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Civil Services Aspirants are faced with many dilemma. The tremendous prestige of the examination has created an aura about the examination and given rise to many half – baked truths,which heighten the sense of awe. Here an attempt is being made to dispel certain popular “myths” by confronting them with the corresponding SATHYA’S answers i.e.” realities”.

Student : “The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the best service to which one can be selected through the Civil Service Examination(CSE).Hence, one should only aim for the IAS and no other services”?
Sathya : “The IAS is undoubtedly among the best service.However, there are other services, which are equally best and satisfying. Hence, it is necessary to have some idea of career opportunities in other services.”
Student : ” is there too much political interference in the IAS and the IPS “?
Sathya : “Both the IAS and the IPS are services in which one come in close contact with the people. Decisions taken directly or indirectly by IAS and IPS officers have considerable impact on the common man. Any position in which a lot of authority is vested is bound to have controls too. The more important is the position the grater is the control. This applies equally to private and public sector . It is fallacy to imagine that the private sector offers a great degree of independence. The top position in the private sector are also subject to control or interference in some form or the other.”
Student : “Only highly intelligent  students with an excellent academic record are successful in the IAS examination”?
Sathya : “How does one measure intelligence? Can we call someone highly intelligent just because he/she scores 100% in Mathematics or Physics at the 10th class level? Or do we call a student who has consistently secured a first division intelligent?. The fact is , the notion of intelligence is susceptible to varied definitions.A survey conducted a few years back indicated that most of the successful students had secured only a second or third division in graduation. So while a high academic score is a definite asset, a second or third division in no way hits your chances. You may yet prove yourself “
Student : “Is certain optionals have better prospects at the preliminary”?
Sathya : The UPSC offers 23 optionals  in the preliminary. All optionals  offer equal chances of success. Usually the ” scaling System ” is followed. This method may be explained as follows:Total no.of candidates appearing at the examination with various optionals = 1,00,00. Total no. of candidates to be selected for the Main Examination  = 10,000. Candidates taking History = 20,000. Minimum representation to be secured of candidates who have opted for history = 2,000. Thus, every optional is weighted proportionally.”
Student “A large number of candidates are opting optional “X”. Hence it is better to choose optional “Y”, which is chosen by very few candidates”?
Sathya : “As explained, the number of candidates to be selected from a certain optional is directly proportional to the number  of candidates who opt for it. If the larger number of students opt for a particular subject then the number of students taking it selected for the mains will be equally large”
Student : “Every optional has a “cut-off ” mark. Hence, is it better to choose  one with a low “cut-off”?
Sathya : “What do you mean by cut – off? Only 10,000 qualify at the preliminary. The marks scored by the last candidate is the cut – off . Thus all candidates who score more than the cut – off will qualify and all those who don”t will not. Ou should remember that this is the competitive examination. There is no qualifying score. Whatever the marks, the first 10,000 ( this figure also subject to change – depends on number of vacancies) candidates will qualify. Thus, cut – off mark changes from year to year. If the questions are difficult the “cut – off ” automatically comes down”
Student : Is it necessary to retain the prelims optional for Mains?
Sathya : “Not necessary. But it is advisable to stick with the prelims optional. To be able to do preliminary well, one has to do a thorough study of the subject matter. This comes handy if one opts for the same optional in the mains. If different optionals are taken it would lead to tragic waste of time.”
Student : When the same optional is chosen for the prelims & mains ,is there is no  need of  preparing for mains?
Sathya : “It”s not true though the 90% of the preliminary syllabus is included in the mains. Different approach is required. Preliminary demands a micro approach requiring close acquaintance whereas the mains require a broad perspectives. Hence different methods of preparation are called for”.
Student : In order to be successful in the Civil Services Examination  an aspirant has to work for at least 16 Hrs a day ?
Sathya : “While people claim long hours of study, yet it is doubtful whether 16 hours of intensive study is humanly possible. Remember it is not the number of hours that is important but the work that you put in those hours is important. Each one of us has a “span of attention” and the preparation should be tailored accordingly. There is no need to obsessed with the number of hours. In short , quality  of hours is important rather  quantity of hours”
Student : The preliminary examination is a “gamble”. Whatever the level of preparation, one can never be sure of success till the results are published . Hence, is it better to start preparation for the Mains after the prelims ?
Sathya : Every competitive examination has a “chance” factor. The Civil Services Examination too bound for to some extent. While , there is an element of  chance it can be reduced to a large extent by well – directed effort. A student , who has prepared in the right direction, has 90% of chance of being successful. Moreover, the Main exam is conducted some 80 days after the declaration of the preliminary result. 80 days is “just not” sufficient to prepare for two optionals and  General Studies paper.
Student : Is the provisions of reservation are not applied at the preliminary examination?
Sathya : “No. It is applied in each stage of examination. Otherwise proportional representation to the next stage is not possible”
Student : Some of the optionals are “paying” at the preliminary examination and not “paying at the Main Examination. Therefore, is it better change optionals at the Main Examination?
Sathya : “As mentioned earlier there is nothing like “paying” and “non-paying” optional. This myth has been in circulation as some students who have done well at the prelims with an option have failed to score high marks in the mains. This can be attributed to two reasons.

  1. Having thoroughly prepared for the optionals at the preliminary level, the aspirant becomes complacent as he feels he knows the subject “too well” and tackle the mains with ease.
  2. The aspirant may lacks the required writing skills. The preliminary examination  being a multiple choice type, requires the familiarity with the subject. Language & Writing skills not required at this stage . But in the Main examination , especially in the social sciences, adequate writing skills ( which are based on one”s command over the language) along with knowledge of the subject is essential. If an aspirant does not have the writing skills will obviously not score well”.
Student : An aspirant has to have a deep insight into the optional in which he is appearing at?
Sathya : “Experience  of successful candidates has disproved this largely accepted fact. Aspirants who have not had adequate time to grasp the nuances of the subject have also scored high. Perhaps this is because of good writing skills and proper approach to the subject. The trend of scores  in the previous examination indicates that the UPSC expects a general level of knowledge  rather than a scholarly attitude”
Student Does the general essay paper  not require any special preparation?
Sathya : “This was the case till a few years back. Candidates with Social Science background especially those with Sociology or Public Administration had a distinct advantage  at the essay paper. Out of 8 topics given in the question paper  at least two topics had a significant overlap with Public Administration or Sociology. But the 1998 Paper was different. All the topics were of a general nature and no candidate had an advantage. If the same trend repeats, preparation is imperative”.
Student : Is the General Essay paper has been included to the disadvantage of a student with “pure” science background?
Sathya : “It is included to check the competence of the student in drafting skills. The marks scored by the aspirants  in the previous examination clearly indicates that it is not necessary to have flowery or bombastic language to score high. The General Essay is GENERAL as the name indicates. Good command over language and good writing skill are  definitely assets, but need not be regarded as necessities. Clear and cogent expression is rewarded and even a student of pure science can score high. Hence none has an unfair advantage”
Student : One must have hobbies and extra – curricular activities to score the more marks in interview?
Sathya : In the Civil Services Exam form, there is a column for hobby. You are expected to fill honestly. Interviewers frequently go deeper into the hobby of a candidate to evaluate him better. Sometimes, questions may be very difficult.It is also equally true that the most of us, who belong to the middle class background have had no luxury to think of  really developing a hobby like photography, coin – collection, Stamp collection etc., in its literal sense. Nonetheless , leaving this column blank or writing something like “no hobby” will certainly leave negative impression. Therefore, it is suggested that you should not leave this column blank.

Just try to think upon your special interest. Every one has some special interest . Try to find out that and prepare for that in detail.

Student : We  hear that the Civil Services is in for a massive overhaul. Will the age be reduced ? What changes will be there? Will it affect us?
Sathya : Alagh Committee recommendations, Cabinet Committee recommendations and etc., have not yet been introduced. In case they are introduced we will witness massive reform in Civil Services Exam pattern including reduction of age, exam to be conducted after plus two, modification in syllabus and etc., However ,the current batch as well as coming batches will not be affected because whenever such reforms are undertaken , the students get ample time to prepare accordingly and it is also ensured that the students are not affected. Therefore, announcement is made much in advance before the actual implementation.