The UPSC Civil Services Exam is considered the toughest and one of the most prestigious exams to crack in India. I often meet up with students who are inhibited about studying for Civil Services as they feel that they are not a brilliant student. Now, thinking this from the perspective of UPSC… They conduct the examination for filling key posts in the Government-civil servants, police officers, income tax officers etc. These posts are very much critical for the development of India. Hence, UPSC knows that it’s not intelligence that they should primarily focus on. UPSC is looking for a person who has integrity, ethics, and passion for the development of India. These are the qualities that one must possess first.
The syllabus that UPSC provides for the Civil Service Exam shows that the topics that are asked are very general and not advanced. The texts that are suggested are NCERTs which are used in school level education. Hence, UPSC is looking for aspirants who are aware of what is happening around them and are knowledgeable about various topics. The knowledge that UPSC expects from an aspirant is just the basics of everything. Hence, ANYONE can crack the Civil Services Exam since the questions are not expert level hard nor the syllabus too challenging.
Why the myth that considerable intelligence is needed?
- This myth is because the number of vacancies is less when compared to the number of applicants. Hence, the competition is high, and you have to be thorough in your basics, and your answers must be to the point. When there is an extensive syllabus and less time to prepare, aspirants tend to leave some portions. This results in gaps in their preparation. Moreover, sometimes, aspirants try to study everything without analysing the exam itself. Hence, students feel that they are not able to finish the syllabus while toppers somehow can. In reality, some topics are more often asked than others. The toppers prioritise and study these topics, and hence they get more marks. When the aspirant does not do the required background study, the syllabus will never seem to end, marks earned will be less and the exam appears like it is crack-able only to highly intelligent ones.
- Another reason why some aspirants feel that they are not getting enough marks, especially in Mains is due to the way they present their answers. A typical mains answer has to be precise and must be having relevant points that are associated with the question asked. This has to be corroborated with facts, figures, reports etc. This gives value addition to the answer presented, and when an aspirant tries to provide an answer that is shallow, the marks awarded get reduced.
- Most aspirants fear looking at the previous years’ question papers. This is the single biggest reason why many consider the Civil Services Exam challenging. When you fail to find the pattern, any exam can be overwhelming. Especially for Prelims, where the syllabus is extensive, you have to find the pattern and study accordingly. Since the maximum number of eliminations happen in Prelims, you have to focus on it adequately. Without referring to the previous years’ question papers and then finding the pattern of questions and armouring yourself with multiple revisions, the exam would remain challenging for anyone. I have seen many aspirants who are graduates from India’s top colleges who haven’t been able to clear this exam. Yet, there are countless instances where aspirants who are from regular colleges have cleared this exam. Even for the Interview, the board does not assess your knowledge, but your personality. The UPSC notification explicitly mentions that the Interview is not for evaluating the knowledge (which has already been assessed in the Mains). A strong character is what you build over the years. Keep continuing to work on it.
Even after giving all these reasons not to doubt yourself, you might still be confused about one thing- “Those with high IQ have always been toppers in schools/colleges, then what is stopping them from clearing this exam? I have never topped in my schooling/college. How will I clear this exam?”. This specific question has been asked to me by many aspirants. The answer is straightforward- UPSC does not ask extremely complicated questions that require high IQ. Anyone can answer the type of questions that are asked. This creates a level playing field amongst aspirants. If the questions are simple enough and require basic knowledge and common sense, how can someone with high IQ overtake you? Continue working on your dream to become a civil servant. Always have the perseverance to keep fighting until you achieve it. I never had a high IQ, nor did I collect many trophies in school. But eventually, I became an IAS officer. If I could do it, what could possibly be stopping you?