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The UPSC Civil Services Examination is widely known as ‘the mother of all exams’ & is regarded as a tough nut to crack. It is a much sought-after exam by lakhs of youngsters, since cracking the exam will give them a wonderful opportunity & platform to serve society & be a change agent.

The structure of the exam:

It consists of three successive stages:

  1. Civil Services (Preliminary) Exam (Objective Type) for the selection of candidates for Civil Services (Main) Exam,
  2. Civil Services (Main) Exam (Written) for the selection of candidates for the Personality Test,
  3. Interview/Personality Test for the selection of candidates for the various Services and posts.

The Prelims exam comprises two papers of the objective type with multiple choices: Paper I is based on general studies & Paper II is CSAT (Aptitude Test) & is of qualifying nature only (minimum 33% needed to qualify). Each paper carries a maximum of 200 marks. This exam is meant to act as a screening test only & the marks obtained in it aren’t counted for determining the final order of merit.

The Mains exam consists of nine papers (two of which are of qualifying nature) & account for 1750 marks.

The Interview stage accounts for 275 marks. This brings the grand total to 2025 marks.

Why is the exam considered to be the toughest to crack?

Is it because the content asked is tough? No. It is considered as a ‘Generalist’s’ exam; one needs to have sound knowledge of basics studied from NCERTs during school, a little advanced knowledge that builds upon the basics from standard books & be abreast with current affairs about India & the world through newspapers & magazines.

It is tough to crack it because of the huge competition. The 71st Annual Report released by UPSC states that the number of applicants for the UPSC CSE Prelims(including IFoS(P)) exam in 2020-21 was 10,56,835 & the number of aspirants who appeared was 4,86,952. The number of applications received for it in 2019-20 was 11,54,769 & 5,74,980 appeared that year; out of which only 2302 made it to the interview stage & 922 were finally recommended. Sounds mind-boggling & tough?

Importance of the right strategy & guidance

Does one have to be the most knowledgeable or acquire specialized knowledge to clear the exam? The answer is a resounding no! The UPSC CSE notification states:  “The Main Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates rather than merely the range of their information and memory. The nature and standard of questions in the General Studies papers will be such that a well-educated person will be able to answer them without any specialized study. The questions will be such as to test a candidate’s general awareness of a variety of subjects, which will have relevance for a career in Civil Services. The questions are likely to test the candidate’s basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyze, and take a view on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives, and demands.” Thus, in addition to knowledge, one needs to develop an analytical bent of mind, analyze an issue from multiple dimensions, be curious & cultivate a balanced opinion on issues.

But is this enough? No. The UPSC CSE exam is considered a marathon, not a sprint. One needs to invest a lot of time in it as the exam is conducted only once a year. Thus, what is the most important trait one needs to develop to ace the exam? It is the right attitude. Winston S. Churchill had said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  One must develop a strong mindset to deal with challenges, and face numerous setbacks & failures in the course of preparation, with the realization that it will help them improve in the long run. An aspirant must be open to constructive criticism, be willing to learn from others & be optimistic. Cultivating a winning & resilient attitude will go a long way in helping one succeed. The UPSC CSE notification states that “The Interview is intended to judge the mental caliber of a candidate. Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity.” Thus, one also needs to develop a well-rounded personality to ace the exam. Developing good hobbies and interests will be beneficial to an aspirant.

Pursue your dream with determination

Now that you’ve got a fair idea about the UPSC CSE Exam, do read more about the syllabus, check the PYQs, and see the pioneering initiatives on our website! You may also call us or meet us personally & interact with us and a few others to decide if you wish to pursue this path. Once you decide to give the exam, give it your best & put in sincere efforts.

“There is only one way to bridge the perceived gap between a person and his or her greatest dreams, and that is to begin.” – Richie Norto

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