data wherever possible. For example instead of writing that levels of literacy are still not high in India, you can write that only 66% adults in India are literate and it’s not important that your data is absolutely precise; Good and short introduction and conclusion ensure 33% marks, rest 66% depend on what you write in the body of the answer; sample structure of the answer should be: introduction (address the issue as mentioned in the question) -> current status of the issue, pros and challenges -> conclusion (how to improve the issue/situation and what possibly the future holds); quote economic survey facts as much and wherever possible because it’s the most authentic source of data repository launched by GoI every year and its topics are not strictly economic but multidisciplinary; in GS answer writing is very important because one gets roughly 7 minutes to write a 10 marker or 10.5 minutes to write a 20 marker so the key is: Practice, Practice and more Practice till a stage comes that answers simply start flowing from the nib of your pen.

Understand the difference between ANALYSE, EVALUATE and CRTICIALLY EXAMINE questions. ANALYSE means discuss the parts of the topic in detail, EVALUATE means discuss the positives and negatives of the topic, and CRITICALLY EXAMINE means discuss the neagtives of the topic more than the positives. All answers, however, should end with a positive way forward, such as how to improve some scheme of the government through bottom-up approach or collaboration of the people at the ground.

Find the online blogs of UPSC CSE 2017 AIRs 1 and 6, Anudeep Durishetty and Koya Sree Harsha respectively, and follow them. Those are really impressive. Try to follow the Big Picture on RSTV and ThePrint’s Cut the Clutter on Youtube.

Ancient History: (a) Upinder Singh notes, (b) Baliyan’s notes, (c) RS Sharma NCERT (just a diligent reading), (d) notes from IGNOU MA History, (e) XI NCERT on Culture (f) SelfStudy History notes

Medieval History: (a) NCERT of Satish Chandra (just a diligent reading), (b) notes from

IGNOU MA History, (c) Baliyan’s notes, (d) SelfStudy History notes


Modern Indian History: (a) Plassey to Partition by Shekhar Bandopadhyay (important book, you may make notes or underline key areas), (b) Old NCERT (just a diligent reading), (c) Baliyan’s notes, (d) SelfStudy History notes for post-independence History

World History: (a) Baliyan’s notes, (b) SelfStudy History notes, (c) Google for topics not covered by Baliyan

My suggestions:

  1. Prepare the Map very carefully. All political, economic, cultural, religious, etc. sites should be marked. All sites that you have come across in Previous Year Questions, Upinder Singh, SelfStudyHistory notes, Baliyan notes. Plus you have to prepare good content on them, so that you score minimum 2 out of 2.5 marks allocated to each site. In 2017 Mains when I scored 290, I’d have scored maximum 36 marks in Map question: 2.25*16 sites approx.
  2. After my first two attempts, I stopped reading NCERTs before Mains. I’d only revise them once before Prelims, but diligently. thereafter I’d not need to revise it again before Mains.
  3. IGNOU MA notes have to be made very selectively, and the notes I made were very short and crisp, could be covered in only 3-6 hours for Ancient and Medieval combined. IGNOU MA notes were most useful for Medieval Indian History.
  4. Practising Previous Year Questions is the best practice one can get. But get a Test Series too.
  5. In Ancient, Medieval and Modern, if you could quote a historian or scholar, it’s considered a plus point. In World, I couldn’t do it ever.

How did you prepare for the Essay paper?

ESSAY (250 marks): one has to write two essays of 125 marks each consisting of 1000-1200 words; a good introduction and a good conclusion is a must; treat the essay as a giant GS question and be multidisciplinary in your approach.

For example if the topic is related to some water scarcity issue, you could go about (a) historical use of water, (b) scientific and geographical dimensions like 79-21 ratio of water on earth, (c) political struggles for water, (d) constitutional provisions regarding water; (e) water economics; (f) government schemes for water conservation; (g) effect of water scarcity on people, especially the marginalised sections of society like women, dalits, etc. Use diagrams and relevant data to boost your essay’s quality; Use suitable quotes in the essay, for example to convey the message about the harmful effects of water wastage, one can use Gandhi’s quote that the earth has enough for every man’s needs but not for every man’s greed; one can use up to 4-6 quotes ( mathematically speaking, quote for every 3-4 paragraphs) in one essay but remember the use must remain strictly contextual.

What was the importance of optional papers in your selection and how did you finalize your optional subject?

In the current exam scheme, the Optional subject’s two papers worth 500 marks. It MAKES or BREAKS your selection. You need to score GOOD in your Optional to stay in the competition, in the current scheme of things.

In my first attempt (CSE 2016), I scored 262 which was just an AVERAGE score. A GOOD score would have been 275.

In my second attempt (CSE 2017), I scored 290 which was a GOOD score. Anything above 285 was a GOOD score.

In my third attempt (CSE 2018), I scored 270 which was an AVERAGE score. A GOOD score was 285.

In my fourth attempt (CSE 2019), I scored 281 which was a VERY GOOD score. A GOOD score was 270.

However to be frank, I feel that the Optional subject shouldn’t be there. There is just no manner in which you could compare the difficulty-levels or the marking patterns of two Optionals. This would make it a more level playing field for every aspirant. I feel that the

UPSC could remove the Optional subject’s two papers, and instead have 6 to 8 GS papers, for adequate evaluation of every aspirant’s aptitude and skills.

How important is the test-series for Prelims and Mains?

Very important. More than the marks you get in the practice tests, it is the time to try out your strategies and settle into the temperament for the D-day.

In Prelims, use the mock tests to improve your strategy of selecting those 80-85 questions that one has to attempt and which 15-20 you have to leave. Be a Pant for the former, taking calculated risks, and be a Pujara for the latter ones.

In Mains, use the practice tests to work upon and finalise your presentation strategies and the writing styles which suit you so that you can finish the paper. Candidates often ask each other at the end of a Paper, whether they were able to finish the paper. One must realise that one HAS to finish the paper. There’s no alternative. You HAVE to finish the paper.

I want to add one final point. Don’t be too affected if you score less marks in Mains mock tests. However do go through the observations made by the paper-checkers. And if you find that a certain type of comment is being made often in your papers, do try to incorporate the relevant changes in your answer-writing style. One-off comments can be ignored, but repeated ones mean that it could be useful to incorporate.

What was your interview strategy? Did you attend mock interviews? If yes, how can one make most of it?

Confidence is the single-most important thing for the Personality Test. Cover all the areas of one’s DAF well. Keep a tab on the current affairs as well.

Watch your body language during the Personality Test. Be very calm and composed; listen to the question very carefully before one starts framing their answer, i.e. find out the CORE of the question first and then start framing the answer.

Properly organize one’s thoughts and reply in a calm, composed and assured manner while taking time; answer precisely to the point, finish it in 2-3 sentences at the maximum and come to a logical conclusion.

Take it as a “Purposive Conversation” with friendly elders; one doesn’t need to give a fantastic answer but only a good answer so one shouldn’t take too much stress.

I did take mock interviews, an average 3-4 in each of my four attempts, and it greatly helped me to develop the temperament for the D-day.

The Personality Test is not the test of knowledge, so don’t mug up things like the Mains exam. It’s a test of personality, and personality is constituted by knowledge, mannerisms and the communication skills of an individual.

How was your interview and was it on the expected lines? Any tips/suggestions for the interview.

All my interviews have gone approx 50% along expected lines and 50% on absolutely fresh issues catching me by surprise.

If you were not selected for CSE, what alternative career option would you have pursued?

I have a degree in engineering, and one year work experience in a reputed company. I would have gone back to the private sector, which is equally rewarding in the 21st century.

Hailing from a remote area of Rudraprayag, what challenges did you face in your journey?

I haven’t lived in my village but I have been there almost every year during my vacations. Most of my childhood was spent in Dehradun. However, the promise of the opportunities that civil services could give me to do something really constructive for my village and my region, has always inspired me.

I didn’t face any material challenges, but psychological challenges were always there. And the latter applies for every aspirant. I am grateful to my family and my friends for being a pillar of support during this journey.

Any words of wisdom for future CSE aspirants.

Just be prepared for the long grind. CSE prep is Pujara-esque, not a Pant-ification. It’s a marathon not a 100 metres sprint. If you are off the blocks fast, that’s good. If you are not, don’t worry. You need to carry enough gas in the tank till the final lap. The result of the marathon is decided in the final few laps.

What are your hobbies or areas of interest?

My hobbies are quizzing, going on hikes and treks, and writing my diary.

My areas of interest are environment, sustainable development, hill areas development and art & culture.


Who is your role model or source of inspiration?

A number of people actually. I keenly follow cricket, and most of my role models have been from there. Such as Sourav Ganguly, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, etc. And I have tried to learn different things from each one of them. For example, leadership from Ganguly; going after excellence from Kohli, and resilience and grit from Pujara.

Your message to the readers of DehradunTales.

Work (or study) is an important part of one’s life. However it’s not the most important part of one’s life. One must remember, work is after all, only a part of one’s life. Keep a balance between work and play, and one will do well. However, dream 10X bigger because at the end you’d have wished you did.


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