Unshackling from the myths about civil services exam

Unshackling from the myths about civil services exam

To join Civil Services is the dream of millions of students. This is indicated by an ever-increasing number of aspirants, year after year. Every year approximately one million aspirants compete for less than a thousand vacancies.

So, the result of this exam is just 0.1 %. This kind of tough competition is bound to create apprehension in the mind of students about their own ability to clear the exam, which in simple terms may be called as under-confidence.

Myths about civil services exam

Myths about civil services exam

This would also inevitably lead to misgivings and myths about the exam. This blog will try to clear the most commonly misplaced beliefs.

Only borne Einstein with genius intellect can clear this exam 

This impression is far from the truth. Even if some people are genetically gifted with sharp acumen, and photographic memory to remember reams of content in one glance, a lesser mortal with an ordinary brain can compensate with extra toil and methodical studying.

Of course, there will be a cost to pay in terms of putting more hours on the study table and less on the bed.

The result statistics are unambiguously revealing that the aspirants who stuck to the right resources, managed time well, and studied with devotion & perseverance are the ones who succeed, irrespective of their genetic inheritance of grey matter.

Educational background matters for success in the civil service exam

Irrelevant! This exam and the selection procedure are stream-neutral, and education medium-neutral. Irrespective of if someone is from Humanities, Commerce, or Science background, the difficulty level is the same for all.

If there are friendlier humanities subjects like History, Geography, and Political Science for Humanities background students, there are Biology & Biotechnology, Science & Technology for Science students, and Economics for Commerce background students.

In any case, all of us have studied Social Science till class 10th, which had components of History, Geography, and Political Science. So, we all have basic knowledge of these subjects and they are not entirely new to us. 

It is a game of luck! 

Luck can never substitute hard work and perseverance. No one has seen or touched luck. In today’s extremely competitive world, luck has become more of an ever-lasting shield. One could whine and crib over the failures one has gone through and put it all on luck.

Whereas, if one manages to get through the odds and tastes success, no one would call it a game of luck. That is how exploited luck is. One needs to have staunch belief in himself and hard work. 

Requires three to four years of preparation and one needs to know everything under the Sun.

To succeed in the UPSC exam, candidates need to have a strong foundation of knowledge and good analytical skills. If one starts preparation well in time, there will not be a need to exhaust years in addition to what one spends while undergoing a graduation course.

There was a time when civil service exam (CSE) preparation was concomitant with post-graduate students. The trend then shifted to students who had completed their Bachelor’s degrees. But today, the awareness level of students is much more and there is no ambiguity in their minds about what they want to do.

Therefore, those who have civil services as their goal in life, start preparing for CSE immediately upon completion of the 12th class, alongside bachelor’s degree studies. The syllabus of CSE is very well defined and there is no need to know everything under the Sun. After all, we are not clones of Chat GPT. For preparation, aspirants need to stick to the given syllabus and recommended reference books along with NCERT books. A good coaching institute can act as a guide and mentor and will certainly help save time and keep the focus of aspirants in the right direction. 

Read More – Right time to start preparing for UPSC civil Services

One needs good English to clear the UPSC exam. Hindi background aspirants are at a disadvantage compared to those from English background.

If this was the case, UPSC would not be giving the option to select any language out of the listed languages, for writing Mains and for the Interview (Personality Test). CSE history is replete with examples of successful candidates with the non-English background. Even for English-speaking candidates, the selection is not done based on who has got better English writing/ speaking skills and expression. 

Further, there can be no bigger myth than this, that Hindi background aspirants are at a disadvantage. Contrary, to this argument the entire govt machinery’s official language is Hindi. Can you recall all the job advertisements and notifications issued by govt departments? If the functioning of the govt is in Hindi being our Rajbhasha (official language), why would selection suffer from a bias? 

Writing skills cannot be improved!

Writing skills are an important part of communication. Good writing skills allow you to communicate your message with clarity and ease. Someone famously said “Writing is derivative. Good writing comes from good reading.” 

There is nothing in this world that cannot be improved. The writing skill needed for CSE are a tad different from what we have learned during our academic lives. In school and college, the intelligence of a student was measured by the number of extra answer sheets he took during the exam. The one who raised his hand the first, asking for an extra sheet, was an idol and heartthrob of many. However, in CSE it is just the opposite.

One will have to learn brevity in answering. This exam not only severely constrains candidates during the exam for time but also for space to write. Questions in the answer sheet are pre-printed thereby giving fixed space to write answers in prescribed words. 

The bad news is that for this exam there is a necessity to improve writing skills. The good news is that every candidate suffers from this drawback and will have to put effort towards this. So, you are not the lone warrior. This practice should start from day one of preparation. 

Can I change my personality for the Personality Test conducted in the third stage of selection?

Well, why not! Your personality is the sum total of your self-confidence, your body language, how you converse, how you dress up, how you walk, how you think positively, and such things. While the rest are all easy to learn the one which needs effort is “self-confidence”. This will come from knowledge. And to gain knowledge, one needs to put in hard work and toil. Remember that building self-confidence is a process, and it takes time and effort. 

It is impossible to clear this exam without coaching?

To be truthful, one can clear this exam even without coaching. Many self-taught aspirants have done it in the past but then the critical issue is how many have the luxury of so much time and wherewithal to try it year after year to finally get there. A self-taught candidate likely will need more attempts compared to an institute-mentored student. 

If there is someone who specializes in a particular field, it will be prudent to make use of that expertise rather than reinvent the wheel again. A good coaching institute will have a team of experts standing beside the candidates enabling them to fill up the knowledge gaps and help the aspirants to hone the skills required to clear the UPSC exam.

Whereas self-coached candidates will learn their weaknesses and strengths with each attempt and keep refining their preparations

It all boils down to cost-benefit analysis. The wiser ones who have the foresight, also keep in mind the perils of joining civil services at a late age as it would affect the promotion avenues, tenanting the appointments which have age as one of the important qualitative requirements etc. With the dwindling vacancies in govt jobs and exponentially increasing number of applicants every year, it would not be out of place to say that the early bird will catch the prey.

Read More – What is the need of coaching for UPSC Civil Services exam?

Delhi is the Mecca for IAS aspirants. You cannot clear the UPSC exam without going to Delhi.

Well, this was kind of true before the outbreak of Covid in Mar 2020. There was one and only one way to study for CSE and that was; Come to Delhi, stay in a PG/Hostel, and bear the hardships and vagaries of staying away from family in a new place. Coaching institutes offered only classroom coaching in those times. 

The Covid outbreak brought one positive change in the education field. The pandemic transformed the old, chalk–talk teaching model into one driven by technology. We now have the excellent option of online coaching. Over the last two years, online coaching has evolved, stabilized, and been widely accepted by the student community.

Today, online coaching is the most promising option for all those aspirants who are not from Delhi. Online coaching is not only financially less taxing (less course fee, savings of miscellaneous expenditure for living in Delhi for the course duration) but also saves a lot of time.

The success stories of all the candidates who prepared during Covid affected years of 2020 & 21 are a testimony to the fact that online coaching is an alternative option to coming to Delhi. 

Only those aspirants who have all 24 hrs with them can clear the exam. Others who are working professionals can not clear this exam. 

The annals of UPSC are full of many such achievers i.e., working professionals who have made it to Civil services. At first sight, it might seem impossible to manage professional requirements and prepare for the exam at the same time but efficient planning, skillful time management, professional guidance, and perseverance can make all the difference.

There is no denying the fact that a working professional is relatively more taxed for time compared to an aspirant who is non-working and hence has more time for preparations. However, there are a lot of positives to working and preparing for CSE. 

To start with, limited time and resources is a blessing in disguise: Since time is limited, working people restrict their preparations from limited/single source, unlike non-working aspirants who tend to refer to multiple resources and end nowhere.

Secondly, working people do not worry about earning their livelihood, fallback plans, time slipping through their fingers, etc. all of which makes them more focused while studying and confident to face the challenge of UPSC. Thirdly, the self-confidence of a working professional is better than the other competitors.

Obviously, this is by virtue of having work experience and exposure to the professional world. And last but not the least, their proven acumen, basic instinct to put in hard work, and methodical way of studying, result in better utilization of time and effective use of resources by them. One piece of advice for working professionals is to use micro-opportunities. In simple words, study in minutes not hours.

Read more: UPSC Preparation strategy for working professionals

The probability of cracking this exam is directly proportional to the number of books studied

One of the problems which are affecting our lives is the problem of plenty. There is so much to choose from, so many variants, so much alike and so much different, and we are all perplexed about almost everything. CSE aspirants also must fight this battle of choices wisely when it comes to choosing the right resources to study. 

Contrary to the belief that more books will give more content and more to write in the answer, statistically more books will give you relatively less in terms of knowledge but take away much more in terms of precious time. It is extremely important to limit our resources. And this is applicable not only to books but also to online content.

Most of us have experienced how we get flooded by the suggestions given by YouTube the moment we look for something.

For sure, we get one additional input, one additional point, and one additional byte but is it worth it in exchange for giving the number of hours? This is what we must understand. It is better to read 1 book 100 times than to read 100 books 1 time.

The only mantra for success in CSE is pragmatic planning for preparation, identifying the right resources, and hard work.

This exam is free from any prejudice to a particular academic stream, the social status of candidates, the educational background of candidates, and coached/uncoached status of candidates. It is the fairest of selections. It is thus advised that aspirants should not fall prey to myths.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.

John F Kennedy
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