Do engineers have an advantage in the civil service exam

Even as women swept the stakes in the UPSC Civil Service Examinations (CSE) 2021, with 10 of the top 25 being women, what surprised was the glaring absence of engineers in both first rows. Shruti Sharma, a history graduate and number one on the merit list, and Ankita Agarwal, an economics graduate and IRS officer in the 2020 batch, are alumni of St Stephen’s College, DU. It is as if tradition has been reversed, since the UPSC CSE has long been dominated by engineers.

A look at the last decade indicates that with the exception of two (AIR 1 2011 Shena Agarwal and AIR 1 2015 Tina Dabi), all UPSC CSE toppers belonged to the discipline of engineering. In the results of CSE 2020, the top 3 ranks were engineers and in the top 15 ranks, there were 8 engineers. The CSE 2019 result saw 11 engineers in the top 15. Relatively fewer – i.e. 7 of the top 15 – were engineers in the CSE 2018. In the CSE 2017, 11 of the top 15 ranking holders were engineers; CSE 2016 also saw 9 engineers in the top 15. Thus, this year’s result marks a break in this trend. However, except for the top 2, the next 3 ranking holders in the top 5 are engineers. In fact, among the top 15 ranking holders, there are up to 9 engineers,” says Pranay Agarwal, Director, IAS Gurukul.


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Part of the reason why engineers at UPSC hold the top ranks is their rigorous academic training and the multitude of competitive exams such as JEE Main and Advanced that prepare them even before college. “They also have a hands-on approach to problem solving,” adds Agarwal. Many of them begin their preparation right after graduation, but others leave their corporate careers to devote themselves full-time to the preparation process. “It is true that the private sector generally offers a higher salary than what a civil servant earns at home. But a career in public service offers a much better chance of job satisfaction,” says Agarwal.

In the case of Gamini Singhla, AIR 3, 2022, whose parents are Himachal Pradesh government doctors, it was the same sentiment that drew her to the profession. She gave up a job offer on campus to pursue her dream of becoming an IAS officer. “Engineering gave me enough time to prepare myself, that’s why I could concentrate on my studies, although any dedicated person, whatever their field, can excel in public service”, says the graduate in computer science from a major engineering school in Punjab.

Yasharth Shekhar, AIR 12, 2022, echoes a similar view. “To a large extent, track record does not determine success. Hard work and focus on key areas does. Geography as an optional subject is usually considered by engineers, but I did well (306/500) given my background in the humanities,” says the St Stephen’s College graduate whose background in economics helped him. prepared to understand the scientific nature of things while focusing on writing. better answers with practice catapulted him into the top 20.

JK Dadoo, a retired IAS officer, agrees: “The better prepared and nervous candidates will win. After all, the CSE is attempted by about 3 lakh applicants out of which about 2,000 students are selected. The scales are balanced, although engineers tend to do better if they study math/physics, which pays more than humanities. »

Aggregated data indicates that most engineers opt for humanities as electives. “At CSE 2019, 63.1% of recommended candidates were engineers and only 24.2% were from the humanities. But 82.6% of the optional subjects chosen by the recommended candidates were related to humanities, and only 4.7% of the recommended candidates had an engineering subject as an option,” says Agarwal.

The trend of previous years is similar. “Optional subjects in the humanities require a timetable ranging from around 4 months for a subject like sociology or philosophy to around 8 months for a subject like political science. Engineering electives, on the other hand, require a longer commitment. Secondly, better resources such as competent teachers, exam-specific study materials are readily available for optional humanities, but not for engineering subjects. More importantly, UPSC only offers three engineering subjects (civil, electrical, and mechanical) in the list of optional choices. Engineers in other fields, such as computer engineering or petroleum engineering, then prefer to opt for a subject in the humanities instead of those which are equally foreign to them,” says Agarwal, adding that aspirants can choose n matter as long as they can adapt and follow. the right exam strategy.

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