"What does it take to be an IAS Officer?" is one question I have been repeatedly asked by the students with a hint of sparkle in their eyes. Every time I have repeated the same answer, "A lot of grit, obsession for learning and a bit of that sparkle in the eyes." I tell them that Civil Services is not just another job. In fact it is a whole new approach to life. The essence of Civil Services is a deep sense of commitment to public good which requires proper understanding and appreciation of Indian reality with all its weaknesses and strengths. We need to identify with the ethos of our society and its cravings.
The emphasis of UPSC in its selection process is to identify appropriate personality-types and not just people who merely display a certain level of academic excellence. The substance of such a personality is an abiding faith in good governance and belief in a firm social commitment to the concept of fair play and justice. It is thus hoped that the people who wish to join Civil Services would be man and woman of real substance without pretence to shallow scholarship. With the hope & faith that such paragons of virtue are not yet extinct, the UPSC goes about its task of selecting suitable men & women for these services. Candidates appearing at this examination would be facing an examination which in many aspects differs from the university-type exam.
Consequently, the technique of preparation has to be different to suit the matrix of this examination. There is a lot of teaching in our universities but very little learning takes place because of a general air of indifference and intellectual inertia which shows lack of training in focusing the mental potential, on the part of the students as well as teachers. Work for most university examinations can be done at a leisured pace.
But a candidate for the Civil Services Examination does not have so much time at his disposal. Still, apart from vigorous preparation for at least one year, if the candidates keep this examination in view for one more preceding year, they would be on the right path. What one needs is not a bag of tricks or ways of outwitting examiners for success. Instead, one should make it a habit to concentrate on essentials of each theme or topic that is being studied. The approach should be to develop a higher degree of intellectual curiosity in order to acquire a critical understanding of the new concepts and ideas, better and faster.
Taking It Easy
Every student does possess an overload of worries, fears, hopes and anxieties but one must learn to minimize these factors during the preparations and at the time of exam. To be cool is a fashion these days but we are rarely able to achieve that type of mental state since the anxieties still manage to get into our way. So most of the time it is you who is getting into your own way. Thus it is you who will have to clear out of your way. Only when you are calm and collected you can read and think fast. The student should develop through suitable techniques a mental architecture by using which he can easily hold and recall information in a fast and orderly manner.
Survival Of The Fittest
By the way, it should be borne in mind that there is no element of chance in getting through this exam. Remember, success is when preparation meets performance. Further, also remember competition is nothing new to you. Darwin tells us that man is a survivor of many competitions that he had to face early in this career like most other animals or spices. Hence, we are all born with a strong survival instinct and ability to compete well for most of our needs. The situation in Civil Services competition is no different.
The most effective tool that you have got to win in this competition is your brain which is like a sleeping giant. Recent researches in psychology, education, genetics, physics, and mathematics have shown that the potential of your brain is far greater than was generally imagined. Even the earlier statement that on average we use only one per cent of our brains may well be wrong because it now seems that we use even less than one percent - which means that an enormous amount of your mental capability is never used by you. As you very well know today's society is a knowledge driven society. So, your mind is the most important tool in this knowledge-based environment. Hence, mind is man's ultimate weapon and I call upon you to use it with confidence for success in anything that you do.
The author, V P Gupta, is the Director of the well known institute, Rau's IAS Study Circle, New Delhi