Among the many questions that plague the IAS aspirants during the preparation phase, a common one is related to the candidate’s background. Many IAS aspirants often suffer from dilemma about their academic background and how will it impact their performance in the final examination. Some aspirants even opt for different optional subjects for the civil services examination, often depending upon ongoing trends, to assist them in cracking the exam.
If we look at interviews of top IAS rankers from past few years, they have all suggested that their background had hardly any impact upon the preparation process as well as the end result. On the other end of the spectrum, many have also reported facing several problems in cracking the CSAT exam due to their academic background. Such conflicting opinions among IAS toppers have further compounded the problem for the aspirants, who still do not have any clear answer for this question.
If we look at the existing two-tier format of the civil services exam, it appears to be completely fair and non-biased towards any one academic field or background. Availability of different optional subjective papers, the option of attempting the papers in either English or Hindi medium and prime focus upon general awareness and studies papers proves the subject neutral nature of the IAS examination. Despite the subject neutral nature of the civil services examination, it does pose a different set of challenges for candidates from different backgrounds. We shall discuss the main among them below:
With the introduction of CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) as part of the IAS prelims examination, aspirants from social sciences background have started facing the challenge of tackling questions related to aptitude. Many have also complained that the CSAT Paper II syllabus has been drafted on the lines of management entrance examinations and, therefore, favours students from mathematical and physical science backgrounds. The common topics from CSAT-II Paper which have proven to be problematic for students from humanities background are:
ü Logical Reasoning & Analytical Ability
ü Basic Numeracy & Data Interpretation, which includes number relations, charts, graphs, data sufficiency and other similar topics
ü Decision making and problem-solving
Students from mathematical backgrounds and foundational understanding of physical sciences have a clear advantage in tackling questions from the aforementioned topics.
The problem of CSAT examination format favouring English medium aspirants has been raised several times by aspirants from Hindi background many a times. The main culprit again has been the CSAT Paper II, which includes a topic of English Language Comprehension Skills. Questions from this topic include passages from English language only without any provision of Hindi translation thereof in the question paper. Although, the questions asked in this section flow from Class X level comprehension skills, but it on principle, it still puts Hindi medium students at a disadvantage.
When it comes to IAS Main Exam, the language challenge faced by aspirants from both English as well as Hindi background is equal. The examination pattern of civil services main test is designed in a format, wherein Paper 1 is compulsory qualifying paper on Indian Languages and Paper II is compulsory qualifying paper on the English language. Aspirants from an academic background in English face problems in Paper 1, whereas candidates from Hindi backgrounds face severe problems in dealing with Paper II.
This problem is faced by aspirants from science background who opt for a subject from social sciences as their optional paper (Paper VIII & IX). The first and foremost challenge for such candidates is to devise a preparation plan that not only helps them lay a foundation of the subject but also helps them in developing deeper conceptual understanding about different topics. Despite all the hard-work and dedication, aspirants from science backgrounds are unable to develop familiar foundation and grasp over subjects from humanities section. This plays a very important role during the Main examination, in which the answers need to have a specific perspective along with short & crisp write-up as well as augmentation with data and facts; inability to do so results into low scores for the candidates.
These are the three biggest challenges that candidate’s from different backgrounds face during the preparation for IAS examination. If you have faced any other similar challenges due to academic background, please let us know through your comments below.