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.

Posted on May 26, 2011, in Civil services, from my life, Indian Administrative Service, just my thoughts, Social and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Hey, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Looking forward to the strategies. Best

  2. shashank anand mishra

    hi Gokul,
    Really nice line of thoughts. Will you please elaborate on Public Administration preparation (books, etc) Also I believe due to the changed pattern many engineers would give a thought about writing CSAT, so what should their strategies be specially since I could not find any online help for Mechanical Engineering topics and strategies. More than that I was surprised to see that even in the book stores there was lack of Engineering preparatory material, guides, etc. So it would be nice if you could guide a little on that. take Care!!!

    • Prep guides and other materials are useless. Only standard books should be relied on. More so for science optionals!! and yes with csat, more engg. people will apply. But prelims is only a necessary evil. The real test is the mains.

      I shouldnt give a prelims unless he is somewhat sure of giving a good shot at the mains

      • thanks buddy.bahut saare blogs hai. aap se request hai ki aap sirf ek subject par concentrate kariye. itne sare subjects ek admi kaise guide kar payenge. so please concentrate karna physics par kyonki aap ko physics mein bahut marks mile hein.


      • I will write about my experiences with physics. But supreet singh’s posts on physics is a gem. check it out

  3. not so favoured among the officers may end up getting 3 or 4 transfers every year.

    Or getting no transfers at all. Sanjiv Bhatt (IPS) spent almost 14 out of his 20 years of service as Principle of Junagar Police Training academy, Gujarat.

  4. Abin Thomas

    Thanks brother.
    Sure you will come up with your strategies.

  5. It is really a great and useful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Makrand Kumar

    my quarry is related to current affairs…i found out mere reading Hindu doesn’t help..i want to know what to do afterward..means how to collect and categories the news(according to country, institution, issues..on that terms..),weeding out local news, revision(how often?) and making notes(how? and what?); how to study from previous years paper..any other sources like TOI, dd news, AIR, Asia times etc etc..a bit elaborated explanation is required. if you can include these points in current affair preparation post… it will be of immense help..cheers!!

  7. sir thanks for the blog. let me introduce myself. am a student of St Francis Hyderabad. I have come to Delhi last year. i read a lot.

    Sir, i have benefited from talking to toppers like Aditi Singh from Lady Sriram College of Delhi and Ravi Dhavan of SRCC Delhi. Sir yesterday, i had the golden opportunity of meeting more toppers in a seminar. it inspired me.

    They have told me go through good books.and all the rest that every one else talks of .

    Sir, i feel thisis the toughest examination in the world. it can be simplified by some genuine teachers. one topper told me that there are very few teachers like sriram sir, upendra sir, mukul sir who can make topers out of the uninitiated while the majority mar the chances of even the bright people.

    I thnaks you sir for ur effort .

    • Theek Chamundi. good guidance puts u at a great advantage. how else are the toppers making it so comfortably. Mr.Gokul is different.

      the other day four of us were studying in sriram’s class room. a remarkable lady walked in-Shuchita from JNU, Delhi. she got a big rank.she brought sweets. sriram sir gave us almost al the sweets.very sweet of him . it strengthened our resolve to follow in her footsteps.

      I hope this blog will help us additionally.

  8. Ankur Yadav

    Really nice to see the toppers passing on the baton of knowledge year after year. Great work sir.

  9. First of all congratulation.
    I am preparing for upsc since last 6 months and i am doing only general studies right my 1st question is that should i give the exam next year(2012)or not? and my other question is how much time shoul i give for optional subject(geography) and when should i start preparing for it after prelim or right now?
    Thanx please reply me.

    • 1. Finish off the entire syllabus of GS and optionals by the time the prelims results come ( i.e by august first)

      2. Dont give the prelims unless you are sure to do this. I have no idea about the time needed for geo as mine was pubad

  10. 1 question to u gokul i hope u would reply. can a honest civil servent survive in this corrupt politicians most of the ias are corrupt willingly or unwillingly they do surrender to their political masters. indian burecracy is rated as worst in asia. Read more in :” The Times of India Survey – Indian bureaucracy ranked worst in Asia”. an honest ias is just a toothless tiger.
    “Should we not abolish the IAS? How long can we depend on them to frame the policy of the country. Greedy people, always looking at what post to grab.” By Father of White Revolution of India Dr. Verghese Kurien.

    can u tell me how can ias do good to people.

    • If you abolish IAS, some other service will take its position. What we need is reforms in our bureaucracy. 2nd ARC has given strong recommendations in this regard. I believe that only a small fraction of civil servants are dishonest. Politicians appoint them in vital positions whenever they want to get something done against procedure.

      A single IAS officer cant herald a revolution and end corruption. But he can do his job honestly and make sure that programs reach the people they are intended to reach. This is want i hope to do once in service.

      This was one of the issues that concerned me when i was thinking about going for the services or not. Then i thought i would rather enter the system and try my best than spend my whole life criticizing the same system from outside.

  11. well said gokul,i hope u will not give up to corruption irresepective of any circumstances, people like u are required in our system,best of luck to u and u r doing a gr8 job by guiding fellow aspirants.

  12. Congrats Gokul. for your splendid sucess…Please explain the strategies to study PubAd


  13. Hi Gokul,

    How to study general science for GS?
    How much time will it take to complete Pub Ad course of MAINS…if i gives 3 hrs daily to pub ad…..
    My maths is not so good, till wht level i should be aware of mathematics?

    • Time taken to complete a syllabus is highly subjective. But i can tell you 2 things: PubAd has the shortest syllabus and you will have to put in a minimum of 1.5 years of concerted effort to get through.
      You need a fairly good math skills to do the aptitude paper of prelims. Besides some stats knowledge to do the stats part of GS mains. You can do those by practice

  14. durig preparation i cannot understand,where mistake took place.i gave exams bt failed repetly two.what i have to do.plz suugest me

  15. lalit kumar bhardwaj

    hello sir
    Thanks a lot for providing insights into the subject.I am in my final year and i intend to finish public adm in one semester(with daily input of 5-6 hours).is it feasible?Should i go for correspondence or refer the standard books?Do we have to always write answers in indian perspective?
    thank you…

  16. Thank you for sharing your experiences and tips. Going through your blog has been a big help concerning my decision to prepare for the civil services exams. I have, more or less, a clear cut vision about the required effort and am willing to give it my all. There is a bit of confusion regarding the csat paper though. How should I go about it?

    I am, at present, in my 2nd year of English Honours. Frankly speaking, rather asking, will it be of any help with the exam?

    • No specific advantage unless you are taking lit. of english as an optional….any basic book on aptitude will be enough for the conventional part in csat

  17. determined aspirant

    hello sir
    congrats..ur name in nitc website is inspiring..
    i bought indian economy by dutt and it enough for economics? its a huge books and i am terrified by the amount of data it has…everything need to be swallowed?micro and mini economic concepts shud be studied? i found many books on indian constitution by DD Basu.which is the best book? i brought introduction to indian constitution.which book did you use? In nit c library there is another big book by Shukla for the same topic…shud i take postal course? you told about ARC,BPC,IGNOU…i have never heard of these…is it available in tbs book store? did you buy other books from said that we should use recent events in answering question..for 2012 attempt something which happened in 2007 can be used?what if the examiner doesn’t know what i have mentioned?will he think it as a bluff or give marks?flowery language shud be used?as u can see i am scared like hell..for the past two months i am doing nothing but collecting books..i have got study material from rao..the sheer number of books is shocking..but i am determined to go to any length..if possible please mention the time required to complete a books..i can complete a major ncert(only concepts) in one night,,so my thinking is to complete 300 page books in 2 weeks and then spending 4-5 weeks relating and applying concepts..its difficult task..but i am not sure if i am on right track..from my 1 month experience i found that its very easy to lose track and even if a single day gets i know its crazy thought but i need to gauge myself by taking ur time as standard time…i want to get in top 10..i went through the marks of previous toppers.most of them are getting ard 60% in each test..can we cross 400 barrier in pubad?? does the examiner check with mindset of awarding total marks not more than 60%? general studies looks scoring…for essay things are uncertain..sorry for grammatical mistakes…quite late for lab..
    thanking you 🙂
    all the best for lbsnaa..

    • Hi lalit
      I think i have answered most of ur qns in my previous posts….Please go through those…

      Everyone wants to be in the top 10…infact every serious aspirant dreams to be the topper!!!Dont bother about all those now… Do your work steadily

  18. sir i m student of electronics and communication engineering i m in 3rd year nw
    i decided my aim to become an ias/ips……i m gng to do hardwork at any peak i wnt to knw tht
    i choose tht subjects history,geography and political science i wnt to knw tht which optional language i hv to choose which is easy u knw this very well tht which language is easy..
    i wnt to knw tht site from which i got the preparation material for upsc……
    from where i hv to do preparation according to my subjects which i choose..

    i apolozies for any mistake in this text and pls give answer to m as soon as possible……

    my id is

  19. Dear Sir,

    Can you please elaborate more on the nature of work of an IAS and IRS officer? I would like to know more about the transfers.
    How will the personal life be affected because of the job? Do we have to work 24 hours a day and 7 days a week or is it going to be more professional (like 9 hours a day and 5 days a week).
    I am not concerned about any salary. I want to get into services, but what is pulling me back is whether my personal life would be affected. I am a married woman, a software engineer. I have appeared for 2011 prelims and cleared it. I am making effort to clear mains, but I was thinking is it worth the effort? Will I be able to spend sufficient time with my family after entering services?

    • IRS is a domain specific job…You specialise on I-T and spend your life on it….Unless on enforcement duties, the job is essentially a 10-5 one….

      IAS is more general…You can be given any assignment…During your field postings (for the first 9-10 years), teh job is 24X7…after that, it depends on your assignments…

  20. Hello sir,

    What you said about knowing the services really made me thinking. All i know is that they look after administration, formulate policies, supervise, etc..

    As i hardly know anyone in that line and the work is of low profile, can u throw some light on the system and the opportunities it offers for those who want to serve the society…for aspirants like me, this could be motivating…

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