Finding a break through vis-a-vis competitive exams
Serving in the IAS is the preferred career choice for millions in India. Also, the typical candidate preparing for the IAS exam devotes several years to his preparation. Consequently, one wants to be reasonably sure that any coaching or other inputs in preparation that one relies upon, should be useful.
Nowadays, there is a growing trend towards online coaching for the civil services exam. This has become especially true since the pandemic began. Since online coaching has started capturing the imagination of many IAS aspirants, it has led to debate regarding its effectiveness.
Whether online coaching is suitable for a candidate or not, depends on his/her specific circumstances. Each candidate has to figure out if online coaching will be of some benefit or not.
Online coaching puts comparatively lesser financial burden on the candidate. Aspirants save on accommodation, travel as well as relocation-related expenditure. Many courses and learning modules are accessible online for free or a nominal charge. So; if money is a key factor in your decision, online coaching can work to your advantage.
In conventional classroom coaching, class timings are an issue for many, such as working professionals preparing for the IAS. Online coaching provides flexibility in attending classes. Many coaching platforms that provide live classes also provide access to recordings of their lectures, which can be seen later.
Also, the online coaching industry for the IAS exam is exploding. This has led to intense competition among various institutes and online platforms for the online market share. Consequently, the customers i.e. IAS aspirants stand to gain. Today, IAS aspirants have access to many quality courses and study materials at competitive rates online.
Online coaching ensures that an aspirant does not need to shift base to Delhi or other UPSC preparation hubs. Several of my students, including many successful candidates, preferred online coaching to classroom precisely for this reason. Online coaching facilitates at-home preparation for those living in tier 2 cities and remote areas.
Online preparation has also enabled people from diverse social backgrounds to prepare for the IAS. For many whose circumstances don’t permit relocation, such as those living in a small town, housewives and the differently- abled; online coaching provides the much-needed access to teachers, study material and test series.
Some students may take longer to grasp concepts than others. In online modules, every student can view lectures at his own pace. Instead of being one in a physical classroom of hundreds, an aspirant can proceed with his preparation at the speed of his own choosing. One may choose one’s pace of learning and time devoted to each section of the syllabus, based on one’s comfort.
Some students also take longer to make notes, and find it difficult to keep pace with a classroom lecture. Such students can also make notes at their own pace in online coaching.
However, one of the limitations of online coaching is that it requires the aspirant to remain self- motivated throughout his preparation. Often, aspirants who opt for online coaching lack a support system of fellow aspirants and mentors. It is thus, important that the aspirant preparing online maintains a competitive spirit and inculcate self-discipline.
Often, online coaching misses the human touch that comes with teacher to student interaction in a physical classroom setting. Most online coaching platforms lack a human interface.
However, to get around this, some teachers provide personalized doubts clearing facility to online students. While most teachers don’t, some like me share their personal phone number with the online students and clarify their doubts over a phone call.
Hence, it is important to be selective about the online coaching you opt for, particularly if you are the kind who requires regular interaction and support from their mentors. Assess whether the teachers in a particular institute are accessible over the phone as frequently and for as long as you will like, or not.
An important element of conventional classroom coaching is peer-to-peer learning. Discussing the day’s lecture with your classmates over a cup of chai helps to clarify doubts one may hesitate in asking teachers. The classroom atmosphere also fosters a competitive spirit. IAS aspirants learn a lot from and provide emotional support to each other.
Those preparing online often rue the lack of such a conducive environment, as they trudge along alone on the arduous IAS exam preparation journey.
Online coaching, given its limitations, is still a boon for scores of serious candidates preparing for the IAS. As a mode of learning, it may suit some and not others. Thorough evaluation and introspection needs to be done before opting for online coaching, in preference to conventional classroom coaching. One aspect of the evaluation is based on external criteria, like lecture timings and financial constraints. Another aspect is criteria internal to the student, such as his ability to maintain a disciplined preparation schedule and remain self- driven.
Finally, any coaching, whether classroom or online, is only one of the several inputs in a student’s preparation. Success in the IAS examination greatly depends also on the candidate’s level of commitment, preparation strategy and the extent of answer writing practice.
The writer is Ex.PES-2, Retired Principal, Government Girls Senior Secondary school, MHR Malout Punjab.