The Pioneering Experience of UPSC Civil Services Preparation: Another Hidden Story of my Life

I was encouraged to pursue a career in public service after watching YouTube videos highlighting UPSC best performers, but I had to first complete my PhD requirements. Having completed all the requirements for a PhD in my first year, I began studying for the UPSC Civil Services Exam in September 2014. I was awarded a DST Inspire Fellowship during my PhD at Thapar University, which provided me a financial support to attend ALS VSAT - Satellite Education in Patiala to prepare for the Civil Services examination. I was aware that it would be difficult to handle both my PhD and my UPSC preparation at the same time, but I liked to experience the life of a UPSC aspirant. So, I decided to take a chance and started studying for this exam. I gave two attempts, but unfortunately failed both the attempts due to a lack of time for preparation (perhaps it needs two or more years). After two straight failures, I became concerned that preparing for a third time might be too risky for my career. In the meanwhile, I was offered Postdoc position at the renowned CLOUDS Lab at the University of Melbourne, and it was high time to decide on my career, I preferred research as my career. Then, I left India for my research career and bid a goodbye to civil services preparation. In my opinion, it's important to have a backup plan in place in case you fail this exam, so that you don't feel like you've failed your entire life just because you didn't get the job you wanted. I'm now an Assistant Professor at Queen Mary University of London's School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, in the United Kingdom. I learnt many important things from the short span of civil services preparation, which I would like to share with the future aspirants.

The UPSC Civil Services exam is one of the toughest and most challenging exams. For more than just the technical components of the exam, the whole process of it will be hard, and drains our personal time. Because of the freedom that comes with passing the exam, most people are ready to accept this risk. When I started studying for the UPSC, I was able to pursue interests that I had always wanted to pursue. Every day, I was enthralled by reading about Indian history, international relations, and world history. I was inspired to travel to the historic places by reading about world history. Because of the breadth of the course material, I feel like that I have a lot of room to grow as a learner because I was able to find sufficient time for this preparation during my PhD. As a UPSC aspirant, I've learned a wide range of subjects such as history, politics, science, and the economy. Having gone through this preparation, I'm now more cautious when making moral judgements. I've honed my critical thinking abilities and gained wisdom as a result. For instance, no longer you would blindly follow the latest trending topics on social media.

I will share some pre-requisites for getting started with the preparations for this exam. Many toppers' ideas helped me prepare for the civil service exam before I even started. No two applicants passed this exam using the same technique, but there was one thing that tied all the exam's top scorers together; every one of them used a different approach to the exam. The first and most important guideline is, coaching institute or an exam-advice alone is not enough; you need to devise your own approach that maximises your strengths and minimises your flaws. For this reason, you must be harder than your exam. You must be ready to accept failure and rise stronger each time. Most applicants make the blunder of failing to thoroughly review the exam syllabus. To ace this exam, you must be familiar with the syllabus, both the requirements and the exclusions.

This exam is designed to find generalist executives who can work in any department of the federal government without too much complexity. Therefore, the exam is looking for the same thing: your breadth and depth of comprehension rather than your depth of learning in one area. Aspirants often commit the blunder by trying to learn a subject from beginning to end, resulting in a level of knowledge equivalent to that of a PhD holder in that field. However, the exam just asks for a small portion of that information.

Let's move on to other critical parts of exam preparation, such as coaching, books, newspapers, mock examinations, and selecting the correct optional subject. Before you begin your preparation for the civil service, you would need to make this decision. Now, this is where things become a little iffy. It is now feasible to pass this test without attending a coaching institute, thanks to the abundance of Internet information. At the most, classes can accomplish around 25% of what needs to be done, therefore it is up to the individual to put forth whatever effort he or she feels like doing to get the most out of them.

In my perspective, NCERT textbooks on history, geography, economics, and governance from grades VI through XII are essential reading. In order to build a solid basis for your future reading, you should read these books first. NCERT textbooks make up almost 50% of my personal knowledge base in the static areas.

Preparation requires the use of newspapers. I used to read newspapers for 3-4 hours a day, mostly "The Hindu." It aids in the solidification of ideas, the development of viewpoints, and the examination of a problem from a variety of angles. When it comes to the mains and interviews, this will come in useful.

All three parts of the exam, including the mocks, are critical preparation resources. You may improve your Prelims score by taking as many practice examinations as possible. Answering only those questions they are certain of will work for some people. It is possible that mock examinations for the mains are the most crucial. You don't have to be a genius to succeed in the mains. It's all about how well you can communicate what you know in the little time provided. Writing an effective main answer is a talent that can only be honed through practice.

The optional paper may either make or break your career. As a result, exercise extreme caution while deciding on an optional subject. Choosing an optional should be based on whether or not you have the time and interest to devote to it. Other considerations for an optional course include the availability of suitable advice for the subject, as well as the overall trend in the subject's grades.

Keeping your preparation on track is critical to ensuring that you don't run out of steam. Starting slowly, but consistently, is the most effective way to build up the confidence needed for a last-minute surge. To succeed in this exam, it's more necessary to enjoy the process than to focus just on the outcome. To be able to handle the pressure of taking this exam, aspirants must truly enjoy the preparation procedure. The key to success is to take it one day at a time and relish the experience of learning new things.

It is possible to see how much you have changed as a person while you prepare for the Civil Services examination if you are an applicant. Even though I am wary of making generalisations, every IAS aspirant will experience changes that they could not have anticipated before beginning their preparation for the exam. Is it a little change like getting up early in the morning or a seismic shift like treating life in a whole new way? Ups and downs are the norm during the UPSC exam preparation phase and the exam itself is meant to provide a long flume of experiences. When you begin studying for the UPSC examinations, the method you learn will be very different from how you learned in school and college.

When it comes to preparing for the UPSC exam, you'll be doing more than just reading. Instead, you'll learn to analyse issues in-depth and get a deeper understanding of them. Because your learning process has been changed, you'll find yourself preferring to read about news and topics that are more in-depth from now on. You'll spend more time developing and implementing your strategy when studying for the Civil Services exam. As a result, you'll develop better organisational skills. Preparing for an event might seem like a simple task, yet it can have a profound effect on your life. You'll approach future tasks and assignments with greater efficiency and precision.

Whether you realise it or not, the process of preparing for the Civil Service exams will bring about a lot of beneficial changes in your life. When you become an IAS officer, these changes have a favourable impact on your lifestyle. It doesn't matter if you don't pass the exam. The lessons you've learned along the route will be useful to you in other aspects of your life. At the end, I can say “Do your part and the rest will fall into place”.

About the Author

Dr Sukhpal Singh Gill is an Assistant Professor at School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, Queen Mary University of London, UK. Dr. Gill is serving as an Associate Editor in IET Networks and ETT Wiley Journal.

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  • Very nice article Dr sukhpal Singh gill sir
  • Wonder article, very inspiring for future UPSC aspirants
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