Monthly Archives: May 2011

Cost analysis of civil services preparation : Is the fees charged by coaching institutes justified

Option one: You study back home

1. General Studies

Books : Rs. 3000 – 4000

Newspapers : Rs. 250 monthly ( Total : 6000 for 2 years; you will anyway subscribe, whether you are preparing or not)

Periodicals : Rs. 650 for frontline (2 years) + Rs.900 for EPW ( one year)

Net connection : 250 per month ( Total : 6000; you will anyway subscribe, whether you are preparing or not)

Total Cost : Around 17000 ( over 2 years )

Total Extra cost : Rs. 6000 maximum (minus newspaper and net )

2. Optionals:

Books: 4-5 books for humanities optionals  ( Mostly Indian Authors). Total cost : Not more than Rs. 3000.

7-8 books for science optionals. Total cost: Not more than Rs. 5000 ( If you are not downloading pirated copies).

Total Extra cost : Rs. 14000 ( Highly liberal estimate and spend over 2 years). Use library, old books or pirated copies and you can bring that down to a few thousand rupess.

Option two : You go to Delhi to attend coaching.

1. Coaching fees :

G.S : Rs, 50,000

Optionals : Rs. 30,000 each

Total : Rs. 1,10,000 (spot payment)

2. Periodicals, newspapers, net for personal use : Rs. 13,000 over 2 years.

3. High rent and cost of living : Around 10k every month.

Total extra Cost : Around 3 Lakhs ( Conservative estimate; multiply with no.of  failed attempts, extra fee for extra coaching etc). And even after paying such huge, exorbitant costs, the quality of teaching ( as i get to know from fellow aspirants) may not always be up to the mark.

Advertisements

Preparing General Studies for civil services

A good base in general knowledge is important for clearing the civil services exam and for the career ahead. As i had mentioned in a previous post, this job requires broad-based people with a good understanding of the things happening around them. As far as the exam is considered, 600 marks in the GS papers + 200 in essay + 300 in interview depends on your general knowledge base. And off late, the second paper in Public administration is more like a GS paper 3. Thus around 1100-1400 marks depends directly on your general knowledge base.

Preparation for general studies is composed of two parts:

  • Conventional topics.
  • General knowledge and current affairs.
Before I go into the books, some general points on preparation and approach:
  • Make notes as you read. It’s impossible to come back to the text books during revision. Notes should be so comprehensive that once you are done, you would not have to take the text-book again.
  • The basic approach should be STUDY-REVISE-IMPROVISE.
  • Dont use guides, standard preparatory material or NCERT text books.
  • Keep on referring to previous years papers to check if you have missed any topic.
  • Prepare for the subjective papers ( i.e mains). Note down extra facts for the prelims as you make descriptive notes. Prelims is just a necessary evil.

Conventional Topics:

It is composed of:

1. Indian History :

Pre-modern history (before Europeans) has lost significance. Last year no questions were asked in mains. Besides, it is too bulky and is not worth the effort. One need to have a good understanding of the National movement(1800s-1947).

One also need to study about the expansion and the decline of the other Europeans, the expansion of British empire and the administrative development in India during the British period ( 1650-1857). Try to get some book on Indian History from the library to make short notes. Brief notes will do for this section.

2. Geography:

Use NCERT books only for geography. Non- geography optional students don’t have to go in-depth. Read

  • Indian Geography ( NCERT class XI)
  • Fundamentals of physical geography (NCERT class XI)

Google and make notes on unfamiliar terms you may come across in the newspapers.

3. Indian Constitution:

Any good book on the constitution is fine. ‘Introduction to the constitution of India‘  by D.D. Basu is the book that i used. Read it also cover to cover.

4. Indian Economy:

One needs to know about some basic terms of economics like repo rate, reverse repo, CRR, SLR etc. These are needed for understanding articles in newspapers also. Just google them when you come across then in the papers and keep a separate note-book. Read one good book on Indian economy. I used Indian economy  by Dutt & Sundaram. The book by Uma Kapila is also a good one. In both of these books, each chapter deals with an issue. So make notes keeping in mind the requirements of a 20-30 marker. Download the latest Economic Survey of India and update the stats as you make notes. Also leave some space after each chapter to add new info from newspapers as and when they come.

Also read Chapter 1 and the chapter explaining about the government’s poverty alleviation schemes ( chapter 11 in 2010 survey). Follow the budget. Read some business newspapers at that time and also read the summary of the budget which will be posted in the net.

5. Government policies and programmes:

Make notes on the policies that you come across in the newspapers. But this will not be exhaustive. Use India yearbook published by the Publications division for an exhaustive approach. It’s a huge book with a lot of unnecessary facts and details which should be skipped. Just make short notes on the various programmes ministry-wise. Anay dwivedi ( AIR-5, cse 2009) has this to say about reading the Year book :

If you already read the IYB for prelims, just go through what you underlined and revise your notes. But if you did not, then apart from the GOVERNMENT SCHEMES and agricultural data, read the following chapters from IYB 2010:

Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11 (NCES only), 13 (terms like FIPB, FCCB, ECB, ADR/GDR, FDI, etc), 18, 24, 25 and 28.

Note: I have not specified chapters 16, 17, etc as I have assumed that you must have covered all the government schemes such as NRHM, JNNURM, etc irrespective of where they are given in the book.

In Mains 2009 many questions could be answered on the basis of information provided in the IYB, e.g. significance of coastal regions, UMPPs, BSUP, fruit production in India and NNRMS.

6. Science and Technology:

Use wikipedia extensively for this. Find out about new topics as you come across them in the S&T page of The Hindu. Also, make short notes on emerging technologies and recent nobel winning technologies from these pages

Exhaustive preparation on these topics can be very hard. Try to cover as much ground as possible and hope for the best. When writing answers, try to point out the applications rather than elaborating on the technological part.

General knowledge and current affairs:

This is where you have to use newspapers and current affairs magazines. This is perhaps the most important part because if you see the 2010 GS paper, questions are asked about the Palestine crisis, Sudan civil war, Cambodia, CWG etc. I recommend The Hindu and Frontilne. The Hindu has less unwanted news and has a balanced perspective on issues and is pro people. You shouldn’t be an ultra leftist or a right-wing hawk when writing the answers. The editorials and Op-eds present a very balanced picture on issues.

When reading newspapers, go beyond the issue. Use the newspaper as a guide to broaden your GK. So when you come across something you don’t know in the newspaper, google it up and make a comprehensive note on the topic.For eg, if the news item is “Pakistan Prez visits India”, I will google about India-Pak relations and make notes on it with a historical perspective and also leave some space to update future news. If the news is ‘ Jacques Diouf assumes charge as head of FAO’ , I will make notes on FAO and other UN organisations from Wikipedia. The advantage of using wiki is that when you read about one topic, you can move to other topics by clicking on the ‘Related’ links. Follow the references in wiki if you want to go deeper or confirm something.

I had kept two separate category of notebooks. One for noting down the events, date wise and the other for noting down the issues after researching in the net. The advantage of keeping the second type of notebook on issues is that when you revise you will have a complete picture under each heading, i.e, the historical perspective + all the events in the last 2 years. This should be done on a daily basis without any gap until the interview is over. You will need 2-2.5 hours daily for this initially. You can bring down the time as you progress with your prepsReading topics of Indian economy and op-eds from any one of the business newspapers will also help. I used Business line. I had also subscribed EPW after my prelims and read articles selectively.

Extra Reading

Also make notes on topics that you come across in previous years papers from wiki and net.

Note:

  • Just exploit the internet. You have all the information you need at your fingertips. The coaching institutes and magazines also make their notes using the information available in the net. Why take secondary info at exorbitant costs when you can get the primary info and the whole picture free of cost.
  • There is not strict boundary between conventional topics and GK. You should update your notebooks with new info as and when you come across them in the papers.


 
 
 
 

To be or not to be : Choosing civil services as a career

A career in the Indian civil services is still one of the most coveted job in the nation. The number of applicants for the 900 odd posts every year is increasing exponentially. Just about 6 lakh applied for the 965 notified vacancies for CSE 2010. After a one year gruelling process, the UPSC recommended 920 for appointment.  Of which only those who end up in the first 100 will get the coveted IAS/IFS and the remaining may end up appearing for at least one more attempt!! And even after getting through, you work under severe constraints. IAS and IPS officers works directly under the supervision of elected representatives. Their decisions are to be guided by political sensibilities as well as real-time requirements. Added to all this, there is no fixed tenure at any of the posts. The not so favoured among the officers may end up getting 3 or 4 transfers every year.

So one should be very sure about the requirements of this examination and well as the requirements of this service before deciding . Given the competitiveness of exam, there is no other way other than full-time preparation. One need to start 7-8 months before the prelims and the exam process takes one whole year. Thus atleast two years need to be completely devoted towards the preparation. While we hear about the inspirational stories of the toppers and the successful civil servants, what is lost out in the noise is the failure of tens of thousands of aspirants and the intense dissatisfaction with which many officers continue in service.

So I request the would be aspirants to spent some time contemplating on these:

  • Know about the services. Talk to serving and retired bureaucrats. Read memoirs or articles. There is more to the services than Lal bathi and huge bungalows. Be sure that you will fit into the service.
  • Know about the requirements of the exam. Make a realistic assessment of the efforts that need to be put in. People don’t start as equals as far as this exam is considered. People with a good general knowledge base, opinions and ability to express their views definitely stand at an advantage over others.
  • Make a rational self assessment. Dont do it based on your past laurels and achievements as this exam is not testing intelligence as defined in the conventional sense. Its looking for broad-based individuals with opinions.
Thus be very sure before taking the plunge. But once you have made the choice, there should be no looking back. You will face failure, pass through highly depressing stages, doubt your ability to make through, may have to start from square one after reaching upto the last stage….Thus is it a test of your mental strengths as much as it is of your intellectual abilities. The whole process of preparation and exam is a life changing one, whether you come out successful or unsuccessful. You get to read and learn about things that you would not have done otherwise. There is nothing other than knowledge that makes you feel more humble by the virtue of having more. I feel much more closer to my family, my close relatives and my friends than ever before. Think and discuss before starting. All the best for the aspirants.
@Aspirants.I will be writing about my experiences and strategies for each of the subjects in this page. Please refrain from sending me messages and friend requests in facebook. I think it is not the right platform and I also prefer to keep it personal. Please follow this blog and post comments if you want to clear any doubts. As someone who found it hard to get proper guidance in the beginning, I am only happy to help. But please use this blog as the platform.

I am not yet into the service but…

Technically, I am not an IAS officer yet. I have only been recommended by the UPSC for appointment into the IAS. The Government of India has to send me an offer of appointment before I am formally inducted into the IAS. 9 months of Preliminary training awaits me before I get my first field posting as Asst. Collector (Under Training). But I was shocked to know that bribing doesnt always wait for all these formalities to end to reveal itself. Was also surprised to know the subtle forms in which it comes. Yes you have been misguided. Villains dont walk into your office with a huge suitcases loaded with cash. Bribing, small or large has its own subtle forms. I recently received a phone call from a popular civil services magazine which i didnt use and i strongly disapprove from the examination perspective. This was how it went:

Rep: We would like to take your interview for our xyz magazine.

Me : Ok. But i cannot endorse your magazine as i havent used it.

Rep : Thats ok. Its a questionnaire. Plus we are also giving you a cash award for your achievement( I later got to know from another source that the amount works out to be 5000 rupees).

Why the hell should they give me a cash award?? Every year people top the exam. I havent even used their magazine. The catch is in the questionnaire that we are asked to fill. “Apart from our magazine …… what else did you read?”, “How long have you been reading xyz magazine” were some of the questions to name a few. They also change some of our answers to suit their ends too. In the end, the interview would turn out to be an open endorsement of the magazine by us and the so called ‘cash award’ a payment for that!!

Thanks to Supreet singh IAS who had blogged about this here, i could call their bluff. Still i couldnt give him a firm ‘No’ when he called and said “I will call back in an hour”. I called back some 20 minutes later and said I would neither endorse their magazine by appearing in the interview nor accept any monetary reward from them.

He has rightly titled the post as ‘…Warning to the future toppers…’ But many in the rank list may be either too naive to know or may find it ok due to the prospect of reaching out and inspiring more people. By the time it is discovered that the interviews have been distorted and we have been made to endorse their product, it will be too late. And also the  ‘cash award’ will ensure that they dont create any problems afterwards.

It seems the training for being an upright civil servant begins even before you reach Mussourie. Firm ‘No’s’ to such invitations, felicitation events organised by shady individuals is only the beginning of a very long journey.

My CSE marks

This was how it turned out for me. My correct attempt was 555 in physics (280 + 275), 580 in PubAd (280 + 300), 490 in GS (240 + 250). Expected more in GS 2. But it seems that most of the candidates got lower marks than what they had expected.