With all the hype and popularity associated with the Civil Service Examinations, most of you are keen on understanding it a bit more. The simple reason for this being that it prepares you better if you have thorough knowledge of it. The Civil Services Exam is conducted every year by the UPSC to recruit people from across India in various Civil Services jobs available with the Government of India.

This is an article I wrote for a Career Magazine by Grey Matter Publications. Since the entire post was too long, I have shared it in parts for the convenience of readers.  

Let’s take a look at many other parameters and motivational factors associated with these exams:



(i) AptitudeAre You Meant for this Career Choice?

Not everyone can think to take up this career option because this is indeed a tough nut to crack. To succeed at the UPSC Examination you need to have a will of steel, capacity to work harder than anyone else, and have a consistently brilliant academic record throughout your career. This is why it is very important that you identify aptitude tests that would spell out whether or not this is a good career option for you. Of course, you could also consult and take the help of the Career Counseling Center in your college.

The best point to start would be with the CSAT past papers for these are designed as an elimination and hence, the best to judge your preparedness levels and aptitude.

It is equally important to identify psychometric tests that would indicate your areas of strength and whether you are indeed best equipped to follow such a career option. For a starting point check out Psychometric Success –; there are many free resources that will help you assess your skills.

(ii) AcademicsIs Your Academic Background Strong Enough? Where are you lacking?

(1) What the engineering student should do to prepare for UPSC Exams.

You have four years to prepare for the exam. Ensure that you are making the best of this time. You need to devote equal time to the three components of the exam – prelims, main exam and the interview.

Ask help from your engineering college management. Most engineering colleges will be very happy to provide you all the tools you need to prepare, provided you are showing keen interest and you are academically qualified for this exam. Train right from the very beginning with or without help from your college:

- Collect the required books [see lists mentioned below]

- You need to prepare at least for ONE year before appearing for the exam; you have FOUR in hand – use your time wisely.

- Go through the past 5 years exam papers and test your preparedness; be your worst critique

- Develop a timetable and stick to it diligently; remember – you cannot get much out of your day if you are not ruthlessly organized.

- Focus on high scoring areas of CSAT such as Maps, Current Affairs, English Comprehension, etc. Keep in mind that this exam is an elimination test.

- Keep testing yourself to check what your weakest point is. Prepare carefully in those areas.

- Enlist to online IAS coaching centers that can offer you guidance without you leaving your college; you need to do well in your engineering degree papers as well so do not neglect one for the other.

- Check out this these two resources for further help and inspiration – and


(i) Mind-set Change – Parents/ Teachers/ Students

This is an ambition that requires a changed mind-set. Motivation by teachers/ guides plays an important role in making the students consider this as a career option. Most engineering students chose engineering line of study for two reasons, i.e. (i) parents insistence as a great career choice, (ii) own interest, i.e. loves engineering. You need to believe that you can and should be willing to prepare very hard simultaneously with studying for your engineering course, which cannot be neglected. The plus point here is that you are using the 4 years of engineering school to prepare for the IAS and other UPSC exams, which will give you an excellent edge over other graduates. Besides, you could also use engineering subjects as your subject for the mains.

If you are a student who has joined engineering colleges on parents’ say- the UPSC exams would offer you a way such that you can have the cake and eat it, too. In this case, you would complete the engineering degree (and please your parents), yet choose a profession that is quite different with their blessings.

It would not be so difficult to convince your parents to approve and help you train for the UPSC Exams – provided you could make them believe that your engineering studies would not suffer. The best way to do this is by highlighting the benefits and satisfaction that such ranks offer on a regular basis. In most cases, your parents would feel very proud of you – that you have thought about training to crack the UPSC Exams.

If you are among the students who have chosen to join engineering colleges because you love engineering, you will need to read and educate yourself about the excellent combination of engineering-UPSC Exams. As a part of Indian Administrative Service you would be able to literally change the course of the country. The combination of the engineering degree and the authority vested through these services can empower you to contribute substantially to the growth of the country.

(ii) Motivational talks by topper IAS/ IPS/ IFS officers

Nothing can be more convincing and motivating than meeting with those who have newly joined the cadre through similar circumstances. Request your college to invite such young and newly recruited officers to give motivational talks in your college.

Most engineering students do not believe that it is possible for them to “crack the UPSC exams” because this is one exam that is considered one of the toughest in the world – with a success rate of only 0.1%.

However, when you see, speak and interact with people who did succeed, you start believing you can too. For many engineering students these encounters become the beginning of a challenge to excel and succeed. Hence, even if you do not “crack the UPSC exam” they still end up as winners in their field.

(ii) Job shadowing a bureaucrat – Collector/ Commissioner-cum-Secretary/

Another very effective method to feed your motivation is through job-shadowing a young, newly recruited bureaucrat. This (job-shadowing) is relatively a new concept in India, but it is very slowly and steadily catching up. It involves spending some days/ months (not necessarily on full time basis) as a silent observer while the officer goes through his day. In this way you can get a feel of what the job entails and how it feels to work in this position.

Most young IAS officers welcome this trend; however, the detrimental factor is often the Government protocol through which permission needs to be accorded for this to happen. All said and done, this method is among the most effective in keeping your motivation high to take up preparations for this career option.


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