Categories’s interview of Iswar Kumar Kandoo (Rank- 187/ CSE-2017) [Marks in History Optional: 316]’s interview of Iswar Kumar Kandoo (Rank- 187/ CSE-2017) [Marks in History Optional: 316]

Profile of the Candidate


Name: Iswar Kumar Kandoo

Rank in Civil Services Exam 2017: 187

Roll Number: 0128281

Age: 27

Total attempts in Civil Services Examination (including present one): 4

Optional Subject: History

Medium for History Optional: English

Marks in History Optional in Earlier Examination:

  • 2016: 219 {( Paper-I (97)+ Paper-II (122)}

Marks in History Optional in Present Examination:

  • 2017: 316 {( Paper- I (160) + Paper- II (156)}

Marksheet of present examination:

Marksheet Ishwar

Home town/village: Lucknow

Any past Work-experience: 

  • Working since I completed graduation in 2013.
  • Currently working in SAIL, Rourkela.

Were you preparing full time or working and preparing?

  • I was preparing along with Job.

Your place of preparation:

  • Rourkela & 2 months before mains- Delhi.

Details of other success and failure in competitive exams:

  • Cleared CAPF-2016
  • Written but didn’t go for PAT.
  • Could not clear CSE-2016 Mains. 

Details of coaching/ test series/ study material of any coaching used for History Optional

  • Joined “GS SCORE” Test Series for History Optional. Studied the printed notes of Baliyan Sir.

Educational Background

Percentage marks in class X: 84.33% (18th rank in UP board merit list)

Percentage marks in class XII: 72.8%

Subject in graduation and percentage marks: Electronics & Instrumentation (78.02%)

Name of college of graduation and place:

  • Krishna Institute of Engineering & technology, Ghaziabad.
  • Passing out year 2013

Post-graduation if any: NA

Did your educational Background helped in History Optional?

  • History study is all about connecting the dots by using logical approach. Engineering helped me developing this approach. However, specifically I don’t think it helped much.


Tell us about yourself. 

My name is Iswar kumar kandoo. I belong to Lucknow although my birth place is Azamgarh. Father is a shopkeeper, mother is a housewife.  I’ve done my high school from my native village, Mahrajganj Azamgarh. After that I moved to Lucknow and completed my intermediate from Mahanagar Boys Inter College. After that I completed my graduation from KIET, Ghaziabad. I have deep interest in activities like Diary writing, Playing sports like cricket, chess, table tennis etc. My family members always encouraged me for Civil services, but I wanted some financial security,So focused on getting good college placement. I was lucky to get 2 campus placement i.e. Samsung & Bajaj. I joined Bajaj and worked there for almost 1 yr. Then I switched to SAIL and currently working in its Rourkela steel plant.  I am a believer of “LEARN, EARN & RETURN” principle & this belief motivated me for my preparation.

Questions Related to History Optional

Why did you choose history as your optional subject?

In my initial 2 attempts, I opted geography despite having a keen interest in history due to a misconception that 1 needs to mug up lots of facts, data, years etc which i found totally wrong. There are  facts which needs to be remembered but more or less history also requires logical analysis. So, finally I opted history on the basis of 3 parameters i.e.: interest, availability of study material & guidance , scoring as well.

Mention positive and negative about the History Optional for those who what to take history optional.


  • Even with a decent preparation you can score average marks but after that you’ll have to really work hard to get good marks.
  • Availability of study material and guidance in the market as well as online (exp:
  • Coaching is not mandatory and one can prepare well even without coaching. 4.) Helps in GS-1, ESSAYS etc.


  • Slightly large syllabus but can be prepared in 4-5 months.

Mention booklist and sources which you followed for History Optional.

I followed both online as well as offline sources for my preparation, which are as follows.

Paper I:

ANCIENT HISTORY: Basics like NCERT & TN board 11th class history, Upinder Singh(MUST), Baliyan Sir’s classroom notes, gaps were filled by online sources like

MEDIEVAL HISTORY: Again same basics , Satish Chandra- I & II , JL MEHTA VOL-3 (selected chapters), Baliyan Sir’s notes, ( for topics like kalhana, al-beruni etc)

Paper II:

MODERN HISTORY: Spectrum , Notes Made From “Fantastic Funda” youtube Lectures (Selectively), Bipan Chandra (Before independence) , Baliyan Sir’s notes.

WORLD HISTORY: Baliyan sir notes, Ojha sir’s notes ( selectively), Norman Lowe (selectively), remaining parts were studied from

How did you prepare for Map Portion?

This is the very vital part where I invested much time as compare to 2016. I studied Spectrum historical map and Upinder singh, bought maps and randomly located sites as per their time period (like neolithic, vedic etc). Apart from that map notes from GS SCORE and map section on helped me a lot. I used to write the name of sites while studying and later on locate them on my blank maps.

How much time per day you used to give the history optional during your preparation (both before and after prelims)?

Since, I am a working professional, so there was not any fixed time to give any subject. Sometimes it was even 0 but normally i used to study~2-3 hrs a day before prelims and after prelims it increased with the time passes. I took 2 months leave before mains. During those time, I used to give 4-5 hrs a day to History.

Did you do answer writing regularly? If yes, what amount of time you devoted to it and how did it help you?

I tried to do answer writing before the prelims but it was only after the prelims when I started writing regularly. For that, I made weekly and daily plan. I allotted 1 week to every section of history (like ancient, medieval etc) & started writing 2-3 questions daily from previous years question papers which were available on along with answers. So it was easy for me to evaluate my answers. I also shared my answers with peers, friends and seniors and got it evaluated by them. I always tried to write answers within the time period even if it compromises quality because that used to act as a reminder that what would be  happen in exam if i will not improve. So, answer writing has played very important role for me to score 316 in history.

Did you join any test series? If yes, kindly name it. How did it benefit you?

Yes, I joined a test series from Gs Score. It was really helpful for me. Although the questions in tests  were much tougher than exams but it helped me to learn the things like  how to answer the unconventional questions and how to write quality answers within the time. The faculty there was very helpful and was always available for the personal guidance and doubt removal.

Did you maintain self-notes? If yes, how did it help you?

I did not made any separate notes rather I wrote on the margins of books and later added them in Baliyan Sir’s notes which helped me to revise more quickly in the last moments.

Have you solved previous years papers of history optional? Did it help you in the examination?

Yes, I solved lots of previous years questions from the websites like where the question papers (from 1979 to 2017) are available. I solved as well as saw the answers of the questions. It helped me a lot as I got some idea about the pattern UPSC is following in recent years. Some questions I found in exams are directly or indirectly related with previous years questions.

In your views, how the nature of questions asked in history optional changed in recent years?

Earlier the questions were designed to check the knowledge part mostly so at those times lots of direct questions were there. While in recent years UPSC has started asking more questions based on analysis and application of knowledge. ( EXP : WHY HARAPPANS SETTLED IN SEMIARID AREAS? (2016).

Did you take any help from If yes, upto what extent it helped you.

YES, I want to thank the team members for their tireless efforts and I really got benefited by their efforts especially for MAPs, Answer writing, Medieval and world history. Apart from study, I also got motivated when I heard that last year, one of the admins of this website got 311 marks in history . That acted as a booster for me to think beyond 300 which I achieved finally.

Any specific thing you want to share about history optional?

I want to say that don’t read History in a set pattern just for clearing exams, rather read it like a story. I think most of the aspirants will be agree with me on this point that we remember lots of historical personalities, years etc which we had studied in our early schooling days. It’s not because we had mugged those data, rather we were taught  about them like stories . Similar thing is needed to be done to prepare. Enjoy the history reading, try to imagine yourself in the place of Ashoka, Alauddin, Akbar, Tughluq, Bismarck, Hitler etc. then analyse what would have been the reasons of their specific policies n all. Just try to connect the events, their continuity & changes. Definitely you will learn very easily and it will also help in answering questions.’s comment:

Many many congratulations for your success. Your journey in History Optional (from 219 Marks to 316 Marks) has been really awesome and will be inspiring for others with history optional. We hope that others would get benefited from your strategy. Wish you all the best for your future.

2 thoughts on “’s interview of Iswar Kumar Kandoo (Rank- 187/ CSE-2017) [Marks in History Optional: 316]”

  1. Sir please start your initiatives in hindi medium also…it is a humble request to you

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