ABC of Civil Services | Plan according to one's strengths and weaknesses

The Union Public Service Commission on Tuesday declared the results of the civil service examination. But the celebrations will be a bit muted for the winners because of the COVID-19 protocols but all those who cleared the test will be interacting with the public through various online platforms. As various institutes and media houses are hosting webinars now, the participation is from across the globe. From a few recent experiences, I could see that the expatriate Keralites are very enthusiastic to know all about the civil service examination.

The same kind of enthusiasm could be seen among the winners who are eager to share their success stories. Very few may be boastful but most of the people who clear the test are genuinely interested in helping future aspirants by sharing winning tips. They may talk about their journeys, hardships and how they overcame adversities which will surely be an inspiration.


The trouble with these interactions is that some winners may start giving certain general advice to students which they claim to be important. They emphasise that the future aspirants should not make such mistakes. Once, during an interaction, I heard a young IAS officer telling people never to put reading as a hobby in the application form. He explained that the Interview board asked him very tough questions on books and he was not able to tell the answers. So, “prevention is better than cure” logic of not putting reading as a hobby!

The person here was actually not much into reading and he just put it in the form. That is why he found it difficult to answer questions about books. So, the advice he should have given to candidates was “write only those hobbies which you actually pursue ”.

Long time back, I remember a person advising a group of college students to stick to certain particular optional subjects in order to be successful. But this again is a piece of wrong advice as we could see people who took different subjects getting good marks and becoming toppers (the first rankers of the last six years had as many different optional subjects). The advice should have been “whichever optional subject one takes, make sure that there is proper guidance available.”

Sometimes, certain winners make sweeping statements like “the coaching institutes in Kerala are not good”. Many a time, this will be based on assumptions only. So, until someone has specific instances to narrate the good or bad quality of a particular institute does not take such statements seriously.

Another phenomenon I have seen recently is that the winners suddenly getting into the “yes, you can” mode. In order to motivate the students, they say that everyone can become civil servants and the whole process suddenly seem so easy for the one who listens. Some even say that they took just a few months to complete the whole syllabus! While it is essential not to scare off the new entrant, the competitiveness of the civil service examination is a hard reality and a person who wants to write this examination should be fully aware of it. So, the point the winners should make clear here is that “for a person with the right amount of talent and hard work, clearing the examination is possible irrespective of their background “.

The civil service examination does not want you to get minimum marks in a particular paper and same is the case in the personality test. It is the aggregate which matters. Lesser mark in one paper can be compensated in another. So, the candidate has to form a strategy in which one’s strengths are put to full advantage. One needs to listen to the winners in order to understand the winning tips and mistakes committed. After that, every aspirant should form his/her own plan of study considering one’s strengths and weaknesses. Then only success will come your way.

(Remya Roshni, ex-IPS, is a civil service trainer and author of "How to Ace Civil Service Interviews")

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