Do’s & Dont’s for Civil Services

What are the do’s and don’ts for students who are preparing for a competitive exam?

UPSC Civil Services is qualified by people who have a specific type of mindset, an attitude and some qualities and traits that allows them to handle certain difficult situations easily.

Remember UPSC takes only those people who can administer. Who can manage things, who can get their work done, Who can be made to learn anything, who can be taught, who can be moulded, who can be trained to be adapted to situations and not those who think they know everything, and not those who can’t be moulded, not those who are not flexible, not those who are not malleable, not those who are always bickering over problems, not those whose thinking is constricted, not those who create more problems than they solve like the numerous IAS officers at present.


A. Traits which the aspirants must develop to be in IAS.

There are two types of aspirants- one who think who are preparing for the sake of preparing, and the other who are preparing because they want to qualify. There are hosts of differences between both of them in terms of their personality, academic traits and attitudinal traits.

Thus the whole article will be divided into two sections- Traits of Students who want to prepare and want to imitate preparation and mimic it without actually going for preparation to qualify for examination, and second, traits of students who really want to come to the level of UPSC requirement by elevating them or by reforming them, or even by changing them.

Traits NOT required to be an IAS aspirant

Traits of Aspirants who appear to be in race or they ‘also run’

  1. Herd mentality. This means behaving like masses, like a crowd who doesn’t think much or at all. Such students do not have a personality of their own, or have avery weak personality, or are complete herd material who can only propagate certain news and are thus born to be used by coaching institutes. They never ever qualify until they regain their senses.

  2. Being gullible and rumormongers. These students believe everything that the market says, everything that they hear and that pleases them. They are guided by their peer group and hold opinion on their basis of perception, rather than reality. These students cannot defend any action, any statement that they give with any substantive logic.

    Such students do not have any command over their language. They can distort any statement both knowingly and unknowingly and interpret any statement in the most irrational manner ever and propagate it equally well. Even if these students are talented,they allow their talent to be wasted in a manner by chosing a wrong company. They are masses that are just fit for being used as pawns in the hands of coaching institutes to propagate anything and everything that they want.

    These students can be made to believe in anything since they do not follow logic, they are gullible enough only to follow masses like herds, and are unintelligent enough to know what is correct and very weak to realize the truth as well.

  1. Being judgmental and have an opinion on everything. Being opinionated meansthey are not receptive to any new information, any new idea, any new concept or for that matter anything. Being judgmental means they cant be learners and do not have a learning attitude and this will never allow the student to get out of their shell, their cocoons and their comfort of being first class followers.Opinionated and judgmental people can never learn, people who base their decisions on perceptions are bound to make mistakes.

  2. Follow beaten tracks, having a blinkered vision and a rigid frame of mind. They are two type of students, one who is a leader who always follow something new, one, who is always evolving, and the other who is a laggard who always follow a beaten trade, are very rigid in their disposition and do not accept any change. For example there will be same students who will still follow books of Bipan Chandra and Laxmikanth for Mains despite the availability and necessity of having a new interpretation. They will still follow Goh Ching Leong despite the fact the book is only good for reading and that is not oriented towards answering questions in PT, forget about the Mains Examination. Such students forget that the greatest sign of an intellectual mind is able to see, and listen to a concept despite not agreeing to it.Rigidities and flexibility as a trait must be with a student in order to learn. Rigidities and following a beaten track do not help the students to qualify. Of course, it does help to increase the crowd strength of some institutes and portals. One must know that Civil Services preparation is not for masses.

  3. Lastly, Being arrogant. Arrogance is essentially a sign of fools and weak people. Their arrogance reflects in tone toner of their speech, the type of absolutist words that they use. For example, a good student will shy away from using the word ‘best’ and the concept of ‘best’. Indeed there is nothing like best in the world. Best is an absolutist statement. The use of best inhibits expression. People who do not have expression use the word best. Anyone using the words ‘best’, ‘awesome’, ‘fantastic’ are short of expressions. They can use varied expressions by classifying the traits. For example a teacher can be very good, but good in what, good in expression, good in knowledge, good in dealing with students, good in using technology, good in in training, or good in changing the mindset of the candidates. So they have to express it differently, i.e. the teacher is ‘one of the best from the perspective of knowledge’ not saying that they are the best

Traits required for Civil Services aspirant to qualify.

There must be some reason as to why out of 8 lakh aspirants only 1,000 odd qualify and make it to the final rank despite triple of that amount are as talented as anyone or even more but they fail to qualify. Of course, any process has its drawback, has its flaws, has its limitation, and so is the selection procedure. But there are nevertheless certain set traits that a candidate must have, must possess.

Sometimes some of these traits, which help the students to qualify for the examination, are known to the students while at other times they are not known?

What exactly are these traits.

  1. A personality of their own. The personality traits comprise of leadership traits, a cosmopolitan outlook, high degree of self understanding about themselves, an experimental disposition, ability to build social capital through the emotional intelligence that they have; and an ability to balance the perception.

UPSC is qualified by people who have a personality of their own. That means they understand themselves better, they know their strengths and limitations, and they can defend their statements, their perspective and their actions rationally.

For UPSC, it’s said that If you don’t have a personality dont attempt for UPSC

The meaning of these traits are far and wider.

(a) one is a high degree of self understanding. This means that the student knows his strength and weaknesses. Having a knowledge of ones own strengths and weaknesses essential in customising their preparation or else every candidate will start following the strategy of the so called toppers. This situation is sometimes fatal if it doesn’t gel up with the personality and attitude of the candidates who is imitating any of their seniors and toppers. Self understanding reflects itself in decision making and the choice of experiments. These experiments are, Experiments in choosing a books, in choosing a coach or a trainer, or in choosing even an institute. A good choice helps them to get the best of worlds. Santro was launched when Maruti was at its peak. All the people who bought Santro ultimately proved to be happier people. Generally one fails to realise that There may be something good that may be already existing, but it doesn’t mean that there cant be anything better. So an experimentation aptitude and an ability to draw conclusion to decide between right and wrong out of that experimentation is so essential.

(b) Another leadership trait is to read between the lines and help yourself understand most of the things logically. Take an example of a bookseller who specialises for civil services

The bookseller has its own interest in earning money, not in helping you to make a career, or help you qualify the examination. He has no accountability towards you. These booksellers will never show you a good book, he will show only those books that fetches him the highest commission, the greatest profit and of course will sell only those books by convincing you. Always remember a good publisher and a big author can never be associated with heavy discounts. Its your personality that helps you to decide whether you want to eat rotten vegetables and fruits at your expense because they are cheap and recommended by the seller or you want to eat healthy fruits or the one which will never be recommended because the seller doesnt get good commission on that.

(c) Another leadership trait is a good ability to bond with people, form social capital, identify one type of person with your choice, and weed out toxic people, and people who are bickering, who are full of negativity and have a judgmental attitude is so essential for you to to help prepare. A social capital and bonding is essential to share the work, allocate some shared work as well as choose the one with whom you can actually gel up for studies, learning, and perspective sharing.

Thus there will be three leadership traits that an aspirant most have-

  1. being bold and an willingness to experiment,
  2. ability to communicate with a purpose to build social capital with an aim to reduce the workload and burden, and
  3. a sense of judgment that helps them differentiate the genuine from fake, facade and reality rumours from truth, and a coach from a mentor.

(2) The second are the academic traits. The biggest such academic trait is

(a) curiosity and its level. No one can ever quality in UPSC without having the trait of curiosity. Curiosity helps you to understand and comprehend the topic in all dimensions. A dimensionless learning has no meaning as the candidates wont be able to comprehend and understand the issues associated with it or even have an insight into it.

The second (b) academic trait is being a learner and having a learner’s attitude. This means that the person is not judgmental, not arrogant, not opinionated or even having a preconceived notion or even affected by it. Learning can be from studies, from observation, by watching films, through conversation, by being alone or being together, being in love, being jealous, being in hatred…and from what not Civil Services syllabus is so large that it is impossible to prepare for the syllabus by studies alone. Learning attitude and techniques lessen the burden of the candidate, makes the effort light and also enjoyable of all the learning methods the most important is the development of sense of observation. Students many not realise that but the whole of ethics and integrity paper as well as essay is almost completely banking on testing a student’s ability to have a sense of observation. Incidentally this trait is so significant also for being an administrator.

Of course the basic abilities are always required for example ability to gather relevant information, conversion of information into knowledge and conversion of knowledge into wisdom. A sound conceptual base, a strong hold over the basics, ability to work hard and be consistent, and a language to express is the basic minimum required. To say that a candidate has to study, practice writing and gather information is the least of the academic trait that will be required. Without a language, it’s simply not possible that a candidate will EVER qualify. An absence of expression will force the candidate to memorise and if anyone who intends to memorise can never ever complete even half of the syllabus. The basic abilities and any deficiency in any ability is more than made up with the help of attitude.

(3) The third trait is the attitudinal trait. Attitude will help any person to tide over any deficiency any drawback, any problem. Therefore, attitude is, the most important trait, much above any other trait that we have discussed.Attitude is like zero or 100 in a multiplication. If everything is present minus attitude everything is zero, and if everything is minimum and if you are attitudinally sound, then it’s a blessing like no other trait.

  • Administration is not run by information or knowledge rather it is run by attitude and that’s the most important trait that is looked for in any candidate. If you have attitude, you can always gain information and/or convert into knowledge to fit the desired situation, but it’s not the other way.

  • The various attitudinal trait includes the candidates’ ability to differentiate emotions (which is what is tested in essay and ethics). Emotional differentiation includes a candidates ability to separate emotions identify emotions, and use them differently in different places and time. During Civil Service preparation the candidate passes through various emotions and they must differentiate their teacher from coach, friend from companion, being happy and satisfied, being saturated, and being monotonous. Ability to differentiate emotions doesn’t clutter the mind of the student. An uncluttered mind has great clarity, great receptivity and a high degree of imagination. This is what is required for Civil Services preparation.

  • The third attitudinal trait is having a balance. This is Balance of perception, balance of thinking, balance of everything. So whether you like PM Modi, or love him or admire him, that is about balancing yourself and expressing through words. whether BJP is a communal party a party that follows Hindutva agenda or a party that is nationalistic, or whether Nitish Kumar is a developmental politician or caste politician or communal politician-all expressions reflect balance, balance of judgement expressed in words. The young people must realise that everything good is not awesome, not out of world, not terrible, not ugh, not trash or crap. Understanding these differences is related to balance of perception.

  • The last of the important attitudinal trait is solution oriented thinking, not a problem pointing thinking. Why should anyone ever think of recalling problems, being negative towards problems, feeling solution less towards problems is related to the psyche of the person.

Solution oriented thinking makes you positive, makes you progressive makes you innovative. A regressive thinking only creates and compounds problems. Bihar is an example. Because of an extreme regressive thinking the state with all its abundance of resources and talent doesnt stand everywhere in India. Its only because the people have problem generating thinking, problem aggravating thinking rather than problem solving thinking. You will hardly find people in Bihar talking of solving problems. People hardly talk of ideas, they talk only of people. One can see the state in which Bihar is, how it has plummeted from the best governed, the most educated state to where it is. This is attitude.

Having got these attitudinal traits, one must consider that there is no method of preparation that doesn’t have its own merits and demerits. In any case if any one is preparing solo and on their own, they must follow some do’s and dont’s

  1. They must begin with Self-understanding; i.e. about themselves, who are they, what do they like, how do they study, what are their strengths and what are their weaknesses. This is a MUST AT THIS STAGE OF LIFE as there will be no other stage where it will be required.

  2. Language improvement must be emphasized since everything one imagines, everything one studies everything one learns ultimately has to be written. Inability to write what one has studied will compel the candidates to borrow someone else’s language and this will amount to memorization. Once Memorisation starts, preparation stops, and drudgery sets in. In the absence of language UPSC preparation becomes next to impossible.

  3. Balance your perception but must be able to look at the other side of coin. Keep some critics of yours. Take feedback from one or two. Be in a diversified group. Keep meeting your people who are very different from you, not similar to you.

  4. Explore options of methods of studies, not always following the beaten track or conventional track.
  5. Must finish your school books before you think of anything else. Only those books that you studied. NOTHING MORE.

Of course there are certain things that you don’t do. These are-

  1. Don’t be a follower, don’t have a herd mentality. The world worships only those who are leaders. Herds are never meant for big work. They are like masses who are to be used, abused and are to be abandoned.

  2. Dont imitate any topper. His/Her strategy may not suit you at all. They are not always speaking the truth. Remember never to believe anyone when they are angry, or when they are in love or when they are under a bliss of success.

  3. Don’t compare you with coaching institutes’ students. You will be better than them ultimately.
  4. Dont squander your time in gossip and in rumour mongering,
  5. Never take too many advices. Everyone is right everyone is wrong. Follow only those advise what suits your heart.
  6. Do not always follow what the toppers suggest. They are there to inspire you not to guide you.
  7. Never become a bookworm, Enjoy learning rather studies. If you enjoy, your receptivity, grasping capacity will be always high, your insights will be wonderful and your efficiency sky high.

  8. Never make a company of toxic people. Throw them away from your life. They have the potential to kill your psyche, time and even career. Must learn to track them and separate them from your life.