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Finding the right way to prepare-1

Afeias
16 Jul 2017
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Social media, especially in the past three years, has provided an amazing platform for you to prepare. You are familiar with YouTube and Facebook and the good part is that you use them a lot. You belong to a generation that can listen to the candidate who bagged the first position in the exam and other candidates on how they prepared for the exam. You get it straight from the horse’s mouth. What can be better than having the topper tell you the strategy they adopted for the exam? Among other things, they will tell you about the books they studied; the help they took from other sources; how many hours they studied; how they wrote their answers; and what were the challenges they faced and the weaknesses they had to overcome.

This started with Gaurav Agrawal, who topped the exam three years ago. After that successful candidates were often invited to speak on several platforms and interact with the students who were preparing for the exam. The trend caught on and aspirants were able to listen directly to students from various areas and diverse languages. The good part is that these candidates do not just use motivational speeches but also give solid techniques that one can adopt to score well. You may find answers to many questions that may have rattled you in the past and did not have satisfactory answers. Now when you hear the answers from a successful candidate it leaves little room for doubt.

Friends, my article is not meant to only provide you with this information. It is to explain to you that whatever you hear and understand on social media, it is the truth, but it is ‘their truth’. This is not the universal truth. You may find this a little odd. It is not odd though because a student preparing for civil services should have the mental level to understand that one cannot believe anything that is being said, instead one should use it as the medium to reach the truth. Friends, my purpose here is to ensure that whatever information you collect, you use it to your advantage and reach a situation where people will listen to you on YouTube just like you are listening to them right now.

I have spoken to my young friends about interviews and advice available on YouTube which is related to civil service preparation. I was not surprised that instead of being focused after watching all these videos, they were disillusioned. It is not that the videos misguided them by saying anything false. The only issue was that those who appeared in the videos discussed the measures they used to succeed and not general advice on preparing for the exam. They had to do this as this was their strength and also made their success more credible. When a student listens to a method adopted by a candidate to succeed, he believes the candidate because they have achieved success and thus proved that the strategy worked. Then why are they getting disillusioned?

The main reason for this is that there is not a set path to success in civil services. No one can show you the path and say: “Follow this and you will achieve success.” One can only discuss generic stuff about the exam which would apply to all and not pinpoint the problems faced on tracks that others are navigating. This is where the problem arises. The student explaining his path to success is talking about himself. He is hundred percent correct. When he talks about himself, he is talking about the track he walked on. He is talking about the method he used. The students listening to the successful candidate takes his track as the set path to success. This is like taking someone else’s hat, placing it on my head and then complaining that the hat is too small or that my head doesn’t know how to wear a hat!

Friends, the trouble doesn’t end here. If it did, I would not consider writing an entire article to warn you. The trouble deepens when you listen to contrasting versions of two candidates from different platforms whowere selected in the same year. There is no argument here as both have chosen separate platforms. You have to understand that both are talking only about themselves. But when you listen to both, you are likely to believe that one is facing north and the other south. The preparation techniques they have mentioned are contradictory. You may be further perturbed after knowing that both have scored similar. At least, if their ranks were far apart you would take the version of the one who scored better as more trustworthy. Now, how will you decide which one is true?

I will now give you examples of some methods that you can verify on YouTube. I will not name the candidates, even though I know them. I think it appropriate not to mention their names as I do not doubt their person. Whatever they are stating is the truth and it is hundred percent correct. Our challenge is not that they are saying contradictory things for the same exam. Our challenge is to listen and understand the ways of other candidates and use logic to use them to our advantage. Let us see some incidents –

  • A successful candidate has emphasized that there is no effort required to clarify the preliminary exams. All you have to do is solve 20 question papers that should suffice. (Let me clarify that whatever I have said here quoting the candidate is in my own words, but I have retained their meaning).
  • Another candidate who secured a rank just a few notches below this said with equal emphasis that preliminary exams require strong preparation. Do not take the exam lightly.
  • Now listen to a successful candidate who secured a place in the IAS in 2015 but in 2014 he was in Indian Railway Traffic Service. He said on YouTube that the exam was very uncertain and people should not relax at any stage. He said that 60 probationary officers were under training for Railway traffic service. He added that almost all of them took the IAS exam again and only half could qualify the preliminary exams again. It is interesting to note that these include those who were able to secure rankings in Group A services.

A person can have an opinion that falls anywhere between this. I have presented both sides of the equation to you and these conversations are available on Youtube.

Friends, the matter is not restricted to preparing for civil services. You could face this during four papers of General Studies or when it comes to the essay, while choosing optional subjects, when to attempt the paper, books, newspapers and magazines and also whether one should take coaching, and if yes, for how long. I do not want to get into the details of these facts. I have shown you two aspects of civil services preparation. You will find the same aspects in all the things I have mentioned above.

Some students say that 6 months are enough to prepare for civil services (according to a candidate who was successful in 2015). According to another version, a candidate said that he did not leave the first floor of his house for 3 years (a civil service topper from 5 years ago). For some, notes provided by the coaching institute were enough, while some had a never ending list of books. Many successful candidates had not seen the doors of a coaching institute. They took guidance from other sources and were successful. There is also no dearth of candidates who took coaching from separate institutes for various subjects.

When it comes to optional subjects, a bouquet is presented to you. You should feel happy, not amazed, that the optional subjects chosen by top 20 students range from 11 to 14. I have used the word happiness so that you know that no matter what subject you choose it will make you reach top 20 as long as you can use its strength and your power simultaneously.

To be continued….

NOTE: This article by Dr. Vijay Agrawal was first published in ‘Civil Services Chronicle’.

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