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  • Writer's pictureATISH MATHUR

The Delhi Dilemma: Should you move to Delhi/remain in Delhi for Civil Service Prep?

There are five groups of students currently pondering over this question:

i. Those who have written Prelims 2020 but are now targeting Prelims 2021

ii. Those who would be writing Prelims 2021 as their first ever attempt and have started preparing this year

iii. Those who would be writing Prelims 2021 as their first ever attempt but have already spent a year or so preparing in Delhi or anywhere else

iv. Those who would be writing Prelims 2022 and beyond as their very first attempt.

v. Those who are writing the Mains 2020

To be absolutely fair, I must disclose that I have been a Faculty at the Vajiram & Ravi, New Delhi for over 8 years and also have been teaching at Unacademy for over 6 months now. I must assure you that I would not instil any preference/bias in my opinion, as I understand, as a teacher, my first and foremost responsibility lies in the well-being and welfare of the student community whether I have taught them or not and irrespective of my work at a leading coaching institute and an online platform. I give you my word that I would not break this very sanctity before I present my opinion of the matter at hand. I will keep my opinion as direct as possible and would not mince my words. Please feel free to show this to your guardians as they may also be important decision makers in this process. You may also directly read about the specific group which you may belong to save some reading time.

Irrespective of you belonging of any of the groups mentioned above, there are always three primary factors that actually play a role making students come to Delhi. These are –

1. Circumstances at home are not conducive. These might include living in a joint family, a relatively unavoidable social circle, some work or daily chores related commitments, or a general atmosphere at home that does not let you study.

2. Finances are not a problem.

3. Lack of self-discipline is a problem and you need to be around peers who are doing the same as you are.

I would discuss each of the groups below. Please keep the factors stated above in mind while reading the specific group related elements mentioned.

Group I and III: Those who have written Prelims 2020 but are now targeting Prelims 2021 and those who would be writing Prelims 2021 as their first ever attempt but have already spent a year or so preparing in Delhi or anywhere else

Quite a few of you in this group would have already attended coaching at some or the other institute. As student at a coaching institute, a sense of regimentation is instilled wherein you are accustomed to a certain route on almost a daily basis. You would be worried if you would be able to carry on like this on your own at your own home without having a lot of people doing the same thing as you. Understandably, when you prepare for the civil services, the truth is that the people in your circle do not quite get what it takes and what one goes through. These are very legitimate considerations, but this exam is an isolation driven exam. This is the harsh reality. You need to be comfortable with yourself and with the fact that you would be spending a lot of time alone with your books. I know it will get tough but sooner or later, you would have you would have to realise that you are your own master.

My recommendation would be that if you really want to come, it would make more sense to do so after the Prelims next year when you can multiple subjective tests for mains in a timed manner with a degree of expert and peer evaluation which would be more beneficial.

Group II: Those who would be writing Prelims 2021 as their first ever attempt and have started preparing this year

Preparing for the civil services is a lot like going to the gym. Most people know that one should exercise regularly and avoid unhealthy food, but most people end up going to the gym anyway. This is called the regimentation factor or even something psychological such as habit building. The civil services exam is an incredible equaliser or sorts wherein students from all walks of like, different levels of being well read, and varying degrees of self-discipline come together and compete for the same spot. Contrary to the enormously high quoted figures of lakhs and lakhs appearing or submitting the form, the actual competition is only with the top 30 percent. This does not mean it is easy as the number of vacancies balances it out. It is mid-October already and from the looks for it, no major institutes are going to open fully and properly before last week of November. This would leave you with 6 months of prep time for Prelims next year.

Keeping all the factors in mind, my recommendation is as follows: Please start preparing by yourself, there is no dearth of guidance and material. You can even order books from any bookseller in Old Rajinder Nagar and start prep with immediate effect. If you feel that you are not able to get a hang of things after a month or so, you can always take professional help from any platform or institute of your liking. Almost all the top ones are as good and as bad as each other, whichever suits your needs the best can your suited choice if you actually end up needing it.

It is my absolute opinion that for someone who is generally well read/likes to read/can sit and study without external push/is punctual and loyal to a schedule he or she makes; there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to move to Delhi right now or even at all. If at all, you may want to come to Delhi after the Prelims to write the Mains tests for better feedback.

Group IV: Those who would be writing Prelims 2022 and beyond as their very first attempt.

There is absolutely no reason for you to be moving to Delhi right now. You can and you should read the basic books, prepare your optional, get into the habit of reading the newspaper and you are good to go. You do not have the pressure to write the exam in 2021 and therefore the risk of moving to Delhi right now given the current circumstances is a mistake. You have the time to work on yourself so as to make yourself slowly comfortable with the long hours and gradually ease into it.

Group V: Those who are writing the Mains 2020

You are honestly in a tough spot. The primary reason it is advised to move to Delhi or any other coaching hub a few months before the Mains is for you to write a limited number of tests. Writing these tests, getting them evaluated, and being a part of a circle who is also appearing the mains does benefit indeed. The problem is that Delhi coaching is shut and such gatherings of students sitting in a room writing tests are prohibited at the time of writing this. The real question then becomes as to whether this can be replicated at home. The fact that you are clearing the Prelims is a testament to the fact that you do not shirk away from hard work so the whole self-discipline argument does not and should not ideally apply to you. Having said that, these 3 months are essentially the most important phase of the examination as it carries the most weightage towards your selection. If you really have to, move now so that you are settled in by the time things are eased and it does not hamper your preparation. If you can do this at time, have video calls or detailed discussions with your evaluators then there is no need for you move at all. Please keep in mind about the venue of your mains while making a decision. I will keep uploading answer scripts of students who have sent in their answers for me to evaluate at after taking permission from them so that you can also develop self-evaluation techniques and tell your evaluators to also evaluate on similar parameters if they are doing a satisfactory job. As mentioned in my previous piece, all you are most welcome to send in any evaluations of any coaching of Papers II, III, IV, and Essay and I am happy to check them for you. As promised and I am reiterating it, none of this chargeable and is completely free of cost.

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