ABC of Civil Services | How much is enough?

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Clearing the civil service examination requires proper planning right from the beginning. This consists of deciding one’s optional subject, finding out the coaching institutes, shifting to a new place if necessary, etc. People ask elaborate questions regarding these things to the winners but very often the nature of questions revolves around numbers, that is “how much?” This could be regarding various aspects about the preparation and let me explain them one by one.

Nowadays, the parents who contact me regarding the coaching for civil service examination want to know the expenses involved. It is a difficult question because there is no fixed amount of money which needs to be spent to crack this examination. The examination fee for preliminary and main is just a token amount and the Unon Public Service Commission provides travelling allowance to those who have to attend the personality test. So, the examination related expenses are almost negligible. When it comes to coaching, it depends whether one needs full time coaching. If one needs classes for general studies as well as optional, one may need to spend a couple of lakhs. For those without much base in general studies and those who want to take up a new subject as optional, this is advisable. People who want guidance only in a few topics can avail that at a lesser rate. If one needs just guidance, joining test batches for preliminary and main (both online and offline) will be good enough and the expense will be reduced further.

Be smart

People spend a lot of money buying books. I have seen students who buy every possible book and magazine and within a few months, they will end up having a huge library! But the smarter way is to get access to a good library and use it properly rather than buying too many books. One can have a few basic books for repeated reading but that too can be stored in a tablet/laptop. In fact, investing in a good tablet/laptop is going to be essential as one needs to get access to a lot of online sources.

The next expense is regarding one’s accommodation. If one prepares from home, the expenses can be reduced provided there is a proper atmosphere to study at home. Otherwise, relocating to capital cities which are examination centres is advisable as there will be lot of hostels, coaching centres and libraries which can be used to one’s advantage. Here also I have seen people who are pampered at home, trying to recreate all the luxuries in their rented rooms. I believe that students should experience a bit of frugality which will be rewarding in the end.

No fixed rule

Another question is the amount of time one needs to study. Here also, there is no fixed answer. Considering the vast syllabus of the examination, a minimum of five hours will be needed daily to prepare. This can be increased gradually and during the time just before the main examination, one can take up to 10-12 hours. As one need to invest a minimum of two years for this examination, the idea is to gradually increase the work load and be steady and consistent.

Many a time, I have witnessed successful candidates giving a foolproof preparation strategy to a large audience. The people note down everything and at least some of them may follow it verbatim. One topper even gave a three-year plan of how to do things and within two years the syllabus changed! That is of course, a rare situation but one just cannot give common tips to candidates with varying background and different level of knowledge. So, one needs to figure out the “how much” question oneself rather than blindly taking the advice of the winners.

(The author is a former IPS officer and a trainer for civil service aspirants.)

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