Career in Civil Services: Life is full of opportunities ... here’s one for you!

This is article published in July 2011 issue of Pratiyogita Darpan (English) which talks about the CSE 2010 result and toppers. Besides, it is aimed at new-look Preliminary Examination 2011 related requirements of the candidates.

If career in Civil Services is a passion for you, consider the Civil Services Examination as a medium that can help you materialize your craze.

If you feel you have the fire, you have capacity to match the standard this examination requires and have faith in your abilities that you are capable of achieving success here; then, don’t look at others what they say about this examination.

Passion for perfection

You have desire for the ‘IAS’ title attached to your name, it is you who has to work hard to fulfill your aspirations. Many among 920 candidates who figured in the merit-list came close to realizing the dreams as the much awaited result of Civil Services Examination conducted by Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) was declared on May 11, 2011.

It is another welcome step from UPSC as the results were announced one month prior to the Preliminary Examination. This will give enough time to the candidates who could not find place in merit-list and those who wish to appear again to prepare effectively before Preliminary Examination.

‘Civil Services’: choice of millions

The prestigious and considered to be the toughest examination amongst various examinations conducted in the country attracts a large gamut of candidates across India which is evident from the fact that for Civil Services Examination 2010, a total of 5,47,698 candidates applied for the first stage of examination – Preliminary Examination and out of them 2,69,036 candidates appeared for the examination conducted on May 23, 2010.

After Preliminary Examination result, 12,491 candidates qualified for the Main written examination which was held in October-November, 2010. A total of 2589 candidates were short listed for the Personality Test conducted in March-April, 2011. Out of them, 920 lucky ones figured in the merit-list which include 717 male and 203 female, have been recommended for appointment to the IAS, IFS, IPS and other Central Services.

Look at this year’s topper S Divyadharshini from Chennai, who has produced an inspiring result. It is a fine example for youngsters exploring career progression and achieving ultimate goal step-by-step.

Who would have imagined that a girl, who had just started career with State Bank of India, can achieve such a tough examination that too with top ranks? But, the fire within kept her motivated and today, everyone is looking at her with hope and she is the new role model for the aspiring young Indians.

It was her second attempt and her optional subjects were Law & Public Administration. She has done B.A., B.L.(Hons.) from Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai.

Second spot in the list again has gone to a female candidate, Sweta Mohanty. She had Anthropology and Public Administration as optional. It was her third attempt. Sweta is GRIET, JNTU, Hyderabad alumni and had done B.Tech (Computer Science) from there.

The male candidate to top the examination is R V Varun Kumar who figures at number three in merit-list. He achieved this success in his third attempt. His subjects were Sociology and Public Administration. He has done BDS from Ragas Dental College, Chennai. This is his third attempt.

The Top 25 candidates consist of 20 males and 5 females.

Out of the Top 25 candidates, 8 have made to the merit list in their first attempt, 4 in second attempt, 9 in third attempt, 3 in fourth attempt and 1 in fifth attempt.

The details about top 10 candidates are as follows:


Educational qualification wise the top 25 candidates comprise of 15 candidates belonging to Engineering; 5 candidates belonging to Medical Science background and 5 candidates belonging to Commerce, Management, Humanities, Science & Social Sciences.

Now, the focus shifts to the New-Look Prelims 2011

The Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination is scheduled for June 12. The new-look Prelims have many things which attract a large number of candidates towards the examination. The Prelims has only two compulsory papers that ensure equal opportunity to all, speedy evaluation process and greater transparency in results.

The paper format that appreciate analytical mind, is new and those who understood the requirements and prepared well would perform well.

With the new pattern, UPSC has changed the line which will discourage rot learning and the way papers for Preliminary Examination are designed, the analytical mind would play a decisive role in any candidate’s success.

Topper’s perception about the incoming New-Look Preliminary Examination
As a blink change the life for many in Civil Services Examination, most of the successful candidates who tasted sweetness of success in CSE 2010 were earnestly preparing for the next attempt before knowing their results.

From CSE 2011, the pattern of Preliminary Examination has been changed. The announcement for the new pattern came in October 2010, just before the Main Examination. Those who understand the realities and uncertainty attached with Civil Services Examination continue their efforts and we tried to explore how the toppers were getting ready to face the new-look Preliminary Examination.

Reacting on this, S Divyadharshini (CSE 2010; Rank 1) said that actually the change was on the cards for a while; so, it came as no surprise. “But, I Stood focused on my Main Examination and did not think about the next attempt. Only after the mains examination did I start preparation for the next year prelims as I did not want to take risks with the result” she added.

Ajay Prakash (CSE 2010; Rank 9) puts it straight “since there is no optional subject, now, the burden has been lessened. One has to focus on core areas of General Studies, current affairs and mathematics, so the examination has become easier and better.”

Shiv Sahay Awasthi (CSE 2010; 34th Rank) said that he was almost sure of getting through this time still started preparing for Prelims 2011 and gave more emphasis and focused more on Paper I. This is a forward looking step which is welcome, he added.

In Rahul’s (CSE 2010; 36th Rank) view, this new pattern is a positive development and now this would get rid of scaling in Preliminary Examination. He said “after Mains, I started formulating fresh strategies, but now, with this success, I don’t need to look at these.”

Strategy for Preparation

What different strategy the few of the toppers adopted to prepare for the new-look Preliminary Examination? We tossed this question to Divyadharshini who had the same approach for the Paper 1 which she adopted last year for General studies paper. For aptitude test Paper II, she was making herself ready to face the paper as it would have some surprise elements in it.

Ajay who achieved success in his first attempt looked at Paper II in the incoming pattern as paper that requires lot of common sense more than anything else. “One has to brush up the mathematics portion. Rest of the paper is all about applying common sense under pressure and taking quick decisions.”

New pattern – A welcome step

Voicing her opinion, Divyadharshini said “surely it is a welcome step as it places every one on equal footing.”

Commenting on this, Ajay said “definitely, I fully endorse the new pattern because it lays greater emphasis on quick-decision making, test of skills, honesty, ethical character and aptitude rather than rote learning. This way only good people will come in the system and since it eliminates scaling of marks, there will be total transparency.”

In.Shiv Sahay’s view, the incoming pattern is good for those who prepared well for General Studies but, would be negative for them who just relied on Optional Subjects in Preliminary examination. But, certainly, this should prove to be far better than previous one as an effective evaluation of candidate’s skills would bring in transparency.

Words of encouragement from toppers

Now, the candidates who have achieved top ranks; don’t need to look at the Prelims 2011 but, for those who are to appear in Prelims on June 12, Divydharshini gave last minute suggestion to be confident and ready to face the paper which may hold in few surprises would be the way forward.

Ajay sums it up in two words –“Don’t panic.” This is because the new pattern is easier and it is a myth that only engineering/science students will get through. The Mathematics section will be very basic which anyone would be able to attempt.

Shiv Sahay talks about formulating fresh strategies and honest implementation of the plans. Understand the evolving requirements and move forward confidently. Patience is the key.

Rahul suggests to formulate strategies based on your background and circumstances. Strategies should be made on implementation not on the dream of success in exam.

Main Examination: Look at immediate requirements

This one is for all those ‘optimists’ who have faith in their abilities and think that their performance in Prelims should help them emerge successful in Preliminary Examination.

This year the environment is totally different; the prelims examination pattern is new, the information was limited and the outline of the syllabus given by the UPSC was the only guiding factor.

Although your success at this stage will not contribute at all in your final selection but certainly give you the entry ticket to try your luck here at next level – Main Examination. UPSC expects that all candidates should reach their full individual potential probably that is why this multi-stage selection (Preliminary-Main-Interview) process is adopted.

With so much of advice and guidance available, now most of students prepare for mains well in advance. It could be a Herculean task for many who were not aware of the Mains Examination related requirements and were just concentrating on Preliminary Examination only.

Many candidates who have degrees of competence within and are confident of cracking it despite of all challenges, have already started eyeing preparation for Mains. This attitude really is going to make the difference.

Pick a pair of subjects which lend a hand in your success
This is the first time the candidates are preparing optional subjects for Mains Examination alone. As per the new design, you need to choose 2 optional subjects for Main Examination only.

The list for optional subjects available for Mains is given in the announcement which includes a host of subjects to choose from humanities, science and specialized professional studies.

As the job of Civil Servants requires openness to new ideas, planning, their ability to synthesize and integrate information with clearly understanding prospective and values of the situation, it is important for the recruitment agency  to evaluate these qualities in the future Civil Servants.

Optional Subjects: which one to pick

Those who are availing first attempt in CSE 2011 and just got attracted towards Civil Services Examination recently will have to be more concerned as besides two compulsory papers, preparation of the two optional subjects, General Studies and essay are to be taken care for Mains (written) as the good performance would ensure your progress to next stage of examination as well as you standing in the final merit.

Before zeroing on any particular subject, weigh pros and cons associated with them. Another important factor is to identify subjects/topics/areas where you feel comfortable and where not. You may choose a subject which is perceived to be scoring but is not of your interest. Can you put in an honest attempt with that you decide yourself?

Generally, candidates from humanities background pick one optional which is their own subject during graduation/post-graduation; it has been observed that candidates normally build up their preparation upon previous learning, knowledge and skills.

Trend analysis shows that majority of the candidates from Science stream (including Engineers and Medicos) make a cross domain shift and leaves their own subject to pick any subject from humanities background in Mains examination.

The profile of top 25 in CSE 2010 result resembles the one which used to be in 80’s and in early 90s where majority of the toppers were Engineers and Medicos. This year again 20 out of top 25 are Engineers or Doctors; but, the noticeable difference is that earlier, it was Physics-Mathematics combinations which use to rule; now is replaced by humanities subjects such as Public Administration, Geography and Sociology which help candidates to succeed in big number.

The problem arises when candidate is to decide about the second optional subject. This is one of the most crucial decisions and should be taken after considering a lot of factors.

Surely, for them it is going to be subjects having shorter syllabus that can be managed rapidly, good study material/guidance availability and can be prepared within short span of time and many such optional subjects would figure in wish-list of many new candidates appearing in CSE 2011.

Every year we find many candidates who have both optional subjects which are new to them. But before deciding any particular subject/subjects, be sure about it and take well informed decision.

Candidates from diverse background appear in Civil Services Examination and take different subjects as it is left to you to choose with which set of subjects you want to appear in examination.

At a glance if you see this is an examination where you need to make number of choices at various stages of the examination and those who make the right choices emerge successful.

Optional Subject combinations that help many succeed

Many subject combination are producing spectacular result and the way General Studies score has shown score around 300 marks in CSE 2009 and even in 2010 it is hard to find candidates with 300 marks, the role of optional subjects is on fore.

Look at the past many years’ data relating to performance of optional subjects in Civil Services Examination, you will find that humanities subjects have been ruling this examination.

The magic of a few popular optional subjects is working and the recent results have shown the continued dominance of subjects like Public Administration, Geography, Sociology and History.

Combinations of these along with some other optional subjects like Psychology, Philosophy, Political Science & International Relations, and Literature of Languages have produced excellent results. Anthropology again has impressed and has produced wonderful results that include 2nd rank Sweta Mohanty.

You ought to look beyond a few most-popular optional subjects

When it comes to choosing optional subjects for Main Examination, the scene, today, is strange and paints a very confusing picture.

The recent result of civil Services Examination 2010 has put some strange situation in front of many candidates. There is a definite shift in favour of few popular humanities subjects and that may go on to impact the choices of many new candidates. Public Administration, Geography, Sociology, History are the choice of most of the successful candidates and their craze now is visible.

As a new candidate, should you jump on the bandwagon and go with the majority who pick these optional subjects?

The performance of these subject is beyond doubt and their utility in General Studies/Essay/Interview is proven still, give a cool thought before joining the crowd.

If you see the majority of successes why you forget these are a number of candidates who fail which is multifold of the number of successes you witness with any particular subject.

Every subject is good and produces result and candidates score good marks. Your aim should be to produce extra-ordinary results, for which you have to decide what suits you best and that may not always be what everyone else is doing.

Just see the CSE 2009 overall topper Shah Faesal who opted for Literature of Urdu Language and now, CSE 2010 Rank 1, S Divyadharshini who achieved top ranks with Law as one optional subject.

Have faith in your abilities and can think of keeping one optional which you like or have studied in graduation/post-graduation.

Get a step closer to your dream career

For every aspiring youth with passion, enthusiasm and imagination, Civil Services Examination, as it is known, is the toughest and the most prestigious examination. It ultimately can give a dream career to a very few bright, hard working, sharp and committed youngsters who accept this intellectual challenge.

I have been bringing a lot of insights and exploring the strategies that emerge from experiences of the successful candidates for last more than two decades. This year again, I am out to meet CSE toppers and you can benefit from their experiences which they share. If you have any query relating to the Civil Services Examination, you can always reach me at

Make this great opportunity your biggest challenge

Looking at the recent results of CSE 2010, it has been observed that the optional subjects have played a vital role in many candidates success as the performance in General studies is not so great across the board.

The aim here is not to evaluate the mastery of individual subject but to see how you apply your accumulated knowledge both within and across the topic/subject and your ability to develop the concepts, the clarity of views and informed decision making from complex thinking.

Those striving for an impressive performance in Main Examination which ensures success with good ranks are the one who understand and focus on the examination requirements.

Your actions would certainly reflect in your final results. Keep preparing and make the best use of the time available between Preliminary Examination and Main Examination.

Wishing you all the best!

Last Update Monday 15th August 2011     

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