Life was much simpler and less confusing when there was only White Colgate toothpaste to be picked up from a grocery store. But with the multitude of choices like Colgate Blue, Red, Total, Herbal, Active White, Spicy Fresh, Salt Neem, Sensitive, Sensitive Plus etc etc, it has now become baffling to make a choice. This confusion gets compounded many times more if one takes into consideration other brands and their respective variants.
Same is the story in other spheres of life whether it is buying a car, a house, an investment and other such like matters. Although, incorrect choice or a wrong decision in such matters does have an adverse impact but it will be short lived.
However, in those matters which have a bearing on the entire life of a person, one cannot afford to make a wrong choice. Choosing a career and preparing to achieve that goal, are such profound matters.
Choosing the right coaching institute which can supplement a student’s efforts towards achieving success is extremely important. This selection poses a big dilemma to a student today irrespective of the stage of education.
Student could be in School or College pursuing undergraduate/postgraduate studies or preparing for a specialized course.
Dilemma is caused by availability of far too many choices and of course the fear of making a wrong choice leading to wastage of irreplaceable time, effort and an attempt of UPSC exam.
It is a well-known fact that clearing Civil Services Exam is no easy task. After all, it is classified as the most difficult exam in which average selection rate is less than 1 %. It demands devotion, perseverance, knowledge & skills as well, to conquer the peak.
A good coaching institute would fill up the knowledge gaps and enable an aspirant to hone skills required to clear the UPSC exam.
In this era of specialization, there is no alternative but to use the specialized services offered by a specialized coaching institute which has the required domain expertise in the field.
Now the question; what are the factors one must consider for selecting the right IAS coaching Institute? Let us discuss these one by one. We are certain that by the time you are at the end of this blog, cobwebs in your mind would have got cleared.
1. Past Performance / Results: This is the first and foremost factor which will come to anyone’s mind while deciding on a coaching institute.
However, this is also the one which is usually not analyzed well. Generally, coaching institutes advertise quoting absolute figures of successful students, which in a way does not give the correct picture about institute’s performance. The percentage of students who have qualified is the real marker.
To amplify, 300 students qualifying out of 1500 is a far better result than 500 qualifying out of 15000. It is thus important that while making a decision based on institute’s performance, the denominator i.e. total number of students be kept in mind.
2. History/ Background of Institute: Needless to say, older is an institute, better it would be in every aspect, by virtue of having more experience in the field. An experienced coaching institute definitely has an edge. You have to know how skilled the institute is in the art of turning average students to extra-ordinary ones and that of grooming geniuses in the manner needed. To find this out do not go only by testimonials or reception desk of the institute.
You can try surfing the internet for concrete records or read the latest issues of career magazines. If you can lay hands on their Study material or any periodical e.g.
Current Affair magazine which almost all institutes publish routinely, it can give you an insight about the quality. A relative or friend whose ward has earlier joined the institute may guide you as well in this regard.
Of late, many fly-by-night institutes have mushroomed, claiming to be exceptional. Such institutes lure students by offering cheaper fees, substandard hostel accommodation and using other gimmicks like offering discounts, scholarships based on entrance exam score etc.
But such institutes are more like tuition class aggregators, with no domain expertise or experience. One needs to be wary of these.
You should always remain concerned about your basic requirement of getting quality coaching in a student friendly environment. No other factor is as important.
3. Type of Courses Offered: Although most of the institutes offer almost same kind of courses i.e. on General Studies and Optional Subjects, the important aspect to check is duration of courses, timings of classes, availability of experienced faculty specifically for Optional Subject of your choice, support extended to the students even after completion of the course.
4. Student-Teacher Ratio: This is an extremely important factor which should be classified as a Key Factor in making a decision. This criterion should be overriding other factors. Remember in our school days, before putting/shifting us in a new school, our parents used to inquire about No of students in one section!! The sole reason was to check if their child will get teacher’s attention in class.
This aspect is even more pertinent for a Civil Services coaching institute. Reason – some of the institutes have batch size of 500 plus students! Obviously the intent there is profiteering only.
Such large strength of students is accommodated in banquet hall sized lecture halls where even eye contact between a student and teacher is not possible. In such a case, loser is only one-the STUDENT.
Do check for batch size and teacher-student ratio while making the choice. Ideally, a batch size should not be more than 100.
5. Quality of Class room teaching: Particularly important! The point is that good teachers have the ability to transform students entirely from non-thinkers to intense-thinkers. Presence of teachers in the faculty who had themselves, at some point of time, appeared for UPSC examinations or have served as Civil Servants is always a plus for the institute as well as for the students.
A myth which generally students have is that a teacher who has been teaching for more number of years is better than a teacher who is comparatively young and less experienced. This is not necessarily true. The contrary view is that young teachers are more updated, more tech savvy to make effective use of teaching aids and are more resilient to quickly assimilate changes, which could be in syllabus, exam pattern, marking scheme etc.
There is only one definition of a good teacher and that is – A good teacher is the one who can make difficult subject look easy.
6. Quality of Study Material: Akin to quality of class room teaching, the quality of study material is also important. After all, once the classes are completed, your reliance for reference would be on your notes and the study material. A good institute will have study material which suffices the requirement of students. In Civil Services exam preparations, enormity of syllabus and constantly evolving nature of current component of syllabus are two major challenges.
And to complicate this further, is the problem of plenty. With so much of study material and resources available in market and on the Net, a student is bound to get drowned in its vastness.
A good coaching institute with its study material resource will enable a student to keep the focus and to discern about what to study, how to study and from where to study.
7. Student’s Performance Evaluation: Different coaching institutes have different ways to monitor the performance of their students. They conduct weekly or monthly or quarterly tests to ascertain a student’s comprehension.
Now a day most of the institutes offer tests in on-line and off line modes as well. Those institutes which offer flexibility to their students in choosing the modes are certainly better.
While shortlisting institutes, try to know the system of performance monitoring in entirety. Some of the institutes do not have any system of conducting tests or if at all tests are conducted, they are taken as a matter of routine where the same tests are offered repetitively to all batches or tests are not as per UPSC norms. One must therefore go into these details too.
8. Availability of good administrative infrastructure: Imagine yourself sitting in a class without air conditioning or air coolers on a typical 44 degree Delhi day. However good a lecturer is, you are quite unlikely to assimilate anything that teacher delivers.
Thus, availability of well lighted and well aired classes, comfortable sitting arrangement, availability of modern teaching aids like overhead projectors, sound system etc. are indispensable part of administrative infrastructure of a good institute.
One must also look for availability of clean drinking water and good hygienic sanitation facilities in the institute. Needless to say, only a healthy body and a healthy mind is receptive to learning new things.
A responsible and well established coaching institute will always encourage students to see their class rooms, seating arrangements and other infrastructure.
9. Ability and willingness of Institute to evolve in its pedagogy: You must be aware that now a day’s exam conducting bodies like UPSC continuously change the pattern of question papers. The aim is to select the deserving and the best. To do this, newer methods to test the intelligence quotient are regularly being introduced. Negative marking, Comprehension type questions, HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) questions are few of such measures. Any institute worth its salt will have to quickly incorporate such changes in its curriculum and take steps to keep students abreast with the pattern of exam.
Hence, before finally making your choice, try to discern whether the institute regularly amends its techniques to coach students. Does it hold surprise tests, challenge sessions and non-conventional tests?
10. Miscellaneous Points:
(a) One must check about commuting time to the institute. Time is too precious to be lost in just travelling to and fro. If the institute has good connectivity through Metro Rail and Bus Services, it is a plus. Location of coaching institute is thus important.
(b) Availability of study room/ Library within the institute is like a jewel in the crown. One can utilize the facility even when there are no classes scheduled. If you have reached early, if you want to go back late, if you want to clear doubts from your peers, this is THE PLACE. To provide this facility some institutes charge additional fee, some have the facility but its located away from where classes are held. So if you can find an institute with in-house study room/ library, that is a value addition.
(c) Availability of faculty after classes to clear doubts of students should be non- negotiable to everyone. These days teachers tend to pick up teaching at multiple institutes and rush from institute A to B immediately on completion of class. This is disheartening to those students who want to meet teachers after the class to clarify doubts, take advise etc. An institute which has availability of faculty at all times is a winner.
(d) Last but not the least, also check about fire safety measures and firefighting arrangements which are there in place in the institute. When you join an institute, familiarize yourself with fire escape routes. Considering poor safety track record of coaching institutes, this issue is important.
We hope that this blog is helpful for all the IAS aspirants.