By Sri Ravi Kumar, SP at Indian Police Service (2016-present)
Secret 1: Lies, more lies and even more lies:
There is a constant hype being created by coaching institutions and even some selected students that it’s the most difficult exam to crack. Some claim it to be the toughest exam in the world.
An exam where 700 will be selected in a population of 125 cr+ is bound to be a tough nut to crack. But that doesn’t make an exam difficult. The exam is all about hard work, the right selection of books and then leaving things to the grace of almighty. These constant lies make upsc preparation and selection, look far more difficult than it actually is. The lies and more lies are being constantly perpetuated for vested interests. I myself had so much fear of this exam, that in spite of purchasing UPSC books in 1st year of B.tech, didn’t have the courage to start preparation until I saw a senior securing one of the top ranks in UPSC. And, then only could muster the courage to start preparation. All this hysteria, lies and rumour makes preparation difficult for an aspirant. Making students touch the feet of coaching institutions for sermons and ultimate moksha. Reality is, its an exam of perseverance, determination and hard work. If you want to check brilliance consider IIT ranks, they provide much better co-relation between actual brilliance and rank scored. I myself have always been a very mediocre student, throughout life. But, after selection all I can say with certainty, is that with hard work, dedication and the correct choice of books, anyone can make it (with luck in your favour!)
Secret 2: Optional papers are kingmakers:
Optional papers like Pali, Prakrit have given many UPSC toppers. On the other hand, optionals like Public Administration, Geography etc has dejected many. UPSC randomly decides to butcher an optional and then you are absolutely helpless. Ask those who had PA, geography as optional in CSE 2013. Some were given scores as low as 5 / 250 in optional papers. So, you are at the mercy of UPSC, who may decide to butcher you any year and you have no choice but to get slaughtered.
Secret 3: Language paper woes!
Aspirants take it for granted. I too did and failed in Hindi miserably in one of the attempts. 2014 batch CSE, will share stories of mass butchering in language papers. Aspirants were slaughtered en masse. ICSE boys failed in English, me personally who has spoken hindi all life along, failed to score even 14% marks in Hindi. Again, you are at the mercy of UPSC. And language paper can sink your boat too. Don’t take it for granted.
Secret 4: Interview whammy!
Some interview members or even chairman, had/ has/ will have corruption cases pending against them. Won’t be talking any names, but I myself was being questioned by one such board chairman, who had multiple corruption allegations against him. And guess what, questions asked included ethics and integrity too!
Secret 5: Ethics and essay papers:
UPSC itself is a gamble but the even bigger gamble is ethics and essay papers. For an essay question on women empowerment, you may talk about liberal ideals of womeconomics, equality etc and feel like patting yourself. But, in the end, it is the examiner who decides your fate. It’s he who should like your answer, for you to succeed. And maybe, he himself was a victim of domestic violence (hard luck!) and you are gone for good that year. Ethics similarly is a big gamble. Could never understand whether the examiner expects – ideal answers or practical ones. Even now I am clueless! If they want ideal, normative ones, then it’s like a competition to find who can brag the most. And if they expect practical answers, then why this paper has been named ethics, integrity and aptitude. It should be something else like – GS Paper 4: Jugaad Aptitude.
In fact, some of the selected civil servants, who scored exceptionally high in ethics papers, are doing highly unethical work on ground.
Others secrets: Language papers witness slight quid pro quo with neighbors (in certain centers have seen people helping out each other).
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