Is online coaching the right way to prepare for the IAS?

Serving in the IAS is the preferred career choice of millions of people in India. Also, the typical candidate preparing for the IAS exam spends several years preparing for it. Therefore, one wants to be reasonably sure that any coaching or other preparation input one relies on will be useful.

Nowadays, there is a growing trend of online coaching for civil service exam. This has become especially true since the start of the pandemic. Ever since online coaching began to capture the imagination of many aspiring IASs, it has led to a debate about its effectiveness.

Whether or not online coaching is suitable for a candidate depends on their particular situation. Each candidate must determine for themselves whether online coaching will benefit them.

Merits:

Profitable

Online coaching places a relatively less financial burden on the candidate. Applicants save on accommodation, travel and relocation expenses. Many courses and learning modules are available online for free or for a nominal fee. So; if money is a key factor in your decision, online coaching may be to your advantage.

Flexibility

In conventional classroom coaching, class schedules are an issue for many, such as professionals preparing for the IAS. Online coaching offers flexibility in course attendance. Many coaching platforms that offer live lessons also provide access to recordings of their lessons, which can be viewed later.

Quality learning modules

The online coaching industry for the IAS exam is exploding. This has led to intense competition among various online institutes and platforms for the online market share. Therefore, the clients, i.e. the IAS aspirants, have everything to gain. Today, aspiring IAS have access to many quality courses and study materials at competitive rates online.

No need to change base

The online coaching ensures that an aspirant does not need to change bases for Delhi or other UPSC preparation centers. Several of my students, including many successful candidates, have chosen online coaching over the classroom precisely for this reason. Online coaching makes home preparation easier 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 people whose circumstances do not allow relocation, such as those living in small towns, housewives and people with disabilities; online coaching provides much-needed access to teachers, study materials, and test sets.

Prepare at your own pace

Some students may take longer to grasp concepts than others. In the online modules, each student can view the courses at their own pace. Instead of being one in a physical classroom of hundreds, an aspirant can proceed with their preparation at the speed of their own choosing. You can choose your learning pace and the time devoted to each section of the syllabus, depending on your comfort.

Some students also take longer to take notes and find it difficult to keep up with a lecture. These students can also take notes at their own pace in the online coaching.

Is online coaching the right way to prepare for the IAS?

Demerits:

Requires self-motivation

One of the limitations of online coaching is that it forces the aspirant to stay motivated throughout their preparation. Often, seekers who opt for online coaching lack a support system of other seekers and mentors. It is therefore important that the aspirant who prepares online maintains a competitive spirit and inculcates self-discipline.

Lack of personalized attention

Often, online coaching lacks the human touch that comes with teacher-student interaction in a physical classroom. Most online coaching platforms lack human interface.

However, to circumvent this problem, some teachers offer online students a personalized doubt removal function. Although most teachers don’t, some like me share their personal phone number with students online and clarify their doubts in a phone call.

Therefore, it is important to be selective about the online coaching you choose, especially if you are the type that requires regular interaction and support from their mentors. Evaluate whether the teachers of a particular institute can be reached by phone as often and for as long as you want, or not.

Prepare in isolation

An important element of conventional classroom coaching is peer-to-peer learning. Discuss the day’s lesson with your classmates over a cup of Chai helps to clarify the doubts that one may hesitate to ask the teachers. The classroom atmosphere also fosters a competitive spirit. IAS aspirants learn a lot from each other and support each other emotionally.

Those who prepare online often lament the lack of such a supportive environment, as they navigate the difficult journey of preparing for the IAS exams on their own.

Conclusion

Online coaching, given its limitations, remains a boon for dozens of serious candidates preparing for the IAS.

As a mode of learning, it may suit some and not others. Thorough assessment and introspection should be done before opting for online coaching in preference to traditional classroom coaching. One aspect of the assessment is based on external criteria, such as class schedules and financial constraints. Another aspect concerns the student’s internal criteria, such as his ability to maintain a disciplined preparation schedule and to remain autonomous.

Finally, any coaching, whether in-class or online, is just one of many inputs into a student’s preparation. Passing the IAS exam also largely depends on the candidate’s level of commitment, their preparation strategy, and the extent of their answer writing practice.

Written by Pranay Agarwal, Director of IAS Gurukul

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