For many, it is an opportunity to serve the country, and to understand it better. For others, it is the road to a secure future.
While the perspective of aspirants on Civil Services may differ, what remains unchanged is that the examination is known to be unique in nature and tests rigour. Given that candidates need to be thorough to qualify, the access to mentors and their roles arises.
Over the last several years, serving and retired civil servants have been either mentoring or sharing their expertise with those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
“The Civils exam is unique in the sense that it is open to almost anybody — lawyers, doctors and dentists, and even Sanskrit graduates,” says former civil and adjunct professor at Marri Channa Reddy Human Resources Institute Amir Ullah Khan. He has been mentoring aspirants since 1997.
He believes it is the toughest exam in the world in terms of ratio, given that of the nearly 13-14 lakh candidates, only some 700 get selected. Its format of multiple choice questions followed by essay type questions and then interview round makes it all the more tougher. “More importantly, there is no syllabus as such. There are no prescribed textbooks. How do you study? Where do you find material? What books or journals do you read? What kind of material must you stay away from?” To answer all these questions, access to mentorship comes into play, he opens.
“My approach to youngsters who come to me is that I give them the understanding of the ‘how’ . They must understand the process. How the prelims are different from the mains and the mains are different from the interview. How to present ideas in a cogent and simple manner. When they do it, they must know that a civil servant should not have an ideology. When it comes to writing, they should present their ideas in a manner in which they are not swayed by ideological opinions,” Prof. Khan says.
Curiosity, says former Hyderabad Police Commissioner MV Krishna Rao who has been mentoring CS aspirants for several years now, is a prerequisite to sit for the exams.
“Reading should be an addiction and consistency is key,” the former top cop says. “The exam is designed to eliminate. A two-year preparation is inadequate and there is a need to have exposure to the idea and begin preparation at an early age.”
Peek into TS, AP results
A peek into how the aspirants from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been doing reveals that some 600-650 aspirants cleared the Civil Services prelims this year.
While 80,707 had applied from both States, only 41,909 took the exam. A little over half of this number – 26,083 – is from Hyderabad alone. Given this trend, mentors and faculty of coaching institutes point out that Hyderabad is soon becoming a hub for Civil Services coaching.
“North and South Delhi have been important hubs for CS coaching. But, over the past few years, given the fact that Hyderabad is an IT center but is less expensive compared to other cities, and with important coaching centers anchoring themselves here and showing results, the city is fast becoming a hub for CS coaching,” said an analyst with a keen eye on the developments.
“With the introduction of CSAT format in 2011 and aspirants from tech backgrounds, such as graduates from the IITs, seeking coaching of Civil Services exams has brought about a radical change in preparation,” says Kr Pradeep, chairman Krishna Pradeep’s 21st Century IAS Academy. “Algorithms are being used and new technologies being employed to analyze and present study material to students. Institutes are using apps for this purpose.”
Mr. Pradeep observes that in the recent past there has been a change from the classroom setting to a dedicated mentoring set up. Given that basic study material is available, in many cases free of charge, online, the mentorship program is what he describes as hand-holding. This entails simplifying the study material so that students are quick on the uptake.
“It is a step ahead of spoon-feeding. We are giving everything to students in a simple manner. There is constant feedback, and continuous suggestions for improvement,” he says.