Common Myths About the Exam

Vinay Sir conducting a doubt-clearing session with UPSC aspirants

The UPSC CSE Exam is considered one of the toughest to clear. There are several myths associated with the exam which are just that: myths & hence untrue. Here are a few myths about the UPSC exam that you must steer clear of :

Myth: It’s the ‘mother of all exams’ & clearing it is the best way to serve society.

Fact: It’s just another exam. The mother of all exams is Life itself. You can afford to fail in IAS, but not in Life. So, take the IAS preparation / UPSC exam preparation asjust a phase in Life, not as your Life.

Your self-worth shouldn’t depend on its outcome. If you clear it, that’s good; else remember that there are other avenues to render service.

This exam isn’t life.


Myth: You have to study 24*7- all day & every day.

Fact: You have to study effectively, that’s it. 8 hours or 10 hours- the hours don’t matter. Give it your complete focus when you sit to study. Don’t overdo the hours, you’ll exhaust yourself.


Quality > Quantity


Myth: You should’ve been a topper in your college days to ace the exam.

Fact: The UPSC exam is a great leveler & offers an equal playing field to all. Your academic history does not matter. The only thing that matters is your performance at each stage.

Consistency > Talent.


Myth: You must buy & read 100000 books. Knowledge is power, right?

“I have a disease. I keep buying all the magazines and coaching material. Is there any cure for this?”

Fact: Wrong! Stick to the basics(NCERTs), standard books, and current affairs(newspapers).

Read. Revise >3 times. Retain.

If you are rich, donate some money to this site. Jokes apart, yes there is a cure. You know very well that you don’t read all the magazines and materials you buy. When you buy more and don’t use them, it only worsens your situation. The sight of those books frightens you. The cure is simple: first, understand why you are buying so many books.

You buy them to buy yourself momentary satisfaction, that you are doing the right thing in your preparation. No, wrong. Always finish reading what you have now. If something is really missing from the book you have, then go for a new one.

When you become aware that you are not going to read all the books you buy, you will stop buying them.

Don’t become a “collector” of material. We both know that you’ll be donating it for recycling.


Myth: You must possess great English writing skills like Shakespeare(if you’re writing in English medium), or else you’re out of the race.

Fact: You don’t need to win a literary prize. UPSC states that one must write succinct & precise answers. Convey the point clearly in SIMPLE language. You are still part of the race. Now you have figured out the problem – that your English is poor. Work on it. All you need is basic English. Moreover, you can write this exam and give the interview in your mother tongue. Buy a basic grammar book – read it, listen to English news on TV and radio, and try to write something in English every day (don’t worry if it is very bad, keep trying). Necessity should push you to learn. Push yourself. Win the race.



Myth: You need to isolate yourself from the world & study.

Fact: There is no need to cut yourself off from your social circle(family, friends). They’re the ones who will support you when the going gets tough.

Remember, again, it is just an exam!

There is no need to isolate.


Myth: Daily schedule should be-

Wake Up. Study. Study some more. Study till your eyes droop*falls asleep*…Wakes up immediately to Study. Sleep(finally). One topper in an interview said that she studied 20 hours every day for 365 days.

Fact: All work & no play makes one a dull aspirant. Instead,

Wake up. Study. Take breaks. Exercise. Study. Break. Sleep(well).

Maybe the topper suffered from insomnia. Even now she will be working 20 hours a day as an officer. On a serious note, good sleep is very necessary for UPSC exam preparation. It keeps you in good health. Don’t study beyond 14 hours.

Now you are saying 14 Hours! Are you mad?

Calm down. If you have left your job, as a punishment you should devote these many hours. Didn’t you work 12 hours for your company? Anyway, every day at least 8 hours of planned study is required for UPSC exam preparation. If you can study more than that, it is well and good. But please ensure that you also get 6-8 hours of sound sleep.


Myth: Join an institute since that is the ONLY way to clear.

Fact: You don’t have to join if you feel that you can do self-study efficiently. Depends on your self-discipline.

We have always been a pioneer in launching free initiatives for this.

You need the right guidance!

Do a self-assessment, if you find that you need help in covering the syllabus, optional, etc; or if you find that you need a classroom environment to ensure discipline & structure-join coaching.

Else, if self-study is better for you: do it.

Do what’s best for you: it’s your choice.


Myth: They say IAS Exam is not for the faint-hearted.

If you think you are faint-hearted, better start preparing for IAS soon – it makes you stone-hearted.


Myth: Delhi is the best place to prepare!

I am worried. I can’t go to Delhi because of some personal reasons.

Fact: Can’t go to Delhi? Wow. That’s great. These days you can study from home itself. IAS preparation / UPSC exam preparation is neither religion nor life to seek enlightenment in a faraway concrete desert. Do your duty sincerely, if pleased, almighty UPSC will call you to its shrine, if pleased with your personality, it will give you a pass to Heaven – the IAS. Why go there uninvited? Also, we have branches in Bengaluru, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Srinagar, and Belludi(Davanagere) too! Not just in Delhi.

So how can I study from home?

These days you can buy books online. We even have a wonderful website with a huge repository of relevant and free information! Check INSTAPEDIA and other resources! Every topper has studied the same set of books as lakhs of aspirants do every year. The difference is that toppers plan their studies and execute those plans well. They practice writing. They take tests. They are confident. And they also have some luck.


Myth: Luck is needed for this exam.

Fact: NO! Let me modify a famous quote for you – Success is one percent luck and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Don’t let that 99% thing slip from your hand. Toil sincerely, and you will be rewarded with that 1 percent luck.


Myth: IAS is the best job on this earth!

Fact: NO!! It is not the only wonderful job available. There are several wonderful avenues one can explore! What is ‘best’ is subjective to each person.

At least in India, it is the best job. Right?

Yes. If you want to make a positive impact on the lives of the downtrodden in society, IAS is the best job. But you have to swim in the ocean infested by so many sharks. You should know how to swim, be fearless, and be armed with ammunition. There is a silver lining though. The ammunition is personal integrity and The People – if you do good work, and help the poor man on the streets and in the huts, people will love you. Sharks love votes. And the ocean will be safe for you.


Myth: Some say this exam is like a vast ocean and questions are asked from outside the syllabus, even from extraterritorial sources. Is it?

Fact: No. Again wrong. UPSC strictly adheres to the syllabus. Though sometimes it seems like questions are asked from outside of the syllabus, they are actually in some ways related to it. For example, if there is a question like this, ‘Opportunity on Mars‘, one should not get bedazzled why UPSC is asking questions from an ET source and start answering like, ‘If Nuclear war takes place and the Earth is destroyed, the opportunities on Mars are immense for the Humankind……’

Opportunity is the name of a Robot that was sent to mars in 2003. Awareness of ‘Robotics‘ and ‘Space‘ is part of the UPSC syllabus (GS-3).


It was my last attempt. I failed in Prelims. Now I want to kill myself. Help me.

To kill you? First, kill your ego, not yourself. You took a journey but couldn’t reach the destination. It doesn’t mean the end of your life or the end of the road – start a new phase in your Life from where you are now. What matters, in the end, is how well you lived your Life, not how many successes you achieved. Watch our podcast: A Little More Light which showcases how one can succeed beyond UPSC! Life is much bigger than an exam! Remember this well.

Lakhs of aspirants give this exam and only few get into IAS. I am scared.

Though lakhs of aspirants apply and write this exam, the real competition is between only 2000-3000 serious aspirants. Those who study systematically and consistently, get into service. If you do the same, you will be one among them. Don’t have fears even before you start. You must enter the race and work hard to win it.

Remember this: “I never did a day’s work in all my life. It was all fun” (Edison). Make the process fun, enjoy reading, love what you do, and do everything to please your heart. Not the society.

They say there is corruption in recruiting IAS officers. Is it true?

This allegation is utterly false. The whole examination is so opaque that you have to trust it blindly (Oxymoron). There is no corruption involved in the recruitment of civil service officers. The steel produced is pure. You can trust it. (it gets corroded later, that is a different story though)

Those veterans laugh when I tell them I am preparing for IAS. Instead, they insist I should say that I am preparing for civil services. What is the difference?

When you say you are preparing for civil services, you are not sure about getting into IAS/IPS/IFS, etc. When you say you are preparing for IAS, you are confident that you want only IAS and you know how to get it. Choose the one that suits you best. Not the veterans.

I am getting a headache while making notes. There are so many books to refer to and I want my notes to be the best. What to do?

Note this. Leo Tolstoy writes in Anna Karenina “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” Also, someone said, “Perfection is the child of time“. When you scout too many sources to make that perfect notes, you end up losing invaluable time and become discontented. Managing time during the preparation is the most important aspect of this examination. Read one or two books on a topic. Re-read the same book even if some coaching institution or a publication house releases new notes/book in the market that has become famous.