It isn’t unusual for one to think of things like “job security”, “power”, “respect”, “good pay”, “perks” etc. when people talk about civil services. Civil Services is a key job profile where one gets to take and execute consequential governance decisions. While politicians frame broad policies, civil servants influence the politicians to formulate policies in their intended orientation, and are the ground level implementing agencies.
The challenging Civil Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is spread over an entire year, divided into three extremely competitive stages.
Charchit Gaur and Vivek Ranjan Maitrey share their experience and tips for the exam. Vivek is an Electrical Engineering graduate, 2015 batch. He was selected in the 2017 batch of Indian Administrative Service, currently undergoing a 2 year probation. He is posted as Assistant Collector and Assistant Magistrate, Darbhanga, Bihar. Charchit, a Chemical Engineering Graduate of the 2015 batch, cracked the civil services examination in his first attempt. He has been allotted Manipur as his cadre and is posted as Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Information Broadcasting, Government of India. Charchit quotes, ”The job of an IAS officer is not bound in 8 hours of the day, everything and anything that happens in government anywhere and at any level is a responsibility of some IAS officer. You are expected to know everything, and all your time is for the people.”
The exam for selection of IAS is conducted by UPSC. It not only gives the option of becoming IAS, but of various other civil services like IPS, IFS, IRS etc.
The preliminary criterion for sitting for the exam is a Bachelor’s degree and age of 21. So one becomes eligible only when s/he graduates. The exam includes Prelims, conducted around July; out of 4-5 lakhs people who attempt it, 15,000 are selected to write Mains which happens in November, and then finally around 3000 are selected for the interview in March. The score of prelims is not counted for the final merit list, which takes into account only the Mains and interview marks.
The Syllabus includes Complete General studies anything and everything under the sun, and one optional subject, which you can choose. A candidate can attempt the exam at most 6 times.
Charchit Gaur has shared detailed preparation tips for those interested in pursuing this profile and the same can be found on the mentioned link: http://mrunal.org/2016/06/upsc-topper-charchit-gaur-chemistry-strategy.html
Charchit chose Chemistry as his optional subject, which he mostly took up in his fourth year.
Also, he had chosen 6-7 rigorous courses offered by the Humanities department relevant to the syllabus. He said that he enjoyed these courses, along with adding to the knowledge bank for his preparation. One can look up courses like Economics, Sociology and Psychology and find that a lot of it is coherent with the UPSC syllabus.
Charchit along with his friend asked for permission to sit for courses offered for B.Sc. Chemistry, which was refused. Nevertheless, they sat through 2 of the courses without credits for lectures as and when they got time.
Vivek chose physics as his optional subject. He says, ”Since I chose physics as a subject, I exhausted my elective credits on courses of the Physics department, which definitely helped me perform well in the mains exam. I could be seen in the Physics department more often than in the Electrical Engineering department!”
Charchit adds ”Mostly when one starts thinking about preparing for an exam like IAS, one feels that a person who reads the newspaper since childhood, is acquainted with different kinds of books, has the daily news on fingertips is the one who’ll crack it, and others are already at a disadvantage. This is a very misleading misconception, and I feel that I am a great example of the same.
Having focused on science, I never read any book which did not pertain to my subjects or JEE previously. I had not read many novels (which isn’t commendable, and I have completely changed myself after realising that). When I decided that I want to sit for the exam, I started brushing up on my current affairs and general knowledge.”
Charchit’s daily routine in his 4th year was fixed. The classes used to begin at around 9 and went till 4. But in between there were empty slots which he could utilise to read newspaper and books. Then he used to study his optional till dinner. And after dinner he used to study General Studies till late night.
On the other hand Vivek believes he was a full time aspirant, so all his time was dedicated for this. He was tried to clock 9-10 hours a day. “16 ghante wali padhai hamare bas ki nahi.”
Charchit further says, “First problem with IAS preparation is subjectivity. As all the papers are written and elucidation/analysis based, things are not in black and white as they were during JEE preparation. I tried to keep some objectivity alive by choosing Chemistry optional. Then comes the problem of lengthy process. So the entire year goes in giving different phases of the exams, and at any phase you can be rejected , after which you have to wait for one complete year to reach to that stage.
Also, you might feel a lot of peer pressure when you see that your friends are in very good jobs earning a lot and you are still sitting in a room studying endlessly. But you have to hang in there, hard work pays in the end.”
Words of advice
Charchit and Vivek both advise not to jump into any field just because others are doing it or because society/ parents wants you to do so. Charchit shares, “Some of my friends said they prepared for the exam from the moment they entered into IIT. Some from them were successful, but many struggled a lot and left the preparation. I don’t want to discourage anyone but you have entered a premier institute after putting in 2 years of your life, and you can at least afford enjoy the college with all the fun, timepass, extracurricular, and sports. Make use of the campus facilities, sit back when you want to, do night outs watching movies, play cricket the entire Sunday, make friends, search for partners, do politics, do whatever comes to your mind without compromising with the academics, as it will be impossible to sustain the rigorous preparation and motivation once you dedicate yourself to your aim. Also, you get to enjoy college for just these years! Along with enjoying life, explore all options and then finalise what you want to do and commit to it. All of you are capable for anything you want to do if you are convinced to do it, you are IITians.”
Vivek adds in agreement, “preparation for this exam is never complete. Sometimes less is more, and sometimes more will be less. Don’t forget to enjoy what you intend to take up.”