The civil service examination is characterised by its competitiveness where lakhs of aspirants try to outrun each other. The very process from applying for the preliminary examination to the publishing of final result takes more than a year. Ideally, one needs a full year preparation before the preliminary examination to do justice to all the three stages. Since the gap between the number of vacancies and the applicants is too big, most of the candidates need more than one attempt to clear this. So, one should be ready to invest a few years after graduation to be successful in this examination.
There are people who plan well and crack it in the first go. I still remember a meticulous girl who was attending classes and taking tests regularly soon after her graduation and she made it to the top 100 in the very first attempt. Another batchmate of mine was doing post-graduation but he used to come to the classes on weekend and before the completion of his course, made it to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). I have seen people who wanted to give just one perfect try and they do not want to attempt once more if they fail to make it. But everybody cannot win at the first attempt and one should be mentally ready for setbacks.
Setbacks are normal
Often students who are very high achievers in their academic field will be heartbroken if they fail to clear any stages of examination as they are not used to being rejected. But one should understand that unlike other examinations, here there is no fixed minimum mark for passing the examination. As the entire process is designed like a competition, those who get maximum mark win. Since one will not see all the fellow competitors, it will be difficult to assess the level of competition each year. One should keep in mind the fluid nature of this examination.
The problem is that the parents and well-wishers of the aspirant may not understand these complexities and may start blaming them for lack of dedication. Some parents start comparing their children’s performance to those who made it in the first attempt itself and scold them. There may be plenty of advice from people around not to waste one’s time and get a job soon. The pressure to get married also pile up, particularly on girls after one or two missed attempts. So, it is a tough task to keep oneself motivated throughout the preparation.
How to keep up the spirit during this long process? There are people who get inspired with the news featuring civil servants implementing innovative projects. They imagine themselves in those position and plan things to do once they clear the test. Sometimes, the role models come from movies as we hear people getting inspiration from movies like 'The King' and 'Commissioner'. The Tamil movie 'Kaakha Kaakha' was very popular among aspirants and there are people who have seen it 20 times to keep themselves going! My solace during preparation was songs with inspirational lyrics.
Few years ago, a civil servant came up with a work of fiction where he narrated the story of a person who was not a serious aspirant. The protagonist then witnesses some natural calamities, takes part in relief work and gets inspired. This make him clear the examination in the first attempt. I borrowed this book from a student who appeared in interview and failed to clera it twice. The whole book had inscriptions of self-motivation written by this person like “I can do it”. Though it was a bit funny, I appreciated his attempt to motivate himself and eventually he made it into IAS!
The better way to get motivated is of course, the real success stories of people who fought odds to come through with flying colours. Especially if one has a senior or classmate who made it, it will be a continuous source of inspiration. Anyone to whom one can connect based on similar experiences and background can motivate one. Being in the company of encouraging fellow aspirants is the best way to be positive and get going. Whenever there are setbacks, take a small break and “pick yourself up and dust yourself off and back in the saddle” as mentioned in a popular song. This examination is all for people with endurance who learn from their mistakes and correct the same. So, have a clear assessment of one’s progress and be meticulous. Do not lose heart easily.
(The author is a former IPS officer and a trainer for civil service aspirants)