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How to Study for IAS

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the Civil Service Examination (CSE) to select the top bureaucrats of India. While IAS/ IFS/ IPS are the most sought after jobs, there are 21 other central services as well for which the UPSC does the recruitment through the Civil Service exam. In 2015 a total of 9.4 lakh candidates applied for the exam out of which 4.6 appeared the Preliminary Examination. About 15000 passed Prelims and wrote Mains – out of which 2797 were shortlisted for Personality Test and finally 1078 were recommended for appointed. Out of this only 180 were able to get into IAS. Undoubtedly it is the toughest Exam in India as far as competition is concerned. But it is definitely not impossible.

Who is Eligible?

This is a very important question as a lot of rumors are circulating on this very topic. You just have to pass any Bachelor Degree and have crossed 21 years of age in order to become an IAS. Even if you have appeared or intending to appear for the final examination and are awaiting results then also you are eligible to apply for the Preliminary Examination. General candidates can attempt 6 times till the age of 32 years or whichever is earlier. OBC candidates have extra 3 attempts and 3 years and ST/SC candidates can appear until 37 years of age and they have a unlimited number of attempts. The cut-off for ST/SC is lower than OBC and General. If someone applies for the first time at the age of 21 he/she will have 16 years and as many attempts to clear IAS. Which means one can relearn ABCD and still crack IAS. If somebody really tries wholeheartedly and never gives up he/she can definitely be there on the list.
The Bodos did well in the past churning out a lot of officers through UPSC. The Mishing community is doing well presently in UPSC. Biswajit Pegu (IAS), Jitu Doley (IRS), Mamoni Doley (IRTS), Avijit Pegu (IRS), Migam Doley (IRS), Khogesh Pegu
(IFoS) etc are a few examples. On being asked one of the toppers from the community said that the brotherhood and unity within the community which comes naturally from the tribe, sharing of information and helping fellow brothers/sisters out are their keys to success in this ‘Mother of all Examinations’. And also Mishing tribe has not taken up arms and hence the energy of the youth is directed towards achieving higher goals.

When to begin?

In Delhi and other cities, students start preparing for IAS from their First year of the degree itself. In this way, they are three/four years ahead of the rest of their competitors. The topper of 2015 Civil Services Exam Tina Dabi, a young woman of 22 years, started her preparation when she was in graduation. You can either form a study group of like-minded people from among your friends or study alone- whichever way suits you. ‘Awareness is the starting point of every quest and the outcome of every journey.’ Create your own study environment by making your friends aware of the Exam. Nothing can be better than an IAS study group of best friends. It’s all about teamwork they say. In the Civil Services, your job is that of a leader and motivator. If you are successful with your friends you will more often than not be a successful officer as well.
Steve Jobs once said: ‘A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.’ A lot of people waste their degree years as they do not have any goal to work for. Preparing for IAS has a lot of utility as by preparing for it all other exams become comparatively easier. Not to mention it is very fulfilling and also very essential to know about the day to day happenings of our country and India. Knowing about its culture, history, policy, economics, environment etc is fun and it makes us a better and a more aware citizen. Moreover even if by chance you do not make it to the coveted services there are the State Civil Services exams like APSC of Assam, UPPSC (Uttar Pradesh), Uttarakhand Civil Services, Rajasthan Administrative Services, etc where you could apply and get into
the civil services. Most rumour-mongers do not know this and they spread negativity- that it is too risky to prepare for IAS. What if you do not clear finally? Moreover, there is UPSC conducted Central Armed Police Forces Exam, SSC, Intelligence Bureau and a lot of other exams which can be cleared with ease if someone is preparing for IAS. Assam Govt. gives a scholarship of 1 Lakh rupees to the candidates who clear UPSC Prelims. The IAS coaching institutes recruit Mains written candidates as faculty paying them around 2000 rupees per hour. So even if you clear prelims your labour-value becomes 2000 rupees per hour which mean if you take 4 classes you earn 8000 rupees per day.

Do you need to do Master Degree or Ph.D.?

We all know about the story of Arjuna from the Mahabharata. None but Arjuna could hit the eye of the bird because he saw only the bird’s eye and nothing else. If we want to achieve some goal we need to focus on that and nothing else. ‘If you think more about plan B you lose focus from plan A’. Masters in a university other than an open university draws a lot of our attention from our goal i.e. cracking IAS. If one is really motivated to join the civil services he must give his full focus on preparing for it. It requires full (100%) attention and focuses for one to two years before prelims. One has to be very clear what one wants to do in life. Having one foot in one boat and the other in another will land us in trouble. ‘If we do not take risks life becomes risky’. Academics is a very respectful and demanding career- Masters, MPhil, NET, SLET, Ph.D. are stations of a different route whereas Current Affairs, General Studies, Prelims, Mains, Interview are in a different route. You have to choose which route to follow. While pursuing masters we have to do justice to your course by regularly submitting assignments, department activities, university tests, semester exams etc which will not end until 2 years.
Some will say what if you fail? You will have a back up in academics. Getting a good job is also not easy for an academician who has all his time prepared for civil services and given less attention to academics. And moreover, IAS preparation opens a lot of back up avenues as discussed earlier.

Stages of the Exam:

There are three stages of CSE: 1. Prelims, 2. Mains and 3. Interview.

1. Prelims:

Prelims consist of two General Studies (GS) Papers of 200 marks each and are of objective nature. GS Paper II is of qualifying nature where one has to score a minimum of 33% marks i.e. 66 marks. English Comprehension, Reasoning, Basic Numeracy etc are asked in this paper. GS Paper I is the decider whether one will pass this stage or not. The syllabus of GS Paper I is as such:
1. Current events of national and international importance.
2. History of India and Indian national movement.
3. Indian and World Geography- physical, social, economic geography of India and the world
4. Indian Polity and governance – constitution, political system, Panchayati raj, public policy, Rights issues, etc.
5. Economic and social development – sustainable development, poverty, inclusion, demographics, social sector initiatives etc.
6. General issues on environmental ecology, bio-diversity and climate change that do not require subject specialization.
7. General science.

2. Mains:

The Mains is called the main exam as the marks obtained in prelims are not added up to the total score of a candidate. It is a written exam and total marks are 1750.
It consists of one Essay Paper where a candidate has to write two essays in 3 hours for 250 marks. Four GS Papers of 250 marks each and an Optional Subject consisting of two papers carrying 250 marks each. As you can already figure out it is the skill of answer writing that is required to do well in this exam. Now two cases may arise:
1. ‘A’ who has this skill of answer writing can surely consider sitting for this exam

2. ‘B’ who does not have the skill of answer-writing but still wants to clear this exam

If you are B type of person you might have started worrying already. One must understand that ‘Answer-Writing’ is a ‘SKILL’. A skill is by definition anything which improves on doing it regularly. Imagine the first time you chopped an onion. You would be rather very slow. If you do it again and again slowly-slowly your speed and accuracy increases without you realizing it. Similarly, the first answer that you might be writing may not be a very good one. It definitely is not going to be your best. But if you continue writing you will definitely master the skill of answer writing and it would be as easy as chopping onions for you. Remember: Never Never Never Give Up! What if you are person A- Can you do away with practicing answer writing? They say ‘Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard!’ If answer writing is your strength make it your fortress. Answer writing is the single-most important skill required to become an IAS. Your answer sheet is the only means of communication between the examiner and you. You have to showcase your hard work through your answers. Only by practicing answer-writing can you be able to exhibit your hard work through your answers or else all your hard work will go in vain. If you were in ancient and medieval times you would have required showing your skill with the sword but in this age, you have to be skillful with your pen.
Not practicing answer writing is the main reason people find it difficult to clear this exam. Most people think that they need to cover the syllabus first and then will they practice answer writing. This is sheer procrastination. You have to start writing
is build answers from Day 1 of your preparation. We will be discussing more on how to write better answers in subsequent articles.

3. Interview:

The personal interview is the third and final stage of clearing Civil Services Exam. No one can prepare for the interview in a few weeks, months or even years. Our persis built slowly and imperceptively through the years. A candidate’s knowledge is not checked in the interview as it has already been tested during Prelims and Mains but his behaviour, manners and overall personality is assessed during the interview. No one with a decent personality need to worry much about this phase of the examination.

Last but not the least:

This in short, is an effort to bust the myths surrounding this exam. Even if I am not able to clear all your doubts regarding this Exam I hope I am able to create a lot of questions in your mind. If that is so my effort is well rewarded. We will continue discussing a lot of tips and techniques in our subsequent Articles. I believe there are a lot of people who are capable of making it big from the Northeast, lacking only in proper guidance and direction. We must believe that together we can do a lot of things. If we become united in our efforts we will able to write a lot of success stories from this ‘the remotest part of India’ (change: The Gateway to South-East Asia).

Anshuman Gogoi
Inspector of Taxes
Email: anxu007@gmail.com


March 1, 2017


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